Diary of a Network Geek

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

6/26/2020

Facing The Black Dog

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,News and Current Events,Personal Care,Red Herrings — 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

Yeah, I’m talking about depression.

That metaphor, calling depression the “Black Dog”, is usually attributed to Winston Churchill, but I’ve definitely heard it from a lot of sources. We tend to want to show our best faces on social media and on our blogs, but the truth is, most of us aren’t the happy, shiny Instragram people we want the world to see. I know I’ve had my own bouts of depression, on and off, for years. It feels like sitting in the bottom of a pit without light or hope, at best forgotten, but at worst with people shoveling dirt on top of me. There have been various reasons for it and I’m grateful that all my depression has been transitory. It’s always been what I call situational depression. One time, it was because I was getting divorced. Another time it was because my cardiologist had given me betablockers, which killed my motivation and made me want to just lay on the couch all the time. There have been other times, usually around a job loss or some other relationship failure on my part.
Right now, though, all of 2020 so far has been enough to depress anyone. I mean, I’m pretty blessed to have a job that pays well and lets me work from home at least some of the time, but I’m very aware that a lot of people don’t have that. And, even though I count my blessings on a regular basis, I still worry about COVID-19 for my wife and me and the rest of my family. I still worry about the economy and my friends who don’t have stable work. I’m absolutely blessed, but only someone out of touch with reality wouldn’t find some things to be depressed about right now.
And, even in that, I know I’m lucky. My depression has always gone away, so I know the latest bout of it will absolutely fade, too. But, my wife has clinical depression. She spends a good portion of her day dealing with that, whether it’s making sure all the meds she takes are right and that she’s stocked up correctly, or planning healthy meals, or trying to get enough rest, or enough exercise. She works very hard at it all the time. And, I’ve seen her when all that’s NOT working and she does get swallowed up by depression. I know how hard it is to watch, and I can only imagine how hard it is to live through.
So, I’ve got nothing fun or happy or silly for you this week. What I’ve got is a little understanding if the Black Dog has gotten off the leash and you need a little help. If you feel like everything is too much and depression might overwhelm you, try one of the resources here:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255

MentalHealth.gov – Get Immediate Help

The National Alliance on Mental Health Helpline – 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

And, remember, there’s no shame in getting help. In fact, getting help is what strong people actually do.
If you or a loved one needs help with depression or any other mental health issue, please, don’t wait until it’s too late.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

4/24/2020

More Links For Pandemic Quarantine Distraction

Filed under: Fun,Fun Work,Personal Care,Red Herrings,The Tools — 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

It just keeps going and going and going.

Honestly, the worst part about all this is that I’ve been so busy I can’t even enjoy the fantastic boredom that everyone keeps complaining about. I’ve read all the “inspirational” and “motivational” tweets that tell me I should come out of this quarantine with a new skill or new business or, at least, a new “side hustle”, but honestly, I’ve been so busy doing actual work and not defrauding my employer by only pretending to work from home that I just haven’t had the time. Seriously, I get that their point is all the excuses about not having enough time shouldn’t be an issue for all the people who are “bored” at home with nothing to do, but I really, in all sincerity, have been busier working from home in all this than I would be in the office. No joke.
But, I do still manage to find you, dear readers, links to amuse and distract in this time of fear, uncertainty and doubt. Here they are.

First, a little something for the geeks, via Boing Boing: 108 Rare and Bizarre Media Types. My fellow computer geeks, I promise you this will hit at least ONE data storage media that you’ve never heard of before. Utterly fascinating and, again for the geeks here, a wonderful way to spend about 35 minutes learning about more of the deep history of our profession.
Now, if you are, somehow, able to create in this climate of terror, may I suggest that you try creating a tiny ‘zine? What, you may ask, is a “zine”? Excellent question. According to The Bindery blog, “[a] zine is a self-published, non-commercial print-work that is typically produced in small, limited batches.” So, basically, a small, short-run, DIY magazine, of sorts. They can be pretty much whatever you want. And, if you want to save on paper and make literally small ones, as in from one sheet of paper, “Teen Zine Workshop” – Zine Instructions and Zine Template + Layout Document, both from Umami Design. You’ll have to decide what goes into it, but those links give you the tools to lay a zine out and get it assembled. And, if you’re hurting for ideas, you can always go back to last week’s post and write some funky COVID-19 haiku!
If those two options don’t strike your fancy, you can always check out David Brin’s Science Fiction Recommendations to find something to read. He’s an award-winning science-fiction author and a genius; just ask him! Seriously, though, he really does write brilliantly smart scifi and is an actual scientist, so, genius isn’t really an unreasonable assertion. Or, if you’re looking for something shorter, you can try Tor’s Must-Read Speculative Short Fiction: March 2020, or the Internet Archive’s collection of Amazing Stories magazine, or their collection of detective pulp magazines or their collection of fantasy pulp magazines. There may be some overlap there, but all good, free, reading material.

And, finally, again from Boing Boing, if you’re worried about your food situation, here’s How long you can safely keep condiments in your pantry and fridge. They reference an article off-site, but they give you the shelf life of some of the most common condiments you probably have. But, if all that is too much for you, Make Magazine has 15 Drink Recipes From Latte to Mead to help take the edge off. (I’ll leave you, dear reader, to decide the appropriate alcohol content of your libations.)

And, that wraps another fun and exciting week in the COVID-19 quarantine zone! See you next week!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

4/3/2020

Apocalypse Cooking and Entertainment

Filed under: Art,By Bread Alone,Fun,Red Herrings — 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 Gibbous

Or, dinner and a show in the time of the great pandemic.

While things are getting better, it still seems like it’s going to be a little bit before the supply chain evens out. I made a grocery run earlier this week and, while it seemed like a lot of stuff was in stock, there were still a surprising number of things that were not. And, honestly, I expect that the food supply chain is going to have a hiccup or two here before we’re done. All that adds up to getting a little extra creative with our meal planning and cooking.
Last week, I mentioned SuperCook, a free website that will help you find recipes from the most popular cooking websites that use whatever ingredients you select. I still hold that out as probably the best source for working with what you have on hand.
But, this week, for a bit of fun, I’m sharing some other options. First, again via Boing Boing, there’s the Alton Brown Saltine Cracker Hack, that really does look surprisingly delicious. And on that same page, there’s a video of someone making “prison pizza”. That got me thinking a bit. You know who has lots of time to get creative and super limited resources, but also a lot of motivation to make delicious food? Yeah, prisoners. From what I understand, prison food is, at best, not great. At worst, it’s barely actual food. The thing is, though, they have a commissary where you can get the kind of convenience store food we generally take for granted on the “outside”. And, believe it or not, they use that to make some pretty amazing substitutes for fancier food. For some ideas, check out The Art of Gourmet Cooking in Prison on VICE or The Fine Art of Cooking In Prison on Thrillist. You can get several prison cookbooks, but here are the two I recommend; The Prison Gourmet: Written by an inmate for inmates and Commissary Kitchen: My Infamous Prison Cookbook. If you want to get an idea of the kinds of recipes you’ll find, though, check out 7 Gourmet Prison-Food Recipes for Bootstrapped Entrepreneurs. Stay away from the pruno, though. The liquor stores are all considered “essential businesses” right now and their cheapest sale wine is better than pruno. Honest.

Oh, and the show to go with all this fine dining? G.I. Joe Animated Series on YouTube. Not sure how that could possibly be related to strange food and cooking? Then you’ve forgotten about GI Joe – Pork Chop Sandwiches (Warning language may not be safe for work or small children!) If you’re not familiar with that particular cultural phenomena, you can find out more at Porkchop Sandwiches! The History of the GI Joe PSA Parodies.

So, like I warned you a couple weeks ago, the longer this goes on, the stranger my links are likely to get. Come back next week to see just how strange!

This amazing post full of useful information originally appeared on Use Your Words!

12/13/2019

Another Lucky Friday

Filed under: Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rat which is in the wee hours or 12:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

At least once a year, I try to write about Friday the Thirteenth.

Mostly, because it’s an easy post to make, since I copy a lot of the information from previous posts, but also, while other people seem to find it unlucky, I don’t. At least, I don’t find it any less lucky than any other Friday on any other date. If anything, I find myself feeling luckier than normal when everyone else seems to be feeling less lucky, hence the title of this blog post.
Besides, when I get stuck for topics, as I sometimes do, this is an easy enough post to whip together again.

Back in the old days, before the internet or Google or smart phones we use to answer every passing question, I used to assume that Friday the Thirteenth was considered unlucky due to some Biblical association, like since Judas was effectively the Thirteenth Apostle or some other Apocalypse-related numerology that I hadn’t bothered to dig into before. I don’t think it’s a big stretch, really, since so many superstitions seem to tie back to some obscure custom related to religion. But, I’ve since found out that nothing could be further from the truth. Apparently, Friday the Thirteenth is considered unlucky because of its association with the plot to suppress the Knights Templar, according to this article on GlobalPsychics.com. No, seriously! And, I quote:

The modern basis for the Friday the 13th superstition stems from Friday October the 13th, 1307. On this date, the Pope of the church in Rome in Conjunction with the King of France, carried out a secret death warrant against “the Knights Templar”. The Templars were terminated as heretics, never again to hold the power that they had held for so long. There Grand Master, Jacques DeMolay, was arrested and before he was killed, was tortured and crucified. A Black Friday indeed!

So, there you have it, Friday the Thirteenth is a global conspiracy, though, for a nice twist, the Knights Templar or Freemasons aren’t behind it, but, rather, the victims of it! Which I appreciate, incidentally, because I am both a Freemason and, via another Masonic body, a Knight Templar, ironically. Although, to be fair, that same web page I link to there also goes into the fact that 13 is generally considered unlucky due to the number of people at the Last Supper being, you guessed it, thirteen. But, aside from the number, which is considered unlucky in a lot of ways, it’s the association with the suppression of the Templars, which happened on a Friday, that makes the day unlucky historically.

Personally, as I already mentioned, I usually have better luck on Friday the Thirteenth, but, then, I always have been a little out of step with the world. Besides, I don’t think of myself as a very superstitious person, so I generally don’t buy into most of this nonsense.
Oh, and if you’re not buying the Templar story, here’s a link to some alternate ideas why everyone else is afraid of Friday the Thirteenth.

This post “originally” appeared on Use Your Words, but, honestly, it’s been pretty recycled because how many different times can you say the same basic thing about Friday the Thirteenth?

11/1/2019

What makes a safer knife?

Filed under: Fun,Personal Care,Red Herrings — 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

A sharp knife is a safe knife.

I know that doesn’t seem to follow, but, trust me, it’s true. When I was in Boy Scouts, one of the many things I learned is that a sharp knife is actually safer than a dull knife. A sharp knife is less likely to snag and jump when you make a cut, and therefore, less likely to get out of your control when using it. Also, a sharp knife takes less effort to use, which also makes it easier to control. But, if you should mess up and have an accident, a sharp knife makes a cleaner cut. Trust me on this; clean cuts heal faster and better than messy, jagged cuts. I have plenty of both kinds to know the truth of that!
I bring this up because two of the holidays most focused around food and, therefore, the kitchen are just around the corner; Thanksgiving and Christmas. I fully expect that most of my readers, few of you as there may be, will find themselves in the kitchen carving a turkey, a goose, a ham or some other delicious and festive meat product. That means, gentle readers, that there will be knives. And, if you’re like most people that means a carving knife that you likely haven’t used since last year at least. So, before you grab for that dull, under-used blade, now would be a great time to sharpen it. Not sure how? Well, thanks to our friends at Boing Boing, I have a link to a video on the basics of knife sharpening. It’s about 30 minutes, which is probably a bit longer than is strictly necessary, but it covers pretty much everything. They even have links there for whetstones of progressing fineness of grit to really get a good edge on that carving knife. The one criticism I have from my time in Boy Scouts is that the video shows him drawing the blade toward his body and in short strokes. I was taught it should *always* be sharpened *away* from the body and I was also taught to use the longer strokes he uses for the last phase of sharpening. But, I will say, his technique of using a sharpie to see where you’ve sharpened is pretty smart. Though, I’d have use the acetone over the sink, not my whetstones. And, after going through all the trouble of sharpening the knife and all, when you wash the acetone off, do it by hand. Dishwashers tend to dull knives because of all the banging around that happens.
So, you’ve got plenty of time and few excuses! Go sharpen up before it’s time to carve the turkey!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

8/23/2019

Astronaut Aptitude Test

Filed under: Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

Could you cut it as an astronaut?

Last month was the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon landing, which means that I’m about as old as our modern space program. Or, as I like to think of it, I’m a child of the space age. That seems much more palatable than being almost as old as NASA.
In any case, for the past month or so everyone has been talking about space and the Moon and possibly returning to the Moon on the way to Mars. All that got me thinking about how every kid’s dream was to be an astronaut when I was little. We all thought we’d somehow be able to go to space by now. And, I mean, everyone would be there, as regular as air travel is now, like they were in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Sadly, it takes a little bit more than just booking a ticket to get into space, and I probably wouldn’t have ever been eligible. But, in the spirit of dreams and our hopeful return to the Moon, this week, I’m sharing a link to The Astronaut Test, so you can see if you have “the right stuff” to qualify as an Astronaut Candidate. The questions are drawn from the actual, official NASA Astronaut Candidate requirements and tests.
Why not take the 15 question quiz and dream of the stars while you take a break from work?

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

11/30/2018

Passenger Rights

Filed under: Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:05 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

You have rights as an air traveler.

During the holidays, a lot of people travel. I avoid it as much as possible, mainly because I used to travel a lot and get pretty irritated with air travel these days. For one thing, since 9/11, security measures have gotten pretty onerous, which is too bad because most of them don’t really do anything to address actual safety. But, before I go off on a rant about my favorite subject (ie. Security theater), let me say that the worst thing about flying these days is the flying and the airline companies themselves. I know it’s a business and that we should be thrilled to get so far as quickly as we do, but they really play fast and loose with things like passenger comfort, over-booking and taking little to no responsibility when things go wrong.
Good news, though, you do, in fact have rights! Did you know that you may be entitled to compensation for delayed flights or missed connections? It’s true! You can read more about your air passenger rights, and get help if you feel like you’re due something from the airlines who lost or damaged your luggage or forcibly booted you off your flight due to over booking, at AirHelp. I have to admit, as of this writing, I haven’t used them, so I can’t speak to their actual effectiveness, and I don’t get anything from them to link to their site, but just having your actual rights laid out may be of significant enough benefit that I felt it was worth sharing.  Oh, also, their fee for helping you is 25% of whatever you’re due, but I still think it’s worth it, as otherwise travelers would just be out the whole amount.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

11/16/2018

Pack Better

Filed under: Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:10 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Learn packing secrets from the ultimate world travelers; the military.

I used to travel quite a bit for work, back before 9/11. In fact, I had just gotten back from a work trip a couple of days before it happened and, if not for that event, I might have lost my job that week. As it was, things got dragged out for another month, and then I had a series of jobs that didn’t really need me to travel as much. These days, I don’t bother trying to squeeze everything into a single, carry-on bag. It’s too much hassle for too little pay off. Besides, getting through security is time consuming enough without adding to it by dealing with things like electric razors.
Still, I did learn quite a bit from packing from those years. Things like putting the heavy items, like shoes, near the bottom. Or folding shirts as flat as possible so they could stack up more neatly and compactly. Or my favorite, putting toiletries like shampoo and toothpaste in separate, small Ziploc bags, which go into other, larger bags, to make sure nothing gets squished out onto clothes. I learned most of these tricks from my father, of course, who was quite the “road warrior” in his day. But, it turns out, he may well have learned some of those tricks from his time in the military. Don’t believe me? Well, check out Military Packing Secrets That Will Make You a Better Traveler on Thrillist. They have several tips that seem like common sense, but, really, they only are after you’ve done them once or twice.
In any case, this may not be “fun” exactly, but it did seem like something useful for my readers who might be packing for holiday travel soon.
Feel free to leave your tips in the comments! And come back next week for some more advice that may be handy this holiday season!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

11/9/2018

Book Cheaper Flights

Filed under: Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:10 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Well, for at least some weekends.

Last week, I shared a service that let you buy airline tickets on an installment basis before you fly. Hopefully, for anyone who might need it, that was helpful with enough time to pay off your flight. This week, I’m afraid, I don’t have anything that will likely be of help during the holidays, because, frankly, traveling during the holidays is never fun. If you haven’t done it, and can avoid it, I encourage you to do so. I’ve flown before Thanksgiving and Christmas both, and neither is an experience that I can really recommend. Also, airlines charge premium prices on those weekends because, well, they can. I mean, they really have you over a barrel. Every “good” son or daughter wants to get home for the holidays, so they can suffer through family dinners where someone is mad at someone else or is disappointed in how their lives turned out or whatever. At least, if holiday movies aren’t lying to us. (My family was always fantastic and warm and kind during the holidays, of course.)
But, if you can manage to travel on some other weekend, then WeekendFlights, is for you! You just go to the site, put in your point of origin and your destination and they whip up a calendar with all the weekend rates on it, highlighting the best, and worst, weekends to fly. (If you go, you’ll see that Thanksgiving weekend and the weekend after Christmas are flagged as some of the worst times to travel.) Yes, it is a short trip, but, if you’re looking for a quick, weekend getaway, this site can help you save on the airfare.
Check it out and see if you can save!

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words!

9/14/2018

Send Big Files

Filed under: Red Herrings,The Day Job — 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 Crescent

Frustrated with email limitations on big attachments?

Lately, I seem to be offering up solutions for email problems. I guess, email is on my mind lately. Don’t get me wrong, I love email. I frankly think it’s one of the most incredible things about the internet and quite possibly the greatest invention since sliced bread. Seriously. Think about it. Email connects us almost instantly with virtually anyone else in the world who has an email address. No time spent waiting for postal carriers to get a letter from where we are to where they are which might take days or weeks. Just near instantaneous communication.
Of course, there are some limitations. Obviously, I can’t send someone physical objects directly via email. I suppose, though, that when 3D printer technology catches up to our imaginations, we could send the digital files for some object and then you could print it locally, but that’s far, far in the future. Also? Most email systems have pretty strict limits on how big a file you can even send. Most top out around 25 megabytes, but some are really strict and are capped at as little as 5 megabytes. So, what can you do to keep those limits from killing your ability to share your big, beautiful Photoshop files? Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
In this case, the way is Send by Firefox. Yes, by the people who make the Firefox web browser, but, no, you don’t have to have Firefox to use it. You can watch a small video of how it works here, but really, it’s just a matter of uploading a file and following the instructions. They do recommend that you keep files under 1 gigabyte, but if you’re sending files that big, you’re really better off talking to your IT Department about setting up an FTP server for you. (Don’t worry, they’ll know what that means.)
In any case, this should be a simple solution for you under most circumstances.
And, that’s about the best you can hope for on a Friday!
Enjoy your weekend and I’ll see you back here next week!

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words!

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