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Category Archives: Technology

Parent category for I.T. and tech posts.

Divergence

Where will you go when the road splits before you?

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
and sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
and looked down one as far as I could
to where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
and having perhaps the better claim
because it was grassy and wanted wear;
though as for that, the passing there
had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
in leaves no feet had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less travelled by,
and that has made all the difference

Robert Frost

I have to admit, it’s been years since I’ve thought about this poem.  As a literature nut who has straddled two worlds for most of his adult life, one would think I would have kept this particular piece a little closer to my heart.

At times, it seems like it’s a never-ending battle.  What do I want to be when I grow up?  The problem with that question is that I am, in fact, grown-up.  And all I can say that I am for certain, is indecisive.  I am not unique in this, nor am I the only one who has ever, or will ever, face these kinds of choices.  Left or right, fight or flight…such ponderous questions inspired one of the most well-known and memorable poems in all of literature.

My paths in the woods are career paths, specifically technology and entertainment.  I’ve walked this line for years, content to keep one foot on the tech path, and one foot on the entertainment path.  I write in my spare time, and work a full-time job in Information Technology.  I have a degree in computers, but I also am earning a degree in film.

It’s a curious combination, since scientifc, technologically minded people tend to be more left-brained, and creative people tend to be more right-brained.  Yet I’ve managed to straddle this line for over a decade of professional life, and the end result thus far has been a spectacular display of mediocrity.  Let’s take stock, shall we?

On the tech side of things, my career has been remarkably bland.  Oh, I have proven myself to be a hard worker, a self-starter with a talent for effectively managing processes and procedures and implementing improvements that save time and money.  I flourish in environments where I can contribute, and where my ideas are heard.  I have a good handle on technology and its practical applications in the business world.  Yet my I.T. career has been one stellar support job after another.  It is only now that I’ve earned a position that is more specialized and focused.  I’m comfortable here, to be sure.  And I’m drawing a terrific salary (especially in light of the few years in my twenties when I left I.T. for awhile).  Yet, things are stagnate, because there aren’t enough hours in the day to fervently pursue an I.T. career, manage home life, and continue with my “other half.”

On the creative side of things, there is no career to speak of: just a series of side projects, many of which have languished in “development hell” for years.  The efforts I have put forth, when I do put them forth, have been great, and very well received.  My virtual series, Frontiers, was at one time one of the most widely read fanfic series on the internet.  Yet, we’ve been releasing Season 3 since 2008.  I’ve begun several film projects that ended up being cut short due to various complications.  I’ve written several promising prose series that have a pretty big reader base, but they are stalled out early in the run.  Yet here and now, I’ve got a great web series off the ground, I’m planning my next short film, and things more moving with my classes.  But things are still stagnate to a degree. Why? Because there aren’t enough hours in the day to fervently pursue a career in writing or film, manage home life, and continue with my “other half.”

It takes a special kind of talent to straddle two sides of the fence.  It’s given me insight into reconciling different and opposing viewpoints over the years, making me something of a peace maker.  It’s allowed me to coax reluctant people into joining me on whatever damn fool crusade I’m embarking on.  But when it comes down to it, you have to take a side.  To walk that line forever is foolish and impossible.  One cannot serve two masters, at least not reliably.

I’ve never been more capable of venturing down one of those roads or the other.  Never been more prepared.  Will I have the steadfastness to choose technology and let go of my more creative nature?  Or will I have the courage to leave the relative safety of the familiar and embark upon that road less traveled?

In the end, it’s never really been about which I would choose.  It’s been about how long I could keep them both up.  How long I could kid myself into thinking it’s possible to keep it up forever.  How long it would take me to find the courage necessary to finally, fully commit myself. 

For me, there’s only ever been one thing I love, one thing that keeps me up at night, one thing that makes me giddy every day before work.  And my only regret, is that it’s taken me this long to realize it.  I’ve always “known” mind you – but the true epiphany, the true, self-permeating realization that I cannot possibly do anything else…that’s a little more recent.

I always thought that making this choice would be some epic event.  But it isn’t.  It’s a calm, quiet, private moment where something inside of me finally says, “Yes. Yes, you idiot, you’ve finally accepted it. Now go on and live your life. You’ve got a lot of wasted time to make up for.”

Two roads diverge in a wood, and I —
I will take the one less traveled by
And that will make all the difference.

 

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It Begins Again…

Every year in November, the “Office of Letters and Light” unleashes the National Novel Writing Month upon the public.  This lengthy title is precisely what it suggests: participants have one month to write a novel.  Or, to be more precise, a 50,000 word novella (a novel is, strictly speaking, upwards of 100K words).

It’s quite an exercise, really.  Generating that much material in such a short length of time pretty much assures hundreds of pages of crap.  But once the crap is there, it can more easily be fine-tuned and rewritten into something passable.

Looking at my own life, it occurs to me how brilliant a strategy this is.  Creative people seem to be, by their very nature, a somewhat unmotivated bunch.  I’m not sure why that is.  After all, we’ve got rich and expansive inner thought lives.  Dozens, if not hundreds, of unique people trample through our brains every day, looking for an outlet.  You’d think with all that going on internally that we’d be bursting with creative energy, constantly in front of our keyboards working out the next brilliant scene or story.

I can’t speak for every writer, but that’s not how I work at all.  I’ve got a number of interesting worlds bouncing around in there for sure, but I can only grab small glimpses of them at a time.  Now and again, I get a lot – enough to start an outline, work out details of something, maybe even enough to get an entire screenplay out.  In most cases, once I have enough information (and this can vary from story to story) I’m able to sit down and break out the elbow grease and work with what I’ve got.  Often that coaxes out more.  Sometimes, it breaks the dam and I’m swept up in a flood (this happened during my recent “The Way of Seeming” rewrite).  Sometimes I have to fight for it a little harder (happening now for my “Eternia” rewrite).

But one thing I don’t usually do, that I need to, is just write crap for the sake of saying I wrote today.  I always felt like that somehow be a betrayal of the creative process.  But I’ve grown to see that it’s a necessary part of that process.  Even the act of sitting at a keyboard and typing out a few words or pages helps keep one focused.  If I don’t see my word processor on a daily basis, I begin to forget about it a piece at a time.  Pretty soon, it’s been a week, or two, or worse, since I’ve written anything substantial.

My biggest problem, and one I suspect many other writers share, is simply getting out of my own way and writing.  Just doing it  – making it happen.  I love to plan and work out scenarios, and I’m good at it.  I’m good at putting those scenarios into action too.  Just not reliably so.  And I need to be.  I need to be more reliable and consistent in my work.

So I’m going to embrace “NaNoWriMo” (or “Nano”) this year.  I’m going to force myself to write 50,000 words of crap.  Because if I never write 50,000 words of crap, I’ll never write 100,000 words of brilliance.  Nano takes the emphasis off of the creativity, in order to teach you how to be a more consistently creative person.  It’s a lesson we can all stand to learn.  And re-learn.

For my subject this year, I’m choosing a story I know more intimately than any other: Beyond the Storm.  It was my first work of substance, my first time in the director’s chair, and the story means a lot to me personally.  Beyond the Storm has been a stage play (with a sequel and prequel stage play) and a film script (a trilogy of film scripts, actually).  But it’s been a decade since anyone has seen the story.  It’s time to revisit it, and bring it to life in a more definitive way.

I’m excited.  And incredibly intimidated.  A novel is a beast of a thing.  I’ll be venturing far outside the safety of the well structured and clearly defined screenplay.  I’ll have a much broader selection of words and expressions and techniques, much more control over every little detail.  But the scope is daunting and seems downright overwhelming right now.

So all I can do is focus on my daily goal of word counts.  Doesn’t matter if I’m writing brilliance or garbage, it just matters that I’m writing.  Then the real writing process can begin.  For it has been said, the greatest and most important of writing is rewriting.  After 17 years of doing this, I think that’s a lesson it’s time I learned.

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2011 in Facebook

 

Invasion of the Cartoon Characters

“…he that laughs at me today will have somebody to laugh at him tomorrow.”
– Seneca

Unless you’re living under a rock, or if you’re one of the few who don’t have a Facebook account, you are probably aware of the latest internet meme to sweep the nation.  The latest craze is to replace your current profile picture with a picture from a cartoon show that might have found some resonance for you during childhood.  Ostensibly, the goal of this meme is to generate enough buzz about the act of thousands of people replacing their profile pictures, that it will draw some attention from the media.  This, in turn, will lead to an opportunity to raise awareness about child abuse.

I’ve read a number of different reactions from people on the matter.  As you can well imagine, opinions range from indifference, to condemnation, to misinformed accusations.  Since I am among those who have changed their profile picture (Voltron: Defender of the Universe now greets visitors to my page), I thought I would take a few moments to clarify why I chose to join in and perhaps offer some insight (and debunk some myths) regarding the phenomenon.

First, let’s clarify one thing: this meme did not originally intend to become part of a campaign against child abuse.  In fact, if you do your homework (here’s a cheat sheet), you’ll find it began in Greece a few weeks ago, with the original intent simply being to see how many non-human faces would appear on Facebook.  Just a typical, run-of-the-mill meme.  Nothing special.

However, as tends to happen, folks began to modify the message; first to give it a deadline (Monday) and then to add the child abuse footnote.  It’s unclear where the last part came in, but it seems to have come to the forefront of the movement, at least here in the U.S.A.

So, I think we can lay to rest the idea that this is a hoax created by pedophiles, since the child abuse element was added after the fact.  In all likelihood it was started as an innocent addition to the “game” by a well-meaning person who was trying to be positive.  We may never know.  But we can safely say that it’s not a hoax.  And hopefully we’ve also learned to research what we hear before we buy it wholesale.

So what of this “fight against child abuse” angle?  Is it worth it?  Can it be effective?  Or does it just give ignorant trolls the chance to ironically post cartoon images of Bart Simpson being choked, and Pedobear?

When the internet community is galvanized, change can happen.  We saw this just a few weeks ago, when Amazon.com pulled a book off their site that was, essentially, a guidebook to pedophilia (including instructions on how not to get caught, and how to get a lighter sentence if you do).  Initially, Amazon refused to pull the book.  The negative backlash in the press was so profound, they eventually buckled and pulled it from their site completely.  This was facilitated in large part by two Facebook groups (one of which I am proud to have been an early member of; one of the founders is a good friend of mine) that unified the outraged citizenry and provided some degree of focus for their efforts.  In the end, Amazon saved a bit of face by removing the book – but we shouldn’t pretend they did it for the right reasons.  They did it because they knew they were going to lose money.  But, motivation notwithstanding, this scenario is a perfect example of a united group of webizens taking on a cause and coming out victorious.  Could the same thing happen here?

Unlikely.

At most, the “child abuse” footnote to the game will get some local media coverage and maybe start a few meaningful discussions about child abuse prevention.  It’s possible it could ignite the fire under some activists, or kick-start programs for victims.  The most likely outcome is that it will fade away in a week or two, like every other meme in the brief history of meme-dom.

Did dangling the “child abuse awareness” carrot attached to this message inspire me to change my own pic?  Sure, a little bit.  I’m not deluded, I know it’s not going to change the world.  But there have been some demonstrable effects, as seen around the web (here and here for example).  The child abuse addition may have been an innocent footnote, but it has since morphed into the primary concern of the game.

The criticism I have read regarding the cartoon invasion trying to raise awareness for child abuse is completely unwarranted.  Nevermind that it wasn’t the original intent behind the game; even now, it is meant to be a simple, easy gesture to show support against abuse.  It’s not an attempt to stop abuse completely (as much as I wish that were possible, I don’t think that will ever happen).  It’s simply a show of support that the issue needs attention.  And if that attention does bring about some positive steps for some community, somewhere, that’s great.  If not – well, there’s still no harm done.  At worst, it’s simply another meme sweeping the nation and perhaps inspiring a few enjoyable strolls down memory lane for GenXers like myself who miss the simpler days, when Voltron, G.I. Joe, and the Thundercats stood ready to do battle against evil, and when The Real Ghostbusters kept the monsters out of our closets.

I do hope this inspires some people to become involved in preventing child abuse.  I’ve got five children myself, and I know several people who were physically and sexually abused in their youth.  It’s heartbreaking, and very difficult to recover from.  Yes, more needs done.  No, an internet meme is not likely to have a major impact.  But it might have a small impact.  Either way, it seems pointless to criticize people for taking part in a meme whose real purpose was just to have a bit of fun.

If you do want to take steps to end child abuse, there are many organizations who, unlike a passing internet meme, are dedicated to raising awareness and educating the public year round.  I encourage readers to get involved and take steps that are more tangible and meaningful, if this is something you feel passionate about.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go stream some more episodes of Voltron from Netflix.

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2010 in Facebook, Uncategorized

 

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