Random – Fiction

It’s once again Friday which means it’s Fiction time.  Had a hard time coming up with something today but here’s what I was able to come up with. 

If it was possible to add hours into a week, this week it had been done.  No one had happened by the office, and it was annoying as hell.  But such was the life of a private detective.  The business either was there or wasn’t. This week it wasn’t.

The time was spent on the computer working some, but playing some mindless video game was were all the time went.  As good as that sounded it was as boring as hell doing it for the second week in a row.

As I moved my character another step, I heard steps on the stairs outside of my office.

I paused the game and watched the light play beneath the foot of the door as something, or someone, moved down the hallway.  Something wasn’t right because a normal person walking down this hallway made a hell of a lot more noise than what I was hearing.

Watching the shadows I open the right hand drawer of my desk and pull out my Glock.  My pulse picks up as I place the pistol on the table and draw aim on the door to my office.

The two shadow splits as it reaches my door and one goes to each side.  I see hand motions thru the glass, no whispers, and I drop behind the desk waiting for the door to explode in from a kick.

Seconds tick by and I’m tempted to just shoot thru the walls and be done with this situation, but I don’t know who is on the other side of the walls.  I run thru any people who may want me hurt or dead and nothing comes up.  What did I do?

After what seems like 5 minutes, but is really just 30 seconds, a knock comes on the door.

“Mr. Packard?” a deep voice calls out.

“Yes?”

“Can we come in?” The voice calls back.

“Ummmm…what do you want?”

“Just need to talk to you.”

“You armed?” I ask.

“Course not.”

“Bullshit,” I tell them. “You can come in without your weapons and we can have a civil conversation.”

I peak up from behind my desk and watch the shadows.

Two loud thumps hit the ground.

“Those are our guns,” The voice calls back.

This doesn’t feel right.

“Okay,” I say.

The Media and The Internet

I’ve been hesitant to post anything about this, but something I ran into earlier this week has prompted me to write this.  Let me preface this, as always, that these are my thoughts and opinions and do not reflect the position of my employer. 

Yesterday someone I follow on Twitter posted a link to an article about hosting WordPress in a IAAS (Infrastructure as a service) environment.  I clicked on it and I was able to read the first paragraph before I had to fill out a form to read the rest. I didn’t want to do it, but I wanted to read the article so I did.  Once the form was filled out I was then promptly pushed to an add on their site.  This nearly sent me over the edge with a rant on twitter.  But I restrained myself and in typical fashion I reflected a bit on it over night.

Ever since the internet has shifted from first gear and into whatever gear we are now, traditional publications (ie: print) have struggled.  A ton of magazines and newspapers have either shut down or have had to drastically change the way the do business.  Since 1998 I’ve worked with newspapers in some fashion or another so I’ve seen it happen.

Part of the struggle and problem, I believe, is that newspapers and magazines had it so good for so long (I’ve heard anywhere from 35% profit to 50% profit) that they could do anything and everything to fine tune what they were making money off of. When the internet came along that was no longer the case, but many newspaper still tended to think this way due to leadership not wanting to embrace the internet (embrace may not be the correct word).

On the flip side, what websites make off of the internet with advertising and the like, is not going to make up the difference of printing the paper (at least in the size of newspapers I’ve worked with and I suspect with many other newspapers).  So that being the case how are newspapers and magazines to make up the difference that they’ve lost in print?

I’m of the opinion that it’s not 100% possible.  I do think there are ways to bring internet advertising from the low end to a more reasonable amount.  So how would a newspaper or a magazine go about making this difference up?

Provide content that readers want!  While I didn’t like filling out the form to read the rest of the article yesterday, I did it.  I even let the video ad run (one of those video interstitial ads).  And then I read the article.  In hindsight I didn’t think the article was worth all of that, but the magazine got my information.  I can not emphasize this point enough. If readers don’t get what they want they will find a source that will provide them with what they want and leave you behind.  I think this is easier for magazines than newspapers because magazines I’d say are more ‘niche’ than newspapers.  Niche seems to work very well on the internet, while general (newspapers) doesn’t work as well.  I suppose newspapers are ‘niche’ in the sense that they usually cover a specific geographic area.  The problem is that some newspapers have cut their staff so low that the bulk of the paper is wire stories rather than stories the locals will find of interest.

Here’s the hard part: advertising.  Most people don’t like a page full of ads and as much as I’d like to see higher CPM’s they ain’t happening.  So what’s a publication to do with advertising?  Is there something better out there?  I’m really not sure what the answer to this is.  Maybe those interstitial’s are the answer.  Something I’ve recently heard about is allowing advertisers to produce their own content on the publishers site, and then charging a premium for that content (a bit premium).  This then equates to SEO and various other pieces for the advertiser.  Here is a link in regards to this. The problem with this is that the publication industry doesn’t want the advertisers and the editorial departments to be to close.

So like the whole industry I have no answer.  The best answer I can come up with is create an audience that loves you and your product.  Provide them what they want and hopefully they will in the end pay you for it.

The Lottery – Fiction

“So I bought a lottery ticket,” Ian said.

“Why did you do that?” Eve asked.

“Well we’ve got to do something. We just can’t continue to get by. You tell me that all the time.”

“Those two dollars could have gone to a payment or something like that.  Not wasted on a lottery ticket that we’ll never win.  You should have just burned up two dollars.”

Ian turned back to his computer and started typing again.  Ever since he’d lost his job at the software company and not been able to find meaningful employment, Eve and him had been picking at each other over the smallest of things.  The way he saw it two dollars was not going to get them out of their situation.  However if they won the 209 million dollar lottery their lives would change forever.

Eve glared at the back of Ians head wishing she could bore a hole in it and cause him the pain that he’d caused her.  That was extreme, but when he had lost his job, she had also lost her identity and was at a loss of what to do.  Ian’s search for a new job had turned up nothing so far and she’d taken up waiting tables while he stayed at home and played computer games.  And now he’d taken her hard earned money and spent it on a lottery ticket.

“So what numbers did you pick?” Eve asked as they watched the evening news waiting for the numbers to be displayed.

“The numbers we used to pick,” Ian stated.

Eve didn’t say anything but glanced over at Ian when the numbers came up.

“And now what you’ve all been waiting for,” The news announcer started.

Ian pulled out the ticket and watched the numbers come up on the screen.

“15,” The announcer said.

“We got the first one,” Ian said.

Another ball popped up.  16.

“Second number too,” Eve said.

Both of them started to get excited.

The next number came up and they had that one as well.  Same for the next two.

“And now the one that could change all of your lives…the Powerball number.”

The red ball popped up into the tube.  It was a match.

“We won,” Ian said smugly.

“Holy crap,” Eve said.

For many years I’ve tossed around the idea of writing some story about winning the lottery, not very original I’m sure, and what would happen and what would change.  I’d like to think if I had that option, winning the Powerball, we’d be unlike the people we see on those TV shows about the lottery ruining their lives.  Who knows.  I don’t play the Powerball consistently. 

What would you do if you won the Powerball?

The Library

Cheyenne, Wyoming Library!

My parents owned a restaurant while my brother and I were growing up.  In the summer, where we spent a good amount of our summer, we’d take our breaks and head to the library which was a couple of blocks away.  It was some place quiet and some place we couldn’t get called at!!!  It was those times my love of libraries grew to what it is.

Over time I got to know one of the librarians and I suppose I could say he shaped my reading habits I have today.  He loved fiction and I do as well.  Probably a little to much, but that’s what I enjoy reading.  Oh I don’t mind reading non-fiction, but if I’m given a choice it’s going to be fiction!

These days I don’t spend as much time at the library as I’d like. Were we live we have an incredible library (photo above!) and I’d love to spend more time there checking out books (really what I need is more time to read!).  Our oldest son enjoys going to the library, but more for the fact they have an awesome play area and he usually plays with some friends.  However I’m hopeful that as he gets older he’ll enjoy the library for the books more than the play area.  Explore new worlds and meet new people.

All of these memories came flooding back to me when I went to the library this last weekend and checked out more books than I can read in the 28 day lending period (raise your hand if this is you?!?!?!)

Go and enjoy your library!

Chris Kyle – American Sniper or American Liar?

American Sniper opened at movie theaters this last weekend.  I just finished reading/listening to the audiobook from Audible as well.  I thought the book was great and it is a fascinating story.  I can’t say it’s any better than some of the other books I’ve read in regards to special forces and the war going on in the middle east, but it has caught everyone’s attention because of the movie.  The book is an interesting read if you are interested in his life and how he saw things during his deployments.

A friend of mine on Facebook posted this article last week in regards to Chris Kyle and his lying or fibbing or however you want to call it.

When I initially read the article I had a little bit left to read on the book, so I was looking forward to hearing about the carjacking situation and the situation with Jesse Ventura.  They were never there. So apparently Audible had an abridged version of the book (or perhaps they had to take some stuff out because of the lawsuit).  Initially I felt let down with the whole situation.  Kind of felt like he was a fraud.  However I got to thinking a bit more about it.

As near as I know, which isn’t much, he never lied about his service over seas.  What has been questioned is what happened after he got out of the service.  Right or wrong, you can determine that yourself, but here’s what I think happened ( these are my own opinions on the situation ).  I suspect when a lot of these special forces guys, perhaps even regular military who have served over there, there is a let down going back into normal life.  Your just…you.  You’re not dodging bullets or shooting bad guys.  I suspect this may have been the case with Chris and in order to make himself feel better and perhaps to have something to tell his future clients he lied about this. Some of them were over the top (shooting people for looting in Katrina?  Really?), but others may have sounded plausible.  Your opinions may vary but this is the conclusion I came to.  I suppose I think somewhat less of him for those lies, but overall I’m glad he was on our side and did what he did.

Can’t wait to see the movie.

The Flash – Fiction

Fiction Friday – Friday is dedicated to writing some piece of fiction!  It may or may not be a continuing story.  Most likely not. 

It was unusual in the fall to get calm weather.  That is the wind wasn’t blowing.  It was still cloudy and looking like it might rain but so far nothing had come.  The temperature was warm enough that Brett was able to wear short sleeves despite being on the lake.

It was here Brett found peace after so many years of war and conflict.  This was the 10th day in a row that he’d been out in his canoe fishing.  The previous day he’d caught nothing, but it didn’t matter.  Today was shaping up to be an okay day with 3 fish caught and another lost.  All fish were of course returned to the lake so that they’d be there another year.

He glanced to the north and caught a flash in the tree’s.  Someone was watching him.  He blinked his eyes to clear them and looked again.  He saw nothing.

“Just calm down,” Brett told himself.  “There’s no one there.  It was just a figment of your imagination.”

He cast the fly onto the lake again and watched the land where he thought he’d seen the flash of light.  It caused him to miss a strike on his fly.  In came his line and he continued to watch the land where he thought he’d seen someone.

Brett cast the line a couple of more times, but it was no use.  He couldn’t get the flash out of his head.  The military training he’d had years before, and spent the last year trying to get out of his head, blasted back into his head.  He was a sitting duck, literally, on the lake and the nearest weapon was at his truck.

He reeled the line in again and paddled his way to shore.  The day was ruined with one flash.  If there was indeed a flash.

I’m afraid

This is the final day of 10 Days to a Better Blog

Since I posted yesterdays post I’ve been thinking about this last post in this series.  I’m not sure why but I have been.

Any how the assignment is to just reflect on the last 10 days.  I was thinking about doing a post on something else, just to post.  And as soon as I’d committed to do nothing I was afraid.  I was afraid because I know if I don’t post, it will be so easy for me to slip back into not posting.  I realize there are going to be days I don’t post.  But I feel like in these 10 days I’ve worked for something I don’t want to end.  It’s got me into posting each day.

But now that the ‘carrot’ is gone I’m not sure I have anything to post about. Should I post about technology and those posts that were most popular last year?  I’m not sure.  I think part of the ‘lack’ of ideas for posting is trying to write for an audience, there’s a few of you (hi!), when really I should just be writing for myself.  The technical posts that were so popular last year take awhile to think about and put out.  That isn’t writing for me, which is really what I should be doing.

Alright I’m rambling a bit here so I’m going to sign off!

Washers and Dryers Oh My!

This is day 9 of 10 Days to a Better Blog (I’m one day behind!)

“So they offered us their washer and dryer.  Their new place already has them.  Do you want them?” My wife asked me.
“Sure.  Ours are getting a bit old,” I replied.
“Okay I’ll let them know.”

A couple of weeks later a co-worker and I went to the storage unit where the washer and dryer were and get them.  I learned that I’ve either gotten weaker since I last moved them or they got heavier! Regardless we managed to get them loaded out without an injury and get them unloaded as well.

This last weekend I finally had sometime to put them into place.  As I was doing this, mostly by myself, I couldn’t help but think of all the things I was learning doing this.  That sounds a bit cheesy, but there’s really what I was thinking.  I got the old set out bringing any walls down or scratching them.  The old one’s I had a friend help me get into place.  Later we discovered that the dryer plugin was not long enough. So I had to replace that. Easy peasy!!!

This morning my wife was getting an error message on the washing machine.  I looked up the error code and soon began taking the front of the washer off and emptying the drain. There was a quarter in there!

I know some people don’t want the hassle of owning a house, for the exact reason’s that I seem to enjoy.  It’s not always easy, but over time I’ve learned some new things that will carry from project to project (the number 1 thing I’ve taken from one project to the next is to take your time…think it thru!).  Other times it’s a whole new experience and there are multiple trips to the hardware store.  Other times I just give up and call someone else to do it!

Lastly little boys are so much help in situations like this (insert lots of sarcasm here!)!!

Goals for blogging in 2015

This is day 8 of 10 Days to a Better Blog (I’m one day behind!)

Today’s challenge is to come up with some actionable items that we can hold ourself accountable for at the end of some period.  So using the SMART  goals methodology here is what I plan.  By the way SMART is defined below:

  • Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
  • Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
  • Assignable – specify who will do it.
  • Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
  • Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.

Specific

More writing and blogging.  Originally I had planned on just having this be about blogging, but really I just want to write more. So when it’s that context it becomes more.  But more writing and blogging is what it will be.

Measurable

Blogging is easily measurable however writing is a bit harder to measure.  I’m not sure how to tackle the second of those so for now I’m going to focus on just the first.  I plan on posting something, anything, here twice a week.  If I do more then great.  Less is not acceptable!

Assignable

I think I’ll assign this to my three year old….I jest!  Really I’m the only one that this can be assigned to.  So it starts and stops with me.

Realistic

I think that two posts a week, even if it’s just a photo, are more than possible.  More than that might get in the way of time spent with family and other areas of life, but right now that’s not worth it.

Time Related

This is for 2015 or all 353 days left in this year currently!

I’m a little nervous putting this out there and down on ‘paper’ because this to some extent will keep me accountable.  Granted I’m the only one being held accountable and it will be pretty easy for me to just go off on other projects, but this year will be the year in which I explore writing more than I ever have.  I’m not sure what the means, but I really want 2015 to be the year that I get some writing done.  Whether that’s fiction or writing this blog, or another.

Top Posts of 2014

This is Day 7 of 10 Days to a Better Blog (I took Sunday off so I’m a day behind!)

Day 7 of this Better Blog progression is looking at our top posts for the past year.  I’m a bit late to the ball game on this post, but here are my tops posts for 2014 and some additional thoughts on them.

1 – SQL Schema to CodeIgniter DBForge – This one really surprises me as this was something that I did based off of some contract work and something that I needed.  I’ve used it a little bit here and there myself, but didn’t think anyone else would use it.  Additionally I’m sure it would be coded a lot better by someone else.  I’m glad to see that it’s being used by others!

2 – 3 CMS’s: WordPress, Expression Engine and PyroCMS (the 100,000 foot view) – This post was written in January of 2013.  At the time it received some traffic to it and I’m still amazed that it shows up as a more popular one.  Having said that I’ve been tempted to take down all of my posts regarding PyroCMS as I believe so much has changed on the product that these posts are not useful.  I know at least the ownership has changed for reason’s I’m not privy to and they are getting close to moving it 100% to Laravel.

3 – Goodbye PyroCMS, Hello WordPress (the real #3 is the link to the migrate script referred to in the #1 post, but since it’s not a post I’m not including it!)  – Once again a PyroCMS post.  I think this is because beyond the website for PyroCMS there are no other resources for the CMS.  I know some people had talked about doing a community based website but I don’t think anything came of that.

So there are 2 posts related to PyroCMS which I will not be writing more about.  The one post that is remotely something I could write about is the CodeIgniter DBForge utility that I wrote.  CodeIgniter appears to have some new life in it, and I still use it for most of my projects, but I’ve been hesitant to jump into writing about CodeIgniter because (a) I’m not sure if it does really have life back in it (may have missed the boat with Ellislabs doing nothing with it for so long (b) there are people that know the CodeIgniter framework a hell of a lot better than myself.  On the flip side another voice might be what’s needed in that realm (I think a lot of people who had been doing something with CodeIgniter, have moved onto other pursuits).