Diary of a Network Geek

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

7/24/2020

Programming Widgets

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Fun,Fun and Games,GUI Center,On Creativity,The Day Job — 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

I’m anything but a professional programmer, but occasionally, I make stuff.

Sometimes, in my day job, I have to solve a particular problem and the only way I can manage that is via some small bit of programming. Usually, it’s just a little script of some kind; PowerShell or Perl, mostly. I taught myself Perl seventeen or eighteen years ago, in an attempt to stay busy at a job that severely underutilized my talents. Demonstrated, I think, by teaching myself Perl in my downtime. A lot of techs I knew would have just scrolled a news site or played solitaire or some other useless thing. I tried to expand my portfolio of skills. I learned a long time ago, though, that I need a project to guide my learning. It almost doesn’t matter what the project is, as long as it gives me problems to solve and obstacles to overcome. Solving those problems, with the new thing I want to learn, is what teaches me. Granted, I don’t always learn the best way to accomplish my task, or at least not the most commonly accepted way, but I still learn the skills involved in a way that embeds them pretty deeply.

Since I’m mostly self-taught in IT, which is my chosen professional field, I’ve had to find ways to keep learning on my own interesting. Having personal projects is one of them. So, projects are how I teach myself new things. As I work toward a larger goal, whatever that may be, I find problems and solutions to those problems and my knowledge extends into new areas. I did that with Perl a number of years ago. First I tried to teach myself Perl for extending MoveableType, the blogging software that I used to use before their licensing debacle. But, that was a bit too arcane and involved a place for me to start. So, several years later, I found some simpler scripts that did some language processing and were useful for another low-key hobby of mine; conlanging. (That’s constructed language making, for the less geeky.) And, so, I had a project to work with that was within my skill level. In the end, I made those scripts something that could run on a webpage and it drove massive traffic to my site. It was sweet! But, it crashed the server because it was so popular and it drove TOO much traffic to that site. Ultimately, I had to take them down. By then, though, not only had I learned Perl pretty well, but I had moved my blog to WordPress and started looking at this fancy new language for the web called “PHP”. That mostly ran in a way that didn’t put a strain on the servers, so it was better for high-traffic sites. The only problem was, I couldn’t move the functions from the Perl scripts to PHP easily. So, I started looking around for projects to teach myself PHP.

The project I found to let me dig into PHP was a random generator. No, not some random piece of electronic equipment, but a little web toy that randomly generated things. It’s pretty simple, really. You have something, like a title or a sentence that has variables, like nouns and adjectives, like Mad Libs. Those variables become, well, variables in the program. So, I just need to list a bunch of whatever that variable is into the program which randomly chooses those and fills them into the sentence or title and then gives me the result. Sounds simple, right? Okay, it kind of is, which is why I started with that. But, then I went about making it complicated. I added more variables and started reading them in from external sources and getting fancy with the output formatting. But, what it did was let me learn, bit by bit, PHP. You can see a bunch of those at my World Building page at Fantasist.net. When I got good enough at it, I dug back into WordPress and started looking at ways to use my new PHP skills to modify WordPress. What I came up with was the Dale Reckoning Calendar Plugin. For its time, it was pretty good. Now, I look at it and, well, I’m not quite embarrassed by it, but I’m not as proud of it as I was. It does work, but it requires the user to modify their theme and, essentially, become a bit of a coder themselves. That never sat well with me. And, I wanted to have something that would randomly, or semi-randomly, conjure up weather conditions for a particular day. Why? Because, if you’re gaming in a big campaign, things like weather start to matter a little. And, it was fun. It let me use old skills and old code and extend them to something new and stretch my learning even more. So, that’s why I kept coming back and eventually came up with the Forgotten Realms Weather Widget. It works better as a widget in the sidebar than as a daily update on posts. Though, I may still revisit the idea and see if I can’t improve my old plugin to not require the end-user to modify their theme to make it work. Again, for no real reason other than it’s fun to me and it would make my brain work more on something technical, which I’m already good at, but not for my day job. Mostly, though, because it would be fun to me. Oddly, it wouldn’t be fun if I had to do it for a paycheck. By the way, in moving some of the code from the old plugin to the new widget, I did find some ways to tighten the code a bit. I’d still be a little embarrassed to have a professional coder look too closely at it, but at least I’m improving.

And, I’ll keep working on it, though I’ll need to set some better boundaries so that I don’t get so obsessed that I miss much more sleep working on it. In any case, you can see the results for yourself at Forgotten Realms Weather Widget.
It’s free and only for WordPress and there may be bugs that I haven’t seen yet, so let me know if you use and find any. I can’t promise when I’ll fix them, but I promise that I’ll work on them.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!  And, that’s where you should leave any comments or bugs you might find.

7/17/2020

Still Time for a Course Correction

Filed under: GUI Center,Marginalia and Notes from the Editor,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 Waning Crescent

There’s still time to fix some mistakes.
Since the COVID-19 lockdown started, I put on at least fifteen pounds. Working from home, literally steps from my kitchen, combined with a little stress eating really did a number on me. Especially because I’ve crossed that magic metabolic barrier that means if I look at chocolate cake I instantly gain a pound, but taking that pound back off takes weeks. Middle age is hell, kids, and don’t let anyone tell you different. I often joke that I don’t know what I’m doing because I didn’t plan on living past forty. Not that I expect to die, necessarily, but I just didn’t make plans for being older than forty. I guess I thought I’d have my shit together by now. Turns out, not as much as I was hoping. Hence the weight gain. But, it’s still not too late. My wife and I started the “keto diet” about two weeks ago, and I’ve already lost four pounds. That means just eleven more until I’m back to my pre-COVID weight and thirty-six until I hit my goal weight. And, I’ve been rowing three times a week for twenty minutes at a time for a little over two months now. I can definitely feel the change. I might be anxious before my workout, but afterward, I’ve burned off that nervous energy and feel fine. It’s definitely helped my mental health, too. One thing we did was get a whipped cream maker, so that we can have real whipped cream. Turns out that you can have pretty much as much whipped cream as you want on the keto diet and I’ve been loving that.
I haven’t felt too inspired to write, though I have been keeping up with my morning writing exercises. Some days, though, it’s been dreadfully hard to focus enough to do those. I suppose that’s mostly the craziness in the world today. Between COVID-19 and the political upheaval, I just don’t have a lot of extra bandwidth to write. I did start working on teaching myself some PHP programming again, but I don’t count that as writing, per se. I’ve had bits and bobs of PHP code floating around for things and I’ve been meaning to make it into a WordPress plugin or a widget for some time. It’s going to be slow going, as the first two pages of “example code” for making a basic widget were just dead wrong or broken. Either way, having a goal to reach gives me a direction in my self-directed learning.
And, I suppose some of this wanting to be healthier and teach myself something new has to do with my father’s ninety-first birthday being this week. He celebrated by coming home from the hospital where he was treated for some heart issues. He’s doing fine now and getting some strength and energy back, but it was a closer call than I think anyone in the family, including my father or I, want to admit. So, I need to definitely get on track with my health, both physical and mental. There’s still time for me to course correct a little and learn from the mistakes that Dad made in not eating better sooner. I’ve said it before, but this is probably my last chance at staving off diabetes and I’ve seen first hand how challenging dealing with diabetes can be. But, hey, the great thing about the COVID-19 lockdown getting extended everywhere is that all that stuff we didn’t think we’d have time to do has just had their deadlines extended.

In any case, that’s all I’ve got for you this week. It’s not much, but, hey, it’s a post.
Hopefully, I’ll have more energy next week.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!  My other blog at JKHoffman.com

7/10/2020

COVID-19 and Mental Health

Filed under: About The Author,Deep Thoughts,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 Waning Gibbous

Make no mistake, mental health has always been an important issue for me.

But, with the pandemic lockdown, as loose and unrestrictive as it has really been, I feel all kinds of anxiety and depression that I normally only have to deal with when I’m starting a new job or when I’ve been single during the holidays. I can get the blues like everyone else. Usually, it’s just short-lived and very transient, but that’s only because the circumstances that cause the issue are short-lived and transient, too. With COVID-19, no one knows how long things are going to be like this. It could literally be several years that we’re dealing with some of these issues, if not all of them. While I have faith that we’ll either come up with a vaccine or a treatment that greatly reduces symptoms and consequences, that may be months if not years away. We don’t know what kind of long-term effects contracting COVID-19 will have on people. And, to top it all off, there’s been another swine flu found in China that has the potential to sweep the world the same way this one has. I, for one, hope they can contain it until we at least have the chance to elect some different government officials. Maybe this time we’ll get some people in office who understand science and public health. (If you haven’t registered to vote yet, now is a great time. Just hit this link to Vote.gov and they’ll give you instructions. The country you save may be your own!) But, until then, we’re stuck. We don’t know how long this will go on. And, I have to admit, it’s been wearing on my mental health. I can only imagine what it’s been like for someone who’s already got clinical depression.

To be fair, I definitely feel better this morning than I have in a couple of days. And, you may have noticed that this will be the third week running that I’ve shared links about mental health and getting help. I’m doing that because I think it’s that important.
For me, I’ve been praying and doing formal, sitting meditation for years and that’s helping. My wife and I took beginning meditation classes at the Houston Zen Center a number of years ago, and I’ve sat for at least 20 minutes at least 5 days a week since then. It’s been helpful in ways that I have a hard time explaining to people. But, if you’ve ever been curious about what meditation practice is the Houston Zen center is a great resource. And, you can join in even if you’re not in Houston, since everything is pretty much remote only right now, via the Houston Zen Center Cloud Zendo.
I also find that trying to keep engaged in things that interest me has helped some. I’ve been writing Morning Pages for about two months now. That’s been helpful. It hasn’t kickstarted my fiction writing yet, but I hope it will help get me over that hump soon. And, I’ve decided to work on search engine optimization as well. I used to do that, for fun, with my older sites. In fact, for a while, Diary of a Network Geek was the number one hit on Google for the search term “network geek”. It’s not now, mainly because I stopped creating a steady stream of original content, but, also my success with those search terms made me a bit of a target. And, that’s okay. Honestly, it was a great indicator of how successful I was! I’m hoping I can recreate that success here. I’ll let you guess the search terms I’ll want to optimize for, though. And, I’ve added a tool to help me make pretty book reviews, too. I’ve always enjoyed reading, though I don’t seem to have the time and focus to read the way I used to when I was younger. Actually, ever since I had cancer back in 2007, I’ve felt like I wasn’t as sharp with reading as I used to be. In any case, I still enjoy it and enjoyed reviewing books, so I’ll start that again. I’ll mostly be reviewing fantasy and science fiction books, but there will be others, especially non-fiction on topics that interest me. I make no promises at how often those reviews will arrive, though.

So, in short, y’all watch out for your brains! Make your mental health a priority, especially now with all the crazy stressors of the dumpster fire that 2020 has become. If you have a spiritual practice, follow that and don’t give up on it. I truly believe that pursuing a more spiritual path is the only thing that’s kept me alive and kicking some times in the past 18 years or so. And, I think it will be what gets me through this COVID-19 craziness, too.

But, if you know someone who needs a little extra help with their mental health right now, don’t forget these resources:
MentalHealth.gov – Get Immediate Help

The National Alliance on Mental Health Helpline – 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline – 1-800-622-HELP (4357)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255

And, as I continually write here and elsewhere, please, remember, there’s no shame in getting help. In fact, getting help is what strong people do.
If you or a loved one needs help with depression or any other mental health issue, please, don’t wait until it’s too late.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words, my newest blog and labor of love.

7/3/2020

A Little Less Bang

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Maybe this is a good year to skip fireworks.

The past couple of years, I’ve posted tips for photographing fireworks around this time of year. They’re popular and taking photos of them is just as popular. But, maybe this year, with tensions running so high and people under so much extra stress, maybe with all that, we could tone down the fireworks. I haven’t heard anything about public fireworks displays this year, but, considering the crowds, I would hope that most of them would be canceled this year. Unfortunately, that probably means that more private “displays” of fireworks will happen instead. Smaller gatherings of neighbors who buy fireworks from the roadside stands and light up the cul-de-sac with barely controlled, hand-lit explosives. In theory, they’re illegal in most good size cities and neighborhoods, but they’re such a tradition that they’re hard to stop entirely. I’ve already read stories that would seem to indicate these neighborhood fireworks have been on the rise since the COVID-19 lockdowns started. And, I’ve read complaints about them on local message boards, especially by dog owners whose dogs get so very worked up by the sudden and random noise. If you don’t care about how it gets the neighborhood dogs worked up, at least consider your neighbors that may have survived a mass shooting or served in the military and seen combat. I know several people who have been down range and had significant experience with high explosives that were definitely not fireworks. They all have post-traumatic stress disorder to some degree.
For many most, it’s not even diagnosed. It’s just something that happened and they have to live with it every day, but the government doesn’t give them much in the way of support. I know one person who qualifies as at least partially disabled due to his PTSD and he was actually given a diagnosis to qualify for aid. But, whether any of our honored veterans were diagnosed with any psychological issues as a result of their service and exposure to combat, I don’t know a single one that looks forward to holidays that include fireworks.
So, maybe, this year, we should consider those neighbors. We’re happy to politicize military service and our patriotism around how much we allegedly support the troops, but this is an actual thing we can do to help them in a real way. I know I’ve shot off my share of those supposedly harmless fireworks, too, but, as I got to know more guys who had served, I came to realize how hard it was on them. The random explosions and shooting lights are very much like small arms fire and the kinds of smaller devices that are used by insurgents in our more recent combat theaters and conflicts. It brings someone with PTSD right back to those battlefields and the incredible danger that they escaped physically, but can never escape mentally.

And, if you know someone who suffers from PTSD, or any other mental health issues, trauma related or not, don’t forget these resources:
MentalHealth.gov – Get Immediate Help

The National Alliance on Mental Health Helpline – 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline – 1-800-622-HELP (4357)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255

And, specifically for those struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, National Center for PTSD “Get Help in a Crisis” page.

And, as I wrote last week, please, remember, there’s no shame in getting help. In fact, getting help is what strong people actually do.
If you or a loved one needs help with depression or any other mental health issue, please, don’t wait until it’s too late.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

6/26/2020

Facing The Black Dog

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,News and Current Events,Personal Care,Red Herrings — 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

Yeah, I’m talking about depression.

That metaphor, calling depression the “Black Dog”, is usually attributed to Winston Churchill, but I’ve definitely heard it from a lot of sources. We tend to want to show our best faces on social media and on our blogs, but the truth is, most of us aren’t the happy, shiny Instragram people we want the world to see. I know I’ve had my own bouts of depression, on and off, for years. It feels like sitting in the bottom of a pit without light or hope, at best forgotten, but at worst with people shoveling dirt on top of me. There have been various reasons for it and I’m grateful that all my depression has been transitory. It’s always been what I call situational depression. One time, it was because I was getting divorced. Another time it was because my cardiologist had given me betablockers, which killed my motivation and made me want to just lay on the couch all the time. There have been other times, usually around a job loss or some other relationship failure on my part.
Right now, though, all of 2020 so far has been enough to depress anyone. I mean, I’m pretty blessed to have a job that pays well and lets me work from home at least some of the time, but I’m very aware that a lot of people don’t have that. And, even though I count my blessings on a regular basis, I still worry about COVID-19 for my wife and me and the rest of my family. I still worry about the economy and my friends who don’t have stable work. I’m absolutely blessed, but only someone out of touch with reality wouldn’t find some things to be depressed about right now.
And, even in that, I know I’m lucky. My depression has always gone away, so I know the latest bout of it will absolutely fade, too. But, my wife has clinical depression. She spends a good portion of her day dealing with that, whether it’s making sure all the meds she takes are right and that she’s stocked up correctly, or planning healthy meals, or trying to get enough rest, or enough exercise. She works very hard at it all the time. And, I’ve seen her when all that’s NOT working and she does get swallowed up by depression. I know how hard it is to watch, and I can only imagine how hard it is to live through.
So, I’ve got nothing fun or happy or silly for you this week. What I’ve got is a little understanding if the Black Dog has gotten off the leash and you need a little help. If you feel like everything is too much and depression might overwhelm you, try one of the resources here:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255

MentalHealth.gov – Get Immediate Help

The National Alliance on Mental Health Helpline – 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

And, remember, there’s no shame in getting help. In fact, getting help is what strong people actually do.
If you or a loved one needs help with depression or any other mental health issue, please, don’t wait until it’s too late.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

6/19/2020

Money Management

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Life Goals,Marginalia and Notes from the Editor — 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 Waning Crescent

I always seem to have more expenses than money.

The other day I was working from home and my wife came to get me in a little bit of a panic. There was a considerable amount of standing water in our back yard and right at the edge of our house. Definitely, not a good sign. She was sure we had a leak and I started to hyperventilate. If you’re a homeowner, you know that problems seem to come in roughly $5000 increments and from the size of the puddle in the yard, this was looking like about a $15,000 problem, at least. Like I said, definitely, not a good sign. Luckily, after calming down and checking the neighbor’s yard, it turned out that they’d just left their hose on over night and the water had run from their driveway to yard. It was gone by the end of the day.
But, that really got me thinking about money. I know that most Americans can’t handle a $400 emergency, much less a $15000 emergency. No one really ever taught me to manage money. I’ve had to learn on my own, which is why I carried so much debt for so long. The irony is that along the way, I started keeping track of everything with Quicken. I used to be able to connect to all my various accounts and reconcile everything easily. They’ve made that a paid service now, and I’m not quite willing to pay for that.
I did see Thursday, that you can now “Track Your Spending with Microsoft’s New ‘Money’ Template for Excel“, which sounds great, until you realize that you have to pay a monthly premium for that, too. And, it’s only good if you have a personal or family subscription to Office 365. My corporate license won’t give me access to the template. The good news is there’s a free alternative that does everything but directly link your bank accounts. You can download it from Vertex 42, The Guide to Excel in Everything, at Free Money Management Template. You’ll have to manually enter and reconcile your accounts, but, for most of us, that’s not that many accounts. And, this is free. No monthly fees. They even have a version for LibreOffice, if you scroll down a bit. In fact, they have quite a collection of free templates.

And, when you get a handle on all your money, if you have any left over, you might consider donating to causes that support a United States of America that is truly free and equal for all of her citizens, like the ACLU or the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or some other civil rights cause that scratches your political itch. Not everyone may be willing to risk their life or incarceration to protest injustice, but a monetary donation can help support those people who are fighting that fight.
Or, if you still can’t afford a straight donation, we can support more minority businesses. There’s a great list of resources for Black freelancers at Freelancers Union that include lists of Black businesses we can support.

And, of course, we can continue to educate ourselves, because it is OUR responsibility to educate ourselves as to the condition of our fellow citizens, not theirs. If you’re not sure where to start, this list from the Chicago Public Library can help. We can read books from lists like that and continue to educate ourselves because this is an issue that we can’t ignore any more, no matter who you are or what you do for a living.

Yes, I’ve posted that last bit a couple times already. With everything going on lately, I thought it bore repeating. Next month, I may highlight some other minority causes. I’d say I’d take suggestions, but I’m afraid of some of the suggestions I might get. The internet isn’t the friendly place it was when I started my blogs!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

6/12/2020

SysAdmin Software For Your Budget

Filed under: Life Goals,Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver,News and Current Events,The Day Job — 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 Waning Gibbous

Everyone’s IT budgets are shrinking this year, and probably next year, too.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been through a down-turn in the economy. And, every single time, no matter what the industry I’m in, IT and software purchases are some of the first casualties. Unless you work in an industry that is really deep into software and systems, it can be really hard to sell a software purchase to upper management, even under the best of circumstances. SO, now, with things as tight as they are, it can be almost impossible. One of the reasons I almost never worry about being unemployed for long is that I’m blessed with a reputation of doing more with less. I’m the kind of guy that will use PowerShell and batch files to build middleware. And, I’m absolutely the sort of geek who’s willing to put in some effort to use free, open source software to fill a need when a budget gets tight. So, since I’ve mostly been posting new content at my other blog, I thought I’d share something appropriate to Diary of a Network Geek, the first blog I ever started.
I’ve had this link for a couple of months at least, but there’s been a lot going on lately, so I haven’t shared it, until now. This week, I’m suggesting you take a look at Awesome Sysadmin, a curated list of amazingly awesome open source sysadmin resources, which is a fork of the older Awesome Sysadmin, a curated list of amazingly awesome open source sysadmin resources inspired by Awesome PHP. (I know, those names are confusingly redundant and vague.) I have to admit that I’ve only used a few things off these lists, but Clonezilla and NAGIOS were both solid tools for me when I had a shoestring budget and had to get stuff done. In fact, I still use Clonezilla because, frankly, it works so well. We use it to image Windows 10 machines without any issue. Laptops or desktops, either one works fine. So, if you’re in the network plumber business, as I refer to system administration, these lists are a great place to “shop” for free, open source software that can help you add another tool to your digital tool bag. And, yes, they may take a little extra time to set up and configure or may require reading some documentation, but that will just help you sharpen your skills.

And, with all the money you save on software, you can afford to donate to causes that support a United States of America that is truly free and equal for all of her citizens, like the ACLU or the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or some other civil rights cause that scratches your political itch. Not everyone may be willing to risk their life or incarceration to protest injustice, but a monetary donation can help support those people who are fighting that fight.
Or, if you still can’t afford a straight donation, we can support more minority businesses. There’s a great list of resources for Black freelancers at Freelancers Union that include lists of Black businesses we can support.

And, of course, we can continue to educate ourselves, because it is OUR responsibility to educate ourselves as to the condition of our fellow citizens, not theirs. If you’re not sure where to start, this list from the Chicago Public Library can help. We can read books from lists like that and continue to educate ourselves because this is an issue that we can’t ignore anymore, no matter who you are or what you do for a living.

6/5/2020

Political Agenda

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,News and Current Events,Truth and Consequences — 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 a Full Moon

Buckle up, this might be a bit of a bumpy ride.

I usually work pretty hard to stay non-political on my blog, but it’s too late for that. As my childhood hero, Abraham Lincoln famously said “In times like the present, men should utter nothing for which they would not willingly be responsible through time and eternity.” So, what I’m willing to say and be responsible for through time and eternity is that, yes, we need to change. We need to be a truly free and equal society. Being more aware is a start. I can’t change everything myself, but we can damn well vote for people that we think can change things to be more like the way we were taught they should be. We can vote for officials that want to make our country what we were taught it was already. Every state can be a swing state if enough people vote their conscience. If you’re not registered to vote yet, go do that right now.

And, we can continue to educate ourselves, because it is OUR responsibility to educate ourselves as to the condition of our fellow citizens, not theirs. I’ve already bought the Autobiography of Malcolm X and there are several lists of racial justice books that have been recommended, including this list from Early Bird Books and this list from the Chicago Public Library. We can read books from those lists and continue to educate ourselves because this is an issue that we can’t ignore any more.

We can support more minority businesses. There’s a great list of resources for Black freelancers at Freelancers Union that include lists of Black businesses we can support.

We can donate to causes that support a United States of America that is truly free and equal for all of her citizens, like the ACLU, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or the Southern Poverty Law Center. Not everyone may be willing to risk their life or incarceration to protest injustice, but we can absolutely support those people who are fighting that fight. We may not even be able to donate time to them, but we can absolutely give them money to keep the fight going.

Why do all that? Because, while we may not be who’s afraid today, we can be who’s afraid tomorrow. And, because the things that the activists are fighting for will benefit all of us as a nation.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

5/29/2020

Embracing My Inner Geek

Filed under: About The Author,music,The Day Job — 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 a First Quarter Moon

Because, that’s who I really am.

So, this week I was going to write about the error message I’ve seen filling up my logs which is due to some issue in the AuthorWrite theme I use here. But, thanks to some prodigious sleep procrastination, I was able to find the error and the fix it last night, with the help of Professor Google. Apparently, there are some security and encryption salts that are technically optional, but really should be added into the config on WordPress that I hadn’t done. Frankly, I blame that on being so far out of date on WordPress development that it’s ridiculous. The joy of it is that I don’t need to be up to date. Back in the old days, when I was running MoveableType, I had to know how it all worked because there was no one who was going to help me figure it out. But, now, with how popular WordPress has gotten and how many great programmers are working on it, I hardly have any issues. And, when I do have an issue, it’s almost always related to a theme or plugin that needs to be updated. In a couple of cases, plugins have been abandoned, and don’t work because the underlying architecture has changed and there’s no one updating the plugin code. That’s sad because there are some great plugins that I’ve had to stop using due to them not being supported and causing issues on my sites. Yes, I can almost always find a replacement for them, but, sometimes, the old plugins have nice features or an easy-to-use interface that I miss. Oh, well, life is change. Either way, the issue is resolved.

But, all that nerdy goodness got me thinking a bit. Being a computer geek is absolutely built into who I am now. It’s funny because back in high school, I was a little obnoxiously well known for hating computers because I already saw so many of my peers relying on them instead of thinking for themselves. That’s pretty remarkable when you consider that I graduated high school in 1986. Of course, some of those people I went to school with are now big shots in the technology industry, but, hey, I still prefer to think for myself. Not that I mind making a living off malfunctioning computers. It provides me and my family a pretty damn good living. But, I do find myself gravitating toward the, well, shall we say, darker side of computers and networks? When I attended DEF CON 20 in 2012, it was pretty life-changing. It truly opened my eyes to a whole new world of computer security. But, it also showed me that I already knew more than I was giving myself credit for! Beyond the security aspects of things, the idea that computer geeks might also be gun geeks or music nerds was sort of a new idea. My buddy, famous artist Mark Flood, knew about the hacker rappers that performed at DEF CON, but it was news to me. And, apparently, there’s a whole slew of nerdcore music and musicians that I’ve not heard of before. It’s an event he and I still talk about on a regular basis. Things we saw there are still trickling out into the mainstream, like smart car hacking. It makes me a little sad that DEF CON is Cancelled this year, at least in person. I still hope to get back one day to experience it all live and in person, but, if you have the time, this year’s virtual event August 7-9 is a great opportunity for you to safely check it out. Just make sure you’ve got all your antivirus and security patches up to date! (Just kidding! I’m sure it will be 100% safe! Trust me!) And, I’ve already ordered two DEF CON is Cancelled t-shirts, which will get here in a couple weeks. They’ll pair well with my Guy Fawkes COVID-19 mask that I should have by the end of the day!

And, if you just want to relax a little, not think about big issues like computer security and nerdcore music and COVID-19, then try unlocking some browser games with help from Lifehacker. Yes, all three major browsers have them, though some are easier to get to than others, not to mention more fun.

Try to enjoy your weekend and week and do something you love.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

5/22/2020

Finally, Some Changes

Filed under: About The Author,On Creativity — 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 a New Moon

You know how I keep threatening to write differently here?

You may have noticed that things were starting to change a bit over the past several weeks. Yes, I’ve still been bringing you “fun” links on Friday, but that’s been mostly swallowed up by all the other writing. I’m still mostly too busy to write as often as I did ten or fifteen years ago, so I haven’t managed to get in more than a single blog post per week yet. I’d like to write more regularly here, but I’ve got creditors who demand to be paid and that means my “day job” comes first. So, after a minimum of forty hours of work for them, and my paycheck, I don’t always have a lot of energy or focus to write anything else.
You may remember that I started writing morning pages about two weeks ago now. That was inspired by the keynote for a virtual fantasy convention given by Brandon Sanderson. He talked about how frustrated he was when he started out writing because he wasn’t producing work that he liked. Well, that sure sounded like how I’ve felt for the past ten years or more. But, he offered a cure; fall in love with the writing process again. And, to at least some degree, that was what was behind me starting those morning pages. It was about relearning to simply enjoy the act of writing. And, so far, that’s really started to happen again. Now, I despair of being able to convert those random thoughts and stream of consciousness worries into coherent fiction at some point, but that, ultimately, is the goal here. So, in that spirit, and because I imagine my fictional readers being interested in the same things I am, I have a link to share. Brandon Sanderson is also a teacher, as well as a writer. He’s shared an entire course of lectures on writing fantasy fiction, which you can stream for free. I plan to watch them all, though, since they’re an hour long a piece, I’m not sure when I’ll find the time to watch all of them. Either way, if you’ve got it in your head to write fantasy fiction, you could do worse than watch his lectures. His work is incredibly popular and I found his talks so far to be helpful and inspiring.

You know, I had other links that I was going to share, but, I think that one is enough this week after all. It’s been a hell of a week. For one, a friend of mine lost her father. For another, my own father, who’s about two months away from being 91, and who’s going through chemotherapy for liver cancer, was admitted to the hospital with heart issues this week. Thankfully, it seemed to be caused by some fluid on his lung, which was causing some cardiac stress. He’s been given a diuretic and sent home and it sounds like he’ll be able to continue his chemotherapy. Chemotherapy which is working pretty well, by the way. So, good news for my father, but still, a lot of stress and worry, especially since I couldn’t just jump on a plane to go see him if things had gotten worse thanks to COVID-19, which he tested negative for, too, thankfully.
So, while I try to relearn what exactly makes a plot work and apply that to some of the ideas that have been bouncing around in my head for the past couple of decades, I’ll keep up the morning pages. And, in some form or fashion, I’ll keep writing here, too.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words, the blog most likely to be updated with new writing.

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