Diary of a Network Geek

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

7/30/2010

Cyber Cafe in a Shipping Container

Filed under: Fun,Fun Work,Geek Work,Life Goals,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:59 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

I always come up with these ideas just before someone else announces their version to the media.

No, seriously, I was just thinking about finding the time to research what kind of power requirements a small network would have and figuring out what sort of solar setup would meet those needs.  I was thinking about it for disaster recovery, like after a hurricane or an earthquake, but, still the principal is the same as the Computer Aid Cyber Cafe in a Shipping Container.

I may still write up my ideas, one day, but, I think not during this particular hurricane season.

7/27/2010

Ryumaou Reviews Ramen?

Filed under: By Bread Alone,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Life Goals,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:51 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

So, there’s a new poll up to gauge how you all feel about a regular, weekly review of ramen noodles.

Look, I’m embracing the fact that I’m probably going to be poor for a very long time, so I’m cutting back. I’ve eaten out a lot and I think that’s probably one place I can cut back easily. But, I got to thinking about it and, well, I probably spend a lot on fast, convenient food during the week, too. I started to think about all the things I did in college when I didn’t have any money and, naturally, I thought of ramen noodles. Who hasn’t slurped down their fair share of ramen noodles? Seriously!
As a college student, in particular, I ate my fair share of ramen. Hey, I’m sure we all did back in the days when we were starting out. I mean, they were fast and easy and didn’t require more than a spoon stolen from food service and a cup of hot water. What’s more, though, is that I found them not just filling but tasty, too! So, instead of reviewing the super-high-end food that so many upwardly mobile people get all goofy about, I thought I might review the cuisine of the financially challenged everywhere: ramen!!

Okay, so I know it’s not really the most original idea. At least one guy in Japan has done it already at a site called i-ramen.net. But, that’s all in Japanese, so it doesn’t do much good to those of us in the English-speaking world. (I read about him in an article from Boing Boing, incidentally.)  I don’t know that I’ll get to review as many as 4000 different versions of ramen, like he did, either, but, well, it does seem like the craziest low-budget adventure I can contemplate this week!
So, who’s with me?  If you think this crazy idea might be fun, vote in the poll on my sidebar and leave comments.
(Oh, yeah, if you don’t get the reference to “Ryumaou”, look at the address of the site you’re on.  I’ve used that romanization of a Japanese nickname since I first got on-line in the 90′s.  And, I liked the alliteration.)

7/24/2010

Al Fresco

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Calamity, Cataclysm, and Catastrophe,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:45 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

We take modern plumbing for granted.

No, seriously.
I’ve spent the better part of this past week without a sewer connection.  That means that I’ve been pestering my friends who live nearby, all three of them, for showers all week.  It also means I’ve been urinating “al fresco”, under the cover of darkness.  Let’s not ask too many questions about other bodily functions though, okay?  Let’s just say I’ve been going into work early most days this week.

My point is, plumbing is what makes civilization even more than farming.
In school, they always taught us that modern civilization, as we know it, started with farming.  They taught us that as people stayed to tend crops instead of follow the herds, they built permanent camps which became villages which, eventually, became cities.
I would argue, however, that real modern civilization was born when the Romans first got the idea to enclose their plumbing.  When that first, genius Roman city planner decided to put sewers underground and replace the foul stench of open trenches, which had been the norm until then, and replace that malodorous tradition with construction projects, civilization as we know it truly began.
And brought with it a host of modern problems.

In my case, the problem was one I initially tried to handle myself.
When the shower first backed up, thanks to several loads of laundry, I poured all kinds of hazardous and noxious chemicals down the drains.  I bought and used things that were so terrible, so dire that the warnings printed on the packaging sounded more like plans to deal with a spill in a chemical plant than something the average Home Depot shopper should be screwing around with in their bathroom.  In fact, these things were so bad at one point that leather gloves which had accidentally gotten soaked in water containing some of those chemicals actually started to melt away.  Seriously.  I have pictures!  And, I thought all was well.  For about two weeks.
That’s when the shower started to back up when I was, well, running the shower.
So, for three days, I took what we used to call “Navy showers“.  Basically, I got wet, then turned off the water and lathered up, then turned the water back on just long enough to rinse off.  I’m sure it helped the planet with all the water I conserved, but it was starting to get a little uncomfortable.  So, off I went to Home Depot to buy supplies.  I bought even more chemicals, a CO2-based plunger, and a plumber’s “snake”.  I used them in turn, spending the most time trying to get the snake working right.  It was one that you hooked up to a drill, to add extra power, and, though I hate to admit it, I screwed the first one up bad enough that I broke it.  Unfortunately, none of that worked.

So, defeated, I called a plumber Sunday afternoon.
I called Mr. Rooter, because I’d used them before and I knew they didn’t charge extra for working on the weekend.  I also knew they did good work at what I think is a reasonable price.  Sadly, there wasn’t anyone available in my area by the time I called Sunday afternoon, which meant waiting until the next morning, but I figured what was one more night wallowing in my own filth?
Well, the plumbing technician showed up early Monday morning and got right to work.  He ran through at least three obstructions and at one point I could hear things gurgling in my bathroom, which seemed an encouraging sign.  Sadly, it was not.  The technician called me out into the yard where he found the only “clean-out” in my line.  A clean-out, incidentally, that was far, far further out than it should have been.  He’d run his camera down that line and found the problem, or, at least, the first problem.  I feared the worst, but my fears turned out to be child’s play compared to what was actually wrong.

The problem was roots.
Not roots that had grown through the pipes, as I had feared, but roots that had grown under the pipe and lifted a thirty foot section of it.  Lifted it so high, in fact, that it made my shower the lowest point in my personal sewer system.  So, yes, it was a big problem.
The other two problems were with the main sewer.  First, when they built the house, apparently, a builder took a short-cut and lifted my sewer connection to link it up with the city sewer main.  So, it was higher than it should have been in the first place!  But, to make matters worse, when the guys from Mr. Rooter went to make the connection, the found the city main choked with roots!  I love the live oaks in my backyard, and, in fact, they’re part of why I bought the house with my ex-wife, but they certainly seemed out to get me this week.  In the end, there was really only one thing to do: replace the whole sewer line to the city main.

Now, for those of you who aren’t homeowners, let me tell you how this feels.
Imagine being neck deep in a mucky, fetid swamp, trying not to make waves because you know it could drown you.  Got that?  Do you have a handle on the perilous and uncomfortable feeling of knowing you’re inches from sucking stagnant water up your nose and suffocating on swamp muck?  Great.  Now imagine that someone is throwing stones at you.  Stones big enough to knock you unconscious.  Imagine having to hold your breath while that water with God only knows what kind of diseases in it is lapping at your mouth and nose, trying to find its way into your lungs.  Can you feel the horrible panic?  Can you feel your chest tightening from the fear of drowning in a sloppy, green sea of homeowner’s debt?  Fantastic.  Now imagine looking up and seeing one of those stones on a collision-course with your head.  You know it’s coming and you can already feel the lump forming even as your gut tightens because you’re about to be fighting for consciousness so you don’t drown, alone, in this swamp.
That was pretty much how I felt when the tech told me what was wrong.

His estimate was not much more reassuring.
Let’s just say it started somewhere over $10K.  In the end, because the folks at Mr. Rooter are fantastic, caring, decent human beings who haven’t lost their humanity in this tight economy, I ended up owing less.  I won’t say how much less, but, less than the original $10K.  Still an impressive sum for which I needed a lot of help.
Sadly, the finance company was less caring and more cut-throat.  I won’t give them any free advertising by mentioning their name, but I will say that, until dealing with them, I thought loan-sharking was illegal.  Apparently, not if you do it right.  Thankfully, I had some benefactors who were willing to lend me the money I needed at lower rates.  They’ve asked to remain nameless, otherwise I’d sing their praises, too.

In any case, I got enough money together to get them started and WOW, did they!
The next afternoon, there was a crew of four guys digging up my backyard with a small backhoe.  They dug a trench easily 120 feet from the back of my house, around my ponds, between my trees and to the city sewer main at the back of my yard.  I took pictures of it because words leave the spectacle of the thing,well, in the dust.  This trench started out about three feet deep and got down to almost five feet deep near the sewer main.  It runs at least four feet deep for a significant portion of it’s length and was dug in less time than it’s taken to write this entry.  It was amazing!  If not for the roots in the city sewer main, I’d have had service restored that first night!  Unfortunately, the rest took longer.
The city did come out the next day to clear the roots and make the connection to the city sewer main, but, by then I’d had to make a nuisance of myself with friends to beg showers so I could get into work and not knock people out.  I didn’t shave, really, but used my beard trimmer to keep my stubble under control.  Still, I looked pretty rough by the end of the week.
And, yes, I really did get tired of “urination al fresco” and holding it until dark, or going in to work hours early for the same reason.

So, the good news is, now, I have a working sewer line and I can flush my toilets!  Not to mention shower, shave, do laundry and dishes, all of which I was frantically doing Thursday night.  Friday afternoon, the main technician who was working on this project the entire time, got my second toilet hooked up, so everything in the house should be working now.  I still have the trench until the city inspects and approves the work according to the permit.  I’m not as worried about that, frankly, since I’m able to bathe and eliminate with the modern ease with which I have rather grown accustomed.
Other good things of come of it, too, though.  Some I won’t got into in detail except to say that I have a new appreciation for my friends and family who were all more than willing to come to my aid.  I was pleasantly surprised, to be honest, at how willing everyone I knew was to help.  Since my divorce, I have felt pretty alone down here in Texas, so it was nice to be reminded that I did have friends and, though they may be a little way away, family who really do care.

I also really was reminded about how well I live, really, and how comfortable I am.  That’s sort of a double-edged sword, though, as I’ve gotten, I think, a little too comfortable with things that really needed to change.  I’ve gotten a little stuck and a little complacent.  My financial situation, for instance, has been just good enough for me to not really feel the need to really grab hold and make some positive changes.  I’ve just gone “with the flow”, if you’ll pardon the metaphor in a post about sewers, for far too long.  I need to relearn to set my sails and make my way regardless of the current.

Of course, I do still have a huge bill to pay before I’m done, but that may turn out to be a good thing, too, since it’s finally motivated me to actually start selling my ex-wife’s abandoned jewelry.  Yes, I have finally listed my first item on eBay.  In this case, it’s my ex-wife’s gold and ruby ring.  If you’re interested, go bid on it and help me out!  Don’t worry, stalkers, there will be more items if you want to own a piece of the Network Geek’s history.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"A merry heart doeth good like a medicine."
   --Proverbs 27:22 (KJV)

7/23/2010

Cheap, DIY Steadycam

Filed under: Art,Fun,Ooo, shiny... — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:57 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Okay, so “Steadycam” is probably a copyright restricted name, but you know what I mean.

Normally, I don’t write about video, but this DIY steadycam is cool.  A real Steadycam costs something like $25,000, but this simple, DIY solution is only about $35.  It looks like he’s using it with one of the new DSLRs that can do HD video, too, which, of course, is one of the reasons I posted it.  Also?  It’s cool.

7/16/2010

Write a Better Bio

Filed under: 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 5:55 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Think of all the social media bios you’ve written in the last five years.

I bet they all suck.
Well, maybe that’s just mine.  But, there’s no reason you can’t make a better one!  Check out How To Write A Killer Bio by Marci Alboher.  She has some great suggestions.  Then, just get creative!

7/9/2010

No Cell Phone Zone

Filed under: Art,Fun,Geek Work — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:18 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Normally, I have trouble getting a good signal in my house!

But, I can imagine wanting to create a “cell-phone free zone” in my house to free me from that itch to answer incoming calls.  Imagine a writer trying to get some peace and quiet, for instance.  Or, even someone who entertains a lot of high-tech people making a “safe haven”, of sorts, where friends don’t have to worry about being interrupted by cell phones.

Well, now, with the Painting Cell Phone Jammer, which I found via Gizmodo, you can make that no-cell zone in your house.  It comes complete with a remote, so you can turn it on and off.  All you need to do is plug it into the wall.  Oh, you may want to actually change the art, too, because the stuff it comes with is sort of, well, sucky.  But, I could live with that, I think, to get some peace from those after-hour support calls on my cell!

7/2/2010

Atomic Rockets

Filed under: Art,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,The Network Geek at Home,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:03 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

I love science-fiction.

I don’t think that’s a big secret, either.  What you all may not realize is that I have attempted to write it on more than one occasion.  Usually, I fail miserably, for any of a number of reasons, but I still love to do the research.  I figure, it may eventually get used, so it’s worth doing, right?

Well, in my searches for interesting bits of thought on many, many things science-fiction, I came across Atomic Rockets; or So You Want To Build A Rocket? Wow!  What a site!  This guy has collected all kinds of ideas and research into possible future spacecraft and weapons and, well, just about anything you can think of that relates to the “crunchy” parts of science-fiction!  I mean, he references actual physicists and chemists and engineers who are actually trying to make the future happen on this site.  But, he doesn’t lose the fun that drew most geeks like me to sci-fi.

If you’re a fan, it’s well worth a look.  And, if you’re a BIG fan, make sure to check out the rest of his site, too!


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