Diary of a Network Geek

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

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!

 

1/15/2021

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!

1/1/2021

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!

11/20/2020

WiFi QR Code

Filed under: Art,Fun,Fun Work,Geek Work,Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver,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 might be helpful if you let people come over for the holidays this year.

Back in 2014, I wrote a little post about sharing your wifi with holiday guests via something called a QR code. Back then, the technology was exotic and strange and, sadly, pretty limited. But, now, more people are using their cell phones or have picked up a tablet for on-the-go internet access and most of those devices can read a QR code natively. And, with Thanksgiving and Christmas right around the corner, we might finally feel brave enough to invite people over for a socially distant, but in-person, holiday celebration and they’ll be asking for access to your wifi network. But, this year, too, with so many people working from home and all the potential security risks, you may not want to put your sensitive security access information into a strange website. So, I thought it was a great time to share another tool for creating those QR codes that guests can scan to get that access while using more secure programming standards. That site is QiFi. It’s super simple and makes a function QR code that you can either export as a PNG to add to a nicer display or simply print out so that your guests can scan it with their device. The QR code doesn’t show any information in a human-readable format, so the casual user isn’t going to just copy it down. And, of course, this is free. There’s actually not even any advertising on the site as far as I can see. The wifi information you put it isn’t stored on the site and is gone as soon as you close the page. So, for the less computer geeky, that means it’s about as safe as these things get.

No matter what else you do this holiday season, stay safe, try to stay healthy, and let’s all be as kind to one another as we can be.

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words!

11/6/2020

D&D Renaissance and Questing Beast

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

After 2020 so far, I feel like we all want to retreat to a fantasy world.

I’m writing this before Election Day, and, I’m sure, well before we know the outcome of the election itself. I hope that it’s a very definitive result, but, I think a lot of us are braced for it all to be a long, drawn-out process. Combine that political insanity with the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions and, well, it’s no surprise that fantasy role-playing games are enjoying a resurgence. And, of course, the great-grand-daddy of role-playing games is Dungeons and Dragons. I haven’t played myself in at least thirty years, but I do own a LOT of the game books. I keep them around for the inspiration they give me and the ways they spark my imagination, though I understand that, somehow, playing D&D has become cool again, with famous actors and Hollywood people playing. In any case, those strange circumstances have brought about a surprising amount of new interest in the game and resources to play. All of that brings me to a post on Boing Boing by Gareth Branwyn about a podcast reviewing FRPG zines. The podcast is on YouTube and is called “Questing Beast” and their channel has all kinds of video podcasts about fantasy role-playing games, but in particular D&D in various forms. Look, like anything, some of these are better than others, but they’re mostly fun if you’re into the game, or if you’re interested in getting back into the game. And, obviously, they’re super into role-playing games, so they’re ultra sincere about the reviews and so on. Oh, and there are a bunch of different “channels” that are part of Questing Beast, each with their own quirks and themes.

Anyway, if you have any interest in this subject at all, I hope this podcast gives you a little bit of distraction from the flaming dumpster fire that has been 2020!

This post originally appeared on my non-technical, much more personal blog, Use Your Words!

10/2/2020

Kinetic Sculptures

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

Just a quick share this week.

I know I keep hinting that I’ll review that hot shoe splitting flash cable I got the other day, but I’ve been so busy, I have hardly had the chance to use it. So, I do still intend to review it, eventually.
Until then, though, I thought I’d share a fun link. This comes via Boing Boing and is just under ten minutes long. It’s a short video of Ten Kinetic Sculptures by Anne Lilly. It’s not very long and the sculptures are fascinating to watch. If you’re like me, you’ll watch the video several times just to see the beauty of their movement. The artist is quite talented.
(And, yes, there are reasons I’ve been so busy, but I’m not quite ready to share them yet.)

Anyway, have a great week and hopefully, I’ll have more to share next week!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

9/18/2020

Lens Simulator

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

Explore the relationship between focal length, aperture, and depth of field.

Along with some other settings and factors.
As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been getting back into photography a little bit. That means, for me, relearning a whole bunch of stuff, like how aperture and depth of field are related and how to control that. Well, thanks to a free “lens simulator” by Korean lens maker, Samyang, you can play with those settings, and more, to see how they’ll affect your photo. It’s pretty simple and straight forward for even a returning rookie photographer like me to make adjustments and see the changes. The one drawback, if you can call it that, is that the simulator uses Samyang lenses as the default settings. You can adjust it and simulate virtually any settings, but the pre-set ones are all based on their lenses. Which, really, shouldn’t be a surprise. Anyway, it’s fun and easy and, best of all, free.

I’d hoped to have a review of a hot-shoe-splitting flash cable I got this week, but, well, I haven’t had the time to actually use it yet, so it’s hard to give an actual review. Maybe for next week.

And, that’s all I’ve got this week, really. I’m feeling a little worn down and depressed, which I think is just the COVID-19 lockdown finally catching up to me. Well, and the mostly submerged grief over losing my father. For various reasons I don’t want to go into right now, I found myself really missing him last week. I had news that I’d have normally shared with him and asked his advice, but, well, he wasn’t there to ask. Of course, as my mother and another friend said, at this point, I can pretty well tell you what he’d have told me. Though, right up until the end, Dad could sometimes surprise me with something new.
Anyway, y’all have a good week and stay safe.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

9/11/2020

The Poison of the Side Hustle

Filed under: About The Author,Deep Thoughts,Photography — 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

There’s something broken in our culture when we try to make a virtue out of a lack of financial resources. We glamorize it by calling it “hustle”. We talk about everyone needing a “side hustle” that they might one day grow into a full business. In reality, though, that almost never happens. That so-called side hustle is just a second job. Maybe, if we’re lucky, it’s a second job that we can do at night or on the weekends on our own schedule. But, more often than not, it involves buying into someone else’s program, or training or pyramid scheme, to shill cheaply made drop-shipped junk we don’t want to people who don’t need it either. There are classes on selling, on drop-shipping, on building a website to attract the marks, and every other related activity. But, what’s worse is the guilt on social media. The “influencers” who try to tell you that if you don’t have a side hustle, you’re a loser. The Instagram gurus who make a lack of sleep sound like a virtue and workaholism sound like something to be admired. “Rise and grind”, they call it. Get up early, while your competition is still sleeping, and develop that product and make that sale. They tell you to take your hobby and make money from it. “Knit your way to second income!” “How to pay your second mortgage selling stock photography!” But, it’s all a hustle, all a scam. It’s a scam we do to ourselves. I’m guilty of it. I’ve got FindMyPhotographer.com, but I’ve never been able to build it to what I’d like. There’s too much competition already. And, who’s hiring photographers in the middle of a pandemic right now anyway?

I’m guilty, too, of buying into the idea that I need to make money from my hobbies. I used to like to write and take pictures. Now, all I think about is how can I self-publish a novel I haven’t written. Or, what kind of processing do I need to do to my digital photography to get it accepted to one of the microstock agencies. Maybe, that’s why I haven’t written fiction in years. I’m always feeling the pressure of market forces. I did pick up my camera recently, but when I pulled photos off it, the last time I’d taken any pictures was when the dogs had gotten their Christmas-themed rawhide bones. In other words, it’s been almost ten months since I used my camera. Ten months since I engaged with a hobby I loved.

But, what if we didn’t feel like we needed that other income? I’m not advocating any radical wage changes or universal basic income or anything like that. The answer, for most of us targeted by the marketing machine of the side-hustle social media gurus, is simpler than that. What if we just wanted less? What if I didn’t need the designer labels? Or the big screen TV and cable with all the channels and a new car every five years? What if I didn’t need to buy things that I think will make me happy? Because, in my own experience, any joy I get from buying things is usually very short-lived. And, man, I’d pay anything to talk to my Dad again. No side hustle can buy me that time back. So, why do we do it?
Maybe it would be better to just have a hobby. I don’t need much to write. I do it on-line or on my computer, but, really, all I need is a cheap pen or pencil and a notebook, or even some loose paper. When I first started out writing, and we used typewriters to do all this, stories of writers using cheap paper to do their first draft are legendary. And, as for needing a better camera or more lenses or more flashes, well, I know that’s not true. As I said in a photography class once, much to the excitement of the teacher, “The artist paints the painting, not the brush.” If I’m really a photographer, I can make good images, interesting images, with a cheap, disposable camera. Sometimes, with art, the challenge of producing art with limited resources is what produces the best art. The restrictions somehow enhance creativity, instead of squelch it.

So, hey, I’m not going to try to make money off my photographs. I’ve got some ideas, but, instead of trying to make something I can sell, I’m just going to make some photographs that I enjoy. I’m going to play and experiment, not because it will generate income, but because it’s fun. It’s okay to just have fun. That’s the point of hobbies, I think; to have fun and relax, so that I can be more than a job, or a paycheck or the sum of my investments.

How about you? How about your plans for the weekend? Do you have a hobby that you’ve been neglecting? Or maybe something you’d like to start? Now is the time. Do it now, before you don’t have any time left. And, then, spend some time with friends and family talking about that, instead of how stressful work is or how bad our finances are. We know. But do something you enjoy and then share it with people you love. Let that be your side hustle.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

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