Monday, July 31, 2006

Yesterday was our all-awesome, all the time visit to Enron Field!
Wait. It's Minute Maid Field now. That's 40% less evil because of 100% of your daily recommended allowance of vitamin C. And possibly a part of your complete breakfast.
Anyway, Shana was the only woman to show up with batting gloves. We had noticed on the way in that she had practiced enough with them to blow out the seam on the side.
The announcer was impressed. "Now taking the field. . . Whoa! She brought gloves! She's serious!"
I was impressed, too.
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Our friend Adrian showed up to hang out with Gwynyth. We couldn't get them seats near us and Adrian was nice enough to not allow Gwynyth to hang out way up by the roof alone. They managed to sneak down in the bottom of the fourth -- because if you don't take every opportunity to sneak down to better seats the terrorists have already won. Anyway, here is Adrian at the after party catered by Denny's:

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The whole situation may have been too much for Gwynyth, who appears to be sad in this picture. Like refugee kid sad. Please. For the price of a Quad Venti Breve Latte a day, this child's father can have a Quad Venti Breve Latte a day:

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To conclude, here is a picture of me taken by someone with a camera phone at work on a lunch break:

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Both the beaver and the rabbit in a sweater tell me to do evil things.

Edit --
By request in the comments area . . . Look how pretty and fashionable:

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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Last night was game night. I could have handled it better.
Ok, so our little werewolf pack admittedly had screwed things up pretty good.
By the time the game started last night, the city was a wreck. There was no power. Werewolves and vampires were killing each other, regular humans clogged the streets with panicked flailing and a 25 foot tall war spirit was walking around with a giant axe smashing stuff pretty much anywhere he wanted.
But we had a plan.
I was to act as bait, trap the war spirit in a alternate reality, and probably just hang out there for the rest of eternity - maybe knitting, maybe avoiding a giant axe.
Whatever the plans were, it played out in a different direction.
My character answered a question incorrectly . . . And the city blew up.
50% player character death instantly, as well as hundreds of thousands of people we were supposed to protect.
The stunned silence around the gaming table was almost liquid.
"Wait a minute. Mushroom cloud? Seriously?"
"Yes. Seriously." Darrell answered.
I've never been a part of an endgame where it went so horribly wrong, much less been the reason it did.
Sometimes characters die in these things, and the ending was completely "World of Darkness" dark, alright.
So, Mike's character survived by passing into the spirit world during the impact and Adrian's character survived by dumping magic into his run speed and dashing straight for the Oklahoma border.
Joe's character was turned to ash instantly and mine was frozen into a statue in honor of the wrong answer.
Both very very dead.
Dead with no chance of coming back. We all know that one of the most common and beloved/hated conventions of fiction is for someone to come back from beyond. They glow blue like Obi Wan maybe, but can't really have an effect on the world.
Or perhaps they turn up more powerful, but dark and bitter like in the Living Dead movies.
Sometimes they just come back from the dead with new abilities ala Gandalf the White.
Not in this case.
I got half of us killed. Sorry, Joe.
We did spend a great deal of time discussing the upcoming Dungeons and Dragons game.
The initial party consists of a cleric to heal and a thief to disarm traps and steal stuff and two hybrid classes -- A paladin to heal and chop stuff up and a Dusk Blade to cast spells and chop stuff up.
It seems pretty balanced. I'll try not to kill Darrell's character in revenge for the explosion last night. Instead, I'll kill Darrell's character because he just can't defeat a swarm of venomous dire primordial fiendish shadow squirrels. Not that I'm vindictive.
Did I mention the squirrels have ninja class levels?

Friday, July 28, 2006

Happy SysAdmin Day!
Today is one of my favorite holidays. Unfortunately, Hallmark has yet to sanction SysAdmin Day.
So track down your favorite SysAdmin and let that person know how much you appreciate them -- keeping in mind that they can read your email whenever they want.
Thank them and for the love of god make it believable, people. Your network access may very well depend on it.
If that doesn't work, the traditional gift is cash.

I have a new favorite podcast as of the drive in this morning. It helps when I get mentioned a lot.
I've known Darrell and Adrian for years and I think I heard them curse more in that 26 minutes than in the rest of the time I've known them combined. One reviewer has already called it "A bracingly geeky semi-pantsless romp sure to Pwn the 'explicit' tag."
In other news, I'm a Podcast reviewer.
Guys, I want to help. I'll be stalking your comment area for most of the day.

To conclude, according to the call logging system, my manager called the overnight guy last night and demanded pot. I deleted the MP3 myself. Every time I think the dysfunction has hit a critical level and can get no worse someone mocks my small thinking.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

This morning there was a discussion of literature between myself and two of the overnight techs.
Here is a basic break down:

1. Of Mice and Men - Good but sad. Too much animal death.
2. Grapes of Wrath - Filling the transmission with straw makes it sound like the engine runs more smoothly.
3. The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County - Mark Twain phoned that in to buy scotch, probably.
4. The Jungle - Disturbing and mostly pointless.
5. The Great Gatsby - Biggest waste of trees in the history of the printed word.
6. Catcher in the Rye - Required reading for haters. . . Everyone else could probably skip it.
7. The DaVinci Code - Two decades from becoming required reading in public schools.
8. The collected works of William Shakespeare - Probably written by someone else but pretty cool either way.
9. The Fountainhead - "Never mind. I'm probably confusing it with something else."
10. Where the Red Fern Grows - Why don't they just give kids downers and have them wash them down with vodka?

Not all of those opinions are mine, strictly speaking.

On the subject of literature, I'm one episode away from the end of Scott Sigler's Infection podcast-only novel. As far as sci-fi horror splatterfest podcasts go, Infection has disturbed me more than most. The protagonist gets these strange (very strange) growths and spends about 20 episodes picking at them and removing them himself with common household items. He finally completely snaps when he has to use "chicken scissors" somewhere.
I listened to that episode on Monday and I still hunch over a bit thinking about it.

I'm still working on the next big Dungeons and Dragons story arc. I may serialize it here or turn it into a book later. Maybe both. Game sessions may be recorded and podcast at some point. Either way, I'm pretty excited about it.
I also picked up the latest issues of DC's 52 and Marvel's Civil War. I can't fall behind then next time there is a literary discussion in the NOCC at 6am.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Awesome baseball action:

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Thanks in no small part to my brilliant coaching ("Um . . . Hit it really hard." "Hit it really far." and "I'm sitting in ants! I'm sitting in ants!") the batting is going really well. Gwynyth spent the practice yesterday taking photos of Shana. She may have a future in sports photography. At least she does if the athletes can take direction like, "Pretend you are in the desert!" and "When I say 'cheese', hit the ball really really hard and far."
Wait a minute. . .
With photography like that my coaching is completely superfluous.
I had no idea her "pinching your head" routine was an attempt at downsizing:

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Now I feel really useless. Here is the insert your own joke photo:

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And two photos of Team Shana:

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I can't even identify the weird bit of sports equipment Gwynyth is holding in that last picture. Cleat scrubber? Tee tee-er?

Work called a little after 4am, reporting broken stuff. I came in early and can find no evidence of the broken stuff. Also, the guy that called me went home. Now I'm changing his password without telling him just to make myself feel a little better.
Plans for today include hanging out with Gwynyth during Shana's physical therapy (we may skip over to the Mac store for a "Switch" demonstration) and then acting as roadie for "Team Shana" at the park. That tee is pretty heavy.
Hopefully, I'll be able to skip out of work as early as I showed up.
If not, there is plenty of "unauthorized account maintenance" to occupy my time.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

I've been working more on my upcoming Dungeons and Dragons campaign.
I've got some left-overs. Here is a ready made scenario I just can't squeeze in and it is complete with a pre-generated non-player character:

Background -
Aeons ago, the goddess Jax-Arah created a minor plane of transition, similar to the Ethereal Plane or the Astral, to connect her own two otherworldly realms to the Prime Material Plane. This plane provided a conduit, which forked as one traveled from the material world to go to either of her two planes.

Centuries ago, however, Jax was defeated in battle by the terrible Abyssal lord of serpents, Sseth. Sseth sent his squamous minions to invade Jax's two planes and slay all of her many children, using the forking conduit plane to get to them. However, the eldest of the children, Jax's half-mortal son Samuel-el, stood at the junction to stem the squirming tide. As Sseth's demonic serpents approached, he stared at them with a steely gaze. "And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers."

A terrible battle ensued. At its height, just as he drove the tide of scaly horrors back, the paladin cried, "I want these snakes off my mother's forking plane!"

And he was victorious. But still he stands vigil, should the snakes ever again attempt to invade the plane. No more of him could anyone ask.

Scenario: Sir Samuel-el would like to take a break from his vigil, and sends word across the planes to the player characters for help. He wants them to take his place for a time, to watch for another invasion by Sseth's forces. If the PCs ask why or want to know what he plans to do during this break, he says he'd like to go back to the Prime Material Plane for a time. "I'll just walk the earth. You know, walk the earth, meet people... get into adventures."

Sir Samuel-el, Son of Jax

Male human half-celestial (Lawful Good)
Paladin10 CR12
Init +2 Speed 20 feet
AC 23, touch 12, flat-footed 21
HD 10d10+90 hp 151
BAB/Grapple +10/+17
Attack +18 melee (2d6+11/19–20, greatsword)
Full Attack +18/+13 melee (2d6+11/19–20, greatsword)
SA Smite evil 3/day (+8 to attack, +10 damage), smite evil 1/day (+10 damage), spell-like abilities (CL 10) At will—daylight, detect evil; 1/day—dispel evil, cure serious wounds, neutralize poison, aid, detect evil, bless; 3/day—holy smite, remove disease, protection from evil.
SQ Darkvision 60 feet, immunity to disease, resistance to acid 10, cold 10, and electricity 10, DR 5/magic, SR 20, aura of courage, divine health, remove disease (2/week), lay on hands (80 hp), divine grace, and special mount.
Fort +28 Ref +13 Will +15
Str 24, Dex 15, Con 29, Int 17, Wis 18, Cha 26

Crucial Feats: Combat Expertise, Dodge, Endurance.
Other Feats: Negotiator, Skill Focus (Diplomacy).
Crucial Skills: Concentration +20, Jump +9, Listen +8, Search +8, Sense Motive +18, Spot +6.
Other Skills: Diplomacy +23, Handle Animal +19, Heal +15, Knowledge (the planes) +6, Ride +17.

Paladin Spells: 3/3, save DC 14+spell level.
2nd—bull's strength, delay poison, eagle's splendor.
1st—bless, bless weapon, cure light wounds.

Possessions: +2 full plate armor, +1 greatsword (it is the one that says"Bad Mother F*cker"), cloak of protection +1, ring of protection +1, amulet of health +2, potion of neutralize poison, 16 pp, 12 gp.


Viper Demons (1,000): hp 22; use the stats for a half fiend huge viper (see Monster Manual).

Constrictor Demons (500): hp 60; use the stats for a half fiend giant constrictor (see Monster Manual).

Monday, July 24, 2006

Ok. So years and years ago I played (and sucked at) EverQuest.
Years later, I tried World of Warcraft and EverQuest Two.
Recently, I downloaded the free trial of the original EverQuest to see how the game has held up since, oh . . . 1999.
So there are new races and stuff, but I created the same old wood elf ranger (female) from when I played before. The only exception is that this time she is named after our cat, Nissa.
I always play female characters in MMORPGs. I find that other players give me free things.
Anyway, I re-acquainted myself with the controls and interface. I smashed rats and spiders and kobolds.
I created another character who looks like an anthropomorphic version of my wife's cat and borrowed her name, Miyoko.
I smashed rats and spiders and kobolds.
I noticed a large pit with some scaffolding in the middle. The scaffolding led down to the core of the kobold mine. I wondered if I could avoid the long enemy-laden hike around the rim to the entrance of the pit by just jumping across.
I smashed rats and spiders and kobolds.
I hit sixth level by beating the snot out of a kobold warrior.
Another player waved and bowed and hopped and got my attention.
"watch my jump ok?" he said.
"k" I suavely replied.
With a running start from the tunnel, he leapt out over the abyss. I lost sight of him.
However, he came running up, uninjured, a few minutes later while I was beating down a kobold grunt.
He hopped and waved and danced at me.
"i'll try" I promised as I looted 9 silver, 11 copper from my fresh kill.
I headed for the mouth of the tunnel. With no planning at all, I hit the up arrow key and space barred over the edge . . .
I watched awesome 3d graphics of quickly rendered scaffolding scroll past before I landed on the bottom in a crumpled heap.
I saw the red text:

You have taken 455 points of non-melee damage.
You have lost consciousness.
You have died.

Yeah. I missed EverQuest.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Today I will attempt to overcome my fear of clowns AND my fear of the smell of elephants by attending the circus with my family.

Here is a picture of a kitten:

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Seconds after this picture was taken, the kitten was probably crushed by whatever wheeled monstrosity he is trying to climb.
Poor little fella. :(

Saturday, July 22, 2006

After every shift, a NOCC technician fills out a form with current NOCC events to keep everyone up to date on what is broken or may soon break.
This Shift Report is emailed to the entire technical group and some members of upper management.
Ok, so as a simple fact of where I work, there are hundreds of devices that can break.
At any given time, they may be down for maintenance, offline due to network outage, re-named by a customer, or just not reporting correctly due to some issue with our reporting tool.
When this happens, they get added to the "Ignore List" on the Shift Report with an explanation.
Well, they did get added to the "Ignore List" until yesterday.
Yesterday some sales asshat decided that calling it an "Ignore List" made it look like we didn't care. "If the customer saw that what would they think?"

How did that person avoid being on the "Ignore List"?

Ok, so then we had to have a meeting to discuss the intolerance communicated by the phrase "Ignore List".
Later in the day, we had another meeting to come up with another way of saying the same thing.
So three hours later (after all my suggestions were shot down for being profane, offensive, or just mean) we started calling it "False Positive".
Now it will take about a month for everyone to start using it.

If I ever had to fill out a Shift Report, I'd still refer to those systems as "Code F'd".

Friday, July 21, 2006

I hate sitting by the door. Thursday pretty much summed up why this is so.
So I'm sitting there, typing away, minding my own business (you know, like I do), when (salesperson's name deleted to comply with non-disclosure agreement) burst in and I inadvertently made eye contact.
She flipped a tiny black piece of plastic at me.
I watched it clatter across my desk and land face down.
"That is my 'end' key," she identified.
"It probably doesn't 'end' stuff so well from there," I nodded. At this point I really wasn't sure where this was headed.
"It just popped off and I can't get it snapped back on."
Crap. She was about to ask me to do it.
"That's odd. Usually they just pop back into place." I smiled encouragingly.
"Yeah, well it won't."
This was shaping up into an ugly stalemate so I offered,"I wouldn't try glue. Too much and it will gum up the whole keyboard, probably."
"Can you just try to fix it?"
Damn. Direct question. I can deny hinting around for hours but a direct request is like a stake through the heart for an I.T. guy, even though I suck at desktop stuff.
I carried the 'end' key to her desk and tried to put it back on. Of course, it wouldn't snap back on.
"Did you really need to end stuff?" I asked, half joking.
"Ok. I'll find out how to get you a new keyboard for your laptop."
I wandered back to my desk and sent an email to the desktop people. They suggested I try using a hammer.
In the "end", the sales person got a whole new laptop to replace a missing 'end' key.

Anyway, later in the day a co-worker snapped this blurry picture in the back near the construction area:

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Doesn't look like much, but if you look closely you can see a huge pile of wood, recently unloaded from the truck. If you look even closer, you can see the wheels on top -- because the whole stack tumbled out the back and almost landed on the SUV. As it was, they were completely ready for gravity to suddenly reverse itself.
It was extremely loud when it fell and then apparently very interesting as these guys kind of stood around it like they were expecting it to do something cool.
I don't know if it ever did because I left soon after this.
Plans for today include sitting farther from the door and parking farther from the loading zone.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

I dragged myself into work yesterday.
I hate it so much . . .
Ok, enough of that.
Except that I had to listen to salespeople giving me credit for the report that should earn nothing but blame. And automating the process of falsifying data was actually kicked around a bit as a time-saving option.
Alright! Done!
Wait, hang on! When people take a few days off for whatever reason in normal jobs, does stuff get done? Because by the amount of crap piled up to do around here I'm starting to suspect they closed up shop to mourn my absence.
Never mind all that, though.
Comics . . . Tabletop Role-Playing Games . . . PlayStation Two stuff . . .
Ok, so also at work there was an initiative to finally document all of the stuff I've been complaining about the lack of documentation about -- except that if the process seems weird (And they all do) it needs to be cleaned up in the documentation.
What?!? Now we fictionalize documentation?!? Internal documentation?!?
Whatever . . . I read the first comic in the second volume of Runaways. It covers the transition to official super heroes and features a support group for ex-child superheroes kind of like those you see for former child actors.
But did I mention that I've been put in charge of the fake documentation project? Because I have a skill at making fictional technical documentation look just like the real thing.
Seriously. Enough complaining about work.
Did you know that the same take out container of sweet and sour chicken has been in the fridge in the break room since before Christmas? I knew that, but I've been ignoring it on purpose. I'm not touching the thing.
Ok, forget it. I'm through complaining for the day.
I hooked up the PS2 to our home network and played a hack and slash online for a bit while my daughter cheered. Then orcs killed me.
So I requested these stupid security patches get rolled out over the weekend, but did it get done? Hell, no.
You know why? Because no one else cares, that's why! I've learned that being the only one who cares (or provides the appearance of caring) just makes a person look like a sap.
Sorry. This time I mean it.
I heard on a Podcast yesterday about an interesting game mastering technique and I'm anxious to try it out when we get around to playing D&D again.
So at work they are requesting that we park around back near the construction area to leave the shady spots for customers and sales people who need to look their best. It doesn't matter that I get here at 6am, I'm supposed to drag my car around back and park in the mud. It isn't easy to shuffle through mud in backless shoes.
I apologize.
Deep calming breaths.
Deep calming breaths.
Plans for today include inserting words into fake documentation to tip off the casual reader.
Words like:
1. Batman
2. Geriatric Pr0n
3. Cat Fancy
4. w00+
5. Lightsaber
6. Venti
7. Justin Timberlake
8. Hydro-colonic
9. Grouse
10. Company name deleted to comply with non-disclosure agreement

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Hmmm . . . Well . . . Yes.
I skipped work today. Friday's ethical crash has seriously impacted my ability to go back there.
Eventually, I'll run out of vacation days and sick days and "hey-where-the-hell-is-what's-his-name-days" and I'll probably stop getting paid. That would be intensely bad, though maybe not as bad as falsifying documents.
On the bright side, I've been working on our upcoming Dungeons and Dragons campaign in the hopes of ditching reality for a while. It seems to be working.
Our group has been playing long enough that a simple framework lets them really take off and run with a storyline.
Also in the "Avoid Reality" column -- my recently burninated favorite comic book store will re-open tomorrow with the past three weeks worth of comics ready for me to geek out over.
That is three weeks I've spent avoiding spoilers and keeping my head down when passing geeks in the hall.
The other thing going on is that Shana entered a contest and has been selected as a semi-finalist.
The fine print, however, explained that in order to participate the selected semi-finalist has to hit a ball at Minute Maid Park before an Astros game (for distance and accuracy) and beat out up to 59 other entrants.
Now, since finding out about this (last Friday), Shana has worked 12+ hours batting under the same kind of conditions (wooden bat, regulation ball, regulation tee) and she can beat me every single swing.
She has until the 30th to be better than at least a third of the other semi-finalists, so batting advice would be appreciated. She had surpassed my advice by knowing which end of the bat to hold.

Monday, July 17, 2006

But anyway, we have this customer. And one day, our sales people sold a report function to them.
This report is generated monthly. By me.
Ok. So I click seven buttons and data is pulled out of a database and placed into the report. The report reflects total system uptime for this customer along with memory and CPU utilization and trouble tickets submitted and concurrent connections. When making it a tidy PDF, it gets called "Sarbanes-Oxley Report" and is delivered to their auditors. I believe we get less than $100 a month for this.
Now, lets lay aside my own bitterness that of all the people on our staff I am the only one qualified to perform the actual audit itself which could make the company a few hundred dollars an hour, easily and deal with the report itself.
Because it broke. A lot.
The problem was that there was no data after June first. I ran the report the exact same way I ran it in May and it just kept blanking on June.
Seriously, there aren't enough steps for me to really mess it up.
I did some digging a discovered that a consultant we had in for a few days loaded a patch on OpenView Reporter at the end of May. Further research showed that there was a well-documented incident where a previous HP OpenView Reporter patch prevented reporting on any date and time not divisible by seven, so I thought this was a likely source of the trouble.
When I brought the possibility up with HP, they called to my attention the fact that our support agreement ended in February and directed my calls and emails to the accounting office.
I explained this to my manager along with the fact that when this happened with Microsoft I put it on a credit card and that it was someone else's turn now.
The strange thing was that OpenView Reporter never threw an error during the report.
Friday I was informed that someone in sales had promised the customer that they would have the report, complete with up to the second data, by 5pm.
I explained that the report wasn't working, and that our usual consultant was traveling all day, and that my latest email about our lack of support agreement had still gone unanswered.
"I don't care. We just need the report."
For some dumb reason, I went back to work on it.
I downloaded a program that let me look at the database in detail. Not being a database person, I don't trust queries. Following the "System Uptime" one, I skipped the Reporter database entirely and went straight to the core production database.
I searched for (customer name deleted to comply with non-disclosure agreement), the dates, "system up", and "system down" messages.
"Zero lines returned."
Odd. I broadened my search. I searched for (customer name deleted to comply with non-disclosure agreement) and the dates -- everything in June.
"Zero lines returned."
At this point I figured I was doing something dumb. I searched for (customer name deleted to comply with non-disclosure agreement) by itself.
"Sixty-two lines returned."
Finding data I'm looking for is good, but it proved that while I was searching correctly and in the right spot, the important data was gone. All that was left in the database was the basic configuration crap. The messages sent that morning were missing, too. And the day before. And last week.
In short, it should be several thousand lines returned. Not (as I got when I ran it a second time) "Sixty-two lines returned."
We can't forget that (due to a drug-fueled deletion incident on Monday) this whole database was restored from tape very recently.
Alright. I'm not ashamed to say I freaked a bit. This publicly-traded company needed this data -- had been promised this data -- for an audit that was to start the following morning. And it wasn't there.
At this point I did the right thing. I went to management and said,"First, the data is missing for this customer. I have no reason to believe that the data exists for any customer. Second, we don't have the data for the report we promised."
"I don't care how it gets done, strip out the data manually if you have to."
"The data isn't there."
He persisted, "I don't care how it gets done, get it done by five."
I wavered,"But I just showed you that the fields are blank. We don't have a support agreement with HP and no one on staff knows this product."
"This isn't getting the report done. I don't care how you do it."
I trudged back to my desk. I stared at my screen.
I looked at the clock.
I combed the database. I cut. I pasted.
I formatted. I spell-checked. I emailed.
I printed.
I walked.
"Here is a hard copy of the report I just emailed. The data is accurate, but not for (company name deleted to comply with non-disclosure agreement). I stole system information from (company name deleted to comply with non-disclosure agreement) and changed the device names. It'll pass an audit."
I left.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

There was an awesome game of Werewolf: The Forsaken last night surrounded and infused with awesome hang out time.
I think it has been a month since we "rolled dice in anger".
We spent the first half of the session discussing our eventual return to Dungeons and Dragons -- who would fill what party role and what type of campaign was wanted.
Then we started actually playing.
To begin with, our group of werewolves needed to solve a mystery. Since it looked like a werewolf was violating the peace and killing vampires, it fell on us to find the culprit.
Unfortunately, the murderer was one of the Player Characters. While he was under some kind of mind control at the time, the vampire council would still be pretty upset about it.
After that, there were battles in and out of the spirit realm and a meeting of all the area werewolves where our possible courses of action were debated.
While I'm not 100% on board with the whole "my-character-sacrifices-himself-for-the-good-of-the-group" thing, I'll see how it plays out.
Darrell had a good time as Storyteller mind-controlling the characters and having them attack one another. Nice. And noted in regards to our eventual return to D&D. Do you have a back up character, Darrell? You should. It will save time. ;)
Later on today I have to write a full report to my manager justifying my position and continued employment. I was supposed to turn that in on Friday but I wasn't in a "fiction" kind of mood.

Friday, July 14, 2006

I spend my pre-blog morning checking email and assigning the tasks for the day priorities based on a number of pre-established and variable criteria:

1. How much do I like the person who requested the task?
a. How loudly are they yelling?
b. Any chance they will give up?
c. Are they more or less important than the other people asking me to do stuff?
d. Are they going to blame me either way?

2. How interesting is the activity?

3. Is anything cool going on online at the moment? Maybe a good discussion on some message board? Neat five-page article on MSNBC? Vote for the cutest kitten picture contest?

4. Did I advise against this specific activity?

5. Is the activity a direct result of not following my advice? Am I supposed to fix something that never would have broken if I'd been allowed to properly maintain it?

6. Will the activity look good on a resume?

7. Can I spin the activity into something that looks good on a resume?

8. Is it going to take long? My attention span . . . Look! Shiny stuff!

9. Is this task going to increase my bitterness?

10. Am I getting anything out of this at all? Cash? Personal growth? A sense of a job well done? How about a "thank you"? Is that too much to ask?

All that said, today I have to get a bunch of pointless crap done.
After work, I'm taking the family out for salad.
This weekend is a game weekend, so I've got that going for me.
I'm also out of comics to read, and with my preferred store all burned up and my sense of loyalty pinning me there anyway I'll just have to wait it out.
This post is late, by the way, because of an ethical quandary at work. I'll explain that mess later.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Here is something broken:

We have a software product made by HP called OpenView. OpenView is actually a whole suite of software, encompassing real-time monitoring for servers and networks, reporting and web site optimization, among other things. It is a lot of software, and it isn't cheap.
To give you an example of how not cheap it is, HP actually has a division that shares the exact business model with where I work. Since they expense even internal software purchases, they don't use OpenView because it would make them unprofitable on paper.
So we use it.
Alright, the short story goes like this:
(Company name deleted to comply with the non-disclosure agreement) wants OpenView monitoring. Because no one else has it, they pay licensing and start up costs and fund the full-time employee to run it and cover the support agreement.
Since that is all covered, our company sells the service at a discounted rate to other companies. These companies love it, but eventually we need more licenses and, after a while, it starts to become cost-heavy again. Maybe (company name deleted to comply with the non-disclosure agreement) leaves or decides they don't like OpenView. Either way, it goes from profit center to cost center and people start to get bitchy.
The companies that signed up for the cheaper service still have contracts so we owe them service. However, the support agreement is used up and not funded. Also, the full-time resource hired initially took another job for more money or stability and no one on staff knows the tweaks he employed.
Eventually, someone lands a deal big enough to fund a new age of enlightenment or (more likely) someone has one too many drinks at lunch and deletes the whole installation prompting an emergency purchase order to HP.
Until then, we limp along, barely able to meet our contractual obligations.
Apparently, every year there is a discussion about killing the product and every year someone threatens to sue so we keep it. . . And while we have it anyway . . . Why not sell it to other customers who can later be angry when we can't support it and want to take it away?
I don't know if that is how things work outside of I.T., because I can tell you as messed up as that sounds it is pretty typical.
Do doctors wait for someone really sick with good insurance to pay for new equipment that can be used for other patients?
Do builders use sub-standard materials and tools until someone specifies that they want a building that is completely up to code?
As I've tried to let people around me know, when I become the moral compass -- things are probably beyond saving.
Plans for today include completing a software fix I've cobbled together using babblefish and a German language message board. I hope it works, but I won't be surprised either way.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

So I found this article on MSNBC this morning. But first, someone (an employee, possibly (most likely) stoned) deleted our monitoring solution and I'm still trying to figure out exactly how that happens.
In addition to that, the actual NOCC-sitter is late and devices are crashing all over. With documentation like "In the event of a router failure call local I.T. (Is that me? Local there or local here?), notify help desk (Which number is that?) and open a ticket with the provider (What provider are you talking about? This company uses seven!)," the other Microsoft guy and I are pretty much lost.
Anyway, according to this article on MSNBC, there is a company that has offered everyone in the blogging community the chance to sell out, and I'm all in favor of not only selling out, but sharing that opportunity with everyone else.
I'm skeptical. While I understand that the frenzy over new media and blogging is pretty substantial, I don't know whether I fully understand the business model. I'm also not sure I care. Does having a "this post is an ad" image impact credibility and start the inexorable spiral into the bloated super-media culture of today or is there room spread the word about products and services? Does that mean I'm sold out? No. There is a bunch of other things that indicate I've sold out. I won't use domestic soap. Don't even ask.
I've shilled for Marvel and DC comics and Coke Rewards and Sony just in random posts this month. I can afford to insert an image here and there for fun and profit. So far, I've only seen the fun part of that. I for one welcome our new blogging overlords. I'll also let everyone know if money appears in my PayPal account.

Plans for today include laughing a lot about our deleted monitoring solution and changing random words in the support documentation which is still providing absolutely no support.
I'm also picking up my daughter from the airport after work, which should be like pressing the "Pause" button on life -- but the second time, so stuff can actually start moving again. We've been lost and pathetic without her, regularly forgetting to eat and painting random rooms multiple colors.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Hey! Look what showed up!

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Additionally, the Coke Rewards program sent me a shipment confirmation email late in the day.
I intend to play it until I develop massive PlayStation2 thumbs which I will later use to make annoying thrumming noises on my metal work desk.
Enormous, buff, masculine thumbs.
Yesterday I got an email. I've gotten emails like it from time to time. I've grown to dread them.
Normally, I like email. It provides a quick way to communicate with as many or as few people as you like.
Sometimes, however, other parties get added to replies. Often, these additional people are uncool.
I noticed that our web monitoring server wasn't getting Microsoft security patches automatically and that it was left out of all the fun our patching software causes. As a result it is vulnerable to a few month's worth of exploit and, as a web monitoring server, is exposed to the internet and every hacker and information terrorist in the world.
I asked my manager if I could patch and reboot it.
"Not without an Emergency Outage Notification," he replied.
"It isn't really an 'emergency' so much. It is important, but 'emergency' carries a connotation with it I'd rather avoid."
"No problem," he offered,"Schedule it two weeks out and then it is just an Outage Notification."
So I did that.
I wrote to the "Notification" person and requested a one-hour outage. I know it won't take an hour, but it seems dumb to ask for 10 minutes.
She replied with a form for me to fill out, assessing risk and outlining the benefits of each update and the rollback process for each. So much for a vague "bad stuff may happen but it probably won't" answer.
I hit the paperwork at full speed, but it was like running through a two ton brick of processed cheese. Each of the twenty five patches needed a description. Microsoft doesn't care enough about most of them to describe them in any language but clinical, and I know that no matter how "official" this form is, clinical is just too scary.
I did the reasonable thing. I made stuff up that was easier to understand.
The fact is, if the server stopped working and we called Microsoft, they would refuse to help us unless these patches are applied.
So it shouldn't matter that the kb911280 fixes a vulnerability in Routing and Remote Access. Just saying that prompts questions like, "Why do we have Routing and Remote Access turned on?"
The answer is, "We don't have Routing and Remote Access turned on."
"Then why do we need the patch for it?"
And then I'd have to say something like, "Because it is less than a Meg, costs us nothing, Microsoft recommends it, and if we don't install it they won't support our Operating System version. Plus, most importantly, I'd have to add it to a list to make it stop telling me that it needs to be installed and is critical every freaking time I log in forever."
To avoid this, most patches magically became "Addresses Core OS Vulnerability" with a note about how our competition lost $100k because of an exploit or, my favorite, "
modulates the activation circuitry of the replication system to randomize the frequency and halt illegal access attempts." Who wouldn't want either of those?
No one. Unfortunately, that isn't the issue. The problem now is that the person I got the form from, copied her non-technical boss, and he found an issue.
I suggested the change happen at 6am on a Thursday. Here's why:
1. I'm here anyway.
2. If something does happen to break, I'm onsite to fix it.
3. No one else on the planet cares what happens at 6am.
This guy still wants it done at 8pm on a Saturday. If the server doesn't come back after a reboot, I have to drive over and fix it. Also, that trashes a Saturday. Even if it takes ten minutes, I have to be near a computer with an internet connection before, during and after. I have to spend my own time writing the "everything is fine" emails and I have to wait for responses from all the customers impacted, even though none of them are around on a Saturday.
Why do I even get here at 6am if I can't use the time?
And yesterday this guy sent an email asking why. The kind of email I dread.
I like words. Words are my friends.
But I knew that there is no way to respond to an email like this --

"I still don't understand why this work won't be done on a weekend instead of two hours before business hours on a week day."

-- and maintain any type of employment. I wrote several drafts:

"Your lack of understanding has never had an effect on what we do." -- delete

"Are you volunteering to give up a Saturday for free?" -- delete

"I've filled out thirty pages of paperwork to make you feel better, but until I have to tell my family I have to work on a Saturday you feel all empty inside?" -- delete

"Don't take this the wrong way, but what the hell is wrong with you?" -- delete

See? My only choice was to ignore the original sender and flag future emails from him as spam.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Since I finally broke down and got a library card, I've enjoyed a lot of stuff about the whole library experience.
First, you can actually order books online now. I remember the annoying inter-university loan program from college. Fear of the process prompted me to pick report topics based on what books were available in the tiny library on campus. With the new system, I can request books through the library website and get an email when they show up. Then I pick up the book in an envelope left for me on the special shelf and check out.
Also, there is no librarian judging my literary choices. Checking stuff out works like the self checkout lines -- scan the library card, scan the book, print receipt, wander home. At no time does a librarian say, "All you ever check out is comic books. Don't you want a book without pictures" or, like when I was a kid, "Isn't there something not in the Science Fiction or Fantasy section you'd like?"
Third, I can look over the shoulders of people using the computers to determine what is cool and popular these days. Of a bank of twelve computers in use last week, over half were visiting MySpace. None of those people are on my Friends list, either.
The other six were split between eBay and email.
Yesterday I found the fourth and most awesome reason to go to the library: Crazy people!
I picked up a couple of Justice League graphic novels and went to wander through the Science Fiction area. No The Great Gatsby for me. Once in High School + once in college is two times too often for me. As a side note, I urge everyone to write to your congress person and call for an immediate ban on future printings of The Great Gatsby. Enough trees have given their lives for that book. It was crap in the twenties and it is crap today. A little known fact about that book is that there are enough copies of The Great Gatsby in print already to turn every child in the world off reading forever, twice.
Okay. So I started over towards the check out area when I heard "May I help you?" from one of the librarians. I had been offered help twice already (I suppose I have that lost and helpless look. Or maybe they are just hitting on me -- I get that a lot.) so I turned to decline and saw someone who was giving the lost and helpless look with professional level zeal. Maybe not professional, but this person was a natural.
She was visibly angry, almost quivering, and her eyes were a bit more glazed than people get without the aid of chemical enhancements. Her reply to "May I help you?" instantly etched itself into my brain for future use at grocery stores, car dealerships and doctor's offices: "NO! Not unless you can get inside their heads and find out what they are whispering about me when I turn around!"
The library must be an awful place if you have a paranoid fear of whispering.
After we went home, we decided to check out another county library to pick up a specific book they had in stock. On the way in, I was relating the story of the crazy lady (And please understand, when I say "crazy lady" I only mean to identify her for the purposes of this blog. "Crazy" is an identification, not a diagnosis. I could refer to her as "blue sweater lady" but that would be confusing since I never mentioned her clothes before. If you see her, feel free to call her "crazy" if you like -- just don't whisper.) and our steps lined up with those of a younger guy, probably a student of the college where this brance of the library is located.
"Hello," I said.
"Hi! How are you?"
I responded with the non-committal, "Fine. And you?"
Now, honestly I make an effort to pay attention to the answer to that question. Too often "How are you?" is thrown out as a conversational placeholder and I hate to catch myself using it that way.
It sounded like he said, "Not too good. My friend was stabbed."

"Sounds like you are doing better than him."

Of course I didn't really say that. That would be awful. And I'm not really sure he said "stabbed". There was a lot of traffic noise. He might have said, "My friend was in an accident" or "My friend is on fire," or maybe, "My friend was stabbed -- I still have the knife." I've blocked out weirder stuff.
I defaulted to the standard, "I'm sorry to hear that."
Whatever happened to this guy's friend, crazy people are just one more awesome reason to skip Barnes and Noble.

Except that one time there was this crazy person in the ladies restroom at Barnes and Noble that Shana had to report to the authorities. I'll let her blog about that one.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

In 1984 Marvel kicked off a new series set in the Marvel Universe with kids as the main characters. "Power Pack" was targeted at 12-year-olds like me but it never worked on the same level as the X-Men or Spiderman, probably because those comics featured characters who are outcasts and misfits, and if that doesn't speak to the average 12-year-old I don't know what does.
Anyway, Power Pack got super powers from some weird horse-headed alien creature.
They used these powers to rescue their parents and fight crime and government agents sent after them.
For whatever reason, Marvel decided to try the concept out again a few years ago. I picked up the first eighteen issues in a hard-backed graphic novel "Runaways" at our local library.
The concept is updated. The kids are a little older, eleven to seventeen, and they are not related, or even particularly close. Their parents belong to the same charitable organization and they meet up once or twice a year.
The complication arises when the kids discover that their parents are super-villains plotting to destroy the world. In spite of (or maybe because of) this adolescent fantasy the comic works. It is really well written and was difficult to put down. Read it. Anything else I write is a spoiler.
It also prompted me to look up the Power Pack. What have those kids been up to?
Alex, the oldest, stole the powers from his younger siblings and went solo for a while. Before the New Warriors blew up a town and prompted the Civil War Meta-Human Registration Act, Alex was a member. He quit just before that unpleasantness because he had second thoughts about stealing his power from family.
There are new, out-of-continuity mini-series out and in development which are suitable for all ages and co-star other Marvel characters. I plan to try to find them for Gwynyth.
I'd rather delay her theories that her dad is a super-villain as long as possible.
If she doesn't know, she won't have to lie to the authorities to protect me. Besides, in a few months my death ray should be complete and hydro-carbon free.

Friday, July 07, 2006

As promised, today I'm going to discuss Opera. It is a pretty decent browser from what I understand. I still prefer Firefox. Tabbed browsing (finally available in the latest Internet Explorer as well) is too awesome to live without. I think the latest Firefox has a memory leak, but I'm using the beta so who knows.
Wednesday I dragged Shana over the Odyssey Comics on Fry Road, my preferred comic store. Wednesday is new comic day most of the time. This week there was a holiday, so I wasn't too surprised that the shipment would be a day later than normal.
The owner told me that his regulars come in on Wednesday except when shipments arrive late. When Wednesday passes without seeing certain people things just don't seem right. He said he always hoped the industry would catch on and ship a day early on weeks with a holiday.
"I've been here thirteen years," he told us, "I'm used to seeing these specific people every Wednesday. It just doesn't seem right."
I stopped by Thursday after work and there was a crowd gathered.
The hibachi restaurant next door had taken a turn for the worse overnight.
That place had been weird for a while. It took forever for them to initially open and then they closed for a bit and re-opened. The food was good and there was always a crowd. The last few weeks there was a "Closed for Family Emergency" sign on the door and Wednesday night around 10pm the place burned down.
Of course, the logical explanation is that the owner ran afoul of the local yakuza.
The inspector (one of the crowd of people standing around) was looking closely at the wiring. I didn't have to ask him if he was looking for evidence of ninja throwing stars. I know enough about how these things work.
The whole time, my eyes kept being drawn to the smoke and water damaged wall of comics in "my" store. Sharing a wall with someone who annoys ninjas is never a good idea, especially if that wall is where you keep your comics.
I saw the owner and made eye contact. At that point I couldn't wander off without wishing him well. He seemed ok, considering, and plans to be open in "a few days" a couple of doors down.
I'll put off comics this week. I could drive to a competing store, but this guy evidently fought off a ninja death squad.
That's not the kind of comic book store owner you want to have on your bad side.
Plans for today include meaningless paperwork and looking busy, followed by an undercover infiltration of the yakuza death cult which has set up operations in the suburbs.
Hopefully, none of them read this blog.
You know who does read this blog? People who like vomit stories.
The server (at least as of yesterday afternoon) is still sitting on our loading dock, waiting for pick up by a "Data Recovery Specialist" company. I suggested they put up a flyer at local universities and offer beer money in exchange for some college student cleaning it out. I'm sure more than a few of them have experience cleaning vomit out of electronics.
I suspect sending it out for cleaning will cost more than the hardware is worth. Also, it smells pretty horrible.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The story from Wednesday is in horrible taste and very immature. You can skip it and come back tomorrow if you like. I'd understand.

If you are still reading, I'm more than a little disappointed. But not surprised.

So yesterday afternoon there was a knock on the door and, as custom would dictate, the guy closest answered it.
The customer standing there looked panicked. He was almost hopping with an urge to do something about whatever his trauma was. He had the look on his face you see on guys ten people back in the line for the Port-A-Potty. Those guys who are conserving a trip and throwing away a grocery bag of empty beer cans just before they walk in. That desperate, should-have-known-better, hopeless look.
"I . . . need . . . um . . . Do you have maybe . . . Someone threw up in a server and do you have anything we can use to clean it up?"
"No", I answered,"But how do you do that?"
I followed him out to his server rack and saw the server. They pull out like drawers from a dresser and the lid had been removed for some kind of hardware work. Instead of adding a processor or memory, though, a technician had added a chili cheese Koney Korndog "value meal" complete with an order of Fiesta Tots and a chocolate shake. While this was a few hours after lunch, I suspect there had been some "up sizing". It had been smeared around in there with some of the low-quality paper towels from the restroom.
He was totally correct. Someone had thrown up into a server.
About all I could do was verify that it was unplugged. No one wants to see a flaming vomit-filled server. Well, not in person. I'd like to see a video.
Since this customer pays for "vendor management", our technician got to call Dell to find out what they could do to help. According to the voice-logger, "No, that's not covered under warranty and how do you even do that?"
In the end, it was decided that the company could do without mail for a few hours while the drives were pulled, copied and placed into a different, less vomit-filled server. I can really respect that. If it had been me, I'd have pulled the plug, closed the lid on the server, pushed it back into place and walked out -- never to be seen again.
I'd not only quit that job, I'd quit the industry. Of course, these days I'm kind of looking for an excuse anyway.
Today there is a post-mortem on the vomit incident. I'm working on documentation for the next time this happens. I may spend some time modifying images illustrating leaning away from the electronics when feeling queasy.
I'm also compiling a list of new euphemisms for throwing up specific to I.T.:

1. Leaving negative feedback
2. Uploading an image
3. Sharing a splatter file
4. Digestive reboot
5. Liquid cooling a server
6. Voiding a warranty and a value meal
7. Slipping packets through the esophageal firewall
8. 3D graphics rendering
9. Emailing RIAA on the circuit-filled phone
10. Leaving a comment on MySpace

Tomorrow I'll talk about opera or something to make up for all this.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

And so my wife has a totally 1337 MySpace account. And it seems like ages ago that Pam got one. And my co-workers spend hours every day trading MySpace stories and talking about crazy old friends and crazier new friends they have visited with for no other reason than having a MySpace account.
I've had one for a while. I signed up, ditched Tom and went to work spying on my friends, co-workers and neighbors. I mocked backgrounds, cursed pages that play music and marveled at the 1337 sp3@k and bad grammar. I dug through countless posts about who looks good, who is a "ho" and who might possibly qualify as a "playa". Don't even get me started on who is a "bee-otch".
I looked at poorly airbrushed pictures of people my age * and swore to pay a ninja death-squad to take me out if I ever do anything so vain. Not that I'd need to. I moisturize every day and avoid exposure to direct sunlight light any self-respecting I.T. vampire should. An ounce of vitamin E is worth a pound of Photoshop, you know?
And then I put up my own background (a basket of kittens) and added a display picture (the always appropriate "O RLY?" Owl) and added my wife as my friend.
And now, convention demands I have everyone else on my friends list.
Fine. I can do that. I can spend time every day managing my MySpace account and sorting my contacts by astrological sign and middle name.
MySpace will have the friends list covered. will now have my "Foes List".

Foes List July 4th, 2006:

10. Decaf coffee -- What the hell is that? Seriously.
9. Dr. Doom -- He's intelligent and super strong, but most of his schemes seem to rely on some sort of beam or ray. A sun shade (or even SPF 40) would probably foil him as well as rocky skin, the power of invisibility or the gift of catching on fire but not burning up. Elongating body parts present too many jokes for me to even begin.
8. Little yippy dogs
7. Orcs -- They are much nastier now. Back in the day, they were pretty generic 8 Hit Point ugly people. With the new rules, you can give them class levels. A 10th level Orc Warlock is just burly, hex-tossing grossness.
6. Bargain Basement cat pushers -- You've seen them hanging out in front of Petco with their cages full of diseased animals. Each cage has a little index card of sorrow on it like "Unwanted Gift" or "Owner's New Boyfriend is Allergic". Those cards resulted in 75% of our current household cat population.
5. People without a clue -- You've driven behind those losers.
4. People without "Clue" by Parker Brothers (now Hasbro) -- And not the DVD version, either. People shouldn't have to cluster around a TV to find out that Colonel Mustard struck down some nameless victim with a Candlestick in the Conservatory. Again.
3. No-Foam Lattes. Especially Breves. It's just too much, people.
2. Zombies -- Always destroy the brain. My co-workers hate zombies so much they are pre-emptively destroying their own brains one cell at a time. I appreciate it now, but I'll appreciate it so much more when someone spills toxic waste in our parking lot.
1. The French -- It helps to start with an easy foe, and no enemy is easier than France. It is rumored that there is no French translation for "We surrender", as all French children are taught that phrase in every other language.

If you aren't French and are interested in being on my friends list, I'm all about it. I feel a strange need to have more friends than everyone else. I even miss Tom a little.
I've also still got email addresses available at the low low crazy cheap price of free.

Plans for today include catching up on four days worth of email and paperwork followed by trying to figure out the "invite friend" process.

* She went to school with my wife. OMG! You should see the comments!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Happy (almost) Birthday, America!
This next bit is not intended to be an accurate depiction of historical events. While I was a decent student of history, that was a long time ago. All that is left is fragmented memories and my own (possibly skewed) perceptions. This article is entirely based on those.

I think July 4th is a good thing to celebrate. The date the document (and it is an awesome document) was ratified is certainly important.
It should be noted, that while the Declaration of Independence (full text) was ratified on the 4th, independence was declared on the 2nd.
The First Continental Congress met in Pennsylvania to discuss just how crappy the British were and how it would be awesome if people in America could stop sending them money for no good reason. It should be noted that the First Continental Congress were not elected, but kind of latched onto each other after a long night at an Espresso bar or maybe Ye Olde Denny's.
"Hey! Let's be a Congress!"
"t3h br1+1$h R L4M3!"
So they piled into the State House and by quick show of hands declared independence. Go, Team America!
Only, they had no document proving or recording this. There was no email to send to England with a request for a Read Receipt.
They had a rough draft of something, maybe. But there were misspellings and cross-outs and notes in the margin and a ring left by a tea cup near the middle obscuring the part where women should be allowed to vote.
It needed to be cleaned up and re-worked and written by someone with decent handwriting.
So July 3rd is the day of the first American all-nighter. I picture it a little like sales guys working on a Power Point presentation when they know nothing about the client and the intended audience really just want to keep their farms. About three in the morning they get goofy, but you have to consider that sales guys start drinking at 11am.
I also remember they worked with the windows closed in the heat of summer because they were concerned about British spies listening from outside.
Leave it to British spies to be too polite to come inside uninvited. This, by the way, is number four on my list of ten ways the British are like vampires.
Sometimes it is too hot for me to go to the beach, I know I'd have issue sweating and working on some Power Point presentation. That alone says a lot to me about the dedication of these men who took it upon themselves to declare war with the world's most powerful nation on behalf of the rest of us.
I know, traditionally, we light stuff on fire on the 4th of July. I think it is important to remember that the real work was done on the 3rd, when some sleep-deprived, sweaty, non-conformists articulated the reasons for a rebellion in simple facts to persuade people unlikely to otherwise join the fight.
It should also be noted that it wasn't signed by most until almost a month later, proving that most deadlines are excessively short and probably only thinly veiled attempts at office politics power plays.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

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Yesterday we saw the teaser trailer for Spiderman 3.
Here is what I learned:

Venom is definitely in it. There is a scene where the symbiote is attaching to Peter's arm. This hints at a Venom origin story closer to the Ultimate Spiderman version. In the original, the black suit was picked up on an alien planet during the first Marvel Secret Wars. In the Ultimate, the suite is a creation of Peter's father as a possible cure for cancer.
Either way, it feeds off emotion and makes Spiderman act erratically.
The trailer also shows Peter in a bell tower. In the comics, Venom was vulnerable to sonic energy and was first forced off Peter in a bell tower.
We see a shot of Topher Grace, who plays Eddie Brock. I would guess he is the childhood friend of Peter version from Ultimate Spiderman instead of the disgruntled co-worker version in the original.
The big question is the role Venom will play. In the comics he has been both nasty villain and anti-hero. It is possible by the end of the movie Venom and Spiderman will be working together against Harry Osborn and Sandman.
Another big question is: "What is the deal with Gwen Stacey?"
The teaser shows her clearly played by Bryce Dallas Howard.
Gwen has an extensive comic book history with Peter Parker. Widely considered to be his "true love" (even over Mary Jane), Gwen was certainly Peter's first love. Gwen was portrayed as being incredibly bright, identifying with Peter's intellect as opposed to shunning it. She preferred his personality over others such as Harry or Flash Thompson. Stacy was ultimately unable to escape the shadow of Spider-Man and his foes. A battle with Doctor Octopus (presumably deceased in Spider-Man 2) killed her father; Gwen blamed Spider-Man for his death.
Gwen was killed in the comics by Green Goblin in a scene mimicked in the first movie with Mary Jane. In the Ultimate Spiderman, Carnage kills her. As a side note, the Ultimate Spiderman Gwen Stacey had more of a punk/goth thing going on.
It's a safe bet that while Bryce Dallas Howard probably signed for three movies, she isn't counting on appearing in any others.
The last film had Harry finding his father's stash of evil. In the teaser, we see him using it.
His outfit is a little less super armor, a little more basic black with a half mask.
It does look like he is wearing some kind of goblin gloves.
We see Spiderman attack him, so we can assume that the alien may be controlling him. Or maybe Peter has gotten over not attacking his friends. Especially when they turn evil.
Of course, the whole Peter/Mary Jane/Harry/Gwen thing could cause anyone to turn evil.
The effect for Sandman looks good. With everything else going on it is easy to overlook the first announced bad guy. Sam Raimi has said that Sandman will have a family in this movie, so maybe he will be more than the simple thug he was in the comics.
He appears in the teaser in possibly the coolest moment -- pouring out of a sand truck and crushing some surprised cops.
We will get more trailers, I'm sure. This one didn't even actually show Venom, only the symbiote and the uber-cool black costume. We can expect to see him in the next trailer, I guess. The sad truth is that they have until May 4th, 2007 to finally show us Venom if they want to pull that E.T. stunt and not show him in anything until after the movie releases. I find that extremely unlikely, though, since action figures will hit the shelves in advance of the movie. What kid wouldn't want "Spitting Surprise Venom" immediately upon seeing the awesomeness?

After the trailer, we saw Superman Returns. I had a Diet Dr. Pepper.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

I picked up the new Marvel Civil War comic and the new Amazing Spiderman because I'm still having trouble believing the "My-name-is-Peter-Parker-and-I've-been-Spiderman-since-I-was-fifteen-years-old" press conference. This issue concentrated on the viewers. Every villain is pretty much Google-ing Peter's address and The Daily Bugle is suing him for millions.
Speaking of lawsuits, recently rescued people are starting to complain of neck pain since they suddenly have legal recourse.
I don't know. I guess it is just weird for me. The "Secret Identity" concept is a part of our culture - our shared mythology - as much as it is a part of everyday life in the Marvel Universe.
I was freaked out years ago when Peter Parker "came out" to Mary Jane about being Spiderman after much deliberation. Her response was, "Oh. Of course. I know that. I thought you knew I knew, because it's pretty obvious. Is there anything else?"
I think I always wanted to see the "Death Bed Confession" version, where they are elderly:

Peter Parker: Mary Jane, I want you to know . . . That I was Spiderman. So no matter that you thought you were cheating, I always considered you faithful to me.
Mary Jane: Oh, Peter! Somehow I always knew!
Peter Parker: I love you.
Mary Jane: I love you.
(insert a couple of frames of poignant hand holding in the hospital room)
Mary Jane: You were Blade, too, right?