Diary of a Network Geek

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

10/26/2018

Save Your Work

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Geek Work,The Day Job — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Have you ever lost form data on the web?

I hate when I’m typing into a form on a website and something happens, then all my data goes poof. Seriously. It’s super frustrating for me, because sometimes, when I’m putting in a support request for work, those forms have a LOT of data in them and losing it can really throw a monkey-wrench in my day.
Or, worse yet, when I’m setting up blog posts, I can really get into a writing groove and then my internet connection might blink and, again, poof, all that hard work is gone. Granted, I should be saving the draft as I go along, but, even though I may seem like a tech god to some, I’m really just a regular human who doesn’t always follow best practices. Sad, but true.
In the past, I’ve used a great Chrome plugin called Lazarus to help me recover lost form data, but that plugin has gone away. Now, though, there’s Typio Form Recovery. Sadly, it’s only available for the Chrome browser, so if you use Firefox or something else, you’ll have to find another alternative. It IS free, though, so there is that. Also? If you know of a similar plugin for Firefox, please, leave a comment with information about it!
And, yeah, I know, not exactly “fun”, but, hey, come back next week and see if I can do better!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

6/22/2012

Five Hundred Free Movies

Filed under: Art,Fun,Movies — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:07 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Yes, you read that right.

Clearly, I’m an internet junkie.  Those few brave readers who know a little bit more about me, know that I’m also a movie junkie.  I really, really love movies.  Not just the new ones, either, but the classics, too!  I love movies that, frankly, people would not necessarily associate with me.  I mean, I like everything from Westerns to Noir to Comedies to, yes, classic science-fiction.  Pretty much, if there’s a genre of movie, I’ll watch it, though I have to admit, I’m not a huge horror fan.
But, in this age of austerity where everyone is cutting back, and cutting the cord to the cable companies, how can you get your  movie “fix”?  Easy, check out the Open Culture list of 500 Free Movies Online.  Yes, you’ll have to stream these, but other than having an internet connection, they’re all free for your viewing pleasure.

So, hey, it’s Friday, right?  Go pirate yourself some wifi from the neighbors and stream a free movie!  You’ve earned it this week!

11/15/2008

What a Gas!

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Calamity, Cataclysm, and Catastrophe,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 Pig which is late at night or 11:09 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

My house almost blew up tonight.

No, really.
As I write this, I’m waiting for a serviceman from Centerpoint Energy to come out and turn my gas back on. Apparently, shortly after I left for church this evening a neighbor smelled gas by my house. They called emergency services in Jersey Village, where I live. When the emergency services got out, they could smell gas, so they turned off my power and got Centerpoint out. Centerpoint repaired the leak, or so it seems. Actually, the first thing the serviceman is going to check is to make sure the leak isn’t a leak any more. Then, assuming all is well, he’ll turn the gas on and I can light all my pilots and so on. That’s why the gas was turned off when I got home. Naturally, they couldn’t find me, since I’d gone to church, so they couldn’t turn anything on until they knew I could light all the pilots again. Otherwise, my house would have filled with gas, hit something electric and, well, let’s just say I was irritated with the whole thing until I got the lights back on and figured out what almost happened. Thank God!

I guess my little efforts and building up a little good karma in the short term paid off today.
See, I helped two people with computer things today. This morning, I started reformating and reinstalling my friend J.’s wife, L’s, laptop. She’d been having problems with it and I looked at it several times, but I couldn’t find anything obviously wrong. So, rather than spend any more time on it, I backed up her files and started reinstalling it. Of course, that got interrupted by my power being out, but, still, I’m sure I’ll get it done pretty quick now while I wait for Centerpoint to turn my gas back on.

The other person I did a little mitzvah for was Alison over at Inspired Work of Self-Indulgence.
She was having a little trouble with Comcast and their network. More specifically, it seemed to me she was having a problem with the assigned DNS servers. As any good network geek knows, an Internet connection with out DNS isn’t very useful. She had a connection, sure, but she couldn’t get anywhere. Comcast had been out multiple times trying to fix things. They’d even changed out her cable modem, which seemed to be connected fine when I looked at it. But, her wireless gateway was picking up the normal, default DNS servers from Comcast’s autoconfiguration. I reset the wireless router to the factory default and tweaked the settings a bit. The part that I think mattered the most was adding additional DNS servers from outside Comcast’s network. So now, if the main DNS server goes down or stops working, the backup servers should still find what she’s looking for.
Though, if the problem comes back, it occurred to me on the way home from church that it might be her laptop turning off her wireless connection in a power-save mode, so I might have to check that. (If she’s reading this, that’s a hint!) In any case, it was nice to at long last finally get to meet her. We’ve exchanged e-mail and comments and read each other’s blog posts for quite literally years now. She even sent me cookies when I was in the hospital getting chemotherapy that first time! But today was the first time actually meeting. Hopefully, now that she’s seen I’m completely harmless, it won’t be the last time.
Oh, and I got to meet Piedmont and his new pet human, er, owner. Both were sweet, too. And, of course, I got to meet Cheyenne, Alison’s chocolate lab. She’s as cute in person as in the pictures Alison takes of her and as spoiled, too! She has almost as much tummy as my own Hilda!

So, in spite of almost coming home to a smoking hole in the ground where my house used to be, it turned out to be quite a good day indeed! Stay warm, y’all, and make sure to check your gas!

Update: Apparently, my sins still out-weigh my good deeds, since the guy from Centerpoint Energy never showed up. I stayed up waiting for him until 4:00am, then went to bed, mumbling about liars in the night. I wish it were the first time.
I’m half tempted to turn it on myself and to hell with them. But, better safe than sorry, so I’ll just mumble quiet, Lovecraftian curses on them and try to be on about my day until the next lying serviceman arrives.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing in the right place, but also to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment."

9/12/2008

Storm Alert! Hurricane Ike Part One

Filed under: Calamity, Cataclysm, and Catastrophe,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal,Review,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is just before lunchtime or 11:44 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous


StormAlert

Originally uploaded by Network Geek

Okay, so if somehow you haven’t been watching the news, or just don’t care about Texas, there’s a storm in the Gulf headed our way.

There are a bunch of computer models, but they’re all pointing toward Galveston and Houston. It really looks like this is going to hit us dead on this time. Oh, sure, they said the same thing about Rita a couple of years ago, but, well, let’s face it I’m just not lucky enough to miss this one, too. I mean, sure, I got out of an ugly marriage clean and I beat cancer, but I don’t think even I’m lucky enough to dodge two hurricanes pointed directly at Houston.

So, I spent the morning cleaning out my yard and cleaning off my porch. I filled the fountain, so I’d have flushing water. (I’ll show a picture of my fountain later, probably.) Then, I filled two collapsable water containers, that total five gallons together. And, I filled a five gallon SunShower, as well as my percolating coffee pot and my regular coffee maker and a tea kettle and an 18 quart pot. I’ll fill a few more containers later this evening, just in case. Last year, I kind of freaked out about having enough drinking water, so this year, I’m making sure I’m okay. Oh, and I have a hand-pump Katadyn water filter, too! So, if worse comes to worse, I can drink water from my ponds.
I’ve checked my batteries in my lantern and made sure I know were my candles all are, not to mention lighters and matches. I’ve cranked my Freeplay radio/flashlight, to make sure it has a charge. And, I have a spare battery fully charged for my camera. So, as long as I have an Internet connection, I’ll keep posting. After that, I’ll keep taking pictures to upload later.
I’ve got a load of laundry in right now and I’ll run the dishwasher after dinner, so I’ll have clean clothes and the maximum amount of clean dishes, too. I’m debating about going out and getting my tank totally topped off, as I didn’t have a chance to do that yesterday. See, I was a loyal employee and did everything I could to make sure our systems were good for the storm. You’d think I’d learn better by now, right?

Okay, the thing that drives me nuts about this Hurricane Ike coverage on the Weather Channel is that these guys are really, really hyping this all the way up to justify their own existence. I get that, but I wonder if they feel bad at all about making people panic? Do they really think they’re doing such a public service with that?

Well, since it’s before noon and the high winds aren’t supposed to start in my area until something like 7:00pm, I think I’m going to run over to my friend’s apartment and get their new DSL working for them. They don’t have cable and I’d hate for them to be cut off from communications about any storm danger or anything. Also, it’ll give me something to do. And, while I’m out if I see a gas station with gas, I might swing in and top off.

Stay tuned, readers! More pictures and posts later!

4/16/2008

What’s on your monitor?

Filed under: Fun Work,Geek Work,Linux — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is in the late afternoon or 5:59 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

What do you run on your monitor server?

Do you think you’re too small to run a monitoring server? Well, I have two local servers, a remote web server and a remote e-mail server that I’m in charge of worrying about and I run a monitoring server. It’s not much of a server, really, just an old workstation to which I added a bunch of spare memory and a large, clean hard drive. Naturally, I run Linux on my monitoring server, which, ironically enough, I named Monitor. Specifically, Monitor runs Red Hat Fedora.

Monitor runs Nagios, which I’ve mentioned before. With Nagios, I monitor both my main file server and my accounting SQL server. I also watch the off-site web server and the SMTP and POP3 e-mail services on the managed e-mail server we have through our ISP, just to make sure they’re up and running. (It’s a long story on why we have that, but, rather than run my own, to reduce hassle, headache and potential disaster, I let someone else worry about it.) Nagios tells me the status of drive space, the memory usage, the CPU usage and uptime on both servers. On the accounting SQL server, it verifies that the SQL service is available and that users can log into it. On the file server, it tells me the status of the Backupexec modules. Unfortunately, I haven’t figured out a way to get Nagios to tell me more than the running status of Backupexec, but, in my spare time, I still try to find a way to have it report the status of the last backup or restore job run. No joy yet, but I keep trying.

I also have a browser window open to the SolarWinds installation at our ISP. They monitor inbound and outbound traffic over the Internet connection we have. Usually, I keep a window open on the standard “interface details” reports which update regularly. Most of the time, I also open a window to the weekly history report on the min/max/average packets in and out. I have to update that manually, but it lets me quickly compare today’s traffic to network traffic for the past week. It’s nice to see those trends!
Lately, I’ve been keeping a browser window open to the national weather forecast, by hour, for our local area. In hurricane country, keeping track of the weather can be vitally important! But, if you live in snow country, the same thing would probably be true, too. I don’t recall heavy snow causing an outage during my time up North, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

Finally, I almost always have Wireshark running a packet capture, too. If I see a sudden spike in traffic, having a packet capture already running could make a big difference. I have that capture set to save files locally, too, just in case. I’ve been setting the capture to rotate nine files and to keep the files at seven megabytes each. That should give me a pretty good spread of captured network data if I ever need to go back and diagnose a traffic problem. And, since the machine is actually kind of stinky hardware and crashes on occasion, when I restart the packet capture, I rename the base file using the current date. That way, I can tell at a glance when the capture was started.

One day, I’d like to move this all to another machine that’s more stable, faster and has more drive space, but, until then, this works. It’s only on the private network, so I can’t look at it directly from the Internet, but, it still does enough for me. One of these days, I’ll look into some of Nagios’ data presentation modules and teach this old dog a few new tricks, like automated uptime reports and that kind of thing.

Hopefully, that hasn’t bored too many of my non-geek readers. And, I hope it’s given my geek readers something to think about. So, tell me in the comments, if you have a monitoring server/station/whatever, what does it run? If you don’t have one, why not?

2/7/2008

Review: Nagios

Filed under: Career Archive,Fun Work,Geek Work,Linux,MicroSoft,Novell,Ooo, shiny...,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:27 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before.

Some time ago, I was having problems with traffic on my network. Something, somewhere was apparently causing some issues with bandwidth on our Internet connection. Or, at least, that’s what our ISP kept telling us. It was, I think, the excuse they were using to avoid dealing with an e-mail problem.
Regardless, I had to find a tool to monitor our network traffic. I ended up using Wireshark for that, but along the way, I discovered a number of OpenSource monitoring tools for various purposes. The one that impressed me the most was Nagios.

Nagios is, according to the opening paragraph on their website, “an Open Source host, service and network monitoring program.” While I never did configure anything to monitor the network, per se, I did configure this to watch both local servers and third-party web and mail servers.
First of all, it’s important to know that Nagios runs on Linux. So, to install the software, you first have to have an available Linux server on which to install it. I’m using an old workstation that I installed the latest version of Fedora, the free version of RedHat. Getting the initial install done wasn’t very hard at all. In fact, there were RPMs available, so all I had to do was use RedHat’s package manager to get the base install loaded on the machine.

After the initial software load, I mainly followed the Quick Install instructions that they link to on the first page. Then, since I was mainly monitoring Windows servers and workstations, I found the cleverly titled help page, “Monitoring Windows Machines“, and followed that. This page ran me through the basics of installing the NSClient++ on a Windows machine and configuring Nagios to connect to and monitor that client. One thing that I had to find out the hard way was that the entries for the monitored systems have to be duplicated for each host. In other words, there is no way to just list all the Windows systems you want to monitor. You have to created entries describing each host individually. That’s not a big deal, honestly, since you can open the configuration files in a text editor and just copy, paste and edit the required entries.
I did have a few false starts here, until I figured out the correct syntax and the fact that every host has to be part of a previously defined group. But, other than that little glitch, configuration was fairly simple.

It took a little more digging, but I later found instructions for passively monitoring services running on servers without a client. I now use my private installation of Nagios to monitor our company webserver, both POP3 and SMTP on our hosted e-mail server, as well as my two Windows 2003 servers. I can even check on the Microsoft SQL database, thanks to information I got from this post on the OSdir mailarchive. And, did I mention that all this software was free? Yeah, the documentation wasn’t the best and it took me a little while to figure out the install and config, but it was far easier than the other monitoring software I played with and I can let anyone who has the username and password check these stats from their own workstation via a web browser. How cool is that? Oh, and did I mention that this can be used to monitor Linux/Unix systems, Windows systems and even Netware systems? Nagios pretty well covers it all!
(Oh, and as a side note, if you’re messing around with the configuration and want to reset the statistics, just stop the service and delete /usr/local/nagios/var/status.dat, then restart the service. All your counts will zero and all the checks will start fresh.)
In short, if you’re looking for a low-cost but versatile monitoring system and aren’t afraid to read the documentation, I highly recommend investigating Nagios.

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:
"Do not follow where the path may lead - go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

9/24/2005

Morning After: Rita Part 9

Filed under: Calamity, Cataclysm, and Catastrophe,Deep Thoughts,Dog and Pony Shows,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 Horse which is around lunchtime or 12:02 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Well, we made it just fine.
I lost my Internet connection last night about 6:00pm during a power flicker. The power did another little dance again right about 8:45pm and I shut down all my computers, just in case we had any problems. I still had cable, so I watched Battlestar Galactica and fell asleep watching Stargate Atlantis about 11:30pm. I woke up about 1:30am or 1:45am when the power went out and stayed out. So, I brushed my teeth and went to bed. The wind was blowing hard, but it really wasn’t too bad yet and there was hardly any rain at all. By then, I’d heard that we were going to get the soft side of this one and I wasn’t really worried at all.
I woke up this morning about 7:00am and still had no power. I got power back around 8:15am and, after it stayed on for a few minutes, I made a pot of coffee, flipped on the TV and started checking on folks. Pretty much the worst thing was everyone losing power. There was virtually no damage and only a little water. As far as I know, there was no flooding in Houston or Jersey Village at all. My own backyard was pretty dry. I had no standing water, except on my driveway, which gets more water from a thunderstorm. The only damage I’ve seen so far has been to my car port. The heavy sheets of plastic that make up the roof were peeled back. They’re still attached, but I’ll have to figure out how to re-secure them. But, I’m going to wait until after the winds die down.
After I check the neighborhood for signs of drama and damage, I’ll post the list of things I’ve been thinking about buying for the next time something like this happens. We dodged a bullet this time, but next time, I want to be really prepared.

9/23/2005

Odds and Ends: Rita Part 6

Filed under: Calamity, Cataclysm, and Catastrophe,Deep Thoughts,Dog and Pony Shows,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Horse which is around lunchtime or 1:34 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Making busy work now.
The laundry is in the dryer now. I’ve filled the tub with water for the dog to drink and for flushing. The sinks upstairs are filled, too. Tonight, I’ll fill at least one of the kitchen sinks and, probably, the bathroom sink, too. The dishwasher is ready to go. I’ll start that when I take the dog out for a walk in a few minutes. I thought I’d wander down towards 290 one last time to see what that looks like today.
I checked in one last time with a couple of friends here in Houston. One tried to talk me into going to the dog park with him, but I don’t want to use the gas until I know how things are going to look next week. I hope we won’t lose power, but I expect we will. No power means that there’s no way to pump gass. They might have it, but all the pumps use electricity, so there wouldn’t be a way to pump it. My other friend was freaking out last night to the point of trying to head to Brenham and Austin, but hit a wall of traffic and decided to come back. I’m a little frightened that I’m calmer than he is. I do believe that it is a sign of the End Times when your Uncle Jim becomes the voice of calm and reason, gentle readers.

If I have time, and power and Internet connection enough, I may post the mental list I’ve been making of survival gear that I would like to have bought for this. And, that I plan on buying after this is all over. Top of the list, a shotgun!
Well, the wind is starting to pick up some, so I better walk the dog if I’m going to do that. More later, if I can!

9/22/2005

I’m Staying: Rita Part 1

Filed under: Calamity, Cataclysm, and Catastrophe,Deep Thoughts,Geek Work,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 7:42 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Well, I’m staying.
As long as I have an Internet connection and power, I’ll keep posting. I’m out in Jersey Village, which is 80 miles from the coast, roughly. Now, if you’re not familiar with Jersey Village, it has a reputation for flooding, but, not to worry, I’m on the highest point in JV. In fact, four years ago, after Tropical Storm Allison, we chose this house because it was one of the few that was high and dry. And, they’ve spent the past four years improving the way JV handles water runoff and such, so I’m pretty sure that I’ll be okay. I imagine that it will be a little crazy around here, but, I hope, the worst case scenario is that we’ll lose power for a couple of days. I hope.
Anyway, I’m staying. I’ll be tying down anything I’m afraid might fly away and dragging stuff into the garage tomorrow. Tomorrow night, I’m going to go have dinner with someone who’s also staying out in this area. My company shut down today, so that people could evacuate tomorrow, if need be, which means I’ll be home most of the day doing nothing. I guess I’ll read, watch the news, play with the dog and blog. After I get the other work done. Oh, and I’ll probably be praying, too.
Don’t worry about me, though. I have quite a bit of food and water. And, I have a natural gas stove and a wood-burner for backup. (All of which, I think I’ve already mentioned.) I’ve called my parents and my one sister who worries more than I do. I’m not sure what she thinks she can do for me up in Northern Illinois when the hurricane hits, but, well, I guess I’ll have to be sure to call her when it passes through and I’m okay. Oh, I also have batteries and candles and lots of frozen water, too, to try and keep the freezer and refridgerator cool if the power goes out. As for the rest, well, I guess I’ll just have to ride it out.
This is NOT why I wanted to live in Houston. Far too much excitement for this old man. Far too much!

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