Diary of a Network Geek

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

4/1/2016

Expense and Tax Tools

Filed under: Geek Work,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Red Herrings,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:54 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

So, it looks like I’m going to be an independent contractor for a bit.

And, that means tracking expenses and tracking billable hours, as well as the taxes I have to pay on that.  Since I’m an iPhone user, that means that, yes, there’s an app for that.  Or, ten apps, actually.  From eWeek, Ten Tax Filing, Expense Tracking Tools to Keep the IRS Happy.  Because, really, we all just want to avoid an audit or any Imperial entanglements.
And, frankly, I’m exhausted this week and all my creativity and wit has been drained into trying to help my client rebuild from a devastating data-loss that may ultimately result in some legal action.  It’s bad.  Really bad.  And, I’m pretty worn out this week.
So, I posted this and hopefully, you’ll get something better next week.  Maybe a review of the network audit tools I’ve been using to catalog what they have, and will have again.
(And, no, I don’t even have the energy to run an April Fool’s joke.  Seriously.  I’m that drained this week.)
Have a great weekend, y’all!

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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3/10/2016

Re-Organizing

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Career Archive,Geek Work,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,Red Herrings,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning or 9:29 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

It’s time to clean up my act.

Seriously.
My wife is a professional organizer and decorator, so those of you who know me well know how she suffered when she first moved in with me.  I hadn’t devolved into a complete hoarder, but I had gotten an unfortunately significant start.  She dug me out.  Honestly, I wish I had her ability to let go of things, but I tend to hold on to too much.  Naturally, when she asked me to read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I just about had a panic attack.  But, I did read it and, once I got past some of the ways the author talks about discarding things, I could see why my blushing bride loved the book.  In spite of whatever reviews you may have read about the extreme method described, it’s really not so terrifying.  The essence of it is to get rid of the things that you don’t use or need or want any more, to make room, both literally and figuratively.
I’m not saying that it’s been easy for me to do, because it hasn’t, but I do find myself thinking about what I really need and use quite a bit.  The reality is, I have too much stuff to really keep track of it all.  So, I’ve been taking some of the time I have, while I wait to get connected to my next work opportunity, to reevaluate and clean out.
I have told myself for a long time that I don’t like change, that I’m not good with it.  But, that’s not really true.  Sure, I like to control change, but in many areas of my life, I’m constantly changing, growing, trying new ideas and methods, keeping what works and discarding the rest.  One area that I haven’t been working at as much lately is my personal organization and scheduling.  I’ve been very reactive and not nearly proactive enough to suit me.

I used to be a “to do list” fanatic.  Every day I’d start my day with a fresh list, carrying over the things I didn’t finish from the previous day, and adding to it.  On Friday, I’d set my list up for Monday before I left the office.  First thing Monday, I’d review the list and see if I thought of anything else to add over the weekend, because my brain just will not shut off and stop thinking about work.  It’s how I’m wired, I guess.
Mainly, though, I loved crossing things off my list.
I know, it’s a strange thing, but the idea of crossing something off my list actually gave me a little thrill.  And, when I’d get to the end of the day, I’d see all the things I’d crossed off and think about how great it was to get all that stuff done.  Somewhere, though, in all the jobs and the “life stuff”, like getting married, divorced, beating cancer and getting married again, I lost that habit.  I tried to “leverage technology” and my smart phone to get a to do list app that would synchronize with my computer, but, frankly, nothing ever worked to my satisfaction.  And, of course, it was a convenient excuse for why I stopped doing it.
Some time back, I read Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen and I sort of made a half-hearted attempt to set some of his system up, but, honestly I never put enough effort into it. At the time, his book didn’t have a lot of technological help for geeks like me that wanted to use the cloud to keep things synched up.  I need to find out what’s changed, because the time is ripe for me to re-read that book and, as my wife and I reorganize our physical space, get my mental space in order and prepared for a new job.  This is the perfect time to get reorganized and have my system in place, ready to go, before I land somewhere and have an endless stream of projects to track.

So tell me, gentle readers, what do you use to stay organized?  If you’re a fan of the GTD method, what tech tools do you use to stay on track?


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"If you can't be thankful for what you receive, be thankful for what you escape."
   --Unknown

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:
"I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after."
   --Ernest Hemingway

2/19/2016

Job Search Log

Filed under: Career Archive,Geek Work,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Sheep which is in the early afternoon or 2:48 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

So, I was laid off Tuesday.

I wasn’t surprised by it, for sure, since they’ve been laying off two and three people a week for the past six weeks or more.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed, though.
A couple weeks ago, another sort of IT person, who’s here from the real parent company in China, was sent over to my location to gather up all the passwords and access I had.  Probably to make a copy of my laptop, too, but I kept that with me or locked up.  I know they were trying to be sneaky or subtle when they did it by distracting me with a phantom project, but, really, when someone is sent for the passwords, there’s really only one thing to think.  Then, when I asked why the theoretical project I was supposed to be working on hadn’t been implemented when it was first sent out for bid 18 months ago, I was told that it was due to lack of funding.  If there weren’t funds then, when the company was doing well, where were the funds going to come from now that so many people were being laid off?  I got the answer to that question on Tuesday morning, so I went in and packed up my desk, just in case.  You see, ever since I worked for a company that got liquidated, I’ve kept my personal belongings at work limited to what I can easily put into one, small box, which I keep under my desk.  Just in case.
Apparently, the fact that I went into my final interview with a 99% packed desk shocked the people firing me.  But, then again, they were always underestimating me at that job anyway.

So, regardless of all that, when I got home Tuesday afternoon, I applied for unemployment with the Texas Workforce Commission.  I was able to go on-line and sign up, which is an improvement over the last time I was out of work, when you had to call or go in person.  Sadly, I won’t be able to apply for a payment until the 28th, but I’ve started my job search.  Well, really, I’ve just intensified my job search as I’ve been looking for about a month.  And, while I’ve had a couple phone interviews and at least two really good prospects, I still need to keep the requisite job search log.  The Texas Workforce Commission has a downloadable form on their website, but, honestly, I kind of hate it.  So, instead, I made my own spreadsheet.  I’ve shared the blank one at the bottom of this post.
Some of the columns have drop-down choice boxes in them and the form has gotten kind of big to accommodate all the new fields they have on the original form.  It is, however, formatted to print all on one page for easy verification should it be requested.  And, yes, for those of you wondering, I verified with the Texas Workforce Commission helpline that a spreadsheet is just fine for recording your job search activity.

So, grab a copy of the form and good luck in your job search!

jobsearchlog-blank

2/5/2016

Tools for Job Searchers

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Geek Work,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 6:36 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Not exactly a set of “fun” links, really.

I still work in Oil and Gas, albeit in IT, which means there are a lot of layoffs.  And, there are more coming.  Even though I’m in IT, and they need use like they need electricity, I could go at any minute.  So, in solidarity for those who have already lost their job and those who might still, I’ reposting several links to resources for job seekers.

First, for those who are still employed,…
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Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Hating people is like burning down your house to get rid of a rat."
   --Harry Emerson Fosdick

1/29/2016

Makin’ Bacon

Filed under: By Bread Alone,Fun,Life Goals,Life, the Universe, and Everything,The Network Geek at Home — 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

No, seriously, I’m talking about actual bacon not some silly double entendre.

Also?  If you don’t like bacon enough to read this, why do you even read my blog?  I mean, seriously, do you even get me?
I actually had a talk with one of my doctors about bacon and how if I had to die of something, I was okay if it was bacon.  She suggested that it would be healthier for me to pass it up occasionally.  I responded…
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11/13/2015

Friday the Thirteenth

Filed under: 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

That’s right, today is Friday the Thirteenth.

I used to assume that Friday the Thirteenth was considered unlucky due to some Biblical association, since so many superstitions seem to tie back to some obscure custom related to religion. Personally, I assumed it had something to do with Judas being the Thirteenth Apostle or some such. But, I’ve since found out that nothing could be further from the truth. As it turns out, Friday the Thirteenth is considered unlucky because of its association…
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9/4/2015

How much money are you making?

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Fun,Life Goals,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 5:45 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

How much money are you making right now?

I mean, as the time ticks by, are the dollars and cents racking up? And how does the rate at which you make money compare to other people in the US?  They say that comparison is the root of all unhappiness, but, when it comes to salary and money, I don’t really know.  I mean, I hate to admit it, but I very easily lose perspective on where I fit.
I have a friend who…
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Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Character is the ability to carry out a good resolution long after the excitement of the moment has passed."
   --Cavett Robert

5/1/2015

Things To Read

Filed under: Fun,Life Goals,Life, the Universe, and Everything,MicroSoft,Red Herrings,Things to Read — 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

I’m a little suspicious of lists put out by booksellers of books I ought to read.

I’m especially suspicious when it’s a list of 100 “books to read in a lifetime” being suggested by Amazon.  But, when Matt Mullenweg, founder of Automattic and one of two founding developers of WordPress, I have to admit, I pay a little closer attention.  For one thing, I’ve heard spectacular things about him from at least one of his old high school buddies and for…
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