Some Interesting Developments

The past two weeks have been packed with activity. First, one of my sister’s dogs (Molly) became seriously ill, and we did not know whether she would survive. That was quite difficult because she is a very sweet dog who makes friends with just about anyone she meets. She received some surgery, and the vet discovered that she had swallowed some rope. She then came home the next night.

My sister has kept Molly upstairs with her while she recovers from surgery, and I continue caring for the other dog Jenny. Molly is recovering well, but she cannot do everything the wants. She cannot run and play until her incision has healed. I feel bad for her, but this period will pass. When the vet approves, she will be allowed to return to her normal active life.

I am also quite busy at school. One friend at school invited me to join an ethical hacking tutorial group. Ethical hacking, also called penetration testing, is a part of cybersecurity. A company can hire penetration testers to find weaknesses in their security. This can involve actually hacking into their system (legally and without causing any harm) for the purpose of finding the weaknesses so that they can be fixed before a malicious hacker finds them. It can also include more mundane tasks like checking for cubicles where someone has posted a password on a sticky note (a big no no, by the way). Whatever the specific tasks may be, their goal is to strengthen the client’s security.

I am still learning some of the fundamentals I will need before I can do much with penetration testing (such as networking, virtual machines, etc). Nonetheless, this is a good opportunity to learn and to meet fellow students, and so I will participate whenever I can, Later in my program I will take an entire class on penetration testing, but for now I will enjoy learning from the tutorials.

I was doing extra reading to prepare to take the Network+ exam this summer with the plan to take the Security+ exam later in the summer or in the Spring, but that has changed. My information security instructor told us about two weeks ago that if we take the Security+ exam and pass it, then we do not need to take the final exam in class. I am now devoting extra time to getting ahead in my security class so that I can take the Security+ exam in time. I will then study for the Network+ exam.

I have also changed my plans for the summer semester. I had planned to take two classes. The summer semester is short, and so two classes will have the weekly workload of four classes. It would be difficult to work a job now with only three classes. A job would be impossible with two classes, and so I think I might take only one class in the summer and also work an internship. It may delay my graduation, but the experience I would gain in the field would be well worth it.

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Writing Prompt – Not a Mere Walking Stick

You buy what you think is a simple walking stick at a yard sale. You do not realize that it is Gandalf’s staff.

  • How did such an item come to be at a yard sale (or in an antique shop if you prefer)?
  • Describe it in a way that is consistent with its description in The Lord of the Rings but not so obvious that it is an immediate dead give away to the reader. Give yourself time to discover its true identity.
  • Give it a low price tag at the yard sale as if the seller considers it insignificant.
  • Why then does it catch your eye? Maybe at first you just think it looks neat, and you buy it on a whim. Maybe there is something more that you do not quite understand, but you feel an urge to buy it.
  • How do you discover its identity?
  • Which staff is it? The staff of Gandalf the Grey or Gandalf the White? Maybe Gandalf the Grey’s staff remained in Moria until someone retrieved it. If it is the staff of Gandalf the White, then why did he not take it with him to Valinor?
  • What powers does it exhibit? You are human, not a Maiar like Gandalf, and so will the staff be less powerful for you?
  • How does its power affect you?
  • This story could be the beginning of a much longer story of someone discovering that the history of Middle-Earth is the true history of our world long before the history that we know. This opens numerous possibilities.

You are free to use this prompt in your own writing. If you print it or post it online, however, please credit this post.

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Wow, Life Is Busy

I am taking one hour short of a full load this semester. I wanted to take a full load, but one hour short was just the way my selection of classes worked this semester. They are all fundamentals classes, and so I need to take them. I have not decided what I will take next semester, but I will set a meeting with a professor a few weeks before registration to get some advice.

Anyway, life has been BUSY. I do not have a job yet, and I wonder where I will find the time for one while still in school. I spend most of the day on school work, and I am mentally exhausted at the end of the day, but it is interesting material. For those who know something about IT, yesterday I read about DNS servers, DHCP, and some major networking shell commands. Today I worked through a project in my book on how to flush my DNS cache and then specify my laptop’s DNS settings. I enjoyed some nerdy fun in knowing how to do that.

Being in a cybersecurity program has made me more careful about online security. I suppose I am developing a more security conscious mindset. I have learned through class and independent study how dangerous public WiFi can be. Before I started this program, I never accessed bank accounts, did online shopping, or paid bills while logged into public WiFi. Now I have stopped using it all together unless I enable a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to secure my internet traffic. Fortunately I found a good VPN for an affordable price, and it works on every device I have (Windows, Linux, Android, and iOS). That is a good deal. I needed something so that I could feel relatively safe using the WiFi at school or at libraries.

I have some old habits in how I type which have not been a problem for me in the past, but now I am trying to enter an IT field. I think I need to resolve them, and so I will practice each day (with maybe one day off). That could lead to more writing on this blog. Some of the writing, however, may just be ramblings on a fictional world idea I have tossed around in my head, and that material will likely be stored only on my computer, at least for now. We will see how it goes. I slowed down my writing on this blog a while back so that I would have more time for school, but now typing will be relevant job preparation. It will be worth the time. I think I can manage 30 minutes each day.

The summer semester will be short, and so I had hoped to take take three certification tests during the spare time, but the department dean told me that would be unrealistic and instead told me to focus on one. I will ask one of my instructors whether she thinks two is realistic. If not, then I will simply take the Network+ test and then get the Security+ in the Spring. I have not decided what I will take after that. A+ is a standard IT certification, but I have heard mixed opinions on how helpful it is in cybersecurity (please feel free to comment if you know). While looking at a list of job in the Atlanta area, I also noticed that many of them required CISSP. I will need to research that one, and I will get advice from instructors at school.

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First Week of Class

I have now finished my first week of class, and it will be a demanding semester. I am taking classes in hardware installation and maintenance, networking fundamentals, and computer security fundamentals. These classes are essential foundations for my program.

I began some of the work early. During the week before class I read ahead in my hardware book. I brought out a dead desktop computer, placed it on my kitchen table, and opened it. While reading the book, I looked at the hardware inside, examined the parts, and noticed how they were connected. I intend to resurrect this computer as a personal challenge this semester.

Arwen and my sister’s dogs are learning to live with each other. I am now the dogs’ primary caretaker, and so they are usually with me. I am impressed that Arwen will move among the dogs unintimidated, despite her small size. Maybe they do not chase her because she does not run from them. Instead, they sniff her.

For the most part, they appear to be fascinated with her, and I think Molly genuinely likes her. About a week ago Arwen cut her back feet. I confined the dogs in another section of the basement to get them out of the way and then cleaned Arwen’s feet. She fought so hard when I tried to wash her feet in the sink that I instead dipped her feet in a puddle in the shower. She meowed loudly and sounded like she was panicking. When I was finished I found that the dogs had forced their way out of their room and came to investigate. I think they may have been worried for their buddy.

Earlier this past week I visited the Barnes and Noble near my sister’s house to study my computer networking book. It is an interesting but complex topic, and I will need to work hard to master the material. As I left for the night I walked by a bookcase of science fiction and fantasy books, which are my favorite fiction genres. I have many books which I want to read, but I will be unable to read them for over a year because I plan to stay in school every semester until I graduate (including summer). When I graduate, maybe I will reward myself with a trip to a bookstore to buy such a book. For now, I need to focus on classes. This is a time to acquire the skills for a new career. It will be a busy and challenging time, but it will pay off in the end.

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Writing Prompt – The Best Library EVER

You are in a library with every book ever written.

  • Before you begin writing, consider how incredible this would be. Any book you could possibly want is here. There is no need for inter-library loan; it is at this library.
  • This library contains a printed copy of every printed book ever written.
    1. It includes every edition and every translation. It does not contain every book in every language. It only contains translations that have actually been written.
    2. This library even contains books that are considered to be lost
    3. You can determine whether it also contains eBooks. This will depend on the world and time period you choose. A contemporary world like ours might have eBooks. A library in a science fiction world with a highly advanced culture is likely to have eBooks, but a medieval library in a fantasy world will not have them. On the other hand, maybe there is a magical equivalent to eBooks.
    4. This library does not contain books that have not yet been written. You determine how the library adds new books and how long it takes them to acquire a copy.
  • How large is the building? Does it fill an entire city? Maybe the entire city’s population works in the library.
  • How are the books stored:
    1. Are they on bookcases hundreds of feet high?
    2. Are the books floating in the air?
  • How are the books cataloged? This will depend on the technology of the world.
  • Do you find a book in the catalog and then go to the appropriate section to get it yourself?
    1. Because the library is immense, then maybe you place a request and wait for an employee to get it. What sort of employees perform this task? Humans, flying drones, gnomes?
    2. Whoever retrieves a book might need the ability to fly considering the size of the bookcases. The means of flight will depend on the world. Maybe the library instead has scaffolding with staircases for each bookcase
    3. You do not order a book and have it delivered to your home. You go to the library in person.
  • How do people move through such a large library, especially if it is the size of a large city? This will largely depend on the world you choose.
    1. If it is a fantasy world, then maybe it uses flying carpets.
    2. If it is in an urban fantasy world, then maybe it has a roller coaster network like Gringott’s Bank.
    3. If it is a science fiction world, then maybe it has flying cars.
    4. If it is a contemporary world, then maybe it has a trolley network.

You are free to use this prompt in your own writing. If you print it or post it online, however, please credit this post.

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The New Journey

I have moved into my space in my older sister’s house. She has a fully finished basement, and I have two rooms partitioned off from the main section. My space is smaller than I had at my previous residence, and so I keep some items in a rental shed.

My older sister and her husband wanted to help me with my efforts to change my life’s direction, and so they offered me a very low rent (even after I add the price of the shed). In return I care for their dogs. They are both so busy now that they cannot give the dogs as much attention as they would like, and so I have taken that responsibility. I feed the dogs, play with them, and walk them. I have been here for less than three weeks, but the dogs have already grown to love me. They follow me around and seem to enjoy just being with me. If I lie down, then the fox red lab Jenny will aggressively try to lick my face. The black lab Molly constantly wants belly rubs and looks at me with eyes that say, “Love me.” Sometimes when I sit on my recliner, they rest nearby on my couch. It has become one of their favorite nap spots.

My cat Arwen is adjusting. The first night she insisted on going outside. I was nervous, but I knew I needed to let her out eventually. That first night she walked around meowing for a long time (probably scared). When I brought her back in she insisted on going back out, and so I let her out and went to bed. The next morning she was ready to come in and have some breakfast.

She does not like the dogs, of course, and so when she is inside she spends most of her time either on or under my bed. At night she sleeps with me, unless she is prowling outside. Over the past week we have had cold temperatures and rain almost every day. She does not want to go outside in that weather, and I like to keep her inside at night if it drops below freezing. Unfortunately, if the dogs are out of their kennels, then I need to keep Arwen confined to my bedroom for her protection. She does not enjoy this, and so I am happy that the weather has been better today and yesterday. She can spend some time roaming freely outside. As a former stray, she has an yearning for adventure and a need to explore. When she does come inside, however, she takes full advantage of my bed and her favorite blanket.

Class begins on January 7. Until then I am making good use of my time. I am reading Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. I am also studying some Python programming and working on my resume and LinkedIn profile. After I have adjusted to the demands of a full load in school, I will look for a part time job

My other sister recently participated in National Novel Writing Month and met her goal. She has wanted to write a novel for years but thought she could not do it, and yet she succeeded (you can read about it here). This brings back to mind my desire to write fiction. I have thought many times about a collection of loosely connected short stories. I have always struggled with writing fiction, but I feel like I have story ideas that want to come out. I have notes on some of the stories. When I sit down to make an attempt, however, nothing  comes out. With school starting soon, I do not know when I will have the time to work on this. Right now I need to focus on getting a new career so that I can make a sustainable living, but someday I need to write this book. It will not leave me alone.

I am also thinking again about my desire to visit Iona and the surrounding islands. That yearning remains stuck in my head. Someday, I need to do it.

I expect my first semester to be intense, and so I do not know how often I will be able to write in this blog. Nonetheless, I will try to chronicle my journey. I am taking a risk by quitting my job and taking on student debt, but sometimes a person needs to take a risk to move forward. This endeavor can lead to a career which is better for me physically and financially and also more suited to my interests and abilities.

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Writing Prompt – Leave Your Life and Move to the Shire

You face serious stress or a crisis in your life. When you reach a breaking point you receive the opportunity to leave your life behind and move to the Shire.

  • You struggle could be any of these:
    1. You recently lost your entire family.
    2. You have an overwhelmingly stressful career, and you long to quit.
    3. You are in sudden financial ruin.
    4. This world has been devastated by war, plague, or natural disaster.
    5. You have terminal cancer or a terminal disease.
    6. You can combine any number of these into the same story and/or add a struggle not listed here.
  • Describe your psychological condition when you reach a breaking point.
  • You then receive an opportunity to leave this life behind and move to the Shire. This would be the Shire in Middle-Earth, not a vacation resort replica in this world.
  • How will you move there:
    1. Will you walk through a wardrobe like Lucy in The Chronicles of Narnia?
    2. Will you fall asleep in this world and wake up in your own hobbit hole in the Shire?
    3. Will you go to a boat port in this world to board one of the white ships of the Grey Havens, sail to Middle-Earth, and then travel by land to the Shire? Middle-Earth does not exist in this world, and so the ship will need a way to jump between worlds. It will not take you to Valinor.
  • At which point in Middle-Earth history do you arrive? Is it before or after the One Ring is destroyed? You will not join the quest to destroy the Ring. You will move to the Shire to find a peaceful life.
  • You will leave your current life behind, but what will you do for a living in the Shire? It must be something that would be natural for life there. You cannot bring the modern technology of this world.
  • Will you remain human or become a hobbit?
  • Is the move permanent?
    1. If it is, then you leave your current life behind and never return.
    2. Maybe you stay there for a year and then have the option to return to this world or stay in the Shire. That choice is permanent.
    3. Maybe you can return to this world for up to a few months and then make a permanent choice whether to stay in this world or return to the Shire.
  • In either case, when you go to the Shire, you get a fresh start. Financial obligations and health problems in this world will not follow you to the Shire, but they will be waiting for you if you return.
  • You also leave behind everyone you know in this world. Maybe you can bring one person or a few people with you, but they will need to make the same permanent choice.

By the way, while writing this post I found an effort to build the Shire in central Tennessee. I would love to spend a week long vacation there. The replica in New Zealand is too far for my budget, but Tennessee would be more manageable. Unfortunately this project was proposed three years ago and appears to have quickly fizzled out.

You are free to use this prompt in your own writing. If you print it or post it online, however, please credit this post.

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The First Day of the New Journey

My last day at the warehouse yesterday went well. It was not too exhausting. People were supportive of my plan to improve myself, and they said I would be missed. One of the managers said I had served them well and had earned the right to “knock on the door again.” During my final days I did not slack off in my work. I wanted to end well because I did not want to burn my bridge on the way out, and I wanted to maintain my work ethic.

Today was my first day after resigning. I slept a little later than I would on a work day, but I still set my alarm to get up early. I quit my job to make this life change, and so I cannot waste time or lose discipline. I have  much to do. This week I need to focus on moving and studying for my final exam.

When that is finished I plan to invest the few weeks I have before Spring classes begin. I want to revise my LinkedIn profile and resume and maybe buy some business appropriate clothes that will help me find an IT job. I also plan to do some beneficial reading, such as Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.

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A New Chapter Begins


Today was my last day working at the warehouse. That means I am now unemployed. As this day has drawn closer, I have felt uneasy. I am taking a risk, a leap of faith, but I believe I am making the best decision.

If I play it safe and remain at the warehouse, then a year from now I will still be there and will be no closer to making a better life for myself. My body also will continue to decline. This is not a criticism of the company. It is just the nature of the work. It takes a toll on the body, and my back and hands definitely feel it.

I have a mind that can do more, but I will need to get credentials to use it in a job. Finances will be very tight for a while, but through this I can make a better life in the long run.

This past Fall semester I took one online class while continuing to work at the warehouse. This weekend I will move, and in the Spring I will take three classes on campus. These classes will cover some vital fundamentals for my program, and so I will be busy making sure I do well in all three.

I have experienced cold feet many times regarding this decision, but as I said, I believe it is the best decision. If I play it safe with my current circumstances, then I will move nowhere. Breaking out of this rut will require me to take a risk.

So, now it begins. I no longer work at the warehouse. After I am done moving, and after I take the final exam for my online class, I will have about 4 weeks before Spring classes begin. I will use that time for some personal development to prepare for my future career. Then I will go ahead full into my classes.

Get ready for the ride.

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Running Against the Wind

Back in September I said I would post on some coming changes in my life. Here it is.

On the way home from work a few months ago I listened to “Against the Wind” by Bob Seger. It is a great song. It plays in the movie Forest Gump while Forest is running across the country. During this journey he learns to put the past behind him and move on with his life. That has been my life for many months. While driving home with this song I thought about how my life did not turn out as planned, and how I intended to proceed from there.

Did you have a goal which you held closely and which defined the direction of your life and the decisions you made, except it did not come to fruition? How long did you keep trying, and at which point did you move on?

I have explained in previous posts how my previous career plans never materialized. For that reason the past several years have been difficult. I did not struggle with a lost relationship as in Seger’s song, but my struggle was equally difficult. I did not want to move on because I did not want everything I had invested into my education to be wasted. This left me stuck in a rut.

But I need to move on. I am working a physical labor job which is taking its toll on my body. I know I am capable of doing better and that I should not waste my potential. I am left with a choice: I can either continue doing what I am doing while going nowhere (running against the wind), or I can move on and turn things around for the better.

In pursuit of this change, I have enrolled at Gwinnett Technical College for some training in their cyber security program. I am taking one class online now, but some classes meet only on campus. I also want to take most of my classes on campus so that I can build a network of contacts. This will require me to quit my job at the warehouse and move almost two hours away. I will begin just taking classes to get back in the habit of school and later get a part-time job. Finances will be a significant challenge for a while (probably more than a year), but long-term I think this will be the right move because it will give me the credentials to get a much better job.

I have been offered a place to live with my sister for cheap in exchange for helping at the house. I can also bring Arwen with me, which is great. I would hate to give her up. She is a great companion. I will have less time to write, but I will try to chronicle my journey.

(I did not post this back in September because I thought I should wait until I had officially given my notice of resignation at the warehouse, in case any of them read this.)

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