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Archive for the 'Personal Projects' Category


2012.01.01 The king is dead… long live the king.

It has been a year and half since this site has seen a new post, and twice that long since brian has made his presence felt. I have been hanging on to bipolar, thinking that one day I would resume posting again, but now I believe its time has passed.

As with most things in which I've been involved online, I'll endeavour to keep bipolar up in perpetuity, as an archive of times past.

If you want to catch up with me, head over to MatthewRasnake.com, which is a window into just about every aspect of my online life.

Brian, bipolar, and friendly readers, thanks for the memories!

chicago road trip, 2000

brian and matt

2009.04.10 identity crisis*:

* "Crisis" is definitely overstating it a bit, but nevertheless…

Earlier tonight, I told an old friend that "I couldn't be happier with where my life has led," and, of course, that is true. What i've been struggling with the last few years has been the "where."

In high school, i wanted nothing more than to start my own business, be my own boss, stay in the hick town where I grew up and be a "computer consultant" (whatever the hell that means.) I knew that I would a) be awesome at it, and b) be totally happy with my life. Instead—when i realized my father's brain would melt and my mother's heart would flop right out of her chest if I didn't—i went to college.

In college, i met some awesome creative people, broke out of my mold, and made sweeping plans for taking over the world with the most profound art, music, and literature the world had ever seen, together with this band of misfit geniuses in whom I'd found a family.

Then the 'net happened and I found another niche. I was going to carry this empire of sight, sound, and word into the year 2000, and become the best damned webmaster this side of the Mississippi. I was going to shift paradigms, set trends, and lead the denizens of the 'net to the next level. Not that I could see what that next level was yet, but that was my plan.

Luckily, I landed a job that let me do the only thing that I'd really want to sit still long enough to get paid for. Unfortunately, i discovered that it wasn't always possible to innovate on a deadline, for the kind of clients a high priced web firm dealt with. That, and I didn't have the base skills to really push the envelope. I was, after all, entirely self-taught.

As technology progressed, I collected plans and hoarded them for "when I had time." My work, psycho ex-girlfriends, the internet, and my plans themselves sapped my energy to the point where little got done. Occasionally, I'd have a burst of activity, and accomplish something neat, or push a pet project a little farther up the hill. Then I'd go back to the news feeds, or the game of Dune, or whatever.

I was going to be a first-rate poet, the next Kerouac, a top notch photographer, a musician, a publisher, a record producer, a freelance web guru, a gallery owner, a coffee shop owner… the list goes on.

It's taken me a few years, but slowly, I've realized that I can't do it all. And those grandiose plans I made years ago—the empire I built on dreams—depended on that family of friends as a static, unchanging unit with infinite reserves of energy and patience. To meet my dreams, my friends would have had to stay just as they were.

What I've come to realize is not that I can't count on my friends (because I know they'll support me in whatever I choose to do), but just that my friends have their own lives, and plans, and dreams. I can't package them up into mine, any more than they can package me up into theirs.

So I have been converging on this point, where I have to figure out two things: what I want to do, and what I can do. With all these grandiose plans I've made, which are the feasible, workable notions, and which are the pipe dreams?

These were the thoughts that, late last year, and early this year, brought me to re-dedicate myself to my writing. I still have lots of plans, little things I'd like to do, but, when push comes to shove, my writing comes first. Someday, perhaps I'll be able to expand my arena again, but right now, I have to seize my opportunities and focus on a smaller set of goals.

To a certain extent, the old Coffeemonk Design Flaws empire is seeing a sunset. The name "Coffeemonk Design Flaws" was always Bob's thing anyway, and without his participation, it has long felt hollow.

I'm still working out the details in my head, but very likely, coffeemonk.com will become my writing oriented blog, and Savant-Garde Press will finally emerge from it's long stasis to stand on it's own. I'm also planning to launch a personal blog at matt.rasnake.info (eventually), and will continue to maintain bipolar as well.

This, then, is not as much an identity crisis, as it is an identity acknowledgement. This is the happiness to which my life has led me…

2009.04.09 a house is not a home – a work of flash fiction

another flash fiction story, this time a straight fiction piece. hope you enjoy.

He and Sam had lived in this house for almost 30 years—bought it when their youngest was six, and their oldest was graduating high school. They'd had lots of great times in this house, him and Sam, their three kids, their various pets and pet projects. No doubt about it, this house was well loved.

Maybe I'm not the best handyman around, Troy thought, I never quite got those shingles repaired properly, and the downspouts were always loose. But I've taken care of her, I suppose.

"Help." he said, meekly.

Yeah, it was a good house. And it's a great little neighborhood, for sure, despite those noisy planes. It just meant that they were able to get a bigger house, to fit the family a little better, and not get in over their heads with the mortgage. There was the great big backyard that the kids loved to play in. He'd built them a sandbox, a swing set, a tree house—and not from a kit either. He'd drawn up the plans, bought the lumber, cut it, drilled it, assembled it, dug it in, and made sure it was sturdy. All those things were still back there, still being used by the grandkids. Still standing, still safe.

At least… I think… are they still back there? he wondered. What was I…

"Can anybody hear…" his throat felt dry. He was a little thirsty.

Some of his buddies back at the office had tried to talk him out of it, of course. Tried to tell him he wouldn't like living that close to the airport, even if it was just a little one with only a single runway. He had assured them that it would be alright, he had it on good authority (the previous owners, and his real-estate agent) that after a while, it would hardly be noticeable. The noise would just blend into the background. Maybe that was never quite true, but it had certainly been livable. There were pretty much no flights after 9pm, and none before 6am, and that suited him pretty well. The kids hardly ever complained, and Sam never said a peep… at least, not to him. She was quite a woman, Sam. When they first moved in, the kids would play in the backyard, and she'd sit on the deck watching. She looked like a queen. A radiant vision with shoulder-length hair as black as night. It was his favorite memory of her.

Where is Sam? She should be home soon, shouldn't she? he panicked for a moment. I hope she doesn't…

"help." his voice was thin, faint.

He had actually gotten to the point where he could identify the planes flying overhead by the sound. Eventually, he'd even taken some flying lessons and gotten to know some of the private pilots there. In fact, he was pretty sure that was Chuck Kleiser he'd heard approaching the house a few minutes ago. If he was out in the backyard, he could hear the prop and engine noise, figure out exactly which plane it was, then look overhead as it passed just to confirm it. There goes that Cessna, that Piper, that Beech, that other Cessna. It was mostly the same planes, though occasionally a new one would come in, an out-of-towner here on business, or some rich youngster with his new Socata 850 or Piper Meridian. Tony didn't much care either way, but he got a kick out of the old-timers griping about the new guys with barely concealed contempt and carefully subdued envy.

Did I hear Chuck's plane? Tony struggled to remember. His engine didn't sound well.

"sam."

Of course, now some of his friends were pilots, and the planes flying overhead every day meant that those TV and newspaper reports about planes crashing, running out of fuel, not making it off the runway, bursting into flames… all those things had started to hit home—become personal. He saw a report like that and immediately wondered where Frank was tonight, or Jody. He'd look out the front window just to make sure there wasn't some giant pillar of smoke rising over the neighborhood from the direction of the runway. He'd see on TV some demolished house with a demolished plane sitting in the living room, and he'd wonder about the occupants. What were they thinking when that American Champion landed on their couch?

Need to close a window, it's too cool in here. Tony enjoyed the light shining into the house, but felt… Is that… blood?

"samantha." Tony whispered his wife's name.

He'd been doing something… what was it. He'd gotten up to… he'd gotten up to fix himself a sandwich.

But I'm not hungry. he thought.

He'd gotten up from the couch to fix himself a sandwich. That was when he'd heard Chuck's plane coming up over the neighborhood. Chuck's plane coming up, but not sounding quite right. Sounding unsteady. Then, yes, then as he was listening, hearing Chuck's plane coming up, then hearing nothing. Hearing nothing, and then… then everything. So much noise. Noise and light and dust and dark. He'd opened his eyes, and the dust had settled. That seemed strange, that the dust should settle that fast. Then there was all this blood, that certainly didn't seem right. And there, there was the nose of Chuck's plane, in his living room, crushing his couch like it was waiting for football season. He thought he saw Chuck, in his plane, but that wasn't Chuck, not really.

He looked out, where his front window had been, and he saw… he saw the huge pillar of smoke rising over the neighborhood, rising up out of his living room. He couldn't lift his head anymore, but he could see blood on his hands. He thought about his kids and how much fun they'd had in this house. He thought about Samantha on the deck, her long hair, black as night, blowing ever so slightly in the breeze. She should be home soon, but he hoped she wouldn't… wouldn't find him like this.

- 01:06 am - PL ::
categories ::  Personal Projects - Writing

 

2009.01.27 delivering resistance – a work of flash fiction:

Considering my recently renewed drive to become a productive writer, I decided, tonight, to write this piece of flash fiction—a super-short sub-1000 word complete story. It may not be terribly original, but I'm pleased with how it turned out. Also, i'm pleased I was able to knock out almost 1000 words in one two-hour stretch. Much better than the almost 1000 words I managed over the whole of the past weekend. Lastly, as you may guess from the above, this is probably roughly first-draft quality. I had the idea last night, wrote it between 10-ish pm and 12-ish am tonight, then did a 5 minute read-through and polish pass, and posted it here. I hope you enjoy it.

delivering resistance

My Pop–that's what I call my grandpa–was a mailman. Oh, he'd retired years before I was even born, but from the time I was able to sit up on my own, I'd sit at his feet and listen to him tell stories. It didn't matter what he was saying, of course, I just loved to hear him talk. As I got older, I kept asking him to tell me the same stories. I kept sitting, and he kept talking. It was always summer when we'd visit Pop, and i remember the warm tingly sun on my back as I'd sit there and listen, or lay there, playing with my toys.

About 10 years ago is when it started. I was 14, sitting at Pop's knee, listening to his stories, and Mom came in crying. She could hardly get words out.

"It's just awful!" She'd said, a look on her face like nothing I'd ever seen, like she was stuck, like she was trying to pop her ears at the top of a mountain. That was the day our government had declared martial law in the name of a foreign power. Just like that. No warning. Entire metropolitan police forces either complied and joined up, or were massacred on the spot. 15,000 officers died within 30 minutes on the eastern seaboard alone. Of course there was chaos, but the military and ex-cops detained or executed looters, protesters, and demonstrators by the hundreds, until no one who resisted was left. Or at least, no one who resisted openly.

I think that day was the last time I felt the sun.

My dad was a scientist, apparently a somewhat important one, not that I ever paid much attention. He was hardly around, and when he was, he always had his books or his papers, and a concerned look on his face. But on that day, he yanked me up from Pop's floor, and shuffled me, Mom, Pop, and my sis into our little 4-door, and drove way out in the middle of nowhere to some kind of run-down hunting cabin. There were some men inside, and they took us to a tiny little cave, which led to a series of caves, which lead to a great big cave filled to the stalactites with whirring machines blinking and steaming in the tepid air.

That night was the first night of the resistance, though plans had been in place for decades (scientists love to anticipate problems), and for the next five or six years, we lived right there in that cave. I'm not sure where the food came from, or how any of the rest of that place worked, all I know is that I hated it. Maybe that's a little too strong. I certainly liked the IDEA of living in a cave, and I loved being able to go exploring–especially once i got to go alone–but the only books we had were science books, and the only computers we had were dedicated to their specific tasks. The moms tried to setup a classroom, but we could pretty much only study math, science, and stuff they remembered or made up. There were no video games, very little music except what we could make, and not really even any girls. Well, there were three who were infants when they got there, and two who were a bit older than me, but one died of pneumonia our second year, and the other was just too annoying to be near for long. So there we were with nothing to do but schoolwork and make-believe. But Pop was there, so when he wasn't trying to make himself useful as a guinea pig or a button pusher for the scientists, he'd sit and tell me all those old stories over and over again. Sometimes, he'd make up new ones, just to keep it interesting, but I could always tell.

One day, we got word from the resistance, nothing special really, but it was one of those days I was making an effort to show interest in my dad's work, so I asked how exactly we were getting messages back and forth between groups of people who were trying as hard as we were to stay hidden.

That was when he told me about the mailmen.

I was astonished. Pop's mailmen had been gone since before i was born, a casualty of the new global economy, the internet, and the fact that, in the end, the only things being mailed were things that nobody wanted. There were still a couple major consumer-oriented package shippers, but the day of the mailman was long over. Nobody had paid to deliver something as simple as a paper-stuffed envelope in 20 years! But dad assured me that encrypted messages were being carried back and forth from enclave to enclave every night. There was a clandestine resistance postal service.

Pop's been gone now for 4 years, and the cave was apparently raided a couple years ago leaving no survivors. But since that night when I learned of the mailmen, i have been training and moving, carrying the messages of hope and news of the resistance. I know that my Pop was proud of me, 'cause he told me as much in the last letter he would ever write. And when I set out each night, to my next destination, his stories echo in my head, and I know that I will have the strength to go on, no matter the circumstance or weather–as Pop said "in snow, in rain, in heat, or gloom of night"–but never in sunlight. No, I suppose I won't ever feel that warmth again.

- 01:55 am - PL ::
categories ::  Personal Projects - Pleased/Like - Pop Culture - Writing

 

2009.01.09 concentrate:

Aside from my preternatural skills of procrastination, one of my biggest obstacles to writing is focus. Sometimes, you run across a piece of advice that speaks directly to you, and this is one of those times.

Don't research
Researching isn't writing and vice-versa. When you come to a factual matter that you could google in a matter of seconds, don't. Don't give in and look up the length of the Brooklyn Bridge, the population of Rhode Island, or the distance to the Sun. That way lies distraction — an endless click-trance that will turn your 20 minutes of composing into a half-day's idyll through the web. Instead, do what journalists do: type "TK" where your fact should go, as in "The Brooklyn bridge, all TK feet of it, sailed into the air like a kite." "TK" appears in very few English words (the one I get tripped up on is "Atkins") so a quick search through your document for "TK" will tell you whether you have any fact-checking to do afterwards. And your editor and copyeditor will recognize it if you miss it and bring it to your attention.

from a post by Cory Doctorow

I've not done much actual writing (mostly outlining and, more often, NOT outlining—see procrastination, above) but when I was attempting to write that sci-fi novel I started in 2005, I was horribly horribly derailed by researching the position of mars in the night sky, from the mountains of northern california. In my defense, it gave me dialogue i might not have otherwise had, but still… distracted! The above is great advice for countering this, which I hope I can actually put into practice.

- 04:30 pm - PL ::
categories ::  Cool Links - NaNoWriMo - Personal Projects - Pleased/Like - Writing

 

2008.06.29 every little bit:

as you may remember from waaaay back in 2005, i was attempting to participate—or procrastipating—in that year's NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month "competition." i managed to get a whole 1900 words or so written (out of 50k) before the month was up.

well, i'm back in the saddle, once again trying to make some progress with this thing. i haven't made a ton of progress in the "torrential flow of words" department, but i have managed to finish the first chapter and throw down a few notes about ideas and events in the novel.

and i also managed to finally, after three years, get a basic outline hashed out for the thing.

so, i'm not going to hit my goal (set at the beginning of this week) of an additional 3000 words by monday, but i have made some progress in other areas, so i'm pretty happy.

- 02:44 am - PL :: 1 Comment
categories ::  Happy/Love - NaNoWriMo - Personal Projects - Writing

 

2008.06.27 a nutshell:

so, i've had this problem for a while now… i say problem but really… i've had this annoyance for a while now. y'know how people ask if you have a website, or you sign up for thousands of profiles on thousands of different sites online and they all have a place for you to put your web address, right? well, me, being the guy i am, i pretty much always fill that bit in… and i pretty much always use bipolar. that's fine, but it's always kind of bothered me. i mean obviously i like brian and all, but it's always just seemed a little weird that my go-to site, my site that is kind of the champion of my online identity, is one that i share with another guy.

i think originally the idea was sparked in my head by the inimitable merlin mann with a 43folders.com post about personal status pages. then a couple months ago, my daily web travels brought me to something that got me thinking about it again, in a slightly different light. here're some links in roughly chronological order:

obviously, these guys are talking about something much bigger than a personal status page, tossing around words like ownership and portability. still, this fueled the fire, and got me working.

i think it was about two weeks later (which is like superman speed for me), i'd thrown together a design and finished the page—matthewrasnake.com.

this is a one-page site, which is basically just an overview of my entire web-world. a centralized me. all the data still lives on my various decentralized profiles, so this doesn't address—or even consider, really—data portability, but instead relies on RSS feeds and APIs from and through which i can gather together my various bits.

so, if you're looking for me online, or wondering what i've been up to, now there's a quick easy place to go. also, probably more importantly, now i have something to enter in all those form fields without feeling weird about it.

here's a couple other links that are related, but didn't really fit in with those above…

2007.04.19 whomp:

i'm not quite ready to talk about the recent tragic events at Tech, where my brother attends college. his story will keep, until i have more time to tell it appropriately.

as occasionally happens, i have been quiet on bipolar, but working busily behind the scenes. in fact, i have gone a little plugin crazy. last week i added the gregarious plugin, which gives us digg buttons on posts that have been dugg, and a "share this" link which now lives at the bottom of each post, and is great on the off chance you might want to bookmark or share us on one of several social link-sharing services. the "share this" page also gives you the opportunity to email a link to a particular post directly to a friend, directly from the page. part of the impetus for this addition was brian's recent lamentation on our lack of social penetration (yeah, knock it off) and his self-referential digging. plus, i have a few major posts in the works that i think might be suited to a digg-type feeding frenzy. we'll see.

with this addition i've also reformatted the post-ending link bonanza just a bit, i think making things a bit nicer. gone is the abbreviated "pl," in favor of the slightly less obfuscated "permalink."

the other obvious thing you might notice, looking down there, is a new starred rating thingy, again for individual posts. apparently, this plugin only allows you to vote once, and doesn't allow yout to change that vote once it's cast. i may have to do something about that, but i'll let it stand for now.

one less obvious addition is a "subcribe to comments" plugin, which allows you to indicate whether you want, when you comment on a post, to have subsequent comments sent to you via email. there's also a subscription management feature, so you can come in and remove yourself from subscribed posts if you like.

a very obscure (to you the viewer, anyway) plugin is one which checks for incoming links to a post (from offsite), and registers any that are found as "pingbacks" without the offsite poster having to actually initiate a formal pingback. if you understand what that means, congratulations, you're an official blog geek.

behind the scenes, i've also added a plugin that counts post views, mainly for the benefit of the last recently added plugin… a bipolar stats page. The plugin lists on that page many various stats from the blog, including the new post ratings and post views. One really fun feature (i thought, anyway) is the ability to see the nicks off all previous commenters, and the ability to go to a page listing all their comments. being that we allow "anonymous" comments (i.e. you don't have to register), many people have visited and used different nicks, so the list is rather longer than the actual number of individuals who've commented.

i still have a short list of plugins left to test and install, but i thought these were the most immediately useful ones.

here's what i've installed:

here's what i'm still considering:

so digg, email, subscribe, rate, view, and link away.

2007.04.02 handyman, handyman, does whatever a… uh…:

the coming of the spring means the growing of the grass means the breaking of the backs in physical labor. ugh. each time i have to mow the grass, i think loudly to myself "man, i should've sprung for the self-propelled mower, it'd've been worth the extra $75 bucks or so." i'm not one for regret, but i do occasionally have to kick myself in the ass for things.

so, this season i figured I really needed to do the whole "tune-up" thing with the lawnmower, so i was going to take it to mowermd near where i work, for a nominal (I thought) fee of about $50. drop it off, pick it up, no muss, no fuss. well, i put it off (actually i got so busy at work i never had time to set up a drop-off time) until we just had to mow the grass this weekend.

we found out from sara's brother-in-law that he just takes his blade to fern creek hardware and has it sharpened. so, we made our trip out there, and that and the new spark plug cost less than $10. we got a funnel and an empty milk jug to drain last year's oil, and i pretty much had the entire tune-up done for less than $15 and 45 minutes work. felt pretty good to accomplish that, i have to say.

in linux news, i've installed a mess of software via the package manager, some of which i've been looking for on the mac and pc for a goodly portion of time. life with linux is looking up! oh, and i cleared up the screen resolution thing pretty easily (though required a couple reboots), and then killed the network by switching to static local IP address instead of dynamic. well, that's fixed now too, so we're looking good. still have to get an FTP client working (i'm not sado-masochistic enough to be willing to learn command-line FTP). hell, that's why xerox invented windows.

also, happy birthday to my sis!

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- 11:22 pm - PL ::
categories ::  Birthday - Computers/Tech - Personal Projects - Work

 

2007.03.31 a gathering of old men and their ladies:

last night, after a two year absence from the stage, saw the re-emergence of Louisville's own Old Man. It was a great show, with some old classics and new hot ones from the album that's in the offing.

The Rud was much the same as I remember (my band also hasn't had a show in quite some time, and we haven't played the Rud for quite some time besides), but now they've settled on the "back stage," which i think is a major improvement from the "mid" stage. The sound is still mushy as ever. I think the Rud's sound system (or sound guys, i'm not sure which) is better suited for simpler acts, like… well, mainly vocalists, poets, plays, etc. I think you throw some guitars and drums in the mix, and the system has to work beyond it's limits to get the sound out there. Which is not to say that it's bad, just that there's some color to it. I still think the Rud is a great place to play, and a great place to see a show.

so Old Man rocked it out, did a superb job, and i enjoyed it thoroughly. oh, and there was a song with neil on the harmonica, putting the folk into "punk/folk." very cool.

following Old Man was an actual old man, alone on stage with his acoustic, strapless guitar, and his haunting voice and often nonsensical lyrics. i think everyone was pretty much alternately astounded and confounded by the performance. some of the lyrics i couldn't make out, and the ones that i could, well, some didn't seem to make any sense at all, as if they were just words stuck together for no particular reason, others made complete sense, but perhaps the most interesting part was that there was a deepness of emotion behind every lyric. in the end, the only pronouncement i could make was, "it wasn't good, but it was awesome." oh, and i told neil somebody should do a study on the guy, see how his brain works.

most of the rest of the evening was spent hanging out with friends, some of whom i haven't seen in several months. it was good to catch up, hell, it was good just to be around them again. it also gave the prick an opportunity to talk about finally making use of the practice space we've had for a month now. hopefully this week, we'll at least be able to get our stuff moved in, which will act as a catalyst towards getting us to the practice space at least once a week to *use* that stuff. i'm looking forward to it. i'm excited by the idea of a "new beginning" for the band, and have been itching to strum the strings for a while. (i'm a terrible guitar player, if i'm not at practice, i hardly ever touch the thing, except to move it from one spot to another.) if all goes well, perhaps we'll be ready for our resurgence party in 6 months or so.

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