Diary of a Network Geek

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

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.

5/29/2020

Embracing My Inner Geek

Filed under: About The Author,music,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 a First Quarter Moon

Because, that’s who I really am.

So, this week I was going to write about the error message I’ve seen filling up my logs which is due to some issue in the AuthorWrite theme I use here. But, thanks to some prodigious sleep procrastination, I was able to find the error and the fix it last night, with the help of Professor Google. Apparently, there are some security and encryption salts that are technically optional, but really should be added into the config on WordPress that I hadn’t done. Frankly, I blame that on being so far out of date on WordPress development that it’s ridiculous. The joy of it is that I don’t need to be up to date. Back in the old days, when I was running MoveableType, I had to know how it all worked because there was no one who was going to help me figure it out. But, now, with how popular WordPress has gotten and how many great programmers are working on it, I hardly have any issues. And, when I do have an issue, it’s almost always related to a theme or plugin that needs to be updated. In a couple of cases, plugins have been abandoned, and don’t work because the underlying architecture has changed and there’s no one updating the plugin code. That’s sad because there are some great plugins that I’ve had to stop using due to them not being supported and causing issues on my sites. Yes, I can almost always find a replacement for them, but, sometimes, the old plugins have nice features or an easy-to-use interface that I miss. Oh, well, life is change. Either way, the issue is resolved.

But, all that nerdy goodness got me thinking a bit. Being a computer geek is absolutely built into who I am now. It’s funny because back in high school, I was a little obnoxiously well known for hating computers because I already saw so many of my peers relying on them instead of thinking for themselves. That’s pretty remarkable when you consider that I graduated high school in 1986. Of course, some of those people I went to school with are now big shots in the technology industry, but, hey, I still prefer to think for myself. Not that I mind making a living off malfunctioning computers. It provides me and my family a pretty damn good living. But, I do find myself gravitating toward the, well, shall we say, darker side of computers and networks? When I attended DEF CON 20 in 2012, it was pretty life-changing. It truly opened my eyes to a whole new world of computer security. But, it also showed me that I already knew more than I was giving myself credit for! Beyond the security aspects of things, the idea that computer geeks might also be gun geeks or music nerds was sort of a new idea. My buddy, famous artist Mark Flood, knew about the hacker rappers that performed at DEF CON, but it was news to me. And, apparently, there’s a whole slew of nerdcore music and musicians that I’ve not heard of before. It’s an event he and I still talk about on a regular basis. Things we saw there are still trickling out into the mainstream, like smart car hacking. It makes me a little sad that DEF CON is Cancelled this year, at least in person. I still hope to get back one day to experience it all live and in person, but, if you have the time, this year’s virtual event August 7-9 is a great opportunity for you to safely check it out. Just make sure you’ve got all your antivirus and security patches up to date! (Just kidding! I’m sure it will be 100% safe! Trust me!) And, I’ve already ordered two DEF CON is Cancelled t-shirts, which will get here in a couple weeks. They’ll pair well with my Guy Fawkes COVID-19 mask that I should have by the end of the day!

And, if you just want to relax a little, not think about big issues like computer security and nerdcore music and COVID-19, then try unlocking some browser games with help from Lifehacker. Yes, all three major browsers have them, though some are easier to get to than others, not to mention more fun.

Try to enjoy your weekend and week and do something you love.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

5/22/2020

Finally, Some Changes

Filed under: About The Author,On Creativity — 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 a New Moon

You know how I keep threatening to write differently here?

You may have noticed that things were starting to change a bit over the past several weeks. Yes, I’ve still been bringing you “fun” links on Friday, but that’s been mostly swallowed up by all the other writing. I’m still mostly too busy to write as often as I did ten or fifteen years ago, so I haven’t managed to get in more than a single blog post per week yet. I’d like to write more regularly here, but I’ve got creditors who demand to be paid and that means my “day job” comes first. So, after a minimum of forty hours of work for them, and my paycheck, I don’t always have a lot of energy or focus to write anything else.
You may remember that I started writing morning pages about two weeks ago now. That was inspired by the keynote for a virtual fantasy convention given by Brandon Sanderson. He talked about how frustrated he was when he started out writing because he wasn’t producing work that he liked. Well, that sure sounded like how I’ve felt for the past ten years or more. But, he offered a cure; fall in love with the writing process again. And, to at least some degree, that was what was behind me starting those morning pages. It was about relearning to simply enjoy the act of writing. And, so far, that’s really started to happen again. Now, I despair of being able to convert those random thoughts and stream of consciousness worries into coherent fiction at some point, but that, ultimately, is the goal here. So, in that spirit, and because I imagine my fictional readers being interested in the same things I am, I have a link to share. Brandon Sanderson is also a teacher, as well as a writer. He’s shared an entire course of lectures on writing fantasy fiction, which you can stream for free. I plan to watch them all, though, since they’re an hour long a piece, I’m not sure when I’ll find the time to watch all of them. Either way, if you’ve got it in your head to write fantasy fiction, you could do worse than watch his lectures. His work is incredibly popular and I found his talks so far to be helpful and inspiring.

You know, I had other links that I was going to share, but, I think that one is enough this week after all. It’s been a hell of a week. For one, a friend of mine lost her father. For another, my own father, who’s about two months away from being 91, and who’s going through chemotherapy for liver cancer, was admitted to the hospital with heart issues this week. Thankfully, it seemed to be caused by some fluid on his lung, which was causing some cardiac stress. He’s been given a diuretic and sent home and it sounds like he’ll be able to continue his chemotherapy. Chemotherapy which is working pretty well, by the way. So, good news for my father, but still, a lot of stress and worry, especially since I couldn’t just jump on a plane to go see him if things had gotten worse thanks to COVID-19, which he tested negative for, too, thankfully.
So, while I try to relearn what exactly makes a plot work and apply that to some of the ideas that have been bouncing around in my head for the past couple of decades, I’ll keep up the morning pages. And, in some form or fashion, I’ll keep writing here, too.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words, the blog most likely to be updated with new writing.

4/17/2020

Poetry in the Time of the Pandemic

Filed under: About The Author,Art,Fun,On Creativity,Stimulus and Production — 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

I used to write, and read, poetry, before I stopped fearing death.

That sounds a bit contradictory, but, yes, I’m actually not afraid of death. I am afraid of the pain and discomfort that generally precede death, but not the actual eventuality of my death. Somehow, that seems connected to my ability to write, poetry or other things, but whatever the reason, I haven’t written more than a blog post or a single haiku, since I was diagnosed with and survived cancer. Sure, it must be related. By the way, that single haiku is:
Cars; a river of
steel and light, flowing to school.
Spring Break is over!

In 2003, when I was just getting into a year’s worth of unemployment, I shared this haiku on my other blog:
Snow blinks on my screen,
red lights on the router say,
“The end is here… Now.”

I’d written that when I was working a bankruptcy and had a little too much time on my hands to think about the end of that job. It was inspired by a book titled 101 Corporate Haiku. I loved that book, and the discipline of writing haiku, even under difficult circumstances, so, it’s strange to me that now, of all times, I find myself having trouble writing. I’m pleased to share, though, that others are making hay while the Sun shines, so I’m sharing with you, by way of Boing Boing, Someone made Found Poetry out of all the emails they’ve received about COVID-19. It’s not quite corporate haiku, but, well, it’s pretty good. And, since it’s also National Poetry Month, and I have a dark and twisted mind, I’ll also share with you H.P. Lovecraft’s Poetry, and, in particular, his dark, strange poem Nemesis. It’s about the strangest choice I could find to celebrate the month.
If you’d like to try writing your own poetry to celebrate, I’d definitely suggest trying haiku. A haiku is a poem of 17 syllables in three lines, usually divided into a line of 5 syllables, then a line of 7 syllables and finally a line of 5 syllables, with a seasonal word to ground the poem to nature and a “conceptual break” at the 5th or 12th syllable. A more modern variation of that is called the “lune” and is just 13 syllables, divided 5/3/5. Or if you want something with a little more elbow room to be creative, you can try the “tanka”, which is 31 syllables divided into 5 lines of 5 syllables then a line of 7 syllables then a line of 5 syllables then a line of 7 syllables with a final line of 7 syllables. Personally, I find a haiku in English challenge enough!

And, of course, I have your weekly COVID-19 related content, too.
I’m not sure about anyone else, but I’ve been feeling the long-term stress of an event unlike any we’ve had in living memory. Among other things, my sleep patterns, which haven’t been great the past couple years, have gotten worse. According to Slate, I’m not the only one with Coronavirus Anxiety Insomnia. If you get to the bottom of the article, there are some tips to help with it. Honestly, I think about the time I get a new schedule working and all that ironed out, we’ll be back to work as normal, whatever that means any more.
Finally, if you’re struggling with cooking, and are tired of the same old peanut butter and jelly sandwich, let me suggest you try some alternatives. Much to my wife’s horror, one of my favorite sandwiches is peanut butter and sweet relish. Something about the sweetly sour tang of relish just really compliments the savory sweet flavor of the peanut butter. Honest. Also, peanut butter and bacon or turkey, traditionally left over from Thanksgiving, but, hey, strange times and all, have been pretty good sandwiches, too. Don’t judge until you try it!

Until next week, hang in there and know that we’ll get through all this together.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words, my other blog that generally has more original content which only gets reposted here.

12/12/2019

Yet Another Lap

Filed under: About The Author,Advice from your Uncle Jim — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rat which is in the wee hours or 12:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

So, it seems I’ve survived another year.

Considering that I wasn’t entirely sure I’d live past forty, it’s a pleasant surprise to find that I’ve turned fifty-one. It seems a bit less pressure than turning fifty. I thought things would start speeding up, but it feels like everything has slowed down a bit. I don’t feel like a lot has changed in the past year, really.
Really, I’ve had another pretty good year. In some ways, maybe a bit too good. I was disappointed to see that all the weight I lost at the beginning of this year has somehow returned. I think, as was true last year, this is mostly due to easy living and a wonderfully Southern wife who shows me how much she loves me with food. She really, really loves me, so I’ve eaten very well. After having to finally let Hilda go to the Great Big Yard On The Other Side this year, we got two new rescues. For a bit, that was helping because I was walking Penny, the sixty-pound Pittbull/Dalmatian mix every morning. Sadly, she seems to have torn her ACL and is going to need a surgery, so I haven’t been walking her. I should take her sister, Lily, the fifty-pound Black Lab mix for walks, but I just haven’t quite been able to get my sorry tuckus out of bed in time to make that happen yet. I’ll get on it soon, though. Honest.
Of course, being married to Sharon does make my time here easier and a lot more pleasant. That sounds a little luke-warm, but, honestly, I think we’re both pretty happy about having a quiet, pleasant life together. As we were reminiscing not too long ago, we’ve both led a life of far too much adventure and chaos to think we’re missing out on much. Maybe, one day soon, when the statute of limitations runs out of some of those things, I’ll share them with you. Or, maybe they’ll get saved for a memoir. Sharon keeps telling me that we’ve living very interesting lives, though, of course, I find myself to be a bit dull and boring. Thankfully, she does not. It’s one of her many, many charming and attractive features. Her business, The Organizing Decorator, is poised to do quite well 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 really goes out and seems to create opportunities out of thin air. 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.

In the past, I’ve listed the same group of celebrities who share my birthday. But, this year, I’ll only mention two, 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.

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.)

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 good coming year.

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words, my other blog and guilty habit/pleasure.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward together in the same direction."
   --Antoine de Saint-Exupery

3/13/2019

Hilda Hoffman

Filed under: About The Author,News and Current Events,Truth and Consequences — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:30 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

Born December 8th, 2002. Departed March 13th, 2019.

At 11:25am this morning, the vet told Sharon and I what we already knew; Hilda had passed on from this world into the next. I got her when she was just barely four months old and able to be spayed, because I wanted to come home to someone who loved me. And, I never doubted that she loved me. She was always Daddy’s girl, even though she spent more time with Sharon the last several years of her life, and surely loved Sharon at least as much as she loved me. She was born to a rescue already, or as I liked to remind her when she occasionally got sassy, she was the foundling of an unwed mother. I told her she should be grateful, but it turns out I was the one who was grateful for her.
I named her, against the strong objections of my ex-wife and step-daughter, Hildegard, though we always called her Hilda for short. She was named after Hildegard von Bingen, the 12th Century German saint, who was famous for being a writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic and polymath. I thought my own Hilda deserved no less a significant name.
Although she looked like a very small Golden Retriever, her paperwork says that her mother was a Tibetan Terrier mix. We don’t know for sure what breed mix her father was, but based on the purple spots on her tongue, I always suspected he was a Chow mix. When anyone asked what kind of dog she was, I always told them, “Brown”. And, mostly that was true. She was just a good, brown dog. The kind of dog every boy hopes to have when he asks his parents for a dog.
She was always sweet-tempered, and neither Sharon nor I can ever recall her snapping at us, no matter what we had to do to her for health or grooming reasons. Though, I do understand in her later life, she was less patient with strangers at the vet’s office. I sympathized with her; I don’t care to be pawed at by doctors either, if I can help it.
I had her for sixteen good years. She saw me through my divorce. Even when my ex-wife conned me into letting her take Hilda to Phoenix, Arizona when we split, through strange circumstances, I managed to get her back. She came back to me via animal freight on a United Airlines flight and the inestimable kindness of strangers. She’d been crate trained until then, but after that adventure, she was a free-range pup. She spent most nights on the couch next to me and then in bed next to me. I think she was afraid she’d be kidnapped again if she didn’t.
She saw me through a very rough year of cancer treatment, too. Always patient with my lack of energy and just happy to be near me. While I was single after the divorce for many years, we had a regular ritual of driving to a pet store of an evening, then stopping at Jack-In-The-Box for 99 cent tacos. Years later, when Sharon brought her Jack-In-The-Box tacos, it was clear that she remembered them fondly.
And, then, when Sharon moved in and was having some difficult times, Hilda was always there, by her side, happy to give kisses and eat treats and french fries and chicken until Sharon felt better.
She also got very protective of our house and yard once Sharon moved in, as if she sensed that Sharon was important to me and needed to be kept safe, even if it just meant keeping her safe from deliveries and marauding kitty cats. It was also Sharon who came up with the idea of taking Hilda on rides in the car when she got too old to go for long walks the way she used to love to do. Hilda would lean her face into the wind, her nostrils getting a big as she could stretch them trying to gather in all the smells flying by. I truly think that those car rides brought her joy. I know for sure that having Sharon around to dote on her improved the quality of her life in her later years.
About two years ago, Hilda had a little scare with cancer, too. She had a very successful surgery which seemed to completely correct the cancer issue. And, it was at that point we decided that I would stop trying to get Sharon not to spoil Hilda so much and stop pretending that I didn’t spoil her just as much. At the time, we thought we’d only have another six months with her. We got more than two more years. Two bonus years of unconditional love and joy on four feet.
In short, Hilda was everything that a dog person could hope for in a companion, even, I think, converting Sharon from a cat person into a dog person. She was, not to put too fine a point on it, a very good dog.
And, now she’s gone and I’ll miss her. I know we’ll have other dogs, but we will never have one like Hilda again. She was one of a kind, and a true blessing for everyone who had the pleasure to know her.

You can see our collected photos of her here.

2/22/2019

SEAL Training

Filed under: About The Author,Fun,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

Get into SEAL shape!

I’m too old to join the military any more, but I still hang out with guys who are or were active duty. I love these guys, and they’ll be the first to tell you that no matter how we romanticize military service, at some point, it’s like a lot of other jobs. Yes, there are some special requirements and goals are often a lot more dangerous than other jobs, but there’s nothing magical about the military. They do a hard job and the United States military does that job better than anyone else in the world, but it’s done by regular men and women. Even our special forces, which, again, are clearly the best of the best, are regular people who have just committed to working harder, training harder, and staying in better shape than other military forces. They do that with a combination of mental toughness and rigorous, scientific physical conditioning. I think the mental toughness is something that can be learned, and possibly taught, but the majority of us just aren’t willing to be that kind of tough. But, most of us, myself included, can be in better physical shape.
There are a lot of exercise programs out there meant to get you in to “fighting shape”. Some of them are designed to get you to a gym and buy a membership. Personally, I’ve always been more motivated when I didn’t have to convince myself to drive somewhere, change and interact with strangers, so I’ve always been more of a fan of things I can do at home. And, I’m cheap, so I prefer things that don’t need me to spend a lot of money on a piece of equipment, which means mostly body-weight work and inexpensive weights like dumbbells and kettle bells. Now, again, I’m too old to enlist, and I was never in shape to compete with the top echelon of the military operators by any stretch of the imagination, but I do okay for a fifty-year-old civilian. I’ve been in better shape, for sure, but every time I go through that climb back to fitness, I end up doing what is more or less old-fashioned calisthenics. No one does that kind of simple, effective workout better than the military. So, if you haven’t given up on your New Year’s Resolution to get back into shape, here’s some help for you and it comes directly from the Official Naval Special Warfare Website. Seriously. There’s only two exercises that need a machine more complicated than a kettle bell or dumbbell and the ones that need a bench can probably get done with a chair. Either way, you could do worse than following the Official Naval Special Warfare Website training videos. They’ve got an introduction that page, and also suggest checking out the forum post Strength Training: Start Here, but also, check out Get Your Body In Shape for BUD/S with the Naval Special Warfare Physical Training Guide.
Of course, be sure to consult with a physician before significantly changing your exercise routine to make sure you aren’t about to do any damage to yourself, but most of us can stand to be a little healthier. If you admire the brave men and women of our armed forces, let them inspire and motivate you to be better. Just remember, they’re human, too, just like you. They started somewhere and only got to where they are with determination and hard work. Don’t give up!

And, next week, I’ll have some other random thing from the internet that catches my eye.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

1/4/2019

New Rules for the New Year

Filed under: About The Author,Advice from your Uncle Jim,Better Living Through Technology,Marginalia and Notes from the Editor — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Okay, maybe not rules per se, but Friday posts might be different.

Look, I’ve been posting every Friday for something more than ten years. Probably close to sixteen years, actually, though I have to admit I haven’t actually checked. In any case, lately, it’s felt more like a chore than a joy. It’s a lot of work to find something original to share with you from somewhere out on the internet every week. I honestly think it might be easier to actually create my own content sometimes. Except, of course, it’s been a horrifically busy year and the past month or two has been even worse. So, what I’m trying to say in the most long-winded way imaginable, is that I’m probably going to change up what gets posted here every Friday. There’s literally no telling what I might share, from somewhere out in the big, wide world, or from the dark recesses of my own twisted mind.

But, since I haven’t quite gotten out of the habit of being helpful just yet, here’s a tip from your Uncle Jim.
The world being what it is, you probably got one or more gift cards for presents this year. Maybe it was a door prize at an office Christmas party or maybe it was your Christmas bonus or maybe just a lovely gift from a distant relative. No matter how you got it, it’s going to be virtually impossible to use the face value perfectly. Either you spend a bit more than the gift card and pay the rest, or you spend a bit less and have one or more gift cards with just a dollar or two on them. Save those gift cards with just small change left! When a website wants to collect credit card information for their “free trial”, use one of those gift cards! If you forget to cancel the free trial before they start billing you, all they’re going to get is a buck or two that you were probably going to forget about anyway. Or, if you do remember, you can use that couple of dollars for free trials for months and months! It works really, really well, trust me!

So, there you go, something totally from my own, little brain to help you live a little better.
Come back next week to see what I come up with next!

This post originally appeared at my other blog, Use Your Words.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Being right too soon is socially unacceptable."
   --Robert A. Heinlein

12/12/2018

Halfway

Filed under: About The Author,Deep Thoughts,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:34 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

So. Birthdays. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

Based on entirely anecdotal evidence and a sample size that’s roughly the size of my family, I’m about halfway. Halfway through a life. It sounds so melodramatic. Well, at fifty, I guess I’m entitled to a little melodrama. Just a little, though. Because, after all, its only halfway. That means, if my family’s longevity and genome are any indication, I still have another fifty years or so of pretty active life ahead of me. That’s good though, because I still have a lot of stuff I want to do with life.

I don’t normally make a big deal about birthdays, but our culture seems to hang a lot more on the big five-oh. For whatever reason, fiftieth birthdays seem to be the point at which people freak out. At least for men. Personally, I think I’m doing okay. Sure, I’d like to make more money and have better benefits, so if there are any recruiters out there with a great IT Infrastructure Management job for me, I’d be open to that. But, honestly, I do okay. My blushing bride and I cleared the last of our consumer debt this past year, so our only outstanding loans are the mortgage and the loan for our solar panels. And, really, those solar panels are going to be an asset. After all, energy prices almost never go down, but that solar system will keep generating power at up to 80% of it’s current rate for the next 25 years. As with last year, I’ve read a lot of good books and seen a lot of good movies, though I’ve been mostly too busy to review them like I used to do.
Really, I’ve had a pretty good year. In some ways, maybe a bit too good. I was shocked to see how much weight I’d put on this year, mostly due to easy living and a wonderfully Southern wife who shows me how much she loves me with food. She really, really loves me, so I’ve eaten very well. So well, in fact, that my cardiologist fat-shamed me at my annual checkup with him. Now, I’m back on my program of rowing, weights and counting calories until I’m down to my ideal weight. (And, no, I am NOT sharing what that is!)
Of course, being married to Sharon does make my time here considerably more enjoyable. She works really hard to make sure I’m as well taken care of as she can manage. And, I work toward the same thing. I suppose that’s made a little easier for each of us because we remember how it was when we were with other people. It’s funny how getting a little older and having a bit more experience with the absolute worst and most wrong way to be in a relationship can make the current one so precious and enjoyable. Oh, sure, we still have our moments, just like every married couple does, but there’s no one I’d rather be married to at all and I count myself lucky to know it. Besides, she quite possibly is the only woman on the planet still willing to put up with my nonsense. And, this year, more than most, I’m a little extra grateful for her willingness to gently remind me about what’s important when I’ve gone a little off the rails. I’m lucky to still be married to her and my life gets better every year she’s still along for the ride.

In the past, I’ve listed the same group of celebrities who share my birthday. But, this year, I’ll only mention two, 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.

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.)

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 writing more and doing more photography. 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 good coming year.

This post originally appeared on my other, more current, blog, Use Your Words.

4/6/2018

Blast Radius

Filed under: About The Author,Fun,News and Current Events — 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

This may stretch the limits of what even I consider “fun”.

Ever since I was in junior high, I’ve been a little too interested in nuclear war. Personally, I blame the Cold War and movies like [amazon_textlink asin=’B0001WTVUW’ text=’The Day After’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’jkhoffman-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’0f617978-3395-11e8-99c2-4f1995d99183′]. It looks kind of cheesy now, but back in the day, we were all terrified that this was our future. We were quite sure that Russia was going to launch missiles at us any moment and we would have to know how to survive. Or, maybe that was just the crazed group of boys I hung out with who all read science fiction pulps. I’ll allow that’s possible not everyone was as obsessed with the subject as we were.
But, the thing is, I don’t think it would have mattered. For one thing, I grew up not far from a pretty important Naval Air Station, and also not far from a major financial center. I’m pretty sure that where I lived would have been pretty quickly reduced to melted glass if World War Three had broken out. But, that seems to be a topic popping up again. And, it’s fresh enough that someone has created a new Nuclear Bomb Blast Simulator. I’ve shared these before but this one is, well, prettier than the others. It shows in pretty graphic terms just how large an area would be effected. Also, it seems to have better geolocation than the others that I’ve shared. And, if you, like me, have a dark sense of humor, you can always use your worst enemy’s location as the epicenter of the blast. That would be a kind of “fun”, right?

And, if you’re truly concerned, you can get the book I studied for weeks at the library, Nuclear War Survival Skills, for free, in PDF format. It claims to have been updated in 1987, but I’m quite certain it must have only to correct spelling errors because this is precisely how I remember it from all those years ago. And, I’m quite certain I had a copy in hand well before 1987, which was after I had graduated from high school.

So, um, enjoy!? And try not to think about it too much.

This post first appeared on Use Your Words.

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