Still Here

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The reason there hasn’t been any new content for the past four months is because I’ve been extremely busy. I’m working two jobs and I haven’t had time to sit down and string a couple of words together. The tiny pockets of time I do get I either use it to rest, sleep, or spend time with the family.

But this is not an apology or a complaint. And I hope this doesn’t turn out to be just another billionth “Sorry for not posting” post. Even though I’m overworked and tired, it has been one of the most interesting and positive four months I had in a while. I’ve done a lot of soul searching. I’ve had a rocky and dispiriting year, but I managed to survive it. Things have turned out extremely well in the end.

This is more of a “Hey, don’t you forget about me internet” plea. I’m always around. I keep in touch mostly with Twitter these days and always check on occasion with my overflowing Google Reader feeds. I use Facebook for keeping in touch with family and friends. So I haven’t completely tuned out.

But I miss this a lot. Blogging is the only web publishing form that gives me the opportunity to present myself in a less fragmented way. While these “new” web communication tools like Facebook and Twitter are great for their brevity and ease of use, they are pretty bad at giving you the opportunity to present a more fuller self.

Stay tuned.

The Failure of Success

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Some time in 1995 I started playing guitar. It was a friend from high school who turned me on to it. I saw him playing on an acoustic guitar the chord progression of a Green Day song and I was completely blown away. He taught me some chords and standard first-learner stuff like the arpeggio to Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters and Zepellin’s Stairway to Heaven. I practiced a lot and banged away on an old Mexican acoustic until my fingers bled. I bought and learned from books. I learned some more chords and learned scales. I bought rock albums and learned guitar riffs by listening to them. I went to the Mall to buy the Guitar World magazine every time I could. I worked at a water bottling manufacturing plant to save up for an electric guitar and an amp. The idea of starting a band soon followed. I played with a couple of people. I met a bassist who introduced me to classic rock and got me all romantic about the mythology of rock n roll. I jammed away and recorded silly home made demos. I came up with ideas for songs, mostly just instrumental structures, a title, and maybe a couple of lyric verses. I bought a Tascam multitrack recorder. I played one gig for free at Nuyorican Cafe in Old San Juan. I was deeply into music. Like a music scholar. I really saw myself as a musician. I did this throughout 95 up to 2004. I’m pretty sure I put in 10,000 hours. It was something that I gave a shot and pursued for about 10 years. But I had to let it go because I had to start paying bills.

In the early 2000’s I became interested in working with computers. I was told and encouraged by my family that that was were the money was at. You could be a computer programmer like Bill Gates. You could make web pages. This was the future. This is the future. Kind of. All I knew is that I loved using computers.

So I went ahead an got enrolled in New Horizons, an IT training institute that prepares you to get certified in “recognized” industry certifications like Microsoft’s MCSA and Cisco’s CCNP. Those were too expensive to take. So I went with the more entry level certifications like A+, Network+, and MCDST. That last one stands for Microsoft Certified Support Technician. I finished and got certified around 2006-2007. But it took me a year to land a job in computers. That was Compusa. Of course, it was horrible. Super low pay, stressful, and not what I expected. The company as you know went away. I worked a year. I learned the hard way that getting interested in working with computers because you love using them, is like getting interested in working with pencils because you like writing.

Then in 2009 I found a job at Best Buy with Geeksquad. I started part-time and have ended part-time. The company looks like it’s going the same route that Compusa and Circuit City went through. My job is in limbo right now. I’m still employed but they’re not giving me any hours.

There’s a fad theory about embracing failure that I’m having a lot of trouble with. The idea is that if you embrace failure, then you’ll learn better from the mistakes. That you should go out there and fail a lot. It’s a reasonable premise. But there are thousands, perhaps millions of people going through the same shit I’m going through. People that have failed, and failed, and failed, with no hint of when that success is coming. Successful people that embrace the failure theory probably have no idea why they’re successful. The truth is that success can’t be explained convincingly any other way other than luck. Of course that’s something that’s hard for us to accept.

The failures only make sense in hindsight. When your deep down in the shit gutter of failure, there’s no way you’re going to see the lessons behind them.

Ifyouworkreally hard

The same goes with the working hard theory. The above pic is a quote from Conan O’brien. There’s no doubt in my mind that Conan O’brien has worked really hard and that he’s a super kind person. But that advice is yes, fine for Conan. There are people that have literally, figuratively, and mentally worked hard their whole lives, but are still right now living paycheck to paycheck.

I can control the success of me making a good cup of coffee right now. I can use the failure theory by studying my previous attempts when it wasn’t good. Maybe I added too much water or just the fact that the coffee maker is a piece of crap. I can add less water and buy a better coffee maker. I can learn from those mistakes and fix that. But the failures at my chosen careers don’t teach me anything. Is not something I have any control over. This blog post for example, like it has happened may times before, will probably be completely ignored even though I have put a lot of effort into it.

It’s a boring and simplistic realization, but having success, a least what we think of as big success, is just plain old luck.

Apple Stores’ Army, Long on Loyalty but Short on Pay

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Apple Stores’ Army, Long on Loyalty but Short on Pay – NYTimes.com

I’m so glad the NyTimes published this story. Here’s the thing: People have no fucking clue how shitty it is to work at retail, specially the computer/electronics retail sector. And specially as a “computer technician” with theme park-like job titles like Apple Genius and Geek Squad Agent. I smirk when reading that a sales staff Apple employee is paid 11.25 an hour and get filled with boiling anger that an Apple Genius gets paid “a little more over than $40,000 a year.”

“Thousands of incredibly talented professionals work behind the Genius Bar and deliver the best customer service in the world. The annual retention rate for Geniuses is almost 90%, which is unheard-of in the retail industry, and shows how passionate they are about their customers and their careers at Apple.”

That 90 percent figure sounds accurate to Mr. Garcia, who quit last July after four years with the company, overwhelmed by the work and unable to mollify employees and customers alike. Plenty of technicians do, in fact, like their jobs, which vary around the country, and which pay in the range of $40,000 a year in the Chicago area. Many technicians, though, wanted to leave but were unable to find equivalent work, according to Mr. Garcia and other former managers, in part because of the weak economy.

Hey, Ny Times, I’m an almost ex Geek Squad/Best Buy employee and I’m available for an interview.

Trying out Foursquare

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I’ve been using Foursquare for about two weeks now. Let me just first say that I’ve always been skeptical about the usefulness of location services. I’m from the generation of people that was attracted to the internet because where you where in the world didn’t matter. That is one of the most important factors that makes the web so useful. We can communicate with people all over the world no matter if we’re thousands of miles apart. This is why I have never understood the whole location-based social media thing. Besides being annoyed by Twitter users who auto import their check ins, it has always creeped me out that strangers would know everywhere I go. (Cue Every Breath You Take)

The Big But

Of course the web keeps changing our notions about privacy. We went from anonymity to “real” identities. That transition took some time, but today being an anonymous person on the web is kinda frowned upon. The Zuckerbergian world view that openness makes the world a better place may sound Sci-Fi dystopian, but only if you equate openness and lack of privacy with exposure.
Any how, I don’t want to go on a philosophical tangent about privacy, but it warrants a mention being that Foursquare raises privacy concerns.

Turns Out

So after using Foursquare for about two weeks I’m surprised that I’m actually enjoying it. For the longest time, I’ve been looking for places to go for walks. By using the explore tab on the iPhone app, I discovered a walking trail park that’s 8 minutes close by car. I’ve added some friends and it’s interesting to see their check ins, tips, and photos. It’s gamification aspect with the badges is addicting. The ability too make to-do lists and other lists is very handy. I’m trying to get members of my family and friends that live close by to use it. And I don’t go out that much, but the geekiness of the check ins makes me want to go out more and this is something that is making my wife happier.

Summer Reading 101

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Robin Sloan is starting a sort of summer reading book club.

This is a Reading Rainbow-esque video series about books I love that are between five and 50 years old but not super well-known. My hope is that one or two will sound interesting to you and you’ll get motivated to check them out this summer.

His first pick, The Rise of the Image, the Fall of the Word sounds super interesting.

(Via Boing Boing)