Sometimes Our Autofocus Is Dumb

Photo by Brandon Milner.

Let me tell you two different stories:

Greg jerked out of his fitful slumber because a cold draft snuck under the covers when his wife got out of bed. After quickly sealing himself back into his burrito-like cocoon, he realized that warm or not, his aching back wouldn’t allow him to sleep. With all the angst a 40 year old man can muster, Greg swung his feet out of bed and shoved them into his slippers. One of those slippers was soggy and misshapen, thanks to a set of puppy teeth which were obviously thoroughly lubricated with slobber.

Greg plodded into the kitchen, and scooped himself a bowl of scrambled eggs, which were getting cold in a pan on the stove. After eating his eggs, Greg dressed himself and patiently waited for a chance to use the bathroom. Then he waited some more. And more. Finally he used the bathroom, shaved his face, and relinquished control of the bathroom to the waiting hordes of children.

With a quick kiss for his wife, Greg grabbed his briefcase and walked out to his car. He didn’t have gloves, or any motivation to scrape the ice off the windshield, so he sat in his cold car and shivered while he waited for the defrosters to do their work. After a few minutes, he grabbed the still icy steering wheel, and drove across town where he faced 9 hours of waiting to come home. Or “work” as some people called it.

Now let’s listen to Fred’s morning:

Fred felt a cool breeze on his leg, and woke to find his wife had gotten out of bed early to make breakfast. She didn’t purposefully wake him up, but after the fitful night of sleep, getting out of bed was a welcome change. When he slipped his feet into his slippers, he found one had been thoroughly chewed by the puppy, and was much more absorbent than he realized when it came to dog slobber.

Not wanting to let his slipper incident go unnoticed, Fred clopped into the kitchen and proudly announced, “Now presenting, Sir Squishy Toes of Tasty Slipper Lane. You may all bow and slobber your praises.”

The girls eating breakfast around the table giggled, and Fred noticed they left him a sizable amount of scrambled eggs in the pan, where the ambient heat kept them warm. Knowing what happens to the bathroom when 3 girls and a wife get ready for their day, Fred quickly gobbled down his eggs and tried to be first into the bathroom. Unfortunately, his plans were foiled when he went back for seconds. (The eggs were good!)

After his eggs, Fred waited patiently in the queue outside the bathroom door. He challenged his daughters to a “pee pee dance off”, to see whose dance was the most pathetic. The girls let dad go next. After a quick bathroom break, Fred grabbed his electric razor and released the bathroom to the girly inhabitants of Tasty Slipper Lane. He grabbed his coat and his briefcase, and then looked around the house for his wife. She was waiting for him with a smile, happy to see that after all their years of marriage, a goodbye kiss was more than just habit — he wouldn’t leave the house without the brief moment of intimacy.

Fred smiled as he approached his car, because the frosted windows meant he’d get an extra 5 minutes of audiobook listening in before work. He sat in his car, shivering slightly, and with his hands crammed into his coat pocket he dove into the world of his audiobook. In a few minutes, the car had warmed up enough to drive, so he went to work. Fred shut the car off in the office parking lot just before an exciting scene in the book. It would be something to look forward to on the drive home. But first, there was hot office coffee waiting inside, and Fred was excited to warm up his hands with a mug full of it.

The point is probably painfully obvious. I’m both Greg and Fred, and this was my morning. For me, and I suspect many others, simply focusing on the positive instead of the negative can make a situation drastically different. This morning, I chose to be Fred, and my day has been wonderful. More often than not, I choose to be Greg, and it sets the mood for the entire day.

When you wake up tomorrow morning, try to be Fred. Just once. See how it goes. 🙂

New Year’s Resolutions – 2014

Write a book of fiction, just to see if I can.

I’m making this resolution a year in advance so that perhaps I can get my life in order enough that devoting time to writing fiction might be practical.

I have plenty of ideas for books, but fleshing them into more than napkin-sized scribbles is something beyond my ken. Hopefully reading more books this year (my goal is 24) will help. Hopefully spending this year with the notion of getting my life stabilized a bit will help too. Heck, maybe the boxes in my office will even get unpacked.

Anyway, Dear Next Year Shawn: Write a book man. Quit fantasizing about it, and just do it. Oh, and This Year Shawn? Yeah, help a brother out. You have 12 months.

Writer’s Block – It’s Not a Dry Well…

It’s a clogged pipe.

I’m a regular sufferer of writer’s block, and for years I had a deep seated fear it meant I had run out of ideas. Or creativity. Or grey matter. Perhaps that’s true, but since that is depressing and impossible to fix, I decided to declare it a total lie. And now it’s on the Internet, so you KNOW it’s true.

Creativity doesn’t run out, it just gets stopped up a bit. There’s probably an apt analogy about how Drain-O isn’t an ideal fix, and how we often treat mental clogs the same way with alcohol — but I don’t really feel like making such a profound and absurd comparison. Basically, I’m currently cleaning out my pipes. And this is my blog, so both of my readers are stuck with the slimy hair globs of my writer’s clog. You’re welcome.

I’ll leave you with that mental image, and just remind you — if you’re struggling with writing, or creating in general: Creativity doesn’t run out, it just gets clogged up. Write in a journal. Draw a blue duck. Record a podcast about the value of berber carpet. Heck, you can even spew wild claims of psychological understanding as it pertains to creativity on your blog. I know a guy that did that once.


Linux Journal: It Bytes To Go To Bits

Today, Linux Journal announced something that I’ve known was coming for a while now. We will no longer get that wonderful excitement of finding a good old fashioned paper magazine in our mailbox every month. The good news is that Linux Journal won’t be going away. We’re just switching medium. It’s no longer possible for the company to sustain the cost of printing and shipping a physical magazine every month.

This shouldn’t really come as a shock to anyone, as magazines right and left are either switching to digital, or closing shop altogether. As a tech magazine, I’m quite pleased to see us go for the former instead of slowly and painfully succumbing to the latter. The truth is, I can tell you first hand that Linux Journal is about 2 things: Content and people. And not in that order. With this change, those 2 things will remain at the top of our priority list.

It’s funny, because based on some of the negative feedback we’ve gotten, I suspect people think Linux Journal is a big conglomerate somewhere, and a fat guy smoking a cigar decided to cancel traditional publishing. As if he were sitting on a pile of money, and didn’t want to pay the small increase in price to keep printing. The truth is we’re a handful of regular old people scattered around the country. We have mortgages and drive crappy cars. Most of us have “day jobs” that not only supplement, but bring in the lion’s share of our income. We do Linux Journal because we love it. We love the people. We love the freedom. We love the penguin. If it were a matter of increasing prices a buck or two, we’d have done so. As the entire industry is showing, it’s a much, much bigger problem than that.

I kinda thought of all readers, ours would be the most understanding. And for the most part, they are. Linux people are smart people. The print magazine industry is dying, and either we adapt, or we just become a nostalgic part of history. We don’t want to move to a digital only platform, we must do so, or just pack up our toys and go home.

Thankfully, the majority of our subscribers are positive, if not bummed, about the change. Heck, we are too. We’re terrified that this “thing” we’ve come to love might not make it. We’re worried that people will just get angry and not buy the magazine anymore. We’re sad because we have no magic wand to make things all better. So, we will do all we know how to do: Create content. It’s what we’ve always done, and as long as we can find a place to write our stuff, it’s what we’ll continue to do. Hopefully we’ll thrive in this new digital age. It seems we are the right demographic to do so.

Hopefully, you’ll join us. 🙂

Puffy, The Camera Slayer

Long ago, in a land not very dissimilar from our own, there were two little girls. Their names were Lagoria and Lizzanthia. The two sisters were particularly good one season, and at the Sun Harvest Festival, their father purchased them each a fairy scribe of their own. Fairy scribes, as you know, can not write words at all. They can only sketch ideas and words into pictures. Lagoria and Lizzanthia both loved the fanciful fairy sketches their mother’s High Fairy Scribe created — and their father Shagoth knew they would train their fairies to be as skilled as Lady Donaria’s one day.

Sadly, before the double moon set on the harvest celebration, Lagoria and Lizzanthia were on a photo hunt with their new fairies and fell upon a fierce dragon. Excited to get sketches of the dragon, both girls sent their trembling fairies after the dragon as it retreated into its cave. The girls stayed safely outside the cave, but knew that since fairies can’t be burned by dragon flame, the sketches they would get would be lovely.

And they were.

The sketches were magnificent. Everyone from miles around was shocked and amazed at how detailed the sketches were. Why, even the corners of the canvases were scorched, and the sulfur-laced smoke could still be smelled as if the viewer was deep within the dragon’s cave. In fact, it was so full of realism, the girls were forced to keep the sketches outside so the family wouldn’t choke from the smoke!

The problem came when the girls took their fairies out on another photo hunt. While fairies can’t be harmed by dragon fire, they aren’t immune to dragon magic. So while the fairies continued to sketch for the girls, every sketch smelled like fire and brimstone, and every sketch contained the likeness of the dragon himself. See for yourself!

So now, the girls borrow their mother’s Sketch Fairy from time to time, but apart from that have no way to record the beauty of the realm. They hope someday to be gifted with the Pink Camera of Sweetness and Light so they can once again capture their world without the taint of dragon. Until that day, the Sketch Fairies will live in agony, knowing they can not make Lagoria and Lizzanthia smile.

The End. (Or is it?)