Every damn time. I get riled up to post a bunch and swear I’ll post more often… and then I don’t. Blogging regularly just isn’t for me I fear. I used to be really good and disciplined when it was for profit. Oh well. This site is free, and there’s no ads, so at least I didn’t let anyone down but me.
New Activities & Personal Updates
So I finally decided to get up off the couch and get involved. The world is in a big ol’ mess. Corporations own our government, and they’re going to bleed you, me, and anyone else with a wallet dry. The government is working to take away freedom after freedom. I’m sick of it. So I found our local Occupy group and went to a meeting. And then another one. Next thing you know I was directing a skit for one of our local festival events. I’m also one of the Facebook page admins, working on the website with another guy, and generally doing what I can to help.
I went back to school in January to start my associate’s degree in Web Technologies. Work is going to reimburse me for it, which is pretty sweet. Now that the semester is over, I have a 4.0 GPA and about 49 hours (including transfer credits). I had enough transfer credit to avoid this summer’s semester, so that resumes in the Fall.
I have done diddly squat with this, and I need to get under way now that the semester is over. But I am the county coordinator for my county, and I also applied with the party chair to be on my county’s Board of Elections.
The Sharepoint site launch was a complete success. My support system I setup works great, and we’ve actually moved into starting a Sharepoint Users Group, which met last week for the first time. I’m finally doing other projects besides Sharepoint, which has been a nerve-wracking process, but as I get more familiar with what we’re doing I’m gaining confidence. It’s nice to say I’m a project manager and to know we’re actually doing project management in the traditional sense of the word. It’s not just a title now.
On April 1st, 2013, I sat down with Amanda and showed her a PowerPoint. I typically do this after I finish one for school, because I like showing them off to her. So she probably thought I was doing that. Instead, what played was the story of us, how we met and quickly fell in love. At the end it asked how the story would go next, and then told her to look at me. When she did, I got down on one knee and brought out her ring and asked her to marry me. She said yes! The date will come after we finalize our ideal guest list, and then figure out how much that wedding will cost so we can save up for it.
We’ve been trying some healthy food lately. I bought a bunch of produce at the store that I normally don’t eat, and was determined to try all of it in a way that I liked. What I learned is that I dislike radishes. I like beets, most leafy greens, and we’re having more produce more often. I’ve tried some new recipes that have been good, even meatless dishes. Between veggies and Tofurky sausages, meatless meatballs, MorningStar veggie burgers (we like the spicy california black bean burger and original flavors), tofu (yeah I know, but it can be good), and other meatless alternatives, I think we’ve cut our meat consumption down by half. Which means lower cholesterol and lower fat intake. We decided in April to sign up for the local CSA (community supported agriculture) weekly produce box. So from this Friday until late November, we’re going to get a weekly 3/4 bushel box of produce that is geared to feed a family of 4 for a week.
WARNING: Cheesy Holiday Sentimentality Ahead
This year, I am really thankful. My life has essentially turned itself around from where I was in 2010. I have a roof over my head (even if it needs some work), two cats and a dog, and a beautiful woman that loves me and makes me happy in the healthiest and most mature relationship I’ve had. I have a GREAT job with really nice folks who are pretty good at what they do. I am making more than enough money and have finally made headway into paying off my debts, and am making charitable contributions to worthy causes. I am thankful for my family, too, and my girlfriend’s family. They’ve been really good to us and we know they love us plenty.
Tomorrow, I am starting my Christmas vacation. I’m thankful because I have a job that lets me work from home, and since I rarely take a sick day or a vacation, I’m able to take two weeks off for Christmas and New Year and return to work on January 2nd. I know a lot of people won’t be so lucky, and since it’s a retail nightmare right now there are many who will be working when they’d rather be with their families. I still have Christmas shopping left to do, so bare with me as I add to the number of people in your line. I will try to be courteous and friendly and hopefully you’ll get a pleasant smile. Breathe and remember you’ll be OK, and hopefully other people will show you compassion and respect.
There’s a certain point I think when you’re old enough and can afford to buy the things you want yourself, that Christmas presents are less exciting to receive than to give. My family’s been through hardships both financial and personal over the years, and it’s hard to find out what each person wants that year, so for a few years now we’ve gotten gift cards for each other – and it’s nice because it’s low stress and still thoughtful. We are so blessed to be able to do that much for one another. I don’t know how my mom managed to get us presents year after year when we were growing up. But I am thankful. I have the best Mom.
Everyone knows Christmas isn’t about the presents at any rate; it’s about taking time out of our busy, rushed lives of craziness and remember each other. We remember to be kind, to be charitable, to be friendly and remember that not everyone has a reason they can think of to be merry. But little things, little acts of kindness and love and compassion can lift someone’s spirits during this hard time. We ought to be this way year round, but at the least we can come together as humanity for a short time. To remind us it is possible. To have hope. To love the way we were designed to love.
OK, that’s enough of the sentimental stuff. Happy Christmas everyone, and a blessed New Year!
The Twitter accounts of several Westboro Baptist Church members as well as “official” Anonymous accounts have been blowing up recently with what is assuredly a conflict of perspectives:
— Timothy (@BroTimTim) December 19, 2012
— MargiePhelps (@MargieJPhelps) December 19, 2012
— MargiePhelps (@MargieJPhelps) December 18, 2012
Now that Anonymous has declared war on Westboro Baptist Church over their most recent plans to picket the funeral of the children from the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT, it seems WBC members are strangely enthused and calling Anonymous “helpful” and “useful afterall.”
What is completely baffling to me as a tech enthusiast is someone who sits back and says “God will protect our website, no one can shut down our words!” as someone is hacking their site LIVE on the air on the David Pakman Show:
It always frustrates me to see people act sassy and victorious as though they have “totally pwned” someone when they are completely ignorant of what’s going on. She clearly doesn’t even realize the site just got hacked live while they were talking.
I can’t decide, truthfully, if Anonymous is doing more harm than good by attacking / publicizing WBC’s idiocy – are we encouraging them to keep doing this foolishness and bigotry by giving them the limelight? Ignoring these hateful people when they’re just alongside of the road and not engaging them is one thing; when they picket someone’s funeral it is simply insensitive, rude, aggressive, un-Christ-like, hateful, and inhuman. That hatred should not be ignored.
WBC relies heavily on the argument that their enemies do not tolerate them, and therefore are “hypocrites” for asking WBC to be tolerant instead of hateful. This is a fallacy. Not everything ought to be tolerated. Good men ought not to tolerate evil done to others, but it is not up for man to judge another person’s lifestyle so long as he isn’t hurting another person or himself. A man’s moral / religious choices are his or her own.
Harassing, picketing, and otherwise making people who are hurting hurt worse, that’s where the line is drawn. We ought not to tolerate hatred.
There is an operation scheduled for Friday, December 21st to annoy / grieve WBC through Distributed Denial-of-Service attacks, black faxing (I believe faxing full, black pages to their fax numbers), prank calls, prank deliveries (pizza, etc), email spam sign-ups (the most outrageous gay porn, apparently), and more. The Op is called OpWestboro and you can find out more at the website for the operation http://www.opwestboro.com/ or their Twitter @OpWestboro (EDIT: account currently suspended). You can also find Anonymous news and information from @YourAnonNews or @Anon_Central
Anonymous has reminded it’s members that if you do not want to get suspended / banned from Twitter you do not post people’s personal identity or other private information.
Prank calls, website attacks, email & snail mail spam, pizza deliveries, human barricade, maxed out credit cards and closed accounts, and even a rumored death certificate for Margie Phelps was successfully filed under her real social security number. I have seen screenshots of her Cox Cable bill statement. Is all of this going too far? Is it not enough? Is all of the attention just giving the world stage to WBC’s hatred and bigotry? The world watches already; it judges, and now some are acting.
December 19, 2012
Just a quick update – I removed all the ads from the site, because F the police. No one was clicking on ads anyway, and if you’re like me you were probably running AdBlock and weren’t seeing them anyway. Might as well keep them out of the way. Since there’s no ads, there’s no sponsorship and I’ll say what I please.
It’s 12/12/12 – ThinkGeek encourages us to go get a dozen doughnuts to celebrate, because the typical start-of-century repeated date convention won’t happen again until 2101 (when it’ll be 01/01/01 again, provided you abbreviate the year).
So, given that the world doesn’t end on December 21st, 2012 (visit this link by NASA to see why it’s unlikely, nay – improbable – that this will be the case) and I can receive funding in time, I’m going back to school at the local community college via online courses in Web Technologies, working towards an Associate’s degree to stack on my Bachelor’s. Later I might pursue another bachelor’s, but I really can’t seem to find a B.S. or B.A. in anything I give a crap about spending 4 years on.
It’s nice for two reasons:
First, I’m getting tuition reimbursement through my employer, so I just have to come up with somewhere around USD $1000 to pay the tuition, and they’ll pay me right back for it each semester. I found out when I worked for the state of North Carolina I had built up a sizable retirement but I hadn’t been there 5 full years to be vested. However, that just means I won’t get the earned interest. I put in to withdraw this unexpected retirement money, and am hoping it comes in a timely fashion and clears my bank before January 4th so my classes aren’t cancelled.
Secondly, I applied to enroll, completed my FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) online, got my transcripts in to them, all the other stuff I’m supposed to do – before they told me to do it. So I got an advisor really fast who I emailed and talked to over the phone to look at my courses. I was able to provide him with an unofficial transcript by email and then course descriptions of my Computer Science and Computer Information Systems courses I took during Undergrad. It turns out that 9 of my courses transfer in, and even though I’m starting in the Spring 2013 semester in January, I’ll be on track with my classmates because I more or less covered the Fall semester’s courses from transfer credits.
I think my experience in tech support that I’ve been running away from all this time has also chased me away from programming, web design, graphic design, and computers in general for a job. Which left me hunting for something that would fulfill me and make me happy as a career. Project Management is great, and I have some coursework in it for postgrad, but most of what I’ve been doing for the last 16 months is Sharepoint and coding and Web Design. I enjoy it, despite its technical support components, but my plans for the new year will shift some of that responsibility out to the general user base and leave me to administer the site as a truly part-time responsibility while I take on other projects.
I like coding, problem solving, and system administration – I’d like to think I’m pretty good at it even if I’m not a master yet. So that’s why I’m going after this degree, so I can improve my knowledge in an area that interests me and maybe make a few programs or websites that actually bring about positive social change.
Got an email yesterday that Crucial has a 256 gigabyte (GB) Solid State Drive (SSD) on sale for $179.99 after a $32 rebate TODAY ONLY, August 24th. The drive is normally about $199 on Crucial’s website. Why should you upgrade to a solid state drive? A couple of reasons:
- No moving parts involved means the disk is largely shock resistant.
- 2.5″ form-factor means you can upgrade your laptop hard drive.
- Solid State Drives have a faster boot time, sometimes loading Windows or OS X in about 10 seconds on newer computers.
- Improved performance time accessing files.
- Less lag time playing video games installed on the SSD.
- Put less performance-critical files on your old hard drive in a USB external enclosure.
- Storage / cost ratio is coming down quickly.
- Revive an older computer with a hard drive upgrade to SSD!
It’s October – and if any of you are getting the jump on Christmas present shopping for me or for that special Geek in your life, this list of cool stuff (some of it geeky, some of it is just things that appeal to me and maybe not to YOUR specific geek) might help you in your shopping endeavors.
Geeky Card / Tabletop Games
Magic the Gathering: Core 2012 Set or Return to Ravnica ($3-4 boosters, $40 Fat Pack, $20 Deck builder’s toolkit, deck boxes, card sleeves)
RPG Dice in various numbers (4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 20, 30, 100 sided dice)
World of Darkness (Vampire: the Masquerade or White Wolf books, I own none)
Shadowrun Books (any, I own none)
Nice chess set (wooden or marble preferred over glass)
GameStop Sells Steam Gift Cards
You can find info about them here and buy them at your local GameStop in $20 and $50 amounts. What is Steam? It’s Valve’s PC and Mac video games (and now SOFTWARE) online marketplace – it manages your purchases, downloading, your game library, item inventories, save games (for supported games, it saves them to their online service so when you reinstall or install on a new computer, you don’t have to start over or backup your own files), and gift purchases. Steam’s store offerings include most major games and a huge selection of indie titles and casual games. With their weekend deals and seasonal sales, a gift card will surely delight the gamer in your family. If you already use Steam, you can also buy games on your gamer’s wishlist and gift them directly to their account.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but if your gamer hasn’t had a chance to buy some of the bigger titles this year (or the last couple of years for some of these titles), here are a few that I’m looking for on PC (either physical copies or Steam – I am not playing video games on consoles anymore now that my Playstation 3 is dead) – that I don’t own yet:
Assassin’s Creed III
Max Payne 3
Dragon Age: Origins
Dragon Age II
Assassin’s Creed Revelations
Left 4 Dead
Gotta love these fun gizmos from ThinkGeek for utility and geeky style:
Home Decor & Utility
Soda Stream Home Soda Kit (at Wal-Mart and Kitchen Stores)
Refill cartridges, Diet Soda Syrups (they have several including diet cola), extra bottles for Soda Stream system
Not So Geeky
Pistol, Smith & Wesson semi-automatic (.40 or 9 millimeter)
AR-15 semi-automatic rifle (any will do)
Ammo for above
Used guns are OK
Saws-all Power Saw
Table Band Saw
Used tools are OK
The Easy Way Out
This is a list of places you can probably get a gift card or an e-gift certificate and not go wrong:
Advanced Auto Parts
Lowes (Hardware Store)
Visa Gift Cards (From the SECU for $1)
McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, Arby’s, Pizza Hut, Hardee’s, etc.
CASH – CANNOT STRESS ENOUGH CASH IS ACCEPTED EVERYWHERE.
Obviously, no one would expect anyone to get me everything on this list. It’s intended to give a wide selection of things I would love to receive, and maybe your loved one has similar tastes. I didn’t post reviews of the products and not all the products have links because I’m not getting affiliate money for linking to them and I don’t have the items yet so there’s no way I can review them or offer new info that you wouldn’t find on the website where you’d buy most of these things.
I have lived the dream since July 17th, 2011. For just a little over a year, I’ve been a project manager at a major insurance company that has, in the recent years, implemented a work-at-home program. Since I was hired, I have been work-at-home straight away. It’s brilliant for all the reasons you might think it would be:
- No commute.
- No rush, so sleep until right before work.
- Don’t have to wear business casual, business professional, prom formal, or quite frankly – any clothes.
- No cubicles.
- Ability to have pets at work.
- Eat at your desk.
- Play music as loud as you’d like with no headphones.
- No silly “water cooler” chit-chat about last night’s game or “Honey Boo Boo.”
- Make your own schedule (May vary from job role to job role).
- Run errands when you like while stores and offices are OPEN (again, may vary depending on your responsibilities).
- Be more productive than your in-office coworkers because you actually have more control over your distractions.
- Rarely need sick days to stay home just to keep from “infecting” your co-workers when you’re well enough to work.
People Think You’re [Slacking Off | Lazy | Not Busy | Working A 2nd Job at Starbucks]
Most people who have always worked in offices who have closed minds and/or are jealous of you will assume you are sitting on your couch, naked, eating cheese puffs and watching The Price Is Right when “you should be working.” The funny thing is – most of us who work-at-home know this or at least worry that people think that. So we work harder to prove we’re not.
The other 98.7% of the global office workforce is putting in a full day’s worth of 20% effort. Calendar appointments, pointless meetings, “bathroom breaks” when they don’t have to “go,” internal newsletters and memos, “industry research” on the internet, training seminars and web events, interpersonal networking (shooting the breeze in the hallways), “personal projects,” are excuses people use to pass the time to punch the clock on an 8 hour day without having to work hard at all. I would like to offer that this isn’t everyone: some people are genuinely busy because they are overloaded with tasks. Some people are busy because they are highly inefficient and can’t fathom a better way to do things than the system they’ve worked out. Some people are “busy,” meaning they’re bored but they only really want more interesting things to do than their regular responsibilities. These people are masters of looking busy when everyone’s watching.
So why, then, do we need to look and be productive if no one can watch us work? Because for an employer, the advantages need to be more concrete than just “now you don’t take up room at the office and we don’t need to spend as much money on electricity or space.” They need to know you’re working smarter, harder, and better because of this nice perk they’ve afforded you. It helps your morale. It helps you think more clearly and find your own productive “zone.” They need to see results. Work hard, give them something back.
Even if your cushy new work-at-home job allows you to be so productive you afford yourself some down-time during a lull, don’t go AWOL. Stay logged in to your chat and use a status to let people know what you’re up to today. I set mine to “Busy” most of the time – it lets people know I’m around but that I might be slow to respond if I’m away from the laptop for a few minutes to make a sandwich or put in a load of laundry. Whether you have chat or not, also keep an eye on your e-mail inbox. A prompt response means you’re probably on the ball and not slacking. I try to get back to people within an hour or two at the latest. My boss and direct teammates I get back to as quickly as possible, usually immediately but not later than a half hour.
Take legit time off if you are going to be unavailable. Realistically you’re getting no work done and no one can reach you when you’re unavailable – so just tell people you’re unavailable when you need to go do something. Your boss may or may not require you to record time away from home as time off (I don’t always have to if I have my blackberry with me to check e-mail, etc.), but set a reasonable expectation of your availability for the day if you have special plans. Don’t try to take a vacation to another country in a different time zone and stay “on the clock” unless the trip is really business related.
Try to check your attitude as well – read and re-read your e-mails; what may come across as enforcing a company policy or process may come across like you just don’t want to do something. It’s a sad prejudice, but it’s true. People will tend to think if you can’t bend the rules or go out of your way to get them what they need that you are too lazy to help them. Since I do mild tech support for Sharepoint, this goes extra for me. So what do you do? Put on a physical smile, use extra-pleasant and positive words, go the extra mile, and whether it’s an imposition or not and regardless of their attitude – do not speak unprofessionally or try to place blame. Your ego is irrelevant; your sweet gig makes it all worthwhile. If anyone is especially abusive, remain calm, polite, acknowledge their input, and then tell them you’ll get back to them with more information and then consult with your supervisor or manager.
Don’t Be a Dumbass
People already assume you’re goofing off (see above), so if you find yourself in a lull and don’t have anything to do – for Pete’s sake don’t do things that make it clear you’re not working or busy! Don’t add your boss or your coworkers on Steam, Playstation Network or XBox Live if you’re going to play video games for a while. Even if they’re ALSO work-at-home and are doing the same things, you don’t really want to broadcast that you’re goofing off for an hour because you need a break from looking at a spreadsheet all day.
Facebook and other social media is an iffy topic at best. If your employer doesn’t care if you’re on Facebook, good for you. If you’re going to play games on Facebook, you probably want to either change who can see those game notifications or don’t add your coworkers or boss as friends. Facebook has lots of permissions settings – the rule of thumb is if you can’t get them all straight, don’t post anything you would mind your boss or coworkers seeing. If you can’t handle that, stay off Facebook during your work hours.
And especially stay off games and social networks if it’s becoming a problem and keeping you from being productive.
Working From Home Isn’t For Everyone
Day after day, night after night of being in your home can be taxing on the nerves, especially if you are a social animal. If that’s you – you might find that you miss the coworker interaction you had at the office, or even the comfort of just knowing someone else is nearby. If your family or roommates are not also work-at-home or stay-at-home, you won’t have that. Interoffice chat is great, but if your coworkers are also work-at-home, you can easily move the conversation to your personal computers and use non-corporate chat services like AIM, Yahoo Messenger, Live Messenger, or Google Talk. That way if you start talking about your personal lives or want to use unprofessional language, you can use your best judgement about the relationship with that person and not fear corporate records or repercussions.
I know from my experience in college I worked better from my dorm room with creature comforts, the door locked, and music blasting. I could never get anything done in the library cubicles and I never seemed to retain any information when I tried to study there. Other people I know only got work done if they left the dorm room and went for peace and quiet in a study room with no distractions and no music with words. Your high-productivity environment might be better suited to the office than your home, so consider that before you try to make the jump.
Don’t Flake Out
Finally, make your appointments on time. If you invite someone to a meeting, don’t overbook. Give yourself a buffer between things scheduled on your calendar, in case something runs over. Don’t be afraid to excuse yourself from one meeting for another if the meeting holder goes over their scheduled time. Keep your commitments. If you say you’ll do something for someone, do it. We all make mistakes, forget things, get busy and caught up and might let something slip occasionally. Just don’t let it be your modus operandi. Use post-its; develop a reminder system; use your work calendar – whatever you have to do.
Remember, what you do while working-at-home affects the rest of us. If suddenly the studies start showing we aren’t smarter, faster, better workers than our in-office counterparts, our sweet gigs go away.
I may have mentioned, I’m doing Sharepoint tech support at the place I work at currently as one of my projects assigned to me. This usually gets me involved in a smattering of e-mails weekly that I have to reply to politely and professionally and with a helpful, friendly attitude. Which is really, really hard to do. Especially when this happens:
“Yeah hi, I can’t seem to upload my weekly report. Can you help me? It says I’m locked out or something. Boss sees the current version, I only see last week’s.”-Miss Elanius User
So I politely reply first to ask what site they’re using, what the report is called, and if they could clarify on “locked out” because it’s hard to tell if they mean they got an access denied message, or if the software notified them someone else had checked out the document from Sharepoint. I ask them to also check to make sure it doesn’t say “So and so has checked out this document.”
She replies back to tell me that she’s on the Team Rebel Maniacs site updating the Weekly Productive Worker Report and is “locked out” and can’t upload it. I ask one more time to make sure it’s not checked out by another user and send instructions on how to take and send a screenshot via e-mail.
She replies back with a screenshot. The file was checked out to another user. Now, she said her boss could see the current version – so I do a search on the file name the screenshot shows and bring it up and it’s not really checked out. Something’s wrong with her computer so I tell her to contact the Help Desk because the problem is not with Sharepoint.
I am often as wordy in my emails as I am in my blog posts because I am thorough, informative, educational, and inquisitive to make sure I have a complete picture of what’s going on before I spend hours playing detective to solve an issue. The best I can figure is when I reply from now on I really should be brief, polite, friendly, informative, and use bullet points and small paragraphs. Otherwise these busy people say “TL;DR” (too long, didn’t read) and go about their business.
This person, it’s not really her fault, I don’t blame her for not having technical skills at the same level as me. Don’t think I’m making fun of the technology challenged. I am, however, surprised at the number of adults in this country who lack both critical reasoning skills and basic reading comprehension. There are instructions on the support form to include the details of your problem – I guess she assumed we have the magical ability to know what site her problem was on.
And I can’t stress enough that when talking to technical support, especially when specifying an error – be SPECIFIC and EXACT in what the error says. “Locked out” and “Upload failed because this document is currently checked out by user SOMEDOMAIN\someguy” are two totally different things with different solutions.
September 15, 2012
We got a new kitty last night – her name is Isabella and she’s adorable! Unfortunately, she’s got fleas so we have to keep her in isolation until we can get her to the vet this week.