“If you hold a cat by the tail you learn things you cannot learn any other way.” – Mark Twain
In times past, when you wanted to learn a skill you would seek out someone with experience to teach you. You would spend time apprenticing with that person, learning from both their knowledge and as importantly from their experience. You would learn not only why a thing doesn’t work, but also what the consequences of ignoring that knowledge would be. Eventually you would have learned enough to move on, practice your craft, and continue to learn and develop your own skills until, one day, you would pass your knowledge on to someone new. And so the cycle would continue.
We do not see that same style of apprenticeship very often these days, and while there can be relatively little doubt that we have much more access to quality information and learning materials than at any point in human history, something has been lost. You can buy 20 books on your favorite subject, and presumably learn the material contained therein, but you would still be missing the glue that holds it all together: experience. Without experience, you become what my grandfather would have called “book smart, but with no common-sense.”
Why? Because most books are focused on imparting a skill. They cover the thing itself: the how, the why, the history perhaps, but typically nothing more. Experience typically has to be learned first-hand: by screwing it up yourself, or by watching someone else screw it up. You have to “hold a cat by the tail” in order to fully learn and appreciate the consequences.
On these pages, in this blog, I hope to help contribute at least a little bit to the experience factor in your learning about computer networks. I am still on a journey myself, working towards my Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert (CCIE) certification, and I also work as the IT Director and Senior Network Engineer for a multi-national corporation. I have 17 years of professional experience in computer programming, networking, and windows and Unix system administration.
Why do I think what I have to say could be valuable? Because with all of my experience, and all of my current studies, I still screw up on an alarmingly regular basis. I experience all manner of self-inflicted pain, and a fair amount of random “character building” equipment failures. When these things happen, I don’t shy away from the aftermath; I aim to write about it. I aim to share my experience with you in order to contribute to the knowledge pool in whatever way I can.
I will also share tips and tricks as I find them, configurations I use in my own CCIE studies, and anything else that I think someone besides me might benefit from knowing. You can also expect the occasional half-delusional rant or screed on a variety of topics. And now, back to grabbing the proverbial cat by the tail.