Jay's Journal

@jaym

Always watching, always learning.

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#100Days, Day 11

Just a quick reflection of the day before I settle into a movie or something. Been working on my desktop computer all day today. I got some new entry level studio monitors for it, and a DAC (digital audio converter) a couple of weeks ago. I had set them up when I got them, and enjoyed some tunes, but after that day, I was mostly using my laptop.

Today, I spent the day on my desktop listening to tunes on the new speakers and DAC, and just soaking it all in. Wrote some emails, did some online research for movie posters, and found a place that has a ton of them, and they do different framing and mounting options, which is really cool.

I plan to buy several movie posters, and turn them into sound absorbtion panels for the media room. I saw a YouTube video that inspired me, and while the guy uses a towel as the outer display material, I'm doing movie posters, and filling the backs of each with the material this guy tested as being the most sound absorbing. And, quite surprising to say the least.

No doubt I can do something very similar for my home office, so I can listen to my monitors a little louder than I'm able to now without disturbing the Mrs.

This morning I slept in, and it felt great. Had a bit of a rainstorm, and we all know how much I enjoy those, so that was nice, too. After I post this, I'll probably watch some YouTube and a movie. I watch a lot of YouTube but not for the crazy cat videos or the Dude Perfect stuff, I watch it to learn new things. I enjoy learning about new technologies, or life hacks via TED Talks, and even some creepy paranormal stuff on Slapped Ham.

While I do enjoy watching UFO sightings as well, it's hard to find a good channel that isn't an obvious fake. Yeah, you might thing, but dude, they're all fake, but I disagree. I like watching unexplained things caught on video, like possible ghosts and UFOs and stuff. And while I do have a belief in them, I also like to think about what else it could be if it's not that thing I think it is and my brain is telling me it is. That's a fun exercise to help me with my critical thinking.

I can have a belief in something, which for me means little to no reason to doubt, until something comes along to prove that thing is false, fake, incorrect, etc. So, while I have beliefs of varying kinds, I'm also open to the possibility that the things I believe are real, good, healthy, harmless, etc., could in fact be the opposite... and vice versa. But, I'll hold the belief until I can find some evidence to disprove it.

And, if someone should happen to disprove something I'd believe in, with facts, not emotion or hysterics or shaming, but with actual facts, then I'll be the first to admit that my initial beliefs in something I thought to be true were in fact, wrong. No problem with that, whatsoever. Thing is, there's no conversation anymore where healthy discussion can turn into lively debate, and a mutual exchange of ideas.

With perhaps even both sides respecting each other all the more for sharing their reasons for leaning one way or the other.

Nowadays, it's you're either this side or that side, and if you're on what's percieved to be the wrong side, you're a complete asshole with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Well, if you've been reading my blog and my pursuit for a less-stress, simpler, and more fulfilling life, you'd know that Homie don't play that. If you can speak with me (not to me, or at me) like I'm a coherent and semi-intelligent human being with the capability to continue learning even in his older years, then I'm happy to engage.

Otherwise, if I'm going to be talked down to, condescended, mocked, or shamed, then I just don't have time to hear your point, no matter how valid it may be. So, I guess that really does boil down to, "It's not what you say, but how you say it." And sure, some believe it's time to get loud and angry and show the world how fed up (or scared) you are, and the only way to do it is to shout down others, because otherwise your anguish and disgust wouldn't be genuine otherwise. But it's really not the way.

Sure, be passionate. Believe strongly. Even take action. But like in all things, there are healthy ways to do all of the above, and there are unhealthy ways. To be completely honest, I do see both taking place. But, the unhealthy ones that think they're making a difference could actually be doing the exact opposite.

Because when you rant, and explode, and throw things, and basically act like a spoiled child throwing a tantrum, no one has time to listen to you. Even if you do have a valid point. You're just making it harder for you to be heard, because no one, and I mean no one really likes dealing with someone who can't control their emotions.

And, I can speak from experience. Not from a political standpoint, but from a general kind of everything around me standpoint. As a combat veteran who must cope with many things experienced in the service of my country, combined with shattered ideals, and the oh so many things I can not control, it has almost consumed me to a frightening degree... to an almost tragic degree. Not to the ones I love, but to myself, which I guess would impact the ones I love.

So, whatever... you hold some things to be true. That's great, take a stand, believe in something, but if you really want to be a badass, be willing to listen to someone else speak for a moment and see if they might just teach you something you didn't know before. Maybe it won't change your mind, but maybe it will give you a better understanding of the larger picture, or why the person across from you believes differently than you do.

And no, the reason for someone disagreeing with you isn't simply because they're a moron. Although, I've been guilt as charged for thinking that very thing... even as recently as last Tuesday. I joke, but the point is still valid. Just as is your opinion, your beliefs, and your struggle, as well as everyone else's.

Not sure how that spiraled into a rant about what I call "The Death of the Conversation", but it felt good to get it out. Agree, disagree, I dont much care about your stance as much as I care about you. Approach everything in the healthiest way you can. It may not be popular, or even easy, but the healthy way is always the best way. For me, for you, and for all of us.

Mmmmkay, a quick "post" of what I thought would be about 300 words turned out to be close to 1,200. Guess I had more on my mind today than I thought. But I do feel better, and hope you do too.

Live well.

#100Days, Day 10 and Weekly Accountability for April 17th

Ok, 10 days straight, and today I'm pushing to write this. Mostly because it's been another busy day of getting shit done. Making progress on my work projects, so enjoying the busy right now.

I've gone over 25 days in a row my April challenge to post every day for the month, and missed my full goal by two different days when I didn't write. However, I wrote for a total of 27 days for that month. WOW.

For someone who used to make writing an "event", it's now a daily thing. Sure, the quality will vary, but that's to be expected with this form of writing/journaling.

And like with most things, doing anything daily becomes a challenge, sometimes even a chore. The thing is, I want to take my writing to the next level, so writing every day is for me, like practicing an instrument, or a martial art, or anything that requires practice and time invested to achieve mastery.

I looked at my word count the other day, and it was like over 40,000 words. It kind of shocked me because I didn't think that would add up so quickly. Keep in mind that just because it's 40,000 words, it doesn't mean they're all good or effective, or even useful words.

But, it does show me in a tangible way, progress toward my goal. So, not for vanity, but merely for measuring growth. A year ago, I'd write maybe a few times a year. Can't believe I ever thought I'd reach any kind of goal by only doing that thing once in a while, and usually around the Holidays.

Well, I'm in it now... I'm all up in that. It feels good, but as I can only measure progress right now by the number of words I'm committing to this journal, I'm not sure of my progress as an improving effective and engaging writer.

I should probably go back and read some of the few things I wrote from last year and further, and see what that looks like. If it' the same, should I be depressed and think there's no growth?

Or, would that mean that my voice is consistent, and can still attract business clientele like I'd like it to? We shall see. Now, on to...

Weekly Accountability for April 17th, 2019

This Week's Goals (17 May 2019)

  • Enroll in professional copywriting course (STILL Overdue)
  • More decluttering and minimizing - (Overdue)
  • Continue to support my pro bono client with new content this week - [Done]
  • Do the minimum required at my current day job, allowing myself to not have to be the best - [Done]
  • Do something for somebody unexpected and positive - [Done]
  • Continue to post every day for the 100 Day Writing Challenge - {In Progress}

Next Week's Goals (24 May 2019)

  • Enroll in professional copywriting course (STILL Overdue)
  • More decluttering and minimizing (Overdue)
  • Relax over the weekend (yes, it's harder for me than it sounds)
  • Brainstorm value propositions I can offer as a professional business/technical writer
  • Give my roadster a bath and a nice polishing
  • Take one step toward additional decluttering
  • Apply the "realistic expectations" principle I wrote about yesterday

Goals For The Month of May

  • Complete half of my copywriting course
  • Define business niche and create ideal client profile
  • Establish content strategy for upcoming business writing service website
  • Made at least 4 contacts for upcoming business writing service
  • Solidified professional freelance profiles for LinkedIn, Upwork, etc.
  • Continue 100 Day Writing Challenge

Short Term Goals (within 6 months)

  • Complete a professional copywriting course by July 1st, 2019
  • Become a professional business and copywriter by August 1st, 2019 (by obtaining first paying client)
  • Establish processes for lead capturing
  • Develop client experience workflow from prospect to final delivery of product

Long Term Goals (a year or longer)

  • Be able to quit day job and go full time freelance by December 31st, 2020

What Went Right This Week

  • Found solace in spending quality time with my wife and a friend
  • Discovered something about myself I didn't realize before and could perhaps help me with my anger and anxiety (personal development)
  • Kept busy throughout the week to get some really good work done

What Can Be Done Better Next Week

  • Move closer to short and long term goals by enrolling in copywriting course (STILL!)
  • Show more patience towards others, especially towards less than cooperative co-workers (failed last week AND this week, but maybe next week)
  • Commit to even more to personal development

#100Days, Day 9

Another busy day, but again, it was a good busy. I'm enjoying a lull in the action right now, but things could pick up at any moment. It's a really nice day today so I drove my roadster to work. When I leave the office, the top is going down and stereo volume is going up! Since I haven't had a chance to enjoy my little sports car in a while, I'm glad I get to drive it today.

This morning as I was getting ready for work I was thinking about a couple of instances where I thought I knew someone, and they turned out to be not completely who I thought they were. It's disappointing to say the least, but then that leads to another thing: expectations.

When I think about it, all my anger, all my frustrations, all my disappointments, and yet all my joys are rooted in expectations. If someone, something, or a situation doesn't meet my expectations, I get mad, sad, pissed or, any number of negative emotions. When my expectations are met, I'm agreeable, happy, and in a good mood. When my expectations are exceeded, then I'm on Cloud 9.

For me, this is a tremendous realization. Because what started as disappointment in people not being true to their initial selves, at least in my perception, expectations are tied to every single part of that. Does this mean I should lower my expectations? I don't think so, as that could have a negative outcome overall.

I once had a girlfriend who used to live by the mantra, "I always assume the worst so that I'm never disappointed." Yes, others have said it, and it's somewhat cliche, but it seems to have it's roots in Stoicism. Really only so far as meditating before starting the day and thinking about the worst things that could happen regarding your dealings with other people, and the circumstances throughout the day. This way, when you've already explored "the worst" you can think of, anything less is a pleasant outcome.

But I don't think an all or nothing approach like lower my standards so low, that anything not resulting in pain, injury or death is a great answer. Nor is the constant setting of expectations of most things I can't control so high, that they could never possibly be met.

Then what about something with more of a balance?

As an example, when I drive into work, I hate traffic. I dread it, yet I can't control it. And when I get stuck in traffic and people are driving like they left their brains at home, I get really pissed off. But, in peeling that onion I can see that my expectations of my drive to work being blessed with no delays, less cars on the road, everyone moving at the speed limit or above, and everyone paying attention to the road rather than anything else but, aren't realistic because I can't control any of it.

If it's a weekday, and I'm going to work, so are tons of other people. Love it or hate it, that's reality. So, what if instead, I created more reasonable expectations of the drive to work that I can control? I love music, so I can expect to have a great playlist jamming while on the road. That's on me to be sure I've got the right playlist I want to listen to loaded up and playing.

I like always being at a comfortable temperature, so I set the heat or AC to a setting that will insure I'm comfortable while driving.

Now I get that the larger premise here is that Stoicism teaches that each person should control what they are able, and not be emotionally attached to the things you can not. But, when I frame it in the context of expectations, this somehow makes it more manageable to (hopefully) be able to focus on the source of my negative feelings and reframe those sources as things I shouldn't have such high expectations about.

We'll see how that goes, but at this point, I'd like to have a little more calm in my soul, so it's worth a shot.

#100Days, Day 8

Just a quick post to keep my commitment, but to also reflect a bit on my day. Coffee with my buddy this morning was great, it's always good to catch up with him. Work was busy again today, but once again, it was a good busy. Slight frustration over people who just refuse to do what they're supposed to do.

All it does is force me to raise these issues with my manager, who raises it with their managers, and they end up having to do what I originally asked them to do in the first place.

But not before all the extra time, effort and frustration it takes to get there. It's almost like people enjoy wasting other people's time and just being generally obtuse. It must be fun, I mean, because why else would they do this?

Oh, and as far as accountability? None. They won't get spoken to, or reprimanded in any way for wasting company time and resources. Which means, they'll just be free to do it again and again.

But, strangely enough, I still felt relatively productive, making headway on a lot of delays to my work project. All in all, a pretty good day, I guess. What's even better is that I'm one day closer to Friday, and I love Fridays.

Hope you're having a great week. More tomorrow...

#100Days, Day 7

Busy day today... probably the busiest in a while. But, it was a good busy, not a chaotic busy. I was able to make some good progress with my project team, and my focus was sharp today.

Met up with my wife after dinner at her favorite Mexican restaurant, and while they're always pretty good, they were ON POINT today. We like to meet up after work sometimes and just have a date.

I fasted since Sunday night, and dinner was my first meal since then. I wasn't ravenous when we sat down, but once we started on the chips and salsa, the hunger then hit me.

Funny thing was, I could only finish half my meal. Sure, I loaded up on chips, but I always do that, and never have a hard time finishing. So as hungry as I started feeling when I first started eating, I thought I'd be taking no prisoners today. So, it turns out, I actually ate a little less than I normally would have if I didn't fast.

Now that I think about it, I was so busy, I forgot to have coffee today. That's not like me, so that should tell you I was in the zone.

I'll make up for it tomorrow, as I'll have coffee in the morning with a friend of mine. Another thing I do on a regular basis. Come to think of it, these regular rituals involving friends and family are quite nice.

It's nice to be able to share a nice meal with my wife and just talk, no pressure, the day is over, and we've got nowhere to be. Then, tomorrow morning, it's coffee with a buddy, which means we can talk about different stuff that dudes talk about.

I do value those times I can spend quality time with those I enjoy being with. And yet, I do also enjoy those times when I can spend quiet time with myself, just doing whatever. Reading, writing, watching TV shows or movies, it re-energizes me.

It's good to have balance, and lately I've been realizing that more than ever.

#100Days, Day 6

Not much to share today, but I did spend most of the day learning more about Git and how to use GitHub and GitLab more for my daily tasks.

I've also been reading more on how to use Git's version control for writing projects, and I think this is going to be pretty cool. The more I learn the more excited I get.

I only had one meeting during normal hours today, and it felt great. Allowed me time to work on my work projects as well as my personal ones, too. I do have a meeting this evening with our counterparts overseas, but it should only be a half hour if they don't have a lot of questions, so here's hoping.

My new tools are really helping me stay on top of things. I feel even more efficient than I already did before. I could get used to this.

Nothing too profound today, mostly because it's been a busy day one way or another. Maybe tomorrow I'll be inspired to wax philosophical, so you've been warned. Hoping you've got a great start to the new week.

#100Days, Day 5

Today is Mother's Day, and my wife and I celebrated with her parents. We went to eat, got there early, right as they opened, and before hardly anyone showed up. By the time we were done eating, the restaurant was full, and there were people inside and outside the restaurant waiting for a table.

We planned the timing and we do this every year. We've learned how to adjust our schedules to try to avoid the crowds and chaos that comes with them. It's sad, actually, that we have to adjust our schedules because going anywhere and doing anything during a normal hour is just too daunting with lots of people, who are often rude, or careless, or clueless always around you.

I realize that resenting the ever presence of people, and caring way too much if they're where I happen to be nearly every single minute of every day, is not very 'Stoic'. I've got a lot to learn in that area, and I'm trying.

But something like that won't happen overnight. I think that's why I'm drawn to writing and wanting to do it to make a living. I can totally do it working from home, avoiding traffic and all the depressing rituals of schlepping my ass into an office, only to have to navigate the various pitfalls of human interaction throughout the day, while still trying to get something productive done.

When I'm writing, it's just me, the keyboard, and the screen. The three of us totally get along, and there's no having to pretend to be interested in someone's weekend, or acting apologetic for not doing something I didn't want to do in the first place.

Nope. With me, my keyboard and my screen, there's just truth. It's there, and it's real, and it's honest. If it's to change, it's because I changed it, whether by typing something else instead, or opening my browser to a different page.

It's simpler, quieter, and more manageable for me. I do struggle with being out in public, and it's been a rough road having to manage this as one of the side-effects of being in combat. But, writing keeps me grounded, keeps me calm, less angry at what I can't control (the hordes of people everywhere), and more grateful for what I can (my words, even if not my thoughts).

So, our plan worked, we got in and got seated right away, enjoyed our meal, and left. My wife asked me to say the prayer before we ate, so I obliged. I spoke my heart, and the women were driven to tears.

They joked I should give the prayer all the time, but I didn't find it funny or appealing. Maybe they weren't joking and I just hope they were. Either way, it doesn't matter.

I got my nap in today from being so full, but I would have napped no matter what, because I really like taking them.

When I woke up, my wife was crashed out on the couch, still enjoying hers. Perfect chance for me to sneak upstairs and write this out.

My mom is no longer with us, neither is my step-mom, both of whom I admired very much. I knew my mom my entire life until she passed, with some gaps in our lives when we'd be estranged. She'll always be my mom though, she with her imperfections, and me, as part of her flesh and blood, with plenty of mine.

Not sure which ones overlap, and which ones we could each call our own, but she defined the word 'Mom' for me, and because of her I knew what it was like to be loved.

My step-mom I was only able to know for a few years. But, in those few years, I admired her and thought she was the best thing to happen to my dad. He hates to be alone, and he really never is. He always ends up with a companion at his side, he's got that way about him.

She was good to him and good for him, and he knew it. Both these women went way before they should have, too soon and too young for all they still had left to give us all.

So, earlier I got to celebrate my mother-in-law for bringing my wife into the world, while she's still with us, and we all hope for a very long time to come.

For my mom and stepmom, it's just me, my keyboard, and my screen, giving them gratitude and love with my rememberance and words in type and in quiet solitude. It's truly the best way I know how: Happy Mother's Day

#100Days, Day 4

It seems that whenever I stumble onto something 'new', it's not really all that new. Which means that more times than not, I'm late to the party of the whatever I discover to be cool. Sometimes months late, but sometimes, decades late.

Some examples include, but aren't limited to:

  • Linux
  • Minimalism
  • Stoicism
  • Outsourcing
  • Rockabilly (fashion and music)
  • Intermittent Fasting
  • Internet Privacy and Security
  • Inbox Zero
  • Dynamic websites while sticking to MS Front Page, then using dynamic websites like Wordpress and Joomla, now static sites again using static site generators Anything I haven't discovered yet, or I did know about but didn't take the time to learn about it then love it and embrace it yet, until many years later

So, the latest 'discovery' of mine is using Agile and Scrum methodologies for my daily non-development work. I started using it this past week, along with some free tools that enable this, and am pleased with the results so far.

To be clear, I'm not a coder or a developer. In fact, I've been an infrastructure systems guy for pretty much all of my career. Typically non-coders and infrastructure types that install hardware, OS, and software applications and services follow a "waterfall" methodology.

Waterfall is typically a series of workflows that begin and end within a certain timeline, with the next workflow set to begin after the current one in progress is complete.

It's very linear, and each worflow or tasks needed to complete a milestone needs to be completed before a new one can begin. Therefore, if a workflow that is waiting to start because the current workflow is behind schedule, the delayed workflow calls the delayed workflow a "dependency".

Workflows won't flow very smoothly while dependencies exist. And, usually when one workflow on the waterfall is delayed, the delayed workflow and the other downstream workflows dependent on the delayed workflow will either also be delayed, or the project team will need to work additional hours to make up for the delay.

So, when one workflow is delayed, the usual result is the project itself will either be delayed or late. Both of which cost the organization or client money.

In addition to all that, managers and directors rarely want to wait for one workstream to complete before starting another. So, now you've got multiple workstreams working in parallel, with the same team members working on all active streams. This creates chaos, and even more delays, in addition to requiring more time to provide the reporting that explains the progress and delays of multiple workstreams all being worked by the same few team members.

But again, that's the only way I knew how to approach projects.

A few years ago, I led a team that was upgrading an implementation of an open source cloud platform. They were a bunch of Linux geeks who were developers and coders. And the Linux geeks as well as the stakeholders and managers of the project were all using Agile methodology.

At the time, this seemed very much at odds with everything I knew with a lifetime of waterfall experience. But, for the sake of the project, I quickly choked down the Agile workflow and reporting and made everyone happy.

And, as soon as I was done with that project, I said to myself that since I'm neither a coder or a developer, I'll probably never need this Agile stuff again. I was pretty relieved to be rid of such an abomination in my life.

Fast forward about five years, and reference the bullet points above, and here I am, embracing Agile and Scrum methodologies for my non-developer day to day duties, and so far loving it.

I bet you're wondering what changed. Well, it started with my recent frustrations with Outlook and OneNote at work. I've been using MS Office pretty much forever, but with my current workload and all the things I need to remember, action, ask others to action, and remember who I asked to what and when it needs to be done by, along with my own deadlines, these tools just weren't working for me.

To be fair, Outlook and OneNote do have amazing reminder and calendaring capabilities. I can create tasks in either application, and set reminders. I can use Outlook Tasks and keep detailed information on all the things I need to track, and even document the status, note updates, and track time spent on a task.

With OneNote, I can create a note, or a table, or even a spreadsheet, and flag any text for follow up or assign a due date. With OneNote, there's no end to the things I can annotate, clip, save, and store.

The thing is, Outlook is too structured, and OneNote isn't structured at all. And so the more I'd try to capture for tracking, the messier my life was becoming. On top of all that, my manager likes to have ad-hoc phone calls to discuss my progress on projects.

Needless to say, ad-hoc sync up calls leave me scrambling for the answers I get asked and wasn't able to prepare for ahead of time. As I've got stuff scattered between Outlook and OneNote tracking everything, I found that I'm not able to answer unexpected questions on just about anything regarding my projects.

Not being able to find status and data from my tracking sources, I've had to rely on memory a hell of a lot more. That's more work than I think should be necessary, so I went to find a better way.

I remembered reading sometime somewhere that Git as in GitHub and GitLab can be used for more than just coding and software projects. Plus, I'd started using both GitHub and GitLab for a side project I'm working on outside of work.

Everything came together... I needed a better way, I remember reading about a creative way to use coding tools for non-coding work, and I'd just started using those tools and found them pretty useful, for what I know about them now. I thought maybe if I learned how to leverage these Git services better, I'd get more out of it.

With that hunch, I spent last week setting up my Git "projects" for work. I can keep any project I want as private, and both GitHub and GitLab use two-factor authentication, so I feel even better about keeping my notes and tasks private.

After I set up my work projects, I took everything I was tracking from Outlook and OneNote and started using the "Issues" management features. These issues management tools with GitHub or GitLab allow me to track the task, keep narrative notes with timestamps for each task, and I can add labels to each task to let me know which project or workstream a specific task is attached to.

Updates are tracked as an ongoing narrative, along with status changes. And, I get a Kanban board with either service, allowing me to move different tasks to their appropriate status stack.

Now, at a glance, I can see what tasks I'm tracking, who's responsible, the current status, and any updates regarding that task, and the timeline associated with those updates.

To add to all that, I can see it all in a central location. If I wanted to, I could also upload any documents, attachments, or work product to each task, or to a central repository for later reference or usage. And, it's all stored in the cloud.

OMG, this was what I needed. Now, here's the icing on the cake. I can assign due dates to each task, but also create milestones for the project and associate specific tasks to a specific milestone.

The result? I know the progress and due date of each task, and how that impacts the due date of the milestone, which allows me to better track the entire project pretty much at a glance.

Because these Git services can use Markdown text files and track changes and even revert changes, this becomes a perfect project management and respotory tool for my writing business.

When I start using it that way, I can have multiple people working on the same document at the same time. Like, me and my client for example.

I can create a draft of my work for my client to review. My client can make comments on what should be changed, or even change text themselves, and it's all tracked separately from the soon to be finished version.

We can continue to refine and revise the document, implement only the recommended changes that make sense, and leaving out the ones that don't. That would merge all the accepted changes into the final finished document. Then, my client can either download the finished product in Markdown, or I can download it and convert it for my client in any format they want, like Word or PDF, fully formatted.

There's many more features that I haven't touched on, like free static website web hosting on either Git service, as well as desktop editors like Standard Notes that you can push (upload) your documentation changes to.

I'm definitely going to dive in even more and see how I can further leverage these free services to continue to improve my organization, my workflow, and my effienciency.

This was a long one, but this is yet another discovery that's got me geeking out yet again.

Resources:

#100Days, Day 3 and Weekly Accountability for April 10th, 2019

Well, it looks like the Universe isn't without a sense of irony. I just got word that the position I was a candidate for, and so conflicted about, is a no-go. It could have been a number of things. My salary requirements were too high for their liking, I came off as a know-it-all which may have scared them off, all or none of the above.

This has truly been an up and down roller coaster, but, as I was good with it before, I'm still good with it now, although quite a bit of time was invested with all the interviews and trips to their office. But, no sour grapes here as I had a plan to resume my plan to further my writing aspirations, which I can do now without distraction. A new job would have only delayed this move forward indefinitely as settling in and getting organized would have required all my time and attention for who know's how long.

I won't lie, though. I was kind of looking forward to giving my employer my resignation and start the process of disconnecting from the day to day here that's left me unfulfilled for quite a while now. But, again, making a good living while learning something new, and only caring about the things that matter instead of making myself sick worrying about everything, is not a bad gig unto itself.

This frees up a lot of time, energy, and emotion, because I can go back to not caring as much about my day job, and really not having to pretend to care so much about a new job, either. As I continue embrace minimalist and stoic mindsets, I can truly say, this is pretty damn good in the grander scheme.

And, for any salary difference between what I'm making now and that new job can easily be made up if I put my business writing services into motion. So, as I was gloating to myself (and to you) earlier about my moral victory, it seems it was my turn for the Universe to bring me back down to size.

And, humbled I am, but also grateful, and more hopeful.

In addition to all this, it's Friday, and last Friday, just as I'd hoped, it was quiet as could be. This Friday's shaping up to be pretty much the same, leaving me plenty of time to hone my craft. Now that I've stepped back and written this all out, it really doesn't get any better than this.

Weekly Accountability for April 10th, 2019

This Week's Goals (10 May 2019)

  • Meet with CEO of prospective new company [Done]
  • Enroll in professional copywriting course [NOT Done]
  • Continue to support my pro bono client with new content this week [Done]
  • Do the minimum required at my current day job, allowing myself to not have to be the best [Done]
  • Do something for somebody unexpected and positive [Done]
  • Start a new phase of decluttering and minimizing [Done]

Next Week's Goals (17 May 2019)

  • Enroll in professional copywriting course (Overdue)
  • More decluttering and minimizing
  • Continue to support my pro bono client with new content this week
  • Do the minimum required at my current day job, allowing myself to not have to be the best
  • Do something for somebody unexpected and positive
  • Continue to post every day for the 100 Day Writing Challenge

Goals For The Month of May

  • If offer is received for new position, arrive at a decision [Done]
  • Complete half of my copywriting course
  • Define business niche and create ideal client profile
  • Establish content strategy for upcoming business writing service website
  • Made at least 4 contacts for upcoming business writing service
  • Solidified professional freelance profiles for LinkedIn, Upwork, etc.
  • Complete 100 Day Writing Challenge

Short Term Goals (within 6 months)

  • Complete a professional copywriting course by July 1st, 2019
  • Become a professional business and copywriter by August 1st, 2019 (by obtaining first paying client)
  • Establish processes for lead capturing
  • Develop client experience workflow from prospect to final delivery of product

Long Term Goals (a year or longer)

  • Be able to quit day job and go full time freelance by December 31st, 2020

What Went Right This Week

  • Achieved all but one goal this week
  • Was able to find relief in a job opportunity that didn't happen, again
  • Set up additional organization for daily tasks using free tools
  • Kept 'inbox zero' at work AND with personal email <-- Bonus!

What Can Be Done Better Next Week

  • Move closer to short and long term goals by enrolling in copywriting course
  • Show more patience towards others, especially towards less than cooperative co-workers (failed this week, but maybe next week)
  • Commit more to personal development

#100Days, Day 2

I'm kind of an asshole. Well, not kind of, I am a full on asshole, especially when people who know they're wrong continue to push the issue as if they'll somehow be right, when the evidence is clearly stacked against them.

So, the asshole part of me is that when a management decision comes down that basically vindicates my original and unwavering position, essentially shoving all the things wrong with the other person's argument down their throat, it makes me smile. It makes me smile big.

When I think of all the time and energy that was wasted in my trying to get this douche to essentially do the right thing, he kept refusing. Flat out refusing to adhere to our company's global compliance standard, which I've been tasked with enforcing. D-bag knew he was wrong, and that he had no argument. Every time he tried to make one, I'd dissect his reasons one by one and factually refute each and every weak excuse he could come up with.

Finally, after getting tired of playing his petty little game, I simply escalated to my senior manager, and the chief compliance officer for his country. And guess what... turns out d-bag needs to play ball, and he's fresh out of excuses, and now all the right (or wrong, depending on how you look at it) people know who this guy is and what a whiny little prick he is.

As I mentioned yesterday, this next #100Days is raw and uncensored... and I may not always have something profound to share during this challenge. But, I can share me, and the things that bring a smile to my face, and the things that frustrate me. At first, this was very frustrating as this dude was digging in his heels and flat out refusing for his department to follow global policy because he thought he was too special and too important to have to.

Well, today, he was brought down to size, and I was able to see it. Perhaps being an asshole makes me evil, but my sense of justice is very strong. Always has been. I can't stand seeing other assholes just do what they want and get away with it. This time the Universe did provide some of the justice this world sorely lacks.

Yes, it feels good, and perhaps that makes me just as petty as him. However, I'm only sharing this with you, and not rubbing his nose in it, because I know how to be gracious, even patient. And that's what it took here. Patience to try everything I could and remain calm, and then patience while I let senior management handle the rest, not knowing if they would cave or not. Given most companies hate confrontation, d-bags usually win out.

So, yeah, I'm an asshole, I guess I can be vindictive, and yup, I tend to celebrate a little when I see justice served. But, if people would just do what they know is right in the first place, I wouldn't really need to be any of these things now, would I?

Seriously though, I try to be humble every day, but my inner thoughts are mine. And while I try to be humble and nice, even to those I would rather not, I do try. So, as I write this, I see the duality of me, and it's that duality that keeps me in balance. Can't have pleasure without pain. Happiness without sadness, etc.

Perhaps this is what I need to keep my balance in this world... or just a thin excuse to be nothing more than an asshole.

#100Days, Day 1

I just saw a post on the Listed blog called the '100 Day Writing Challenge' today, and this is so good, I must participate.

In order for me to do this, though, I'm going to need to post to my Listed blog without images. This way I can focus on writing and posting, and not hunting for the perfect image to reflect the topic of a specific post.

This should help streamline everything, plus, with this challenge, I can take the gloves off if you will. I can write whatever comes to mind, which I usually do anyway, but typically I try to bring some structure to my posts.

Well, we'll see how that goes, but for now, it's freeform and it'll be raw and uncensored. I've seen some others show their support for this challange already, so if you're reading this and haven't committed to the 100 Day Writing challenge yet, maybe this will inspire you do so.

Before I post this, I wanted to reflect on something earlier in the week. I had my 4th interview with the same prospective employer I've written about before. I'm never sure how these things went after it's over, because I tend to always be my harshest critic.

I'd like to think it went well, and I do hope that after this most recent interview that nothing's changed. During that most recent interview, I also had a chance to sit down with the CEO and ask all my questions around anything that wasn't clear, or even a concern.

He answered them all without hesitation, and I can't tell you how much better I felt after we had that open and honest discussion. He even brought up a concern of his, which was that I say 'yes' to a lot of things, and that's kind of worrisome.

That hit me right between the eyes, because I was actually trying to do the opposite. I was attempting to show that in my 30 year career I've done a lot, but I certainly don't know everything. And for that which I don't know, I've made a career out of learning things extremely fast, and sometimes even on the fly.

So, I clarified that if a question is asked of me whether I can do something, based on what it's related to, it's likely to be a yes, because I know my strengths around learning quickly.

If it's a question around have you done this? Then the answer will be different based on whether or not I've done something. I'm certainly not trying to oversell or misreprestent, and I've said as much during my interviews, while also stating honest answers to questions.

I also told him that earlier in the interview when I was meeting with someone else before meeting again with the CEO, I did declare my Achilles heel. I was asked point blank if there was anything I didn't know, or couldn't do... and I answered honestly to that by naming a technology and a discipline that I haven't mastered in my travels.

So, all in all, we'll see what comes of it. If an offer happens, based on the answers the CEO gave me, I'd feel much better about considering it. But, if I've turned them off by sounding like a know-it-all, even if purely unintentionally, I've got my writing plan ready to take full advantage of.

This brings to mind the one thing my father told me when I was much younger and thought I had everything figured out. He said, "A know-it-all usually doesn't."

And, here I am, being that guy that I vowed not to be, and succeeded not being him for decades. Either way, I've learned something this week.

Thanks for reading.

Warning: I'm About To Totally Geek Out Again

Yeah, baby, yeah!!

Part of how I 'relax' on any given day is to find new products and services that can help enhance my online privacy and security. And, when I find an online tool that isn't necessarily privacy focused, but would like to see if any privacy focused alternatives exist, I love going to AlternativeTo and seeing what privacy-based alternatives might exist.

That's actually how I came about Standard Notes, and Listed. And now, I use both of these tools every day.

However, in this case, I was researching encrypted mail. For maximum privacy, I use ProtonMail, and Mailbox.org with a fully encrypted inbox feature called Mailbox Guard. With Mailbox.org's Mailbox Guard enabled, it's very close to being as secure as ProtonMail.

What I like about both of these services is that you can send a 100% secure message to someone that doesn't use email encryption because it's too complicated, or their mail service of choice doesn't offer it natively, or in GOOGLE's case, they can still see your encrypted messages.

While I like the look and feel of ProtonMail, it's just not very practical. Sure, it has an address book, but besides that, there are no other productivity tools that it can be used with. Mailbox.org, on the other hand, has a full productivity suite that includes calendar, tasks, notes, even some cloud storage. It's like Google without all the privacy violation.

It's important to note, however, that outside of the inbox and cloud storage, Mailbox.org's other features like calendar, tasks, etc., aren't encrypted. The reason for that is that these are things you can share with others if you'd like. You can share whole calendars, assign tasks to others, even share contacts. In order to do that, the data can't be encrypted.

While Mailbox.org says they're working on a fix, it's the not the current reality. The good news, however, is that Mailbox.org doesn't scan your email and calendar to find ways to sell your data to other corporations. Also, since Mailbox.org's servers are in Germany, they're subject to strict German and EU data protection laws.

So, even if my doctor's appointments aren't fully encrypted, no one's actually reading them but me and who I choose.

Now, the major drawback to both these services is that because their mailboxes are secured separately from the user login credentials, there's no way to manage these mailboxes with third party email applications.

There's really no way to use 3rd party email apps with Mailbox.org while the entire mailbox is encrypted. Same for ProtonMail. And while ProtonMail has their own mobile apps, and you can use the web interface, it becomes less productive being wholly separated from calendars and reminders.

When your Mailbox.org mailbox is fully encrypted, the only way to read and manage your email is via their web interface. They don't have an official mobile app that works with their encrypted mailbox, only when it's unencrypted. So, if using phone, tablet, computer, etc, you must use the web app. Either in mobile mode or full desktop browser mode.

And, it's not bad, really. You get full functionality, but you have to log into a website everytime you want to check email on your iPhone. Not ideal.

So, I may have found a happy medium as I came across a very cool secure email service while looking to figure out a way around the shortcomings of these current email solutions I'm using. With that, I found an email service called Criptext, and here's why it's so awesome:

  • It's fully encrypted, just like ProtonMail or Mailbox.org
  • You can send encrypted email to non Criptext users and yet those users can still read your emails, by logging into a web page that displays your encrypted email to them. This is exactly how both PM and Mailbox enable non-users to read your encrypted emails to them.
  • You also choose to send emails unencrypted if you like.
  • They have applications for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS.
  • And the best part, No email is kept on any servers. Period. All your email is stored on your devices. If you have multiple devices, you can authorize any or all of them to have access to your mailbox. Then email is stored on as many devices as you approved.

It's decentralized email at it's best. If you have multiple devices that have access to your mailbox, your email is replicated only between devices you trust. And when you send email to another Criptext user, it's automatically encrypted, and never passes through a server. It's sent directly to your recipient.

It also uses the same encryption from OpenWhisper that Signal texting app uses, which is the most secure in the world at this time.

If you do send an email from your Criptext mailbox to a user of a server-based email like Gmail, Yahoo, or Outlook.com, your email to them will be stored on that service's email server. But, if you send an encrypted message from Criptext to a recipient of one of these unsecure services, no one but you and your recipient will ever be able to read that email, no matter where it's stored.

So, for me, this allows me to unencrypt my Mailbox.org mailbox and use it for non-encrypted communications while taking full advantage of the productivity suite. And, since my email and calendar data is stored in Germany, not just anyone is going to be able to read it.

This means I can now use any mobile or desktop email application I want for my Mailbox.org email, and Criptext for secure emails that won't get stored on any servers for me to be able to compose, read, or reply. This allows me to fully separate truly sensitive information from my daily communications that may not require as much vigilance to protect.

I'm not a spy, or an activist or part of a global terror group. I just care about my privacy and don't want anyone having access to anything I don't approve. This allows me to do all of that.

The Criptext service is free, so you can download their app, and sign up for a free account, with no string attached. If you'd like, you can reach me via Criptext as jaym@criptext.com.

I'm pretty excited about this email service.

Weekly Accountability For April 3rd, 2019

Write it down to make it real

Photo by picjumbo.com from Pexels

Unplanned Update

The below post I'd written most of earlier in the week. However, today I had an interesting turn of events. The potential employer who wasn't willing to entertain my salary requirements has contacted my recruiter to say "they'll do what it takes to make it work."

I was surprised, stunned, even shocked. I asked the recruiter what changed, and he said that the CEO said that no matter what ideas he had, and what he tried to do to move forward without me, it just all came back to that I was the guy for this position.

That's a huge vote of confidence, and I'm truly humbled.

So, I've got a meeting on Monday as I have to at least listen to what they have to say. It still needs to make sense for me to move, but it sounds like they're now a little more flexible than they were previously.

Ok, back to my originally scheduled post...

The Idea

I've just come up with an idea for a series of posts called "Weekly Accountability". It'll be a post every Friday that recaps my goals, what I've done that week to help reach my goals, and what I can do better next week to help me reach my goals.

Sure, it sounds an awful lot like journaling, but I'd like to chronicle my journey from where I am now, and where I want to be. Goals may change, as well as priorities, but I intent to blog about all of that, because change is still a constant in our universe, and I'm in no way immune.

If this weekly series helps you in some way, or if you'd like to provide some encouragement, or even hold me accountable for not doing what I said I would during a given week, feel free to contact me. You can email me at jaym@mailbox.org.

And if you'd like to do something similar, whether it be to journal on Listed or on your own, I'd love to hear from you. I'd totally be willing to receive regular updates on your goals and progress, and be an accountability partner for you as well.

Whether you post on Listed, or want to email me weekly, let's do this. Maybe together, we can be become better versions of ourselves for those that love us, and even those that don't.

Now, as part of my weekly accountability for this week, I'm going to state my goals that I'm working toward, and will update my progress next week.

Author's Note: These goals may very well change depending on the outcome of Monday's meeting. Not entirely, as I'm not giving up on becoming a freelance business writer, but perhaps some of the dates of achievement.

Next Week's Goals (10 May 2019)

  • Meet with CEO of prospective new company (added today)
  • Enroll in professional copywriting course
  • Continue to support my pro bono client with new content this week
  • Do the minimum required at my current day job, allowing myself to not have to be the best
  • Do something for somebody unexpected and positive
  • Start a new phase of decluttering and minimizing

Goals For The Month of May

  • If offer is received for new position, arrive at a decision
  • Complete half of my copywriting course
  • Define business niche and create ideal client profile
  • Establish content strategy for upcoming business writing service website
  • Made at least 4 contacts for upcoming business writing service
  • Solidified professional freelance profiles for LinkedIn, Upwork, etc.

Short Term Goals (within 6 months)

  • Complete a professional copywriting course by July 1st, 2019
  • Become a professional business and copywriter by August 1st, 2019 (by obtaining first paying client)
  • Establish processes for lead capturing
  • Develop client experience workflow from prospect to final delivery of product

Long Term Goals (a year or longer)

  • Be able to quit day job and go full time freelance by December 31st, 2020

What Went Right This Week

  • I contemplated my goals and wrote them out
  • Was able to find relief in a job opportunity that didn't happen
  • Found renewed focus in my goals by identifying and eliminating distractions to those goals
  • Kept 'inbox zero' at work

What Can Be Done Better Next Week

  • Take note of my stated goals and actively work toward them
  • Show more patience towards others, especially towards less than cooperative co-workers

Where Do I Begin?

Start from the top

It's been a crazy week, full of ups and downs, and it's only Thursday. I'm hoping that tomorrow will be a nice quiet day. I've only got a few meetings scheduled, and things are usually pretty slow on Fridays. Of course, last week, as soon as I logged in for work, I mean, the very moment I was online, I walked into a shit-storm. Way more drama than I needed on a Friday.

So, I'm really hoping this Friday's going to be chill.

In any case, this week I'd had a potential job fall through during salary negotiations, which in of itself was a roller coaster and a relief, too. At first I was excited about it, then not so much, then the thought of leaving the job I have now was just too juicy to dismiss, only to come back around and realize that the new gig is totally not for me.

How strange is that? Discovering that the current job I loathe still isn't as bad as some jobs that are out there, and those shittier jobs apparently pay less, too. So, I'll be the actor waiting tables, or the guitarist working as a mechanic during the day to make ends meet while I pursue my true passion.

When I frame it in that context, that this job is part of a very long career, but isn't intended to further it, and instead, will finance my next career, it doesn't sound half bad. And, since I'm not trying to set the world on fire, get promoted, or really do much more than the minimum to not get fired these days, my work days aren't always that busy.

Which, gives me more time to... you guessed it! To write!

Another great thing that happened this week was that a blog article I submitted as a guest blogger was accepted as-is, with no edits, no revisions - BOOM! Published. That's a HUGE win.

What's even more, some product FAQs and documentation I'd worked on was accepted and published on the product's website.

With so much wind in my sails right now, I'm going to enroll in a copywriting course that promises to teach me everything about copywriting and business writing. Even SEO research and strategy. I'll be honest, I tend to think SEO is dead as a deliberate activity since Google changes their algorithms so often. And, at the end of the day, if the content brings value, is useful, or serves a purpose for the person searching, why have to map out keywords?

I mean, I know why, but why spend all that money doing that? Why not just hire someone to write killer content that people might actually want to read without getting hit over the head with some link trick or carefully manipulated set of words? Maybe I'm missing the larger picture on that.

But, I digress.

Realizing that I'm nowhere near an expert on SEO or even copywriting, my attitude may shift after I take this course. But, that's the beauty of it. I have an open mind, and if my mind gets changed, great! If it only solidifies my original thinking, that's great, too! The important thing is that I seek out the knowledge before making a firm judgement.

I hope you'll stay tuned tomorrow as I've got a pretty cool post planned. Hoping it could turn into something really good. Not just for me, but perhaps for you as well!

How's your week been? Feel free to share it with me, or better yet, write about it on Listed! Be well.

A New Instrument For A Better Me: Stoicism

From the Age of Reason: Stoicism

Sometimes I feel like Bruce Lee. Not that I can do flying roundhouse kicks and do pushups with my thumbs, heck, I'm not even in shape to do any kind of pushup. But, when he created his own martial art, Jeet Kune Do, he did it out of necessity. He felt that all the current martial arts were too rigid in their structure, and that rigidity was a weakness.

So, what he did was take the best of several martial arts (including fencing and boxing), discarded what wasn't useful, and incorporated all that he did find useful into a single martial art called Jeet Kune Do. He even went so far as to teach his students to take only what is useful of Jeet Kune Do for the individual, and discard the rest. Use what works for you, try new things that could work for you, keep all that does. What he was essentially saying is that when you keep what is useful and you add what is useful, you're in essence creating your own martial art.

And that's what I've been doing lately with mindsets and philosophies. I'm taking the best of multiple philosophies and mindsets, keeping what is useful and most effective, and discarding that which doesn't work for me.

I've written about my embracing minimalism, and I've written about my own discoveries around forgiveness, and I do have roots of faith in Christianity. My next addition looks to be Stoicism. This is very interesting to me, because at it's heart, Stoicism appears to be the foundation of and even predates several religious faiths, and it's also the core of many sayings we tell ourselves and each other practically on a daily basis.

As an example, the phrase, "If it's meant to be, it'll happen" comes from Stoic philosophy. Even "Plan for the worst and hope for the best" is at it's very core, Stoicism. At the moment, I'm aware of two prominent Stoics, although there are many more for me to discover.

One prominent Stoic is Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emperor who refused to use his power and wealth for selfish and perverted gains. He lived humble in both thought and material things, and he created a journal for himself to record his discoveries, reflections, and goals.

This became known as "The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius".

Originally these journal entries were his personal notes, meant only for him, with never an intention of turning it into a book. However, it's become a book, and a foundation for Stoicism and daily personal journaling.

Both of which have the potential to help me deal with stress in healthy ways, to anticipate and deftly handle negative outcomes, and to regularly look into myself and find ways to be better, every day.

I know we may not need a book to tell us these things, but Marcus Aurelius was ahead of his time, in mind and in spirit, so I'm going to give him a read. I'd like to see how I can apply his principles in daily life for a better life.

The second well-known Stoic is Seneca, or Seneca the Younger, the Roman statesman, essayist, playwright, and satirist. In 41 AD, he was exiled to Corsica by the Roman Emperor, Claudius. In 49 AD, he was allowed to return to Rome to tutor and to later advise the Emperor, Nero.

Things eventually went downhill during Seneca's time as the Emperor's adviser, where by 64 AD, he was forced to take his own life. He had, however, created a dozen philosophical essays, one hundred and twenty-four letters dealing with moral issues, nine tragedies, and a satire.

You can find many of his works at the Internet Archive for free.

There were several Stoics throughout history, many of which I have yet to learn of. And with their philosophy on what can and can't be controlled by a person, along with anger management, and remaining calm during difficult situations, I believe this to be a perfect merging of similar things I've learned in life from my travels.

Stocism can perhaps articulate the things I've experienced and learned, but also teach me new things about the world around me, what power I do have over it, and even more importantly, what power I don't have over it.

Live. Love. Learn.

Some Links and Resources

Sometimes The Best Answer is 'No'

Nope. Never. Nein. Nay.

First off, I kind of cheated this weekend. I didn't write anything Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. On Friday and Saturday I'd emailed my subscribers an already written article from earlier in the month. And Sunday, I was working on other projects and gearing up for Game of Thrones, because priorities.

In the strictest terms, that meant I failed in my commitment, which was to post every day for the month of April. And I was so close, too. Part of it was because I didn't have a topic readily come to mind, and also the whole [job prospect] I wrote about was really taking up a lot of my time and attention.

To recap, there's this job opportunity I wrote about, where I had some concerns over whether or not it's really the right thing for me. I'd had three good interviews last week and the Friday before, and they were wanting to bring me on for a fourth. So, that would make two phone interviews, and two on-site interviews.

Normally, I have a three interview rule; if a company isn't able to decide within three interviews that I'm their guy, then that's probably a company I wouldn't want to work for. I figure that if after three interviews, which take up my valuable time as much as theirs, they can't make a decision, then they're likely to be that way with other decisions regarding my career or my goals. Or, they're disorganized to where they couldn't have me meet everyone I was supposed to talk to within three interviews. Which tells me, they don't plan ahead, or they're making this up as they go along.

Either way, if I'm expected to be punctual, effective, and organized for my role, I'd surely expect the same from my prospective employer.

Ok, I digress slightly. For the fourth interview that the hiring company wanted to happen this week was in limbo. They said they'd meet me any day and time this week, so I chose Monday. This was on a Friday, but I really wanted all the interviews to be over and either get an offer or don't. I just don't like to keep things like this going any longer than necessary.

Well, I didn't get a confirmation on Friday, and my recruiter was out of town Friday, but would be back on Monday. So, I called him in the morning to talk about the fourth interview. And, as I tend to be blunt sometimes, I asked if I'm burning time and gas with all these interviews, or does this look like a positive sign that I'm still being asked to come back.

He said it's definitely a positive thing, as the hiring manager would have said early on if I wasn't a fit. But, he did say that the hiring company wasn't going to be willing to meet my salary, and asked if I'd be willing to come down, but understanding if I wasn't. I shared with him my rationale behind my salary expectations and assured him it wasn't a number picked at random, and that based on that, it would really be the minimum I could consider.

As I've been approached about jobs with higher salaries than the minimum I was willing to take in this case, I already felt I was giving a discount for a job that would potentially be very demanding and stressful. So, we agreed that this wasn't a fit, and that we'd stay in touch if any other opportunities came up (we'll see if he means it, most recruiters don't). Unfortunately for him, he's got to find another candidate, screen him or her, and start this process over again with his client.

But, he was very gracious in not trying to force anything, not that it would've worked, but still, a very classy way for him to handle this. So, in one day, my recruiter got a 'No' on salary from his client, a 'No' on going lower on my salary from me, the hiring company got a 'No' from me, and I got a 'No' from the hiring company.

That's a lot of No's in one phone call, but believe it or not, I'm relieved. Sure, for a minute I was super excited about the prospect of being able to leave this job that I hate, but not at the expense of something worse.

I'm sure the right opportunity will come along, and it will be a no-brainer. For me, the hiring company, everybody... it would just feel right in all the ways. Until then, I've always got my writing, so hopefully no more distractions to take me away from that. Plus, Game of Thrones ends forever in just a couple weeks anyway.

That's one thing I just can't say No to.

I Got the Stereo, My Brother Got the Computer

We can dance if we want to. We can leave your friends behind. Cause' your friends don't dance, and if they don't dance, well they're no friends of mine.

Again, I seem to be taken back to random memories long past, seemingly for no reason. This time was the Christmas of 1985. I really need to stop sharing how old I am with the world, don't I?

At least I'm single spacing.

Ok, back to Christmas of 1985. I was a sophomore in high school, and I loved music. Still do, actually. My younger brother and only sibling was in middle school at the time, and he somehow got it in his head he wanted to be a programmer. At that time, there were nowhere near as many programming languages as there are now, so BASIC was usually the default choice for home computers.

I feel I must make the distinction between 'home computer' and 'personal computer', or PCs for short. A home computer was way more primitive than even some of the earliest PCs, with everything usually in a single case, and the keyboard permanently attached as part of the entire computer. A monitor, which was mon-o-chroooome (read with and big boomy echo), usually sat behind the computer/keyboard.

More power than the universe!

What many call 'PC accessories' nowadays were called 'peripherals' back then. And depending on the computer, you could have the capability to plug in from one to maybe two or three peripherals to your computer to take your computing to the next level. Let's see, there was a tape drive for storage... a cassette tape drive that is. A modem for connecting to another computer (before Internet, so only one computer to one computer at a time - think cup and string), and this puppy was big. Like big as a brick.

Other peripherals existed, but as you can imagine, not super powerful compared to today's standards.

I'm not sure what made my brother decide one day he wanted to be a programmer, but he had it in his head, and was all about it. So a home computer made it on to his Christmas list that year. For me, I didn't want any of that complicated stuff and when I wasn't outside with friends, or on the phone for hours (landline, no smartphones yet), I was listening to music. Record albums, cassette tapes, even radio. I was all over the New Wave/New Romantic scene of the late 1970's and 1980's.

That was before the dark times...

When music was actually good...

... when grunge and club music of the 90's drowned out New Wave (I'm still totally bummed about that) as "the new sound".

So, naturally, a bitchin' stereo with big speakers, cassette deck, and record player was the top of my list. The one I had was a cheapie little unit, so I wanted this one to be big, powerful, and really cool looking.

As my parents were divorced and remarried, each set of parents would try to outdo each other, so needless to say, we got what we wanted. And, so after my brother created like one program, a game program on the computer, he left it on top of his desk and it collected dust.

I totally used my stereo pretty much until the circuits blew. Who would have guessed that in just two short years, I'd enlist in the military and choose a technical specialty? And after that, a lifelong career in IT? Granted I'm not a programmer, but I'm in the overall industry without any prior exposure. My brother went into teaching and still asks me how to set up a new PC.

So again, random memory mixed with a bit of humorous irony, I suppose. Or maybe only I see it. But, I just can't help but wonder what would have happened if he got the stereo.

Single Space or Double Space?

Gimme some space, will ya?

Photo by mali maeder from Pexels

As I was proofreading yesterday's post, I noticed that one of my sentences had no space between punctuation and new sentence. It really stood out as being weird. And, instinctively, I put a single space between them. This, however, goes well against my ancient teachings of how to use a near-extinct machine that pre-dates the computer, laptop, and smartphone.

I'm old enough to have needed to use a typewriter as my only word processor. Yes, that ancient relic that can only be found in the Smithsonian Museum since like the year 2000.

When I was in high school, I took a typing class. This was in the mid 1980's (shut it!), and PCs in every home were at least 10 years away, so I can't really remember the exact reasoning behind it.

When computers did start making their way into workplaces and homes, I'm really glad I had the forethought to take that class. The reason I even bring this up is because of how that zero spaced break between punctuation and new sentence just looked weird, and I fixed it unconsciously with a single space.

A few years ago I read somewhere on the Internets that double spacing after punctuation was basically considered so last century. So, I decided to do some quick research on this and see what came up.

Turns out, this single space/double space question is actually a thing. I found a blog post by Jennifer Gonzalez at Cult of Pedagogy (try saying that 10 times fast) from 2014 that suggests, nay, declares that if you do the two space thing, you're basically showing the world that you're over 40; and she does admit that she's over 40, so I'd listen to her.

She makes the case for single spaces as having to do with how modern computers and social media can allow for single space as the spacing between words and letters are more dynamic compared to the mono-spacing dinotyposaurus that once roamed the Earth. And with social media like Twitter, you need every character you can get.

She explains it with a short history lesson, "Back when we used typewriters, every character was given the exact same amount of space on the page. That meant the letter i was given the same amount of space as the letter m, even though it clearly didn’t need it. This is called monospaced typesetting and it’s, well, spacey. We needed that extra space between sentences to make it easier to see the beginning of new sentences."

Sounds legit, from a mechanical perspective. Ok, I'm open minded on this, so let's see where this goes.

On the other side of the aisle, The Atlantic, published the results of a scientific study done at Skidmore College that suggests science proves two spaces should be everyone's jam. The article posits, "In the Skidmore study, among people who write with two spaces after periods—“two-spacers”—there was an increase in reading speed of 3 percent when reading text with two spaces following periods, as compared to one."

Hmm... so there appears to be some speed benefit for readers of a two-space writer. This is getting interesting.

Then, my favorite tech blog, Lifehacker, even weighed in on this in 2018 by essentially picking apart the Skidmore study and firmly siding with the single space camp.

The article goes on to state, "In the most liberal interpretation of the study results, in a world where everyone used two spaces after a period, reading speed would increase by …3%. And that’s if we could rely on the results of 21 Skidmore students who are already used to using two spaces after periods."

The article's author, Nick Douglas, goes on with, "Can such students even be trusted? How did anyone under 22 who puts two spaces after a period even make their way to the testing site?" Really?? Again with the ageism?

Ok, minor age-related outrage aside, it seems that this debate may never settle down. In researching this whole thing, I found out something very strange. While I was 'classically' trained to use two spaces after punctuation, I've been doing single space on every posting on this blog.

And, even stranger, I didn't force myself to have to do this. It just came naturally without me realizing it until just now. The original angle of this post was me defending the two spaces after punctuation. Turns out I was a convert the whole time and didn't realize it!

What else have I converted to that I didn't realize?

Hit and Miss

Hit a second interview, but missed a blog post

Photo by Hasan Albari from Pexels

Well, it was bound to happen. I missed a day of posting, and I felt like I didn't fully accomplish my day as a result. However, I had a second interview yesterday for a new position, this time in person.

I wanted to process my thoughts and feelings on all of it before I posted yesterday. So for me, I think this post deserved an extra day of introspection.

The first interview was by phone, and I thought it went great. However, I always get this feeling of dread that for some reason they didn't like me for the role. Of course that goes away when I hear they want to bring me in for an in-person interview.

For this interview I interviewed with three people. Two of which were my interviewers on the phone interview, and one new person. They were all really nice and easy to be around. It's a smaller company, and so that's kind of a relief for me, and their casual demeanor really confirmed just why I'd want to work with a smaller company if I had to get another job.

I was also introduced to several people in the office. And so just like when you're dating, you think, "this is a good sign. If they didn't like me, why introduce me to everyone?" And that's what was going through my head for sure.

There was just one aspect that's kind of gnawing at me, and it's probably me being too critical of myself. Of the three people I interviewed with, the most senior one kept saying, "I'm trying to figure out how your skills in that specific area will map to what we're looking for." So, I'd attempt to clarify, then he'd ask another question. I'd give the answer, and he'd say it again, and I'd clarify the new answer.

However, again, even after the interview I was shaking hands and being introduced, and then the lead interviewer asked for two things from me. He asked me to send over some samples of technical documentation I've done before, and to call the head of sales (he gave me his card) and set up a phone interview with him.

As soon as I got home, I grabbed a couple of samples from previous roles I've held, sanitized them, and sent them off. Then I called the head of sales and set up an interview for his soonest available time.

And now I wait, wondering what they're thinking, and if I'm good enough for what they want for this open position. I think I'd be a great fit, and I don't always say or think that. I'm even kind of excited about the position, and that's something that definitely hasn't happened a very long time.

So, my feelings on this are mixed. If I do get the offer, it's for a decent pay bump, the kind of challenge I (think I) could really get into. Granted, while it's a lot more work than I thought I'd want to be doing, I'm equally as excited about this challenge. The role is like 95% remote, which is even better than what I've got now. Still not 100%, but it could be good to get out once in a while to interact with people I might actually like.

The bump in pay would be pretty hard to say no to as well. And as I've said before, it's not just about the money. However, this role would entail technical, managerial, and a whole lot of writing skills. So, this is really more like a trifecta for me, which makes me nervous that I won't get the offer.

How many times does the perfect storm come together and bring all my skills and talents into a single position for pretty damn good pay? Think Haley's comet.

Now for the cons... I really didn't want another job, I wanted my next chapter to be freelance. That kind of makes feel like I'm settling in some way, but again, the work has me thinking I could truly challenge myself again and come through better and stronger.

If I were to be honest with myself, the current job I'm in now has me pretty wounded. The toxicity and the wrong kind of challenges have more or less had me giving up emotionally and professionally. To the point where I'm ok doing the minumum for them just to not get fired, and absolutely no desire to move up.

That's not like me at all. To feel like I've got nothing more to give is a tough thing for me to handle. That I'm so spent, I just can't fathom going one more extra mile to impress my employers or to even help further my own career. Because if I were, it would mean more toxicity in larger quantities, higher expectations, and no real air cover when needed from my managers.

Writing all this down has me wondering if I'm excited about this new position because it would free me from a job I can't stand any longer, or if the new role itself has me ready to get back in the game and giving 110% again.

That brings to mind the addage, "People don't quit jobs, they quit managers". In this case, it couldn't be more true. So, I need to stay steady and not be blinded by the promise of relief and change, for the new environment could be more of the same.

While I would hope it's not, looks like I've still got some things to think about.

Food

Great food with great family and friends

Photo by Melissa Walker Horn on Unsplash

Today is Easter Sunday for those that observe. And while me and my family don't do the church thing, we do have an annual tradition. We like to go to our favorite restaurant and have a great family meal together.

There's not a lot of us since the kids are grown and gone, so it's just me, my wife, my in-laws, and a married couple who are great family friends. The place we go to is our favorite place, and they have really great food. Like, really great.

So, we eat, talk, laugh, and enjoy the time together. After we eat, then it's time for dessert. At this place, they do dessert big, too. Banana pudding for me, blackberry cobbler a-la-mode for her. Every year we always say we'll have some of each other's just to taste, but I always end up eating half of mine and taking the rest home, while she eats half of hers and gives the rest to me.

Not sure why we think it'll be different every year, but that's cool because I like cobbler just as much as pudding. We pack up all our leftovers to go, say our goodbye's to our friends, and head back to the in-laws' place.

When we get there, we all tell each other how stuffed we are, sort out the leftovers and we head home so that we can all enjoy the rest of our day. When it's all said and done, we're usually home by about 2:00pm. Then a food coma for about an hour for me while the wife goes and gets her nails done.

Gone are the Easter Egg hunts, the Easter Bunny and all that. The kids are elsewhere, living their lives, but we keep in touch. If they were visiting, they'd totally go with us, because they love that restaurant as much as we do.

My father-in-law was sure to send them photos of all the food, just so they'd know they were missed (and maybe to razz them a bit).

So, we just do Easter in a low-key way, enjoying our own little traditions. Mostly, it's a day of rest, like all Sundays, except with great company, food, and dessert.

Happy Easter if you observe, and Happy Sunday Funday if you don't.

Now back to my nap.