Diary of a Network Geek

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


“Good Business”

Filed under: Art,Fun,Movies — 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

I love science fiction film.

Or videos. Or books. Pretty much anything science fiction related is worth a look from me.
Once upon a time, I wanted to be a science fiction author. Not just a writer, but an author, which, to me, implies publication. I wanted to scifi’s answer to Ernest Hemingway. Instead, I became a professional computer geek and a consumer of science fiction in all its forms. Well, you win some and you lose some. At least I have that business degree to fall back on, right?

Anyway, that’s enough about my broken dreams for a Friday. How about a look at a scifi short, instead? That’s what I have for you this week, readers, via Boing Boing it’s a short titled Good Business, about an arms deal in the future that, frankly, goes about the way I sort of suspect every arms deal goes or has gone ever. But this one’s with aliens and pretty good special effects. And, it’s only about five minutes long, so you can sneak it in on a Friday while you’re pretending to work.

Have a great weekend and follow your dreams!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.


Fast Fiction

Filed under: Fiction,Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

In this case, really fast.

I’ll be honest, I’m not normally a huge fan of gimmicky flash fiction, but I do make exceptions.
The basic idea is to write a story with the fewest number of words possible.  According to literary legend, Ernest Hemingway did it with just six words; “For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn”.  That was allegedly to win a bet with Ezra Pound, as I recall.  In any case, it’s still a gimmick and one that’s gotten a little…
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Inspiration, Motivation and Synchronicity

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is mid-morning or 10:05 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Can I call myself a writer, if I’m not writing?

Long-time readers of this blog will remember the days that I used to post virtually every day.  That was, it seems, a very long time ago.  That was before I got divorced and before I almost killed myself through self-neglect.  It was also before I met and dated a dear, sweet woman who will always have a special place in my heart and before I bought my camera.
I couldn’t tell you why I used to write so much and why I don’t now.  I only know that something changed.  Some elusive thing changed, escaped me, slipped from my grasp.  Maybe it was a lack of motivation.  Maybe it was that everything seemed so hollow and pointless after spending a year doing the horizontal mambo with Death that any words I might spit on the page seemed like a waste of my time and yours, dear readers.  Maybe it was a lack of what every “wanna’ be” writer thinks will get them off their lazy butts and in front of a keyboard; inspiration.
I honestly don’t know.  But, I’ve felt the itch again.  I’ve felt the urge to chew up a bit of whitespace on the Internet and spit out the stuff that makes me choke.  I’ve also discovered Tumblr.  Yes, another blogging platform.  And, yes, I’m sure I won’t stay there long, because this is my blogging home, but until then, I have found my little slice of Tumblr oddly inspirational.  I suppose it has to do with thinking differently about how I do what I do, but all that really matters is that it’s gotten me writing again.

The other thing, I think, that compels me is the fact that I’ll be 43 this year.
Something changes again when a man feels the fetid, stinking breath of middle-age on the back of his neck and realizes that he has achieved less than the lofty goals he set for himself at 18.  Granted, many great artists of various kinds have come into their own only after having turned fifty, and, given my family’s record of longevity, I probably have another good 45 years or more of intelligent, intelligible output left in me, but, still, not having produced even a single work of long-form fiction nags at me.  You see, as good as I have gotten at extemporaneous non-fiction, thanks in no small part to this blog, I seem to have almost completely lost the knack of producing fiction.  And, trust me, as someone who worships the great storytellers of literature, I find that disappointing, to say the least.
It does not help, either, that many of my literary heroes are, in fact, dead.  Most of them, unfortunately, died before they were 50.  And, almost all of them, produced their greatest work before they were 40.
When I was younger, I tried to emulate those writers in many ways.  Unfortunately for me, one of the writers who’s work I respected the most was Ernest Hemingway.  Now, don’t think that means I purposely drank hard for years, because I didn’t.  Oh, I drank pretty hard, but not in conscious imitation of Hemingway.  And, certainly, I haven’t run through wives the way he did!  What’s more, I’m pretty sure I haven’t achieved his level of misogyny.  (In fact, I recently checked with several female friends on just that subject for reasons inappropriate to go into here and they all assured me that, whatever my character flaws may be, misogyny of any kind, much less at the level of “Papa” Hemingway, was not one of them.)  Nor, I hope you will be pleased to learn, do I plan to commit suicide via shotgun at 50 the way he did.  For one thing, I know pretty much everyone who might find the body and I like them, so I won’t subject them to that.  For another, I neither plan to give my detractors the satisfaction of my untimely death nor do I own a shotgun.

Now, you may ask why, in a post about inspiration and motivation, I would dwell on Hemingway’s death.  Good question.
You see, last night, I queued up a quote from Hemingway on that Tumblr I recently started.  By the time you read this post, in fact, it should be up, so feel free to pause for a moment and go read it.  It’s one of my favorites.
The thing is, though, this morning, I got my regular e-mail from the Writer’s Almanac, which lists today’s literary events of historic note.  Today, as it turns out, in a weird bit of synchronicity, is the anniversary of the day when Hemingway, suffering from cancer, did himself in with his trusty, manly shotgun.  Killing himself as he might have killed one of his heroically tragic characters.
What does that have to do with the price of tea in China, or anywhere else?
It’s a reminder.  A reminder of how many times I have almost given up.  A reminder of how many times I have, in true Hemingway hero fashion, faced death, or, worse, my own internal demons, and, rather than giving up or giving in, set my jaw, dug into the mud and just kept plowing forward.

You see, I forget, sometimes, who I am.
I forget that there is more to me than who I see reflected in the vision of others.  In my own insecurity, I forget how strong I can be.  I forget that love is the answer to all my problems.  Not being hard and tough, like I think Hemingway thought men, especially himself, should be.  I forget that it takes great strength of character to care, and I do care, about so many things and so many people.  I forget that what I see as my weakness is, in fact, my strength.  I forget that I have gotten up, as the saying goes, one more time than I have been knocked down.
And, so, as I imagine many of my dead heroes have done, I do my best to set aside doubt and fear and the perceived  judgement of others and do what I was taught as a child; I simply am trying again.  Trying to learn from the mistakes and failures of my past, not forgetting them, but not letting them get in my way, either.
And, as you can see, if you’ve stuck with me this far, I’m starting to write again.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"You may give out, but never give up."
   --Mary Crowley


UnMovie Friday

Filed under: Life, the Universe, and Everything,On The Road,Review,Things to Read — 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 Gibbous


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

By this time of the week, my regular readers know I’ve usually reviewed a movie, but not this week.

This past Friday, instead of seeing a movie, as is my usual habit, I was on a plane coming back from Belle Chasse, Louisiana.
Now, to those of you who haven’t done a lot of business travel, this may sound fun and exciting, but, honestly, it wasn’t. I caught a 7:30AM flight out of Houston Intercontinental to New Orleans, where I was picked up and driven to our local office. There, I did some basic troubleshooting and got the “new guy”, who’s only part time so far, up to speed on a couple of things. Also, we got a problem or two that he’d not dealt with before knocked out pretty fast.
Mainly, though, I was there to make folks feel better and assure them that everything was as it should be. In other words, outside of a couple things I probably could have done on the phone, I was mainly there to take people out to lunch.

The books you see in the attached picture are what was in my bag.
I’m still wrapping up A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway, who is one of my favorite authors of all time. It’s been ages since I read anything by him and, frankly, this book is making me fall in love with language all over again. Hemingway has that effect on me. And, considering how concise he was and how conservatively he used words, I find that deliciously ironic. Still, there’s just something about the way he crafts a good sentence that just makes me want to write.
“Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.”

The other books are something else again.
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl is about finding hope in the most hopeless of situations. It’s about finding a purpose in life, no matter how small that purpose my seem to others, and clinging on to it for dear life. It’s the book I was reading when I was diagnosed with cancer and I really need to re-read it and refresh my spiritual memory of the lessons that book brought me.
The Canon Speedlite System Digital Field Guide by Brian McLernon will be, I hope, the guide that gets me going finally with hot shoe flashes, both on and off-camera, for DSLR. I brought that with me Friday in the hopes of being able to get to it and finally start to play with my new camera equipment that my tax refund bought me.
No such luck.
Thankfully, I still had Hemingway to keep me company.

So, movie reviews again next week, but the week after, I’ll have been at a wedding on Friday, so I’ll probably miss my regular review then, too, unless I hit a matinee.
Who knows? Anything’s possible!


Movement vs. Action

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:03 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

“Never confuse movement with action.”
–Ernest Hemingway

Funny thing, that difference between movement and action. Things change. It’s the way of the world. It happens whether I actively participate, or not, but it’s not the same as me taking action. Action implies that I’ve made a choice, a decision. Movement, simple movement, is just me drifting with the tide. Action is me setting my sails. I can set them to run with the wind or tack against them, but I have to choose which way to sail and act accordingly. I may not end up where I intend to sail, but, at least it’s movement with a purpose. If I just drift, well, then I’ve given up any hope of arriving at a destination of my choosing. It may be good, or it may be worse than where I started. Personally? I prefer the choice.

Today, I cleaned up some of my Bloglines subscriptions. I added one to William Gibson’s blog and removed two that linked to my former step-daughter’s very inactive pages. I kept them in there with the excuse that someone needed to keep up with what she was doing on the web. And someone does, but not me. That hasn’t been my job for quite some time now, so there’s not a need to keep those subscriptions alive.
I hope one day she comes to find me, to find out, as Paul Harvey used to say, the rest of the story. I honestly doubt she will, though. Either way, it’s someone else’s problem now. I did my part. I did what I could. Now, the rest is up to someone else.

God, help her.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Small deeds done are better than great deeds planned."
   --Peter Marshall


Review: Angels & Demons

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Personal,Review,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 7:27 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

I finished Angels & Demons by Dan Brown last night.

It was good and only slightly marred by the fact that I’d read the DaVinci Code first, so I knew that Robert Langdon would survive. The rest, however, was a merry chase through the Vatican city.
Ah, but I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. This is the story that introduces us to the hero of the best-selling book and major motion picture, the DaVinci Code, Robert Langdon. He’s well known by now, of course, as a Harvard symbologist specializing in rather strange and occult subjects. In this book, he’s chasing the Illuminati, who were long thought dead or subsumed by the Freemasons. But, with the “invention” of anti-matter, along with a suitable containment device, the Illuminati make a sudden reappearance. They apparently send their agent to steal the highly unstable and explosive antimatter to use as a spectacular act of religious terrorism by blowing up the Vatican City. Robert Langdon is called in by the head of CERN, where the antimatter was created, for his help and to use his expertise regarding the obscure Illuminati to “save the day”. The rest of the plot, I’ll leave you to discover yourself by reading the book.

Okay, this is not quite Nabakov, but it is a fairly good read. I actually liked it better than The Da Vinci Code, but the writing is certainly no better or worse. Dan Brown isn’t the hack that a lot of literary critics make him out to be, but, then again, he’s not Ernest Hemingway or Charles Dickens, either. Angels & Demons is good, light, reading that still has some fairly high-minded premise. As I menitoned earlier, it’s a decent enough book, though I wouldn’t want to make a steady diet of Brown’s work.

Today, at lunch, I started reading No Plot? No Problem!, which is the “official” handbook for NaNoWriMo, hopefully, in preparation for attempting to participate in November. That’s a ways off, so I’m not quite willing to commit to that, but, still, I’m thinking about it.



Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:01 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”
–Ernest Hemingway

Or, as my mother used to tell me, “Interested people are interesting people.” I’ve been thinking about that lately, since I hope to be more social this year. And, since rumor has it that “social” activities involve actual people and could lead to actual dates where I’m only half of a conversation, instead of one sixteenth, this has been of great concern to me. I’ve never been good at small talk, but, as I hope some of my fellow bloggers are aware by now, I do ask fairly good questions. And, of course, I listen to the answers, well, too. That’s sort of hard to see on the Internet, of course, but, still, it is something that I work at improving constantly.
I genuinely like people, most people, in fact. I think even the most annoying person can have an interesting story to tell. How did they get that scar? What’s up with that crazy tattoo? Why do they hide from deep relationships? All these things can lead to a surprising story with open-ended possibilities. But, I have to ask the right questions. And listen.
The older I get the more I try to listen. More than that, though, I try to listen actively. Ask questions that keep the story flowing. Ask the questions that bring out new insights. If I’m lucky, sometimes, I can ask a question that brings out details and truths that no one else has heard before. I live for those moments. That kind of intimacy is what makes relationships, of all kinds.
Sometimes, though, I have to remember to listen with my heart, not my ears. Sometimes people need to feel that people care and “hear” them. I don’t know any deeper expression of care and love than to listen deeply to someone. To hear their heart in their words. Granted, I don’t do this as often as I would like, but, the times that I have done it, I have been keenly aware of the effects. Effects that run both ways. I’ve developed some of my best and deepest friendships this way. I only wish I’d understood this sooner.
Now, as most of my readers know, I rarely get this philosophical without a subtext. Today is no different. I’m going to be placing a phone call today to someone I don’t know. To someone I hope to know better. Someone interesting and beautiful and, frankly, terrifying. I don’t know where the conversation might lead or what I might either learn or reveal and that’s a little scary. Of course, that’s also why I’ll be doing it. When I get scared like that, it’s because I’m stepping outside my comfort zone. In this case, quite far outside my comfort zone. And, as always, that means growth. Frightening, painful, but, oh, so necessary growth. It’s been a long time since I put myself out there like this. Opening myself to that kind of personal intimacy, at least with a member of the opposite sex.
I hope I remember how. How to listen.


Break Point

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:42 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

I started to write a very moving entry.
My mother told me, not too long ago, that I’ve always felt everything more deeply than everyone else. Of course, she meant everyone else in our family, but, she has a point. Mom always seems to know, much as I wish she didn’t.
Anyway, I was going to wax semi-poetic about tradgedy and loss in my life, but, really, who wants to read about that? Even I get tired of hearing myself complain about the little inconveniences that crop up from time to time. The complaints don’t help and just become an irritant, so I won’t bother. I will give you the quote that led me to that place, though. It’s a good one by one of my favorite authors of old.

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”
–Ernest Hemingway

In the end, I haven’t lost anything, since I never really had it at all. I was just borrowing it, at best. Now, the lease is up and I don’t have the balloon payment, so that’s gone back to the dealer. (And, no, I haven’t lost my car, I’m speaking metaphorically.)
I guess all I have to hold onto when I do this to myself is a little bit of thin, angry hope inspired by another quote that I discovered long before Hemingway.

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”
–Friedrich Nietzsche

So, screw it. I’m going to the movies. Have a great weekend all.


Being All Arty

Filed under: Art,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Linux,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Horse which is around lunchtime or 12:41 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

I wish I was.
All arty, that is. Alas, I am inhibited by my close association with “The Man” via my degree in Marketing. Still, working to overcome such crippling handicaps is my stock and trade, so I went to an art opening last night. A friend of mine, Mark Flood, and a group of other artists that he did some collage work with, had an opening in the Heights area. Sadly, I cannot remember the name of the gallery where the work was shown. And, I was late. In fact, I was so late the other people I know who were going came and went, so I ended up spending some time with Mark, then was alone for a bit, looking at art and a mulitmedia presentation of the art being created, then poor Mark felt guilty for leaving me alone for so long and hung out with me the last 20-30 minutes I was there. It was, in a word, “interesting”.
I’ve never been to an art opening before. It was a little strange, to me, because it seemed like it was such a social event and had so little to do with the actual art. Also, I have to admit, it was art that I’m not really all that “in to”, either. Modern found-object collage art, for the most part. Still, it was interesting to look at. I much prefer Mark’s other work with lace. *That* absolutely fascinates me. But, I did have a good time people-watching. Seeing human drama unfold still enthralls me. There was some poor girl who was obviously quite upset at something her paramour, who I never connected to her, was doing or not doing. I’ve lost some of my ability to read lips in poor lighting, but I did catch “… but it still sucks. I just sucks!…” and the poor thing looked like she was on the edge of tears at one point. She did seem to recover enough to flirt with someone later, though, so I guess it all worked out. I have to admit, I was sorely tempted to quietly tell her “Darlin’ whoever it is, they just ‘aint worth it. No one should put you in that mood and make that pretty face so troubled and frowny. It’s time for a new horse, darlin’. You rode this one on out and you can’t ride ’em any further, so it’s just time to jump on a new horse.” You’ll be pleased to know that I successfully resisted that temptation.
Still, it did get me thinking about being creative and that longing to be part of a creative subculture reared its ugly head. Again. One day, I’d love for Mark to be introducing me to his friends as “my friend Jim, the writer” instead of just “my friend Jim”. So, I need to work on my writing. And, I need to work on it in an envrionment other than home. That led me to dig out my pile of laptops and sort through everything until I could make a reasonably decent one that ran. Then, of course, I installed Linux on it. Why? Well, why not. I have a copy of RedHat 9.0, the last free version of that particular distro that they released before going to Fedora. It installed like a charm. Easy as pie. Actually, easier, since pie can be a bit challenging sometimes. And, now, since the only drive I had that worked well was a five gigabyte IBM, I ordered a new 40 gig and a 512 meg memory upgrade from Tiger Direct. So, with old parts that I got free and the new hardware that will be coming soon, I’ll end up with a new, to me, laptop for under $200. Not bad. All of which means, ultimately, that I’ll be able to go to coffee houses and write. And emulate some of my heros, like Ernest Hemingway, in the process. Now, all I need is a good laptop bag that’s just as cheap. I was thinking about going with something Army surplus, but I’m not sure.
This is all part of the changes I’m trying to make in my life as I work toward being a person I like more. A person I like being more. Little by little, it’s happening. After God only knows how many years, I’m finally becoming the man I wanted to be when I was a kid.
Life is good.

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