Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Wednesday, my old adversary! We meet again!
I know how you work, coming back again and again, week after week. You think you can get in my head, don't you, Wednesday?
Well, I've got news for you. Even if you manage somehow to wear down my defenses the inside of my head is a dark and cold and lonely place. Enjoy your stay!

This morning (in the next few hours, actually) it will have been 48 hours since my last cup of coffee. Symptoms include slight twitchiness and an urge to choke people 15% greater than my normal urge to choke people.
Yesterday I worked on some assorted junk. If pressed, I could probably come up with product names or details. They'd be made up, but I could come up with them.
I also made the decision to no longer answer my desk phone. No one calls me there with good news, so I unplugged it and placed it under my desk.
I've also been leaving my cellphone in the car, having "lost" it as far as work is concerned.
I'm still a little upset about that. The phone number was peeled right of my resume and pasted into the official contact list for work without my being asked. They don't pay for my phone, they just call it. I'm not answering anymore. No sense wasting minutes. Someone else will just have to sober up and fix something.
And that, my friends, is how I go about apologizing if I miss calls from you while I'm at work. I'm not screening you, I'm screening them. Not that anyone called me yesterday. Or the day before. Damn. Now I need a drink.

My big MyCokeRewards.com project is chugging along. In the past few weeks, I've gathered 206 of the required 850 points. This averages out to over 100 ounces of Diet Coke per day. The big question is, "Will I get my Playstation2 before or after my kidneys shut down?"
Maybe we should start a pool. I want the square that has me playing "Ultimate Zombie Ninja Cyborg Pirate 2006" while on a dialysis machine. I'm in a hurry, since 850 is a lot of points and I have no idea when the promotion ends.
I was looking for an awesome thermometer graphic to chart my progress, but everything measures by time, not Coke Reward Points. Keeping on their schedule would have me peeing constantly.
Plans for the day include working on that project I found out about Friday that was due on Monday and generated a whole new batch of sales lies Tuesday about why it isn't done but they should still pay us for it.
I'm also going to drink a sick amount of Diet Coke.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Returning to work after a three-day weekend seems to naturally turn my thoughts to zombies for some reason. The eternal question (Which is more awesome, Pirates or Ninjas?) is largely a matter of debate, though if one of the choices is prefaced with "Zombie", the answer is clear.
Unfortunately, this leads to the inevitable follow-up question . . . Which is more awesome, Zombie Pirates or Zombie Ninjas? In that case, you are in for a lengthy debate and if you aren't up for it I suggest reposing the question with the word "Cyborg" in it somewhere, then running out of the comic book store as quickly as possible.
There seems to be a nearly limitless number of choices when it comes to zombies in gaming.
Someday, when confronted with the typical grown up after dinner board game, I'd love to unleash Zombies!!! The game starts when the players take turns drawing map tiles, which are placed on the table as they are randomly chosen so that the game is different each time.
Each player then chooses a different colored "guy with a chainsaw" figurine. The goal of the game is to get your chainsaw wielding little guy across the landscape to the heli-pad.
Awesome, right? It gets freaking better!
There are zombies who move about the board. If you kill a pre-determined number of them (simple opposed dice roll) then you win. If you lose a zombie combat, you go back to the beginning.
But Garrick, why is this a suitable dinner party game for adults?
I'm glad you asked!
Because rather than fighting the zombies, it is much more efficient to just spend a turn telling the zombies where the other players are to let them fight the zombies for you. In that way, 'Zombies!!!' is a lot like High School.
There are also expansion packs for the game including Zombies!!!2 Zombie Corps(e) with military base tiles, new rules for more powerful zombies and six "radioactive" glow-in-the-dark zombie pieces. I also like Zombies!!! 3 because it is set in a mall, as all the best zombie sagas tend to be.
Admittedly, these games would require a person to come out of the "Zombie Closet" and admit, among other adults, that zombies are awesome. Some people may have issues with that. If that is the case, you can always just find a nice quiet online game like Urban Dead. I've played a little. It runs on just about any computer with a web browser and I tested it on the mail server at work. I made it through 50 actions without getting eaten, but I used up my flare gun and dropped my medical kit. The game is totally free and browser based. My character is a 'Consumer' currently hiding in a warehouse. If you create a character and try it out, be sure to say "hello" to SoccerGrrrl1991, and please share the medkit.
In addition to learning vital survival information, there is enormous potential for personal development and education in zombie games. As usual, Americans are behind the rest of the world. I found a Japanese-only PlayStation 2 game that teaches typing through anti-zombie combat. Your character can destroy the zombies shambling around aggressively by typing the words they display. The slower you type, the closer they get. Eventually, if you don't type fast enough, they catch you. I'm not sure what zombies you can destroy by typing would do with a person they captured, but smart money says it isn't pleasant. As a possibly interesting side note, the zombie typing game is a sequel. Some other zombie typing game made enough money to justify making a part two. Or maybe there were just too many unanswered questions.
The tried and true Dungeons and Dragons Role-Playing Game includes all kinds of zombies for use in a zombie-centric game series. In addition to the normal shambling undead, there are 'good' zombies powered by positive energy, plant zombies which are vegetarian, characters who can create and control zombies and and a zombie 'template' which can be applied to almost any creature (as in the pirate and ninja example above) for added awesomeness.
The zombie template is pretty fun. Zombie dragons, zombie manticores, zombie unicorns and zombie pixies are all creepy and awesome in their own way, but all are united in their love of yummy tasty brains.
So maybe this is all too much. I'll admit that zombie games are not for everyone. Everyone does need some kind of zombie experience, though.
David Wellington writes some pretty awesome horror stuff. More importantly, he releases most of it in serialized 'blog format. Having never read a zombie novel, I can say I'm really enjoying Monster Island. The novel is set after an epidemic wipes out most people and causes zombieism (blah blah blah) but then it quickly breaks out of the mold. The audience is introduced to a medical student who became a zombie but saved his brain function in the process, a UN weapons inspector and a group of Somali schoolgirl soldiers. Wellington has the decency to let the reader grow attached to the characters before they get eaten.
Monster Island is part of a trilogy. An awesome, twisted trilogy.
He has another book, Thirteen Bullets, which is a vampire novel. To keep this on topic, there are "half dead" creatures which are kind of like zombies only less brain hungry.
To close out this sick and evil post, I have to share some other news. I've been called to jury duty for the first time ever. In filling out the paperwork, I noticed the date I'm to appear is 6-6-6. The jury duty of the beast, my friends. It's almost like they know me.

Monday, May 29, 2006

I'm not at work at all today. Of course, almost everyone else can say the same thing.
I'm going to light things on fire in the back yard again, partially to celebrate the holiday and partially because fire is awesome.
It takes three bags of charcoal (plus wine-soaked wood chips) to fully fire up the new grill. There is nothing less awesome than a grill not fully fired up.
Lately I've been reading quite a bit and thinking about upcoming role-playing games.
Eventually the saga of Eric "Windstalker" Moore (Hi, Pam and Andrew!) the underwear model werewolf will come to an end (or more likely a pause, which is the way we transition between games) and we have to play (or at least half-assed try to play) something else for a while.
I'm really enjoying the new RPG based on Joss Whedon's Firefly series. It seems like a really well crafted games system with a lot of room for story telling.
At the same time, less than a full season of TV and a movie (plus a couple of comic books) doesn't really give us a bunch to build a campaign from.
With Darrell's current game, we have known geography (the local area) and an established mythology (the World of Darkness campaign setting, or at the very least all of werewolf myth) so deciding on a course of action for our characters is a lot easier.
In the Serenity 'verse, how far can you go on a tank of fuel? How big does a settlement need to be before you can get parts for your busted McGuffin device? Does this gun hold six rounds or sixty?
Even the Star Wars RPG draws on a rich well-known set of "rules" for how things work. Sure, it helps if you've seen all six movies, the TV specials and all the varied cartoon series multiple times. It helps more if you've read every published book and comic book and spent countless hours researching the setting online and participating in lively online debates about it. By the way, Han Shot First.
I found a pretty cool (or at least interesting) campaign setting put out exclusively on a message forum. It's called "Vegas After Midnight" and it is the oddest post-apocalyptic setting I've seen since Gamma World split off into all that crap with the spell-casting.
Basically, Vegas is isolated during some kind of world-ending event (nuclear war, nasty virus, invasion from space) and years later the survivors are split into factions based off the various casino themes. There are Roman wannabes at Caesar's Palace, Circus Circus freaks, Arthurian posers in the Excalibur, Mercenaries crashing at the Hard Rock Cafe and Skinheads for some reason in the El Cortez. There is even a freaky religious group called the Presleyans.
All in all, it is a very well-developed setting.
This setting is being released for some open-sourced rules which are being beta tested by the forum users, but I think it could be run with regular D20 Modern rules.
I've also been collecting the Coke Reward Codes from the caps of 20oz Coca-cola products and 12 pack cases in the hopes of eventually acquiring my first video game console since the Atari 2600. If you aren't using yours . . . I have a long, long way to go.
I'm going to start the burnination now.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Today the whole family went to a delightful film. We rarely attend movies in the theatre, but felt compelled to see a well-recommended film which premiered at the Plzen Film Festival earlier this year.
The story follows the adventures of a little girl named Pavka (played by precocious newcomer Marla Yojáková) who has quite an adventure after her uncle (portrayed with his usual flair for the understated by Swedish film staple Hans Alfredson) misplaces his apple cart after a visually disturbing late night drunken run in with a pair of meth-addicted prostitutes.
In tracking down the cart, little Pavka meets the most amazing and delightful characters in and around the beautiful scenery film-makers return to again and again, the ecologically protected Zdar Hills.
First, she meets Pablo the Spanish runaway (played by none other than Madrid's new darling celebrity Agapito Balduino who is unfortunately starting to look his age) who agrees to help her find the cart in exchange for her used socks. That's an odd request, but I guess it leaves room for a sequel.
Pavka then meets the Gypsy Queen Madame Corinna (played by Abegal Movoskava, who obviously needs the money) and her band of hooligans, kept off the streets by putting on shows of contortionism.
Finally, what I can only assume is an angel or fairy or something returns her Uncle's cart. The angel is uncredited and for some reason appears in backless pants.
Throughout Pavka's journey, there are cinematic statements that I found refreshing, if a tad overdone. The Director (Polish genius
Andrzej Wajda) loves shots of insects so there are random scenes where the dialog (of course, subtitled) is in the background while he chooses to focus on a spider eating some kind of worm. The random shots of raw meat hanging out of bird baths is a tad pedestrian. Time to find a new hook, Andrzej.
The title of the film is Smultronstället, which is translated (roughly) to Dude! Where is My Cart?

Last night I can only assume my subconscious was trying to scare me.
I normally don't remember dreams, but last night I dreamed about participating in a public debate. Knowing that public speaking easily beats out death as the #1 fear people have (just not personally I phobia I have) I'm a little offended that my subconscious would try that and not, say . . . spiders? A dream where I'm covered in spiders would be much freakier for me. I thought the subconscious was supposed to know everything about what gets to me and on some level even why it gets to me.
My subconscious totally phoned in a canned nightmare.
C'mon, subconscious! You can do better than that, little fella!
Remember when I was little and you used to give me nightmares that were really scary?
Did you know (of course you do) that one of those still makes me shudder even as an "adult" when I see a certain fast food character?
You've got potential, subconscious. You used to be much, much more frightening.
Here's the plan:

I'm going to Netflix some scary movies, you know, to kind of kick start your creative process. Then, I'll have a bunch of sugar-free candy just before bed to make it a little easier for you.

This is a one-time offer, subconscious. If you miss your shot I'll have to seriously consider replacing you with a magic eight ball.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Friday! Friday! Friday! I'd mention the 'casual jeans' part but I haven't bothered dressing for work in months.
This is the post where I swing the content-sensing ads at the top of the page (which use awesome Google technology) back around to coffee, hopefully. When they start displaying anti-depressant links, I know I've gone too far.
This morning I stopped at my 24-hour Starbucks to get the Breakfast Blend I've been using as a breakfast substitute all week.
As I've mentioned, the 24-hour Starbucks is different from your average free-standing Starbucks, and miles away from a Starbucks in a mall, grocery store or Target. Architecturally, its freaking round. The drive through snakes around the building in an actual curve because there are no corners. It hugs the covered patio area and exits into a parking lot instead of the busy street. Not that any street is bust at 5:45am.
I've talked a bit about the crowd that wanders in. They have the expected "drinking coffee to sober up even though no one still thinks that works" bunch, some students using the wireless internet and nursing a cup of coffee for hours (I did the same thing in college, but without the illusion of study materials), people on their way to (or maybe from) work (a minority), some probable vampires and a random element which changes day to day.
This is also the most adequately staffed Starbucks I've ever been in.
They just added a Starbucks in Lake Charles, Louisiana and I've been there a few times. As is the standard, there are always three people working at that Starbucks. One takes the orders for Vanilla Bean Frappachinos and the other two divide the Vanilla Bean Frappachinos by size and distribute them. I'm pretty sure Vanilla Bean Frappachinos are all that Starbucks makes because I ordered a regular coffee on my last visit and I think the cashier hit the silent alarm.
The 24-hour Starbucks has three people just working the drive through. There is a swarm of activity behind the counter and someone is always polishing the pastry display to an almost wet-looking shine. The 24-hour Starbucks also has one of the "Black Apron" employees. Recently, "Black Apron" was used as a name for their designer coffee blends which sold, unbrewed only, for premium prices. The "Black Apron" employees themselves go through rigorous training to attain special knowledge of coffees from around the world. Everything from optimal brewing temperature by coffee region to taste mapping varied blends to compliment specific foods, these employees are the rock stars of their industry. And the guy is generally there when I'm there before 6am. Of course, with access to that much coffee I'd never sleep either.
Watching the employees interact with the "Black Apron" employee is interesting. He is not, from what I've seen, a manager, but everyone defers to him about everything because he is just the "guy who knows". As a side note, I hope to be the "guy who knows" at my next job.
In a sense, it is a lot like all the junior stylists consulting with the guy with long hair and attitude who works in the same salon.
This morning I asked for a Breakfast Blend (more caffeine) and actually heard the lumpy pour.
So did the "Black Apron" employee. But he heard it from the office area in the back.
Before the regular green apron employee could even turn around, the "Black Apron" guy was at the counter, looking horrified. "It seems the Breakfast Blend has grounds in it, sir."
Um, ok.
In order to prevent what I assumed was bound to end in ritual suicide, I responded, "That's fine. The grounds are where you hide the heroin, right?"
In case you run across one, you can't joke with the "Black Apron".
"Can we offer you a Verona instead? It has a slightly acidic yet smoky flavor and I set this pot to brew myself. It is a personal favorite of mine."
How can I turn that down?
"That sounds good. Thank you." I smiled.
"Yes, the Breakfast Blend would be gritty and unpleasant with grounds in it," for some reason he continued the sale, "You'll be much happier with the Verona."
"Thanks." My face started to hurt from my uncomfortable pre-coffee smile.
And so, I saved someone's life this morning by accepting the Verona. That "Black Apron" guy would have totally gone on a spree.
On my way out, clutching my acidic and smoky coffee, I spotted the random element for the day: Two white guys wearing business suits were sitting in the patio area. Both had dreadlocks down to their waists. Those guys would drink coffee with grounds in it.

edit: During the spell check for this post I learned that the closest thing in the spell check dictionary to "Frappachino" is "Propaganda". Insert your own random conspiracy theory here:

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Today's entry is brought to you by Starbucks Breakfast Blend, Venti size.
Yesterday I was elected to spend the day with the guy from the consulting firm Microsoft sent over to examine our licenses.
Unfortunately for everyone that didn't want to be involved in the process, I was completely honest with the guy about every single piece of software we use. Even stuff that Microsoft doesn't own. If they'd wanted someone to take one for the team or lie to protect the company, I'm sure they would have selected someone else.
I told my boss (and as a matter of fact the Microsoft licensing guy) that I have no intention of going to prison for these people. In fact, after the consultant left I emailed him my resume attached to 15 more missing Office 2003 Professional licenses I uncovered. No sense holding back, right? And those are only $400 each so my resume submission only cost the company $6k.
Today promises to be another fun-filled day of sifting through message forums from two years ago for solutions that were solved by software updates we haven't been approved to purchase.
Of course, I've already flung myself all over the job boards almost at random.

Oh, I almost forgot! Yesterday I got my very first (blog-related) anonymous death threat! How cool is that!?!?! I'm hoping for a legitimate stalker by the end of the year, but for now I'll just institute a policy of not offering "prettygeekything.com" email addresses to anyone who threatens to do that. You know who you are. Get your own domain, anonymous.

To close, I'll swing this back around to geeky by offering this link to Space Colony Artwork from the 70s - provided by NASA!
I'll spoil it a bit by letting you know that there isn't a single lightsaber in the entire set.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Yesterday I spent about eight hours combing the HP message forums looking for scripted solutions to problems that should just be fixed by clicking something a second time or even just creating a policy. If we don't want the help desk people to click the "acknowledge" button then is time better spent training them to use other mechanisms or developing a complicated application modification to hide that button, which (in my opinion) does nothing but encourage the user to find new ways to slack?
Since I started in this role, it seems my function has been to automate several routine maintenance tasks. I'm no Luddite technology hater, but I'd rather spend five minutes a week deleting temporary files from a server than spend forty hours developing a script that compares file modified date, greps for content duplication, and then off-loads and deletes temporary files once per week. Do we need an automated script for something that can be determined with a mouse-over?
Is the net gain more time to drink at lunch and something cool to post on internet forums?
The best part for me was writing the text for the confirmation email it sends:

"Dear Lazy People,
Since I'm obviously the only one who does anything around here, I have completed the file deletion for you. Not like you had anything better to do.
If there is anything else I can do to make your lives easier, please write it into my code.

Asleep again,

The Script"


In the event of an error, it emails:

"Oh, crap.
Something screwed up but I'm not paid enough to care. You might want to look at it.


Whatever,

The Script"

I'm a little sad at what little it takes to amuse me these days. Sad, and a little bit giggly.

Plans for today include more message forum hunting for "time saving" solutions to imaginary problems and trying (desperately) to either contract some illness or find something pressing enough for me to skip the operations meeting on Friday. That's right. I'm dreading meetings 48+ hours in advance, now.
You know what would be an awesome scripted solution? A program that (at system log on) accesses Monster.com, logs in using stored credentials, edits my resume by moving the last word of the title to the front and then logs back out of the site. I'm pretty tired of doing that myself 4+ times a week for the same crappy, not-enough-money job offers.
Right now I'm fending off depression with a venti Breakfast Blend. It may not sound like much, but I'll use whatever I've got at this point.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

So Monday I totally skipped work. I just decided to not go. OMG!
On the plus side, we built a fire pit in the back yard and saw a movie while Gwynyth was in school. We also had lunch, but (as it was quite certainly the worst Chinese food I've ever had) I won't go into detail on that.
Later in the afternoon, we burned the remains of a wisteria tree that I've had to drag out of the way every time I mow for so long it actually bothered me. Fire pit = w00+.
I'm looking forward to burning things ritualistically during our next game night.
So, before this becomes two posts in a row dedicated to lighting things on fire in the back yard (how rural is that?), I'm going to avoid talking about work by typing out the plot of the last (and technically on-going but on hiatus) Dungeons and Dragons campaign in which we were involved.
A few years ago, the people that own Dungeons and Dragons (we'll call them "Hasbro") announced a contest to design their next campaign setting.
The lucky winner would get a job and some cash and, most importantly, his setting would be published.
I never got around to submitting mine (80's glam-rock superstars are transported back in time to fight dinosaurs) so Keith Baker won with Eberron.
Eberron is quite a departure from your standard sword and sorcery setting. There are new races and classes (professions) and magic is seen as taking the place of technology. It enhances communication, transportation and manufacturing. And you can still fireball bad guys. Or good guys. Whatever you are into, I guess.
Someone comment if I screw this up:
The story line takes place just after the end of The Last War, a conflict that involved everyone and lasted over a hundred years. The war also mysteriously resulted in the complete destruction of an entire country. Fear of a repeat of that unsolved magical disaster ended the war, though there is still a good bit of animosity out there.
During the last part of the war, there was a small military company fighting for independence for a small, backwater territory. A druid (strangely from a wealthy merchant family), his Warforged (living construct) bodyguard, a Shifter (kind of were-creaturish, feral race) ranger and the company's "procurer," a Changling (shape-changing near human) rogue managed to stay together after the conflict and accepted an assignment from the druid's family to resolve undisclosed issues in a large trading town near the border.
So, the party arrived in a town built around a lake inside the rim of an extinct volcano. This was particularly fun due to an incident when other characters (same players) stored a lot of loot inside a cave in a volcano which later erupted.
Anyway, the trouble in Cauldron was related to disappearances of locals, most recently of a young boy stolen from an orphanage. This is where the Changling emerged as the natural negotiator of the group and the Warforged fighter first solidly demonstrated his gift for turning big things into a lot of little things.
The characters tracked the kidnappers to an ancient gnomish complex located under the city. Rather than pick their way though the countless traps and twisting halls, our heroes opted to get themselves captured in order to be taken directly to the source of the issue - a vicious half-troll slaver whom they dispatched, freeing the boy who was then whisked away to safety by a giant floating eyeball creature.
After that adventure, they were instant heroes - enjoying high-society, meeting with the Lord Mayor and getting a 5% discount on their rented rooms. They were not, however, celebrated local heroes.
They were hired to return some stolen wands, which they tracked to a conflict with a psychotic were-baboon and then back to some smuggler's caves carved from ancient lava tubes. In the course of returning the wands they discovered a lost city buried in the mountain and briefly, peripherally, explored it. At this point, the Shifter ranger began his career as a stunt archer, calling shots and felling bad guys like George Michael through rabid bulwarks.
The wands were used to save the city, and they began to come into direct competition with a local band of adventurers.
They were contracted to return a long-lost dwarf to his brother, which they managed quite handily. The dwarf was found, nearly incoherent, ranting prophesies of destruction and doom (side note: some of the prophesies were valid) and being worshipped by lizard people. He never even noticed the rescue. The Druid chose this point to become a master of the arcane arts, adding old-school magic to his growing druidic prowess.
After that adventure, they made nice with certain members of the competing party from town. When one of them went missing in an ancient shrine deep in the forest, they rushed off to save him. They were waylaid by a tribe of evil humanoids who needed to be beaten into submission and there the journey paused.
Surely when they return to town with the rescued local hero they will be accepted into the good graces of the community. They may even (finally) get those statues created in their likenesses, which has long been a goal.
They may even find out how all these events are inter-connected in a sick and twisted Machiavellian web of evil and deception that would make the Enron scandal look like a simple purse grab.
But the statues . . . Those would be awesome.
Plans for today include investigating a blown up system and trying to figure out why I showed up at work today. Without coffee. It's almost like I want a fight.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Saturday night was "game night," our bi-weekly geek festival where we seem to actually game less and visit more as time passes.
The game started late (very sorry, again, Darrell) partially due to catching up and talking about our lives since we last got together and partially because we were breaking in the new anniversary grill Shana picked up earlier in the week. Mmmmmm. Grilled anything.
Ok, so chicken, sausage, potatoes, corn and sweet potatoes later (Only because I haven't figured out a good way to grill cake) we got around to gaming.
We are still enjoying Werewolf: The Forsaken in a storyline built by Darrell around the local area. Having a frame of reference to drop supernatural creatures into makes it more accessible for the players, from what I've seen. Darrell is able to give each of us a reason to continue playing and participating in his modern campaign. This is more of a challenge than you'd think because in a modern campaign any character can theoretically charge a ticket to Europe and derail or end everything.
Hmmm. Note to self: Have character purchase First Class ticket to Prague.
Anyway, as Darrell's Gamemaster gift expresses itself, every mistake our characters have ever made (plus a few that we might have made or almost made) is just coming back around to boil over and kill us a lot.
Also, I have to thank Darrell here for letting my character tie up some messy loose ends left over from my own character creation story. While it had nothing to do with the main storyline, my character was still allowed to resolve some stuff. Closure is the mark of a true storyteller. Especially 100% improvised closure while one is hopped up on sugar and nicotine.
Darrell, I thank you and Eric the werewolf underwear model thanks you.
Since upgrading to my brand-new all-awesome all-the-time domain name, I've signed up for Google domain mail. If anyone would like an actual, honest to goodness, "@prettygeekything.com" email address, please let me know. Before you ask, "w00t@prettygeekything.com" is already spoken for. So is "Soccergrrl1996".

Sunday, May 21, 2006

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And the Simulcast

Friday, May 19, 2006

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It's official:
This 'blog can now be accessed at big damn URL. Go ahead. Try it out. It's awesome-tacular.
Yep, I stepped up and dropped the big $5.99 on my own domain name. I'm not looking forward to updating all the T-Shirts and Action Figures that are spinning off this online phenomenon, but who am I to stand in the way of progress?
I'll tell you who I am.
I'm the proud owner of The Player's Handbook II, that's who. On my way to work Thursday I stopped at Borders and grabbed a copy as I walked to the coffee counter. You'll be relieved to know that it is every bit as awesome as it looks.
I spent the rest of the day in training, listening to a guy drone on about different things I'm not interested in doing. I've had to tone down my interaction with the class as the other tech is fishing for a do-over in San Francisco. I can't act like I'm learning anything or it'll bust that deal all up.
On another note, I set the national speed record for successful completion of the lab associated with chapter 14 of the advanced class. You can bet I cheated. There is no steroid test in I.T.
The "high" light of Thursday would have to have been a co-worker's suggestion that we skip out during a break in class for a drink. Now, to me, this suggests a trip to the convenience store for a bottle of Diet Black Cherry Vanilla Coke (because they are always sold out of Pibb Zero). Apparently sometimes this also means a trip to a pool hall where the co-worker has two Jack and Cokes and two shots of tequila within a half an hour. And also where I lose at pool. Wow. I really suck at pool.
Plans for Friday include completing the training class in silence and then dashing off before real work is pushed towards me.
Also, I'm wearing jeans.
This weekend I hope to catch up on yard work before another game of Werewolf: The Forsaken. I have new ten-sided dice. New ten-sided dice = w00+.
There has been no progress on 'Big Job Hunt 2006', but these things take time. The last thing I want to do is jump right back into another non-stop crap-festival. Until then, the new motto is 'W1ll Fr@g 4 f0Od'.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Wednesday my high school flashback continued.
I breezed through (or past, or whatever) the lab portion and hung out on IRC trading MP3s and conversing with the 'bots.
When the class broke for lunch I took off for Quiznos for a wrap and a bowl of soup when I was stopped by the other admin.
He (and a couple of other guys) convinced me to go to his girlfriend's place for pizza.
Foolishly, I thought this was about the proximity to a cool pizza place.
So, the pizza was frozen and the purpose was playing video games for a bit before heading back to work.
It felt entirely like skipping school to hang out at a friend's house.
We enjoyed the XBox and tried to not spill anything on the furniture.
A co-worker even stepped out to smoke something non-tobacco between slices of pizza (cut unconventionally with kitchen scissors instead of a pizza cutter). Having never seen one in action, I was impressed by the XBox 360. I think my daughter may need one.
A text message from my boss - "Ops Meeting" ended the fun for everyone.
My co-workers and I dashed out to the car while they instructed me to respond with "caught in traffic". I misspelled that "one more level".
The afternoon was spent participating very little in class while I filled online shopping carts with computer hardware. I realized my once screaming-fast, case-modded, featured online, blistering 3D enabled workstation (my last hardware expenditure) is a dinosaur. Three years old and so out of date it doesn't run half of the latest stuff.
Of course, the gaming makes my PC an obvious target for my projection. Lately I get the feeling that I'm the dinosaur. Of course, I know that (on a cosmic scale) I'm not that old. The fact that I have a decade on most of my co-workers isn't helping, though.
Plans for today include day four of an online class I'll never get credit for while avoiding inane requests from every single co-worker not sharing the training experience. I'm hoping to spend lunch not having the feeling I'm crashing at someone's parent's house.
I'll honestly also probably shop online for a new computer, but I'm putting off an actual purchase for a while. I hate buying the latest and most awesome thing mere seconds before it is obsolete and unsupported.
Obsolete and unsupported. Sadder words were never typed.
Challenge accepted. I can do sadder. Ahem:

When I die, I want "AFK" on my headstone.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Ah, the training class . . . .
Until this week I'd never experienced one. Officially, I still haven't.
My company threatened to cancel our monitoring solution unless HP gave our new administrator some free training classes, since no one had any experience with the product at all.
In order to maximize the value, they chose the two highest level advanced classes to ensure the administrator would know the coolest stuff. Screw the basics, right?
So the new admin was shipped off to DC for a week of classroom time for the first class.
The second class is an online class, so I've been asked to sit in on it. I can't officially participate, or even really let them know I can see the stuff, but I can log in and follow along.
The online class is pretty cool, really. You can see the names of the other students on the left (and their online status) while the instructor goes through the material. You can even highlight while he talks.
There is a chat function for questions and the whole thing is teleconferenced anyway.
I was having fun with the "Right Click > Send File" function and this file:


Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting


Since I'm logged in as the other admin anyway, I'm also free to pollute the chat with stuff like "OMG! WTF!? D1d j00 h3@r th@? Wh@+ @ n00b!!! LOL!!!!11!"
Now, I'm pretty fairly lost in class. I've never seen half this crap and also don't care. If I ever find myself as the sole admin of this product I'll know I accepted the wrong job offer again.
While I have managed to learn a bit about the product being taught, I've come realize something else as well.
At the slightest glimmer of being uncomfortable or out of my element I instantly revert to my 10th grade class clown persona. What is so terribly broken about me that I actually subconsciously transform into a public jackass? Fortunately for me, I'm not concerned enough to spend much time on self-reflection. Well, unless you count blogging.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I've gone over this post in my head a number of times. No matter how often I try, I can't make it sound at all believable.
All I can offer is my most sincere word that all that follows is the truth, and furthermore that the company involved actually remains in business.

Ok, so historically in my company all the "relationship building" and "trust establishing" is done by the sales staff before the contract is signed. Of course after the contract is signed, the sales people have no reason to continue the relationship. Except the monthly residual commissions. Oh, well.
Either way, the relationship (trust not included) is handed off to the technical people who wear special hats called "Customer Liaison" so that in our spare time we can manage the customer relationship.
And this failed to work for a few years. Eventually, some people washed out of the sales and technical sides to form a dedicated "Account Care Team" which is only responsible for managing the relationship between the company and the customer. Awesome, right? Except that the associated paperwork didn't make the transition. I still can't get over that part.
Wait wait wait! It gets better!
So my tech-minded co-workers and I still get to do the work, but we have oversight now and have to do it to the new and undocumented standards of these "Account Care Team" people.
Now, to be fair I dodged the Customer Liaison bullet for months. I dodged it, in fact, until the "Account Care Team" was put in control. Then I was given a batch of customers to do on an unchartable schedule based on how big the customer is, how broken it is, how big they might be, and some other variable that may or may not be based on the splatter pattern of chicken entrails. Some are weekly, some are monthly, some are every three weeks. Sometimes, they all line up due. This week was that cosmically crappy week.
Ok. So I sit down to perform a "Health Check" document on about ten customers. I've done this a few ways, but have actually never heard back from these mysterious "Account Care" people so I had no idea what was appropriate. Remember, this organization is allergic to processes and procedures so there is no standard.
I've turned in 40 pages and 1 page with the same deafening silence as a response. Of course, I opted for the one page option.
Monday while attending an online class (more about that later this week) and putting out various blazes I also completed about ten of them, using a one-page template I dug up in the "Account Care Team" folder. All anyone ever said was "log into the customer portal and note anything odd - maybe make some suggestions." It needs to be noted that the customer has rights to the customer portal and (in a pinch) could look this up on their own.
As I have always done, I included in my email text like this:

"Please let me know if you'd like these done another way or if I can provide additional information"

Nothing was odd, so I left the fields blank, just updated for customer and date and signed them and sent them off as Word documents.
This time I got a response from the "Account Care Team":

"Please see the attached Health Checks. Either way will suffice, but we prefer the style of (name of technician #2 deleted to comply with non-disclosure agreement) since we get fewer questions.
Ok. So I looked at the example of technician #1. His simple word document shared a one-page template with the other (and my own), but contained incident reports, uptime metrics and recommendations. Technician #2 submitted the same form in PDF format, filling in the blanks with "N/A" and "No problems".
Holy crap.
So the only freaking difference between mine and the good example is "N/A" on every line and the creation of a PDF, which I skipped thinking the "Account Care Team" could more easily modify a Word document. Apparently they couldn't even modify it enough to add "N/A" a few times.

I read back over that. I must again stress - seriously.
Today I'll continue online training. My normal schedule has been totally derailed but at least I get to put a door between myself and the asshats for once.

Monday, May 15, 2006

All the warning signs are in place, my friends. I can officially say, with authority, I'm depressed.
I know the cause. Anyone who has read along this far knows I hate my job with such an amazing intensity I arrive exhausted every morning just from seething my way in.
A meeting on Friday was another low point in a career choice that has been filled with low points. I've decided to dread Operations Status meetings since they were added a few months ago as a way to boost morale. In fact, they are intended to do that, but only because they don't cost anything. The first one was the "Employee Satisfaction Survey Feedback" meeting with all the crying and yelling. Since then, they have been phoned in pretty much. Friday our director just recycled the same PowerPoint presentation he used when addressing upper management in their status meeting. This turned out to be a mistake, since errors were detailed (with technician's names) and comments were made. Blunt comments, in fact, that were obviously never meant to be seen by the technical staff. This all goes back to considering your audience before giving a presentation. And proofreading. And not being an ass. I'm sorry --- not acting like an ass.
For the record, my name didn't make the list. Unfortunately, this is because I've had to do so much anonymous work that I'm actually no longer getting credit for anything. There was an announcement about my new official position. They should really go over these with the employee before making the announcement in public. It might have avoided the uncomfortable silence following my look of disgust.
I was so upset I actually walked out before the meeting was over, crossed the parking lot, took an elevator to the third floor of the building next door, found the staffing firm referenced on the sign out front and asked to fill out an application.
My plans for today include managing the Microsoft license dispute (and associated paperwork, which makes me twitch) and trying to figure out what I'm doing in my new role. Sadly, I won't be putting much effort into either. I've already hit the job boards this morning, so actual work may be all I'm left with.
My final note for the day is that I heard a news story on my way in that George Michael was found asleep at the wheel again. According to what I heard, he was passed out at a red light and listening to an ipod when the driver from the car behind him tapped on the glass to wake him up.
The story went on to report that George Michael drove away, weaving, and then crashed into a bulwark. There was no mention of the status of the bulwark, but aren't those endangered?
I had to wonder if a straight celebrity had harmed an endangered species, would it be such a big deal? Why the hate?

Friday, May 12, 2006

So thanks in part to a train (and in larger part to apathy) I showed up about 10 minutes late this morning. Already my Inbox contained dumb stuff.
Someone (sales side) emailed asking the hardware parameters for two servers. I thought he had asked before about the same stuff. I remember logging in and looking at them.
Google desktop search is awesome! It dug through my inbox and found my original reply, sent to the same sales guy, dated March 3rd. I chose to just forward that email.
What response did I get? He called me an *sshole.
Allow me to re-state:
This guy asks me for information I gave him over two months ago, and when I send the original email, he calls me a name. All before 6:30am and at about 20% of a cup of coffee for me.
"What's that? You don't have access to your home directory? Oh, and you are working on a presentation but you can't see your data? I'll take a look."
So then I started blogging and drinking coffee (Sumatra blend) so that I can better concentrate on his problem. The good news is that I know his data is secure. Some *sshole locked it at about 6:30 to be safe. What could be the issue?
Plans for today include a big damn operations meeting at 9am, followed by a meeting with a recruiter at 10am. In the next few minutes, I may skip over to IHOP to have coffee with a co-worker. After that, I'll probably load up on office supplies.
On a less things-I-don't-care-about note, the award for "Probably Going to Snap Soonest" goes to the guy who sits to my immediate right.
He kind of got a bunch of responsibilities dumped on him after someone quit a few months ago. The pressure seems to be having a pretty severe toll on him.
I first noticed that he was participating in the "two drinks at lunch" salesperson guideline, even though he isn't in sales. And both drinks are at least doubles.
Then I noticed that he seems to have tripled the dose on his ADD medication, which seems to have resulted in his no longer sleeping. Ever.
He staggers into work at about 10am and works until two or three in the morning.
Another warning sign was Wednesday on the way back from lunch when he pulled out a pipe in the front seat of the car and tried to light it, then complained that the drugs had fallen out.
The final tip off was the last two times I've spoken with him, he has talked about what he is doing using the terms "spells" and "spell effects". I think (I hope) he means "scripts" and "functions or output" but I'm not 100% sure on that.
I'm a bit freaked out about it. I should probably find another place to sit. To be safe, it should be at another company. Maybe across town.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Casual Jeans . . . um . . . Thursday?
When you totally ditch the first half of the week it makes it hard to keep track.
Ok. So last night was the company quarterly meeting. Having skipped the last two, I pretty much had to make an appearance.
There was a speech about how much money the company is making and how the sales people are awesome. Oh and also there are some technical people employed here, I think.
In the middle of the CEO's speech, I got a text message from a guy at another table that was extremely immature and in very poor taste. Unfortunately, I read it as the CEO announced some planned staffing changes so my very loud laughter was quite poorly timed.
Then there were coupons for free drinks and video games and ski-ball, shuffle board, pool and Daytona tournaments. I didn't participate in them, but I did support my fellow technical employees with loud cheers of "Kick his salesperson ass" and "He was talking crap about you all day, sir. If you don't beat him at pool, I'll happily delete his account." Drink coupons helped.
Around nine, I called work and had the on-duty technician lock some accounts for me. And according to the incident report, I requested that some servers for (company name deleted to comply with non-disclosure agreement) be removed from their domain and formatted.
I've never been so glad to not be able to work on their stuff.
Plans for today include sitting in a quiet and dark room while avoiding human contact.
On my way in to work, I stopped at what I've started thinking of as "the crazy people Starbucks". This morning the entertainment was graciously provided by "Comet Lady" who ordered a grande mild and was kind enough to point out the comet she could clearly see in the sky past the lights of midtown Houston. "According to some reports," she warned,"we will be passing through the tail in the next few days and stand a good chance of being exposed to galactic radiation from the dust."
Now, she chose to drink the mild when the bold selection was Espresso Roast, so I'm not sure how much stock to put into her pronouncement. The extensive research that I've done suggests that exposure to comet dust will most certainly cause rampant zombie-ism and a sudden worldwide drop in petroleum consumption.
This comet could end the reign of terror of all the "Pain at the Pump" news stories! While replacing those stories with awesome zombie stories!
Thank you, Crazy Comet Lady. You have given us all hope.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Geek Politics

This will be a long one, so you may want to go to the bathroom now, or at least check that eBay auction you've been watching.
I've done my best to keep this a politically neutral spot on the internet. There are a couple of reasons for this.
The first is that all of us probably get enough politics from Foxnews, work and the everyday politics that infuse all of our interactions with each other.
The second is out of respect for the longest standing house rule in our gaming sessions.
Years ago, I saw an offhand political comment escalate into a multi-hour debate that very messily destroyed a group I was gaming with. As a result, I requested on the first night that our current group got together that we abide by the house rule that politics would never be discussed. And that the keen weapon property and the improved critical feat stack.
Eventually, we broke the first rule, but it still exists in theory.
Most of the geeks I know are either non-involved and purposely ignorant or so far in either the conservative or liberal camp as to make everyone around them pretty uncomfortable. And geeks love to argue and they hate to lose, so grudges are a real concern.
That is why I was surprised by a comic storyline in a book I picked up Saturday. On a whim, I picked up book one in the Marvel Civil War storyline.

~~~~SPOILER WARNING~~~~~~~~~~







Wash dies.










Ok.
Years ago, there was a Marvel storyline in (I believe) the Marvel Team-Ups comic featuring a character named "Speedball".
Now, Marvel Team-Ups was basically a place to try out new characters with Spider-Man as a safety net. If they got positive feedback, the new character would come back, get his own series, or return with a darker costume bent on revenge against Spider-Man. If there was negative feedback, the character would fade into oblivion. Or come back later with a dark costume bent on revenge against Spider-Man.
You know, maybe it was a Spider-Man Annual. Crap, I don't know.
Either way, comics with Spider-Man sell, so it was a safe bet for Marvel to make.
Speedball was very fast and he bounced around and sported a ball-themed costume. His secret identity, Robert Baldwin, had been exposed to kinetic energy from another dimension. Seriously.
So, in a feat even more unbelievable than gamma radiation not stunting growth but causing super strength and green skin, Speedball got his own series. Really.
Several issues worth.
I had assumed that Speedball eventually faded away, but apparently he has been bouncing around the Marvel Universe "D-List" for a couple of real-life decades.
The first issue of Civil War finds him and some other "D-List" superheroes starring in a soon-to-be-cancelled reality show. Group arguments and an altercation with a homeless graffiti artist have been the highlights and the team really needs to find some actual villains to fight to halt the flagging ratings.
Driving around in a van, they spot a known super bad guy, taking out the trash in front of a small house in a residential area. Unfortunately, she spots them as well.
The alarm raised, the reality TV stars leap into battle against a few "D-List" bad guys. They quip back and forth, discussing editing the fight to make it look better for them, when one of the bad guys chooses to completely use his power. And he explodes. A lot.
So on camera, an uncertain area (several dozen square blocks) is destroyed, along with the residents. And Speedball and the gang.
The next scene has several well known heroes (Reed Richards, Wolverine, Iron Man, etc.) all helping with recovery operations. A wary public watches them, having recently seen "their kind" recklessly cause loss of life for shallow purposes.
The following scenes take place in Congress, with political-types pushing for registration of all superheroes and training for them and, essentially, making them Federal employees.
Two camps form, Iron Man and Reed Richards lead a group in favor of the new laws, Captain America (ironically a Federal employee since World War II) is firmly against it. At what point does safety become more important than freedom? Should those that know how to use their abilities be given the power to use them outside the law? Are super villains all essentially powerful people in masks who haven't registered with the government? Would Peter Parker be better off working for Uncle Sam than J. Jonah Jameson?
So it is pretty blatantly ripped off the headlines now, with plot provided by the Sunday morning talking heads on AM radio. But it works.
And I'd like to know how people with super powers would settle it. If I were in their place, a super being caught in a world of turmoil, I'm pretty sure I'd exploit the chaos and use my powers for evil. Actually I'm very sure.

~~~~END SPOILER WARNING~~~~~~~~~~

But that is beside the point. The point is, whenever geeks tread into political discussions (or arguments, diatribes, sermons or profanity-laced hate festivals) I like to reflect on the one time I think it was done correctly. John Barlow and some co-conspirators put together a summary of the political stance of the internet community. I think it is an amazing document.

From here:

A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace

by John Perry Barlow

Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.

We have no elected government, nor are we likely to have one, so I address you with no greater authority than that with which liberty itself always speaks. I declare the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear.

Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. You have neither solicited nor received ours. We did not invite you. You do not know us, nor do you know our world. Cyberspace does not lie within your borders. Do not think that you can build it, as though it were a public construction project. You cannot. It is an act of nature and it grows itself through our collective actions.

You have not engaged in our great and gathering conversation, nor did you create the wealth of our marketplaces. You do not know our culture, our ethics, or the unwritten codes that already provide our society more order than could be obtained by any of your impositions.

You claim there are problems among us that you need to solve. You use this claim as an excuse to invade our precincts. Many of these problems don't exist. Where there are real conflicts, where there are wrongs, we will identify them and address them by our means. We are forming our own Social Contract . This governance will arise according to the conditions of our world, not yours. Our world is different.

Cyberspace consists of transactions, relationships, and thought itself, arrayed like a standing wave in the web of our communications. Ours is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live.

We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth.

We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.

Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us. They are all based on matter, and there is no matter here.

Our identities have no bodies, so, unlike you, we cannot obtain order by physical coercion. We believe that from ethics, enlightened self-interest, and the commonweal, our governance will emerge . Our identities may be distributed across many of your jurisdictions. The only law that all our constituent cultures would generally recognize is the Golden Rule. We hope we will be able to build our particular solutions on that basis. But we cannot accept the solutions you are attempting to impose.

In the United States, you have today created a law, the Telecommunications Reform Act, which repudiates your own Constitution and insults the dreams of Jefferson, Washington, Mill, Madison, DeToqueville, and Brandeis. These dreams must now be born anew in us.

You are terrified of your own children, since they are natives in a world where you will always be immigrants. Because you fear them, you entrust your bureaucracies with the parental responsibilities you are too cowardly to confront yourselves. In our world, all the sentiments and expressions of humanity, from the debasing to the angelic, are parts of a seamless whole, the global conversation of bits. We cannot separate the air that chokes from the air upon which wings beat.

In China, Germany, France, Russia, Singapore, Italy and the United States, you are trying to ward off the virus of liberty by erecting guard posts at the frontiers of Cyberspace. These may keep out the contagion for a small time, but they will not work in a world that will soon be blanketed in bit-bearing media.

Your increasingly obsolete information industries would perpetuate themselves by proposing laws, in America and elsewhere, that claim to own speech itself throughout the world. These laws would declare ideas to be another industrial product, no more noble than pig iron. In our world, whatever the human mind may create can be reproduced and distributed infinitely at no cost. The global conveyance of thought no longer requires your factories to accomplish.

These increasingly hostile and colonial measures place us in the same position as those previous lovers of freedom and self-determination who had to reject the authorities of distant, uninformed powers. We must declare our virtual selves immune to your sovereignty, even as we continue to consent to your rule over our bodies. We will spread ourselves across the Planet so that no one can arrest our thoughts.

We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.

Davos, Switzerland

February 8, 1996

I'm looking forward to the rest of Marvel's Civil War. I'll try to keep this a politically neutral zone in the future.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Today is another fun filled day of not going to work. It is the last such day before the chillingly long stretch of time that includes Wednesday through Saturday. Almost 24 hours in advance, I already dread my return with marrow-chilling frustration and angst.
I just know the "stupid" has piled up on my desk where it waits for my return. It crouches in anticipation, ready to pounce as soon as I log back into my email - when it will sink its fangs into my sense of self-worth and shake me like a rag doll, not even releasing my broken form when I have completed whatever senseless task my non-technical technical manager has decided gets top priority.
But today is not that stupid day.
Today is another day for reflection, for finding my center, for getting back in touch with the person inside this coarse (but ruggedly attractive) geeky exterior. And mostly for updating the title on my online resumes since that makes them listed as "new" to recruiters and places the resume at the top of the page. You know head hunters hate to scroll down. In that respect, they are a lot like people.

The
big
job hunt
continues.
My standards are low,
but I still say "mercenary".

Monday, May 08, 2006

I took another vacation day today. I call them "Workplace Violence Postponement" days. It sounds happier, I think.
While reading free comics from Saturday, I multitasked by proactively lounging in my t-shirt and pajama pants for most of the morning, then took a meeting with my car on a nice drive nowhere near my office.
Thinking outside the box, as has oddly become a popular way of thinking, I screened the hell out of all calls and avoided even casual emails. My apologies if you were collaterally screened.
Afternoon found me enjoying a salad in a seedy office building cafeteria - most importantly not my office building. I also purchased a venti Komodo blend coffee. Mmmmmm. Starbuxitol.
Tonight I may watch a movie with the family and get take out. Or I may take a nap. Either way, my stress level is lowering. I haven't maliciously locked a salesperson's account in almost four days, either.
While it is still too early to say authoritatively, and the study has been far from scientific, I'm confident in saying that the way to avoid work-related stress is to just not go. I don't know why more people don't try it.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Yesterday was an absolutely jam-packed Saturday and I wasn't even able to participate in all of the awesomeness due to scheduling issues.
Ok. So I left the house at about 9am. After passing the sixth smashed up car, I exited the interstate in favor of the surface roads. It had rained, and in Houston people freak out while driving if water falls from the sky. "Bad magic! Bad magic!"
I was looking for a specific book for the game last night, but it wasn't at Borders.
Still early for my reef meeting, I decided to go to a comic book store (one I've visited often) for Free Comic Book Day. I'm not ashamed to say I've been to a lot of Free Comic Book Days. The way it usually works, comic publishers have dropped off an enormous pile of swag which is then spread across a table. People can take whatever they want. Politeness serves to keep people from grabbing every copy of any one thing, but in some cases one copy of each comic is pre-bagged and handed to people as they walk in.
In the case of my first stop, I said "FREE COMIC BOOK DAY! FREE COMIC BOOK DAY!" as soon as I walked in.
The clerk replied, "Oh yeah" and wandered off into the back.
When she came back, she handed me one comic. I KNOW they have more and if they were limiting it they could have let me choose one, but they gave me one lame-looking comic, stamped across the front with the name of the store.
I was a little upset, but there was another store nearby and I needed to get to my Reef Club meeting anyway as we had flown in a speaker to talk to us about sea horses. After a trip for burritos (whole wheat tortilla) and introductions at a local fish store, I headed for my next comic target.
I'd never been to this store. It isn't out of the way, I'm just usually on the other side of the freeway.
This shop was crowded, packed with geeky stuff and dark. It also smelled even more strongly stale than most comic shops. And apparently they take the hobby too seriously to celebrate Free Comic Book Day. I left, taking comfort in the fact that even wearing a Jolt Cola T-shirt I looked like too much of an outsider to greet and accept into the discussion of when Deep Space Nine jumped the shark.
I darted over to another comic shop. I'd never been to this one, either (geeks are a territorial people) and I was forced to park waaaaaaay over near an "erotic cabaret boutique" because there was a crowd.
While the comics were laid out across a table in the back, there were big magic markered signs dictating a limit of three free comics. All that was left was crap.
I left without buying anything.
Frustrated at the amount of time this was taking, I took off for another store. This was my store. I know these people. I should have gone there first. This is the place my daughter (when she was four) proudly named "The Geek Store". The geeks were not amused, but I was.
Every time I visit they are playing some table top role-playing game, discussing important stuff like politics (or how lightsaber battles would improve congress), current events (how much the latest comic book movie sucked compared to the comic book), literature (how could they cut Tom Bombadil from Fellowship of the Ring?!?!?), and interpersonal relations (who has the most tyrannical mother).
This obviously amuses me much more than it amuses the comic industry. They had nothing from the announced titles strewn across a table.
They were celebrating anyway. There were a bunch of regular comics priced at ten and twenty-five cents. I picked up several and some full-priced regular titles. I also got eight ten-sided dice that rolled well in test throws on the counter. Later in the evening, they sucked.
Still missing my Star Wars Free Comic Book Day comic (the main purpose of my quest) I drove out past our exit to a little shop I've only been to once or twice, almost always because it is right next door to a Japanese place we like.
This shop had everything. I gratefully purchased a few comics and chatted with the owner for a bit.
I made it home about twenty minutes before the first person showed up for the game.
The game was awesome. My underwear model werewolf continues to surprise everyone, including himself. It is possible to have both substance and style, at least in a fantasy game.
My favorite moment was when I criticized our group's young magic user. I asked him "bend reality" and improve our seats at a sporting event.
He replied that he couldn't do that yet.
"Why do we keep you around?" I asked,"Can you make an omelette?"
"Yes." he confidently replied.
"Using magic?"
"No," he clarified.
I love this game.
I did miss a music festival my family attended and I'm sad about that. This time of year weekends tend to fill up months in advance. I'm going to try to watch the scheduling more closely in the future.

Finally, lawyer David Canton has drafted a general disclaimer for the internet. Like all disclaimers, it is probably in response to a lawsuit or something stupid someone did. Either way, I like it:

Business is unpredictable and unsafe. The Internet is dangerous. Many blogs have been written about these dangers, and there's no way we can list them all here. Read the blogs. The Internet is covered in slippery slopes with loose, slippery and unpredictable footing. The RIAA can make matters worse. Patent trolls are everywhere. You may fall, be spammed or suffer a DOS attack. There are hidden viruses and worms. You could break your computer. There is wild code, which may be vicious, poisonous or carriers of dread malware. These include viruses and worms. E-mail can be poisonous as well. We don't do anything to protect you from any of this. We do not inspect, supervise or maintain the Internet, blogosphere, ISPs or other features, natural or otherwise.
A
Free
Comic,
Sea Horses,
A game of Werewolf,
Leaves little time to 'blog at all. ;)

Friday, May 05, 2006

Today is going to be weird! I love bizarro weird days!
First, I left the house late and hit no traffic on the interstate. According to the traffic reports the surface streets did not fare so well, with a diesel spill detouring people out of frou frou River Oaks onto the interstate. Take that, rich people!
Second, I was accosted this morning at 5:30 at the 24 hour Starbucks by women in ball gowns.
Of course, the first thing I thought was, "Hey, drunk people!"
But they actually didn't seem drunk. So I was confused, but this is a big town. On Friday morning these aren't prom leftovers, either. Unless they have moved proms to Thursday night and people a decade too old are attending them.
The consensus at work is that these women are either strippers or vampires, but I was unaware of a formal dress requirement for either career path.
Apparently, a 24 hour Starbucks gathers freaks like a Waffle House.
Sign three that today is going to be bizarre is that I traced an "Out of Disk Space" error to almost eight gigs of comic books in electronic format. I didn't even know there were comic books in electronic format!
Go team, X Men!
Speaking of comics, please take a moment tomorrow to observe Free Comic Book Day. After Casual Jeans Whatever and Halloween, it is my personal favorite holiday.
Also, if you find anything objectionable in any free comic you should immediately share it with a minor so that you can sue the shop owner. I love this country!
Plans for today include . . . Yeah only I don't actually even have any plans for today. There is some paperwork that needs to be done but I'm not feeling it. Paper is bad for the environment. As I constantly repeat, we are always one garbage can fire away from a paper-free office.
I'd actually most like to just go home. I'm depressed and burned out and sick of apologizing for stuff I didn't break. This was never a place I wanted my career to go.
It is becoming increasingly hard to even do a half-assed job when I know how this particular story ends.
Whoa. I just read that last bit. Sorry about that.
Um, look! They discovered a whole flock of ugly endangered birds! Who can be depressed after reading that?

So
Bored
at work.
I hate it.
Nails on a chalk board,
I just hate that it gets to me.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

So from 3pm to 6pm CST the Sales team hosted the Operations team at "Happy Hour".
Since they let us pick the location, we chose a seedy hole-in-the-wall. Of course, they kicked off early and went to a "nice" bar to gear up in anticipation.
The net result?
Operations drinks alone until after 5pm, when the first members of the sales force start to stagger in.
"Now what ish it you do?" is not a question I enjoy answering even when family asks it.
"I deliver on all the dumb-assed impossible promises you guys get paid to make," is the response I settled on, followed by a playful hug which is just long enough to make the non-confident uncomfortable. If you've given one of those hugs, you know how long they are. If you've gotten one, you can be sure someone blogged about it later.
I also had the least comfortable lunch on record, when I had to break it to a co-worker that as much as I like hanging out - I'd kill someone if forced to do it longer than needed.
He informed me of discussions I'd not been privy to where my position was modified so drastically that no one would recognize it or other scenarios where I take an official demotion and pay cut just so that I can continue to keep things running from the background while appeasing the sales staff. No one thinks I'd go down like that, but there were discussions.
I also found out why my director hates me! Months ago, he asked me what, if anything, I'd change about the way we do business. At the time, my opinion mattered.
I told him that I'd establish standards for all equipment that we host and manage so that if something we are required to fix breaks, we know what it looked like before it broke.
He asked if there was anything that could actually be done.
I emailed back and sent sample documentation that showed a server could be rebuilt and restored to production status in under three hours, by an unskilled worker, if step by step instructions were provided.
I never heard back, but this email apparently effectively ended my value to this director. He was looking for an "Everything is great! Continue selling stuff!" instead of a "Let's rethink the promises we make and ensure that we can actually deliver."
I almost ALMOST gave him the link here, so that he could at least draw some humor from it. In the end I smiled, told him I'd be fine, and promised to keep him on my MSN buddy list.
Casual Jeans Thursday! Casual Jeans Thursday!

Technically, it is Casual Ripped and Frayed Jeans Because I Stopped Caring Thursday.
I'm back at work because Thursday is the giant scheduled drinkfest after work where the sales department buys round after round of drinks and then asks me why I hate them.
They could save a lot of money by just asking me whenever. I'd just refer them here.
I must remember: There is no blogging from prison. Or maybe just dial-up blogging. Either way, I'm too pretty for jail.
Also, my weekend in the middle of the week has filled my inbox with all kinds of delightfully stupid broken crap.
It looks like the main computer used for authentication internally has been offline since about an hour after I left Monday and the "customer down" issue I was working was never handed to anyone so absolutely nothing has been done about it.
The great car disaster has been averted, lending evidence to the theory that all problems can be solved by throwing cash at them. Or minions, but we were running low on minions.
Plans for today include resuming my derailed proofreading-the-internet initiative and catching up on emails that have been piling up all over.
I'll also comb the internet job boards searching with the key words "assassin", "ninja" and "pirate".
I'm hoping "assassin" pans out, as I'm too loud to be a good ninja and most pirate positions require you to have a boat, though they do offer top notch dismemberment coverage.
Let's just hope the whole boat ownership thing isn't a deal-breaker.
I don't expect much progress on the job search front either way because of the amount of non-working stuff that needs to be figured out and the number of tours scheduled for today.
"Don't tap on the glass! It angers the geeks!"

Free
Drinks
Tonight
Let it out.
They deserve harsh words.
Someone should tell them why they suck.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

I've spent a large part of the past week trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up.
I'll never be an astronaut, I'll never be the President, and I'll never be a ballerina. I'm getting over that.
I've been fairly blunt with recruiters and I showed up for a job interview Monday unapologetically in jeans.
Yesterday my phone rang from 8am until almost 9pm, while I only took a break to partially destroy my wife's car and attend a book fair at my daughter's school.
So today I need to gather offers, do math in my head and accept one while replacing the car.
I'm all about the multi-tasking.
I'll lay it out for public opinion.
First, there is this place: Big damn State job. They called yesterday and told me that my salary expectations are at the top end of the range. I said, "ok."
"But we try to pay in the middle of the range," they said.
"Ok," I said,"But I'd like to be paid at the top end of the range you guys posted."
"Well, I'll ask," the HR person said.
"Great! Please let them know that I'm awesome." And Shana was in the car when I said it if there is any doubt.
I also reminded them that I'm the only person on the planet who understands in exactly which ways their environment is busted.
The second option is this place: Trauma Fest.
Apparently, they have re-worked the interview process. Or they are afraid of me. I went back in with the understanding that they have done a staff "refresh" (that sounds so minty) and they seem to have cleaned that up a bunch. And the technical interview was 18 minutes including the time to walk to and from the car.
On the other hand, an insider told me that he worked 55 hours last week and took most of Friday off because stuff became busted and the team I may join got blamed.
Also, I've heard they are balking at duplicating the original rejected offer. So they worked to get me back in, the guy from "the incident", and they may offer less than the original rejected offer?
That, my friends, is messed up enough to be interesting.
In third place, only because of timing, is an old manager who wants me to meet his technical team so that I can interview them. That sounds awesome, but the company seems to move very slowly which would leave me at the current job the longest.
Door #1, Door #2, Door #3 OR do I hang out at my current job so that I can watch them turn off the lights?
Plans for today include replacing a car while brutally negotiating terms of employment.

Monday, May 01, 2006

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OMG!

Ok. So we stopped for groceries on our way home Sunday and all was well. Until we started to leave the parking lot.
My eyes came to rest upon a Buick. Now, I'm not one to gawk often at domestic cars, but this one caught my eye. Shining in maroon glory for all the world to see was a Buick Rendezvous. An SUV sucking an astonishing gallon of $3+ gasoline every nineteen miles wrapped in a French word for a name to throw off the environmentalists. Good move, Buick. You almost slipped under the radar.
This particular maroon Buick Rendezvous was purchased at a place called Gay Pontiac Buick GMC, not that there is anything wrong with that.
The unfortunate side effect was that the back of this SUV read "Gay Rendezvous".
Holy freaking crap.
I'm not ashamed (much) to say that I shrieked like a second grade girl.
Shana agreed to circle back around so that I could take a picture (I am all about sharing, after all) so we swung back to the opposite end of the lot and I hopped out and grabbed the camera from the trunk. Shana tried to coach me in the operation of the device, but I suck at it a lot on a good day.
Today was not that day.
As we neared the vehicle and Shana slowed to a stop I leaned out with her camera to take the picture, which didn't come out so good as you can see:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting


What it lacks in composition and definition it makes up for in story. As I leaned out to take the picture the lights on the Rendezvous flashed and the owner (an older gentleman) walked up to open the door! He completely saw us!
As we sped away, I knew the shot was useless. However I also knew that our juvenile prank had definitely had an impact on others.
This guy who owns the Buick watched us speed out of the parking after I leaned out of a black sedan and snapped a digital picture of the back of his car.
We completely validated every paranoid delusion or fantasy this guy has ever had!
I enjoyed it enough that I hope to add evidence to the paranoid delusions of many more strangers in the months and years to come.
Also, I forever placed my blog in the results of a Google search for "Gay Rendezvous".

Plans for Monday include my big damn Microsoft software piracy meeting. I will try to spend the whole meeting talking like a pirate. "Ahoy, ye scurvy Redmond lubbers! Avast! Walk the plank ye lot of diseased software merchants! Yer screens o' death are as blue as the sea! Arrrrrr!"
It also looks like some stuff broke Friday while I was out of the office and no one bothered to look at any of it for three days. I have to call a bunch of clients and apologize about that.

I
hate
being
back at work
It makes me hostile
I think I'd like to choke someone.
:)