Diary of a Network Geek

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


The Prisoner, V 2.0

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:15 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a New Moon

They’re remaking the Prisoner.
This probably doesn’t mean much to most of you, but this is worrisome to me. You see, when I was a mere lad, my father introduced me to The Prisoner. I remember being quite impressed with “Rover”, which was this giant bouncy ball that sucked escapees into it and returned them to the sinister Village. It’s a classic cold-war series about paranoia and mind control and duty vs. honor and, well, all the things that made my little head spin when I was a kid. I only saw two or three episodes as a kid, but I loved this strange, quirky show even more than The Avengers. (Don’t get me started on Emma Peel in that leather jumpsuit!) If you haven’t seen The Prisoner, it’s well worth finding. Especially if you are actually old enough to remember the Cold War.
Now, I’ve read on SciFi.com that they’re redoing The Prisoner. Sadly, they’ve already admitted that they’re going to make significant changes, including the fact that they won’t use The Village. That’s really a shame, since that paricular piece of surreality was one of the things I loved about the show. No one could leave The Village, but Number 6 kept trying. Well, I guess, I’ll just resign myself to the idea that this won’t be The Prisoner that my father shared with me as a kid, but something else. And, of course, I have the classic series on DVD, so I can retreat to that time and place whenever I want.
“I am not a number! I am a free man!”


My Voice

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time or 9:54 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

There’s something missing from my blog.
I’ve been reading a lot of blogs lately, which has led me to think a whole lot. Combine that with a little therapy and the time of year and, well, you end up with a very, very introspective Network Geek. So, while I’ve been introspecting and the other day, two things came to me about my blog and my life. There are two significant forces in my life that are missing here: the sound of my voice and cheerleaders. No, it’s not what you think. My interaction with cheerleaders has led to some of the most important realizations of my life. It’s still not what you think, but, that’s for another time.
Writers talk about finding their “voice” in their writing. Eventually, the writing books and pundits tell me, if you write enough, you will find your “voice”. But, that’s just not true. I’ve always had my voice, though it has changed over the years. It’s a voice I share with my older brother and my father. My mother used to say that when we were all in the same room talking she had a hard time telling us apart. In the end, she could only tell who was who based on how we used language. Over the years, that little family quirk led to some interesting conversations. Often times, I would answer the phone only to have someone address me by my father’s name and launch into conversation. “Oh, Bill, glad I caught you! Look, I have this problem and…” I learned some really interesting things about my father and the people he knew that way.
It wasn’t until I was in college that I really learned how to use that man’s voice. I was such child and, really, in so many ways I still am a little boy, but, somehow, I had the voice of a man fourty years my senior. In a lot of ways, it’s a good voice. Soothing, relaxing. Like the deep roar of the ocean heard from miles away, lulling the listener to a state of calm trust. It was in college that I learned to use that voice to relax people. Laying in a small, dorm bed, pressed up against someone so that she could feel the subsonic rumble in my chest like the purr of a big cat. Eventually, in the cold, dark hours, hypnotized by that soft, slow, reassuring voice the secrets would start to spill out. That voice was trustworthy, like the NSA. Information went in, but never came out. Safe, secure.
People seem to want to tell me everything when they hear me reassure them that it’s okay. That I want to listen, to hear. Even when I don’t say it, somehow, people hear that in my voice and volunteer so much of their lives. At my first real job after college, I remember sitting in an office on the night shift hearing all about the affair one of the Food and Beverage managers was having the the married man from another restaurant in the hotel. One or two simple, direct questions and the story just came flooding out, like I was a priest in a confessional.
Later, when I had to travel so much for my next job, I learned to bark like a drill sergeant. “Make a hole!” I’d bellow at the tourists who stopped at the end of the gangway, and they’d scatter, looking for the uniform. “Coming through! On your left!” And it was off in a hurry, always in a hurry those days, to get my luggage and meet up with the other consultant to scramble to the job site and get started. Or, it was a rush to get my luggage and get home, to laundry and my own comfortable bed. I’d learned to give orders to strangers and expect that they’d be obeyed without question, my voice deep and booming and endlessly confident. Then, I changed jobs again and I stopped shouting confidently at strangers.
But, I was an officer in my Masonic Lodge, so, now, the orders were to friends and Brothers. Tact was the thing, but the confidence had been weakened. Me? Give orders to men older than my father? Or, worse yet, give orders to my own father in Lodge? I was surprised that I was up to the task, but, my voice was there to support me. Even when I didn’t feel confident, my voice never wavered. I didn’t let any hint of the questions I felt creep into my voice. Strong and reserved and confident. My orders were carried out, for that year, and then I could step down.

Two women have fallen in love with my voice. At least, two that admitted it to me.
One night, my now ex-wife called me in my suburban Chicago apartment. But, she hung up when I answered. I called her back.
“Did you just call me?”
“Then why’d you hang up?”
“You didn’t sound like you.”
“Well, who did I sound like?”
“Honey? Who did I sound like?”
“You’ll laugh.”
So, I laughed and said,”Probably. But, tell me anyway. Who did I sound like?”
“A…” She paused. “A large, black man.”
Of course, I laughed. A little, white guy like me, and she thought I sounded like Barry White on the phone. I couldn’t wait to tell my father who his future daughter-in-law thought we sounded like.
The other woman, well, she’s a different story all together. She’s never even met me, but she said she fell in love with that voice, that laugh. Even before she’d seen a picture of me. Then, it was those eyes. I have my father’s eyes, too. But, he and I both know that the eyes are nothing without the voice. It’s too bad I’ll never meet her.

I was almost a therapist once. I was accepted into the program, but bailed out. The reasons are many and complicated. The joke I’ve always told was that I got into computers instead, where I could fix the problems. Everyone always laughs, but, deep down, I know it’s true. I’d have had to fix my own problems before being any real use to anyone else. But, still, even today, when people hear my voice, it’s not long before they relax and tell me everything.
So, I listen to my father’s voice echo out of my mouth, reassuring them, and then, I just listen.

Change of Life

Filed under: Art,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 4:52 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

I’m a little young to be having a mid-life crisis.
Aren’t I? I mean, isn’t 36 (okay almost 37) a little soon for that? Most of my family lived well into their 80’s before they finally took the dirt nap. But, I have no other quick way to describe how I’m feeling. I don’t like what I do for a living very much any more. I’m tired of it. It’s not that I don’t like the place that I’m working now, because they’re just fine. A mostly friendly group of people all pitching together to get product done and out. But, after 12+ years, it’s gotten to be the same old thing. The same kinds of user problems. The same issues. The same unsolvable situation of doing more with less and less and less. I’m tired of it, and I’m not the only one. But, what else can I do? I’ve done this so long, it’s all I’m really qualified to do without a lot of retraining. And, even if I were willing to do the retraining, what would I retrain to do? Then, there’s the matter of pay…
I’d like to be an artist. And, not a digital artist, either, though I think I have potential there. I’d rather be a real artist. Drawing, painting, sculpting. If I could make a decent living at it, writing. (Though, I have to admit, I’m so burned out these days that I haven’t even tried to write that much.) Frighteningly enough, I think I could make a better living making yard art than I could writing. So much paper, but so few who actually seem to read.
Actually, I remember as a kid being quite impressed with a particular metal artist’s work. He did these incredible fountains that sold for thousands of dollars, and that was back in the late 70’s or early 80’s. They were impressive things, too. Usually, they were a good two or three feet across and at least as high. I remember one that looked like giant flowers of some kind and each one spouted a little trickle of water. There was another one that was all coppery maple leaves that picked up more of a patina as the water flowed over them. And, he had kinetic sculpture, too. Things that spun or bounced or rocked back and forth. It was a really amazing metal wonderland when he would bring his work to the art shows at our church. I can’t remember his name, but I still have several of his little, inert, dry pieces: A cricket, a baseball player, a skier, a broken trio of butterflies. I used to have one of his desktop, spinning kinetic sculptures, too, but that seems to be gone. Well, maybe it’ll turn up again one day. Or, maybe I’ll make my own. I always wanted to design fountains like he made. Maybe I can find a welding class and buy, or rent, the equipment I need to make my own metal art.
I’ve always been a creative person, so that end of things isn’t a problem. And, these days, hard physical labor is, occasionally, quite rewarding. It’s certainly less stressfull than my current day job. I’m sure I can find a class that will teach me the skills I need to have to create the metal art, whatever shape it might take.
I wonder what that guy I so admired pulled down in an average year?


10 Things: IT Project Management

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Career Archive,Geek Work — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:15 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

“What do you mean, I’m in charge of the project?”
Oh, if I had a nickel for everytime those words came out of my mouth! And, if I’d had this downloadable article from TechRepublic, Ten Things You Should Know About Managing IT Projects, I might have survived some of those “special” projects. It hits the highlights, but it’s a good place to start. At least, after reading the article, you’ll have a working knowledge of what you need to be worried about. God knows, no one is even going to tell you that much once they’ve stuck you with that project that no one else wanted!
Anyway, it’s at least enough to help you survive your first IT project. In theory.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Whether you call it Buddhism or another religion, self-discipline, that's important. Self-discipline with awareness of consequences."
   --Dalai Lama


Anonymity and Blogging

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Geek Work,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Horse which is around lunchtime or 12:59 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Or, Why Uncle Jim Is Smart Enough To Self-Edit.
Okay, I’m not sure why this seems to be such a hard concept for people to grasp, but I don’t put everything I’m thinking or worried about or living through on this blog. I know, I know, that’s terribly shocking to most of you, but it is sadly true. And, that’s not just because my wacko ex-wife pours over every word looking for hidden meaning or messages, either. I’ve been fairly careful about what goes into this blog for quite some time. Heck, even back in the Before Time, when I thought my marriage was going well, I made sure not to get too deeply personal here. For one thing, I just don’t want total strangers knowing certain things about me. For another, I don’t care to have potential employers know other certain things about my personal life.
I mean, potential girlfriends/”life-partners”/whatever don’t really need to know all my quirky habits up front. It’s far more fun and interesting, not to mention amusing, to discover them gradually as we go along. They don’t need to know that, on occasion, I will work for 20+ hours at a stretch doing a conversion or implementation. Or, that I might get a call at 1:00am that I have to respond to or the company will loose more than I make in a year. And, future employers don’t need to know how far in debt I really am. Or, the details of my more intimate personal life. (For that matter, neither to potential girlfriends!)
So, I’m careful and thoughtful about what I present here, not just because of famous blog-related firings, but because I want this blog to be safe for a certain teenage girl, who used to think quite a bit of me, to read. (Yeah, okay, I’ve said some not-nice things about her mother, but, well, she’s got to see that sooner or later.) So, while I’m not quite willing to go to the lengths that some bloggers go, and move my blog to another, anonymous name, I’m also not willing to be as brutally honest as other people, either. Nor, am I willing to be anonymous. At least, not yet. And, if I do, I certainly won’t announce it here, where my personal stalker will see.
So, your Advice from your Uncle Jim? “Think about what you write before you let others see it. If you’re not willing to be responsible for it for the rest of your life, don’t write.”

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"A woman is like a teabag, you can not tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water."
   --Eleanor Roosevelt

Roommate Agreement

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Hoffman's Home for Wayward Boys,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning or 9:59 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Sort of like a “lease light”.
So, I’m all freaked out about having a roommate, right? I mean, at one point after college, I said that I’d never have another roommate unless she was sleeping with me. I’d gotten tired of the whole sharesy-waresy thing. Of course, that was from living in a ten-foot by fifteen-foot cell in a college dorm with some of the strangest people on Earth. And, yes, I’m sure they said the same thing about me. So, anyway, I fell back to the comfort zone of any good Republican-turned-Libertarian and started Googling for roommate agreements. Mostly I got things from college campuses, which did little to ease my tension. These, for the most part, were nice, little “contracts” that said everyone would play nice and work things out without killing each other. Sure, in college, probably a very helpfull thing, but for me, not so much. But, finally, I found a legal site that had the whole deal.
An interactive form to customize an agreement tailored to meet specific needs. It had standard clauses loaded with lovely, conservative legalese. There were places to customize clauses and even add in custom “house rules”. Things about pets, quiet hours, parties and even over-night guests. Well, I filled out my little form in all its anal retentive glory, carefully considering each and every question. I finally get to the end and it displays on a new page, but, wait, only the first few sections. Then, it demands $12.50 for the entire document, with changes for up to a week. What!?! So, after doing some more searching, my need for boundries won out and I paid the $12.50. I got my document, which I edited with some helpful suggestions from friends, and we reached our agreement.
But, then I got thinking. Now, regular readers of this blog know what happens when I start thinking: TROUBLE. So, I got more and more irritated with having had to shell out $12.50 for this, basically, boiler-plate document. Finally, what I decided to do was run it again, but with all the possible options, and save it to my harddrive as a template. Now, if I ever do this again, I can just pick and choose my clauses and be all set. But, that wasn’t good enough, so I’ve made it even more generic, but removing my actual address and both our actual names, and saved it in three formats: Word, Rich Text and Open Office. And, now, I bring it to you, faithful readers, for your use. Enjoy!
Roommate Agreement Template


PC Punchlines

Filed under: Art,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Fun,Things to Read — 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 Waning Crescent

Yes, jokes with politically correct punchlines.
Ironically, they’re still funny! Yes, honest, realistic answers and endings to the start of jokes can be funny in their own uncomfortable, ironic way. These came to us via Boing Boing, but are on Something Awful (warning, this site might get a little bit more than PG-13).
I think my favorite is:
“Why did the blonde get fired from the M&M factory?
Repeated absences and stealing.”

“Jesus is hanging on the cross and John approaches.
John says: “Jesus, its John. How may I serve thee ain thy time of need?”
(Yes, it’s a little sacreligious, but, c’mon, it’s still funny in a gross kind of way!)

Or, possibly,
“Knock knock
Who’s there?
The wallet inspector!
Ditch the jokes and come inside, Tim, it’s fucking cold. ”

Anyway, it’s the Friday after Thanksgiving, and if you’re reading this blog, you probably have a warped sense of humor and could use a laugh, so click the link and enjoy.


You Know What I Miss?

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Pig which is late at night or 11:09 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

You know what I really miss about being married?

No, it’s not the sex. Though, I have to admit, a little nookie now and then sure takes the edge off. Funny thing about that, though… See, all the sex advice therapist type folks, like Dr. Ruth and Dr. Drew and so on, they all say that sex is supposed to get better the longer you’re in a relationship, right? You get to know each other’s moods and needs and wants. The communication is supposed to be better, so getting to the “good stuff” is supposed to get easier, right? Yeah, funny thing about that, in my marriage, not so much. In fact, the harder I worked at that, the worse the sex got. Hmm, have to sort that one out in therapy. So, anyway, it’s not the regular, two-person sex that I miss.
Nor is it her cooking. Oh, don’t get me wrong, my ex-wife is a great cook, when she wants to be. Might not be very imaginative or creative, and maybe she sticks a little closer to the recipe than I do, but what she did turn out was always, without fail delicious. And filling. In fact, at the end, I’ve seen e-mail wherein she told her new paramour that she was trying to a) keep me happy by feeding me well (didn’t quite work, though the meals were to die for!) and b) kill me with high-cholesterol meals (obviously, since I’ve lost 8 pounds in the past three weeks, that didn’t quite work either). Besides, I’m really enjoying my own cooking. My Near Eastern Spicy Chicken L’Orange fairly melts in your mouth. Trust me! And the beer bread I made for Thanksgiving keeps getting me invited back, year after year. Though, honestly, most folks like my sourdough best. And, I’ve started another sourdough starter just this week. So, it’s not the super delicious food, either.
No, what I miss is something I used to call “Snuggle Time”.
See, my ex could never stand sleeping with someone touching her, which I always wanted. I tried to get her to fall asleep resting her head on my chest, listening to my love drum hammer out its steady beat, but she’d never go for it. Instead, what we settled on was Snuggle Time. After I’d finally put down my book, turn out the light and slide under the covers, I’d slip over to her side of the king-size bed we shared and try to melt into her. She’d grab my hand like a little girl holding her teddybear, tucking our little combined fist under her chin while we “spooned”. And, for five or ten or, if I was lucky, fifteen minutes, I’d get to feel close to that tender, soft, curvy mystery that is woman. It was the best part of the day. For a few minutes, I’d know that ten-hour days, late shifts, missed meals, extra hours on the weekend, being on-call 24/7, skipped books, or software and computers that I decided I could live without were all worth it, because for five or ten or, if God loved me extra that day, fifteen minutes, I could feel truly worthwhile and content and in love. It was better than sex and more important than food, those few minutes of Snuggle Time. I’d forego either, or both, for a few extra minutes of Snuggle Time.

So, you see, the mean, old bear of a tattooed, crusty computer geek has a soft side.
Makes you feel all mushy inside, don’t it?

It’s not too late!

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:55 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

You can still learn to be a good guest on Thanksgiving.
Personally, I’m bringing home-made bread, baked in my own kitchen, to the folks that are taking me in for Thanksgiving this year. And, of course, I’ll provide endless amusement with my wacky stories about my ex-wife. Those are always good for a laugh! Not to mention the fact that everyone will have at least one computer question for me. But, some of you may not be so lucky, so, for those unfortunate few, I offer this: the Men’s Health Guide to Being a Good Guest.
It hits the highlights of good guestness, but I especially like the cheesey magic tricks. And, I would add that bringing something, anything, is always a plus. If you’re not good in the kitchen you can always bring wine or beer. If your hosts are tee-totallers, you can still bring last minute flowers, just don’t pick them in your host’s yard.
(However, should your holiday turn ugly, may I reccomend The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Holidays? I have it, just in case things take a turn for the worse.)

Have a great Thanksgiving Day everyone!

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Girls are like pianos. When they're not upright, they're grand."


Hoffman’s Home for Wayward Boys

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Dog and Pony Shows,Hoffman's Home for Wayward Boys,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:07 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

Or, Uncle Jim becomes a slum-lord.
No, seriously, it looks like I’ll be picking up a roommate later this month. I’ve got a friend who’s hit a rough spot, gotten a little behind on rent and, basically, needs to get out of his apartment in a hurry. I offered to let him stay at place for a couple of months, then, start paying some rent. It’ll be less than full rent on an apartment and he’ll have about as much room. A bigger kitchen, though, he’ll have to share with me. And, of course, it should help me with some of my own money issues, at least in the short-term. We’re going to do it for about six months and see how it goes. He may stay longer, if we both find it agreeable. Or, not.
I’m probably going to draft a “roommate contract”, just so we have our boundries set and clear before anything gets ugly. I don’t think it will, but, just to make sure and give me that extra level of comfort, I think it’s best to draw up a little agreement and both sign it. Again, it might seem a little extra anal-retentive, but better that than hard feelings later. I mean, we need to work out things like smoking. See, I can’t abide smoking in the house. Even when I do it, which is fairly rare, I sit outside to smoke. In this weather, it’s actually sort of nice to sit in the cool evening air and enjoy a smoke in the dark while the dog chases imaginary nocturnal interlopers. Hilda loves the cooler weather! Dealing with the utilities and the groceries and kitchen sharing will be a process of adjustment, I’m sure. But, it’ll be nice to maybe cook for someone once in a while, not to mention that I know he’s a good cook.
Still, I’m not sure how comfortable I’ll be letting someone that close into my life. After college, I said that the only time I’d have a roommate again is if she were sleeping with me, but, that was a long time ago and, well, financially, it’s not a wise rule to hold tight to right now. And, Hilda will like the extra company, I’m sure, once she gets used to him. And, then, there’s dating… I think maybe a “rule” that neither of us will have overnight visitors that the other person hasn’t met at least once is appropriate. Maybe an “at least one shared date” clause, or something. And, just like in college, some kind of early warning system will need to be setup. But, not a sock on the doorknob this time.

One last thing. To protect the more-or-less innocent, should I use a codename for my new roomie? If so, what should it be?

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