Diary of a Network Geek

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


Cthulhu Sex-Ed

Filed under: Art,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Movies,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:29 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

I can think of nothing more appropriate for a Friday the Thirteenth post.

Are you a fan of H.P. Lovecraft?
When I was in Junior High, I found H.P. Lovecraft and read him all the way through High School and even college.  But, because I found him when most people are getting sex ed for the first time, when our bodies are going through enormous, almost supernatural changes, I found this short film, via Boing Boing, called “Late Bloomer” quite funny.  Be warned, it may not be entirely safe for work, depending on your workplace and their standards, but it’s worth watching!

So, happy Friday the 13th!  Enjoy the video and have a very lucky day!


Traveller, the Game

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Fun,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:23 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a New Moon

Wow, this brings back memories…

On an e-mail list I’m part of, someone brought up the game Traveller. This was one of the first non-TSR role-playing games I ever played. In fact, I think I still have the rules I used somewhere in the house. And that book I recently read called The World Without Us has really had me thinking about the future and science-fiction and related topics, so the off-hand mention really caught my attention more than it would have normally. Anyway, the mention of the game brought back a rush of memories and led me to do a bit of searchng.
There were several editions printed after the one I used. And, you can still get them all from Far Future Enterprises. There is also an active, fan-run website filled with information called TravellerRPG.com. And, Steve Jackson Games, who makes their own version of Traveller, has the Journal of the Traveller’s Aid Society. (The Traveller’s Aid Society was something in the game you could belong to that would help your characters out if they got in a financial jam in almost any star system in the civilized universe, but that help often led to other, more problematic, adventures.) Oh, and there’s another site that’s setup like a ship’s encyclopedic database, for more adventure support and fun.

Anyway, what with Gary Gygax passing away earlier this week and all, the fact that there are still guys out there playing this game I played back in High School just really made me smile. Of course, it’s probably the same guys…


Feels Like Junior High

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,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 5:46 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Some things never change.

You know, no matter how hard I try, it seems there are just some things about me that never change. Take, for instance, my terrible luck with the opposite sex. Okay, not so much “luck” as the results of a range of poor interpersonal skill and bad choices. Frankly, every time something like this happens, it’s just like Junior High. (I think they call that “Middle School” in Texas.)
There was a girl, naturally, who caught my fancy right at that special time when we were all “changing” and discovering all these new feelings about our opposite member. Her name was Julie. Nice gal, cute, popular, the works. Sadly, I was not cute nor popular. Only I hadn’t figured out that mattered yet. I was a late bloomer. So, throwing most of my caution to the wind, I wrote her a note, no doubt expressing my undying love for her with all the eloquence my little seventh-grade writing skills could muster. I think I can sum it up by saying I wrote something equivalent to “I like you. You’re pretty. Do you like me?”

I was subtle in my delivery of said note. No go between for me! Nope, I bravely told her she dropped something and handed her the note. Then, I believe I practically ran in the opposite direction. Then, for what felt like the next six years, Julie and her friends, the popular girls, all pointed and laughed and made me feel… Well, I guess they didn’t make me feel anything, but what I felt was strange, bad, small, and “less than”. It was a feeling that chased me all through the rest of Junior High and High School, too.
It was that feeling that made me feel good enough to help the cheerleader with her physics homework, but not good enough to be her actual date. No, that was reserved for her boyfriend who was too busy with his Advanced Placement Physics to help her figure out basic physics. Honestly, I doubt she even remembers my name today.
But, that’s pretty well how things played out over those years. I was the nice guy that all the girls felt safe around, and I worked at that, but, as a result, none of them really thought of me “that way”. In retrospect, I wonder how many of them thought I was gay. Regardless, that’s just how things were. No, I’m not whining about that “nice guys finish last” malarkey. It’s not that they didn’t like me, but, somehow, in being safe and careful with them, I just got shuffled off into another category where dating wasn’t a possibility.

So, flash forward about twenty years and several relationships, including one failed marriage. You’d expect that I’d have learned something, right? Apparently not. I discovered that I’ve made an ass of myself again, doing the same things that I did in Junior High.
I put myself out there. I was as real and genuine as I know how to be. I wore my heart on my sleeve. And, I even got a little response. Enough, at least, to keep me hooked. Oh, I put her on the prayer list at church. I prayed for her, at her request. I even sent prayers along to her. (Prayer and my relationship with God is actually a very private intimate thing that I don’t share with a lot of people.) I was caring and I listened to her problems. The whole nine yards. But, Monday morning, when I got into work, I found out she’d been to a Super Bowl party with someone else as her date. Her and her kids.
The guy who squealed had no idea that I was the most likely reason why she’d sworn him to secrecy, or I’m sure he wouldn’t have told me.
I’ll tell you true, faithful readers. I felt like a right jackass. I was embarrassed and ashamed. I was damn mad at myself for getting into that position yet again. And worse, for letting it get to me. And, yes, it really burns me up that after more than twenty years, when I do this to myself, I can still hear Julie and her friends laughing at me.

A friend told me, via e-mail, that it was just my turn to go through this. Again. Just like everyone else. And, honestly, I know that. Deep in my heart, I know he’s right. And, yes, I can hear my very own father saying “In a hundred years, who will care?” And, yes, I know that’s true, too.
But none of that makes it sting less today.
And, yes, just like in Junior High, I want to say something, do something, to make her see, make her understand how unfair it is. How I felt deceived. How I would have handled it all differently if I’d just known from the outset that I wasn’t dateable. But, I know, just like in Junior High, that none of that would be of any use anyway.
Okay, I’m done feeling sorry for myself today.
Thank you.

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


Unspeakable Vault (of Doom)

Filed under: Art,Fun,Personal,Red Herrings,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:33 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

I love cartoons.

Some of you may have noticed that I’m a fan of rather unusual literature. I admit, I tend toward the fantastic, surreal and bizarre, but, hey, if it’s getting published, I can’t be the only one! One of my favorites, who I discovered in early High School, is H. P. Lovecraft. I started with The Tomb and Other Tales
and moved on from there.

Well, there are a lot of fans out there and we all seem to have slightly skewed senses of humor. Often times, this results in very, very strange homage taking forms that the human mind can barely encompass. The Unspeakable Vault (of Doom) is one of those things. It’s a parody of much of Lovecraft’s work. It’s also a very funny cartoon. Enjoy!


On Cheerleaders

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Deep Thoughts,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 7:59 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Or, why I know about such varied subjects as aikido, accupressure, high-explosives and poetry.
Cheerleaders have played an important part in my life. That’s not what I meant, so, get your mind out of the gutter. What I meant was, cheerleaders have been responsible for several defining moments in my life. Okay, yes, that might be true for a lot of guys, one way or another, but not the way I mean it. Sure, when I was first discovering my “special purpose”, it was no doubt cheerleaders that aided that discovery, just like most men my age. Watching the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders on a Sunday afternoon made us feel “funny”. But, really, there’s nothing that unusual about that.

No, I meant something else, starting in high school. When I arrived at this big, different, scary place called High School, there were a lot of new faces. One in particular caught my immediate attention: Shelly. Blonde, blue-eyed and like no one I’d ever met. I wasn’t quite brave enough to actually talk to her, right away, but I started paying attention to everything around her and what people said about her. A pattern that continues to this day. That pesky, old marketing research again. Half of making a sale, after all, is knowing your target. What do they want? What do they need? Find out the answers to those questions and the sales presentation becomes dramatically easier. So, I discovered a key piece of information about her. She had chronic back problems, stemming from a car accident, which had her in constant pain. My response to that was to study up on accupressure. Like accupuncture, but using one’s hands instead of needles. I learned all about meridians and nerve centers and massage and manipulation. Physical manipulation, that is. The other kind was something I learned later.
My opportunity to put this knowlege to use came in gym class. In our co-ed track and field unit. Turns out running really hurt Shelly’s back, but she was very competitive and couldn’t not give her all, even in gym class. After one sprint she ran right off the track and dropped on the grass and didn’t move. I was the first person who both caught it and offered to help. To this day, I have no idea why she had faith in me when I told her that I could make it feel better if she trusted me. But, I did relieve the pain, at least momentarily, and well enough that I could help her to her feet and into the gym. Suddenly, I was every geek’s hero in that class. No one else had gotten that close to her, physically. Lesson learned? Knowledge really is power.

The next lesson that Shelly taught me was a little more complicated. And, hey, let’s get those minds out of the gutter again, okay? By our Sophomore year, it was obvious, to me, that I was definately not Shelly’s “type”. (Hey, sometimes, I’m a little slow. So sue me!) But, it was still nice to have a gorgeous cheerleader smile and say hello to me in the hall, so, I kept it at that level. Lusting after Admiring her from afar, as it were. In any case, I heard that her father was ill and that she was a good Catholic girl, so I got her a nice religous greeting card with a message about hanging in and that sort of thing. She thanked me and seemed genuinely touched. But, the lesson came later.
Shortly after that, as I was sitting in English class, the guy who sat next to me asked if I knew someone named Dan Marsch. I said I knew who he was, though I didn’t know him personally, and asked why he wanted to know.
“Oh, because he said he was going to kill you.” Ah, pardon me? You see, Dan and Shelly were dating. Dan was a classic “jock”. Varsity football and wrestling. He was almost literally built like a gorilla. No neck to speak of, shoulders as broad as he was tall, and arms that seemed longer than his legs. Add a protruding brow-ridge and a lantern jaw and you had not only Dan but proof of evolution and the missing link all in one. Well, it seems that he and Shelly had been having troubles. Sadly, he blamed me for them, apparently because Shelly had mentioned me in flattering terms. I can only assume it had something to do with the card. In any case, after that startling news in class, I went to my locker and noticed three dents in it about waist high. After a moment’s thought, I put my fist up to them and, sure enough, the dents just about matched my knuckles. Dan had left his somewhat angry mark.
So, in a bit of a panic, I went to the library and researched martial arts. In retrospect, of course, it was foolish to think that would help, but, still, I had to do something to protect myself. Among other things, I read up on aikido, which is an almost purely defensive martial art. Developed by a remarkable Japanese man named Morihei Ueshiba, it uses the attacker’s strength, speed and force against him by way of leverage, redirection and pressure points. An aikido master in action is a truly beautiful thing to see. I also read up on pressure points and nerve clusters, focusing on a particular book: Self-Defense Nerve Centers and Pressure Points for Karate, Jujitsu and Atemi-Waza. A book which I still own. In essence, I learned all sorts of dirty tricks which built on my accupressure knowlege. I’d hate to think what would have happened to me had I tried to actually use them on this ape, but, they’ve been usefull elsewhere in life.
Oddly, what saved me was Shelly herself. She apparently got wind of what was going on and threatend this neanderthal with never speaking to him again if she ever found out that he’d laid a hand on me. So, I was saved by a cheerleader. Lesson learned? There’s more than one kind of leverage and love or desire is the most effective kind. Also, it made me cautious, though not cautious enough, about what I said to who and how. Like ripples of water on a pond from a thrown stone, everthing I do or say carries out into the world, often in ways I can’t anticipate.

The third time I brushed up against a life-changing cheerleader, it was someone other than Shelly. A nice Jewish girl named Liane Feldstien. She was everything that I never thought would be part of my world. Wealthy, refined, almost snobbish, and, of coure, beautiful. Everything a nice goyim boy like me could want. Naturally, she didn’t know who I was or that I even existed. Until our Senior year.
I’d taken a creative writing course and my teacher was impressed with my work enough to convince me to get into the Advanced Placement English course. It took some scheduling manuevers and, I think, he even rescheduled a class so that it fit with my other plans for that year. In any case, I ended up one of three guys in a class of 30+. The rest of the class were all the most gorgeous girls in our class and, obviously, no slouches in the thinking department either. The three of us were a little surprised, to be honest, at our luck. It looked like an interesting year ahead. I, at least, wasn’t dissapointed.
One of the first things we did was work on poetry review and critique, just like I’d done with this same teacher in creative writing. I had an in. I knew how he thought about this stuff. Remember, knowlege is power. We reviewed a poem that has since become my favorite:

O Western Wind
O western wind, when wilt thou blow,
That the small rain down can rain?
Christ, if my love were in my arms
And I in my bed again!

It’s a love poem, probably written by a sailor to his lady-love, dreaming about the Western trade winds bringing him home to his sweetheart so they can get their freak on. Yeah, honest, that’s it. But, the trick was, he gave us that and some long, flowery monster with hardly any imagry at all. Then, he asked us to pick which was “better” and why. Of course, I knew which was which, because we’d done the same exercise in that other class. All the girls sided with the long, super-sugary piece. I gave the “right” answer, much to the amusement of my teacher. Suddenly, these girls who’d been in AP English for three years already, started to see me differently. Not quite a blue-collar scholar, but, compared to most of them, close enough.
Interestingly, Liane was not only in that AP English course with me, but also in PhysEd. We did a number of “odd” things that year in PhysEd, including fencing and archery, both of which are good sports for me. And, I got cross-ways with a much larger guy during some flag football, which ended up with me putting him in a hammer-lock face down in the dirt without thinking about it. (Hey, the guy just kept slamming into me harder than was required for a Senior year gym class! I got tired of it, and, well… At least I stopped before I hurt him.) So, she saw all that. The quiet, geeky guy who had a deeper side to him. Who had a few surprises, even for her. On the last day of gym class, she told me, in a startling moment of intimacy, that she was glad she got to know me that year. And, that she regretted not getting to know me better, sooner, because I was “pretty cool after all”.
It was later that I learned the lesson, though. Ten years later, actually. At our reunion. I was there with my girlfriend, who later became my ex-wife, and I was showing the future ex-Mrs. Hoffman something in one of the yearbooks. My picture, most likely. It was a funny picture. I was quite the geek, even then, and never have taken good pictures. And, Liane was suddenly at my side, calling me by name, and joking with me about being careful with her yearbook. In retrospect, I think she may have actually been flirting with me. I’m afraid that I was so surprised that I gaped at her like a fish, but it taught me something. The lesson? Who I am really is good enough and impressive enough. I made a real impression on this girl, who I always thought of as out of my league, just by being genuine. Of course, I couldn’t do that until I’d given up on her and removed her from the category of “possibilities”, but still… Still… Years later, my ex-wife still resented the fact that I found that flattering. But, I did and it was. That cheerleader taught me that it’s not always about looks, or flash, or money, or any of that other stuff that our consumer culture tells us is what counts. And, to be honest, it’s still a boost to my self-esteem when I remember that series of events.

So, you see? Cheerleaders have been an important part of my development, in more ways than one, you dirty birdies. And, they’ve caused me, directly or indirectly, to pick up an amazing array of skills and interests and knowlege. Oh, and about that “high-explosives” referrence? Well, when the statute of limitations runs out, maybe we’ll talk about that again.
Until then, keep this Advice from your Uncle Jim in mind: You never know who might teach you what or how, so, be respectful to everyone you meet and interact with, since they might end up being your teacher one day.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Justice may be blind, but she has very sophisticated listening devices."
   --Edgar Argo


I am a Cream Puff

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Sheep which is in the early afternoon or 2:56 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

No, really. Stop laughing! I’m serious!
Yeah, okay, I put on a tough-guy act a lot of the time, but I’m not. Really, I’m just a big coward. The other day, I got so freaked out about being alone in the house that I loaded up my .357 and put it in the electronic gun safe. (It’s one that I can use a key-code to open in case of emergency.) It’s sitting next to my bed. Right next to the sword. And the knives. Hmmm, I see a theme here. Now, you’d think that a guy who has all those “weapons” is some kind of maniac, right? Nope. He’s a coward.
Why is he a coward? Well, why, in a nice neighborhood where there’s never, ever been any trouble would a brave man need any protection like that? Right, he doesn’t. I have all that stuff because it makes me feel more courageous. More noble, somehow, in spite of how odd that sounds even to me. But, it’s true. I haven’t been in a fight since the Fifth Grade, though I got a little roughed up in my Sophmore year in High School once for running my smart mouth. So, why have I spent so much time learning about self-defence? Why did I take a college course on karate, taught by two somewhat psycho ex-Green Beret ‘Nam vets, no less? Why have I read countless books on hand-to-hand combat and knife-fighting? For pity’s sake, why did I let another ‘Nam vet teach me how to throw knives in the basement garage of the Hyatt Regency Chicago?!?
Simple. I wanted to make my Dad proud of me. My Dad grew up on the South Side of Chicago before and during the Depression. Yeah, he’s that old. I grew up hearing phrases like “It’s not how much dog there is in the fight, it’s how much fight there is in the dog. Be the dog with the most fight.” And, “Being tough is mental, not physical. Be more mentally tough than the next guy and you’ll be okay.” And, I heard stories about my Dad’s time in the Army. Violent stories about bar fights and big guys named “Swede” and “Moose”. Somehow from all that, I got that my Dad wanted me to be tough, not sensitive. And, really, that’s what I am: a sensitive artist. Well, a wanna-be artist, at least.
So, all this time, I’ve been working to be something that I don’t even truly understand. Along the way, I developed some calluses on both my body and my heart. I did get a little tougher, but that happens to everyone. Though, I have to admit that I’m surprised I can go for five minutes on my heavy-bag bare-knuckle, even today. Until this week, I don’t think I’ve hardly touched a punching bag since before I moved down from Chicago. But, those calluses are still there. Sometimes, people don’t understand those calluses. They think that makes me a tough guy, or a dangerous guy, but it doesn’t really. Just a guy who got a little lost and confused while trying to make his Dad proud.

You know what the funny thing is? I never really had to do anything. I thought I had to do something to show my Dad that I was a man, but I didn’t. Dad was always proud of me, even if I am a cream puff.


Copier Security?

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Geek Work,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:21 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

Well, it’s not as “out-there” as it seems…

Copiers aren’t just copiers anymore. They’re apparently also tools for violating intellectual property law. At least, according to this article on Wired News, that’s what some IP experts and academics think. And, considering how many copier/scanners I have to deal with at work, I can see it. I mean, I know that piracy is a surprisingly big issue in the publishing industry, not to mention all the cheating that seems to go on in High School and college these days.
Oh, I know that there was plenty of plagarism in my day, but it was mainly small-scale stuff. And, there were plenty of term-papers for sale through various channels, but we didn’t really have the Internet to speed things up for us. And, times are changing. I never really, seriously, thought about cheating on a term paper. After all, the whole point of going to college was to learn something. I may not have always understood what the professors were trying to teach me, but I did try to learn.
Anyway, I thought it was interesting that the high-tech copiers are finally becoming a security concern. I’ve suspected for a long time that there would be issues in places like federal law-enforcement offices, but, honestly, it never occured to me that privacy and intellectual property could become such big issues.
If you’re in charge of data security on your network, you might want to read this article and think about your company’s position on scanners and copiers.

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