School is a huge time suck, which isn’t a bad thing

Taking apart a computer

I’m practicing my new techie skills by disassembling and assembling old computers.

It’s been tough to maintain my blog lately.
Under the best of circumstances, I like to post about once a week, but school has a way of sucking time out of the universe, at least my universe.

It’s not a bad thing. I’ve never regretted my decision to go back to South Seattle College after my layoff in 2016, especially after I qualified for a little help from the state of Washington. I’ve been interested in computers most of my life, and the school’s network administration program is a natural fit. If you look at the totality of my interests and occupations, you might think that it was inevitable that I make a go of computers as a career.

The jury’s still out on whether I’ll succeed, but I’m having fun, all the same.

For spring quarter, my days are filled with figuring out MS Access databases, basic PC hardware, and Linux commands. The days rarely dull, and my skills are good enough that I can lend a hand to other students. That’s a big part of the fun. Continue reading

I must be crazy, because I’m a college student again

Last October, I wrote about my layoff from Grays Harbor Historical Seaport. Nearly three months later, my professional life has taken an unexpected turn: I’m a college student again.

My career path is much like the zig-zag of a UFO across the sky. I started out as a journalist, mostly because I wanted to write and earn a steady paycheck. The fact that I loved reading newspapers and later fell in love with radio was icing on the cake. It was relatively easy, however, for me to drop into the software industry when RealNetworks wanted me to write articles showcasing its audio software.

It was around that moment that the seeds for my decision were planted. Continue reading

An unexpected layoff: Sometimes a door closing is just a door closing


A little black humor helps me cope with a black day.

An unexpected layoff is not far removed from the death of a colleague, a friend, or a loved one, depending on how emotionally attached you are to the job. One minute you have a lot of responsibility, a place to go in the morning, and people to hang out with. The next minute, you don’t, and there’s a hole in your life.

Friends and relatives with kind intentions don’t know what to say, but they feel they must say something to support you. They fall back on cliches, such as, “Whenever a door closes, another opens” or “It’s a chance to start something new.” Who can blame them? The only way people cope with endings is to imagine a post-ending, like an afterlife. Continue reading

Why I Would Fail As An Amazonian, And Other Predictable Misfortunes

Father and child

Why I would fail as an Amazonian, and other predictable misfortunes.

I recently tolerated, er, celebrated my 56th birthday. Going by the usual retirement schedule, I have about ten years left in the workforce, give or take a year. I feel ready to take one last shot at a career change, or at least modification. Here in Seattle, it’s inevitable to think of Microsoft, Starbucks, or Amazon as the main choices. They are the top employment “brands,” if you will. Let’s think this through.

I once had an interview at Microsoft for a temp job. One of the interviewers gave me a pencil, a legal pad, and he put this question to me: “Using these tools, how would you build a 747 jetliner?” This was one of those interview questions that’s supposed to gauge how you think. “Well, sir,” I thought to myself, “because I’d be writing blurbs on your website, and not building airplanes, I think that’s a stupid question.” Scratch MS. Continue reading

Forgive yourself for giving away your writing

Worried writer

Stop worrying about getting paid and keep writing.

A well-known editor slammed Entertainment Weekly recently for offering writers the chance to publish on a high-traffic website in exchange for “prestige” instead of money. Scott Meslow of The Week called the move “a deeply cynical decision that feeds off the dreams of inexperienced writers who are hoping to make a name for themselves in entertainment journalism.” In his view, only EW benefits from this arrangement. The writing community suffers economically, because “free” drives down the price (i.e. compensation) for writing, and creatively, because the site will be flooded with poorly written content that hurts quality all around.

Meslow is right, and he is wrong.

A company with the resources of Time-Warner, which owns Entertainment Weekly, ought to be ashamed of itself for such a blatant attempt to exploit the aspirations of (likely) young people who (probably) don’t know any better. New writers are eager to make their mark, and Time-Warner apparently sees this ambition as an easy way to cut its costs. Low or no-pay also encourages other publishers to follow suit. The practice could lead to lower pay rates for experienced writers, driving them out of the marketplace because they can’t pay their living expenses. In the long run, readers are presented slapdash work that drags all journalism down. Continue reading