Diary of a Network Geek

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


Another Year Older, And …

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

… hopefully wiser. But, who’s to say, really?

I don’t think it’s an accident that my birthday fell on a Monday this year, because, I’ll tell you, it’s felt a little bit like a year of Mondays!
Still, I’ve survived another lap around the Sun, and that’s something to celebrate, especially considering how close I’ve come to not making it this far. But, now that I have made it through cancer and a lot of my own foolishness, the actuarial tables indicate I can still expect quite a few more years of misadventures. In fact, if I’m reading the most recent Social Security actuarial table for my sex and birth year, I can expect to live until I’m somewhere between 70 and 107, which is fine with me! Actually, I come from fairly long-lived stock so I have a pretty good reason to believe I’ll be at the higher end of that range, which is also good, since there are still so many things yet to be done with my life.

It’s been a strange year career-wise. I got laid off in February and started working a contract in March, where I’ve worked ever since. In theory, they may eventually hire me on full-time, and there’s even been talk about that, but not a lot of movement in that direction. Still, it’s pretty good income and enough to cover our expenses and COBRA payments, so, for now, it’s okay. Still, if they don’t bring me on full-time sooner rather than later, I may end up having to find something more permanent. You may recall that last year, I got myself a an annual subscription to Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, with the idea that I’d improve my photography. So far, that hasn’t happened much. I have done more photos for my wife’s business website, The Organizing Decorator, but I haven’t really done anything for me. This coming year, I plan on changing that. My blushing bride has said that she’d like to have more of my photography to frame and hang around the house, so, thanks to my big drive crash a couple of years ago, that means I have to get my butt off the couch and out photographing things. My favorites have been animals, especially at the Houston Zoo, but I also have some ideas for still life and abstract work, too. I’ve been really inspired by one of my photography heroes, Syl Arena, and his color field photography. They’re really amazing and emotional works and something I’d love to emulate in my own, primative way.

You may recall that last year I mentioned starting the Five Minute Journal. I did it with their pre-printed journal for six months, then, when I filled that, I continued in my own, plain journal. (I used Peter Pauper Essentials Large Notebook. They look like a Moleskine, but they’re much less expensive.)
And, I also started the Five Year Journal, too. Yes, it’s by Samuel Pepys, the most famous diarist of all, but I don’t really think anyone will be interested in my personal diary. Still, Pepys probably thought the same thing. In any case, that’s been going strong for almost a year now and I don’t think I’ll be stopping any time soon. The Five Minute Journal really has, I think, put me in a more positive frame of mind.
This year, my birthday gift to my self was a rowing machine and an inversion table. I hope to start two new health habits that make the coming years a little easier and more enjoyable. I think it will be worth it. Everyone I know who has one, swears by their inversion table and says that it will help my back. And, according to an article or two I read, a rowing machine is supposed to be about the best full-body workout I can get on a machine. I guess we’ll see! I’ll tell you this, though, I haven’t regretted any of the birthday gifts I’ve gotten myself in the past, and I’m pretty sure this one is going to be okay, too.

And, of course, my birthday wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention all the other famous people who had the good luck to be born on this particular day. Famous people like Frank “Chairman of the Board” Sinatra, Jennifer Connelly, Bob Barker, Gustave Flaubert, who is the author of Madame Bovary, the painter Edvard Munch, and Wells Fargo founder, Henry Wells. Not to mention, Mike Pinder of the Moody Blues, Tim Hauser of Manhattan Transfer, Dickey Betts of the Allman Bros, jazz musician Grover Washington Jr, and former mayor of New York City, Ed Koch.
All heady company to be sure, but for whatever reason, it tickles me the most that I share a birthday with Frank Sinatra. I guess it’s because he was such a unique and original character who really fought against and beat some long odds to become an amazingly famous, generally well thought of personality. I can only hope to do the same, one day.
Also, I think it’s interesting to note that on this day in 1896 Marconi first demoed radio and, again on this day, in 1901 made his first Trans-Atlantic transmission. (Though, of course, all right-thinking people know that Tesla was really responsible for those first advances in radio.)
And I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the computer mouse made its debut just four days before my birth! How crazy is that? The mouse, which makes graphic interfaces so practical and easy to use, is actually four days older than I am!

So, there you have it. Another lap around the Sun completed with a little more joy this year than last. That’s a trend I think I can pretty heartily endorse. I have some work cut out for myself this coming year, with some plans to improve my professional growth by way of computer security certifications, so check back next year to see how that went. Also, in addition to the photography, which you’ll be able to keep up with at my Flickr photostream, I plan to write on the blog a bit more, too. Maybe just once a month more, but still, more. We’ll see how that turns out.

So, all in all, I’m doing pretty good for a forty-eight-year-old cancer survivor who’s on his second marriage and has a mortgage. Life is pretty sweet and I’m looking forward to the coming year and years! I hope you all will be with me for quite a few more!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.


Finding New Things To Photograph

Filed under: Art,Fun,Personal,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:28 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

I write a lot about photography here, which is a little like dancing about architecture.

I’ve kind of lost my way with photography subjects.
I’m too busy to do some of the things I used to do, like wander the streets aimlessly during festivals and just go hang out in Galveston on a cloudy day.  I still go to the Houston Zoo, but not as often as I used to.  Besides, let’s face it, after three years of going every month, even…
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Find New Places To Shoot Photos

Filed under: Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:18 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Wow, I almost forgot to post this week!

It’s funny, but I skip just a couple of times and all of a sudden I’m out of the habit of posting a Friday Fun Link.  Well, hopefully, I’ll get back into the rhythm of regular posting again, one step at a time.  Since getting married, I’ve decided I need to start doing more things like that, which I used to do when I first met my wife and we started dating.  Like…
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Damned Illegal Aliens!

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Garden of Unearthly Delights,hoosgot,Personal,Red Herrings — 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 Crescent


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

No, this is not a post about migrant workers.

But, you have to admit, it caught your attention, didn’t it? And, I’ll be honest, I’ve ranted about illegal aliens and off-shoring and all that, especially in the IT industry, before. Interestingly enough, that had an Indian IT worker calling me a racist because I advocated American jobs for American workers. I think I’d be more accurately accused of being a Socialist, or even a Communist with that, but because there were non-Americans involved, somehow, that accuser made the illogical jump to making me a racist. Go figure.

In this case, though, I’m talking about a bird that doesn’t seem like a Texas native bird which showed up in my backyard Thursday. I saw it at lunch and grabbed my camera and zoom lens and snapped this from the back door. Go ahead and click on this picture and it will take you to a bigger version that will let you see the invader more clearly. Well, it may not be an actual alien, since I don’t recognize the bird, but I’m hoping one of my regular readers will be able to tell me what it is. Also, I figure that since we’re in the Gulf Coast, and in the middle of the migratory pattern for quite a few small birds, it’s quite likely this is one of those species that’s just “passing through”.

If no one can tell me what this is, I’ll send it to a friend of mine who works for the Houston Zoo who can probably tell me what it is. Or connect me with someone who can tell me what it is. But, I know that I have genius readers, so I thought I’d get you to tell me first. Besides, my buddy from the Zoo is out of the country at the moment.
So, uh, anyone?

(Also?  Don’t forget to vote in the poll!)


Family Update and Pictures

Filed under: Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Dog and Pony Shows,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 7:34 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

My sister and nephew were here this weekend.

My sister and her son should be home by now. Their flight for Chicago left this afternoon and everything was on time. They got in Thursday and stayed with me and Hilda while they were here. It was sort of nice having visitors, even relatives. I thought I’d be glad to see them go, so I could get my house back, but, honestly, until they left, I had no idea how much I missed having people around. I think Hilda misses having a younger person around to shower her with attention, too.
In any case, Friday we went to the Downtown Aquarium. It was okay, but, well, I think it was geared more toward small kids and families. There weren’t a lot of exhibits and there was a fair amount of “touristy” stuff. Still, the exhibits there were good. They were clean, the animals were healthy and active, and pretty much everything worked. Besides, in spite of feeling relatively good and strong, I’m still recovering from having cancer and the treatment, so a little less to do on that first day was probably for the best.

Saturday we just hung around the house. Though, we did run out to the office to look for a cable for their camera and to try a Vietnamese noodle shop. The night before, we hit my new favorite Thai restaurant, which was fairly brave of them, considering how much Asian food they get in their small, rural hometown.
Saturday night we went to church, where they got to meet a bunch of my friends. I hope it wasn’t too overwhelming for them. Either my family or my friends! After church, I was forced to choose the restaurant, so we all went out for Mexican. Also, not an option they normally get. At least, not authentic Mexican.

Sunday, it was off to the Houston Zoo. Again, we got there early and spent quite a bit of time, which was nice, but tiring on these old bones. I haven’t been to the zoo in ages, so I had a good time. And, because the weather was a bit dicey, the crowds were light. Luckily, the weather held and we had a good time. We left a bit early for dinner, but we stopped by Goode Company and got some “to go”. It was great, even warmed up in the microwave. And, I got to show them a great taste of Houston to boot.

Since I know you all have been wondering what I look like without hair, or with my hair growing back, I got my nephew to take a couple of pictures. I’ve got them here, below, so you can see them. I’m also asking you all to vote on them, so I know which one to use to update my Match.com profile with my new “look”.

This is sort of mugshot looking to me, and a little out of focus, but it’s a simple shot. I hope I don’t look too scary with such short hair! It does kind of look like an ID photo, though, doesn’t it? I don’t know, I guess the full on portrait is always a kind of classic.
This is an attempt at a “candid” shot. Naturally, I’m sitting in front of a laptop. What else would a professional computer geek and hopeful author be doing? Right? And, maybe that’s also its weakest point. It shows me in my natural environment just a little too much.

And here is a close-up version of that last shot. I don’t know… Do I look too serious? Ha, if you know me in RealLife, you’d know that I’m almost never serious! Ah, well, it is a pretty good picture, I think. Still, do you think it makes me look too grim? Like I’d be no fun on a date? I only get one chance at a first impression you know!

And, finally, a shot from the other side. And a little smile, which I think is better. Oh, these shots show off my new glasses, too! (So, tell me, you totally want to rub my short hair to see how it feels, don’t you?)
Okay, so, make sure to vote for you favorite picture!


About Last Night…

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Dog and Pony Shows,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is mid-afternoon or 4:00 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

I love that movie.
I actually don’t care much for Rob Lowe or Demi Moore, but that movie, set in Chicago, always reminds me of what I’d hoped life would be like in my late twenties. Ah, well, maybe in my next life.

Anyway, dinner last night went well. My friend Steve’s timing was perfect and he got here just as I was sautéing the onions to go with my Chicken Masala. Here’s how the food preparation went, and notice that I don’t feel guilty at all for the cheating involved. First, I cut up the chicken and the onions and put them in separate bowls. Next, I set up the rice in the rice cooker, but didn’t start it. Per the instructions on the jar of India Chef brand biryani masala sauce, I sautéed the chicken in a little vegetable oil, then added the whole jar of sauce and put the lid on the pan. While that was cooking, I started the rice and chopped the cilantro. Then, I set the table with my every-day, white dishes and flatware, but the better, clear glasses. As a jokey flourish, I folded the white paper-towel “napkins” into squares and put them into the glasses. After a quick check on the chicken, which had already started to smell delicious, I made a pitcher of instant, peach-flavored ice tea and set up the music. (The music, incidentally, was, in play order, Level 42, Level Best, then a mix CD that Steve himself had made and given me the year before, followed by Roy Orbison, Super Hits, and finally ending with The Very Best of the Doors, because that’s about the best way to end anything, I think.) By this time, the chicken was done, so I put it into a casserole dish with the rice, again, per the instructions, and added some other spices and a few onions. That popped into the oven and I started the broccoli. After that, I started the onions with a little extra vegetable oil, some garam masala spices and a pat of butter. While that got going, I lit the candles on the mantle and the kitchen table, including all my Saint Jude santos candles, and started the music. Shortly into the second song on Level Best, Steve arrived with a blueberry pie. Yum!
I knew I’d done well when Steve’s first comment on entering the house was “Oh, what smells so good!?” After I’d reminded him I was doing Indian, and he made appropriate “yummy” sounds, he saw the table. Now, in all modesty, I didn’t really do much there, but when a gay guy tells you how nice your presentation at the table is, you know it’s been done just right. So, while I finished up the onions and took the chicken out of the oven, Steve checked some voice-mail he’d gotten on the way over. By the time he was done, I had all the food on the table and was ready to go. As I mentioned, perfect timing!

So, we had a lovely dinner, scintillating conversation, and a grand time spoiling Hilda. You see, Steve is not only a “dog-person”, but also a keeper in the bird section of the Houston Zoo. He’s eicked smart and knows more about animals than anyone I’ve ever known. Oh, the stories he tells about things that happen at the zoo! “When miniature ducks attack!” I made a pot of coffee to go with the pie, which was also breakfast this morning, and we talked all the way into the first CD of The Very Best of the Doors. It was a very good time.

Today, after cleaning up what was left from last night and starting laundry, I set up a chunk of catfish for tonight’s dinner and prepped the last of the uncooked chicken to do up at the same time. Then, I can microwave that later in the week for a quick dinner. The catfish was already spiced, but I added a slice of fresh orange to cut the “fishy” taste. The chicken got liberally dosed with nearly random spices and the rest of the orange. Actually, that’s often how I cook. No recipie at all, but simply spices that smell good together on meat, sometimes mixed with something fruity, like apple, or orange or other citrus. My ex-wife was always afraid that it wouldn’t turn out well, but I’ve never had anyone be dissapointed in what I made. So, that, with some of the left-over rice and veges will make a lovely dinner several times this week.
Hey, you know, I like this part of being single again! I love cooking like this. Sass, you’re right, I did win in the end!


Omen or Just Odd?

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Dog and Pony Shows,Geek Work,Life, the Universe, and Everything,MicroSoft,Personal,The Dark Side,The Network Geek at Home,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:14 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

I don’t normally post twice in one day, but…
But, well, this has been an odd week and I had to cancell my therapist appointment last night, so you’ll have to do, eh? As you regular readers know, I was so sick Monday that I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. Alas, I lived through my brush with whatever that particular plague was and had to finally go into work Wednesday. Wednesday, I also found out that I had a quickly approaching deadline to get my house refinanced before we had to start the entire process again. Thursday seemed fine. Until lunch.
Normally, I take my lunch in the backyard and eat while the dog runs and plays. After lunch, I read under my covered porch and let Hilda get some squirrel/bird chase time in. (Relax, tree-huggers! She’s only come close once that I’ve seen and, besides, she’s just doing what dogs do. It’s her nature and a force of evolution. What’s unnatural is the way she loves to eat off my plate!) So, Thursday, I’m sitting there finishing I Heard You Paint Houses and the dog starts to get all strange. I look up from my book just in time to see this giant, bird-shaped shadow sliding over the lawn as the biggest damn bird I’ve ever seen in person starts to make a landing by my ponds! Without any exageration at all this bird must have had a wingspan as large as my outstreched arms! (That’s over five feet, for those of you who haven’t met my manly physique in person.) Of course, I exclaim loudly, which startles this monstrosity into landing on my garage instead. I could hardly believe I was seeing this thing. I mean, I’ve seen big birds before, but, as a rule, even in Texas one does not expect to see a giant, black turkey vulture swooping into one’s backyard.
Now, what got really unnerving about this is that the thing just sat there looking at me. Not scared, really. At least, not of me. Frankly, the dog looked at me as if to ask, “Uh, Dad, care to fill me in on just what the hell is going on here?”, so I doubt the feathery beast was all that intimidated by the dog, either. Anyway, I decided I didn’t like the way this thing was eyeing the pond, or either of us, and I sort of shouted at it to try and scare it away.
It blinked at me.
So, I waved my arms and shouted.
The damn thing just glided up to perch on my chimney and blink at me. It just sat there, this huge ebony carrion-eater with wings, and blinked at me as if to say,”Yeah, and, your point would be, what, exactly?” Then, being bored with me, it looked down the chimney. So, I start looking for small rocks to throw at this thing to scare it off. The first two shots encouraged it to move to the far side of the chimney and, yes, blink at me. Then, I noticed the second one. Oh, great, a mated damn pair of enormous black harbringers of death in my backyard. Looking for a new home, no doubt. I bend down to find more stones to throw and I hear a loud thump. I check and, sure enough, that one on the chimney is looking down inside. At this point, I’m sure I let loose with a string of expletives that would have made a sailor blush because I’m convinced that the damn thing as dropped a dead animal down the chimney. I start looking for more suitable rocks to throw, but when I find them and go to assault the dirty birds, they’ve gone. Just as quietly as they arrived.
Well, at this point Hilda and I look at each other to confirm that the other has seen what we thought we did. (Yes, I know she’s a dog and has limited communication skills, but it’s the best either of us could do on short notice.) Then I start laughing, put her inside, and head back to the office. Once back to the office, I call a friend of mine who happens to work in the Houston Zoo in the bird department to check on what I’ve just seen. He confirms the guess of turkey vultures, expresses a little surprise at the proximity to “civilization” for that kind of encounter, and then he says “Impressive birds, aren’t they?” Um, yeah, sure, “impressive”. Just the word I would have used. Not freaky. Not menacing. Not down right frightening. Nope, impressive fits the bill just right. And then, the day turned ugly.
That’s about when I got the call from our Bellechasse office that they were having problems with the network. After a minute or two of troubleshooting, I can’t see an issue, so, since I’m dealing with a Windows 2000 server, I figure a reboot is in order. Now, see, this is where that black omen comes in. The reboot ends in a Blue Screen Of Death. Hmm, well, that would be a problem, wouldn’t it? So, we kill the power and try again. No joy. I try Last Known Good Configuration with the same results. I try doing the automated recovery, but again, end up with a BSOD. Mind, at this point it’s 4:55pm so I end up calling to cancel my therapy appointment, much to my chagrin, since I had some things to talk about this week. Finally, after all that, I get into the Recovery Console, run chkdsk and repair the error and get back to the original problem. Yeah, I spent 3 hours dealing with a secondary issue only to come back to the original problem. Again, after waiting for someone to come back to that office after making his appointment, which was for a HAIRCUT, and some more troubleshooting, I finally determine that the hub has gone out. The damn hub had died. No moving parts to fail and no power-spike, but the damn hub had failed. And, finally, I drag my sorry butt home at 8:00pm.
This morning, they get some new switches in place, which is no small feat in Katrina-damaged New Orleans area, and, like Network Geek Magic™, they’re up and running.

Why all the effort not to travel? Because, Monday I have to get a certified file copy of the warranty deed from the Harris County Clerk’s office so I can refinance my house on Wednesday. All so I can save $150 per month. If I stay in Houston past next year. Can anyone, given that turkey vultures landed on my house, the likliness of another hurricane striking Houston, and the not always so great economic outlook for IT guys here in Houston, give all that, can anyone give me three good reasons to stay?
Damn bad-luck black birds.

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