Diary of a Network Geek

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

10/31/2008

Brain Hemorrhage Anyone?

Filed under: Art,By Bread Alone,Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:07 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent


Brain Hemorrhage Anyone?

Originally uploaded by TangoPango

Looking for some last minute ideas for your Halloween party?

Why not try some really nasty looking cocktails?
Tonight is Halloween, but it’s not too late to whip up a bit of last minute fun for the grown-ups. Well, the mostly grown-ups.
The drink pictured is called the Brain Hemorrhage and, as noted, the picture was taken by TangoPango. It’s just one of many gruesome-looking, but tasty-sounding, horror-themed drinks you can find via Dabbled. (I found them via BoingBoing who apparently found them via Craft.)

I hope you’ve enjoyed my Halloween themed Friday Fun links this month. Keep coming back for more strange stuff on Fridays.
Boo.

10/30/2008

Patron Saint of Hopeless Causes

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Deep Thoughts,Life Goals,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:48 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent


StJude-withoutFlash

Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I do not believe in saints.

I don’t, really. I don’t believe that burning a candle to Saint Jude made any difference whatsoever in my divorce when I thought I was going to lose my house, my dog, and everything that really mattered to me. But, I did it. In fact, I did it a lot. I think I have five or six of these Saint Jude candles around and I used to light them all and recite the prayer on the back of each candle as I lit them.

Prayer to Saint Jude
Most holy apostle, St. Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, patron of hopeless causes of things almost despaired of, pray for me. I am so helpless and alone. Make use, I implore you, of that particular privilege given to you to bring visible and speedy help where help is almost despaired of. I promise to be ever mindful of this great favor, to always honor you as my special and powerful patron. Amen!

Well, even though things turned out well there, I’m sure the Saint Jude candles had nothing to do with it. I’m sure. So, why bring it up? Well, funny you should ask….

As with most of my hopeless causes, it starts with a girl. Well, a woman, but when it’s a boy pining over her, they’re always girls. Do we ever progress beyond Junior High?
So, yeah, a girl. To say that she doesn’t know I’m alive would be too harsh, but I’m quite certain I’m not on her radar, so to speak. I’m forty and she’s, well, younger. I walk about a mile and a half four times a week, and I’ve been told she runs six miles virtually every day. I make her laugh until her sides ache. But, a friend told me that Chris Farley used to complain that no one wanted to have sex with the funny guy. Things do not look good for me at all, do they? But, still, I persist. Why? Because Saint Jude is my patron saint, I guess.

Time to start lighting candles, I guess.
“Most holy apostle, Saint Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, patron of hopeless causes and things almost despaired of, pray for me…”


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Sometimes a winner is just a dreamer who never gave up."

10/28/2008

Review: Glasshouse

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Personal,Review,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:43 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Last week, I finished Glasshouse by Charlie Stross.

I’ve been reading a lot more lately than I have in a long, long while. Part of that has included a lot of last year’s award winners. There’s been a lot of really great science-fiction that I haven’t read in recent years and I’m trying to catch up a bit. Glasshouse is one of those.

The title comes from the name of a kind of prison where the inmates are under continuous surveillance. However, the story is about a kind of experiment with partially mind-wiped patients. Ah, but I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. The story starts with a man named Robin who has recently undergone a significant surgery, to wipe certain parts of his memory. In fact, he’s undergone a rather radical mind wipe, no doubt driven by a significant trauma. At least, that’s what he supposes, since no one seems to know and, of course, he has no memory. Actually, he has to rely quite a bit on what people tell him and, frankly, a lot of guesswork. So, with that setting as a beginning, Robin explores who he is, why he’s there and why he knows about and is so comfortable with violence.
He quickly meets and gets involved with a woman named Kat. Though, in this future, definitions like “woman” are somewhat flexible. Kat, for instance, has four arms and is blue. And, she’s also gone through a mind-wipe, though not as radical as Robin’s. She convinces Robin to sign up for an experiment, an experiment in politics, sociology and history. The experiment takes the form of a game, of sorts, set in what would roughly be our time that includes constant observation to make sure everyone stays in character in this artificially created time and place. It’s an interesting way to look at gender roles and societal norms of our time, while layering on some other ideas for us to think about. And, of course, nothing is quite what it seems.

I have to admit, even though this won awards and was interesting, it’s not my favorite. I have a couple more by Charlie Stross in my stack of books to be read, and I’ll definitely read them, but I enjoy John Scalzi better. Still, the ideas Stross presented in this book were interesting and good, hard science-fiction. I won’t spoil any plot twists, but he creates a world where people can change gender almost at will and wear pretty modified bodies, too. Also, he portrays a world where, as an outgrowth of the mutable nature of humankind, sex and sexual morality has shifted far from our current standards, even in the most liberal of communities. I like, though, that it all fits together and makes sense internally. Sure you have to suspend disbelief in several instances, but, after that, everything else follows logically. In that respect, Stross is a very good writer, even though his style may not appeal to me. In the end, I’ll read more of his work because I can learn from it, and that’s more than enough reason for me. Also, there’s a fun “inside joke” reference to the Prisoner that made me laugh.

In short, if you’re patient and like so-called hard science-fiction, there’s a lot to like in Glasshouse. It’s well worth finding in paperback and reading.

10/26/2008

Early Voting

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning or 8:43 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

I voted yesterday.

Yeah, I know, something like two weeks before the normal election day, I was able to vote.  Turns out, there has been a massive response this year and huge numbers of people are voting.  Personally, I think that’s great.  I mean, a friend of mine said he’d heard they were expecting something like a 60% turn out rate, which is monster.  As I recall, normally, the percentage of people who vote is less than 20%, so to get so many people out voting is wonderful.

I always have felt that if you want to complain about the way our current leaders are running things, then you better have voted.  Me, I like to complain, so I vote.  From what I understand, this year, you can even vote early on Sunday!  Thanks to Google, you can find your local early voting polling place with just a few clicks of a mouse, so why not do it?  If you haven’t voted lately, why not start this year?

Also, I’m not normally a very political animal.  No, really, stop laughing, I’m not.  Oh, sure, I’ve ranted and raved about certain tiny aspects of politics, but, mostly, I want everyone to participate in the process.  This year, though, I’m going to make a suggestion.  I think everyone tends to get in the mindset that you have to choose between the Democrats and the Republicans, but, you know, we’re not a two party system.  There are a wide range of parties in the United States, but the popular news media almost never talks about them.  Did you know that Ralph Nader was running again?  Have you heard of Bob Barr?
Just think about this for a couple minutes.  Over the past fifteen years, both the Republicans and the Democrats have been in power.  Did you like the way either of them ran this country?  If you’re not happy with either the Republicans or the Democrats, why not give a third party a try?  The Libertarians are well represented this year, at least in Harris County, Texas.
Maybe it’s time we gave another party a chance to make a difference.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"The indispensable first step to getting the things you want out of life is this; decide what you want."
   --Ben Stein

10/24/2008

No Bad Publicity

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Dog and Pony Shows,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Pig which is late at night or 11:39 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

I am not nice.

So, I’m kind of, well, not a nice person sometimes. I have been known to be self-serving, arrogant, overly pleased with my own intelligence and, on occasion, too willing to take the proverbial low road. I did that today.

I follow a lot of blogs via an RSS reader. When one that’s ostensibly about science-fiction and fantasy fiction and publishing, run, in fact, by people in that business, popped up with a odd-looking picture of Alan Greenspan, I had to see what was going on. They were making fun of him based on a bad picture. Then, in the comments particularly, people were blaming him for the current economic crisis, as if a single man could have caused such a thing. Perhaps it made them feel more intelligent or better in some way to belittle a man so far above their tiny, little world by making fun of a bad picture. I’m not clear, really, because I’m not a knee-jerk Liberal. Some would say that I’m a bit of a knee-jerk Conservative, but, really, I’m not. I am, however, a bit of a prick. You see, I suggested that a dissenting view would be good. And I rather rudely offered one. Why? Well, outside of the obvious, I thought it might be fun to kick over that particular ant-hill. And, I’ll bet my website stats for the day spike.

Yeah, that’s all I really was after. So, I feel mildly ashamed of myself for using such tactics to draw clicks. I wanted to see if it worked better than putting “free porn” in a title. We’ll see, I guess.
Also, now that I’ve thoroughly irritated anyone who followed my links over from that site, I sort of feel like I should expound on the topic a bit. You see, it wasn’t those damn Republicans that got us into this with their deregulation. Nor was it those unholy Democrats who got us into this what with their trying to help the poor buy homes they couldn’t afford. No, gentle readers, we can’t blame anyone but ourselves. We did this. You and me. We did it through greed and over spending money that we don’t have. We did through a culture of “give me mine now” and not worrying about consequences. We did it when we allowed bad managers of failing companies to collect huge bonuses for doing terrible jobs and making things worse then still relying on their Golden Parachutes. Greed did this. Our greed. And, if not our greed directly, then our greed tacitly.

Do I think we should force those skeevy bastards who mismanaged funds while knowing that they were screwing the economy eventually to cough up their balloon payments? Yes. I’d love to let those companies that knowingly mismanaged their credit twist in the wind, the same way many Americans have been left to suffer after being lured in by those empty assurances of endless credit. Oh, and I’m not any better. Sure, I kept my mortgage smaller than I was approved for when I got my house. And, when my mortgage broker and my ex-wife were both pushing to convince me to buy more house, it wasn’t easy, I can assure you. But, by then, my credit was already bad, though I have no one to blame but myself.
The problem is if we don’t do something to bail these bastards out, we’ll have something worse than the Great Depression. I’d love to do nothing and ride it out, letting market forces correct this mess, but I don’t want to have to eat my dog. I don’t care if it’s a delicacy in Korea, she’s too happy to see me when I get home to eat. So, we’ll be forced to do something. And, so will the world, because their economic situation is tied to ours now, not to mention they’ve had their own spending issues. I also find it interesting that they have a slightly different view of Mr. Greenspan than those little minds who were making fun of his bad picture.

I find it equally interesting that several people tried to say I was trying to look smart in those comments. I wasn’t. I was, however, trying to point out that they weren’t half as smart as Mr. Greenspan. Certainly, none of them seemed to have any ideas on how to solve our current situation. They were content to ridicule someone who, frankly, did more to even things out during previous economic hardship than anyone else and, quite possibly, managed to hold off this current situation for far longer than we deserved. He did, after all, retire in 2006, after seeing us through another crash in 1987 as well as the Internet boom and bust a few years later. It’s only now, two years after he’s retired, that things have gotten bad. And, four years ago he did try to warn us, didn’t he? At least, that’s how it looks to me in one of his speeches from the Federal Reserve back in 2004. Others seem to agree with that position.

But, what do I know? I mean, I’m just a computer geek with a Marketing degree. Mostly, no matter who wins this next election, my life’s not going to change much. I know some people disagree, but, frankly, the Republicans and the Democrats always seem to do the same thing to me. It’s just that one group wants to sneak up from behind me and the other wants to look me in the eye while they do it. Neither group is all that admirable and the end result is the same, no matter what method they use.
The most important thing, though, is to at least try. Try to see who voted for what and look at who your local officials are who voted in ways you didn’t like. Then, when you do vote, don’t vote for them again. Try someone new. I’m tired of the old song and dance routine. I’m ready for a new number and a new show. How about you?

“We are prey”

Filed under: Art,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Movies,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:47 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Hey, wanna’ see something cool?

How about a home-made zombie movie? This is labeled “Episode 1″, which implies they’re going to do more, but it’s been a long time since the first one, so who knows? Until then, though, go enjoy Episode One of We Are Prey.

Seriously, it’s better than some of the stuff that’s made it to DVD. Really!

10/22/2008

I have this friend…

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:19 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

No, really, I have this friend who wants to know what people think.

Specifically, he wants to know what people think about a particular question.  See, it’s like this…
So, about a year ago, this friend of mine started dating someone he met via eHarmony.com. Well, things started slow with this woman, but he’s a very rational guy and allowed logic to guide him.  She had many appealing qualities, so, even though he didn’t have an immediate romantic attraction to her, he stayed the course and did his best to make a connection with her.  Sadly, it didn’t work out.  He could never quite get any chemistry going and, in the end, she obviously never felt that either because she pretty much broke it off.

Well, it turns out that was okay with my friend.  Why?  Well, as wrote previously, he never felt any real chemistry with her.  But, more than that, there was a complication.
The complication was a sister.  A single sister, as in not-married.  It seems he had an immediate reaction to this sister when he first met her.  In fact, one could say that all the chemistry he was hoping for with the original woman was, instead, centered on her sister.
Her sister had been seeing someone, sort of.  He was also from eHarmony, but he was from another state and, well, apparently there wasn’t enough chemistry.  So, even though she was kind of involved when my friend met her, she’s single now.

Now, here’s the dilemma…
After having dated the one woman for a year, can he now ask her sister out?  If so, under what conditions?
There are a few details that may be important, too.  First, these two sisters are Phillippina and pretty conservative Catholics.  Secondly, my friend is a staunch Christian and, therefore, is waiting until he’s married for sex, so that complication is not an issue.  Thirdly, my friend is very much NOT Phillippino and a Protestant.  Also, he’s waiting a respectful time before he’ll even contemplate asking the sister out, but, that time is drawing near.  Though, that raises another question, though.  What is a respectful enough time to wait before asking the sister out?  Oh, and should he ask the first woman’s permission first?

Right, so vote on the poll in the right side-bar, okay?  And leave any thoughts and insight in the comments.
(And, yes, I am talking about an actual friend, not myself in disguise!)


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"The man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything."
   --William Conner Magee

10/20/2008

Quarantine

Filed under: Fun,Movies,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:44 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous


Quarantine

Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I saw Quarantine on Sunday.

This is a dark and disturbing movie and I cannot recommend it to anyone with a weak constitution. It wasn’t scary, per se, but it was surprising, which is a refreshing change for me when it comes to horror films.

The entire movie is filmed in a kind of “Blair Witch” style, but better. It’s all done on a single camera, or point of view. The idea is simple, really, a TV news reporter and her camera man are shadowing a pair of fire-fighters in some unknown urban setting. The entire thing is filmed from that perspective.
The movie starts off simply enough with this reporter filming some intro work and getting to know some of the firemen. It’s all normal, fun stuff, basically a reporting doing a puff piece about the heroic firemen. Then, they get a call.

The firemen that the reporter is shadowing go out on the call and arrive at an old, relatively short, apartment building. They meet a pair of policemen who have called for assistance getting into an apartment where a tenant is believed to be trapped, possibly hurt. They break into her apartment and find an old woman who’s become dangerously ill and, it turns out, violent.
Honestly, at this point, I thought it was going to turn into a standard zombie movie, just in a building, but, well, it turned out to be something more. Not too far into the movie, after it’s established that there’s some sort of illness running through the residents, the CDC and National Guard show up and seal everyone into the building. That’s where the name of the movie comes from, I suppose, the quarantine.
Naturally, in my standard movie review style, I won’t reveal the rest of the plot and spoil it. Let me just say that, even though the plot is simple, it’s handled very well. And, there is a bit of a surprise ending. At least, it was a bit of a surprise to me.

I liked this movie.
It was a little scary, pretty gory, and disturbingly realistic in its portrayal of the events. It does take place mainly in a single four or five story apartment building, but that enhances the whole thing. And, it is filmed from a single camera perspective, but, again, instead of limiting the film, it adds realism and immediacy. The single camera thing also adds a fair bit of suspense and sets up the surprise ending. I really was pleasantly surprised at how effectively that was used in this film.
Also, keep in mind, this isn’t my kind of movie, generally, but I liked the way it was constructed. And, it didn’t disappoint at all. I cannot recommend this film to most of my regular audience, but if you like a good horror movie, this will do quite well this Halloween season.

Quarantine was well worth the matinee price I paid. Even though this wasn’t a zombie movie, if you like them, go see this movie.

10/19/2008

[ Information Redacted ]

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Dog and Pony Shows,Garden of Unearthly Delights,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Sheep which is in the early afternoon or 2:56 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous


SwampFlowers-Manual-03

Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I deleted a post on my blog this morning for the first time in a long, long time.

Usually, I have an editing process for posts that may accidentally cross the border into Too Much Information Land or sound to bitter or too angry or too whatever. But, last night, I came home from church and dinner and had a wild hair to find a bunch of music via SeeqPod and run it in a loop while I hammered away furiously at the keys. Angry music. Angry music the like of which I haven’t listened to in a long, long time.

I felt a little hopeless and helpless and, well, angry. So, I dialed up a little Rob Zombie and Rammstein and Lords of Acid and Fu Manchu and then I used the “Discover” function on SeeqPod to find other stuff like that. Old thoughts and old memories just washed over me when it started playing and looping. I just wanted to jump up from the keyboard and rip into the heavy bag out in the garage. But, I didn’t, I just kept typing and typing and typing. Normally, I’d let that kind of thing sit over night and look at it again in the morning. Last night, though, I just hit the Publish button and walked away, exhausted, in the small hours of the night.

This morning, I reread a little of that post and then deleted it.
TMI, “sharing violation”, rant. Whatever you want to call it, that’s what I’d typed. It’s also why I deleted it. No one needs to read that. Not even me. It was good to write it out and get it out of my head, but it really shouldn’t have been out for public consumption. So, I deleted it.

If you’re still reading, you may be wondering what that has to do with the picture here. Bear with me.
So, this morning, I got up and threw on some shorts and a shirt and a hat to take the dog for a brisk walk before I got a shower. See, I want to get back into shape. Yes, back into shape. You see, more than ten years ago now, I was, to put it mildly, in far, far better shape than I am today. I did hundreds of push-ups and sit-ups every morning, five days a week. And, I hit the heavy bag. And, I worked with dumbbells. I was, in short, in good shape. I was lean and I filled out a suit jacket pretty damn well, thank you very much. Now, after a bad marriage, a couple of job changes, some other heart-ache, and a slight case of cancer, I’m fat and lazy. I don’t like it. Ergo, there’s only one thing to do about it; change it.

Well, as I’m letting the dog out to relieve herself before we go for our walk, I see these tiny white things on my sad, nasty pond. I get closer, thinking that they’re funny leaves or insects or something and I see that they’re teeny, tiny, little white flowers. Naturally, my walk can wait while I grab the camera and tripod. It took longer to get a decent shot than I thought it would, but, oh, it was worth it to me.
See, to me, these aren’t just little, white flowers. They’re a metaphor for my entire life right now. From the swampy morass of my mind and my slimy past, little, white hope can still bloom. There are no coincidences, truly. And, non-believers may scoff, but some power in the universe was sending me a message in an insignificant, white flower blooming on top of embarrassing slime.

Hope springs eternal.
Thank God.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"May you live all the days of your life."
   --Jonathan Swift

10/17/2008

Zombie Theme

Filed under: Art,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:47 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Um, this may post twice.

Look, I so rarely make pages in WordPress, I’m not sure which way is right, but rather than risk it, I’m just going to post a link to the Zombie Theme page. This will take you to the official, temporary Zombie Theme page, where, naturally, you can download my first publicly available theme. I made it just for the upcoming Halloween holiday. Well, and all the crazy zombie fans out there. (I have to confess, I’ve been reading a lot of zombie stuff lately. It’s a curse, I tell you!)

Anyway, enjoy!

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