Agile Update – June 2016

Wow, has it really been a month since I’ve posted anything? I actually feel quite nervous about writing again, even though I’ve accomplished a lot in the last month. Again, as I pointed out in another post, I’ve been moved to a different shift – I now work second shift, which I really, really like. No more getting up at 6:00 am, which any time but high Summer, means getting up in pitch darkness. No more driving during rush hour traffic that doubles my commute time. And most importantly, no more being exhausted all the time by a schedule that just doesn’t fit my body clock so to speak. But it’s still an adjustment to schedule things almost reverse of a “normal” schedule.

However, that’s not why I’ve been so short of posts recently. I’ve actually been very focused on professional development. For my job I need to be A+ Certified. It’s a very basic certification from CompTIA, and one I’ve held before, though I let it lapse (re-certification is expensive, so unless it’s necessary for your job or directly related to the type of jobs you’re applying for – Why bother?) Anyway, I studied a lot in May, and June – and the week of June 12th to June 17, I was really cramming for my second test in the two-test sequence (I passed the first in January, but was unable to even schedule the second test until the Spring.) I haven’t crammed that much since I was an undergrad in college. I’d get up, study for a couple of hours, and go to work. I’d bring my book and notebook to work and study and review during every spare moment I had. But it paid off, because on the 17th I took and passed the second test becoming A+ certified.

However, because I spent so much time working on that, other things fell by the way side. I spent last week getting caught up. I also, in the midst of all that, had some medical things to deal with that were annoying and not fun, and very much not for public consumption. But anyway.

So besides the career development step of becoming A+ Certified again, I’ve taken other steps too, and plan on more for the rest of the Summer, but without formal classes.  I bought the Serif Suite of Graphic Design Programs, which are desktop, not Cloud, programs similar to the Adobe Creative Cloud Suite. Remember that I took a couple of Adobe classes last Summer? Well, I’m going to be teaching myself Serif PagePlus, Serif WebPlus, Serif PhotoPlus, Serif Photo Stack, and Serif Draw Plus this Summer. In addition, I’ll probably spent time using Inkscape, Coral Paint Shop Pro, and maybe even Gimp, Microsoft Publisher, Scribus, and Pixlr. In other words, reviewing and learning new skills in the graphic design software I downloaded last Summer after finding out that not only was Creative Cloud out of my budget, but with it’s “Cloud” nature I wouldn’t be able to use it anyway because of the type of Internet I have. Yesterday I watched the training video for Serif Page Plus and used it to design a cover for a .pdf and EPUB I’d put together of notes and transcripts that I studied for my A+. Purely for practice. Though I should see if I can put the document on Linked In as an example of my work. I’d have to seek permission of the publisher of the actual training material, though – I just compiled everything into a single e-book. Additional watching of training videos, learning how to use the software, and practice with the software is something I’m definitely planning on.

A third area of professional development I’ve been working on since I started my new position as an IT Help Desk Technician is to read the Intercomm magazine published by the STC, the Society for Technical Communication. I’m getting caught-up on my professional reading. My membership expired at the end of last year, and I need to renew it. I might even look at their professional development opportunities, and investigate certification.

The other area of professional development I need to look at besides graphic design and technical writing is Agile and project management. I need to see what type of professional societies and maybe even certification I can look at in Agile. I love the system when it’s done right, and it fits with my other interests – professionally.

But what else have I been doing in June? Well, I spent so much time studying I didn’t read a lot of regular fiction books. But I did read a lot of graphic novels, and I’m currently reading a twelve-book series of Doctor Who novellas. All my book reviews are on GoodReads. And I added all my graphic novels to GoodReads so I have an easy-to-access list, one that’s public and shareable, and one that’s easy to reference.

And in May I joined the fitness club at work. I received a basic fitbit as a membership “gift” and I’ve been averaging 3000 – 5000 steps a day. My goal is to get closer to 6000 steps a day. I also want to start exercising in the morning. Not crack-of-dawn morning, but I don’t start work until 12:30 pm (noon-thirty) now, so I have time to do some exercise and shower before work if I try. It’s just hard to be motivated. I do walk on at least one break at work, and if the weather is bad I walk on the treadmill at work. I also have a goal to lose 20 pounds in the next six months – this is my doctor’s advice.

With all my accomplishments, though, I’ve been bad about remembering to record them. So, another goal is to get back in the habit of setting goals, recording accomplishments, and writing a weekly Agile post.

So on to specifics:

6/1/2016

  • Added all of section 1.4 to Messer Notes .pdf
  • Studied Wireless in A+ book at work

6/2/2016

  • Finished adding all of Section 1 Professor Messer Video Notes to .pdf document
  • Watched video on Windows Command Line Networking Tools
  • Reviewed Doctor Who Hyperion on GoodReads

6/3/2016

  • Finished downloading and adding Section 3 & 4 of Professor Messer Notes to .pdf

6/4/2016

  • Reviewed Steampunk Battlestar Galactica 1880 on GoodReads
  • Added section 4 .pdfs to full .pdf notes (Professor Meser A+ Notes)
  • Reviewed All-Star Batman and Robin on GoodReads
  • Finished adding all Professor Messer Video Notes to full .pdf
  • Finished Word document on creating the .pdf, saved as .pdf, added to full .pdf, then imported the full .pdf to Calibre and converted to EPUB

6/9/2016

  • Installed Serif PagePlus program on computer

6/11/2016

  • Installed rest of Serif Software (Web Plus, Photo Plus with Stack Plus, Draw Plus)
  • Studied for A+ Exam – read Prof. Messer notes – up to and including Network Commands
  • Wrote review of Doctor Who The Nameless City on GoodReads
  • Wrote review of Batman/Superman Vol. 1 – Cross Worlds on GoodReads

6/18/2016

  • Reviewed Doctor Who – Spear of Destiny on GoodReads
  • Reviewed World of Flashpoint featuring Batman on GoodReads
  • Started adding “Doctor” tags to all Doctor Who items on GoodReads (tags are DW1, DW2, DW3, etc and First Doctor, Second Doctor, etc all the way to Twelfth Doctor)
  • Professional Development – read Intercomm (STC magazine) June 2015

6/24/2016

  • Reviewed World of Flashpoint featuring The Flash on GoodReads
  • Updated some Doctor Who books, audios, graphic novels with tags on GoodReads
  • Reviewed Doctor Who – The Root of Evil on GoodReads
  • Reviewed Doctor Who – Tip of the Tongue on GoodReads

6/25/2016

  • Watched PagePlus training video
  • Created cover for Professor Messer Video Transcripts and Notes Using PagePlus
  • Tried out homemade stuffed sweet peppers recipe (goat cheese and ground beef
  • Reviewed The World of Flashpoint featuring Green Lantern on GoodReads

I’ve been busy with the professional development and with reading and reviewing short fiction (graphic novels and Doctor Who novellas), as well as my steps on my fitbit for fitness. But I need to do more and get back in the saddle towards my goals.

 

Agile Update – Year 2 – Week 9

Last week? What happened? Well, for one thing I didn’t have any Internet Service for most of the week, which included the previous weekend, when I often get a lot of writing or at least pre-writing done. I kept thinking I should at least work on my Excel-Post-to-Come but every time I sat down at my computer I tried to do, well, anything, and I couldn’t really because my Internet was down.

We had a nasty snow storm, again, on Tuesday. Not wanting a repeat of the previous week when it took me over an hour to get home – I took my supervisor up on her offer to leave early and left work at 3:00pm instead of 4:30pm.  That meant I ended-up having to come in that Saturday to make up the time. And since I have a Doctor’s Appointment this week, I scheduled enough time on Saturday to cover for both.

And when I got to work, everyone from my department (well, all but one person) was there – and our Internet connectivity was gone. No one could do anything. I couldn’t even sign in on the on-line time clock. It gets worse. Without Internet – I couldn’t sign in, I couldn’t use the main program I use all the time to do my work, I couldn’t check my previous work – because it was stored on the Network Drive, which was down, I couldn’t work with Word or Excel – since we use Office 365 (the Cloud version) if I tried to open anything it crashed immediately, I could clean-up old stored mail in Outlook, but I couldn’t get new mail or send mail, and I couldn’t use Dreamweaver – because it’s “Creative Cloud” and you can’t even open the program without Internet. I tried. So, basically, four of us sat there, on a Saturday morning, with work to do and absolutely no way to do it – because our network access was down. This is the down side of “cloud” applications people! If I’d had access to my files, Word, Excel, and Dreamweaver – I could of at least done some work. I’ve had two other positions where if the Network went down, everyone sat there doing nothing – and it makes me wonder just how much time and money is wasted by the move to “cloud computing”.

Anyway, I got my Internet back at home on the Wednesday – so I was able to do some needed shopping. I also reviewed a graphic novel on GoodReads (see widget on bottom right of my blog). I also wrote my weekly Agile post.

I was not good about keeping track of my accomplishments last week. I did read every day. And I started watching Lois and Clark again. Since I finally bought Seasons 3 and 4, I wanted to go back and watch from the beginning. And I found to my dismay than the second episode on every DVD would not play. So I re-ordered Season 1 (got a great deal on it – far less than when I bought it years ago).  I watched Discs 1 and 2 over the weekend, and the new set plays fine. Reviews will be coming soon.

Goals:

  • Study for A+ 802 Exam every day
  • Exercise at least 3 days a week
  • Read
  • Post Excel Formatting to blog
  • Watch and review either “When harry Met Sally…” or “Superman Returns” (Or the “Man from U.N.C.L.E.” movie)

Basically, I need to get back into my good habits. The bad weather the last two weeks, and problems with my Internet at home have thrown me off my game. But I need to get back in there. The good thing about Agile is it’s a progressive system. You will have setbacks and challenges – but you have to face those and focus on the goals for personal and professional achievement.

Agile Update – Year 2 Week 8

Last week was super busy. I had a project to do for work that I had to do outside of work hours. And I can’t be specific about it. Because: work. So Monday night I spent over three hours on it. Tuesday night I thought, “Well, at least I’ll only spent an hour or so finishing up.” Right? Nope – another three hours or close to it. Turned it in on Wednesday morning at work. I haven’t heard anything yet – but it’s now out of my hands.

Then Wednesday we got a big snow storm. A big one. It snowed all day at work, and when I left the office at 4:30 it took me over twice the normal amount of time to get home. And it was a long and scary drive too. Thursday morning I looked outside, listened to the hundreds of school closings and… Well, I would have called in completely if I could, but nope – I don’t have PTO yet, and I’m trying to make a good impression at my new job… so I called in an hour late, left the house at 8am instead of 7am (which is early for a normal day), then worked an hour late.

AND it’s not over yet. Friday was my niece and nephew’s birthday party. So I drove from work, to a Meijer near the expressway, met my parents and they drove the three of us to Grand Haven for the festivities. However, even though I was a bit apprehensive about the whole thing (I was tense and yet still exhausted because of my week.) the dinner was just awesome, and the party after was fun.  I had a good time, and spending a little time with other people was exactly what I needed.

I did get my weekly Agile post done, late, but done. And I also wrote a book review on GoodReads. Follow the link on the lower right of my blog to read in detail by review of the Star Wars tie-in novel, Star by Star, part of the New Jedi Order series.

So over all, even though it was a super busy week, and I had very little relaxation time, or time to write, not to mention time to start studying, overall it was a good week. The project was something I’d known about for awhile, but was told to “hold off” on. It finally not only materialized in concrete form, but with a quick turnaround time and deadline. So I was pressured but glad to get it done.

Agile Update – Year 2 Week 7

Last week I has a major success. After a four-month class and an additional month of studying, I passed my first test (220-801) for my A+ certification! My score was excellent, too. So I am excited and pleased about that. Now I need to schedule my next test and start studying for it. I’ve written my schedule for studying for the second test (220-802).

I did have three posts on WordPress too. One was only a link, to an excellent post on Tumblr about the character of Felicity Smoak on Arrow – who is being almost criminally under-used this year. I need to write-up an reaction / my own view on that, but life’s been a bit busy lately. I’m simply a big, big fan of Felicity Smoak, and she’s, often the best thing about Arrow – so I’d like to see her do more. Although, to be fair, there was at one episode where Felicity’s been kick-ass, and her story line has had it’s moments. But the link post was just that – a link only, with no comment by me (yet). I also wrote my weekly Agile post. And I reviewed a movie (Superman II) here on WordPress and on Blogger. Yep, after being a Batman and Justice League fan for many, many years – I’m now catching-up on Superman (by way of Dr. Ray Palmer, the Atom, as played by Brandon Routh – who was also in Superman Returns). I have watched Superman Returns, but I need to re-watch it and review it.

I’m now working full-time, have been since Jan 4th, and I’m enjoying my new job. I’m learning how to code HTML, by removing and sometimes adding HTML tags to Knowledge Base Articles.  I’m also learning the ropes, so to speak, at my job and really enjoying it. So this might work out, we’ll see.

Last week Thursday, I went out to dinner with my folks at one of my favorite local restaurants. It’s a European comfort-food place, and they just have food you can’t find anywhere else in town. Plus the food is incredibly good and you get a lot of it, always enough for two, maybe three meals. I’ve been there twice now and it’s really incredible, so that was a very enjoyable social evening.

So last week was a bit unusual – but a successful week. I need to work on exercising at least two or three times a week. I think it would help with my stress level, too. I also need to get back into the habit of studying for my second A+ test, and to schedule it very, very soon. This weekend if I can get into the websites I need to register. Writing goals are one technical article a week, one movie or TV DVD set article per week, and my regular Agile post. Plus book reviews of books that I read. Once I get through getting my A+, I need to return to keeping up on professional development for technical writing, social media marketing, and learning graphic design (especially for the web).

Agile Update – Year 2 Week 6

Last week I mostly studied like mad for my A+ exam. Or to be precise, the CompTIA 220-801 Exam which is one of two exams you need to become A+ certified. A+ is a very basic computer certification – and, in fact, I passed the certification in 2007, but when I initially looked into the job placement program that led to my current position, they required that my A+ be current, so I had to re-certify. Thus four months of twice-weekly classes, and a lot of effort.

And, I’m proud to say that all the studying paid off, because I took the exam on Monday February 15th, and I passed. And not only did I pass – I passed with flying colors. Yea me!

Also last week, I wrote three blog articles. I wrote my regular, weekly Agile post. I wrote a technical post on Excel basics (the first of three posts for sure), and I reviewed the film, Superman the Movie (the original Superman film with Christopher Reeve). Also, last weekend, between bouts of studying I watched the other two Superman films in the triple-pack that I ordered from Amazon. Both were very good and will be reviewed soon.

So all-and-all, last week was really pretty awesome! I’m glad I passed my test. Next hurdle is to take my second test, which every says is much harder. But I know I have a good study plan. And I have an appointment with my instructor from my class which ended in January, to pick-up additional study materials.

Agile Year 2 – Week 5

Last week was successful – and I’m getting closer to being on a good schedule. I posted three posts to this WordPress blog: my regular weekly Agile post, a tech post on Macros, and a review post for the fifth and final season of The Batman. It feels so good to write on a more regular basis. I also have plans for some new tech posts thanks to my new job. The job is going well, and I’m settling in. I wish I was doing more – but I’m learning to be patient.

I even worked on a tech blog post for Excel, which I’m going to split into two parts. Part 1 will get posted this week, but I’m not sure exactly when.

I also exercised once last week. I tried out a new DVD, AM and PM Yoga for Beginners from Element. The half-hour PM session was very relaxing, and I enjoyed it. It felt good to exercise and I need to fit that into my schedule more often.

I studied four days last week – not bad. My A+ test, part 1, is next week Monday. And I’m in a good place when I look at my study schedule.

And this past Summer and Fall, I was “working” on watching DVDs off my “to be watched” shelf. Well, I was getting close to getting really caught-up. But now, with working, I just received a nice large box from Amazon so the “to be watched” shelf is getting pretty full again. But besides the enjoyment, I also really do, seriously, enjoy reviewing the DVDs I own and posting those reviews here on my blog. Plus there’s some great stuff going on in the DC television universe, which might inspire some future blog posts!

Agile Year 2 – Week 4

It seems like just yesterday I was writing one of these Agile Posts. Oh, wait… I’m determined to try to balance my life a little more. And I do have some accomplishments from last week. So, yes, yesterday I posted my Agile updates for two weeks. I also studied for my A+ exam on two or three days. One thing I’ve run into lately with my schedule being so busy is I’m not remembering to write down my accomplishments.

I’m also working on cleaning up my home office – it had gotten to the point where my desk was buried with papers, receipts, things I needed to fill out, and other things. The side table that I use as a coffee table was also covered and I have a couple of bags of receipts papers and files to go through. The good news is last Monday I bought a new yearly organizer. Sunday I made a good start on my desk – and I got together the paper work for two projects that I simply had to do.

My bills are handled thanks to the new job. But I still need to work on fixing my credit as well as getting a new credit card. It’s a bit of a mess – my debit card number was stolen last Spring. My credit union informed me of the suspicious activity and shut off my card temporarily. That card I was able to replace, at no fee, from the credit union immediately – plus they paid back all the missing money. But since I had no idea how the number was stolen – I called the Major Bank that issued my actual credit card to report it stolen. They wanted to charge me to replace the card. I wasn’t happy with that bank anyway – so I cancelled it. This became a problem when I had to travel for business (job interviews) and for fun (Chicago TARDIS). Ever try to get hotel reservations, car rentals, or heaven forbid air plane tickets without a credit card? (Needless I haven’t flown for the past – well, it’s been more than two years anyway.) So now I get to rebuild. Still it could be worse.

Work is going well. I like my job and the people I work with.

Anyway, I’m determined to get back into good habits – exercise, read, write – and of course study for my A+ exam.

Agile Year 2 – Weeks 2 and 3

It has been over a week – closer to two, or three depending on how you look at it, but my life has been incredibly busy lately. I started my full-time job January 4th, and while I’m very happy to be working and it helps to have money coming in – that’s also 47.5 hours a week that I’m, well, working. Plus, for those first three weeks of January, I still had my A+ training class – which meant two days a week I had a 12-hour day, and I still had to finish the text, do homework, and start studying for the A+ exam.

However, I survived! Not only that – but I passed my final, with an impressive score (not bad for not really studying), and I’ve scheduled my first test for my A+ certification (It’s a two-test cert). And best of all – no more 12-hour days. So, needless to say over the last few weeks – I completely finished reading the text book (all 32 chapters). I also did the chapter reviews for the last three chapters, even though they weren’t “required” for the class – I felt they were a good review and I wanted to be completely done.

My review/study plan includes going through the chapter vocab (it’s a surprisingly effective review, and lead to good test scores on my midterm and final); reviewing the on-line course videos; doing some transcender practice tests, and doing some chapter review tests as I review the chapters – while working full-time. However, I have the text on my tablet, and some of the transcriptions for the video series, plus if I have access to wi-fi I can watch some of the videos even on breaks at work (they are on youTube). So I hope it will be enough. I’m also concentrating on material for the 801 only, at this time – Windows is on the 802. 801 is Hardware, Networking, Printers, and Operational Procedures. Hardware and Networking requires a lot of memorization though, and the only way to do that is to review and practice test, review and practice test, over and over. Printers is my bailiwick (25 years of temping in secretarial and data entry positions – if there’s one thing I know how to do, it’s how to fix a misbehaving printer), though memorizing the exact steps of the laser printing process would be a good idea. Op procedures is the give away – and the only transcender practice test I’ve already passed.

This blog has suffered as I’ve gotten used to my new schedule – but I have several ideas for future entries. It’s all a matter of balance. In the past few weeks, however, I did review the animated movie, Justice League – Gods and Monsters, and last weekend I watched and reviewed Outlander Season 1 Volume 2 (the second half of the season). I’m enjoying Outlander – though I hope next year they just do a complete season set. I also reviewed Twitter Who volume 3 on GoodReads. Twitter Who and Outlander vol. 2 were both “gifts to myself” purchased with my Christmas gift cards.

I fully intend to keep up with this blog, writing technical tips and tricks articles, and reviewing movies and TV-on-DVD, as well as the occasional other article. I’m not as sure about keeping up with specifically using Agile as a motivator though. It helps when I get stuff done, but when I have a couple of weeks of not much progress it’s less of a motivator. I know I need to get in shape and exercise for example, but there’s less time than ever to actually do it. That said, now that my schedule is a bit more normal maybe I can try to schedule myself to do yoga two or even three times a week. I miss it very much – but my class was mid-afternoon, and now I work then.

Agile Update – Year 2 – Week 2

I am now in my second year of using Agile as a personal and professional time management and organization tool. Last week was also my first week at my new job. I’m getting used to my job, the hours, and my co-workers. So far so good. So I had a full 40-hour week last week.

Last week I also had class Tuesday and Thursday night after full days at work both days. Tuesday’s class was difficult but I made it through it. Thursday I was overly tired but I still made it through class. I also got 100% on my final quiz of the class. That was totally awesome – it was my only 100% in the class. I worked on Chapter 29 – the dreaded Security chapter throughout the week, but I managed to get it done and do the chapter review worksheet on Sunday. I even skipped Downton Abbey (I recorded it and will catch-up later, plus the DVD comes out at the end of the month). And yes, I still need to catch-up on Supergirl.

For writing – well, I posted my Agile review for the last week of 2015 – closing that project, though I’d love to get a book out of it. I also reviewed The Batman Season 4. Finally, my third bit of writing for the week was that I reviewed the Star Wars book I, Jedi on GoodReads. See the widget on the lower right of this blog for my review.

The new year has started well. I’m still adjusting to a completely new schedule, but it’s good to be working again. I hope to still write at least three posts a week on this blog, and to start doing Yoga again – I actually miss it.

Agile Update Week 52

I have now been using the Agile project management system for a year. In that time I have learned new things, met new people, accomplished much, written regular blog entries – usually two or three per week, reviewed several books, and even worked to exercise and to try to get in better shape. I have also found and started a new job for 2016, which is a good thing. All of this through a positive program that stresses progress and accomplishments, rather than missed opportunities or goals not met. Agile is also a program that can be used cooperatively and in a true team environment – it’s never competitive. When using it for myself, I was only comparing my own weekly reflections to my weekly vision or goals, with the focus on continual improvement, not “beating myself up” over items not accomplished.

The last week of 2015 went well. I wrote two blog entries, and reviewed two books (a book and a graphic novel) on GoodReads. So that’s four total writing days, which is very good. I did not get the opportunity to do any physical exercise. My Yoga class was off for Christmas and New Year’s weeks, and I really miss it. I won’t be able to go to that particular class, at least in January because of my new work schedule. However, I did buy myself a new Yoga DVD with my Christmas Gift Cards (among other goodies) so I’m hoping to be able to fit in time to exercise at home. I really need it.

I also did well working on my professional development, as I work on completing my A+ Computer Certification.  I read and took notes for chapter 27, and 28 in the A+ book and did the homework review sheets. I only had class on Tuesday (Thursday class was on New Year’s Eve so we didn’t have class) and yet again I bombed a quiz because people were talking during it. I really wish the instructor would stop that. Anyway, I re-took the quiz at home (it’s open book) and received a 90% which was passing. I also did two of the on-line chapter review quizzes which are slightly harder than the chapter reviews that I need to turn in as homework. I always do those quizzes as close book, more to see what I know and/or remember (or can figure out, since they often quiz concepts beyond the text book). Finally, I started reading and taking notes on the next chapter (29), covering computer security. As a study and test prep I managed to finish doing the vocab review for chapter 26 laptops. My plan is to finish reading the book as soon as possible, then study, and the goal is to pass both A+ tests by the end of January and become A+ certified. This will help me with the new job I already have as you need that certification in place to become permanent, with benefits, in an promotion-track position. The position I was hired in for, which I think I will really enjoy is temporary/project based, so it won’t be considered permanent and it is not eligible for benefits. I think that’s too bad, and things may change, but that’s the most recent information that I have.