Social Media Fonts

posted in: Art, Fun | 0

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!

Appreciating Art

posted in: Art, Fun | 0

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!

Left Over Gift Cards

By now, I bet you’ve spent most of your “Christmas money”.

And, if you’re like me, that came in the form of a gift card, not actual cash. Honestly, I kind of prefer it to actual cash for the most part. It’s easier to spend online, for one thing, which is almost certainly where I’m going to spend that “free” money. The only problem is, virtually nothing comes to an even dollar amount when you include tax and shipping. So, then you end up with all these gift cards with just a couple bucks on them and no idea how to deal with them.
Well, here’s two ideas.
First, save those cards to use on the “free, no-obiligation” trials that still want to collect credit card information from you. Pop in that gift card, let their website validate it and then, when you use up your free month or whatever, they can’t “accidentally” charge your card. It keeps all sorts of annoying and persistent charges from making their way to your credit card. And, yes, I’ve done it and it absoultely works like a charm.
The other thing is a cool, little website called CheapFiller.com. This beauty finds stuff on Amazon that’s under $25 and has free shipping, usually via Prime. Now that Prime will ship most things that are under a dollar, you can finally use up that last sixty-seven cents on your gift card from Christmas! Honestly, this is awesome. I did it just recently to get two super cheap fresnel lenses that fit in my wallet for about $2, which finished out a gift card for me. It was great! The thing to do is search for items well under your target amount, so you can see all the cheapie, cheap options. The two things I’d warn you about is that; a) grocery items have a minimum dollar requirement and b)items may have changed price slightly between the time the site collected the info and when you go to buy it, so double-check the pricing and shipping. But, again, it worked great for me and there’s no charge to search, though I’m sure they benefit from the link. It’s pretty genius. Give it a try!

And, welcome to the new year of weird, fun links on Use Your Words!

Chancy Resolutions

posted in: Fun | 1

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

I haven’t made formal New Year’s Resolutions in a long, long time because, let’s face it, no one ever really keeps them for long, including me. 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 all the way back in 2006. 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.

Ballistic Santa

posted in: Fun | 1

I cannot calculate the physics of Santa.

Seriously, I love science, but there’s just no way for a guy like me to do the math required to keep track of Santa Claus on his path around the world on Christmas Eve. Thankfully, the US Government will do it for you, so, 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 your hard-earned tax dollars.
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!

Another Lucky Friday

posted in: Fun, Red Herrings | 0

At least once a year, I try to write about Friday the Thirteenth.

Mostly, because it’s an easy post to make, since I copy a lot of the information from previous posts, but also, while other people seem to find it unlucky, I don’t. At least, I don’t find it any less lucky than any other Friday on any other date. If anything, I find myself feeling luckier than normal when everyone else seems to be feeling less lucky, hence the title of this blog post.
Besides, when I get stuck for topics, as I sometimes do, this is an easy enough post to whip together again.

Back in the old days, before the internet or Google or smart phones we use to answer every passing question, I used to assume that Friday the Thirteenth was considered unlucky due to some Biblical association, like since Judas was effectively the Thirteenth Apostle or some other Apocalypse-related numerology that I hadn’t bothered to dig into before. I don’t think it’s a big stretch, really, since so many superstitions seem to tie back to some obscure custom related to religion. But, I’ve since found out that nothing could be further from the truth. Apparently, Friday the Thirteenth is considered unlucky because of its association with the plot to suppress the Knights Templar, according to this article on GlobalPsychics.com. No, seriously! And, I quote:

The modern basis for the Friday the 13th superstition stems from Friday October the 13th, 1307. On this date, the Pope of the church in Rome in Conjunction with the King of France, carried out a secret death warrant against “the Knights Templar”. The Templars were terminated as heretics, never again to hold the power that they had held for so long. There Grand Master, Jacques DeMolay, was arrested and before he was killed, was tortured and crucified. A Black Friday indeed!

So, there you have it, Friday the Thirteenth is a global conspiracy, though, for a nice twist, the Knights Templar or Freemasons aren’t behind it, but, rather, the victims of it! Which I appreciate, incidentally, because I am both a Freemason and, via another Masonic body, a Knight Templar, ironically. Although, to be fair, that same web page I link to there also goes into the fact that 13 is generally considered unlucky due to the number of people at the Last Supper being, you guessed it, thirteen. But, aside from the number, which is considered unlucky in a lot of ways, it’s the association with the suppression of the Templars, which happened on a Friday, that makes the day unlucky historically.

Personally, as I already mentioned, I usually have better luck on Friday the Thirteenth, but, then, I always have been a little out of step with the world. Besides, I don’t think of myself as a very superstitious person, so I generally don’t buy into most of this nonsense.
Oh, and if you’re not buying the Templar story, here’s a link to some alternate ideas why everyone else is afraid of Friday the Thirteenth.

Yet Another Lap

posted in: About The Author | 1

So, it seems I’ve survived another year.

Considering that I wasn’t entirely sure I’d live past forty, it’s a pleasant surprise to find that I’ve turned fifty-one. It seems a bit less pressure than turning fifty. I thought things would start speeding up, but it feels like everything has slowed down a bit. I don’t feel like a lot has changed in the past year, really.
Really, I’ve had another pretty good year. In some ways, maybe a bit too good. I was disappointed to see that all the weight I lost at the beginning of this year has somehow returned. I think, as was true last year, this is 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. After having to finally let Hilda go to the Great Big Yard On The Other Side this year, we got two new rescues. For a bit, that was helping because I was walking Penny, the sixty-pound Pittbull/Dalmatian mix every morning. Sadly, she seems to have torn her ACL and is going to need a surgery, so I haven’t been walking her. I should take her sister, Lily, the fifty-pound Black Lab mix for walks, but I just haven’t quite been able to get my sorry tuckus out of bed in time to make that happen yet. I’ll get on it soon, though. Honest.
Of course, being married to Sharon does make my time here easier and a lot more pleasant. That sounds a little luke-warm, but, honestly, I think we’re both pretty happy about having a quiet, pleasant life together. As we were reminiscing not too long ago, we’ve both led a life of far too much adventure and chaos to think we’re missing out on much. Maybe, one day soon, when the statute of limitations runs out of some of those things, I’ll share them with you. Or, maybe they’ll get saved for a memoir. Sharon keeps telling me that we’ve living very interesting lives, though, of course, I find myself to be a bit dull and boring. Thankfully, she does not. It’s one of her many, many charming and attractive features. Her business, The Organizing Decorator, is poised to do quite well this coming year, and I’m incredibly proud of her and her work. I’ve known people who constantly complain about never having been given a chance, but Sharon really goes out and seems to create opportunities out of thin air. She’s a miracle and I’m truly blessed to be married to her.
It is a bit strange to find myself being so fiscally responsible these days. Again, I suppose age and commitment have their unexpected upsides. I want to make sure that she’s taken care of, at least, even if we don’t expect to leave much after we’re gone.
Otherwise, I wish I’d spent less time complaining this year and more time working for change in all aspects of my life. I still have dreams of writing more and taking more photographs. I’m sure if I really am committed to that this year, I’ll find a way to make the time. Maybe that’s one secret of making it to middle age; I don’t buy as many excuses, not even my own. So, watch this space! Hold me to account, dear readers, if anyone out there is still reading this blog.

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 being more creative and productive, as I do every year. 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.

Santa Texts

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!

Security Tags

I sort of hate “Black Friday”.

Yes, I have given into the base consumerism of the so-called holiday, even though it goes against so much of what I believe is important in life, and even though it follows Thanksgiving, a day meant to remind us of all we have for which to be actually thankful. Still, it’s a reality. It’s a thing that’s going to happen. Even I will call up Bell’s Farm to Market and order up my Northern family’s Christmas gifts to have them delivered. I do that mostly out of nostalgia, because I have fond memories of my uncle in Florida who would send fresh fruit for Christmas every year. Back in those days, it was a real treat to get fresh oranges in December. Not just because things like that cost more when I was a kid, but, honestly, in retrospect, because I think money was pretty tight for my parents and having food sent for Christmas was a real help no matter what it was. Of course, not getting rickets was a real bonus, too. So, I send that stuff now, not because anyone I send it to is hurting for it, but because it reminds me of a favorite great uncle and, I hope, reminds my siblings of him, too.

But, of course, you, dear readers, are not here to read my maudlin holiday remembrances. You’re here for your Friday link! And, boy, do I have a doozy for you. Now, before I share it, let me say that I do NOT endorse theft of any kind, least of all from retailers this time of year. However, if you’re out in the mad dash of Black Friday spending and somehow spend your hard-earned cash on clothes that some poor, harried, over-worked and under-paid sales clerk accidentally doesn’t remove the anti-theft dye tag from before hustling you out the door, this link is for you. Brought to you via BoingBoing, here’s the Lockpicking Lawyer, on how to remove an inventory control tag. So, if you somehow bypass the shitty security these tags provide and get out of the store with one still on your new shirt or pants or whatever, now you can most likely remove it without having to face the snarling mob at the store.
But, again, not advocating this as a way to steal anything from the stores on the busiest shopping day of the year, when security and store personnel will be stretched thin. Honestly, if you absolutely must buy things on Black Friday, do it on-line and avoid the crowds.

Most of all, though, enjoy your family this holiday season and focus on what really matters; them.

Procedural Fun

posted in: Art, Fun | 1

I like my fun to be automatic, free and semi-random.

Way back in the day, I was ahead of the curve on autogenerated “stuff”. In my case, it was semi-random language generation that I ran over on Fantasist.net. Let me tell you, back when I started doing it, I took an incredible amount of flack from the constructed language people for automating any part of the language creation process. Now, of course, there are plenty of the youngsters out there doing it, but it wasn’t always like that. I’m grateful they are though, because my stuff wasn’t programmed all that cleanly and got used so hard it used to crash the servers at my hosting company.
But, other than taking a moment to self-aggrandize, I only bring it up because I love that kind of automated fun. And, to me, that absolutely is fun. I love random generators, which you can still see on the Fantasist.net World Building page, but, since I’m a frustrated writer, all my work deals with text. This week, I’m bringing you something a bit more interesting. First, there’s the Medieval Fantasy City Generator, which, as you may have guessed, randomly generates a pretty good, albeit simple, city map for your stories or adventures. It’s quick, and detailed enough, but loads of fun. The programmer, Watabou, as they’re known on /r/proceduralgeneration at Reddit, has actually made several related generator toys like this. My other favorite is the One-Page Dungeon. It’s a neat, little dungeon that’s perfect for a quick FRPG adventure, if you’re so inclined. And, I thought, with the holidays nearly upon us, that friends gathering with limited time, might like such a thing to game with. Also? They’re just fun to look at. At least, if you’re an old game geek like me.

So, there you are, just some quick, procedurally generated fun on the Friday before Thanksgiving!
And, be sure to check out the other stuff Watabou has shared, too! There are some fun, free games as well.
Enjoy!

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