Diary of a Network Geek

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

5/29/2020

Embracing My Inner Geek

Filed under: About The Author,music,The Day Job — 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

Because, that’s who I really am.

So, this week I was going to write about the error message I’ve seen filling up my logs which is due to some issue in the AuthorWrite theme I use here. But, thanks to some prodigious sleep procrastination, I was able to find the error and the fix it last night, with the help of Professor Google. Apparently, there are some security and encryption salts that are technically optional, but really should be added into the config on WordPress that I hadn’t done. Frankly, I blame that on being so far out of date on WordPress development that it’s ridiculous. The joy of it is that I don’t need to be up to date. Back in the old days, when I was running MoveableType, I had to know how it all worked because there was no one who was going to help me figure it out. But, now, with how popular WordPress has gotten and how many great programmers are working on it, I hardly have any issues. And, when I do have an issue, it’s almost always related to a theme or plugin that needs to be updated. In a couple of cases, plugins have been abandoned, and don’t work because the underlying architecture has changed and there’s no one updating the plugin code. That’s sad because there are some great plugins that I’ve had to stop using due to them not being supported and causing issues on my sites. Yes, I can almost always find a replacement for them, but, sometimes, the old plugins have nice features or an easy-to-use interface that I miss. Oh, well, life is change. Either way, the issue is resolved.

But, all that nerdy goodness got me thinking a bit. Being a computer geek is absolutely built into who I am now. It’s funny because back in high school, I was a little obnoxiously well known for hating computers because I already saw so many of my peers relying on them instead of thinking for themselves. That’s pretty remarkable when you consider that I graduated high school in 1986. Of course, some of those people I went to school with are now big shots in the technology industry, but, hey, I still prefer to think for myself. Not that I mind making a living off malfunctioning computers. It provides me and my family a pretty damn good living. But, I do find myself gravitating toward the, well, shall we say, darker side of computers and networks? When I attended DEF CON 20 in 2012, it was pretty life-changing. It truly opened my eyes to a whole new world of computer security. But, it also showed me that I already knew more than I was giving myself credit for! Beyond the security aspects of things, the idea that computer geeks might also be gun geeks or music nerds was sort of a new idea. My buddy, famous artist Mark Flood, knew about the hacker rappers that performed at DEF CON, but it was news to me. And, apparently, there’s a whole slew of nerdcore music and musicians that I’ve not heard of before. It’s an event he and I still talk about on a regular basis. Things we saw there are still trickling out into the mainstream, like smart car hacking. It makes me a little sad that DEF CON is Cancelled this year, at least in person. I still hope to get back one day to experience it all live and in person, but, if you have the time, this year’s virtual event August 7-9 is a great opportunity for you to safely check it out. Just make sure you’ve got all your antivirus and security patches up to date! (Just kidding! I’m sure it will be 100% safe! Trust me!) And, I’ve already ordered two DEF CON is Cancelled t-shirts, which will get here in a couple weeks. They’ll pair well with my Guy Fawkes COVID-19 mask that I should have by the end of the day!

And, if you just want to relax a little, not think about big issues like computer security and nerdcore music and COVID-19, then try unlocking some browser games with help from Lifehacker. Yes, all three major browsers have them, though some are easier to get to than others, not to mention more fun.

Try to enjoy your weekend and week and do something you love.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

5/22/2020

Finally, Some Changes

Filed under: About The Author,On Creativity — 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

You know how I keep threatening to write differently here?

You may have noticed that things were starting to change a bit over the past several weeks. Yes, I’ve still been bringing you “fun” links on Friday, but that’s been mostly swallowed up by all the other writing. I’m still mostly too busy to write as often as I did ten or fifteen years ago, so I haven’t managed to get in more than a single blog post per week yet. I’d like to write more regularly here, but I’ve got creditors who demand to be paid and that means my “day job” comes first. So, after a minimum of forty hours of work for them, and my paycheck, I don’t always have a lot of energy or focus to write anything else.
You may remember that I started writing morning pages about two weeks ago now. That was inspired by the keynote for a virtual fantasy convention given by Brandon Sanderson. He talked about how frustrated he was when he started out writing because he wasn’t producing work that he liked. Well, that sure sounded like how I’ve felt for the past ten years or more. But, he offered a cure; fall in love with the writing process again. And, to at least some degree, that was what was behind me starting those morning pages. It was about relearning to simply enjoy the act of writing. And, so far, that’s really started to happen again. Now, I despair of being able to convert those random thoughts and stream of consciousness worries into coherent fiction at some point, but that, ultimately, is the goal here. So, in that spirit, and because I imagine my fictional readers being interested in the same things I am, I have a link to share. Brandon Sanderson is also a teacher, as well as a writer. He’s shared an entire course of lectures on writing fantasy fiction, which you can stream for free. I plan to watch them all, though, since they’re an hour long a piece, I’m not sure when I’ll find the time to watch all of them. Either way, if you’ve got it in your head to write fantasy fiction, you could do worse than watch his lectures. His work is incredibly popular and I found his talks so far to be helpful and inspiring.

You know, I had other links that I was going to share, but, I think that one is enough this week after all. It’s been a hell of a week. For one, a friend of mine lost her father. For another, my own father, who’s about two months away from being 91, and who’s going through chemotherapy for liver cancer, was admitted to the hospital with heart issues this week. Thankfully, it seemed to be caused by some fluid on his lung, which was causing some cardiac stress. He’s been given a diuretic and sent home and it sounds like he’ll be able to continue his chemotherapy. Chemotherapy which is working pretty well, by the way. So, good news for my father, but still, a lot of stress and worry, especially since I couldn’t just jump on a plane to go see him if things had gotten worse thanks to COVID-19, which he tested negative for, too, thankfully.
So, while I try to relearn what exactly makes a plot work and apply that to some of the ideas that have been bouncing around in my head for the past couple of decades, I’ll keep up the morning pages. And, in some form or fashion, I’ll keep writing here, too.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words, the blog most likely to be updated with new writing.

5/15/2020

Escape The Confines Of Your Mind

Filed under: Fun,Fun and Games,Stimulus and Production,The Day Job — 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

Feeling a little trapped? Me, too.

So, I usually have a theme to these Friday posts, but even I have to admit they’ve gotten pretty thin lately. And, while I’ve started working some days back in the office, I’m still home more than I’m not and I can feel the mental pressure some days. I haven’t gone quite so far as to ask the dogs for advice about IT management. Honestly, I think if they could, they’d have some good ideas. At least, they can’t have any ideas worse than some I’ve heard out in project meetings over the course of my career.
In any case, until those animals start to talk, I’ll have to contend with the rest of the circus animals walking around talking up a storm. It’s enough to make me want to flee the scene. Actually, that’s a pretty common day-dream fantasy of mine; packing my life into a van or boat or something contained and portable and just, well, running away. I know it’s possible, because Brian and Karin Trautman have been living on a sailboat for 10 years, and they love it. I, personally, lean more toward the camper van or tiny house thing, but, hey whatever works. It’s the idea of being portable and light and having fewer attachments. I have a lot of attachments and absolutely recognize that the source of all my real problems come from those attachments. But, hey, knowing is the first step, right?
One other way I escape from my own brain is to lose myself in movies and books. But, weirdly, I need my escapism to feel real. I know, that’s a bit of oxymoron, but, well, as old Walt Whitman said, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, I am large. I contain multitudes.” So, with that in mind, I really enjoyed watching a former FBI agent reviewing mobster movies and, conversely, a former mob boss reviewing gangster films. It’s a nice contrast. It’s funny, because I remarked to an old friend just the other day online that for whatever reason, ultra-violent gangster movies are very calming and soothing to me, especially if they’re about the yakuza. Go figure.
And, since we’re talking about movies and, well, everyone is working from home these days, I thought I’d share this disturbing, but also fascinating mashup of The Office and The Matrix. Watch it!
And, finally, for the word nerds out there, like me, I have This Word Does Not Exist, a site that creates a new word and defines it for you. I think we should all pick one of those generated words and work it into our everyday conversations until we get someone else to adopt it. Because I’m bored with email and video meetings. And, I want to lead you astray.

I’d have had better links and a better post for you, but it’s been the busiest week of the pandemic for me. Seriously. I’ve barely had time to eat lunch most days. On the plus side, I have been getting up earlier and writing Morning Pages. Though, I’ve been doing it via the keyboard, which is verboten by the traditionalists. The average length of a page of a trade paperback is about 500 words, I’m told, so I’ve been doing 1500 words. It may not be the officially sanctioned method, but, hey, it works for me. I’ll try to remember to let you know how it goes.
See you all next week!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

5/8/2020

Today, More Than Ever…

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Fun,Personal Care,The Day Job,The Network Geek at Home,Truth and Consequences — 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

In these troubled times, we’re all talking about the same thing in the same way.

I know the isolation is getting rough for all of us and it’s definitely giving me more days where I feel like my brain has more in common with moldy cottage cheese than the evolutionary advantage I’m told it is. In fact, I’ve been trying to write this post for days. Normally, I queue up these weekly posts with plenty of time to spare, but, lately, I’ve been writing them closer and closer to my self-imposed morning deadline. Honestly, I know in part it’s because I’ve been just as busy as I normally am, if not busier, but also because my creative thinking is just weak and stagnate. That’s been made no better by the posts on LinkedIn telling me that “…[if] you don’t come out this quarantine with: -A new skill -Your side hustle started -More knowledge you never lacked time, you lacked discipline.” For one thing, that’s bullshit. If you have time to do any of those things, you’re unemployed and worried about finding work and healthcare, which is not conducive to actually accomplishing any of those things, or you’re stealing time and resources from your employer. Either that, or you’re about to be laid off because you’re normally so unproductive that you have all this spare time and just needed to be able to more sufficiently hide that from your supervisor by not being seen. And, even if you aren’t doing that, but for various reasons are legitimately employed and legitimately not stealing time from your employer, you may still be massively depressed because of all the chaos and fear and stress at all levels of society. Saying that we should all just get our collective shit together and magic up some of that toxic hustle that the magical thinking, next-wave, would-be Napoleon Hill’s have been trying to sell us for the past decade, is about like telling a person with clinical depression they should just try to be happier. That’s not how it works. If that’s all it took, we wouldn’t have a multi-billion dollar antidepressant medication industry. Granted, those faux inspirational messages all seem to come from marketing companies who, traditionally, make more money when they can sell people things to fix problems we don’t have until the marketing companies convince us that we need to fix them, but it seems like it’s been really bad the last couple of years. Really, it’s just the latest “get rich quick” scheme meant to fleece the unwary and desperate. Of course, the truth there is that the only way to get rich quickly, is to sell someone else the “sure-fire method” of getting rich with little to no work. (Spoiler alert; those are all scams!)
And, for me, the added stress and strangeness of working from home has made everything seem flat and repetitive. Surely, you’ve noticed that all the commercials lately sound the same, right? According to the Boing Boing article titled “Every COVID-19 Commercial Is Exactly The Same”, part of my challenge may be something called “semantic satiation”, which is “…a psychological phenomenon in which repetition causes a word or phrase to temporarily lose meaning for the listener, who then perceives the speech as repeated meaningless sounds.” And, that’s officially the excuse I’m using for why it feels like nothing anyone is saying any more matters. And, that’s true for news stories about the ailing economy, too. So, basically, what I’m saying here is that I feel massively overwhelmed by this entire situation, as do, I imagine, the two other people who probably still read this blog, as well as everyone else in the country. We can’t keep track of what day it is, or what we should be doing, which are both signs of stress and depression, by the way. And, I seriously think that just maintaining my “day job” is impressive enough.
The thing is, the world is changing. Of course, the world is always changing, but, right now, we are all very, very aware of the fact that it’s changing and that the changes are pretty much all out of our control. Honestly, that’s how it is pretty much all the time, but, right now, we just can’t avoid that particular truth. And, you know what? That’s a really scary thing to wake up to and it’s okay to be scared or whatever you may be feeling by all this. It’s okay. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed and like it’s super hard to do anything that really matters. It’s okay to just want to have a hobby that’s fun and not going to result in some monetary gain. It is okay.
For me, that’s been photography in the past. They way I like to do photography takes a lot of time, though, so I haven’t done as much as I’d like. If you feel like you’d like to get creative and learn a little photography, for fun, but haven’t known where to start, I have good news. Now you can get some free, thanks to the Photography Life YouTube channel, which has all kinds of video tutorials meant for beginners. (I do have to admit, I found them thanks to PetaPixel.)
If that’s too much, then go ahead and try a game. In the past I’ve talked about Universal Paperclips, which is still a good choice, as it mostly runs in the background after a certain point. But, there’s also a new game that looks fun, based on this article on Engadget, Who knew I’d get obsessed with a spreadsheet game?.
And, if you just need to have some soothing music in the background while you try to work, try Robert Fripp’s Music for Quiet Moments series. Each is about 50 minutes of gentle, peaceful music. For something a little more unnverving, try the AI-generated music based on famous artist’s original work. It’s a little odd, but certainly interesting.

Finally, I’d like to share something with you that I personally find helpful and uplifting; Pema Chödrön on SuperSoul Sunday via the Oprah Winfrey Network YouTube channel. She’s a fantastic Buddhist teacher and her talks and books are incredibly valuable teaching for me in “these uncertain times”.

So, like I promised, things are getting weird. Next week, I’ll be in the office a bit. My co-worker and I are coming in every other day, to try and help keep the potential for exposure to COVID-19 to a minimum for us. I pray that it goes well.
Check in next week to see!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

5/1/2020

Time Distortion Under Stress

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Fun,Marginalia and Notes from the Editor,Personal Care — 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

Or, does anybody really know what time it is?

I know everyone is talking about this, but I have to constantly remind myself of the day and time. And, yes, I know this is a side effect of being do far out of my normal routine, like everyone else is, that my brain’s sense of time has gone into a kind of psychological freefall. Also, it it may be a side of effect of both the isolation and the stress. I know, for instance, that some of my issues with concentration and memory are almost certainly related to the stress of working from home and the rush I went through to try and get as many people as possible able to work remotely. So, I feel confident that when my work schedule more closely resembles something that’s at least regular, if not “normal” whatever that even means any more, some of those issues will be less. Of course, that sense of time dislocation and general fuzzy-headedness is the reason that I’m writing this at 10:30pm on Thursday night, when I usually write these much earlier in the day and week, queueing them up in time for Friday morning. At least I know that I’m doing the things that will generally help with long-term stress, according to this article on LifeHacker, which is keeping up with my normal, regular sessions of sitting meditation, regular phone calls to distant family, and getting back on my rowing machine, which I’ve neglected for far too long. I should be getting better sleep and trying to be more creatively engaged, but, well, the concentration and memory things make that difficult for me. And, I’ve always had some issues sleeping, more so since having had cancer back in 2007. But, I work at all that, as well as trying to cultivate and maintain a positive mental attitude, which is frustratingly difficult. Though, thanks to this article on Boing Boing about positive thinking, at least I know why I still struggle with it, and, again, I find it comforting that I’m mostly doing the things suggested in the article and video to reinforce positive thinking rather than the negative. It sure is a process though, as the arty types are fond of saying.
And, just a quick note before I share some of the more fun links. COVID-19 is still super serious and the experts all seem to agree that there are more illnesses and, unfortunately, deaths coming from this. I know initially, it looked like it was going to be no more serious than the regular flu, but at the time I write this, the deaths from COVID-19 in roughly two months already have surpassed the number of deaths from the flu in all of the 2017-2018 flu season. And, not only do many people think those deaths are under-reported, even outside of China, but we’re just getting started here. If you’re having a hard time with visualizing how serious this really is, this article from Stat+ has some good visualizations for the potential death toll. That’s not counting, of course, the people who may suffer from long-term health issues after actually recovering from the disease. So, these numbers are why we’re being asked to wear a mask in public. That and the fact that symptoms take up to two weeks to appear and during that time an asymptomatic COVID-19 patient breathing out on someone could be infecting them. In other words, when I wear a mask, it’s as much about protecting those around me as it is protecting myself. Keep that in mind before you rant too much about your civil rights being infringed by a mask. Of course, some of my strong feelings about this may come from the fact that I just recently finished reading The Great Influenza, about the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic. It’s a little terrifying how similar the entire situation is to what we’re facing today. (And, if you’re a glutton for punishment, you can follow the daily stats in the US via Google. Again, the numbers are a little terrifying.)

Okay, now that I’ve got you good and worked up over something or other, here is the gentle, distracting content you actually came here for!
Just to start you off with something mellow, via Boing Boing, Muzak for Airplanes. Believe it or not, this offering from the same people who brought you soothing elevator music dates back to the 60’s and is so chill I can absolutely see it keeping uneasy airline passengers calm. We aren’t flying much these days, but the calm music is pretty nice background sound.
And, while you’re at it, check out Isle of Calm; 6 hours of calm, soothing music from NPR.
One of the ways I generally escape the world is through books. And, regular readers, if I haven’t frightened you away by now, know that I love free or cheap ebooks. It’s how I roll. So, in an effort to encourage more of the world to read, here’s a Lifehacker article/video on where to get free ebooks. And, if you can’t find what you’re looking for there, try one of the sources in this list of free ebook sites from MakeUseOf. Hopefully, between the two of them, you’ll find something to take your mind of all this.

And, for the kids of all ages, there’s NASA at Home, daily offerings from NASA to bring space into your home with books, videos, activities and more. There’s surely something here to enlighten or entertain, all brought to you thanks to your tax dollars, so enjoy it!
For the geeks that need to do something with their hands, there’s Rocky Bergen’s computer papercraft models. All free to download and share. You just need to print them, score and fold them, then glue them to recreate classic computers from paper in your home. Seriously, they’re pretty cool and I may have to try one, just for something different to do.

Finally, something for homeowners that are thinking about all that toilet paper we’re flushing at home, via Boing Boing; the Drain Addict. A YouTube channel of a professional drain cleaner. Trust me when I tell you that if the idea of 450 videos about cleaning out blocked drains doesn’t interest you, you’ve never had a major plumbing problem in your home. It’s weirdly fascinating. (And, if you want to go right to the YouTube channel, it’s here.)

So, there you go. Enjoy! See you next week with… Really, I have no idea. But there’ll be something here.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

4/24/2020

More Links For Pandemic Quarantine Distraction

Filed under: Fun,Fun Work,Personal Care,Red Herrings,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 Crescent

It just keeps going and going and going.

Honestly, the worst part about all this is that I’ve been so busy I can’t even enjoy the fantastic boredom that everyone keeps complaining about. I’ve read all the “inspirational” and “motivational” tweets that tell me I should come out of this quarantine with a new skill or new business or, at least, a new “side hustle”, but honestly, I’ve been so busy doing actual work and not defrauding my employer by only pretending to work from home that I just haven’t had the time. Seriously, I get that their point is all the excuses about not having enough time shouldn’t be an issue for all the people who are “bored” at home with nothing to do, but I really, in all sincerity, have been busier working from home in all this than I would be in the office. No joke.
But, I do still manage to find you, dear readers, links to amuse and distract in this time of fear, uncertainty and doubt. Here they are.

First, a little something for the geeks, via Boing Boing: 108 Rare and Bizarre Media Types. My fellow computer geeks, I promise you this will hit at least ONE data storage media that you’ve never heard of before. Utterly fascinating and, again for the geeks here, a wonderful way to spend about 35 minutes learning about more of the deep history of our profession.
Now, if you are, somehow, able to create in this climate of terror, may I suggest that you try creating a tiny ‘zine? What, you may ask, is a “zine”? Excellent question. According to The Bindery blog, “[a] zine is a self-published, non-commercial print-work that is typically produced in small, limited batches.” So, basically, a small, short-run, DIY magazine, of sorts. They can be pretty much whatever you want. And, if you want to save on paper and make literally small ones, as in from one sheet of paper, “Teen Zine Workshop” – Zine Instructions and Zine Template + Layout Document, both from Umami Design. You’ll have to decide what goes into it, but those links give you the tools to lay a zine out and get it assembled. And, if you’re hurting for ideas, you can always go back to last week’s post and write some funky COVID-19 haiku!
If those two options don’t strike your fancy, you can always check out David Brin’s Science Fiction Recommendations to find something to read. He’s an award-winning science-fiction author and a genius; just ask him! Seriously, though, he really does write brilliantly smart scifi and is an actual scientist, so, genius isn’t really an unreasonable assertion. Or, if you’re looking for something shorter, you can try Tor’s Must-Read Speculative Short Fiction: March 2020, or the Internet Archive’s collection of Amazing Stories magazine, or their collection of detective pulp magazines or their collection of fantasy pulp magazines. There may be some overlap there, but all good, free, reading material.

And, finally, again from Boing Boing, if you’re worried about your food situation, here’s How long you can safely keep condiments in your pantry and fridge. They reference an article off-site, but they give you the shelf life of some of the most common condiments you probably have. But, if all that is too much for you, Make Magazine has 15 Drink Recipes From Latte to Mead to help take the edge off. (I’ll leave you, dear reader, to decide the appropriate alcohol content of your libations.)

And, that wraps another fun and exciting week in the COVID-19 quarantine zone! See you next week!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

4/17/2020

Poetry in the Time of the Pandemic

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

I used to write, and read, poetry, before I stopped fearing death.

That sounds a bit contradictory, but, yes, I’m actually not afraid of death. I am afraid of the pain and discomfort that generally precede death, but not the actual eventuality of my death. Somehow, that seems connected to my ability to write, poetry or other things, but whatever the reason, I haven’t written more than a blog post or a single haiku, since I was diagnosed with and survived cancer. Sure, it must be related. By the way, that single haiku is:
Cars; a river of
steel and light, flowing to school.
Spring Break is over!

In 2003, when I was just getting into a year’s worth of unemployment, I shared this haiku on my other blog:
Snow blinks on my screen,
red lights on the router say,
“The end is here… Now.”

I’d written that when I was working a bankruptcy and had a little too much time on my hands to think about the end of that job. It was inspired by a book titled 101 Corporate Haiku. I loved that book, and the discipline of writing haiku, even under difficult circumstances, so, it’s strange to me that now, of all times, I find myself having trouble writing. I’m pleased to share, though, that others are making hay while the Sun shines, so I’m sharing with you, by way of Boing Boing, Someone made Found Poetry out of all the emails they’ve received about COVID-19. It’s not quite corporate haiku, but, well, it’s pretty good. And, since it’s also National Poetry Month, and I have a dark and twisted mind, I’ll also share with you H.P. Lovecraft’s Poetry, and, in particular, his dark, strange poem Nemesis. It’s about the strangest choice I could find to celebrate the month.
If you’d like to try writing your own poetry to celebrate, I’d definitely suggest trying haiku. A haiku is a poem of 17 syllables in three lines, usually divided into a line of 5 syllables, then a line of 7 syllables and finally a line of 5 syllables, with a seasonal word to ground the poem to nature and a “conceptual break” at the 5th or 12th syllable. A more modern variation of that is called the “lune” and is just 13 syllables, divided 5/3/5. Or if you want something with a little more elbow room to be creative, you can try the “tanka”, which is 31 syllables divided into 5 lines of 5 syllables then a line of 7 syllables then a line of 5 syllables then a line of 7 syllables with a final line of 7 syllables. Personally, I find a haiku in English challenge enough!

And, of course, I have your weekly COVID-19 related content, too.
I’m not sure about anyone else, but I’ve been feeling the long-term stress of an event unlike any we’ve had in living memory. Among other things, my sleep patterns, which haven’t been great the past couple years, have gotten worse. According to Slate, I’m not the only one with Coronavirus Anxiety Insomnia. If you get to the bottom of the article, there are some tips to help with it. Honestly, I think about the time I get a new schedule working and all that ironed out, we’ll be back to work as normal, whatever that means any more.
Finally, if you’re struggling with cooking, and are tired of the same old peanut butter and jelly sandwich, let me suggest you try some alternatives. Much to my wife’s horror, one of my favorite sandwiches is peanut butter and sweet relish. Something about the sweetly sour tang of relish just really compliments the savory sweet flavor of the peanut butter. Honest. Also, peanut butter and bacon or turkey, traditionally left over from Thanksgiving, but, hey, strange times and all, have been pretty good sandwiches, too. Don’t judge until you try it!

Until next week, hang in there and know that we’ll get through all this together.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words, my other blog that generally has more original content which only gets reposted here.

4/10/2020

And, Now, A Distraction

Filed under: Art,Fun,Fun and Games,Movies — 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

I could stand to think about something else for a bit.

For the past several weeks, all we’ve talked about is COVID-19. Not just here on this blog, but, well pretty much everywhere. I mean, every interaction I’ve had with anyone for the past month to six weeks has had something to do with the novel coronavirus. So, if you’re like me, you’re about done talking about it for a bit. Outside of taking some pretty reasonable precautions, like washing your hands more frequently and limiting contact with others as much as possible and wearing a face mask of some kind when you absolutely have to be out with others, there’s really not much that’s in our control here. It’s frustrating, at least for me.
So, to help deal with that frustration, this week, I’m sharing nothing but fun links to amuse and distract. I hope you enjoy them!
Let’s start with Astartes – the Warhammer 40,000 fan film! It’s all fan made, and broken into small parts, but it’s brilliant, lovely work. If you’re a sci-fi fan at all, it’s worth a look.
If you’re looking for something a bit longer, but maybe not a full-length movie, IO9 has five short sci-fi, fantasy, and horror films that will fit the bill. And, yes, they may be a little intense for younger viewers, but they’re basically safe for work from home. And, all have high-production value and are really, really well done. Definitely worth the 12-15 minutes away from your virtual office for a break.
Next up is a somewhat more light-hearted film REBOOTED – a short film about an out of work special effect. It’s cute and, again, amazingly well done. A lovely story told entirely without dialog.
And, speaking of special effects, this next film, BOX, is an art piece about the intersection of video, virtual reality and physical space. Actually, it’s a little hard to explain, but it’s beautiful to watch, so, please, go take a little bit and experience it.
And, to wrap things up, a YouTube channel that gives you things to actually do; PPO Papercraft videos. There are papercraft tutorials here for just about every interest. Everything from paper airplanes to origami flowers and everything in between. As a kid I was given a couple of origami books one time when I was sick and I totally fell in love with paper folding. To this day, I can make a flying crane from memory with nothing more than a gum wrapper. A lot of time inside and away from other people sounds like just the opportunity to learn some new origami forms. I encourage you to try it! It’s fun!

So, there you go, some things to watch and some things to do during the quarantine. I’m not sure how many more weeks of this we’re going to have, but I am sure the longer this goes on the stranger the links are I’ll share.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

4/3/2020

Apocalypse Cooking and Entertainment

Filed under: Art,By Bread Alone,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 Waxing Gibbous

Or, dinner and a show in the time of the great pandemic.

While things are getting better, it still seems like it’s going to be a little bit before the supply chain evens out. I made a grocery run earlier this week and, while it seemed like a lot of stuff was in stock, there were still a surprising number of things that were not. And, honestly, I expect that the food supply chain is going to have a hiccup or two here before we’re done. All that adds up to getting a little extra creative with our meal planning and cooking.
Last week, I mentioned SuperCook, a free website that will help you find recipes from the most popular cooking websites that use whatever ingredients you select. I still hold that out as probably the best source for working with what you have on hand.
But, this week, for a bit of fun, I’m sharing some other options. First, again via Boing Boing, there’s the Alton Brown Saltine Cracker Hack, that really does look surprisingly delicious. And on that same page, there’s a video of someone making “prison pizza”. That got me thinking a bit. You know who has lots of time to get creative and super limited resources, but also a lot of motivation to make delicious food? Yeah, prisoners. From what I understand, prison food is, at best, not great. At worst, it’s barely actual food. The thing is, though, they have a commissary where you can get the kind of convenience store food we generally take for granted on the “outside”. And, believe it or not, they use that to make some pretty amazing substitutes for fancier food. For some ideas, check out The Art of Gourmet Cooking in Prison on VICE or The Fine Art of Cooking In Prison on Thrillist. You can get several prison cookbooks, but here are the two I recommend; The Prison Gourmet: Written by an inmate for inmates and Commissary Kitchen: My Infamous Prison Cookbook. If you want to get an idea of the kinds of recipes you’ll find, though, check out 7 Gourmet Prison-Food Recipes for Bootstrapped Entrepreneurs. Stay away from the pruno, though. The liquor stores are all considered “essential businesses” right now and their cheapest sale wine is better than pruno. Honest.

Oh, and the show to go with all this fine dining? G.I. Joe Animated Series on YouTube. Not sure how that could possibly be related to strange food and cooking? Then you’ve forgotten about GI Joe – Pork Chop Sandwiches (Warning language may not be safe for work or small children!) If you’re not familiar with that particular cultural phenomena, you can find out more at Porkchop Sandwiches! The History of the GI Joe PSA Parodies.

So, like I warned you a couple weeks ago, the longer this goes on, the stranger my links are likely to get. Come back next week to see just how strange!

This amazing post full of useful information originally appeared on Use Your Words!

3/27/2020

Random Stay-At-Home Resources

Filed under: Fun,Hoffman's Home for Wayward Boys,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Photography,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

This may become a theme while we all wait out this COVID-19 virus.

This week, I finally got everyone else at work all set to work from home, if at all possible, and started working from home myself. I was surprised how much of my work is often determined by people in the office having problems. I shouldn’t be, though, considering how many times I tell fellow techs that the only reason we have jobs is because other people have problems.
In any case, I have a couple of links that I hope will help you solve some of the unusual problems you may be running into at home these days, thanks to the quarantine. Some may be more fun than others!
First, if you’re like us, you’ve been eating a little differently than normal. My wife is pretty incredible about coming up with meals that use whatever she happens to have on the shelf or in the freezer, but thinking of delicious meals with limited resources can be a huge challenger right now. Thankfully, BoingBoing pointed me to SuperCook! It’s a free website that will help you find recipes from the most popular cooking websites that use whatever ingredients you select. It’s pretty amazing, and it’s got some great suggestions that, I hope, will break up the monotony of cooking at home, when it’s a challenge to eat out. There’s also an iPhone and an Android app for you, if that’s what you prefer. (Links are on the website.)
But, if you’re willing to risk the delivery schedules, and want to add something more interesting, or exotic, or just plain fancy, you can try one of these mail-order food sites, reviewed by Esquire. They might get a little pricey, but you’ll definitely be getting unique and interesting ingredients to, if you’ll pardon the pun, “spice up” your regular, day-to-day meal and flavor options.

On a somewhat lighter note, while we’re talking about groceries, you may have had some “experiences” trying to get things at grocery stores recently. In particular, for some reason, people have been panic buying toilet paper. Well, I can’t help you get any of the desperately desired commodity, but, thanks to BoingBoing, I can share a video that explains the phenomena of panic buying. It’s actually a pretty good look at why, of all things, toilet paper, is in short supply lately.

And, this week, I’ve got two links for the grown-ups who have gotten bored and want to finally get some use out of that expensive camera they got for Christmas. The first of these two links is geared toward the potential professional photographer; Professional Photographers of America more than 1100 online photo classes for free. Of course, we don’t know how long they’ll offer these free, but if you’ve got a camera and internet access, you can take some classes and either develop a “side hustle”, or maybe even a new career, if you’re afraid of being laid off. And, that’s assuming you haven’t been already due to either the economic fall out of COVID-19 or the disastrously low price of oil.
The other link for photographers is a little more fun. 7 Photo Challenges for Photographers Who Are Stuck at Home. Amateur or pro, there’s nothing like a good challenge to keep the skills sharp.

So, there you have it. Some links to help you get through the next week. No telling how long we’ll all be locked down, so there’s no telling what I’ll post for you next week. The longer I’m home, though, the stranger things are likely to get.
Stay safe! Stay home! Wash your hands!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

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