Advanced Animated GIFs

posted in: Art, Fun, The Tools | 0

Let’s not get into a discussion of how to pronounce “GIF”.

All I’ll say is that the creators of the format pronounced it like the peanut butter brand.
Either way, my purpose this week is to share two things from the same source. First, there’s the super cool, trippy animations from Etienne Jacob, aka Necessary-Disorder.

An animated GIF from Etienne Jacob, aka Necessary-Disorder

Just look at that incredible GIF. It repeats, but it seems to just run endlessly. It’s amazing. Hit the linked site for more of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But, if you’re feeling a bit more ambitious, head over to his other site necessary-disorder tutorials where the young Frenchman shares his process and tools for making these amazing works of animated art.

Another animated GIF from Etienne Jacob, aka Necessary-Disorder

I’d share more, but it’s been a crazy couple of weeks at work and I’ve been super busy there, and on a little something I’m keeping under wraps for now. Hopefully, though, there will be some good news to share with you, dear blog readers, before the end of the month.

New Rules for the New Year

Okay, maybe not rules per se, but Friday posts might be different.

Look, I’ve been posting every Friday for something more than ten years. Probably close to sixteen years, actually, though I have to admit I haven’t actually checked. In any case, lately, it’s felt more like a chore than a joy. It’s a lot of work to find something original to share with you from somewhere out on the internet every week. I honestly think it might be easier to actually create my own content sometimes. Except, of course, it’s been a horrifically busy year and the past month or two has been even worse. So, what I’m trying to say in the most long-winded way imaginable, is that I’m probably going to change up what gets posted here every Friday. There’s literally no telling what I might share, from somewhere out in the big, wide world, or from the dark recesses of my own twisted mind.

But, since I haven’t quite gotten out of the habit of being helpful just yet, here’s a tip from your Uncle Jim.
The world being what it is, you probably got one or more gift cards for presents this year. Maybe it was a door prize at an office Christmas party or maybe it was your Christmas bonus or maybe just a lovely gift from a distant relative. No matter how you got it, it’s going to be virtually impossible to use the face value perfectly. Either you spend a bit more than the gift card and pay the rest, or you spend a bit less and have one or more gift cards with just a dollar or two on them. Save those gift cards with just small change left! When a website wants to collect credit card information for their “free trial”, use one of those gift cards! If you forget to cancel the free trial before they start billing you, all they’re going to get is a buck or two that you were probably going to forget about anyway. Or, if you do remember, you can use that couple of dollars for free trials for months and months! It works really, really well, trust me!

So, there you go, something totally from my own, little brain to help you live a little better.
Come back next week to see what I come up with next!

Random Resolutions for 2019

Another new year and another chance to break promises to yourself!

I never bother with New Year’s Resolutions any more, personally. I’ve tried “turning over a new leaf” in January so many times that I’m in danger of becoming a walking cliche. At least I know that I’m no different than most people, 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, again, my own little solution to the New Year’s Resolution “problem”.
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. 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. Also, 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. Which is pretty cool, no matter how long ago that was. 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.

Global Santa Tracking System

Have you been good this year?

As I have done more than once in the past at this time of year, I’m sharing some good, clean fun for the whole family, brought to you by the United States Government.
During the Cold War, NORAD stood between us and what we were sure was complete destruction at the hands of the Soviets. What with the recent tensions vis-a-vis Russia and China and North Korea, NORAD may find itself busier than ever in the coming year, but, until then, thankfully, they can fall back on my favorite tradition; tracking Santa. It started with a wrong number and an accidental connection, but a gentle soul in a high-pressure job spread a little Christmas cheer once a long, long time ago. The story got around and before you can say “Who’s violating my air space?”, everyone was misappropriating government resources to make kids happy. Before long, it was fully sanction and, if I say so myself, an entirely proper use of my tax dollars. In any case, now, whether you’re young or old, or whether you have children or not, you can have fun tracking Santa with the Official NORAD Santa Tracker!
And, since the holiday is nearly upon us and I don’t plan on posting again this weekend, have a very merry Christmas!

7 Sites to Get Free Books

posted in: Fun, The Infinite Library | 0

I’m always happy about sharing something that’s free.

With Christmas just around the corner, I know I’m feeling a little spending fatigue. Granted, I mostly send fruit from the McAllan Valley home to Illinois for family, but it seems like I’m spending money all the time around the holidays. If it’s not being tempted by a “Black Friday” sale of some kind, then it’s spending on a holiday party or some other similar thing. And, it’s not that I mind, mostly, but, as someone who has struggled with consumer debt and over-spending, the extra money spent at this time of year really starts to wear on me.
So, I’m always looking for cheap and free things this time of year to share with you, my faithful readers. Combine that with my penchant for hiding from the world via a good book, and sharing this article on Make Use Of titled The 7 Best Free Ebook Download Sites seemed like just the thing. One of them, Project Gutenberg, I’m both familiar with and have shared multiple times before, but the rest are new to me. And, if you don’t have an ebook reader, don’t worry, one, PDFBooksWorld, just needs a computer to read the PDF-ified books!
One note about this, though. As far as I can tell, the sites linked are all legal sites and not pirating work. Some have a mix of free and paid books, but they do all have at least SOME free books. And, at least one of them really only links to books that require an Amazon Kindle Unlimited account to get the free books. Also? Just to be clear, it’s wrong to pirate books. If they’re not freely available, it’s always best not to steal the work. Besides, this close to Christmas, can you afford to get on Santa’s “Naughty List”?

Halfway

So. Birthdays. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

Based on entirely anecdotal evidence and a sample size that’s roughly the size of my family, I’m about halfway. Halfway through a life. It sounds so melodramatic. Well, at fifty, I guess I’m entitled to a little melodrama. Just a little, though. Because, after all, its only halfway. That means, if my family’s longevity and genome are any indication, I still have another fifty years or so of pretty active life ahead of me. That’s good though, because I still have a lot of stuff I want to do with life.

I don’t normally make a big deal about birthdays, but our culture seems to hang a lot more on the big five-oh. For whatever reason, fiftieth birthdays seem to be the point at which people freak out. At least for men. Personally, I think I’m doing okay. Sure, I’d like to make more money and have better benefits, so if there are any recruiters out there with a great IT Infrastructure Management job for me, I’d be open to that. But, honestly, I do okay. My blushing bride and I cleared the last of our consumer debt this past year, so our only outstanding loans are the mortgage and the loan for our solar panels. And, really, those solar panels are going to be an asset. After all, energy prices almost never go down, but that solar system will keep generating power at up to 80% of it’s current rate for the next 25 years. As with last year, I’ve read a lot of good books and seen a lot of good movies, though I’ve been mostly too busy to review them like I used to do.
Really, I’ve had a pretty good year. In some ways, maybe a bit too good. I was shocked to see how much weight I’d put on this year, mostly due to easy living and a wonderfully Southern wife who shows me how much she loves me with food. She really, really loves me, so I’ve eaten very well. So well, in fact, that my cardiologist fat-shamed me at my annual checkup with him. Now, I’m back on my program of rowing, weights and counting calories until I’m down to my ideal weight. (And, no, I am NOT sharing what that is!)
Of course, being married to Sharon does make my time here considerably more enjoyable. She works really hard to make sure I’m as well taken care of as she can manage. And, I work toward the same thing. I suppose that’s made a little easier for each of us because we remember how it was when we were with other people. It’s funny how getting a little older and having a bit more experience with the absolute worst and most wrong way to be in a relationship can make the current one so precious and enjoyable. Oh, sure, we still have our moments, just like every married couple does, but there’s no one I’d rather be married to at all and I count myself lucky to know it. Besides, she quite possibly is the only woman on the planet still willing to put up with my nonsense. And, this year, more than most, I’m a little extra grateful for her willingness to gently remind me about what’s important when I’ve gone a little off the rails. I’m lucky to still be married to her and my life gets better every year she’s still along for the ride.

In the past, I’ve listed the same group of celebrities who share my birthday. But, this year, I’ll only mention two, because they’re the only ones I currently care about. I’m shocked to realize that I’m a mere two years older than Jennifer Connelly, who was born on this day. She’s lovely and I’d watch her read the phone book. The other celebrity who shares my birthday is Frank “Chairman of the Board” Sinatra. And, just like me, he did it his way.

Also, I think it’s interesting to note that on this day in 1896 Marconi first demoed radio and, again on this day, in 1901 made his first Trans-Atlantic transmission. (Though, of course, all right-thinking people know that Tesla was really responsible for those first advances in radio.)

So, that’s the state of me, as it were, this year. Some things I’m happier about than others, but, all in all, it’s been a pretty good year. I’ve just about given up trying to figure out what the coming year will bring, though I do try to make plans about writing more and doing more photography. In the end, though, what I choose to do or not do doesn’t matter, so long as Sharon and I do it together. I’m happy that she’s really become the only thing that matters in my life. God knows, I could have worse

All in all, life is going along okay and I’m sure it’ll be good coming year.

Desk Jams

posted in: Art, Fun, music | 0

A little background music while you work.

I could have sworn that I’d already shared this months and months ago, but, if I did, I can’t seem to find it on my blog. In any case, right now, I’m working in a mostly open office area, so I don’t play music out of respect for the other people I work with, but I generally like to have soft, ambient music playing in the background while I work. I’ve used things like Winamp and iTunes, but all too often my taste in music may not be what one considers “corporate” and can be a bit problematic. What works better is something without lyrics, but that can be looped pretty easily. Over the years, I’ve looked for things that work, but nothing I’ve found really works better than Desk Jams.
It’s all free, though I suppose there are ads on there somewhere, and any voices are strictly ambient sounds that are part of the music. It’s a little on the trance end of things, but it’s pretty good, generic music that, if played at a reasonable volume, shouldn’t be offensive to anyone.
And, again, it’s free, so you can’t get too picky!

Passenger Rights

posted in: Fun, Red Herrings | 1

You have rights as an air traveler.

During the holidays, a lot of people travel. I avoid it as much as possible, mainly because I used to travel a lot and get pretty irritated with air travel these days. For one thing, since 9/11, security measures have gotten pretty onerous, which is too bad because most of them don’t really do anything to address actual safety. But, before I go off on a rant about my favorite subject (ie. Security theater), let me say that the worst thing about flying these days is the flying and the airline companies themselves. I know it’s a business and that we should be thrilled to get so far as quickly as we do, but they really play fast and loose with things like passenger comfort, over-booking and taking little to no responsibility when things go wrong.
Good news, though, you do, in fact have rights! Did you know that you may be entitled to compensation for delayed flights or missed connections? It’s true! You can read more about your air passenger rights, and get help if you feel like you’re due something from the airlines who lost or damaged your luggage or forcibly booted you off your flight due to over booking, at AirHelp. I have to admit, as of this writing, I haven’t used them, so I can’t speak to their actual effectiveness, and I don’t get anything from them to link to their site, but just having your actual rights laid out may be of significant enough benefit that I felt it was worth sharing.  Oh, also, their fee for helping you is 25% of whatever you’re due, but I still think it’s worth it, as otherwise travelers would just be out the whole amount.

How to Help a Loved One

Especially, if they’re depressed or suffering from other mental illness.

The holidays can be an especially rough time of year. I know for many years, I would get a kind of seasonal depression that would come over me after Halloween and last until at least Christmas, and often until after St. Valentine’s Day. In my case, it was due to not being in a relationship, mostly, and having an unrealistic expectation about how my life should look. But, frankly, even for people who are otherwise happy, the holidays can be rough. I mean, they call it the “holiday blues” for a reason, right? So, what do you do if someone you know and love is suffering from season depression? Well, sometimes, listening is enough. Just being there and hearing them, without necessarily trying to fix it can actually be a big benefit. Also, if it seems like your loved one is having more than very short-term depression, it’s perfectly okay to suggest they need more help than you can provide. Unless you’re actually a mental health professional, you may not be all that qualified to actually help someone who’s seriously depressed. One of my favorite science-based websites, Quick and Dirty Tips has some suggestions for How to Help a Loved One Suffering from Mental Illness. It’s really good and, yes, someone with depression is, in fact, suffering from mental illness. It’s possible that it’s seasonal and may pass, but, you know your loved one, and if it looks like something more than that, the linked podcast is worth a listen.

Also, if it seems like your loved one is more than a little depressed and may be suicidal, talk to them about it. And, no, talking to someone about whether or not they’re contemplating suicide will not make them more suicidal. That’s a myth, and a deadly one at that. (For more discussion about some of the more dangerous myths about suicide, again, take a look at this article on Quick and Dirty Tips.) And, if you think they already have a plan, encourage them to call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. You could actually be saving their life.

Hopefully, that’s not something you’re struggling with this holiday season, but if it is, please, get help. The holidays can be really rough and depression is nothing to try and ignore.

Pack Better

posted in: Fun, Red Herrings | 1

Learn packing secrets from the ultimate world travelers; the military.

I used to travel quite a bit for work, back before 9/11. In fact, I had just gotten back from a work trip a couple of days before it happened and, if not for that event, I might have lost my job that week. As it was, things got dragged out for another month, and then I had a series of jobs that didn’t really need me to travel as much. These days, I don’t bother trying to squeeze everything into a single, carry-on bag. It’s too much hassle for too little pay off. Besides, getting through security is time consuming enough without adding to it by dealing with things like electric razors.
Still, I did learn quite a bit from packing from those years. Things like putting the heavy items, like shoes, near the bottom. Or folding shirts as flat as possible so they could stack up more neatly and compactly. Or my favorite, putting toiletries like shampoo and toothpaste in separate, small Ziploc bags, which go into other, larger bags, to make sure nothing gets squished out onto clothes. I learned most of these tricks from my father, of course, who was quite the “road warrior” in his day. But, it turns out, he may well have learned some of those tricks from his time in the military. Don’t believe me? Well, check out Military Packing Secrets That Will Make You a Better Traveler on Thrillist. They have several tips that seem like common sense, but, really, they only are after you’ve done them once or twice.
In any case, this may not be “fun” exactly, but it did seem like something useful for my readers who might be packing for holiday travel soon.
Feel free to leave your tips in the comments! And come back next week for some more advice that may be handy this holiday season!

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