Where Am I?

I don’t recognize the Internet anymore.

A few years ago I went through a purging of social media and online accounts thinking that would help solve the problem of being slammed into a algorithm filter from hell. For a short period of time, it helped, the algorithm didn’t have anything to hoover from me. I used a VPN on my personal machine and never did personal work on my work machine. It wasn’t until I started venturing back into the foray of social media that things started to go astray.

It started off innocently, a reboot of Twitter after not using it for well over a year. The account had been locked the entire time so I had no new followers and I hadn’t followed anyone new in that time either. What was flowing through my feed though was unrecognizable from what I had remembered and was polarized to a harsh left leaning point of view. The followers causing all the problems were summarily removed and I started rebuilding with slightly more centered and moderate points of view. What that means essentially is some that lean right, some that lean left, some in the middle. I confused the hell out of the algorithm!

The next expansion was to Instagram. I know there isn’t a lot of “news” on Instagram, but the daughter wanted to get it now that she was 13 and one of the requirements was that we follow each other. I use my own account mainly for music interests and have actually found quite a few new bands that I normally would never have found through other means. What I was unaware of until just recently though is that Instagram is owned by Facebook, mean that the algorithm was hoovering data directly to the core.

The Social Dilemma

This one documentary opened my eyes to something that I had suspected for a while but couldn’t quiet put into words. A feeling that there was something going on behind the scenes trying to guide the narrative in subtle ways. Try to find this documentary mentioned anywhere on Facebook and it will become clear that what I’m saying has some shred of truth. The algorithm is slowly moving us closer to the content we want to see, the content that makes us feel happy, the content that keeps us engaged on ads and making money for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.

I woke up and saw the Internet for what it had become with open eyes since the early days back in the late 90’s. Conservatives were farther right than ever with their filtered feeds and liberals were farther left than ever with their filtered feeds. Ones like me, skeptical and asking questions, were in this massive abyss down the middle struggling to get any meaningful content that didn’t take us down a right or left leaning rabbit hole. Damn the algorithm and it’s simplistic efficiency!

Where the hell am I? How is this fixed?

Burning Fields of America

This was not the post I had intended to publish after such a long period of time since my last contribution. It’s needs to get said though.

There was a time not so long ago in my life that I would have been all over the news commenting on posts, following people on Twitter and putting my strong opinions out on the Internet for anyone who cared to read. I was writing a lot online for multiple sources, ran a few sites for myself and others, and even had a decent following for the short period of time I was regularly active. Free time was consumed by constant thinking about what I was going to write next when I got home and sat down to the computer. I would go through news sites and pin articles to my browser bar that I wanted to comment on later that day more often than not never getting back to them again because something else peaked my interest.

All of this wouldn’t last of course and didn’t all crash and burn at the same time, as it was more of a gradual decline and general loss of interest. Days turned into weeks which turned into months where I wouldn’t even think of writing. I stopped following mainstream news sites, stopped following a lot of my regulars on Twitter, deleted a lot of the news feed apps on my mobile phone too. Focus in my life started to become local instead of global and I worried about things around me and in my neighborhood, town, and local city. In hindsight this was very much an introverted reaction to getting overwhelmed and not knowing how to process or deal.

I recently was up way too late a few nights ago seeing how deep the Internet hole went only to get to a dead battery on my mobile phone never getting remotely close to the bottom. I was left with an odd feeling of hopelessness and dread mixed with anger and frustration similar to how ice and fruit are mixed in a blender to make a smoothie. See, a conversation I had with an old friend I had not seen or heard from in years brought into sharp focus just exactly what has been happening the last few days in this country. He was still very much the same person I remembered from so many years ago who got behind the cause du jour of the day and rallied with the followers of said cause. Through the course of this conversation I came to the conclusion that while he was the same person I remembered, he could not say the same about me as I had changed significantly.

Not sure when it quite happened exactly if I’m being truly honest. All I know is that the way I think about the world around me now is not how I used to think about the world around me in previous years. One really good example of this is when the topic of the president comes up in conversation, now always by someone else and never by me anymore. I listen to comments, hear the negativity spewing from people that I know and most of the time respect, and am left thinking about how obvious it is they don’t read half the articles that give them the “facts” now being spoken. We were always going to get to this point, it was inevitable, a country can only take so much stress before things pop off like a bottle rocket.

A global pandemic keeping people inside, away from social contact for weeks on end is enough to drive most people over the edge. I personally had several weeks back in April where I didn’t think I’d make it this far but I did. Now adding on a horrific event of police brutality that kicks off the worst protesting this country has seen likely since the 1960’s, people are just fed up and done. They’re just done. Things are broken and millions of people across the country are peacefully protesting for change that is decades overdue. I personally am in a weird head space emotionally and I’m having a difficult time processing anything significant in general let alone about protests, government, or a global pandemic.

We need to adapt as a nation to survive I think. The best way I know how to start to do that is by making sure we get someone new occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Violent rhetoric begets violent rhetoric, lets break that cycle.

#coronavirus, #covid-19, #george-flynn, #trump

Warning: Introverted Skeptic

In an extroverted society, the difference between an introvert and an extrovert is that an introvert is often unconsciously deemed guilty until proven innocent.

Criss Jami

Shame on myself for letting all of the outlets that help me get through life wither and wane on the vine hoping someday that I’ll come back and visit them again. Blindly paying the bill to WordPress for a domain and hosting that just… sits there… patiently waiting for me to return and breath new life into an impressive history of posts. A history of pain, mental anguish, life events, and other random crap that I felt like sitting down and writing about. I could go into details as to why I stopped, why writing became a burden for me instead of an outlet, why it felt as if I wasn’t getting any benefit, why, why why… It doesn’t matter honestly, really doesn’t. What matters is that despite not writing for so long, for whatever reason, I still kept reading and still kept up with all those that I follow. It was a one-sided relationship, take but never give except in rare occasions. The silent follower that would “Like” a post but almost never comment and admittedly in the last few months, the liking of posts had even stopped.

I’m in a weird place right now, mentally and physically. That in between place where you’ve sorted through the tough stuff and have all the annoying crap left that takes up way more time than it should. Using the regular routine of gym, work, dinner, lather, rinse, repeat is amazingly helpful to me but quite the opposite to everyone else. My attitude to them has been one of implying they should go pound sand and leave me be until such time that I’m ready to allow entry back into my head space. This is definitely one of those “in my own head” phases that’s lasting a little longer than typical and if I’m being honest, I’m in no hurry to really figure out because it’s just easier most of the time. Those that know me best understand, those that don’t, well, they’re getting good at pounding sand.

If you would have just told me to go pound sand and never contact you again... that would have been freakin' awesome.  Cause I'm not real figurative but I understand words real well.

The approach of the infamous holiday season does not have me enthusiastic regarding my ability in finding a solution to my current situation. Arrival of family, in an otherwise closed in space, usually puts the brakes on any type of civility past a certain period of time and I end up just finding a space to retreat. Individuals that seek me out to find out if I’m “okay” after having segregated myself (obviously don’t know me well) receive the full force of attitude that has been stored up like a twisted rubber band. It’s not their fault really, more of a wrong place and time type of situation that I usually end up apologizing for later on when the tension is gone. There are days I wonder, not wish, why I am the way that I am. I’ve never known anything different though and have no frame of reference other than my perception of those that aren’t the same as me, which is subjective as hell.

Ok, for those that have made it this far, bravo to you. I’ll explain the featured image now. It’s awesome because in my advancing age, my skepticism has been one of my true infallible weapons. This makes for one hell of a combination though; introverted skeptic. I should start wearing shirts that give people some advance warning.

Recruiting In The Age of Technology

One would think that in this age of technological advancement, finding a job and interfacing with companies or recruiters would be an easy thing to accomplish. When I was searching for a job in 2015, while still employed, I was meticulous in where I submitted my information and which positions I actually applied. The laser focus of my actions apparently shielded me from the unsavory underbelly of what I have experienced the last four months while searching for a job while being unemployed.

I followed all the mainstream advice given to me by my mentors and colleagues that I’ve kept in contact through the years. My resume profile is listed on LinkedIn, Monster, CareerBuilder, and Indeed. The first 8-10 weeks were postive and yielding a lot of good results, especially after I replaced my resume with the updated one that the career management folks helped me write. These positive results unfortunately were not to last following the holiday season as I found my “profile” popped up on quite a few other job boards without me actually ever creating accounts for them.

The red flags started flying when I started getting calls by different people, from different recruiting companies I’ve never heard of before, for an opportunity with the same company, location, duration and description. At one point, during a few days in mid-February, I received more than a dozen calls for the same job. I called back a few of the ones that left messages and asked how they received my information. A few gave me the runaround once they realized I wasn’t serious about the position but a few gave me solid leads as to how it happened. My details had been uploaded into a massive database from an export of one of the legitimate job seeker boards. This database is then accessed via subscription by recruiter farms that are hired by large corporations to fill non-permanent positions quickly and efficiently. It’s too costly for these corporations to vet these candidates, so they pay a fee to the recruiter farms to present a list of a dozen candidates and they just pick a few and get them onboard to get the job done.

For the job hoppers that make a living doing this sort of work, its all well and good. For the job seeker that likes stability, it’s a reminder that technology can be just as much of a pain in the arse as it can be an efficient augmentation to our lives. I have no way to remove my information from this massive database and have resorted to manually, and tediously, marking these “recruitment” emails as spam. I downloaded an app on my phone that lets me rate and block these calls, some get blocked, some don’t.

As soon as I start my new job, I’ll be removing my profile from everywhere except LinkedIn, which is the way I had it before. I never received these stupid recruiter farm calls prior to my job search in November of last year by just being on LinkedIn.

April Fools Start Date

This is the part of the job search, the part where I know I have a new job and my first day is approaching, that I find the most stressful. Walking into a new environment is intimidating enough let alone adding the stress of meeting new people literally all day long. The part of me, you know, the part that is introverted and internalized, is usually not the part that leaves a stellar first impression with anyone. I wish there was a shirt I could wear on my first day of a new job that announced that I was an introvert to let people know that I’m not a pompous asshole.

The hard part is over, you’ve sold yourself to the employer and they offered you the job and know you can do whatever it is they hired you to do. Their part is over and it’s all up to you now to continue to sell yourself to everyone else that didn’t get a chance to interview you weeks ago. Being “on” for an hour or two during an interview is easy even for the most introverted of us out there. Being “on” for an 8 or 9 hour day, for 5 days straight is a completely different endeavor that requires a herculean feat of energy. Despite having started multiple jobs in the last 20 years, it’s never become easier and nothing has ever worked long term.

My standard approach is to observe, with an intensity that often doesn’t hide the internal F5 tornadicane that is going on inside my head. The astute observers will see this and often ask the typical questions “Are you okay?” or “Is there something wrong?” because they just don’t understand. The kindred introvert will immediately identify what is happening and make an attempt to figure out what support is most beneficial and offer it to me. The good ones figure it out and become essential co-workers that with enough time become friends. I have a few of them from previous jobs that I’ve remained in contact through LinkedIn or other means.

Glad I’m back to work again. Unemployment was scrambling my brain.

I’ve Got A Job!

I got a call this afternoon from someone that I interviewed with in person almost two months ago. He told me that he just received great news and that they received a verbal approval to start the hiring process and were preparing an official offer of employment to hire me. It’s been exactly 4 months and 1 day (by number, not actual number of days) that I’ve been out of work since I got laid off on November 12th last year. I didn’t believe him at first and a few innocent follow-up questions confirmed that the call was in fact real and it wasn’t a joke. I start, tentatively, on the 25th of this month after all the background stuff is completed.

For anyone that’s been out of work, especially in the information technology field, they know all too well how difficult it can be going through the process of screening and interviewing. Sometimes, depending on the company, it can take three or four rounds before a decision is finally made and an offer is extended. The direct hire market is the hardest, followed closely behind by the contract to hire market. The easiest to get hired and conversely hardest job to work is the short-term contract role as there is an assumption of knowledge and experience from day one. Thankfully the job I was offered today is a direct hire role for a stable company.

The last few weeks has been rather difficult as I’ve found myself getting lost in self-defeating thoughts and depressive black holes asking questions of my abilities. Why wasn’t I getting any offers? Why was I getting to a third and fourth round and coming 2nd or 3rd choice? What was I doing wrong that others were doing right? It was a self-deprecating pity party where I was the only guest that was getting harder to turn off when other people were around. The feelings were spilling into other parts of my life that were affecting the ones that were there supporting me through this crappy time of unemployment. My energy was spent by mid-day just keeping myself “together” enough to function. The days I had in person interviews were the worst of all because there was no relief.

I’m so happy now that the searching is over and I can settle into a new role. The bitterness of “why” from my previous role will fade over time as the new responsibilities of the new position start to become normal daily life. I can’t wait for the 25th now!

Migrated Back to WordPress.com

So, I decided that the cost and upkeep with a self-hosted blog was significantly more than I anticipated. The additional freedom to do what you want, how you want to do it, and in any way you want to do it no matter the “subscription” level wasn’t enough to make it worth all the other commitments required. The constant administration was enough to suck all the fun out of having a personal blog site in the first place. So much so despite years of writing easily migrating back to wordpress.com, none of my previous followers that had stuck with me during the first migration could stay with the return trip. I’m back to no followers again.

In my hasty retreat from self-hosted administration time suckage, I deleted the old site quicker than it took to transfer the domain and the lifebetween0and1.com site is currently offline and not reachable. Until the domain transfer goes through, it will continue to remain down. Oh well, it’s a lesson learned the hard way as are most lessons in the tech world, otherwise they wouldn’t be lessons. I’m hoping that I can still see followers through the JetPack details and get some messages off to those that I would still want to have follow me back again.

Now that I’m hosted again back at WordPress, at half the cost with a free domain I might add, I’m making some changes towards the minimal and slimming down the site even more than it already had been. Without constant administration, I really hope that the urge and drive to write more comes back again especially after I find a new job. That still has not happened yet, but I’m really close now with multiple irons in the fire. Only a matter of time.

3 Months and Counting

For the second time in my life, I was given notice of a reduction in force termination due to strategic reorganization. At the end of the day, you’re being terminated, legally, and without cause basically because your position is no longer useful to the company. There are many reasons for this to be the case, but the individuals that aren’t given the option to seek alternatives roles within the company. The lucky ones are given severance packages that allow them time to find new employment. I was a lucky one, at least so I thought.

My former company did give me a generous severance package, even paid for a few months of healthcare coverage on the practically useless COBRA that anyone out of work has had the option of obtaining. The main issue with COBRA when you have a high deductible plan that relies on a funded health savings account, that you don’t fund when not working, is that you end up paying out of pocket 100%. You might as well not have any insurance and in some cases, direct billing from doctors is cheaper than going through the insurance carrier. Figure that one out!?

I used the career management they paid for as part of the severance as well. Spiffed up the resume and completely redesigned the thing from the top down and was quite impressed with the result. It garnered a lot of call backs, phone screens, and several in person interviews. That unfortunately is where my insurmountable wall is sitting at the moment as I can’t seem to bring home that shiny new job offer. I’ve had great feedback both from recruiters and hiring managers on my interviews, however I’m usually “second choice” or “slightly less qualified” than the individual who got the offer.

Here is it, coming up to 4 months out of work and I’m again sitting and waiting for what I hope leads to a job offer following yet another great round of interviews. This whole process is extremely frustrating, having to repeat it now for the fifth time since November after not really gaining any real steam until after the holiday season. There is a level of exhaustion most people don’t understand that an introvert experiences following a 2 hour team interview that makes it difficult to even drive home sometimes. I know I’ll find a job eventually.

I’m tired of the process and just want it to end. Please, someone say yes, and give me a job offer!

True Friends Might As Well Be Big Foot

When you stop to think about it, true friends are like family without the commitment to obligation to see them on holidays, birthdays, etc.  Family is mentally and physically draining for many reasons, many of which lead back to the fact that they remember how you used to be and have difficulty understanding why you would ever change.  Friends on the other hand, at least in my experience, go with the flow and embrace change as it happens as it strengthens the bond; makes the friendship stronger over time.  It’s this reason that for most the idea of a “true friend” is so foreign and unattainable because the level of trust required to be given is truly frightening.

Most people have a lot of what I refer to as acquaintances often mistakenly though of as friends.  These people are the ones that you see at work, on the weekends, hang out with at parties or catch up with over lunch every so often.  Acquaintances are definitely ones that you are connected with over social media accounts and rarely ever see in person.  The idea of calling up an acquaintance, out of the blue, asking to meet up because you need to talk to someone about something really important or need help is foreign and feels like wearing a left shoe on your right foot.  The fact of the matter is that we all have a lot of these types of friends but most will ever ascend to the pedestal of a true friend.

True friends are those lucky few that are allowed access to the inner working of your mind and soul.  They’ve seen the raw energy, the darkness and light, the wordless joy and crushing sadness, and the massive crazy that is your life for what it is.  In return they’ve shared the same with you, raw, uncut, unedited.  There is a connection deep enough that a mere glance can emote an entire conversation in seconds with no effort at all on either participant.  A true friend would give you their last dollar to help you out if they didn’t need it at that very moment.  These are the reasons that true friends are so hard to find and so hard to keep once you do find them.  This kind of connectedness isn’t normal for most people, certainly isn’t normal for me.  In fact, I go from full to empty in a matter of an hour or so with this type of person and have attempted to sabotage these relationships in the past.

What’s the point of all this?  That’s a good question.  I guess the point here is that I’m in a place right now where I could use a true friend and I don’t have one right now.  If you’re one of the lucky ones to have a friend like this, make sure to hang onto them and recognize what it is you’ve managed to capture.  Very few of us have someone that gets us for the true person that we are on the inside, the person that talks back to us on the inside that no one else can hear.  Once you find that true friend, grab on and don’t let go, it’s like holding onto a hurricane.

Lost Art of Building Computers

Building a computer with your hands has become a 40-something tells a millennial as a story. Unless that millennial is a hardcore gamer and has really taken to the craft, the chances are good that they just purchased a their computers pre-built. I’ve recently had the opportunity to work on several computers in the last few weeks and it’s rekindled an interest in me that I had long forgotten about. An interest in getting my hands onto something and understanding something that is a complete and utter mystery to almost everyone who has put these things at the center of their lives.

Take for instance the featured image on this post.  That isn’t me or the actual machine I fixed, but it’s representative of the machine I worked on. They found an old gaming system in the basement that had a bad CPU cooling fan, so I replaced that. It had an old operating system (Windows 7) and I’m upgrading that as I write this to Windows 10. It took me all of about 2 hours with about another hour more before I’m done. Three hours of work and this old dusty thing that would have probably been thrown away is now a perfect machine for a young kid in school that will cost these people about $200 all in. it’s a skill that pays massive dividends because this same rig, if purchased brand new even to these 5 year old specs, would easily be over $2k.

I get it. It’s easier to get new stuff in a society that is for the most part stuck in a “throw away” mentality. There are some things though that can easily be fixed and renewed with a little time and effort that renews their usefulness. Here are are few examples in case none come to mind:

  • Old laptop that can’t run Windows 10 anymore, but is still working perfectly fine, can run Chrome OS without a problem. More details on that here. It’s not for the novice btw.
  • Upgrade that old desktop with some new memory and a solid state hard drive.
  • Upgrade to a solid state hard drive in your laptop.
  • Replace the battery in your laptop

It’s amazing how a few simple upgrades can breath life into a new machine and it doesn’t take a ton of skill to do it. Yeah, it took me a while to figure out how to remove the old CPU fan on the desktop; at least until I remembered that a desktop case has two sides. Take a chance, watch some YouTube videos and give it a try. You might surprise yourself in what you can accomplish and the level of satisfaction you get every time you use it afterwards is awesome.