Diary of a Network Geek

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


Keep Track of Your Photography Gear

Filed under: Fun,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:46 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

If you’re a hardcore photography enthusiast, you’ve probably already seen what I’m about to share.

But, in case you haven’t seen it yet, I’m going to go ahead and share it again.
Theft of camera gear is on the rise.  And, not just from tourists, either!  There have been several articles in the past couple months about photojournalists getting hit, too.  In Russia, they’ll apparently steal the camera right off of you while you’re wearing it!  But, don’t think it’s just a…
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Finally, A Cure For This Disease

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:43 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

No, seriously!

It seems that there’s an new, experimental, gene therapy that may cure cancer.  At least, for two of three test subjects, it cured advanced chronic lymphocytic leukemia.  That’s a type of cancer, incidentally, very similar to the diffuse large B-cell lymphoma that I was diagnosed as having back in 2007.  You can read the full story over at the New York Times, but, here’s the rundown in brief.
The researchers took regular, virus-and-tumor-fighting T-cells from the patients and added specially tailored genes to them which let the T-cells target the cancer cells.  Then, they “dripped” the altered T-cells back into the patients, who had already exhausted all other treatment options, including chemotherapy and bone-marrow transplants.  Ten days later, the first patient got the chills.  And his temperature spiked while his blood pressure dropped.  The doctors moved him to an intensive care unit, not quite sure what was happening to him.  A few weeks later, all his symptoms were gone.  And so was the leukemia.  He was normal.

Granted, there have only been three test cases, including the one I just described, with varying results, but two out of the three had an apparently complete cure of their cancer.  For most of us who have had cancer of any kind, those are pretty damn good odds.  They’re odds that I’d take, should I have cancer again, that’s for sure.
And, frankly, it all sounds like a miracle, like science-fiction come true.

When I was getting chemotherapy, I ordered a t-shirt, really without thinking too much about it.  It was a joke, about the future and how we were promised jetpacks and how the futurists lied to us.  But, when it arrived, I read it more closely.  Here’s what it said:
“they lied to us
this was supposed to be the future
where is my jetpack,
where is my robotic companion,
where is my dinner in pill form,
where is my hydrogen fueled automobile,
where is my nuclear-powered levitating home,
where is my cure for this disease
Well, it looks like the future is now.
Thank God.



Internet Safe For Kids!

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:32 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Well, mostly and only from adults.

You know all the scary stuff the media has been telling us about on-line predators and how they’re all out to get our kids? Turns out, it’s not as true as the sensationalist, bottom-feeding media would have us believe. In a story at the New York Times, via Slashdot, they discuss a report done by an independent group who took a closer look at those claims about the endless waves of Very Bad People who were just lurking on social media sites to steal our children and it turns out they were mostly over-blown. Oh, to be sure, such things happen and those people do exist, but the study indicated that those children who were at risk on-line were at risk period. In other words, the Internet was just a facilitator, not a root cause.

Also, the study found that kids were more likely to have trouble with other kids. Cyber-bullying, and bullying in the real world, was found to be a much, much bigger problem and far more pervasive.

The thing is, though, it’s much easier to take the low road and whip everyone into a frenzy over a problem like child molesters running free on the Internet than it is to take responsibility for our own kids and how they treat others.


Vacationing in Backyardistan

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Art,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:29 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

I hadn’t really planned on taking a vacation this year.

I mean, between all the time I took last year for chemotherapy and my lack of funds due to paying for all that, well, I just hadn’t planned on taking any time for myself this year. Oh, maybe the occasional long weekend, but that was about it. But, after reading this article on Hotjobs about taking time away from work… Well, let’s just say I’m reconsidering it. (And, no, the potential of winning a free trip to Tahiti, also on that article I linked to, did not have any influence over me!)

That first article suggests taking time off, even if you don’t leave the house, but just stay home and read. That was what got the wheels turning in my head. I have this giant stack of books, again, and I never seem to have enough time to read. I could take two or three days before a weekend and just read all day long. Heck, I could probably even do it more than once! Oh, the joy of a day spent reading…
Then, too, there was an article on the New York Times, linked to by LifeHacker, suggesting a number of less expensive vacations one might take. Though, I have to admit, the comments left by other readers were just as good as the article and, in most cases, less expensive than anything suggested by the Times. I particularly liked the idea of taking several days and being a tourist in your own town. There are so many things in Houston that I haven’t done! I’ve lived here ten years and I’ve never seen the San Jacinto Monument, for instance. And, there are so many museums! In fact, I even know someone who used to curate at the Menil. I could probably talk him into acting as a guide for me.
And, now that I have such a nice camera, think of all the opportunities to explore and take pictures.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Failure doesn't mean you are a failure... it just means you haven't succeeded yet."
   --Robert Schuller


Blogging can kill you?

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:05 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I think I smell a little hyperbole.

Apparently, the New York Times ran a story about how bloggers are such freakish, obsessive people who simply can’t stand to be away from their computer, even for sleep, that all the stress from blogging can actually cause our demise. Frankly, even if I were doing this professionally, I think that’s taking it too far. An article on Slate references statistics that clearly show there are far more stressful, harmful jobs than blogging. Or, really, anything white collar. And, Larry Dignan, a professional blogger for ZDNet, who was interviewed for the NYT story, clearly has other opinions about the “hazards” of blogging. (His interview, which disagreed with the sensationalist story, was not used.)

But, blogging is still hot. It’s still cool. Only, now, the press has to make some fear-based story around it to sell papers. So, now, apparently, blogging can kill you.
Film at eleven.


Does Crime Pay?

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Deep Thoughts,Geek Work,News and Current Events,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:06 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous


At least, not according to Bruce Schneier:

Q: All ethics aside, do you think you could make more money obtaining sensitive information about high net worth individuals and using blackmail/extortion to get money from them, instead of writing books, founding companies, etc.?

A: Basically, you’re asking if crime pays. Most of the time, it doesn’t, and the problem is the different risk characteristics. If I make a computer security mistake — in a book, for a consulting client, at BT — it’s a mistake. It might be expensive, but I learn from it and move on. As a criminal, a mistake likely means jail time — time I can’t spend earning my criminal living. For this reason, it’s hard to improve as a criminal. And this is why there are more criminal masterminds in the movies than in real life.

That has to be the best summarization of why I’m not a criminal that I’ve ever read. And, that’s not all he had to say. You can read the rest of the article at the New York Times “Freakonomics” blog.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after."
   --Ernest Hemingway


Self Searching

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Career Archive,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Geek Work — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:24 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

I highly reccomend checking yourself on Google.
Why? Because your next employer may be Googling you, that’s why. At least, according to this article on the New York Times, that’s what’s been happening.  I certainly know that I’ve been found on Google on more than one occasion.  Not only by employers, but also by potential dates and, well, obviously, dates.  This blog did, after all, start as a marketing scheme, a way to get the search engines to find me and catalog me.  It worked.  Very well, in fact, as this page has a Googlerank of Five out of Ten.  And, if you Google Linux Resume, I’m the second hit.  If you Google CNE Resume, I’m the first two hits.  If you Google Jim Hoffman, I’m the sixth hit.  So, I think about what I say here, and how I say it, because I know people might actually read it.  People I might care about and people who’s opinion matters to me or can effect my life.  And, I’m told that in the dating world, it’s more and more common to Google potential dates to see what mischief they’ve been up to on the web.  Obviously, one never knows what might turn up.

This is a special concern for bloggers, of course, who put themselves “out there” on a regular basis.  Do you want a potential employer reading that last rant?  Or about your after-hours antics?  Or about the slacking you do at work to post to your blog instead?  All things to think about.  So, what do you find when you Google yourself?  If you don’t know yet, maybe you should try it and see what turns up.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Never tell your girlfriend that her diet's not working."


The Other Side of Outsourcing

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Geek Work,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:23 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

This is what happens when I watch the Discovery Channel.

So, yesterday, I was watching The Other Side of Outsourcing on the Discovery Times channel, which is one of their several cable outlets, and I got to thinking about globalization and outsourcing. The show was “hosted” or centered around Thomas L. Friedman, who writes for the New York Times on globalization and he showed us what Indians, in India, think about the US outsourcing jobs to their country. He also showed us some of the effects that is having on their culture. It was quite thought provoking.
For one thing, not everyone was the “wake up and smell the new global economy” type that I’ve gotten so used to in recent years. Oh, sure, there were some that had the whole attitude that if they can screw lazy Americans out of jobs that was our fault, not theirs. They feel that they should be able to make money off our greed. Of course, they don’t seem to notice the fact that the entire process is driven by their greed as much as it is ours.
Secondly, the wealth created in India by outsourcing is only benefiting a relatively small group of people. I’d never thought about that, but it makes sense. I mean, in a country of billions, most of whom are quite rural, only a very few million are truly profiting from the wealth. So, in effect, what we’re doing is making a whole new upper class. In fact, an upper class that is quite a bit distant from the next lower class. In other words, that wealth is polarizing a large population into two extremes. Can anyone say “class war”? How long before that happens? How many generations of oppression and poverty will it take to generate a revolt?
Third, all that wealth is Westernizing a very non-Western culture. It’s undermining quite a bit of the Indian family values that are their traditional life. I don’t know how anyone else feels about that, but it seems a little amoral to me to destroy a culture with “traditional” Western greed. That is, after all, what’s driving outsourcing. Our greed as Westerners. That’s a hidden export from America to the rest of the world, that we often forget. Outsourcing is making yet another consumer culture. Is that a good thing?

I don’t think outsourcing is a good idea for many, many reasons. The above are only a few. OTH, I have a quandry. See, I work for a truly multinational company now. So, of course, certain jobs are in other countries. Jobs that Americans could do, but that people in other countries can do cheaper. But, somehow, that seems better than outsourcing to me. I don’t know, maybe I’m splitting hairs, but it seems less like stealing jobs from Americans and more like generating jobs in the world. But, it still made me, well, a little itchy when I first heard it. It still seems different, though. I mean, for one thing, we’re a freaking multinational! This kind of thing is what multinational corporations are for. And, in our case, it’s 100% expansion. It’s a new project that isn’t going to lay off Americans currently working, nor will it import a bunch of H1B1 visa holders to undercut American workers. Instead, we’re creating jobs in other countries. Again, maybe I’m splitting hairs, but it just feels better to me.

Well, whatever, it’s a huge issue that’s not going to go away any time soon. And, the more I look at it, the more complicated it seems. I guess I’ll just have to keep thinking about it until I know how I feel. Until then, it is what it is and nothing I think can really change that.
Happy Monday.


Like a Really Big Jigsaw Puzzle..

Filed under: Geek Work,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:01 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

Not even shredding is safe enough anymore.

A long, long time ago, I argued that people with enough time could reassmble shredded documents. That was, unfortunately, proven true by the Iranians in the US Embassy. But, now, you don’t even need that much time or individual human resources. According to this story on The New York Times, there are a growing number of high-tech ways to reassmble shredded documents. To those of use who live in Houston, home of the Enron Scandal, that takes on a special significance. It seems they now have a program that does, essentially, “edge matching” and connects scanned pieces of shredded documents together via software. Basically, it’s a program to do jigsaw puzzles at a very high-speed. Keep that in mind if you think your documents are safe after they’ve been shredded.
And, one of the biggest firms offering this service is ChurchStreet Technology, who are based out of Houston. I bet they’re booked working on the Enron stuff for years.

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