Diary of a Network Geek

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

8/29/2008

Ultimate Grocery List

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,By Bread Alone,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Life Goals,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:31 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

I love lists!

No, really, I love making lists. Lists help me make sure that I’m not missing anything, whether it’s an important step in a process or an essential ingredient for dinner. Now, I’m trying to be healthy, so I make a grocery list before I got shopping for two reasons. First, I’m copying from the Men’s Health Grocery List, which is all healthy. Second, it helps keep me from allowing binge items into my cart. If I can stick to the list, I can keep the super-yummy cupcakes with that wonderful whipped-lard frosting out of my pantry when I’m feeling lonely, which somehow translates to being hungry. Sorry, I got a little distracted there.

So, as I was writing, I love lists, in particular lately, grocery lists. Naturally, I was excited when I saw the SmarterFitter Blog Grocery List Template for Healthy People. It’s available in both PDF and Excel format and covers most everything. Well, everything except meat. You’ll have to add that in yourself, but everything else is mostly covered in this fairly comprehensive grocery list template. And, if you grab the Excel version, it’s very easily customized to fit your personal habits and preferences.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"May you live all the days of your life."
   --Jonathan Swift

8/27/2008

The Five Worst Things About Surviving Cancer.

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Deep Thoughts,Fun,Personal,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:35 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Yes, you read that right, The Five Worst Things About Surviving Cancer.

When Kat asked me to write a guest post for the Canard Collective, this was the first topic that jumped to mind. Well, actually, to be fully honest, my first thoughts were about how much easier it would be to write about the five best things about, well, almost anything. The five best things about being divorced, for instance, or being unemployed or… Well, you get the idea. But, then, being the contrarian that I am, I thought about this. You know, people always think when you survive a major illness, or, as I like to say, cheat death, that your troubles are over. But, gentle readers, I’m here to tell you that it is not so. Surviving is just the beginning of the problems.

So, go over to the Collective and read what I wrote.  Then laugh at how different it is from all the other stuff that people did guest posts about.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Never tell your girlfriend that her diet's not working."

8/25/2008

Vent by Mark Flood

Filed under: Art,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,News and Current Events,Personal,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:25 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent


VentbyMarkFlood

Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I own real art.

Well, okay, my grandfather made real art, too, but nothing that would be sold at a professional level. I’ve had some limited edition prints by Kurt Frankenstein, who was a student of Max Ernst, but they’re not the same as a painting done by someone who’s well known in the contemporary art world. That’d be what I have now, as of Sunday, actually.

See, I know this guy, Mark Flood, who happens to be a brilliant artist. That’s not how I know him, though. I knew him as a cool guy to talk to about, well, about anything, since he’s so jaded and worldly that nothing even I’ve done in my deep, dark, secret past shocks him. Frankly, I think we really enjoy that about each other. Neither of us are shocked or horrified by anything the other has done. Frankly, it’s a great basis for a friendship.
Anyway, Mark was involved with a band called Culturcide. It was a pretty famous punk band from right here in Houston. They’ve been described as a “noise band”, but, well, I’m not up on my punk terms, so I’m not sure I can agree or not. I can tell you that they’re still a little avant garde even though their music has been around more than twenty years. So, Mark came to me and asked me to do the layout work for two CDs and CD covers for a small revival, of sorts. Two completely remastered, high-quality releases, which include some previously unreleased tracks. It’s pretty interesting stuff. Perhaps more so because I know Mark and understand some of the tunes better than otherwise.

So, I did the work and, in payment, Mark traded me this painting, that I loved so well. Well, and a whole lot of work to be named later. Okay, honestly, I’ll be working for Mark like a third-world piece-worker at a computer for the rest of my natural life to pay this off.
But, it’s totally worth it. I really do love this piece and with Mark’s reputation as a painter taking off, my “investment” will do nothing but appreciate, so it was a great deal for me!
Now, I just have to find a good place to hang it.

(Oh, and don’t forget that I’ll be guest posting Wednesday at the Canard Collective!)

8/22/2008

Legally make a silencer?

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:29 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Just in case the NSA isn’t already watching me…

While chasing a link for something else, I found a site that tells you how to register with the ATF to legally make and own a silencer. This seems impossible to me, but, well, if you follow the links you can get the forms for yourself! What a country!

8/21/2008

New Music Resources

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Art,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Red Herrings,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is just before lunchtime or 11:14 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Yeah, I know this is later than normal, but I gave you two things on Tuesday, so I figure we’re even.

Well, as you know I’ve been searching for new music. At least, music that’s new to me, because, you know, I was told that Snow Patrol is, well, mainstream and old hat and whatever other cliche you want to squeeze in here. So, I put a poll up over in the sidebar and hoped for the best. Now, for those of you who don’t know me in life, you might be a little surprised by how eclectic and varied my choices in music can be. For instance, in my car right now, I have Warren Zevon’s last CD, a Frank Sinatra collection, Snow Patrol, Bowling For Soup, Green Day, Sheryl Crow, Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, Rob Zombie and Nina Simone, just to name a few. In fact, I went from listening to Rob Zombie to Sheryl Crow in an afternoon. So, my point is, I’m pretty open. I usually say I don’t listen to Rap or Country, but, honestly? If someone presents something interesting enough, I’ll try it. Seriously.

In any case, I wasn’t satisfied with the responses I was getting on my poll (vote early, vote often!), so I started doing more research. I got a book called The Pocket DJ. It’s been around a little while, but I figured it would still lead me places I hadn’t been. Also, there’s this writing exercise where you build a playlist for your various characters, to try and get inside their heads and feel how they feel through music. I sort of figured that I could go in the other direction and pick playlists from the book then build the character from that. You know, getting twice the use of the book by cranking my musical IQ up a few points and getting some writing exercises at the same time. I’ll get back to you on both.

Either way, though, there was a section in the back of the book that listed a bunch of music blogs. So, naturally, I sat down not too long ago and started chasing links. Some didn’t interest me and some had either moved or shutdown or shutdown just as I found them. At least one blogger announced that she was shutting down her blog to become a full-time music journalist not more than a week after I bookmarked it! Of the ones that survived, though, I’ve got three for you.
First, there’s Sixeyes MP3 Blog, with regular posts and free MP3s in every post! Yea! They’re mostly indy stuff, but kind of all over the place, too.
Then there’s Fluxblog! with almost daily posts and, again, free MP3s in every post, sometimes podcasts with music, too. Yea free! I mean, seriously, you can fill your entire iPod with free MP3s of popular and new music from this blog alone!
Finally, there’s Stereogum with many, many posts, at least one daily, lots of performers from overseas and many posts with videos or MP3s. Yea regularity! Oh, my middle-age is showing! Seriously, these folks love music and it shows in sheer volume of posts, if not the intensity of each review.

Also, a friend, Marc Garvin of Pulling Strings, the great Houston-based public radio show about classical guitar and similar stringed instruments (Correction!  Marc e-mailed me and said the show features “the sounds of “Picked, plucked and strummed” (sometimes “banged, bashed and hammered”) instruments.”  So, you know, it’s even better than what I said.) suggested some of these very cool and different performers when he caught wind of my search for something new to add to my rotation. Even though these links are all about the music, they’re brought to you via YouTube.
Jake Shimabukuro on the Ukulele. This is definitely worth looking at and listening to. He does things with a ukulele that have to be heard, and seen, to be believed!
Kaki King playing the guitar in such a way as to get percussion. Okay, the video is a little strange and disjointed, but I really like this sound. It’s kind of the latest version of a performer singing with their instrument. Open mike night taken to a super-high professional level, you know?
Joscho Stephan, also playing the guitar. This is a more Country, or Appalachian, sound to me than I’d have expected from Marc, seeing as he’s a Classical guy, but, I have to admit, it’s got a certain energy to it that really works!  (Update!  Marc told me that “Joscho is a “gypsy jazz” guitarist in the style of Django Reinhardt.” So, that should make it more clear to those of you who are more musically well-versed than I.  And, by that I mean, everyone in the world.)

Finally, if you want to find any of the music that’s been mentioned here, or elsewhere on my blog, I suggest trying SeeqPod, the playable search engine. I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating in this context. One of the great features here is the “Discover” feature that lets you discover songs that SeeqPod thinks are close to what you’ve been searching for in style. Sometimes some really interesting stuff comes up in that.

So, there you have it. As promised, more than one new resource for new music.
Also, for those interested, yes, I did buy the newest Snow Patrol CD, but don’t let that stop you from voting in the poll because I’ll be buying more music eventually.
Oh, yeah, one more thing… Don’t forget that next week I’ll be doing a guest post on someone else’s blog. I’ll have an announcement the day it’s supposed to go live on that site.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared."
   --Buddha

8/19/2008

Review: Tropic Thunder

Filed under: Art,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Movies,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Pig which is late at night or 11:34 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous


TropicThunder

Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I saw Tropic Thunder this weekend.

Now, I’m not a huge Ben Stiller fan, but some of his stuff is pretty funny. Granted, sometimes, he goes a little too far, but, mostly, he’s just okay in my book. Well, with Tropic Thunder, even when he goes too far, he’s funny. Yes, in spite of what amounts to little more than a really big cameo part by Tom Cruise, who I truly find distasteful at best, Tropic Thunder was a winner for me.

So, here’s the premise… A group of over-paid, big-name Hollywood actors making a book, that none of them have read, into a war movie. But, the movie, the meta-movie, makes fun of these guys and the whole Hollywood machine. Frankly, it’s the perfect movie for Robert Downey, Jr., who’s been the ultimate outsider in movies and Hollywood for years. And, Ben Stiller must have really hit a nerve or two in LaLa Land with this on.
The movie opens with faux advertising and trailers from the characters in the movie. They start them seamlessly from the actual trailers before the real film. Then, they get into E! News, talking about the film the characters are making in the movie. Ben Stiller plays a fading action hero. Robert Downey, Jr. plays an Australian method actor who’s an Oscar winner, but a little crazy. He gets a “surgery” to make him look black so he can play a black man in the film the characters are making. Then, there’s Jack Black who plays a coked-up comedian who’s only skill seems to be wearing makeup and farting. He’s hilarious. And, of course, there’s the rookie and the rapper. Oh, and Nick Nolte who plays the handicapped Vietnam vet who wrote the book that only the rookie has read. In fact, it comes out that he’s the only one who read the entire script at one point!

So, add these guys all together in the jungle in Vietnam and mix in Matthew McConaughey as super agent Rick Peck aka “The Pecker” who’s trying to get Stiller’s character his Tivo from vile producer Les Grossman played by a frighteningly realistic Tom Cruise. (Honestly, I think we get to see Tom Cruise’s real, bald head in this movie! I guess Scientology can’t cure everything, eh?)
Well, when Hollywood, and actor’s egos, get in the way of making a good film, the director takes Vietnam vet Nolte’s advice and takes the movie out into the jungle, guerrilla style, things get a little out of control. Things start to go really wrong when the director steps on an old, French land mine and the guys just, well, they just don’t get it. They think it’s all to get them into character. As they stumble along, acting out their movie with real-live heroin manufacturers in the jungle, a lot of things are revealed to be somewhat other than they first seem. Those reveals are where the real hilarity ensue.

Look, I don’t want to spoil this movie for you and I really recommend that you see it. It’s funny in ways that I cannot capture with my description of it here. It is a great, but subtle, parody of every war film made since Apocalypse Now. More than that, though, it’s a very funny commentary on both Hollywood in particular and our consumer, entertainment oriented society in general.

Oh, one thing, it is very much NOT politically correct at all. There is gratuitous use of verbal slurs in regards to the mentally handicapped. Also, it won’t surprise me if the NAACP or someone very much like them gets all bent out of shape about the way Robert Downey, Jr. plays an actor playing a person of another race.
But, if you can get past those things, it’s a very funny movie. Honest.

WiFi Free Houston!

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun Work,News and Current Events,Ooo, shiny... — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is just before lunchtime or 11:07 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Okay, it doesn’t have the same ring as “Radio Free America”, but it still rocks!

So, according to Dwight Silverman over at the Houston Chronicle’s TechBlog, Houston now has free wifi in limited areas.  So far, according to their Houston WiFi Finder, it looks like it’s mostly downtown, but that’s still pretty cool.

Hey, you’re getting this in time for lunch, so you can take your laptop with you and make it a working lunch in the park.  Well, at least until the rain starts.

8/18/2008

Unholy Alliance; Me and the Written Word

Filed under: Art,Career Archive,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 4:49 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

I have a strange relationship with the written word.

Okay, for anyone who’s been to my house and seen the sheer volume of books and magazines that “decorate” the walls, tables, chairs and floors, well, let’s just say that this is a bit of an understatement.  I have thrown out one book, that I can remember, ever.  Just one.  And, that was a Tony Robbins book!  It takes something monumental for me to sort through my pile of “keeper” magazines to find things that I realistically want to keep and read or save for long-term reference and get rid of the rest.  Truly, I revere the written, and more specifically the printed, word.  Oddly, I haven’t been reading that much lately, even though I still can’t get rid of old books, even my ex-wife’s books which hold no interest for me.

Ironically, that strange reverence for books and story, in particular, makes it hard for me to write.  At least, to write something other than my blog.  The blog is easy, because there aren’t any rules, to speak of, and any story is incidental.  Okay, I’ll grant that my writing for the blog wasn’t always very good.  I mean, eight years ago, I was pretty stiff and stilted and, well, mostly, boring.  Maybe I ranted a little more than I do now but I don’t think too many people were particularly motivated by my screeds.
Writing an actual story, real or fictional, is a whole different thing, though.  My goal with the blog was, originally, far, far different from what it’s become.  Honestly, I originally just wanted to have a way to regularly use all the right industry buzz words to maximize my search engine optimization.  But, along the way, something happened and my blog changed along with my writing.  But, it’s easy because I don’t think of all the things I should be doing.  I just sit down and write whatever crazy thing comes to mind.  In my mind, it just doesn’t matter much, so the writing flows out naturally, and, most days, almost effortlessly.  So, why can’t I do that with my fiction?

Well, the bottom line is, I don’t know.  Somehow, I get all caught up with how I used to write fiction, so effortlessly and still at a semi-professional level.  But, that was fifteen years ago.  Really, it’s been almost fifteen years since I wrote often enough to be at anything close to that level.  Foolishly, I want to be able to pick right up where I left off fifteen years ago, before my main career really got started and before I got married and divorced and before…  Yes, before the cancer.  All those things changed me, changed how I see the world, my life, my writing.  Somehow, it made everything more important and left less room for mediocrity.  And, somehow, it made everything I wrote less…  Less beautiful, less brilliant, less true.  The blank page, the empty screen, has become my enemy, a battlefield for the purity of my soul.  I know, a bit melodramatic, but still true.  At least, true enough to make my fiction taste less like marzipan fantasy dipped in chocolate fudge and more like ashes with a side of bitter, unrealized dreams.
So, how to change that…  I don’t know.  I honestly don’t know.  Why do you think I bought a camera?

Stay tuned.  Later this week, a review of Tropic Thunder and those music sites and stuff I’ve been promising.  Oh, and in a week or so, I’ll have a guest post on another blog.  More on that as it unfolds.

8/15/2008

Electronic Cigarette

Filed under: Art,Deep Thoughts,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:05 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

No, I have not started smoking again.

Regular readers may be familiar with my obsession with smoking. Or, rather, my fixation on the fact that I’d love a good smoke, but, having cheated cancer-related death once already, feel that it would be more than a little foolish to so dramatically increase the chances of getting cancer, again, that I just can’t justify lighting up again. Naturally, I still think about it and ways to reduce the craving and/or sublimate the urge with a similar experience. Well, I think I have the perfect solution: the electronic cigarette.

No, I am not making that up. Go ahead, click the link. I’ll wait.

See? Now, I think it’s really meant as a device to help you stop smoking, not continue the habit while cheating death, but, still… Of course, at $90+ shipping, I won’t be getting one any time soon. But, oh, what a glorious idea. It may not be a jet-pack, but an electronic cigarette is retro science-fiction to me. I love it!

8/14/2008

Upgrade Issues

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,News and Current Events,Personal,Rotten Apples,The Dark Side — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:27 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

So, it seems like I still have some issues.

Someone e-mailed me this morning to see if my site was down because they were getting a blank page. Well, so was I. At least, until I hit refresh. Then, hitting the links on the categories didn’t work at all. So, I checked the WordPress support forum and tweaked a couple of things. Now, the categories give you blank pages, until you hit the refresh button. And, actually, this is all in Firefox. Firefox 2, actually, so I have no idea if any other browsers are having trouble or not. If you are, leave me a comment here so I can keep track, would you?

And, in any case, I’m working on it. Right now, the fix seems to be coming in a minor version update. This is why I usually wait a couple of months before upgrading. It’s just that this version had some things I wanted to use, so… Well, anyway, like I wrote, I’m working on it.

UPDATE:
First, let me thank you all for not taking advantage of that opening line.  It is sort of like putting on a “kick me” sign and sticking one’s rump out.
Secondly, I think I found the problem.  I upgraded WordPress, but not all the plugins I have loaded.  So, I deactivated one until I can get the new version.  Luckily, it’s one that works behind the scenes doing things for me, so your viewing experience shouldn’t be effected.
Thanks for your help and attention!

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