Diary of a Network Geek

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


Random Stay-At-Home Resources

Filed under: Fun,Hoffman's Home for Wayward Boys,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Photography,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

This may become a theme while we all wait out this COVID-19 virus.

This week, I finally got everyone else at work all set to work from home, if at all possible, and started working from home myself. I was surprised how much of my work is often determined by people in the office having problems. I shouldn’t be, though, considering how many times I tell fellow techs that the only reason we have jobs is because other people have problems.
In any case, I have a couple of links that I hope will help you solve some of the unusual problems you may be running into at home these days, thanks to the quarantine. Some may be more fun than others!
First, if you’re like us, you’ve been eating a little differently than normal. My wife is pretty incredible about coming up with meals that use whatever she happens to have on the shelf or in the freezer, but thinking of delicious meals with limited resources can be a huge challenger right now. Thankfully, BoingBoing pointed me to SuperCook! It’s a free website that will help you find recipes from the most popular cooking websites that use whatever ingredients you select. It’s pretty amazing, and it’s got some great suggestions that, I hope, will break up the monotony of cooking at home, when it’s a challenge to eat out. There’s also an iPhone and an Android app for you, if that’s what you prefer. (Links are on the website.)
But, if you’re willing to risk the delivery schedules, and want to add something more interesting, or exotic, or just plain fancy, you can try one of these mail-order food sites, reviewed by Esquire. They might get a little pricey, but you’ll definitely be getting unique and interesting ingredients to, if you’ll pardon the pun, “spice up” your regular, day-to-day meal and flavor options.

On a somewhat lighter note, while we’re talking about groceries, you may have had some “experiences” trying to get things at grocery stores recently. In particular, for some reason, people have been panic buying toilet paper. Well, I can’t help you get any of the desperately desired commodity, but, thanks to BoingBoing, I can share a video that explains the phenomena of panic buying. It’s actually a pretty good look at why, of all things, toilet paper, is in short supply lately.

And, this week, I’ve got two links for the grown-ups who have gotten bored and want to finally get some use out of that expensive camera they got for Christmas. The first of these two links is geared toward the potential professional photographer; Professional Photographers of America more than 1100 online photo classes for free. Of course, we don’t know how long they’ll offer these free, but if you’ve got a camera and internet access, you can take some classes and either develop a “side hustle”, or maybe even a new career, if you’re afraid of being laid off. And, that’s assuming you haven’t been already due to either the economic fall out of COVID-19 or the disastrously low price of oil.
The other link for photographers is a little more fun. 7 Photo Challenges for Photographers Who Are Stuck at Home. Amateur or pro, there’s nothing like a good challenge to keep the skills sharp.

So, there you have it. Some links to help you get through the next week. No telling how long we’ll all be locked down, so there’s no telling what I’ll post for you next week. The longer I’m home, though, the stranger things are likely to get.
Stay safe! Stay home! Wash your hands!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!


Free, Customized “Get Out Of Debt” Plan

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Deep Thoughts,Hoffman's Home for Wayward Boys,Life Goals,Life, the Universe, and Everything — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

I don’t make a big secret of my enormous debt.

It’s a problem.  I came by it honestly, for the most part.  I was almost debt-free when I lost my job in 2001.  I was freshly married to my girlfriend of several years and had to support her and her daughter, at least partially, in addition to myself.  I did it with credit cards.  I’m not proud of it, but, well, I did what I had to do.
Then, in 2005, I got divorced, which actually stemmed the bloody flow of money, or rather the swelling of debt.  Of course, I still had my house to deal with, which hasn’t been cheap, but I had started to get things under control again.  Then, of course, I got cancer, which brought all kinds of medical bills with it, even after insurance paid most of the bills.

I’m getting a handle on it, but it’s still not easy to do.  What would have helped me was a plan.  A good, solid plan that was laid out for me.  Now, thanks to Ready for Zero, linked via Lifehacker, you can get a plan to help you get out of debt, for free.  And, let’s face it, if you’re deeply in debt, like me, you can’t really afford to spend a lot of money on books and workshops to help you plan how to get out from under.  A free plan is priced just right.
Do yourself a favor and check it out, even if you’re not in debt yet.  Before it’s too late.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"People who fight fire with fire usually end up with ashes."
   --Abigail Van Buren


18 Ways for Geeks to Make “Quick” Money

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Career Archive,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Hoffman's Home for Wayward Boys,Red Herrings,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:37 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Okay, I know I’m starting to make a bad habit of this, but…

But, you know I’m going to do it anyway.
So, I’ve recently seen two lists of ideas for making money. One is pretty specific to computer geeks, but the other is more generic. I’ll summarize and link to them below:

First, from TechRepublic; 10 Ways for Techs to Make Extra Cash

  1. Subcontracting
  2. National Account Work
  3. Database Consulting
  4. Teaching
  5. Software Training
  6. Home Networking
  7. Telecommunications
  8. Financial Software Consulting
  9. Security System/DVR Integration
  10. Online Expert

Okay, I have a few issues with this list. First of all, several of these things would really cut into a full-time gig! I mean, if you’re already in a consulting business of some kind, then branching out might be good, but some of these really aren’t for everyone. For instance, I know I’d be a bad fit for financial software of any kind. I mean, I don’t have any real Accounting training and can barely balance my checkbook, so that doesn’t seem like a great idea, does it? And, I know plenty of people who do a lot of what I do that would have no clue about database design or phone systems. The fact that I do know these things is a fluke, really. But, when times are tough, I suppose every network geek has the potential to become a consultant.

The second list is from MSN; 8 Ways to Boost Your Income

  1. Sell Your Junk
  2. Get a Second Job
  3. Sell Your Skills
  4. Rethink your Rent
  5. Claim Unclaimed Assets
  6. Adjust Your Tax Withholding
  7. Get “Paid” to buy the stuff you already do
  8. Hit up Mom and Dad

Okay, some good ideas, but again, I have some issues with it. Some of these are the old standbys, you know? The renting out a room thing, though, is a good idea. Well, mostly. If you pick the right person. I’m a little sketchy about the finding forgotten assets thing, though. I don’t really think I have anything I’ve left behind anywhere. I’m also a little dubious about playing around with taxes too much, too. That can go wrong in a hurry, and did for me during my divorce. (Of course, I made up for that by selling her junk instead of mine!) And, frankly, buying things on a card that “pays you back” seems like a pretty dangerous choice, too. That can go wrong fast, as my massive consumer debt shows. But, the worst is that last one. Uh, sorry, but I’m not moving in with my mom and dad in the “Over 55” community they live in now. Just not an option.

So, there you are. There might be a few ideas in there, but, honestly, I doubt there’s anything all that new to anyone who worked in IT during the late 90’s after the Internet bubble burst.
I hope all my readers are doing reasonably well, in spite of the downturn. And, if you all have more or better ideas, please, leave them in the comments!

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time."
   --Abraham Lincoln


Thanksgiving Recipes

Filed under: By Bread Alone,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Hoffman's Home for Wayward Boys,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:57 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

Now is the time, gentle readers, to help your Uncle Jim out.

So, Thanksgiving is at my house this year. Maybe this will be the start of a new tradition, who knows? In any case, this year, I’m bringing the joy of the season to my house. Only, now, I have a small problem. Outside of making the turkey, which is frightening enough, I don’t have any simple, traditional, passed-down-from-grandma recipes that are easy enough for me to do. So, give me yours.

No, seriously. Look, I’ve invited a lot of people and, while I’ve gotten some polite refusals from some of them, many more have either said yes, or are waiting until the last minute to confirm. What’s more is that I’ve told several of them not to worry about bringing anything, lest that hold them back from coming. All of which means, I have an unknown number of people coming, some of whom aren’t bringing anything and may show up at the last minute. And, now, I sort of feel obliged to, you know, feed them and stuff. Except, I’m a fairly inept cook. Truly. So, I need your help. Kat has already sent me a brilliant and easy corn pudding recipe, which I’ll share in just a minute, but I need more. I especially need a good, simple, but interesting stuffing recipe. Most of you have my e-mail, so if you want to share privately, you can, otherwise, just leave them in the comments. At some point, I’ll collect them all and share them, and let you know which ones I actually try.

So, while you ponder that, here’s Kat’s Best-Friend’s Cousin’s Corn Pudding:
Fold in this order: 1 can drained corn, 1 can creamed corn, 1 stick melted butter, 8 oz. sour cream, 1 box jiffy corn mix. Bake at 325 for an hour to an hour and a half (should be the consistency of pudding in the middle). You can also add shredded cheese and jalapeno if you like.

Now, Kat knows me well, so she’s got a handle on the “keep is simple for the kitchen dunce” vibe that I need. Let that be your model and your guide.
Help me cook to fill stomachs, hearts and souls with warmth and joy.
But, keep it simple.



Filed under: Art,Fun,Hoffman's Home for Wayward Boys,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 4:58 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous


Now, for my regular readers, I’m sure it comes as no surprise that I am, in fact, a giant kid. Honestly, I attribute that single fact to why I am an instant “favorite uncle” to, well, every child under the age of eighteen. Grown-ups just do not do the things I do. It’s apparently not allowed.
In any case, my latest obsession is Nerf guns. Specifically, making them, well, cooler. (You can see the first one I did on Flickr.) There’s just something about them that appeals to the big, rough-and-tumble kid in me.

So, you can imagine how excited I was when I saw that Hasbro is making a Nerf machine gun. Yes, a fully automatic machine gun, complete with belt-fed magazine and tripod. And, no, this is not a hoax. I have confirmed it at the Hasbro media press release page. As soon as I see an updated release date for the Nerf Vulcan EBF-25, you can bet that I’ll post an update. (Shoot, even the name is cool. Well done, Hasbro!)



Post #1194

Filed under: Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Hoffman's Home for Wayward Boys,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:04 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

So, I’m tired of everything tasting like metal.

I know the antibiotics are helping me, curing me of a terrible, wasting disease and all that, but I hate the nasty metallic aftertaste they leave in my mouth. It’s like licking the cheap, stainless steel, diner spoon after stirring sugar into your ice tea.
Oh, and what they’re doing to my insides! The other day I belched so loud my dog jumped and ran for cover.
Saturday night I hardly slept at all. I just couldn’t get comfortable and find a position that didn’t leave me feeling like I was going to drown in my own bodily fluids. I fell asleep on the couch Sunday morning after putting on a pot of coffee. A pot of coffee that went to waste, naturally, since I slept beyond the auto shutoff timer.

However, on the good news front, my former roommate finally got all his stuff out of my garage! Yea! So, now, I can move my nasty, brown kitchen table out into the garage and use the nicer butcher-block table my ex left behind. I almost feel guilty using it, not because it was hers, but because she stole it from her second husband. I offered it back to him at one point, but he declined, so I guess I shouldn’t feel strange about using it. It is a nice table. I’ve made quite a bit of space in the one room that used to hold virtually everything the Queen of the Damned left behind. Later this week, I’ll be donating another eight bags of clothes and shoes to the Salvation Army. And, yes, I’ve finally been convinced that it’s okay to donate the stripper shoes that she left behind to the Salvation Army. I’ve been told the working girls shop there, so they’ll go fast. And, no, it’s probably best not to disclose how I found the right people to ask those kinds of questions.
So, soon, I’ll start working on my office and getting that room straightened up. But, I think that can wait a couple of weeks while I heal up some more.

I’ll need to paint, eventually, too, but that’s going to require a bit of thought and planning. Also, I think it will require a second opinion as I’ve been told my taste in colors may not be the best. Well, perhaps, by then, I’ll have a feminine touch around the house somewhere that might lend a hand. Anything’s possible! The people at church keep telling me how God works miracles, so, I figure if He can part the Red Sea for Moses and the gang, certainly, He should be able to find me someone to love all the rest of my days. We’ll see how that works out, but I’m praying for it.

Well, I’ve sort of rambled all over here tonight, so, instead of giving this post a clever title, I’m just going to let WordPress number it. #1194. Almost seven years of blogging and I’ve got 1,194 posts. Not bad. Not bad at all.


What a Weekend!

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Hoffman's Home for Wayward Boys,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Pig which is in the late evening or 10:19 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Thankfully, the chaos belongs to other people for a change.

So, my buddy, J., got his ring back yesterday morning. We have him on, more or less, suicide watch. I’m not sure how many nights he’s going to be hanging at Hoffman’s Home for Wayward Boys, and he may not spend the entire night, but I’m sure he’ll be over more than once between now and Christmas.
Here’s how it went down….

Saturday night, J. stayed home from church because he wasn’t feeling well. And, in fact, we talked earlier in the afternoon about that and how the anitbiotics were draining him and making him feel even more depressed than normal. We also talked about getting fitted for tuxedos next weekend, in preparation for the wedding and as a show of good faith to L., J.’s fiance, that he was committed to the wedding. So, when he didn’t show at church, I didn’t think much of it, but I also noticed that L. wasn’t at church either, which was a bit worrying, considering the tender state of affairs with the wedding and their relationship. Ironically, I ended up sitting with J.’s last ex-fiance, who’s been through her own wedding announcement only to have it called off for reasons unknown to the general public. I have my own speculations on that, but nothing concrete. She was having a rough evening, too, but I managed to coax a smile out of her.

I may not have many talents when it comes to the opposite sex, but making them laugh seems to be chief amongst the ones I do seem to manage.

In any case, after church was over, I called over to see what J. was doing for dinner and he let me know that L. was over and they’d just had dinner. By then, I was outside in the parking lot and realized that I didn’t really feel like going to dinner with anyone, so I zipped home and indulged in a little Mickey D’s along the way. And, to be honest, at this point, I figured things were pretty well on an even keel with the two of them and the wedding and all. No worries, right?

Not quite.
I usually sleep late on Sunday, having been to church the night before. But yesterday, I got a call a little before 8:00am that woke me. I’m sure J. had been staring at the phone, waiting until it was a “decent hour” to call for some time before that. He tells me he’s still depressed and afraid to get married. He tells me that L. has suggested that he look at some other unresolved issues that might be causing his depression and the implication is that he’s still got cold feet about the wedding. He tells me that he thinks all the doubt is telling him not to get married yet and that he doesn’t love, really love, L. He tells me that she’s on her way over to “talk” and, probably, give the ring back.
He asked if I’d stay with him on the phone until she got there. Naturally, I just kept talking with him while I let the dog out, got a cup of coffee and pulled on a robe. When she arrived, J. told me he’d call after they were done.

That turn of phrase ended up being a little more prophetic than one would suppose.
They do, indeed, seem to be done. After a several hour “talk”, wherein she actually sung his praises, the poor bastard, she returned the ring. Sadly, because she adored him so much, now, the possibility of them remaining friends is, well, not very good at all. Seeing him that way would be too painful for her. Just like J. seeing K. when she made the announcement about her engagement, even though that, too, has been called off.
The really heart-breaking thing for me, however, was when J. sobbed into the phone that he might have just made the biggest mistake of his life, that maybe he did actually love her after all. I’m fairly certain that all I could muster was “Aw, dude…” What can I say in the face of that sharp a personal tragedy? Not content to ride it out, he’d done the worst thing and made a decision. A decision he’s not happy with having made. At least I had the presence of mind not to tell him that he really “screwed the pooch” on this one.
Besides, I’ve mellowed with age.

Now, I’m sure a part of him was thinking he could do better, but, really, I don’t think he could have.  She isn’t the thinest, tiny-waisted thing, but her curves looked just fine.  And, she was patient enough to have gone through this for more than two months, back and forth, which is more than anyone should have to endure.  She’s also smart as a whip and was as caring and solicitous of his friends (ie. me) as a guy could ask for.  But, now, she’s gone.  Poor guy.  I suppose only time will tell if this is a permanent thing or not, but, frankly, I don’t think he can crawl long enough, or low enough, to get her back at this point.

It’s going to be a long week for both of them.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"It is not the going out of port, but the coming in that determines the success of a voyage."
   --Henry Ward Beecher



“All is flux…”

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Hoffman's Home for Wayward Boys,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Pig which is in the late evening or 10:13 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

“… Nothing stays still.”

I’m in between and I can feel it.
I’m like that guy who’s read one too many books on sleight of hand and stage magic that can see the trick happening on stage and know how it’s done, even if he can’t quite manage the trick himself. I’m not the man behind the curtain, but I can see his shoes poking out from back stage. I can see the gears that drive the smoke and mirrors of my life.

Neither “here” nor “there”, wherever those two mythical places may be. And, as always when I feel dislodged this way, adrift between destinations, every movie on cable features a prominent character smoking. Closing his eyes and drawing in the grey, cloudy poison that cuts the edge and smooths the rough spots and fills the time while we wait. I’m not sure what I’m waiting for anymore, just perched, ready for flight. Ready to go where the wind takes me, just as soon as the still, thick Houston air stirs with any kind of a breeze that might ruffle my feathers and give me the urge to leap.

Change is all around me.
I have a friend who’s announced that he’s planning on getting married. He and I are the same age, give or take two months. He’s never been married before, and I’m trying so hard to embrace his hope and innocent vigor. I don’t want to taint his wonderful news and hopeful energy with my dark cynicism and poor choices when it comes to marriage. He’s picked a wonderful girl, who suits him so well, and I’m sure, so sure, that they’ll make it. They’ll be the other fifty percent. The half that don’t end up with hard words and court dates and cold, silent stares that end in long walks with cigarettes.
They just have to make it.

I know another guy who’s on the way down and out.
I did what I could to help him, which wasn’t much. Of course, now, I wonder if I really helped at all or just prolonged the inevitable outcome of choices he made long before he met me. But, I fought to counter my darker half and tried to believe in the best of him, only to watch him slip away behind a curtain of cigarette haze and an ocean of amber. Nothing I could do, but cut the line and let him sail his own course, out to sea in the storm. And, now, I lose sight of him, while I stay in safer waters, my surface calm like a sheltered marina harbor. Nothing more I could do, so I go below deck and try not to think about the glowing tip of the cigarette and what it all means.

No, I don’t know what any of it means, except that I can see the changes starting to happen. Something new is coming. Something I haven’t seen before. Something I cannot know because I have never known it. New territory, freshly discovered and entirely unexplored.
With no native guides, how will I chart my way?


Party Supplies

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Hoffman's Home for Wayward Boys,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time or 9:45 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

What to bring to a birthday party?

So, a friend of mine is having a birthday coming up and his dear, sweet, darling girl-friend is putting together a party.  Sadly, she’s an overworked grad student who is too tired to remember all the details, so, when I was being nice, polite and friendly and asked if there was anything I could do or bring, she asked me for suggestions.
I wisely deflected that with “Sadly, you have *much* more experience planning parties than I do! Besides, with my history, you never know what that kind of question is going to produce.”

Why was that wise?  Because the first three things that came to mind were pickles, a baseball bat, and clean underwear to change into for the trip to the emergency room.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us."
   --Helen Keller


Anonymous Blogging

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Hoffman's Home for Wayward Boys,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time or 9:29 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.

The EFF has put out a little HOWTO on HowTo Blog Anonymously. Now, this might not seem like a big deal, but if you’re blogging about work or some other sensitive topic, it can mean the difference between a paycheck or not, or, even doing jail-time, or not. The reason I’ve been thinking about it is that so many people know me and my blog. I have all sorts of friends and relatives who read my blog and, of course, potential employers read it, too. All of that means that I self-censor fairly heavily. Notice, for instance, how little I say about the poor, dear thing that I’ve been dating? No need for the crazy ex-wife, or her equally wacky new husband, to get all charged up about what a good or bad time I’m having with her. I mean, we all know how jealous she gets of anyone who might show any significant interest in me, though I really don’t know why she can’t seem to move on now that she’s re-married for the fourth, and hopefully final, time. Nor have I mentioned the roommate thing lately. He’s moved out, by the way, at my request. There were a number of reasons behind that, but, most importantly, I’m going back to Hoffman’s First Rule of Roommates: After college, never have a roomie with whom you’re not sleeping. Having someone else in the house just got on my nerves too much for my own good mental health, so, I shut down Hoffman’s Home for Wayward Boys for a bit. (Of course, I’ve been thinking of opening Hoffman’s Home for Unwed Mothers, but that’s a whole different post!)

Now, where was I? Oh, right, anonymous blogging. So, there are things that I’d love to rant about in a public or semi-public forum, but don’t want to associate with my Real Life persona. Things that I’d like to talk through via a blog that could be taken the wrong way by people who might read it. Not that I think most of my loyal readers care, but, still, you get the general idea, right? I haven’t gone so far as to start a hidden blog, yet, but it is something that I’ve thought about doing. And, if I ever do, I’ll use the EFF HowTo guide to do it!

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Millions long for immortality who don't know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon."
   --Susan Ertz

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