Diary of a Network Geek

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


Christmas Day 2020

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,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 in the early morning or 7:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Normally, I’d share a silly link, but not today.

Today, it’s Christmas. The day that Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, also known as Yeshua ben Yeshua, Lamb of God, and Light of the World. We live in strange times, filled with consumerism and fear of the future. Locked in our homes because of a global pandemic, we haven’t been able to celebrate this season the way we might like. Family has been distant for most of us, one way or another, and our usual gatherings, either at religious services or for holiday meals, have been severely curtailed.
My wife and I often celebrate the season quietly anyway, so it hasn’t been as big a burden on us, really. For that, I am thankful. But, this year, more than ever, I think we all need to consider what people from time immemorial have celebrated at this time of year. The actual birth of Jesus most likely happened in the Spring, closer to when we celebrate Easter. But, the early church leaders were very clever and some of the best marketers that history has ever known. They chose to connect the birth of Christ with the far older and more pagan festival connected with the Winter Solstice. That day, which was actually Monday, December 21st this year, is the longest night, and shortest day, of the year. But, it marked the day that a little more light was about to be let into the world, because, the next day was a little longer and each day after that is a little longer too, until the Summer Solstice when the cycle repeats. What’s important though, I think, is that we all are celebrating that this holiday commemorates the continual rebirth of light, joy, and possibilities into the world.
That hope is something that I think we can all use more of this year. So, go, enjoy your families, and spread that hope and light as far as you can carry it in the coming year. It may not be easy, but I think the results will be worth it!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!


Happy St. Valentine’s Day

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Fun,News and Current Events — 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

Today is St. Valentine’s Day.

Today, we are told, is the one day we should openly display our love for a partner. I used to be quite bitter about this holiday both as a very single person and as a divorced person, because I found the heavy emphasis on something I thought I didn’t have frustrating and shameful. After all, what was wrong with me that no one “loved” me enough to want to be with me? I admit, I feel less strongly about it now that I’m married. It’s easy to relax about a holiday created by greeting card companies and confectioners to generate revenue when you’ve actually made a lasting commitment to someone truly wonderful. (If you read this and are friends with my blushing bride, please, for me, tell her I said she was wonderful!)
In church, Sunday, they’re likely to read First Corinthians, Chapter 13, verses 4-7, which are “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
I don’t know what Paul had in mind when he wrote that bit, but, from what I know about my least favorite Apostle, he probably didn’t intend for it to be a guide to long-term, romantic-relationship success. Regardless, it functions as that pretty well. It is what I strive for with my wife, for sure. I think she’d agree that I do better at that ideal with each passing year, even if I am far from perfect in that regard. (And, my apologies to anyone I was involved with previously. Rest assured, I’m still a mostly terrible person and you’re not missing out on a thing and I’m also sincerely sorry for whatever I may have put you through when we were together. Honest.)

And, if all of that is just too much to bear, you can always celebrate this day as the anniversary of when a fellow Chicagoan, Al Capone, rounded up seven of his closest buddies and gunned them down in the back alleys of the South Side of Chicago. Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre! It was on this day, in 1929, that the rivalry between Bugs Moran and Al Capone reached its violent and bloody peak, leaving seven, bloody corpses in its wake, along with damaging both Moran’s North Side Gang and, ultimately, bringing so much attention to Capone from the FBI that it effectively ended his criminal career, as well.
Truly, a turning point in the criminal history of Chicago.

So, whatever your feelings about this particular holiday, try to cut yourself a little slack. We’re all feeling the pressure to be more these days. Try to love the ones close to you a little more and a little more consciously. And, most of all, remember, your relationship isn’t measured by how well or poorly things go today, but how you treat each other the other 364 days of the year.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!


Santa Texts

Filed under: Art,Fun,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rat which is in the wee hours or 12:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

The jolly old elf is updating his tech profile.

There are lots of ways to celebrate the Christmas season. I, personally, start listening to Christmas music far too early. I may not decorate until after Thanksgiving, but Christmas music makes me happy, and we seem to be in short supply of that thanks to the current political and economic climate. My wife loves all the holiday movies, especially the Biblical movies. (Of course, she loves the Easter ones as much as the Christmas ones, if not more.) And, we both enjoy watching the classics. Later in the month, I’ll link to the NORAD Santa Tracker, as I have for many years, so you can track Santa’s path with your kids. But, before we get too much farther into the season, let me share with you a new, free, service, via Lifehacker; Santa’s Text List.
Just fill out the short form and you’ll get regular texts from Santa, with increasing frequency as Christmas fast approaches, that are suited to the child, adult or senior of your choice, and who’s cell number you’re willing to put into the form.
The service, sponsored by SlickText, says that they won’t use this information to try and sell you anything or send spam texts to your phone after the season ends, but I haven’t actually verified that through empirical testing, so, you’re taking a chance there. If you try the service, let me know in the comments how it works out.

And, brace yourself for a very, merry Christmas season!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!


Security Tags

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Fun — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rat which is in the wee hours or 1:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I sort of hate “Black Friday”.

Yes, I have given into the base consumerism of the so-called holiday, even though it goes against so much of what I believe is important in life, and even though it follows Thanksgiving, a day meant to remind us of all we have for which to be actually thankful. Still, it’s a reality. It’s a thing that’s going to happen. Even I will call up Bell’s Farm to Market and order up my Northern family’s Christmas gifts to have them delivered. I do that mostly out of nostalgia, because I have fond memories of my uncle in Florida who would send fresh fruit for Christmas every year. Back in those days, it was a real treat to get fresh oranges in December. Not just because things like that cost more when I was a kid, but, honestly, in retrospect, because I think money was pretty tight for my parents and having food sent for Christmas was a real help no matter what it was. Of course, not getting rickets was a real bonus, too. So, I send that stuff now, not because anyone I send it to is hurting for it, but because it reminds me of a favorite great uncle and, I hope, reminds my siblings of him, too.

But, of course, you, dear readers, are not here to read my maudlin holiday remembrances. You’re here for your Friday link! And, boy, do I have a doozy for you. Now, before I share it, let me say that I do NOT endorse theft of any kind, least of all from retailers this time of year. However, if you’re out in the mad dash of Black Friday spending and somehow spend your hard-earned cash on clothes that some poor, harried, over-worked and under-paid sales clerk accidentally doesn’t remove the anti-theft dye tag from before hustling you out the door, this link is for you. Brought to you via BoingBoing, here’s the Lockpicking Lawyer, on how to remove an inventory control tag. So, if you somehow bypass the shitty security these tags provide and get out of the store with one still on your new shirt or pants or whatever, now you can most likely remove it without having to face the snarling mob at the store.
But, again, not advocating this as a way to steal anything from the stores on the busiest shopping day of the year, when security and store personnel will be stretched thin. Honestly, if you absolutely must buy things on Black Friday, do it on-line and avoid the crowds.

Most of all, though, enjoy your family this holiday season and focus on what really matters; them.

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words!


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!


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!


Christmas Music for Free

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Fun,News and Current Events,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Horse which is around lunchtime or 12:00 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

Yes, free Christmas music.

Normally, I share this sort of thing well in advance of Christmas, but, well, time got away from me.  Still, I love Christmas music of almost any kind and everyone loves things that are free.  So, combining the two is my way of spreading some holiday cheer!
For a number of years, Stereogum would gather free MP3s from various indie bands that had a Christmas theme.  They stopped doing that in 2011, but the music is still up,…
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Reframe the Question

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 Horse which is around lunchtime or 12:45 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

When we’re unhappy, it’s because we’ve asked the wrong question.

Or, as the Lazy Man’s Guide To Enlightenment says it,”What am I doing on a level of consciousness where this is real?”  I really love that book and reread it regularly, though it has been quite some time since the last reading.
This is a funny time of year for a lot of people.  As we get closer to the end of the year, we often find ourselves reevaluating our lives.  At least, I do.  I see all the ways in which I believe I am lacking.  I start to think I need a better job and more money.  I let myself get worked up about not being in a committed relationship and not having even any realistic prospects on the horizon.  I start to wonder what’s wrong with me that I don’t have these things and how will I ever be good enough to get all the things I need to be finally happy.

But, the thing is, those are all the wrong questions.
Instead of asking myself, “Why don’t I have a better job?”  The question should be “How can I make my job better?”  Because, really, this year, everyone who has a job pretty much ought to be thankful for just having it.  And, even under the best of circumstances, somewhere, there’s someone who thinks I have a dream job and would trade their eye teeth to do my job instead of theirs.
A couple of months ago, I was standing around listening to a group of six or eight graphic designers complain about the problems that go along with their work.  They whinged about clients who insisted on “ugly” design, who had no concept of how long it took to come up with something creative that did what the designers were asked to do.  They moaned about the “kids today” coming out of school who thought they could do things their way and not have to listen to what the client wanted.  And, as I stood there, quietly, listening to their complaints, it occurred to me that I would love to have a job where I essentially created art, even art to someone else’s specifications, for a living.   I saw their challenges and complaints as insignificant to the pleasure I thought I’d have being creative, even within strict boundaries, all day and getting paid to do it.

I thought about that incident for a bit and something remarkable occurred to me; somewhere, someone felt the same way about my job.  There are days when my job is very difficult.  I’m often pulled in many contradictory directions at once and I cannot possibly meet everyone’s demands on me on their time schedule.  I have to prioritize and sometimes make hard, unpopular decisions about what comes first.  I work hard.  Sometimes, my job includes lugging PCs from one end of the building to another or working on my hands and knees under someone’s cubicle to get cables run or a PC set up.  My office doubles as a server room and a storage room for equipment.
In short, it’s easy for me to get lost in the mire of the things I don’t like about the job and lose sight of all the really great things about the job.  For instance, although I work hard, physically, I don’t work anywhere near as hard as the guys on our shop floor work.  My life is rarely in danger, like the servicemen who hang from deep sea platforms installing our products.  And, really, everyone does understand that I’m just one guy and doing the best that I can to get everything they need done and done in a timely fashion.

So, it’s not a question of what’s wrong wtih my job, but what’s right and what I can change.
So, too, it is with happiness in the rest of my life.  When I find myself getting or being unhappy, it’s because I’m thinking of all the things I think I need or should have.  When I get into a real funk, it’s because all I can see is what I think I lack.  The worst way I do this is to compare my life to someone else.  I never see the hard decisions that they made or the sacrifices they made to have the things I think I should have.  I never really see the price they paid to have the things I feel I lack.
But, then again, someone, somewhere, is jealous of something I have, material or spiritual, that I take for granted, and they don’t know the price I paid to have that, either.

So, during this crazy, difficult holiday season, I need to remember to reframe the question.  Instead of asking “Why don’t I have those things?”, I need to ask “Why do I have the things I do?”

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward together in the same direction."
   --Antoine de Saint-Exupery


The Perfect Antidote

Filed under: By Bread Alone,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 5:12 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

So, I’ve come up with the perfect antidote to my holiday blues.

I’m having Thanksgiving at my house this year.
Here’s a copy of what I sent out to some of my usual suspects:

“Okay, so J. was supposed to do this, but, I want to make sure you all get invites before someone else snatches you all away.
As you all should know by now, the traditional J&L Married-Name Thanksgiving (formerly the traditional J&L Not Married Thanksgiving) has made a break for freedom and is going to be at my house this year. I told J. to invite all the people he’d normally invite, but he’s still working out his issues with his guest list and the fact that I’m insisting that it’s really okay for him to invite his entire family. So, I’m not going to wait for him.

Y’all come to my house for Thanksgiving.
I’ll have turkey and maybe something more, so if you want anything else, bring it! Especially if there’s something that makes Thanksgiving happen for you, bring that. Also, if there’s someone, or even several someones, that make the holiday happen for you, bring them, whether they’re family or not. If you can think of anyone I missed on this list, too, that seems like fun, forward this on to them. If you can, please, give me a count at least a couple of days before so I can plan to have enough turkey and whatever so no one goes away hungry. Oh, and if you have folding chairs, bring them, too.

I’m warning you now, even though I’m cleaning, my house will be a wreck. I’m a total bachelor and it shows. The only woman that’s seen the inside of my house in six months or more is my dog, so you’ve been warned.

Hope you all can make it, even though I know you may have other plans, family, or some other lame excuse to blow me off.


P.S. So you can find the place, here’s a map”

Then, because I left part out, I sent this:

“Right, so, for those of you not attuned to my psychic abilities to broadcast thoughts, I thought I’d actually mention when to come for dinner this time. I was figuring on 2:30pm being ‘Turkey Time’, but don’t hesitate to come over early to escape your family, if you feel so moved. By the same token, I’m sure there will be plenty of food, so come by later than you think you should if you have obligations you can’t duck but still want to bask in the warm glow of knowing your house is cleaner than mine.”

And, yes, I am cleaning and yes, my house will still be a wreck, but at least it’ll be good enough that I won’t be too embarrassed to have people over.  Besides, most of them know what my past couple of years have been like so they know why cleaning is pretty low on my priority list.  And, frankly, anyone who doesn’t like it can hit the bricks!

I’m actually planning to do a turkey in the oven and a ham on the grill and, possibly, either some beer bread or sweet potato pie.  My beer bread is always a hit and I have a recipe for sweet potato pie that uses canned sweet potatoes that I’ve been meaning to try.  Who knows, maybe I’ll impress someone with my domestic skills.  My ex-wife did always say that I’d make someone a wonderful wife one day.  Maybe someone will show up, one way or another, who needs a little extra tender loving care, just like I did the year my ex-wife left.  That’s really why I’m doing this.  Because the holidays can be rough and someone helped me through the roughest of holiday seasons, so maybe now, I can return the favor.

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