Diary of a Network Geek

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

5/28/2021

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:
"People who fight fire with fire usually end up with ashes."
   --Abigail Van Buren

4/16/2021

Stress Relief Course

Filed under: About The Author,Advice from your Uncle Jim,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 Waxing Crescent

Training for how to deal with stress.

Although it’s meant primarily for COVID-19 pandemic stress, which I think all of us have been feeling to some degree, this course from TalkSpace on managing stress can be pretty universally useful. I know personally, I’ve been loaded almost to the breaking point with stress this past year between everything related to the pandemic, stepping in a larger role at work, politics, and the loss of my father. Of course, a lot of that could be causing stress regardless of the pandemic, as could things like job loss and the break up of long-term relationships. It’s been a rough couple of years for most of us, I think. So, this really seems like a good thing to share.
I have to admit that I haven’t done the course myself so I can’t speak to its particular utility, and the creators make clear that they don’t want anyone to substitute it for one-on-one therapy, but for those of us who can’t afford the time and expense of anything else, at least it’s something. And, more so for those of us who maybe just need a little extra help, but not a full round of therapy, it can help.
While the course is free, they do ask for an email address. I’m assuming that they’ll use it for marketing opportunities, which seems a fair trade-off. I can always unsubscribe later.

Let me say, though, that if you’re feeling suicidal, please, do reach out to someone.

Suicide Hotlines in The United States
Crisis Text Line Text HOME to 741741
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
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 at Use Your Words!


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Whatever the majority of people is doing, under any given circumstances, if you do the exact opposite, you will probably never make another mistake as long as you live."
   --Earl Nightingale

3/19/2021

Cell Phone Etiquette

Filed under: Art,Better Living Through Technology,Deep Thoughts,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:21 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I feel like the pandemic has made our use of cell phones even ruder than we used to be.

Honestly? I feel like being locked down for the better part of a year, to whatever degree we individually have been, has made us all a little less socially aware. And, yes, I include myself in that sad group. I know I’ve been both more sensitive to small social slights from others and I know I’ve been less socially sensitive to others than I was before. It’s absolutely something I need to pay attention to and work on. So, when I saw this infographic on Cell Phone Etiquette, I knew I had to share it.
Cell Phone Etiquette

To be clear, I feel like these things have ALWAYS been a problem for some people, but I also feel like these kinds of interactions have gotten even worse lately. I hope as we come back together and are more social as we get vaccinated and really start to beat this COVID-19 pandemic that we can be more socially aware. I know I plan to work harder to be more polite and civil to my fellow humans, much to my wife’s relief, I’m sure!

This post first appeared on Use Your Words!  But, the infographic appeared way before that.

3/5/2021

Go Green, A Month At A Time

Filed under: Art,Better Living Through Technology,Deep Thoughts — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:35 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Going green doesn’t have to be an all or nothing thing.

Even doing a little something that’s healthier for the planet can be a big benefit. And, the infographic in this post, brought to you thanks to Daily Infographic, shows you something you can do each month to make your living situation, even in an apartment, a little greener.
Go Green, a step at a time

So, there’s a good start! It will absolutely help our planet and future generations to be more aware and try to be more careful with our limited resources.
Come back soon for more infographics and posts!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!  Though the infographic appeared earlier than that.

2/26/2021

How the Octopus Works

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Fun — 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 a Full Moon

Aliens live in our oceans.

I know I’ve been reposting a lot from Boing Boing lately, but this is just too good to not share. As both a fan of science fiction and an eternally hopeful writer of science fiction, I’m always fascinated by intelligent animals that live with us on our own planet. One of the most intelligent and yet different species which shares our planetary home is the octopus. I can’t remember the exact quote, or who said it, but a science fiction author once challenged his fellows by asking that they create an alien that could think as well as mankind, but differently. I’m not going to claim that an octopus can think as well as a human, but it sure does think differently. And, having watched the fascinating video The Insane Biology Of The Octopus, I can absolutely see a very different way of thinking than the one we land-dwelling mammals are used to using. While we have done a lot of research into the intelligence of dolphins, we’ve really only just started looking at the octopus, relatively speaking.
The video is about twenty minutes long, which is easily viewable in a lunch-hour. You won’t be sorry if you have any interest in aliens, alien thinking, or even just strange animals.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

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:
"The indispensable first step to getting the things you want out of life is this; decide what you want."
   --Ben Stein

12/25/2020

Christmas Day 2020

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Marginalia and Notes from the Editor,News and Current Events,Red Herrings — 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

Normally, I’d share a silly link, but not today.

Today, it’s Christmas. The day that Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, also known as Yeshua ben Yeshua, Lamb of God, and Light of the World. We live in strange times, filled with consumerism and fear of the future. Locked in our homes because of a global pandemic, we haven’t been able to celebrate this season the way we might like. Family has been distant for most of us, one way or another, and our usual gatherings, either at religious services or for holiday meals, have been severely curtailed.
My wife and I often celebrate the season quietly anyway, so it hasn’t been as big a burden on us, really. For that, I am thankful. But, this year, more than ever, I think we all need to consider what people from time immemorial have celebrated at this time of year. The actual birth of Jesus most likely happened in the Spring, closer to when we celebrate Easter. But, the early church leaders were very clever and some of the best marketers that history has ever known. They chose to connect the birth of Christ with the far older and more pagan festival connected with the Winter Solstice. That day, which was actually Monday, December 21st this year, is the longest night, and shortest day, of the year. But, it marked the day that a little more light was about to be let into the world, because, the next day was a little longer and each day after that is a little longer too, until the Summer Solstice when the cycle repeats. What’s important though, I think, is that we all are celebrating that this holiday commemorates the continual rebirth of light, joy, and possibilities into the world.
That hope is something that I think we can all use more of this year. So, go, enjoy your families, and spread that hope and light as far as you can carry it in the coming year. It may not be easy, but I think the results will be worth it!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

12/11/2020

New Age Nonsense

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Fun,Fun and Games — 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

Not that ALL new age thinking is goopy nonsense.

I’ve read a LOT of new age philosophy and pseudo-religious texts in my endless search for deeper meaning in life. I’ve read everything from the Kybalion to The Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment and just about everything in between. A lot of the so-called new age movement is well-intentioned, but a lot of it is also fairly devoid of any real meaning. Enlightenment or epiphany or whatever you want to label spiritual experiences are generally something that, I think, need to be experienced and can’t really be taught. That doesn’t stop an endless array of self-styled gurus from trying to sell us some sure-fire program that will elevate our thinking to a new level of existence though. So, when I came across the New Age Bullshit Generator, you can imagine how amused I was! The thing is though, the new age bullshit it generates isn’t half bad. The author/programmer, Seb Pearce, suggests that you could use the output of his generator to gin up the next bestseller on the Self-Help shelf, but I think I might have to do too much of the legwork to fill in enough for a full book to make it really profitable. Either way, I hope you’ll find the New Age Bullshit Generator as much fun as I did.
Besides, what else are you going to do on this Friday in the middle of December?

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

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!

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