Diary of a Network Geek

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

1/15/2021

Bardcore

Filed under: Art,Fun,music — 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

Modern music with a Medieval twist!

As a guy who aspires to write, among other things, fantasy fiction of the pseudo-Medieval or “swords and sorcery” style, I’m always paying attention to things I think will hook people. Music is, of course, something that most of us have some kind of interest in and I’ve always been a fan of musical mash-ups. So, naturally, when I stumbled across something called “bardcore”, I was intrigued, to say the least. In essence, these are relatively modern songs done in a Medieval style, to varying degrees, and can be quite fun. I’m not ashamed to say that I find them mostly fun, and, if I wrote with music in the background, I’d absolutely find them inspiring. Maybe you will, too. One of my favorite blogs, BoingBoing, has a short article about it and a link to one of the better performers. Strictly instrumental, but quite lovely.
I’ve got a couple of saved Bardcore lists on Spotify, too. One called simply
Bardcore and another called Bardcore/Tavernwave and a third called < a href=”https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5bSyIBVoTa9gwiOqvvJFWD”>Medieval Style/Bardcore. All fun, in my opinion, and quite likely to lead to daydreams of a past that never was.

Either way, it seems like a nice, light way to start the new year.
No idea what else I may share this year, or how often I’ll post, but at least you’ve got this.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

1/8/2021

Avoiding A FIght

Filed under: About The Author,Advice from your Uncle Jim,Deep Thoughts — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:15 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

To be clear, I haven’t been in a fight since high school.

And, I haven’t even been close, really, since college.
That being said, I have been threatened more than once in the past thirty years since leaving the safe, quiet suburbs of Chicago. Though, that has happened with increasingly less frequency, thankfully. You see, I think of myself as a peaceful person, in spite of once threatening to stick a fork in someone’s eye. Hey, he started the threatening and posturing! I just turned out to be better at it than he was. And, the fork never left my side of the table. The believable threat was enough to stop him.
The thing is, when adults fight, I can tell you from unfortunate experience, everyone involved gets hurt. Yes, even the “winner” of that physical confrontation ends up hurting. Trust me. Knuckles in the teeth hurt the knuckles as much as the teeth. So, I go a long way to avoid getting into that sort of conflict. I apologize when it’s not strictly necessary. I stay away from bars, just on general principle. These days, I’m a pretty soft-looking middle-aged guy that probably reminds most people of their uncle who gets quietly drunk and weepy on Thanksgiving or Christmas. (I’m not, by the way. I don’t really drink anymore and rarely get weepy.) So, I never seem a threat. Not at all the sort that people seek out to start trouble with at all. And, that’s just the way I like it. Trust me, no one wants to hang out with the guy willing to literally stick a fork in someone to prove a point. Not even the guy with the fork.

I bring all this up because, well, we’ve been away from regular human contact for a bit and while we were, I feel like tempers have gotten shorter. I know mine did for awhile this past year. And, too, our world has gotten scarier and more uncertain thanks to a pandemic and politicians that leave much to be desired. I’m not even thrilled with the people I voted for, much less the ones I didn’t. I imagine that others feel the same way. All that lack of practice on our social skills and the heightened tension may make for some challenging times ahead as we get used to being with people again. I hope we won’t need this, but why not start your year off on the right foot and look at Lifehacker’s suggestions for how to talk your way out of a bar fight. Trust me on this one, fellahs. The pretty girls would rather go home with the guy who avoids the trouble than the guy who starts OR ends it. Just ask my wife!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Why not go out on a limb? Isn't that where the fruit is?"
   --Frank Scully

1/1/2021

Upgraded Resolutions!

Filed under: Art,Fun,Fun and Games — 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 Gibbous

Updated random resolutions!

I haven’t made formal New Year’s Resolutions in a long, long time because, honestly, if I’m relying on making myself a promise on a certain day to follow through, it’s not likely to actually happen. At least I know that I’m alone, which is why gyms and churches are both bursting at the seams in January but thin out by April. Still, it’s traditional, so I’ll share, my own little solution to the New Year’s Resolution “problem”, which has been freshly updated.
Back in the day, when I still had delusions that I could make myself into a decent programmer, I whipped up a New Year’s Resolution Generator. At the time, I was studying Perl, which is what I wrote it in then. This year, though, I updated that sad, old Perl CGI program to the much more modern PHP. So, now, instead of getting an error message, you actually get the fun toy.
I based it, in part, on some ideas from the Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Holidays, but I have to admit, I threw in some of my own warped sense of humor. And, I weighted things a little more toward heavier drinking and looser morals because I figured those were the resolutions that would be easier to keep and I figured they’d be funnier.

In any case, it was apparently funny enough that Comedy Central Insider linked it in their blog back when I first released it all the way back in 2006. Which is pretty cool, no matter how long ago that was and how many technologies and upgrades have come and gone. Besides, can completely random “advice” from a website really be any worse than the suggestions you got from family over the holidays? In today’s world of chaos and unreality, it honestly doesn’t seem as bad an idea as it used to! So, why not give it a shot yourself? You don’t even have to share about it publicly. No one will know but us!

And try to have a good year, no matter what happens. Make time to love your loved ones, do good work, and add something positive to the world. Or one of the random resolutions. Whichever seems likelier to produce good results.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words, in spite of the fact that the actual New Year’s Resolution Generator resides here! It’s a crazy world!

12/25/2020

Christmas Day 2020

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Marginalia and Notes from the Editor,News and Current Events,Red Herrings — 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 Waxing Gibbous

Normally, I’d share a silly link, but not today.

Today, it’s Christmas. The day that Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, also known as Yeshua ben Yeshua, Lamb of God, and Light of the World. We live in strange times, filled with consumerism and fear of the future. Locked in our homes because of a global pandemic, we haven’t been able to celebrate this season the way we might like. Family has been distant for most of us, one way or another, and our usual gatherings, either at religious services or for holiday meals, have been severely curtailed.
My wife and I often celebrate the season quietly anyway, so it hasn’t been as big a burden on us, really. For that, I am thankful. But, this year, more than ever, I think we all need to consider what people from time immemorial have celebrated at this time of year. The actual birth of Jesus most likely happened in the Spring, closer to when we celebrate Easter. But, the early church leaders were very clever and some of the best marketers that history has ever known. They chose to connect the birth of Christ with the far older and more pagan festival connected with the Winter Solstice. That day, which was actually Monday, December 21st this year, is the longest night, and shortest day, of the year. But, it marked the day that a little more light was about to be let into the world, because, the next day was a little longer and each day after that is a little longer too, until the Summer Solstice when the cycle repeats. What’s important though, I think, is that we all are celebrating that this holiday commemorates the continual rebirth of light, joy, and possibilities into the world.
That hope is something that I think we can all use more of this year. So, go, enjoy your families, and spread that hope and light as far as you can carry it in the coming year. It may not be easy, but I think the results will be worth it!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

12/18/2020

Santa’s Flight Plan

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Fun,Fun and Games,News and Current Events,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

I’m just not smart enough to calculate Santa’s trajectory.

Seriously, I love science, but I’m just not good enough at math to keep track of Santa Claus on his flight plan around the world on Christmas Eve. Thankfully, I don’t have to figure it out because the US Government will do it for you, so, as I have done more than once in the past at this time of year, I’m sharing some good, clean fun for the whole family, brought to you by your hard-earned tax dollars.
During the Cold War, NORAD stood between us and what we were sure was complete destruction at the hands of the Soviets. What with the recent tensions vis-a-vis Russia and China and North Korea, NORAD may find itself busier than ever in the coming year, but, until then, thankfully, they can fall back on my favorite tradition; tracking Santa. It started with a wrong number and an accidental connection, but a gentle soul in a high-pressure job spread a little Christmas cheer once a long, long time ago. The story got around and before you can say “Who’s violating my air space?”, everyone was misappropriating government resources to make kids happy. Before long, it was fully sanctioned and, if I say so myself, an entirely proper use of my tax dollars. In any case, now, whether you’re young or old, or whether you have children or not, you can have fun tracking Santa with the Official NORAD Santa Tracker!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

12/12/2020

I Just Keep Getting Older

Filed under: About The Author — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is mid-morning or 10:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Which is better than the alternative!

Considering that I wasn’t entirely sure I’d live past forty, it’s a pleasant surprise to find that I’ve survived to fifty-two. It’s been a hell of a year. The whole world has suffered from a plague this year, but I’ve had my own troubles beyond that. I lost my father in July, just a week after his 91st birthday. Then, three months later, to add a bit of insult to injury, I passed a 7mm kidney stone. Nineteen years ago, I passed a 9mm stone, so I suppose I should be grateful that this one was smaller, but it did hurt quite a bit more passing than I remember the first one hurting. At least, it was a distraction from missing Dad. I still go to call him sometimes, only to suddenly remember that he won’t be there to pick up the phone. So, instead, more often than not, I talk to Mom, who is still here.
Oddly enough, we’ve fared pretty well during the pandemic, at least financially. Not going out to spend money on movies and food and gas made a surprising improvement to our bottom line this year. Though, I have to admit that we took on a little bit more debt to get the twenty-six-year-old furnace and blower replaced. Not only had it gotten dangerous, but that blower runs the air conditioning as well, so replacing it should help our overall power bill.
Of course, being married to Sharon does make my time here easier and a lot more pleasant. That sounds a little tepid and middle-aged, but, honestly, I think we’re both pretty happy about having this quiet, pleasant life together. We’ve both had more than our share of adventure and chaos to think we’re missing out on much at this point. In fact, if anything, all that craziness in our past makes the quiet in our future all the more appealing. Sharon’s business, The Organizing Decorator, is poised to do quite a bit better this coming year, and I’m incredibly proud of her and her work. I’ve known people who constantly complain about never having been given a chance, but Sharon not only took advantage of the quiet year to study up on her industry and better business practices, but she even managed to find a good-sized project to end this year with and that will possibly bring her more work in the coming year. She’s a miracle and I’m truly blessed to be married to her.
It is a bit strange to find myself being so fiscally responsible these days. Again, I suppose age and commitment have their unexpected upsides. I want to make sure that she’s taken care of, at least, even if we don’t expect to leave much after we’re gone.
Otherwise, I wish I’d spent less time complaining this year and more time working for change in all aspects of my life. I still have dreams of writing more and taking more photographs. I’m sure if I really am committed to that this year, I’ll find a way to make the time. Maybe that’s one secret of making it to middle age; I don’t buy as many excuses, not even my own. So, watch this space! Hold me to account, dear readers, if anyone out there is still reading this blog.
I do still harbor dreams of publishing fiction. In fact, I’ve been writing daily since May, outside of the brief gap while I was in Chicago, burying Dad and helping Mom get some of the most pressing things taken care of before heading back down to my regular habitat. I’m still a long way from being published, but there are actually a lot of great authors who didn’t publish until they were over fifty, including Raymond Chandler, Frank McCourt, Bram Stoker, Richard Adams, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and fantasy author Dave Duncan. So, there’s still hope, if I get to work this year!

In the past, I’ve listed the same group of celebrities who share my birthday. But, this year, I’ll only mention three, because they’re the only ones I currently care about. I’m shocked to realize that I’m a mere two years older than Jennifer Connelly, who was born on this day. She’s lovely and I’d watch her read the phone book. The other celebrity who shares my birthday is Frank “Chairman of the Board” Sinatra. And, just like me, he did it his way.
It’s the birthday of the jack-of-all-trades whom Samuel Taylor Coleridge called “the first literary character of Europe, and the most original-minded Man.” That’s the physician, inventor, poet, philosopher, and scientist Erasmus Darwin, (books by this author) born in Elston, England (1731).

His famous grandson, Charles Darwin, wrote about his grandfather: “As a physician, he was eminent in the noble art of alleviating human suffering. He was in advance of his time in urging sanitary arrangements and in inculcating temperance. He was opposed to any restraint of the insane, excepting as far as was absolutely necessary. …With his prophetic spirit, he anticipated many new and now admitted scientific truths, as well as some mechanical inventions. […] He strongly insisted on humanity to the lower animals. He earnestly admired philanthropy and abhorred slavery. But he was unorthodox; and as soon as the grave closed over him he was grossly and often calumniated.”

Darwin was such a fine physician that he was invited to be the personal physician to King George III (an offer he refused), although he treated the poor for free; he wrote the best-seller Zoonomia, or, The Laws of Organic Life (1794–1796), which contained some early speculation about evolution; he discovered that sugar and starches are byproducts of what he called “plant digestion”; he designed a steam-powered car, a horizontal windmill, and a copy machine; and he wrote poems.

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, today is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, celebrating her divine inspiration which led to the building of the Basilica of St. Mary in Mexico City.

So, that’s the state of me, as it were, this year. Some things I’m happier about than others, but, all in all, it’s been a pretty good year. I’ve just about given up trying to figure out what the coming year will bring, though I do try to make plans about being more creative and productive, as I do every year. In the end, though, what I choose to do or not do doesn’t matter, so long as Sharon and I do it together. I’m happy that she’s really become the only thing that matters in my life. God knows, I could have worse

All in all, life is going along okay and I’m sure it’ll be a good coming year.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

12/11/2020

New Age Nonsense

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Fun,Fun and Games — 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

Not that ALL new age thinking is goopy nonsense.

I’ve read a LOT of new age philosophy and pseudo-religious texts in my endless search for deeper meaning in life. I’ve read everything from the Kybalion to The Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment and just about everything in between. A lot of the so-called new age movement is well-intentioned, but a lot of it is also fairly devoid of any real meaning. Enlightenment or epiphany or whatever you want to label spiritual experiences are generally something that, I think, need to be experienced and can’t really be taught. That doesn’t stop an endless array of self-styled gurus from trying to sell us some sure-fire program that will elevate our thinking to a new level of existence though. So, when I came across the New Age Bullshit Generator, you can imagine how amused I was! The thing is though, the new age bullshit it generates isn’t half bad. The author/programmer, Seb Pearce, suggests that you could use the output of his generator to gin up the next bestseller on the Self-Help shelf, but I think I might have to do too much of the legwork to fill in enough for a full book to make it really profitable. Either way, I hope you’ll find the New Age Bullshit Generator as much fun as I did.
Besides, what else are you going to do on this Friday in the middle of December?

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

12/4/2020

40 Push-Up Plan

Filed under: About The Author,Life Goals,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

I need to get back into some kind of better shape.

I mean, I’m always in some kind of shape, but I really need to get into better shape than I’ve been. I’m weeks away from turning fifty-two and my cholesterol is up a bit, but my weight is coming down. Both, I think, due to the keto diet. I stopped rowing a couple of months ago because of my kidney stone and I need to get that started up again. But, I really need to work on my push-ups. Apparently, a recent study cited in Men’s Health, indicates that being able to do 40 push-ups reduces possible heart disease by 96%. Now, that seems pretty amazing to me, but considering that I used to do multiple sets of push-ups totally more than that on a regular basis, it seemed worth looking into. The details are, basically, that the relative health level required to do forty push-ups in a row without stopping has a 96 percent lower risk of heart disease than those who struggle to do fewer than 10. The study was done by Harvard medical researchers and was a bit surprising. But, it’s also kind of inspirational to me. Forty push-ups are definitely doable. Yes, it would take some time for me to get back to that on a daily basis, but it can be done.
In fact, the graphic below shows a roughly month-long plan that can, in theory, get me to forty push-ups in one set.

As I crest the legendary hill of middle age, I’m pretty committed to improving my health. My father was ninety-one when he passed. My one great-grandfather was ninety-nine. My family has a pretty good genetic likelihood of living to be quite rather old indeed and I’d like to enjoy that long life with the fewest health problems possible. That means eating better, which my wife and I are already doing, and more exercise on a more regular basis. (And, yes, there’s also the implication that I should get smarter about money, too, so we can afford to live that long!)
This is one step toward that and I’m sharing it with you, dear readers, to encourage you to consider your own health, in all areas, and work to improve it!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

11/30/2020

NaNoWriMo is No More

Filed under: About The Author,Life Goals,On Creativity,Stimulus and Production — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Pig which is late at night or 11:59 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

At least for this year.

Well, it’s over. Another season of writing and aspiration, or in my case writing and recrimination, is over for the year. On the plus side for me, while I didn’t attempt NaNoWriMo this year, I do have a couple of story ideas and a little bit more of the fantasy world in which they take place worked out in my mind. I still need to work on a naming language, or three, for that world, but if I can do that, and work out a couple of other things, I should be in good shape for next year. The regular writing exercise of “Morning Pages”, which I’ve done since May of this year, seems to be helping, too. I certainly credit that work with me coming up with the two story ideas that I do have floating around in my head, waiting for me to fill in some place names and people names and place them all on a map. Honestly, that’s a fair sight more than I’ve had in a long time, so I’m not even frustrated that I’ve had another year of working so hard at my day job that I didn’t even feel like I could make the attempt this year.

Either way, I hope anyone who did try to write a novel this year was wildly successful!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words! where I normally discuss my efforts at writing and creativity that don’t involve corporate IT work.

11/27/2020

Give Back On Black Friday

Filed under: About The Author,Deep Thoughts,Marginalia and Notes from the Editor — 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 Waxing Gibbous

Instead of engaging in conspicuous spending on the biggest sale day of the year, why not give back?

I’m not a huge fan of consumerism, but at the same time, I’m trapped in a culture that’s filled with it. And, while I try to avoid indulging in the Black Friday sales in the middle of an extended holiday allegedly about giving thanks for what we already have, I will admit that I have done it. To atone for my past sins, this year, instead of pointing out all the best sales, I’d like to share a different idea. Instead of spending money on stuff we mostly don’t need, why not give some money to a good cause? Charitable donations are down and have been for some time. I know I haven’t been able to afford to give as much as I’d like the past several years. On the other hand, if you do have the ability and inclination, I’d like to suggest a couple of charities that I believe in and have given to in the past.

Fight for the Future is an advocacy group that believes in keeping the internet accessible for everyone, not just the rich. They fought the FCC hard, especially the past four years, to try and keep Net Neutrality alive.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has been fighting to keep the internet “free, fair and open” even longer. I donated money to these folks in person when I was at DEFCON 20 a few years back. They do good work and are also at the forefront of internet freedom.
Another internet charity that touches many of our lives is the Wikimedia Foundation. They’re the people behind Wikipedia, which we all reference at the encyclopedia of choice on the internet. It’s not perfect, but I definitely find them to be a valuable resource and worthy of support.
So, too, is the Internet Archive, which has helped me track down more information than the live internet more than once. Also, they have a fantastic public archive of many forms of media, including video and audio, that are well worth supporting in my opinion.

On a less digital front, Feeding America funds food banks all across America, helping to feed people in need. Supporting food banks, local and national, is something near and dear to my heart, as I’ve known several people, including some in my own family, that have relied on them to put meals on the table.
Also, the Meals On Wheels/Animeals programs are similar and equally worthy causes. While many of us have heard of Meals On Wheels, not as many are familiar with their Animeals program that helps those in need feed their animals as well as themselves. The donation page has both an opportunity for direct donations and Amazon wishlists for people who want to donate needed items directly and safely.
Of course, as a strong believer in pet adoption, not sale, I always think that supporting the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a worthy cause to support financially as well. Those animals can’t speak for themselves and the ASPCA speaks for them. All my dogs have been adopted. Those goofy mutts don’t know that they were thrown away by someone else. All they know is that we give them the best life we can and return that love tenfold. Every system administrator should have a rescue dog to come home to because, no matter how unappreciative our users may be of our efforts, those dogs are always happy to see us come home!

And, for something a little more controversial, even though I spent most of my life as a conservative voter, the American Civil Liberties Union has been fighting for our collective civil rights for more than 100 years. Yes, sometimes they fight for things I don’t believe in specifically, but they fight for the principle that the Bill of Rights is for all citizens of the United States of America and the freedom it promises us matters. The ACLU is definitely farther to the Left of the political spectrum than I am, but they still fight for my right to be free.
Finally, and perhaps the most controversially, Planned Parenthood is worth giving to as well. I’m against abortion, but I’m in favor of everyone making that choice for themselves. What someone else does with their body is not my business and I don’t think we should regulate morality at that level. I’m sure it goes against the teachings of every church I’ve been a member of, but I believe that true freedom is the right for other people to make choices that I would not. And, Planned Parenthood is an organization that believes in supplying women with the information and care they need to make informed, healthy choices about their lives and reproductive choices.

I’m sure not all my readers will agree with these charitable suggestions. That’s okay. These are causes that I believe in and support, one way or another, though they are not ALL the charities I support. Even if you don’t choose any of these causes, I encourage you to support a cause you do believe in rather than spend money on consumer trash none of us need. Because what we DO need, more than ever, is compassion and a little help for our fellow travelers in this life.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

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