Diary of a Network Geek

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


How Much Are You Worth?

Filed under: Art,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 6:19 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

I mean, on a piece by piece basis.

Have you ever wondered just how much you’re worth?  And, I don’t mean that old thing about how much the various chemicals that make up a human body are worth, but how much are we worth, as assembled?  You know, on the basis of our individual parts.  I’ve often joked about paying off debt by selling a kidney, but, sometimes, I honestly wonder just how much I would get if I could actually do that.
Well, now there’s a handy reference chart to tell you just how much your body parts are worth.  No joke.
The chart is priced in UK Pounds Sterling, so you’ll need to convert it, but, still, it’s pretty fascinating.

Incidentally, this is theory only, since you can’t actually, legally,  sell body parts, as far as I know.  And, I would assume there are variations in price based on the quality of the part.  Also, since I’m a cancer survivor, I actually can’t even give away my parts.  No one would want them any more.  How sad for me!  There goes my “get out of debt” plan!

Anyway, it’s a fun, if somewhat ghoulish, way to spend a little slack time on a Friday, so enjoy!


Al Fresco

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Calamity, Cataclysm, and Catastrophe,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 7:45 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

We take modern plumbing for granted.

No, seriously.
I’ve spent the better part of this past week without a sewer connection.  That means that I’ve been pestering my friends who live nearby, all three of them, for showers all week.  It also means I’ve been urinating “al fresco”, under the cover of darkness.  Let’s not ask too many questions about other bodily functions though, okay?  Let’s just say I’ve been going into work early most days this week.

My point is, plumbing is what makes civilization even more than farming.
In school, they always taught us that modern civilization, as we know it, started with farming.  They taught us that as people stayed to tend crops instead of follow the herds, they built permanent camps which became villages which, eventually, became cities.
I would argue, however, that real modern civilization was born when the Romans first got the idea to enclose their plumbing.  When that first, genius Roman city planner decided to put sewers underground and replace the foul stench of open trenches, which had been the norm until then, and replace that malodorous tradition with construction projects, civilization as we know it truly began.
And brought with it a host of modern problems.

In my case, the problem was one I initially tried to handle myself.
When the shower first backed up, thanks to several loads of laundry, I poured all kinds of hazardous and noxious chemicals down the drains.  I bought and used things that were so terrible, so dire that the warnings printed on the packaging sounded more like plans to deal with a spill in a chemical plant than something the average Home Depot shopper should be screwing around with in their bathroom.  In fact, these things were so bad at one point that leather gloves which had accidentally gotten soaked in water containing some of those chemicals actually started to melt away.  Seriously.  I have pictures!  And, I thought all was well.  For about two weeks.
That’s when the shower started to back up when I was, well, running the shower.
So, for three days, I took what we used to call “Navy showers“.  Basically, I got wet, then turned off the water and lathered up, then turned the water back on just long enough to rinse off.  I’m sure it helped the planet with all the water I conserved, but it was starting to get a little uncomfortable.  So, off I went to Home Depot to buy supplies.  I bought even more chemicals, a CO2-based plunger, and a plumber’s “snake”.  I used them in turn, spending the most time trying to get the snake working right.  It was one that you hooked up to a drill, to add extra power, and, though I hate to admit it, I screwed the first one up bad enough that I broke it.  Unfortunately, none of that worked.

So, defeated, I called a plumber Sunday afternoon.
I called Mr. Rooter, because I’d used them before and I knew they didn’t charge extra for working on the weekend.  I also knew they did good work at what I think is a reasonable price.  Sadly, there wasn’t anyone available in my area by the time I called Sunday afternoon, which meant waiting until the next morning, but I figured what was one more night wallowing in my own filth?
Well, the plumbing technician showed up early Monday morning and got right to work.  He ran through at least three obstructions and at one point I could hear things gurgling in my bathroom, which seemed an encouraging sign.  Sadly, it was not.  The technician called me out into the yard where he found the only “clean-out” in my line.  A clean-out, incidentally, that was far, far further out than it should have been.  He’d run his camera down that line and found the problem, or, at least, the first problem.  I feared the worst, but my fears turned out to be child’s play compared to what was actually wrong.

The problem was roots.
Not roots that had grown through the pipes, as I had feared, but roots that had grown under the pipe and lifted a thirty foot section of it.  Lifted it so high, in fact, that it made my shower the lowest point in my personal sewer system.  So, yes, it was a big problem.
The other two problems were with the main sewer.  First, when they built the house, apparently, a builder took a short-cut and lifted my sewer connection to link it up with the city sewer main.  So, it was higher than it should have been in the first place!  But, to make matters worse, when the guys from Mr. Rooter went to make the connection, the found the city main choked with roots!  I love the live oaks in my backyard, and, in fact, they’re part of why I bought the house with my ex-wife, but they certainly seemed out to get me this week.  In the end, there was really only one thing to do: replace the whole sewer line to the city main.

Now, for those of you who aren’t homeowners, let me tell you how this feels.
Imagine being neck deep in a mucky, fetid swamp, trying not to make waves because you know it could drown you.  Got that?  Do you have a handle on the perilous and uncomfortable feeling of knowing you’re inches from sucking stagnant water up your nose and suffocating on swamp muck?  Great.  Now imagine that someone is throwing stones at you.  Stones big enough to knock you unconscious.  Imagine having to hold your breath while that water with God only knows what kind of diseases in it is lapping at your mouth and nose, trying to find its way into your lungs.  Can you feel the horrible panic?  Can you feel your chest tightening from the fear of drowning in a sloppy, green sea of homeowner’s debt?  Fantastic.  Now imagine looking up and seeing one of those stones on a collision-course with your head.  You know it’s coming and you can already feel the lump forming even as your gut tightens because you’re about to be fighting for consciousness so you don’t drown, alone, in this swamp.
That was pretty much how I felt when the tech told me what was wrong.

His estimate was not much more reassuring.
Let’s just say it started somewhere over $10K.  In the end, because the folks at Mr. Rooter are fantastic, caring, decent human beings who haven’t lost their humanity in this tight economy, I ended up owing less.  I won’t say how much less, but, less than the original $10K.  Still an impressive sum for which I needed a lot of help.
Sadly, the finance company was less caring and more cut-throat.  I won’t give them any free advertising by mentioning their name, but I will say that, until dealing with them, I thought loan-sharking was illegal.  Apparently, not if you do it right.  Thankfully, I had some benefactors who were willing to lend me the money I needed at lower rates.  They’ve asked to remain nameless, otherwise I’d sing their praises, too.

In any case, I got enough money together to get them started and WOW, did they!
The next afternoon, there was a crew of four guys digging up my backyard with a small backhoe.  They dug a trench easily 120 feet from the back of my house, around my ponds, between my trees and to the city sewer main at the back of my yard.  I took pictures of it because words leave the spectacle of the thing,well, in the dust.  This trench started out about three feet deep and got down to almost five feet deep near the sewer main.  It runs at least four feet deep for a significant portion of it’s length and was dug in less time than it’s taken to write this entry.  It was amazing!  If not for the roots in the city sewer main, I’d have had service restored that first night!  Unfortunately, the rest took longer.
The city did come out the next day to clear the roots and make the connection to the city sewer main, but, by then I’d had to make a nuisance of myself with friends to beg showers so I could get into work and not knock people out.  I didn’t shave, really, but used my beard trimmer to keep my stubble under control.  Still, I looked pretty rough by the end of the week.
And, yes, I really did get tired of “urination al fresco” and holding it until dark, or going in to work hours early for the same reason.

So, the good news is, now, I have a working sewer line and I can flush my toilets!  Not to mention shower, shave, do laundry and dishes, all of which I was frantically doing Thursday night.  Friday afternoon, the main technician who was working on this project the entire time, got my second toilet hooked up, so everything in the house should be working now.  I still have the trench until the city inspects and approves the work according to the permit.  I’m not as worried about that, frankly, since I’m able to bathe and eliminate with the modern ease with which I have rather grown accustomed.
Other good things of come of it, too, though.  Some I won’t got into in detail except to say that I have a new appreciation for my friends and family who were all more than willing to come to my aid.  I was pleasantly surprised, to be honest, at how willing everyone I knew was to help.  Since my divorce, I have felt pretty alone down here in Texas, so it was nice to be reminded that I did have friends and, though they may be a little way away, family who really do care.

I also really was reminded about how well I live, really, and how comfortable I am.  That’s sort of a double-edged sword, though, as I’ve gotten, I think, a little too comfortable with things that really needed to change.  I’ve gotten a little stuck and a little complacent.  My financial situation, for instance, has been just good enough for me to not really feel the need to really grab hold and make some positive changes.  I’ve just gone “with the flow”, if you’ll pardon the metaphor in a post about sewers, for far too long.  I need to relearn to set my sails and make my way regardless of the current.

Of course, I do still have a huge bill to pay before I’m done, but that may turn out to be a good thing, too, since it’s finally motivated me to actually start selling my ex-wife’s abandoned jewelry.  Yes, I have finally listed my first item on eBay.  In this case, it’s my ex-wife’s gold and ruby ring.  If you’re interested, go bid on it and help me out!  Don’t worry, stalkers, there will be more items if you want to own a piece of the Network Geek’s history.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"'One of these days' is none of these days."
   --English Proverb


Ants, on the march!

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Dog and Pony Shows,Fun,News and Current Events,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:10 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Okay, so this is really a local news item, but I think it’s still noteworthy.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who lives here that Houston has an ant problem. However, what may come as a surprise is just how bad it is and why. According to Wired and Yahoo! News, we’re being over run with the “crazy strawberry ant”, which is much worse than their cute name would imply. Now, the good news is that they kill fire ants, which are a plague of the worst order, but the bad news is these crazy strawberry ants love to foul electronics. Also, they’re resistant to current chemicals that kill them and they have multiple queens in a single nest, making them doubly hard to kill.

Luckily, there is an adorable solution to the entire mess: the South American tamandua. I don’t care if they cost $4500 or more. I want one!


Radioactive Enema

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:52 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I hate getting CAT scans.

Thursday, I go into M. D. Anderson for the first of four scans this year to see if my lymphoma has come back. Next year, I’ll get three scans and two the year after that. And, from then on, unless the protocol changes, I’ll get a CT scan, with contrast, or a PET scan every year for the rest of my life.

I hope one day it becomes so “old-hat” that I don’t think anything of it, because, right now, I’m about to step sideways out of my skin. I honestly don’t think the last time was as bad as this. Last time, I’d finished treatment just a couple of weeks before the scan, so I was confident that everything was clear. This time, though, I’m nowhere near as sure. I feel good, mostly, except for a lingering runny nose and cough which is probably just a cold and allergies. Probably. I mean, I’m sure when that guy at work asked me why I was so pale that he was just exaggerating for effect. And, when the veins on my arms look funny, it’s just the light and my imagination. And, the fact that I can’t seem to sleep at night, but I’m tired all day is just stress and will go away after I get the results of the scan.

Unfortunately, I won’t get the results of that scan until next week Thursday, so, a week after getting the magic, barium enema that is everyone’s favorite part of a CT scan with contrast, I’ll know the results of that indignity.  The worst part of it all, though, is all that radioactive material that I’ll have dumped into me.  Something about those chemicals just really mess me up inside.  And, no, I don’t mean emotionally.  I’ll probably have indigestion for days afterward.  Not to mention what it’ll do to my lower G.I.
But, eventually, I’ll know.  And, knowing is better than not knowing.

Of course, no matter what the results are, in the end, I’ll deal with it.  I survived the chemotherapy once, so, if I have to do it again, I can survive it again.
But, I do have to admit, the idea of going through another year like last year terrifies me and exhausts me, so I really hope I don’t have to do it.
If you’re the praying kind, I wouldn’t turn any down, no matter what flavor you favor.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"If you can't annoy somebody, there's little point in writing."
   --Kingsley Amis


Freshness Dates

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Personal,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 5:06 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

I’ve been cleaning up my house.

No, that’s not a metaphor for a damn thing. I’ve literally been cleaning up my house one room, one closet, at a time. A couple of weeks ago, I got down on my hands and knees and cleaned my bathroom floor right to the baseboards, getting every stray hair, human or dog. My fingers were pruney with bleach-based cleaner and my tile floor was white again.
I also cleaned my kitchen, but not quite with the same intensity as the bathroom. I still need to do the floor, but I did tackle the counters and refridgerator and pantry. It’s amazing to me that I’m still finding food left over from when I was married. Yes, that’s not a joke or an exageration. I lost count of the mystery items that I’ve thrown out of the freezer. And, the other day, I pitched some Slimfast and UltraSlimfast shake mixes. I know these weren’t mine, because, well, because they’re just not the sort of thing that I would think to buy for myself without a little “help”. They were chocolate and chocolate malt flavors and I was tempted to try them to see if they’d help me lose weight.
They smelled okay and were mostly still powdery, but the humidity had obviously not been good for them. I let them sit on the counter for a good three days before I made myself check the date on them. They stopped being “good” in 2003. I still let them sit on the counter for another couple of days before I threw them out. The whole time I was debating what to do with them, I could hear my mother and grandmother admonishing me not to waste food. I mean, they still smelled okay, right? And, Slimfast has got to be mostly chemicals anyway, so would they really go “bad”?

It was a game that finally got me to see the insanity of what I was doing and throw the cans out. As I opened one again to smell check it, and confirm the expired freshness date, my inner-eye flashed to a role-playing game I used to love called Gamma World. It’s a post-apocalyptic science-fantasy game filled with rogue robots and marauding mutants. There are countless dangers waiting to kill off unsuspecting and careless player-characters, not least of which was canned food. Yeah, old food from the time of Ancients, before the great wars that destroyed the Earth and made plants into deadly perils to be approached warily. Cans with no labels or unreadable freshness dates that could be a village’s salvation, or deadly poison that would kill everyone who ate it. Only a lucky roll of the dice would tell us for sure. But, intelligent characters stopped taking the risk.

I still have the original rules for that game upstairs on a shelf, but I threw out the Slimfast. Just in case.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses."
   --Alphonse Karr


House Fire

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is mid-morning or 10:53 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Not mine, thank God.
This morning I found myself walking down the street to watch the Jersey Village Fire Department put out a fire just down the street. Five houses, or so, down the street, actually. Apparently, the people in the house were out of town and something caught fire in their attic. By the time I heard the sirens and went to investigate, the entire second floor was engulfed in flame. In fact, there were flames coming out of the center of the roof. When the firemen finally got to the fire, it had started to come out one end of the house. Right out the attic vents under the eaves. The entire house will no doubt have to be gutted. What wasn’t ruined by fire and smoke was destroyed by the chemicals and water that put the fire out. Thankfully, no one seemed to be home, so no one was hurt.
Quite a crowd gathered and I met some new neighbors. Hell of a way to meet your neighbors! We were all saying how terrible it was for this family to have to come home to a fire-gutted house, but we were all thinking “Thank God it wasn’t my house.” I do feel sorry for these folks, though. They just moved in six months ago and have four small children. It has to be devestating for them. If they even know yet.
Seeing something like this really brings home what’s important. I’m whole and healthy. I have friends and family that love me. I’m safe and have a roof over my head. I’m a very, very lucky man. Sometimes, I think I have problems, but, really, I have very few problems. And the problems I have will be resolved, sooner or later.

Yeah, I’m glad to be alive today. And, yeah, I’m pretty damn lucky.

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