Diary of a Network Geek

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

11/2/2018

Payment Plans for Flying

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

Plan ahead and pay in installments.

Air travel is expensive. There’s just no way around it. In fact, when I had over $50k of credit card debt a few years ago, a lot of that was related to air travel. Before I moved down to Houston from Chicago in 1998, I spent way too much money flying down to see my now ex-wife. And, yes, I’d still say it was too much money to spend even if she weren’t my ex-wife. That debt was crushing.
But, even though I’m remarried, my family is still mostly in Illinois, which means I still need to fly. So far, I’ve managed to do it without going back into consumer debt, but I’m not sure that I’ll be able to keep that up forever. Maybe, though, with the help of Airfordable, we may be able to swing it. Now, full disclosure, at the time of this post, I haven’t actually used the service yet, so all reports about it are anecdotal. What they do is let you buy a ticket well in advance of your flight and then make regular installments until it’s paid off before you actually fly. Obviously, one advantage of this is that you get your ticket price locked in, because, let’s face it, airfare rarely drops in price. And, yes, there is a service fee for doing this, but it’s considerably less than paying all that interest at 15% or more on a credit card. Also, it lets you be sure you have a flight booked for, say, holiday travel, before you may have the money for the entire ticket.

So, let me know, faithful readers, have you used this service or one like it? How did it work for you?
And come back next week for more travel-related posts!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

3/8/2016

Unemployment Payment Requested

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Career Archive,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning or 9:41 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a New Moon

For the first time in almost fourteen years, I’ve requested a payment from unemployment.

I’ll be honest, it’s not a great feeling.  I’d really rather be working.  Not that I think I don’t deserve the payment or that I begrudge anyone else their benefits, either.  I paid into that system for more than twenty years, if you include both Illinois and Texas, and I am well within my rights to get my fair share back out of it.
But, I’d really rather be gainfully employed.

I have a friend who shakes his head in dismay at how eager I am to work hard.  I think that’s what he finds so incomprehensible; that I want to not just work, but work hard at what I do.
It’s not that I really enjoy long hours or wrestling with budgets or any of those things, though I have to admit I do love wrestling with technology and bending it to my will. I love getting things done.  Sure, most of what I do professionally can be undone with a couple of keystrokes, but, still crossing things off my to do list or watching the closed ticket count stack up gives me a sense of satisfaction.

I hate being out of work.
The last several times I’ve changed jobs, it’s mostly been under my control.  At least once, in the past fourteen years, I interviewed just before a project failed and I was out on my ear.  I was out of work for all of a week, not even enough time to actually request payment.  And, it could have been less, but I wanted a bit of a break before starting the next thing.
I honestly could barely relax at all that week.

So, here I’ve been out of work for three, full weeks and I’m done.
The Texas Workforce Commission requires that I perform at least three job-search-related activities per week to be eligible for unemployment benefits.
I do that much every week before 8:30AM on Monday.
I know I love work, but that bar seems pretty low to me.  Keep in mind, that doesn’t mean just applying for three jobs per week, but talking to a recruiter, or having a job interview, or going to a job fair, or even searching for new jobs on a job website all, apparently, count toward that requirement.  In my job search log, I only record actual job applications made or email or phone conversations with recruiters or potential employers.  I must seem like a real over-achiever to the Texas Workforce Commission staff.

Yes, I have the benefits coming.  And, yes, I feel perfectly justified in requesting them.  But, honestly, I’d rather be working.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"It is a mistake to look too far ahead. Only one link of the chain of destiny can be handled at a time."
   --Winston Churchill

9/18/2015

Best Air Show Ever!

Filed under: Art,Fun,Ooo, shiny...,Photography,Red Herrings — 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 Crescent

I don’t know about you, but I sure could use a little escape this week!

Seriously, with IT staff and consultants visiting from another country for the launch of a super important project at work this week, I’m pretty wiped out.  I could use a little escapism.  So, nothing to learn this week, or even make you think too hard, really.  Just a bit of science-fiction fantasy to feast your eyes on.
As a kid, I grew up literally under a flight…
Read More

8/11/2008

Jury Duty

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time or 8:38 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous


OfficialJurySummons

Originally uploaded by Network Geek

So, I have jury duty Tuesday.

Look, I know this is my civic duty and all that, but honestly, I really, really hate doing this. The last time I did it, up in Illinois, I actually ended up on a “criminal sexual assault” trial. That’s rape, in case you weren’t translating from legal-speak very well. We ended up in a mistrial, a hung jury. In fact, we were sequestered overnight in an effort to get us all to move one way or another. It was a tough trial that took a week and changed how I look at the criminal justice system and my fellow man. And, let me just say, if I end up on a trial, I’m sure not going to let a defense attorney get us into a situation like that again! ‘Cause, it really was all that slimy defense lawyer being oily and tricky, in subtle ways.

Of course, that very sentiment may keep me off a jury this time around! But, I still have to show up and sit through the process. Well, I have a good book and, if I get out around noon, I have a friend who’s going to be down there at the same time, so we might do lunch. And, I plan to use the Metro Park-And-Ride system, which will be something new for me, at least here in Houston. Actually, it kind of shocks me when I think about it, but I’ve never ridden on a bus in Houston at all!

Well, I check in afterward, I guess, and see what kind of pictures I remember to take.

7/21/2008

“Papa” Hemingway’s Birthday

Filed under: Art,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Life Goals,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is in the late afternoon or 5:23 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Today is Ernest “Papa” Hemingway‘s birthday.

He was born in Oak Park, Illinois, which is not far from where I grew up, in 1899. Hemingway snuck off to fight in World War I when he was just 17. He got hurt early in the war, while serving as an ambulance driver, and spent weeks in the hospital before coming back home to his parents in Oak Park.  After his parents got tired of him hanging around, he started writing stories for Chicago newspapers and magazines, and then got a job as a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Daily Star and went off to Paris with his wife Hadley. He became friends with a lot of writers who were in Paris at the time, including Fitzgerald and Joyce and Pound and Gertrude Stein. And he wrote every day, sometimes in his apartment, sometimes in cafés, but he wrote every day.  It’s this model of what a writer does, how he works, that I’ve always wanted to emulate.  But, honestly, the blank page has grown far too frightening to do that.

Oddly enough, Hemingway developed cancer and, in fact, grew his famous beard in an attempt to hide some of the scars which were a result.  In the end, he couldn’t live with the idea of cancer, or what it meant to his life and, in true “Hemingway hero” fashion, killed himself with a shotgun in 1961. But, by then, he was one of the most recognizable people on the planet.

Ernest Hemingway has been one of my heroes since I first read his work.  Not his most famous, Old Man and the Sea,  but rather some of his shorter work.  As I recall it was “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” or, possibly, “The Killers”.  That, along with The Snows of Mount Kilimanjaro and The Sun Also Rises were the books and stories that got me.  The funny thing is, I’ve read that he really didn’t care for the Old Man and the Sea, even though that won more awards than anything.
I’ve read more of his work, of course, though certainly not all.  In fact, there was a time I wrote trying to emulate his style.  He’s also where I learned that the most beautiful art is that which seems so simple, so obvious that one thinks it must be easy to create, but then finds the execution of such art much harder to accomplish after all.

So, if you’re the drinking kind, raise your glass, whether that’s a daiquiri, absinthe, a martini, or a mojito, which are all said to have been his “favorite” drink at various times, and toast to Papa and all he wrote.

7/4/2007

Hospital Room Ruminations

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Sheep which is in the early afternoon or 2:40 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

I’ve got lot on my mind lately.

I’m not sure if it’s the chemo or the cancer or what, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately. Thinking about life and death and God and my former step-daughter and, well, everything in between. I censor myself a lot here lately because of who some of my readers might be, but, well, sometimes it just all wells up and comes gushing out in spite of my better judgement.
Death, I’ve discovered, is far easier than life. Dying a noble, honorable death with quiet dignity was something I rather thought might happen to me. I never thought that I’d live to be an old man, but rather die young and tragically, most likely from some bad choice I made. Hell, more than once I thought my ex-wife might have tried to kill me in my sleep. God knows, she threatened to do it enough times when we were married. But, it looks like I may just live to a ripe old age after all. And, that is proving far more challenging than one would think, that living with integrity and dignity for a long time. There are days when it seems harder the longer I live.

I worry about my spirituality and my relationship with God. After the second round of chemo, after my family had all gone home to Illinois, I was watching a movie called Kingdom of Heaven. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about the Crusdades and the loss of the city of Jerusalem to the Muslims. In fact, that’s what really got my attention, the sub-theme of the religious devotion of the Muslims. One of the characters commented on the fact that they pray to God five times a day. And, at that moment, I found myself envying that kind of devotion to God. I found myself wondering if it was better to die on one’s knees, crying out to heaven for a closer connection to God or to live a long life with a thin, tenuous connection to a God one has little confidence in at all. I still wonder. And, of course, I wonder which one I will end up with and when.

I feel lost and disconnected.
This entire process of dealing with cancer and chemotherapy and medical procedures has left me with a greater sense of how alone I am in the world, and yet how many friends I’m lucky to have. I do worry that I’ll die alone, without family to mourn me. That I’ll be an old man without anyone to care for me or worry about me when I’m old. Perhaps that’s why I always thought I’d die young. Maybe that was the plan, somewhere in the back of my mind, so that I could avoid all that unpleasantness of growing old and dying alone. The friends I’ve shared that with all assure me that I won’t be alone the rest of my life, but, well, I’m not quite as convinced as they seem to be. Truly, I’ve never been as big a believer in myself as the people around me. It is quite possibly my biggest curse. Even my therapist was impressed with the fact that I was, essentially, a self-made man. My family never got me a job or paid my way into a career. Mom and Dad got me through college, but, after that, I pretty well have done the rest on my own, making the most of some lucky breaks and applying myself where lucky breaks weren’t to be had. But, still, I doubt my own abilities to deal with life on life’s terms. And, in spite of that, I still manage to prevail over adversity.
Even today, sitting in this hospital room, I’m here against all odds, still alive and able to fret over the vagaries of fate.

I don’t know where this life of mine is going to take me, and that honestly frightens me a bit, or how I’m going to deal with the wreckage of my mistakes or the medical bills, but, I suppose, there’s time enough to figure that all out while I’m still kicking.  And, from what the doctor has said this week, I’m still alive and kicking and will be for quite some time. So, stay tuned and we’ll find out what happens next, together, faithful readers.  Your guess about what comes next is as good as mine.

8/14/2006

Travel Report

Filed under: Adventures with iPods,Advice from your Uncle Jim,Deep Thoughts,Dog and Pony Shows,Fun,Fun Work,Geek Work,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,On The Road,Personal,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Pig which is in the late evening or 10:39 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

(Note: This “post” was written over the space of two long waits in airports after gliding through easy and over-hyped security.)

08/11/06

Well, there wasn’t any free wifi at the airport that I could find, even using a cool new tool I found for Linux called Wifi-Radar. Super slick little proggie that scans for available open wifi networks and automagically attaches you to the network of your choice. Pretty cool. Anyway, security was a breeze. As usual, the blood-sucking, bottom-feeders in the alarmist media totally overhyped the delays. I got Hilda checked in, stopped for gas and slipped into the Park-N-Fly by about 10:45 AM. The shuttle got me to the airport no later than 11:15AM and I was checked in and through security in less than 20 minutes. That’s with an eTicket and a driver’s license that still has my last name misspelled with an extra letter. You’d think that would raise a red flag, right? Hell, it doesn’t even raise a damn eyebrow.

Feeling extra secure yet? So, we hear all kinds of stuff about how bad security is going to be, but, as far as I could see, the only thing added to security was that they were restricting fluids on the plane. Yeah, so, no drinks through security, which, of course, means that everyone was buying drinks in the terminal. I didn’t look at how much I was gouged for my bottle of water and masked the whole cost with a couple of magazines. No Maxim, though. Just PopSci, Scientific American, Men’s Health and Real Simple. You know, I may end up getting a subscription to Real Simple instead of Dwell. It’s more my style. Not quite so avant-garde and infinitely less expensive. I was very glad to have gotten my iPod back, though. And, I even managed to sync all of Tristan und Isolde to it before I took off in the morning. Sadly, I didn’t have quite enough time to create a playlist that let me listen to the entire opera in order, but, still, I have it in there. According to iTunes, I have almost three days worth of continuous music on my Nano. Based on the silly media hype, it sounded like I’d need it, so, I was thrilled.

The one interesting thing was that I was almost on the news. No, not because I tried to sneak something dangerous on the plane. Though, God knows, I have done just that so many times it really makes me question the supposed security training they give those TSA agents. Anyway, there was some cute, Hispanic news chic there with her cameraman interviewing passengers about the virtually non-existent security delays and they saw my “Sunguard Secure, Disaster Recovery Experts” shirt. Right away the camera guy is all “So are you a disaster recovery expert?” and I start laughing at them both. I explain that, yes, I am an IT disaster recovery expert, but not the kind they were looking for. Oh, sure, I could have gone on TV and made a credible security expert, but that’s mainly because I’m well read and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about security for IT, which includes physical security, not because I’m a real anti-terrorist expert. But, why? Why the hell would I want to have my mug all over the TV news? I hate them, the alarmist fear-mongers always whipping the mass of unwashed humanity into a damn frenzy. Idiots. They’re not journalists anymore, just talking heads. It’s all about jumping on that fear-hype bandwagon, not about reporting real information that people can actually learn something from anymore. I don’t know, maybe it’s time to get a subscription to a local paper again. Ha! “A” local paper, that’s funny, isn’t it? It’s either the Chronicle or an out of town paper, like the Chicago Tribune or the Wall Street Journal. Oh, well, it’s almost all bad news anyway….

08/14/06

Well, here I am again, killing time in an airport waiting for my flight after breezing through security. I can’t tell if it’s just the media blowing things so far out of proportion or just people stupid enough to argue with the TSA agents and trying to break the rules. Honestly, I think it’s the TV news media who have to justify their existance by whipping everyone into a frenzy about the terrorists who weren’t even on US soil. Sure, I’ll grant you, getting blown up in a plane would really ruin my travel plans, but we’ve been living with this since 9/11 and, frankly, I think it’s about time we just adjust to higher security than we used to have. I mean, really, compared to most of the world, we’ve been skating along pretty free and easy. They’ve been dealing with terrorists in Europe for years and the British were more relaxed about this last incident than we were, even though it was their countrymen that were going to be blown up! This is just going to be a fact of life from now on. We need to get past the panic and fear and make our adjustments and move on with our lives, otherwise the terrorists have already won. So, in any case, I glided through security, in spite of not shaving, having a scruffy goatee and being loaded down with electronics. I guess it helps to just blank your face and go with the flow. Not like I have a choice, after all, so I might as well just accept the process and go with it. Seems to make things a lot easier. So, crazy security concerns aside, I had a good visit with the family.

Turns out, my parents were wrong and I wasn’t going to be presenting my nephew with his Eagle award, but it really did seem to mean a lot to him that I was there. Actually, it seemed to mean a lot to everyone to see me. I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised, but I never realized how important I was to my family. Of course, I spent some time setting up my parent’s new laptop and transferring settings and files over from the old one. I first thought that I’d be able to do that via a USB thumb drive, but there was just a little too much there to get onto a single one gig drive, so I had to use the network cable and crossover adapter that I’d brought with me. Good thing I have a little bit of experience being an IT consultant on the road and thought to bring some “extra” stuff I probably wouldn’t need, just in case. Sadly, I forgot to bring the copy of Word that I had for Mom and scratched the first CD of the Works install set, so I’ll have to ship them the CD and walk Mom through the install. Oh, the funny thing about her new laptop is the wireless connection. I cranked up that laptop and found five or six networks in the area with at least two that were unsecured, so I used that to piggy-back to the Internet. I think that ease of use just about convinced her to invest in broadband at their new house when the finally move in. They already have digital phone service through their cable, so I’m pretty sure they’d get a discount on the Internet connection, too. That along with a wireless router would really have them in the modern age of computing. And, I think they’d use their laptop more. Well, at least, Mom would. Dad mainly tells her what he wants and sends her off to do it, but he thinks he’s pretty high-tech, which is kind of funny. Actually, if you ever met either of my parents, it’d amuse you think of either of them being all that high-tech.

Though, somehow, they turned out at least two of us that make our living via technology. That’s just one of many things my brother and I have in common, though… It was nice talking with him some, though, I think we both wouldn’t have minded talking more. Eleven years apart and a vast difference in life experience, but we’re still the same in so many ways. Sadly, we both have many of the same things to fight through and over come. Both shy, each in our own way. Soft-spoken, but determined and, often, very single-minded of purpose. I honestly think that my brother has a PhD. because someone told him he couldn’t do it. We’re funny that way. Sometimes, that’s an asset, but not always.
Still, we often have very similar political views and, talking with my sole niece, Rachel, I was surprised to see how well our philosophies about kids meshed. That “little” girl has grown into quite a young woman. Just barely fifteen, but almost as tall as I am and, thankfully, looking more like her mother every day. I sat with her after her brother’s Eagle Ceremony and talked with her a bit, since I realized I didn’t really know her that well these days. The boys all center on me like iron filings on a magnet and that often seems to leave little room for Rachel. The last time I was home, she spent most of the time with Allison, my former step-daughter, and I didn’t get to talk to her. In any case, I took the opportunity to chat with her about a lot of different things, including driving, boys and her future plans. She didn’t have a boyfriend right now, but she’s already had two, which, at fifteen seemed like a good, slow start. She broke up with the last one, she told me, because he’d been smoking marijuana. Smart girl. Already learned that guys who smoke enough dope lose all motivation and ambition. It’s not just a stereotype. So, she was single, but didn’t seem in a big hurry to find the next guy, which I though was a good attitude, too. When I asked her about school and ideas for a career, she told me she wanted to go into nursing. Like I said, smart girl. It’s a good field and she has the right kind of personality for nursing. Even at fifteen, she was worried about her poor, old Uncle Jim standing when everyone else was sitting at the reception. I was glad for the chance to sit and talk with her. I just wish Allison had more of an opportunity to know her former cousin. I think Rachel would have been a good influence on her. Ah, well, maybe they’ll reconnect one day. Stranger things have happened.

Her little brother, Michael, my youngest nephew, is a whole different animal. This poor kid has no small amount of adversity to overcome. As a little guy, he got repeated ear infections and is, as I recall, legally deaf. But, since he was very small, he’s worn a hearing aid in each ear and does quite well. He has a very slight speech impediment, but he seems to make up for that with enthusiasm and volume. He certainly has no trouble making himself understood when he wants to get a point across! But, he also has a fairly rare back and spine condition that will require him to wear an obviously uncomfortable back brace for most of the next three years. He’s a good kid and doesn’t complain much when his parents tell him to get his brace back on, but it can’t be something he likes to do. I don’t know if any of the kids at school give him trouble for it, but I think his mother has already given her permission to pop the little wiseasses if they do sound off. And, if I ever hear about any grief, I tell you, Mike will have a mean uncle from Texas coming up to crack a couple of skulls for him. He’s a good boy and puts up just a tiny fuss at having to deal with all his physical troubles. And, in spite of all his reasons to be unhappy, I’d say he’s the most gregarious and, well, “jolly” of all my nephews. Always smiling and laughing and joking, even when irritation occasionally creases his forehead, it sure doesn’t cloud his world for very long at all. I know quite a few adults that could learn thing or two from this young man.

Then, there was my “redneck nephew”, as I like to call him.
John Dwight is a big kid. He looks slow and ponderous and even sounds a little thick, but he’s not. He’s a smart kid who lives in a town that doesn’t put much stock into “book learnin'” and it shows. Mainly, I think he’s just not very motivated. I think he sees the futility of his situation. He can only go so far in that little town outside of Rockford, Illinois. After that, if he wants more and bigger opportunities, he’ll have to leave. Based on how his mother and father have dealt with that decision, I doubt he’ll leave. Though, he is talking about enlisting in the military. He claims he wants to be a sniper, but with less than perfect vision, I think that’s not going to quite work out for him. He likes to work on cars, though, and seems to think he can bide his time waiting for the sniper program while being a mechanic. I don’t think he understands the military enough to know that once he starts as a mechanic, he’s likely to stay a mechanic, but, at least he’ll have a skill and a way to make a good living after mustering out. It would be a good way for hime to go.
He shadowed me for most of the time I was working on my Mom’s new laptop. I think partly because he wants to get a shiny, new laptop himself, but also because he’s interested. I talked with him about what I was doing and promised to send him one of the super cheap 1 Gig USB thumb-drives I’d found at MicroCenter and was using. He seemed genuinely excited about that. I’ll send that to him after I get back along with a Knoppix CD, so he can learn a little Linux. If he learns Linux and is still interested, I might send him an old Dell laptop with Redhat or Novell’s free OpenSuSE loaded on it. That would be another direction he could go. A little military experience and a couple of professional certifications and he could really go far.

Finally, my oldest nephew and godson, Bill…
As I write this, he’s on his way to his first year of college. He’ll be a Physics Major at Purdue University. Kid’s going to be a genius PhD, like his father. He has a girlfriend, Jenny, who’s nice enough, but tries a little too hard to be liked. When she forgets to work at it and relaxs, though, she’s a nice kid. Bill and I had a little talk on Friday night when his family came over for dinner. (Mom made “creole chicken”, a soulfood recipie that my grandmother picked up on the Southside of Chicago.) He’s so much like his father that it’s almost scary. I was touched Saturday when I figured out that he really just wanted me at the ceremony because he missed his Uncle Jim. I made sure to give him my cell number and told him he could call for anything but bail money. I hope he takes me up on the offer. I gave him the best advice I could for a Freshman going into that big, wide world of college. “Never go into a weekend without twenty bucks and a condom.” I explained that to him, but those stories will have to wait for another time on the blog. My plane is boarding, so I’m shutting down the laptop. Next stop, Houston!

Update:
Made it home safe and sound. Got my poor Hilda from the vet today. Apparently she barely ate, hid from the “keepers” and generally trusted no one. On the upside, she did learn to use the “doggie door” really well! That’s where she ran to get away from the people who were supposed to pamper her. *sigh* She wouldn’t even eat her home-made treats. Apparently, she just didn’t trust the kenel staff enough to take even the yummiest of muffins from them. (In fact, they said they smelled so good they almost ate some themselves!) She was so excited to see me, I could barely get her car harness on her. She wolfed food when we got home. And treats. And attacked a new rawhide chewie bone I’d gotten her. Well, she’s like her old dad, doesn’t trust anyone new and is loyal to a fault. She’s my dog, sure enough.
Glad to be home. And, finally, after all this time and all this trouble, this is home.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities; an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties."
   --Reginald B. Mansell


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