Diary of a Network Geek

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

8/17/2018

How Chocolate Is Made

Filed under: Fun,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:11 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

From bean to your mouth, how delicious chocolate is made.

I grew up in the city, but I had relatives who farmed, so I’m not one of those people who thought that food magically showed up in the grocery store. I was pretty aware, for instance, that steaks used to walk around in a pasture before they got carved up into bite-sized chunks. And, yes, I was always okay with that. But, also from that experience with my family’s farm, I learned to be curious about just what goes into food and food production. Frankly, what we do and have available to us in our amazing, modern, global economy is nothing short of miraculous. I’m old enough that I remember oranges being extra expensive and a great treat at Christmas, for instance. So what does all that have to do with chocolate? Well, until recently, I only had the vaguest idea how chocolate bars were made. I knew it started with a bean somewhere in the tropics and involved a process like roasting until the beans could be ground up into what is essentially cocoa powder.  And, that cocoa powder becomes chocolate. But, beyond that, the process was a bit of a mystery to me. And, I’d imagine, to you, too, gentle readers.

Well, thanks to a podcast from Seth Godin, titled It’s Not About The Chocolate, we don’t have to wonder any more. That link will take you to, among other things, two videos showing the process of taking cacao beans from the tree to an actual chocolate bar for your delicious consumption. And, yes, global warming is, in fact, putting my favorite sweet in danger. No matter how you feel about all that, the videos are fascinating and deliciously educational. Though, I do absolutely recommend that you listen to the full podcast. It’s even more educational than the videos.

And, there’s your entertaining video for Friday, with a steaming side of social consciousness.
Enjoy!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

10/19/2011

A Word On Writing Well

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Geek Work,The Network Geek at Home,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:09 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

Okay, a bit more than a word…

“Content is king”, they used to say. The idea was if you wrote enough compelling material for your blog or website, then the readers, and search engines, couldn’t help but find you and rank you well. Sounds like a great idea, right? Then why do so many people write such bad content?

I don’t know either.
What I do know is that everyone and their brother have an idea about how to write good, compelling content for your blog or website. Take SEO Book, for instance, who ran a post about writing better blog posts back in December of 2008. They, in turn, referenced Seth Godin and a book titled [amazon_link id=”0060891548″ target=”_blank” ]On Writing Well[/amazon_link].
Now, I’ll grant you, I tend to share links to other resources, offering an opinion about them usually, but not as much original content as I’d like.  But, still, I think that even those posts are written reasonably well.  And, I think it’s worth taking the time, even on a blog, to write well.  Not to improve my rankings in search engines, but because writing well, communicating clearly, is a worthy pursuit.  It may not always be obvious here, but I actually worked quite hard to become a competent writer well beyond things like English class in high school.  One way or another, I’ve written for years and take pride in my ability to write clearly, concisely and in an entertaining manner.

You see, the thing is, as much as we love video and photos and graphics and the like, in the end, we use words to actually communicate.
The next time you’re driving down the street in whatever town you live, notice how many signs have writing on them.  Or, better yet, notice how many signs are, in fact, themselves, writing.  Words, and writing, is still the medium we use to express ourselves, even on the web.  How we write is an expression of how we think.  Writing well is an essential skill that displays our intelligence and our education.  Writing poorly, with sloppy grammar and with “text message” abbreviations, subtly tells people that we are not as smart as we claim to be, and not to be trusted or believed.  Writing well, on the other hand, assures our reader that we are smart, trustworthy and competent enough to be relied upon.  Our writing, especially on the internet, can be, as they say at Google and Wikipedia, considered “authoritative”.
I have argued with people via e-mail and comments who, when they found themselves in metaphorical quicksand, insisted that they would argue circles around me in person.  I questioned how that would be possible if they couldn’t write sufficiently to defend their position when they had all the time they needed to consider the argument at hand and edit their work before replying.

Which brings me to the real point of this little screed; editing and revision.
I know the web is a fast and furious place and that fresh content is the most important thing, but, I do think we have the time to edit and revise articles, even short ones, before making them public.  And, we can all use spellcheck now.  In fact, the version of WordPress that I’m currently running has spellcheck and grammar check built into it.  I would think more people would take advantage of this feature, as well as the ability to save posts in a draft format for later review before posting.
Granted, not every post is going to garner that sort of care and attention, but shouldn’t more of them get it rather than less?  If we are our words on the internet, shouldn’t we care more how we sound and what we say?  I think so.

I think it’s worth writing fewer words, or even writing fewer entire posts, so that a certain minimal attention may be paid to the content and style.
In short, I think if it’s worth saying, then it’s worth saying well.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently."
   --Henry Ford

10/12/2011

Talker’s Block

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Art,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:29 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

So, you may notice a bit more output here.

Frankly, some of it may be of questionable quality.  That’s as planned, to be honest.
See, I’ve suffered from a kind of writer’s block.  Not only here, in what I think of as my public, non-fiction world, but in my creative world, too.  The photography has helped that, but, not in the way or quite as much as I had hoped.  But, recently, several things that I’ve been reading and paying attention to all sort of came together to send me a message:

JUST WRITE!

I tend to worship the written word, mainly because I love it so much.  But, as a result, I have all kinds of really terrible ideas about how those words get written, or at least, how I should write them.  The net effect, of course, is that nothing gets written, as long-time readers here have no doubt noticed.
Then, I read “Talker’s Block” on Seth Godin’s blog.
The idea, in brief, is that no one really gets up in the morning worrying so much about what they’re going to say that they voluntarily remove themselves from all conversation until they can think of the “right” thing to say.  (I suppose the case might be made that people who are autistic do that, but I don’t think they actually worry about it.  It’s just something they do.)  No, his argument was that we get up in the morning and go about our business and talk, mostly without considering it much, because that’s what we do all the time.

Now, apply that to writing and the answer to getting over writer’s block is to write.  All the time.  Even poorly.  Just write and keep writing.
So, that’s what I’m doing.  And, I hope the end result will be that you see more output here.
Don’t worry, though, I won’t send all my posts through Twitter and Facebook and all that.  Some will come through, just not all.  And, I suspect that, for a while, they’ll keep coming through, for search engine placement purposes and marketing and the like.  But, they’ll taper off eventually.

Thanks for your attention.
You can go back to whatever internet gewgaw was wasting your time before me.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"After a time, you may find that 'having' is not so pleasing a thing, after all, as 'wanting.' It is not logical, but it is often true."
   --Spock, "Amok Time," stardate 3372.7..

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:
"If you want others to be happy, practise compassion.
If you want to be happy, practise compassion."
   --The Dalai Lama


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