Diary of a Network Geek

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

9/12/2011

Another Year’s Reprieve

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is in the late afternoon or 5:20 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

I’m not going to die.

Well, at least, I’m not going to die of cancer.  Not this year, anyway.
Today, the oncologist told me my lymphoma is in full remission still.  In fact, the scar tissue has shrunk even more, from 14cm to 11cm, which I think is kind of amazing, but didn’t seem to illicit any special notice from the doctor.  Some people are just impossible to please, I guess!
He was a little worried because my blood pressure was high, but, then again, I’d just driven though rush-hour traffic to wait around for more than an hour for results on whether or not I was going to have to let them poison me for another six months.  All things considered, I think it’s pretty normal that I might have a slightly elevated BP!  But, I will keep an eye on it and make sure it normalizes again.
He did say, also, that I’ve made it to the point where less than 10% of the people have a likely recurrence of lymphoma.  And, according to his Physician’s Assistant, the five-year mark is where I can be officially considered “cured”, which is the first time anyone has actually told me that.  Everyone else keeps telling me that I’ll never really be “cured”, per se, but always in remission with a smaller, and smaller, and smaller chance of reoccurence every year.  So, today, I got a little more hope than I had before, which is actually pretty nice.

All in all, a pretty good result.  I’ll go back in another 10 months for another scan, which is not quite as long as I’d like, but, better than going again sooner because they found something to be concerned about.  At that time, they will start me on a course of annual visits for this scan, which I’m not incredibly happy about, but will do until a better option comes along.  And, based on what his PA told me, I think it will be something negotiable.  The doctor may not realize that, but, well, I suspect he’s not quite used to dealing with a patient like me.  My last doctor and I joked about the fact that I wouldn’t pay my bills until I knew she was going to do her job and save my life.  We agreed that it seemed only fair!  Of course, she did, in fact, save my life, so I did pay those bills.  That is, however, one concern I have for the long-term; paying those bills.  This gets to be a pretty expensive process and if I don’t really need to keep doing it every year, I may chose to opt for a slightly modified plan.
The doctor may not be excited by that, but I have ten months to sharpen my bargaining skills, while he’s completely in the dark about my plans.  It’ll be interesting to see how that turns out!

Until then, though, I continue to work on my general health and wellness.  I was pleasantly surprised to weigh in at a mere 216, fully clothed and laden down with my ridiculous “daily carry” of keys and flash drives and over-stuffed wallet and all the other pocket litter, as the spies call it, that I usually have on me.  As I mentioned, my blood pressure was a bit high, but I’ll work on that.  A little Zen meditation, and maybe some yoga, ought to bring that under control again.
Oh, don’t be so shocked by the yoga!  No, I haven’t started doing it yet, but several people have suggested it and I decided to start looking into it.  I’m getting older and starting to tighten up some.  My knees in particular seem to get stiffer faster than they did.  Besides, I hear yoga class is a great place to meet women who are physically fit!

I do still struggle a bit with depression.  Nothing too bad, but, well, it is something that cycles around on a semi-regular basis.  I figure the yoga and meditation would help with that, too.  Speaking about my psychological well-being…
My oncologist tells me I should get married.  I thought it might be better to start with dating, but I’m pretty sure I can work the “doctor’s orders” into a decent and semi-original opening line.  I think a bit of laughing in the face of death might help some, too.  I hear chicks dig that.  Of course, I also hear that magnets can cure joint pain and people pay huge money for the kind of rough treatment my poor colon got last week for “health reasons”.  Frankly, I find it hard to believe that a regular course of high colonics could possible be good for me, so I’ll take the things Men’s Health tells me about women with a grain of salt.  (Though, I have started to edit my Match.com profile again in preparation for stepping out in the wild world of dating again.  Seriously.  Lock up your daughters!  Seriously!)

So, yeah, after all my angst last week about the physical side-effects of chemotherapy, I’ve been spared that.  I even got better than expected news, frankly!  So, I admit, I do feel a bit foolish for getting so worked up about it.  I mean, I should have more faith than that, shouldn’t I?  Well, that’s something else I’m still working on.
Thankfully, it seems I have the time.

 


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Unhappiness is in not knowing what we want and killing ourselves to get it."
   --Don Herold

9/5/2011

In Search of Schrödinger’s Tumor

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:52 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

I may, or may not, have cancer.

Now, before all my regular readers and, due to my automated update configurations, my Twitter and Facebook friends who might read this, get too excited, nothing has changed in my recent medical status.  However, Wednesday, I go in for a scan.  A regular scan, nothing special, nothing new.  My scheduled, nine-month scan, per the standard protocol.  Or so I have been lead to believe.

The scan, however routine it may be, will not decide if I have cancer, however.
That, I’m afraid, already is.  Or is not.  Either my body has betrayed me again and a cancerous growth has lodged itself in my chest or it hasn’t and I’m as healthy as I feel.  Personally, I’m inclined to think that I’m cancer free, still, and this whole exercise will be a test of the quality of my health insurance.  But, also, as it turns out, it’s a test of my patience and courage.

You have to understand, I’m not afraid of cancer.  Or of death, either, really.  It’s chemotherapy that terrifies me.
Cancer, as such, is just a way of describing cells that have gotten a bit carried away with themselves and aren’t too particular about playing by the standard set of rules.  And death…  Well, death is the one thing we all have in common.  None of us make it out of this place alive.  Not a one.  Death, in its way, is the final answer.  The ultimate solution to every problem I’ve ever had or can ever conceive of having.  So, no, though I don’t know what waits on the other side of that particular experience, death doesn’t frighten me so much.
Chemotherapy, on the other hand, I do know.  It is, I think, the embodiment of suffering.  At least, for me.

I know everyone’s experience with chemotherapy is different, so, let me take a moment and tell you why it is that I fear it.  For me, chemo was about losing all my hair, all my color, close to sixty pounds, and virtually all my energy.  And, frankly, in a very, very short amount of time.
My hair went first.  I remember it coming out in clumps in the shower.  Just like in the movies.  I started to cry when it happened.  Great racking sobs, with tears running down my face, mixing with the soapy water.  No one can see you crying in the shower.  I recommend it, if you have any crying to do in the future and you’d rather people not know.  It’s one of the many useful things I’ve learned from one of my ex’s.  I took my beard trimmer and cranked it down to the shortest setting, then sheared the rest away myself.  My own way of taking a bit of control back, I suppose.  But, I remember that day, more than four years ago, as if it were yesterday.  A few days later, I shaved for the last time in what would turn out to be more than six months.
My eyebrows and ear hair and nose hair weren’t far behind.  You have no idea how important nose hair is until you don’t have any.  Trust me.  My nose ran for weeks and weeks and weeks.  Nonstop.  All those annoying, little hairs filter the nasty gunk out of the air and grip it with that snotty mucous up in there and keep it from getting into your lungs, as it turns out.  Without it, well, your nose just runs and runs and runs like a little kid with a cold on a Winter playground.

The weight and the color took longer.  By the time I was an unhealthy, pallid gray, my goatee had become so thin that I shaved it off.  And, I was a larval, grub-like thing, pale and weak, before the weight started to melt off me.
Frankly, I wouldn’t have minded the weight loss, but it took muscle as much as it took the fat.  And, of course, it involved severe nausea and, yes, actual vomiting.  Not to mention all the other symptoms, like how everything smelled different; how all my favorite food smelled, well, wrong somehow.  And the weird bloating I would get in my hands and arms that led the doctors to proscribe diuretics and force the poor nurses to record how much I peed, by volume.  I was measured and weighed regularly.  Multiple times per day, actually.  Oh, and the drugs!  Pills by the score, a fist-full at a time.  Self-administered injections three times a day, at one point.  All while fighting nausea and trying to find a square inch of flesh that I could still pinch up enough to get a needle into without going all the way through.

Death would have been easier.

But, as a wise, Zen-Catholic almost-monk reminded me recently, without fear, there can be no bravery.
He also reminded me that the test will only show what is, or is not, already there.  It will only tell me if I have just another problem to deal with, or another opportunity to exercise my courage, or, simply, a bill to pay and just another doctor’s appointment to go to and questions to ask and answer.
And, either way, all I can do is live in the present moment.  What’s happened is done already.  What happens in the future is yet to be determined and may not have anything to do with what has come before.  And, regardless of the results of this scan on Wednesday, which I’ll get on the following Monday, I can only live as best I can, as best I know how.  There will, ultimately, be other scans, other tests, potentially one every year until the day I do, finally, make the last great leap into the dark.  In between those scans, however many there may be, I slowly, gradually, have chosen to live healthier.  The past couple years, I’ve been juicing.  Fresh, home-made, organic vegetable juice.  And, this year, fruit smoothies.  Both, or either, instead of sandwiches for lunch, along with yogurt, which has lately been organic as well, and, newest of all, Greek for the higher protein.
I exercise more regularly than ever.  I’d like to be less heavy than I am, or at least less fat.  Pound for pound, more muscular would be just fine at my weight.  Less stiff and less creaky in the joints would be okay, too.  Some mornings when I get up, I sound very much like a bowl of Rice Krispies my joints snap, crackle and pop so much.  Several people have suggested that I add yoga to my exercise regimen, that it would help with flexibility and ease my stiff joints.  And, when I hear a thing three times, from three very different people, I have to at least investigate that or risk the Universe taking offense at my willfully ignoring the suggestion.  So, this conservative, meat-and-potatoes, tough-minded, mostly pragmatic Mid-Westerner has found himself a bit adrift in Texas, more liberal and open-minded toward alternative health practices, eating mostly fruits and vegetables and “crunchy granola”, and, yes, finally, investigating yoga, of all things.  At least I hear the classes are mostly women, so, who knows, maybe I’ll meet a nice, healthy girl who won’t laugh too loudly at my foolishness.

So, regardless of how terrified I may be of having to endure chemotherapy again, or how distasteful I find the radioactive enema I will pay an enormous deductible on, I will face the day, the scan, with as much courage and dignity as I can still manage.  I will do my best to be thankful for the friends and family who support me in my weakness and discomfort, and, yes, for the medical staff who will run me through their gauntlet.  I will try to be patient while waiting for the results of what is already there, or not, like Schrödinger’s cat, who’s state cannot be known until it is observed.
And, when all is said and done, I will try not to let the fear cripple me, but, rather, I will do my best to live more fully.  Certainly, more fully than I have been, more courageously, I hope.  I will still know fear, I am sure, but, as I was reminded, there can be no courage without the fear first.

Of course, until that all happens, I will be more than happy to accept your prayers, good thoughts, and any introductions to nice, pretty, healthy ladies who aren’t more than ten years younger than I.
But, let’s start with those prayers, okay?
Thanks.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Plenty of people miss their share of happiness, not because they never found it, but because they didn't stop to enjoy it."
   --W. Feather

7/12/2011

RIght Sourcing

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Geek Work,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:05 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Regular readers know I’m not a big fan of outsourcing.

I am, however, even less of a fan of off-shoring.
Now, before someone calls me racist again, let me say that I have no problem at all with non-US citizens making money, no matter what country they’re from.  Honest!  I’m friends with more than one proud Green Card holder!  But, I’m not a big fan of shipping jobs to a foreign country when someone right here in the United States is out of work and can do the job.  In fact, for years I’ve advocated what one company I worked for did; Rural Sourcing.

Of course, at the time, we didn’t call it that, but, as it turns out, that’s what it is.
We had a call center in a very rural town, connected to our data via a satellite.  In fact, they were connected to the same service bureau that we were.  It was a pretty good deal, all the way around.  We got decent, cheap labor, that spoke English without an accent to our American customers.  They got better jobs than the local sugar beet canning factory.  Yeah.  That was our employment competition.  Can you guess where the majority of the people in town wanted to work?  I’ll give you a hint, it wasn’t standing on a production line with high-speed machinery.

So, while this isn’t new, it is, apparently, a newish idea for corporate America at large.
In any case, take a look at the article on Tech Republic; First Rural Sourcing Effort Proves Successful.
As I mentioned, it’s not new at all, but it must be a new concept for the author of the article.  I think it’s a great idea.  It CAN be cost effective to use local developers and local call centers in rural areas.  I don’t think it’s wrong to try and pull some of this business back from overseas.  I think it’s good, smart business.

1/25/2011

Dealing With Death

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Calamity, Cataclysm, and Catastrophe,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,The Network Geek at Home — 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

No, not the idea, but the actual event.

Two stories ran recently about dealing with the parts of us left behind after death.
First a story about a “better” coffin that screws into the ground.  Okay, I’ll grant you, this is less serious than morbidly amusing to me.  Still, I do like the idea of having a low-cost disposal method for what I’ll leave behind once I “shuffle off this mortal coil”.  That it screws into the ground, just tickled me.
And, for anyone keeping track, I’d just as soon be cremated and scattered to the Four Winds where the Chicago River meets Lake Michigan just outside the Loop.  Seriously.

The second two were a little more serious.  Two stories about social media applications dealing with the accounts of the dead and, more recently, one from the New York Times Magazine, online, of course.
Back before everyone was on the web all the time, I used to have an envelope that was labeled “Open upon my death or disappearance”.  Seriously!  I used to keep it tucked under my keyboard.  I had one at work, too, for those folks, though that was in a safe.  In each envelope was a series of usernames and passwords for people to use to get access to my accounts should I go missing, or should something happen to me that left me incapacitated or dead.  I’m honestly not sure if anyone knew about the one under my keyboard, but I figured it would have turned up when someone cleaned up after me.  So, basically, I was giving someone who survived me access to my e-mail and other, similar accounts.
I got rid of that sometime shortly before the divorce, for some obvious reasons.

Now, though, there are so many accounts and websites and blogs and such that I’m not sure I could easily list them all.  And, frankly, who would bother to pay for my website?  Who would care enough to maintain an archive of this blog, for instance?  I don’t have a huge readership, though you are a pretty loyal lot, so I don’t expect anyone to really want to preserve what I have here.
How many of you have though about what will happen to your blogs and websites and so on when you die?  What about if you were to die suddenly from, oh, say, cancer?  What then?  If I went missing for a month, would anyone notice here?
Well, for WordPress blogs, there’s a plugin called Next Of Kin that might help, a little.  You can set it to post some message to your blog if you fail to login to your blog for a set amount of time.  And, just to be sure, it will send you a reminder or warning e-mail to check and make sure that you haven’t just forgotten to visit your blog.  It’s far from enough to take care of all of your digital needs after death, but it is a pretty good start!

So, what have you all got setup in case of your untimely death?  Does anyone know your passwords?  Have you given anyone instructions on what to post to Facebook or Twitter after you’ve gone?


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Friends may come and go, but enemies accumulate."
   --Thomas Jones

1/20/2011

Helpful Hints for Technology Sales People

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Geek Work — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:15 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Okay, look, this is getting ridiculous.

I’m a one-man IT shop.  Okay, technically, I do have someone else and some consultants, but they’re all at other locations and, pretty much, everyone still comes to me first anyway.  So, effectively, I’m a one-man IT shop.  That means I’m busy.  No, really, I’m busy pretty much every minute that I’m even close to the office.  And, I’m trying to get out of the office by 5:00PM.  Well, by 5:30PM.  Okay, honestly, I try not to stay past 6:00PM more than twice a week.  Which means my time is a very precious commodity and if you waste it, I will have strong negative feelings toward you.  Strong negative feelings.

This should be pretty apparent to anyone who watches me work, or try to work, and answer phone calls from every cold-calling, knuckle-dragger who’s been tasked with trying to get me to notice their product for which I do not have the time to implement or, most likely, the budget to purchase.  Now, to be fair, the average sales drone who’s tasked with calling me doesn’t know this.  They can’t know it, as they have never met me before or been to the morass of paper and spare parts that I call a server room, er, rather, that I call my office.  But, I’m going to do them a favor and outline some sure-fire ways to lose my sale.

First, like I’ve already mentioned, don’t waste my time.
Don’t show up unannounced at my office pretending that we have a meeting.  I will leave you sitting in the waiting room all day long.  For real.  I’ve done it.  I don’t even feel very guilty about it.  Why?  Well, you were willing to waste my time, so why should I worry about wasting yours?
Don’t call me and tell me that you have a great product or service or idea or whatever to tell me about, but refuse to give me any details about unless we meet in person.  Worse, if I seem interested but want to know about pricing, since I have a very limited budget, don’t be coy about giving me the information.  I know how to read a proposal and a tiered-pricing spreadsheet.  Honest.  I’ve done this for almost 20 years at this point.  I don’t need you to hold my hand.  Really.

Second, be honest.
If I ask you a direct question, give me a direct answer.  Look, I work in IT now, but I have a degree in Marketing.  Sure, it’s a little old and dusty, but, you know what?  Sales techniques haven’t actually changed that much since I did that kind of work.  So, when I ask if you do something or if your product does something, don’t give me some circular answer about interfacing with one of your business partners.  I asked you.  Can your product do what I asked or not?  It’s simple, really.  It’s binary, like computers.  Yes or no.  Often the answer to the direct questions I ask take care of the first problem for both of us.
Also?  If I ask you a deeply technical question about your product and you don’t know? Just admit that you don’t know.  Don’t guess.  Don’t try to play off my question.  And, again, don’t offer to involve another company in “our” solution.  I just want to know what you’re asking me to pay for out of my very limited budget.  It’s okay to get back to me later with an answer and pricing.
Just a word of warning about this, if you promise me that your product will do something it cannot do, I will not pay you.  It’s that simple.

Third, high-pressure techniques do not work with me.
Maybe they work with someone, but the harder you push me, the less inclined I am to give you money.  I honestly don’t care if you have a great deal, because if you try to rush me into something, I suspect that you’re trying to keep me from taking the time to think about what you’re doing.  And, if you are trying to get me to spend money without thinking it all the way through, there’s a reason.  Usually, a reason that is not to my benefit, but yours.
Also?  High-pressure sales went out with loud ties, junk bonds and easy mortgages.  And, I’ll be honest, they didn’t work on me then, either.  Nothing has changed for me since then.  I still tend to respond to high-pressure sales techniques with barely restrained violence.  If you’re still using them, go back to blood-sucking, parasitic, low-life school and learn something new.

Fourth, I do not care that you are a hot chick.
Yeah, this sounds sexist and misanthropic, but I see plenty of beautiful women in tech sales.  I get it.  Really, I do.  I’m a one-hundred-percent, red-blooded, American male and I love to look at beautiful women as much as the next guy, but I don’t care about that when you’re selling me tech gear.  For real.  For one thing, I was married to an absolutely gorgeous woman, so I know just what kind of hell their personal life really is like.  For another, I’m pretty sure that I will never, ever have access to a budget that will entice one of you to sleep with me, so, again, I just don’t care.  It doesn’t matter.  Not even if you flirt with me.  Honest.  So, you know, it’s okay to just stop.  Really.  Because it will not effect my decision to buy, or not buy, your product.
So help me, if another company sends me some Barbie doll who just blinks at me when I ask a marginally technical question about their technology product, someone will be hurt.  Seriously, at least put people in the field who know how to get me a Support Tech faster than just calling the 800-number on the back of the package.
And, yes, I’m sure there are many very attractive sales people in tech companies who do know what they’re doing.  I haven’t met any in the past eight or nine years, but I am sure they’re out there.  Somewhere.

So, really, is that too much to ask?
I just want competent technical sales people who can answer my questions about their product, don’t waste my time and know that, well, “No, means NO”.  Okay?  Everybody on board for that?
Thanks.

(This rant was brought to you by a high-pressure copier toner sales “person” and the most helpless software sales “person” I’ve ever had to circumvent.  All in the same week.)


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be."
   --Abraham Lincoln


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