The next reality show: Data Hoarders

data-overload

Your personal Twilight Zone.

The thought of becoming a TV star didn’t strike me as possible until lately when I looked around at all the hard drives and other storage devices in my office. True confessions time: I (sniff, sniff) am a data hoarder. Yes, it’s true and there are many of you out there, too. It starts because programs, songs, pictures, videos, games and so many other things are plentiful and often free. It’s like being five and visiting the aunt who keeps bowls of candy around the house – it’s impossible to keep out of it. So how does my version manifest?

External hard drives: Oh yeah – a dozen. Thumb drives: Another six units. DVDs, Blu-Rays and CDs: Hundreds, maybe even thousands. On my desktop computer alone, I have nearly four terabytes of data storage, and a lot of that is, well, I’m not sure. I’m in the process of consolidating my entire family’s music collection. We are already at almost 9 gigabytes of songs, and there are at least 30 more CDs to go plus the random MP3 files I’ll stumble upon here and there.

Where does it all come from? A simple answer: “Oooh, that’s cool. I’ll save/download/install that!”, or, “Wow, I can’t belive that program is free – gotta have it!”

The biggest problem is that the stuff we really value and want to keep gets swirled into the whirlpool of useless stuff we save to hard drives. My philosophy on computer storage is that, like a trashcan, we’ll continue to put things into it until it’s full. Unlike a trashcan, emptying it takes care and time.

Admit it: If you see a free program, aren’t you likely to download it? We take thousands of pictures, but most folks rarely go digital-junkthrough and cull the bad ones. How many emails do you have sitting there from as many as five years ago or more?

Then to make sure we keep all this “valuable” stuff, we buy drives to make copies because, if disaster strikes (hard drive failure, lightning hits your house, etc.), we’ll need a backup. If it’s really important, then you back it up twice: Once at home or the office, and then you put it in a “cloud” drive like iCloud, DrobBox or the like.

In the end, we wind up with billions of bytes of useless info because combing through it is as bad as cleaning out a dead relative’s house. It’s long hard work, so we secretly with for a hard drive to crash and completely avoid the situation.

So, I hope you’ll follow my lead and, when it comes to data storage and you’re faced with yet another freebie, just say no.

 

 

My thoughts about the death of Robin Williams:

http://plishman.deviantart.com/art/Robin-Williams-266737972

Magnificent drawing by Plishman. See others here: http://plishman.deviantart.com/art/Robin-Williams-266737972

I’m still working through Robin Williams’ death, and these are some things that stick out for me.
— Radio talk show host: “How can someone so loved around the world feel badly enough to do that?” Answer: It’s not about the love of others, it’s about the love of self and one’s feelings of self-worth.
— Asphyxiation with a belt as it was described says much about how depressed he was – what a deep, deep emotional pain he must have been feeling.
— To anyone who would say that suicide is a meaningless gesture, only the person committing it needs to see the meaning or purpose. Our judgments are useless and, at times, insulting to the deceased. How dare we try to understand what they were feeling? This doesn’t justify the act, merely adds understanding.
— Overheard at a fast food place: “Well, if he was a real Christian, Williams’d know the consequences and wouldn’t a done it.” That comment shows a total ignorance of mental health and, worse, indicates that they presume to know what would or wouldn’t have prevented his death. (I left at that point knowing my anger was rising and my appetite was gone.) When someone is in that much pain, to think that the afterlife is the deciding factor is just plain wrong.
— While the death of some celebrities elicits a few comments, Williams’ death has really hit me for some reason. He was one of my all-time favorites and I know my reaction is a combination of shock, dismay, disappointment, sorrow, pity and the reality that anyone can become a statistic.

My lovely wife, Deborah, is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and has been for over 25 years. In that time, although I do not know her clients nor their names, I’ve learned two things from their stories:
A. Nothing is more subjective than reality: If someone hears voices, they are real to them and no amount of saying there are no voices will dissuade them. Williams’ version of reality was dark indeed.
B. We are who we are and none of us is born physically or mentally perfect. Our brain is an electro-chemical vat that we barely understand. Some of us have wiring that is different and, in his case, tragically wired with a tremendous negative energy. That angst is, I believe, where he got much of his boundless comic energy – making people laugh was a way to dull his pain and establish his purpose in this world. In a way, perhaps the laughter of others is what kept him alive during his adult life. Sadly, it seems that wasn’t enough in the end.
—Update: Since this was posted, it was revealed that Williams had very recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. There have also been reports that the depression he felt after his heart surgery in 2009 remained pervasive. Depression after cardiac surgery is fairly common but, unlike most folks and unfortunately for Williams, it remained with him to some degree. While knowing these things is cold comfort, it helps understand his actions a bit better.

Country poor and city poor

City, country - both need help.

City, country – both need help.

When you grow up in a small town, I think you get to observe life, people and their character more closely than growing up in urban areas.  My hometown had 3,500 people in the 70s, and today it’s around 4,300 according to the US Census Bureau. It’s easy to get to know a lot of the townsfolk when numbers and geography are more compact. Why?

First, you frequently see the same folks (weekly or more), versus living in Lexington where I might run into someone outside my neighborhood once a year or less. Next, how you live your small town life is more apparent to more folks, which is another way of saying people do talk. Besides, when you know you’re not likely to get away with bad behavior, most of us are more careful about how we act, and that’s often a hard lesson for kids to learn (he said knowingly). Hearing people talk about others over the years gives you greater insight into people’s behaviors and lets you peek more deeply into their character.

That attention to character is almost a reflex when you leave your small town. You’ve had the opportunity to more closely examine people’s lives and you recognize behaviors in others more quickly, and this brings me to my point: There is often a difference in (and excuse this pejorative-sounding term) city poor and country poor. Granted, I’ve not lived in Scottsville for a long time but, from conversations with folks from there — some who still live there and some who’ve moved here — my premise rings true with them. Allow me to explain.

Growing up, there were lots of poor folks and, given how many there were, we didn’t consider them poor per se. They were just country folk who, for the majority, chose to live a simpler life. Despite living in the city limits, I went to the county school so many of my classmates were those country kids. Of those with the most meager resources, most were still self-sufficient; sure, a few were simply lazy, but most were hard working people. Allow me to use a classmate as an example, and we’ll call him Horatio. He came to school each day smelling of wood smoke because that’s how his family heated their home, cooked their meals and got hot water for baths and laundry.

Brogans - a familiar sight in my hometown.

Brogans – a familiar sight in my hometown.

There was no shame because he had lots of company, and maybe still does. Their home was sturdy, but constructed mostly of found materials with one room having a hard packed dirt floor. He wore “brogans” as many of the farm kids did because they were sturdy, inexpensive and you could work in them if need be. He usually wore white socks, overalls (often with “high water” legs), a button-up shirt and a burr haircut which was easily dispensed at home. Horatio was one of the cleanest kids in school with never a speck of dirt under his fingernails. His clothes were always spotless even if they were worn. His manners were impeccable and, even though he had one heck of a country accent, he was well-spoken and intelligent.

Next, let me be clear: I am not condemning any poor urban dweller. There are plenty who, like Horatio and his family, are honest, hard-working folks. I’ve worked with and been friends with folks who live in areas some would call slums or centers of urban decay. The difference is much more subtle than clothes or homes – it’s the attitude with which they regard the world.

Gotta love country living

Gotta love country living

Families like Horatio’s can be far more self-sufficient than their city poor counterparts because, if they need fuel, there’s always a fallen tree that can be chopped up; the produce from gardens is canned; food comes from the end of a rifle because there are many deer and other game animals, and a fishing pole is just as handy. Country poor can often support themselves in ways those living “in town” cannot. In my experience, this gives them a larger measure of dignity due to their self-sufficiency.

Add in that the urban poor often must rely on “the system” to make ends meet. Welfare, subsidized housing, food stamps and the array of other government programs support them, but they also now must rely on what some in my experience have called “shitty hand-outs.” As someone I know who lives in a rougher part of town put it, “You take all the government assistance and, for some, it’s a lifeline but, for others, it destroys the need to make something of themselves.” What that says to me is that their dignity has been diminished, and dignity is a crucial human element.

How crucial? “Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen,” said Louis Zamperini, and he should know. He was held prisoner in WWII for over three years and endured some of the harshest conditions imaginable.* Despite his captor’s efforts to demoralize him, he endured the starvation and beatings and survived when many perished. While his situation was dire indeed, he credits keeping his dignity about him as being crucial to his survival. His quote underlines what I’m trying to say: Country poor have the opportunity to maintain their dignity in ways many disadvantaged inner city folks do not.

I’m sure many will say this is hogwash, and perhaps it is. I’m only expressing what I’ve seen in my life and show my appreciation for something special about life in a small town, something that seems more rare in cities.

The Original War on Poverty

The original war on poverty with LBJ, Lady Bird and former governor Ned Breathitt front and center.

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*I strongly encourage you to read Laura Hillenbrand’s book about Zamperini, ” Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption because he is an amazing man who conquered incredible odds and went on to be a positive force in people’s lives.

Ch-ch-ch-changes (again)

Your company's IT department"

“Your company’s IT department”

Good Monday to all. I’m very happy to say that I’m now the sales and marketing Manager for GAAN Technologies. G.T. Smith and crew have been handling tech problems for folks for fourteen years and have a very loyal following. Expect a lot of great tips, tricks advice and info to keep your throughput high, except through your wallet.

Check out our website and call us if you need expert help at the office, or at home.

GAAN Technologies: 859-221-1234,   gaantechnologies.com

Interesting vs. Meaningful vs. Funny: Choose?

Funny or not, you looked.

Mixed monsterphors

In these days when there is a torrent of media washing over us every day, people struggle with what works in their marketing communications. Some sample questions I’ve gotten:
“Is it better to blog, or be on Facebook, or do email, or use Twitter – what’s best?”
“Is it better to be funny or serious in my (blog, posts, ads, etc.)?”
“There’s so much I want to say that people should know, so how do I decide what to tell them?”
“Is it better to be funny or meaningful?”

Here’s a little secret: There’s no right answer. Sorry to disappoint you, but a formula doesn’t exist because there is so much variance in your audience, what you do, and other things. Being meaningful can be too heavy; trying to be funny can be dangerous because, if it’s not funny, you can seem goofy; interesting is tough, too, because each person is interested in different things.

So what’s the answer? Well, there are several.

A. Expecting one approach to always work is not realistic, so vary the tone of your writing. In one, tell an amusing story in a simple way (note that I said, amusing, not funny, because a smile is as good as a a laugh); the next could be serious advice told simply; then one with a series of  advice or how-tos that all relate to a single topic (like using different passwords for everything, or making homemade lawn care solutions). Mix it up because everyone is different and responds to a variety of things. Just make sure they obviously relate to your business.

B. Find a friend who’s a good writer or, better still, pay someone to edit your work. Think of the times you’ve read something poorly written, then decided the author was someone with whom you’d never do business. You’ll pay for the best doctor because that’s important to your life, right? Quality communications contribute to your image, and that’s important to the life of your business, so why scrimp? Truth be told, as many folks who think they’re good drivers also think they’re good writers – think about that when you’re in your car dodging traffic. (Yes, I can be paid to help you.)

C. Ask for likes, shares, retweets, etc., every time you post. People often respond, and that helps you see what works.

D. Measure audience response and track it for the long run. Just as you have a profit and loss statement to gauge your business results, you can measure the success of your efforts and see what moves them.

E. Keep throwing things at the wall and see what sticks. What works today might not next month, so be willing to do the unusual even if folks think it’s goofy. Again, measure the results.

So, to follow my own advice, send this on to others. It might make you a hero.