Diary of a Network Geek

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


Give Back On Black Friday

Filed under: About The Author,Deep Thoughts,Marginalia and Notes from the Editor — 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

Instead of engaging in conspicuous spending on the biggest sale day of the year, why not give back?

I’m not a huge fan of consumerism, but at the same time, I’m trapped in a culture that’s filled with it. And, while I try to avoid indulging in the Black Friday sales in the middle of an extended holiday allegedly about giving thanks for what we already have, I will admit that I have done it. To atone for my past sins, this year, instead of pointing out all the best sales, I’d like to share a different idea. Instead of spending money on stuff we mostly don’t need, why not give some money to a good cause? Charitable donations are down and have been for some time. I know I haven’t been able to afford to give as much as I’d like the past several years. On the other hand, if you do have the ability and inclination, I’d like to suggest a couple of charities that I believe in and have given to in the past.

Fight for the Future is an advocacy group that believes in keeping the internet accessible for everyone, not just the rich. They fought the FCC hard, especially the past four years, to try and keep Net Neutrality alive.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has been fighting to keep the internet “free, fair and open” even longer. I donated money to these folks in person when I was at DEFCON 20 a few years back. They do good work and are also at the forefront of internet freedom.
Another internet charity that touches many of our lives is the Wikimedia Foundation. They’re the people behind Wikipedia, which we all reference at the encyclopedia of choice on the internet. It’s not perfect, but I definitely find them to be a valuable resource and worthy of support.
So, too, is the Internet Archive, which has helped me track down more information than the live internet more than once. Also, they have a fantastic public archive of many forms of media, including video and audio, that are well worth supporting in my opinion.

On a less digital front, Feeding America funds food banks all across America, helping to feed people in need. Supporting food banks, local and national, is something near and dear to my heart, as I’ve known several people, including some in my own family, that have relied on them to put meals on the table.
Also, the Meals On Wheels/Animeals programs are similar and equally worthy causes. While many of us have heard of Meals On Wheels, not as many are familiar with their Animeals program that helps those in need feed their animals as well as themselves. The donation page has both an opportunity for direct donations and Amazon wishlists for people who want to donate needed items directly and safely.
Of course, as a strong believer in pet adoption, not sale, I always think that supporting the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a worthy cause to support financially as well. Those animals can’t speak for themselves and the ASPCA speaks for them. All my dogs have been adopted. Those goofy mutts don’t know that they were thrown away by someone else. All they know is that we give them the best life we can and return that love tenfold. Every system administrator should have a rescue dog to come home to because, no matter how unappreciative our users may be of our efforts, those dogs are always happy to see us come home!

And, for something a little more controversial, even though I spent most of my life as a conservative voter, the American Civil Liberties Union has been fighting for our collective civil rights for more than 100 years. Yes, sometimes they fight for things I don’t believe in specifically, but they fight for the principle that the Bill of Rights is for all citizens of the United States of America and the freedom it promises us matters. The ACLU is definitely farther to the Left of the political spectrum than I am, but they still fight for my right to be free.
Finally, and perhaps the most controversially, Planned Parenthood is worth giving to as well. I’m against abortion, but I’m in favor of everyone making that choice for themselves. What someone else does with their body is not my business and I don’t think we should regulate morality at that level. I’m sure it goes against the teachings of every church I’ve been a member of, but I believe that true freedom is the right for other people to make choices that I would not. And, Planned Parenthood is an organization that believes in supplying women with the information and care they need to make informed, healthy choices about their lives and reproductive choices.

I’m sure not all my readers will agree with these charitable suggestions. That’s okay. These are causes that I believe in and support, one way or another, though they are not ALL the charities I support. Even if you don’t choose any of these causes, I encourage you to support a cause you do believe in rather than spend money on consumer trash none of us need. Because what we DO need, more than ever, is compassion and a little help for our fellow travelers in this life.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!


Hope for the New Year

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,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

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t really make New Year’s Resolutions any more.

In fact, I haven’t made them in quite a few years.  That’s not to say that I don’t make goals, but I don’t base them on the passing of the year.  Frankly, it’s a pretty arbitrary construct and I just don’t find it particularly useful.  But, looking back, 2014 was a pretty good year.  For instance, it was the year that I started meditating regularly and that has…
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Cryptolocker Rescue

Filed under: Geek Work,News and Current Events,The Dark Side — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is mid-afternoon or 4:10 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

This ought to make me look like a hero at my new gig.  Again.

On a whim, I searched for a CryptoLocker decrypter this afternoon, because the old place I worked at and the new place I currently work at were both hit by a CryptoLocker virus.  Now, at the old place, we mostly had everything backed up.  At the new place, not quite so much.  I mean, everything is backed up now, but it wasn’t before I got here and they got hit with the virus.
In any case, I had a couple of files I wanted to get into that were hit with the virus.  So, naturally, I went to search for something to help.  Because, you know, it’s been a while and maybe someone had come up with a solution, right?
Well, as it turns out, they have.  FireEye, who I’m familiar with and Fox IT have setup a free service at Decryptolocker that will let you download a decryption program and upload an encrypted file, which they will use to generate a decrypt key that they send you via email.  When you get that, you follow their super simple instructions to decrypt your file.  It’s a command-line utility, but, hey, it works.

And, yes, I’ve tried it.  It took all of ten minutes to get the email with the key and then I was able to decrypt any of the effected files that I tried it on.
This restores my faith in humanity just a little!


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:
"Being right means never having to say you're sorry."
   --Vernor Vinge


Merry Christmas

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:13 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

That’s it.

Yeah, so no real post today, or tomorrow probably, but something fun on Friday. Be good. Have a merry Christmas and remember why we celebrate.

Tonight, hope will be born again into the world. On this day, I’m more like a Pagan than a Christian, in that I celebrate the rebirth of light into the world.
My your light be rekindled tonight, too.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"A woman is like a teabag, you can not tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water."
   --Eleanor Roosevelt


[ Information Redacted ]

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Dog and Pony Shows,Garden of Unearthly Delights,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 Gibbous


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I deleted a post on my blog this morning for the first time in a long, long time.

Usually, I have an editing process for posts that may accidentally cross the border into Too Much Information Land or sound to bitter or too angry or too whatever. But, last night, I came home from church and dinner and had a wild hair to find a bunch of music via SeeqPod and run it in a loop while I hammered away furiously at the keys. Angry music. Angry music the like of which I haven’t listened to in a long, long time.

I felt a little hopeless and helpless and, well, angry. So, I dialed up a little Rob Zombie and Rammstein and Lords of Acid and Fu Manchu and then I used the “Discover” function on SeeqPod to find other stuff like that. Old thoughts and old memories just washed over me when it started playing and looping. I just wanted to jump up from the keyboard and rip into the heavy bag out in the garage. But, I didn’t, I just kept typing and typing and typing. Normally, I’d let that kind of thing sit over night and look at it again in the morning. Last night, though, I just hit the Publish button and walked away, exhausted, in the small hours of the night.

This morning, I reread a little of that post and then deleted it.
TMI, “sharing violation”, rant. Whatever you want to call it, that’s what I’d typed. It’s also why I deleted it. No one needs to read that. Not even me. It was good to write it out and get it out of my head, but it really shouldn’t have been out for public consumption. So, I deleted it.

If you’re still reading, you may be wondering what that has to do with the picture here. Bear with me.
So, this morning, I got up and threw on some shorts and a shirt and a hat to take the dog for a brisk walk before I got a shower. See, I want to get back into shape. Yes, back into shape. You see, more than ten years ago now, I was, to put it mildly, in far, far better shape than I am today. I did hundreds of push-ups and sit-ups every morning, five days a week. And, I hit the heavy bag. And, I worked with dumbbells. I was, in short, in good shape. I was lean and I filled out a suit jacket pretty damn well, thank you very much. Now, after a bad marriage, a couple of job changes, some other heart-ache, and a slight case of cancer, I’m fat and lazy. I don’t like it. Ergo, there’s only one thing to do about it; change it.

Well, as I’m letting the dog out to relieve herself before we go for our walk, I see these tiny white things on my sad, nasty pond. I get closer, thinking that they’re funny leaves or insects or something and I see that they’re teeny, tiny, little white flowers. Naturally, my walk can wait while I grab the camera and tripod. It took longer to get a decent shot than I thought it would, but, oh, it was worth it to me.
See, to me, these aren’t just little, white flowers. They’re a metaphor for my entire life right now. From the swampy morass of my mind and my slimy past, little, white hope can still bloom. There are no coincidences, truly. And, non-believers may scoff, but some power in the universe was sending me a message in an insignificant, white flower blooming on top of embarrassing slime.

Hope springs eternal.
Thank God.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"If God is for us, who can be against us?"
   --Romans 8:31 (NIV)

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