writing

Published 2001-05-08

I've had skippy.net online for over two years now. I share photos of my life and my travels, my thoughts, and my creative efforts. Various search engines have indexed my pages, and I've generally drawn twenty to thirty hits a day for this content.

Interestingly enough, the most popular content on my site has no direct link from any of the pages you find here.

A while ago, I wrote an opinion piece for Linuxnewbie.org. This piece generated a lot of feedback, and it prompted me to re-evalute my proposed network plans. In the end, I decided to give Linux a shot for my network, and I'm extremely glad that I did. So after I had my network configured and mostly deployed, I decided to share some of the reasons why I changed my mind. This generated a huge spike in traffic to my site. It also generated a lot of feedback. So much feedback that I decided to write down how I did it in much greater detail.

That last link is the single most popular document currently on my site. None of the Linux content is linked to from skippy.net. But I mentioned my Samba HOWTO to one of the Samba developers, and he found it interesting enough to link to. Ever since then, I've received a steady stream of visitors to my Linux content (sparse as it is), usually just short of 100 per day. I've also received a lot of questions and comments about it. It's been an interesting experience interacting with so many people, and sharing thoughts back and forth.

In a sense, this is exactly what I had wanted from skippy.net. I've always been interested in online communities (I was heavily involved with Bulletin Board Systems in the Columbus, OH area in my youth), and always had a desire to interact with people on things that I'm interested in.

That's great, Skippy, you say, but where is this going? My friend Bryan (second from the right) recently sent me an email, sharing that he had read through the bulk of my non-fiction writing. He stated that he didn't think he would recognize the author of those documents as the Skippy he knew.

I've shared a lot about myself on here; more so than I share with most folks. My best friend has learned a thing or two about me from reading my site, and I've known him for twelve years! So what's the deal?

The deal is that I am a die-hard intellectual. I honestly enjoy a good discussion, and some of my happiest memories are long, animated conversations about purely theoretical things. I enjoy contemplating the implications of certain word choices over others. I enjoy reflecting on the nature and the impetus of various actions (both my own, and others). Clarity, for me, is achieved through discourse. I need interaction to challenge my own thought process, and help me refine my opinions.

So that's what skippy.net provides me: a chance to engage in discourse. Oftentimes, just the act of writing my thoughts down brings new things to light, and affords me a new perspective on an issue. I'd love to receive more feedback from visitors, and engage others in the dialogue. But at the very least, I know that I can go back and review what I thought about something a long time ago, and see if my mind has changed at all.


friends

Published 2001-02-19

I recieved an email the other week from a guy I hadn't seen in almost six years. He found my website through a mutual friend. I was floored when I received his email. Floored because I was surprised that he remembered me, and surprised that he would contact me, even just to say hi.

I participated in the Ohio State University Renaissance Festival my freshman (and senior) year in college. That's where I met both of the folks mentioned above. That was the summer of 1993. After the show was over, I didn't keep in touch with anyone I had met. The only reason I maintained a friendship with Mike was because we kept running into each other on campus.

So Nik dropped me a note, just to say "Hey, I remember you!". I'm really glad he did, because we've been exchanging emails on a regular basis since then, and I'd honestly forgotten what a swell guy he is! Nik had moved out of Ohio after he graduated, but business brought him back to Columbus recently. He was kind enough to invite me to join him and several of his other Columbus friends at a local watering hole. I was a little reluctant to go - I mean, I hadn't seen this guy in almost six years, so I could only imagine what sort of polite small talk would occur.

I'm really glad I went, though. We had a solidly good time.

I've got a friend from high school who is stationed in Louisiana with the military. If it weren't for the internet, I'd have a really hard time keeping in touch with him. Sure, I could send him letters through the U.S. Postal Service, but I really doubt that I would. Besides, I enjoy his scathing criticism of my attempts at deep thinking on here. =)

Another person whom I communicate regularly with via the internet is my new girlfriend. She's one of the most internet savvy friends I have, and I really enjoy being able to 'talk shop' with her. She's got her own website (mad props to the first person to find it!), and she's a terrific writer. But it's kind of an awkward experience to read about yourself on someone else's website.

This all bleeds into a full-length post I was going to make about how people tend to be far more honest online than off. No, that's not entirely accurate ... Honest isn't the right word. People seem to be a lot more forthcoming online than off. I know I am: I'm willing to share a great deal of myself through my website, through ICQ, or email than I am in a face-to-face conversation.

Part of it has to do with comfort levels: when you're sharing something online, you're not recieving immediate verbal and non-verbal feedback from someone. So you're free to share at your own pace. You're also not subject to the discomfort of sharing something awkward, because there will be no immediate reaction. And of course, you have the luxury of composing your thoughts before you commit to speaking them (and can edit them later!).

The biggest drawback to all of this, of course, is the sterility - the lack of inflection. When chatting on ICQ with my girlfriend, it's all too easy to misinterpret a joke because the snide grin is lacking. It's also easy to miss the compliments, because the warmth of the eyes isn't there.

As I said above, this is something I had planned on writing about at greater length. I probably will, at some point. But I'd like to finish my thoughts now.

It's an interesting experience to read about yourself on someone else's website. What was written about me wasn't bad - it's just extremely interesting to read honest, unsolicited discussion of me, my actions, or the impressions that I generate in someone else. I have no doubt that my girlfriend would be completely willing to discuss the thoughts / impressions / feelings she has in regards to me, if I were to ask (that's one of the reasons I like her so much!). But reading something that she wrote independent of being prompted for thought by me is unique. It's somehow more ... forthcoming. Again, that's not quite the right word.

As I've stated countless times in the past on here, I'm incredibly insecure. So it's extremely comforting to gain insight to what my girlfriend thinks without asking for it. It really hammers home the sincerity of what she says. It's very refreshing.

Astute readers will, at this point, recognize that this is the first time I've ever really talked about my girlfriend. This marks a rather significant shift in content here. These same readers are also likely to realize that I've never used profanity on the front page essays (although there's plenty elsewhere on here!). That probably won't change. So enjoy reading about the girlfriend. =)


internet

Published 2001-01-15

I did something a little different last night: I read a book in bed on a laptop. Yeah yeah - I'm a dork. But I'm a sucker for good science fiction, and I just couldn't stop reading.

There's a lot of good fiction available on the internet. But very little of it is portable enough to be able to view while offline. Enter the Baen Free Library. They've published a number of their books online for free. Not only that, but they've done it right: no silly banner ads mucking up the display, and they present the option of downloading the stories in several formats, so you can read the books on your preferred platform.

Way to go, Baen! You've increased the number of people likely to pay for your books by at least one. I respect the effort it took to make these works available, and I plan on supporting their efforts. Not only that, but it's introduced me to a number of new authors I'd probably never have read otherwise.

When I go to the bookstore, I rarely just grab an unknown author and start reading. I stick with the stuff I'm familiar with: Clive Barker, Piers Anthony, Neal Stephenson, and a few others. I've received as gifts books from authors I've never heard of, and I usually quite enjoy them. Two recent such treasures were Vernor Vinge's 'A Fire Upon The Deep' and Ricardo Pinto's 'The Chosen'. I can safely say that I'd never have read either of these had they not been given to me as gifts.

I like to read a good story. I don't like that good story being interrupted by advertising. I don't like to wade past annoying animated graphics down a sidebar as I scroll through a great story. The content is what is important to me. Thus, Baen gets high marks from me because they gave me a great story and allowed me to enjoy it. I downloaded the HTML version, curled up in bed, and devoured the story.

It was kind of an odd experience. I felt like I was reading a lot faster than normal - it seemed like scrolling through the chapters in Internet Explorer was some how less time-consuming than turning pages. The eye strain didn't seem quite as intense as reading the smaller print of a book, and my wrists didn't cramp from holding a book upright. My lap did get a good bit warmer, and my cats were none too pleased that they couldn't snuggle up on me as easily. Had the story not been so engaging for me, I might have put off finishing it until today.

I know I won't be downloading any stories to my Palm any time soon. I just don't like looking at that cramped display for long periods of time. It's not my preferred vehicle for reading e-texts. A nice laptop with a 15" display, and a built in CD player makes for a much better experience.

I can't harp on it enough how much I valued the lack of advertising. Lowtax, of Something Awful, has written an interesting commentary entitled The State of the Internet, in which he talks about the nature of internet advertising. His site is wildly popular, and serves millions of banner ads per month, so you'd think that the money would be rolling in. But he's been screwed over by the advertising networks that he's partnered with because they all seem to be going out of business.

It's no secret that I don't care for banner ads on websites. But they're popping up in more and more places. And pretty soon, they'll literally be popping up as javascript pop-up ads are utilized by more than just pr0n sites. Even Blue's News is talking about implementing pop-ups, or interstitials, or some other hideous intrusion.

There's no solid answer, unfortunately. Bandwidth isn't free. It's quite expensive. The more popular a site becomes, the more bandwidth it requires to satisfy its growing fan base. The costs keep going up and up. Somehow, though, I think that banner and pop-up ads are a pipe dream - it's a shotgun approach to advertising. You launch a wide spray, and hope you hit something. Even directed advertising is not likely to succeed too well online. I think, perhaps, we ought to consider a subtle shift to the business models of the internet.

It strikes me that there are only two dominant business models: a subscription-based system, or an advertising-based system. Each is fairly self-explanatory, and each has its comparative strengths and weaknesses. Questia is a great service, and they even offer a sampling of that service for free, but the resources needed to pull something like that off require that they charge for their services. I can accept that.

But surely there's got to be an alternative. Some way to maintain a successful web site without succumbing to either extreme of the two dominant internet business models. Unfortunately, there's only so much we can do, given the nature of the technology of the internet. Anyone have the answers?


focus

Published 2001-01-09

I sometimes think I'm missing something.

Maybe it's the way my parents raised me. Maybe it's the Catholic education I endured. Maybe it's the torment I suffered in grade school. Maybe it's a chemical imbalance. I don't know.

I focus on things that other people don't seem to focus on.

I seem to have great trouble dealing with things that the rest of the world accepts pretty naturally. I am simply flabbergasted at the way most people seem to approach relationships. I know several people who can (and do) discuss at great length specific situations with previous partners while sitting next to their current partner (or spouse!). That boggles my mind.

When I'm dating someone, I don't even want to hear a funny anecdote involving a previous boyfriend. I get physically uncomfortable if the discussion strays to what I consider taboo subjects. A girl I'm dating could tell me the funniest story in the world, and I'll still experience a sickening reaction at the fact that it involved a previous boyfriend.

Is this normal? It's such an aversion for me - it's almost like I'd prefer to live in complete denial of the past ... her past, at least.

I've been this way for about as long as I can remember - including my very first girlfriend 10 years ago. Who knows, maybe it was a result of that first girlfriend, and the way our relationship fell apart due to an ex-boyfriend. As I get older (and hopefully more mature), I find that I'm able to discuss the issues a little more honestly. I don't have any reason to hide this character flaw. It's a part of me. And before you ask - yes, I try my best to walk the walk and not just talk the talk: I try my absolute best not to discuss ex-girlfriends ever. About the only time I'll discuss it is if I'm cornered and forced to discuss something.

My last relationship ended (among other reasons) as a result of this weakness of mine. She was quite comfortable discussing her ex-boyfriends, and did so quite a bit initially. I tried my best (and failed beautifully) to articulate my reservations. But we approached the situation from such radically different points of view that we couldn't meet in the middle.

It makes me wonder what the future holds. It certainly doesn't bode well for me, I don't think.

I guess in the long run it boils down to insecurity. I'm not very secure, and I've yet to date a girl that I feel very secure in dating. Logically I know I have no reason not to be secure, and that I'm projecting my own insecurities forward. But that logic doesn't help mitigate the sickening feeling in my stomach when ex-boyfriends come up.

Insecure and jealous, and afraid of being hurt, and selfish and weak.

It's not entirely that I feel like there's an unspoken competition between me and the guy(s) before. It's not entirely that for years I've had an abysmal self-image. It's a terrible combination of a great many things. And it's a tremendous impediment.

Anyone have any suggestions?


forgiveness

Published 2000-11-27

I heard a local DJ ask the question whether you can (and indeed, should) forgive and forget. I didn't get the chance to listen to what callers-in had to say; but it got me thinking quite a bit.

I've historically had a very hard time with forgiveness. I freely admit that I hold a lot of grudges. It's probably not the best thing to do, but at least I'm honest about it. As I've matured, I've learned how to let things go, and not get as upset over long-past offenses. So I guess I'm learning to forgive.

But I don't think I can forget. Nor do I really want to. If I were to forget an offense committed against me (whatever it may be), I'd be denying that it ever occured. This seems counter-intuitive to me. Forgive and forget is indeed counter-intuitive to the old expression of Hurt me once, shame on you; hurt me twice, shame on me.

Now, I don't go around with a laundry list of things that people have done to me. I don't remind my friends of the (sometimes) nasty things they've said to me in the past. But if someone I'm close to does indeed upset me in some way, my remembrance of the previous transgression will help me deal with the current situation. How was it handled last time? Was it adequately resolved? Did we reach some understanding that is relevant to the current situation? Should I just blow this off and not spend my time being upset about it? Is this likely to happen again in the future?

Obviously not everyone thinks this way, or else an expression like forgive and forget would never have really caught on. I agree that it's a nice sentiment, in that those close to you should not continually be reminded of something they've long since apologized for. I do think, though, that purposefully forgetting something is a form of denial. And denying something that happened is just a silly thing to do.

If we were to take the forgive and forget mentality at face value, we'd never really learn anything. How could we, if we put pain and struggle immediately out of our minds once we reach a form of resolution? We learn from evaluating our past experiences. If I put my experiences out of my mind, how can I properly evaluate it? How can I compare and contrast it with my current experiences?

In other news, I've been receiving more hits from search engines for the periodic table of the elements. Oh no! I've said it again! I'm doomed to get hits from grade and high school students around the world now looking for the atomic weight of Molybdenum.

I've also received a couple of hits from people using google looking for, of all things, incest fiction. Several of my stories involve an incest theme, and this was obviously cataloged by google. Now that I've used the word incest a few more times, I'm sure to be listed high in the search results for "incest fiction".

Any other words I should use liberally to attract visitors? It seems that the non-sequiter stuff yields the most search engine hits, so maybe I should stop trying to put up legitimate content and focus entirely on oddball word combinations...


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