Diary of a Network Geek

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


Depression At Work

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal Care,The Day Job — 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 Gibbous

I’m no stranger to getting things done in spite of being depressed.

Look, even before the pandemic, life could get pretty hard sometimes. I mean, with brutal schedules and lack of staffing that’s been frankly endemic to corporate IT, which is what I do for a living, anyone can get beaten down and get depressed. Add to that the endless list of economic factors that have added weight to everyone’s state of mind and all the politics and social media and the usual family “stuff”, and, well, it’s surprising to me that we don’t just put antidepressants in the water like fluoride. But, we don’t. And, losing it at work is only going to make things like bills and health care, and family issues even harder. So, what to do? Well, there’s a lot, actually, but a good place to start is the list of suggestions in this article on Monster about dealing with depression at work. They suggest, of course, talking to a professional and investigating if your company has an employee assistance program, which usually includes some kind of access to counseling services. And, if you’re worried about being judged harshly by the boss, keep in mind that those services are all strictly confidential.
One thing that I’ve done, when I was going through my divorce, for instance, was to journal about what’s bothering me. And, I tried to schedule the worst of the breakdowns for when I was home, alone, with the dog. It helped. Also, my ex-wife once told me that no one can see you cry in the shower. In retrospect, it’s a little sad that she not only knew that but thought that I could use the information, but she’s also right about it. The most important thing is, though, do your best, but don’t do it alone. Get help before you can’t do your job because that just makes all the other stuff that much worse.

So, as I wrote at the start of the month if you’re struggling with depression or any other mental health issue, don’t wait. Go get help. You can find some good resources at MentalHealth.gov – How To Get Mental Health Help And, most importantly, if you feel like you’re going to hurt yourself or others, please, do reach out to someone.

Suicide & Mental Health Hotlines in The United States
Crisis Text Line Text HOME to 741741
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline 1-877-726-4727
Trans Lifeline 1-877-565-8860 (for the transgender community)
TrevorLifeline 1-866-488-7386 (for LGBTQ youth)
Veterans Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255, Press 1


This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Being right means never having to say you're sorry."
   --Vernor Vinge


Resume Generator

Filed under: Fun,Fun Work — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:50 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Sadly, not mine.

So, regular readers know how much I love coding up little random generators, right?  Well, this is the same thing, only it’s not random and I didn’t make it.
I’ve changed jobs a lot.  I mean, it’s unusual that I stay at the same gig more than three years.  So, I’ve made a lot of resumes, sometimes even customizing them to the particular job I may be applying to at any given moment.  Well, now, you don’t have to do that kind of work yourself.  Now, you can use Resunate, the Smart Online Resume Builder!
You just load up your current resume, then add in the job you want to apply for and let this website tell you where your resume matches, or doesn’t match, the job description.  Then, as if that weren’t enough, they actually let you create a new resume based on the changes, automagically!

Wow, I can’t tell you how much I wished I’d had that when I was job hopping so much in the nineties and early noughts.  This would have saved me so much hassle!  Well, in any case, you have it now.  And, what the heck, it’s Friday and you’ll be dreaming of another job today anyway, so you might as well go use it to update your resume!
Have a great weekend, y’all!


Christmas Gifts

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time or 8:25 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

No, not the kind that come wrapped.

You didn’t really think I was going to go all commercial and mainstream and retail on you, did you?  C’mon, dear readers, you surely know me better than that!
No, this is the time of year that I babble about spirituality and gifts of the spirit and the magic of the season.

Okay, you know, I did get some cool gifts, too.
My older sister made me stuff, like she often does.  But, then, I think she forgot that when we saw each other earlier in the year at her son’s graduation from Basic Training she gave me some art that she’d found somewhere, too.  Either way, it’s always nice to be remembered and she always adds a personal touch.
The younger of my two older sisters and her husband sent me a book by one of my favorite authors, though I’m not entirely sure how they could have possibly known that.  Possibly, just a lucky guess, but it was dead on.  In fact, it was a book I’d almost gotten for myself, but had decided to wait on buying until it came out in paperback.
And, Mom and Dad got me art.  Well, they got me art by one of their favorite artists, which is nice, but what I really like was the portrait of themselves they sent to me.  It’s really well done and they look fantastic in it.  Now, I just have to figure out where to put that where I can see it all the time.

But, really, those gifts were incidental to the real gifts I got this year.
Some of them may seem small.  In fact, I hope they do seem small to you, because that means you’re far removed from the situations that make some of those small things important.  For instance, I didn’t change jobs this year.  I don’t have the perfect gig by any means, but it is a good job, that pays well, and gives me pretty decent flexibility, when I need it.  And it’s close to home, so I have a short commute.  And I genuinely like the people I work with and for, so that’s a pretty amazing gift.  Especially when you consider how many people are out of work right now.
And, I’m surrounded by friends.  Lots of friends.  Sure, I don’t have that “one, special relationship”, but, you know, I’ve all but given up on that anyway.  Sheesh, if my mockery of a marriage didn’t burn me out on romantic relationships, I don’t know what would.  Besides, as much as a part of me would like all that, frankly, I’ve just been too busy this year to be bothered to put in the effort.  No, really!  And, that’s a gift in an of itself!
Oh, sure, I haven’t always been busy with the things I would have liked, but, wow, it seems like every time I turn around  I have one friend or another who wants to go do something, whether it’s see a movie or go socialize and network with fellow geeks.  There’s always something shiny to distract me and keep me moving forward.  And, while I haven’t done as much volunteer work this past year as I would have liked, not everything that’s kept me busy has been self-serving.  There has been the odd mission of mercy to help a friend in need, so to speak.  And, no, you filthy minded gutter-thinkers, that is not a thinly veiled reference to a “booty call”!

And why that makes me think of all the ways I’ve seen my creativity unlocked this year, I’m not sure, but, well, there you are.
Between a bit more writing, here and elsewhere, and the photography, well, I have felt a certain amount of artistic growth, though, writing that seems a bit pretentious to me somehow.  I doubt I’ll ever be a great artist of any kind, either writer or photographer, but, really, that doesn’t matter.  What matters is that doing those things, and watching them, feeling them, improve brings me joy.  Getting the words right, or nailing the lighting on a candid shot at a party, or even just learning something new about either craft makes me light up inside.  Sometimes, I’m almost afraid to admit that out loud because I’m terrified that calling attention to it will somehow kill the magic that makes it happen.

And, perhaps, that’s the greatest gift of all; realizing that seeing the joy in my life won’t destroy it.  God, the God of my understanding, has given me so many gifts this year.  Some came in the form of ideas, some in the shape of learning opportunities, some even came in the arms of a new mother.  But, one by one, like a string of pearls, the small joys came to me, threaded through the year and my life.  Often, they came in the guise of friends, these gifts from God.  People, some of whom had been there for years, some of whom had just shown up, who came, each with their own light, to show me at least the next steps my Creator seemed to want me to take.
Maybe I’m getting even more sentimental in my middle-age, but I find myself thinking more about all that than I have been willing to since college.

I try to make myself care about the measuring sticks the world uses, but it seems to get harder and harder as the years go by.  Exponentionally harder since surviving cancer.  But, you know, I expect to die broke, possibly quite a ways into debt, actually.  Possibly, without ever knowing romantic intimacy again.  And, oddly enough to me, every year I get more and more okay with that.  Mostly, I have what I need, if not what I want.  I’ll die surrounded by friends, if I don’t outlive them all, and what pittance I’ve had pass through my hands will have hopefully done some good in the world.
I’m not sure I’m entirely at peace.  I think I may be a bit too young for that, but, I’m certainly more peaceful than I have been in many years.
And, that, I think, is the greatest gift of all.

Merry Christmas, faithful readers.
And, yes, God bless us, every one.


All stressed up and

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Career Archive,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rat which is in the wee hours or 1:14 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

…No one to choke.

I’ve been living with a lot of stress lately.  It sneaks up on me when I least expect it.  I noticed it this past week when I almost snapped at church while driving one of the vans to pick up women from a local shelter to bring them to church.  Yeah, I know, that totally sounded like a self-serving, self-aggrandizing, self-promotion statement, but that’s what I was doing.  The additional stress of doing that for the first time, not knowing where I was going or what the procedure was combined with driving essentially a small bus, which is the largest vehicle I’ve driven in years and years, in the rain, had me about ready to snap.

But, here’s the thing, I didn’t notice that the stress was building up until it was right on top of me.
Looking back, I can see all the warning signs.  I’ve been eating too much and exercising not enough.  Nor have I been sleeping enough.  Witness the fact that I’m writing this at about 1:00AM after not working out because I fell asleep on the couch after eating a huge bowl of left-over mac-and-cheese-and-Spam.  Don’t judge me, you hypocrites who are all acting shocked because I ate Spam.  You have your comfort foods, too.  Mine just happens to be high-fat, processed meat with delicious hickory flavoring added right in for your convenience.  And, I’ve been eating donuts and candy at work, too.  But, the other signs are worse.  I’ve been clenching my jaw for weeks now, to keep myself from saying the things I don’t want to say out loud, at work and elsewhere.  I don’t want to be the asshole that turns loose with the biting sarcasm at the least provocation.  Well, I don’t want to be that guy again.  Oh, sure, it’s funny, but it doesn’t exactly make me the kind of person who other people want to get close to and be honest with.

Worst of all, I’ve noticed that I’m not getting everything done at work that I want to get done.  My users have come to expect a certain level of service that I’m proud to be able to deliver.  I try to make things run smoothly enough that no one waits for more than a few minutes for anything really important and most things aren’t really important.  But, that has its problems, too.  Now, I think that my users are used to not waiting, so some of them get impatient when they don’t have instant results.  Worse, I’ve made the impossible happen on short notice so many times now that everyone seems to expect that to be the norm.  Apparently, I haven’t made it clear enough that I’m making an exceptional effort to accomplish some of these things on short notice so everyone seems to think I can just produce at that level all the time.  Well, guess what?  I CAN’T! I know, I know, I should take time off, right? Because a little time off will make it better, right?  Well, not so much.  I am, in fact, taking several days next week to go watch my nephew graduate from Basic Training, but I’m so worried about what’s going to go wrong while I’m away that I can’t hardly sleep at all, unless I pass out from exhaustion on the couch, like I did tonight.  And, yes, I know this is getting more and more panicked and ranty sounding, but that’s in part because I feel more and more panicked and stark, raving mad the closer I get to trying to take a couple of days for myself like everyone else in the company does, because I’m so terrifed that nothing will work while I’m away or that the office will call all the damn time while I’m on the road that it will be worse than actually being there and just disappointing my nephew. I mean, if the users can’t wait five minutes for me, how are they going to wait five days?

I try to remind myself that I’m lucky to have a job.  And, I know I am, but sometimes the stress is enough to make my heart explode in my chest.  And, I know they did survive when I was getting treatment for cancer, but there are more of them now and it took weeks to sort out the mess that was the result of me being away so much that year.
There’s nothing much for me to do about it, either.  I try not to hate the person I see myself becoming.  I try not to backslide too badly on my exercise and generally better diet.  I try to pray.  I try to sleep.  I try to just relax.  But, I’ll be honest, gentle readers, I’m just not designed to run this hot anymore.  I used to live at this stress-level all the time, but that was a long time ago.  Besides, I was a real asshole when I lived like that.  And, I really, really don’t want to be that guy again.  But, I’m starting to wonder if that’s not the only way to deal with it, if that guy is the guy who’s designed to work under those conditions.  Maybe.  I hope not.
Or, somehow, conditions will have to change.  Soon.

Well, until then, I guess I’d better try to catch a few hours of sleep before getting up and doing it all again.
I hope your collective weeks are going better than that, my faithful readers.
And, with that, we return you to your regular internet drivel.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it."
   --William James


Too Many Readers

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Art,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rat which is in the wee hours or 12:54 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Too many people read my blog.

Too many people I know, too many people I care about, too many people who care about me.  In the early days of this blog, eight years ago, all I wanted was readers.  Now, all I worry about is who’s reading.  Since I started this blog, we’ve added “Dooced” to our vocabulary.  We live in a world where potential dates Google each other to see what’s on their Facebook or MySpace pages.  And, now, I’m much more careful about what I write.  I’m afraid to rant about the English gits, er, fine gentlemen from the UK, that I work with, in case they happen to be reading.  I don’t say everything that I might otherwise about women I’ve dated, or even my ex-wife.
So, poor me, right?  So many people read my blog that I’m worried about how I’ll come across, who I might offend.  I fret over little things like not getting to far away from who I am, or who I think people perceive me to be, lest I overly disturb their sense of how I fit with them and the world.  Yeah, what a terrible burden I bear.  Ha.

So, I’ve talked about starting another blog, a creative blog, that’s not so closely associated with my professional life, with me.  Something where I can experiment on the screen and go mental and emotional and creative places that I feel too stifled to go here.  The Super Secret Creative Project of Doom.  It keeps me awake at nights, like tonight, and gnaws at me like the Midgard Serpent gnaws at the roots of the Tree of Life.  And, even as I write things like that, I feel the teenage angst that’s been sent off to French boarding school and grown up into upper middle-class ennui, like I should be wearing a black beret and smoking clove cigarettes.
So, where’s the drug that’s supposed to help me?  The clove cigarettes don’t take the edge off any more and the single-malt Scotch doesn’t help me sleep.  So, what’s a guy to do at 1:00 A.M. when my mind is racing, but the track is a tight circle that’s getting ever smaller and muddier?

What’s there to do but blog?

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"In life, as in football, you don't go far unless you know where the goalposts are."
   --Arnold Glasgow


I hate Storage Room B

Filed under: Career Archive,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:26 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I know everyone’s communication strategies differ based on personal experience, but when someone walks into my office and says “Two hole punch”, do they really think that’s enough information?

Luckily, I’m cool under pressure because several of my potential responses to that are not safe for work, but, instead of using those, I calmly asked “Um, yes, what about a two hole punch?”
“Do you have one?”
“Ah, no.”
Then, without further ado, she was gone in flash of blond and a puff of lilac.

I hate having my office open up into the copier/fax room.


I’m official now

Filed under: Career Archive,Geek Work,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:24 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

I got my business cards yesterday.

Okay, so I’ve gotten the Human Resources speech and filled out forms. I actually collected my first paycheck. But, now, I am officially a Loomis Fargo and Company employee.



I Gotz Mad Skillz

Filed under: Certification,Geek Work,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:24 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a New Moon

But, are they the right skills?

Sorry for the “l33t” speak in the title, but it illustrates a point. According to this article on Australia IT, computer people with project management skills are in high-demand. And, as we all remember from our basic Economics courses, high-demand is usually created by a small supply. So, being a very, very skilled geek isn’t quite enough to get by in today’s market-place. Project management is where it’s at, boyz and grrls. At least, in Australia it is. Based on what I’ve seen in the industry, it’s true in the States, too.
Personally, I’ve never really liked doing project management. It’s usually fairly tedious and the worst end of IT management, but, it does pay the bills. Not for me, at the moment, but it has in the past. In any case, it looks like I’ll be chasing after a project certification soon. Like I already mentioned, it pays the bills!

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Why so quiet?

Filed under: Geek Work — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning or 9:36 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

And so personal?

Well, it’s actually safer being personal right now than it is talking about my work. See, I’m still a contractor and I’m hoping to go permanent, which means that I need to be a little carefully when it comes to what I publish on the web. One of the other contractors from Momentum just accepted a permanent position yesterday, so I hope the offer will be coming soon, but, until then I’m playing it safe. I’ve seen plenty of stories about people who have lost their jobs because of things they wrote in their blogs. So, since I need the work pretty bad right now, I’m being fairly circumspect.
And, to be honest, there really aren’t that many problems at my new gig. At least, not compared to the last place. That DamnedBoatPlace really didn’t know up from down. They had budget to spend on IT, but managers that didn’t seem to know how or where to spend it. Come to think of it, they didn’t seem to know how to use their human resources, either. And don’t let me get started on the whole “IT fundamentals” issues that they just didn’t get. So, so sad.
In any case, once I change over to a full-time employee, I’ll start complaining about my fellow IT workers here at Loomis Fargo. But, until then, you’ll just have to wait.


On the Road Again…

Filed under: Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:03 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

You know, I didn’t think I could really enjoy going into work again. After a year of being at home, I thought I’d hate going into an office and putting in a full day’s work. But, I really sort of enjoy it.

My wife told me that I seemed happier when I got home from work these days than I ever did at ThatDamnBoatPlace. And, I guess it’s true. It’s a good work envrionment. I enjoy my supervisors, both directly above me and one step removed. I get along well with my coworkers. There’s not much pressure yet. I’m doing my regular maintenance-type stuff and they seem to think it’s great. And, I’m not a manager, which is more of a relief than I realized it could be.
I don’t think I ever really noticed how much I hated having to worry about what my employees were doing and if they were performing well enough. Not to mention all the paperwork and hassle that goes with being an IT supervisor type of person. It’s not bad when I have a good team, but if they’re too inexperienced or have too many personal problems, it gets to be a real hassle. For instance, I had an employee tell me all about their horrible childhood and want to talk to me about it all the time. Basically, she wanted to use me as a therapist because her therapist couldn’t help her. Now, I’m pretty good at helpng people with their problems and all, but c’mon, I’m supposed to be maintaining servers, not employees!

Anyway, I don’t have that here. Things are rolling along, and I should be too. More tomorrow or the next day. But, today, I’m off to work!

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