Diary of a Network Geek

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

6/29/2018

Hurricane Season Preparations

Filed under: Calamity, Cataclysm, and Catastrophe,News and Current Events,Personal Care,Red Herrings,The Network Geek at Home — 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 Waning Gibbous

The Gulf Coast is well into Hurricane Season. Are you prepared?

Here in Texas, hurricane season is kind of a big deal. And, with global climate change making tropical storms more frequent and more severe, it’s getting to be a bigger deal all the time. Usually, we have more than enough time to prepare, if you’re paying attention, but it never hurts to get ready well in advance so you’re not fighting for bottled water, bread and canned food with everyone else at the last minute.
So far, since I’ve been in Houston, I’ve been through one horrible tropical storm, and near miss and two actual hurricanes. After that first tropical storm, since my ex-wife and I were looking for a house, I chose one that wasn’t pulling up carpet. That turned out to be a pretty smart decision as not far away the neighborhood has some flooding issues. Thankfully, in the 18 years I’ve lived in my house, that’s never been a problem. But, all that said, I still worry about hurricanes and do try to take some reasonable precautions.

There are a couple of philosophies when it comes to hurricanes. Mostly, it’s either stay or go.
If you stay, you need to think about what you need to get by for an extended period of time. Most emergency preparedness sources suggest that you need to have food, water and other supplies for at least 72 hours. A great resource to help you plan is the Ready.gov site for hurricanes. They go over what to expect and even have really helpful PDF downloads to help you plan and prepare. And, actually, Ready.gov has a lot of resources for other kinds of disasters, too, like Wildfires, Tornadoes, Volcanoes, Floods and more. It’s definitely a resource worth checking out.
If you’re in the Houston area, like me, the city has their own disaster preparedness site, Ready Houston. It’s a good site and they offer a free DVD you can use to help you plan for emergencies with advice specifically for the Houston, TX area. They have videos on the site, too, as well as links to training other places, like FEMA.
One thing to consider if you have pets, for instance, is what to do with them during an emergency. FEMA has a training course for helping you with your animals in an emergency situation, which I found via the Ready Houston website. (They also have a more general, but, apparently, pretty complete course in general emergency preparedness.)

If you decide to make a run for it, you may want to put together what’s alternately called a “go bag” or a “bug out bag”. Personally, I feel the name “go bag” seems less paranoid and crazy-survivalist sounding, but it amounts to the same thing.
The idea is simple, really, it’s just a bag with all the things you need for anywhere from three days to a couple of weeks, ready to go on a moment’s notice. Not unlike a hospital bag for a pregnant woman, the main thing is that it’s packed and ready so when panic hits, you can just grab the bag and, well, go. Personally, I do NOT have a regular go-bag already prepped, because I frankly don’t have anywhere I’d run to in an emergency. And, if I did, I’d be neck deep in other people doing the same thing. But, again, you can take this as far as you’d like, assuming anything from temporarily relocating to another city and staying in a hotel to running off and hiding in the woods for a couple weeks. It’s up to you. But, either way, consider what might go into that bag. For some good examples, check out Scott Kelley’s Bug Out Bag on Kinja, who even provides links to what he bought so you can get it easily, too, and the oddly less woodsy approach to a bug out bag by American Rifleman Magazine, though I’m less convinced that you really need to be overly concerned with being armed. Remember, it ultimately comes down to just being ready for what ever you think might happen wherever you are.

I would also suggest that you have some long shelf-life food on hand, like every good IT guy has in his desk. In the past, I’ve used Millenium Food bars, actually, since they provide a lot of calories and energy with a five-year shelf-life, but really any good protein bar will do in a pinch.
One really good idea is to scan important documents, like a home-owner’s insurance policy and financial information and IDs and put them all on a LaCie USB key Flash Drive, or something similar that you keep on your keys, in case all the original documents get destroyed during a disaster or when you’re not at home.

So, in short, the idea here is to be like the Boy Scouts, prepared.
Have you gotten ready for hurricane season yet? Start now!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words by J K Hoffman.

5/25/2018

Pulp Archive

Filed under: Art,The Infinite Library — 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

Pulp is the perfect flavor of fiction for holiday weekend.

Yes, I know, Memorial Day is about honoring those who died to preserve our freedoms. Of course, I would never want to lose sight of that. But, it’s also a day off for most of us and I know, personally, I need an extra day off to unwind a bit. I know my stress is nothing like our military faces in combat theatres, but it is still stress and I do still feel it. My favorite way of escaping that stress is to read. Mostly the least-common-denominator of fiction. And, let me tell you, pulp fiction is the most “empty calorie” fiction imaginable. That’s why I was thrilled to see that Archive.org had shared their Pulp Magazine Archive. It’s all free and downloadable as PDF, straight text or either of the popular ebook formats; epub or mobi. And, it’s not just science-fiction! There’s plenty of detective fiction and movie magazines and more! Just the thing to distract you from the world for a few minutes.

And, also, take a break from your life for a couple minutes on Monday to consider those who made the ultimate sacrifice so we can complain about our politicians and taxes.

 

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words.

3/16/2018

SXSW 2018 Music Stars

Filed under: Art,Fun,music,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 New Moon

As picked by National Public Radio.

When I was in college, a good friend of mine who happened to be a jazz musician and a dual English and History major, told me I was “tragically unhip”. Sadly, he was not wrong. I’ve spent no small amount of time since then trying to shake that reputation, mostly without success. But, along the way, I somehow managed to rub up against a little bit of cool. And, I’ve allowed myself to explore those who are the opposite of “tragically unhip”, namely indie musicians. My musical tastes were curtailed a bit when I was married the first time, but after the divorce, I started to expand my musical horizons again. Aided by the internet and a great music-blog culture, I’ve found lots of really good, enjoyable, and obscure music. Enough to impress my wife with my eclectic and voracious tastes, though maybe not enough to impress my now professional saxophone-playing friend.
In any case, I’m always on the look-out for new music and new musicians. Now that I live in Texas, I’ve got a much more heightened awareness of South By South West (aka SXSW), which is happening this week. It’s become so much more, but SXSW started as a music festival. And lots of new music still finds its start there. Since I’m old now, and too busy to actually attend SXSW this year, I just went to NPR’s SXSW 2018 coverage page and started listening to music. It’s all free to stream, and if you hit the Austin 100: A SXSW Mixtape sub-page, you can download their 100 song picks from the festival for your listening pleasure. Totally worth the small effort, I assure you. Especially if you’re looking for the “next big thing” in music.

Enjoy the tunes, and your weekend!

This post first appeared at my personal blog, Use Your Words.

9/1/2017

Flood Sensors

Filed under: About The Author,Better Living Through Technology,Calamity, Cataclysm, and Catastrophe,Marginalia and Notes from the Editor,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 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

This is mostly of local interest and probably would have been more help last week.

But, I’m hoping it will serve as a convenient place to find this information next year when the hurricane season starts again. And, yes, this is mostly relevant to the greater Houston area, where, dear readers, you will recall has been home since I moved here from the Chicago area in 1998. Since then, I’ve experienced a severe tropical storm, and the direct or indirect effects of three hurricanes (Katrina, Rita and Ike), before our latest Hurricane Harvey. Tropical Storm Allison was about the worst flooding event I had ever seen. My ex-wife and I were in an apartment with her daughter and woke up to find our part of town cut off from the rest of Houston by flooding. But, that flood didn’t stick around incredibly long and we were able to get out and drive the next day. That drive around my current neighborhood let us see which of the houses we had been looking at flooded. Obviously, we chose the one that didn’t and that’s where I live today with my current blushing bride. I’m pleased to say that we didn’t flood this time, either.
The thing people don’t realize about living down here is that it’s not usually the hurricane itself that causes the most damage. Rather, it’s the flooding caused by the rain that comes before, during and after. Hurricane Harvey dumped more than two feet of water on the greater Houston area. Some places got more than that. What was worse, though, is all the water running down from beyond the Houston area raising the levels of all the water ways that everyone here calls “bayous”. In theory, they should move all the water away from where we live and send it down to the Gulf. In reality, Houston is so over-built that they can’t always manage to do that.
My wife and I got lucky this time. The only water we got in our house was down our chimney and what came in on our dog. Our cars were both safe and dry. I know at least one person who’s parents have probably lost their house and two people who lost cars while trying to evacuate. This is the worst flooding that anyone can remember in Texas, and let me tell you, that’s saying something.
So, my link today is to the Harris County Flood Control District, who is the governmental group in charge of mitigating flooding events in Harris County, where Houston resides. Frankly, it’s not a job I envy, especially this week. But, for those who are concerned, they have a LOT of information about flooding in the area. Most importantly to me this past week or so, they are responsible for creating and maintaining the Harris County Flood Warning System, which has links to water-level sensors in bayous. If you go to their Interactive Mapping Tools, you can put in your address and find the closest sensors to you and what bayou is most likely to effect flooding in your area. I spent a good amount of time this weekend watching several of those sensors very, very closely. It was, to say the least, nerve-wracking, but, if things had gotten bad enough, I would have known right when I should either head to our second story or try to get out of the area if it was still possible.

Over the coming months, after hurricane season officially ends in November and before it starts again next year, I plan to add some resources here for emergency preparedness, starting with putting together a “go bag” in case of evacuation. Because, frankly, it’s never too early to start planning for next year.

And, next week, hopefully, I’ll have something a lot more fun to share with you than the grim reality of climate change, unchecked over-building, and preparing for the inevitable flooding disasters to come.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

5/5/2017

Fly Through the International Space Station

Filed under: Art,Fun,Ooo, shiny...,Photography — 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

For me, living aboard a space station is about the most fantastical thing imaginable.

I truly admire the brave people who risk their lives by exploring space. I really and truly believe that humankind’s future is in space and off planet Earth. It’s not that I’m a pessimist, because I’m not. I just believe, as does Stephan Hawking, that humanity shouldn’t keep all our eggs in one basket. I think we need to reach far and wide, starting with space stations and moving to permanent settlements on other planets in our solar system. To me, it just makes sense.

That being said, I also recognize that I will never leave the planet of my birth, at least while I’m alive. In fact, in my lifetime, only a relatively few humans will ever leave our little cosmic garden for wider vistas. And, the majority of those who do will never leave orbit. They’ll mostly stay in spacecraft or live for relatively brief periods of time on the International Space Station, doing research on how more of us might work and live in space.
Over the years, I’ve seen plenty of pictures of the ISS, but today I’m sharing something even cooler than that, a “fly-through” of the inside of the International Space Station in ultra high-def. If you can, play this on a big-screen 4K television. It’s gorgeous and, for most of us, the closest we will ever get to space.

Also, it’s been a busy couple of weeks and this was all I had time to scare up and share, so enjoy.
See you next week!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

8/5/2016

Wallpaper From Above

Filed under: Art,Fun,Fun Work,Photography — 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 Crescent

Or, better living through data mining satellite imagery.

Seriously.
I’m not a big fan of the goofy, “Web 2.0”, startup-app naming convention that drops vowels out of words to make domain names, but, in this case, I’m going to make an exception.  Mostly because it’s free, but also cool, in spite of the name.  Besides, since WLPPR relies on freely available satellite imagery gathered by scientific agencies funded by the U.S. government, I figure we all have this one coming.
What it is, is a website that gathers up some of the most beautiful, and pretty abstract, images shot from far, far above the Earth and crops them to the right size for you smart phone’s wallpaper.  (That’s where the vowel-less name comes from; WaLlPaPpeR, get it?)
The site gives you the previews and there’s a link to the app for your iPhone, with an Android app in development.  The iPhone app is free, too, by the way.

So, hey, why not check it out and pretty up your phone with government data your tax dollars already bought?
And, have a great weekend!

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words.

4/1/2011

Global Warming

Filed under: Fun,News and Current Events,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:13 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Apparently, it’s been a problem since 1922.

No, really, this isn’t an April Fool’s joke.
Seriously, a paper reported on the problem of Global Warming in 1922.  Specifically, how the Arctic Ocean has been warming and there are fewer icebergs.

No joke.

1/21/2011

Sci-Fi Locations

Filed under: Art,Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:51 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

I love science-fiction and I love travel!

Okay, not really.  I actually kind of hate traveling now, thanks to Bin Laden and the TSA, but it would be the only way to see the locations of famous sci-fi films.  I tend to forget that Tatooine was filmed on location.  No, seriously!  All the Tatooine shots were filmed in Tunisia!  For real!
And you can check out a slideshow of a lucky thirteen well-known science fiction movie locations over at Salon.  They’ve got everything from [amazon_link id=”B001G7PX80″ target=”_blank” ]Planet of the Apes[/amazon_link] to [amazon_link id=”B000K15VSA” target=”_blank” ]Blade Runner[/amazon_link] to, yes, [amazon_link id=”B001EN71DG” target=”_blank” ]Star Wars[/amazon_link].

Oh, go ahead and look at the slideshow!  It’s Friday, what else were you doing?


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