Diary of a Network Geek

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

1/8/2021

Avoiding A FIght

Filed under: About The Author,Advice from your Uncle Jim,Deep Thoughts — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:15 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

To be clear, I haven’t been in a fight since high school.

And, I haven’t even been close, really, since college.
That being said, I have been threatened more than once in the past thirty years since leaving the safe, quiet suburbs of Chicago. Though, that has happened with increasingly less frequency, thankfully. You see, I think of myself as a peaceful person, in spite of once threatening to stick a fork in someone’s eye. Hey, he started the threatening and posturing! I just turned out to be better at it than he was. And, the fork never left my side of the table. The believable threat was enough to stop him.
The thing is, when adults fight, I can tell you from unfortunate experience, everyone involved gets hurt. Yes, even the “winner” of that physical confrontation ends up hurting. Trust me. Knuckles in the teeth hurt the knuckles as much as the teeth. So, I go a long way to avoid getting into that sort of conflict. I apologize when it’s not strictly necessary. I stay away from bars, just on general principle. These days, I’m a pretty soft-looking middle-aged guy that probably reminds most people of their uncle who gets quietly drunk and weepy on Thanksgiving or Christmas. (I’m not, by the way. I don’t really drink anymore and rarely get weepy.) So, I never seem a threat. Not at all the sort that people seek out to start trouble with at all. And, that’s just the way I like it. Trust me, no one wants to hang out with the guy willing to literally stick a fork in someone to prove a point. Not even the guy with the fork.

I bring all this up because, well, we’ve been away from regular human contact for a bit and while we were, I feel like tempers have gotten shorter. I know mine did for awhile this past year. And, too, our world has gotten scarier and more uncertain thanks to a pandemic and politicians that leave much to be desired. I’m not even thrilled with the people I voted for, much less the ones I didn’t. I imagine that others feel the same way. All that lack of practice on our social skills and the heightened tension may make for some challenging times ahead as we get used to being with people again. I hope we won’t need this, but why not start your year off on the right foot and look at Lifehacker’s suggestions for how to talk your way out of a bar fight. Trust me on this one, fellahs. The pretty girls would rather go home with the guy who avoids the trouble than the guy who starts OR ends it. Just ask my wife!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"There is no substitute for hard work."
   --Thomas Edison

12/12/2020

I Just Keep Getting Older

Filed under: About The Author — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is mid-morning or 10:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Which is better than the alternative!

Considering that I wasn’t entirely sure I’d live past forty, it’s a pleasant surprise to find that I’ve survived to fifty-two. It’s been a hell of a year. The whole world has suffered from a plague this year, but I’ve had my own troubles beyond that. I lost my father in July, just a week after his 91st birthday. Then, three months later, to add a bit of insult to injury, I passed a 7mm kidney stone. Nineteen years ago, I passed a 9mm stone, so I suppose I should be grateful that this one was smaller, but it did hurt quite a bit more passing than I remember the first one hurting. At least, it was a distraction from missing Dad. I still go to call him sometimes, only to suddenly remember that he won’t be there to pick up the phone. So, instead, more often than not, I talk to Mom, who is still here.
Oddly enough, we’ve fared pretty well during the pandemic, at least financially. Not going out to spend money on movies and food and gas made a surprising improvement to our bottom line this year. Though, I have to admit that we took on a little bit more debt to get the twenty-six-year-old furnace and blower replaced. Not only had it gotten dangerous, but that blower runs the air conditioning as well, so replacing it should help our overall power bill.
Of course, being married to Sharon does make my time here easier and a lot more pleasant. That sounds a little tepid and middle-aged, but, honestly, I think we’re both pretty happy about having this quiet, pleasant life together. We’ve both had more than our share of adventure and chaos to think we’re missing out on much at this point. In fact, if anything, all that craziness in our past makes the quiet in our future all the more appealing. Sharon’s business, The Organizing Decorator, is poised to do quite a bit better this coming year, and I’m incredibly proud of her and her work. I’ve known people who constantly complain about never having been given a chance, but Sharon not only took advantage of the quiet year to study up on her industry and better business practices, but she even managed to find a good-sized project to end this year with and that will possibly bring her more work in the coming year. She’s a miracle and I’m truly blessed to be married to her.
It is a bit strange to find myself being so fiscally responsible these days. Again, I suppose age and commitment have their unexpected upsides. I want to make sure that she’s taken care of, at least, even if we don’t expect to leave much after we’re gone.
Otherwise, I wish I’d spent less time complaining this year and more time working for change in all aspects of my life. I still have dreams of writing more and taking more photographs. I’m sure if I really am committed to that this year, I’ll find a way to make the time. Maybe that’s one secret of making it to middle age; I don’t buy as many excuses, not even my own. So, watch this space! Hold me to account, dear readers, if anyone out there is still reading this blog.
I do still harbor dreams of publishing fiction. In fact, I’ve been writing daily since May, outside of the brief gap while I was in Chicago, burying Dad and helping Mom get some of the most pressing things taken care of before heading back down to my regular habitat. I’m still a long way from being published, but there are actually a lot of great authors who didn’t publish until they were over fifty, including Raymond Chandler, Frank McCourt, Bram Stoker, Richard Adams, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and fantasy author Dave Duncan. So, there’s still hope, if I get to work this year!

In the past, I’ve listed the same group of celebrities who share my birthday. But, this year, I’ll only mention three, because they’re the only ones I currently care about. I’m shocked to realize that I’m a mere two years older than Jennifer Connelly, who was born on this day. She’s lovely and I’d watch her read the phone book. The other celebrity who shares my birthday is Frank “Chairman of the Board” Sinatra. And, just like me, he did it his way.
It’s the birthday of the jack-of-all-trades whom Samuel Taylor Coleridge called “the first literary character of Europe, and the most original-minded Man.” That’s the physician, inventor, poet, philosopher, and scientist Erasmus Darwin, (books by this author) born in Elston, England (1731).

His famous grandson, Charles Darwin, wrote about his grandfather: “As a physician, he was eminent in the noble art of alleviating human suffering. He was in advance of his time in urging sanitary arrangements and in inculcating temperance. He was opposed to any restraint of the insane, excepting as far as was absolutely necessary. …With his prophetic spirit, he anticipated many new and now admitted scientific truths, as well as some mechanical inventions. […] He strongly insisted on humanity to the lower animals. He earnestly admired philanthropy and abhorred slavery. But he was unorthodox; and as soon as the grave closed over him he was grossly and often calumniated.”

Darwin was such a fine physician that he was invited to be the personal physician to King George III (an offer he refused), although he treated the poor for free; he wrote the best-seller Zoonomia, or, The Laws of Organic Life (1794–1796), which contained some early speculation about evolution; he discovered that sugar and starches are byproducts of what he called “plant digestion”; he designed a steam-powered car, a horizontal windmill, and a copy machine; and he wrote poems.

Also, I think it’s interesting to note that on this day in 1896 Marconi first demoed radio and, again on this day, in 1901 made his first Trans-Atlantic transmission. (Though, of course, all right-thinking people know that Tesla was really responsible for those first advances in radio.) And, today is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, celebrating her divine inspiration which led to the building of the Basilica of St. Mary in Mexico City.

So, that’s the state of me, as it were, this year. Some things I’m happier about than others, but, all in all, it’s been a pretty good year. I’ve just about given up trying to figure out what the coming year will bring, though I do try to make plans about being more creative and productive, as I do every year. In the end, though, what I choose to do or not do doesn’t matter, so long as Sharon and I do it together. I’m happy that she’s really become the only thing that matters in my life. God knows, I could have worse

All in all, life is going along okay and I’m sure it’ll be a good coming year.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

12/4/2020

40 Push-Up Plan

Filed under: About The Author,Life Goals,Personal Care — 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 need to get back into some kind of better shape.

I mean, I’m always in some kind of shape, but I really need to get into better shape than I’ve been. I’m weeks away from turning fifty-two and my cholesterol is up a bit, but my weight is coming down. Both, I think, due to the keto diet. I stopped rowing a couple of months ago because of my kidney stone and I need to get that started up again. But, I really need to work on my push-ups. Apparently, a recent study cited in Men’s Health, indicates that being able to do 40 push-ups reduces possible heart disease by 96%. Now, that seems pretty amazing to me, but considering that I used to do multiple sets of push-ups totally more than that on a regular basis, it seemed worth looking into. The details are, basically, that the relative health level required to do forty push-ups in a row without stopping has a 96 percent lower risk of heart disease than those who struggle to do fewer than 10. The study was done by Harvard medical researchers and was a bit surprising. But, it’s also kind of inspirational to me. Forty push-ups are definitely doable. Yes, it would take some time for me to get back to that on a daily basis, but it can be done.
In fact, the graphic below shows a roughly month-long plan that can, in theory, get me to forty push-ups in one set.

As I crest the legendary hill of middle age, I’m pretty committed to improving my health. My father was ninety-one when he passed. My one great-grandfather was ninety-nine. My family has a pretty good genetic likelihood of living to be quite rather old indeed and I’d like to enjoy that long life with the fewest health problems possible. That means eating better, which my wife and I are already doing, and more exercise on a more regular basis. (And, yes, there’s also the implication that I should get smarter about money, too, so we can afford to live that long!)
This is one step toward that and I’m sharing it with you, dear readers, to encourage you to consider your own health, in all areas, and work to improve it!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

11/30/2020

NaNoWriMo is No More

Filed under: About The Author,Life Goals,On Creativity,Stimulus and Production — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Pig which is late at night or 11:59 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

At least for this year.

Well, it’s over. Another season of writing and aspiration, or in my case writing and recrimination, is over for the year. On the plus side for me, while I didn’t attempt NaNoWriMo this year, I do have a couple of story ideas and a little bit more of the fantasy world in which they take place worked out in my mind. I still need to work on a naming language, or three, for that world, but if I can do that, and work out a couple of other things, I should be in good shape for next year. The regular writing exercise of “Morning Pages”, which I’ve done since May of this year, seems to be helping, too. I certainly credit that work with me coming up with the two story ideas that I do have floating around in my head, waiting for me to fill in some place names and people names and place them all on a map. Honestly, that’s a fair sight more than I’ve had in a long time, so I’m not even frustrated that I’ve had another year of working so hard at my day job that I didn’t even feel like I could make the attempt this year.

Either way, I hope anyone who did try to write a novel this year was wildly successful!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words! where I normally discuss my efforts at writing and creativity that don’t involve corporate IT work.

11/27/2020

Give Back On Black Friday

Filed under: About The Author,Deep Thoughts,Marginalia and Notes from the Editor — 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 Waxing Gibbous

Instead of engaging in conspicuous spending on the biggest sale day of the year, why not give back?

I’m not a huge fan of consumerism, but at the same time, I’m trapped in a culture that’s filled with it. And, while I try to avoid indulging in the Black Friday sales in the middle of an extended holiday allegedly about giving thanks for what we already have, I will admit that I have done it. To atone for my past sins, this year, instead of pointing out all the best sales, I’d like to share a different idea. Instead of spending money on stuff we mostly don’t need, why not give some money to a good cause? Charitable donations are down and have been for some time. I know I haven’t been able to afford to give as much as I’d like the past several years. On the other hand, if you do have the ability and inclination, I’d like to suggest a couple of charities that I believe in and have given to in the past.

Fight for the Future is an advocacy group that believes in keeping the internet accessible for everyone, not just the rich. They fought the FCC hard, especially the past four years, to try and keep Net Neutrality alive.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has been fighting to keep the internet “free, fair and open” even longer. I donated money to these folks in person when I was at DEFCON 20 a few years back. They do good work and are also at the forefront of internet freedom.
Another internet charity that touches many of our lives is the Wikimedia Foundation. They’re the people behind Wikipedia, which we all reference at the encyclopedia of choice on the internet. It’s not perfect, but I definitely find them to be a valuable resource and worthy of support.
So, too, is the Internet Archive, which has helped me track down more information than the live internet more than once. Also, they have a fantastic public archive of many forms of media, including video and audio, that are well worth supporting in my opinion.

On a less digital front, Feeding America funds food banks all across America, helping to feed people in need. Supporting food banks, local and national, is something near and dear to my heart, as I’ve known several people, including some in my own family, that have relied on them to put meals on the table.
Also, the Meals On Wheels/Animeals programs are similar and equally worthy causes. While many of us have heard of Meals On Wheels, not as many are familiar with their Animeals program that helps those in need feed their animals as well as themselves. The donation page has both an opportunity for direct donations and Amazon wishlists for people who want to donate needed items directly and safely.
Of course, as a strong believer in pet adoption, not sale, I always think that supporting the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a worthy cause to support financially as well. Those animals can’t speak for themselves and the ASPCA speaks for them. All my dogs have been adopted. Those goofy mutts don’t know that they were thrown away by someone else. All they know is that we give them the best life we can and return that love tenfold. Every system administrator should have a rescue dog to come home to because, no matter how unappreciative our users may be of our efforts, those dogs are always happy to see us come home!

And, for something a little more controversial, even though I spent most of my life as a conservative voter, the American Civil Liberties Union has been fighting for our collective civil rights for more than 100 years. Yes, sometimes they fight for things I don’t believe in specifically, but they fight for the principle that the Bill of Rights is for all citizens of the United States of America and the freedom it promises us matters. The ACLU is definitely farther to the Left of the political spectrum than I am, but they still fight for my right to be free.
Finally, and perhaps the most controversially, Planned Parenthood is worth giving to as well. I’m against abortion, but I’m in favor of everyone making that choice for themselves. What someone else does with their body is not my business and I don’t think we should regulate morality at that level. I’m sure it goes against the teachings of every church I’ve been a member of, but I believe that true freedom is the right for other people to make choices that I would not. And, Planned Parenthood is an organization that believes in supplying women with the information and care they need to make informed, healthy choices about their lives and reproductive choices.

I’m sure not all my readers will agree with these charitable suggestions. That’s okay. These are causes that I believe in and support, one way or another, though they are not ALL the charities I support. Even if you don’t choose any of these causes, I encourage you to support a cause you do believe in rather than spend money on consumer trash none of us need. Because what we DO need, more than ever, is compassion and a little help for our fellow travelers in this life.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

9/11/2020

The Poison of the Side Hustle

Filed under: About The Author,Deep Thoughts,Photography — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

There’s something broken in our culture when we try to make a virtue out of a lack of financial resources. We glamorize it by calling it “hustle”. We talk about everyone needing a “side hustle” that they might one day grow into a full business. In reality, though, that almost never happens. That so-called side hustle is just a second job. Maybe, if we’re lucky, it’s a second job that we can do at night or on the weekends on our own schedule. But, more often than not, it involves buying into someone else’s program, or training or pyramid scheme, to shill cheaply made drop-shipped junk we don’t want to people who don’t need it either. There are classes on selling, on drop-shipping, on building a website to attract the marks, and every other related activity. But, what’s worse is the guilt on social media. The “influencers” who try to tell you that if you don’t have a side hustle, you’re a loser. The Instagram gurus who make a lack of sleep sound like a virtue and workaholism sound like something to be admired. “Rise and grind”, they call it. Get up early, while your competition is still sleeping, and develop that product and make that sale. They tell you to take your hobby and make money from it. “Knit your way to second income!” “How to pay your second mortgage selling stock photography!” But, it’s all a hustle, all a scam. It’s a scam we do to ourselves. I’m guilty of it. I’ve got FindMyPhotographer.com, but I’ve never been able to build it to what I’d like. There’s too much competition already. And, who’s hiring photographers in the middle of a pandemic right now anyway?

I’m guilty, too, of buying into the idea that I need to make money from my hobbies. I used to like to write and take pictures. Now, all I think about is how can I self-publish a novel I haven’t written. Or, what kind of processing do I need to do to my digital photography to get it accepted to one of the microstock agencies. Maybe, that’s why I haven’t written fiction in years. I’m always feeling the pressure of market forces. I did pick up my camera recently, but when I pulled photos off it, the last time I’d taken any pictures was when the dogs had gotten their Christmas-themed rawhide bones. In other words, it’s been almost ten months since I used my camera. Ten months since I engaged with a hobby I loved.

But, what if we didn’t feel like we needed that other income? I’m not advocating any radical wage changes or universal basic income or anything like that. The answer, for most of us targeted by the marketing machine of the side-hustle social media gurus, is simpler than that. What if we just wanted less? What if I didn’t need the designer labels? Or the big screen TV and cable with all the channels and a new car every five years? What if I didn’t need to buy things that I think will make me happy? Because, in my own experience, any joy I get from buying things is usually very short-lived. And, man, I’d pay anything to talk to my Dad again. No side hustle can buy me that time back. So, why do we do it?
Maybe it would be better to just have a hobby. I don’t need much to write. I do it on-line or on my computer, but, really, all I need is a cheap pen or pencil and a notebook, or even some loose paper. When I first started out writing, and we used typewriters to do all this, stories of writers using cheap paper to do their first draft are legendary. And, as for needing a better camera or more lenses or more flashes, well, I know that’s not true. As I said in a photography class once, much to the excitement of the teacher, “The artist paints the painting, not the brush.” If I’m really a photographer, I can make good images, interesting images, with a cheap, disposable camera. Sometimes, with art, the challenge of producing art with limited resources is what produces the best art. The restrictions somehow enhance creativity, instead of squelch it.

So, hey, I’m not going to try to make money off my photographs. I’ve got some ideas, but, instead of trying to make something I can sell, I’m just going to make some photographs that I enjoy. I’m going to play and experiment, not because it will generate income, but because it’s fun. It’s okay to just have fun. That’s the point of hobbies, I think; to have fun and relax, so that I can be more than a job, or a paycheck or the sum of my investments.

How about you? How about your plans for the weekend? Do you have a hobby that you’ve been neglecting? Or maybe something you’d like to start? Now is the time. Do it now, before you don’t have any time left. And, then, spend some time with friends and family talking about that, instead of how stressful work is or how bad our finances are. We know. But do something you enjoy and then share it with people you love. Let that be your side hustle.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

8/28/2020

A Few Thoughts on Grief and Stress

Filed under: About The Author,Personal Care — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

This year has been pretty rough for everyone.

I don’t know who I’m writing this for, but I’m sure there’s someone out there that’s got the same pain going on as I do.
We started the year with whatever personal and financial challenges we have every year. There are always more bills than there is money to pay them. We all would like to get paid more and have more leisure time to enjoy our families. That’s a constant struggle under the best of circumstances. Then, we had a pandemic. COVID-19 swept the world, bringing with it fear, stress and, ultimately, grief. Here in the USA, we didn’t get a lot of leadership on how to handle the raging infection rates, so things got worse. Then, we had conflicting information thrown at us until no one knew what to do or not do to best stay safe. That’s still the case. On top of that, many of us lost jobs or had businesses that were in financial difficulty. In some cases, entire industries had economic problems, like the oil and gas industry. That alone would be enough to cause pretty severe emotional distress.

Then, a month ago, my father died. Now, I know not everyone has a great relationship with their parents, but my Dad and I had a great relationship. I talked to him every week on the phone for twenty-two years. Basically, every week since I moved to Texas in June of 1998, I talked to my parents on the phone. I would regularly call Dad for advice, simply because I could. I mean, I mostly knew what he was going to tell me, but, sometimes it was nice to hear him say it. Since he died, I haven’t slept well. Not that I was sleeping great to begin with, but it was definitely worse after he passed. I have strange body aches. Yes, those might be the result of being almost fifty-two and never considering the punishment my body was taking when I did stupid things, like drop out of second-story windows and other assorted bad ideas. But, my wife tells me that those are almost certainly symptoms of grief. She’s lost several people close to her, so she’s in a position to know. I feel strange. It’s almost a kind of mild body dysmorphia or depersonalization, which I tend to read as having eaten something bad or not hydrated well enough during the day. I just don’t feel like my physical body is quite right sometimes. Again, she assures me that it’s the physical symptoms of grief.
And, there’s the anger. I have such a limited capacity for other people being slow in any way right now. If I find myself at a loss for a particular word, I want to just push past it and move on with the conversation, but if anyone else delays or gets “stuck” on something, I get very quickly frustrated. I’m aware of it, so I think I’m keeping it mostly in check, but I am so very aware that it’s there, just beneath the surface.

I’ve read books on grief, but, as I told my Dad in our last conversation, we’re at the point of seeing just how applicable all that theoretical knowledge really is. Because let me tell you, there’s a huge difference between having read about death and grief and actually experiencing it. It does help, though, to know that I am, in fact, going through the grief process and that it is a lot more unclear and a lot less simple than any book explains it. It’s not a straight line through the five stages, that’s for sure. But, I’m learning to have some compassion for myself, which is its own challenge, and I’m learning to apply some of the practices I say I believe in. The struggle to apply the theory is there, but at least I’m aware and able to see what’s happening in my own interior life. One step at a time, one day at a time. That’s what I tell myself and how I try to take it. The next time I know someone who loses a loved one, I think I’ll be better equipped to help them based on what I’m learning here, about both the world and myself.

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words. I don’t normally post this kind of thing on my professional site, but it just seemed to be relevant right now.  No matter how hard I try, I can’t separate the personal from the professional these days.

8/21/2020

Eulogy Delivered on August 2nd

Filed under: About The Author,Deep Thoughts — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

This is the eulogy I wrote for my father and delivered at his memorial service on August 2, 2020.

Let me start by saying that every one of us will have a different view of Dad, as unique as our relationships all were with him. I experienced my father differently than my siblings did and differently than his grandchildren did. And, of course, no one knew Dad the same way that Mom did. We all had a relationship with him that was as different as we all are. And, I know he’d hate to be remembered as some kind of saint with no flaws or foibles, so we shouldn’t remember just the best things, but the whole humanness of who he was. We may all see that a little differently, but, there are some things that shine through all of those different relationships.

For one thing, as we wrote in his obituary, Dad loved a good story about himself or some other family member. And, he had a lot of them. Most of his stories were meant to surprise you a little and, hopefully, make you laugh. One of his favorites, which I think must have been one of his earliest memories, involved his own Grandpa Hoffman. Grandpa Hoffman was a tinsmith who worked his way West with the railroad and then hoboed home to Chicago. Along the way, as Dad tells it, he met a couple of fellas that would become notorious in Chicago politics in the early 1900s; Michael “Hinky Dink” Kenna and “Bathhouse” John Coughlin. They were two of the most corrupt Chicago aldermen who ever held office according to Dad. One day, when Dad was about five or six, he was out with his Grandpa who took him to meet his old friend Uncle John at his business “Uncle John’s Bathhouse, Pool Hall and House of Leisure”. Yes, that’s right, Grandpa Hoffman took his grandson to a house of gambling and prostitution. Dad loved to tell people how he sat at the bar while his grandfather played cards with his old friend and how the “nice ladies” doted on him and brought him a glass of milk while he waited. You can imagine how upset his mother was at her father-in-law for bringing her little angel to such a place. Dad would tell that story, making sure to include his very proper and upright mother’s reaction when she found out, with a twinkle in his eye and punctuated with his deep, booming laugh that could fill a whole house.

Dad liked to stir things up and make a little mischief, but that’s not to say that Dad was all laughs and funny stories. He had strong opinions about, well, practically everything, and he wasn’t shy about sharing them. In fact, one of the most frustrating things about Dad was the by the time he’d made up his mind about something, his logic was so tight that it was pretty much unassailable. When he’d made up his mind, he was all but impossible to convince otherwise. He could be the living embodiment of stubborn, a trait I’m afraid he may have passed on to at least one of his children. The worst thing he could possibly say about someone was that they weren’t very quick. As someone who worked hard to be as smart as he could, he had little patience for anyone who was mentally lazy or wasn’t working their hardest. I know he was proud of how smart all his children and grandchildren are no matter what they do or their particular area of specialty. Right up to the very end, Dad’s mind was razor-sharp and he was absolutely up to date on the latest news. In fact, if not for the COVID-19 lock down, Dad would have been renewing his driver’s license a couple of weeks ago and, until relatively recently, split the driving duties with Mom. Two years ago, going to Bill and Kara’s wedding, it took no small amount of convincing to get him to let me drive and navigate using my iPhone. More than once he said, “Well, I wouldn’t have gone THIS way, but, oh, I guess it is getting us there a little faster than my way.” He was so convinced that he knew Chicago better than any technology could, but, it turned out, except for a couple of turns, Google Maps took us the same way he would have.

Dad loved the outdoors, too. He loved going with the Boy Scout troop to Camp Makajawan for the week in Wisconsin. But, he enjoyed having a few more of the creature comforts than most of the other leaders, camping with a full footlocker of gear and gadgets. Another leader once jokingly told him that he camped like a Prussian officer on campaign, which I think appealed to Dad’s sense of history and style. He used to say that he wanted his ashes scattered in Sioux Village at Camp Makajawan so that he might become a ghost story told at one of the big campfires that happened at the start and end of camp. But, we’re pretty sure he was just joking and was amused at the idea of finally becoming a tall tale, besides none of us want to try and sneak into Makajawan with Dad’s ashes and scatter him in the bushes. Though, I’m sure Dad is looking down on us and laughing at the dilemma his little joke made for us.

Dad also had a life-long love of music. He was a classically trained singer and had a gorgeous voice that was in demand even well after he felt it was past its prime. His favorite time of year was Christmas, not just because he could put out his extensive collection of strange Santa Claus figures, but for the Christmas music. He absolutely loved performing Christmas music and singing the old, classic hymns. One of my favorite childhood memories is of Dad singing O Come, O Come, Emmanuel unaccompanied, from the back of the sanctuary in Glenview United Methodist Church. He was often asked to sing solos at church and, ironically, at funerals. Dad loved performing, especially with a good group of fellow musicians with a piece of music that challenged him. In fact, Dad almost was a professional singer when he got out of the Army. He said that the only reason he didn’t take that opportunity was because he didn’t like the opera the touring company had chosen.

Instead, Dad channeled his showmanship into sales. One of Dad’s favorite sayings was “Everything is sales. If nothing else, you’re always selling yourself and your ideas.” And, I think I learned more from Dad about being a good salesman and a good manager than any class I took in business school. To this day, I find myself asking what would Dad do when faced with a situation at work that I’m not sure how to handle. And usually, some bit of advice that Dad gave over the years comes to mind and turns out to be just the right thing to say or do.

Dad may not have always said it out loud, but he worried about his family. Just a few years ago, Dad admitted out loud that he was a natural-born worrier. I think he tried to hide that from his kids so that we didn’t pick up that trait from him. Dad was also fond of giving us all advice, though the kind of advice changed over the years. One of the first things he told me when I was looking to him for advice about some choice I had to make was, “Well, whatever choice you make, be sure it’s a choice you can live with because you’re the only one who can know what that is.” Looking back, it’s great advice that I remember forty years or more later, but, as a twelve-year-old, I was looking for something a little easier to deal with. Some of his other advice that sticks with me didn’t quite make sense at the time. One time, when I was wrestling with the idea that something I’d done or said had made someone not like me, he said, “If you make it through life without SOMEONE not liking you or being irritated by you, you’ve done it wrong.” What he meant was, that if no one finds that they have some conflict with you, then you never had anything you believed in very strongly or took a stand and held firm, because that will always bring a person into conflict with someone, sooner or later. It was his way of saying, hold true to your convictions, no matter how many people disagree with you.

And, that was something Dad said he and Mom had always hoped to do; raise four, strong, unique individuals, who made their own way in the world. I know that he was more than satisfied that he’d done that. He may have been a little shy about telling his children directly, sometimes, but he was immensely proud of all of us. I don’t think he wanted anyone to get a swelled head so he was careful not to brag in front of us, but more than once I caught him telling someone how great one or all of his kids were, each in their own very different ways. I think the fact that we were all so different from each other, while still having so much in common, was one of the things that made him so proud.

Most of the time, talking about feelings too long made Dad a little uncomfortable. But, the last time I talked to him when I expressed some regret that I wasn’t an easier child to raise or that I hadn’t visited as regularly as I’d like, he said, “None of you kids have anything to worry about.” From the context, I’m sure he meant all of us; children and grandchildren alike. It was his way of telling me that we were all doing our best and he knew that and was proud of us all. And, as uncomfortable as it may have made him, the last words we exchanged were a heartfelt, “I love you”, which is how I’ll always remember Dad. A strong, ferociously smart man, who loved big and with everything he had.

I’m sure everyone remembers him in their own way and we all have stories about Dad or that he told us, or maybe even a joke that’s a little too off-color for church, even if it’s Dad’s memorial service. I know that he’d love it if we can share those with each other as we remember them, especially the jokes.

But, I also know Dad would have wanted us to keep things moving along. Most of his life was spent living to a calendar and a schedule. This is the man who was well known for looking at his watch and saying things like, “Oh! Look at the time! I must be hungry for lunch!” So, let’s not disappoint him and keep moving things along. He wouldn’t have wanted us to dawdle or say a long goodbye.

So, we’ll see you on the other side, Dad. Keep everyone busy until we get there.

 

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

8/14/2020

William F. Hoffman, Jr, 1929 – 2020

Filed under: About The Author,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

William F, Hoffman, Jr., “Bill”, beloved husband, father and grandfather, 91, died Tuesday, July 28, 2020 in Huntley, Illinois. He is survived by his wife of 67 years, Dorothy, his children; Bill and Karen Hoffman, Cheryl Price, Karin and Jerry Edwards and Jim and Sharon Hoffman, his grandchildren; Bill and Kara Hoffman, Rachel and Jacob Vaughn, Michael Hoffman, and John and LeeAnn Price, and a great-grandchild, John Price.

Bill was born at home in 1929 in Morgan Park, Illinois, on the South Side of Chicago. Growing up on the South Side, he was educated at the Harvard School for Boys, a college preparatory school, and helped run the family hardware store.

He attended the Chicago Conservatory of Music and went on to serve in the Army during the Korean War. He met his wife, Dorothy, when both were on staff at the Chicago Baptist Association Summer Camp. Devoted to his faith, he served on the admissions board of Garret-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois. He worked for the American Medical Association in the Chaplaincy program, where he helped facilitate Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ work on the psychological process of grief. He also served as a representative to a Vatican conference on spirituality and medicine.

Bill was active in the Boy Scouts of America for many years at troop and council levels and served on staff at the Woodbadge Adult Leadership Program. He was as an Eagle Award adviser, helping boys (including his two sons and his three grandsons) achieve their highest rank in scouting, His love of scouting and the outdoors was also expressed in his interest in Native American history and culture. He was proud to be one of the initial donors to the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. He was a member of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. A Freemason for over 50 years, he became Worshipful Master of Glenview United Lodge #1058 in 1994.

Bill never met a stranger, a trait that served him well in a long career in sales and marketing. He loved to hear and tell stories, especially family stories, and loved to talk about his children and grandchildren.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

7/10/2020

COVID-19 and Mental Health

Filed under: About The Author,Deep Thoughts,Personal Care — 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

Make no mistake, mental health has always been an important issue for me.

But, with the pandemic lockdown, as loose and unrestrictive as it has really been, I feel all kinds of anxiety and depression that I normally only have to deal with when I’m starting a new job or when I’ve been single during the holidays. I can get the blues like everyone else. Usually, it’s just short-lived and very transient, but that’s only because the circumstances that cause the issue are short-lived and transient, too. With COVID-19, no one knows how long things are going to be like this. It could literally be several years that we’re dealing with some of these issues, if not all of them. While I have faith that we’ll either come up with a vaccine or a treatment that greatly reduces symptoms and consequences, that may be months if not years away. We don’t know what kind of long-term effects contracting COVID-19 will have on people. And, to top it all off, there’s been another swine flu found in China that has the potential to sweep the world the same way this one has. I, for one, hope they can contain it until we at least have the chance to elect some different government officials. Maybe this time we’ll get some people in office who understand science and public health. (If you haven’t registered to vote yet, now is a great time. Just hit this link to Vote.gov and they’ll give you instructions. The country you save may be your own!) But, until then, we’re stuck. We don’t know how long this will go on. And, I have to admit, it’s been wearing on my mental health. I can only imagine what it’s been like for someone who’s already got clinical depression.

To be fair, I definitely feel better this morning than I have in a couple of days. And, you may have noticed that this will be the third week running that I’ve shared links about mental health and getting help. I’m doing that because I think it’s that important.
For me, I’ve been praying and doing formal, sitting meditation for years and that’s helping. My wife and I took beginning meditation classes at the Houston Zen Center a number of years ago, and I’ve sat for at least 20 minutes at least 5 days a week since then. It’s been helpful in ways that I have a hard time explaining to people. But, if you’ve ever been curious about what meditation practice is the Houston Zen center is a great resource. And, you can join in even if you’re not in Houston, since everything is pretty much remote only right now, via the Houston Zen Center Cloud Zendo.
I also find that trying to keep engaged in things that interest me has helped some. I’ve been writing Morning Pages for about two months now. That’s been helpful. It hasn’t kickstarted my fiction writing yet, but I hope it will help get me over that hump soon. And, I’ve decided to work on search engine optimization as well. I used to do that, for fun, with my older sites. In fact, for a while, Diary of a Network Geek was the number one hit on Google for the search term “network geek”. It’s not now, mainly because I stopped creating a steady stream of original content, but, also my success with those search terms made me a bit of a target. And, that’s okay. Honestly, it was a great indicator of how successful I was! I’m hoping I can recreate that success here. I’ll let you guess the search terms I’ll want to optimize for, though. And, I’ve added a tool to help me make pretty book reviews, too. I’ve always enjoyed reading, though I don’t seem to have the time and focus to read the way I used to when I was younger. Actually, ever since I had cancer back in 2007, I’ve felt like I wasn’t as sharp with reading as I used to be. In any case, I still enjoy it and enjoyed reviewing books, so I’ll start that again. I’ll mostly be reviewing fantasy and science fiction books, but there will be others, especially non-fiction on topics that interest me. I make no promises at how often those reviews will arrive, though.

So, in short, y’all watch out for your brains! Make your mental health a priority, especially now with all the crazy stressors of the dumpster fire that 2020 has become. If you have a spiritual practice, follow that and don’t give up on it. I truly believe that pursuing a more spiritual path is the only thing that’s kept me alive and kicking some times in the past 18 years or so. And, I think it will be what gets me through this COVID-19 craziness, too.

But, if you know someone who needs a little extra help with their mental health right now, don’t forget these resources:
MentalHealth.gov – Get Immediate Help

The National Alliance on Mental Health Helpline – 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline – 1-800-622-HELP (4357)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255

And, as I continually write here and elsewhere, please, remember, there’s no shame in getting help. In fact, getting help is what strong people do.
If you or a loved one needs help with depression or any other mental health issue, please, don’t wait until it’s too late.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words, my newest blog and labor of love.

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