You Grew up in the 80s If

  • You practiced getting in and out of your car through the windows.
  • Your first Walkman weighed 10 pounds and was the size of a brick.
  • You know the meaning of “Wax on, wax off.”
  • You know whose phone number is 867-5309.
  • A piece of folded paper and two hands could tell your fortune.
  • You want to be “where everybody knows your name.”
  • You know what Willis was talking ’bout.
  • You remember when it was worth getting up early on a Saturday morning to watch cartoons.
  • You know the dangers of saying “water” and “I don’t know.”
  • You remember when dialing a number on the phone actually involved a dial.
  • You wore a ponytail on the side of your head.
  • You owned a pair of jelly shoes.
  • You played the game “MASH” (Mansion, Apartment, Shack, House).
  • You said, “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up.”
  • You asked, “Where’s the beef?”
  • You yelled, “By the power of Grayskull!”
  • You know where Gordon Shumway is from.
  • You rode in the back of the station wagon and faced the cars behind you.
  • You know what happened on Nov. 5, 1955.
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“Caledonia” Has My Attention

I recently found this video on Youtube while looking for Scottish and Irish music. It has kept my attention since then, and I have listened to it many times.

Dougie MacLean wrote this song while busking in France with some friends because was feeling homesick for his home in Perthshire, Scotland. After he played the song for his friends, they all decided to return home.

This song is relaxing. The lyrics also resonate with me, although not with the same message. In the second verse MacLean says

I have moved and I’ve kept on moving, proved the points that I needed proving
Lost the friends that I needed losing, found others on the way.

I do not know what he refers to here, but I think of times that I felt abandoned by people that I thought were friends when I needed help finding work in my previous field (not all of my friends; some did try to help). Leaving behind a career path can be difficult if you have invested much into it, and being unable to depend on some of the people who went to school with you is also difficult. In time I learned that I needed to move on. Now I am back in school and pursuing a career which will continue to be in increasing demand. I can move forward without letting the past define my life.

As I listen to this song, I also think of my dream to spend a week in Iona and another week exploring the surrounding islands. I have decided to set a goal to accomplish that dream. As a student, I do not have the funds or time now. After I finish school and work a few years in this field, then maybe I can earn a two week vacation to take the trip.

This raises another idea. Whenever I travel in this USA, I bring my laptop, or at least my tablet, so that I can do email and write my thoughts. On this trip, however, I might leave all of that at home and instead bring some notebooks and pens. After all, the point of this trip is to get away from my normal activities for a while to spend time in contemplation, reading and writing, and quietly letting God minister to me. Call it a pilgrimage if you like. We are so accustomed to the conveniences of modern technology that we can feel awkward without them, but it is tempting to step away from such conveniences, and the distractions they bring, while on this trip. The life I know here will be waiting for me when I return.

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Arwen and Jenny

While sitting at my desk before class this morning I found Arwen enjoying a moment with my sister’s dog Jenny

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Balancing Two Desires

Class has been as demanding as always, but it has also been interesting. Yesterday for my information security class I studied a section on password cracking and learned how to get a user’s password from a web page that he is logged into. As I learn more, the idea of doing penetration testing (ethical hacking) to help companies strengthen their security continues to intrigue me.

In my spare time I am trying to write. I said I would try to write some each day. I have not been fully successful, but I have written more than I did previously. I have brought out my notes from an idea I had for a fantasy world’s mythology. The idea came to me while I was still working at the warehouse, but because of the demands of life I put it aside.

Now I find myself wanting to work on that while I also need to focus on school. My classes need to take priority, but I occasionally fit in time to work on the mythology. I have organized and typed my handwritten notes into a Word file, and I am beginning to flesh them out in a private blog which only I can read. After I have developed them more, I will decide whether or not to post them here.

Needless to say, I am quite busy. Fortunately, I have a supportive work partner. Arwen sometimes likes to settle on the back of my chair while I work. She is a good buddy.

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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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