Diary of a Network Geek

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

4/19/2019

A Conspiracy of Facts!

Filed under: Fun — 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 a Full Moon

What if “facts” are what actual “news publishers” wanted you to know?

Since the last US Presidential election, there’s been a lot of focus on “news” and “fake news” and what the difference between the two might be. Many have suggested that it’s the super vague and click-bait-able nature of the “information” being shared. I tend toward Marshall McLuhan’s idea that “We become what we behold. We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.” At first, we responded to these eminently shareable factoids because they didn’t mean much. It was the mental equivalent of a junk-food snack. Not harmful in and of itself, but not very satisfying either. Then, because the little independents were getting more clicks and more “eyeballs”, the big boys started doing it and now, well, here we are.
But, it’s Friday and I refuse to let these thoughts curb my enthusiasm for life! So, I today I share with you the humorous and ironic Prospiracy Theories! It takes the tone of those terrible social media conspiracy posts and substitutes real, actual facts!
It’s hilarious and accurate. What could be better?

Enjoy!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

4/5/2019

History of Doggos

Filed under: Fun — 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 a New Moon

I think it’s understandable that I have dogs on my mind lately.

It’s only been a few weeks since I had to put my 16-year-old dog, Hilda, down and I’m still surprised how hard it was. Unlike almost any other domesticated animal, dogs have an incredibly close relationship with humans. I was always amazed at how Hilda could seem to read my every expression and know just what me clearing my throat at her meant. Frankly, I think that, along with the innate urge to please people, may be the chief advantage of having dogs over children. Also, dogs don’t ask for expensive electronics or college educations. Dogs are humankind’s best, and possibly oldest, friends. There’s evidence that humans and domestic dogs have lived together more than 12,000 years by even the most conservative estimates. And, all the hundreds of varieties of dogs all came from a common ancestor of the wolf. So, think about that, everything from the Bull Mastiff to the Shiba Inu to the Chinese Crested all came from a common, wolf-like ancestor.
And, that’s what I’m sharing with you this week, a TED video, by way of BoingBoing titled A Brief History of Dogs. It’s only five minutes long and mostly accurate, though it incorrectly says that all modern dogs are descended from the grey wolf, “canis lupus”, which researchers know is not quite correct any more. (For more on that, check out this article from LiveScience.)

Anyway, the video is short and fun and mostly accurate. And, it’s about dogs. Who doesn’t like videos about dogs, even if they’re animated and about science?
Enjoy your weekend!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

3/29/2019

Making a Great Space Helmet

Filed under: Art,Fun,On Creativity — 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 a Third Quarter Moon

It’s harder than you think!

It’s no secret to anyone who reads this blog that I love science-fiction. I don’t know if it’s the escape of it, or the promise of a better tomorrow. Or maybe just the idea that we can engineer our way out of some of the troubles we have created for ourselves as a race. I know that I believe that the Universe is far too large for us to be the only intelligent life out there. It seems statistically improbable that we’re alone in the entire vastness of space. And, perhaps optimistically, I have to believe that if such beings exists, eventually we will at least find evidence of them, which most likely means traveling to distant worlds. Just how distant and by what methods require more math and physics than my poor, little brain is capable of dealing with, but I think that just makes it easier to believe it’s possible.
In any case, that belief draws me to science-fiction about space travel, whether it’s novels or movies. I have to admit, though, a good, realistic feeling space travel movie is really a joy. You may remember that I shared a short with you last year about this time called Prospect, about colonists on an alien world, mining some precious mineral. Well, that short got expanded into a longer feature that’s been the darling of several film festivals. And, this week, I’m just sharing an interview with the creators of Prospect, where they talk about the challenges of making a good prop spacesuit helmet. It’s actually quite an interesting interview, especially if you have any interest in making movies, science-fiction or making props. It’s not too long, either, which gives you plenty of opportunity to refresh your memory and re-watch Prospect so you can admire their handiwork.
Enjoy!

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words.

3/15/2019

Historical Communications Security

Filed under: Art,Fun — 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 Waxing Gibbous

“Check your flaps and seals.”

If you’re a spy history buff, like I am, you’ll recognize that as an admonition to a fellow practitioner to make sure that their communication is secure and that they don’t have any “leaks” in their organization. When I was in high school, back before essentially all communication that mattered was digital, “tradecraft”, as it related to the spy game, was all about surreptitiously opening someone else’s mail, reading it, and then sending it along, possibly altered. The first codes go back to at least the time of Caesar and have been in use for centuries. In modern secure communications, we are often concerned with verifying that the sender of information is, in fact, the party who claims to have sent it and that it hasn’t been tampered with. In digital communications, both tampering and providing algorithmic checks to discover tampering are surprisingly easy to implement and use. Of course, most people don’t bother because, well, most of us don’t have to worry much about secure communications.
But, somewhere between the two extremes of ancient cyphers and modern digital encryption and verifications, between the 10th and 17th centuries, innovative letter-writers developed other ways to let their recipient know that the letter is from whom it claims to be and hasn’t been tampered with called letterlocking. I’d never heard of this, until I read Before Envelopes, People Protected Messages With Letterlocking. Now, I figure most of my readers will be familiar with things like wax seals and signet stamps to “secure” letters, but, like me, had never heard of “letterlocking”. It’s fascinating, the idea of folding and stamping and marking letters, mostly without envelopes, to try to ensure message security. It reminds me of my primitive note-passing in grade school. If I’d had access to the letterlocking dictionary, things might have been more interesting.

So, as I warned you earlier this year, I’d still post things on Friday, but I completely expect that they’ll be increasingly idiosyncratic and may not be “fun” or interesting to anyone else but me. But, also, I encourage you to write a physical letter and use the letterlocking dictionary to teach yourself one of the letterlocking methods there, just for fun. I may just start leaving love notes for my wife this way. Then again, I may not. Maybe if she reads this and mentions it to me, I will. Think of it as yet another method of verifying communication. (Also, don’t worry. My blushing bride has a pretty damn good sense of humor. She needs to be married to me!)

Come back next week to see what I come up with next!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

3/8/2019

Archive Data

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Fun — 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 Waxing Crescent

I don’t care what anyone says; you just can’t have enough data.

With storage being so relatively cheap, I don’t really get rid of any old data any more. It’s true. I have so much cheap storage around my house that I have literally hundreds upon hundreds of digital books, documents, photos and other files. I used to have a huge library in my house. Literally thousands of books. Books in virtually every room. The problem was, a lot of the books were horribly out of date. Or, I’d gotten them with the intention of reading them, but I was never honestly going to get around to reading many of them. Instead, they just took up space. So much space, in fact, that when my wife was getting ready to move in, I think she despaired of having room to fit! She really helped me realize that I didn’t need to keep all those physical books around. Though, I’m not sure she truly understands my personal obsession with data, or the brobdingnagian archive I have quietly lurking upstairs by the wifi router. I assure you, it’s epic. And, now I know that I’m not the only one, thanks to an article on Gizmodo this week.

My problem, though, is that I often remember some obscure bit of information that I read once on a website. Sometimes, I remember the site, but the page is missing. Or, the site is gone. Or, even worse, the site is still there, but it’s been taken over by domain squatters who are squeezing the Google pagerank to shill some internet snake oil of some kind. Then, I’m stuck trying to find that bit of data, that one reference that will take me to the promised land of information, often to no avail. Well, this week, while no doubt doing something totally unrelated, I stumbled across a Chrome plugin for the Wayback Machine. If you’re not familiar, the Wayback Machine is the search engine on The Internet Archive. And, it’s fantastic for guys like me, trying to dig up obscure and forgotten information. The plugin, according to its page, “[d]etects dead pages, 404s, DNS failures & a range of other web breakdowns, offering to show archived versions via the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. In addition you can archive web pages, and see their most recent & first archives.” And, I assure you, it’s glorious. It’s also free, so well worth installing. And, if you, like me, use Firefox as much as Google Chrome, there’s a Firefox version as well!

So, go ahead, fellow data hounds, install those plugins and relive the days of data past!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

3/1/2019

A Second Act

Filed under: Fun — 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 Crescent

Mid-life doesn’t have to be your first crisis!

Maybe it’s because I just turned fifty recently, or maybe because it seems like all my friends are suddenly turning into old men, but second acts are on my mind. You know, like that career pivot late in life. I don’t know. Maybe it’s time for me to make a sharp right turn and reinvent myself as a mime or a writer or a comedian. Sure, it may be a big risk and, yes, there may be a hit to my economic status, but wouldn’t it be worth it to finally be living my best life?
Yeah, okay, maybe not. But, I can tell you Macaulay “Mack” Culkin is making a later-in-life pivot that looks pretty hilarious. Of course, I’m talking about his new website Bunny Ears. Imagine if The Onion had a GOOP-esque lifestyle site and you’ll have a good idea what Bunny Ears is all about. Except it IS a little blue. And by that I mean it may not be safe for work. It is, however, laugh-out-loud funny.
My favorite “articles” from the site so far are Moisturize Until You’re Frictionless And Entering The Speed Force and This Plant-Based Colombian Breakfast Will Give You All-Day Energy
Seriously though, it is the perfect parody of those jumped up wellness lifestyle sites that want to tell me how I’m not living my “best life” and which of their products to buy so I can be more spiritually connected. I hate them. But, I love Bunny Ears.
Go check it out. Seriously, it’s funny. And just what I need after the week I’ve had.

Enjoy! And, we’ll see you back here next week!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

2/1/2019

Chill Out Music

Filed under: Art,Fun,music — 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 Crescent

I could stand to be a little more chill.

Look, I don’t feel like going into a lot of detail about why, but I could have stood to have been a little more chilled out this week. The truth is, I’m stressed and exhausted and pretty well just done in. Frankly, I’m a bit embarassed that I let so much of my life get to me. My mother once told me, as an adult, that I always felt everything more than everyone else. And, trust me, she did NOT mean that as a compliment. I wish I weren’t that way, but, well, I am. I meditate for 20 minutes a day, five days a week, and pray more often than that. In fact, I actually work hard to try and stay non-reactive to the stressors in my life, but the very fact that I have to work hard at it kind of indicates that I’m not doing all that well at it.
Anyway, the upshot of all that is, when I see an article that claims to have The 10 Most Relaxing Songs, According to Science, Ranked, I pay attention, even if that list includes Coldplay. (Which, “spoiler alert”, it does.) The article has short snippets of the songs, but with links to the full songs on Spotify. It also has a little analysis of why each song seems to be so soothing. And, I have to admit, I listened to them while putting this blog post together and, well, they did seem to chill me out a little, so there may just be something to it.

In any case, it seemed like the thing to share on a Friday morning to help get everyone through the rest of the day and into the weekend. Like a public service. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
Anyway, enjoy and maybe I’ll have something else a little more interesting for you next week. Who knows? Come back and find out.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

11/30/2018

Passenger Rights

Filed under: Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:05 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

You have rights as an air traveler.

During the holidays, a lot of people travel. I avoid it as much as possible, mainly because I used to travel a lot and get pretty irritated with air travel these days. For one thing, since 9/11, security measures have gotten pretty onerous, which is too bad because most of them don’t really do anything to address actual safety. But, before I go off on a rant about my favorite subject (ie. Security theater), let me say that the worst thing about flying these days is the flying and the airline companies themselves. I know it’s a business and that we should be thrilled to get so far as quickly as we do, but they really play fast and loose with things like passenger comfort, over-booking and taking little to no responsibility when things go wrong.
Good news, though, you do, in fact have rights! Did you know that you may be entitled to compensation for delayed flights or missed connections? It’s true! You can read more about your air passenger rights, and get help if you feel like you’re due something from the airlines who lost or damaged your luggage or forcibly booted you off your flight due to over booking, at AirHelp. I have to admit, as of this writing, I haven’t used them, so I can’t speak to their actual effectiveness, and I don’t get anything from them to link to their site, but just having your actual rights laid out may be of significant enough benefit that I felt it was worth sharing.  Oh, also, their fee for helping you is 25% of whatever you’re due, but I still think it’s worth it, as otherwise travelers would just be out the whole amount.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

11/23/2018

How to Help a Loved One

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Personal Care — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning or 8:10 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

Especially, if they’re depressed or suffering from other mental illness.

The holidays can be an especially rough time of year. I know for many years, I would get a kind of seasonal depression that would come over me after Halloween and last until at least Christmas, and often until after St. Valentine’s Day. In my case, it was due to not being in a relationship, mostly, and having an unrealistic expectation about how my life should look. But, frankly, even for people who are otherwise happy, the holidays can be rough. I mean, they call it the “holiday blues” for a reason, right? So, what do you do if someone you know and love is suffering from season depression? Well, sometimes, listening is enough. Just being there and hearing them, without necessarily trying to fix it can actually be a big benefit. Also, if it seems like your loved one is having more than very short-term depression, it’s perfectly okay to suggest they need more help than you can provide. Unless you’re actually a mental health professional, you may not be all that qualified to actually help someone who’s seriously depressed. One of my favorite science-based websites, Quick and Dirty Tips has some suggestions for How to Help a Loved One Suffering from Mental Illness. It’s really good and, yes, someone with depression is, in fact, suffering from mental illness. It’s possible that it’s seasonal and may pass, but, you know your loved one, and if it looks like something more than that, the linked podcast is worth a listen.

Also, if it seems like your loved one is more than a little depressed and may be suicidal, talk to them about it. And, no, talking to someone about whether or not they’re contemplating suicide will not make them more suicidal. That’s a myth, and a deadly one at that. (For more discussion about some of the more dangerous myths about suicide, again, take a look at this article on Quick and Dirty Tips.) And, if you think they already have a plan, encourage them to call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. You could actually be saving their life.

Hopefully, that’s not something you’re struggling with this holiday season, but if it is, please, get help. The holidays can be really rough and depression is nothing to try and ignore.

This post first appeared on Use Your Words!

10/5/2018

Woven Photos

Filed under: Art,Fun — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:39 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

More interesting art for your enjoyment.

Last week, I shared some Andy Warhol-inspired videos that would help you create in a similar style. I love those kinds of tutorials. But, I also love just sharing interesting work. I’m also an amateur photographer, which you can see via my Photo Gallery page, though I’m far from what I’d consider an artist. My photos have been used by a close friend of mine, though, who is an artist when he put together a book of his work. And, I know I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the odd things about our current age of digital photography is that thousands more photographs are being taken every day than ever before, but fewer are being seen. Even fewer are being printed. One of the things that convinced me to marry my wife was that she printed one of my photos and framed it for me. It’s the first of my photos I’ve ever printed, and may be the only one to date, actually.
All of which is to say that I really admire artists who take their photographic work and not only print it, but manipulate it into something more. And, obviously, that’s what I’m sharing with you this week. Head over to Boing Boing, via this link, and see Photographer shreds her work then weaves it back together again, so see Lala Abaddon talk about her work, shredding her photographs so that she can then weave them back together in unique and beautiful abstract works. Or, you can skip the woo-woo artist talky bits and just look at her work, which is also shown on the same page. And, there are links to where she is on the web, so you can see more of her work. Philosophy of art and her relationship to the universe aside, the work is quite compelling.
Besides, it’s a Friday and you weren’t planning on working so much you couldn’t take the time to follow the links, so go for it!

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