Diary of a Network Geek

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

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!

11/20/2020

WiFi QR Code

Filed under: Art,Fun,Fun Work,Geek Work,Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver,The Network Geek at Home — 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

This might be helpful if you let people come over for the holidays this year.

Back in 2014, I wrote a little post about sharing your wifi with holiday guests via something called a QR code. Back then, the technology was exotic and strange and, sadly, pretty limited. But, now, more people are using their cell phones or have picked up a tablet for on-the-go internet access and most of those devices can read a QR code natively. And, with Thanksgiving and Christmas right around the corner, we might finally feel brave enough to invite people over for a socially distant, but in-person, holiday celebration and they’ll be asking for access to your wifi network. But, this year, too, with so many people working from home and all the potential security risks, you may not want to put your sensitive security access information into a strange website. So, I thought it was a great time to share another tool for creating those QR codes that guests can scan to get that access while using more secure programming standards. That site is QiFi. It’s super simple and makes a function QR code that you can either export as a PNG to add to a nicer display or simply print out so that your guests can scan it with their device. The QR code doesn’t show any information in a human-readable format, so the casual user isn’t going to just copy it down. And, of course, this is free. There’s actually not even any advertising on the site as far as I can see. The wifi information you put it isn’t stored on the site and is gone as soon as you close the page. So, for the less computer geeky, that means it’s about as safe as these things get.

No matter what else you do this holiday season, stay safe, try to stay healthy, and let’s all be as kind to one another as we can be.

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words!

11/13/2020

Unlucky Friday

Filed under: Fun,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 Waning Crescent

About once a year, I get lazy and recycle a post about Friday the Thirteenth.

Mostly, because it’s an easy post to put together, since I’ve written the meat of it already and, frankly, the history of the superstition hasn’t really changed. We do get at least one Friday the Thirteenth each year, though most years have two and we occasionally have three in one year. The next time we have three will be in 2026. Besides, when I get stuck for topics, as I sometimes do, this is an easy enough post to whip together again. Honestly, when I can swing it, it’s almost like getting a small, blogging vacation to have a mostly pre-written post.

Back in the old days, before we could whip out our smartphones and use the internet to answer every passing question, I used to assume that Friday the Thirteenth was considered unlucky due to some Biblical association because Judas was effectively the Thirteenth Apostle or some other Apocalypse-related numerology that I hadn’t bothered to research too deeply before. I don’t think it’s a big stretch, really, since so many superstitions seem to tie back to some obscure custom related to religion. But, I’ve since found out that nothing could be further from the truth. Apparently, Friday the Thirteenth is considered unlucky because of its association with the plot to suppress the Knights Templar, according to this article on GlobalPsychics.com. No, seriously! And, I quote:

The modern basis for the Friday the 13th superstition stems from Friday, October the 13th, 1307. On this date, the Pope of the church in Rome in Conjunction with the King of France carried out a secret death warrant against “the Knights Templar”. The Templars were terminated as heretics, never again to hold the power that they had held for so long. There Grand Master, Jacques DeMolay, was arrested and before he was killed, was tortured and crucified. A Black Friday indeed!

So, there you have it, Friday the Thirteenth is a global conspiracy, though, for a nice twist, the Knights Templar or Freemasons aren’t behind it, but, rather, the victims of it! Which I appreciate, incidentally, because I am both a Freemason and, via another Masonic body, a Knight Templar, ironically. Although, to be fair, that same web page I link to there also goes into the fact that 13 is generally considered unlucky due to the number of people at the Last Supper being, you guessed it, thirteen. But, aside from the number, which is considered unlucky in a lot of ways, it’s the association with the suppression of the Templars, which happened on a Friday, that makes the day unlucky historically.

Personally, I usually have better luck on Friday the Thirteenth, but, then, I always have been a little out of step with the world. Besides, I don’t like to think of myself as a very superstitious person, so I generally don’t buy into most of this nonsense.
Oh, and if you’re not buying the Templar story, here’s a link to some alternate ideas why everyone else is afraid of Friday the Thirteenth.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

11/8/2020

Burner Email Addresses

Filed under: Red Herrings,The Day Job — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning or 9:57 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

Because having a disposable email means having privacy.

I hate spam. I mean, I really hate spam and spammers with a passion. As a system administrator, which is what I really am no matter what fancy title I may currently have, I can tell you that dealing with spam is the single most time-consuming and irritating thing about having an email server. The last time I checked, spam accounted for something like 75% of all email communication. The problem is, a lot of the time, to get the one thing you want from a site, you are forced to sign up for an email newsletter that you don’t really want. Now, don’t get me wrong, I actually like email newsletters. I subscribe to several and I’m even working on setting up one of my own. But, for those times you really just want the one “free” download a site is offering and don’t have any intention of coming back, what are you to do? Or, what if you’re not even sure that it’s a legitimate download or website? Maybe you’re afraid that a hacker has set up a site just to collect personal information, what then?
Well, then, you use nBox by notif.me to setup a free, anonymous and private “burner” email for any site you want to sign up for. You can then choose how and when you’re notified when they send something out. You can even delete the addresses you’ve used for sites you don’t want to be bothered with any more and *poof* they’re all gone, all at once.
And, yes, it’s free. How? Well, it’s free because it’s notif.me’s way of advertising and getting the word out about their service.
So, why not try it and take control of your email notifications this fine Friday?

11/6/2020

D&D Renaissance and Questing Beast

Filed under: Art,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 Gibbous

After 2020 so far, I feel like we all want to retreat to a fantasy world.

I’m writing this before Election Day, and, I’m sure, well before we know the outcome of the election itself. I hope that it’s a very definitive result, but, I think a lot of us are braced for it all to be a long, drawn-out process. Combine that political insanity with the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions and, well, it’s no surprise that fantasy role-playing games are enjoying a resurgence. And, of course, the great-grand-daddy of role-playing games is Dungeons and Dragons. I haven’t played myself in at least thirty years, but I do own a LOT of the game books. I keep them around for the inspiration they give me and the ways they spark my imagination, though I understand that, somehow, playing D&D has become cool again, with famous actors and Hollywood people playing. In any case, those strange circumstances have brought about a surprising amount of new interest in the game and resources to play. All of that brings me to a post on Boing Boing by Gareth Branwyn about a podcast reviewing FRPG zines. The podcast is on YouTube and is called “Questing Beast” and their channel has all kinds of video podcasts about fantasy role-playing games, but in particular D&D in various forms. Look, like anything, some of these are better than others, but they’re mostly fun if you’re into the game, or if you’re interested in getting back into the game. And, obviously, they’re super into role-playing games, so they’re ultra sincere about the reviews and so on. Oh, and there are a bunch of different “channels” that are part of Questing Beast, each with their own quirks and themes.

Anyway, if you have any interest in this subject at all, I hope this podcast gives you a little bit of distraction from the flaming dumpster fire that has been 2020!

This post originally appeared on my non-technical, much more personal blog, Use Your Words!

10/30/2020

Healthy Skepticism

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

People who call me pessimistic are just not being realistic.

If the past several election cycles and the attendant advertising and attempts to sway voters have shown anything, I think, it’s that having an extra healthy level of skepticism is just a good defense mechanism. For years, I’ve questioned all the quotes that are attributed to famous people, especially famous politicians. I really don’t think Abe Lincoln told people to “vote early and often”, though it’s possible that one or more Chicago mayors may have. A more direct example is this quote “Most of the Evil in This World Is Done by People with Good Intentions” which is often attributed to T. S. Elliot, but, is really a partial quote attributed to an anonymous contributor to a trade journal called “The Creamery and Milk Plant Monthly”, though Elliot said things that were quite similar. And, now, thanks to Quote Investigator you can do your own fact-checking when someone insists that George Washington said Firearms Stand Next in Importance to the Constitution Itself. They Are the American People’s Liberty Teeth and Keystone under Independence. (Spoiler alert! He most likely didn’t say that at all.)
And, while you’re being more actively skeptical, you may want to grab this Chrome extension that Lifehacker mentions, titled NoDiguisedAdsAnymore which does just what the title suggests; it reveals advertising disguised as news by marking it with an “Ad” icon. It may not catch all the sneaky political ads, but it’s not a bad place to start!

And, if you haven’t yet voted, make sure to do that this year. It’s never been more important in living memory to make your wishes known and vote your conscience.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

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