Birthday Bash Day 8: You have friends on the internet?

For complete context about why I’m not having a birthday party for my 27th birthday this year and how you can still celebrate with me, read You’re Invited to My 27th Birthday Bash.

My cat Winston converses with his internet friends.
My cat Winston converses with his internet friends. They make cat macros all day.

“But they’re your internet ‘friends,'” my maternal grandma said to me after I visited her post-WriterCon in 2004 and I showed her the photos of my fellow fangirls. “They aren’t, you know, weird?”

While my grandma only has my best interests at heart, her line of inquiry is one I’ve heard a lot. Yes, I have friends on the internet and the vast majority I met on the internet. And yes, I’ve met around 60% of them face-to-face. No, they’re not any more weird than I am, and *knock on wood* none of them are serial killers. But with shows like How to Catch a Predator spinning around in the zeitgeist, I’m not surprised I get these question.

True fact: the one and only time I’ve ever been cyberstalked was in college and it was an ex-boyfriend that I’d had in high school. I imagine this is true of most cyberstalking cases. Heck, look at the current cyber bullying problem; it’s all done by people the victim knew “in real life.”

Social networking, blogging, hanging out on these intertubes, it’s what I do, and naturally, I’ve made it a place to find friends. It’s certainly easier to find friends interested in the same things I am — Captain America, fluffy bunnies, and Lost Girl — with the entire world as my oyster. I’ve found that once you’ve met a handful of your online friends, from them on, one person knows another, who knows another. The world is far smaller than you’d think.

My internet friends aren’t just internet friends. They are my real life friends. They are the ones who cheer me up on a bad day with e-mails, photos, and silly stories. My “internet” friends let me and Jason crash at their homes when we went to the Olympics in Vancouver and when we went to DC this past fall. Some of them are acquaintances; some are good friends; and some are like family.

In 2004, I met my friend Jess online. I’d left her a comment on a piece of Buffy: the Vampire Slayer fanfiction she’d written about Willow/Tara, and whatever it was, we struck a cord together. We started e-mailing and im’ing back and forth. Jess lives in Boston, but was unemployed at the time, and when we started co-writing stories together, she started living on West Coast time. Eventually, we started talking on the phone. (Both of us can be talkers, especially if we start going on about our stories.) And in 2005, Jess made a trip out west to visit me and her siblings.

Explaining how a co-writer fits on your family tree is next to impossible to a non-writer. Continue reading “Birthday Bash Day 8: You have friends on the internet?”

Sprinkles Around the Web 6/11-7/01/10

Sprinkles from around the web

Links I’ve enjoyed from around the web. Your mileage may vary.

Me

A photo of me from Seattle’s Gay Pride Parade 2010 on Sunday, June 27th.

Environment

Is the BP Gusher Unstoppable? Read the forum of geologists and oil professionals that has the science community buzzing. This is just beyond depressing, but is a must-read as it explains the science behind the gushing well.

Sea Turtle by Mauro Luna
Sea turtles are our friends and adorable. Also endangered.
BP’s burning sea turtles. A video of a boat captain talking about how BP stopped him and his crew from trying to find sea turtles in oil BP was setting on fire.

“We Don’t Need This on Camera”: BP’s Crappy Cleanup Job. BP continues to block reporters’ access to beaches affected by the Gulf Oil Spill. In some cases, beaches and wildlife are completely neglected.

From the Ground: BP Censoring Media, Destroying Evidence.

“BP doesn’t want the media taking pictures of oil on the beaches. You should see the oil that’s about six miles off the coast,” he said grimly. We looked down at the wavy orange boom surrounding the islands below us. The pilot shook his head. “There’s no way those booms are going to stop what’s offshore from hitting those beaches.”

Continue reading “Sprinkles Around the Web 6/11-7/01/10”

Sprinkles Around the Web 5/28-6/10/10

Sprinkles from around the web

Two weeks worth of links and other things I found amusing, insightful, or otherwise useful around the web. Your mileage may vary.

Me

• A photo of me on the set of ExOfficio’s Spring ’11 photoshoot. Yes, that’s how far ahead the fashion industry works. (I’m the one with the braid and my back turned.)

• Okay, not really me, but my good friend Steve. His Batman, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and Sandman tattoos were featured on Geeky Tattoos.

BP Oil Spill

We Just Tore Up Our Contract with Mother Nature. Chuck does a good job at collecting all the various links about the BP Oil Spill. Warning: He does become ranty at the end, and he’s a horror/fantasy writer so things get graphic.

Leroy Stick – the man behind @BPGlobalPR. Why a fake Twitter account is a thorn in BP’s side and how they seem more concerned about their PR and stocks than the Gulf Coast being destroyed.

Fandom

• Apparently, there are people out there making shows for me, including RuPaul’s Drag U and Men with Brooms: Continue reading “Sprinkles Around the Web 5/28-6/10/10”

Dreams of Jobs and ‘Real World’ Skills

Even as a child, there weren’t many jobs that I wanted to do. No, there weren’t many jobs that were possible in this plane of existence and at this time.

A lot of my actual work came by accident. I was an English major in college, not because I set out to be one, but because I took too many English classes. I am a web designer, not because I decided one day I would be, but because I had too much time on my hand as a teenager, Sundays at home by myself, and have always been a self-learner. Instead of going to school with a purpose, I graduated, looked at my list of practical skills, and then started applying to jobs. Sometimes, I think this is a little backwards.

My childhood dreams jobs were largely short on practical skills. A Magical, Fairy Princess just needed to be born into it. No one went to school to get a degree in being President of the United States. Likewise with Ruler of the Universe. As far as I’ve been able to tell, even Writer doesn’t mean you have to know anything or been any good at it. Starship Captain hasn’t been invented yet. Veterinarian was the only occupation that required schooling, and well, I gave up on that when I saw a veterinarian put on a very long rubber glove and stick her hand up a cow’s woohoo.

In school, I liked reading and I liked writing. Science was okay and math was alright to a certain point. I hated spelling, and I’m thankful to have grown up in the era of the spellchecker.

(My maternal grandma always told me that a poor speller was a sign of a genius. Which greatly illustrates the point why grandmas should not tell small children they are geniuses or that they have good signing voices. I am tone deaf and posses a horrible voice, which makes me wonder what else my grandma was exaggerating about.)

While I grew up on a farm, I sadly lacked a entourage of singing forest animals. Though sometimes it was better that neither my cats or my rabbits could talk. Several times, I questioned my mother on my paternity, secretly hoping she’d tell me that my real father was actually a time-traveler who was going to take me away on my 18th birthday to travel to lands unseen. My mother gently reminded me that I have my paternal grandma’s jawline.

Even as my 25th birthday approaches, I haven’t settled on a “real” job. Web design fits me for now. It pays the bills and there are many aspects that I find enjoyable. After all, I did learn on my own time. Being creative is fun and a little showy to my creative friends who are doing data entry. (Which is a wise and noble profession when we all need to pay bills.) Even taking into account for industry changes, I don’t expect I’ll be doing the same thing in 10 or 15 years. Or maybe even 5. I might accidentally pick up some new real world skills.

To this day, I think part of me holds out hope that someone will revel that we’ve been secretly building giant interstellar spaceships and now they need captains.

“At Least I Don’t Beat You.” Making a Prosumer Workplace

Growing up, my father was not always the nicest person and had a tendency to be emotionally abusive. I was an ornery child who liked to point out this behavior when it happened, or at least, complain about it to my mother. And while these are issues, I’ve dealt with, one thing always sticks in the back of my mind after all these years: the bad parenting excuse was always, “At least I don’t beat you.” Beating was held up as the worst and most unforgivable action a parent could do to a child, and since I was never beaten (we’re talking severe beatings, not light spankings), I was lucky to have such a wonderful father unlike other children.

(Granted, part of the dealing with the issues and growing up, was realizing that my paternal grandparents were likely Old Testament “spare the rod, spoil the child” folks and believers that no one should tell parents what they can and can’t do with their children. My grandfather died when I was very young and grandmother mostly made pancakes and let me run around in her backyard when I was a child. The spoils of being the grandchild and born in the ’80s, instead their child of the ’50s.)

What does this have to do with the workplace and being a prosumer? And why do I believe that being a prosumer when it comes to your career is helpful for your long-term career satisfaction and our economic well-being?

It’s that I’ve come to the realization since entering the workforce, between jobs I’ve had and jobs I’ve been a candidate for, that many workplaces employ the policy of “At least I don’t beat you” when it comes to taking care of their employees, whether it be workplace conditions, salaries, benefits, or policies. Only it’s called “At least you have a job” or “At least you have health insurance even if you have to pay for part of it and go to our doctors only” or “At least you can wear jeans on Friday.”

Okay, I completely get it that our economy is in the toliet, but that’s no excuse and is certainly not going to keep employees at bay. Especially in an age when they google how much a public company’s CEO makes in a year or can do a little digging on privately-held companies. Like how the CEO’s, of the parent company I work for, total cash compensation for 2007 was $4.8 million and that’s not including stocks and other compensation. Even as a prosumer and someone who strives to contribute meaning the world, it still does feel like a kick in the stomach when, after some simple math, including “raise” adjustments based on those given this year, I find out that if I keep going on this job track, I will never make that much money in my entire life. (I simply use myself as an example since I don’t have others’ information, but use it as an example of a common workplace practice in large corporations. Certainly, Wal-Mart greeters make negative pennies compared to Sam Walton.)

Sometimes, I think while that much money would be nice, I know it wouldn’t make me happy. Researchers suggest that $40k a year, having romance, and a social life is the baseline for happiness and anymore does not really increase it. I would also add that it’s probably an average America salary baseline and that you should adjust for cost of living in your area. For example, NYC, LA, San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, etc. are going to be a lot higher. Freedom Ideas argues that money is only 1/3 of our happiness. I really like this article in that it talks about ideals that I would consider part of being a prosumer in the workplace, including doing what you love for living.

Okay, sometimes, a job is a job and you need it to pay the rent and live. Sometimes a job is a stepping stone into a better job: all for the experience. But never let a job make you believe that you aren’t worth it and that they’re a good company just because they don’t beat you.

If their tag line is at least I don’t beat you, they aren’t worth your time and your effort. If they ask you if you saw last night’s The Office and then ask you to come in on Saturday, they don’t get it.

I am not lucky to be employed. I earned my employment through my experience and my persistence and keep my job as I’m contributing to the company. Yes, people are hired every day who do not know how to do their job and they’re even kept on by companies. But it’s not luck, they’re obviously giving an employer something they need, even if it’s not actually doing their job.

Vacation time, sick days, and health insurance should not be considered benefits I need to grovel to a company for and praise their holy name for. In my prosumer workplace, I am not an indentured servant, and one day, these are either going to be rules enforced by OSHA (and some already are to an extent) or we’re all going to be losing, except that 1% at the top. I would note that I do not trust corporations to do this on their own and know that they will need government incentives or penalties to get their acts together.

Likewise, as a web designer, having the latest technology and access to the materials needed for my job is not a luxury. I should not be hunting down standard fonts on BitTorrent because a company doesn’t want to shell out $30 a font when annual net profit is up. I should be considered an expert in my field, as that was why they hired me, and when I mention that the company should take advantage of the latest and greatest web marketing technology such as Facebook, Twitter, social bookmarking, or even revamping the site to make it rely on CSS, I should not be ignored or treated like the internet is a passing fad.

Every prosumer requires something different in a job and to make a prosumer workplace. Someone may need a company softball team to make them happy. Someone else may think that free beverages and Friday breakfast make the company as a perk that takes the job from just another job to a career. Someone else may need flexible hours or the work from home to take care of children, parents, partners, or themselves.

The biggest career mistake I ever made was compromising my standards and not doing my research about the company. (For full disclosure, I’ve worked for five different employers full-time since I was 17-years-old, and no, I’m not going to tell you which one I’m talking about.) It was not listening to the tiny voice in the back of my head. This has set my entire career back about 25% from my peers, who are my age and in my field. It was not having the voice of experience to give me a better idea what the workplace was like; it was not knowing what I know now. Part of the reason I have this blog is to grow, learn from my experiences, and retain what four years of expensive elite private college did not teach me.

So what does an employer get out of creating a prosumer workplace? An excellent employee who will be happy and excel at his/her career. An employee, who might not come in on Saturdays, but will maybe stay a little longer during the week. An employee who will not feel the mighty self-esteem blow of fear and will feel empowered by the workplace. Having confident, happy employees that tell people they love their jobs is so much better for everyone, and it just might, actually be better for our economy and well-being as a nation and world. Imagine that.

On Being Tired

I’m rather tired. Just a deep bone-tired. I get why bears hibernate.

I have dreams, but they stay vague. I try to tease them out. I had this art professor who used to say that your most frustrating days in the studio, where you don’t get anything, turns into the ideas that flourish.

It’s interesting when I go on vacation. When I come and everything’s still there. I still need to call Comcast about my bill. I still need to go to work for my paycheck everyday. I still have a fridge full of vegetables from my grandfather’s garden to turn into food.

But then everything just kind of means shit.

Maybe it’s just the rain talking.

Lessons in Design: Redneck Wedding

My mom’s getting remarried in two weeks. I like her fiance Rob, so that’s all good. The only not good part has been that I’m not a fan of weddings and all the heteronormative activities surrounding them, and I’m my mom’s maiden of honor.

Of course, I’m a good daughter, and my mom may have pulled the “I gave birth to you and supported you through your expensive private liberal arts education where you majored in creative writing and then you stayed so far away in Seattle, don’t you love your mother?” But I don’t remember as this was back in January.

Instead of buying them something for their wedding, I agree to build them a wedding website. Now while, they never managed to provide me with a lot of content for it (and the Big Day is fast approaching), I did manage to bring together what I consider a pretty solid design. And I pulled off some Photoshopping that might have gone a little too far since I removed some of Rob’s childhood scars. Who knew?

The Daiker/McGillivray Wedding Web Site

As with any new web site, I made some inquiries to friends to view the site on their computers and their browsers. (There’s only so many times I can open it in Firefox, IE, and Safari on my Windows XP PC at work and at home.) And everyone’s comments were: OMG, the colors! They burns us!

Belatedly, I realized I should’ve put the disclaimer that those are the wedding colors. Those are what my clients wanted. While, they wouldn’t be the colors I would’ve chosen, they were the requirement. I tried to put as much white space as I could to rest one’s eyes.

Compared to other wedding websites, it’s definitely brighter and less somber/classy. But this is my mom’s second wedding (and she’s had three children), so we’re dropping all the virgin-white subtext, and Rob wants to basically have a big party. Heck, the best man and my brothers, who are giving away my mom, are wearing Wranglers. Yeah, did I mention there’s a cowboy-theme underlying all this and how the reception is going to be in my mom’s new barn?

Design isn’t always what the designer thinks is best, even though we push our ideas, outlines, and platforms. Oh, don’t worry, there are always some client ideas we stop before they get out of control. Sometimes, it’s all about the client, the context, and the product. Especially if I’m building a wedding website for my mom as a gift. I’m just going to bite my tongue and ask her if she likes it. Which she does.

Now if I can get out of e-mailing her back over if she should get hot pink and black cowboy boots or hot pink camouflage-print cowboy boots to wear under her wedding dress.

Delicious: New Look, Same Excellent Functions

Social bookmarking tool Delicious got a makeover. It’s a little louder than I expected, considering Delicious had a very stripped down original interface. But they are owned by Yahoo now.

I love the little gray arrows around the tags. This is my favorite feature. I think it looks great

Is that Arial and Helvetica? I’m a little surprised at that choice. They’re classic, but more print oriented generally.

I’m not sure how I feel about the tag sorting, especially if someone has hundreds of tags.

Bundling tags seems a little easier. However, when you add a tag to a bundle, it jumps back up to the top of the page. Probably one of those designer didn’t catch what the programmer did kinks.

I’m not sure I care a bunch about how it’s sorted for dates. However, it might be helpful for my wishlist account that I used last birthday/Christmas. (Now if I could only figure out how to get the relatives to buy me things off said list instead of giant cat books. I’m not five anymore, Cameron. You weren’t even alive then.) Yep, very helpful now that I’ve gone back and deleted all the clothing stores no longer have.

Besides, the basic function of storing my bookmarks on the web so I can access them from any computer and never fear of losing them and how much I love tags to sort, I do think Delicious provides a great search engine based on user popularity. I always find interesting blog posts or tutorials or nifty little shops when I venture out on the Delicious network. Yahoo may find themselves back as a true competitor in the search business with Delicious.

Other interesting articles on Delicious as a soically relavent search engine: The Search Engine That’s Already Better Than Google at SEOmoz.org and more thoughts on that at Academic Commons.