Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.

2/7/2014

Get Started!

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life Goals,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:34 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

So, we’re a month into the New Year.  What have you done so far?

Last month, I posted my fun, hopefully funny, Random Resolution Generator, because, well, everyone seems to make those annual New Year’s Resolutions, but who ever follows through?  As it turns out, almost no one does.  In fact, most people don’t even start, much less follow though.  And, really, getting started is everything.

Go read that last article I just linked to, then come back.  It’s okay, I’ll wait.
Back…
Read More


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Everyone deserves to be happy, but not if that happiness is dependent on imprisoning or enslaving another human being."
   --Unintentionally ironic comment left on a blog

12/8/2009

Where’s my muse?

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Pig which is in the late evening or 10:17 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

I think I’ve lost her.

Seriously.  My muse is like a missing person.
Oh, I could blame it all on my impending birthday.  My forty-first, incidentally.  It’s odd to be so old all of a sudden, since I certainly feel no different, physically, than I did ten years ago.  In fact, I’m probably in better shape now than I was ten years ago.  Okay, maybe not better, but probably not any worse and, I hasten to point out, I am getting better, more fit, with virtually every passing day.  And, of course, aside from being a cancer survivor with fucking lung scars and some lingering high blood-pressure issues.

Or, I could blame it on the fact that it’s been three years since I’ve been in a relationship or, hell, even on a date.  You know, the holidays can be depressing all by themselves, but facing the damn things alone are worse.  Worse still is having been with someone through these troubling and troublesome events and then finding ourselves alone again.  People who have never been partnered up during the holidays don’t know what they’re missing.  But, those who have, er, “loved and lost”, so to speak, remember…  We remember all the family that’s not ours anymore.  We remember only the best parts, though.  The happiest part of the holidays.  The laughs, the fun, the happiest memories.  Not, thankfully, the bitter, angry, often drunken, rants and tantrums.  Oh, the tantrums.  How I miss them.  No, it’s not that, though the holidays have been a little strange this year.

I could blame the past several months of non-writing behavior on the scans I have scheduled later this week.  That old favorite scapegoat; cancer-survivor.  The medical bills and the continuing scans seem like a great excuse for the creative well to have run dry.  And this time around, they’ve dealt me a wild card.  A scan I haven’t had yet; an MRI.  See, when I do this workout stuff to slim down and lower my blood-pressure and draw in those hotties like bees to honey, my throat tends to close off a bit.  The muscles in my neck get tight and the veins and arteries choke and throb and I find myself having a hard time swallowing.  Not all the time, but enough to concern my doctors.  And enough to generate concern warranting an MRI to take a closer look at just what the hell is going on there, since we can’t seem to figure it out any other way.  So, top that off with the usual readioactive enema and I suppose that could induce enough anxiety to choke a muse and make her run off with that guy she met on the internet.

But, honestly, it’s not any of those things.
Crap, I don’t know what it is.  It’s a phase, a cycle.  It’s just a bit of writer’s block or cock block or whatever horrible cliched phrase you want to use.  Temporary, I suppose, but I don’t know what I’d write if I were to suddenly be inspired again.  Is the blog writing?  I mean, really?  Does it tell a story?  Or is it just a nut rambling?  I don’t know.  I just sort of run my mouth at the keyboard and on the best days, I just pull out all the stops and safeties and just turn that dragon loose.
But, I have to tell you, good readers, blathering on about the horrid mundanities of my life isn’t the same thing as writing.  Writing is about plot and character and building a storyline from a hook into compelling scenes.  It’s about the reversal of fortune, or at least circumstances.  It’s about change and development displayed through dialog and narrative.  And, all that seems to run away from me like mercury when you slap it.  It skitters away from my grip and shatters into ever smaller droplets that never quite seem to coalesce back into a recognizable shape.

But, my advertising revenue goes up with the quantity of my expressed angst, so, as the story goes, all I have to do is open up a vein and bleed it all out on paper.  Or virtual paper in the case of this blog.  This equally loved and hated blog that provides both release and the agonizing shame of need.  I’ve practically forgotten why I started it more than nine years ago.  I think my relationship with this blog has just about outlasted all my other relationships, actually.  Or, given another year or two, will.
Besides, there was a time that I’d have rather written here, as poor as it was, than done almost anything else with clothes on.  Well, aside from this one fantastic apple pie with stars on it.  So, who knows, maybe it’s not real writing, but it does keep me off the streets at night.  Maybe I should do it some more.

All that aside, though, if anyone sees my muse, could you send her home to me?  For real.  There are a couple of nice women I’d love to woo with a bit of poetry and the like but I can’t seem to write it without her.  So, point her this direction if you stumble across her trampy self, okay?


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
A real hero is someone who's afraid, but does the right thing anyway.

10/22/2009

Review: The Dip

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Review,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:34 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

No, not a movie review, but a book review.

So, I’ve been reading more lately, which is great.  And, I’ve been doing my best to read fiction and non-fiction.
Sadly, I haven’t been quite able to review it all, thanks to a brutal personal schedule that often has me out late several days in a row, just to try and squeeze in all the work and personal things to make me feel less alone.  So, while I intended to review this over the weekend, I’m just getting to it now.

In any case, I got The Dip by Seth Godin some time ago and read it just recently.  I got it because I wanted to read a book by the famous Seth Godin and, frankly, this one was the shortest.  No, seriously, I wanted to get one of his books, because I’d read about him, but I didn’t want a huge investment in either money or time.  This book fit the bill.
But, also, it turned out to be good timing for me.  In a way, The Dip is an inspirational book, a book about the power of positive thinking.  It’s certainly a motivational book and would fall under the broad category of “self-help books”, in my opinion.

The premise is simple, really.  Godin says that effort in any worth endeavor, espcially those in the business world, has a curve.  Sort of like a learning curve, but it goes deeper than that.  The curve, which he calls the Dip, is what separates those who are successful and those who aren’t.
When we start something new, whether it’s a new business or a new hobby, we throw a bit of effort into it and we see some small results.  At first, a very little effort produces significant improvements and results.  But, eventually every endeavor hits a point where added efforts produce fewer or no apparent changes in skill or improvement of any kind.  This is the Dip.  Many people quit here and don’t push through the Dip to get to the rest of the curve where additional efforts produce increasing results and result in mastery, eventually getting to a very high-level of performance.  The problem is, we start many, many things and can’t possibly pursue them all through the Dip and on to mastery.  Also, we don’t always have the skill, resources or simple ability to follow through sometimes, but we chase after these things anyway, thus wasting precious time and effort on things that won’t pan out, leaving us not enough time and resources to pour into the few things we might truly follow through the Dip into mastery.

On the one hand, it’s inspirational to realize that if I manage to stay faithful to the things I really find enjoyable and worth pursueing to their end, I might make it through that inevitable slump that everyone always hits.  If I can maintain my enthusiasm when things seem to be all working against me or keeping me from moving from dabbling hobbiest to skilled practitioner.  For instance, it gives me hope that my photography will hit that level where I suddenly start getting it and start seeing better and better photographs.  Sometimes, I feel like I’m on the cusp of that already.  An example of how the Dip works, for instance, is the 365 Days project on Flickr.  The goal is to take a self-portrait every day for one year.  Most people hit a creativity wall at three months or less.  Many bail out at that point, and, in fact, I almost did myself.  But some carry on through the slump, fighting the urge to just throw in the towel, waiting for the creativity to spark again.  Even then, some of us never get that creative spark back and our photographs never improve or we drop out later, midway into the Dip itself.  Quitting in the middle of the Dip, incidentally, is something Godin warns about.  Better to quit sooner, and not waste the resources to get further along only to quite later.  Or, better still, to perservere and make it through the Dip to the other side, thus achieving a new level of skill and competence.  I haven’t given up on my 365 Days Project yet, so I’m hoping I’m not the only one who’s seen improvements in my photographs.
And, The Dip also helped me realize that I need to waste less time on things that I know I won’t follow through on and drain my resources, thusly preventing me from pouring more effort into the things I really want to do well.  Now, I’m having to look at what I’m going to “quit” to make room for more effort for my photography and my writing.  I’m a little afraid that it will be sleep I give up to make room!  But, no matter, this book pointed out some deficiencies in how and where I spend my effort.
That needs to change.

I have to admit, I was skeptical about the hype associated with Seth Godin.  I mean, how good and brilliant can one man be, especially when it comes to sounding off about business and management?  But, this book really helped me see some of what’s been going wrong in my life much more clearly.
It’s already motivated me to workout more and more regularly, in an effort to improve my over-all health and appearance.  And, it’s provided considerable encouragement to keep working at my photography.  So, for those two things alone, it was worth getting.
I recommend The Dip for anyone who feels “stuck” or frustrated that they’re not moving ahead in their personal projects.  I’m sure it’s great for business, too, but I got plenty out of it for myself.
I think you will, too.  Trust me, it really is worth the read.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be."
   --Abraham Lincoln

5/13/2009

Free, Inspiring Resources for Designers

Filed under: Art,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun Work,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:24 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

It may be obvious by now, but I’m not a graphic designer.

Still, I appreciate the work. I mean, I understand the effort and appreciate the people who put in the work to make good design. And, I have to admit that design, good and bad, fascinates me.
So, to make amends for my various bad design, I offer the few good designers who might stumble across my site some nice bits.

I don’t know about full-time, professional designers, but I need a good bit of inspiration now and again. I often get photography and graphic design magazines just to stare at and get ideas. But, they get very proud of those magazines and charge dearly for them, so, in this new, tighter economy, what are we to do? Well, why not look at free, on-line design magazines! How about 42 Free Online Magazines for Designers?
Need more inspiration? Well, personally, I’m obsessed with logos, so I found the Logo Designer Blog endlessly entertaining.

Of course, when we’re creating for the web, content, as they say, is king. In this case, that means words. Lots and lots of words. In marketing school they called those words “copy” and the process of churning them out was “copywriting”. It’s an art, too, in its way. An art that all too many graphically creative people don’t seem to get, especially on the web. At least, I’ve seen a lot of sites that sure could use work on their words. Well, GrokDotCom has help for them at the GrokDotCom Ultimate Copywriting Cheat Sheet. Even if you think you’re very good at this, this page is worth a look. Trust me.

So, there you go.
Enjoy.
Now go make something.


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