Sunday, February 2, 2014

Poetry n' stuff

As part of my four-day weekend of actually doing some stuff that I've meant to for awhile (changing the CMS for my resume and old consulting sites, and switching this blog to Blogger from WordPress), I've moved my poetry from various writing/sharing sites on the web to here. See links in the sidebar. Since Blogger only allows 20 non-post blog pages, I've ganged poems together under some randomly named pages.

You can take a look at The Whole Dang List or Page Eggplant, Page Mighty Mouse, Page Humidor, Page Charlemagne and Page Mitosis.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Conversion experience

I started TinkerX in 2005. I'd been blogging for a couple years about legal marketing, and when I started working at OCLC, I wanted a place to do non-work writing, so this was it. I enjoyed doing the initial setup with WordPress, and liked playing around with the various templates and settings.

Then comment spam took over.

This is a modest blog. To say it is a modest blog is possibly even a great overstatement... or understatement. What I mean is that I don't have lots of readers. Maybe only a few. I had a couple posts with 10+ comments, but mostly none. That's OK. I chiefly do this for myself. I was deeply glad that one of my posts, on the game "My Team, Your Team," was turned into, "The Superest" book... but that was the height of its fame.

Not lots of readers. But lots of lots of comment spam.

In the last year, since the last time I did a comment purge, I had more than 32,000 spam comments waiting in the queue. And, at a point int he past, before WordPress anti-spam stuff caught up with the volume, about 20,000 had managed to sneak through and get posted to the blog without my consent.

About every six months, it gets so bad and the security issues with WordPress (and, to be fair, other self-publishing tools/services) so compromised, that my web host makes it mandatory to update to a newer version of WordPress or SQL (the database behind the scenes) or PHP (the code). That's a pain in the ass for a blog that's mostly supposed to be for me to just randomly spew about movies or poetry or the weather.

So I converted it to Blogger, which is what you're seeing now. To my great sorrow, however, in order to convert the posts, I had to drop ALL the comments, because the volume was so high that they made the export file from WordPress waaaaay to big to import into Blogger.

Meaning: the fake comments from spammers (may they rot in hell) killed the few comments from real people. Comments that made me happy, because it meant that someone was reading my junk and getting something out of it. Comments that had some thought and humor. Comments from friends, family and lovely strangers.

Perhaps this is a good reminder that everything is, after all, ephemeral.

Perhaps it's just another example of how a few shitheads tend to ruin it for the rest of us.

Perhaps I'm over thinking it.

Anyway... Perhaps having this blog hosted by Google -- who does a pretty damn good job keeping spam out of my email -- will mean I blog more often and get some new comments and make some new friends.

Perhaps.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Golem

He does not love her.
He loves a volume of space
shaped just like her,
filled with [

shed dander clips cuts shredded gift voodoo
scented soap fetishes crink nipple eye lock
fashion skin scraps
pinched laughter traps
bone shadows
black hollows
fake numbers
lost tatts
cloudy
flirts

] need.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The ABC's of job hunting for designers: D = Direction

[See previous post for intro and ABC. See here for the Google Doc version of the whole tham ding.]


"D" is for "Direction"


The most important quote for marketing, imho, and when looking for a job is from "Alice in Wonderland:"
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” [said Alice]

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.“I don’t much care where,” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

Or as a VP of mine used to say: "If you succeed, and you don't know why, it's an accident and probably won't happen again. If you fail and don't know why, you've learned nothing... and that's just a waste of everybody's time."

I'm not saying you need to know what you want to be when you grow up before hunting for a job to keep the wolves at bay. I'm saying you need to have a plan for even the most random-ass job search or you won't get anywhere, except somewhere random ass and less interesting/profitable than you'd probably like.

So here are some very tangible, very measurable things you can do to help at least face in some direction when searching for a job:

  • Set written goals based on this list and any other activities you hear about. Lots of people know more than me. Write down what they say.

  • Get a friend to keep you honest. Tell him/her/them what your goals are. Ask them to beat you with a frisbee if you don't do what you said you'd do.

  • Write down all the possible different job titles for all the different jobs you might possibly accept. This will help you when doing job searches online. Keep the list updated with new titles you find during your search. This will help you learn what other people call what you want to do.

  • Write down the names of twenty (at least) companies that you think you might want to work for. This will help you check their websites every week for job openings (some of which you won't find on the Monsters of the world).

  • Contact the HR departments of each of those companies. Explain you're searching for a job and that you find the idea of working at their company something to aspire to. Ask for their advice on how to best present yourself for future jobs. Don't ask for a job at that point; you're making a new friend, not pimping (yet). Ask what you can do to make yourself more attractive as a candidate. Ask if you can stop by sometime and meet with them and/or get a brief tour. You are doing all this in order to have someone at the company besides the hiring manager of a future job as a contact there. HR people are good at this. They want you to like their company, and they want to help you get a job, even if it's somewhere else... because their stock-in-trade is referrals. They might send your resume to someone you've never considered, because they're better at thinking about jobs like that. Do this until you've got contacts at all 20 (or more) companies. Then make a point to re-contact each HR person you've heard from at least every 3 months. Or if you know of someone else who might fit a position they've got posted. Think about the relationship from their point of view.

  • Go back and do that last thing. Seriously. If there's one tip I have on this list that will bear fruit, it's the cultivating HR friends thing.

  • Set some stretch goals. If you find you're getting comfortable sending out 3 resumes a day, try doubling that.

  • Have both a "designer-y" resume and a "boring Word resume" available. Art directors and heads of agencies will want to see the pretty-pretty one. HR people want the Word one.

  • Think about the next job. Not the one you're going for, but the boss of that one. Look for those positions in the job listings, too. If they're hiring a new art director, odds are they'll be asking him/her to hire some designers. When you find those jobs, add them to your HR contact list from above.

Looking for a job is a job. Most jobs provide helpful people called "bosses" who set directions for you. While looking for work, you're your own boss... which basically sucks. I know. I've done it. I'm sorry... there's no help for it. Get together with a group of friends once a week and report what steps you've taken. Celebrate with each other, even if you don't have jobs, or don't have the one you want. Why? Because you're a designer... a creative person living in the Age of Content. You rock and your talent will be rewarded.

Sooner rather than later, if you set yourself some directions.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

ABC's of Job Hunting for Designers: Intro and ABC

I've now given a talk on job hunting for designers about... five times. I like the talk. It's smooth, goes down easy, and leaves a pleasant aftertaste (I'm told). So at this point, why not serialize it on the Web? It's all my wisdom on how designers can help themselves get into a new or better job faster, and prepare for a lifetime of doing work they'd rather be doing. And because we need to have info delivered to us in reasonably edible chunks, I broke my thoughts up into 17 groups and stacked 'em around the alphabet. So we'll put these up one at a time and see if folks find them helpful.

These tips are not meant to be exhaustive or fool-proof, obviously... but they also conform to the main rule of the Hypocratic Oath: first, do no harm. I don't think any of these ideas can hurt your job search. Many of them just make sense... but aren't regularly applied.

Anyway... good luck on your job search. The document version of all these tips is available as an open Google Doc here: http://tinyurl.com/ABCjobs4designers. So if you need something portable, give that a whirl.


ABC = Always Be Creating


Please note that I did not say, "Always be creative." Everyone is creative (that's another set of blog posts, I think). You need to always be creating things, though, if you want to earn a living as a designer. If your day gig doesn't let you (which may happen), you need to do it on your own time. If your day gig forces you to be minimally creative in ways that seem to deaden your soul while actively making your artistic spirit hurt... same thing. Go home and be one with your canvas, clay, charcoal, ukulele, dancing, etc. You need to keep doing stuff or your creativity will wither and die.

That's the real difference, I think, between people who say that they're not creative and those of us who believe we are: doing it.

When you're trying to sell yourself as a designer, you will invariably be interviewed by one of two types of people: another creative person, or a non-creative (business person, manager, etc.). Here's the thing -- in both cases, you need to be doing interesting creative things to impress them.

Why? Because if the other person is a creative, they get it. They understand how hard it is to remain inspired and purposeful in our arts. And they want to work with someone who can do that and who, maybe, might even rub off on them a bit. I have met very few truly creative people who are jealous of other creatives' talents and achievements: we tend to be impressed and supportive of them, since they are often unique.

[Note: that's a difference between some people who are very money-oriented and those who are more creative/art oriented. A buck is a buck is a buck. If your business activity made $2 and I made $4, I'm twice as good as you. Doesn't work that way with creativity. There is no zero sum: we can both be twice as creative and can use that to inspire each other, not take away.]

The other kind of people -- those who generally believe themselves to be non/less creative -- are always super impressed by our hobbies, our ongoing learning/dedication to craft, the outputs of that, how we externalize our muse. It's like magic to many people.

So... either way, you want to be able to talk about stuff you're working on, even if you're not working. Some of it should, obviously, be related to what you want to do for a living... but it doesn't all have to be. Lots of it can be only marginally related, but it shows that you are dedicated to improving the artistic center of yourself, which is really what you're selling when you're trying to get a gig: your ability to create.

Some specific thoughts on how to stay creative when you're not working (or when you are, but aren't being particularly challenged/stimulated):

  • If you've gone two weeks without learning something new about your craft(s), do something about it

  • Improve design around you

  • Do work for free; church, civic organizations, family, friends

  • Put yourself on a schedule for trying/creating new things: one new (whatever) per day, week, month. Set goals and stick to them (or do them ahead of time)

When I first developed this presentation, for example, and decided to organize it around the alphabet, I decided to learn new Photoshop tricks for each of the slides' main graphics. So even though all the slides are, essentially, just letters, I made myself do more than just illustrate the letters in ways I already understood. Do a search on "Photoshop tricks" and you'll find about a bzillion responses. I did that, found about 15 that I thought looked cool, and worked them into the slide graphics. They're not fantastic graphics or stunning pieces of art... but the process helped my learn Photoshop that much better.

Some resources that might help provide inspiration:

So your homework for today is: pick a project. Something you haven't done before. If you haven't written poetry, go do that. If you can design a logo for something weird in your life (your pet, lunchbox, pet's lunchbox), do that. But, today, figure out what the next thing you'll create should be. And then get to work.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

New poem: Alone or Dark

Alone or Dark


Heisenberg is not your friend.
Would you want, in the end, to know
both

where?
and
when?

No such luck. Bend
to see the object, hot and bright,
of your desire. Your movement
changes light. Your eye, warm metal,
glides like wind. Unseen but stiff enough
to stretch and send dry leaves against
the wooden fence. A scratch heard faintly
by the one you stalk.

Walk
slowly, softly past.
The warmth of want
will alter orbits, warp fine lines
and change the curve and comfort of her path.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The unhealthy love at the root of our economic ruin

[This post is based on a comment I made to a Facebook friend, where he'd asked, "Is there anything good and/or hopeful in the current economy?" My reply was shorter than this, but basically makes the same point]

A reason for hope in this economy? Yes. I think there is. I'm beginning to see signs that people are wakening to realization that the real question is not "how much?" but "why?" when it comes to the idea that money is the quintessential measure of human value.

Since the Baby Boomers hit adulthood (see: Yuppies, Reagan, "The Secret of My Success"), there has been (mostly from the Right, but also from the technocratic left) a growing belief that the chief purpose of being an American is to contribute economically. Perhaps it is even the sole purpose. Success as a human is a measurement of wealth, and vice versa.

The kids of the Boomers are now becoming young adults, and have grown up seeing how this attitude affects their parents; divorce, depression, disillusionment. I've read a couple articles about how Boomer parents, having raised their kids to be super-achievers, are surprised to learn that their children want to do things related to community, education, non-profits, service, etc.


Let's get one thing straight before this goes any further: I am a capitalist. I believe in the free market, venture capitalism, the general sensibility of the model and the idea that people should benefit from their work. I believe that the universe is unfair, and that it is not the job of the government to even everything out. I don't want the government involved in any area of my life where I'd be better off on my own or working with folks in the private sector who have their own reasons -- economic or otherwise -- for being involved. That being said, I do think that we're all better off when we cooperate on certain large-scale projects that have national or very widespread influence. We can argue about which of those projects is sensible -- armed forces, healthcare, education, highways, etc. -- but I don't hear anyone sensible arguing that we need no government; just that we need smart government.


So what's my beef? If I like capitalism and I like money (and I do), why would a benefit of a shitty economy be the realization that money ain't the be-all and end-all of existence? Is it just sour grapes on a class level? Moral justification or compensation for being less well-off than we thought we be? I don't think so. I think it's deeper than that.


Money, as we know, is useful stuff. I like my gadgets as much as anyone. When we look at the Cold War, we can see lots of justifications for our economic model vs. socialism; money helps not just be a counter in the game, but it's the score. If a company can build the same product for less money, it's doing something better. That's the basic idea of a market economy.


Again: no argument that money and capitalism is good. But it's not the only good, and it certainly isn't the chief good. Why? Here's the first quotable moment for you:


When the central idea of a country -- or a life -- becomes fixated on economic value,  we greatly reduce our potential for learning, friendship, creativity and joy.

Example: I think that the Web is, at its heart, a wonderfully enabling technology across many levels of participation. Yes, it helps giants like Amazon be more efficient. But it also lets me, personally, do all kinds of things that have nothing to do with making myself (or, really, anybody else) rich.

I've made new friends on these here tubes . I've written more poetry in the last 10 years than in the previous 20 before that, chiefly because I have found people to share it with. I used Lulu/Amazon to layout and print my father's book of meditations before he died, which was a great happiness to him and our family.

None of these things has anything to do with being wealthier. A couple of them cost me a few bucks, but I never did any of them with the idea of making more money.


The Web helps us realize: we are more than the sum of our bank accounts.

Wall Street, Washington and Hollywood are scared of us figuring that out; hence all the DRM, "three strikes," SOPA nonsense. If we find more and more ways to be content, productive, accountable, flexible, transparent, engaged, creative, vocal and -- dare I say, happy -- that do not involve spending money, they lose a hold on us. They lose power and the ability to monetize our self worth.

Part of the current reaction to our growing income inequality isn't just "it's not fair that you have so much and I/we/they don't," but another, more visceral objection: "It's not doing you any damned good to be that rich. It's toxic. It's stupid. It's not making you happy, and the systems you've set up to defend your inexplicably unhealthy attitude are robbing others of some really important stuff like education, health, human rights and basic economic security."


My Dad, the shrink, used to say, "Neurotics build castles in the air. Psychotics live in them." For the last 30 years or so, we've been operating on a collective neurosis that says money is what makes an individual worthwhile, what makes our nation great, and is what deserves authority. What we've begun to see in the last few years is how that neurosis -- which manifests in a variety of unhealthy ways for those suffering from the disorder -- has progressed to psychosis: a loss of contact with reality. And when those with the most economic power are enabled to act on their delusions, they impact us all.


Cue the second quotable bit:

It's one thing to make the argument that my riches are more important than yours. It's another to defend the idea that maintaining my psychoses takes precedence over your basic welfare.


That's what we're seeing in the OWS movement; a questioning of the basic order of systems that no longer make sense unless you buy into a highly structured, almost magical set of rationalizations about money. This isn't class warfare; nobody is saying it's bad to be rich. What we're saying is that it's unhealthy to try to frame every challenge in terms of promoting personal (and corporate), monetary wealth. Let's look at some examples:




  • Newt Gingrich's recent ideas about child labor. What's most distressing to me is not that he thinks children should work, but the assumed ideal that work is the cure for what ails needy children. It's as if you went to your mom because you were being bullied, and she suggested you pay them off. It's a focus on economic value, even as a hallmark of development.

  • The Copyright Term Extension Act (aka, "The Mickey Mouse Extension Act"). In order to protect fictional works from possible loss of future profit, we borked the entire system that our Founding Fathers put in place -- the one that, you know, helped make the US one of the greatest hotbeds of invention in the history of the world.

  • Buckley v Valeo. Money = speech in terms of political contributions. For those of us who really believe in the inalienable rights of humans, this one is like a firecracker in the pants. How in heck can money be speech, if there are people (and companies) who have billions of times more wealth than others? It is entirely fair that money = power in terms of economic leverage. That's the point. If you have $100,000 you have the right to buy 100x more stuff than someone with $1,000. But the idea that you have the right to 100x more speech?


That last example is one of those truly bizarre judgments that begins to really point out how we've moved from a widespread, chronic neurosis (the idea that money is the most important thing) to an acute psychosis: those with this mental illness are making changes to the systems we all rely on in order to support their particular, flawed view of value, values and national identity.

I will take just a moment for a quick shout-out to my fellow Christians to ask the following:


Do you really believe this? Do you believe that God loves the rich more? Are you less of a worthwhile person if you have a job that you really enjoy, but that makes less money? Did you have children chiefly so that they would take care of you, monetarily, in your old age? Did you marry your spouse because he/she was a capable breadwinner and apt to provide good cost-benefit balance to the relationship? How often do you smile, laugh or feel warm about "money stuff?" Does spending it really make you happy? Does earning more of it give you particular pride? If, as Christians, we are meant to emulate Christ, can you point to one verse in the Bible that suggests he owned *anything* let alone was wealthy? Were His friends the well-off types? Did he ever say, "Blessed are the dough-makers, for they shall inherit major stock options?" I challenge anyone who calls themselves a Christian to back up the idea that money matters AT ALL to God, except in how we use it to help others.


We all know the end of this scripture, but here's all of 1 Timothy 6:7-10: For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.


That's what we're seeing on our national and global stages: ruin and destruction, brought about by the temptations and traps of money-centric morality, philosophy and politics.


I've never cared that much about money. Like I said, I enjoy it. I'm glad I can earn a good living doing something I enjoy. But I truly believe that you can't buy happiness. Some recent research confirms this: beyond a certain point, having more money doesn't make you any happier.


I get the feeling that lots (most) of the people I care about feel this way: money ain't the center of our lives. That it has become the center of our republic is a kind of national schizophrenia that, I hope, we are beginning to recognize and can, therefore, treat.




There are signs that people are wakening to realize that the real question is not "how much?" but "why?" when it comes to the idea that money is the quintessential measure of human value.

Since the Baby Boomers hit adulthood (see: Yuppies, Reagan, "The Secret of My Success"), there has been (mostly from the Right, but also from the technocratic left) a growing belief that the purpose of being an American is to contribute economically. Perhaps the sole purpose. Success is a measurement of wealth, and vice versa.

The kids of the Boomers are now becoming young adults, and have grown up seeing how this affects their parents; divorce, depression, disillusionment. I've read a couple articles about how Boomer parents, having raised their kids to be super-achievers, are surprised to learn that their children want to do things related to community, education, non-profits, service, etc.

I got no problem with money. It's useful stuff, and like my gadgets as much as anyone. But when the central idea of a country -- or a life -- is economic, you so greatly reduce our potential for joy, learning, friendship, creation.

So: hope. I think that the Web is, at its heart, a wonderfully enabling technology across many levels of participation. Yes, it helps giants like Amazon be more efficient. But it also lets me, personally, do all kinds of things that have nothing to do with making myself (or, really, anybody else) rich.

I've made new friends on these here tubes -- witness Bryan Alexander. I've written more poetry in the last 10 years than in the previous 20 before that, chiefly because I have found people to share it with. I used Lulu/Amazon to layout and print my father's book of meditations before he died, which was a great happiness to him and his family.

We are more than the sum of our bank accounts.

Wall Street, Washington and Hollywood are scared of us figuring that out; hence all the DRM, "three strikes," SOPA nonsense. If we find more and more ways to be content, productive, accountable, flexible, transparent, engaged, creative, vocal and -- dare I say, happy -- that do not involve spending money, they lose a hold on us.

On top of all the primary meanings of the Occupy movement, one of the subtler, framing messages I kept seeing/feeling was this: those kids, out there in the snow in rain in tents, are having way, way, way more fun than the 1-percenters up in the boardrooms looking down on them.

Part of the current reaction to the growing income inequality isn't just "it's not fair that you have so much and I/we/they don't," but another, more visceral objection: "It's not doing you any damned good to be that rich. It's toxic. It's stupid. It's not making you happy, and they systems you've set up to defend your inexplicably unhealthy attitude is robbing others of some really important stuff like education, health and basic economic security."

It's one thing to make the argument that my riches are more important than yours. It's another to defend the idea that my psychosis is more important than your welfare.

I get the feeling that lots of the people I care the most about feel this way: money ain't the center of our lives. That it is at the center of our republic is a kind of national schizophrenia that, I hope, we are beginning to recognize and can then treat.