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.

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.

2/10/2017

Neon Flames

Filed under: Art,Fun,Fun and Games — 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 a Full Moon

It’s like finger-painting with stars.

You know how there are all those studies that say coloring is good for adults? That it helps us manage stress and all that? Well, I believe them. I have found that a little bit of coloring really has taken the edge off for me. I’m not quite as convinced about some of the smartphone apps or the programs, but, I suppose, if it works for you, then great. And, I know that general doodling has helped me relax, too. When I was a kid, I would just scribble out shapes and creatures and faces and whatever came to mind. It was, if you will, a form of self-soothing. Guess what? I found a new internet toy that does the same thing; Neon Flames. And, yes, it’s just like finger-painting with stars and nebulae. It’s super simple, and free. Just click on a color, then click and drag your mouse over the black background and watch. Just go play with it.

And, as a side note, I can actually see a use for it as a background creator. Maybe even as the background for the cover of that self-published science-fiction ebook you’ve been meaning to write. (Or is that just me?)

Anyway, it’s free and fun and a great way to waste a little time.
Enjoy!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

2/3/2017

Pretty Pictures

Filed under: Art,Fun,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 a First Quarter Moon

So, I’m not quite done with the photography links.

Seriously, though, I’m working on some other things to share. I promise. Still, I have this one last thing from last month to share with you.
We all like to look at beautiful things, right? And free things are great, too, aren’t they? What about free things that are beautiful to look at? Yeah, pretty much the sweet-spot of ways to waste time on a Friday. So, that’s what I’ve got for you. Free photography that’s pretty much gorgeous. And, I really mean free. You can do whatever with these photos without worrying about violating some poor photographer’s copyright and stealing money from their family. Trust me, it’s cool.
The site is Unsplash. And, it’s just what I said. Beautiful photography, for free.

Go look.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

1/27/2017

Photographic Software Tips

Filed under: Art,Fun,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 a New Moon

The fourth post in this month’s themed series of useful photography information focuses on the big two photographic software programs; Photoshop and Lightroom.

So, while the information is free, the software isn’t.
Personally, I try to get as much right in the camera as I can. Photography is my hobby and I work on computers all day long, so I’m not particularly interested in spending a lot of time on using software to “fix” my pictures. Still, I don’t know where I’d be without the software I do use. Mostly, I work in Lightroom, with the occasional Alien Skin add-on, but I also know that Photoshop is the “gold standard” in the minds of many photographers and creative professionals. So, the first ling I’m sharing this Friday is Are you a Photoshop Master? Even you may not know these ten features! It’s a short video of some helpful, but lesser known, features in Photoshop. It seems like every big program like this has at least one hidden feature almost no one knows about, so it’s always cool to find some, even for software I don’t use a lot of the time.
On the other hand, I do use Lightroom after pretty much every photography session. And, lately, I’ve been very interested in printing my work for easy display around the house. Of course, I’m mostly going to send those to a specialty printing company, but I still want to proof them and, possibly, try them in a spot on the wall before committing to a more expensive print. Or, I may want to do a little more “pre-procesing” before sending my work to the printer. No matter my goal in regards to printing, the Photofocus tutorial on Mastering Lightroom Print Layout Styles will definitely help me save time. Honestly, it’s a feature in Lightroom that I haven’t used, but I hope to use more this year.

So, there you have it. Two tutorials in the most popular photographic software packages to round out the month.
See you next week!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

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