Diary of a Network Geek

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

2/26/2021

How the Octopus Works

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,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 a Full Moon

Aliens live in our oceans.

I know I’ve been reposting a lot from Boing Boing lately, but this is just too good to not share. As both a fan of science fiction and an eternally hopeful writer of science fiction, I’m always fascinated by intelligent animals that live with us on our own planet. One of the most intelligent and yet different species which shares our planetary home is the octopus. I can’t remember the exact quote, or who said it, but a science fiction author once challenged his fellows by asking that they create an alien that could think as well as mankind, but differently. I’m not going to claim that an octopus can think as well as a human, but it sure does think differently. And, having watched the fascinating video The Insane Biology Of The Octopus, I can absolutely see a very different way of thinking than the one we land-dwelling mammals are used to using. While we have done a lot of research into the intelligence of dolphins, we’ve really only just started looking at the octopus, relatively speaking.
The video is about twenty minutes long, which is easily viewable in a lunch-hour. You won’t be sorry if you have any interest in aliens, alien thinking, or even just strange animals.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

2/19/2021

Florida Man

Filed under: Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

Here’s hoping you have a very “Florida Man” birthday!

Okay, so after last week, I feel like I need to share something completely light and without a deeper political message, no matter how far down you scroll. Thankfully, I can rely on the proverbial “Florida man” from the news to help me sink to the appropriate level. In this case, it’s a website that calls itself the Florida Man Birthday Challenge. The idea is simple, just select your birth month and day and the site will serve up a real, and really weird, silly, stupid and ridiculous, news story starring that most infamous low-rent perps, the proverbial Florida Man.
It looks like they’re still building out the site and collecting news stories that are linked to each and every day of the year, but they’re really getting there. For instance, the story on my birthday is actually about an event from October, but, one assumes that the news story hit the papers in December, possibly when the Florida man in question was arraigned. I’m not sure when they started, and the site is riddled with advertising, but the idea here is that no matter the month and day of your birth, a Florida man has done something stupid enough on that day to make the news or police blotter.

See? Like I told you; low-brow and the antithesis of last week’s post!
Come back next week to see what I come up with next!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

2/12/2021

Sea Shanty Revival

Filed under: Art,Fun,music — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a New Moon

I know I’m a little late to this trend, but all these modern folk songs are fun, so I’m sharing it anyway.

A couple of weeks ago, I shared with you the unusual juxtaposition of modern songs done in a Medieval style called “bardcore”. This week, it’s sea shanties of several stripes and union work songs. They’re actually pretty similar in style, I think, but I’ll let you judge for yourself. Two of these three came to my feed by way of Boing Boing and they talk about the third, but I’d already discovered that in a list of old 78s on the Internet Archive Audio Archive .

So, first, I’ll share two TikToks that I found from Boing Boing’s post on sea shanties. The first is jax.in.the.box_, and she’s got a beautiful voice. I honestly don’t know anything about her except the music she shares on TikTok, which goes well beyond sea shanties, but is generally of a folk singing style that she really makes the most of. And, also, nathaneveanss, who also goes beyond the sea shanty style, but is also quite good. Both of these performers are really good and their acapella work is absolutely their best in my opinion. And, after listening to them both, I started to think that the secret was either an Irish or a Scottish accent.

Now, before you think these sea shanties are all just fun and games, Boing Boing has a cybersecurity sea shanty by Rachel Tobac. It’s good opsec advice about not reusing passwords and capitalizes on the popular TikTok trend to, hopefully, reach some folks.

The last links I’m going to share are to the Internet Archive. Lately, there’s been some good reason for the “little guys” to talk about economic disparity, not to mention the recent efforts of both Goole employees and Amazon employees to unionize, with mixed results depending on where it was happening. These songs mostly go back to the mid to late 40’s. My favorites are The Union Boys – Songs for Victory; music for political action, but you can find more old 78s with a “union theme” there, too.
But, if you need more, Spotify has some for you. There’s the Utah Phillips – One Big Union – We Have Fed You All a Thousand Years, Solidarity Now: Workers, Union and Protest Songs (which includes the Chemical Worker’s Song that jax.in.the.box_ linked above performs), and another, easier way to listen to The Union Boys – Songs for Victory; Music for Political Action.

For any future employers, I’m not advocating unionization necessarily, but the less we pay workers the more reason they have to complain about how oppressed they are. Extreme wealth disparity is something that should concern everyone because when it gets extreme enough, upheaval happens.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words, my much more personal blog.

2/5/2021

Horror in the Backrooms

Filed under: Art,Fun,Uncategorized — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

There’s something terrifying about musty, forgotten, anonymous backrooms.

As someone who’s done a little bit of urban exploration with my camera, I can tell you, there are few things more unsettling than a building full of empty, discarded rooms left to molder into decayed disuse. And, in another life, I’ve had some other reasons to know more than I’d care to about out-dated and disused space in semi-industrial settings. Old offices at the back of old buildings that smell like damp wallboard and receded floodwaters. I think if H.P. Lovecraft were alive and writing today, his nameless horrors would lurk in places like that. I’ve been thinking about it lately thanks to Mark Frauenfelder’s article in Magnet about “The Backrooms”, a 4Chan meme that’s been given deeper life thanks to procedural generation and people stuck at home. His article has videos, but more importantly, links to the deeper world of this horror space. The videos and games are … Well, they’re interesting and disturbing and something you sort of need to experience. I probably should have saved all this for Halloween, but, I didn’t think it would keep any longer.

Go and look for yourself. Yes, it’s unsettling, but it’s also a safe distraction from the more unsettling things happening in our world today.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

1/29/2021

Dining Table Photography

Filed under: Art,Fun,On Creativity,Photography,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Improving your photography on the dining table.

What? Did you think I meant taking photos of your dining table? Well, I suppose that’s as valid a subject as any for photography, but what I’m actually sharing with you this week is something a bit different. A photographer, Brian Worley, posted this tutorial titled Creating and learning on the dining table back in March of last year. It’s an exploration of still-life photography, done on a tabletop, as a way of working on photography skills. It especially focuses on small flash skills, which I definitely need to work on regardless of how many of Syl Arena’s classes I’ve taken. He emphasizes a pretty tight setup, which should work for people in almost any living situation.
Before I read this, I did my own set up last year for this sort of thing. I’ve gotten two bases with two sides each; one black and one white, with a matte and shiny side each. I also got two miniature v-flats to control light better, which Mr. Worley does with simple poster board. Mine have black on one side and one panel each of white and silver, again to give me a little more flexibility with light and reflection. I did some experimenting with still life myself, both last year and earlier. You can see my brief experiments with my new-ish set up, as well as the older experiments, at my Still Life Flickr photo album.
It’s a great way to experiment with your camera and lighting in a small, contained space. And, for however long this pandemic lasts, it’s something we can do indoors, away from big crowds, while staying safe, to keep our photography skills sharp.

And, I have to admit, I got some more props around Christmas time for more still life work. I haven’t gotten around to it yet, but my intention is to add to that photo album and work on some fantasy book covers. Fantasy in the sense that the theme is swords and sorcery, but also fantasy in that these are books that haven’t been written.
We’ll see how it goes.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

 

1/22/2021

AI Poetry

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 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

No, not poetry written FOR artificial intelligence.

Rather, poetry written BY artificial intelligence. Or at least extrapolated by artificial intelligence. The idea is simple enough; you choose three poets from the suggested list and feed the engine a first line, then, verse by verse, suggestions are made. You can change the shape of the poem, to some degree, and, of course, you can choose the next line which is all, as far as I can tell, culled from the poems of your selected inspirational writers. It’s an interesting experiment and, I have to admit, it makes poetry no worse than poetry I’d write myself without help. See for yourself. Here’s a sample of one I “wrote” with the help of the AI

Dream Sailor

I sail upon the wine-dark sea,
Set me on its golden sand;
Make me a race, and I shall be
The man for which I hold the hand.

Inspired by James Weldon Johnson, Robert Frost, and Edgar Allan Poe
COMPOSED IN VERSE BY VERSE

So, yeah, there you go. Click that link and try it for yourself! It’s free and may inspire you to do more.

This post first appeared on Use Your Words!

1/15/2021

Bardcore

Filed under: Art,Fun,music — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Modern music with a Medieval twist!

As a guy who aspires to write, among other things, fantasy fiction of the pseudo-Medieval or “swords and sorcery” style, I’m always paying attention to things I think will hook people. Music is, of course, something that most of us have some kind of interest in and I’ve always been a fan of musical mash-ups. So, naturally, when I stumbled across something called “bardcore”, I was intrigued, to say the least. In essence, these are relatively modern songs done in a Medieval style, to varying degrees, and can be quite fun. I’m not ashamed to say that I find them mostly fun, and, if I wrote with music in the background, I’d absolutely find them inspiring. Maybe you will, too. One of my favorite blogs, BoingBoing, has a short article about it and a link to one of the better performers. Strictly instrumental, but quite lovely.
I’ve got a couple of saved Bardcore lists on Spotify, too. One called simply
Bardcore and another called Bardcore/Tavernwave and a third called < a href=”https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5bSyIBVoTa9gwiOqvvJFWD”>Medieval Style/Bardcore. All fun, in my opinion, and quite likely to lead to daydreams of a past that never was.

Either way, it seems like a nice, light way to start the new year.
No idea what else I may share this year, or how often I’ll post, but at least you’ve got this.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

1/8/2021

Avoiding A FIght

Filed under: About The Author,Advice from your Uncle Jim,Deep Thoughts — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:15 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

To be clear, I haven’t been in a fight since high school.

And, I haven’t even been close, really, since college.
That being said, I have been threatened more than once in the past thirty years since leaving the safe, quiet suburbs of Chicago. Though, that has happened with increasingly less frequency, thankfully. You see, I think of myself as a peaceful person, in spite of once threatening to stick a fork in someone’s eye. Hey, he started the threatening and posturing! I just turned out to be better at it than he was. And, the fork never left my side of the table. The believable threat was enough to stop him.
The thing is, when adults fight, I can tell you from unfortunate experience, everyone involved gets hurt. Yes, even the “winner” of that physical confrontation ends up hurting. Trust me. Knuckles in the teeth hurt the knuckles as much as the teeth. So, I go a long way to avoid getting into that sort of conflict. I apologize when it’s not strictly necessary. I stay away from bars, just on general principle. These days, I’m a pretty soft-looking middle-aged guy that probably reminds most people of their uncle who gets quietly drunk and weepy on Thanksgiving or Christmas. (I’m not, by the way. I don’t really drink anymore and rarely get weepy.) So, I never seem a threat. Not at all the sort that people seek out to start trouble with at all. And, that’s just the way I like it. Trust me, no one wants to hang out with the guy willing to literally stick a fork in someone to prove a point. Not even the guy with the fork.

I bring all this up because, well, we’ve been away from regular human contact for a bit and while we were, I feel like tempers have gotten shorter. I know mine did for awhile this past year. And, too, our world has gotten scarier and more uncertain thanks to a pandemic and politicians that leave much to be desired. I’m not even thrilled with the people I voted for, much less the ones I didn’t. I imagine that others feel the same way. All that lack of practice on our social skills and the heightened tension may make for some challenging times ahead as we get used to being with people again. I hope we won’t need this, but why not start your year off on the right foot and look at Lifehacker’s suggestions for how to talk your way out of a bar fight. Trust me on this one, fellahs. The pretty girls would rather go home with the guy who avoids the trouble than the guy who starts OR ends it. Just ask my wife!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Before you give someone a piece of your mind, make sure you can spare it."

1/1/2021

Upgraded Resolutions!

Filed under: Art,Fun,Fun and Games — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Updated random resolutions!

I haven’t made formal New Year’s Resolutions in a long, long time because, honestly, if I’m relying on making myself a promise on a certain day to follow through, it’s not likely to actually happen. At least I know that I’m alone, which is why gyms and churches are both bursting at the seams in January but thin out by April. Still, it’s traditional, so I’ll share, my own little solution to the New Year’s Resolution “problem”, which has been freshly updated.
Back in the day, when I still had delusions that I could make myself into a decent programmer, I whipped up a New Year’s Resolution Generator. At the time, I was studying Perl, which is what I wrote it in then. This year, though, I updated that sad, old Perl CGI program to the much more modern PHP. So, now, instead of getting an error message, you actually get the fun toy.
I based it, in part, on some ideas from the Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Holidays, but I have to admit, I threw in some of my own warped sense of humor. And, I weighted things a little more toward heavier drinking and looser morals because I figured those were the resolutions that would be easier to keep and I figured they’d be funnier.

In any case, it was apparently funny enough that Comedy Central Insider linked it in their blog back when I first released it all the way back in 2006. Which is pretty cool, no matter how long ago that was and how many technologies and upgrades have come and gone. Besides, can completely random “advice” from a website really be any worse than the suggestions you got from family over the holidays? In today’s world of chaos and unreality, it honestly doesn’t seem as bad an idea as it used to! So, why not give it a shot yourself? You don’t even have to share about it publicly. No one will know but us!

And try to have a good year, no matter what happens. Make time to love your loved ones, do good work, and add something positive to the world. Or one of the random resolutions. Whichever seems likelier to produce good results.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words, in spite of the fact that the actual New Year’s Resolution Generator resides here! It’s a crazy world!

12/25/2020

Christmas Day 2020

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Marginalia and Notes from the Editor,News and Current Events,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Normally, I’d share a silly link, but not today.

Today, it’s Christmas. The day that Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, also known as Yeshua ben Yeshua, Lamb of God, and Light of the World. We live in strange times, filled with consumerism and fear of the future. Locked in our homes because of a global pandemic, we haven’t been able to celebrate this season the way we might like. Family has been distant for most of us, one way or another, and our usual gatherings, either at religious services or for holiday meals, have been severely curtailed.
My wife and I often celebrate the season quietly anyway, so it hasn’t been as big a burden on us, really. For that, I am thankful. But, this year, more than ever, I think we all need to consider what people from time immemorial have celebrated at this time of year. The actual birth of Jesus most likely happened in the Spring, closer to when we celebrate Easter. But, the early church leaders were very clever and some of the best marketers that history has ever known. They chose to connect the birth of Christ with the far older and more pagan festival connected with the Winter Solstice. That day, which was actually Monday, December 21st this year, is the longest night, and shortest day, of the year. But, it marked the day that a little more light was about to be let into the world, because, the next day was a little longer and each day after that is a little longer too, until the Summer Solstice when the cycle repeats. What’s important though, I think, is that we all are celebrating that this holiday commemorates the continual rebirth of light, joy, and possibilities into the world.
That hope is something that I think we can all use more of this year. So, go, enjoy your families, and spread that hope and light as far as you can carry it in the coming year. It may not be easy, but I think the results will be worth it!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

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