Diary of a Network Geek

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


The Greatest Time To Be Alive

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 7:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

In many ways, the world is actually improving.

I know this isn’t my usual Friday Fun Link fare, but, frankly, with terribly depressing news media and the horrible sense of that everything good is long behind us, not to mention the dumpster fire that is U.S. politics these days, it just seemed like maybe it was time to share something that was more positive. Sure, I could have given you another simple distraction, like videos about chocolate production or the fascinating science behind flatulence, but it seemed like maybe sharing some good things that are a bit more meaningful was appropriate this week. So, here are just five ways that the world is actually showing some improvement.

1. Over the last 20 years, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty has almost been cut in half.

2. The share of homes that had electricity in 1870 was exactly zero. Today the proportion of people with electricity is 85%.  I, personally, have known two people who were born before electricity in homes was normal or common and they both said it was life-changing in ways we can’t imagine.

3. In 1800, among all babies who were ever born, roughly half died during their childhood. Life expectancy was just 30 years and no country had a life expectancy above 40. Life expectancy at birth was only 45 years in 1870. The average life expectancy around the world today is 72.

4. The violent crime rate has been on a downward trend since 1990 in the U.S. Just under 14.5 million crimes were reported in 1990. By 2016 that figure was well under 9.5 million.

5. Retirement is still is a relatively new concept. In the past most people simply worked until they died. In the year 1870, for those who lived past age 65, the labor force participation ratio for males was close to 90%. Today it’s less than 20%.

You can read 45 more ways the world is getting better at the same place I got these; 50 Ways the World Is Getting Better, by Ben Carlson.
So, this weekend, when someone starts in on how terrible things are in the world, remind them that, actually, things have gotten better in the last 100 years or so.
Next week? Back to the videos.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.


Tools for Job Searchers

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Geek Work,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:36 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Not exactly a set of “fun” links, really.

I still work in Oil and Gas, albeit in IT, which means there are a lot of layoffs.  And, there are more coming.  Even though I’m in IT, and they need use like they need electricity, I could go at any minute.  So, in solidarity for those who have already lost their job and those who might still, I’ reposting several links to resources for job seekers.

First, for those who are still employed,…
Read More

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Happiness is a direction, not a place."
   --Sydney J. Harris


Review: Taken

Filed under: Fun,Movies,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:26 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I saw Taken Friday night with a group of friends for a “guys night out”.

First of all, let me say that this was a pretty simple, straight-forward movie in terms of plot and message. Of course, that was one of the things I liked about the movie. The bad guys were undeniably bad and the good guy was, well, a little bad, too, but considering that he was a father saving his daughter from a white slavery ring, I think that’s understandable.
Okay, so this movie is probably not going to win any awards or be very acclaimed by the critics, but I liked it a lot. It stars Liam Neeson as a former CIA agent who sacrificed his family and home-life in his dedication to the job. As a result, he’s become estranged from his now teenaged daughter. In an attempt to fix that, he’s given up his work and moved to L.A. to be near his daughter and his ex-wife and his ex-wife’s very rich new husband. Neeson plays a pretty sympathetic character, I think. At least, he’s sympathetic to anyone who’s ever been a father. He’s quite protective of his daughter, which is understandable both because of the world we live in and the job that his character used to do.
The plot, as much as I can say without revealing anything important, revolves around his daughter going on a trip to Europe. A trip about which she is not quite entirely honest with her father. It’s a classic plot launcher for simple, straight-forward movies like this that the dishonest must pay. And, she does. To start with, things aren’t quite as she’s been led to believe and she’s alone with another girl in Paris. That alone wouldn’t be so bad, but they run afoul of Albanian white slavers. Man, there’s nothing I hate more than Albanian white slavers. (Yes, I’m poking a bit of fun at how often they emphasized the fact that these guys were, in fact, Albanians. I guess someone had an axe to grind.)
In any case, Neeson’s character gets a panicked phone call from his daughter as she’s being taken. He warns the men to let her go or they’ll be sorry, but they don’t listen. Basically, they have no idea just what kind of damage Neeson’s character is capable of dishing out, or that they’re about to feel the full effect of that skill at hurting people.

And, again, without revealing too much, for about an hour and thirty minutes, what you have is Liam Neeson chasing bad guys all over Paris. Chasing them on foot, in cars and on a boat. Chasing them down alleys, hallways, stairways, through rooms filled with parties and criminals. Often, shooting them when he finally catches them. Occasionally cutting them or stabbing them. At least once, hitting them with a pipe and hooking one up to electricity. But, I assure you, he only does that to the bad guys. Oh, well, except for the one time he wings the wife of an old colleague who’s gotten corrupt. Other than that, though, he’s only shooting, stabbing, punching and torturing the bad guys. Honest.

I won’t tell you how it ends, but Taken is a very good action movie indeed. Edited down to a PG-13 here in the States, it was even more violent in other places, so I really look forward to a Director’s Cut DVD. It’s no surprise to me that this is at the top of the box office returns this weekend. It was a great movie and I recommend it whole-heartedly to anyone who digs action without gratuitous explosions. Again, it’s a simple, straight-forward movie, but it delivers on every promise it makes in the trailers, ads and reviews.
Well worth seeing in the theaters on the big screen!


Almost Normal – Hurricane Ike Part 7

Filed under: Calamity, Cataclysm, and Catastrophe,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Geek Work,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time or 9:51 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Well, I do have power again.

Many still do not, but, at long last, I do.
Yesterday, at about 4:30pm, my power came back on. I’d lost my land line, though, so, I figured I was batting .500. Then, an hour and thirty minutes later, or so, that came back, too. Cable has come in and out, but, really, that’d be all gravy as far as I’m concerned. So, mostly, things are back to normal for me.
I expected to work until dusk cleaning up tree debris in my back yard, but my lawn guys had done most of it. So, before next Wednesday, I plan to have a case of beer for them and I’ll have a bonus in cash the next time I pay them, too. I spent about an hour cleaning up what they didn’t quite get. Mostly it was stuff still partly in trees or still attached. Saturday, I have a friend coming over to see what we can do about the fence.

There is something special about having electricity again. As a guy at work put it, there’s not quite anything like the sound of ice cubes tumbling from the automatic ice maker in the refrigerator into the bucket. Though, I have to admit, the sound of air-conditioners is very much like the sound of generators. It’s an irony that I cannot escape or ignore.
There’s a friend of the boss who’s got a mailserver that he’s trying to find a temporary home for, due to power loss. It’s his own server, but, I have to tell you, this is why if you’re going to run servers at the house you need a recovery plan, just like you would if you were a small business. Of course, I say this, but I don’t have one. At least, not yet.

It’s been a crazy couple of days here in Houston. People have been at both their best, and their worst. I’ve seen things like my lawn guys pitching in and clearing my yard without asking or being asked and like the guy at work who gave me half an ice chest of ice to let me save some food. And, I’ve seen people cutting each other off and running through intersections endangering themselves and others. I’ve heard just as many stories for either side. Still, it’s not like what happened after Katrina in New Orleans. There have been a few stories of looters, but not many. I’d like to think we’re more evolved, but, the truth is, I think the police were just better prepared. Either way, I’m glad that there have been more stories about neighbor helping neighbor than not.

So, things are settling down. I’m glad for that, too.
I hope my readers from the Houston area who aren’t back to normal will be soon.
Oh, and here’s a bit of fun everyone can look forward to! Friday is International Talk Like A Pirate Day! So, by then, I hope everyone can tell me what a pirate’s favorite letter is!


Breakfast The Morning After – Hurricane Ike Part 5

Filed under: By Bread Alone,Calamity, Cataclysm, and Catastrophe,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Sheep which is in the early afternoon or 2:00 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

Well, I survived Hurricane Ike, so far.

I’ve been without power since Friday night and we’ve been on an order to boil water since Saturday night, but the house took no damage that I can see. The car port and the covered porch lost their corrugated fiberglass roofing, but are otherwise intact. The back fence is 2/3 gone, not to mention one of the smaller myrtle trees, but otherwise things are good. I’ve been cooking things as they thaw, which means I’ve eaten more meat in the past three days than I’d normally eat in a week, but at least I haven’t wasted too much food that way. Oh, and my dog, Hilda, has been eating like a queen! She thinks sausage for breakfast is fabulous! And, as I’ve mentioned before, I can face just about anything if I have a good cup of coffee in the morning, so my camp coffee pot has been working out really, really well.

Work is open and has power and phones. In fact, that’s where I’m writing this entry. And, if you click the link, it’ll take you to my Flickr photostream and you all can see the pictures I’ve uploaded so far. I know this may not be a priority for many people, but, well, I wanted to let folks outside of Houston know what’s going on.
So far, we’re surviving. I’ll be happier when I get electricity again and can restock my frozen foods. I’m afraid I’m going to have a lot to throw out when I get home from work later. So much has gone bad or is too iffy to be trusted right now. But, I’ll tell you what, Houston is a can do city so I’m sure it won’t be long before we’re up and rolling again.

In any case, I’ve survived. Hilda and I are doing well, so far. We’ve a ways to go, but we’ll get there, and we’ll get there faster than the tragedy that was New Orleans after Katrina, too.
There’ll be more later, but, for right now, I’ve got to get back to work!


More Homestyle Links

Filed under: Art,Fun,Personal,Red Herrings,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:07 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a New Moon

I’m feeling very domestic this month.

I’m not sure if it was the four more bags of junk I threw out last night, or the six more bags I have to donate to the Salvation Army, or just moving furnature around, but I’m really enjoying home related links this month. Maybe I’m just nesting. In any case, following with the theme from last week, here are some more very strange domestic links that struck my fancy.

To start with, I’ve got two very different fireplaces. The first, called the Drop, wouldn’t work in my house at all. For one thing, it’s very modern, for another, it simply wouldn’t retrofit well with my current chimney. The other, from Hearthfalls, wouldn’t work either, because… Well, just look at them and I think you’ll see why. Frankly, it’s one of those things that looks perfect, for someone else’s house.
And, while we’re talking about water, here’s a funky lamp called, plainly enough, the Wet Lamp. It’s a lamp, in a bowl of water. Yes, electricity inside water in your house. And, it looks cool, too.
Speaking of “looking cool”, let’s contemplate the outdoors for a minute. Or, at least the garage. A European designer of unknown national origin has designed a variably transparent garage. Apparently, it’s done with LCDs, but it lets you show off your new, impossibly expensive sports car when your ridiculously wealthy friends are over, then hide it again from thieves. Sadly, I’m more likely to have a driveway edged with glow in the dark pebbles than I am the garage with disappearing walls.
Now, I am looking at new/different furnature, so I’ve got several links to that sort of thing, too.
I have a lot of friends that often find themselves in trouble with their wives and need a place to crash. Or, are going through some sort of meltdown and need a place to sit and rock while sucking their thumb and going to the “happy, quiet place”. So, this couch that opens into bunk beds struck me as useful.
And, naturally, I want to make a good impression and hide the fact that I’m as obsessed with TV as I am with books, so a reversable media center that’s combined with a bookcase seemed perfect for my living room.
Now, I’m sure none of my friends do this, but I’m told that sometimes people snoop through bathrooms when they’re in another person’s house. What better way to deal with that than a mirror that you can send SMS text messages to! So, now, when you think that nosey relative is about to snoop in your medicine cabinet, you can have the mirror tell them to mind their own business!

Now, finally, to wind things up on a more whimsical note, I have a link to a paper airplane coffee table that I just love! Yes, it’s a little strange, but you have to admit, it does look cool. And, what could go with that better than kid-sized Tetris pillows!? I can totally see those in my living room!

Well, I can tell it’s been a long week, because these Friday Fun Links just got sillier and sillier. Still I hope you enjoy them and have a great Friday!
And, of course, don’t forget to add your two cents to the poll on the sidebar!!


Benefits of Reading

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal,Things to Read — 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 Waning Crescent

My mother always told me that all that reading would make me smarter. Now, thanks to this article on MSN about just that thing, she has some extra weight for her argument. Apparently, someone at UC Berkley actually did a study and wrote it all up in a paper called What Reading Does for the Mind. Based on that study, we get three benefits from reading, especially when we start young. First, reading increases vocabulary more than talking or direct teaching. That was my mother’s main argument for reading, incidentally. Second, reading substantially boosts general knowledge while decreasing the likelihood that misinformation will be absorbed. This one is the one that most people seem to think is true. I’m not quite as convinced, but, hey, the study says it’s true, so I’ll go with it. And, finally, reading helps keep our memory and reasoning abilities intact as we age. Again, not sure about this one, yet, but it did seem to keep my grandmother sharp. She lived to be like 96 or something ridiculous like that and was pretty sharp all the way until the end. Well, except for often asking the same question several times in an hour, but I always suspected that was more her testing us than her not remembering. Always checking to see if my story changed and all that. And, she only had one or two episodes in the hospital when she had any age/time displacement, so I figure that’s pretty good. I mean, after all, she was born before electricity was common in the home and when the “horseless carriage” was still a bit of a novelty, so, all things considered, she did pretty well.

So, even if I don’t read quite as much as I used to and a lot of ficition as well, I figure it’s still good for me. At least, in the long run.
So, kids, a little advice from your Uncle Jim? Read, even if it’s just comic books. Reading actually is good for you!  (And it also gives me justification for my position that if you have “too many books”, really, you just need a bigger house.)

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"When I look into the future, it's so bright it burns my eyes."
   --Oprah Winfrey


Nice Walk: Rita Part 7

Filed under: Calamity, Cataclysm, and Catastrophe,Deep Thoughts,Dog and Pony Shows,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Sheep which is mid-afternoon or 3:11 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Hilda and I had a nice walk to 290.
It was really quiet out there, but we heard some folks doing some last minute work boarding up their houses or trimming trees. There were a few cars out, looking for gas, I’d presume. We walked all the way up to the feeder road and the gas station on the corner was closed and had all the pumps marked with “empty” signs. I assume they ran out sometime yesterday. Sadly, the closer we got to the highway, the nastier things got. Garbage everywhere. Food wrapers and empty bottles all over. Apparently, it didn’t occur to anyone to save their bottles for water later. More’s the pity. What got me, though, were the dirty, disposable diapers. I must have seen at least a dozen in the last block or so before the highway. Obviously, lots of people were getting off 290 and just leaving their crap, literally, where it dropped. Not their neighborhood, so they don’t care what a mess they leave it.
At least there didn’t seem to be too many cars that were abandoned. We didn’t go up on the actual highway, which is pretty well raised, but the feeder road was clear. There were some cars parked in the gas station and at the O’Reily’s Autoparts store. I hope whoever was in the one with the handicap plate made it to safety. We did meet one little family on our way back. They were doing about the same thing I was: just looking around. Not much else to do. The laundry is done, but I still have to fold it, and the dishwasher is running.
I stopped at the neighbors across the street, since they were out smoking. I introduced myself and let them know I was staying, in case anyone needed anything. They were pretty well drunk already. The one guy who introduced himself reeked of beer. But, everyone was friendly and they said if I got lonely, or whatever, to come on over. Incidentally, the walk actually seemed to help my back. I’m feeling much better, but I’m still going to keep taking ibuprofin, just in case.

My plan, incidentally, is to start drinking my beer when the storm is at least half over. Not sure how I’ll know that, but every plan has flaws. Then, when we lose power, I’ll start cooking and eating everything as it thaws out. When I can’t eat anymore, I’ll just keep cooking everything and keep it cool, or warm, depending. In between, I figure I’ll take cat naps and as soon as I can, I’ll start eating and drinking again. And, really, I’m only half-kidding about this. I really will start cooking a couple hours after we lose power. If we lose power.
Okay, so that’s damn optimistic, but, still, the way things are going, we could actually not lose electricity. That would be totally sweet! But, I’m not really expecting that. Also, you might be interested to know, I’m backing up my blog every other post now. That way, if the servers go away in the storm, I can restore all these posts and comments.
God, I am such a geek.

Odds and Ends: Rita Part 6

Filed under: Calamity, Cataclysm, and Catastrophe,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 Horse which is around lunchtime or 1:34 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Making busy work now.
The laundry is in the dryer now. I’ve filled the tub with water for the dog to drink and for flushing. The sinks upstairs are filled, too. Tonight, I’ll fill at least one of the kitchen sinks and, probably, the bathroom sink, too. The dishwasher is ready to go. I’ll start that when I take the dog out for a walk in a few minutes. I thought I’d wander down towards 290 one last time to see what that looks like today.
I checked in one last time with a couple of friends here in Houston. One tried to talk me into going to the dog park with him, but I don’t want to use the gas until I know how things are going to look next week. I hope we won’t lose power, but I expect we will. No power means that there’s no way to pump gass. They might have it, but all the pumps use electricity, so there wouldn’t be a way to pump it. My other friend was freaking out last night to the point of trying to head to Brenham and Austin, but hit a wall of traffic and decided to come back. I’m a little frightened that I’m calmer than he is. I do believe that it is a sign of the End Times when your Uncle Jim becomes the voice of calm and reason, gentle readers.

If I have time, and power and Internet connection enough, I may post the mental list I’ve been making of survival gear that I would like to have bought for this. And, that I plan on buying after this is all over. Top of the list, a shotgun!
Well, the wind is starting to pick up some, so I better walk the dog if I’m going to do that. More later, if I can!

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