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

6/5/2015

Hurricane Preparedness

Filed under: Calamity, Cataclysm, and Catastrophe,Dog and Pony Shows,News and Current Events,Red Herrings,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Hurricane season started on Monday, June First. Are you ready?

Here in Texas, hurricane season is kind of a big deal.  Or, at least, it is to this kid from the Heartland.  Of course, most of the time, we have plenty of time to prepare because you see these things coming from a long, long way off.  Still, it’s better to be prepared early rather than competing with everyone for bottled water, bread and canned food.

So far, since I’ve been in…
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8/22/2014

Photography Blogs to Follow, Part One

Filed under: Art,Fun,Photography,Things to Read — 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

Yes, this implies at least a “Part Two”.

Maybe even a part three.  We’ll see on that part, but at least two.
I’ve been at my new job for five weeks now and, frankly, I’m so exhausted by the end of the day, I haven’t really had anything left over for hobbies.  In fact, I’ve barely had any energy left over for watching television or reading.  So, you know, my photography has been, well, languishing, just a bit.  What that means, too,…
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2/7/2014

Get Started!

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life Goals,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:34 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

So, we’re a month into the New Year.  What have you done so far?

Last month, I posted my fun, hopefully funny, Random Resolution Generator, because, well, everyone seems to make those annual New Year’s Resolutions, but who ever follows through?  As it turns out, almost no one does.  In fact, most people don’t even start, much less follow though.  And, really, getting started is everything.

Go read that last article I just linked to, then come back.  It’s okay, I’ll wait.
Back…
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Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."
   --Will Rogers

9/13/2013

Photography Fundamentals

Filed under: Art,Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:42 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

So, yeah, I’ve got pretty much nothing this week.

Pretty much every bit of time and energy is going into either getting married (in just over two weeks!) or getting my fiance’s business, The Organizing Decorator, more customers.  So, that means I have little left to come up with too much that’s interesting here.  As it turns out, that’s okay because Haje and Daniela over at Photocritic have plenty to keep you amused, at least if you’re a photographer.  In particular,…
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4/5/2013

Portrait Cropping Guide

Filed under: Art,Fun,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning or 9:15 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

More photography links this month.

I started this blog, and this entire website, to highlight things I enjoy, things that give me life.
I meant that to be writing and photography, and maybe a little spirituality lightly sprinkled through all that.  But, I have to admit, lately, there hasn’t been a lot of time or energy in my life for those things.  Oh, spirituality is something I pursue constantly, regardless of my day-to-day circumstances, but the writing and photography have sort of…
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9/5/2011

In Search of Schrödinger’s Tumor

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:52 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

I may, or may not, have cancer.

Now, before all my regular readers and, due to my automated update configurations, my Twitter and Facebook friends who might read this, get too excited, nothing has changed in my recent medical status.  However, Wednesday, I go in for a scan.  A regular scan, nothing special, nothing new.  My scheduled, nine-month scan, per the standard protocol.  Or so I have been lead to believe.

The scan, however routine it may be, will not decide if I have cancer, however.
That, I’m afraid, already is.  Or is not.  Either my body has betrayed me again and a cancerous growth has lodged itself in my chest or it hasn’t and I’m as healthy as I feel.  Personally, I’m inclined to think that I’m cancer free, still, and this whole exercise will be a test of the quality of my health insurance.  But, also, as it turns out, it’s a test of my patience and courage.

You have to understand, I’m not afraid of cancer.  Or of death, either, really.  It’s chemotherapy that terrifies me.
Cancer, as such, is just a way of describing cells that have gotten a bit carried away with themselves and aren’t too particular about playing by the standard set of rules.  And death…  Well, death is the one thing we all have in common.  None of us make it out of this place alive.  Not a one.  Death, in its way, is the final answer.  The ultimate solution to every problem I’ve ever had or can ever conceive of having.  So, no, though I don’t know what waits on the other side of that particular experience, death doesn’t frighten me so much.
Chemotherapy, on the other hand, I do know.  It is, I think, the embodiment of suffering.  At least, for me.

I know everyone’s experience with chemotherapy is different, so, let me take a moment and tell you why it is that I fear it.  For me, chemo was about losing all my hair, all my color, close to sixty pounds, and virtually all my energy.  And, frankly, in a very, very short amount of time.
My hair went first.  I remember it coming out in clumps in the shower.  Just like in the movies.  I started to cry when it happened.  Great racking sobs, with tears running down my face, mixing with the soapy water.  No one can see you crying in the shower.  I recommend it, if you have any crying to do in the future and you’d rather people not know.  It’s one of the many useful things I’ve learned from one of my ex’s.  I took my beard trimmer and cranked it down to the shortest setting, then sheared the rest away myself.  My own way of taking a bit of control back, I suppose.  But, I remember that day, more than four years ago, as if it were yesterday.  A few days later, I shaved for the last time in what would turn out to be more than six months.
My eyebrows and ear hair and nose hair weren’t far behind.  You have no idea how important nose hair is until you don’t have any.  Trust me.  My nose ran for weeks and weeks and weeks.  Nonstop.  All those annoying, little hairs filter the nasty gunk out of the air and grip it with that snotty mucous up in there and keep it from getting into your lungs, as it turns out.  Without it, well, your nose just runs and runs and runs like a little kid with a cold on a Winter playground.

The weight and the color took longer.  By the time I was an unhealthy, pallid gray, my goatee had become so thin that I shaved it off.  And, I was a larval, grub-like thing, pale and weak, before the weight started to melt off me.
Frankly, I wouldn’t have minded the weight loss, but it took muscle as much as it took the fat.  And, of course, it involved severe nausea and, yes, actual vomiting.  Not to mention all the other symptoms, like how everything smelled different; how all my favorite food smelled, well, wrong somehow.  And the weird bloating I would get in my hands and arms that led the doctors to proscribe diuretics and force the poor nurses to record how much I peed, by volume.  I was measured and weighed regularly.  Multiple times per day, actually.  Oh, and the drugs!  Pills by the score, a fist-full at a time.  Self-administered injections three times a day, at one point.  All while fighting nausea and trying to find a square inch of flesh that I could still pinch up enough to get a needle into without going all the way through.

Death would have been easier.

But, as a wise, Zen-Catholic almost-monk reminded me recently, without fear, there can be no bravery.
He also reminded me that the test will only show what is, or is not, already there.  It will only tell me if I have just another problem to deal with, or another opportunity to exercise my courage, or, simply, a bill to pay and just another doctor’s appointment to go to and questions to ask and answer.
And, either way, all I can do is live in the present moment.  What’s happened is done already.  What happens in the future is yet to be determined and may not have anything to do with what has come before.  And, regardless of the results of this scan on Wednesday, which I’ll get on the following Monday, I can only live as best I can, as best I know how.  There will, ultimately, be other scans, other tests, potentially one every year until the day I do, finally, make the last great leap into the dark.  In between those scans, however many there may be, I slowly, gradually, have chosen to live healthier.  The past couple years, I’ve been juicing.  Fresh, home-made, organic vegetable juice.  And, this year, fruit smoothies.  Both, or either, instead of sandwiches for lunch, along with yogurt, which has lately been organic as well, and, newest of all, Greek for the higher protein.
I exercise more regularly than ever.  I’d like to be less heavy than I am, or at least less fat.  Pound for pound, more muscular would be just fine at my weight.  Less stiff and less creaky in the joints would be okay, too.  Some mornings when I get up, I sound very much like a bowl of Rice Krispies my joints snap, crackle and pop so much.  Several people have suggested that I add yoga to my exercise regimen, that it would help with flexibility and ease my stiff joints.  And, when I hear a thing three times, from three very different people, I have to at least investigate that or risk the Universe taking offense at my willfully ignoring the suggestion.  So, this conservative, meat-and-potatoes, tough-minded, mostly pragmatic Mid-Westerner has found himself a bit adrift in Texas, more liberal and open-minded toward alternative health practices, eating mostly fruits and vegetables and “crunchy granola”, and, yes, finally, investigating yoga, of all things.  At least I hear the classes are mostly women, so, who knows, maybe I’ll meet a nice, healthy girl who won’t laugh too loudly at my foolishness.

So, regardless of how terrified I may be of having to endure chemotherapy again, or how distasteful I find the radioactive enema I will pay an enormous deductible on, I will face the day, the scan, with as much courage and dignity as I can still manage.  I will do my best to be thankful for the friends and family who support me in my weakness and discomfort, and, yes, for the medical staff who will run me through their gauntlet.  I will try to be patient while waiting for the results of what is already there, or not, like Schrödinger’s cat, who’s state cannot be known until it is observed.
And, when all is said and done, I will try not to let the fear cripple me, but, rather, I will do my best to live more fully.  Certainly, more fully than I have been, more courageously, I hope.  I will still know fear, I am sure, but, as I was reminded, there can be no courage without the fear first.

Of course, until that all happens, I will be more than happy to accept your prayers, good thoughts, and any introductions to nice, pretty, healthy ladies who aren’t more than ten years younger than I.
But, let’s start with those prayers, okay?
Thanks.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"People who fight fire with fire usually end up with ashes."
   --Abigail Van Buren

8/19/2009

Blog Confessor

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rat which is in the wee hours or 1:03 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

“Forgive me, blog, it’s been…  Well, a long time.”

Wow, my blogging has been really sketchy here the past couple of months.  There are reasons.  Lots and lots of reasons.  First, of course, would be my no-longer-pregnant-friend’s-wife being, uh, no longer pregnant.  Did I tell you they named the baby after me?  Well, his middle name is my first name.  And, he’s an angel.  Also, I heard yesterday, he was circumcised, which means statistically he’ll be more likely to recieve oral sex as an adult.  So, you know, he’s got that going for him.

But, I’ve had a few other things that have kept me from blogging as much, or being as personal, too.
For one thing, I’ve been depressed.  Not in the “holy-jeebus-I-can’t-stand-living-anymore” way, but a kind of low-level, unmotivated, anti-social, why-can’t-I-ever-get-enough-sleep sort of way that makes doing more than day-to-day living a little difficult.  Funny thing about that, though, is a couple of weeks ago I finally broke down and saw the therapist who got me through my divorce a couple years back.  Well, I suppose that’s not funny, but what he said was.  After talking to him for about 20 minutes, he suggested I go see my cardiologist about changing my high-blood-pressure medication.  After listening to some of the symptoms of my depression, like insomnia, mood-swings, irritibility, a general anti-social bent, terrible short-term memory, among others, and connecting that with new medication I started taking while I was getting chemotherapy, he related a tale of personal woe to me that had me covinced in no time that I needed to make a cardiologist appoinitment.  So, I have one Thursday afternoon.  It took more than two weeks to get in to see this guy, because he’s got that good a reputation.  Hopefully, that will bode well for changing my meds.  Can you imagine, though?  Two years of insomnia may have all been caused by side-effects of medication that I was ignoring.  Amazing.

Of course, some of my depression and what not is due to other things, but I think a lot of it is a side-effect of that insomnia.  The funny thing is, it all starts to reinforce itself.  So my messy house that I never have the energy to clean, makes me even more depressed and makes it harder for me to get the energy to clean.  All the projects that I want to start, including that other mystery blog, take more energy than I feel I have, which makes me more depressed and hard on myself, which, in turn, saps more energy away on useless recriminations and feelings of depression.  It’s a viscious circle.

But, I hope that will change soon.
Of course, staying up late to write this probably hasn’t helped, so now I’m off to bed.  Ciao!


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward together in the same direction."
   --Antoine de Saint-Exupery

6/24/2009

Bear Wisdom

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Art,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life Goals,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rat which is in the wee hours or 1:24 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I’ve seen extreme bravery from the least likely of people. Life is about the moments when it has all gone wrong. That’s when we define ourselves.

-Bear Grylls, adventurer and start of the Discovery Channel series Man vs. Wild

I wish I had fewer opportunities to define myself.

I like to blame my melancholy on an existensial crisis brought on by a near brush with death served up thanks to a bit of cancer.  But, the truth is, every moment is an opportunity for everything to go wrong, for redefining ourselves.
I’ll be honest, ladies and gents, for the last loyal few of you who put up with the empty, impersonal posts, life does seem empty, void and without any real meaning.  I do my work well, mostly, and try to be a good friend, though I know I often fall far short of that humble mark.  But, the work is impersonal, and any schmuck could do my job.  The moment that I stop putting in that extra effort, I can and will be replaced.  I’m the kind of guy who you can call while he’s on vacation, who can’t say “no” when an acquaintance needs help with their computer.  But, what difference does that make?  I mean, outside of my utility, what difference do I make?  To anyone?

I’m sure my friends and I would disagree greatly in regards to what my weak points, my character defects, are, but, I’ll tell you, there’s more wrong with me than a simple inferiority complex.  As a dear friend casually pointed out Sunday night, I look to all the wrong people for validation.  Yes, I’m talking about women.  No, not just one, but, well, virtually any woman.  I don’t know why, but it’s not even the few who do tell me that I’m worth more than my simple skills, that I have value beyond my utility.  As someone at work said, if I can’t be handsome at least I can be handy.  But, beyond a few very common skills with a computer, things that anyone with Google could manage, I don’t even have much use in the world.
No, what I hear are the other voices.  I hear the girl from Junior High who laughs at my first fumbling attempts at snickering socialization.  A lesson learned too well.  I hear my ex-wife’s bitter barbs, still working their poison into me.  Worse, I hear the silent voices.  I hear the women who don’t even say anything, who’s voices I imagine saying aloud all the worst things I’ve ever thought about myself.  They’re the worst.  When someone silently turns away, or glares, or doesn’t notice me at all.  The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference.

So, there I am, an un-confident shell of a former self I don’t think I ever was, wanting to be different, but no knowing how to go about it.
I’ve a friend who’s a professional artist with whom I have lunch virtually every Monday.  We’ve been talking about art a lot, and photography.  My photography, actually.  His unfortunately accurate assessment of my work is that it lacks passion.  He quite rightly described me as being afraid, afraid of following that passion.  Also, he sussed out that I had in my head some notion of doing the photography “right”, that I was very concerned about doing it that mysterious “right” way.  And, those two things were what was holding me back.  If I could just let go of those things, then the crisis of my internal life would be freed.  Maybe.  And, yes, these two subjects, three subjects really, are all tied together.

So, there is the crux of things.
I know at some deep level that I am at a crisis point.  It would be hard for me to picture my life having gone much more wrong than it has.  Forty and divorced and, as much as I love kids, not a one to be found on Father’s Day.  Deeply in debt, with more on the way, thank you again, cancer, you bitch.  It may not be the way that Bear means in his sound bite, but life has gone wrong here, trust me.  Maybe I’m wrong, but I think art could save me.  I think that getting through that semi-mythical block would free my entire life.  But, here’s the thing…  The passion that’s missing from my work, is women.  Complicated, confusing, confounding, captivating women.  Women who mean so much, too much, to the tattered, hollow shell of my ego.  To approach them for inclusion in the work, I have to be indifferent to their constant rejection, but, you know, I’m not.  And, would I have so much energy around these mysterious, magical creatures if I were entirely fearless around them?  Doubtful.

So, what to do, what to do.
Perhaps nothing.  Perhaps a few more therapeutic lunches with my artist friend.  Perhaps, cancer survival aside, this existential crisis point may be a turning point.  If I’m lucky, I’ll find a bit of courage and surprise myself.
If I’m lucky.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"I'm always amazed that people take what I say seriously. I don't even take what I am seriously."
   --David Bowie

1/22/2009

Expensive Hobbies and Obsessions

Filed under: Art,Fun,Personal,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time or 8:48 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

I know some of my hobbies and obsessions seem rather more costly than is reasonable.

I’ll bet most of my readers thought it was a little crazy to even contemplate bidding on ephemera and, well, junk from the Battlestar Galactica set. I suppose, in a way, it is. And, I would imagine that more than a few people who are drawn in by the gravity well of time and energy I like to call The Diary of a Network Geek would find my semisecret urge to create my own props for my own, internal, unpublished science-fiction world, well, a bit odd, to say the least. Well, for those of you who doubt, I share with you Weta Collectibles: Original Rayguns. Look at them. Look at them closely. Now, look at the prices. There’s money in those rayguns!

Who’s crazy now?

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