The Spreadsheet(s) of Life

empty sheetThe world is full of interesting interactions that we are only beginning to understand as the technology enhancement of our senses increases. Using Sir Isaac Newton as an example, one day he was sitting under an apple tree and got hit with one. Some say it was in the head, but I prefer the alternate storyline of it hitting him in the crotch while he was sitting down.

Either way, he figured out the basics of gravity because of an apple interrupting Newton’s moment,  and also because Newton was lacking in common sense. I imagine most people of his period knew not to sit under a bearing fruit tree. Gravity was implicit in a lot of things back then, but what Newton did through his cerebral or testicular fortitude was formalize it so the rest of us could talk about it, write about it, and yes, even complain about it. Gravity suddenly became a factor in what we now call ‘Science’ today.

So we stuck it in our spreadsheet of life as one of the things we had to account for. Really, the ‘spreadsheet’ is just a good metaphor for this sort of thing because most people know them, even if they are baffled by how to use them. Things are in tidy rows and columns, something we inherited from our perception of the world. The world, though, is not tidy, and is full of things we don’t know.

The Unstable Hill

landslipRecently, there was a landslip behind where I live. It was a sudden thing it seemed, yet it was the culmination of years – perhaps even decades. Of course, some people wanted to attribute it to one single thing, but there are a whole lot of factors involved. I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time studying it as I wait for more for it to come down.
First, there’s the underlying rock which could have been fractured by quarrying decades ago. Then, there’s the flora – the trees dropping deep roots into wherever they can fit, seeking nutrients and water for the trees. Then there’s the rainfall, which was pretty high when it happened. It’s not a simple thing with a singular simple cause. It’s a spreadsheet of factors which I’ve only teased at here.

And why hasn’t the rest fallen yet? The elasticity of the interwoven roots of the flora at the top, possibly some tap roots further in, maybe it hasn’t been windy enough, maybe there hasn’t been enough rain – but anyone who looks at it can see it’s pretty unstable.

When we get into the human side of things, with land ownership and who is responsibility, insurance claims and trying to rebuild a fence there, all of that has to be taken into account. There are so many factors that even if one had a spreadsheet to stick it all in, there would be things missing, things that mattered more than other things… and yet, one of the more important factors would be time, because factors vary with time. We could keep track of that on different worksheets and say each worksheet represented a slice of time, or we could throw time in the worksheet with all the data at intervals in it.

The worksheet representing an interval in time I find most helpful in visualizing. You can imagine this huge matrix of information changing in the worksheets stacked on each other, and more worksheets being added all the time. This landslip, a relatively simple thing, suddenly becomes a study in complexity, of data purposed to become information.

We’re More Complicated.
Our bodies are these organic machinations powered by grey matter that we’re still only really beginning to understand. We break it up into specialties so that Doctors can specialize in different parts of our bodies, since to know them all and be good at it would take a lifetime at least. By the time you learn it all, you’d plop down dead and the next generation would have to start all over again. This may change with technology, but for now this is the way it is.

Our psychology, which sits somewhere on top of this mass of physiology, is something we’re still trying to figure out as well. Ask about the number of psychological attributes a single person has, we get answers ranging from 4,000 to 3, with the present popular view being 5. Then we get into the really messy stuff when all these attributes interact with another person with the same number of attributes. Imagine two spreadsheets having a fistfight. Or making love. Or just trying to get by understanding all of this while being driven by narratives.

It seems impossible to track all of this data. But we cheat. When we see someone who demonstrates some factors we’re familiar with, we draw upon previous experience – for better or worse. This has become the dirty word we call prejudice. It is also why cats are not pleased by cucumbers. Some say it’s a fear of snakes, but given that the reaction time of the average cat is 20 milliseconds faster than that of a snake, I think the idea that they see the snake as a threat to their food supply and, like most creatures, they don’t like being startled.

The point being – even the household feline has prejudices that are shortcuts based on evolution. If you don’t jump when startled, something might eat you. And that’s just one factor.

So Much More.
I’ll be referring back to this since I’ve found the spreadsheet such an easy way to explain the idea to people, it’s easy for most to visualize, and it’s not as intimidating as what I started thinking about decades ago. A spreadsheet is a user friendly matrix whose math isn’t defined by mathematicians.

Best Part of a Trip to Miami

Miami storyThis meme had me laughing not just because of the obvious reasons, but because of something that really happened to me.

One of my late father’s drinking buddies was in Miami while I was living in Clearwater, Florida, and called to say hello – and gave me directions to come see him. He wasn’t a person I considered particularly close, and my father and he did not see eye to eye on something that had caused a rift, but he was one of the formative influences growing up. When I lost the willingness to fight when cornered by authority, he encouraged me to keep fighting – to ‘never let them have it easy even if they win.’. I think that’s pretty good advice, though younger generations don’t seem to have been taught this.

Anyway, I drove down – but when I hit South Miami, I somehow ended up with a flat. It was dark, there were Ladies of the Night nearby, and all I wanted to do was change my tire and get going – because this did not seem like the neighborhood to be caught in after dark by anyone. If I could tell that it was hookerville, so could anyone else. A latin-looking guy in South Miami with out of city plates driving a pickup?

“No bueno, officer, I can ‘splain!”

I started changing the tire in the dark, feeling my way around the Dakota’s rear end where no one practical had put a light for such occasions – and the streetlights were about as dim as they could be without being out. It’s taking me a while.

I hear footsteps. High heels sharpened on concrete, commonly called stilettos I think. A soft voice calls quietly over my sweaty, and likely dirty, shoulder, “Hey baby”, her foot drags, “you need a little help?”

“No ma’am, I’m fine, just trying to fix this tire.”
“That’s what I mean.”

That’s not what I thought she meant. Before I know it, she’s squatting behind me, holding a flashlight that she’d had tucked away somewhere – a big maglight, likely for self defense (or maybe it was an undercover cop). Before you know it, I have hookers hanging around the pickup, talking about this and that while I work feverishly on this tire. I think they enjoyed my discomfort, or found it pleasant.

Afterward, I offered a bit of cash for the help with that flashlight – it was turned down. “It’s a shame to come to Miami and not have a good experience. Can I do anything else?”

“Umm. Nope, thanks.”
“Safe trip!”
“Have a great night”, I ended up quizzically, wondering what that would be.

I drove off, a sigh of relief finally escaping me as I shifted into 2nd gear.

That was the highlight of the entire trip to Miami, since this particular guy just wanted to get money, disguised as a business venture that had more sale than keel. So I went to Miami, and the sex workers were better than the people I grew up looking up to.

Untitled Introspection.

It seems a lifetime ago when, having gained radio privileges in boot camp, a young Seaman Recruit stood looking down aisles of perfectly lined up aisles of bunks when Pink Floyd’s, “Welcome to the Machine” started playing on the radio. It was one of those moments when everything came into focus, where the mirror and the self have no boundaries. There are moments like this throughout our lives, but there’s a reason I picked this one.

While I’ve not been publishing everything online, puzzling over the various narratives that have impacted me and whether they were worth keeping or discarding. In discarding things, I found myself floating, trapped sometimes not by narratives but by a lack of narrative to guide me through wherever I was transitioning to, if even I was transitioning at all. Trapped

When you start peeling away the narratives, you start peeling away the destinations those narratives provided. In the simplest form, narratives get us from point A to point B. It’s more complex with interactions of many things, but at their core, that’s what narratives do – they give us a way to get somewhere, even if that somewhere isn’t really where we want to go, or the end result is to be someone who we don’t want to be.

We’re born into them, we build other narratives on top of them, and even what we can imagine later on because we’ve been guided by narratives. This is not a bad thing – but it can be. When there is a sense of being trapped, there’s something that’s wrong. For me, I don’t know that there wasn’t anything wrong. I found that to push beyond the boundaries, I needed to find where they were and why they were there in the first place. It takes time, honesty with one’s self, and lots of time because we’re almost never honest with ourselves.

Frank ZappaBut when things do go wrong, we do need to look at that. When we factor in other people who have other narratives, as has happened with globalization combined with the social media explosion, tempers flare, cracks begin to show, and we pretty much have the world as it is today – an unapologetic mess of battles of narratives, flaring here, simmering there, and ice elsewhere.

Now, if you’ve never heard of Frank Zappa, he has a great quote where he talks about decorating a piece of time, in the context of a guitar solo – but it’s something we all do with our lives. There are the beaten paths of life that society presses upon us, and then there are the parts of life where we find ourselves making paths. Some people stick to the beaten path more than others. Speaking for myself, the beaten paths rarely fit – if ever.

Decorate as we wishIf there’s a book on it, it’s either a beaten path or may become one. It lacks originality, that shiny luster, after a while – either it succeeds or fails as a narrative based on the number of people who subscribe to the narrative. Tolkien made Hobbits, Dwarves and Elves cool, and all that followed – as original as some of it may have seemed – was from a beaten path. What Tolkien did was borrow from other things to make something original, compelling, and even a message of hope in camaraderie. And this is one of the reasons, aside from the personal, that I started unraveling my narratives.

Somewhere along the way I sort of got lost, which I expect is par for the course. A lot has happened in my life, and I expect yours, and if you have the luxury of time to unravel everything it can be uncomfortable since these narratives have been the things pressing you in this direction and that to take you to where you think you’re supposed to go.
a-person-trapped-in-a-prison-of-their-brain-thumb
This seemed all very new to me – maybe it was the lack of humanities in my formal education when I was younger. In secondary school, the options were ‘sciences’ or ‘modern studies’, and the science path chose me more than I chose it, and the English Literature fell by the wayside. The nuances of humanity, which we all need to know better, are best described in our art – not our science.

Did I ‘find myself’? Nope, I think that ‘finding yourself’ stuff is bullshit. But I got to see more past myself as I figured out what was behind myself – and I found a point where I needed help, so I started seeing a psychologist and it has helped me find things I didn’t see before. The right questions can help us see things anew, the right observations can give us insight and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with enlisting a professional to help with that.
With a bit more confidence in knowing my own biases and understanding why I trod my paths.

And merging with the rest of the world in moments.

Decorating A Piece of Time

Frank ZappaSticking this here because I may be referring to it multiple times, and the full quote is a bit wordy.

In an interview in 1984, Frank Zappa responded to a question in a way that fits all of this very well:

“Well, I’m specialized. What I do on a guitar has very little to do with what other people do on a guitar. Most of the other guitar solos that you hear performed on stage have been practiced over and over and over again. they go out there and they play the same one every night and it’s really, just, spotless.

My theory is this – I have a basic mechanical knowledge of the operation of the instrument and I got an imagination. and when the time comes up in the song to play a solo, it’s me against the laws of nature. I don’t know what I’m going to play, I don’t know what I’m going to do, I know roughly how long I have to do it, and it’s a game where you have a piece of time and you get to decorate it and, depending on how intuitive the rhythm section is that’s backing you up, you can do things that are literally impossible to imagine – sitting here – but you can see them performed before your very eyes in a live performance situation…”

We are all just decorating time. Some do the same things over and over – some don’t.

A Loss of Reflection

ReflectionReflection is this powerful thing where we can re-assess things that have happened and see them in a new light. Things in the moment almost always look different when we look back on them.

We don’t get to see all of that when we don’t have the opportunity to reflect. In this regard I have been fortunate, from laying in a hospital being told by doctors that if I continued my lifestyle I’d be dead in as little as 5 years – 5 years ago.

A lot of people don’t have that time for reflection. Maybe because of that, repeating the same mistakes is as much a habit as smoking. As a reformed workaholic the idea of stepping back to move forward is counterintuitive.

It’s the American view that everything has to keep climbing: productivity, profits, even comedy. No time for reflection. No time to grow up. No time to learn from your mistakes. But that notion goes against nature, which is cyclical.

-George Carlin, quoted in “George Carlin’s American Dream”, Part 2.

If we recap and look back at the narratives of our world, this lack of reflection is probably one of the  reasons everything is so broken. If we don’t have the time as individuals, how can we have time as a society to reflect? If we do not reflect as individuals, how is it possible for the societies we belong to to reflect as a society?

Frankly, it isn’t. And since we’re so busy doing other things and have no time for reflection, things don’t change and we look up from our busy little lives and protest that someone else isn’t making progress for society when we ourselves aren’t doing it.

To fix things we don’t like, to rewrite narratives that fit our humanity and that continue to define future humanity, we need to reflect as individuals and as a society. That would be one step in the right direction.

Process versus Intended Outcome.

T_W_stewart_1893mopOne of the more peculiar things I have learned over the years is that when you mop, the intended outcome is a clean floor. As a young man, my father would always criticize the results of my mopping but never focused on the intended outcome, which confused me a bit.

He asked me to mop the floor, I mopped the floor, the floor had been mopped. What he might have said differently is that the floor needed to be cleaned, and the process was mopping after sweeping, but that’s a lot to unpack for a testosterone infused teenager.

It wasn’t until I was in the Navy that I unpacked all of that and translated that to a clean floor. Nobody cared if you mopped. The inspectors cared if the floor was clean. This small but relevant truth haunts the world everywhere.

Where I live, in a condo, where I was once even on the Board, the contract specifies that common areas in each floor be mopped. However, the idiots who built the place put in porous tiles, and the idiots presently running the residential board are absent (most don’t even live on the compound) have not cued in on the difference between tossing a mop around and moving dirt around and actually cleaning the floor.

‘Clean’ is subjective, of course, and problematic in contracts, so people just throw in ‘mop common areas in buildings on each floor’. The result is a clear sheen of dried oil on top of dirt ingrained in the tile which, as you can imagine, is pretty disgusting.

It ends up this problem isn’t just about floors. It ends up we see this every day where people meet the requirement of a contract or employment expectation, but not the spirit of it. What’s the point of paying people to mop floors if they aren’t clean afterwards? None. What’s the point of paying people to run a country when they don’t improve conditions in the country? Blue collar, white collar, government collar… it doesn’t matter.

In everything we do, the intended purpose should be more important than the process, and somehow that seems increasingly lost on people. At least to me.

Interlude Coddiwomple

48388230_1869156783210491_5540500364366708736_nI have been writing, I swear it. It hasn’t been cohesive, notes all over, messy, post-it markers in books, at one point I even had notes on the bathroom mirror because of an idea I had in the shower, but… well, water marker is not good on fogging surfaces.

When I wrote, ‘Narratives‘, I was already going a bit down the path but hadn’t really done with the idea. Deconstructing narratives in anything you’ve lived your life in is hard – deciding which ones should be deconstructed… and the older you get, the more you have to work on. Fortunately, if you’ve been paying attention, you know what to work with.

I gave into it, letting my mind wander, imagining different worlds in my mind, re-imagining this world, then exploring fictional worlds.

Amazon’s masterful “Rings of Power” has been fun doing it with, because what started off as a children’s story (The Hobbit) grew into a world with languages, scripts, different peoples, different cultures… all from a children’s story… and while we who know Tolkien’s works better than average may find some things not particularly what we agree with, it’s good fiction that is definitely a good story that helps explain the world of Middle Earth. The characters, wow.

Do I have a theory about the Stranger? Sure. It makes no sense telling you because I like the ability to be surprised, and it isn’t something I’m invested in. If you pay attention to what he does, he looks like a young Radagast. Could be one of the blues, but you know what? I would, if I had a book, read to the next page to find out – and good writing is more about that than being accurate because the story isn’t read if it doesn’t have that. Writing stories no one would read is senseless. Go find a government job writing permits somewhere.

Worlds are rewritten all the time even if we think it looks wrong. Oh, and as far as colors of cast – well done, well done.

I do believe that Tolkien also once wrote through one of his characters – perhaps Gandalf – that every good story deserves embellishment. Embellish away, writers of Rings of Power, I’m not so emotionally attached to the canon that I will take umbrage at some revisionism.

Will I like what they do? I have so far, and I feel attachment to key characters. That’s also good writing, and I suppose in video, good acting, special effects, etc, etc. I don’t know that process and won’t pretend to.

Now, compare that to House of Dragons. People are comparing them here and there and they are apples and oranges. To me, Game of Thrones and it’s House of Dragons is more of a soap opera in a fictional universe, where Rings of Power and Tolkien’s works are an epic that started off as a children’s story.

Two different types of taste. I don’t intend derision when I describe House of Dragons that way, some people like that sort of thing and enough people do that George R. Martin has sold more books than me by a few bazillion. He’s good at what he does, the show is good at what it does. The story just isn’t as appealing to me, and I imagine there are those in another camp who don’t like Rings of Power for similar reasons. To each their own.

This is all why deconstructing narratives is so interesting and I daresay important. If we can do that with the fictional universe, what about the narratives we live within?

Doesn’t it seem like we need a bit of embellishment these days? Well, not ‘talking heads’, but ‘characters to inspire and who do important stuff against really crappy odds’. Who is today’s ‘Rocky’? No, not the sequels, the original where you can tell Stallone put everything into it with the tenacity of his character.

So this was a bit of a coddiwomple through things, and also to remind myself to publish more often while I’m off lost in other worlds and building at least one new one.

Narratives

Human Decency MediaWe are born into a world of narratives, each one of us, and depending on accidents of geography, we are fed different narratives. We are born into whatever government we have, we are molded into what is expected of us, and we are even told who we must like or hate. These are things societies do, passed down from generation to generation, as a method of keeping things cohesive to an extent. That cohesiveness comes at the cost of adhesiveness between groups.

These narratives always start off with good intentions, and are carried on with the best of intentions, be it whether the intentions are for others or ourselves, or likely some mix in between. What does it matter to anyone that someone they never met has committed suicide? We believe we should care. We are told we should care. Society demands us to care. We care, in an odd sort of way, but we know nothing of the person and rather than get to know who they were, we find reasons for what they did not as much for them – it’s much too late for them – but because we worry that someone we do know will.

When a mass shooter kills a bunch of kids, we necessarily understand that the children are the future. We empathize with the parents, but unless we see that it could happen to children we know, we don’t worry about them. We might shrug it off. Just as when a missile kills a lot of civilians on another part of the planet, who was raised on different narratives we think are inferior because they are not our own, we can shrug off easily that and go about complaining about the line in the coffee shop.

It’s only when we see ourselves in other people that we pay attention. When we see people like us or near enough to who we see ourselves as – not necessarily who we are – we can empathize, because we recognize them not as human, but as someone like us.

Being ‘human’, unfortunately, is demonstrably not enough as we cast our gaze across the planet in a moment, even this one, and should we dare peer back through that gaze, we will see the pattern dancing in time. All because of the misfortune of the incompatibility of systems of thought that were designed implicitly to form an identity, and where there is identity, there is an isolationism to secure that identity even if that identity is to not be isolationist.

Tomorrow, children all over the world will be born who will likely will never meet, born into systems of conflict that they had no say in. Systems that may oppress others within the system, a very human trait, such that others may benefit – which is where some begin preaching another narrative of communism, or socialism, and where junior college students intellectually masturbate – those systems end up the same way, but without some form of recourse. Some of us were told democracy was best, but no two democracies are done the same, and what constitutes ‘freedom’ is largely dictated by a government detached from the people who allegedly get it… if they work hard, we tell them, things will get better, a lie told since the agricultural revolution – perhaps even before. It keeps society together so that some can scrape the cream off the boiling milk of humanity. Every system does this, it’s a matter of how.

It’s a matter of what humans do. We’ll deny it and claim that it’s not that way, and sit our children in front of flat screens filled with narratives that preach how fair the world is when it most certainly is not, even letting some of them think that the world owes them some strange birthright to impose their will on others as they please with no recourse.

We are such odd creatures, creating worlds of fictions for generations that confine the generations to those fictions. We have knee jerk reactions when other fictions are brought forward. A different religion? Not believing in religion or supreme beings? Off with their heads!

They disagree with us? Cancel them. They say something we disagree with? “Clearly, not one of my people!”.

And with all of that it is easy to dissemble harsh realities of circumstance that are outside of our own narratives because, we tell ourselves quietly, if they were only like us, it would not have happened to them.

How unfortunate about flooding in that part of the world, but no, climate change is not real, let me hop in my SUV to have coffee with a friend. How terrible that those people over there are getting killed, if only they had the good sense to be like us, it would not have happened! Oh my, a global pandemic! We’ll isolate our society and see who does best, locking down borders not because we don’t want to spread from our magic lines on the map, but because we fear the spread within our magic lines, our borders of our society, marked by people who have long since died.

But every now and then, something creeps in on us in an increasingly flattened world through communication. Every now and then we feel a sense of connectedness across a distance that would have taken a lifetime to travel not so long ago, because there are commonalities in our narratives, our fictions. There are things we can agree on. There are things we see in others as mirrors of ourselves, little lights across the world that blink even for a moment, making us begin to question the narratives we were born into.

This is happening across the world right now, increasingly, but we usually only see the disagreement and even the violence because the majority of us stick together, blinded by our surroundings to what lays beyond, that which we were told is not good.

Societies, as we call them, are often big enough where they have different societies in them with different experiences. The kid from South Boston may have more in common with the kid in Zimbabwe than either will with the people not 50 miles away, within their own societies. The children of the wealth gravitate to each other for the same reason, because they see themselves in each other. Maybe the trouble is not culture or religion or the artificial construct of race – all of them are artificial, really, but race is a fiction built on fictions and built into fictions, enough so where people still talk about it because people still act on it.

Meanwhile, at the individual level, everything we see and do and learn impacts who we are, and we see similarities in other people across the spectrum. Society might say they can’t be friends, or even fall in love, but that bond can defy the bonds of society, the social contracts our baby feet were inked and pressed upon without our assent.

Knowing this all – because we can’t un-know it – why do we ask children what they want to be when they grow up as a ‘career day’ rather than ask how they think they can improve the world? Because the world, in most of our minds, is only as big as the society we live in, and that society needs doctors, lawyers, and ditch-diggers and dish-washers.

Left to our own devices, we might just jump in puddles all day, some seem to think. What a crazy thought. Our societies need people to serve them coffee without incident, present a smile that must look real at theme parks, serve umbrellas with drinks and otherwise pamper us because where would we be without that? We might have a human experience, and those are uncomfortable because that’s not our narrative, some think. To have a conversation beyond, “I’d like a caramel iced latte!” might lead us to break down a part of the system that works for others.

Trapped in the straitjackets of society, we slam into each other on the internet, unable to do anything but bump, bite and kick…

Until we take the straitjackets off and begin interacting differently.

Image at top made with Inspirobot.me.

Lessons From Decades of Blogging.

Someone wrote on twitter that they’d been blogging for over a decade and I chuckled. I’ve been at it for at least twice as long, though my body of work has disappeared like fallen leaves in the forest of blogs. I can’t tell you how to make money blogging, because I haven’t made much directly, and I can’t tell you how to be popular because the popularity I had was niche and fleeting. I can tell you what not to do, so let me lay that out for you in the manner I can best describe.

KnowProSE.com

There’s the stuff I wrote on KnowProSE.com, which in it’s most successful period was a place where things about Second Life, Free Software and Open Source were the main focus, as well as a lot of quotations that I was building on with book reviews. The book review part was fun for me – but Amazon.com wouldn’t allow one to publish reviews on sites after Amazon.com after a while, and publishers wanted the review on Amazon.com, and there was no way to monetize that.

Lesson: Don’t tie yourself to one method of deriving income when they can change it at any time. And the second they can and it’s profitable to them, they will.

Then, through a weird kerfuffle on BlueHost.com servers, KnowProSE.com was knocked offline between backups I made while I was out of the country, at a CARDICIS event as I recall, and they lost all my data. And the data I had from Drupal was months old because, as it happened, the backups I had made in between couldn’t be restored.

Lesson: Don’t trust the technology and hosting of your blog. You’re just one of many, and you don’t matter that much to the hosts or to the content management system you use. And test your backups locally by using a local host on your PC.

This loss of content combined with the ageism in corporate America with real software engineering work caused me to get into farming for a while. The reward was the tangible, and plenty of time to think, but that’s more toward what I’m doing now than what has past.

BrainBuzz.com/CramSession.com

Around the time that I was getting KnowProSE.com, I was also involved in writing articles for Brainbuzz.com and CramSession.com for software engineering. This wasn’t blogging, per se, but the reality is that it was in how it was used. I got paid, and paid for moderating groups of software engineers yapping away in the forums with the religious wars of coding, of which there are many.

It was not a bad gig. I made $100 an article, I’d write at least 5 articles a month which was pretty good considering I was living in Trinidad at the time – I could live off that. In fact, I did. And I had the allowance of writing whatever I wanted about software engineering, and I did.
The trouble was the websites, and I expect companies, disappeared. That writing is gone forever.

Unfortunately, part of that $100 meant exclusive rights, and that means when it’s gone, it’s gone.

Lesson: Keep notes of what you have written before, no matter how easy it seems before, because while what you write for anyone else may be exclusive to them, it does not mean you can’t rewrite it.

Overall

One of the ‘problems’ I have is that I don’t have a ‘niche’. This is largely because I’m interested in everything, and I enjoy connecting seemingly unrelated things. This means my content ‘categorization’ varies widely, and as a ‘blogging rule’, this is not how to build a blog. People like to go to certain sites to get certain information consistently, like flipping to a television channel.

I hate that rule because I find it limiting. If you want to create a financial stream, that’s a good rule to follow, but what I have found is that there are needed silences in niches where there is nothing worth writing about, or the writing becomes repetitive. This leads to content for the sake of content, and to me that’s not the best use of the space we have to share our thoughts.

Some people like it. They do it. They make livings off of it, and what I’m doing is likely a mistake in the eyes of those that are financially successful in writing. People stick to genres and do well, and if you can do that it’s the easiest way forward. I’ve had mixed success with not following the rule.

And yet I have a lesson here, the final one for this post:

Write for yourself, or not at all. This is not to say that you should dismiss the audience, far from it! Yet your writing will likely be better and feel less forced if you follow your instincts and give yourself the space to grow.

LinuxGazette.com/A42.com

Through a loop of fate that had a lot to do with my travels in Latin America, which was a wonderful experience, I became editor of LinuxGazette.com and A42.com – both of which are gone.

The company that owned them, SSC, paid me well enough, but finding content that was original and getting people to write for them was challenging because of one key issue that I was not told about when I accepted the job: LinuxGazette.org.

This was an issue that put SSC at odds with a very vocal part of the community. Thus, this job was self-limiting, and I imagine a bit of a joke to the editors of Linux Journal at the time though I did not know it. I meant well, but intentions means nothing when you find yourself in the middle of a dispute regarding copyright and trademark where neither side understands what the word, ‘compromise’ means.

I tried to mediate, it didn’t work out, I advised my boss that going up against the community was a bad idea and was hated on by just about everyone involved for the trouble. Scathed.

The two sites at one point redirected to LinuxJournal.com, but now one is presently a redirect to ‘SwiftMoney.com’, the other to a site that I’ve never seen before that is not particularly helpful in explaining what it is.

Lesson: Do some hard research on things involved before you take jobs, and don’t trust the people around you to tell you anything.

WorldChanging.com

Well, I wrote a bit about this before, so I won’t repeat it. But I know at least one author from HuffingtonPost, Sally Duros, who voluntarily helped build HuffingtonPost up as many authors of the period did just to make one person rich.

Lesson: Don’t trust people with your work because you think they are well intentioned. Under the right circumstances, they may decide their value is greater than that of the people who helped build things up and, if they have the opportunity, they’ll do what’s best for them… and you’ll be out in the dark

Wear Eye Protection

Goggles WWII Flickruser SDASM archives public domainI suppose some writers will run their fingernails over their keyboards, caressing it like an old lover. What’s disturbing about that is that their fingers are between their brain and your eyes, and in an odd ways, this is sort of like poking your eyeballs. Gently, I hope, but if you see someone wiggling their fingers at you it’s best be safe.

Eye protection is important.

When you consider things like that, the world is viciously funny.

Two people fighting on social media are basically waving their fingers at each other, probably emphatically. On computer keyboards, they probably get good rhythm going, their thumbs using the space bar for percussion as they beat out their thoughts to someone who is likely not even going to read what they wrote. Even as they are typing, the other person is already working on their next response.

Dueling Keyboards. It would be a lot less intense if they got on a video call and just waved fingers at each other. How ridiculous would that be?

It might also be fun to stick them on some good gamer keyboards – something we older folks remembered as ‘standard’ with the IBM PC, XT and AT. You could hit people with it all day, use it to open a beer, maybe even chop wood with it and still use it. That’s something IBM made that few did in the early days: Bulletproof keyboards.

I used to go through a keyboard a year. Really. I stopped writing as much, and these keyboards I have have lasted… too long. A real writing session makes your fingers cramp, and that’s when you know when to stop.

But carry that with you as you go – that people are just wiggling fingers at your eyeballs, and you’re just wiggling them back.