Diary of a Network Geek

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


DIY Civilization Kit

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,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 6:32 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

Could you rebuild civilization?

No, seriously, could you?
Maybe I spend too much time on the fringes of political and economic thought and news, but I hear stories about how experts think we may be heading for disaster on a very large scale.  Food riots and oil shortages and barbarism just around the corner to listen to some of these more extreme pundits.  The collapse of civilization itself!
Well, what if that happened?  What would you do?  Could you organize people enough to rebuild civilization?  What would you need to make a small village prosperous enough to become the kernel that would grow into something we would recognize as civilization again?

Well, thankfully, I’m not the only one obsessed with answers to questions like this.  There are a bunch of engineers and other like-minded, clever folks who are putting together a DIY Civilization “Kit”, with open source plans for all the basic technologies that one might need to get a self-sufficient town working again.  It’s quite an ambitious project, but, I think one that is worthwhile.   Even if we never need it to rebuild society, it may prove a useful thought-experiment to help make independent towns in developing countries.
In any case, it’s an interesting project, I think, and worth a look.


Free, Customized “Get Out Of Debt” Plan

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Deep Thoughts,Hoffman's Home for Wayward Boys,Life Goals,Life, the Universe, and Everything — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

I don’t make a big secret of my enormous debt.

It’s a problem.  I came by it honestly, for the most part.  I was almost debt-free when I lost my job in 2001.  I was freshly married to my girlfriend of several years and had to support her and her daughter, at least partially, in addition to myself.  I did it with credit cards.  I’m not proud of it, but, well, I did what I had to do.
Then, in 2005, I got divorced, which actually stemmed the bloody flow of money, or rather the swelling of debt.  Of course, I still had my house to deal with, which hasn’t been cheap, but I had started to get things under control again.  Then, of course, I got cancer, which brought all kinds of medical bills with it, even after insurance paid most of the bills.

I’m getting a handle on it, but it’s still not easy to do.  What would have helped me was a plan.  A good, solid plan that was laid out for me.  Now, thanks to Ready for Zero, linked via Lifehacker, you can get a plan to help you get out of debt, for free.  And, let’s face it, if you’re deeply in debt, like me, you can’t really afford to spend a lot of money on books and workshops to help you plan how to get out from under.  A free plan is priced just right.
Do yourself a favor and check it out, even if you’re not in debt yet.  Before it’s too late.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities; an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties."
   --Reginald B. Mansell


Chicago-Style St. Valentine’s Day Celebration

Filed under: Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Deep Thoughts,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is in the late afternoon or 5:43 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Today is St. Valentine’s Day.

Normally, a day associate with love and romance and a complete imbalance of power in male-female relationships wherein the male of the species is required to present his pair-bonded mate, or potential mate, with a ridiculous display of conspicuous disposable income via dead foliage or high-calorie confectioneries.  And, no, I’m not bitter, thank you for asking.  I participated in this strange mating ritual for many years, spending untold amounts of my hard-earned money on the most gorgeous roses available in Houston, thanks to my ex-wife and the Rose Gallery.  (All kidding aside, they really are quite good and reasonably priced for the truly amazing roses that you’ll get from them on days like this.  For real.)

I, however, prefer to remember this day as the anniversary of when a fellow Chicagoan, Al Capone, rounded up seven of his closest buddies and gunned them down in the back alleys of the South Side of Chicago.  Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre!  It was on this day, in 1929, that the rivalry between Bugs Moran and Al Capone reached its violent and bloody peak, leaving seven, bloody corpses in its wake, along with damaging both Moran’s North Side Gang and, ultimately, bringing so much attention to Capone from the FBI that it effectively ended his criminal career, as well.
Truly, a turning point in the criminal history of Chicago.

So, you all go out and have your romantic dinners and make cow-eyes at your object of desire, but, have yourself an extra bloody steak and remember how they used to celebrate this romantic holiday on the South Side in the old days.


Try Making A Habitable Planet

Filed under: Fun,Garden of Unearthly Delights,Life, the Universe, and Everything — 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

No, really, go ahead and try.

It’s not quite as easy as science-fiction would have you believe.  Honest.  Don’t believe me?  Then head over to Extreme Planet Makeover and try for yourself.
The folks at NASA have brought us a pretty challenging, little game; make a planet habitable.
On the surface, that seems fairly straight-forward, but that’s only because we over-simplify just how miraculous it is that this happened on our own planet.  There’s actually a pretty narrow margin by which life becomes possible and taking an existing planet and forcing it into that margin is way, way harder than fans of science-fiction, like me, generally want to believe it is.
Go ahead and try the game yourself.  I think you’ll find it an eye-opening experience.

We live on a paradoxically robust and delicate world.
This place has existed for millions of years and “modern” humans have existed for just a few hundred thousand years.  This magnificent ball of dirt and rock has seen more kinds of life come and go than we can even imagine.  We tend to think of ourselves and the world as it is right now as “life”, but I firmly believe that life, in some form, will continue on even if we do the unthinkable and foul our own dwelling place to the point that we, as a species, can no longer inhabit it.  The Earth will continue and, I think, life in some form will, as well.
Though, we may no longer be here to see it.

Well, in any case, take a minute and go play the “game” at their site.  You may be surprised at just how big a miracle life on Earth is!  Besides, it’s Friday, so what else are you going to do?


Arab/Muslim Science-Fiction

Filed under: Art,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 5:40 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

This may cost me readers.

But, honestly, I think that’s okay.
I’ve never been shy about criticizing aspects of internationalism that I don’t like, like off-shoring call-center jobs.  But, on the other hand, I’m also not shy about reminding people that extremists give us a skewed view of a larger population.  I know there are people in the United States right now that think every Arab or Muslim is bad.  I disagree.  I think those people who claim to believe that they are all evil are simply ignorant of the rich and diverse culture that exists outside of their own small neighborhood.  I hope before those of my readers that may think that there is no such thing as a good Arab, or Muslim, follows the link I’m about to share and reads a little of what they find there before writing me off.

Some time ago, through various other blogs, I came across a link to Apex magazine’s 18th on-line issue.  The Arab/Muslim Issue.
I have to admit, I was intrigued.  For one thing, I don’t think I’ve read any recent fiction by anyone from that culture.  For another, Apex specializes in fantasy and science-fiction.
This is some brilliant work.
Go read “The Green Book” by Amal El-Mohtar, a story about a book possessed of a spirit that corrupts her reader.
Or, try “50 Fatwas for the Virtuous Vampire” by Pamela K. Taylor about a Muslim vampire trying to follow the Law of the Koran and stay pure.
Or, my favorite, “The Faithful Soldier, Prompted” by Saladin Ahmed about a soldier who’s combat implants talk to him with the voice of God Himself, perhaps.
There are more, but these three stories were masterful looks at a culture most of us don’t see.  They see myths reinterpreted in ways we may not have considered, or a future which may be all too possible.

Really, I joke around a lot on wasting time on a Friday, but these stories aren’t a waste of your time, I promise.
Go and read them.  Then think.


LibreOffice Ready For Prime Time

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Geek Work,MicroSoft,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:20 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Remember how I mentioned the new Microsoft Office replacement last month?
Well, it’s golden, finally.

A number of months ago, my favorite free office suite, Open Office, forked for various reasons relating to the “openness” of the open source of that project.  The forked code, or, for those of you not familiar with the terminology, the new branch of the on-going project, was called LibreOffice and drew most of the heavy-hitters development-wise from the old project.  They’ve been working quite hard and have gotten their new release out; LibreOffice 3.3.
There’s a pretty good review of what’s new and great about this latest release over at eWeek.com.  Check it out and then go download the latest version and install it for yourself.  Trust me on this.  It’s pretty great.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"It is better to be approximately right than precisely wrong."
   --Warren Buffet

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