Saturday, September 30, 2006

Happy Weekend, everybody!

I was involved in another client sales pitch elevator meeting on Friday afternoon.
This time I boarded the elevator on the 9th floor with the rest of my team at the same time as one of the owners of my current company who was conducting a tour with someone in charge of something or other from some oil company. I'm hazy on details. I remember on my first day being introducted to this particular owner. I took note of his last name so that future "My mailbox is missing" calls from him wouldn't be answered with my standard "Where did you last see it? Did the mailbox seem depressed?" response.
Anyway, as we boarded, the owner stopped in mid-speech. He introduced us to the guy from the oil company by name (He even got mine and my badge is typically worn backwards, bonus points for pronouncing the first name even if my last name is still my middle name in some parts of the building) and told the client that my team and I are the "brains of the operation".
"If this elevator goes down with these guys on board, our company is sunk."
I was a little floored. Sure, it was laid on thick, but coming from a technology company that considers techs an expense to a chemical company that considers them important to revenue just seems . . . odd?

I apologize for the brief post. I'm working on some geek projects this weekend.
If any are blog-worthy I'll share.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Yesterday I got a garbled call from Shana a little bit after noon. Since my Cingular phone all but doesn't work from within my building (and also since I had just confronted the Desktop Manager about picking a standardized printing platform "for the love of God") I walked downstairs to return Shana's call from the parking lot out back.
We briefly discussed groceries and my need for diet cola. I forgot to ask for vinegar.
I went back in and hopped back on the elevator.
Also in the elevator was the VP of Sales from my last company, talking to a prospective client about staff technical proficiency and guaranteed uptime and such.
He pretended to not recognize me. Nice.
Now, for the sake of history, it should be noted that (while never named) this particular individual is approximately 40% of the co-workers referred to as "sales asshat" back in the day, with the other 60% being about eight other people.
I'm a big fan of karma. I think that eventually karma will even all things out in the end.
For every bad thing that happens to anyone all over the universe, karma keeps score with the intention of evening that score later on, generally in defense of the little guy.
I think karma needs a cape and a mask.
As the door to the elevator closed, I thought about all the horrible things people do to each other every day and I began to be concerned for karma. That is one enormous list at the end of the day. Since I had a few minutes, I decided to help karma out a little, free up some time for karma later in the day so that maybe karma can squeeze in a nap or a couple of rounds of Unreal Tournament.
I smiled and turned and laughed and apologized to the VP of Sales from my last company that I almost didn't recognize him, having left my glasses (for the record, reading only ;)) upstairs.
I made a point to call him by name and ask how he'd been. I also pretended that I hadn't noticed he was trying to close a deal with the third occupant of the elevator.
I talked about the great time I had at the sales/tech mixer that one time and asked how another former co-worker's baby was doing.
Still conversationally, I asked him if they had really instituted random drug testing of the technical staff and if it had caused, through test failures and panic, as massive a turnover rate as I'd heard.
Then I asked how the new techs were working out, knowing they hired the bottom of the barrel this last time.
He blinked at me a bunch of times and had no coherent response.
As I got off the elevator nine floors later, I asked him to call me for lunch sometime and shook my phone at him as if he has the number.
Still smiling my friendliest smile, I thought again about karma. Maybe karma can catch a movie later with the free time I just created. I recommend Snakes on a Plane.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I was enjoying my ride home on I-10 this afternoon when I got hit.
The most awesome idea for a novel just struck me, broadside, and I had no choice but to take note of character names in anticipation of NaNoWriMo.
I'm not starting early, but I couldn't help but write down a few things.
Good ideas flee me like cats run from a screaming idiot. Only less humorously.

This morning I broke Scotland. Fortunately not the whole country - just our office there. Anyway, I managed to talk the on-site tech through restoring services while I drove in.
Next time I break Scotland I'll do a poorer job of explaining myself in the hopes that they will send me over to fix the stuff personally.

Later in the day I helped a guy at work by deploying a crappy application for him. He promised me a user list and wandered off. Hours later he stepped back into my cube, visibly angry.
He berated me for not responding promptly to his email and for delaying his deployment. Also he was angry that when I had responded I had feigned ignorance.
Then he leaned back out of the cube and looked at the sign. He read my name plate. Twice, at least.
Then he apologized. He had thought my name was something else supplied by the global address list and sent an email to someone at an office in Wyoming.
I laughed at him. A lot.
I mean seriously. I had to get up and leave. I made it to the men's room (wash your hands six times) and the Coke machine before I had even slowed down.
To be fair, he laughed too. Of course, then he wanted me to do stuff and our relationship fell all apart again.
You know. Like they do.
Anyone that has ever visited a Mac-centric website or seen a commercial can tell you that Windows machines are subject to thousands of pretty nasty worms, trojans and viruses. Keeping a personal computer secure is a big job. If you multiply that times the 2500 servers and workstations at a company the size of mine (by no means the largest) you can imagine how managing virus mitigation in an Enterprise is a massive undertaking.
The way corporate environments generally do this is through a central management server.
Norton, McAffee and TrendMicro all make solutions that remotely manage anti-virus programs on remote systems.
In real-time, the workstations and servers are scanned, patched and cleaned and reports are generated. The central server pushes out virus pattern files and ensures minimal impact from the latest threats.

Want to know how to break that?
At this point, I'm going to have to ask anyone evil to stop reading.

Seriously, Darrell.

Ok. Here is what happens:

1. Some viral nastiness arrives on a workstation and is discovered by the Anti-virus Management Server
2. The virus is quarantined and the workstation is repaired if possible
3. The virus definition file is transferred to the Management Server to be added to an update list

That's nice. After a while "Workstation [userwenttoagamblingsite] has been cleaned" messages start to become almost comforting.
"The management server is looking out for us," we think. And we are right.
After being added to the master list, the definition is deployed to the definitions folder on all managed systems in the environment so that the client can be aware and shut down the virus if it ever turns back up. But it shouldn't, since we have our friend the Management Server.

Viruses have become more sophisticated while becoming smaller. Some of the earlier viruses were big nasty executables easily blocked and quarantined. Find one. You can pick one of these up on just about any file-sharing network, either through a direct search or by pulling down media files until one happens to be infected. Both methods could take about the same amount of time.
You will need to package the virus with a few things, but all are smaller than a circa-2004 virus.
Release the virus (with some additional components) onto a corporate network.
The old virus will be quickly caught - no damage done - and removed to a secure location. It gets interesting after it is copied to the definitions folder on the Management Server.
The additional things we added to the virus start doing their thing. A small batch file calling the "at" command can, in turn, call a utility that renames the extension on a virus definition file (generally *.dat) back to *.exe or *.cmd. A quick Google search returned over a thousand places to get those utilities and most are free and under 20kb in size. Don't forget to package that with your old-school vintage virus. Also, you may want to avoid registering the freeware with your actual email address.
So now you have a reactivated virus in the definition folder on the Management Server. Guess what the ONLY location never scanned for viruses on an Anti-virus Management Server is?
This extension change registers as a change in the Management Server definitions folder, so the newly renamed file is pushed to the definition folders on all work stations and servers.
The remote definition folders are also never scanned.
Congratulations! In less than a minute (network bandwidth permitting) you now completely own an entire corporate I.T. environment. Feel free to blue-screen them, or remotely control them, or send spam or steal data. Whatever. You run your virus as the Anti-Virus Management Server.

It should be noted that this tactic will only work on systems that can run the client for an Enterprise Anti-virus product. These systems are Windows 95, all four versions of Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows 2000, Windows 2003 and Windows XP. Since licensing is done by workstation, anti-virus companies want to make sure they can get paid for as many workstations as possible.
Clients have already been developed for Windows Vista too, Darrell.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Monday was all about user issues at work. I'd resolve one (usually through routing it back to the Help Desk) and two more would pop-up like some big geeky mythological monster.

Not everything requires a double-click. Some stuff is a single-click. I type that now because I easily said it thirty times today.
No one is less surprised by user issues than me. It isn't like Bruce Willis was dead the entire time.
At one point I wrote up a quick draft of a simple, 100% effective method of solving all user issues. I'll share:

1. Connect to the user's local computer
2. Drop 2.5 gigs of stolen MP3s onto the hard drive (takes about 4 minutes over the gigabit connection)
3. Conduct a "random" scan of some "assorted" network segments
4. Let HR handle the user issue from that point on

This will gradually eliminate future calls to the support number and allow the I.T. staff to take progressively longer coffee breaks which, in turn, will allow the magic of caffeine to increase our productivity over time.

There is an additional step:

6. Profit

Step 5 is sadly still under development. :(

Monday night I sat down in front of the PS2 and killed some vampires. Gwynyth let me know they were doing a better job than I was and she wouldn't listen to my complaints of not knowing my sword button from my health potion.

And I thought about the impending PS3.

As described, it is an amazing piece of work. I've done some math and some research.

It seems the new chips aren't being produced quickly enough, which causes delays while driving up the cost. It is also rumored that the new chips won't run the old games, which has causes Sony to add the inner workings of the PS2 to the PS3 to solve compatibility issues. The Blu-Ray DVD adds $200 to the cost of the materials. All told, these consoles will sell for $599 but cost almost $1000 to produce. This does not include marketing. Additionally, the games will cost $10 more per title than the exact same games on the X-Box 360 and the Nintendo Wii. Sony claims the price increase is due to the extra features but it is a thinly veiled attempt to recoup some of the losses as quickly as possible.

If Sony finds the anticipated 6,000,000 people to buy a PS3 between November and April, they will lose $2.4 billion dollars to do it.
Historically, Sony was owned by Japanese families who culturally understand that long-term profits are admirable. However, since the release of the PS2 Sony has been merged with Columbia and is now over 50% "pwn3d" by Americans with our world-renowned impatience.
The market for Trinitrons and Walkmans is fading alarmingly quickly and movie revenues for the film division are also taking a hit like everything else in Hollywood.
Selling off the film division costs them Spider-man and the subsequent video game sales, adding to the downward spiral when video game sales may be the most profitable division in the whole corporation.

So what do American investors do in a situation like that? Work harder to produce a better product? Start a grass-roots campaign to drive sales and save face?
No. We sell. As quickly as possible.

And so what buyer has both the money to buy Sony and the desire to expand into the home entertainment and portable music business?


For some time they have been producing TV related products like the Media Center PC and the newly advertised Zune media player is aggressive and in direct competition with Apple.

Could the hot gift next holiday season be the Playstation 360?

Again, it isn't like Bruce Willis was dead the entire time.

More geeky stuff about computers

I've been waiting since 1999 for the Linux desktop to displace Windows. Or at least develop into a strong and definitive second choice. It's free. It's stable. It runs well on older machines. It's zealously supported in several frighteningly active online communities.
And it isn't ever going to happen.
There are quite a few reasons, but a few of the biggest are that there are a bunch of distributions and each has it own little differences. It is impossible for most to standardize with all the patch levels, kernel versions, and distribution channels.
Also, it is intimidating. I'd say until you've broken a few desktops loaded with Linux into an unrecoverable state of smoking hard drive you really won't have the comfort level of knowing you can restore it.
There is hope for a unix-based OS standardization, though.
I think in the next five years, Apple's OSX (and whatever follows it) will continue to gain market share until it is a strong number two in desktop operating systems. I don't see it replacing Windows, but the more I learn about it the more I like it.

If you are reading this on a Mac, I apologize. Skip on down to the bottom and post a smug Mac-ish comment.

If you are reading this on a Windows machine, you are familiar with the little buttons on the top right of this window. You can minimize with the little underscore (drop the window to the taskbar and hide it), big box/two smaller boxes (stretch the window to the full screen or shrink it to some setting that probably isn't quite right) or "X" for close.
The result is to get anything really done you can only work in the current active window.
On a Mac, these buttons are basically the same, but better. Window re-sizing is more intuitive. The "maximize" option by default stretches the window to the width of the pane, leaving the user access to the other active windows. For a simple example, if you are using Google Maps in Safari and typing directions in a document to email someone through your mail client when they send you a chat message and an email telling you to not bother, you can see all of it at once and react accordingly.
The Windows user would be minimizing and maximizing windows and listening for notification chimes.

The broader-reaching result is that the Mac user can more effectively multitask, since most have been working with this system for a while. Whether they get anything done is another issue and I think it depends on the user.
The average corporate Windows user talks about multitasking, but I'm certain that whatever the top window is most of the day will get most of that user's attention.
If I'm working a project (long-term) and an issue (emergency) at the same time, you can bet that the project (relegated to the Taskbar for whatever time period) will fall behind.

Anyway, fall behind is exactly what my projects have done lately. I'm the only one stressing about it, but I'm going to go get something done now.

One window at a time.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Sometimes a work-issued computer has restricted access for an employee account. This is to ensure that the employee can make no harmful changes to the workstation. Mostly, I support this policy. It eliminates headache at the Help Desk and can save the company hundreds of dollars a year in ibuprofen.
While I mostly support the policy, I can't stand it if it is applied to me. There are times when someone might want elevated privileges - to diagnose issues, check system directories, or install awesome (and maybe work-related) applications.
If you find yourself in this situation, you may have no choice but to elevate your own system rights.
In Windows systems, there is a master account called "Administrator". This account can do almost everything you'd ever want to do. However, it is essentially a Unix "Root" account with some of the more powerful bits (like modifying system processes) locked out.
Let's skip "Administrator" and hack the "System" account, which is like the local administrator account but with "Root"-like powers far beyond those of normal accounts.

I will now walk you through the process of obtaining SYSTEM privileges.

To start, open up a command prompt (Start > Run > cmd > [ENTER]).

At the prompt, enter the following command, then press [ENTER]:



Yeah, that's it. Two letters. The "at" command is essentially a scheduler used to perform a function "at" a specified time.
If it responds with an "access denied" error, then we are out of luck, and you'll have to try another method of privilege escalation; if it responds with "There are no entries in the list" (or sometimes with multiple entries already in the list) then we are good. Access to the "at" command varies, on some installations of Windows, even the Guest account can access it, on others it's limited to Administrator accounts. If you can use the "at" command, enter the following commands, then press [ENTER]:


at 14:35 /interactive "cmd.exe"

I'll break down the preceding code. The "at" told the machine to run the at command, everything after that are the operators for the command, the important thing here, is to change the time (24 hour format) to one minute after the time currently set on your computers clock, for example: If your computer's clock says it's 4:30pm, convert this to 24 hour format (16:30) then use 16:31 as the time in the command.
One minute later, you should see a command prompt pop up, just like it did before we started this project. The difference is that the "at" command runs as SYSTEM, and everything called from there will run as SYSTEM as well.
Typing "explorer.exe" will open a folder displaying local and network drives.
Typing "iexplorer.exe" will give your SYSTEM session access to the Internet.
Typing the path to an installer will allow you to add new software.
Revel in your godlike authority.
Rebooting is probably the fastest way to put the safety back on before something gets broken and questions are asked.

I would be remiss if I did not provide the mitigation solution to this. To prevent this type of foolishness on a system you just need to change the account used by the "at" command.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Last night I logged into EverQuest and ran around the Mines of Gloomingdark with a new character.
The short story of why I didn't play as my main character, Miyokko DeZeasez, is that there is a new race available in game. The Mines were full of dragon-blooded people running around and smashing rats with abandon.
Miyokko hung out, unplayed, but I still had a good time and was tempted to stay up and continue with the rat smashing until midnight. To my credit, I did not.
I read an article yesterday about Starbucks (you know, like I do) and the article talked about "Third Places". The idea is that home is your First Place. That is where a person can be comfortable and relax.
Second Place is where you are when you aren't at home, most likely a job or some junk. That would be where a person gains a sense of community and does the majority of socializing.
A Third Place, as defined by Starbucks, is somewhere a person can socialize and feel comfortable at the same time.
So last night, as my character again and again ran deep into Queen Gloomfang's lair to whack a spider and drag him out for my group, I thought about the other people sharing my game. I observed the chatter on the public and group channels and participated where appropriate. Online games are a very passable Third Place as defined by the eight criteria:

Neutral Ground: Individuals are free to come and go as they please. In online games, players are not obligated to play; leaving and coming back and leaving again are not significant events.

Leveler: An individual's rank and status in society are not significant. As in the culture of early video game arcades, "It didn't matter what you drove to the arcade. If you sucked at Asteroids, you just sucked." Players on online games use a separate avatar unrelated to their real life person, and social status is rarely invoked. My avatar is modelled after our perpetually ill Siamese cat.

Conversation is the Main Activity: In third places, conversation is the main activity that the individuals participate in. While debatable as the main activity in online games, players would not disagree that conversation plays a crucial role. Often, conversation drifts to real world discussion such as personal life, politics, culture, etc. Sometimes the word "w00+" is flung around as well.

Accessibility & Accommodation: Third places are easy to access and accommodating to individuals. Online games allow players to log on and off at will and there are always players online. Activity occurs throughout all hours of the day. In a game like EverQuest, the persistent world is big enough that there is always something to do.

The Regulars: Regulars are those who give the place its character, and attract new individuals. Guild members, who form an organization to play the online game together, and squatters, who stay within an area of the game, are the regulars of the online world.

A Low Profile: Third places are characteristically homely and without pretension. The population of online games follow a parabolic curve; after the onset of players following the release, the regulars remain while many move on to higher profile games. In the case of EverQuest, I've done my best to recruit people back into an older game. It is very rich in content but the power gamers have largely moved on. There is more room for casual gaming.

The Mood is Playful: The general mood of a third place is playful and witty. Players in online games crack jokes during heated battles, perform goofy actions with their avatars, and mock each others' appearances. Rarely are players overly serious about game matters. Unless you jack up a planned and scheduled raid of a major monster. Then expect to pay for your own corpse retrieval fee.

A Home Away from Home: Rootedness, feelings of possession, spiritual regeneration, feelings of being at ease, and warmth. Online games possess a homely atmosphere where players notice others' absences and makes the overall feel of the game "warm".

Online games fit the definition of a third place, but as players become more hardcore and focus more on gaming, their function as a third place wanes. At that point, the same drives that lend themselves to workplace productivity are utilized.

The eight characteristics (and an official study of their relation to online gaming) can be found here.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

I suppose I have an addictive personality. For me, the routine pretty quickly becomes the required.
A thirty-day free pass to Everquest quickly morphed into an EFT monthly subscription.
The staff at the nearest Starbucks to wherever I work quickly learns my drink order.
I gain a feeling of personal validation directly related to the number of page hits I get here.
Checking my email has been almost compulsive to me for years.
After drinking enough Diet Coke to earn a PlayStation 2, I further saved points enough for a free Sony game, a subscription to a magazine and I still have almost 50 points to spare. I added 3 this morning.
My newest addiction is particularly vexing.
I've been issued (against my will) a BlackBerry handheld device.
Now, my only experience with these things before was from years ago. I remember an asshat project manager constantly responding to emails on one. I mocked him.
When his job was eventually outsourced, I remember him standing in the lobby downstairs afterwards - still using his BlackBerry to approve or deny change requests even though he had no more authority. They eventually made him leave the building.
Flashing forward to this job, the BlackBerry is a lot cooler than the tiny email device it once was. Mine acts as a mobile phone as well as an email device. It also surfs the Internet.
This means that even though the Dungeons and Dragons web page is blocked by the corporate firewall (fascists), I can surf it frantically on my 2.5 inch screen as often as I like.
The project for today involves setting up the software to enable my team to connect to and administer servers through our BlackBerry devices. Rather than lug around our wireless laptops, we should be able to diagnose, repair or even power cycle problematic systems from anywhere with a cellular signal.
The downside is I've become that obnoxious guy on the elevator staring at his tiny screen, frantically scrolling and thumb-typing. The upside is my thumbs now house the strongest muscles in my body.

Monday, September 18, 2006


'Twas an ominous mornin' on Monday.
Most o' me crew were unable to board me servers at all, and those that could found the weather a might nasty.
Seems ye olde database was locked up tighter than Davy Jones' locker itself. I loaded me network musket and prepared to storm the rails.
A fair bit later the database was ship-shape, new deck, sails and riggings to boot.
Me fix on the flagship meant the rest of the ships needed new paint, so's I set a process to make the change at seven bells in the dead of night while me crew were sleepin' off the grog.
Alas, ye olde typo set the change for seven bells AFORE noon! And that be how I scuttled me entire fleet in the middle o' the day.
I rushed amidships to see the Cap'n as all boats went down around me.
I told me sad tale, expectin' to walk the plank.

Cap'n Banderas is a good man, but stern, and I just signed on at the last port after a month-long drunk. A lesser Captain would have keel hauled me and fed me lungs to the sting rays, but not Captain Banderas.
The old sea dog laughed at me error! Long and loud, with youthful abandon.
Me plans fer today include annoyin' the accountants (no good lousy privateers) and naming the Help Desk people "wharf rats" fer their infernal misplaced tickets!

Aye, me hearties! Today the I.T. seas need fear the wrath of Geek Beard! w3wt!

Behold the pirate keyboard!

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting


Tomorrow be "Talk Like a Pirate Day", ye lubbers! Ye shall be spendin' the day o' the 19th naming the scurvy dogs in the accountin' department fer the bilge rats they be! Order a grog from the wench at McDonald's!

Here be a handy guide on chattin' online like a pirate:

Acronym & Expansion Meaning Use


Another Squid, Another Pirate
Some things, items, or activities are naturally associated with each other. Pirates and the humble squid are a good example, for every pirate there is a squid that wants him dead.

The eternal struggle between pirates and squid offers a different definition, where ASAP refers to the futility of struggle. Neither party can win yet they still fight on. Truly a sad tale.

X: Rum tastes horrible, and I hate wearing this eye-patch.

Y: Well what can I say, ASAP….


Blow Yer Man Down

X: Those barnacle eaters just stole our gold!



Cry more, cabin boy
Keep whining, you loser.
X: I can't believe I lost again!



Eat My Peg Leg
I do not care for you, or your opinion. To illustrate this point, and to emphasis how deeply I care about this point of view I suggest you do something impossible or irrational like eating my wooden leg. X: You need to be more caring about my opinion.

Y: EMPL, Sucker.


For the Treasure
My actions are governed by the desire for treasure. X: Pirates Kick Ass! Let's go and get these scurvy dogs! FTT!


Guns, Women, Muskets & Dubloons
Why be a pirate? GWMD, that's why. X: That Snoop Dogg, he loves his Gin 'n' Juice. Me, I'm here for the GWMD.


I'd Rather be Marooned
Sometimes pirates get awkward propositions, or are asked to do dignity-lowering activities. In such a situation one can express the desire that they would rather be marooned than do what is asked of them. This can also be used as an insult. X: Sooo…Me and some buddies are going to scrape barnacles with our tongues. Interested?



I'd Rather Kiss a Weevil
I would rather do something incredibly disgusting than do what you request. X: Hey buddy, can you help me out for 5 minutes? I need to scrape some barnacles



I'd rather read a book
Most pirates hate reading, despite such famous examples as Edward Teach. To pretend to prefer reading than something else is a big insult. X: Want to hangout on the poopdeck? We could trade stories over rum?

Y: Haha, IRRAB


Keel Hauled
You were just taught a lesson by someone bigger, stronger or better.


You got schooled, sucker


You just did something incredibly stupid.
X: Woo hoo! Just got a date with that girl in the red dress.

Y: Dude, that's your sister.

Z: KH'd!


Kittens or the Treasure?
Even pirates have unsolvable dilemmas, and sometimes it's just better to acknowledge this and move on. Pirates, like most people, enjoy the company of kittens. They also like treasure. Deciding between the two is very hard, and best put off.

KOTT will be used to indicate that such a dilemma has formed.
X: Tonight is the Big Rum–Off, but I promised the Captain last week that I'd help polish his peg-leg.

Y: KOTT eh?


Learn to Horndance
You have no skill in a particular activity. You need to learn some skills at this activity before you attempt said activity in a public place. X: Oops, I've left my cabin with no pants again.

Y: L2HD, fool.


Lots of Blargh
Expressing amusement online is difficult at the best of times, typing out "hehe" or "giggle" can make one feel like a schoolgirl. Pirates cannot afford such an assault on their dignity (unless they happen to be schoolgirls that are pirates). To Blargh is to laugh, so to laugh hard or long just add "lots of". X: I've just sold your parrot to a Chinese drive thru

Y. You POE grubbing bastard!



Load the Cannon!
Loading the cannon was traditionally done before battle started. In this sense it means getting ready for action. X: Seadogs, let's LTC!


X: I'm so LTC'd that it would make you cry big fat salty tears, you scurvy dog.


Pieces of Eight
A Piece of Eight is a term describing a currency used in Spain for several hundred years. POE is a slang term for money. X: Its all about the POE

Y: True brother, true!


A privateer is a person who claims to be a pirate, but in fact is an agent of the Man. Historically states would contract to private citizens the right to raid the shipping of national enemies. This is piratical behaviour, under control of the state. Narks! X: Hey, what's happening? Want to help me pirate some loot?

Y: Bugger off, you PT!


Argh me hearties!
An inspirational rallying phrase, usually used in social situations. X: Oh no, my musket is poked, I've no rum, and I think I might just have a good cry


X: I feel 110% better now, thank you.


Swab the Deck
Swabbing the deck is an essential part of running a hygienic ship. However it is a mindless task that has low status. Important people do not swab decks. If you are swabbing the deck, you must be a chump, or the new boy. Alternately you may have a Sexually Transmitted Disease. Neither of these definitions is particularly favourable. X: Let's go kick some ass!

Y: Dude, go STD with yourself


Walk the Plank
To walk the plank means to totally mess up. Historically walking the plank was a death sentence. X: LOB, I just holed the keel, my bad.

Y: Man, you totally WTP'd on this one.


What would Long John Silver's Parrot do?
When somebody poses a tough question or dilemma, possibly ethical, this expression serves to make the involved parties make the best choice. Long John Silver being one of the Five Pirates of Yore, and his Parrot being the true brains of the operation. Y: Do we take the loot, the women, or the food?





Your Hands = Salted Pork
Your Hands Are Made of Salted Pork
A person with hands made of salted pork would be incredibly clumsy, and therefore kind of useless in a hand-based human society. Y: Oops, dropped my musket again, I'm such a dunce!

X: Gods! YH = SP!


Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum
Historically this was a line in a famous pirate song. Now it is a line of nonsense that is used as filler when someone said something that you do not know how to respond to, or are not smart enough to think of something funny to respond with. X: Ever played cricket on a rowboat? I have, and I hit a six!



Ye Mutinious Dog
Mutiny means a rebellion against the legitmate authority. YMD is said when one's authority has been challenged, whether such authority is legitimate or not. X: YMD!!

Y: What?

X: If you don't give me my banana back I'll kill you.

Y: Fine, kill me. It was worth it, if just to see you use two exclamation marks.


You wish you were a cabin boy
This is a negative term that implies that you are so bad at what you do that all you can aspire to be is what others would deem the lowest of the low. Because of your incredible crapness you, of course, would see this as a promotion. X: Man I'm great at being a pirate, in every way possible.

Y: Pfft, YWYWACB, Fool.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Yesterday I returned to my desk to find an email from my boss with the single phrase "Come see me" in bold print.
I walked to his office and knocked on the window. He motioned me to open the door and when I did, he asked me to have a seat. Then he asked me to close the door.
I shut the door and stood there, slightly hunched, expecting to be fired or at least asked to do something stupid or impossible.
He told me again to sit down.
I did, trying to keep the panic off my face.
He began,"In addition to my I.T. degree I have a degree in psychology . . ."
"Crap!" I thought,"He's on to me!"
"I watch my people. Everything they do, I like to monitor."
"What did I do?" thoughts screamed through my head, "He has detected my paranoia and interpreted it as guilt!"
He smiled,"I've been watching you."
"He has a problem with me bouncing issues back to Desktop Support! They count Splenda packets! They count Splenda packets!" I think I bit through my cheek.
"I know you feel like this isn't what you want to do," he continued,"but I assure you, you will be better able to use your skills soon. It won't always be like this."
We discussed upcoming initiatives and my role in them. I eventually started breathing again.

Friday morning something interesting happened. I hesitate to mention it, as two men's room related posts in two days is kind of an unpleasant trend.
The downstairs lobby of this building is the only way in. It contains a map and directory, a few conference rooms, a smoking room (who knew they still had those) that my co-workers like to use as a conference room, and some of the only public restrooms in this part of town not located in a restaurant or mall.
Anyway, I heard what sounded like an argument coming from the area of the restroom. This argument (I only heard one voice) was followed by a naked man running out of the restroom hallway and dashing through the lobby. Well, he was wearing boots. I was not alone in the lobby at the time and someone apparently knew the number for Security so they showed up pretty quickly. Then there was a chase. The elevators were disabled - probably thanks to the call to Security as well.
The guy was covered in a blanket and taken to (I hope) a hospital.
Eventually it was decided that the mentally unstable man was using the restroom to bathe, had an episode, and dashed around.
What I learned from this, however, is that companies love to say that their employees are proactive and dynamic and able to quickly adapt to changing conditions - but you can disprove that by watching the stunned faces as a naked man runs through the lobby.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

How does he do it?

I know the question you guys are asking yourselves:

"How does this guy hurl himself into the dank disturbing maw of the underbelly of corporate I.T. day after day after day and still look so marvelous?"

I understand the question. Rest assured, I don't take offense.
Step one is simple: Dress shoes, khaki slacks and a button-down oxford.
Step two is more important: Comparison.

A recent study (admittedly from a company who benefits from Managers deciding they would rather not have their own I.T. staff) has asked what sets geeks apart from the rest of the employees, with special attention to fashion.
Among the top findings are that your average I.T. Geek (a term used with love) is 63% more likely to wear black jeans and 32% less likely to care if their clothes are what we in the business refer to as "conventionally clean". The average male geek is 34% more likely to sport a ponytail and twice as likely to wear a heavy metal t-shirt at some point (possibly several days in a row, apparently). Megadeth does indeed, still rule.

The other finding is that accessories formerly considered geeky are too mainstream to matter. The cellphone belt clip is everywhere. Except on me. A BlackBerry is not an accessory and let's not call attention to the waistline, if possible. Mine fits in my front pocket, hidden under unpleated khaki when not in use.

I've made no secret of my drooling over the new MacBook Pro. Were it not for the severe impact of a recent income-free month, I'd still be filling my online shopping cart with one every day and longingly logging back off. They run Windows, too!
Ok. Back to fashion.
Some enterprising design expert has analyzed what a Mac dresses like in this post. Based on the commercials, Mac users wear jeans, solid t-shirts and navy hoodies. My weekend outfit is fully Mac compatible up to the Van's, which I plan to upgrade to as soon as possible. I've even been working on my smirk!

In other news, I may have uncovered part of the dark secret at work. I counted six "wash your hands" signs in the men's room. Six! And there is no food service performed here at all!
Now, I'm all in favor of hygiene. My hands may quite possibly be the cleanest part of my body at any given moment. But six signs?
Obviously there was, at some point, hepatitis on site somewhere.
I'm spraying everything with canned air before I touch it. It at least knocks off the weaker germs.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Anyone have plans for November?
Darrell and I will be participating in National Novel Writing Month.
Here is the system:
Starting on November first, we will each attempt to write a whole novel. As Darrell knows, the book he is working on cannot be entered. November first is a fresh start.
On average, each day we will need to write 1,667 words to reach the month end goal of 50,000 words.
Here is the point:
By concentrating on word count, we will have less time to self-edit. By starting a story on day one and writing the 50,000 words before the end of the month we won't have time to develop attachments and pre-conceptions about characters or plot which will grant us the freedom to do unexpected things with the story.
Now, 50,000 words is about 175 pages. It is more of a novella, really. But the point is the story, isn't it? And if we don't finish the story in 50,000 pages we can always complete them later.
By midnight of the 30th we submit a copy of our work and robots count the words and delete the copy. No one reads it, but if the word count is there we win.
Winning gets us . . . Hang on . . . It is here somewhere . . .
Ah, yes. We know we won. A feeling of accomplishment. And our names somewhere else on the internet.
Also, "NaNoWriMo" is fun to say. Seriously. Say it.
We will also each have a 50,000 page sample to shop to publishers.
Anyone else want to play?

Hmmmm . . . . I'm going to need a plot or something.
Maybe something with cyborg ninja zombie monkeys that are space pirates. You hear that, Darrell? "Cyborg ninja zombie monkeys that are space pirates" is taken!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

This morning I bought a Diet Coke from the vending machine in the break room. It cost $.50.
I took the Diet Coke and placed it, unopened, on the middle shelf of the break room refrigerator - right up front.
A few hours later, it was still there.
Yesterday management installed a machine that makes free (to the employees) espresso drinks.
Granted, it isn't the best espresso ever, but it is the thought that counts.
I attended a meeting just after lunch to hear a vendor talk about a new Disaster Recovery software product. It was one of those post-lunch, stab-myself-in-the-hand-with-a-pen-to-stay-awake meetings.
My boss (the only other person listening to the guy on the conference call) muted the phone and said,"Is it just me, or is this guy completely putting you to sleep?" He said it just like Antonio Banderas would have said it, too.
I asked a question at the end to pretend I'd been paying attention.
After the call we discussed some enterprise software choices and I made a few recommendations. I left the office five minutes later with a budget of $28k to put a solution (whatever solution I want) in place.
I checked on my Diet Coke this afternoon. Whatever evil my co-workers are up to, petty theft isn't part of it.
I drank my Diet Coke on the way home.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Today was a day about a lot of moments of silence.
My co-workers were pretty subdued. People were reminded. Every passing aircraft took on a sinister appearance.
I'm sure everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing. I thought back to where I was five years ago.
I was in a status meeting in a conference room at Conoco discussing merging the I.T. department into Philips. The voice on the other end of the speakerphone in Oklahoma broke off and drifted into silence. Then it continued:
"Hey. Turn on the TV."
My manager asked what channel.
"I don't think it matters. I'll call back later."
We turned on the TV.
I called my wife.
The second plane hit.
My manager (a former military officer) determined that a plane would need to weave between several buildings to hit ours. I don't think we were as comforted as he may have intended.
Some of us drifted down to the little cafe downstairs to watch more of the coverage. Newscasters reported an estimated 30 unaccounted for flights. While these were later re-discovered (two unimaginably tragically), I don't think I've ever looked up again without a feeling of distrust somewhere in the back of my mind.
In the weeks and months following we heard stories from the survivors and learned about the lost. Everyone I knew wanted to strike back. I think that effort has not gone as well as it should have.
The images we watched live vanished from the airwaves within a couple of days. It was considered in poor taste.
We filled the time with Fear Factor and I'm afraid we have forgotten what it truly means to be afraid.
I read every article I could find today. There are stories from September 11 that I missed in the noise of the original coverage. Those stories deserved to be told.
I have tried to wrap my brain around the hatred that caused it and I just can't. How can people justify that?
The services and memorials are important, but I think if we don't grow as a people then the event is even more tragic.
Five years ago I think I realized that any day that I can go home after work is a good day.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Casual jeans Friday! Casual jeans Friday!

I didn't find the furnace.
I did finally get my name corrected on most places.
Whenever people ask about the name I used earlier this week I tell them it was my stage name.
"I had a small but important role in the first season of The Gilmore Girls. Then my character was eaten by wolves."
That has been fun.
When I got the job they told me about the massive backlog of trouble tickets to be worked. I got access to them today. There were less than twenty. Now there are four.
I managed to shuffle most of them off to the desktop support guys where they able to fix them through a combination of re-installs and reboots that I don't really care about.

Worst . . . blog . . . ever.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Thursday = Free doughnut day at my new job. What is this freak show?
I submitted my list of technical grievances this afternoon and was given the go-ahead to start actually fixing stuff. I also suggested that we double the size of our server farm and that is getting added to the budget for first quarter next year.

At this rate, any day now I'll discover the whole building is powered by dead babies or I'll have to rough up old people as one of my non-technical roles or maybe they all worship Satan. Not that any of that is necessarily a deal-breaker . . .

Excuse me? Isn't another shoe supposed to drop right about now?

Hey! I found out the guy who sits behind me has been playing Shadowrun for the past few years. Old school. Pencil and paper.
Before that he played Dungeons and Dragons. He recommended I take my EverQuest character to Warslik's Woods for good loot and experience points.

My boss talks just like Antonio Banderas.

Tomorrow I plan to find the baby furnace.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Wednesday started as any good Wednesday should -- with a Citrix printer issue.
I've worked with Citrix (an application designed to share applications across a network) for quite a while. Printing through Citrix is either working right out of the box or broken in horrible undocumented never-before-seen ways. There is little middle ground with Citrix.
Of course, whatever is not printing is always the most important document in the history of the company. Or of any company. Or of printing.
Troubleshooting the issues takes time. Often the technician (today played by me) will have to communicate with an end user to obtain vital data about the printer and the error.
During this process, a manager generally leans over the cube. I assume they are hoping to add enthusiasm and contribute to a solution.
If there is a lot of tension, I like to make some outlandish solution in the hopes of getting a laugh.
Wednesday it was: "It is my second day and I'm already sick of printer issues. How about we just implement a paperless office?"
I thought there silence that followed that statement was a "stunned" variety silence. By the time I noticed the wheels turning it was too late.
"I love that idea!" the manager jumped on it."We can help the environment and save the company money for every 500 page report that gets generated in electronic format!"
He dashed off to create a project plan before I could tell him that printing was working normally again.
Then, disaster struck . . .
We got hit by a nasty network worm all across the workstations and server farm. The bad news? It should have been patched August 9th. The really bad news? It should have been patched August 9th, 2005.
The automated patching mechanism was apparently me logging into every server and running the update from the Microsoft website. That took most of the rest of the day.
Our office manager ordered Jason's Deli for the I.T. group. I thought it was due to everyone working through lunch. It turns out that just happens every Wednesday.
Free lunch Wednesday? Dare I hope for pants-free Friday?
The office manager is . . . nice. She told me during my day one tour that she is 60. If she is 60, I'm 20. She has retina-searing red hair and plastic surgery scars near her ears. But she loves to talk.
Today she strolled over to the server team cube farm and started talking about her limo. Apparently, she owns a Cadillac limousine that was once owned by W.C. Fields. He and Errol Flynn carved their names into the wood over the bar. She said she makes a few thousand dollars some months leasing it out for photos.
Then her eyes glazed over and she said, "Can you just imagine W.C.Fields and Errol Flynn riding around in that car? You know they really knew how to party. Of course, they were drunks and constantly used cocaine. You could buy it in drugstores back then. It was totally legal. Just walk up to the counter and buy cocaine. Oh, if that car could talk!"
Jason's Deli is good, though.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Out on the west end of the Houston skyline, just inside the loop, sits the global headquarters of (company name deleted to comply with non-disclosure agreement).
I think the building was designed by committee. They decided that it should have walls and windows and not fall down but couldn't agree on much else.
In a cubicle on the 28th floor just across from the help desk, within the comforting hum of the server room, I spent my day today.
Human Resources had the day off, so no one could correct my name. On everything from payroll to login to contact information and cube label, I am (my first name) (my middle name).
It was my radio name from back before I did the whole computer thing, so I didn't argue. It is my email address. I can't fight that.
I was issued a laptop that works and a BlackBerry that doesn't.
I've been told I can have my home internet connection paid for and whatever office supplies I want can be ordered.
Someone handed me the nicest journal I've ever held and just walked off.
The coffee in the break room is free and they have Splenda and half and half in those little containers made from white plastic.
This company is over sixty years old and this year is the first one with a real I.T. department. I'm pretty sure they think if they aren't nice we will run away.
This is the least funny post ever. I'm seriously freaked out.


Monday, September 04, 2006

Go, team employment!

Tuesday is my first day at the new job. To celebrate, my dad sent a Starbucks coffee card. On behalf of my new employer: Thank you Dad for the liquid productivity.
I think an adequate coffee supply would decrease workplace violence.
Ok. I've got the laptop patched and loaded with useful stuff and my handy USB drive loaded with applications, MP3s and electronic comic books.
I've got my work clothes all laid out in an easy to access pile.
I've loaded an extra optical mouse in my laptop bag because there is a possibility I'll be issued a used mouse. I can't use a used mouse. That's like buying second hand drawers.
I may not be able to post until after work. I'll keep notes if I am able and fully detail all the trauma as soon as possible.
Of course, I've already signed a non-disclosure agreement. I can't post the name of the company here either way because Google could lead co-workers right back here. I can tell you right now that would be bad.
Anyway, just know that if my beliefs line up with those of my new employer then I would have to say that every time someone pays less than $2.00 a gallon for gas, God kills a kitten.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Hey, everybody!
I spent most of today working on a network security project. It was (and continues to be) awesome.
I'll be home again sometime tomorrow. I plan to enjoy a much deserved day off, then I'm back to work on Tuesday in a semi-gainful employment situation.
I chose my next assignment with interesting blog posts in mind. This new position promises to test the limits of inefficiency and reach new heights of corporate jack-assery.
I'm going to work at (company name deleted to comply with non-disclosure agreement) knowing the metaphorical I.T. flames are at least waist high in every area. I've had hang ups with "Human Resources" already and a botched background check (Stupid NSA forgot to cover up the unpleasantness known only as "Sarajevo 1997" again -- Tax dollars at work? I think not!) followed by a successful drug screen (I'll never work anywhere without a drug test again so help me.) but they have already ordered my BlackBerry. Even though I specifically told them I have an allergy.
Anyway, fingers crossed that is available through the corporate firewall!
I apologize for the brief post. I'm dragging the family on a road trip while I do some freelance network security work.
There was a game last night with significant developments for two of the characters and (finally) financial rewards for all four. I feel dirty.
I'll do my best to post from the road.


Friday, September 01, 2006

Casual jeans Friday! Casual jeans Friday!

I knew for the game tonight I wanted a few specific elements.
I wanted another battle alongside their brave hired boat captain.
I wanted weird Xen'drik jungle beasts.
I wanted some kind of dungeon crawl.
And I wanted a reward that makes up for the past two (count them, TWO!) sessions of treasure-free gaming.
As a side note, I find it interesting how well gamers respond to negative reinforcement.
We accelerated the schedule for this game by a week. With prep time at a premium, I started jotting down notes and marking monster stat blocks.
I devised traps and poisons and spells.
And this morning I threw it all out after a night of EverQuest and will attempt to start fresh today.
I hope to have it all sorted out before the group arrives.
Last night I finished part 1 of 'Planet Hulk', the new storyline in The Incredible Hulk comics.
In the current incarnation, the Hulk is merged with the consciousness of Dr. Bruce Banner but is still overcome with uncontrollable rage from time to time. He is kind of an always indestructible super strong Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
He has a recent history of being especially erratic.
S.H.I.E.L.D. sends him on a mission to destroy a rogue satellite and, instead of shuttling him back to Earth, Mr. Fantastic and a group of other heroes decide to send him to a pastoral planet in the middle of nowhere with no sentient life. They have decided they can't trust him and they can't destroy him, so they send him away.
Of course, this is a comic book and the destination was supposed to be peaceful, so a wormhole opens up and sends the Hulk to a brutal world where he is sold into slavery and forced to fight as a gladiator.
Part one is violent and harsh and delightful.
I expect that the Hulk will be on this weird planet until at least the end of the Marvel Civil War storyline. Convenient!
I guess no one wanted either "Hulk smash conspiracies!" or "Hulk smash basic civil rights modified without vote by elected officials to determine secret identity! Hulk hate Banner!"
Ok. "Blogger need coffee! Blogger smash kidneys!"