Refinement + Evolution = Revolution!

Author: Errol Catanes (Page 1 of 2)

Repurposing old content: A Re-think of the “New Start”

Earlier, I lamented about how I shouldn’t repurpose my old content and have it remain behind the curtain of academia. This feeling was based on my initial reaction to trying to create content solely for its own sake. At the time, I thought and said it was shit. But as I look back at it again to use as fodder . . . er research for my next piece, I realized that it might not be that bad. Not now, at least. In fact, what may have made me so judgmental was when I ran it through Grammarly and saw my text light up like an error-filled Christmas tree. I thought to myself, “That’s how much I need to rewrite?!!”

For those not familiar with Grammarly, it’s “spell-check” on steroids. As long as you don’t let it dominate your editing process (like I let it earlier), it’s a somewhat helpful tool. Zoe Bee did an excellent video about the pitfalls of the program, which you can see below.

Anyway, after relegating it to what I called “run-of-the-mill, undergrad fare,” I’m starting to change my mind. Although I still acknowledge that it lacks the polish that it would have gotten had it not been written in haste, I think it might have enough substance to stand on its own. At best, that “nugget of insight” I believe is still there, is there. At worst, it’s a lesson on how maybe I shouldn’t flaunt my old work as “good”. Nevertheless, it still merits some sort of repurposing.

Whatever the case, here is my new plan. I will once again repurpose my old content, use Grammarly (sparingly), and bank on the fact that it wasn’t as shitty as I thought it was. Worst case scenario, I can use them as examples of the futility of polishing turds.

Cool? Cool.


Once again, a new start: repurposing old content

           A long time ago, I thought repurposing old content was trite. I erroneously thought that doing so eroded its authenticity, but now I see it as misguided. To be honest, that image up there (and others in this entry) wasn’t really what inspired me to write this. It was a random post on Linkedin from the many writing companies I “follow” but don’t actively engage (sigh). Whatever the case, it does encapsulate how I felt when I decided to repurpose my old college writing. I needed to put something out there to substantiate my claim as an “emerging full stack storyteller.” Little did I know how insubstantial it really was. No amount of Grammarly.com or creative rearranging prevented me from turning my frown upside-down.

When a writer asks themselves, "What idiot wrote this?" and they answer, "Oh, I did," maybe it's time to repurpose old content
Thanks again, Lindsay Lovin’ Life

            While the content was, to put it mildly, shit, it had relevancy, at least compared to what interests me today. I still want to talk about ethical theories, sociological paradigms, and Hofstede’s cultural dimensions. Generational, organizational, and media studies still interest me. What has changed is my purpose for writing such works, spurring my desire to rewrite them.

The Drake meme about not wanting to write your stories but instead fantasize with a lot of inconsistent ideas and never bringing your story to life, may mean you should repurpose old content
How many Lindsay Lovin’ Life images am I gonna get, anyway?

            I realize now that, when I wrote these “articles,” my primary focus wasn’t so much excavation of truth but instead ticking a box. These were homework assignments, after all. I just wanted to churn out something to be graded. And, as I reread them, that fact did sure show. It also didn’t help that I rushed much of my work (Yep, I’m one of those dreaded, 11th hour, last-minute writers). Looking back, I’m pretty sure my instructors fairly assessed my work as run-of-the-mill, undergrad fare (or were too overworked to care and just gave me the pass). Perhaps they should stay that way rather than something I should rewrite.

While the feeling of completing a first draft more glamorous than editing it, it is a necessary chore to repurpose old content
Aaaaall the Lindsay Lovin’ Life images apparently

           So, given this revelation, I cannot, in good conscience, repurpose old content when it has already served its purpose. Or maybe I don’t yet have the skill to polish these turds, meaning they need to stay where they are, in Academia Limbo. However, I can definitely work with the concepts I had in mind when I wrote these pieces. Therefore, that will be my current plan. I will take something that I wrote, oh, three to five years ago, and rip it the hell apart. But then I will take that nugget of insight in that pile of crap that I think is worthwhile and make a less stinky pile of crap around that.

According toe memeblender.com, a rough draft might as well be a final draft.
Hope Lindsay from Lindsay Lovin’ Life doesn’t mind this (although, to be fair, she did rip it from other places too)

Cool?  Cool.

A year after the military

I don’t miss the military life for one second. Ok, maybe I do sometimes. It’s been about a year since I “retired,” and I still have no regrets. I feel I always have to emphasize this point because, as I’ve said before, it isn’t a retirement but rather a transition from being in to NOT being in. The culture shock hit me hard when I realized that job security didn’t exist in the civilian world. To this day, I still struggle with finding employment. But, it has less to do with my job marketability than it does my desire to “change careers.”

I worked in intelligence for about half my enlistment and aircraft maintenance in the other. While I don’t mind going back to the former, I’m sure as hell in NOT wanting to do the latter. I don’t think I’ve reached that point of desperation . . . yet. I’m thankful for being a veteran, but they weren’t without conditions I couldn’t help being accountable to. It’s almost as if my situation was a series of double-edged swords.

The military can be a double-edged sword
image from wiki.c2.com

I was fortunate enough to leave the military with some semblance of dignity (and sanity). But then I needed another to better provide for my family. As a veteran, they told me I’d have everything I’d need to find another job in the real world. And, they were right. Multiple organizations have websites, workshops, online communities, and programs to aid vets like me.

In fact, The U.S. Veterans Affairs paid me to go to school. And that was great, as long as I met the requirements. If I failed or decided school wasn’t for me, I’d lose that pay, most of which I use for all my bills and expenses. And while I did have other resources to guide me back into employment, their focus was towards the same occupations and positions that drove me to “retire” early in the first place. There’s a reason why the enlisted military is rated as the most stressful job five years running, and for obvious reasons, I’m not privy to go walking that same path to burnout.

Perhaps I’m too presumptuous in my decisions. Maybe my outlook on this need not be as grim as I’m making it to be. Should I bite the bullet and go back to aircraft maintenance? Well, I still get shudders at the thought, so, nope! But, every time I look at my shrinking bank account, my mind starts to shift farther from “nope” to “eh, maybe.”

The next time I get paid to do something, I keep telling myself it’ll be for something I enjoy (hell, I’ll settle for mild contentment at this point). That’s looking like less and less the case, and it worries me. Sometimes, I wonder if I should’ve stayed in the military. Thankfully, I come back to my senses. I believe I’ve mentally and emotionally recovered enough to the point where I can take to task whatever challenges I’m presented with to the best of my ability. But, I’d like to do that with something I like, like what I’m doing right now . . . writing.

In the meantime, I’ve been doing what most “recruitment gurus” suggest NOT to do, and that is rapid-fire copies of my resume to any and every online job posting that Linkedin and Facebook think I’m a match for. I’m pretty sure it’s counterproductive, and there are better, more efficient ways of approaching the job market (as in the many job fairs I apply to but always chicken out of at the last minute). Still, perhaps when I get desperate enough (as in my bank account starts dipping to critical, poverty-inducing levels), then I might just go about it in that smarter and less stupid way.

And try not to make this face whenever I land an actual interview.

Am I over military retirement? (updated February 2022)

Am I over military retirement? I asked this question around April 2019, a year after. I said I thought I should be by now. As far as now, now, the answer is a resounding yes, and no.

What military retirement feels like: Grandma looking at the computer with a WTF face.

Just to be clear, I know that the proper term for active-duty military moving to the civilian workforce is ‘transitioning.’ Saying retirement implies that I no longer need to work. For a select group, that may be the case. The rest of us needed to continue working to take care of our families. I found out my wife was pregnant in July 2018, which meant the three months of sitting on my ass were over. Unfortunately, I had some trouble finding work then and now.

Was it because I was a veteran? Not according to the latest official numbers. Was it because of my age? Also, not according to current official stats. It’s been frustrating, to say the least. I suspected three things may have contributed to my transition woes at the year after mark.

  1. The well-intended but ill-conceived choice to change careers from manager to public relations/journalism/writing
  2. My foolish and detrimental aversion towards becoming a manager
  3. A misguided and ultimately self-defeating approach to seeking opportunities for employment

Much has changed three years later. But some attitudes have remained the same.

Military retirement woe #1: Writing Career

Military retirement = Slacking on writing - Drake meme
Image from Lindsay Lovin’ Life

Here’s what I wrote regarding the first item

Yup, I wanted to be a writer. It’s why I have this blog. But I wanted to make money from it. Oh, silly me.

Now, I’m not knocking it as a career. I’d love to have it as a career. And technically, it’s not off the table. But it is obscured from my view, tucked squarely behind my shelves of parental responsibilities, educational obligations, and reality checks.

Well, here I am at the three-year mark, and, wow, I’m back to being a writer, well-intended but ill-conceived choice be damned.

via GIPHY

The initial reason I resisted delving into writing stemmed from the starving artist trope. It was a concern I had some entries ago. Nevertheless, I’ve taken the plunge back to putting words on paper (or the internet) for money. It also has something to do with my aversion to having to tell people what to do.

Military retirement woe #2: Don’t talk to me. I’m not the manager.

Pictured above is why

Down below is what I wrote regarding being a manager.

As for the whole manager bit, well, it’s less of an aversion and more of a reluctance. I can do it. I just won’t if I don’t have to. Call it 10+ years as a glorified babysitter/secretary/punching bag. Like my’ retirement,’ I’m kinda over that, but I still get nightmares sometimes.

Do I feel this way still? Oh hell yes! Though I’m thankful for my service, it did leave a bad taste in my mouth when it came to any kind of leadership position. Although it did teach me how to lead, if given a choice, I’d pass. Then again, I’ve made questionable decisions that indicated otherwise.

Woe #3: Do you even wanna do this?

Let me tell you some decisions I regretted.

And how did I self-sabotage my job search? One, by turning to a modest but respectable student assistant job here in the local area because I wanted to be a writer instead (see above). And two, getting all dressed up and ready to go to some job fairs only to give in to fear, tuck tail, and run.

Although there was one that I did make that (might have) paid off.

I need to pay more attention to the total Vocational Rehabilitation (Voc Rehab) services the VA offers me because, if I had, I would have taken advantage of the VA Work-Study Program waaaaaay earlier. Under this program, I can do a Non-paid Work Experience initiative where participants (mostly other VA offices, but other government agencies) take eligible veterans in and provide them with training and practical job experience. I thought the ‘non-paid’ part meant free labor, which was for the employer. But you do get compensation from Voc Rehab, which is technically minimum wage, but it’s better than nothing. But, in my opinion, the best part isn’t the on-the-job training (although that is a huge part), but the network and connections that you develop within that office.

This path led me to intern for the U.S. Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region, State and Private Forestry Office. Indeed, I got paid a stipend through the VA for my “free labor” and built up a good amount of connections within the public sector. Plus, it might have paid off if it wasn’t for…

(Surprise) Woe #4: COVID

Manchester United’s Marouane Fellaini during the UEFA Super Cup final soccer match between Real Madrid and Manchester United at Philip II Arena in Skopje, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)

The plan was to use my internship to build connections within the Forest Service and eventually land a job internally. I had my sights set on Public Affairs because, again, it went well with my dreams as a writer. In the beginning, I did pretty well.

My time working for the U.S. Forest Service, Region 5, Public Affairs Office with the legendary Stephen Dunsky
My time working for U.S. Forest Service Tahoe National Forest Public Affairs Office with the eponymous Joe Flannery

Three months later, a raging pandemic destroyed whatever progress I made.

Conclusion/Final thoughts

It’d be easy for me to blame extenuating circumstances beyond my control. But I could also point to my difficulties in making informed choices. Ultimately, I ended up where I am, three years later, wondering if leaving the military in 2018 was worth it.

The answer is yes, primarily because of past events and for the sake of my physical and mental health. However, I wish I had been more informed and prepared. Maybe if I were, I would be seeing my departure from the service as a worthwhile but necessary event rather than a questionably regretful one.

Nevertheless, I am where I am. As long as I keep my family as my main reason to trudge on, I believe I’ll thrive.

Military Mondays: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

This is an easy one.

What is really derived from NATO, the phonetic alphabet is used to convey clear and concise messages over telecommunications platforms.  Before the advent of the cel-phone, most verbal commands or inquiries had to be requested over a walkie-talkie.  You remember those right?

I get the talkie part, but why the walkie?

Well, hypothetical idiot, they’re mobile telecommunications equipment, which means you can talk while walking.

You know when you pull up in a drive-thru, and both of you have to repeat what you’re saying over and over because of the poor quality?  Well imagine the same scenario, except the speaker is asking for reinforcements while being shot at by the enemy.  Kinda important to get the message clear.

 

And so the phonetic alphabet was taught to all military personnel in order to relay coordinates and reports that are usually in the form of a mish-mash of numbers and letters.  So as to not confuse the receiver (like saying “b” but the guy hears “v”), the letter is said using the phonetic alphabet (“b” as in Bravo, “v” as in Victor).

And that’s pretty much it.  If you want to know what all the letters are, just refer to the featured image above.  I also recommend checking out Military.com for all your questions about the military.  It’s where I get most of my sources, aside from a couple of outliers and personal experience.

Tune in next week for another Military Mondays feature.

End of the Week review: Introductory post

Every Sunday, I will do the best I can to sum up the week’s highlights.  Whether it’s a topic on Military Mondays, Veteran Fridays, Free radical posts, or just a summary of the week’s events, I will post them here.

Here’s a quick recap:

April 30:  Watched Avenger’s Infinity War I – It truly is the the “The Empire Strikes Back” of the MCU

May 1: First day of Spring Term I of Brandman University – the only downside to this thing is that I have to pay $5 to come back home from Walnut Creek

May 2:  Daily obligations for my wife in Sacramento

May 3:  Capital Public Radio‘s Big Day of Giving sponsored by the New Helvetia Brewing Company and Hefty Gyros – The Capital Public Radion Khz Kolsch was phenomal, and so was the event, not to mention the Pita Gyro

May the 4th be with you:  Aside from the Star Wars reference, it was the beginning of blazing some trails in Lagoon Valley Park, Vacaville

Cinco de 5-oh:  Fun fact, while we use this day as an excuse to drink, In Japan, it’s a day set aside to remember one’s children, and it’s also marks the end of Golden Week

That about wraps it up.  Stay tuned for more posts.

Military Monday-Misconception #1: Not everyone in the Air Force flies.

“Off we go, into the wild blue yonder, flying high, into the sun…”

– Air Force Song

Although the word “airmen” implies flight, not all Air Force personnel fly.  If by fly you mean control a plane, that would be a pilot, or co-pilot (usually the newbie pilot in training).   If you mean riding on a plane while doing their job, that’s aircrew.  For example, those would be your navigators or combat system operators on the officer side, and loadmasters (the guys who pack everything on the plane and, on most cargo aircraft, air-drop everything at the command of the pilot.

More often than not, mission essential personnel are included with the aircrew as well.  They can be aircraft maintenance personnel such as crew chiefs, and even specially trained security forces that provide extra protection while the aircraft is on the ground and in contested or hostile territory.  Then you have your mission support personnel like your financial managers, medical technicians, firefighters, etc.

All airmen play a part in U.S. air power, whether they are up in the air or on the ground.  But yeah, not all of us fly.

Veterans Friday: Introductory post

So, this is where I get serious.

As a former member of the U.S. Armed Forces, I’m honored to have my country as best I could.  Anyone who enlisted, or commissioned, for a significant amount of time and has not incurred any disabilities is either very lucky, or unnecessarily hiding this fact.  For the rest of us, we rely on either the Department of Veteran Affairs, or programs like the Wounded Warrior Project.   We don’t have much control over the funding of, and aid from the VA, but we do have the ability to aid the WWP, and I would like to do my part to promote these programs and educate our greater community as to what they do and how they can help.  I’ll be the first one to admit that, even though I know of these programs, I’m really not that educated about them.  Once I carve out some time in my schedule to do my research, attend sponsored events and meet key figures of these organizations, I will post my reports here.  In the meantime, check out my think-piece on professional burn-out in the military.

 

Thank you for your attention and support.

Training Tuesday: Introductory post

Hello Peter, whats happening? Ummm, I’m gonna need you to go ahead come in tomorrow.  So if you could be here around 9 that would be great, mmmk… oh oh! and I almost forgot ahh, I’m also gonna need you to go ahead and come in on Sunday too, kay.  We ahh lost some people this week and ah, we sorta need to play catch up.

Bill Lumbergh, Office Space

Almost every U.S. military member (at least Air Force) knows this quote well, along with the face of our featured image stock character above.  Training Day is a chance to catch up on our annual, semi-annual, or whatever time period the powers that be deem we need to refresh our knowledge on X or Y subject matter.  Most of this training takes place in front of a computer called Computer-based-training or CBTs or listening to a “speaker” while he/she plods through a MS-Power Point presentation.  However, I will attempt to do something different and break down each CBT we as service-members took, delve into why we need to do this “training,” and explain how this is important to know, not only as an Armed Forces service member, but an upstanding citizen of your community.  Unlike Military Monday’s content, I don’t have reference material to link to you, but you can take my word or any other Army, Navy, Air Force or Marine out there, we know CBTs and death-by-powerpoint.

So, if you can’t stay awake for next week’s post, (militarisms alert!) you’re going to have to stand in the back.

Militarisms Monday: Introduction post

Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: You best unfuck yourself or I will unscrew your head and shit down your NECK!

R. Lee Ermey (R.I.P.) Full Metal Jacket

This will be the first post of a weekly set of topics dedicated to expand upon the sub-cultural elements of the military.  Topics include, but are not limited to

Keep in mind, there are already websites that explain these which you can find here, here and here.  I’ll just (militarisms alert!) piggy-back on what they’ll be saying and use my experiences in the Air Force and put my own spin on it.

GIT SOME!!

P.S. Why is it that no matter which branch of service you’re from, most of us have some sort of masochistic affinity towards Gunnery Sergeant Hartman?  Future post?

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