Diary of a Network Geek

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


Cooking Caper

Filed under: By Bread Alone,Dog and Pony Shows,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:13 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I made caper sauce last night.

FishwithCaperSauceandRice So, I tried a little experiment last night. I made caper sauce from an out-of-print cookbook titled “The Book of Light Sauces and Salad Dressings”.
The Book of Light Sauces and Salad Dressings As you can see, it turned out rather, um, well, beige. And, I have to admit, I even added some things to make the sauce more colorful and savory. I even had to recover it from being too thin. Sadly, I couldn’t find my cornstarch to thicken it with, but I did manage the same thing with some arrowroot.

So, here’s the recipe that I started with and how I varied it.
2 tblspoons low-fat margarine
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups low fat milk
2 tblspoons capers
2 tspoons vinegar from capers
salt and pepper

In a saucepan over low heat, melt margarine and stir in flour. Cook approximately 1 minute, stirring. Remove pan from heat and gradually whisk in the milk. Return pan to heat and slowly bring to boil. Keep whisking and continue to cook while sauce thickens. Simmer for approximately three minutes and add capers and vinegar from jar of capers. The two table spoons of capers, by the way, is about half of a four ounce jar.  Cook another minute or two, whisking the whole time. Add salt and pepper.

I served that over tilapia that I’d already broiled with lemon pepper and lime juice with a side of rice.
But, I varied the sauce by thickening it with arrowroot, as I already wrote. Also, I used light butter instead of margarine and skim milk, which may be why I had to thicken it. And, it didn’t smell quite savory enough for me, so I added a dash of garlic salt and several dashes of Old Bay Seasoning. It turned out quite well, considering I’d never done a white sauce before. Next time I do it, I may just add some garam masala or curry at the same time I add the capers. I think that might make a more interesting sauce, possibly for chicken or lamb.

Of course, my dog liked it just fine the way it was when I let her lick my plate.
She’s so spoiled.


Talking to God

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Deep Thoughts,Dog and Pony Shows,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning or 9:56 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

I’m not sure how well I communicate with God.

The other day at one of the men’s group meetings I go to, we were talking about maintaining a conscious contact with God, about our personal relationships with Him. Naturally, that led most of us to talk about prayer. Me? Not so much.
I feel like I’ve stopped talking to God this year. There was a point at which I stopped having anything nice to say, so I stopped talking. In fact, I was a little bit pissed off at God. I mean, I know I haven’t live the best life always, but I just couldn’t imagine what I might have done that deserved the divine retribution of lymphoma. And, really, as a fellow cancer survivor sitting next to me pointed out later, it’s not the disease that’s hard to survive, but the treatment. Take it from me. That is the truth.

Now, it’s important that you understand something. I don’t think that God turned away from me. Though I may not understand His plan or how He works, I knew that God was with me the entire time through treatment. But, I got so angry at Him that I couldn’t pray the way I used to pray. And, I’ve always struggled with the idea that God cares, really, truly cares about someone as small and insignificant as me. Or you, really, so don’t start feeling all sorry for me. I mean, I get that there is a God and that he’s all powerful and created the whole universe and the laws that govern it. That’s not a hard concept for me. Hell, Darwin believed that evolution was evidence that God existed. So, I’m good there.
But, I’ve always struggled with the idea that something so huge could possibly care about me, us, at all. Doesn’t He have larger concerns than that? How could He have the time and patience for our little, flyspeck lives?

So, before my chemotherapy was done, I’d all but stopped praying.
Oh, I still read my morning and evening devotional. And, I still worked through my prayer beads, when I had time and energy. After I started to get back into my normal pattern of life, albeit somewhat altered by my medical “stuff”, I got back into working through rote prayer with my prayer beads almost every morning. But, it was hollow. An empty gesture. A habitual, almost superstitious, pattern of behavior. There just wasn’t anything behind it. No emotion, no connection.

So, with all that in mind, we started talking about prayer and being in touch with God at the meeting.  I listened, and spoke.  Mostly, I talked about how I was afraid to listen to God for fear of what He might say to me.  I was, and am, still afraid that God will challenge me to be more than I am, do more than I’m capable or willing to do.
But, I’m also afraid of what will become of me if I don’t pursue that personal relationship with God.  I know that I won’t last long on my own.  As in “nothing good can come of it”, right?

A couple days later, I was thinking about a conversation I was going to have with a friend.
I wanted to allay his fears that anything might be wrong and I wanted to say it the “right” way.  So, as is my habit, I rehearsed the conversation, trying to work out how to say what I needed to say and what his responses might be.  And, yes, I spoke out loud.  At least, I spoke my half of the imagined conversation out loud.  That’s one of the advantages of living alone.  The dog thinks I’m talking to her and just wags her tail.
In any case, I’ve had this habit of rehearsing important conversations to try out assorted responses and plan out my contingencies.  It’s actually served me well over the years.  I usually have a good grasp of what folks are going to say and how they’re going to react to what I say.  But, somehow, running through all this makes it easier for me.

And that was when something that someone said at the meeting clicked for me.  I don’t think he meant it this way, but it sort of fit me.  It occurred to me that perhaps in doing this conversation rehearsal, what I was doing was talking to God.  Maybe, I was just hanging my friends’ faces on God, to make Him easier to see and hear and talk to, so I could find Him and tell Him, in a way, what was on my mind.  Not as a lowly follower to an all-powerful God, but as a younger, smaller friend seeking help and advice from an older, more worldly, more experienced and capable friend.

So, maybe I’ve been talking to God all along.  Maybe my prayers don’t start with supplication and end in “amen”, but they’re still there.  It’s possible that in my efforts to hide from his message, I’ve found it after all.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"The fact that no one understands you doesn't make you an artist."


No No NaNo!

Filed under: Art,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Dog and Pony Shows,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,NaNoWriMo,News and Current Events,Personal,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is in the late afternoon or 5:52 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

I “failed” at NaNoWriMo, again.

I think November is quite possibly the absolute worst month for me to dedicate myself to a writing project. I end up with more social and work obligations in November than any other month of the year. At least, that’s how it’s seemed to me for the past several years. Hell, three years ago, when I planned to do NaNoWriMo for the first time, I was lucky to drag myself through the month at all! Last year, I was coughing blood and converting a phone system. This year I just had so many social obligations that I just got behind and never caught up.

And, I have to admit, I also didn’t plan things nearly enough. Last year, at least I had worked out a bit of research and I’d been writing a bit. This year, not only did I not do enough research, but I don’t think I’d written a word of fiction all year! Seriously, it’s kind of been a long year with a lot of physical demands on me, so I just haven’t been writing creatively, outside this blog, at all. I think it was pretty unrealistic of me to just jump in cold like that and expect to be writing over 1,500 words each day. In any case, I think what it proves to me is that I need to keep writing all the time. Waiting to get inspired is just foolish, as has been proven over and over by professional writers. Rather, if I keep writing, the inspiration will come of its own accord. So, that is my goal for the coming year: to write, every week.

HildaCuriousTo console myself, however, I bought my camera yesterday.
Ritz/Wolf Camera had a sale, which ended yesterday, that got me a Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi with an 18-55mm lens and a 75-300mm zoom lens for just under $800 before tax. I added a 2gig memory card and the two-year protection and maintenance plan as well. The maintenance plan seemed a little expensive, at first, until one considers that it will repair or replace the camera and either lens, no matter the damage, for two years. And, it included an annual cleaning, each of which were almost half the price of the plan. Well worth it, I think, considering the investment I made. Oh, and the package deal specified a regular 55mm lens, but they were out of that, so I got a free upgrade to an 18-55mm lens with image stabilization built in. Super cool!
To be honest, I felt a little guilty about buying the camera. Still Life, with socks
I mean, sure, I did “earn” the money via ad revenue and I have wanted a really good digital camera for a while now, but, well… Well, the guilty, co-dependant in me feels like I shouldn’t spend money on myself. Rather, I should be spending that money on some charity or other. Giving it to the church or feeding starving children in Africa or something. Naturally, I called a friend to churn this over in my head and his response did help put things in perspective for me.
“Look, you just survived cancer this year…” And, that was as far as he got before I had already gotten the point. Yes, it has been a rougher than usual year and I have really wanted a good camera with which I can make art for some time. But, I do want to avoid that whole feeling of entitlement. I don’t ever want to get back into a mindset of “I deserve this because things have been rough lately.” In the past, that kind of attitude has not served me well. Not at all.

FeetsSo, I’ll try to avoid that feeling and still make use of and enjoy the camera.
I do deserve good things and I do deserve to have fun, cancer not with standing. I do work hard for most everything I have and I am grateful for the opportunities that God gives me, both to get good things and to give good things. And, I do appreciate every, single person who has ever clicked on an ad on my website that earned me the money to buy this. It has made me think more and pay more attention to advertising on other people’s websites, if nothing else.
And, of course, you all will get to see more photos as time goes by and I get better with my new toy. I know at least one unusual feature of Houston that I want to capture, though it may take some time. Oh, in case you hadn’t figured it out, all the pictures in this post were taken with the new camera.
Tomorrow, I’ll lay out the camera itself and take pictures of it, per a challenge from Peter, the Brit. Until then, though, enjoy these!


Go Read This

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Deep Thoughts,Dog and Pony Shows,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is just before lunchtime or 11:52 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

I know a lot of bloggers now.

I may not “power Blogger”, but I know a lot of people who do. One of them is very sweet, owns an adorable chocolate (aka brown) lab, and is a cracker jack photographer. She wrote a post you all need to read: Second Hands.
Also, read the comments. Sometimes, the comments say as much as the posts do on a blog.

Besides, I don’t want to write it again.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"There is no failure except no longer trying."
   --Elbert Hubbard


Family Update and Pictures

Filed under: Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Dog and Pony Shows,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 7:34 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

My sister and nephew were here this weekend.

My sister and her son should be home by now. Their flight for Chicago left this afternoon and everything was on time. They got in Thursday and stayed with me and Hilda while they were here. It was sort of nice having visitors, even relatives. I thought I’d be glad to see them go, so I could get my house back, but, honestly, until they left, I had no idea how much I missed having people around. I think Hilda misses having a younger person around to shower her with attention, too.
In any case, Friday we went to the Downtown Aquarium. It was okay, but, well, I think it was geared more toward small kids and families. There weren’t a lot of exhibits and there was a fair amount of “touristy” stuff. Still, the exhibits there were good. They were clean, the animals were healthy and active, and pretty much everything worked. Besides, in spite of feeling relatively good and strong, I’m still recovering from having cancer and the treatment, so a little less to do on that first day was probably for the best.

Saturday we just hung around the house. Though, we did run out to the office to look for a cable for their camera and to try a Vietnamese noodle shop. The night before, we hit my new favorite Thai restaurant, which was fairly brave of them, considering how much Asian food they get in their small, rural hometown.
Saturday night we went to church, where they got to meet a bunch of my friends. I hope it wasn’t too overwhelming for them. Either my family or my friends! After church, I was forced to choose the restaurant, so we all went out for Mexican. Also, not an option they normally get. At least, not authentic Mexican.

Sunday, it was off to the Houston Zoo. Again, we got there early and spent quite a bit of time, which was nice, but tiring on these old bones. I haven’t been to the zoo in ages, so I had a good time. And, because the weather was a bit dicey, the crowds were light. Luckily, the weather held and we had a good time. We left a bit early for dinner, but we stopped by Goode Company and got some “to go”. It was great, even warmed up in the microwave. And, I got to show them a great taste of Houston to boot.

Since I know you all have been wondering what I look like without hair, or with my hair growing back, I got my nephew to take a couple of pictures. I’ve got them here, below, so you can see them. I’m also asking you all to vote on them, so I know which one to use to update my Match.com profile with my new “look”.

This is sort of mugshot looking to me, and a little out of focus, but it’s a simple shot. I hope I don’t look too scary with such short hair! It does kind of look like an ID photo, though, doesn’t it? I don’t know, I guess the full on portrait is always a kind of classic.
This is an attempt at a “candid” shot. Naturally, I’m sitting in front of a laptop. What else would a professional computer geek and hopeful author be doing? Right? And, maybe that’s also its weakest point. It shows me in my natural environment just a little too much.

And here is a close-up version of that last shot. I don’t know… Do I look too serious? Ha, if you know me in RealLife, you’d know that I’m almost never serious! Ah, well, it is a pretty good picture, I think. Still, do you think it makes me look too grim? Like I’d be no fun on a date? I only get one chance at a first impression you know!

And, finally, a shot from the other side. And a little smile, which I think is better. Oh, these shots show off my new glasses, too! (So, tell me, you totally want to rub my short hair to see how it feels, don’t you?)
Okay, so, make sure to vote for you favorite picture!


I need to get out more

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Dog and Pony Shows,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning or 8:56 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

I woke up this morning spooning my dog.

Let that soak in for a minute…
Spooning.  My.  Dog.

Now, while there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with this, I still found it a little disturbing.  Perhaps more so because I had a dream about getting two flat tires with my ex-wife in the car and her remaining perfectly calm the whole time.  Obviously, it was a dream, because that would never have happened in life.  Trust me.

In any case, I am sure that this is a sign I need to get out more, eyebrows or not, if only to meet more people that I’d feel safe dating.  Right now, my best prospects are a Federal parole officer, a friend’s ex, and a reformed lesbian.  Actually, I’m just kidding about one of those, but I’ll let you all guess which one.  So, I think I need some updated pictures for the on-line dating sites I’m still a member of and, well, to start getting out more.

Pray for me.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Real happiness is when you marry a girl for love and find out later she has money."


A Few Very Random Thoughts

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Dog and Pony Shows,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:40 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Definately in a better mood this morning.

I think every bachelor should have a dog.  They help you clean up small food spills quickly and offer unconditional love.  Not sure which is more important or useful.
If you’re a bachelor in need of a dog, adopt one from a shelter.  In Houston, try my favorite “no-kill” shelter, H.O.P.E.

I hate giant, flying cockroaches.  Insects larger than three inches shouldn’t be allowed to fly.  The fact that they do may be used in theological discussions as proof that the end times are near.  The fact that so many of them seem to exist in the greater Houston Metropolitan Area would seem to indicate that, not only is the end of the world near, but going to start here.

I think an adopted dog is more grateful than a fru-fru dog from a fancy breeder.  At least, it makes me feel better to think I gave at least one a better life than she’d have gotten otherwise.

I don’t believe all those “rapture” bumper stickers.  I think anyone who’s quite so sure they’re going to be part of the rapture is under-estimating the requirements.  Also, they’re not familiar with the history of the rapture concept.

The best thing about being able to drink coffee again is that I haven’t been this regular in months.  And, I’m awake to notice it.

I must be doing well at work, because my boss has seen me work so many small miracles that he now has unrealistic expectations of what I can do in a single day.  Very unrealistic expectations.

I must be recovering from the effects of chemotherapy, because I have stubble in the middle of the week for the first time since losing my hair.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"It pays to be obvious, especially if you have a reputation for subtlety."
   --Issac Asimov


Cletus has left the building!

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Dog and Pony Shows,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time or 8:47 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

My lymphoma is in remission!

Well, I still have to go back for a PET scan to confirm that what’s left of Cletus is “metabolically inert”, but, based on the last PET scan, that’s a mere formality.  There are some other details I have to work out, like the blood clots, the medical bills that insurance didn’t cover and my lack of eyebrows, but at least I’m alive to deal with them all. I’ll have some minor physical issues for a while still, which is to be expected.  And, of course, I’ll have to go back to the clinic regularly to check and make sure that Cletus hasn’t left behind any mystery offspring (you know how he gets at the family picnic!).  So, all in all, it was good news today.  It’ll be better news after they schedule my PET scan next week and I get the results of that, but the doctor was pleased with her work.  Do you think I should tell her it was really God who did the work, or just let her bask in the glow?

So, barring any surprises next week, I’m on the mend.  I can eat all the things I used to eat and, finally, I can have a cup of coffee in the morning again.  Real coffee.  Go juice.  (Can you tell I’ve missed my coffee?)  And, soon, I can start exercising again, too, though that may take longer than I’d like due to the blood clots.
No word on when I’ll have hair and eyebrows again, but I look forward to that, too.

And, finally, just let me say a great big “thank you” to everyone who’s been praying for me and driving me to and from the clinic and watching Hilda and, well, generally just looking out for me when I couldn’t look out for myself.  You all are the miracle that kept me alive.  Gifts from God that kept me going, every step of the way.  Please, don’t forget that.  Every day, every one of you all is a walking miracle that inspires and strengthens in ways that you can’t even know.


Medical Leave

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Dog and Pony Shows,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:50 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

So, I’m in MD Anderson.

Turns out old Cletus was a bit more aggressive than we first realized.
Tuesday, I went to see my oncologist and she was a little concerned about how much Cletus was restricting my breathing, so she had me admitted on an emergency basis Tuesday night. Thankfully, I have an amazing array of friends who all jumpped in and started taking care of everything for me right away. So, my darling Hilda is being taken care of, and, in fact is probably being spoiled by someone who’s even more codependant with my dog than I am. I actually think she went and bought McDonald’s fries just because Hilda likes them.
Tomorrow, and most likely Saturday, I’ll have people all up in my house cleaning it and stocking it with food for my parents who will be arriving Tuesday evening. Someone else has already made arrangements to pick them up from the airport and help them find their way around Houston. At least, as far as getting to the medical center and back home. Naturally, they’ll be staying at my house. All that room does come in handy.

Now, I suppose you’re wondering about what kind of cancer I have and what my treatment will be. Okay, I have diffuse large B cell lymphoma, which, in case you’re wondering, is not good. On the menu of cancers, this is not one a wise person would pick. What’s more, it’s an aggresive case. On a scale of 1 to 100, Cletus rates a 90. Not the best way to be an overachiever, is it?
The concern is, however, how fast and far it’s spread. That’s the problem with lymphoma like Cletus, he tends to sleep around and spred his problems all over, real quick. So, after having had several different kinds of scans in the past two days, tomorrow, I’ll have a few more and then follow that with a couple of bone marrow biopsies, which will most likely be a pain the ass, literally. They seem to want to take samples out of my hips, by way of holes in my backside. So, we’ll see how that goes.  I haven’t started chemotherapy yet, either, but I should be starting that soon, too.  I expect that it will be as aggressive as Cletus.  Not sure if I’ll lose my hair or not, but I do rather expect this to knock me on my ass for a bit.

But, all that being said, I don’t expect to die.  I think some people who have been following this the past couple weeks might be afraid that I’m going to, but I’m not.  I don’t know quite what God has in mind for me, but I really don’t think He’s brought me through all the crap of the last five years to kill me now.  I just don’t think it’s part of His plan to kill me at 38 with so much left to do.
Rather, I think I’m meant to survive this, too, so that someone I haven’t even met yet, who will need an extra helping of hope that I’ll be able to provide after I’m well.  I feel this deep in my heart and bones.  I know that my life’s purpose has not quite been fullfilled yet, and that is why I will, why I must, make it through all this.  I don’t think it will be pleasant and I’m sure parts of it will hurt, but I don’t plan on dying any time soon.

So, keep up your prayers for me, and keep on living your lives.  I’ll be well soon and I’ll do my best to keep you all updated via the blog.
Thank you for your support.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"A merry heart doeth good like a medicine."
   --Proverbs 27:22 (KJV)


Friday Fun News

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Dog and Pony Shows,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:04 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

No, nothing new about my health.

Just some fun/strange news stories from the past week or so.
First, apparently, some political unrest in Africa is going to cause a world chocolate shortage. Yikes! (Actually, if you read the article, it’s more likely to cause prices to go up, slightly, because manufacturers have likely taken some of these problems into account.)
Then, in an impressive variation of “Man Bites Dog”, there was the story about a teacher being “reprimanded” for biting a student. But, before you decry the sad state of our proessional educators, the poor man, who happened to be the wrestling coach, was being attacked by several of his wrestlers who were trying to give him a wedgie. The kids got, basically, a scolding and were otherwise off scott-free. But, the assualted teacher got into trouble. That is what’s wrong with our education system today. Those kids should have been brought up on charges! Damn psycho-jock brats!
Thirdly, here’s a news story that proves what I’ve been telling my mother for years: it’s not a mess, it’s my system. Apparently, there is a direct link to a messy desk and higher productivity after all. See?! All this time I was right! HA!

And, as a bit of a bonus, here’s something for all the folks thinking about getting married soon: How to Tell that the Honeymoon is Over. In short, to summarize the article, you know your new marriage has taken a turn for the worse when your new spouse tries to run you over in the car. It’s a sure sign.
And, on a more personal note, yesterday was the anniversary of my adopting Hilda from H.O.P.E.. I know because someone I used to volunteer with there e-mailed me after seeing my blog. Apparently, she was checking on who had linked to their website and the post, four years ago, where I talked about adopting my darling girl, was one of the prominent links. If you’re in Houston, and thinking about adopting a dog, or cat, H.O.P.E. is definately the way to go. A great organization that I’m proud to pay dues to annually, even if I don’t have the time to volunteer for them right now.

So, in any case, I hope one of those things made you smile a bit on this Friday. Either way, enjoy your weekend!

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