Diary of a Network Geek

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

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.

8/17/2018

How Chocolate Is Made

Filed under: Fun,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:11 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

From bean to your mouth, how delicious chocolate is made.

I grew up in the city, but I had relatives who farmed, so I’m not one of those people who thought that food magically showed up in the grocery store. I was pretty aware, for instance, that steaks used to walk around in a pasture before they got carved up into bite-sized chunks. And, yes, I was always okay with that. But, also from that experience with my family’s farm, I learned to be curious about just what goes into food and food production. Frankly, what we do and have available to us in our amazing, modern, global economy is nothing short of miraculous. I’m old enough that I remember oranges being extra expensive and a great treat at Christmas, for instance. So what does all that have to do with chocolate? Well, until recently, I only had the vaguest idea how chocolate bars were made. I knew it started with a bean somewhere in the tropics and involved a process like roasting until the beans could be ground up into what is essentially cocoa powder.  And, that cocoa powder becomes chocolate. But, beyond that, the process was a bit of a mystery to me. And, I’d imagine, to you, too, gentle readers.

Well, thanks to a podcast from Seth Godin, titled It’s Not About The Chocolate, we don’t have to wonder any more. That link will take you to, among other things, two videos showing the process of taking cacao beans from the tree to an actual chocolate bar for your delicious consumption. And, yes, global warming is, in fact, putting my favorite sweet in danger. No matter how you feel about all that, the videos are fascinating and deliciously educational. Though, I do absolutely recommend that you listen to the full podcast. It’s even more educational than the videos.

And, there’s your entertaining video for Friday, with a steaming side of social consciousness.
Enjoy!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

7/20/2018

The Greatest Time To Be Alive

Filed under: 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 a First Quarter Moon

In many ways, the world is actually improving.

I know this isn’t my usual Friday Fun Link fare, but, frankly, with terribly depressing news media and the horrible sense of that everything good is long behind us, not to mention the dumpster fire that is U.S. politics these days, it just seemed like maybe it was time to share something that was more positive. Sure, I could have given you another simple distraction, like videos about chocolate production or the fascinating science behind flatulence, but it seemed like maybe sharing some good things that are a bit more meaningful was appropriate this week. So, here are just five ways that the world is actually showing some improvement.

1. Over the last 20 years, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty has almost been cut in half.

2. The share of homes that had electricity in 1870 was exactly zero. Today the proportion of people with electricity is 85%.  I, personally, have known two people who were born before electricity in homes was normal or common and they both said it was life-changing in ways we can’t imagine.

3. In 1800, among all babies who were ever born, roughly half died during their childhood. Life expectancy was just 30 years and no country had a life expectancy above 40. Life expectancy at birth was only 45 years in 1870. The average life expectancy around the world today is 72.

4. The violent crime rate has been on a downward trend since 1990 in the U.S. Just under 14.5 million crimes were reported in 1990. By 2016 that figure was well under 9.5 million.

5. Retirement is still is a relatively new concept. In the past most people simply worked until they died. In the year 1870, for those who lived past age 65, the labor force participation ratio for males was close to 90%. Today it’s less than 20%.

You can read 45 more ways the world is getting better at the same place I got these; 50 Ways the World Is Getting Better, by Ben Carlson.
So, this weekend, when someone starts in on how terrible things are in the world, remind them that, actually, things have gotten better in the last 100 years or so.
Next week? Back to the videos.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

6/29/2018

Hurricane Season Preparations

Filed under: Calamity, Cataclysm, and Catastrophe,News and Current Events,Personal Care,Red Herrings,The Network Geek at Home — 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

The Gulf Coast is well into Hurricane Season. Are you prepared?

Here in Texas, hurricane season is kind of a big deal. And, with global climate change making tropical storms more frequent and more severe, it’s getting to be a bigger deal all the time. Usually, we have more than enough time to prepare, if you’re paying attention, but it never hurts to get ready well in advance so you’re not fighting for bottled water, bread and canned food with everyone else at the last minute.
So far, since I’ve been in Houston, I’ve been through one horrible tropical storm, and near miss and two actual hurricanes. After that first tropical storm, since my ex-wife and I were looking for a house, I chose one that wasn’t pulling up carpet. That turned out to be a pretty smart decision as not far away the neighborhood has some flooding issues. Thankfully, in the 18 years I’ve lived in my house, that’s never been a problem. But, all that said, I still worry about hurricanes and do try to take some reasonable precautions.

There are a couple of philosophies when it comes to hurricanes. Mostly, it’s either stay or go.
If you stay, you need to think about what you need to get by for an extended period of time. Most emergency preparedness sources suggest that you need to have food, water and other supplies for at least 72 hours. A great resource to help you plan is the Ready.gov site for hurricanes. They go over what to expect and even have really helpful PDF downloads to help you plan and prepare. And, actually, Ready.gov has a lot of resources for other kinds of disasters, too, like Wildfires, Tornadoes, Volcanoes, Floods and more. It’s definitely a resource worth checking out.
If you’re in the Houston area, like me, the city has their own disaster preparedness site, Ready Houston. It’s a good site and they offer a free DVD you can use to help you plan for emergencies with advice specifically for the Houston, TX area. They have videos on the site, too, as well as links to training other places, like FEMA.
One thing to consider if you have pets, for instance, is what to do with them during an emergency. FEMA has a training course for helping you with your animals in an emergency situation, which I found via the Ready Houston website. (They also have a more general, but, apparently, pretty complete course in general emergency preparedness.)

If you decide to make a run for it, you may want to put together what’s alternately called a “go bag” or a “bug out bag”. Personally, I feel the name “go bag” seems less paranoid and crazy-survivalist sounding, but it amounts to the same thing.
The idea is simple, really, it’s just a bag with all the things you need for anywhere from three days to a couple of weeks, ready to go on a moment’s notice. Not unlike a hospital bag for a pregnant woman, the main thing is that it’s packed and ready so when panic hits, you can just grab the bag and, well, go. Personally, I do NOT have a regular go-bag already prepped, because I frankly don’t have anywhere I’d run to in an emergency. And, if I did, I’d be neck deep in other people doing the same thing. But, again, you can take this as far as you’d like, assuming anything from temporarily relocating to another city and staying in a hotel to running off and hiding in the woods for a couple weeks. It’s up to you. But, either way, consider what might go into that bag. For some good examples, check out Scott Kelley’s Bug Out Bag on Kinja, who even provides links to what he bought so you can get it easily, too, and the oddly less woodsy approach to a bug out bag by American Rifleman Magazine, though I’m less convinced that you really need to be overly concerned with being armed. Remember, it ultimately comes down to just being ready for what ever you think might happen wherever you are.

I would also suggest that you have some long shelf-life food on hand, like every good IT guy has in his desk. In the past, I’ve used Millenium Food bars, actually, since they provide a lot of calories and energy with a five-year shelf-life, but really any good protein bar will do in a pinch.
One really good idea is to scan important documents, like a home-owner’s insurance policy and financial information and IDs and put them all on a LaCie USB key Flash Drive, or something similar that you keep on your keys, in case all the original documents get destroyed during a disaster or when you’re not at home.

So, in short, the idea here is to be like the Boy Scouts, prepared.
Have you gotten ready for hurricane season yet? Start now!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words by J K Hoffman.

4/13/2018

PWNED?

Filed under: Fun,News and Current Events,The Day Job — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Have my super secret accounts been compromised?

Probably. I know, that’s not really what anyone wants to hear, but it’s also pretty truthful at this point. I mean, if you pay any attention to the news these days, then you’ve heard about all the recent data breaches. Most recently, there’s the Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor data breaches, but before that there was Equifax, Under Armour, Uber and more. And, I know for myself, just having a Yahoo-related email account has made me susceptible to having my information compromised multiple times over the years.
But, what if you’re not sure? Or, what if you think you may have had an account that was part of a breach and want to know for sure? Then, head over to Have I Been Pwned and put in your email address. If you’ve been part of any of the big breaches in the past couple years, this site will tell you.
Also, if you’re not sure about that “secure” password you’re about to start using, then you can put that in at this site, too, and if it’s a well-known, well-hacked password, you’ll know before you use it. (That’s important to know because the well-known passwords are easier to pull out of even an encrypted password database.) If you don’t see it at first, just check the top menu for “Passwords” and you’ll get straight to it.

In this day and age, none of us can afford to be lax with our personal data and our data security. So, it may not be my normal “fun” link for Friday, but it’s definitely worth taking a minute to check your on-line safety.

This post originally appeared on 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 The Day After. 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.

3/16/2018

SXSW 2018 Music Stars

Filed under: Art,Fun,music,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 a New Moon

As picked by National Public Radio.

When I was in college, a good friend of mine who happened to be a jazz musician and a dual English and History major, told me I was “tragically unhip”. Sadly, he was not wrong. I’ve spent no small amount of time since then trying to shake that reputation, mostly without success. But, along the way, I somehow managed to rub up against a little bit of cool. And, I’ve allowed myself to explore those who are the opposite of “tragically unhip”, namely indie musicians. My musical tastes were curtailed a bit when I was married the first time, but after the divorce, I started to expand my musical horizons again. Aided by the internet and a great music-blog culture, I’ve found lots of really good, enjoyable, and obscure music. Enough to impress my wife with my eclectic and voracious tastes, though maybe not enough to impress my now professional saxophone-playing friend.
In any case, I’m always on the look-out for new music and new musicians. Now that I live in Texas, I’ve got a much more heightened awareness of South By South West (aka SXSW), which is happening this week. It’s become so much more, but SXSW started as a music festival. And lots of new music still finds its start there. Since I’m old now, and too busy to actually attend SXSW this year, I just went to NPR’s SXSW 2018 coverage page and started listening to music. It’s all free to stream, and if you hit the Austin 100: A SXSW Mixtape sub-page, you can download their 100 song picks from the festival for your listening pleasure. Totally worth the small effort, I assure you. Especially if you’re looking for the “next big thing” in music.

Enjoy the tunes, and your weekend!

This post first appeared at my personal blog, Use Your Words.

2/2/2018

Work – Fatherland – Order

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 7:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

My own political leanings often surprise me.

I should start by saying that I don’t think of myself as a particularly political person in any sense of the word. Sure, I have some very strong opinions about some things, but I mostly keep that kind of thing to myself because I hate the idea of becoming a bore. And, I think I’m a terrifically boring person, though my wife and friends assure me that is not the case. In fact, recently when I pumped out a bunch of messages about the net neutrality changes and the fight in the House and Senate to repeal that very, very bad FCC decision, at least one friend was so surprised he had to ask me about it. Which gave me the opportunity to educate him. It was nice.
But, what the title of this post refers to is the results of the quiz I took at PolitiScales. The quiz is meant to measure where you fall on 8 axes, including the one we think of most; Progressive vs. Conservative. I was surprised to find out that I was only 31% Conservative, but 57% Progressive. More stunning to me was that I rated 57% Regulationist vs. 17% “Laissez-faire” and 52% Nationalist vs. 31% Internationalist. The other axes include; Constructivist vs. Essentialist, Communism vs. Capitalism, Ecology vs. Productivist, Revolutionist vs. Reformist and Rehabilitative Justice vs. Punitive Justice. Again, it was a little eye-opening to me as I’d always thought of myself as both more conservative and global than they measured me as being. Of course, this is just one relatively short quiz and my thoughts on all this are more complicated than they can easily measure with a multiple choice questionnaire. Still, I encourage you all to take the quiz and see how you feel about it. And, maybe, give a little thought to your political life before the mid-term elections later this year.

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words.

12/29/2017

A Personal Security Plan

Filed under: Fun,News and Current Events,The Day Job — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

It’s never too late, or too early, to get more secure on-line.

Those of you who know me, know that I spend most of my days toiling in the corporate data mines and as a result, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about computer security. I also tend to be tech support for my friends and family, which covers a surprising amount of ground and technical situations. It seems like, lately, the biggest concern has been security. Either people are worried about having credit card information stolen or getting a virus or having some other password violated. Unfortunately, not enough of them are worried about backing up their systems, and, if I’m being totally honest with you, dear readers, I should worry about that more myself.
But, at the end of the day, I’m often left feeling like I can’t possibly give everyone the good advice that they need to stay safe with their technology and the internet. I tend to approach things from a corporate point of view, and even run my own network at home a little bit like a smaller version of the networks I’m responsible for at my “day job”. But, that approach doesn’t work for most people and I don’t have time to do a lot of customizing for their individual concerns.

Now, though, I’ve found a site that can help; Security Planner. It’s a free, interactive guide to let regular people get expert-reviewed advice to help them address their concerns about staying safe on their phones, tablets and computers. You just answer some simple questions about what worries you regarding technology and what can go horribly wrong, and they give you a simple action plan to help you get and feel safer. And, if you’re a more advanced user, or more intensely paranoid, they can help point you toward expert advice that, with a little more research and work on your part, can help you, too.
Best of all, it’s free.
Right now, the site is only in English, but they hope to expand to Spanish and French eventually, too.

So, do me, and whoever else you might go to for tech support, a favor; make a security plan for the coming year now.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

12/24/2017

The Coldest War of All

Filed under: Fun,News and Current Events,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is mid-morning or 10:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Our nation’s finest tracking holiday spirit.

As I usually do at this time of year, I’m reminding you of where to find Santa and, more specifically, how to track his progress.
During the Cold War, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, more popularly known as “NORAD”, stood between us and what we were sure was complete destruction at the hands of the Soviets. What with the recent tensions vis-a-vis Russia, China, and North Korea, NORAD may find itself busier than ever in the coming year, but, until then, thankfully, they can fall back on my favorite tradition; tracking Santa. It started with a wrong number and an accidental connection, but a gentle soul in a high-pressure job spread a little Christmas cheer once a long, long time ago. The story got around and before you can say “Who’s violating my air space?”, everyone was misappropriating government resources to make kids happy. Before long, it was fully sanctioned and, if I say so myself, an entirely proper use of my tax dollars. In any case, now, whether you’re young or old, or whether you have children or not, you can have fun tracking Santa with the Official NORAD Santa Tracker!  Besides, it’s about time for the Federal Government to bring us a little holiday cheer, don’t you think?
I’ll post again on Friday, but, until then, have a very merry Christmas!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

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