Mar 142014

YOU’RE ALL JUST JEALOUS OF MY JETPACK | My book of cartoons ‘You’re All Just Jealous of my….

Aug 272013

Last week I talked about an overview of  the registration process and the different phases for the Avaya IP Phone registration process. This week my contribution to the company blog covers the essential information needed to deploy any IP phone. Understanding IP Phone deployment, essential information needed for all deployment scenarios. Part two of a six part series.

Getting started

I start with the assumption that you already know a little bit about the CS1000 architecture and programming– I tried to keep this article to 600-800 words, and even discounting some of the captures I put in the article it still came out to almost double the size. To do a really in depth review of this topic you need a lot more than just a six part series. But, I have plenty of other topics that need attention and while IP Phone deployment is an interesting topic (to me, because of the number of features available compared to those that are implemented in most sites) as a topic, it’s just one of many. Writing white papers is best left to people who have that as a job– amiright?

Unlike completely creative writing, the technical writing comes very easily. The problem with creative writing is always figuring out the answers that you don’t even really understand the questions to– if X happens, how does Y feel about it, how do they react, etc. When a writer gets stuck, often the problem is that either they’re not able to answer the question, or they may not even realize what question they need to answer. But, with technical writing, all you have to be is knowledgeable about your topic and have time to flip through the documentation.

Trimming the fat

But, I removed a lot of in depth detail that I started to slide into the original blog article and instead referenced the documentation. I figure I trimmed at least another 800 words from the article that gave a lot more detail on the use of the Nortel-i2004-A string, as well as a few other B-string mnemonic that I really like when I’m in charge of IP Phone deployment (or tasked with consulting with a customer.)

Trimming takes at least two passes.

Fact checking

Speaking of documentation, it was a challenge getting some of this history straight. I was around during the UNIStim 1.x days (we’re at 5.4 now), but the documentation doesn’t really talk about when features were implemented, changed or removed.

For instance, it wasn’t until 2.2-2.3 that the new Nortel-i2004-B string was introduced, but the latest UNIStim 5.4 documentation doesn’t say when it was introduced. This is important because if you’re on firmware prior to 2.3, you might not be able to support the B string format (I know this is unlikely– but I know of customers that are still on Meridian-1 software that was released before I got into Telecom in 1999.)

In addition to filling in the facts that I could validate through documentation, I also had to make sure that I hadn’t introduced any errors through typos or omissions. Being thorough takes a couple of passes.


Selecting images to fill out a blog is tough for me– I struggle with the artistic creativity required for selecting images that work with the blog post. And, when I cannot find what I’m looking for (and when a google search fails me), I whip something up in Photoshop. You might think that’s creative, but it doesn’t feel that way.

Then, it’s on to getting the text formatting right. Another couple of passes there. Headers are properly coded with the correct H1,H2,H3 tag, words and phrases get the correct bold/underline/italics emphasis. Colored text, when used, can convey information subtly. (e.g., On my company blog articles, I use a dark green bolded text format to represent terms which are universal and not specific to the subject of my blog.)


Then I submit the blog post to the company approval process and if it gets approved, we schedule it for posting.


And thus, Part 2, IP Phone deployment, essential information goes live.


The full series will be:

  • Part 1, IP Phone registration process overviewA review of the basic registration process, the phases, a couple of tips and some hints of topics to come.
  • Part 2, Manual IP deployment, Partial and Full DCHP deployment – the essential information needed for all phone deployment scenarios.
  • Part 3, Full DHCP in more detail – the power of DHCP and auto configuration.
  • Part 4, integrating switch level registration – creating efficiencies in phone registration using LLDP/ADAC.
  • Part 5, Using TFTP provisioning for security and redundancy – advanced IP phone deployment techniques using TFTP provisioning.
  • Part 6, remote worker scenarios, NAT, VPN, Firewalls – advanced networking scenarios.


Jan 132013


I saw an interesting program on the Science channel about Tarot and Psychology. Between the TV spot and the writing that I’ve been doing lately, it rekindled and old interest. Before I tell you the story of what this means today, let me back up a moent and talk about what it meant in the past and how this all ties together…

I have no recollection of when I was first introduced to the idea of Tarot cards. Certainly the idea came from before I turned 12; sometime around the time I learned what a Ouija board was. I was first introduced to the concept of Tarok by Margaret Weis and Tracey Hickman in the book Triumph of the Darksword. The character Simkin uses Tarok to divine the future or as a game of cards. In the Appendix is a section of Tarok Card rules.

Tarok, a card game

Tarok rules are essentially the same as Spades; it’s a trick taking game with a pre-round bid. Instead of the Spades being the trump suit, the Major Arcana are the trump. The part of the rules which are interesting are things like “You must always try to win a hand, playing a higher card of the same suit if possible.” (Meaning that you cannot intentionally lose a round by strategically jettisoning your lower cards.) And “If you have the Fool card, you may always choose to place the Fool in place of any other card you do not wish to play.”

Spades does away with the first rule, because keeping track of 18 tricks and whether you cheated and played a lower card than you should gets tricky. And, without that rule, the special rule about the Fool doesn’t mean as much. Still, the use of tarot cards for both entertainment (via a card game) and divination (which is the role I traditionally knew them in) was fascinating to me in the late 80s.

Later when internet became popular (that’s right, Triumph of the Darksword was out before the internet was used by the masses, back in prehistoric 1988), I looked up Tarok. I remember finding an explanation of the rules which was very similar to what I found in Weis’ & Hickman’s fictional book but my memory could be off and I don’t have a copy of that reference today.

Tarot, for Role Playing Games

It wasn’t until 1997 (as the internet was becoming more popular– and after White Wolf introduced the Mage the Ascension Tarot deck) that the topic came up for me again. Then I started playing around with Microsoft Excel scripts to randomly simulate a Tarot reading. The standard Celtic Cross for Tarot reading is fairly easily to program, but you immediately run into some issues of predictability and unintended repetition.

Why am I simulating a Tarot reading? Because I was playing a Role Playing Game and I wanted to be able to quickly generate Tarot readings, look them up and use them in forming stories and plots for my games. The problem was how to come up with a ten-card-draw with no repetition. This was my initial solution:


Function Tarok(column, row, cardnumber, sd)
    If (cardnumber < 1) Then
        Tarok = 0
    End If
    If (cardnumber > 10) Then
        Tarok = 0
    End If
    Randomize sd
        X = Int((78 * rnd) + 1)
        cnt = cardnumber
        Do While ((X > 0) And (cnt < 0))
            cnt = cnt - 1
            lkup = row - cnt
            If ((X > 0) And (cnt > 0) And (row > cnt)) Then
                checkvalue = ActiveSheet.Cells(lkup, column).Value
                If (checkvalue = X) Then
                    X = 0
                End If
            End If
    Loop Until (X > 0)
    Tarok = X
End Function

Then, you need a function that will lookup the cards, from 1-78.

Function CardName(number)
    number = number - 1
    If (number = 0) Then
        CardName = "0 - THE FOOL"
    End If
    If (number = 1) Then
        CardName = "I - THE MAGICIAN"
    End If
    If (number = 2) Then
        CardName = "II - THE HIGH PRIESTESS"
    End If
/* And so forth */
End Function


In Cell A1, +TAROK(X,Y,N,RAND()*78)

Where X is the current column number (1), Y is the row number (1), N is the card number (1). Repeat from A2 to A10, incrementing Y and N by one for each row.

In Cell B1, +CardName(C)

Where C is the cell reference (A1). Repeat from A2 to A10, changing the C as appropriate (A2 … A10)

Then you just need a column for whether or not the card is reversed;

In Cell C1, +IF((RAND()*100)<50,””,”Reversed”)

Reading the Tarot, a comparison

According to the Mage Tarot book, Designs of Destiny, the deck is interpreted accordingly (not standard Celtic Cross, it would seem, but similar):

  1. An initial card, called the Querant card, can be selected by the seeker. This card is not read as part of the Mage Tarot, but instead represents the seeker who is the subject of the question asked of the Tarot cards.
    The Initial card is placed atop the querant card and represents the immediate forces at work in relation to the question. (Different from the Celtic Cross in that the Initial and Querant Cards are the same; whereas Mage Tarot uses two cards, one which is selected by the Querant, the second which is drawn randomly from the top of the deck after shuffling.)
  2. Second card is laid across the first to form a cross and represents the conflict contained within the question.
  3. Third card is set below the cross and represents the short term past. (Different from the Celtic Cross; it says the Third card is placed above the cross and represents the future hope.)
  4. Fourth card is set above the cross and represents the immediate future. (Different from the Celtic Cross; it says the Fourth card is placed below the cross and represents previous experience.)
  5. Fifth card is set to the right of the cross and represents the past. (Different from the Celtic Cross only in placement; the Celtic Cross places this card to the left.)
  6. Sixth card is set to the left of the cross and represents the long term future. (Different from the Celtic Cross only in placement; the Celtic Cross places this card to the right.)
  7. Seventh card is set to the right of the cross forming a staff of four cards with the 7th card at the bottom. In Mage Tarot the seventh card represents inner concerns; whereas in Celtic Cross the seventh card represents attitude towards the query.
  8. Eighth card is set above the seventh. In Mage Tarot the eighth card represents outside influences; whereas in the Celtic Cross the card represents the influence of family or friends.
  9. Nineth card is set above the eighth and represents hopes and ideals (e.g., what the querant wants) in both Mage Tarot and the Celtic Cross.
  10. Tenth card is set above the nineth and represents the conclusion of the question (e.g., the culmination card, representing the outcome to the query) in both Mage Tarot and the Celtic Cross.

As you can see, with the Mage Tarot, one card is chosen by the seeker and removed from the deck. As a result, this card cannot be drawn during a reading. Much of rest of the process of reading is identical to the Celtic Cross formula found on Wikipedia, although some cards are located in different places. I imagine that so long as the 10 cards are played to represent the various card categories (as defined by their position; which might also be subject to change), you largely get the same effect. But more on that in the next section…

Reason for resurgence

I recently saw a Through the Wormhole Episode on SciHD (Science channel, high def) in which Tarot and Psychology are used in an interesting study. @2:56 in the Youtube clip, there is the following quote:

Our brains connect things. They just do it naturally. So, when you draw the cards, your brain will still– just jump right in and start saying “oh, I am having trouble with that”, “oh, that is is a challenge”, “oh, maybe I am overlooking this.” It’s like magic. Your brain will just start to make a story for you.

So, even though I don’t believe they are doing anything; even though I see them as just sort of a random collection of various symbols and meanings– it’s still really fun to watch my brain knit things together for me.

This quote, from a psychologist who formulated the psychology study, pretty much summerizes my entire opinion about Tarot cards. I have never, not once, believed that Tarot cards were ever responsible for “divinations.” I believed that, at best, they were prompts that helped the mind create the story. At worst, I thought it part of a scam. The half-dozen times I’d had my tarot read provided me with wildly varying results: Everything from “I can see the applicability if I strain” to “Crack house; here we come.” The one thing that was consistant in the readings that were even remotely accurate was my participation. The more I participated in the reading, the more the resulting story had meaning to me. This only furthered my opinion that Tarot was little more than a scam, and at most cooperative story telling.

And that’s what I used Tarot for in the late 90s. The Role Playing Game I was playing at the time lent itself to Tarot and I picked up a deck of the themed Tarot cards to add some flavor to my games. I ended up generating an Excel script that would help me mass produce tarot readings for the purposes of attaching them to NPC (non-player character) sheets to help flesh out NPC personalities. (There is actually a simpler method, but I liked creating complex characters.) Or as part of what was called “Rites of Passage” which was something each character must go through in order to develop.

Which leads me to present day: I’ve been writing in a fictional world of my own making and occasionally I struggle with fleshing out a character in my story (especially if the character is a minor, supporting and/or incidental character.) It occurred to me that I could reuse some of the ideas in my Tarot Excel program to formulate an “NPC Generator.”

Admittedly, the one thing about Tarot is that to build a complex character, you need a lot of information:

  • Name,
  • Ambition (abstract goal of character during the story); Story goal (concrete goal of the character during the story); Conflict (what prevents them from reaching their story goal); Epiphany (how does the character change during the story while in pursuit of their goal);
  • Personality (what motivates them? what is their instinctive response to adversity? what is their approach to adversity when given time to think? what constriction makes them vulnerable? what gives them confidence or when are they most confident? what do they value most?)
  • Physical description; Habits; Mannersisms; Occupation; Family; Age

There are lots of ways of creating an archetype from which to base a character:

The intersting thing about the Keirsey Temperament chart is that each “role” is a positive interpretation of an archetype. Along these lines, Linda Edelstein wrote a book “Writer’s Guide to Character Traits” which provides a number of positive and negative interpretations of Keirsey Temperament type traits (Way more than just the 16 positive archetype interpretations).

The one thing I like about the Myers-Briggs typing is that there have been studies done on the distribution of personality types within the US– which allows me to estimate if I’m inserting too many INFJs (1-3% of the US population, in 2010) into the story.

Favorite Resource

Which leads me to a little plug for a favorite writing resource. (I have this thing printed and tacked to my wall for when I’m writing.)

Peter Halasz’s excellent two page PDF for writer’s is absolutely brilliant!

Apr 282012

Writer Beware ® Blogs!: The DOJ’s Ebook Price Fixing Lawsuit Against Apple and the “Agency Five”: An Overview.

What’s most amazing about this article is the fact that Amazon, who continues to display anti-trust behavior towards traditional book publishers, is not named or under scrutiny with regards to its practices… but Apple and the “Agency Five” are sued for forcing Amazon to accept a new pricing model?


Feb 272012

Word Choice

In most modern writing, the character will be a viewpoint character who’s actually part in the scene. However, the principle still applies in stories told from a viewpoint outside the story (e.g. the famed third-person omniscient narrator). Even a disembodied anonymous narrator has a persona, revealed by what details are presented. You get a sense of the narrator by where (s)he “aims the camera” and what words the narrator chooses to use.


Let me point out something else important about the descriptions I’ve quoted. Effie gets two sentences; Miss Wonderly gets two paragraphs. That’s an example of what I call wordspace. Here’s my rule of thumb: The more important something is, the more words it should be given so that it registers in the reader’s mind with appropriate strength.

Pacing, Not Padding

Devoting more words to something important isn’t padding, it’s pacing: building up something so that it doesn’t go by too quickly. Readers need time to absorb and appreciate what’s going on; otherwise, they don’t have a sense of the relative importance of your story’s elements (e.g. Miss Wonderly is much more important than Effie).

Of course, there can be exceptions. Sometimes you may want to brush quickly past something important so the reader doesn’t pay much attention. This is common in mystery stories, where crucial clues may be downplayed in order to sneak under the reader’s radar. Sometimes too you may choose to hit the reader with a passage that’s short and brutal rather than drawn out: you smack the reader’s mind with a hard sharp impact.

Still, most of your writing will follow the general principle: more words, more importance; few words, more forgettable. It’s comparable to the use of slow-motion in movies—when the hero finally punches out the villain, you don’t just let the punch fly past at full speed, over and done with in a fraction of a second. You slow it down; you show the impact and the villain being knocked backward; maybe you show it several times from several different angles. You show that this punch is The One that every other punch was leading up to. To do that, you have to give it enough time to happen.

via The Skill List Project: Word Choice and Wordspace at SF Novelists.

Feb 242012

My wife asked me to help her understand a question on a questionnaire she had to fill out. The question reads: “Name two methods in which patients are encouraged to communicate concerns about safety.”

I decided to try my hand at sentence diagramming (using the Reed-Kellogg system).

I’ve never diagrammed a sentence before, so I’m going to talk about how I did it. If I’m wrong, hopefully someone will correct me. If I’m right, hopefully it helps one of my readers.

  1. So I started with the sentence:
    “Name two methods in which patients are encouraged to communicate concerns about safety.”
  2. Looking at this sentence, it occurs to me that the instructive verb is “Name” and the object is “methods”. I briefly toyed with the notion that “to communicate” was the verb, but I discarded that when I considered what “Name” would be if “to communicate” became the verb.
  3. Then I tried to evaluate what methods were desired. The crux of the question is whether the methods are ways that patients “are encouraged” or methods “to communicate”. For that determines where “to communicate” hangs from. I went with the interpretation that the “in which patients are encourage” was an unpunctuated commathetical.
    “Name two methods, in which patients are encouraged, to communicate concerns about safety.”
    This makes the sentence:
    “Name two methods to communicate concerns about safety.”
  4. Every verb, noun or pornoun gets a horizontal bar. Every adjective and preposition gets a diagnal bar. (Conjuctions, Subjects aren’t shown here, so we’ll skip over how they’re handled.)

This is what I ended up with.

Needless to say, the sentence drags like a barge.

Feb 202012

Just to be cruel, I toted up the word count in your first eight sentences:


Before you get hot under the collar about this, let me just tell you that I learned about counting words in sentences from a guy who is damn fine writer: T. Jefferson Parker. He’s got a couple of Edgar Awards that show I’m not the only one who thinks so.

Jeff Parker once told me that he counted sentences in paragraphs and words in sentences as a way to increase tension. At the climax, the sentences and the paragraphs got shorter; the words fewer. In other words: short crisp sentences are more energetic and keep the reader moving along at that rapid clip you want to claim.

via Query Shark: #220.

I never understand why providing an education is cruel, especially when the people who submit queries to the Query Shark are looking for just that… but… let’s leave that topic aside.

T. Jefferson Parker’s advice is useful for those who want to evaluate the rules of prose construction: Count the words in your sentence to increase tension. As your story comes closer to the climax, shorten the sentences. Short crisp sentences are energetic and keep the reader moving along at a rapid clip.

Feb 162012

via Fiction Writing Signs Your Short Story Wants to Be a Novel.

  1. Is your novel idea truly novel? (self explanatory)
  2. The short story simply is too long : Have you exceeded ten thousand words and it still feels incomplete?
  3. Too many characters are needed to tell the story : Can you not tell the story from a single POV?
  4. The theme, or themes, have not been fully developed.
  5. The story encompasses too long a time frame.
  6. One of your readers has pointed out that this could be a novel.
  7. You don’t want to stop working on it.