Priorities

Getting Organized
I love to organize things. Books, files, documents, rooms, you name it. I can track huge projects and barf out complete status reports within ten minutes of any request. So why does prioritizing my own personal crap make my brain feel like a pretzel? Specifically, I’m referring to exercising and writing, and how to cram them back into a fairly full schedule while still getting enough sleep to avoid becoming the epicenter of mayhem. This goal has proven difficult to hit, but I’m happy to say I’m making decent progress.

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On Writing Again

As I mentioned a while back I’ve started writing again, and not just inane blog posts. I have a story in progress right now. It’s so short it could be considered flash fiction, and it is the first creative thing I’ve finished since 1992. That’s kind of appalling. Thousands of people across dozens of worlds have been bouncing around in my head for 23 years and I haven’t told you about any of them. I thought about why those ideas were trapped for so long, and it boils down to two things: fear and time jealousy.

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Qualifiers

A Page Out of Time, by Heather Lee (Creative Commons License)

Featured Image: A Page Out of Time, by Heather Lee (Creative Commons License)

I am a writer.

That sentence is difficult to say because I always try to qualify it with something like, “I want to be a writer.” I’ve been writing since I learned how to put pen to paper. You can ask my mother; she still has all the stories I left around the house for her to find when I was little. I wrote for school assignments, I wrote between classes, I wrote during the summer, I wrote for fun. And then I stopped.

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New Digs.

Heather and I have lived, loved, and (occasionally) worked along side one another for many years now. In one of those semi-spur-of-the-moment outbursts I’m prone to, after an otherwise innocent comment by her about a minor dissatisfaction with her blog at The Spotted Cat, she woke up Saturday morning to find that I’d spent the night before setting up a web server and teaching myself enough about PHP and WordPress to launch her a homegrown custom blog site (thankfully I already have my basics covered for Linux, HTML, and Apache.) A few quick clicks later and we had a domain. You can see some more info in her post.

Long story short, The Spotted Cat and The Incredible Shrinking Man are merging into this site, which should become the one-stop repository for all the tripe Heather and I see fit to drop on the internet.

I really don’t know that I’ll write much here. I suffer from a common problem. I think to myself “Who the hell cares what YOU have to say? Who do you think you are to spout forth like some foul-mouthed oracle?” I think it’s important to remember that you don’t have to move the world every time you speak. Sometimes just sharing a small insight or idiotic thought you found humorous is enough to change someone’s day. Maybe if you do that enough the world moves a little without you noticing.

More posts will no doubt be coming, as will a whirlwind of changes as I discover all the glaring security holes I probably left open.

And just in case you were on the internet back in 1991 (when I first got on the internet proper- I’d been online for years previously but that was the first time I had true web/news/email/gopher access)… well you know what this damn graphic means:

under-construction

 

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New Skills

Welcome to our new digs! Brian and I have decided to put our verbings together into one repository. We did this for several reasons:

  1. It’s fun.
  2. We’re a package deal and always have been, so this makes a twisted sort of sense.
  3. We enjoy skill development.

This project is mostly about Item 3. Brian has a solid background in computer science, including networks and HTML, so he’s known for years how to run a web server. I have a less solid background (e.g., dated) but a half-decent understanding of how the internet works. So, we’re using this opportunity to broaden our skill base. He’s going to run the web server and the back end of our new site as well as contribute verbings, and I’m going to customize the layout and contribute lots of verbings. We’ll both work on the overall appearance. It’ll be boss.

To start, he registered our new domain name and set up our server. I’ll admit that I’m still fuzzy on the nuts and bolts, but what he’s shown me from a command-line perspective is really cool, because Linux. He’s learning more and more as he goes and is teaching me along the way. For my part, I’m refreshing my ancient knowledge of HTML and learning to use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), which will allow me to tweak the site design. We’ve spent all weekend working on this stuff, and it’s ridiculously fun.

The whole thing came about because I didn’t have the option to right-justify the banner text or adjust the size of my Wolfie picture for the static image on my old blogspot site.

WolfieDictionary
The late Wolfie: smart cat was smart. And spotted.

I told Brian I was thinking of looking into WordPress; off he went, and here we are. He goes all-in when it comes to helping me, which is one of his many outstanding qualities.

The site is new and we’re still adding things, so keep an eye out for a landing page in the near future. It will include links to our social sites and an explanation of our domain name, among other things. The appearance will probably change more often than Sleeping Beauty’s dress color for a while, so hang in there. We think it’ll be worth it.

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Missing Posts

I don’t know what happened at Blogger HQ over the last while, but my old blog disappeared. It’s a bit of a shame since a lot of that was content I’d written and never posted anywhere else, but it was probably pretty self-indulgent anyway.

I re-posted the blogs I’d written over at MyFitnessPal.com over the last year since they provide some small context for what I’ll put up here going forward.

Feed Shark ping website
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Kraang!

Okay, confession time: I love the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show on Nickelodeon. Brian started recording it a few months ago (because nostalgia), and I got totally sucked in. The turtles are funny and endearing, Splinter is cute and fuzzy, and the storylines are fun. The whole show is just fun. Why I really love it, though: the Kraang. Whoever came up with these squidly aliens and wrote their dialog has either been around government Requests for Proposals (RFPs) or has crazy talent for redundancy.
Read these quotes and tell me the Kraang don’t sound like rampaging bureaucrats.
  • “Go no further. This place is a place where you are not allowed to be in this place. We have been seen in this place by you, so this is not a place that will be left by you.”
  • “It is the maker of the tech which was the tech that was of the Kraang.”
  • “Stop the ones that need to be stopped! Stop!”

See? They also have difficulty with personal pronouns, as shown in these lines.
  • “The image that is the image on the phone is pleasing to the eye of Kraang.”
  •  “Tell Kraang in what place can be found the power cell that Kraang wishes to find the place of.”
  • “Give to Kraang the power cell that Kraang has come to demand that you give to Kraang.”

Some people find them unfunny. I think their stilted speech patterns are hilarious, but I might have spent way too much time reading through RFPs that sound very much like the above. Now, thanks to the Kraang, I have yet another reason to giggle when reading through stuff that was written to be anything but entertaining. Life is good!
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Kitten Whiskers and Proposals

When I mentioned yesterday that sometimes I’d rather just write about kitten whiskers, one of my favorite colleagues pointed out that combining them with work is totally possible. She is right, so today I present you with kitten whiskers and proposals. Kitten whiskers have two functions:

  • To gauge the size of an opening so the kitten can determine whether he can get through 
  • To fall out and painfully stick in your foot when you’re walking across the room 

Seriously, words cannot convey the level of ow that is a whisker in the sole of your foot. It’s almost like stepping on a Lego. Despite those ninth-circle levels of pain, the gauge function is more important because it keeps the kitten out of places in which he really doesn’t fit.

Similarly, proposals have two functions:

  • To convince a customer or potential new customer that your solution will fit their needs 
  • To ruin your life for the 30-90 days between the Request for Proposals (RFP) release and the due date 

You can see the parallels, yes? We’ve all been there: shoved into an ill-fitting proposal effort that consumes our days and nights until we’re left exhausted and wondering what malformed beast of a response we just shoved out the door. These situations happen because someone either wasn’t using their whiskers or didn’t know how to trust them.

If you’re new to proposals, you might not trust your whiskers yet to tell you truly whether you should invest the time and people to submit a response. That’s okay! Until you’re comfortable with your own, you can borrow mine. Here are some tip-offs that will tell you to steer clear of an opening that really isn’t a good path for you.

  • Suspicious Specifics. The opportunity is obviously wired for another company and you can see it in the specifics of the solicitation (e.g., “The PM must have sandy brown hair and 11.2 years of experience in the South end of Building 4011.”) 
  • Cannon Fodder. The Contracting Officer called you out of the blue and spent 15 minutes telling you about the upcoming RFP and how nice it would be if you responded to it. If they’ve never spoken to you before and spend the briefest amount of time to reel you in, they already know who they want and just need a certain number of bids to be considered competitive. 
  • Incorrect Container. In addition to work you do very well, the RFP contains requirements you’ve never seen or heard before. Unless you have a strong teammate to cover those new areas, you (and your response) will definitely not fit in there. 
  • Lack of Capture. A new RFP has dropped from nowhere, but it perfectly describes your areas of expertise! No. If you didn’t know about it beforehand, you don’t have the opportunity data necessary for a successful response and most likely will fall into one of the three traps above. 

I hope these tip-offs help you when you’re faced with a dark hole in the wall and the question of “Should I go in there?” Just remember that everyone gets stuck occasionally, and it’s good to ask for help when you need it. You can trust me. My whiskers have a pretty solid track record.

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