Diary of a Network Geek

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


On Faith

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — 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 a Third Quarter Moon

What do I believe?

Every once in a while, someone questions my faith.
“Have you found Jesus?”
               “Was he lost?”
“Have you been saved?”
               “From what?”

I know it’s not nice to play with the door-to-door savior salesmen, but, sometimes, I just can’t help myself. The truth is, it sort of depends on the day and how bad my week is going. Some days, it’s easy to believe in all sorts of things, to have faith in the world and the general goodness of mankind. Some days, not so much. I always want to have something incredibly cynical and sarcastic and witty to say to people who ask me about my faith. Something to deflect the question and invite the questioner to go away.

I believe in the soul, the small of a woman’s back, high fiber, the hanging curveball, good Scotch, that the novels of Susan Sontag are overrated, self-indulgent pieces of crap. I believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft-core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve and I believe in long, slow, deep, wet kisses that last three days. Good-night.

– the “What do you believe?” Speech from Bull Durham.

That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about. You know, a stock speech that I have memorized and can fire out at someone foolish enough to ask a guy like me that kind of question. But, the questions always come when I’m philosophically flat-footed and emotionally tired.
Look, the thing is, I believe that there is a God. A being so big and vast and powerful and beyond my little, tiny mind that even trying to name Him is foolish and arrogant. That I can believe in, no problem. I can believe in the fact that He created the Universe and established the Laws we call science. Sometimes, I’m a little shaky on the whole “sacrificed his only begotten Son” and all that redemption that comes with that, though. I have a hard time believing that a being so huge could care about such an insignificant fly-speck as me. And, that whole concept of “grace”, well… Far easier for me to buy into a God of fire and brimstone who’ll punish me for being bad, than to believe in a loving, caring God who only wants what’s truly best for me.

Still, that is what my faith challenges me to do. Not to forgive others, but, rather, to forgive myself. To forgive the failings that only I see and to have the faith that God has already redeemed my soul, no matter how far I may have strayed in the past. I’ve come too far and seen too many miracles to doubt that it’s possible.
My challenge, then, is to have faith that He has saved, not just my neighbor, but me.


Family Emergency

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Deep Thoughts,Dog and Pony Shows,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is in the late afternoon or 5:40 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

So, you may have noticed that I haven’t posted anything since before Christmas.

Well, there’s a reason. I had actually planned to post something Christmas Day, but, well, I sort of lost heart. You see, my uncle, my father’s older brother, past away Christmas Eve. I got the call first thing Monday, Christmas Morning. It sort of put a damper on all the other stuff going on. I’ll be flying home tomorrow, thanks to very generous bereavement rates, for the funeral. The vet was all booked up, but I got a friend to let the dog out and make sure she’s got food and water, not that I expect her to really eat while I’m away. She’s funny like that.

It’s depressing, of course, to go to funerals. Though, mainly, funerals don’t bother me. I’m much more put off by mourners. I’m a little socially awkward to begin with and nothing’s quite so awkward as either trying to comfort someone who’s just lost their spouse or parent. At least, to me.
You see, I grew up with the idea of death. We talked about it at the dinner table. My grandmother, my father’s mother, lived with us from the time I can remember until she died, which was when I was still in college. She was quite comfortable talking about funeral arrangements for herself and all the related details. My father was one of the people with the AMA who coordinated the case work that went into the now famous On Death and Dying by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. It’s not talked about much these days, but most of her raw data came from hospital chaplains and, apparently, that was something my father was involved with back then. One of my earliest memories is being told not to hang on the edge of the casket when I was trying to see my Great-Great-Grandpa Grosh, who died at the age of 99, when I was just a little, little kid. So, death in and of itself doesn’t bother me much at all. It’s just a part of life.
But, all the other stuff that goes along with death gets to me.

And, I have to admit, it occurred to me that, one day, perhaps soon, I’d be making a similar trip to bury one or both of my parents. That idea did not sit well with me at all. Apparently, even with all the childhood hours spent in and around funeral parlors and hospitals, I had managed to repress the idea that they’d be suffling off this mortal coil eventually.  This, though, brought it all home.  And, it makes my father the eldest living Hoffman.

In any case, that’s where I’ll be Friday and through New Year’s Eve.  Well, actually, I’ll be flying back into Houston New Year’s Eve, but I’m quite sure I won’t be celebrating at all.  Then, after things settle down a bit, I’ll get in touch with the girl from Match.com with whom I broke a date Tuesday because, frankly, with all this, I wasn’t going to be very good company.  She was sweet, though, and I look forward to meeting her in person, eventually.  Since she was born in China, I suspect I’ll be getting to know some new haunts with her, especially in our Chinatown.  Hey, I didn’t even know that Houston had a Chinatown!

Oh, and another bit of good news: The groom with cold feet, J., who will be watching my dog, has been talking to L., his once and future fiance.  And, she’s already taken the ring back.  They’re going slower this time, though, which I think is probably a good thing for both of them.  Still, I’m very happy that these two are back together.  Crazy as they both might be sometimes, they’re still perfect for each other.

Well, I’ll queue a Friday Fun Link post, but I won’t be active on-line until I get back Sunday night.  Enjoy the weekend.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"The indispensable first step to getting the things you want out of life is this; decide what you want."
   --Ben Stein


The Most Wonderful Time

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Hoffman's Home for Wayward Boys,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — 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 Waning Crescent

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!

Merry Christmas.
It is truly the most wonderful time of year. As I’ve mentioned before, I love this time of year. For me, it is a time of rebirth and renewal. A time of hope. Celebrating the birth of Christ reminds me that I, too, can be reborn. I can start again. Every year, I have another chance to be better than I was last year. More kind, more cheerful, more spiritual, more happy.
My nephew called me this morning to wish me a merry Christmas. My redneck nephew, as I like to think of him. He told me about watching the Texas Chainsaw Masacre last night, to try and shock me, I think. But, I shocked him by telling him all about the history of that film and what inspired it, all without missing a beat. I love my nephew and I’m deeply touched that he knows he can talk to me about anything without rattling me. And, I think it helps that I don’t judge him, either. I doubt he would have felt comfortable talking to anyone else in the family about his father’s drinking problem, so I count myself lucky to have earned that kind of trust from him. When he complained about having to go to church tonight, I did try to explain to him that he might come to enjoy Christmas Eve services again, one day. And, why that might be. Of course, he’s sixteen, so that wasn’t what he wanted to hear. When I thought about how I felt at sixteen, I smiled and moved on to other topics of conversation. At sixteen, he’s not interested in being reborn or renewed. Neither was I.
The older I get, though, the more important this time of year becomes. More important than family or tradition, I need that sense of hope. Hope that the world can be a better place. That I can contribute to making it such. Hope that the new year holds untold opportunity to grow and change. To improve my life and the lives of those around me. And, so, I do things differently than I have in years past. Tonight, I will be in a church on Christmas Eve for the first time in more than ten years. In fact, as I’ve mentioned, I’ll be reading scripture with four other people. My section is from Luke, Chapter Two, verses eight through fourteen:

There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, wordwide: A savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.” At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises: “Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.”

Afterward, I’ll come home and have a helping of suet pudding, which my mother sent me this week. Traditionally, my paternal grandmother would make this every year, until she died. Something learned from a Scottish housekeeper they had when my father was a baby. In the morning, I’ll have what’s left of my mother’s infamous orange rolls. Another family tradition. And, I’ll call and talk to family up North. Of course, there will be presents to open, too, though, that’s really secondary to my holiday celebration. My roommate, Doc, is pretty alone this year, except for me, and I hope he’ll be pleasantly surprised by the few, small things I wrapped for him. It’s not much, but, I hope a gesture that will make him welcomed and loved and less alone.
And, then, I’ll pray that the feeling of renewal will stay with me all year long, making every day a chance to start fresh. A chance to reinvent myself in a better way. An opportunity to let more Light into my life and shut out more of the Darkness.
It’s been a good season and a good year, really, all things considered. I’m hopeful that the coming months will be as good. Thank you all for warm thoughts and wishes these past months. I hope you, too, feel renewed tonight. That hope is reborn for your life.
I’ve set this to post about the time I estimate I’ll be reading in church. I probably won’t check on the blog or e-mail until tomorrow, so, I’ll sign off saying:
“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”

(If you want to hear me read this, you can, here. And, yes, I sang that bit in German. I’m not a singer, so don’t judge me too harshly, eh?)


Scotch Cure

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Fun,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 5:15 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

A little self-medication goes a long way.
My regular readers will be pleased to know that the Scotch Cure worked wonders the other night and I feel right as rain again.
Which is good, because I found out yesterday that reading scripture Christmas Eve is a little more invovled than I first thought. Normally, whoever reads the scripture just stands up in the middle of the congregation with a microphone and reads it. Well, for Christmas Eve, they want us up on the dias with the minister and what not. Yikes! I haven’t done that since I was a kid. In spite of the impressions I’ve given some readers here by allegedly “baring” my “soul”, I’m a fairly shy person. Oh, I over-compensate a lot, but, I think most people can see that I’m a little uncomfortable being out-going. It’s one of the reasons I’m not in sales. I can turn it up and be on, but it’s so draining on me some days that I just couldn’t see making a career out of it. More power to those of you who can.
Anyway, I’m going to be up there in front of God and everybody, if you’ll pardon the expression. Normally, we’re really casual at Mercy Street, but, now, I think I need to dress up a bit. Black jeans at least. Maybe even a dark sports coat. Possibly a tie. Whoa! Did I just think that? A tie? Yeah, maybe not.
Yes, I both love and hate performing, even at this level, and it’s something I haven’t done in years.

Oh, and I called my favorite Thai restraunt, Paddy Thai, and I confirmed that they are closing. The last day they’re open will be December 30th and, if I understood correctly, they’re donating the proceeds and left over food that day to a women’s shelter. See? These are the kind of people they are and why I’ll miss them.


Bad Start

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is just before lunchtime or 11:55 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

It’s going to be a long week.
The day’s not even half over and I just want to curl up in a fetal ball under a comforter with the dog and sleep for the next two weeks or so. Maybe I’m getting sick. Or am sick. (I mean catching a cold, you wisenheimers!) But, I can’t get sick. Christmas is coming and I still have to get to my favorite Thai place before it closes and I’m reading the scripture Christmas Eve and…

Oh, yeah, in a moment of weakness, I got suckered into reading scripture. I’ve been practicing my radio voice for the past two days as a result. And, yes, I’ll probably record the scripture that I’m going to read and have it on my website by Christmas Eve.

Now, it’s time for lunch with a chaser of vitamins, aspirin and echinacea. To bed early tonight….


A Christmas Miracle

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is in the late afternoon or 5:50 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

No, not that I’ve upgraded my PC instead of someone else’s…

Though, I did do that this afternoon. No, the miracle is that it’s snowing in Houston on Christmas Eve. I’m sure none of these silly Southerners will know how to drive tonight, but it warms this damn Yankee carpet-bagger’s heart to see snow on Christmas Eve.

Well, God bless us, every one.

White Trash Christmas

Filed under: Art,Deep Thoughts,Fun — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning or 8:42 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Hey, why not?

Okay, so it’s Friday, which means a “Friday Fun Link” from me, but it’s also Christmas Eve, so it’ll be a holiday theme. A friend of mine sent this to me, hoping to cheer me up, and, frankly, it worked! It’s pretty funny, all things considered. You’ll probably have to use Internet Explorer to see this, for which I apologize, but it’s worth it. Trust me. So, without further ado, here is…..
A White Trash Christmas!

Hey, it’s Friday and Christmas Eve, so if you’re reading my sad, little blog, you might as well click on the link and have a laugh. Merry Christmas everyone!


Grey Winter Days

Filed under: Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:58 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

It’s another grey day in Houston.

Really, “winter” in Houston is just a long string of grey, rainy days piled up one on top of the other. But, it’s warm, and it hasn’t been too rainy this season. I’d actually prefer snow to rain. Sure, I don’t have to shovel rain, but I can stand on snow, at least until it melts into slush. And, I can’t make “rain balls” or build a “rain man” in the front yard. I suppose it’s nice to be able to walk outside barefoot on Christmas Eve, but I’m still a Chicago boy at heart. And, I miss snow. It just doesn’t feel like Christmas without snow. And having a palm tree in the back yard doesn’t help much either.
At least I don’t get sick as much down here. Okay, sure, I know that being in the cold doesn’t really contribute to catching a cold, but still, I think I get sick less down here. Though, I do seem to have started getting sinus infections instead of colds. Ah, the joys of hayfever.
And, I don’t hardly need to invest in long-sleeved shirts. For about 90% of the year, short-sleeved golf-shirts work just fine for me. Unless I’m getting dressed up in a suit. Then, long-sleeved, white shirts are a must, no matter the weather. But, for the rest of the time, short-sleeves work just fine. Though, I miss my winter coats. I only get to wear them for about a week or ten days. Then, it’s back to windbreakers for me. My wife and step-daughter are bundled up most of the time, but they grew up in this warm climate and it’s thinned their blood. I hope that never happens to me.

I miss winter.

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