Diary of a Network Geek

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

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.

3/10/2017

Ambient Sci-Fi Sound

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 Waxing Gibbous

I love me some ambient, sci-fi atmosphere!

For you poor souls who are regular readers know I am a little obsessed with science fiction. And, I also am on a constant quest for the perfect background sounds to keep me from cracking up in the silence, without getting to “into” what I’m listening to at the moment. I think that started with an ex who used a white noise machine at night, which started me using one. Eventually, though, when I was travelling, I started using my phone. I tried a number of white noise generator apps, but the most fun was one that had science fiction sounds. It was good, mostly, but pretty limited. Now, though, there’s an alternative; 42 Hours of Ambient Sounds from Blade Runner, Alien, Star Trek and Doctor Who Will Help You Relax & Sleep.

A sound artist who goes by the on-line name of “Cheesy Nirvosa” has been creating these ambient sci-fi soundscapes since 2009 and they are absolutely fantastic. Now you can fall asleep to the comforting background noise of Rick Deckard’s apartment from Blade Runner. Or, use it as background noise while you work on your latest science fiction masterpiece! You can head over to Cheesy Nirvosa’s YouTube channel and play them from there in your browser or even download shorter loops. You can also find “real world” loops like the ambient sounds of a nuclear submarine, which sound surprisingly similar to some of the spacecraft. And, if you want to cut out the middle-man, so to speak, and just download the MP3s, you can check out Cheesy Nirvosa’s Bandcamp, where, for a few dollars each, you can buy the sound files to play on the digital device of your choice. (Don’t tell my wife, but I think I’m going to get a couple!)

Anyway, it’s been the kind of week that leaves me wanting to sooth my nerves, and these seem like a good start.
Y’all enjoy your weekend and come back next week for more!

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words.

3/3/2017

Napping Videos

Filed under: Art,Fun,Personal Care — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:13 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I think I’m too tired, because I think about sleeping and naps all the time.

Look, I’m middle-aged and I totally own that.  And, for most of my life, I haven’t gotten enough quality sleep.  I own that, too.  It’s probably one reason I’m a little over-weight and have high blood pressure.  Sure, I do a lot of stuff while I’m not sleeping, but, lately, I also find myself falling asleep on Sunday afternoons, often in front of the television.  I remember my father doing the same thing, though he usually fell asleep to sports.  I’m not so much a sports guy, but while I was going through my divorce, I used to fall asleep to samurai movies.  They had the perfect blend of random sound and speech, but in a language that was unintelligible to me so it didn’t engage me.  Sadly, the channel I used to watch those on seems to not play them any more.  But, I’ve found an alternative: Napflix.

You read that right.  It’s a collection of free videos with music, more peaceful than my samurai epics for the most part, but pretty much perfect to nap to.  Like this three hour video of a deep sea fish tank set to orchestral music.  Seriously, if that playing on your high-def, big screen system with the volume down low doesn’t lull you to sleep, what will?  And, there are others, too.

So, hey, this weekend when you’re looking to nap, why not call up one of these and get some good rest?  It’ll prepare you for the coming week work, or the intense party you’re going to later.  Either way, they’re free and restful, so enjoy.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

2/24/2017

Old School Newsletters

Filed under: Fun,News and Current Events,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 Waning Crescent

Not so old school that they’re printed, but, still, pretty old school.

I’ve always been an email sort of guy. And, I pretty much hate the modern forums. I hate having to go to a web interface and deal with all their junk and advertising. Also, as regular readers may have noticed from my blog, I’m a pretty text-heavy sort of fella. When I started in IT, fancy interfaces were the stuff of science-fiction. We did our work in the digital uranium mines via text interfaces, and we liked it!
Okay, all joking aside, my first work with computers pre-dated both Windows and the web, and maybe I never got over the simple beauty of straight, text-based information. No real fancy formatting or anything, especially in email. I still tend to view and write email messages in plain, raw text.
In any case, back in the day, the way we shared information was the old-fashioned newsletter. And, let me tell you, there were some ultra exclusive email lists that people fought to get included on. My favorites were the slightly secret UNIX security email newsletters. It felt very, very exclusive and, as they said far too often in the movie Hackers, “elite”.

Now, mostly, that time is gone. People, including me, use blog aggregators and RSS feed readers to keep up on the latest news. But, the venerable email newsletters aren’t entirely dead. As the folks at Discover write, “There is something beautiful about the personal newsletter. We love the depth and admire writers who cover niche topics in great detail. We love the intimacy of seeing these notes arriving in our inboxes directly from our favorite authors. And we love the serenity of reading every word without being interrupted by notifications. … We often wake up in the morning, eager to check if the latest issue by our favorite author has arrived, much like we used to check the mailbox for the daily newspaper or weekly magazine in the old days.” And that sums up why I like email newsletters better than anything else. It IS like a very specialized electronic newspaper emailed to me on a regular basis. Like Dave Pell’s NextDraft, which I look forward to every week day.

So, if you’re like me and enjoy information at a slightly slower pace than firehose that is the web, check this out and subscribe to some of these personally curated newsletters.
Hope to see you back next week, and, until then, enjoy your reading!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

2/17/2017

Unleash your Creativity Scientifically

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Fun,On Creativity — 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 am NOT feeling creative this week.

And, I mean, not at all. Not even a little bit. So, what’s to do? Well, for one thing, I’m going to go ahead into work and be not creative there. I might as well collect a paycheck for not feeling creative and force myself to solve problems for profit. Honestly, when I read about breaking writer’s block, one of the most cited solutions is to just sit down and write anyway. I know for me, having a set routine helps me a lot. But, I’m a big believer in science, so what can science do for me when I don’t feel creative?

As it turns out, quite a lot, and Scientific American magazine happens to be running a special issue on just that subject. So, what I’m going to do is go into work and do things and leave these links here for you.
Six Articles on Creativity from Scientific American:
1. Your Fertile Brain At Work
2. The Science of Genius
3. Triumph of the City; Engines of Genius
4. Answers In Your Dreams
5. Living in an Imaginary World
6. Let Your Creativity Soar:

Hopefully, one of those will appeal to you and help you have a more creative weekend. Read them quick before they disappear behind a paywall!
And, we’ll see you next week!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

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