Diary of a Network Geek

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


Today, I am forty.

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:48 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

I almost didn’t make it to celebrate this year.

In the past, my birthday hasn’t been a very big deal. I mean, as an adult, celebrating birthdays just never seemed like the thing to do in our family. In fact, I recall hearing about how one of my sisters threatened to walk out of a restaurant when her co-workers were going to bring out a cake and sing Happy Birthday to her. And, I, myself, once threatened a Joe’s Crab Shack waiter with a broken arm if he tried to get me to stand up and sing on my birthday. It’s just how I roll.

But, I’m forty.
Four decades of life. Forty laps around the Sun.
And, this year, I’m going to do things differently. I’ve take the day off, for instance. If, as an adult, I ever managed to not be working on my actual birthday, it was pure chance. But, today, I’ve deliberately taken the day off. Last night two friends, who happen to be married to each other, took me out to dinner. They took me a day early because, as with most people, they have other obligations tonight. In fact, I think that may be one of the reasons I just found it easier to not celebrate my birthday. Often, coming as it does in the middle of the holiday season, there are just too many things going on to be bothered to remember. Hell, last year, I forgot that it was my birthday at all!

But, this year is different.
This year that I never thought I’d live to see. This year, I’m choosing to celebrate life, because that almost wasn’t an option. I have a lot of ideas about who I’m supposed to be and how I supposed to live. And, I have a lot of ideas what people think about that. The thing is, I tend to live in such a way as to be unobtrusive. I guess I was in the way a lot as a kid or something. And, I have some issues about my own worth, my intrinsic value, as a person and a friend. When I really get going on myself, I’m sure that no one would really miss me for very long if I were to just disappear.
But, I know that’s not really true.

After last year, it’d be hard for me to deny that my life has had an effect on a lot of people. People who would miss me if the cancer had taken me. And, not just because of what I can do for them, which is the other lie I tend to tell myself. That I only have value for what I can do for other people. But, really, I’m not quite that useful that the people who surround me and care about me are only in it for the free computer advice and network support. Granted, that’s a nice perk for them, I’m sure, but, honestly, there are other people who do that just as well or better than I.
So, today, I’ll do something different. Today, I’m meeting some friends for lunch. Later, after running a few errands, I’ll be meeting some other friends for dinner and a movie. No idea what movie and I’m not sure where we’ll end up eating, but that’s not the point. And, really, these folks may not even all know that it’s my birthday and that I’m quietly celebrating in my own way. None of that is why I want to go do these things. No, the point is just to not be alone, closed up, closed off, and hidden on my birthday. For a change, I’m going to do something different on my birthday and celebrate.

I’ll also be starting Flickr365 later today. For those of you not familiar with it, the idea behind Flickr365 is to take a creative self-portrait every day for a year and post it to Flickr, the photo sharing website. My intention is to use that to both get myself taking pictures regularly and to get past hating to have my picture taken. Also, it might be interesting to look back and see what a year of changes look like, a year of different shades of me.
In any case, toward that end, I’ll be buying a wireless remote for my camera today, sometime, too. To make it easier to take those self portraits.

And, of course, my birthday wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention all the other famous people who had the good luck to be born on this particular day. Famous people like Frank “Chairman of the Board” Sinatra, Bob Barker, Gustave Flaubert, author of Madame Bovary, Edvard Munch, and Wells Fargo founder, Henry Wells. Not to mention, Mike Pinder of the Moody Blues, Tim Hauser of Manhattan Transfer, Dickey Betts of the Allman Bros, jazz musician Grover Washington Jr, and former mayor of New York City, Ed Koch.
All heady company to be sure, but for whatever reason, it tickles me the most that I share a birthday with Frank Sinatra. I guess it’s because he was such a unique and original character who really fought against and beat some long odds to become an amazingly famous, generally well thought of character. I can only hope to do the same, one day.

So, here we go. I’ve survived one more lap around the sun, one more year, and I’ve beaten some long odds to do so. But, that year is done, now it’s time to start the next one and make it better than the last.

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


Card Sharp

Filed under: Art,Fun,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:36 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Or, what’s that in your pocket?

Do you like your business card? I have them, but I hardly use them. I am, after all, far more than my job.  Seriously, I’m the only person in my company who does what I do and I don’t have much reason to talk to customers, really, so the people I deal with already know me.  There’s not much call for me to pass out business cards.  And, in social settings, well, I really am more than my job, you know?  Besides, my personal information isn’t on those business cards adn, really, that is what I generally want to pass out to people in non-business settings.  My cell phone number, how to get to my website or my Flickr photostream, my personal e-mail address.  I always thought that having a “personal” business card was the way to go for that stuff, but, frankly, there weren’t a lot of options.

Well, the other day, I stumbled across The Gentleman’s Guide to the Calling Card at the Art of Manliness blog, and the idea reignighted my interest in such archaic devices.  And, of course, it occurred to me that with the modern calling card, I had something else, too.  A digital marketing tool on a one-by-two card.  So, I started poking around a bit and found BusinessCards24.com – Unique Business Cards. If you’re looking for inspiration, that’s the place to go.  The problem is, if you want to stand out, you’ve got to do something more than just the cheapie, microperf, inkjet business cards, you have to go somewhere like  Overnight Prints.
But, those are still just adapted business cards, aren’t they?  Well, you can try something more specifically designed for non-business use: Pleasure Cards.   I remember reading about them a couple of years ago.  They’ve got lots of styles to choose from and, if you’re a designer, they even let you do your own custom cards.  But, of course, I’m not a designer.  I am, however, a bit of a photographer.  For guys like me, there’s MOO.com.  They let you take pictures from your Flickr photostream and make them into cards, or mini-cards.  In fact, I’ve got some on order now for giving people when I take their picture, so when they arrive, I’ll probably post pictures.  I figure it’ll give them a way to get in touch with me and see any shots I might have taken of them, either by cell phone or by e-mail.  Also, it kind of identifies me as a photographer.  Somehow, having a business card, or something similar, legitimizes me to people, I think.  They look sharp, too. 


Mouse’s 40th Birthday

Filed under: Fun,News and Current Events,Ooo, shiny...,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:13 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

It’s not quite the “birthday” of the mouse, but…

Today is the 40th anniversary of the first time a mouse made its commercial debut, though the patent was actually granted just a few weeks earlier on November 17th. That’s right, the mouse, that marvel of modern technology that most of us use daily is just a little older than I am. Invented by Douglas C. Engelbart and the group of 17 researchers working with him in the Augmentation Research Center at Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, CA, the original mouse was little more than a square, wooden box, but the little device would change the world. Engelbart showed how the mouse could let a user jump from text on one part of the screen randomly to another section without having to scroll through the text inbetween. Doesn’t sound too revolutionary to us today, does it? But, think about how you navigated to this page to read this little blurb, then try to imagine doing it without a mouse.

So, happy demo day, little guy. Thanks for giving me a job and us a way to waste time at work.


Manly Pursuits

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Life Goals,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:40 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

Or, how the Network Geek plans to look good naked.

It may not always seem like it, but I’m a goal oriented guy. Anything I’ve ever done that’s been worth doing has been to accomplish a goal, some goal, any goal. So, what keeps me motivated to keep working out? What else? Sex. I want to look good, naked. Not just okay. Not just better than unappetizing. I want to look good.
Like most men, my problem is my gut. I’ll never look like a Men’s Health cover model and I may never have a tight “six-pack” like they do, but I sure as hell can look better than I do right now. Sure, I’ve lost twenty-five pounds in the past several months, but I also gained several back eating Thanksgiving left-overs. But, I’m not so old yet that I can’t improve myself physically. At least, I’d like to think, even as I get ready to turn forty in just a few short days, that I might still not send someone running from the bedroom screaming in terror.

Right, now if that image hasn’t scarred you for life, read on for an update on my exercise plan. I’ve been hitting the heavy bag for a bit now. After someone who’s in such amazing shape it makes me embarrassed to even admit to them that I’m working out at all asked how things were going with that, I added a three minute round before my brisk, just-under-two-mile walk, in addition to the three minute round I’d box with my inanimate opponent.
Saturday, I bought a nine pound medicine ball. There were a surprising number of choices and weights. Twelve was the heaviest they had, but I went with the leather clad nine pounder from Everlast. It looked good and felt good and it reminded me of old boxing movies. Movies with training sequences set in dark, dank, gray, old gyms filled with torn canvas bags patched with rolls of cloth tape and, yes, worn, leather medicine balls that the boxers threw to and at each other.

Medicine balls put me in mind of Hemingway and his rough-and-tumble heroes, who became mine. They remind me of the fitness craze that swept the Thirties, before we all started using giant weights and steroids or more legal supplements like creatine. But, the funny thing is, the fitness gurus and rediscovering the humble medicine ball. Men’s Health, for instance, has been running work outs that include medicine balls for quite some time. In fact, it seems to me that quite a few of their abdominal workouts in the past several months have either included or centered around the simple, relatively inexpensive, medicine ball. In particular, there’s the The Ultimate Medicine Ball Workout, as developed and used by the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. Go look at it. It looks easy, doesn’t it? Trust me, it’s not.

It takes work to get and keep in shape. I’m not willing to make it a full-time job just yet, but I am willing to put a little more into it than I have been. There is a reason they call it “working out”, I suppose, and if I want the result then I’ve got to do the work. Modern exercise science hasn’t changed that, either.
Good thing I have a goal to reach for, I guess.


WiFi, Free and Otherwise

Filed under: Fun,Fun Work,Geek Work,The Network Geek at Home,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:56 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

Over the past couple years, I’ve written a number of posts about wifi.

I mean, I remember when wifi was a real novelty. In fact, we’ve rather gone through a cycle with wireless, from free to pay to free again. Well, mostly free. Free for some. Mostly. In any case, there’s so much wifi around these days that I think we sort of take for granted that, sooner or later, we’ll find a wifi connection and be able to use it.

In any case, in spite of all the times I’ve mentioned something about wifi, it’s been a hit-or-miss topic with me. Not so for the folks over at PC Magazine who’ve written what they claim is the Definitive Guide to WiFi. Well, you know what? I think they just may be right!

Seriously, go check it out. It’s well worth the click.


How to Concentrate

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,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 5:13 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Lately, I’ve been very concerned with my own discipline and how that relates to creative output.

It seems to me that I have increasingly lost the ability to focus on creative tasks for long periods of time, which, of course, is somewhat detrimental to actually producing a finished product. In short, my skills of concentration have gotten soft. It may be due, in part, to the nature of my work, which often draws me in several directions at once. Or, it may simply be a part of my nature that I used to have under better control. Regardless, concentration is, I think, the key.

So, with that in mind, I invite you to read “How To Concentrate“, originally published in 1930, but still relevant today.  Certainly, it is for me, especially this week, or month, or, hell, this year.  Now, all I need to do is clear a little space on my calendar…

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
" Reasonable men adapt themselves to their environment; unreasonable men try to adapt their environment to themselves. Thus all progress is the result of the efforts of unreasonable men."
   --George Berbard Shaw


Thanksgiving Day Chalk Talk

Filed under: Art,By Bread Alone,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,music,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:58 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I should give you all a little update on the barely controlled chaos that was Thanksgiving Day at my house.

First of all, the turkey done on the grill turned out wonderfully well, much to the surprise of many, if not most, of my guests. And, yes, to be perfectly honest, I was a little concerned myself. Thankfully, we all worried needlessly, because it was great.

Secondly, I had to use trickery, threats and bribery to get rid of all the pie! I mean, I was sort of under the impression that several people were coming after the main meal for a bit of pie, but that turned out to be code for “don’t think we’re going to make it”. Sadly, however, I planned for their arrival, being the slightly cynical optimist that I am, and encouraged everyone to bring pie if they were at a loss for something to contribute. I had at least seven pies there, I think. Roughly one-half of a pie per person. Slight over-kill. So, you know, it ran rather like most of my plans, such as they are. But, I always say, I’d rather have too much than too little, so there you are.

The only thing that I didn’t like was that some of my favorite people weren’t able to make it. I know that they mostly had other family places to be that were more, um, appropriate for them to attend. But, well, I’ll just flat out say it, I’m jealous and petty and selfish and I wanted these people to be near me making me happy. It’s who I am. I missed them being there, even though the crowd I did have was wonderful, as the pictures of the event show. And, we did, I think, have a wonderful time. I know I had a far better Thanksgiving than I’ve had in years.

Some of you may recall me hunting about for music and finding some. Well, the music was quite well received, though my final playlist had to work around several corrupted files and a noticeable lack of several artists. I was actually quite surprised to see who showed interest in the music and who was interested in my art, too. I mean, the art I own, not the art I fumble around making. My Mark Flood was, predictably, quite popular and the topic of much conversation.

So, all in all, even with a few things noticeably lacking, it was a very good day. In fact, it may just inspire me to keep the house clean and start those mythical monthly movie nights.
Well, I guess, we’ll see about that.

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