Diary of a Network Geek

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

11/20/2020

WiFi QR Code

Filed under: Art,Fun,Fun Work,Geek Work,Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver,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 might be helpful if you let people come over for the holidays this year.

Back in 2014, I wrote a little post about sharing your wifi with holiday guests via something called a QR code. Back then, the technology was exotic and strange and, sadly, pretty limited. But, now, more people are using their cell phones or have picked up a tablet for on-the-go internet access and most of those devices can read a QR code natively. And, with Thanksgiving and Christmas right around the corner, we might finally feel brave enough to invite people over for a socially distant, but in-person, holiday celebration and they’ll be asking for access to your wifi network. But, this year, too, with so many people working from home and all the potential security risks, you may not want to put your sensitive security access information into a strange website. So, I thought it was a great time to share another tool for creating those QR codes that guests can scan to get that access while using more secure programming standards. That site is QiFi. It’s super simple and makes a function QR code that you can either export as a PNG to add to a nicer display or simply print out so that your guests can scan it with their device. The QR code doesn’t show any information in a human-readable format, so the casual user isn’t going to just copy it down. And, of course, this is free. There’s actually not even any advertising on the site as far as I can see. The wifi information you put it isn’t stored on the site and is gone as soon as you close the page. So, for the less computer geeky, that means it’s about as safe as these things get.

No matter what else you do this holiday season, stay safe, try to stay healthy, and let’s all be as kind to one another as we can be.

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words!

10/30/2020

Healthy Skepticism

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Fun,News and Current Events — 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

People who call me pessimistic are just not being realistic.

If the past several election cycles and the attendant advertising and attempts to sway voters have shown anything, I think, it’s that having an extra healthy level of skepticism is just a good defense mechanism. For years, I’ve questioned all the quotes that are attributed to famous people, especially famous politicians. I really don’t think Abe Lincoln told people to “vote early and often”, though it’s possible that one or more Chicago mayors may have. A more direct example is this quote “Most of the Evil in This World Is Done by People with Good Intentions” which is often attributed to T. S. Elliot, but, is really a partial quote attributed to an anonymous contributor to a trade journal called “The Creamery and Milk Plant Monthly”, though Elliot said things that were quite similar. And, now, thanks to Quote Investigator you can do your own fact-checking when someone insists that George Washington said Firearms Stand Next in Importance to the Constitution Itself. They Are the American People’s Liberty Teeth and Keystone under Independence. (Spoiler alert! He most likely didn’t say that at all.)
And, while you’re being more actively skeptical, you may want to grab this Chrome extension that Lifehacker mentions, titled NoDiguisedAdsAnymore which does just what the title suggests; it reveals advertising disguised as news by marking it with an “Ad” icon. It may not catch all the sneaky political ads, but it’s not a bad place to start!

And, if you haven’t yet voted, make sure to do that this year. It’s never been more important in living memory to make your wishes known and vote your conscience.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

7/24/2020

Programming Widgets

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Fun,Fun and Games,GUI Center,On Creativity,The Day Job — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I’m anything but a professional programmer, but occasionally, I make stuff.

Sometimes, in my day job, I have to solve a particular problem and the only way I can manage that is via some small bit of programming. Usually, it’s just a little script of some kind; PowerShell or Perl, mostly. I taught myself Perl seventeen or eighteen years ago, in an attempt to stay busy at a job that severely underutilized my talents. Demonstrated, I think, by teaching myself Perl in my downtime. A lot of techs I knew would have just scrolled a news site or played solitaire or some other useless thing. I tried to expand my portfolio of skills. I learned a long time ago, though, that I need a project to guide my learning. It almost doesn’t matter what the project is, as long as it gives me problems to solve and obstacles to overcome. Solving those problems, with the new thing I want to learn, is what teaches me. Granted, I don’t always learn the best way to accomplish my task, or at least not the most commonly accepted way, but I still learn the skills involved in a way that embeds them pretty deeply.

Since I’m mostly self-taught in IT, which is my chosen professional field, I’ve had to find ways to keep learning on my own interesting. Having personal projects is one of them. So, projects are how I teach myself new things. As I work toward a larger goal, whatever that may be, I find problems and solutions to those problems and my knowledge extends into new areas. I did that with Perl a number of years ago. First I tried to teach myself Perl for extending MoveableType, the blogging software that I used to use before their licensing debacle. But, that was a bit too arcane and involved a place for me to start. So, several years later, I found some simpler scripts that did some language processing and were useful for another low-key hobby of mine; conlanging. (That’s constructed language making, for the less geeky.) And, so, I had a project to work with that was within my skill level. In the end, I made those scripts something that could run on a webpage and it drove massive traffic to my site. It was sweet! But, it crashed the server because it was so popular and it drove TOO much traffic to that site. Ultimately, I had to take them down. By then, though, not only had I learned Perl pretty well, but I had moved my blog to WordPress and started looking at this fancy new language for the web called “PHP”. That mostly ran in a way that didn’t put a strain on the servers, so it was better for high-traffic sites. The only problem was, I couldn’t move the functions from the Perl scripts to PHP easily. So, I started looking around for projects to teach myself PHP.

The project I found to let me dig into PHP was a random generator. No, not some random piece of electronic equipment, but a little web toy that randomly generated things. It’s pretty simple, really. You have something, like a title or a sentence that has variables, like nouns and adjectives, like Mad Libs. Those variables become, well, variables in the program. So, I just need to list a bunch of whatever that variable is into the program which randomly chooses those and fills them into the sentence or title and then gives me the result. Sounds simple, right? Okay, it kind of is, which is why I started with that. But, then I went about making it complicated. I added more variables and started reading them in from external sources and getting fancy with the output formatting. But, what it did was let me learn, bit by bit, PHP. You can see a bunch of those at my World Building page at Fantasist.net. When I got good enough at it, I dug back into WordPress and started looking at ways to use my new PHP skills to modify WordPress. What I came up with was the Dale Reckoning Calendar Plugin. For its time, it was pretty good. Now, I look at it and, well, I’m not quite embarrassed by it, but I’m not as proud of it as I was. It does work, but it requires the user to modify their theme and, essentially, become a bit of a coder themselves. That never sat well with me. And, I wanted to have something that would randomly, or semi-randomly, conjure up weather conditions for a particular day. Why? Because, if you’re gaming in a big campaign, things like weather start to matter a little. And, it was fun. It let me use old skills and old code and extend them to something new and stretch my learning even more. So, that’s why I kept coming back and eventually came up with the Forgotten Realms Weather Widget. It works better as a widget in the sidebar than as a daily update on posts. Though, I may still revisit the idea and see if I can’t improve my old plugin to not require the end-user to modify their theme to make it work. Again, for no real reason other than it’s fun to me and it would make my brain work more on something technical, which I’m already good at, but not for my day job. Mostly, though, because it would be fun to me. Oddly, it wouldn’t be fun if I had to do it for a paycheck. By the way, in moving some of the code from the old plugin to the new widget, I did find some ways to tighten the code a bit. I’d still be a little embarrassed to have a professional coder look too closely at it, but at least I’m improving.

And, I’ll keep working on it, though I’ll need to set some better boundaries so that I don’t get so obsessed that I miss much more sleep working on it. In any case, you can see the results for yourself at Forgotten Realms Weather Widget.
It’s free and only for WordPress and there may be bugs that I haven’t seen yet, so let me know if you use and find any. I can’t promise when I’ll fix them, but I promise that I’ll work on them.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!  And, that’s where you should leave any comments or bugs you might find.

6/19/2020

Money Management

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Life Goals,Marginalia and Notes from the Editor — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

I always seem to have more expenses than money.

The other day I was working from home and my wife came to get me in a little bit of a panic. There was a considerable amount of standing water in our back yard and right at the edge of our house. Definitely, not a good sign. She was sure we had a leak and I started to hyperventilate. If you’re a homeowner, you know that problems seem to come in roughly $5000 increments and from the size of the puddle in the yard, this was looking like about a $15,000 problem, at least. Like I said, definitely, not a good sign. Luckily, after calming down and checking the neighbor’s yard, it turned out that they’d just left their hose on over night and the water had run from their driveway to yard. It was gone by the end of the day.
But, that really got me thinking about money. I know that most Americans can’t handle a $400 emergency, much less a $15000 emergency. No one really ever taught me to manage money. I’ve had to learn on my own, which is why I carried so much debt for so long. The irony is that along the way, I started keeping track of everything with Quicken. I used to be able to connect to all my various accounts and reconcile everything easily. They’ve made that a paid service now, and I’m not quite willing to pay for that.
I did see Thursday, that you can now “Track Your Spending with Microsoft’s New ‘Money’ Template for Excel“, which sounds great, until you realize that you have to pay a monthly premium for that, too. And, it’s only good if you have a personal or family subscription to Office 365. My corporate license won’t give me access to the template. The good news is there’s a free alternative that does everything but directly link your bank accounts. You can download it from Vertex 42, The Guide to Excel in Everything, at Free Money Management Template. You’ll have to manually enter and reconcile your accounts, but, for most of us, that’s not that many accounts. And, this is free. No monthly fees. They even have a version for LibreOffice, if you scroll down a bit. In fact, they have quite a collection of free templates.

And, when you get a handle on all your money, if you have any left over, you might consider donating to causes that support a United States of America that is truly free and equal for all of her citizens, like the ACLU or the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or some other civil rights cause that scratches your political itch. Not everyone may be willing to risk their life or incarceration to protest injustice, but a monetary donation can help support those people who are fighting that fight.
Or, if you still can’t afford a straight donation, we can support more minority businesses. There’s a great list of resources for Black freelancers at Freelancers Union that include lists of Black businesses we can support.

And, of course, we can continue to educate ourselves, because it is OUR responsibility to educate ourselves as to the condition of our fellow citizens, not theirs. If you’re not sure where to start, this list from the Chicago Public Library can help. We can read books from lists like that and continue to educate ourselves because this is an issue that we can’t ignore any more, no matter who you are or what you do for a living.

Yes, I’ve posted that last bit a couple times already. With everything going on lately, I thought it bore repeating. Next month, I may highlight some other minority causes. I’d say I’d take suggestions, but I’m afraid of some of the suggestions I might get. The internet isn’t the friendly place it was when I started my blogs!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

5/8/2020

Today, More Than Ever…

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Fun,Personal Care,The Day Job,The Network Geek at Home,Truth and Consequences — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

In these troubled times, we’re all talking about the same thing in the same way.

I know the isolation is getting rough for all of us and it’s definitely giving me more days where I feel like my brain has more in common with moldy cottage cheese than the evolutionary advantage I’m told it is. In fact, I’ve been trying to write this post for days. Normally, I queue up these weekly posts with plenty of time to spare, but, lately, I’ve been writing them closer and closer to my self-imposed morning deadline. Honestly, I know in part it’s because I’ve been just as busy as I normally am, if not busier, but also because my creative thinking is just weak and stagnate. That’s been made no better by the posts on LinkedIn telling me that “…[if] you don’t come out this quarantine with: -A new skill -Your side hustle started -More knowledge you never lacked time, you lacked discipline.” For one thing, that’s bullshit. If you have time to do any of those things, you’re unemployed and worried about finding work and healthcare, which is not conducive to actually accomplishing any of those things, or you’re stealing time and resources from your employer. Either that, or you’re about to be laid off because you’re normally so unproductive that you have all this spare time and just needed to be able to more sufficiently hide that from your supervisor by not being seen. And, even if you aren’t doing that, but for various reasons are legitimately employed and legitimately not stealing time from your employer, you may still be massively depressed because of all the chaos and fear and stress at all levels of society. Saying that we should all just get our collective shit together and magic up some of that toxic hustle that the magical thinking, next-wave, would-be Napoleon Hill’s have been trying to sell us for the past decade, is about like telling a person with clinical depression they should just try to be happier. That’s not how it works. If that’s all it took, we wouldn’t have a multi-billion dollar antidepressant medication industry. Granted, those faux inspirational messages all seem to come from marketing companies who, traditionally, make more money when they can sell people things to fix problems we don’t have until the marketing companies convince us that we need to fix them, but it seems like it’s been really bad the last couple of years. Really, it’s just the latest “get rich quick” scheme meant to fleece the unwary and desperate. Of course, the truth there is that the only way to get rich quickly, is to sell someone else the “sure-fire method” of getting rich with little to no work. (Spoiler alert; those are all scams!)
And, for me, the added stress and strangeness of working from home has made everything seem flat and repetitive. Surely, you’ve noticed that all the commercials lately sound the same, right? According to the Boing Boing article titled “Every COVID-19 Commercial Is Exactly The Same”, part of my challenge may be something called “semantic satiation”, which is “…a psychological phenomenon in which repetition causes a word or phrase to temporarily lose meaning for the listener, who then perceives the speech as repeated meaningless sounds.” And, that’s officially the excuse I’m using for why it feels like nothing anyone is saying any more matters. And, that’s true for news stories about the ailing economy, too. So, basically, what I’m saying here is that I feel massively overwhelmed by this entire situation, as do, I imagine, the two other people who probably still read this blog, as well as everyone else in the country. We can’t keep track of what day it is, or what we should be doing, which are both signs of stress and depression, by the way. And, I seriously think that just maintaining my “day job” is impressive enough.
The thing is, the world is changing. Of course, the world is always changing, but, right now, we are all very, very aware of the fact that it’s changing and that the changes are pretty much all out of our control. Honestly, that’s how it is pretty much all the time, but, right now, we just can’t avoid that particular truth. And, you know what? That’s a really scary thing to wake up to and it’s okay to be scared or whatever you may be feeling by all this. It’s okay. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed and like it’s super hard to do anything that really matters. It’s okay to just want to have a hobby that’s fun and not going to result in some monetary gain. It is okay.
For me, that’s been photography in the past. They way I like to do photography takes a lot of time, though, so I haven’t done as much as I’d like. If you feel like you’d like to get creative and learn a little photography, for fun, but haven’t known where to start, I have good news. Now you can get some free, thanks to the Photography Life YouTube channel, which has all kinds of video tutorials meant for beginners. (I do have to admit, I found them thanks to PetaPixel.)
If that’s too much, then go ahead and try a game. In the past I’ve talked about Universal Paperclips, which is still a good choice, as it mostly runs in the background after a certain point. But, there’s also a new game that looks fun, based on this article on Engadget, Who knew I’d get obsessed with a spreadsheet game?.
And, if you just need to have some soothing music in the background while you try to work, try Robert Fripp’s Music for Quiet Moments series. Each is about 50 minutes of gentle, peaceful music. For something a little more unnverving, try the AI-generated music based on famous artist’s original work. It’s a little odd, but certainly interesting.

Finally, I’d like to share something with you that I personally find helpful and uplifting; Pema Chödrön on SuperSoul Sunday via the Oprah Winfrey Network YouTube channel. She’s a fantastic Buddhist teacher and her talks and books are incredibly valuable teaching for me in “these uncertain times”.

So, like I promised, things are getting weird. Next week, I’ll be in the office a bit. My co-worker and I are coming in every other day, to try and help keep the potential for exposure to COVID-19 to a minimum for us. I pray that it goes well.
Check in next week to see!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

3/27/2020

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!

2/21/2020

Legit Free Airport Wifi

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Fun — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

A little aid for the travellers.

Back in the days that I was one of those “road warriors” who spent countless hours in airports waiting for flights, wifi wasn’t even really a thing. Certainly not free wifi in the airports. Now, of course, not only is free wifi something that has come and, mostly, gone again, but it’s become such a normal part of life that it’s almost an expected amenity. Still for those of us who fly peasant class these days, and have to suffer through the interminable waits at security check-points, only to wait longer at a gate for our flight, having wifi can be a soothing balm. Sadly, all too many places charge for it now. And, that means, that your cheapskate Uncle Jim has brought you a set of free, or nearly free, things to circumvent the wifi misers.
This all comes to us via Lifehacker, naturally, as so many of my best and useful links do. Still, not all of you read Lifehacker, so I feel like I’m still doing a service here. And, of course, it’s easier to search my own site than theirs!
The map with all the info is a Google maps called Wireless Passwords from Airports and Lounges Around the World and it’s just what the name says. The map has airports marked on it with notes that have free wifi passwords and, as needed for clarity, the name of the wifi networks available. The developer, a travel enthusiast named Anil Polat, aka foXnoMad, started this project back in 2016 and updates the map with information from helpful travelers regularly. He’s also got two apps for “off-line” access available on the Apple AppStore and Google Play. The apps are NOT free, but the iOS version is only $1.99 which, I think, more than makes up for getting free wifi in airports.

So, there you have it. It’s a little late for the holiday travel season, but still, a pretty useful set of links, I think, for the regular traveler.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

1/31/2020

Pre-Written Emails

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Fun,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

I love short-cuts and time-saving templates.

When I was a kid, my mother had a book of example letters for every occasion. I loved that book and the idea behind it. Every page was a pre-written example letter or template that addressed a problem. All you had to do was copy that letter, change the names and specific circumstances for your particular situation, and you were all set. When I skimmed through that book, I felt like I was going to see a huge, exciting world as an adult and these were the keys to unlock all the doors to that adult world.
As a young adult, I actually got an updated copy of that book which came with a CD of templates for those letters. You could open them in your favorite word processor and customize them as required. Now, with the internet, I don’t really need those books, or that CD, because I can find anything I might need out there, somewhere.
One site, Canned Emails, has the very modern equivalent of those template letters. And, you can even choose between the raw text of them, or actually use the website to send the emails via your email client!
The emails are all pretty basic, but they cover a wide range of regular communications and, honestly, sometimes keeping it short and to the point is the best way to go any way.

See you next week with, well, something. Honestly, I haven’t planned that far in advance. So, I’ll be as surprised as you!

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words! But, I keep thinking I should rename it to The Cheerful Nihilist or something else ironic like that.

1/3/2020

Left Over Gift Cards

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Fun — 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 First Quarter Moon

By now, I bet you’ve spent most of your “Christmas money”.

And, if you’re like me, that came in the form of a gift card, not actual cash. Honestly, I kind of prefer it to actual cash for the most part. It’s easier to spend online, for one thing, which is almost certainly where I’m going to spend that “free” money. The only problem is, virtually nothing comes to an even dollar amount when you include tax and shipping. So, then you end up with all these gift cards with just a couple bucks on them and no idea how to deal with them.
Well, here’s two ideas.
First, save those cards to use on the “free, no-obiligation” trials that still want to collect credit card information from you. Pop in that gift card, let their website validate it and then, when you use up your free month or whatever, they can’t “accidentally” charge your card. It keeps all sorts of annoying and persistent charges from making their way to your credit card. And, yes, I’ve done it and it absoultely works like a charm.
The other thing is a cool, little website called CheapFiller.com. This beauty finds stuff on Amazon that’s under $25 and has free shipping, usually via Prime. Now that Prime will ship most things that are under a dollar, you can finally use up that last sixty-seven cents on your gift card from Christmas! Honestly, this is awesome. I did it just recently to get two super cheap fresnel lenses that fit in my wallet for about $2, which finished out a gift card for me. It was great! The thing to do is search for items well under your target amount, so you can see all the cheapie, cheap options. The two things I’d warn you about is that; a) grocery items have a minimum dollar requirement and b)items may have changed price slightly between the time the site collected the info and when you go to buy it, so double-check the pricing and shipping. But, again, it worked great for me and there’s no charge to search, though I’m sure they benefit from the link. It’s pretty genius. Give it a try!

And, welcome to the new year of weird, fun links on Use Your Words!  (That’s where this post originally appeared.)

11/29/2019

Security Tags

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Fun — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rat which is in the wee hours or 1:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I sort of hate “Black Friday”.

Yes, I have given into the base consumerism of the so-called holiday, even though it goes against so much of what I believe is important in life, and even though it follows Thanksgiving, a day meant to remind us of all we have for which to be actually thankful. Still, it’s a reality. It’s a thing that’s going to happen. Even I will call up Bell’s Farm to Market and order up my Northern family’s Christmas gifts to have them delivered. I do that mostly out of nostalgia, because I have fond memories of my uncle in Florida who would send fresh fruit for Christmas every year. Back in those days, it was a real treat to get fresh oranges in December. Not just because things like that cost more when I was a kid, but, honestly, in retrospect, because I think money was pretty tight for my parents and having food sent for Christmas was a real help no matter what it was. Of course, not getting rickets was a real bonus, too. So, I send that stuff now, not because anyone I send it to is hurting for it, but because it reminds me of a favorite great uncle and, I hope, reminds my siblings of him, too.

But, of course, you, dear readers, are not here to read my maudlin holiday remembrances. You’re here for your Friday link! And, boy, do I have a doozy for you. Now, before I share it, let me say that I do NOT endorse theft of any kind, least of all from retailers this time of year. However, if you’re out in the mad dash of Black Friday spending and somehow spend your hard-earned cash on clothes that some poor, harried, over-worked and under-paid sales clerk accidentally doesn’t remove the anti-theft dye tag from before hustling you out the door, this link is for you. Brought to you via BoingBoing, here’s the Lockpicking Lawyer, on how to remove an inventory control tag. So, if you somehow bypass the shitty security these tags provide and get out of the store with one still on your new shirt or pants or whatever, now you can most likely remove it without having to face the snarling mob at the store.
But, again, not advocating this as a way to steal anything from the stores on the busiest shopping day of the year, when security and store personnel will be stretched thin. Honestly, if you absolutely must buy things on Black Friday, do it on-line and avoid the crowds.

Most of all, though, enjoy your family this holiday season and focus on what really matters; them.

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words!

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