Diary of a Network Geek

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

2/17/2017

Unleash your Creativity Scientifically

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Fun,On Creativity — 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

I am NOT feeling creative this week.

And, I mean, not at all. Not even a little bit. So, what’s to do? Well, for one thing, I’m going to go ahead into work and be not creative there. I might as well collect a paycheck for not feeling creative and force myself to solve problems for profit. Honestly, when I read about breaking writer’s block, one of the most cited solutions is to just sit down and write anyway. I know for me, having a set routine helps me a lot. But, I’m a big believer in science, so what can science do for me when I don’t feel creative?

As it turns out, quite a lot, and Scientific American magazine happens to be running a special issue on just that subject. So, what I’m going to do is go into work and do things and leave these links here for you.
Six Articles on Creativity from Scientific American:
1. Your Fertile Brain At Work
2. The Science of Genius
3. Triumph of the City; Engines of Genius
4. Answers In Your Dreams
5. Living in an Imaginary World
6. Let Your Creativity Soar:

Hopefully, one of those will appeal to you and help you have a more creative weekend. Read them quick before they disappear behind a paywall!
And, we’ll see you next week!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

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.

12/12/2016

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.

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!

 

5/27/2016

Remember the Galactic Warfighters

Filed under: Art,Deep Thoughts,Fun,Photography — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:16 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

So, with Memorial Day coming up, I was sort of thinking in a military mode this week for a link to share.

Some time back, I saw an article about Matthew Callahan on IO9.com.  Mr. Callahan is a combat correspondent with the U. S. Marines, and you can see some of his combat photography at that first link.  I know Memorial Day is meant to remind us of those who gave their lives in military service so that we can enjoy our freedom, but I still like to thank those who served and are still serving, too.  I can’t imagine what Mr. Callahan has seen, and possibly photographed, in combat and I respect him for what he does for a living.  It’s hard enough to be a photographer, but I can’t imagine how hard it is to take photos while getting shot at and wearing full battle rattle.
But, all that aside, what I really want to share is his side project, Galactic Warfighters.  Mr. Callahan uses his experience and expertise gained from actual combat photography to create the most incredible and imaginative tableaus of science-fiction combat using Star Wars figures that you’ve ever seen.  Seriously, this is art at a level you rarely get to see.  Go, look.  You’ll be stunned at the level of realism he gets with his little toys and some know-how.

And, this weekend, don’t forget those who serve, who served and who paid the ultimate price for our way of life.

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words.

3/11/2016

Positive Thinking

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning or 9:23 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I think everyone could use a little positive thinking this week.

I know I sure could!
I have read more than my fair share of self-help books and the one thing they all mostly have in common is the idea of “positive thinking”.  Whether it’s The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale or How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie or Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill or A Better Way to Live by Og Mandino,…
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3/8/2016

Unemployment Payment Requested

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Career Archive,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning or 9:41 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a New Moon

For the first time in almost fourteen years, I’ve requested a payment from unemployment.

I’ll be honest, it’s not a great feeling.  I’d really rather be working.  Not that I think I don’t deserve the payment or that I begrudge anyone else their benefits, either.  I paid into that system for more than twenty years, if you include both Illinois and Texas, and I am well within my rights to get my fair share back out of it.
But, I’d really rather be gainfully employed.

I have a friend who shakes his head in dismay at how eager I am to work hard.  I think that’s what he finds so incomprehensible; that I want to not just work, but work hard at what I do.
It’s not that I really enjoy long hours or wrestling with budgets or any of those things, though I have to admit I do love wrestling with technology and bending it to my will. I love getting things done.  Sure, most of what I do professionally can be undone with a couple of keystrokes, but, still crossing things off my to do list or watching the closed ticket count stack up gives me a sense of satisfaction.

I hate being out of work.
The last several times I’ve changed jobs, it’s mostly been under my control.  At least once, in the past fourteen years, I interviewed just before a project failed and I was out on my ear.  I was out of work for all of a week, not even enough time to actually request payment.  And, it could have been less, but I wanted a bit of a break before starting the next thing.
I honestly could barely relax at all that week.

So, here I’ve been out of work for three, full weeks and I’m done.
The Texas Workforce Commission requires that I perform at least three job-search-related activities per week to be eligible for unemployment benefits.
I do that much every week before 8:30AM on Monday.
I know I love work, but that bar seems pretty low to me.  Keep in mind, that doesn’t mean just applying for three jobs per week, but talking to a recruiter, or having a job interview, or going to a job fair, or even searching for new jobs on a job website all, apparently, count toward that requirement.  In my job search log, I only record actual job applications made or email or phone conversations with recruiters or potential employers.  I must seem like a real over-achiever to the Texas Workforce Commission staff.

Yes, I have the benefits coming.  And, yes, I feel perfectly justified in requesting them.  But, honestly, I’d rather be working.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt."
   --Mark Twain

4/17/2015

Scientology Petition

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Red Herrings,The Dark Side — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:04 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

I don’t normally post inflammatory things, but I think this is really important.

Long-time readers and friends will know that I have strong, and negative, feelings about Scientology.  Whatever Scientology started out as when L. Ron Hubbard first envisioned his “plan for living”, it has become, in my opinion, a dangerous cult-like organization that hides behind it’s religious status while actually being focused almost entirely on making money.  Based on documentaries and books and news stories of various kinds, I believe…
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3/20/2015

Does Luck Exist?

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Red Herrings — 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 a New Moon

Or do we make our own luck?

Opinions vary.  But, I don’t think that it’s complete coincidence that just after Friday the Thirteenth, when I shared with my few, loyal blog readers the origins of that unluckiest day, an email newsletter I subscribe to brings me an article about luck and people who have studied luck.

The article, titled “Does Lady Luck exist or do you make your own?”, brought to us by Aeon, speculates on that very thing.  Since luck is…
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