Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.

12/29/2006

New Year’s Resolution Generator

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Personal,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:48 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Recycling old fun links.

Last year, two pretty ladies I knew on-line were having a rough time of it, so, to make them smile, I programmed up the New Year’s Resolution Generator. I based it, in part, on some ideas from the Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Holidays, but I have to admit, I threw in some of my own warped sense of humor. And, I weighted things a little more toward heavier drinking and looser morals. Hey, a guy can dream!

In any case, it was apparently funny enough that Comedy Central Insider linked it in their blog. Which is pretty cool, no matter how you slice it.
So, even though I’m travelling on last minute family business, you can still whip up a wacky New Year’s Resolution while I’m gone. Hope you all have a better day than I expect to!

12/28/2006

Family Emergency

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Deep Thoughts,Dog and Pony Shows,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is in the late afternoon or 5:40 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

So, you may have noticed that I haven’t posted anything since before Christmas.

Well, there’s a reason. I had actually planned to post something Christmas Day, but, well, I sort of lost heart. You see, my uncle, my father’s older brother, past away Christmas Eve. I got the call first thing Monday, Christmas Morning. It sort of put a damper on all the other stuff going on. I’ll be flying home tomorrow, thanks to very generous bereavement rates, for the funeral. The vet was all booked up, but I got a friend to let the dog out and make sure she’s got food and water, not that I expect her to really eat while I’m away. She’s funny like that.

It’s depressing, of course, to go to funerals. Though, mainly, funerals don’t bother me. I’m much more put off by mourners. I’m a little socially awkward to begin with and nothing’s quite so awkward as either trying to comfort someone who’s just lost their spouse or parent. At least, to me.
You see, I grew up with the idea of death. We talked about it at the dinner table. My grandmother, my father’s mother, lived with us from the time I can remember until she died, which was when I was still in college. She was quite comfortable talking about funeral arrangements for herself and all the related details. My father was one of the people with the AMA who coordinated the case work that went into the now famous On Death and Dying by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. It’s not talked about much these days, but most of her raw data came from hospital chaplains and, apparently, that was something my father was involved with back then. One of my earliest memories is being told not to hang on the edge of the casket when I was trying to see my Great-Great-Grandpa Grosh, who died at the age of 99, when I was just a little, little kid. So, death in and of itself doesn’t bother me much at all. It’s just a part of life.
But, all the other stuff that goes along with death gets to me.

And, I have to admit, it occurred to me that, one day, perhaps soon, I’d be making a similar trip to bury one or both of my parents. That idea did not sit well with me at all. Apparently, even with all the childhood hours spent in and around funeral parlors and hospitals, I had managed to repress the idea that they’d be suffling off this mortal coil eventually.  This, though, brought it all home.  And, it makes my father the eldest living Hoffman.

In any case, that’s where I’ll be Friday and through New Year’s Eve.  Well, actually, I’ll be flying back into Houston New Year’s Eve, but I’m quite sure I won’t be celebrating at all.  Then, after things settle down a bit, I’ll get in touch with the girl from Match.com with whom I broke a date Tuesday because, frankly, with all this, I wasn’t going to be very good company.  She was sweet, though, and I look forward to meeting her in person, eventually.  Since she was born in China, I suspect I’ll be getting to know some new haunts with her, especially in our Chinatown.  Hey, I didn’t even know that Houston had a Chinatown!

Oh, and another bit of good news: The groom with cold feet, J., who will be watching my dog, has been talking to L., his once and future fiance.  And, she’s already taken the ring back.  They’re going slower this time, though, which I think is probably a good thing for both of them.  Still, I’m very happy that these two are back together.  Crazy as they both might be sometimes, they’re still perfect for each other.

Well, I’ll queue a Friday Fun Link post, but I won’t be active on-line until I get back Sunday night.  Enjoy the weekend.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"We cannot be sure that we have something worth living for unless we are ready to die for it."
   --Eric Hoffer

12/22/2006

Obligitory Pre-Christmas Fun Links

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

What, you thought I’d do something else today?

Naturally, with Christmas just around the corner, I’ve got a couple last minute Christmas ideas for you.  First, there’s the eWeek IT Stocking Stuffer Guide.  To be fair, not every computer geek is into all the stuff on this list, but, still, you’re more likely to get a hit than not.  Mainly, as long as you stay away from the 10 Most Dangerous Toys of All Time, you should be okay, but, well, even some of those are cool for the danger factor involved.  (And the nostalgia factor, since I actually had some of those toys as a kid!)

But, if all the gift-giving has broken your Christmas spirit, read Bill Murray’s Dinner with Santa Claus.   It’s sure to bring a smile to your face, which, if you’re trying to survive your First Holiday in a new relationship, can be important!
And, if all else fails, there is actually proof that drinking, in moderation, is healthy for you.  So, drink up a little Christmas cheer, and have a great one!  Christmas, that is.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"A day hemmed in prayer is less likely to unravel."

12/20/2006

“Lunch…”

Filed under: Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is in the late afternoon or 5:02 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

“…is just lunch.”

Sigmund Freud is famously quoted as having told a reporter that “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”, when questioned about his oral fixation. I’m not sure that anyone believed that, either.
So, my chief concern about C. at work has played out. The sharks have gotten a taste of blood in the water. She’s been asked out to a limited invitation Christmas party at work. A party to which I am not invited, but which is tonight, so this is all very last minute. The rumor mill reported that bit of information to me by starting off with the introductory statement, “Man, everyone is trying to get into C.’s pants.” That was followed with a brief description of the invite, which was, naturally, accepted.
As I was on my way out to lunch, it was quiet enough at her desk that I stopped and told her that I’d heard she was a “popular girl”. Her eyes got wide and the most charming blush rose to her cheeks as she asked me what I’d heard. I told her the essence of it, but left out the somewhat off-color remarks. Interestingly enough, her blush deepened and she felt the need to explain to me.

“Remember, lunch is just lunch,” she said.
“Yes, I know, but not everyone sees it that way,” I replied.
“Well, you know my situation…”
“Yes. Yes, I do. I’m just saying.” It’s hard to describe the look she gave me there. It’s not that she was asking if it was okay or if my feelings were hurt or anything quite like that, but it did seem important to her that I understand her intent. I’m still not quite sure what to make of it, honestly. I think I’m flattered, but I’m a little confused. “But, now you see why I was being so careful not to feed the rumor mill.”

She didn’t really respond to that, but I think a small sigh managed to leak out. Interestingly enough, later in the day C. was walking by my office and actually came back to silently mouth to me that she wasn’t going after all.  Then, she was off again before I could find out why.  And, of course, work isn’t the best place to talk about that anyway.  The problem is, it’s a small company and word travels fast. Worse, it’s a small company made up primarily of men, many of whom aren’t even as evolved as I am, which ought to give you some idea of just how much testosterone poisoning there is. So, when an attractive, young woman shows up, well, let’s just say that the behavior changes are quite noticeable.

The sad thing is C. is far more than just a pretty face. She’s very sweet and very concerned about the people around her. She’s also, I think, pretty perceptive. Certainly, she’s a lot smarter than she gives herself credit for being. She’s certainly a very sensitive person who’s very aware of the feelings of people around her. She’s a good mother, too, from what I hear. She’s always very concerned about her children. In fact, I wonder how many of the sharks at work understand that getting involved with her means getting involved with her kids and ex-husband. At least, if any guy plans to stick around long enough to have a real relationship with her that’s what it would include.

Look, don’t misunderstand, she is a pretty girl and I’m sure if we “hooked up” the heavens would sing and angels would weep and all that, but… But, let’s face it, I’m of an age when I really should be looking for something more than that. I could, theoretically, cruise bars or bookstores or whatever for a weekend’s worth of physical diversion, but how empty and soul-crushing would that be? I just wish I could figure out how to get her talking about herself in a safe way, away from work. C. is absolutely fascinating to me. No matter how hard I try to ignore that, I feel drawn back to her like iron filings to a magnet. And, honestly, it’s been a while since I’ve really felt that way.
All of which frightens me a bit.

You know, it’s hard being a cynic who’s also a closet romantic.
Now, I’m sure this will make LK less than happy when she reads it, but, then she took off at a dead run for Denver and only told me afterward and life goes on. Anyway, I’m really into this woman and I’d rather not mess it up before it even gets started. I rarely ask my blog readers for help in my personal life, but, these are extenuating circumstances.
So, ladies, any advice about what to do, or not do, so I don’t blow this?

12/19/2006

Personal Kryptonite

Filed under: Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Pig which is late at night or 11:05 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a New Moon

Uh-oh…

The new receptionist, C., has found my personal kryptonite: short, plaid skirts.
I’m the “phone guy” at our office, as well as the “computer guy”. Basically, anything that has an LCD display, or larger, on it is my responsibility. C. has been after a headset for her phone since we changed to the new system. I got her a wireless headset, which arrived yesterday. The instructions said to let it charge over night, so we did and this morning, she called me to see if we could get it working. So, I found myself standing next to her, trying to ignore how nice her hair smelled, when I saw plaid in my peripheral vision.

I’m sure the skirt was meant to be “Christmasy”, since it was done in bright, Christmas colors. And, I’m sure she had no idea how she was effecting the men in the office. (Hey, let’s face it, I’m not the only guy in the world who has a thing for short, plaid skirts!) In any case, I noticed the skirt, shortly after I noticed the auburn highlights in her hair, and, immediately, my marriage training kicked in. I instantly focused on her eyes. I think in time to keep from getting caught, but those female types are inscruitable, so I’m not absolutely sure. From then on, there was a little voice in the back of my head that kept screaming “Look her in the eye! For Christ’s sake, look her in the eye, man!” I think I covered any skirt/leg oogleing well enough with a string of small, situational jokes. At least, she was laughing at all the right lines, so, it seemed good.

Oh, and that whole “not just another pretty face” thing was reinforced when she recognized that the symbol on my golf shirt was not a “sideways eight”, but, in fact, an infinity symbol. Great legs and a well-rounded cerebellum. Yep, it’s hard to not be attracted to this one.
Hmm, I wonder if she likes Black Watch plaid…..

12/18/2006

What a Weekend!

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Hoffman's Home for Wayward Boys,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Pig which is in the late evening or 10:19 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Thankfully, the chaos belongs to other people for a change.

So, my buddy, J., got his ring back yesterday morning. We have him on, more or less, suicide watch. I’m not sure how many nights he’s going to be hanging at Hoffman’s Home for Wayward Boys, and he may not spend the entire night, but I’m sure he’ll be over more than once between now and Christmas.
Here’s how it went down….

Saturday night, J. stayed home from church because he wasn’t feeling well. And, in fact, we talked earlier in the afternoon about that and how the anitbiotics were draining him and making him feel even more depressed than normal. We also talked about getting fitted for tuxedos next weekend, in preparation for the wedding and as a show of good faith to L., J.’s fiance, that he was committed to the wedding. So, when he didn’t show at church, I didn’t think much of it, but I also noticed that L. wasn’t at church either, which was a bit worrying, considering the tender state of affairs with the wedding and their relationship. Ironically, I ended up sitting with J.’s last ex-fiance, who’s been through her own wedding announcement only to have it called off for reasons unknown to the general public. I have my own speculations on that, but nothing concrete. She was having a rough evening, too, but I managed to coax a smile out of her.

I may not have many talents when it comes to the opposite sex, but making them laugh seems to be chief amongst the ones I do seem to manage.

In any case, after church was over, I called over to see what J. was doing for dinner and he let me know that L. was over and they’d just had dinner. By then, I was outside in the parking lot and realized that I didn’t really feel like going to dinner with anyone, so I zipped home and indulged in a little Mickey D’s along the way. And, to be honest, at this point, I figured things were pretty well on an even keel with the two of them and the wedding and all. No worries, right?

Not quite.
I usually sleep late on Sunday, having been to church the night before. But yesterday, I got a call a little before 8:00am that woke me. I’m sure J. had been staring at the phone, waiting until it was a “decent hour” to call for some time before that. He tells me he’s still depressed and afraid to get married. He tells me that L. has suggested that he look at some other unresolved issues that might be causing his depression and the implication is that he’s still got cold feet about the wedding. He tells me that he thinks all the doubt is telling him not to get married yet and that he doesn’t love, really love, L. He tells me that she’s on her way over to “talk” and, probably, give the ring back.
He asked if I’d stay with him on the phone until she got there. Naturally, I just kept talking with him while I let the dog out, got a cup of coffee and pulled on a robe. When she arrived, J. told me he’d call after they were done.

That turn of phrase ended up being a little more prophetic than one would suppose.
They do, indeed, seem to be done. After a several hour “talk”, wherein she actually sung his praises, the poor bastard, she returned the ring. Sadly, because she adored him so much, now, the possibility of them remaining friends is, well, not very good at all. Seeing him that way would be too painful for her. Just like J. seeing K. when she made the announcement about her engagement, even though that, too, has been called off.
The really heart-breaking thing for me, however, was when J. sobbed into the phone that he might have just made the biggest mistake of his life, that maybe he did actually love her after all. I’m fairly certain that all I could muster was “Aw, dude…” What can I say in the face of that sharp a personal tragedy? Not content to ride it out, he’d done the worst thing and made a decision. A decision he’s not happy with having made. At least I had the presence of mind not to tell him that he really “screwed the pooch” on this one.
Besides, I’ve mellowed with age.

Now, I’m sure a part of him was thinking he could do better, but, really, I don’t think he could have.  She isn’t the thinest, tiny-waisted thing, but her curves looked just fine.  And, she was patient enough to have gone through this for more than two months, back and forth, which is more than anyone should have to endure.  She’s also smart as a whip and was as caring and solicitous of his friends (ie. me) as a guy could ask for.  But, now, she’s gone.  Poor guy.  I suppose only time will tell if this is a permanent thing or not, but, frankly, I don’t think he can crawl long enough, or low enough, to get her back at this point.

It’s going to be a long week for both of them.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"A great deal of good can be done in the world if one is not too careful who gets the credit."
   --Jesuit Motto

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12/15/2006

Crazy Christmas Links

Filed under: Art,Fun,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:34 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

I’ve got the spirit.

The spirit of Christmas, that is!
Hey, look for the first time in three years, I actually put up a  tree.  And I live alone, so there’s no one to see it.  Well, no one but the girls at work who saw it on my cellphone and cooed.  Okay, so now you know the real reason I put up the tree, but still…

Well, in keeping with the speedily approaching holiday, I’ve got some toy and Christmas related links for you.
First, there’s a virtual Advent Calendar.  Each day links to a Christmas memory and a link to something fun.  For instance, the second day had a “paint your own Christmas tree” web thing.  Kind of cool.
Next, I have a link to a BoingBoing article about an illustrator from Popular Science magazine who makes the most incredible Rube Goldberg Christmas cards you’ve ever seen.  Really, you have to look at these and wonder.
Now, when Christmas is over, you have all kinds of boxes laying around, right?  Well, don’t throw them out!  Instead, use carboard rivets to make them into something cool to play with!
If you’re looking for a great stocking stuffer for geeks, try the Christmas Stocking USB drive.  Yeah, it’s kind of specialized, but, hey, it is a USB drive they can enjoy all year long.
But, for my money?  The coolest thing  I’ve seen all year is the Custom Action Figure.  Yes, this is not just a web toy.  You can design and actually purchase the GI Joe-sized action figure you design.  And, considering the customization factor, the prices are damned reasonable.

So, now you have a way to waste a little time with just 8 shopping days until Christmas.  How much work were you planning to do this week anyway?

12/13/2006

Review: The Stupidest Angel

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Personal,Review,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:02 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

I finished The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore this week.

I’d been trying to slog my way through A Practical Guide to Buddhist Meditation, but with my work schedule and the holidays and all, I just couldn’t get into it. I mean, I’m sure it would have been good for me to start meditating again, but I haven’t done that since college and there are reasons. Mainly, I have no time. I pray and use prayer beads and that’s enough meditation-like behavior for me and my schedule. Besides, I was getting depressed with all my friends either being married or getting married or at least in a serious relationship, so I figured a little literary “pick-me-up” was in order.

In that regard, The Stupidest Angel; A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror was just the thing. Yes, you read that second title right. It wasn’t just a Christmas story, it was also a zombie story. Only Christopher Moore could write something like that and pull it off. The story is set in Pine Cove, which is where a number of Moore’s earlier books were set, and involves a collection of characters from several of his novels. It starts simply enough with some introductions and stage setting for those not familiar with Pine Cove or all of Moore’s other works, then, with an accidental murder, the real story begins. Things get interesting when Raziel, one of the rather more important angels, shows up to work the annual Christmas Miracle that, apparently, has been a gift to mankind every year since the birth of the Christ child. The only problem is, Raziel isn’t the smartest angel and he doesn’t really quite understand our Earth. So, when he decides to grant the Christmas wish of a nice boy who witnessed the accidental murder of a man dressed like Santa Claus, as you might imagine, things go awry. The result is, indeed, a heart-warming tale of Christmas terror, which, incidentally, is a rather odd journey through the Christmas spirit, love, giving, forgiving and belief that only Christopher Moore could lead a reader through successfully. And, as always, Moore’s wit, charm and turn of phrase brought a smile to my face, so, “mission accomplished”.

If you’ve never read one of Moore’s books, The Stupidest Angel is probably not the best place to start. I’d reccomend either Lamb or Practical Demonkeeping as a starting point, but, after that, it doesn’t matter quite so much where you go. Though, I have to admit, reading them in more or less the order of publication keeps you up on all the “in” jokes and cross-references that might otherwise be missed.
In short, I love Christopher Moore’s writing and The Stupidest Angel was no exception.

12/12/2006

Getting Older

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is in the late afternoon or 5:33 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

I’m 38 today.

Time marches on, with or without our consent, and so, much to my surprise, I find that I’ve survived another year. I think of my birthday as, well, just another day. It’s not like I’m suddenly a year older over night, after all. If I seem older this year, it’s due mainly to over-work and a head cold that decided to move South into my chest. Oh, I suppose my hair is a little grayer than it was last year and the eyes that meet mine in the mirror seem, perhaps, a little more world-weary, but, otherwise, I’m mostly the same as I’ve always been. I plan a low-key evening of bill-paying and an early bed-time, sleep having become the ultimate luxury in my life. I will, however, enjoy a glass of Cask Strength Macallan, as I did last year, before slipping off to the Land of Nod.

Historically, this has been an interesting day, the anniversary of my birth not withstanding. For instance, I share a birthday with such varied luminaries as Frank “Chairman of the Board” Sinatra, Bob Barker, Gustave Flaubert, author of Madame Bovary, Edvard Munch, and Wells Fargo founder, Henry Wells. Not to mention, Mike Pinder of the Moody Blues, Tim Hauser of Manhattan Transfer, Dickey Betts of the Allman Bros, jazz musician Grover Washington Jr, and former mayor of New York City, Ed Koch.
Also, it was on this day, in 1901, that Italian physicist and radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi succeeded in sending the first radio transmission across the Atlantic Ocean. But, that’s not all! My birthday is also when, in 1925, Arthur Heinman coined term “motel”, and opened Motel Inn in San Luis Obispo, California. On this day, in 1964, shooting started for the “Star Trek” pilot, The Cage (which was later reused in Menagerie).
A year before I was born, in 1967, the US launched Pioneer 8 into solar orbit. And, on the actual day of my birth, in 1968, the US performed its first nuclear test at the Nevada Test Site. So, obviously, my birthday was, indeed, earth-shattering.

As I figured last year, it was, in fact, an interesting trip again. Try as I might to lead as boring a life as possible, the Universe sees fit to liven things up for me. Well, this year was a little quieter than last, at least in the legal arena, even if it was a little light in the relationship end of things. I still have no idea what the next year will bring, but, as per usual, I’m sure it will be something other than I expect! Remember what your Uncle Jim says, kids, after twenty-one, every year you survive is a victory, no matter how small it may seem at the time.
I’ve survived one more lap around the sun.
How many more before the race is done?


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"The moon does not think to reflect in the water, nor does the water think to reflect the moon."

12/9/2006

Mouse Demo

Filed under: Apple,Deep Thoughts,Fun,GUI Center,Linux,MicroSoft,News and Current Events,Ooo, shiny... — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:48 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

It’s not quite the “birthday” of the mouse, but…

Today is the 38th anniversary of the first time a mouse made its commercial debut. That’s right, the mouse, that marvel of modern technology that most of us use daily is just a little older than I am. Invented by Douglas C. Engelbart and the group of 17 researchers working with him in the Augmentation Research Center at Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, CA, the original mouse was little more than a square, wooden box, but the little device would change the world.  Engelbart showed how the mouse could let a user jump from text on one part of the screen randomly to another section without having to scroll through the text inbetween.  Doesn’t sound too revolutionary to us today, does it?  But, think about how you navigated to this page to read this little blurb, then try to imagine doing it without a mouse.

So, happy demo day, little guy.  Thanks for giving me a job and us a way to waste time at work.

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