Okay… let’s do this

Watching Stranger Things brings back some nostalgia. I did the math and that is the age I would have been. I was a kid with a dirtbike and we played Dungeons and Dragons and video games were my favorite. But growing up in Arkansas, the only ‘real’ future that seemed to exist was what all the other adults did; work at the local paper mill. I kinda wanted to go to college, but not with any clear idea of the future, but because it was high school 2.0. I eventually went into the Marines and after five years of traveling around the world, I got out to go to college.

This time I had an area of interest, psychology. I was interested in why people did what they did. I fell in love with living on campus, attending classes, having your friends nearby, and always with a book. In 1995 I read a magazine article that gave a glimpse into this new thing called the Internet and it showed two images side by side. On the left was an image of a Beatles webpage, and on the right was the HTML source code behind it. I used a magnifying glass and saw a structure in the code. It was pretty easy to pick up from that. I learned to look at the SRC code of webpages that I visited and I noticed more patterns. I started spending hours and hours in the computer lab, coding pages. I even put up some fliers in the computer lab, offering free tutorials to interested students to learn how to make their own webpages. This was in the days of dot matrix printers, PINE email, and DOS.

I moved to Houston and continued my studies in Psychology. I didn’t have a clear idea about what I’d do after college. The question for psychology undergrads usually starts off with ‘do you want to clinical or research?’ Since I hadn’t done either, I wasn’t sure about either. I was interested in both, but who knew? Meanwhile, I continued to spend hours in the computer lab, working on webpages. I remember using a complicated system of <div> tags and invisible images and pixels to get words to flow around images seamlessly. Geocities and webrings were all the rage. But I was also busy with college, with work, with being a volunteer firefighter, and I wasn’t engaged with the advances that were coming. PHP and CSS and then later JavaScript and more… webpages had changed. HTML was okay for your page with pictures of kittens and painted miniatures, but it would no longer work for the New York Times. Amazon wasn’t a thing yet, but e-commerce was starting to make an impact and this brought a whole new set of skills and demands.

It was soon easier to just make a page on one of the many blogging platforms out there, Blogger, Blogspot, TypePad, WordPress, and LiveJournal to name a few. I LOVED LiveJournal before they were bought out and changed. Before there were Facebook and MySpace, Livejournal was a place where people could write long-form (or short) posts and have their friends comment on it. I developed some wonderful friendships there. Then later came MySpace and Facebook, and everyone now wakes up with a new social media site that pops up. I’d like to see the trend continue with more and more social media outlets.

Okay, let’s back up a bit.

I was going to school to become… something… in psychology. I got my degrees in both psychology and philosophy. I was a veteran of OIF and had been working with veteran transition services. Being a government contract, went away. I soon fell into a job working for the military in Oregon heading up their resilience program. With my experience as a military instructor for ten years and my degree in psychology, I was well suited for this job. However, it too changed and went away. Then I fell into another job coordinating training for psychologists in military psychology. This lasted for another couple of years, but again, like most government contracts, it dried up or changed to something else. All these jobs, though they have noble aims, did not fulfill me with a sense of accomplishment. For the most part, they didn’t engage my strengths and abilities. They were, mostly, administrative task jobs. Can you create a PowerPoint? Schedule meetings? Send out a mass email? Update a flier to advertise an event? Locate a training venue? Negotiate a contract for services at a location? Then you’re good to go. The last job noted that it required a Masters degree in psychology (which I do not have, though I do have over 260 credits of college), but this is, like most every job I’ve seen in the world, not necessary. One merely needs the entry-level abilities of any office assistant to do that job.

a flier that I made with Keynote on MBP

Besides learning new ideas, going down the rabbit hole of research about a particular topic, what really engaged me was getting a phone call from someone and saying “we need to present the numbers to the Bobs…. can you make something that looks good?” Yes indeed! For one online training, therapists were told to go to one website and register for a pretest, then receive an email for another website to register for training, and then get another email, and so on. It was confusing. I got a lot of angry emails! So I made a flier with Apple Keynote and sent it out to people to explain the process.

The army teaches a form of instruction that can be, at best, soul-crushing. It is generally called “death by PowerPoint” and Marine Corps General Mattis once quipped that “PowerPoint makes us stupid“. Yes, it does. But it isn’t the fault of PowerPoint, but how we approach it. I’d seen too many boring trainings. I started out giving boring trainings. But I learned that a person cannot learn if they are not engaged. They also cannot be fully engaged if they look at ugly slides. And, here’s the real secret sauce, they cannot be engaged if their attention is split between a speaker and reading the paragraph of text on a screen. AT THE SAME TIME!

The title slide for a Keynote training for Four Lenses. The background is a beautiful video of the natural countryside that plays on a loop while everyone is filling the room.

Over several hundred presentations, some of them real stinkers, I’d like to say that I’ve learned a thing or two. Over the years I’m told, over and over, ‘you’re our favorite presenter. You’re so engaging. Everyone wakes up when you’re on stage.’

Okay, let’s jump forward now.

I am currently in Africa on military deployment. The job that I’ve been doing for the past couple of years is changing and/or going away. It is a very easy job and I could do most of the job from my iPhone while sitting on a park bench. Actually, I have. I use a host of tech-savvy skills that enable me to be more effective and efficient; Omnifocus, TextExpander, Hazel, DropBox, and a nerdy understanding of iOS features. I’m no Federico Viticci, but I’m pretty good. So when I return home in a few months, the job that I’ve been doing will be gone. So what now? For the past couple of years I’ve fallen into jobs that dealt with helping veterans and their families, all with a psychological aspect to it. But while I did apply to a graduate school once, nothing truly really grabbed me. I’ll attend psychology conferences, even flying to Claremont, CA for a Positive Psychology conference, and though I enjoy myself, I think it is more about my love of learning, love of things that inspire and enable us to be better humans, that draw me to them.

A couple of weeks ago I bought a web domain, doogooder.design. It is the simplest webpage you can imagine, the sort of page that one made in 1994. But it will grow over time. It is to be my playground, where I’ll test out new ideas and designs. For now it is merely one quote and one image. The picture is of a local stray cat that lives here on the military post that we rely on to keep rodents under control. I thought he was cute. The quote is from Steve Jobs, whom I’ve long admired for his philosophy and approach to design.

I am enrolling in an online class where I will go over HTML, CSS, JavaScrip, PHP, JQuery, Ruby, and more. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been reading books on HTML, CSS, Swift, Python, and I think this structured format with the various projects will give me some needed structure.

When I return to Oregon I plan to move to southern Oregon in the Medford/Central Point region. There’s a wonderful human being down there that I am keen to get closer than a three-hour drive to. I’d would like to find what local options there may be in the region for web development, but I’ll likely spend a lot of time looking for remote/WFH/freelance. Who knows, perhaps I’ll even start my own freelance business. We’ll see. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a metric ton of negative self-talk going on in my head. But I’ve got to put those to the side and push through.

For now, it is learning. I do so with an openness and an eagerness. I love to learn. I love to make beauty. I hope to bring about some positive change, for myself and others.

Published by Eddie

I'm a goofball. I like Doctor Who, Star Wars (yes, all of them), and of course Firefly. I think that "Out of Gas" from Firefly is the single greatest episode of any SciFi. Closely followed by "All Great Things..." from Star Trek: The Next Generation. I'm an Apple geek. Seriously, I brought a 2013 MBP and two iPads with me on deployment. Every year I watch all the Apple Keynotes. Someday I'd like to learn Swift, as I've got some ideas for some useful apps that I'd like to use. One might find me at a coffee shop, at the LGS getting more Magic: The Gathering cards, on some trail in the mountains of Oregon, on one of my Macs, running a trail, or who knows.

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