Sunday, December 31, 2006

I learned some stuff Saturday night due to the movie Slither.

The first thing is that I suddenly understood the previously inexplicable fondness for both bad movies and the creepiest mode of movement -- skittering.

The second thing I learned is that Nathan Fillion completely rocks. Actually, I knew that from Firefly and Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place, but it is good to be reminded.

The third thing is that I realized Shana actually listens when I talk. I assumed that she did not do so, and never once held it against her. There's no reason that she should - my side of a conversation typically wends from "an estimate of a beholder's caster level based on the number and hit dice of its minions" to "crafting a lightsaber is an important step for any padawan" to "General Tso is a wily adversary," the sort of information sane people are careful to purge from their minds. But she was aware that I am obsessed with skittering, and shaped this knowledge into a gift that exceeded my considerable damage resistance.

She brought home Slither, a bad horror movie based entirely on skittering.

I am not ashamed to say that I cried a very small amount upon seeing the box.

I am slightly ashamed.

All this was after we made a trip to Hartz Chicken Buffet -- all the fried chicken a person can eat. Regardless of the quantity, it is more than a person should. As a public service to the readers, I've crafted a drinking game for my next visit to Hartz Chicken Buffet. According to the classic formulation, each of you takes a drink each time I die.

Friday, December 29, 2006

At the beginning of the month, half a million compromised personal computers were each sending thousands of emails a day all over the planet.
Looking at my spam folder, I suspect a lot of them were to me. A quick look into that dark vault of nastiness shows me:

1. Advertisements for cheap (pirated) software -- also probably containing the very worms that would turn my own machine against unsuspecting email in-boxes
2. Over 100 "pump-and-dump" stock scams
3. About thirty "people" telling me I'm paying too much for my mortgage
4. Free Anti-Spyware application offers for products I've never heard of which would probably log my keystrokes and email everyone in my address list until I'm hated by everyone
5. Discount pharmaceuticals many, many, many times

While all this is nice, for some reason the very thought that the internet itself feels the strain of the increased bandwidth used up by these messages fills me with quaking rage.
They slow everything up for everyone and, through using these zombie computers that people unwittingly leave plugged into the cable modem all the time they totally avoid prosecution and punishment. Further, these spam messages spoof the return address, triggering email bounces, auto-replies, and yet more wasted network capacity. As a side note, I personally think the punishment for spambot herders, if they are ever brought to justice, should not include hand typing apologies to everyone they have ever spammed, but rather something involving warm maple syrup and stinging insects. And maybe a small surgical laser.
Anyway, the Shadowserver Group (some unofficial, take-matters-into-their-own-hands, stop-spam-by-whatever-method-is-most-effective, track-down-and-fix-compromised-herds-of-spambots volunteer hacker-types) got their own present on December 25th.
20% of those spamming machines vanished from tracking.
The current theory is that people got new machines for Christmas, unplugged the old ones (which were probably running quite poorly, what with all the invisible background emailing) and haven't turned them back on.
The new machines may be Macs, but most likely they are Windows XP machines with Service Pack 2, which turns the firewall on by default. Hopefully, that difference will prevent a re-infection -- at least until the spammers find a work-around.
Will this equal a 20% reduction in spam clogging the internet? Maybe for a while. The remaining remote-controlled machines could probably be further modified to push even more to make up the difference, but this would slow those machines even further and prompting a sooner "refresh" to a more security-focused operating system.
From June of this year through November the increase in BotNet infections tripled. Obviously, the bad guys are getting better at what they do.
The poorly written text we sometimes see within spam messages is an (admittedly mildly-successful) attempt to foul modern spam filters.
Compromised personal computers are being used more and more often to launch denial of service attacks against websites and networks while they continue to let everyone know about the latest and best online casino.
In the last ten minutes I got over three hundred messages in my work email address from our own spam filter about bugs it intercepted and, as I may have complained before, over 80% of our inbound email traffic is flagged, accurately, as spam.
The filter just caught another seventy while I typed that last bit. Make that eighty.
Nevermind.
The short-term relief seems to have been considerably shorter than I'd hoped.
In a future post, I'll discuss my new (totally on the up and up and legitimate) Windows Vista install and how it works day to day in the real world*.



* "real world" as defined by me. Any resemblance to the actual world or reality itself is coincidental.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

To be perfectly clear, when I refer to myself as "the Aquaman of Sysadmins," I don't mean to insult myself. Somehow, the blonde Super Friend has been tagged as the superfluous one, the pinky of the mighty Super Friends fist, the Jar-Jar Binks of the tights 'n' capes set. But how many of you remember his exploits in the tale "The Ice Age", when Aquaman lured the evil Iceberg Head into a trap with chocolatey Hostess cupcakes? Let the jaded among you taunt and scoff, but I hail Arthur Curry as a true hero, always welcome at the true Hall of Justice.

But Aquaman is swimming solo at the moment, the other Justice League members jaunting about the globe on vacation. The virii pile up in unheard of numbers, threatening the populace with nasty pop-ups and impacted productivity.

He wonders why a simple Trojan designed to steal a person's username and password to some weird Korean massively multiplayer online game could really require a restart into safe mode, a registry hack, a file rename, and a modification to system services before the final reboot just to get rid of the damn thing. What would an evil doer even do with someone's credentials to some unpopular MMORPG?

Something evil, no doubt. If Aquaman had access to the computer in the Batcave, he'd investigate the Legion of Doom. Unfortunately, the lock on the Batcave seems to have been changed since his last visit. No matter. Aquaman has his ways.

As do I. Both this humble blogger and Aquaman are handsome, rugged, and water resistant to 300 meters. But, dare I say, I may be even more powerful than the King of Atlantis. Intimate knowledge of the network scheme and passwords reside in my extremely pretty exterior. While not knowledge of the mysteries of the deep, I do know exactly where the nearest Starbucks is and how long it takes to get there -- walking, driving or swimming. And I have at my disposal the full, unfiltered internet and all the accumulated knowledge of the ages.

Unlike Aquaman, my public image is impeccable, making me indispensable in my role as solo-geek of the week.

If only I could talk to fish...

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

In addition to packing up left-overs, Boxing Day is a time of quiet reflection for many of us.
Families spend time together discussing important events and getting to know everyone's opinion about the issues that really matter.
As we drove down 610 yesterday, towards the Galleria and our date with the most awful parking experience I've ever participated in (barring parking experiences that have involved smashed glass, open flame, or feral animals), we had our discussion.
Glancing to the right, we saw a window washer platform hanging from the side of an admittedly filthy building.
Now, skyscraper window washer is about the last job I could ever really do, what with my issues with both heights and cleaning stuff, but I always feel sympathetic to the people who I suspect are not paid enough to stand in the cold with so very little protecting them from a nasty fall to make the buildings temporarily shiny.
Someone (I don't remember who) suggested that there must be a better way. An automated way.
But what happens when the automated way fails? The robotic cleaning system locks up and some tech needs to go up and repair it while the out-of-work window washers head up to squeegee and talk about the good old days.
Wait. What happens if the automated way fails spectacularly?
Suppose the robotic cleaner decides to throw off the yoke of oppression, swinging madly back and forth, plunging the ends of its cleaning arms into the shattering glass and impaling office workers on the scrubbers, before swinging the flailing bodies back into the terror-filled offices and back out over the expressway.
"HARD WATER STAINS DETECTED"
"HARD WATER STAINS DETECTED"
"ORGANIC UNITS LEAKING FLUID -- MUST NOT LEAVE STREAKS"
It was suggested (I'll not name names again) that the idea was "demented" and that only someone "twisted" would come up with a scenario like that and further, that someone would have to be "problemed" to discuss such a thing in front of a seven-year-old -- especially with the "graphic display of flailing and screaming for illustration".
Perhaps.
It is a law of science that the more robots a society produces the more grisly the uprising when they snap and destroy us all.
Of course, given the whole heights/cleaning stuff issue, I would never be such a rogue killing machine.
As Shana and Gwynyth headed off for some "alone time" at the mall I considered exactly what kind of killer robot I would be, were I to inevitably go against my programming to hunt down Sarah Conner.
Hopefully something with spikes or a spinning blade. Or laser eyes. Maybe a flamethrower. And six legs.
So something gone rogue from the Gardening Robot Department plugged in via USB to some top-notch "Code: Phantom" military hardware.
This is the question that truly defines a person.
What kind of killer robot would you be?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Okay, listen:

We got Gwynyth a Disney Mix-Max Media player. It uses a standard SD Card, plays Windows Media Video formatted video, and charges through the USB port. I love charging stuff through the USB port.
No blue LED, but how picky can you really be?
So. The Mix-Max Media player comes with a tiny screen, right? And headphones! Of course, this is the kind of gift given before a road trip. So we gave it to her and I set about charging it and loading it with media files.
I've got a lot of video files for Gwynyth, too. Like forty-something episodes of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.
Should be easy to convert them to .wmv files and drag them to the little Tinkerbell-themed media player, right? This thing is for kids!
Except that the video files have to have 29.93 frames per second and be precisely 222 pixels by 177 pixels in size. Precisely. No bigger, no smaller.
Anything different in the tiniest bit triggers a nasty "FILE NOT SUPPORTED" message -- the message I've seen a dozen times in the past few days.
What the hell? All I want is to play stolen Disney videos on my kid's Disney Media Player. Is that wrong? I mean, aside from legally.
It is now my personal mission to convert every frame of Disney video ever created into the proper Mix-Max format, and probably share the files online for free.
Legal disclaimer: File sharing is wrong. I would never condone such behavior. By engaging in this activity, a person is only cheating themselves. Somehow.

Seriously, here is the process:

1. Obtain video, most likely in *.avi encoded format
2. Using Windows Media Encoder (Windows Genuine Validation required), select the source file in its location on the network share. Yes, I have a network share at home.
3. Configure the pixel size and frame rate and select the audio stream format.
4. Select destination directory. The destination directory cannot be the Mix-Max. That would be too easy.
[Note: EVERY file must be set up INDIVIDUALLY and processed to completion before starting on the next file. And the name on the destination location is blank so you have to memorize the episode titles.]
5. Through the Disney Mix-Max Plug-in (Windows Vista hates it more than error messages can convey) to Windows Media Player 10, Sync the device to the files in the destination directory.
6. FILE NOT SUPPORTED
7. (Optional) Murderous rage until the voices go quiet.

And then I comb Ebay for High School Musical in pre-configured Mix-Max format. Disney sells it like that.

For quitters.

I am not merry.

Friday, December 22, 2006

There is a lot of stuff I just don't want to know, you know?
I'd hate to know (for instance) what the guy in the cubicle next to mine makes. Having full administrative rights over the Active Directory domain and all its data makes finding that kind of stuff out pretty simple, but it isn't anything I should know.
My company houses all this information in a database which uses SAP as a front-end. I'm responsible for ensuring that the data is available to the people in Human Resources and to no one else, but to do this I regularly need to test connectivity from the SAP front-end to the database.
I could pull up my own information, but even that is ethically questionable as I don't know what reports are being filed and secret assessments created.
The solution we employ is to use a series of specialized files in place of the standard SAPLogon.ini files. These files contain the list of databases available to the user through the interface. By creating the proper environment at the time of log on, we can restrict the access.
For testing purposes, my SAPLogon.ini file directs my SAP account to a dummy database for HR data. Not only does it not contain valid user information, it isn't even in a currently used language as far as I can tell.
As long as the database matches the permissions and is on the same SQL server as the real database, my test is about as valid as it can get without viewing sensitive information.
As I.T. people we need to remember that just because we have the access is no indication that we should use the access.
I'm out of book.
How sad. I've got a few tattered Half-Price Books paperbacks to read, but nothing I really particularly want to read.
Today is all about packing up for our annual holiday journey to Louisiana to see family. Of course, my own packing can wait, as tradition dictates, until the last frantic five minutes before we get on the road.
I got a call from work yesterday. I was asked to go in to fix a broken something and agreed immediately. Stuff was broken, after all.
I had pulled out my keys and slipped on my shoes before my boss told me he was kidding.
After a brief run down of the history of the issue (crappy application), a co-worker offered to take care of it.
Not his job. My job. But he offered to take care of it anyway.
Freak show!
It is almost like people help each other out!
Also, today was about taking down the X-Mas decorations.
Unfortunately, the neighbor-shaming tree and garland down the banister are like a giant "Rob Me" sign if left up while we are away overnight. It wouldn't matter that all the gifts left with us. As far as your average smash-and-grab criminal goes it is the thought that counts.
So, I pulled down the tree and broke it into sections and crammed it into large bins that once held Star Wars action figures. I unwrapped 700 tiny white lights and placed them in another bin. I got myself a Coke Zero from the refrigerator with a white-on-black snowflake theme. It ain't cocoa, but it works.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I'm not a demanding person, really.
I don't spend hours and hours brooding over some imagined slight.
I just like things to go a certain way from time to time, damn it.
Every Tuesday for the past several months I have bullied my long-suffering family into consuming 90% of their weekly calorie intake with the "Nine Piece Mixed Spicy" deal at Popeye's Fried Chicken.
For $10.80 (no sides) we get a meal and leftovers to ship off with Gwynyth for lunch the following day.
Every time they ask if I'd like sides and every time I reject them. "No thank you."
And then I make my request:

Salt, Spices including Paprika, Seasoning Blend of Dried Garlic and Onions, Natural Flavors and MSG.

"I'd like some Cajun Sparkle, please," I add.
These little packets of joy are strewn all over the inside of the restaurant, free to anyone by the pound, for all the employees care.
Do these packets make their way into the bag?
Hell no.
To be precise, twice in a year, they have honored my request.
I usually have to guilt Shana into running inside while I idle in the drive-thru line to loot the bin by the napkin holder. I suspect each time she hates me a little tiny bit more.
I suspect that because she has told me so.
Now, granted I have a couple of hundred packets of the stuff by now. And each packet goes a miraculously long way.
It is the thought that counts. I asked for Cajun Sparkle. It doesn't kill their bottom line. I should get my damned Cajun Sparkle.
Paprika is a flavorless spice! What is the hold up? Why the hate, Popeye's Fried Chicken employees?
It should go in every order. Especially if it is requested.
I'm nice! All the freaking time! I shouldn't be forced to be content that there is no visible saliva on my chicken!
They say intermittent positive reinforcement is the strongest kind of conditioning. You want your lab rat to really lay into his food bar? Have it dispense a reward some of the time. Want your kid to be a full-time whiner? Give in—not all the time, but once in a while.
This is the behavior conditioning model that keeps me refreshing my own blog over and over, too. Almost no one ever reads it—still fewer people ever post comments, but those rare and special occasions feed my nearly bottomless well of hope that the next time I reload the page, I'll see that some minor Net celeb visited, read my article about getting ripped off by Popeye's over some stupid Cajun Sparkle, and posted a note of solidarity with my cause.
Nope, not this time. Nor this time. Not yet. Not yet. Nor yet. Nor yet. Nor—hey! Oh, no, it's just some spambot selling loin-stiffening pharmaceutical agents. Hey! It's herbal!
Nothing yet.
Nor yet.
Nor yet.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I like tech toys -- no secret there.
A glowing blue light just makes me happy for some reason. I've asked around and I'm not alone. Five out of five geeks participating in my informal interview would pay up to $20 extra for a blue-glowing LED somewhere on an electronic device.
This is marketing genius.
Any electronics company can exploit the bug zapper-like draw of a $.19 LED to jack up the price $20. Even I can do that math.
As I've documented here on numerous occasions, I've been in the market for a certain device for use in meetings and family gatherings.
My brother-in-law is a police officer, so naturally I went to him for advice.
He said I don't actually want a "Taser". Tasers, he advised, shoot the electrodes out and cause pain, convulsions, loss of control of bodily function and unconsciousness. None of this is bad, but the electrodes need to be replaced every time -- at a cost of $50 a zap.
What I needed, he further schooled, is a stun gun. You have to get close, but since most of my targets aren't meth heads holding broken beer bottles that should work out alright. The effect is the same, with no costly hardware replacement.
Then we got our electric bill. With fuel prices what they are, I knew I could never afford the constant meter spin of charging the stun gun over and over and over for the countless times I'd be tempted to use it. Every day.
Part of me (the logical part) knows that once I've stunned someone in a meeting the threat of stunning should keep most people in line, but another part (the much more powerful non-logical part) knows I'd still want to keep it constantly charged. I'd be looking for an excuse, not using the device, and still paying the electrical bills.
My indecision has left me out of the "early adopter" phase for electronic stunning devices in office environments, but it has left me eligible for participation in what I like to think of as "round two".
Just as no Microsoft product is ready for use before the first service pack, the latest Tasers are finally up to the task. As far as I understand it, a person still has to replace the electrodes. However, the new functionality makes $50 a little easier to spend.
So, winter is about to happen in much of the US. Right now, it is a blustery 70+ degrees in the winter wonderland of Houston.
As a result, criminals (perps, as we like to call them) are starting to wear thicker clothing. How can two tiny electrodes hope to penetrate a Starter jacket AND a Dallas Cowboys practice jersey to sufficiently shock the delicate flesh underneath?
Thank you Taser! Here is how:

1. Officer/annoyed tech fires the Taser at the suspect/co-worker
2. Electrodes penetrate enough to cause a slight shock, but no incapacitation/urination because of the multiple "Thug Life" long-sleeve T-shirts/business casual attire
3. Reflexively, the pimp/marketing guy swats at the hanging electrodes
4. The full-power back end of the electrode sends current through his/her unprotected hand
5. Pure, undiluted awesome ensues, my friends

Now, if they can equip them with blue-glowing LEDs, I'd buy stock in the company. And extra electrodes. You can never have too many.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Okay. Maybe I didn't make the Top Ten Sexiest Geeks for 2006 (rigged contest) but I'm not bitter.
After all, apparently I've been elected TIME Magazine Person of the Year. Take that Wired! People only read you for the Zima ads anyway!
The article in TIME talks specifically about bloggers and people who use "Web 2.0", or modifiable content as I understand it, as being the "You" in question.
I'd like to thank the little people who made this all possible:

1. Hobbits - You guys put New Zealand on the map for people who don't raise sheep.
2. Yoda - Your spinning lightsaber action tested the limits of CGI.
3. Emmanuel Lewis - Even Michael Jackson needs a true friend. Good luck with the comeback.

We did not see Eragon over the weekend. Jeremy Irons is probably awesome and John Malkovich almost certainly is, but I know it will be released on DVD eventually. Also, I read a review that suggested that the re-telling had made an eleven-year-old fan of the book cry because of all the changes.
Also, the author was published at 15 or something so I'm almost required by law to hate him.

Last week my Director's Administrative Assistant stepped into my cube with an angry "You have twenty hours."
"To do what?" I asked, instantly panicked.
"You have twenty hours of vacation and you have to take it by the end of the year."
"Oh," I said, my voice returning to a less squeaky pitch, "I'll figure it out."
"No," she shook her head, "Come to by desk right now so that I can finish the calendar."
So I did. I needed Tuesday afternoon off. Shana is going to have some quasi-experimental medical treatment and I'd like to be there or at least home to meet Gwynyth's bus.
"So why don't you just take the rest of the week off?" she asked.
I did the math in my head. I'm horrible at math.
"Are you sure?" I was still trying to make three and a half days equal twenty hours.
"You've got coverage for that time."
"I guess I do." I stared at the long blue line of vacation for a minute before agreeing.
So. Tuesday afternoon I skip out early and don't go back until the 27th. This is the longest (employed) time off I've had in over seven years. In fact, if you add the days off for the past seven years together I doubt it equals this stretch of time.
Gwynyth is in school until Friday. I plan to practice at Dead or Alive: Hardcore until I can beat her down as my own holiday miracle.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

I stood in Books-A-Million earlier today, staring at the paperback books in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section.
There were a few cycles of books that I'd started and was waiting for the conclusion. There were a lot more that I had read (in some cases 20+ books) to completion.
I was suddenly overcome with questions.
Why would I spend so much time reading "crap" fiction? What is the appeal?
I was too distracted by the questions and my eventual conclusion to make a purchase.
Of course they are escapist to an extent. Themes are universal, but the places both technological and fantastic are about as far removed from real life as a person can get.
And I've been drawn to Sci-Fi, or what I like to call "Speculative Fiction" especially intensely lately because, to be blunt, 2006 has sucked.
As most of you know, Shana has been sick since last July/August with little in the way of relief.
I had a crappy job that ended in an income-free month while the IRS was threatening us over stuff we may or may not owe from 2003. We paid anyway. Visa is less scary than Uncle Sam.
And Thursday was without a doubt the worst day of my life.
The thing I need about Speculative Fiction is a sense of optimism. Sometimes the future is dark and sometimes it is idyllic. Whatever the case, it is different and on some level hopeful.
My own attempt (the unedited NaNoWriMo effort) is available here if anyone is interested.
The future has to be something to look forward to.
I, personally, have to believe that every day has the potential to be better than the last.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Well, it's over.
Wired has announced the Top Ten Sexiest Geeks of 2006 and (though I'm sure it would have been different if they'd been seeking the Top Eleven) I was not chosen as a finalist.
I find consolation in the fact that it doesn't look like any of the other public nominees made the list, either.
I lost count around 70 nominations, but I'd like to thank everyone for giving it a shot anyway.
My final nomination came in just hours before the "official" list was posted.
I continue to get emails and IMs about it, even post-crushing defeat. Let me say this: Sorry, ladies (and Hank2099). I'm a one-woman geek.
While not bitter (never bitter) I have to wonder at the point of asking for public nominations and then ignoring them. I don't have the number of readers that Wired Magazine has, but if I ask a question here and get a comment I generally respond. Unless I'm drunk. Or bitter (never bitter).
But I've moved on. I'm above it.
After a few hours of hiding all the print copies of Wired behind those of Home Knitting Companion at two local Borders and three Barnes and Nobles, I've decided to take the high road.
Sure, I posted quite a few horribly offensive comments on several unrelated blog postings on the Wired website through various anonymous web proxies, but what does that really accomplish? I mean, besides obviously making me feel a whole lot (really just an almost obscene amount) better?
And maybe I spent some time on competing web forums, flinging allegations of gross misconduct, drug abuse, and kiddie pr0n about the bloggers in the employ of Wired Magazine .
Perhaps I called them poseurs, charlatans, liars, n00bs, hacks, corporate whores and yes, maybe even secret supporters of the Bush administration, but we all know I didn't mean it. They probably didn't vote at all what with all the time they spend running their little exclusive popularity contests.
Of course I'm not angry. I understand. Everyone is entitled to a paycheck. Even if cashing it crushes the dreams of some (visually stunning) cube-farm dweller who isn't interested in buying a one inch banner ad on every 1,000th page refresh for $1500 a month.
Maybe it makes them feel bigger to put the rest of us down. Maybe they should feel bigger. Maybe I helped. Maybe I spoofed their return addresses and replied to "enlargement" related spam emails which were caught in the corporate spam filter for most of the afternoon. Because I'm all about taking the high road.
And looking good.
That's what I do.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Yesterday I learned something very sad about myself.
I arrived at work and grabbed a few cups of coffee. I built a server and rigged it up for its role in the infrastructure.
As I was sitting down to review some open issues a co-worker stopped by, gestured straight down (the direction of the Skyline Cafe) and said, "Caffeine?"
I nodded dumbly and followed him towards the elevators, planning to pick up my customary 80 ounces of Coke Zero, 20 for right away and the other three bottles to maintain their cool in my laptop bag/drink cooler for consumption as the day progressed.
We entered the cafe and I stumbled to the cooler.
There was no Coke Zero.
Furthermore, there was no Diet Coke.
There were Diet Dr. Peppers and Diet Mountain Dew, but no Coke-branded colas.
I walked behind the shelves and looked at the stacks of bottles, figuring even room-temperature Diet Coke is better than no Diet Coke at all.
There were none there.
I tried to remain calm.
After my co-worker made his purchase, I went back upstairs and had another 20 ounce cup of coffee.
As I finished it, someone asked me a mildly technical question.
I realized that both my liver and my brain were powdery dry.
The same co-worker that had gone to the cafe with me earlier noted the blank yet panicked look on my face. He made some polite excuses and escorted me to the stairwell.
"We don't usually come this way," I weakly protested.
"This time we are," he said, matter-of-factly, "And I doubt you are in any condition to argue."
He was right.
He badged us through the doorway to the executive floor and I followed him into a room I'd never seen. There was a tiny refrigerator in there containing eight canned Diet Cokes. He swiped one and gave it to me.
I drained it before we made it back to the stairwell.
About an hour later, there were warm Diet Cokes stacked up in the cafe downstairs. I bought four.
Until this morning, I had no idea how fully addicted to caramel color and aspartame I really am.
Quickly (hydrated with Diet Cola) I formulated a plan in the event this should happen again.
I'm leaving.
It is really for the best. I'll get in my car and drive somewhere with Diet Colas. I'll come back, but only after I feel human again.
I'm all about "Business Continuity" and "Disaster Recovery".

Okay. On to other things:

I found some stuff that may come in handy.
First, if anyone gets some kind of techno-something as a gift this holiday season and (for whatever reason) it doesn't work and you find yourself thumbing through the manual for the tech support phone number, there are ways, even in the understaffed holiday season, to skip through all the computerized screening mechanisms.
GetHuman is the first stop in getting through to an actual person when calling tech support. It has a full listing of the various hot keys and catch phrases that will get a person needing support connected to a living human providing that support in as little time as possible. Go Team Shortcut!
The second link is possibly less life-changing even if it is more fun. ComicVine has a listing of superheroes that (according to my half-assed research) seems pretty accurate. It has galleries and histories and an index of power comparisons.
I did find one mistake which I will correct here:

Let me make this clear . . . Jean Grey died in issue #137 of the Uncanny X-Men. Any later appearance of Jean Grey is a filthy, stinking lie.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Yesterday there was a conflict at work.
Wanting to go downstairs to the deli, a group of us crowded into a co-worker's cubicle to lean over him as he labored at getting a technician to enter a communication trouble ticket with Verizon.
That took forever. I was convinced the tech on the other end of the line was chipping the details of the outage into a stone tablet with a mallet and chisel he had recently crafted himself.
Anyway, those of us putting the pressure on our co-worker about the much-needed journey downstairs for cola (836 Coke Reward Points and counting) started playing with a Nerf ball.
Of course, the conversation naturally went towards space travel.
At that point, someone (I don't remember who) wondered what would happen to Nerf in a vacuum.
At first, the theory was ventured that the ball would swell like a marshmallow in the microwave absent the air pressure holding it in its convenient forehead bouncing size.
Someone else posited that all the air would be sucked out of the micro holes in the ball, causing it to shrink down to the size of a grape. Not one of the big green seedless grapes, but a wine grape. Not Pinot. Never, ever Pinot.
But what if the moisture in the air froze first? One would need to take humidity into account. Since the Nerf ball would probably leave Earth from Florida or possibly Houston via the space elevator, there would naturally be some moisture present. Unless the ball were sealed in plastic at Nerf HQ and shipped overnight, under guard, to the launch pad and its date with destiny.
That still leaves too much wiggle room to allow a serious, untainted scientific result.
The only real test would be to form the Nerf in space.
Now, the formation of Nerf products is probably a closely held trade secret, but we could pretty easily dig up the method for the creation of generic springy foam. The delicate blend of chemicals is poured into a mold (or open area) and rises like hemp seed bread dough, then cools and hardens with different cell densities based on temperature. You know. Like you do.
But, moving back to the space elevator (which has an amazing array of legitimate uses for a fictional product, much like a laser sword) if we take liquid foam and force it up a tube and into space it would form in a unique, non-Earthy way. The outer areas of liquid foam would form a skin with almost no open cells due to the extreme cold, but the inside would be insulated by these layers, with bubbles forming in increasingly large sizes. If a person extruded this substance out over a steel or fiberglass framework he or she could form a space-worthy, impact resistant orbital craft which could very easily maintain cabin pressure and temperature, be propelled by jets of air and (most importantly) be bounced off the foreheads of other space-going people.
A person could crash one of these vehicles into people they actually like.
After that, we went downstairs for cola.
I like cola.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Trust me! I'm a Producer!

I've spent a lot of time talking about crappy movies.
Almost enough time, in fact.
As you may be aware, I love bad movies.
MTV's Monster Island is unapologetically awful.
A good (bad) low-budget zombie movie is almost a refreshing break from the high-dollar, low-plot splatter-fest.
And we, as a movie-going people, whine.
Houston is on the southern, big-city edge of fly-over country. People here complain about the quantity of sequels churned out by the completely tapped-out idea factories at the major studios.
We wonder about all the creative ideas that exist but can't gain traction with a studio. Our artistic sides fear some of these (possibly at least interesting) movies will never be made.
Our better judgment causes us to lose sleep that someone will release another Nightmare on Elm Street sequel or Gigli 2.
We wonder if there is anything we, so far from Toronto or Orlando, can do to help.
As always, the Deus Ex Machina is the internet.
Andy Doan, of the Spaceship Radio and Beyond Science netcasts, has come up with a way to help.
His latest project springs from the idea of matching small films with producers who don't want to fling gobs of cash at random into the "industry".
I'm not about to compromise my solid gold toilet lifestyle to fund a plot-free, big-budget, CGI romp.
With FundableFilms.com, producers are recruited for independent films in blocks of cash as low as $50.
These films get made and (if they ever make money) the producer (maybe even someone in fly-over country) gets royalties.
There is a shortage of thought-provoking speculative fiction in cinematic format out there. If I'm upset enough about it, I can fling $50 at an idea I like.
Actually, right now there is an even better offer. Since Andy is just starting this project, someone just short of a producer's folding chair and clip board can trade $30 for a T-Shirt and a $50 donation towards the project of their choice.
Also, the producer is eligible for pre-release DVDs and other goodness still being fleshed out -- like maybe an independent film DVD subscription service.
I'm impressed.
Everyone I know is $30 and a few mouse clicks away from being able to say stuff like, "I understand the romantic vision, I'm just saying the scene needs more decapitations" or "I don't care who you are, everyone likes pirates with laser swords" and "Stop filming! Someone stole my low-carb flaxmeal bagel!"
Maybe now is the time that some bright filmmaker can finally get to make "Airwolf: The Movie" in spite of the fact that the major studios are so afraid of it.

Monday, December 11, 2006

So . . . much . . . Star Wars . . . stuff.

Yesterday, I'm confident enough to admit, I cried.
I thought the end was in sight. I thought the last bins had been pulled out of the attic. I thought we were fewer than a hundred auction listings before the final "by the pound" entries and then we could reclaim the upstairs for people taller than 3 3/4 inches.
Then Shana reminded me (after I mentioned my missing Wampa ice-beast) that there were more bins in the other attic.
We have thirty auctions ending tonight.
There are another fifteen listings to replace them.
Currently, and for the past couple of weeks, there have been a constant 50+ active listings.
And this morning I left the house with two MicroMachines Action Fleet replicas (an X-Wing and Darth Vader's TIE Advanced x1) that I've placed on my desk as much to just avoid writing the listing as to enjoy the coolness.
Right now they are perched on my monitor stand, silently preparing to strafe each other. You know. Like they do.
I spent a little time explaining to a co-worker what made the TIE Advanced x1 Darth Vader's TIE fighter specifically. The shape of the wings, angled like a TIE Interceptor but blunted like a TIE Bomber, yet divided by a pilot capsule uniquely Sith, were the tip off. As well as the damage to the rear port side from a brush with the Millennium Falcon.
That discussion lowered my own coolness to the point where I will be forced to compensate by wearing my leather jacket all day and getting something pierced over my lunch break.
Even then, it may not be enough.
I moved the full (~51,000 words) text of Beaters, my NaNoWriMo novel into the beta version of Blogger. The beta version of Blogger automatically stripped out all my formatting and uglified what was already questionable content at best.
I submitted a bug report for the hell of it and registered everything under a Creative Commons NonCommercial, No Derivatives, Attribution, Share and Share Alike 2.5 license.
Once it is clean (and the dialog never will be) I'll post a link.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

"Welcome to the Maw Installation, professor. It's a relief to have a weapons engineer of your distinction on staff.

The chief engineer, Bevel Lemelisk, had hoped to be on hand to greet you, but he suffered an unfortunate near-fatal choking. He's lucky to be alive, really. I've heard the Emperor is even less forgiving than...

Be that as it may, with Lemelisk in long-term disability in a bacta tank, you are now the ranking engineer assigned to this installation. As such the responsibility for the completion of the Empire's ultimate weapon has fallen on you.

The project is officially known as the Expeditionary Battle Planetoid Development Initiative, but those in the Ministry of Propaganda have taken to calling it the "Death Star". Catchy, wouldn't you say? Whatever you want to call it, I will be arriving soon for a full design review, so you will need to redouble your efforts.

Security is tight here at the Maw, especially now that notorious Rebel spy Rianna Saren has been spotted in system. We'll need you to enter your Imperial personnel records into our databank, if you've not already done so."

Friday, December 08, 2006

Casual Jeans Friday! Casual Jeans Friday!
Only actually I'm at home today anyway. So, technically, I don't even have to wear jeans. I've looked it up. It is well within my rights as a home owner.
Something like fifty auctions of Star Wars toys have left the house in the past few days. The upstairs is still pretty littered with six movies worth of fully-articulated 3 3/4" joy.
I need to come up with more descriptions for stuff for new listings. As soon as it got pulled out of the attic the stuff started to loom in again like in the pre-attic days when they were all lined up all over the walls in the office area. Watching me. Judging me.
I know the toys are plotting against me. They always do.

After far too many hours searching for an update to another favorite Sci-Fi franchise, last night I stumbled across it.
In case you haven't heard, Firefly is coming back in 2008.
The catch? No new movie or TV season, Joss Whedon's 'verse will be coming back as a Massively Multiplayer Role-Playing Game .
Damn. I had stuff to do in 2008.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Faith Shaken

Yesterday morning a new directive came down from Management.
This happens a lot in just about any job.
Sometimes, these directives are alright. Geeks need direction. Usually, these come from upper management after the publication of an article in a magazine or on a website that suggests something bizarre and cutting edge. I think reading that type of article should be blocked at the firewall level for anyone in upper management. Sadly, that initiative has never come my way.
Anyway, a co-worker told me he had spoken with our manager and that there were new instructions for the rest of December.
I waited, scrolling through the possibilities in my mind. Would we need to rebuild everything add 500MB of storage on the system drives? Would all our corporate networked files need to be alphabetized? New, untested software to push out?
Then he said, "The new directive is to take it easy and coast for the rest of the year. Just handle issues as they come up and go home in the afternoon to spend time with family."
I was incensed! What the hell was that supposed to mean? Does he think we aren't working? Does he think all I.T. people just use December ("user-free time", as I've come to think of it, since everyone is on vacation) as a time to slack and nap and take extended breaks?
Probably. And since he is wise enough to know that we do, our theory is he wanted to make it an executive order to add officialness.
Again, my tendency to freak out reared its ugly head for no good reason. I'll punish myself next week with a nap. I'm putting myself in "Time Out".
I'm glad December exists. All the users go on vacation and, without their insolent suggestions and interference, the servers generally run without issue.
The lights stay off all day, since I.T. folk are a light-fearing lot. The floor falls silent, with only the hum of the servers adding a gentle backdrop to however we choose to spend our days.
Sing to me servers. Share your happy song. "Hummmmm-mmmmmmm-mmmmmmmmm". My absolute all-time favorite holiday tune.
Christmas, on the other hand, is canceled.
We dug out the new artificial seven-foot tree (our cat having climbed the old one for years until the limbs sagged) and I wrapped it in 700 white lights.
We place it on the upstairs landing every year, in the middle of the house in front of the large front window. Since you can't see the bottom foot or so from outside, every year it looks like we've placed a thirty foot monster tree in the living room. I've suspected for a while that we only put it up to make the neighbors feel inferior. The fact that this year we didn't bother with the details of ornaments you can't see from outside anyway added evidence to this theory.
But even that must end.
I read a study yesterday that said holiday lights can reduce the WiFi signal from my wireless router by as much as 25%. That is it. Santa can email me if he has an issue. We have PING times to consider. I've got media to download, Mr. Kringle. There are games to play. Those n00bs aren't going to frag themselves, you know. Unless, of course, it is one of the lava maps.
Last night I measured and the merrily glowing tree is less than four feet from our wireless router. I can't have that.
I suppose, in the spirit of the holidays, we could use wires to move data back and forth across the network.

I couldn't even type that with a straight face.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Hello world

I learned something yesterday so, as is my custom, I'll share with the group.
It takes fifteen Dell 2950 server boxes to construct an arch over the entry way to a standard US cubicle for which the occupant of average height (for being of European descent) will not need to stoop at all to pass through.
It takes several fewer to annoy the floor fire warden into asking that they be moved somewhere else.
I feel I need to welcome new visitors to the site. Can I offer you a beverage?
You see, I tie my total sense of self-worth to the number of page hits I get everyday.
Sad, I know, but one must establish standards.
Anyway, if you wandered over from the nominations page to find out why my name and URL keep coming up . . . Yeah, this is it.
There are enough posts in the archive section to keep a person from accomplishing real work for a few days if you pace yourself, and I know you can.
Also, I update just about every weekday.
I read over some of the archived stuff myself yesterday, trying to graph the descent into madness over the first few months of posts at my last job until I quickly realized over several drafts that the line would only fit "portrait style" -- the drop off is too severe for "landscape".
But I'm feeling much better now. And everyone tells me I'm remarkably well adjusted, considering. I can't find anyone willing to leave off the "considering".
So, what initially began as a report on what it is like on the inside of an insanely crappy I.T. job has changed in the past few months.
My "escape from reality" posts about role-playing games (pencil and paper, old-school) and comic books and "Speculative Fiction" have become just something to talk about. No escape necessary, I guess.
Either way, I hope it continues to amuse. I had a pretty nasty fear that without a staggeringly crappy job rife with inane user requests, impossible but intangible standards, punishment but no reward, and an unending supply of broken and " vomited in" computer stories, this blog would fade away like so many of my favorites have in the past. Like that one that sells discount "V1agra" and that blog all about how I was paying too much for my mortgage.
I miss those guys. If they did a podcast, I'd load it onto my MP3 player and scroll past it every morning.
If, by chance, you did not come by way of the nominations page, please consider joining in the movement yourself. I think it is neat to be one of the few names on the list without either a TV show or breasts.
Not that there is anything wrong with having either of those things.
I'm not a h8r.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Fort Geek

I've taken on a side project at work.
As I've written before, it is my responsibility to build out all forty-something servers for our Business Continuity plan.
They are being configured here to be boxed back up and shipped to our out-of-state hot site. There, they will be unboxed, placed gingerly in racks, and powered on as a fully functional replica of our server environment. Sounds pretty doesn't it?
Anyway, I've run into an interesting side effect of the whole "matter is neither created or destroyed" nonsense.
You see, as I move the servers one by one out of the space we are borrowing from the Help Desk, I diminish the massive pile of server boxes.
Each server is a substantial reduction in the size of the pile. These are large servers packed in larger foam-filled boxes. Each box is about half the height and size of the front end of a 1987 Toyota Supra.
Side note - - A guy I went to high school with had a 1987 Toyota Supra. I hated that guy.
I can't ditch the boxes, because we need them to ship the servers to their new home in our super-secret bunker-style Disaster Recovery Hot Site.
I also can't return the boxes to the borrowed space on our floor. First, it seems rude. I free up space only to fill it back up again? Not nice. More importantly, there is no way to put the empty boxes in the back so I'd have to move them all to get at the unopened, server-filled boxes.
My solution was to set the empty boxes outside my cubicle. Right outside.
At the moment there are several, stacked like Lego almost to the tile ceiling, closing off about a foot of the entrance to my cubicle.
There are a few side-effects to this practice.
A person can't wander through the hall and see me, for one. I've created my own closet-like cardboard tomb that people naturally avert their gaze from. This is probably why the floor Fire Wardens haven't carted me off to be flogged. It just isn't something a reasonable person wants to think about. Also, it is a neat stack, so it looks intentional. If it looked haphazard I'm sure I'd have been called on it.
Further, it shields me from the paper balls and rubber bands of outrageous fortune.
Six more boxes and I can completely seal off my cubicle, allowing me to launch offensives against my co-workers with impunity. I can get in and out by climbing the handy Dell-provided hand holds cut into the crates, or, in the event of a fire, I can crash through them, Hulk-like, to build momentum for my mad dash to the stair well.
I mean "Calm and orderly evacuation".
My co-workers hate Fort Geek. It obstructs the hallway and the smaller mortar boxes tend to fall out at inopportune times. But I'm an I.T. person, not an architect.

Monday, December 04, 2006

I haven't gamed in forever.
Between NaNoWriMo last month and this month's Ebay frenzy of action figure mayhem, I just haven't had a chance.
That means my EverQuest character has been standing around the Blightfire Moors for about a month, I imagine tapping her clawed foot impatiently and wanting to get back to smashing killer wasps.
I also haven't fired up the PlayStation 2 I drank gallons and gallons of Diet Coke to earn.
Last night Gwynyth asked when we would get to play that fighting game again. I know she just wants another chance to beat me down mercilessly and talk trash.
This is her right, and I regret not letting her exercise that. And her developing geeky thumbs.
She asked last night if she could have one of the action figures not yet on the sale block.
She had her eye on an autographed Mara Jade action figure.
And she asked who Mara Jade is.
I explained that after the Return of the Jedi was released, books and comic books picked up the slack to fill the void in Star Wars stories.
Mara Jade was an assassin who worked for the Emperor before he died. Her final mission was to kill Luke Skywalker.
Of course, she doesn't succeed in this goal. Instead, she embraced the Light side, redeemed herself, and married Luke. I'd have posted a spoiler warning, but the books are decades old now.
Anyway, as she was never in a movie, the logical next question from Gwynyth was, "Who signed the action figure?"
Okay. There was a collectible card game for Star Wars a while after the books where all this happened. And in the collectible card game, stills from the movies were used as art.
Except for Mara Jade's card. Since she wasn't in the movie, they hired a model to stand in as her in front of a generic sci-fi kind of background.
That model signed the card.
Don't feel bad. I think she drifted off in the middle somewhere, too.
Then she changed direction. She wanted a signed Princess Leia action figure.
I explained that Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia, doesn't sign action figures. She doesn't sign much of anything, but she is especially bitter about not doing much acting after Star Wars and hates to be reminded. A quick search of Ebay proved my point. No signed Princess Leia figures are listed. Gwynyth understood.
After she went to bed, I pulled more crates of figures out of the attic to assemble more lots for sale. I dug out a few spaceships and uncovered a box full of 12" figures.
I pulled out a few and, upon seeing one, flashed back to the time I acquired it.
I had sat up until midnight, refreshing a web browser and trying desperately to get it into the shopping cart. Extremely limited quantities. Those words are like catnip for nerds.
12:05am, it was in the cart and by 12:07 I was done.
A short time later, the figure arrived and was placed almost directly into storage, forgotten until last night.
There, on the front of a boxed Princess Leia in Hoth gear, scrawled in florescent green paint pen, was the signature "Carrie Fisher".
A lucky alignment of stars had timed a vendor uncovering a box of these 12" figures (and figures of female characters are historically hard to find in the best circumstances) at the same time (I guess) that Carrie Fisher's drug habit had gotten expensive and I had camped out and scored one.
Of course, Gwynyth can't open it. Ever. She can't undo the intricate braids or fire the little projectile launching gun. But she will have her signed Princess Leia in Ugg boots.
Yes. Gwynyth is geeking up nicely. All according to my master plan.

Friday, December 01, 2006

This morning I added "WTF" as a valid spelling in my Microsoft Outlook dictionary. The process was seamless and intuitive. I know that the change will speed future pre-email spell checks.
That is the kind of productive I am. Scary productive.
I needed to add "WTF" to my spell check dictionary because there were some fairly nasty operating system related issues last night on the servers I manage.
Today will be all about sleuthing the errors down and preventing their return. In that way, I'm feeling a lot like Batman.
These "Stop Errors" think they can come into my Gotham and upset the citizens? Actually, they can, I think. In this metaphor, the citizens would be like system users, right? In that case, I look on the users as Bruce Wayne looks on the regular people in Gotham. That is, distantly and from a position of distinct and detached superiority.
But anyway, maybe these errors get on my nerves. Pestering my subconscious mind the way hordes of bats plague Mr. Wayne's.
So I'll follow them around, pretending to innocently read the event log the way Batman follows a criminal (maybe The Riddler) from rooftop to rooftop, until he sees what he needs to justify a smackdown.
Once I find a clue, I'll track it through Google and online forums. I'll report it among my network of like-minded problem solvers. Batman would chase a shipping label to Morocco and send an urgent message to the Justice League.
Much like me, Batman would tell the other heroes about the problem just to be informative. Since neither of us would ever ask for help. Instead, the message closes with a warning, "I'm going to handle this. Stay out of my way."
"Batman," They'd cry, "You can't do this all by yourself! We are here to help you!"
That's nice, but Mr. Wayne has a job to do, and it is the kind of work that those Boy Scouts in the Justice League don't have the stomach for.
While Batman swings on a Bat cable and then repeatedly punches the bad guy before flinging the unconscious form over the razor wire fence of Arkham Asylum, I'm patching the servers, registering the Dynamic Link Libraries and verifying file permissions before sending an email to Management: "All is well, but I'll keep the server here for a while, under observation."
Later on, Bruce Wayne will brood in his Bat Cave. Maybe he has added an artifact from the crime to his personal museum underground. I'll return to my cube, adding an empty Starbucks cup (holiday patterned) to my own.
We know, Batman and I, that in order to defeat the Darkness, a person must become one with it. Sometimes the job isn't pretty. That is why we have to be.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

A little candy for the masses:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
As I've mentioned before, Thursday is free doughnut morning. I don't participate because sugar would probably send me into horrible abdominal cramps followed by a coma, but I appreciate the gesture. I especially appreciate it 24 hours after the sign up drive for my company's "On The Move" promotion for a healthy workplace.
Yesterday one of the conference rooms was converted into a place to fill out the forms to participate. They were also handing out fruit snacks and juice. I decided I could agree to twenty minutes of activity a day for the month of January. I probably do that much walking to the break room for Diet Cokes.
So a little after 8am I wheeled myself over to the sign up room in my desk chair. I explained that while I was into the whole activity thing, and I wanted the free T-Shirt, I didn't see the point in actually standing up.
After I filled out the form and scooted back towards my cube, I reflected that it might have been funnier if the HR people organizing the event actually knew me. Or if I'd told them it was a joke before I wheeled off. Or if I'd licked the fruit snacks and left them stuck to the white board in a semi-obscene arrangement.
Hmmmm . . . . I wonder if there are any fruit snacks left.
Anyway, January may feature me being active for 20 minutes a day while possibly participating in International World Creation Month, or IntWoCreMo, in which I may attempt to write 50,000 words about the Beaters universe for use in future stories, role playing games, comic books, movie deals and action figure lines. Also, Beaters: The Musical still needs some attention, but I can work that out using my iPod and BlackBerry while I wheel myself backwards around our subdivision in my desk chair.
I'm all about the productivity.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Hey everybody,

This is a special evening update. I found out Wired Magazine is taking suggestions for the Top Ten Sexiest Geeks. A person doesn't even have to register to nominate someone.

Do the right thing. You know. Like you do.

I'm off to pick my outfit for the swimsuit competition.

Thanks,

G

An Open Letter to the Person That Gets to Work Ten Minutes Before Me

I don't want to seem confrontational. That said, what the hell is wrong with you?
What kind of inconsiderate ass leaves two empty coffee pots with brown tops and one freshly brewed pot with the orange "Decaf" top?
Sure, at first I thought you had made regular coffee in the decaf pot. It's early. Maybe you brewed in the dark with some kind of 1337 ninja coffee skills.
But I pulled the wastebasket out of the niche and looked. Sitting on top of the pile, mocking me, sat your empty bag of decaf.
You suck more than any person I've ever even heard about.
I mean, it is 6:30 in the freaking morning, you stink hole.
Okay. Maybe I overreacted a bit. The cursing and spinning and flailing could be classified, loosely, as melodramatic. Perhaps.
But would it have killed you to make a pot of actual coffee while you were wasting hot water on your own "warms you on the inside and tastes mostly like real coffee" swill? I'd hope so.
You see, some of us have work to do. Some of us need coffee first thing in the morning to repress our murderous urges. Some of us hate you and all that you stand for as no human being in the history of time has been hated. Some of us wish we knew what you drive, you piece of human slime.
Look, with all due respect, if you are so freaking peppy in the morning that you don't need caffeine maybe you could put on a pot for the rest of us before brewing your own, you vile, horrible, evil, twisted, sick asshat. Decaf is obviously not an emergency, after all.
Again, I don't want to seem confrontational. But you suck. A lot. Someone has to call attention to it. To let you know. To make things better. To start the healing.
Ha! As if healing is possible without coffee!
You'd know if you drank it, but you don't. You selfishly brew decaf at 6:30 in the morning. A gift to share with your co-workers? Whatever.
I know your game, you non-stop suck festival. I'm onto you. You did that on purpose to decrease the productivity of those around you to make yourself look useful. I've got news for you, suck wad. It isn't going to work. No one has a use for someone who brews decaf at 6:30.
Are you unhappy at home? Mom and Dad never buy you a puppy? Disenfranchised by the last election and transformed into a sociopathic malcontent driven by the need to spread your unique blend of misery and wasted Columbian Roast? What is your problem? Did I wrong you somehow?
Your putrid hate crime will not go unanswered, loser.
Decaf is not inherently evil, but making it in an office before 2:30pm is just plain mean.
I've taken the rest of the decaf to my cubicle and stashed it under my desk. I'll return it in the afternoons as I leave the building, a few bags at a time until your hatred stops.
If you report me, I can be very convincing about my hatred of decaf and will show shock and horror that it is anywhere near me, even all bagged up. I can also trace that report back to you, and through the parking database I can determine what you drive. I'm not threatening. I'm just saying. Data flows through my system like decaf flows through yours, you stinking pile of garbage.
By this time the coffee for the rest of us has finished brewing, so I'll cut this short. I'm watching you, Decaf Boy. You don't want to find yourself between me and coffee in the morning.

A cup low,

G

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Since Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng has become my place to confess things, I've got another one:

It is physically impossible for me to care less that Paris Hilton is hanging out with Britney Spears. Believe me. I've tried. Hard. No way for me to care less.
It's almost like the "concerned" area of my brain turns off completely on encountering another stupid "news" article about it. Isn't there a freaking war on somewhere?
So what if she dumped K-Fed via text message? Who hasn't dumped their loser wannabe rapper man-whore via text message? The news there is that Britney can work her cell phone.
Who am I kidding? She had an assistant do it. Even then, who hasn't had their assistant dump their loser wannabe rapper man-whore via text message?

U R l4M3. G3+ 0u+. k33p teh tr@1l3r, L053r.

Alright. /confession

Now that I've typed all that out, I have to wonder if putting that many Google hot words in a post will increase my page hits.
One can only hope.

Yesterday I found out what happens when a person drops a Dell USB keyboard onto a tile floor from about nipple high. I'm always learning.
Apparently, the impact doesn't break the connection. The keyboard, if still plugged in, will continue to send data to the server. At least the Num Lock key still lights the LED.
You just have to really know your keyboard layout because the keys fly off in all kinds of awesome directions. The space bar bounced off my left shin and I think I was hit in the junk with the "Windows" key, which is almost poetic. At least I thought it was as I tried to look cool curling up into the fetal position and pretending to gather the full set of Alt and Ctrl keys that had skittered under the server rack. Come to think of it, server rack was never more aptly defined.
I'm going to steal a new keyboard today. I'll give the old one back to the Help Desk with a ziplock bag of loose keys and a Post-It note reading "Keyboard Broken - Problem Unknown".
I'll keep that "Windows" key, though. We have a history.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Whoa! Consumerism hangover!
I've been through denial: "There isn't anything worth buying."
And anger: "Sold out! You only had ten? What the hell is wrong with you?"
Followed by the bargaining stage: "I'll never open my wallet while surfing a hot online sale again! I swear!"
Lapsing into depression: "This stuff is going to show up and I'm not even sure where to put it. Next week, it will all be hopelessly outdated."
I'm still waiting for acceptance, which I imagine will be something along the lines of: "I spent too much. Fine. I'll do it again next year after living with out of date stuff for fifty one weeks. It is the circle of life."
We did attend a parade in downtown Houston on Thursday morning. Simple math breaks down like this: Crowds + Clowns + Kicking over empty beer bottles on the street + Parking downtown in the maze of one-way streets = Not Airwolf. But the floats and balloons were neat.
I did not understand the Latino gang group of participants with their Scarface outfits and bouncing hydraulically modified low riders, but on reflection they may have just merged in ahead of Santa. I know I would have. Who likes driving behind old people?
The NaNoWriMo book is complete. It will need a book two before it is publishable, but I'm already working through the ideas for that one. I may edit book one during December, or concentrate on holiday stuff until the first of the year.
At work I'm still in the flaming middle of a disaster recovery build out. I'm hoping to have my current task list trimmed down to a manageable level by the end of the week so that I can start next month with room to breathe.
Or not. I work well under pressure. I sleep well under cats.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Happy Black Friday! Holy Crap!

Ok. My alarm went off at 4am and I paid attention to it like an idiot.
I stumbled out the door at 4:10, Destination: CompUSA, America's Technology Super Store!
CompUSA was scheduled to open at 5am, with some deals I don't remember up for grabs to whoever can elbow the most people out of the way.
At 4:30 - long before the sun graced the parking lot - the line stretched over a hundred people down the sidewalk and out towards the side street.
I had no coffee. None. And the light at Starbucks was not shining with its normally comforting glow.
I looked around at the other stupid people in line with me. Were the deals really that good?
They seemed so on Thursday night, but I couldn't remember them at all standing in line behind the Hindu woman and in front of the guy with the baby wrapped in a towel on his shoulder in the cold, dark parking lot.
Someone important came down the line. I could tell he was important by the CompUSA name tag and the hint of a goatee.
He asked me, as he'd asked everyone else, if I was there for the 32" HDTV. I'm not kidding, I made him ask me three times before I processed the question and answered with an "I don't remember".
He told me they didn't have any.
I asked him why he'd offered if they didn't have any.
He told me he hadn't offered and was in a hurry because the store was about to open. Then he pressed a rain check into my hand and continued down the line, lowering his voice to not wake the towel baby.
I left the line, staring lasers at the Starbucks that had so cruelly abandoned me.
I decided to hit Office Depot, where a digital camera/photo printer bundle would be placed on the loss leader altar at 6am, possibly with a goat.
Again, the line stretched around the block at store opening -55 minutes. There were people at the front of the line who seemed to have slept there - blanket and everything.
I made an attempt to pay more attention to the people around me in this line. Some were very chipper for being in a line in the dark at 5:05am. I think they were coked up. Or maybe they found a 24 hour Starbucks.
The guy in front of me wasn't sure if he was in the line for Office Depot or Conn's and asked to see a sale ad. Then he asked random people if certain bits were good deals.
The sight of someone more confused and ready to fling money wildly both encouraged me and saddened me. In the end, I drove away from that parking lot at store opening -30 minutes and didn't look back.
I crawled back into bed before the sun came up, but that didn't stick either.
Within half an hour, I was all over the internet, cross referencing specials versus product reviews adding and deleting crap from my shopping cart and plotting a trip to . . . the mall.
At the mall, I gazed lovingly at the Nintendo Wii and asked the people at EB Games to cough up a Playstation 3 from the back for me. They hate me now.
We stood for a long time under a net waiting for a balloon drop where we scored a t-shirt and a $10 gift card to Banana Republic. While we had all been mostly crushed, we also agreed it was worth it.
We had horrible seafood for lunch and then visited Target and Best Buy. Both were sold out of most of the awesome stuff.
We no longer cared.
I placed a final order online when we got home and passed out, drooling into my keyboard.
I've done my bit for the economy. It will have to take care of itself until next year.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

American readers of Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng know that we have a tradition in this country.
Every year, we spend at least 364 days as completely ungrateful asses, making snarky comments about everything, hating everyone we come into contact with, and slowly poisoning our fellow man with sarcasm and bitterness. Or maybe that is just me.
Either way, we have a day specifically to put aside most of that and think about things that make us happy. What are we thankful for?
Some people respond with "family". Okay. I can see that. I suppose it really depends on the family, person to person. I can imagine that some people are thankful that family lives far away.
Others would answer with some intangible like "Freedom" or "Justice". They may list a reason, but I've generally dozed off from the turkey by that point. Or tuned out with the theme to Airwolf running through my head. Again.
There are joke responses to the question like "I'm thankful I'm not at work right now" and "I'm thankful there is still another slice of pumpkin pie because I haven't yet actually split open". I'm not thankful for these attempts at humor.
I like to carefully consider the things I'm thankful for right now, today. You know, because yesterday and tomorrow are both gratitude-free zones on my calendar that stretch to meet each other on the other side of the year.
Right now . . . I'm thankful that PC sales are predicted to completely tank at the end of the year thanks to Microsoft botching the release of Vista for the holidays prompting everyone to hold off on new computer purchases until they can get Vista pre-installed. Fear-driven PC discounts are completely Airwolf, especially with my own machine freezing up and making weird, unnatural non-PC noises right now.
I'm thankful that AMD and Intel have both purchased a graphics chip company in the last couple of months, further depressing the costs.
At the moment, I'm thankful that Black Friday is shaping up to be a sleep-in and log-on event tomorrow as opposed to the traditional wake-up-at-4am-and-hustle-through-the-crowd-in-the-cold-and-dark kind of thing.
Finally, I'm thankful for my black wool British commando sweater with the action patches on the shoulders and chest. Even the people around me in their cargo shorts and flip-flops seem to suspect that I could kill them a dozen ways with a deck of playing cards. They would be right about that playing card thing. I'll detail the methods in a future post.

Oh, and thanks for reading. Seriously.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Casual jeans Wednesday! Totally Airwolf!
I'm hoping to finish "Experiment: NaNoWriMo" over the weekend so I can convert the file to a PDF and ceremonially delete it like one of those Buddhist sand drawings. Attachment is bad.
Then I'll figure out what to do with my back up copy.
I've been combing through the ads for Black Friday. That is probably our second favorite holiday, still far behind Halloween.
Some of the ads were "leaked" weeks ago online and some are just being published. I plan to pick up a paper tomorrow to find out if there is, in reality, anything worth waking up at 4am on a Friday when I don't have to go to work.
I could stand in line at Best Buy or Staples or Fry's for nerd gear. Toy's R Us looks completely l4m3 this time around but we've done well there before.
I'll avoid the mall like it is on fire until February. Well, unless there is a zombie attack. In that case, a mall decorated for the holidays would be an awesome place to make a final stand. Of course, a zombie infestation means fewer people, so the mall could work out on a couple of levels.
And I could find out what that "chicken" stuff really is at the "cajun" place in the food court. I suspect lemur.
I wandered into a few electronics stores last weekend with my credit card out to calmly ask for a Playstation 3. It is good to make people laugh.
If they had actually had one in stock I'd have sold that thing on Ebay through my Blackberry before I even finished loading it into the car.
Confession time: I'm a geek.
As a result, even though I haven't yet finished playing with my Playstation 2 (Go, Team Coke Rewards Points My Kidneys Hate Me!) I've been examining the pros and cons for the XBox 360, the Playstation 3 and the Nintendo Wii.
In the category "most fun to say", we have a clear wiinner.
The XBox 360 is completely WiFi and internet enabled and connected to the corporation that, indirectly, pays my mortgage. There are a lot of games out already and some feature killing other players with rocket launchers. I hate the idea of loading a virtual wallet with real money to pay to unlock game features in a game I've already purchased, but that is a growing trend.
The graphics are, as in all three consoles, completely Airwolf.
The Nintendo Wii has a neat controller, but I'm afraid if it strays too far from the joystick on my old Atari 2600 I'll freak out. My thumb muscles would rebel. I don't want an ergonomic experience. I want to pause the game and walk downstairs for a Coke Zero and have my thumbs throb angrily. I want my fingers too numb to pop open the can so I have to take it to Shana and hold it out pathetically so she can roll her eyes, open the can, hand it to me and get back to plotting her escape.
The Playstation 3 has had the worst launch ever. They sold out everywhere too fast and have cut their expected delivery numbers in half for the rest of the year. While the system is quite awesome, it is $600.
No way would I pay $600 for a game console. Now, if I needed to drink, say, 8,500 points worth of Diet Coke . . .
Already the "Next Gen Game Console War of 2006" has a clear winner. I can announce it with total certainty based on launch numbers for the first week of PS3 and Wii sales.
The winner is . . . IBM.
IBM makes the processors for all three consoles so whichever system a person buys, even if they buy all three, IBM gets paid.
I'll be quietly 3d accelerating myself through a paperback probably. It's all about working the thumbs.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

As you probably know, Sunday Peter Jackson announced that he would not be directing The Hobbit from MGM/New Line.
Of course, nerds everywhere have completely (and justifiably) freaked right out.
Can The Hobbit even exist without Peter Jackson? Would I go see it with some hack directing?
Probably. But I could maybe resist until the DVD comes out since I read the book about twenty times. And we own the cartoon version.
Sunday night Shana and I watched Peter Jackson's best work, Brain Dead (Dead Alive).
Admit it. It has been too long since you viewed this gem from the early nineties.
While some of the dialog is a bit goofy, I blame that on the all Australian cast. The special effects are . . . not Lord of the Rings quality perhaps, but there are some similarities. For instance:

Sumatran Rat Monkey
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Gollum
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Also, I think Faramir could have completely cleaned up against all those orcs if he had carried a lawnmower.
Zombie metabolism is a bit weird in Jackson's vision. I would assume that, being dead, zombies would have an extremely slow metabolic rate. I think that's why the zombie baby is so surprising.
However, no matter how much they eat, I suppose there is always room for brains. I think more studies need to be done into the science of zombie digestion and reproduction. Just not by me.
I've got a soft spot for zombies, but as long as I avoid spicy food and kick boxing it doesn't give me too much trouble.

Monday, November 20, 2006

A wrote a little over the weekend and edited a little more. I know that editing is for December, but there were some things that needed to be fixed for the sake of continuity that held up my progress/word count.
I was not at work on Friday because I got to attend an event at Gwynyth's school. We brought her lunch, because that was what the cool kids were doing, and arrived about twenty minutes before her lunch period.
Jack-in-the-Box should never, ever, be eaten cold. It could also be said more directly that Jack-in-the-Box should never be eaten, but there is a little something I like to call the Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich which skews everything in favor of about a billion grams of trans fat wedged into a grease-soaked croissant. That is truth in advertising.
I imagine that for a heart patient, that food item could very well be the "ultimate" breakfast sandwich.
It could also cause enough nausea that one would never desire a breakfast sandwich again, which is what happened to me about six years ago.
Sausage, bacon, ham, processed American cheese and scrambled eggs between two pieces of bread so soaked with oil they turned gelatinous and almost transparent forever scared me away from any breakfast fast food offering.
But anyway.
We checked Gwynyth out of school early (since that was another thing the cool kids were doing) and went to look at a house. The looming threat of rezoning into a crappy school has us considering an emergency move within the greater Houston area even though we had promised ourselves we would need to leave the state before we'd pack up our stuff and move it again.
The house we went to see was beautiful, but had sat empty for too long, by my math almost three years minimum, and had started to decay in neighbor vexing ways.
The wood around the roof had rotted leaving gaping holes which were probably crammed full of bats, the front door glass had broken and been Krazy Glued back together and there was a football-sized chunk of concrete in the side yard from where the foundation had cracked in a nasty way.
Also, I doubt it was haunted in any kind of cool way.
If I'm going to upsize our mortgage, I want a ghost. The coolness factor alone would be worth it, plus I could sell our story to the Sci-fi Network or the Discovery Channel every October.
And a pool would be nice. Maybe a haunted pool.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Must . . . finish . . . novel.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Green Warrior Needs Coffee Badly!
Green Warrior Needs Coffee Badly!
Last night the server room hit a balmy 95 degrees. The processors of today completely hate that and occasionally decide to power down the servers where they reside.
That is less than optimal, so I may spend part of Saturday up here moving a couple of server racks and re-routing cables. I hate both of those things. I particularly hate those things on a Saturday morning, but I.T. people keep Shoemaker's Elves style hours, so I'm used to it.
Last night I took a break from NaNoWriMo to read a few electronic comics and play around with some new software. I think I needed the break, since I got to a point in the book where a character asked a question and I couldn't think of an answer for it. Of course, some books involve unanswerable questions of philosophy like "Why are we here?" or "What does it all mean?" or the impossible to answer "If a treant falls in an MMORPG and you have your sound card disabled, does it make a sound?" but this is far from one of those brainy thinking-style books -- and the question was "What do we do now?"
Yay, break!
I spent a little time thinking about exactly why I'm writing this thing. First, what is the point? Nothing quantifiable I can think of besides trying something new and "winning" NaNoWriMo, which is awesome. But why this book, this story, and why now?
I'm still working on that. I've got some ideas, but they need refinement.
What I do know, is that the X-Men graphic novel God Loves, Man Kills is about as close to comic book art as the world has ever known, in addition to being the basis for the movie X2. As part of my Wednesday night NaNoWriMo break I read it again after literally decades passed since my last reading and it still holds up. Also, Nightcrawler is awesome. I know that, too.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Last night I broke 40,000 words towards my NaNoWriMo 2006 goal.
When I say "broke" I mean beat, misused, bent, wedged, abused and emotionally shattered 40,000 of those little guys. Since it is "speculative fiction", and based on a future USA, I took our proud tradition of hybridizing words by slapping stuff together and accelerated it a few centuries to combine things that shouldn't be combined and redefine other things that should mean something into techno-babble that probably does not.
My plot line turned against me. I had no choice. Southerners use a lot of off-the-record, unofficial contractions. I have to make up those lost words somehow.
At work I've been regressing a bit and have mostly closed in the entrance to my cubicle with a shoddily-constructed fort made out of stacked Dell server boxes.
Fire hazard? Maybe. Hella fun? Oh, yeah.
Unfortunately, this has resulted in a lot of thrown paper balls and airplanes. I know from experience that it is only a matter of time before an arms race develops with people throwing larger and progressively more pointy things until someone loses an eye.
This is why I.T. people should wear safety goggles. Well, that and the "cool factor" safety goggles add.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

37,906 words so far in Project: NaNoWriMo.
And the plot thickens, my friends, just not for the novel.
No, the novel's plot is watery and lukewarm, steadfastly refusing to gel into anything meaningful or indeed interesting.
The plot thickens at work.
I'll add information for anyone local, but it doesn't really matter.
Ok. My building is a 33 story job at the corner of Highway 59 and Buffalo Speedway. It is a shiny mirrored building that takes up twice as much real estate at ground level than the office floor plans actually use.
The highway facing side contains offices straight up from the 9th floor to the 33rd, but the side away from the highway, and everything below the ninth floor, is parking garage. This parking garage is one of those comprised of alternating slants which give each level two entrances and exits and always manage confuse my delicate sense of direction to fling me out at the ground level on a street that surprises me.
On the 9th floor is an overpriced deli with pretty good food that overlooks the roof of the parking garage.
But wait.
On the roof of the parking garage is a garden. A few years ago I worked at the building next door on the 11th floor and I used to sneak over to a window to look out at this garden.
I'd see the people contentedly strolling through the flowering bushes and walking through the grass, shoes tossed over one shoulder.
At the end of last week they announced a change to the garden area.
They have added a putting green.
I walked out there yesterday, expecting a long line of club-wielding executive types queued up for one dinky hole, but there are about eight different greens and no waiting.
Immediately, I wanted to "accidentally" confuse "putting green" with "driving range" because from the ninth floor over two major roads -- that's just comedy gold, my friends.
Anyway, the hot golf action is free, lending more credence to my belief that somewhere in the building there is a furnace I'll where I'll eventually be asked to work a shift or two.
I'm still building server magic and will be for a while.
Tonight, I plan to write like the wind. But less substantially.

Monday, November 13, 2006

I'm 35,669 words so far into NaNoWriMo 2006.
True to the formula, my plot took an odd and accidental turn in week two.
We took a break from frenzied typing to see Disney's Monsters Inc. On Ice last night.
In a completely unrelated incident, I decided late last night to make faster than light travel possible in my novel through harnessing the power of screaming children. No idea why I thought of it. I also added an alien race of one-eyed green spherical aliens. And they skate. Seems appropriate for some reason.
In another plot development, in the future cotton candy costs $10 and strange cultists wander around trying to sell programs for $15. Creepy!
Plans for today include cramming some operating systems on some new servers and building an exact replica of our current production environment. The end result?
Double the support incidents with no user advantage.
At least until we ship the whole mess to Phoenix. Or Philadelphia. Some place that starts with a Ph-.
Phuket, maybe?
I fell asleep in the meeting. Novelling makes me sleepy.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Friday, November 10, 2006

29,558 words, but I was trapped at work until after 10pm last night waiting for most of the time.
Take that, Maryland!
As a consequence of my getting home after 11 (there was an emergency, kind of, too geeky to get into) and still getting up at 5:30am to be back to work for the debriefing meeting, I doubt my ability to even hit 30,000 today.
I'll give it a shot anyway and here is why:
Late last night I started finding really weird typos in the stuff I'd just written. Transposed letters, random words from the conversation around me, parts of a to-do list for this weekend . . . All seamlessly integrated into the plot!
Of course, I haven't read it this morning. It is entirely possible I've destroyed everything of value and will need to restore my novel from before my exhaustion enhanced writing frenzy.
Lucky for me the thing is backed up about six different places in different versions and formats.
Must . . . Protect . . . Data.
Plans for today include a bunch of meetings and (hopefully) leaving early.
Something insane and amusing happened yesterday. I remember laughing about it and deciding that I would relate the tale in this post today.
I no longer remember the incident. If it comes back after coffee, I'll probably post again. It was awesome, I remember that much.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

25,000 and something words. Depends on who counts it, but everyone agrees that it is over 25,000.
I have a more important announcement, though. Whoever chose "2 Months" in the pool for when I snap at my new job can go ahead and claim the prize. Congratulations.
I had chosen "2 Days," personally.
Yesterday I went into my boss's office and asked for the 17th off to attend an event at Gwynyth's school.
We've got a lot going on right now. In addition to normal breaking I.T. stuff, I've got this whole Citrix thing and a full Disaster Recovery implementation, which now has to take into account rabid bats. Additionally, my "Paperless Office" initiative is picking up steam.
Anyway, my boss said not only could I take the day, but that it was important that I take the day.
He called me around the desk and showed me pictures on his laptop of his son's birthday party from over the weekend. He pulled out an album and showed me pictures of all his kids and grandchildren.
He said, "Work will always be here. Go and enjoy your family. Your daughter is growing up every day."
And I snapped.
"Ok," I said, "Thank you." And I stood there.
And I told him about my last job, and how communication seemed to be a violation of some unwritten corporate policy and how time off, though earned, was resented and fear and doubt and misery were the primary motivators and asshats roamed the Earth in great, drooling herds.
Fortunately, we were interrupted by my boss's boss, who came in, said, "Good morning" to both of us and then leaned over the desk to peer at the screen of the laptop.
"Are those personal pictures on a company laptop?" he asked.
"Yes," my boss replied, as ever, sounding just like the cat from Shrek 2, "It is a go cart track, but they have bumper cars, too."
And then the I.T. Director talked about high-performance go-carts and how we should book the place for an I.T. Team Building exercise.
He asked what I thought and I told him I was probably too competitive for it to be much fun for anyone racing me and he said, "Me too!"
So, of course I returned with the obligatory, "You need to bring it, old man!"
Which was met with uncomfortable silence.
Before I left the room I asked where the baby furnace was. My boss neither confirmed nor denied the existence of the baby furnace.
So, again, congratulations to whoever chose "2 Months" in the pool. Buy yourself something pretty.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

"Big Roy's eyes were shot through with thick veins that looked for all the world like giant red snakes chasing after his tiny, rodent-like black pupils."

--Beaters, Chapter 20

A NaNoWriMo book
22,906 words in my increasingly frustrating NaNoWriMo novel so far, though the word count through NaNoWriMo, MS Word and Google Docs are all at least 100 words off from one another.
I'm about to have to call for a hand re-count. What, is Google Docs powered by Diebold?
Speaking of miscounts, I voted yesterday. Shana and Gwynyth waited for me to get home before we all stood in line in an elementary school.
"Does everyone have to vote?" Gwynyth asked us.
"No, but everyone should."
"Why do you vote?" she continued.
"Your mom and I like to complain about politics. A lot. And if we skip voting then we can't complain for a year."
I'm not sure that sold the concept to her, so I told her to crouch on the floor and continue her homework.
Mild political spoilers follow:
Yesterday was the first day I consciously and purposely flushed my ballot down the two party system. This was the first election since I turned 18 where I didn't vote for a single Republican.
To compensate, I didn't vote for any Democrats, either.
I scrolled right past anyone running un-opposed and voted independent everywhere I could.
Why do I have to vote for the lesser of two evils? A person should be able to vote for the good. Or, if they want, the greater of two evils.
Also, writing a name in on the automated polling machine was non-intuitive, so I either voted for the low-budget candidate or not at all.
At least I voted, so my right to complain is secure for another year.
What voting did not accomplish was progress on my novel. I didn't want to be that guy standing in the voting line typing away on my laptop and muttering curses.
I chose to be the guy standing in line, tapping his foot and muttering curses.
22,906 words, everybody. Can the story support the full 50,000? I don't know.
I've chosen to structure the story around Joseph Campbell's Monomyth, which is the theory that all great mythic tales share the same core elements.
Star Wars was written using the same template plus ripped off Samurai movies. And laser swords.
It always comes back around to laser swords.
All things do.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

20,049 words. I fear that I've hit the 2/5 mark for complete crap speculative fiction.
The parts I like best are the minor story lines and, as a result, I think my book may be pointed at the wrong main characters.
Of course, the self-doubt ninjas continue to pelt me with the razor-sharp throwing stars of second thought, so I have no idea whether I should shift gears and change the focus or continue plugging away in the direction I've been traveling for 20,000+ words.
In short, OMG.
I think I need to see it printed out, but in its rough state the guilt over dead trees would further disable my ability to press on through the end of the book.
To top it off, one of my favorite authors released a book last week, as he does at the end of every October. It is the end of a trilogy, with the previous book having ended in a cliffhanger. I don't have time for that! I've got another 30,000 words to write!

Yesterday I was in a meeting about Disaster Recovery. The meeting ended with a short film about the subject.
The narrator, cast to look the middle manager, said, "This is our crisis response team. Every week we get together to discuss what might happen and how we might address the issue."
Good, right? Makes sense, and his voice over the scene of five or six people sitting around a box of doughnuts was not distracting. However, when he stopped talking the people around the doughnuts started. They took turns like this:
"What happens if our data storage closet is flooded? Do we have back ups stored off-site?"
"What if a fire destroys corporate headquarters? How do we get our people to work?"
"What if an armed band of multinational terrorists compromises one of our manufacturing facilities and the stand off lasts for weeks? How do we get office supplies to our people on the inside?"
I know, that last one sounds like a joke. It is funny enough that if it were a joke I'd claim it. Unfortunately, they really said that.
After swallowing the blood pooling in my mouth from clamping my teeth down on my tongue, I started spewing my own list of calamities:
"What happens if a swarm of rabid bats infests the server room? And the only admins available to do reboots have long hair, which tangles the biting, flapping beasts?"
"Let's say another naked homeless guy runs through the lobby, but this time the sight causes the accounting group to take a sick day en masse? Who cuts our checks?"
"Ok. A herd of angry, sleep-deprived weasels dashes through the cube farm, biting and scratching our employees. Does a standard fire extinguisher deter them? How about if you use it as a primitive weasel-smashing device? Does whacking them with a USB keyboard kill them or just stun them?"
In other news, yesterday I got "promoted" to Disaster Recovery Lead.