Diary of a Network Geek

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

12/16/2016

Social Fixer

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Fun — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Fix your social media.

I know my post for the past couple of weeks have been pretty random, but, hey, it’s the end of the year and I’ve been cleaning out old links.
I’ve noticed since I’ve been mostly off of Facebook this year, I’ve been more relaxed.  My stress about the election, I think, has been considerably less than most of the people I know.  This can’t be a coincidence.  In fact, I’m sure they’re related.  Facebook, for the most part, adds nothing to my life.  There’s always been too much there for me to keep up with anyway, not to mention all the rage-inducing exchanges I’ve had with people who seem incapable of listening to reason or forming a cogent argument about anything.
Still, I understand the addiction.  It’s hard to turn away from that flow of apparent social interaction once you get hooked.  And, of course, there are legitimate reasons to connect there, like the movie groups my wife belongs to on Facebook.  So, how do you avoid all the cruft that makes you crazy?  Well, if you’re a Firefox (or Chrome) user, there’s a fix for that: Social Fixer.

Social Fixer is a free Greasemonkey script that let’s you hide sponsored posts, advertising, political posts, pages you don’t want to see and more.  Yes, you have to install the Greasemonky add-on first, but other than that, it’s pretty straight forward.  And, it’s the personal project of a regular guy who had the same frustrations as you and I, so you don’t have to worry about more corporate sponsors and greed ruining the fun.  And, if you’d like, you can make donations, but it’s not a requirement to use the tool.

So make your social media great again and clean up your Facebook with Social Fixer!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

12/13/2016

Choosing A Personal Injury Lawyer

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Marginalia and Notes from the Editor — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is mid-afternoon or 4:02 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

I used to link to my divorce lawyer, so I get a lot of hits about lawyers.

Below is a sponsored infographic about choosing a personal injury lawyer, to help you get what you are due.

Via: Farar Law Group

(Yes, a sponsored post or infographic means I get paid for it.)

12/12/2016

Another Year Older, And …

Filed under: About The Author,Deep Thoughts,Marginalia and Notes from the Editor,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

… hopefully wiser. But, who’s to say, really?

I don’t think it’s an accident that my birthday fell on a Monday this year, because, I’ll tell you, it’s felt a little bit like a year of Mondays!
Still, I’ve survived another lap around the Sun, and that’s something to celebrate, especially considering how close I’ve come to not making it this far. But, now that I have made it through cancer and a lot of my own foolishness, the actuarial tables indicate I can still expect quite a few more years of misadventures. In fact, if I’m reading the most recent Social Security actuarial table for my sex and birth year, I can expect to live until I’m somewhere between 70 and 107, which is fine with me! Actually, I come from fairly long-lived stock so I have a pretty good reason to believe I’ll be at the higher end of that range, which is also good, since there are still so many things yet to be done with my life.

It’s been a strange year career-wise. I got laid off in February and started working a contract in March, where I’ve worked ever since. In theory, they may eventually hire me on full-time, and there’s even been talk about that, but not a lot of movement in that direction. Still, it’s pretty good income and enough to cover our expenses and COBRA payments, so, for now, it’s okay. Still, if they don’t bring me on full-time sooner rather than later, I may end up having to find something more permanent. You may recall that last year, I got myself a an annual subscription to Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, with the idea that I’d improve my photography. So far, that hasn’t happened much. I have done more photos for my wife’s business website, The Organizing Decorator, but I haven’t really done anything for me. This coming year, I plan on changing that. My blushing bride has said that she’d like to have more of my photography to frame and hang around the house, so, thanks to my big drive crash a couple of years ago, that means I have to get my butt off the couch and out photographing things. My favorites have been animals, especially at the Houston Zoo, but I also have some ideas for still life and abstract work, too. I’ve been really inspired by one of my photography heroes, Syl Arena, and his color field photography. They’re really amazing and emotional works and something I’d love to emulate in my own, primative way.

You may recall that last year I mentioned starting the Five Minute Journal. I did it with their pre-printed journal for six months, then, when I filled that, I continued in my own, plain journal. (I used Peter Pauper Essentials Large Notebook. They look like a Moleskine, but they’re much less expensive.)
And, I also started the Five Year Journal, too. Yes, it’s by Samuel Pepys, the most famous diarist of all, but I don’t really think anyone will be interested in my personal diary. Still, Pepys probably thought the same thing. In any case, that’s been going strong for almost a year now and I don’t think I’ll be stopping any time soon. The Five Minute Journal really has, I think, put me in a more positive frame of mind.
This year, my birthday gift to my self was a rowing machine and an inversion table. I hope to start two new health habits that make the coming years a little easier and more enjoyable. I think it will be worth it. Everyone I know who has one, swears by their inversion table and says that it will help my back. And, according to an article or two I read, a rowing machine is supposed to be about the best full-body workout I can get on a machine. I guess we’ll see! I’ll tell you this, though, I haven’t regretted any of the birthday gifts I’ve gotten myself in the past, and I’m pretty sure this one is going to be okay, too.

And, of course, my birthday wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention all the other famous people who had the good luck to be born on this particular day. Famous people like Frank “Chairman of the Board” Sinatra, Jennifer Connelly, Bob Barker, Gustave Flaubert, who is the author of Madame Bovary, the painter 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.
All heady company to be sure, but for whatever reason, it tickles me the most that I share a birthday with Frank Sinatra. I guess it’s because he was such a unique and original character who really fought against and beat some long odds to become an amazingly famous, generally well thought of personality. I can only hope to do the same, one day.
Also, I think it’s interesting to note that on this day in 1896 Marconi first demoed radio and, again on this day, in 1901 made his first Trans-Atlantic transmission. (Though, of course, all right-thinking people know that Tesla was really responsible for those first advances in radio.)
And I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the computer mouse made its debut just four days before my birth! How crazy is that? The mouse, which makes graphic interfaces so practical and easy to use, is actually four days older than I am!

So, there you have it. Another lap around the Sun completed with a little more joy this year than last. That’s a trend I think I can pretty heartily endorse. I have some work cut out for myself this coming year, with some plans to improve my professional growth by way of computer security certifications, so check back next year to see how that went. Also, in addition to the photography, which you’ll be able to keep up with at my Flickr photostream, I plan to write on the blog a bit more, too. Maybe just once a month more, but still, more. We’ll see how that turns out.

So, all in all, I’m doing pretty good for a forty-eight-year-old cancer survivor who’s on his second marriage and has a mortgage. Life is pretty sweet and I’m looking forward to the coming year and years! I hope you all will be with me for quite a few more!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

12/9/2016

The Most Common Bias

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Fun — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Cognitive bias is amazingly common, and keeping us from really changing our lives.

One of the things I’ve noticed this year, as I have found myself arguing with people about politics and economics, is how much we are all effected by cognitive bias.  It’s that “gut feeling” that things are, or should be, a certain way, even when actual evidence to the contrary is presented.  I fall for it, too.  The thing that gets me more often than not is the “sunk cost fallacy”, which isn’t a cognitive bias, per se, but still a flaw in my thinking that tells me to keep throwing more effort, or resources, behind what should be an obviously lost cause.  It’s what convinces me that the worthless gear I tend to collect has value even when it’s hopelessly out of date.  It’s a hard one to overcome.

IO9.com has the 12 Cognitive Biases That Keep You From Being Rational, all in a handy, easy-to-read article.
Personally, I fall for the Gambler’s Fallacy all the time, thinking that I can predict outcomes based on past experience.  Really, though, all I’m demonstrating is that I didn’t pay close enough attention in statistics class.  Math wasn’t my best subject in school.  But, because I think a lot, I often fall for the Projection Bias, too.  My wife helps me to remember that not everyone thinks like me, however, which ought to be a relief to regular readers of my blogs!  The one I run into at work more often than not is the Observational Selection Bias, which end users seem to fall prey to any time someone in IT touches their computer and new icons seem to appear from thin air, even though those programs were installed months before.

In any case, it’s definitely worth a look to see where you might try to think outside your usual box in the coming year.  Maybe it will help all of us to think a little differently than we have been!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

12/2/2016

Polite Conversation

Filed under: Fun,Personal Care — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Let’s talk about polite conversation for moment, shall we?

After surviving a difficult holiday, where, no doubt, you had at least some friction with someone about a closely held political belief of some kind that the other fat-head didn’t, I think manners and conversation might be an appropriate topic.  It’s bee a tense year and a difficult election season and, let’s face it, a lot of us are pretty unhappy, even if your chosen candidate won.  (Mine didn’t, by the way.  I just want to make it clear that I didn’t vote for what’s about to happen to us for four years, in case anyone was wondering.)  But, it’s the holidays, which means parties.  Often, it means parties with someone who might drink too much and lose those inhibitions that actually kind of keep the fabric of society from unraveling.  Also, it may mean office parties where the wrong kind of verbal slip might cost you a job, or even a career.  It happens.
Here are some suggestions that might save you from making a complete ass of yourself, whatever the festive occasion:

“1. Even if convinced that your opponent is utterly wrong, yield gracefully, decline further discussion, or dexterously turn the conversation, but do not obstinately defend your own opinion until you become angry…Many there are who, giving their opinion, not as an opinion but as a law, will defend their position by such phrases, as: “Well, if were president, or governor, I would,” — and while by the warmth of their argument they prove that they are utterly unable to govern their own temper, they will endeavor to persuade you that they are perfectly competent to take charge of the government of the nation.”

“9. A man of real intelligence and cultivated mind is generally modest. He may feel when in everyday society, that in intellectual acquirements he is above those around him; but he will not seek to make his companions feel their inferiority, nor try to display this advantage over them. He will discuss with frank simplicity the topics started by others, and endeavor to avoid starting such as they will not feel inclined to discuss. All that he says will be marked by politeness and deference to the feelings and opinions of others.”

“17. The wittiest man becomes tedious and ill-bred when he endeavors to engross entirely the attention of the company in which he should take a more modest part.”

“30. If you find you are becoming angry in a conversation, either turn to another subject or keep silence. You may utter, in the heat of passion, words which you would never use in a calmer moment, and which you would bitterly repent when they were once said.”

To read the rest of the helpful, and time-tested, suggestions, follow the link to 38 Vintage Conversation Rules at The Art of Manliness.  And, ladies, don’t be shy!  I believe in equal opportunity, so those suggestions might help you, too.  We live in a liberated age when women can be just as terrible and boorish as men!
Read, enjoy, and, hopefully, learn, regardless of your gender.

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words.

11/25/2016

It’s Not Magic

Filed under: Art,Fun,Fun and Games,NaNoWriMo — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

It’s an illusion!

At least, that’s what Doug Henning would say.
Hey, look, it’s been a rough month.  What with the elections, the holiday and NaNoWriMo, you’ve had a lot going on.  I mean, a lot.
No matter who you wanted to win the Presidential Elections this year, the campaign has been brutal.  And, frankly, I think the next four years are going to be chaotic, challenging and a little frightening for a lot of us.  Then, there’s the stress of the Thanksgiving holiday.  I mean, c’mon, dinner with the family is never easy, is it?  And, finally, if you’re participating in National Novel Writing Month, you’ve been churning out words as fast as you can, racing to that deadline.
And, by the way, if you are doing NaNoWriMo then you should be getting near the end of your novel.  I don’t mean to panic you, but there’s really only a couple of days left.  Less than a week, actually.

So, no matter what’s been going on, you deserve a little break.  A chance to just veg out a little and sit like a stupid lump and stare at something cool.  Good news!  I’ve got just the thing!  Ten optical illusions that will blow your mind over at the Huffington Post.  Seriously, these are pretty cool and a great way to let your brain slip into neutral for a little bit so you can recharge before getting back to that big project of yours, NaNoWriMo manuscript or whatever you might be working on.

Go ahead and take a break.  It’s a holiday and you deserve it!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

11/18/2016

The Inevitable Writer’s Block

Filed under: Fun,NaNoWriMo,Stimulus and Production,Truth and Consequences — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this month, you should be about two thirds done with your novel.

If you’re not, don’t worry about it! And, either way, it seems like a good week to talk about writer’s block.
Now, assuming that you’ve been writing this whole time, the most common forms of writer’s block, namely not having an idea and not using the habit of writing to actually put words on the page, are not your problem. Maybe, you’ve gotten somewhere in the middle and your genius story seems to have stalled. Or, maybe you got to a blind alley and realized that your story took a wrong turn 1,500 words ago. It happens.
Either way, try to remember this is all about getting the words out and on paper. And, if that’s not enough to get you going again, head over to Gizmodo and check out their advice on The 10 Types of Writer’s Block and How To Overcome Them. Not all of it will apply, obviously, but I’d lay odds that at least one of those ten types of writer’s block will at least come close to applying to you. Naturally, I think the advice will help, too. And, in fact, I encourage you to read all the advice, because something that doesn’t seem like it applies to your frustration may end up being what knocks you loose and starts you writing again.

Another helpful resource that can help you get through a block is your fellow NaNoWriMo writers. You can connect with hundreds of people who are also participating in NaNoWriMo in the NaNoWriMo Forums. The people there can be incredibly supportive and helpful and they may need a break from their writing at this point, too.

Again, the most important thing is to get your rough draft out this month. After you get the thing written, you can take a break and come back to edit it into shape. Don’t worry about that now. Just worry about getting your first draft written.
So, go, read as much as you need to to get past your block, then get back to writing!

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words.

11/11/2016

Writers, Talking

Filed under: Art,Deep Thoughts,Fun,NaNoWriMo — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo this month, you should be roughly a third of the way through and might need a bit of a break.

If you aren’t participating in National Novel Writing Month, that’s okay.  It’s still Friday and maybe you just need a break.  Either way, I think I’ve got you covered this week.  At least, I’ve got you covered if you like science-fiction, famous authors, and cranky discussions about literature and marketing.  It also helps if you like Studs Terkel or Gene Wolfe or Issac Asimov or Harlan Ellison.  Why?  Because the link I have for you has all those things in it, all those writers talking about literature, science-fiction, and the state of the world.  In 1982.  More than 30 years ago, but it’s all still quite relevant.
So, for whatever your reason, take a break and head over to the Observation Deck at Kinja and watch/listen to these brilliant men talk about some of the most interesting things in the universe.

Enjoy!
Then get back to writing and I’ll see you next week!

 

11/4/2016

Writing Advice

Filed under: Fun,NaNoWriMo,On Creativity,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

And encouragement!

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo this month, you should be four days into your book today.  But, maybe you’re cocky and are really just going to get started tonight after work.  Either way, you can still do it!  Fantastically prolific authors, especially some of the more well-known pulp writers, churned out books in very short amounts of time.  For instance, Michael Moorcock, creator of the infamous Elric series of books, is rather infamous for regularly cranking out books in as little as three days.  Yes, he had to do it by a formula, but, honestly, considering what he created, is that so bad?  And, more importantly, do you want to know how he did it?  Then hop over and read How To Write A Book In Three Days: Lessons from Michael Moorcock over at Wet Asphalt.
Basically, he uses the same formula that Lester Dent used to great effect writing, among others, the Doc Savage series.  Basically, he breaks up the work into four parts and then breaks that down into smaller parts, each designed to ratchet up the tension at every step of the way.  Moorcock takes Dent’s formula and stretches it a bit, taking it from a story formula to a book formula.  Either way, it sure worked for them.  Between the two of them, those guys cranked out a hundreds of books, so, say what you will about the formula, but it seems to be effective.
Also, if you decide to use one of the tools I shared last week, Scrivener, you can download a Scrivener template specifically designed around the Lester Dent Master Formula.  It’s worth a look for Scrivener users!

And, if you’re already writing and just need some encouragement to keep going, or get some momentum built up, you can check out some slightly harsh, but funny advice from Chuck Wendig at Terrible Minds.

10/28/2016

Actual Writing Tools

Filed under: Fun,NaNoWriMo,On Creativity,Stimulus and Production,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Now, you’ve got your setting, characters and story, so all you have to do is write it. Easy, right?

Okay, maybe not so much, but still totally doable, so don’t despair.
This week I’m going to talk exclusively about tools to do the actual writing with.  There are a lot of fancy software packages for this out there and what you choose to use is a personal choice based on who you are and how you write.  That said, let me share some of the more popular programs and tools to go with them.  First off, I would imagine a majority of people use Microsoft Word, because they have it available to them.  It’s not a bad way to go, actually, because you’re probably already familiar with it via school or work, so it won’t get in the way.  If you go with Word, William Shunn has some free, downloadable templates that will let you get started with a pretty standard manuscript format.  If you like Word, but don’t want to pay Microsoft for it, check out Libre Office instead.  It’s a free, open source alternative to Microsoft Office and it includes a very good replacement for Word called Writer.  And, I even have a basic manuscript template you can download and use for Libre Office Writer, also free.
If you want to get fancier, there are a lot of alternatives, but Scrivener is specifically written for fiction writers and is often offered at a discount to people attempting NaNoWriMo.  And, while I have absolutely nothing against the creator of Scrivener, there is a free, open source alternative called Plume Creator.  I don’t have any real experience with either of these, but I always favor the free, open source alternatives whenever possible.

For myself, while I used to mostly work in whatever word processing package I was currently using, I’ve gone to pretty much only using straight text.  I made that change for a number of reasons, but I was heavily influenced by an email exchange I had with Steven Brust about his writing tools.  I was surprised to find out that he wrote exclusively in emacs.  I found out after a bit of digging around that he’s not the only one.  Vernor Vinge, a brilliant science fiction author, also uses emacs to write his fiction, though it’s less surprising to me since he also teaches computer science at the collegiate level.  So, now, while I’m still working on the actual text, I just use my favorite text editor, which in my case is the same tool I use to write Perl code and edit server scripts and web pages, UEStudio, which is an extension of UltraEdit, a tool familiar to serious programmers.  Incidentally, keeping everything in straight text with out any formatting not only limits distractions, but makes for the most compatibility between systems, which, ultimately, is why I decided to make that change.

So, now, finally, you should have all the characters, setting, plot ideas and writing tools you need to get started with National Novel Writing Month.

This post originally appeared on The Fantasist’s Scroll.

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