Diary of a Network Geek

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

11/23/2018

How to Help a Loved One

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Personal Care — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning or 8:10 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

Especially, if they’re depressed or suffering from other mental illness.

The holidays can be an especially rough time of year. I know for many years, I would get a kind of seasonal depression that would come over me after Halloween and last until at least Christmas, and often until after St. Valentine’s Day. In my case, it was due to not being in a relationship, mostly, and having an unrealistic expectation about how my life should look. But, frankly, even for people who are otherwise happy, the holidays can be rough. I mean, they call it the “holiday blues” for a reason, right? So, what do you do if someone you know and love is suffering from season depression? Well, sometimes, listening is enough. Just being there and hearing them, without necessarily trying to fix it can actually be a big benefit. Also, if it seems like your loved one is having more than very short-term depression, it’s perfectly okay to suggest they need more help than you can provide. Unless you’re actually a mental health professional, you may not be all that qualified to actually help someone who’s seriously depressed. One of my favorite science-based websites, Quick and Dirty Tips has some suggestions for How to Help a Loved One Suffering from Mental Illness. It’s really good and, yes, someone with depression is, in fact, suffering from mental illness. It’s possible that it’s seasonal and may pass, but, you know your loved one, and if it looks like something more than that, the linked podcast is worth a listen.

Also, if it seems like your loved one is more than a little depressed and may be suicidal, talk to them about it. And, no, talking to someone about whether or not they’re contemplating suicide will not make them more suicidal. That’s a myth, and a deadly one at that. (For more discussion about some of the more dangerous myths about suicide, again, take a look at this article on Quick and Dirty Tips.) And, if you think they already have a plan, encourage them to call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. You could actually be saving their life.

Hopefully, that’s not something you’re struggling with this holiday season, but if it is, please, get help. The holidays can be really rough and depression is nothing to try and ignore.

This post first appeared on Use Your Words!

11/16/2018

Pack Better

Filed under: Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:10 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Learn packing secrets from the ultimate world travelers; the military.

I used to travel quite a bit for work, back before 9/11. In fact, I had just gotten back from a work trip a couple of days before it happened and, if not for that event, I might have lost my job that week. As it was, things got dragged out for another month, and then I had a series of jobs that didn’t really need me to travel as much. These days, I don’t bother trying to squeeze everything into a single, carry-on bag. It’s too much hassle for too little pay off. Besides, getting through security is time consuming enough without adding to it by dealing with things like electric razors.
Still, I did learn quite a bit from packing from those years. Things like putting the heavy items, like shoes, near the bottom. Or folding shirts as flat as possible so they could stack up more neatly and compactly. Or my favorite, putting toiletries like shampoo and toothpaste in separate, small Ziploc bags, which go into other, larger bags, to make sure nothing gets squished out onto clothes. I learned most of these tricks from my father, of course, who was quite the “road warrior” in his day. But, it turns out, he may well have learned some of those tricks from his time in the military. Don’t believe me? Well, check out Military Packing Secrets That Will Make You a Better Traveler on Thrillist. They have several tips that seem like common sense, but, really, they only are after you’ve done them once or twice.
In any case, this may not be “fun” exactly, but it did seem like something useful for my readers who might be packing for holiday travel soon.
Feel free to leave your tips in the comments! And come back next week for some more advice that may be handy this holiday season!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

11/9/2018

Book Cheaper Flights

Filed under: Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:10 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Well, for at least some weekends.

Last week, I shared a service that let you buy airline tickets on an installment basis before you fly. Hopefully, for anyone who might need it, that was helpful with enough time to pay off your flight. This week, I’m afraid, I don’t have anything that will likely be of help during the holidays, because, frankly, traveling during the holidays is never fun. If you haven’t done it, and can avoid it, I encourage you to do so. I’ve flown before Thanksgiving and Christmas both, and neither is an experience that I can really recommend. Also, airlines charge premium prices on those weekends because, well, they can. I mean, they really have you over a barrel. Every “good” son or daughter wants to get home for the holidays, so they can suffer through family dinners where someone is mad at someone else or is disappointed in how their lives turned out or whatever. At least, if holiday movies aren’t lying to us. (My family was always fantastic and warm and kind during the holidays, of course.)
But, if you can manage to travel on some other weekend, then WeekendFlights, is for you! You just go to the site, put in your point of origin and your destination and they whip up a calendar with all the weekend rates on it, highlighting the best, and worst, weekends to fly. (If you go, you’ll see that Thanksgiving weekend and the weekend after Christmas are flagged as some of the worst times to travel.) Yes, it is a short trip, but, if you’re looking for a quick, weekend getaway, this site can help you save on the airfare.
Check it out and see if you can save!

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words!

8/17/2018

How Chocolate Is Made

Filed under: Fun,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:11 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

From bean to your mouth, how delicious chocolate is made.

I grew up in the city, but I had relatives who farmed, so I’m not one of those people who thought that food magically showed up in the grocery store. I was pretty aware, for instance, that steaks used to walk around in a pasture before they got carved up into bite-sized chunks. And, yes, I was always okay with that. But, also from that experience with my family’s farm, I learned to be curious about just what goes into food and food production. Frankly, what we do and have available to us in our amazing, modern, global economy is nothing short of miraculous. I’m old enough that I remember oranges being extra expensive and a great treat at Christmas, for instance. So what does all that have to do with chocolate? Well, until recently, I only had the vaguest idea how chocolate bars were made. I knew it started with a bean somewhere in the tropics and involved a process like roasting until the beans could be ground up into what is essentially cocoa powder.  And, that cocoa powder becomes chocolate. But, beyond that, the process was a bit of a mystery to me. And, I’d imagine, to you, too, gentle readers.

Well, thanks to a podcast from Seth Godin, titled It’s Not About The Chocolate, we don’t have to wonder any more. That link will take you to, among other things, two videos showing the process of taking cacao beans from the tree to an actual chocolate bar for your delicious consumption. And, yes, global warming is, in fact, putting my favorite sweet in danger. No matter how you feel about all that, the videos are fascinating and deliciously educational. Though, I do absolutely recommend that you listen to the full podcast. It’s even more educational than the videos.

And, there’s your entertaining video for Friday, with a steaming side of social consciousness.
Enjoy!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

12/24/2017

The Coldest War of All

Filed under: Fun,News and Current Events,Red Herrings — 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 Waxing Crescent

Our nation’s finest tracking holiday spirit.

As I usually do at this time of year, I’m reminding you of where to find Santa and, more specifically, how to track his progress.
During the Cold War, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, more popularly known as “NORAD”, stood between us and what we were sure was complete destruction at the hands of the Soviets. What with the recent tensions vis-a-vis Russia, China, and North Korea, NORAD may find itself busier than ever in the coming year, but, until then, thankfully, they can fall back on my favorite tradition; tracking Santa. It started with a wrong number and an accidental connection, but a gentle soul in a high-pressure job spread a little Christmas cheer once a long, long time ago. The story got around and before you can say “Who’s violating my air space?”, everyone was misappropriating government resources to make kids happy. Before long, it was fully sanctioned and, if I say so myself, an entirely proper use of my tax dollars. In any case, now, whether you’re young or old, or whether you have children or not, you can have fun tracking Santa with the Official NORAD Santa Tracker!  Besides, it’s about time for the Federal Government to bring us a little holiday cheer, don’t you think?
I’ll post again on Friday, but, until then, have a very merry Christmas!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

12/22/2017

Charitable Giving

Filed under: About The Author,Marginalia and Notes from the Editor,Red Herrings — 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 Waxing Crescent

As someone who’s been the beneficiary of charitable giving, I heartily endorse it!

And, actually, you may have enjoyed the benefits of charity, directly or indirectly, too. For instance, if you have had cancer or know someone who has had cancer, you’ve benefited from money donated to cancer research from any of a number of charities. If you’ve used Wikipedia, you have only been able to do so due to donations made to that organization. Also, I know that it’s at least partially my upbringing in the Methodist Church that has helped me form the belief that I should give back some of what I’ve been given. I don’t give it all to a church these days, but I do still like to give to worth causes. That seems like an especially important thing to both believe and do these days with the social and political climate being what they are. If you feel the same, but aren’t sure where to give, I have a couple suggestions.
First of all, there’s the Boing Boing 2017 Guide to Charitable Giving. I don’t necessarily endorse all the charities they list, but there are some good ones there, though several are out of the UK and may not be to my American audience’s taste.
Secondly, I’d like to recommend that you consider giving to established charities in your local area. Find a homeless shelter or women’s shelter to give to this year, maybe, or, my personal favorite, a local stray animal rescue. I lean toward donating toward the most helpless in need in my local area. I like the animal rescues because it’s such a huge problem where I live and it’s mostly domestic animals that have been mistreated one way or another. Domesticated animals are our responsibility and we should step up to that.

So, this Friday before Christmas, I hope you’ll forgive me for getting up on a soap box, but I truly believe that if we want the world to be a better place, we have to make it that way. One way I choose to do that is to donate to worthy causes. Besides, if you donate now, you can take it off your taxes, so it’s a “win-win” situation!

Anyway, I hope you’ll think about it and, either way, have a Merry Christmas.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

12/8/2017

Scam The Scammers

Filed under: Fun,The Day Job — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

In the Christmas spirit of giving, give the scammers a headache.

I don’t know about you, but this time of year, I seem to get twice the number of scam and spam email that I normally get. It’s pretty terrible. I mean, most of the year, it’s bad enough, but we are all extra busy this time of year and have even less time than normal to deal with these bottom-feeders of cyberspace. I’m NOT an advocate of the infamous “hack back” strategy, even for well-heeled corporate IT departments that can staff skilled anti-hackers, but the idea of an artificially intelligent email bot that annoys and harasses email scammers is a little different. For one thing, it’s just annoying email. For another, it’s automated.
All you have to do is forward the scam email to me@rescam.org and let the games begin. The Re:scam email bot will reply to the scammer and tie them up with an almost endless stream of questions and “personal” anecdotes so the scammers are kept busy and, yes, tortured just a little bit. And, they’ll forward you the email conversations afterward, for your amusement.
No, it’s not nice, but, let’s face it, these email spammers aren’t exactly on Santa’s “Nice List”, if you know what I mean.

So, head over to Boiing Boing and read about the Re:scam email bot and enjoy your Christmas shopping!

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words!

1/6/2017

Daily Photography

Filed under: Art,Fun,On Creativity,Photography,Stimulus and Production,The Tools — 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 Waxing Gibbous

I encourage you to indulge in your hobby daily.

My favorite hobby is photography.
I’ve wanted to learn photography since I was in high school, but, until the birth of digital photography, it always felt beyond my reach.  I got interested again because, about ten years ago, someone asked me what I liked to do for fun.  At the time, I was stymied for an answer.  My shock at not having a hobby led me to take a good portion of my savings at the time and buy my first DSLR.  That led me to a Flickr account and some fooling around.  That led me to doing the 365 Project, just as a way to learn my camera.  And, I can tell you, shooting a self-portrait every day for a year straight was an amazing experience.  I’m not sure that I’d go so far as to say it was “life changing”, but it sure did make me a lot more comfortable with my camera.
If you’re one of the lucky people who got a new camera for Christmas this year, you may be looking for a project to get your feet wet.  I highly recommend some kind of 365-day project.  If the idea of a self-portrait every day is too much, why not take a look at the 365 Days of Shooting Prompts Challenge at Photoblog?  They have a shooting prompt for every day of the calendar year in 2017, all in a downloadable calendar.  I know this is posting on the 6th, but you can easily catch up, or just go until January 6th, 2018!
I’m firmly convinced that your photography will improve with shooting every day, whether you use a professional-grade DSLR or the camera on your smart phone.  What do you have to lose?

Incidentally, I think photography is going to be my theme this month.  Not everything will be entirely free, but I’ll probably include some links to free tutorials for paid software, so it’ll be pretty close.
Enjoy and have a great 2017!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

12/23/2016

Tracking The Fat Man

Filed under: Fun,Fun and Games,News and Current Events — 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 Waning Crescent

Time to watch for the jolly old elf!

As I usually do at this time of year, I’m reminding you of where to find Santa and, more specifically, how to track his progress.
During the Cold War, NORAD stood between us and what we were sure was complete destruction at the hands of the Soviets. What with the recent tensions vis-a-vis Russia and China, NORAD may find itself busier than ever in the coming year, but, until then, thankfully, they can fall back on my favorite tradition; tracking Santa. It started with a wrong number and an accidental connection, but a gentle soul in a high-pressure job spread a little Christmas cheer once a long, long time ago.  The story got around and before you can say “Who’s violating my air space?”, everyone was misappropriating government resources to make kids happy.  Before long, it was fully sanction and, if I say so myself, an entirely proper use of my tax dollars.  In any case, now, whether you’re young or old, or whether you have children or not, you can have fun tracking Santa with the Official NORAD Santa Tracker!
And, since the holiday is nearly upon us and I don’t plan on posting again this weekend, have a very merry Christmas!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

8/19/2016

More, Hey Siri!

Filed under: Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

So no more map posts this month, but some good stuff anyway.

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post titled Hey Siri, which had all kinds of tips and tricks to using Siri, the personal assistant on the iPhone.
I’m back with more.  In fact, I think this very well may be the definitive guide to what you can get Siri to do or answer for you.
Everything from posting on Twitter to getting directions to converting miles into meters.  Siri can do a lot of amazing things for you and all via voice command.  We live in an age of miracles.  And, over at Hey, Siri! What can you do for me?, they’ve collected pretty much everything you can think of in one, searchable, website for you.  It’s nothing short of miraculous.
Want to know how many seconds are in twenty-three years?  Just say, “Hey, Siri, convert twenty-three years to seconds” and you’ll know.
Want to know how many days until Christmas?  Just say, “Hey, Siri, how many days until Christmas” and she’ll tell you.
Want to add milk to the grocery list? All the commands you need are at Hey, Siri! What can you do for me?
Seriously, they’ve got everything you might want to do. Go look!  But, I’m not responsible for your co-workers getting annoyed at you talking to Siri all day.  That’s on you.

And, again, for those of you who don’t have Siri, you can still enjoy Shit Siri Says, which is funny no matter who you are!

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words.

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