Image by francescopozzi via Flickr

I love blogging. A huge benefit is that you have a record of where your head was at the time you posted and you can see how your thinking has evolved. I spent the past two days thinking about my blog (and working my day job) and I’ve come to some conclusions. Time for some new plans.

First: My books on blogging say that you should focus the purpose of your blog. I agree with that in principle, but I’m so new to blogging that I’m not sure that I know what to focus on. So, I’m backing away from a tight focus and writing about the things that interest me…at the time I’m interested in them. Note that there are some new pages. There isn’t anything in them yet, but they point the way to things that might show up here.

Filament Productions

[Learnings]:Focus may be important, but it can also be done too quickly. First, explore who you are and what you’re interested in. Books are a terrific help, but you must find your own way.

Second: In my post Direction for 2012, I said this isn’t a techie blog. Why not? Most of the pages I added are techie. I take that as a message to myself that I should write about technical things. I love tech. What can I say? I’m a geek.

Third: I’m interested in creative ways to produce streams of income. That’s not the purpose of my blog, though. My blog is an idea lab, a place to think about and share ideas. I was hooked by a blogger trolling for customers. It was a bad experience. I’m going to try not to let that happen here. If you find that I’m not being good to this commitment…call me on it. I’ll fix it.

Whew! Now that I have this failure processed, I have new plans and directions. I gave the site a new look that I think is more readable, added a Guidelines page to describe the rules-of-thumb I’ll follow in producing this blog, and added some new pages that point in the direction of things to come. I’m excited; one step closer to getting it right. My next post is going to be about creativity. Only a little techie-stuff.

Special thanks: Shane Shaw produced the RoboFrog gravitar. He graciously gave me permission to use it at The Robotic Frog. Thanks Shane!

Disappointing experience

I’ve only been blogging (reading and writing) for a few days, but I’ve already found a few blogs that I keep going back to. One of them gave me a big disappointment this morning. I’m purposely omitting the name of the blog. It has a lot of self-improvement stuff and some of it is pretty good. This morning’s post went something like this: Here’s the problem. I have some cool ideas about how you can overcome these problems. All you have to do is click this link and I’ll sell you my terrific solutions. I felt cheated. I didn’t recognize the site as a commercial site. Here he came trolling and I took the bait.

That post got me thinking about this site and what I want it to be. If you’ve read my About page, you know that I’m interested in small business, productive failure, and creating streams of income. This blog, though, is intended to be an idea lab, not a commercial site. I don’t mind someone putting up a good post and then telling me that they have a product for sale. If I’m interested in what they’re writing about I will certainly consider their product, but I don’t like being tricked.

I mention things I come across that I find interesting and useful. If I mention something…I AM using it! And, if I am going to make money if you buy something I recommend, I’ll clearly state that BEFORE making the recommendation. Promise! As I said, I want this to be an idea lab, not a commercial site. The application of commercial ideas will be places other than this blog.

For the record, I’ve mentioned Tris Hussey’s book Create Your Own Blog…I guess this makes it three times. I don’t know Tris and I don’t get anything if you check out and buy his book. I think it’s a good book about blogging and I’m using it every day. I also have another book on blogging that I haven’t mentioned because I don’t think it’s that good.

This brings to mind something I think that I need to do. I’m going to add a Guidelines page that describes the guidelines that I’ll use for the site. As I think of things that I feel I need to stick to, I’ll add them to the Guidelines page. I’ll try to remember to point people to it anytime I mention a product.

Special thanks: The robofrog gravitar was produced by Shane Shaw. He graciously gave me permission to use it at The Robotic Frog. Thanks Shane!

Chance favors the prepared mind

I have a small zippered pouch that I wanted to hang around my neck. It has two eyelets, so all I needed was a piece of string. I searched the house over and couldn’t find any heavy string or twine. What kind of home doesn’t have a ball of twine around? Finally, I pulled the lanyard off my iPod Shuffle, pushed the cord through one of the eyeletts and hung the pouch around my neck.

I have a morning routine. I get up at oh-dark-thirty (very early). The first thing I do is make myself a cup of tea. I heat a cup of water in the microwave for two minutes and ten seconds, drop my tea bag in, and let it steep for three minutes. I set the timer on the microwave for both stages of this process. This is five of the most creative minutes of my day. I have some of my wildest, craziest, best ideas. By the time I get to my desk…you guessed it! The ideas have vanished. The pouch hanging around my neck (Did you think I wouldn’t get back to it?) is just large enough to hold a small notebook and pen. I want this to be the first thing I put on in the morning so that I have a way to capture my ideas anytime and anywhere they come to me. Ideas are the lifeblood of any creative endeavor. They’re precious things that must be protected and nurtured. I don’t want to lose them. (Okay, I haven’t figured out how to capture them in the shower…another very productive place.) I also have an idea notebook that I transfer everything to so that I have it all in one place. If you don’t already have a way to capture your ideas, I encourage you to give it some consideration.

Today, I’m planning for 2012.

Things in which I’m interested: writing, music, reading mathematics, teaching, computers, Linux, Arch Linux, programming, computer graphics, creating tutorials, open-source software, home repair and remodeling, bicycling, homebrewing, quality assurcnce, process improvement, manufacturing, small business, blogging, productive failure, trading stocks, creativity, work, jobs.

That’s quite a list. It took only a couple of minutes to come up with it. I do this exercise a couple of times a year just to see what shows up. Some things are always on the list, but there’s usually a surprise or two. It’s important to know what you’re interested in. Barbara Sher (author) says that winning means getting what you want. I think that’s a good definition. I also think it’s interesting that she didn’t say success is getting what you want; she said winning is getting what you want. The things that you’re interested in should point the way to the things you want.

[NOTE] Failure is NOT the opposite of success!

What are you interested in? What do you want? I’m going to try to answer these questions for myself over the next few days.

None of us is as good as all of us!

The Steve(s) Jobs and Wozniak starting Apple Computer in their garage makes for wonderful mythical tale. The reality, though, is that the idea may have come out of that garage, but it took many more people to get to a thriving business. Business is a team sport. I don’t want to take anything away from the inspired minds that come up with amazing ideas or the determination and motivation that fuels dreams. Ideas and dreams are the precursor of all that follows. To turn our dreams and ideas into reality, though, we need many partners along the way. What human resources do you have available?

Family: 3 carpenters, an electrician, 2 administrators, an attorney, a chemist, thespian (actor), dentist, teacher, graphic artist

Friends: electrical engineer, human resources professional, musician, quality assurance consultant, sales / marketing professional

Other: bloggers?

It’s surprising the number skill sets that are represented. How can these resources help me get the things that I want? Perhaps more important: How can I help them get what they want? Each of us has dreams, desires, wants. We can all win if we just choose to play the game that way (Stephen Covey: Win-win or no deal.). I find that I usually get more of what I want and have a lot more fun when I’m helping others with what they want.

I’m trying to find at least one or two blogs every day that I find particularly interesting. This one’s inspirational.

Looks like a good resource too.

Direction for 2012


In Tris Hussey‘s book Creste Your Own Blog: 6 Easy Projects to Start Blogging Like a Pro (recommended), he talks about turning comments off for some of your pages. I’ve been trying to figure out how to do that. Finally! this morning I got it. From Dashboard do Pages->All Pages and then choose Quick Edit for the page you want to Enable/Disable comments. A screen will come up with a checkbox that allows you to turn on/off comments.

My inclination is to leave comments on for all of my pages. I have three pages other than my main page. About tells you a little bit about me and the blog; Scratchpad is a place for me to throw things that I don’t want to forget. Scanning through it might give you a little more feel for who I am; Glossary is a place I try to explain what I mean by some of the words I use. Feel free to check out those pages and leave comments or send me something to add to them.

Direction for 2012

This is not a techie blog, though there will be techie posts for awhile because there seems to be an endless stream of tools that I need to embrace to create the kind of blog that I want. I’m spending a lot of time learning the system (WordPress) and trying to figure out how to add graphics, pictures, and videos. Since those are the things I’m doing, those are the things I’m talking about.

In 2012, I’m going to concentrate on the idea of Multiple Streams of Income, a concept that I got from author and businessman Robert Allen. He wrote a book by that title. There are a number of interesting ideas in his book, but it feels a bit like an infomercial for some of his other stuff. I do find the idea of multiple streams intriguing. I want to apply my concept of productive failure with his of multiple streams and see where it takes me.

How hard is it to create a stream of income? How do I find ideas for creating streams? How much start-up capital does it take? How quickly can I get a stream started? How much effort does it take to keep one going? How much specialize knowledge or education do I need? What new things do I need to learn? What resources are available?

This is just a start to the questions that I have, but it’ll give you an idea of what is rattling around in my head.

I hope that everyone had a terrific Christmas (or holiday). We have one more eat-fest to go to today and then all will be quiet until new year’s eve. After that, I really want to get into productive failure mode.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone (happy holidays if you’re so inclined). Christmas day is a big deal in my wife’s family. In a few minutes, we’re going to take off and we won’t be back until late tonight. There won’t be much blogging today. I wish you and your family a happy, safe, joyful day.

Writing is just the beginning

I like blogs that include pictures. I haven’t thought about taking pictures for a very long time. I have a camera, in fact, a couple of them…if I can find them. Okay, I found them, an Olympus D-620L and a D-340R. These are pretty old cameras. I don’t know if they still work. Also, I bought them way back when I was using Microsoft Windows. I do all of my work today on Linux systems. I wonder if I can get my Linux machines to talk to the cameras? I only had four batteries. That’s enough for one camera. They’re rechargeable, so I plugged them in to see if they’d hold a charge.

The batteries are just barely holding a charge. I can use the cameras for about 15 minutes. I’ll need a new set. The batteries are Radio Shack, so it shouldn’t be a problem replacing them. For now, I can test the cameras. My wife just reminded me that I also have a camera in my phone, so I’ll try all three.

Taking pictures was no problem. All three cameras seemed to work. Now, I have to figure out how to download the pictures to my computers. As I said, the two Olympus cameras are pretty old. Most devices today attach with a USB cable. Both of my cameras use a serial cable. I do most of my work on my laptop, and sadly, it doesn’t have a serial port. I have two desk machines (yeah, I like computers). One is designated as Untouchable. I’m a ceaseless tinker; I can’t help myself. I can’t tell you how many email addresses I’ve lost because I decided on the spur of the moment to load a new Linux system and didn’t get everything backed up. The other machine is designated Experimental. I try to isolate my tinkering to that machine. Both desktop machines have serial ports, so I can try to download my pictures to either one.

I went to the Internet to find a software package that would allow me to talk to the cameras. DigiKam seemed like it should do the job, so I loaded it up, hooked up the D-620L, and asked the software to look for the camera. I accomplished my daily goal. Here was my first failure. I couldn’t find any way to get the software to recognize the camera. At this point, I was working on Untouchable. I want this machine to remain stable, so no tinkering. Time to switch to Experimental. (Their real names are darkstar and whitestar. I’m a Babylon5 fan too.)


Ubuntu is probably the most-used flavor of Linux. It usually does good hardware detection all by itself. I decided to change Experimental from Arch Linux (my preferred Linux system) to Xubuntu (an Ubuntu variant). I was looking for something that would just plug-n-play. Actually, I was being lazy. This turned into a really big failure because I couldn’t see the camera with this system either and I don’t know how to tinker with Ubuntu. So: I blew away an Arch Linux system that was working perfectly well, loaded Xubuntu which didn’t work at all for the intended purpose, and now had to reload my Arch system because if this was going to happen at all, it was going to require some tinkering.

Arch Linux reloaded. Not that big a deal. I put a little salve on my wounds by telling myself that it was really a benefit in disguise because now I had a clean system. All my previous tinkerings were gone. I know; I don’t buy it either.

After a few Google searches, I discovered a program called photopc. The author specifically indicated that he was using it with an Olympus D-620L, so I decided to give it a try. It’s a command-line only program, but no one running Arch Linux would have a problem with that. Probably not too good, though, for anyone new to Linux or only used to Graphical User Interfaces.


To make this already-too-long story short, I had to figure out how to tell photopc where my serial port was and mess around with some file permissions (something Windows-folk don’t have to worry about), and it all worked pretty well. Not only can I download pictures from the two Olympus cameras, but I can have the camera tell me about what’s stored on it and have it erase pictures.

Here are three quick and dirty pictures that I took. I won’t hold my breath waiting to win a prize for one of these, but I can take pictures, get them into my blog, and I didn’t have to buy a new camera. Yeah!

Olympus D-340R

Olympus D-620L

Motorola Droid


Day 2

This is my second day at WordPress. My near-term goal is to post every day. My intention for this blog isn’t to share goals, though I will undoubtedly do that; it’s to celebrate failure.  My most important goal for 2012 is to find a way to fail every day. I hope that intrigues you because I believe that failure is important. It’s one of the most powerful tools available for living an interesting, joyful, productive life.

This is my third attempt at blogging. You guessed it; the first two were failures. I took a course in technical writing at a local college. It wasn’t anything like I expected. Producing technical documentation was important, but the course focused on creating and maintaining technical information using wiki’s. While I’m a huge consumer of online information, especially wiki’s, it never occurred to me to create one myself. The class opened my eyes to a much larger world that had been right in front of me for a long time. I tried a couple of free systems for creating wiki’s, but they weren’t getting me where I wanted to go, so I abandoned them.

Honestly, I can’t remember what made me aware of blogging. We didn’t cover it in my tech writing class, but the class sensitized me to the potential of online communication. Something, though, triggered my interest and I immediately ordered a couple of books (I almost always start new projects with a few new books) and became a blogging newbie. I’m convinced that this is the tool that I’ve been looking for. My early posts will be about my experiences getting into blogging and learning WordPress. WordPress should offer me a wealth of failure opportunities. Gradually, I’ll direct things toward sharing my experiences at becoming a productive failure.

I want to accomplish three things today with respect to my blog. First, complete a post (check). Second, add categories and tags. I don’t think anyone will ever see this if I don’t figure that one out. Third, I want to create a passable About Page.

So, I’m off to finish my to-do list. That’s it for my Day 2 post. By the way, if you’re interested in a good book on blogging (at WordPress in particular), I’m finding Tris Hussey‘s Create Your Own Blog: 6 Easy Projects to Start Blogging Like a Pro to be very helpful.