Diary of a Network Geek

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

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!

3/20/2020

Miscellaneous Fun Links

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

Look, it’s been a crazy, chaotic week, which means you’re getting a crazy, chaotic post.
So, like all the rest of the IT pros in small shops all over the world this week, I’ve been scrambling to get as many people in my office able to work from home as possible. It’s been a long, frustrating week and basically nothing has gone the way I’d planned. Granted, that does mean that some things are actually better than I planned, but, honestly, most aren’t. Either way, it’s left me precious little time and focus to give you anything coherent. But, it is still a Friday and I feel compelled to share something. So, random fun links it shall be!
A lot of folks are stuck at home with their kids, who are out of school because it’s been closed while the academic year has been delayed. So, to help parents keep kids engaged, I have two links for you. First, there are Free NASA Space Projects via Space.com. I’m in the greater Houston area and we all get a little into NASA, because they’re such a big employer here and we have so much amazing history with the space program. These projects are all things you can do at home and keep learning while the schools figure things out. The second link is to a downloadable Cthulhu coloring book from Chaosium. Yes, it may warp their little minds, but it’s coloring! And, coloring is good, clean fun, as well as a known way to reduce stress and anxiety. Though, I’m not responsible if you all summon an Elder God!
The next two links are for book lovers. Specifically for book lovers who love science fiction and fantasy. First, or third, depending on how you’re counting, there’s the Tor eBook Club, which regularly offers free ebooks from popular authors. Through the end of the day of this posting, you can join and download Redshirts by John Scalzi! Or, you can check out the fourth link, the Baen Books Free Library! Again, ebooks, but free and from some very well known, award-winning authors. Both are just the thing if you’re looking for something new to read without spending a lot of money.
And, finally, a slightly stranger than normal link, specifically for our most current concerns, How Much Toilet Paper!?, a website that will help you calculate just how far your stash of toilet paper will last during this most current, or any future, pandemics! A fun, and hopefully funny, website about an increasingly serious topic. And, I know that first hand as I actually ordered toilet paper for my older parents online and had it sent to them. And, that’s no joke.

So, seriously, take care of yourselves and each other. Don’t go out more than you need to. Wash your hands. Stop panic-buying essentials that we all need. And, stay safe.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!  My other blog.

3/13/2020

Escape Vehicles

Filed under: Art,Fun,Speculation — 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

And, by that I mean escapism by way of space vehicles.

At this point it shouldn’t be a surprise that I love science fiction. Whether it’s literature, movies, television or even comic books, I pretty much love it all. What’s more, I often find myself theorizing about it. Frankly, at this point I would imagine that my poor wife is tired of me comparing modern military submarines to the future of military spacecraft. I mean, it’s logical when you look at it, but it seems like so few have!
In any case, when I hear about other geeks like me who speculate on the ins and outs of scifi spacecraft, I get excited. And, that’s what I’m bringing you this week, via Boing Boing, Spacedock, the YouTube channel that looks at the “…specifications, history and lore of fictional spacecraft from science fiction. Any Spacecraft, any Sci-Fi.” Yes, it’s as geeky and fun as it sounds. Seriously, their “How To Land on the Battlestar Galactica is an amazing exploration of what we saw in the show and an excellent extrapolation of what we didn’t see, but had to have been there to make the rest work. It’s definitely worth a look for fans.

Besides, it’s Friday and if you’ve been stuck at home out of COVID-19 fear, you deserve a little escapism.
Enjoy! And stay well.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

2/7/2020

Stock Canadian Images

Filed under: Art,Fun — 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

Canadians have a delightfully odd sense of humor.

And, I mean that in the best way possible.
CIRA, the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, the company responsible for the administration of the .CA domain, wants to encourage Canadians on the internet to, well, be Canadian “out loud”, if you will. To that end, they provide a number of resources to help Canadian webizens get stuff done on the internet. The best thing they provide, though, is the very, very Canadian library of stock images. The theme here is ultra Canadian and there’s flannel, maple syrup, hockey or a moose in every photo. Sometimes, there’s all those things in a single stock image. If you’re not Canadian, I’m not sure how much use these will be to you, but they were too funny not to share them.

Come back next week to see if the free junk from the internet I link to is stranger than that!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

1/17/2020

Social Media Fonts

Filed under: Art,Fun — 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

Fonts for services without them.

Well, two services without them, at any rate. Now, keep in mind this is far from perfect, but it does, in fact, work. A little bit better for Instagram than for Twitter, but, those are the two services that this was meant for. I saw this first on Lifehacker, so credit where credit is due, but they didn’t mention the problem using this with your Twitter profile. Neither service offers the ability to style your biography with a good font, and that’s what the Metatags.io Font Generator allows you to do. On Instagram, there’s no significant character limit to your biography, so there’s no issue. But, on Twitter, the way the generator makes the fonts happen, shortens your available characters pretty severely. So, there you go. It does work, but there are some limitations that you’ll have to play around with. And, after all, what can you expect from a free service, right?
Come back next week for even more random junk from my browsing history!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

1/10/2020

Appreciating Art

Filed under: Art,Fun — 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 Full Moon

Steve Martin teaching us about art.

I love art. I don’t know much about art, really, in spite of all the things my good friend, and famous art star, Mark Flood has tried to teach me. I have always enjoyed art, though, even when I was a kid. I used to spend what was for me, at the time, a ridiculous amount of money on metal sculptures as a kid. Mostly small things, but visually interesting to me. Like a cricket made from iron nails and a spark plug. Another time, I talked a wood carver into selling me one of his unfinished works of a raccoon head, which sits on my dresser to this day. I’ve had that for probably more than 40 years at this point, and I no longer remember the artist’s name or what it cost. When I was working my first job in downtown Chicago, I had the incredible good fortune to run into Curt Frankenstein at an art market after my shift on a Sunday afternoon. I spoke with him for some time before I realized he was the artist I was viewing, but I’m pleased to say that my rudimentary understanding of etchings and print-making favorably impressed him. At the time, I was only able to afford two of his wonderful surrealist prints, which hand in my home still.
I don’t think I started to appreciate abstract work until I started hanging around with Mark Flood. And, of course, it’s his abstracts that I love the most. I’m lucky enough to have been gifted one, though he calls it payment for some computer work I did for him, and I love it. Everyone remarks on it.
But, before I digress even more, let me share the link I meant to give you this week: Steve Martin makes abstract art theory interesting, via Boing Boing. It’s a short video in the MoMA series The Way I See It for the BBC. There are several other people talking about their favorite work, or at least their feelings about and connection to art. It’s quite good and I definitely recommend seeing them all, but it’s hard to top Steve Martin saying “I believe pictures reveal themselves over time…” I mean, that’s really the best thing to say about art. Go, watch the video, then go to a museum and look at art.

In any case, enjoy!

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

12/6/2019

Santa Texts

Filed under: Art,Fun,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rat which is in the wee hours or 12:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

The jolly old elf is updating his tech profile.

There are lots of ways to celebrate the Christmas season. I, personally, start listening to Christmas music far too early. I may not decorate until after Thanksgiving, but Christmas music makes me happy, and we seem to be in short supply of that thanks to the current political and economic climate. My wife loves all the holiday movies, especially the Biblical movies. (Of course, she loves the Easter ones as much as the Christmas ones, if not more.) And, we both enjoy watching the classics. Later in the month, I’ll link to the NORAD Santa Tracker, as I have for many years, so you can track Santa’s path with your kids. But, before we get too much farther into the season, let me share with you a new, free, service, via Lifehacker; Santa’s Text List.
Just fill out the short form and you’ll get regular texts from Santa, with increasing frequency as Christmas fast approaches, that are suited to the child, adult or senior of your choice, and who’s cell number you’re willing to put into the form.
The service, sponsored by SlickText, says that they won’t use this information to try and sell you anything or send spam texts to your phone after the season ends, but I haven’t actually verified that through empirical testing, so, you’re taking a chance there. If you try the service, let me know in the comments how it works out.

And, brace yourself for a very, merry Christmas season!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

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