Diary of a Network Geek

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

5/19/2017

Free Creative Business Course

Filed under: Fun Work,Life Goals,Photography,The Day Job — 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 Waning Crescent

Seems like everyone is looking for a “side hustle” these days.

Personally, I’ve never felt very comfortable in a real entrepreneurial role, but even I have gone hunting for a side business on occasion, trying to get a leg up. When I was in college, I wrote. I’d always had the idea that I might eventually write a novel or three, which would, of course, sell forever, giving me a slow trickle of income for years and years. Clearly, that never quite happened. I have, on the other hand, done some consulting on the side, to make up for a hit in salary fifteen years ago. And, of course, to occasionally make a little extra when I needed to spend a little more, like when I got my first digital camera. Then, when I first started getting into photography, I thought I might find a way to leverage that into something. Unfortunately, that never quite happened and I decided to just let my photography be a hobby. But, if I had the opportunity to take this free business course for photographers and other creatives, I may have tried to make a go of it.
Well, if you want to give it a try, check out the course, but do it fast, because the course is only free until July 1st.
And, if you do decide to give professional photography a whirl, check out FindMyPhotographer.com, where you can set up an account in a growing directory of photographers. And, yes, that’s my site, too. You can setup a free account, or upload more sample photos and rank higher in local searches by buying an account. Use discount code Startup25 for a 25% discount for new accounts.

And, that’s all the “side hustle” I have time for this week. Come back next week for more free stuff!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

5/12/2017

Character Records

Filed under: Fun,On Creativity,The Tools — 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 Waning Gibbous

Keeping your dramatis personae straight can be a chore.

Back in the day, when I played Dungeons and Dragons, my favorite part of the game was creating characters. I know, it’s weird, but, there it is. I don’t know what it was about filling out the forms, either the ones we created or the fancy pre-printed ones you could buy, that used to entertain me so, but it did. It’s funny, because I don’t like filling out other kinds of forms, but I do still get nostalgic about character record sheets. Years later, when computers became an essential part of role-playing games, there were even programs that did most of that work for you. I enjoyed them, too, even though I had stopped playing years before. There’s something about codifying and quantifying an imaginary character that just appeals to me, I guess.
That odd propensity carries over a bit into figuring out characters for fiction. Though, I have to admit, I tend to do more character generation than actual story-telling, too. It’s a bad habit, I suppose, but one I’m happy to encourage in others.
And, that brings me to the links I’m sharing with you, dear readers, this week.
First, there’s the Character Chart from Rebecca Sinclair. It’s a good, complete informational form to fill out so that you can get to know your characters in detail. Even if you never use them in your story, knowing the details of a character makes them feel more real to you, and your readers. A better version, in my opinion, of that chart, is the downloadable, fillable character chart, which takes that questionaire and makes it a fillable PDF form. It’s pretty excellent.
And, since a character’s starting equipment was always one of the most important, and fun, things to work out, I whipped up the Random Fantasy Pocket “Liter” Generator and, for more modern settings, the Random Daily Carry Generator. These also feed into some of my favorite kinds of stories, wherein the protagonist finds themselves in the thick of the action, in media res, if you will, and only has what they’re carrying on them at the moment to survive their adventure.
And, finally, the oddball link. This is really meant, I think, for genealogists, but if you’re writing a sweeping epic and need to keep track of an extended family, the Family Echo family tree creator is a nifty free tool to help you out. If you want to save your trees, you need to make an account, but the hassle may just be worth it to keep track of your fictional family.

So, there you have it. A somewhat random collection of writing links for your Friday fun. And forgive me if that doesn’t work for you, but my wife and I are closing on our mortgage refinance today, so I’m a little distracted.
Enjoy your weekend and I’ll see you next week!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

5/5/2017

Fly Through the International Space Station

Filed under: Art,Fun,Ooo, shiny...,Photography — 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 Waxing Gibbous

For me, living aboard a space station is about the most fantastical thing imaginable.

I truly admire the brave people who risk their lives by exploring space. I really and truly believe that humankind’s future is in space and off planet Earth. It’s not that I’m a pessimist, because I’m not. I just believe, as does Stephan Hawking, that humanity shouldn’t keep all our eggs in one basket. I think we need to reach far and wide, starting with space stations and moving to permanent settlements on other planets in our solar system. To me, it just makes sense.

That being said, I also recognize that I will never leave the planet of my birth, at least while I’m alive. In fact, in my lifetime, only a relatively few humans will ever leave our little cosmic garden for wider vistas. And, the majority of those who do will never leave orbit. They’ll mostly stay in spacecraft or live for relatively brief periods of time on the International Space Station, doing research on how more of us might work and live in space.
Over the years, I’ve seen plenty of pictures of the ISS, but today I’m sharing something even cooler than that, a “fly-through” of the inside of the International Space Station in ultra high-def. If you can, play this on a big-screen 4K television. It’s gorgeous and, for most of us, the closest we will ever get to space.

Also, it’s been a busy couple of weeks and this was all I had time to scare up and share, so enjoy.
See you next week!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

4/28/2017

A Vulgar Tongue

Filed under: Art,Fun — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:04 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Language is the key to culture, real or imagined.

Regular readers of my blog will know that I am a dyed-in-the-wool geek. I mean, totally hardcore. I started playing Dungeons and Dragons in the Seventh Grade and did, on and off, through college. I still, to this day, have a significant bookshelf of roleplaying games, including some D&D books. These days, I don’t have time to play, and the books are mostly there for theoretical inspiration, if I can ever get writing again. But, way back in the dark ages, before the internet, I had a subscription to Dragon Magazine, which was the official D&D magazine. It was there that I was first exposed to invented languages. Later, as I read more and after the internet became a thing, I discovered a community of like-minded wierdos who created languages, too. “Conlangs”, we called them, short for “constructed languages”. Some of the most famous are Klingon, Dothraki, and Tolkien’s famous Sindarin, more popularly known as “Elvish”, but there are hundreds, if not thousands, of them now.
Most of the results of my peculiar hobby, or “secret vice”, as Tolkein called it, are safely tucked away where no one will ever see them. Though, I did setup a page of resources and links over at my fantastic fiction site, Fantasist.net. I had some tools there that got so popular, they were crashing my webhost’s servers, so I had to take them down. I’d always meant to get back to porting them to a new, more stable and less resource-intensive programming language, but I never did. Now, though, there are so many people sharing things like this, and better than the stuff I made, that I don’t really feel bad about it. And, new tools for creating languages from the ether are springing up all the time.

Recently, someone shared a tool on the newsgroup I’m part of for conlanging, CONLANG-L, that raised quite a ruckus. It was originally shared by Boing Boing, and I saw it there, too. It’s a web-based language generation tool called Vulgar. The page I’ve linked to there is the “free demo”, but that will gin up a pretty decent start for a language, especially if, like me, you’re not a linguist. There are a surprising number of options, if you want to take advantage of them, and even more if you’re willing to cough up $19.95 for the downloadable version. That downloadable version still runs in your web browser, by the way, so there’s not any compatibility issues between Windows, Macintosh or Linux. Now, of course, this isn’t going to get you a fantastic artificial language, but, if you’re a starving fantasy author who wants to whip up something that sounds reasonably okay with a very little effort, this isn’t a terrible start. For me, it’s fun, but probably not more than an amusing toy to play with on a quiet Friday morning.
And, based on the frenzied reactions on that conlang email list, my sharing it and saying that it’s not bad, will irritate some folks. Which is a different kind of fun.

Either way, go, try it and have fun. And enjoy your weekend!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words

4/21/2017

Magical Maps

Filed under: Art,Fun,On Creativity — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:17 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Autogenerated fantasy landscapes feel like randomly programmed dreams.

I wouldn’t really call myself a writer any more, since I don’t really write regularly, outside of emails at work and these weekly desperate blog posts. But, I was once, and when I was, I would obsess over what fantasy writers and fans call “world building”. In fact, eventually, that obsession took over all my time and energy and became my primary excuse for not writing. Still, I find it hard to let go of the idea that if I’m writing a fantasy story and don’t know where people are, or are from, or are going, that I can’t relax into telling their story. I know I’m not alone.
So, that leaves a writer with a couple of choices; steal someone else’s setting, or make your own.
I’m not a big fan of stealing, or even borrowing, someone else’s fantasy setting, because there’s always the possibility that you may need to pay royalties one day, if your new work sells. Or, that other author, or their estate, may squash your work altogether. It’s been known to happen. So, then, your other option is to build your own.
Personally, I’ve always loved the maps that come with my favorite fantasy stories. And, when I tried to write, I often would spend inordinate amounts of time trying to draw my own.
Now, though, there are other options. The one I’m sharing with my faithful readers this week is Uncharted Atlas. It’s a Twitterbot that automagically generates a pretty random fantasy map every hour. Yeah, a new fantasy world every hour. And some of these maps are pretty damn good! You can read some notes by the developer, Martin O’Leary, at his website about both how the maps were generated and < href="https://mewo2.com/notes/naming-language/">how the names for the maps were generated. Also, that page explaining the code includes an interactive, step-by-step example of generating a map. It gives you a bit more control over what the final map looks like and is a great way to waste a few minutes on a Friday.

Okay, so this isn’t likely to really fix any writer’s block issues, or even jump start my own writing, but, hey, it IS a great way to waste a little time on a Friday!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words

4/14/2017

Dying Consumerism

Filed under: Art,Fun — 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 Waning Gibbous

Dying malls are death poems to conspicuous consumption.

I grew up in the Eighties, which I think of as the age of conspicuous consumption and gratuitous shopping malls. After all, what is a shopping mall but a temple dedicated to shopping and consumerism? I have to admit, I spent a lot of time in malls growing up. It was pretty much the center of teen life back then and even someone as aggressively uncool as me felt the inexorable attraction. There’s still a part of me that loves going to the mall. Sad, but true.
But, I’ll tell you what’s even more fascinating to me than the malls of my youth; malls that are dying or abandoned. And, from what I understand, there are quite a few of them shutting down now. They remind me of the incredible dystopian science-fiction movies of that same youth of mine. After the end of civilization, malls were going to be the devastated landscape over which we crawled to survive.
I was reminded of all that this week by a Gizmodo article about a guy who tours, and documents, dying malls. As the article says, it’s both horrifyingly bland and terribly fascinating to watch this guy go through malls that are basically empty or in the process of dying a slow, slow death. I mean, there’s nothing much to see, but I found myself staring in rapt fascination at the perfectly preserved, incredibly common, malls that reminded me so much of my own misspent youth. It’s stunning to see how similar they all are, as if one architect designed them all. Bizarre.

In any case, if you want to bypass the Gizmodo article, you can go right to videographer Dan Bell’s Dead Malls Series YouTube channel and watch these yourself. I’ve only seen one so far, but I’m sure when my blushing bride has drifted off to sleep this weekend, I’ll sneak back out to the big TV to watch them in hi-def. They’re weirdly addictive!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

4/7/2017

Blog Posts

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Fun,Geek Work,On Creativity,Stimulus and Production — 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 Waxing Gibbous

My creative blog posting well is dry.

So dry.
Seriously, if you count my original blog, I have been doing this blogging nonsense for almost 17 years. My first blog post went live May 4th, 2000. How crazy is that?  Back then, I hand coded every page, making the HTML myself with Microsoft Notepad.  Then, I installed Moveable Type.  That was followed by a definite upgrade to WordPress during the great licensing debacle of 2004.  So, yes, I’ve been using WordPress since version 1.2  A lot has changed since then, but I can tell you one thing that hasn’t; the terrible struggle to create new and interesting content.
My wife, The Organizing Decorator, and I were talking about this very thing recently.  She just finished moving her site to her own hosting and content management system, so that I wasn’t responsible for her site as well as all of mine, and she told me how she need to stop tweaking and tampering with it.  My response was that it was a lot easier to mess with formatting than it was to actually create content.  And, after 17 years, I’m really feeling tapped out.

So, what’s my response?  To share with you two links about generating content!
First, a post from the very brainy and entrepreneurial Growth Lab titled How to find 20+ blog ideas your audience can’t wait to read.  It’s a process, but it’s a process that will help you generate content tailored to your blog, brand, or business.
The other is How To Think Outside The Box with 200+ writing prompts by CoSchedule.  And, it’s just what it sounds like, a list of prompts with blanks to get you started on a blog post.  They’re pretty generic, but they may not all be applicable to your chosen subject matter.

Well, there you have it.  Two links that are free and useful, if not exactly “fun” for non-bloggers or content producers.
Maybe I’ll have something better for you next week.
Maybe not.  Only time will tell.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

3/31/2017

Free Public Domain Photography Books

Filed under: Art,Photography,The Infinite Library — 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 Waxing Crescent

You know how I like free.

I started out the year talking big about stepping up my photography, but, honestly, between a new job, my wife’s business, and trying to refinance our house to get a better mortgage rate before they go up, I just haven’t done that. I still intend to, eventually. Honest.
In the mean time, however, I have been stacking up ebooks on photography in my queue. I always hope that if I can read enough about the art and science of photography, I’ll get motivated and get out with my camera more often. We’ll see how that goes, especially considering how backed up my reading queue is these days. At least, I didn’t spend a lot of money on my latest batch of photography books. And, if you’re looking for some free alternatives to inspire your own photographic I have good news for you, Project Gutenberg has hundreds of free, public-domain photography books digitized for you to load up on. They have everything from the really old developing and printing processes that photographers used to use to books of actual photography for raw inspiration.

In any case, they’re all free and, hopefully, interesting enough to get a fellow stuck photographer inspired enough to get going again.
Enjoy and we’ll see you next week!

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words.

3/24/2017

Paint It Black

Filed under: Art,Fun — 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 Waning Crescent

I guess you could say I’m in a dark mood this week.

So, the other day, my blushing bride texted to ask me how I was doing, because she both loves me and it’s allergy season. I joked with her that I was fine, considering that I was wrestling with the existential question of personal relevance in middle age. You know, the classic psychobabble way to describe a mid-life crisis. Don’t worry, though, I don’t have any uncomfortable urges to flirt with women twenty years younger than myself or buy an over-priced red sportscar. I will cop to giving consideration to a new tattoo and/or a motorcycle, but even that lost the middle-aged rebel appeal when my wife said she was okay with it because she knew I’d be safe. I guess I’ll just have to be satisfied with refinancing our house to fix our credit card debt and get some much needed roof work done. Yeah, it’s not sexy and exciting, but it is a lot more comfortable and lets me sleep pretty easy at night.

Anyway, while I go back to the struggle to define my metaphysical purpose in life, you all probably came here hoping for a link to some cool, free thing. Well, good news! My existential crisis aside, I do have a little something for you. Black by Jean-Marc Denis. It’s a collection of blacker than black wallpaper for your PC and phone that’s entirely made up of geometric shapes on black material exposed by beautiful use of lights and reflections. Honestly, it’s a little hard to describe, so I encourage you to follow that link and check them out for yourself. They are, after all, free. I personally like the first two and the last one the best. The geometric patterns remind me of alien technology, a dark and sunless sea, and a desert of black sand, respectively.
They’re pretty cool.

Maybe something cheerier next week, but in this day and age, I make no promises!

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words.

3/17/2017

Writing Habit Help

Filed under: Art,Fun,Stimulus and Production — 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 Waning Gibbous

I wish I hadn’t gotten out of the habit of writing every day.

But, well, life happened. I got a job which became a career which quickly became a life that included responsibilities like car payments and mortgage payments and health insurance. Not to mention a wife and kid, followed by a divorce, health problems and the bills that come with it, and a new wife and all that entails. At some point in there, there just wasn’t time for writing. Now, I’ve lost the habit of it. My schedule revolves around trying to work off the extra weight I put on eating all the delicious food my blushing bride makes me and trying to get to work on time.
Yes, I do manage to write these weekly notes with a few free links in them, but, honestly, that’s not really writing. Not the way I mean it.
But, if you’re like me and you harbor that hard-to-kill dream of one day writing again, this week’s links are for you, starting with Get Back Into Writing by a blogger who calls herself Verily Mary. I haven’t read the other resources she promised, but you may find her encouraging words, well, encouraging. One thing that might help is knowing that if you write 750 words per day, you’ll have written about three pages worth of whatever you’re working on. And, if you need help staying motivated to do that, you can try using the on-line app 750 Words. It’s based on some ideas found in The Artist’s Way and will give you stats on your writing which you may, or may not, find inspiring. And, everything you write, they claim, will stay private.
Finally, if you do get a manuscript produced, Lara Willard has some great advice on formatting your manuscript for submittal in the modern world.

Beyond that, there’s no substitute for sitting down and doing the work. Maybe one day I can get back to that. Knowing that my blushing bride supports me will help, for sure, but she can’t do the work for me. I have ideas, one day maybe my life will slow down enough that I can share them.
Until then, keep coming back here for more of whatever this is!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

Next Page »

Powered by WordPress
Any links to sites selling any reviewed item, including but not limited to Amazon, may be affiliate links which will pay me some tiny bit of money if used to purchase the item, but this site does no paid reviews and all opinions are my own.