Monday, December 31, 2007

You Know What I've Never Seen?


I've seen some pretty stunning technical documentation. I've seen technical documentation that is stunning only because of the fact that it doesn't exist. I've seen countless Employee Handbooks. I've seen extremely good maps of where to flee an office in the event the coffee maker explodes.

I have never, ever, ever, seen "This Year's" holiday calendar.

I've seen 2003's in 2004 and 2005.

I've seen 2001's in 2003.

No one ever seems to have one for the current year. It is almost like people hang on to old ones to remember the good schedules or to somehow validate to anyone who will pay attention exactly how long they have been with the company.

This year, I saw 2006's and figured December 31st was a holiday.

It is not.

On Friday I overheard my manager discussing working on Monday and I immediately decided that my having heard it counted as eavesdropping. As I will not be a party to that kind of unethical behaviour I decided to completely ignore what I had learned (For instance, that today is not a holiday). Besides, he was talking really loud into a speaker phone anyway.

But then at 4pm as he glided out he stopped at the desk where I was just beginning hours 11 and 12 at work and said, "See you Monday!"

"Monday?" I asked, still feeling a little guilty about being within thirty feet of his earlier speaker phone conversation.

"Oh, yes," he nodded solemnly.

"I guess I looked at an old holiday calendar." Now that I'd been addressed directly there was no pretending.

"I guess you did," he agreed, "Is that a problem?"

"I'll be here," I answered brightly,"I just won't be doing anything."

He laughed and clapped me on the shoulder.

I laughed too, but then stopped and said, in as grave a voice as I know how to produce, "Seriously, John. I won't be doing anything."

He seemed to experience a discomfort which I suspected would hang over him all weekend and I knew I had nailed the delivery.

Anyway, the point is this: I'm at work. I'm not working. My manager knows about this and my badge still works so I have to assume that he is okay with it.

I'm going to take a nap, now.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Playing Our Strengths


I've mentioned before that my wife Shana and I each have our strengths and abilities and skills which we have, through unspoken understanding, translated into defined roles in our relationship. This has worked well -- With the glaring deficiency in the "Kills Spiders" checkbox next to each of our names. An empty checkbox which my next door neighbor "Doesn't want to hear about" at "2:30 in the morning" or he'll "call the cops". We kid like that, but the man has large and deadly shoes.

So. Shana got a new and more awesome job, which is good. And she is scheduled to start attending that job pretty soon.

When she told her current employer, they were distressed and agreed to reduce her hours.

When I asked Shana if the new job was to be defined as "replacement" or "additional", she confirmed my suspicions that a reduction in hours at her current job would not do the trick.

So she went back to her current (let's call it "less awesome" for clarity) job and again let them know that she had accepted a position with another, separate, distinct employer and that she would be starting work at another place soon.

So her "less awesome" but still nice employer set her schedule around her two days off at the "more awesome" new job.

But Shana doesn't want to work seven days a week. Who could blame her?

It was after this third resignation attempt that I realized that I'd been remiss in my responsibilities. One of my skills, a skill which we have used a lot as part of our relationship, was not being called upon. And the results of this oversight were a disastrous 90 hour work week. 

Shana is the one who balances the checkbook, organizes our lives, prevents me from blowing the complete balance of our checking account on magic beans.

I'm not capable of doing any of those things.

What I do, and do remarkably well, is recall mountains of pop culture trivia and quit my job.

I had no idea the latter was even a skill that one needed to have, so natural has it always come to me.

Since I came to this realization, I've realized that there may be a market for this skill outside amusing anecdotes. Maybe I could give "Demotivational Speeches" and help people move on with their careers with class, grace, and style. Or in a way which creates an amusing story to tell friends.

If anyone is looking for a new and exciting way to quit a job, let me know. Chances are I've done it. The key to a good quit, dear readers, is knowing your audience, anticipating and compensating for potential responses, and being always aware of the local regulations on the safe disposal of various fluids and waste materials and just skirting those regulations.

I've posted resignation letters on corporate intranet sites. I've highlighted portions of an offer letter and slipped it into my weekly reports just to see if a manager ever reads those things (he didn't). I've listened to an unreasonable "Conditions of Employment" speech and left my badge in the chair and not gone back. Once, I told an employer that they didn't seem happy and that I wasn't happy and that I'd decided we should see other people.

Does anyone else need help with this?

What are the chances that my "How to Quit Your Job: If You Are Going To Burn That Bridge, Make Sure They Can See the Flames From Space" speaking tour would be a success? 

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Insert Obligatory Top 10 List Here


I looked around a bit and it seems like there is some law which dictates that if a person has a blog, at the end of December they are required to have some kind of "Top 10" list about the soon-to-be-ending year.

Tech advances and disappointments are covered already. As are Top comic book events, advances in computer gaming, and productivity (and anti-productivity) hacks.

What's left? Me!

I present the (approximately) Top 10 posts on Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng for 2007, in no particular order and subject to suggestions/revisions/deletions/hostile-profanity-laden-hate-mail.

Okay. That's nowhere near ten, but I was having a good time.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Making Friends


I mean, what was I supposed to say?

I was headed to the elevators with a co-worker and we passed one of the salespeople. She was wearing what can only be described as "Superhero Boots". They were long, red, glossy and sporting a giant buckle. There may have been a white star on them somewhere, or my mind filled in that detail from the store of comic book source material it indexes.

Of course, even though I'd never met this woman, the only thing I could say was, "Awesome! Superhero boots!"

She glowered. Not an about-to-vanquish-evil glower, though. More of an I-hate-IT-people glower. Believe me, I can identify that glower from a mile away.

My co-worker made a choked sound, as though he'd found a bone in his peanut butter instead of the expected creamy milk chocolate, and hurled himself into the elevator. I followed him, because while I'd obviously somehow personally offended this woman I needed to know how. Mostly so I could use that information for evil justice later. 

As the elevator doors slid closed, my co-worker almost fell over laughing.

"Awesome! Superhero boots!" is cute, maybe. Not particularly clever given the glaringly obvious shiny red material I with which I was presented, but one works with what one is given. It certainly didn't merit incapacitating laughter, as far as I could tell.

"What?" I asked,"Those were clearly superhero boots. I know superhero boots. My wife has a pair in black. More anti-superhero, I suppose, but whatever gets the job done, right?"

He explained.

"About six months ago we were having some issues with one of her clients. Everyone was working double shifts to deliver on what she had promised and she sent an email from where ever it was she was on vacation. It came in tagged by her BlackBerry." His laughter was just starting to subside as we walked into the little store downstairs,"It was all about pulling together and making things right and playing as a team and all anyone who read it could think of was," and again he started laughing,"The Justice League cartoon series."

Dear readers, what are the freaking chances?

"Anyway, in order to relieve some stress, we ran to several stores and put together a "Welcome Back From Vacation" gift basket containing Justice League comics, Wonder Woman underwear, a Superman lunch box, and a notebook with Batman on it and a bunch of pens and pencils and left it on her desk. She was so angry she tried to have us all fired."

So anyway. My conviction is this: If you wear superhero boots, you have to want people to notice your superhero boots. At the very least you should expect it. I can't help not seeing the mines laid around the office six months ago if they aren't marked off in the employee handbook. If I see superhero boots, I'm calling them superhero boots. If someone turns up in a big fuzzy pink elephant costume, I'm calling it a big fuzzy pink elephant costume.

Unless they are holding a rifle.

Or I'm the only one seeing the big fuzzy pink elephant costume.

In either of those cases I'm not saying anything. I'll just go home early and take some zinc.

In other news, I got an email yesterday and something seems to need some clarification.

I was asked how I could go and celebrate Christmas and be Jewish. The idea was put forth that it is like attending a birthday party for someone I don't know. Snap!

Well, hey. My family gets together once a year. If it were "Rains Fire From The Sky Day", I'd still make every effort to get there to see them.

And to further clarify, if there are gifts it is a bit more like crashing the birthday party of someone I don't know, getting a little drunk, and robbing his house.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A New Tradition


As I mentioned earlier, we went to Opelousas, Louisiana to meet up with the family for the holidays. As I'd also predicted, things ran a little differently.

My fully-uniformed law enforcement officer brother-in-law (he says "Deputy") showed up and (for fun, maybe) administered field sobriety tests to everyone in the living room. I passed after one drink, but he told me if I had another I would be filled with P-H-A-I-L.

I had two more.

I learned that, when in uniform, my brother-in-law is a total hard ass. He got upset when my mom refused to put her drink down for the test and became further agitated when I let her lean on me for the balance and coordination portion.

I called him a Fascist and suggested he just showed up to crack hippie skulls. He did not disagree.

Heel to toe nine steps forward and heel to toe nine steps back is less fun than my own variation, which was a leftward sideways walk (alternate the following foot behind and in front of the leading foot for a few steps bringing the feet together between cycles and then clap) in a delightful roadside Hora.

The official position of Law Enforcement on Hora-based field sobriety tests is that (while fun) they are not too informative. It doesn't help that the dance becomes easier the more one drinks.

We woke up on Tuesday morning and Gwynyth watched her cousins open gifts with maturity and only a little jealousy.

"It's okay, Gwynyth," I consoled her. "They get gifts on Christmas morning and we get total control of the Entertainment Industry."

She nodded, but asked why her cousin got tickets to Hannah Montana.

I thought for a moment in this glaring hole in my "Complete Control of the Entertainment Industry" consolation before suggesting that perhaps the Cajun Dome would be filled with frogs on the day of the show. Lafayette is only a few miles from Rayne, Louisiana and Rayne, Louisiana is the "Frog Capitol of the World" according to all the signs.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Profanity Generation


This week our IT Director has been in town. With any new workplace, there is always an initial period where limits are established and boundaries tested.

So I bet our local server guy $5 that I could make the IT Director curse.

"You'll know when I do it, and there will be profanity from him within the first sentence."

Our local server guy, having worked with me a few weeks, refused the bet but agreed to laugh long and loud at whatever happened.

We had a "Corporate Town Hall" meeting on Thursday morning. I've attended a lot of these over the years. Basically, they all boil down to this: Revenue is up, and that's good. However, costs are also up so don't expect your bonus to be any better than last year. There is talk of new customers and emerging markets and grateful sentiments about long hours and hard work -- With the empty promise that employee quality of life will be a key focus in the coming fiscal year.

This meeting was no different. I could have recycled a half a dozen Power Point presentations and changed the company names. I only caught part of the meeting however, since someone always has to miss these to provide the illusion that computer work is constant.

Anyway, I went to lunch with our IT Director and the local Sysadmin.

We discussed drumming and old jobs and a bit of current work stuff before piling back into the rental car to head back to the office. We talked about network architecture and Active Directory structure and policies both Corporate and Technologically Enforced.

"I'm still confused," I started,"You'll have to forgive me. I know the faces of the executives and I know the names, but I haven't managed to put them together exactly. But I heard two of them discussing your 2008 Single Sign-On project. What technology did you decide on for that?"

Invoking the "Single Sign-On" project is all but taboo among most of the IT set. It is often called "a" project, when it is, in fact, many many projects lumped together under a shared deadline.

There was silence for a second as the IT Director turned red.

I though (for a moment) that I'd failed.

Then he seemed to explode.

"They are talking out their ass!"

Before I could even turn around to remind the Sysadmin that I would have won $5 he had already collapsed into laughter.

And, after that and before we could explain he continued to sputter profanity so creative that I was tempted to take notes, though none of it would ever be published on Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng (Think of the children!).

That said, it was impressive to the point of awesome. Physiological impossibilities were described in such vivid and vigorous detail that it almost hurt to come clean about the "project" I had made up.

Choice bits may be made available by email request.

Apparently the boundaries with my IT Director come somewhere after making him curse a lot.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Because It Has Been A While


I haven't talked much about work lately.

This is largely because I'm still kind of finding my way around.

To sum it up though, I work at a software company. This company produces one suite of software. A lot of the development of this software is done on the other side of my cubicle partition, while the rest is done by a team working the global reverse shift in Hyderabad.

There is also a sales department, whose efforts ensure that everyone gets paid. They have further made promises to customers which mean that this one suite of software is coded using no fewer than three separate coding languages and (due to support agreements made in smoke-filled pool halls) supported and patched nearly constantly in every version deployed across the planet.

The office I work in is in a newer building. The elevators have little televisions in them and the voice of Optimus Prime announces the floor and direction of travel. "Seventh Floor". "Going Down".

The kitchen has a coffee grinder and a nice thermal carafe coffee maker. The developers seem to always drink the last bit and wander off, leaving me to grind and brew a fresh pot and plot their eventual doom.

We have a similar office in Connecticut where all of Management hangs out. This leaves the Houston office feeling a bit like 11th grade English with a substitute teacher. There are constant questions of where the authority is, though I suspect no one wants them answered.

By contrast the Hyderabad office is less nice. The developers working there are very good at their jobs and their presence in our off-hours ensures that the customers will always have a prompt response. As I have been made to understand, the single toilet in that building is cracked along the top and has been for several years. This means that water shoots out the top during the rainy season. During the dry season the toilet is flushed using a bucket of well water and a ladle.

I did not ask if they have a nicer coffee set up than we do.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Trouble Finding Spiral-Cut Gefilte Fish


I heard from my mom.

This has become increasingly difficult as of late with my phone issues.

As an update on that, the phone still gets uncomfortably hot and shuts itself off. It receives Voicemail notifications but not calls. It receives text messages but cannot reply to them. Outbound calls are laughed off electronically without being dialed.

In short, I have a PDA in which to store the phone numbers I've replaced but have no way to access them outside the sealed and incommunicative interface of my stylish red old lady phone.

But anyway. About my mom.

Every Christmas Eve since I was an extremely little pretty geek, I've gone to Louisiana to see family. This has never been an occasion mixed in any tangible way with religion, but a sincere effort on the part of everyone involved to get together at least once a year on my mom's side of the family.

This year is different for a few reasons. While I consider the most significant difference the absence of my Grandfather, I'm touched that my family has decided to make special efforts to ensure my own comfort at the gathering.

This year, in deference to my conversion, there will be no spiral cut ham at the festivities. It has always been my policy to not eat what I don't want. Avoiding non-kosher food is something I do every day and not eating from a giant sliced ham is a pretty easy move to make, but it is really nice that no one wanted to somehow offend me.

I appreciate that pork products will be entirely absent from this year's Christmas Eve, but I must confess that I have no memory of ever having seen a ham at one of these gatherings before.

It is possible that they have always been there and I've blocked the memory somehow. Spiral cut hams have always disturbed me a little, with the wavy unnatural slices and the inviting facade with meat that looks ready to simply lift onto the holly-emblazoned Chinet -- Except that when that ham is tugged one discovers that the "slice" of meat is part of a series of still-connected pork disks which must be torn free, either too large or too small, and then flapped down between the turkey and the mashed potatoes. Overlap of food items is a big deal with my people. And by "my people" in this case I mean the Obsessive Compulsive.

We like a little more control in our food deployment and disposition on eating surface. Food must not touch, lest it be made inedible.

Someday (hopefully soon) all foods will be available in tidy pill form so that a person can get all the nutrients they need with no chance of getting any on their hands at all.

In fact, in an ideal world, these pills will be delivered by our benevolent robot kitchen helpers -- Perhaps while we sleep so that our days can be more completely filled with the activities which make the world a better place. Like paying $9 per gallon to fill our SUVs and abusing the shipping specials on the Home Shopping Network until the operators (possibly also robots) know our voices when we call. And sometimes they will call us just to say "hello".

As long as the robot Home Shopping Network operators aren't running up long-distance charges calling our robotic kitchen help just to chat I think these developments represent true progress for us as a society.

Or, equally possibly, they will be calling to discuss the ideal dosage of whatever it is the kitchen robots are using to make us sleep so much while they harvest our tissue a scrap at a time to gestate their semi-organic robo-larvae.

The important thing is this: I don't like getting stuff on my hands. It freaks me out.

Oh yeah. And I appreciate having a family that hasn't decided I'm going to hell for being Jewish.

That isn't to say they don't think I'm going to hell, it's just nice that those opinions would be based on my behavior rather than my religious preference.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Extreme Reactions to Temperature Extremes


I don't have the complete story. I don't even have all the details. This is not due to a lack of communication -- It is just that whenever I start to ask I get all giggly and have to sit down.

Okay. So yesterday I left for work crazy early (like everyday) and as I left, the house was screaming through every smoke detector for no good reason at all and all parties involved figured it would just stop in a few minutes like it always does.


It did not. When I arrived at work there were a few instant messages from Shana letting me know that our home was still a shrieking wasteland full of nervous cats. She also let me know that Google was unhelpful in providing a list of people to call about that.

I had to try for myself, since Google is not about failure to produce search results. Google is about the instant availability of information needed to live.

But "False Smoke Alarm" and "Thermal Detector Failure" and "Houston Fire Alarm" all turned up nothing we could immediately use.

The Fire Marshal's office was closed.

The City of Houston Fire Department Administration Office seemed a little freaked out that I didn't want a Firefighter to speak at my child's Elementary School or to have them park a fire truck in front of a carnival somewhere. They had no form for help with smoke detector issues and, sadly, no protocol for things which fall out of the bounds of the standard forms.

Shana had a different experience, which will be dramatically reproduced below to the best of my understanding:

Scene 1, near a coffee maker somewhere in the suburbs--

Dispatch: Houston Fire Department Non-Emergency Services, how may I direct your call?

Shana: Our smoke detector goes off when it gets cold and the heater kicks on. Who can we call to have that fixed or destroyed?

Dispatch: Your smoke detector goes off?

Shana: Yes.

Dispatch: Is it going off right now?

Shana: Well, yes. One goes of then they all go off. It's very loud. Could you speak up?

Dispatch: Are you still in the house?

Shana: My coffee is here.

Dispatch: A truck is on the way. Please leave the house immediately and stand out front. Will you need me to remain on the line?

Shana: There is no fire.

Dispatch: Thank you for calling the Houston Fire Department. Help is on the way.

Lights dim, scene changes to Yahoo Messenger window--

Shana: The Fire Department is on the way. You can stop Googling. 

Garrick: That was fast. They have guys who fix smoke detectors?

Shana: Maybe. They are "sending a truck".

Garrick: Fire Truck?

Shana: Not sure what other kinds they have.

Garrick: Lights and sirens?

Shana: Maybe. I'm supposed to go stand in the yard and wait. BRB

Garrick: Pictures! I have to blog this!


Apparently, yes. Lights and sirens and a giant red truck, though since my request for pictures was late I have to abide by the standard "Pics Or It Didn't Happen" law of the intarwebz. They stormed the house, found the failing detector, carried it into the yard and smashed it with fire axes, then drove off. Kind of like really loud ninjas in raincoats.

And I missed the whole thing!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Temperature Extremes


I know. There is no excuse to whine about the cold when I live along the Gulf Coast. That said, holy crap it is so cold!

This means a couple of things to me:

1. I get to wear sweaters. This is good, since I look positively smashing in a sweater.

2. The climate control systems in my building at work work on a weekly thermostat, I think. On cold Mondays the office is cold. So cold my skin contracts and my ring slips and my watch spins around on my wrist. I have to tape/staple both into place. People complain and it gets corrected slowly so that on Friday everyone is sweating and after lunch we all strip to the waist at our workstations to code away like they do on islands in the South Pacific. Someone complains again and by Monday it is freezing once more.

3. We have thermal smoke detectors at home. When the heater comes on (like at 4am and 6am this morning) they all go off. For over an hour. To the point where I'd like to start a fire to give them something to go off about.

Anyone ever had that issue? The oven sets these stupid things off and then we have to go around standing on chairs to replace all the 9v batteries which have died because of all the false alarms. Makes me sleepy/stabby.

4. Even with my sleep interrupted, I look pretty amazing in this sweater.

Friday, December 14, 2007

I Suppose It Is Kind Of Funny


So. Moments after I posted about my new phone, I began to feel a warmth through my chest. At first I assumed it was the regular warmth I feel when I've added a post -- That feeling of satisfaction that can only come from having made the Intarwebz a few hundred words bigger.

Turns out it was the Samsung Sync in my shirt pocket. It was uncomfortably warm, so I set it on my desk and within a few minutes the battery had totally discharged itself while the phone vibrated crazily across the semi-cluttered surface.

The AT&T people wanted to "troubleshoot" the issue over a land line and were offended that I'd left the charger at home.

When I asked if there was anything besides a bad battery which could cause these symptoms I was answered with a silence as informative as any silence since the dawn of digital communication.

Anyway, two phone calls later they agreed to ship out a replacement phone which should arrive early next week. Until it does, I'm going to do everything I can to make this one explode. It is spending every moment while I am at home plugged into the charger and dangling over the sink.

Right now it is in my front pants pocket where I can instantly be made aware of any new and awesome burn-outs it may want to toss my way.

And I brought my charger with me, because I'm dying to let AT&T try to fix it over the phone by teaching me how to store my contacts.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

My New Phone!

Let me show you it!


The Samsung Sync, my friends. Arguably the best media player/phone not prefixed with an "i".

It features 3g connectivity, an awesome onboard camera, integrated IM and (thanks to the proprietary sync cable) the ability to hold and then play back media files from my computer!

Only . . . There was no "Sync" cable with the "Sync", therefore the whole device is completely misnamed.

However, for slightly more than I paid for the phone itself, AT&T will sell me one of those cables.

On the bright side, it is a stunning and trendy red with enough techno-goodies to intimidate all but the hard-core nerd set away from the thing.

It is too awesome and powerful to be used by your average "just want to make and get calls" crowd. I know, carrying this thing, that I'd be set apart from the n00bs.

At least I did until Wednesday night when I was almost run over in the grocery store by a little old lady pushing a shopping cart with one hand and talking away on her bright red Samsung Sync with the other.

I was, for too long, too stunned to speak. Shana had a nice laugh about it, though, so I least I've got that going for me.

I did manage to find the proper cable (and car charger, and headset, and spare cable) on Ebay. While the price difference between the AT&T "Official" cable sold by itself and the much less expensive giant box of accessories I ordered from Ebay leads me to suspect theft or fraud, I suspect selling a phone called a "Sync" with no cable for synchronizing qualifies as possibly both of those things anyway.

And I looked for a while in the grocery store for that little old lady's trendy and awesome grandson who had obviously loaned her his phone. I guess he was outside pulling the car around so she wouldn't have as far to walk.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Valid Comparison


As my co-workers have noticed, I like my Mac. In fact, it has come to the point where one Windows user has actually asked, "If you love OS X so much why don't you marry it?"

How immature. First of all, I'm already happily married. Secondly, OS X is in a committed relationship with Apple right now.

A comparison between OS X and Vista is not only pointless, it is covered pretty much in every other post on this blog.

Instead, I'll compare two things which I really like and we will see how OS X measures up. I'll also avoid any and all "comparing Apples and . . . " references.

Okay. A "Which is More Awesome" contest will be held between Mac OS X and the Star Wars trilogy. This will be tough, because most of you are aware how much I like the Star Wars movies. In order to be at all objective, I'm going to assign scores and have a third-party application compute the results, since all categories have different weights anyway and I hate math.

Let's get started, shall we?

"Out of the Box Usefulness"

While Mac OS X does indeed "just work", a lot needs to be said about the Star Wars trilogy here. The movies (still in the case!) can be stacked and shuffled, used as a door stop, wielded in bug-smashing fury, or (if one has a working DVD player) even watched -- In or out of order!

With OS X, there was a bit of a converting-from-Windows learning curve, though ultimately a person can surf the web, blog, add speech bubbles to pictures and play World of Warcraft while cranking out massive Frames-Per-Second in an awesome display of glossy-screened glory.

Final Score -

Star Wars - 87%

Mac OS X - 79%

"Social Relevance"

Apple is going to completely eliminate the use of polyvinyl chloride by the end of next year. Further, they would happily accept my old computer for recycling as would they for anyone buying a Mac. Apple’s manufacturing site is certified to the ISO 14001 standard, which helps companies manage environmental impacts in an integrated, systematic way. Between the first generation and current generation of the iMac, sleep-mode energy usage has decreased 92% thanks to improvements in CPU power management and increased hardware efficiency.

In Star Wars, a group of insurgents lead by a religion no one really understands anymore blows up a huge facility filled with government workers and (presumably) contracted maintenance civilians. This is all after an earlier scene in which one of the main characters visits an establishment which serves alcohol while sitting across the table from a known criminal (who, by the way, hasn't even bothered to learn to speak the language) and the main character has the decency to wait until the assassin takes a shot at him before killing the bad guy dead.

Final Score -

Star Wars - 40%

Mac OS X - 94%

"Laser Swords"

Any awesomeness scale must include a laser sword rating. You'd think this is a Star Wars slam dunk, but you'd be totally wrong on that.

The Star Wars trilogy has some pretty awesome lightsaber battles. There is Obi-Wan and Darth Vader, and Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, and Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker again. And several times people get their limbs lopped off, so the movies have that going for them. Any time some gross guy gets aggressive in a bar, he will soon be losing an arm.

On the Mac side, I found this little application which leverages the Sudden Motion Detector (which normally stops the hard drive heads when movement is detected to prevent data loss) and uses it to simulate lightsaber noises. The backlit keyboard even flashes when the impact sound is activated. In short, I can convincingly pretend to lop the limbs off anyone who annoys me. I'm not sure you can put a price on that.

Final Score -

Star Wars - 93%

Mac OS X - 72%


The plot of Star Wars is loosely based on Shichinin no Samurai, in which seven brave samurai rescue a princess from a giant spherical space station. Everything else is stolen from The Hero's Journey and pretty much every cheesy science fiction movie made since the dawn of cinema. Plus laser swords!

Mac OS X is based off Unix, which has also been around for some time. The interface is really not a holographic revolution in productivity or anything, but it gets points for being way prettier than Yoda and more stable than Darth Vader (who tends to go off on emo-goth whine-fests). Plus laser swords!

Final Score -

Star Wars - 4%

Mac OS X  - 44%

"Usefulness in customized drinking games"

Where to begin here?

Let's say we create a game where, while watching the Star Wars trilogy, every time C3PO says something that makes a person wonder if robots can be gay everyone takes a shot. Or, better yet, any time Yoda says something grammatically awkward everyone has to take two shots. Hey! Maybe every time someone passionately kisses their own sister everyone has to finish the bottle! Hide everyone's car keys in an empty Gigli DVD case before starting this game.

On the other hand, we could create a game where, while using a Mac, any time a person feels smug they take a shot. When they feel constantly superior to Windows users, they take two shots, and when they make a desktop background out of a semi-transparent self-portrait taken with the integrated camera and add a speech bubble that says "Rebooted that Vista machine lately?" they finish the bottle! Make sure you back up your data before playing that one. I lost a lot of really funny lolcat pictures.

Final Score -

Star Wars - 97%

Mac OS X - 98%

For the ultimate evaluation, I've plugged these data points into a neat interface which will, I hope, spit out decent graphical representations.


That's not as helpful as I'd like. Here:


Better . . .


There we go! That should very well clear everything up.

While I was making those, I picked up a new statistic which I will pass along to you:

75% of all pie charts look like Pac Man:


In other news . . . Can you guess who has a cellphone? Me!

Can you guess who's SIM card ate all his phone numbers? Also me!

What reaction would you suppose I'd have to that, given my level of comfort with technology and predisposition towards profanity?

Anyway, if you'd like me to have your number, call me or send me a text at too-ate-won fyve-fore-sicks too-fyve-three-three or ship me an email at Hopefully those last two lines made some spam bot catch fire.

Guess what else!

Allan Metcalf is a total n00b


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Have I mentioned how fun the MacBook is?


And now, I've realized a life-long goal of appearing across vast distances as a Star Wars hologram. Try to imagine the ghost-like blue image on the left there alluding to long-forgotten Sith mysteries and pronouncing edicts which will bring about an end to both the Galactic Senate and those stuffy self-important Jedi. Not hard, is it? Some of that ease in imagining comes from the snapshot, while some probably just comes from the fact that I often blog about the deserved end of both of those archaic institutions. The fools!

[Insert Maniacal Laughter] "Star Wars hologram appearance" was step #277 in my ultimate plan for global domination. Again, doing these things out of order may foil my plans for a bit. However, I've come around to the belief that all things can be overcome given a Unix framework and an aluminum case. [End Maniacal Laughter]

Disclosure time: I picked up Parallels and installed Windows Vista on the machine in a virtual environment just for VPN access and (most importantly) the completely cool Windows Live Writer (because I'm not at all happy with the way ScribeFire worked. There is no room for ugly posts on Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng).

You know what? Windows Vista, even isolated in a separate space on my OS X machine, is still as annoying as hell.

My User Account Control settings seem to throw the OS into little anxiety attacks and I need triple authorization to install even stuff from the Windows Update site because even is the "Evil Intarwebz" from which we must all be protected so very much.

I have to reboot and update and reboot and reboot that virtual environment pretty constantly. While waiting during one of these, I cranked this out on the Mac:


Ah. I've missed that guy.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Declaring Bankruptcy


Guys, my cellphone has been broken for two weeks. I have not made or received a call in that whole time, but my account has been active. I know when I went outside to get a signal and first discovered that my cellphone was busted, I had amassed more than ten unheard voicemails. The fact that I had intended at that moment to check them was irrelevant in the face of my non-charging, Check SIM device.

Since that time, calls to my phone have automatically rolled to voicemail. The volume of these little audio clips means that the task of checking them is daunting enough to make me actually dread getting "connected" again, even though my new phone may be in as early as this afternoon.

Therefore, this is my announcement that I am hereby declaring "Voicemail Bankruptcy". Voicemails left in the past two weeks as well as the 10+ in the period immediately preceding my communications blackout will henceforth be stricken from the record. These messages will not be played or answered in any way. If there was something important in them that requires action on my part (heheh) this action must be assumed to be unperformed until such time as a new communication is issued by the requestor.

In the event that your voicemail had contained Emergency Information upon which the balance of human life rested on my timely response -- sorry about that.

Here is the fact: The best and fastest ways to contact me are always email, followed by a phone call that I answer, followed by Instant Message, followed by text message, followed by paper letter addressed to me with a kitten drawn on the envelope, followed by a note stuck under my windshield wiper on decorative stationary, followed by a brick through the window with a missive wrapped around it, followed by voicemail -- Which most of you know is rarely checked even when I have a working phone because I hate the AT&T voicemail menu so very, very much.

In short, this post is a notice that I haven't been actively screening any of you, but I will be retroactively screening everything from the past 2 weeks or so.

And we should also expect a brief phone breaking-in period in which I'm trying to figure out how to answer a new phone and the little differences between the new phone and my old phone which will probably technically vex me to the point where I'm trying to find Torrent files for Matlock episodes, meticulously counting daily fibre intake, and scanning Craig's List for someone to come over part time to chew my food.

While we at the Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng Institute of New and Awesome Technology and Low-Carb Muffin Outlet embrace change and technological advancement, it also makes us a little bitchy.

In other news, last night we started what I'm certain will be a delightful annual Hanukkah tradition for our family. One of the cats jumped up on the table to investigate the menorah and set her face on fire a little. She's fine, but some of her whiskers are a little curled and blackened. Our cats (and I suspect most cats) like things a certain way and change makes them light their faces on fire.

Please understand if I have a similar reaction to a new cellphone.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Field Trip


Alright, people! Listen up!

Hey! You in the back!Can you read this okay?


Today we are going on a brief tour. You don't have to go if you don't want to. Just wait here refreshing this page until the rest of us get back.

Those of you who are going, pick a buddy. You will be responsible for making sure that person gets back here. That is our number one rule: Everybody goes home. Got it?

Our first stop is Andrew's blog. He just opened a new play and links to some posts on another of his Blogspot homes for the latest in puppet-related news. It's an awesome read, as always. You could also make a stop at UpToBat, but you'll need to hustle -- We've got a timeline here. Hitting Backspace (Or delete for those of us in the know) should bring you right back here.

After that, we will pay a visit to Pam's blog. She has her own performance stuff going on over there and it is past time you guys caught up. Again, grab your buddy and Backspace back here so we can continue the tour. Stay together!

Tess needs a visit. Poke at her. She hasn't posted in a while and we need to make sure, as a group, that her blog doesn't fade out. I used her "Horses can't vomit" post in a meeting to totally change topics. It worked better than the time I set the conference table on fire. You know the drill, Backspace back here for updates.

Now, while some of you may know better, I feel the need to post this little reminder: Save your juvenile remarks for the comments section here. Remember, we are guests at these blogs so be on your best behaviour. No cursing in the comments, no leet-speak to jack up the flow of comments from the natives, and save your blogger abuse for Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng -- I'm used to it.

So none of your regular foolishness, people. No flaming, no cursing, no grab-ass. Got it?

Okay. Everybody line up and foll-OW! Who threw that?

Friday, December 07, 2007

Hacking the Post Office


Quick tip: If you want to send me into a screaming, flailing rage, please send me something which requires a signature on delivery.

We get a vaguely-worded note from the Post Office about how they are "holding our package" (and I take a brief break here to giggle like a 5th grader) and will be waiting for us to drive down to the office to sign for it, then we need to find a time to make that trip during the hours the Post Office is actually open.

No "Sign this card and leave it". No "Mail this card at your own cost and we will try to deliver again". No "Email us your work address so you can sign there".

Just an all too plainly stated "We've got you by the package -- See you soon".

In this particular case, in December when more people than I knew actually lived on this side of town all queue up frantically still stuffing live animals and gel and fireworks into boxes in the Post Office lobby to get everything delivered before the gift-giving mood evaporates on the 26th.

You've been to the Post Office. You know standing in line that you are the only one in the room who has ever mailed anything -- Or at least that is a pretty safe assumption given the stupid things everyone in the front of the line is trying to do.

And no one behind the counter hurries. Ever. Postal employees wear their steady pace like a vintage hoodie.

Here is the work-around for that:

Our Post Office closes at 5pm. Hard closes. The lobby is locked and if anyone inside can hear the frantic pounding on the doors they mask it like they were born to performance.

We chose to show up at 4:59pm, push past the strolling Postal Worker in the act of closing those doors and then take our place in the fastest moving line ever witnessed in the history of mail.

Apparently, the need to go home is strong in these brave Federal employees. And after 5pm, they don't care about the size of the air holes punched in the boxes of the people in the front of the line. They don't care about boxes with corners seeping blue goo. They don't care about envelopes that smell of sulphur and are on fire.

They just want to go home to play with the Nintendo Wii, have some Mac and Cheese and sleep the sleep of the "Guaranteed Retirement in 1,275 days" set.

This is your key to fast mailing any time of year.

I've gotten a few emails (surprisingly enough) about what I'd like for Hanukkah this year.


Guys, Hanukkah gift-giving is really more about children. Adults don't care so much.


It is a time for children to open gifts and for grown-ups to reflect on the miracle of light in dark times.


It all comes down to community. When we light candles every night we are a part of a global ritual of remembrance.


However, if your holiday traditions include gifts to bloggers then it would be hurtful and wrong of me to deny your right to celebrate in whatever way brings joy to you.


If that is the case, I'm sure you will be able to think of something.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Because That's How I Roll
So I decided that just being upset about the Jew jokes in my office was hurting no one but me, right? I mean, it isn't like anyone knows to care. Seething can be fun to a point -- And to be honest, it is something I have always been good at. But something needed to be done, or I'd have been breaking my own rule about communication in a pretty big way.

I'm not about direct confrontation. In fact, my father has always claimed "passive aggressive" is named for our family.
Anyway, what I decided to do was resolve the issue without involving legal council.
Instead, I skipped out over lunch on Tuesday and went to the grocery store.
After what seemed like an insane amount of digging through candy canes and little chocolate Santas I found a little dejected box of gold-wrapped chocolate coins (Gelt, in circles I run in) and I grabbed a few bags. I also grabbed some jelly doughnuts (Tradition!) and sugar-free pumpkin pie (our new tradition). And a Diet Coke Plus, because I'm always so very, very thirsty.
Armed with these little bags of candy coins, I walked around my office delivering them to everyone I knew had kids with a cheerful explanation and a "Happy Hanukkah!" of farewell.
And the jokes stopped.
Now, I know this hasn't made anyone find Jew jokes less amusing, but at least they would get told behind my back from here on out and denial is another thing I at which I excel.
On the interesting side, I've since become kind of a one-stop, have-your-Judaism-questions-answered kind of place.

Now, another thing I learned about this time of year is this:
While McNuggets and fries are cooked in oil as traditional Hanukkah food tends to be, eating a bunch of them and then chasing it with a lemon-filled jelly doughnut (especially when a person doesn't ever eat refined sugar) is a sure recipe for stomach cramps which will be severe enough to make a person long for the sweet release of death.

Additionally, I've become adept in the past week at artfully directing user hate away from our (admittedly
buggy) application and back onto the Windows servers which host that
application . . . As God intended.
Further, with the delivery of my canceled check on Wednesday, I might actually get paid for this gig, which (in the only truly meaningful way) would make this whole thing worthwhile. Maybe.


Maybe if you forget to hide the keys

I'll take a ride to Applebee's

I'll come home drunk on daiquiris and throw up on the neighbor's lawn

p.s. This is my first post from ScribeFire on the Mac. If it looks like crap, please accept my apologies.

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I Do Not Want


Dell has just announced a laptop with a World of Warcraft theme. It is very pretty and completely nerdy.

I do not want one.

The hardware (aside from twice as much graphics memory) is pretty close to my Mac.

That said, the pre-configuration price is well over twice what I paid for my Mac. Plus, it runs Windows Vista. Gross!

I've been using my MacBook Pro for a few days now. There was a brief glitch which was fixed with a software update. Other than that, switching has been as easy as advertised.

I did download the Microsoft Remote Desktop utility. It works better than it does on Windows Vista, too. I can connect and administer Windows systems within a window on my Mac, as though viewing them from a safe distance.

I discussed the Mac construction process with a friend and we decided that there is a giant mold somewhere into which liquid awesome is poured and then cooled before a complete MacBook is popped out and sold. On reflection, I think it can't be that simple and that there is an added step where powdered Win is sprinkled throughout the inner workings.

Running the same applications on a Mac is just plain prettier and more stable. Media and photos display perfectly and I have not been disconnected in the middle of a heated player versus player free-for-all a single time -- and there have been a few thousand kills worth of those. N-Class networking is probably the best thing to happen in personal computing in recent memory.

What I find interesting about the Dell offering is that World of Warcraft is a three-year-old game. That kind of staying power speaks volumes about both the quality of the product and the strength of addiction, though I can't decide which it speaks more strongly about. Nothing speaks loudly enough to justify over $7000 for a fully-loaded system that still runs Windows Vista, however.

In other news, last night we lit candles and watched Gwynyth open a gift and we had turkey, even though this delicious image turned up on


Today, I plan to call AT&T. This whole not having a cellphone thing is getting really old. Email and this blog are officially the only possible ways to contact me. I actually logged into World of Warcraft last night just to chat with a real-life friend. And also pwn noobz. I multi-task.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Everything I Needed to Know About Corporate I.T. I Learned as a Theatre Major


I've been doing this whole I.T. thing for a while, but I just kind of fell into it. Back in the day, I was a different kind of geek. While "Theatre Degree" is not emblazoned across the top of my resume anywhere, I never actively conceal it in interviews or the workplace. If it comes up in conversation, it tends to make me stand out -- However, anyone with a degree in theatre who obsessively counts hits on their blog every day is not one to shy away from extra attention.

Look at me! Look! Look what I'm doing! It's cool! Look!

What I don't usually reveal in an interview is that I had only one computer class in college (History of Computing) which started with the abacus and moved up through Pascal and more "modern" things -- but I skipped the single lab day. I say usually, because if it comes up I totally disclose that and my three dance classes second semester senior year which I needed for PE credits just to graduate.

Here are some of the things I learned from "The Theatre" which apply in my current day-to-day corporate I.T. life:

1. If people buy a ticket to something, you can be sure they want to be entertained in some way. This gives the performer an edge, since the audience has already committed to suspending their disbelief for a while. This is partially why no one cares if they can see the wires holding Peter Pan in the air. This phenomenon is in the corporate workplace in a slightly different form. There is a basic, primal, tribal feeling of "mutual competence" in most workplaces. No human wants to believe, at the core of their being, that they are the only ones who know anything. In a rush to find like minds, co-workers will often suspend their disbelief and accept technical information at face value. It should be noted, however, that when this feeling gets broken (just like with a forgotten line or a falling set piece) it is a million times harder to get it back.

2. Audience participation is good -- To a point. The audience needs to be involved in the theatrical process. You need their buy-in just like you need the support of your users in an I.T. setting. However, just as anyone who wanders uninvited onto the stage in the middle of Act 2 should be Tazered and carried away, users who "help" too much should be Tazered and have their access revoked.

3. Hundreds of years ago, Playwrights were required to follow basic formulaic forms when creating new work. Anything else would get them branded as a heretic and burned at the stake. The rules are less strict today, but in I.T. you can expect almost the same level of backlash as a response to a new way of doing anything.

4. Communication is the point. Theatre is an art form about telling a story. If the audience leaves the theatre bewildered with no idea what they just dropped $40 on, you can bet they will scare their friends away from future performances. I communicate. One of the things that sets me apart from a lot of geeks is my ability to talk about technical things to non-technical people in a way that answers their questions and reduces their concerns. One time I had a performance review where I failed the "Communication" section. At this point in the meeting, I knew my manager was making stuff up to avoid giving me a raise. My reaction was an incredulous "Why don't you just put down that I steal office supplies and that you think I got the Receptionist pregnant -- because there is every bit as much truth in that?" As I thought, there was no defining incident where my communication skills had failed and, in the end, that section of the review was brushed off.

5. Don't try to fool the audience. All the pyrotechnics in the world won't distract them from bad acting. This translates to Corporate I.T. as "Power corrupts; PowerPoint corrupts absolutely". When giving a presentation, a hundred slides full of bullet points won't help at all. Make PowerPoint a backdrop to re-enforce a well-thought-out speech. If possible, use simple, non-focus-pulling images or single words.

6. Rehearsal is a time sink, but if you skip it everyone will know. Showing up unprepared for a presentation is obvious. You can't fake realistic confidence in anything you don't know and the Q&A will pick off anyone you managed to fool the first time through. Also, enunciate.

7. Costuming sets the mood and the context. If the lead actor is wearing a doublet and hose when he walks on stage, the audience will immediately know that this is a very different version of Oklahoma than they have ever seen before. I try to dress for work in a way that fits the contemporary mental image people have for "I.T. Professional". I do not use a pocket protector, because that is too heavy-handed. For most days, any button down and khakis will work. It should also be noted that I do not wear pants with pleats, partially because I think it is neat that they were banned during World War II and partially because they make me look like I have ginormous thighs. Whatever you wear, your work costume will give the people around you an immediate (even subconscious) idea of who you are.

8. A good actor can walk on stage, point towards the audience and mention the pouring rain and the audience will believe it while staying perfectly dry. In I.T., sometimes confidence and belief are more important than fact.

9. The audience respects a performance that is honest. An understated but authentic emotion will generally play better than screaming and flailing. When dealing with co-workers and users, I will try to always admit when I don't know something off the top of my head. An honest "I don't know but I'll try to find out" will always play better than "Your flux capacitor is loose".

10. The show must go on. Most often in the theatre the opening night is scheduled before the first rehearsal. From the publication of that date, whatever happens people will show up on opening night and expect to see something. This means there are often a large amount of all-night set construction parties, rehearsals that last until a few hours before the next rehearsal starts and much time spent with the rest of the cast and crew in shared misery and hard work towards a mutual goal. I.T. projects start off with a clearly published completion date. If the new login page isn't ready when the CIO tries to use it at 8am on that date, you can count on losing your grant money for future performances.

If you can't use any of this information right now, file it away. Someday, your child may want to major in Theatre.


Also, if you want to reach people, theatre is not always the best way to do it.
Harvey Fierstein

Monday, December 03, 2007

Round Two


"If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge?"

Shakespeare knew something there. Especially about the bleeding part.

You may remember the last great bleeding-in-the-back-of-a-bus challenge. Sunday morning the Blood Bank bus was again parked in the parking lot behind the temple, calling to me.

Todd and I skipped out in the middle of a puppet show about Hanukkah to race through the questionnaire and hurl ourselves into the bleeding couches. I may have indicated that I have not been pregnant in the past six months instead of selecting the "I am male" button, but blood is blood, right?

Anyway, this time I started squeezing the foam rubber clownfish early, because they already had Todd merrily filling a bag across the aisle from me and although they told us they were timing both anyway, I felt some pressure. No one wants to blog a loss, especially twice.

Apparently, when you start squeezing early, bad stuff can happen. For instance, when the phlebotomist finally got around to the needle part, blood shot out of my arm. Some went into the rubber tubing and bag, some got on my arm, and some (though I was looking the other way) managed to hit my glasses like I was in some noir murder scene shot with the camera on a witness instead of on the victim or killer. What's in the briefcase, Mr. Tarantino? Someone bleeding so startlingly in the Blood Bank bus that the trained professionals curse in front of the Rabbi?

Probably not.

But it was pretty gross. And I started laughing semi-hysterically. I totally lost focus, actually.

So I lost the bleed off by over a minute.

What Shylock was warning us about in Merchant of Venice, my friends, was that one should never try to win a bleeding competition with a life-long Jew. If you ever find yourself in the position of trying to out-bleed one, just back down. It will save you a trip to the restroom to wash blood off your glasses later.

Lending evidence to my theory is this:

Shana and Todd's wife Sabrina went in into the bus a while later and hit the couches at about the same time.

Sabrina left for the mall a short while later while the technicians used a turkey baster to pull the last of the bag full of blood from Shana's arm. They were pretty disturbed by her lack of bleeding and more by the texture of her blood which progressed from "Like freaking Elmer's Glue" to "Holy crap -- Is that powder?" towards the end. Some ten or fifteen minutes after Sabrina left, Shana was picking up a bottle of water while the blood techs complimented her mad clotting skills.

By my reckoning, I've been Jewish about ten minutes longer than Shana has, so I bleed about ten minutes faster. This phenomenon is not (nor should it be) discussed in the polite circles of science, but Bill Nye (who is also Jewish) would tell you all about it if you agree with him that Pluto should not be defined as a planet. If you disagree about Pluto that guy will open a vein and drown you in hemoglobin, then casually wander off to play with a plaster of Paris Mount Vesuvius. Shriek in terror, little plastic Romans.

Anyway, some short time later we piled into the car, both with wrapped elbows and defeat spattered all over us, to go home for a nap. Defeat is more draining than filling a hundred bags of blood -- But it takes about the same amount of time.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Things I Need Right Freaking Now


1. Sugar-Free Gingerbread syrup. I don't say it to make my coffee order sound longer and more important. I say it because actual sugar causes me stomach cramps and a bad mood you would not believe.

2. A new cellular telephone to replace the one which will no longer charge and prompts me to check my SIM. I checked my SIM, which for me means I pulled out the little card and cleaned it with a lotion-free tissue. That didn't help. Also, the whole process made me feel like a tool. My phone no longer makes or receives calls. It is less useful than ever and my high score on Motorola Pinball may be forever lost to history.

3. I need the guy who sits behind me to stop telling Jew jokes. Rather, I need for him to tell one I haven't heard so I can then explain that all of those jokes have their basis in the propaganda of post World War I Germany. It would be different , I suppose, if he knew that I am Jewish, but the assumption has been made that everyone will find these attempts at humor amusing. I will not be attending his Christmas party no matter how pretty the invitation may be.

4. Blue Diamond brand "Jalapeno Smokehouse" almonds, which are slightly more addictive than crack, in my opinion.

5. I need my MacBook Pro to show up so I can see how long I can last without installing a Microsoft OS through Parallels or Boot Camp.

6. Shorter waits for Battleground slots in World of Warcraft. Well, that is the solution to my actual need to pwn n00bz for a few hours to make myself feel better in general. And the Horde should play a little defense, damn it.

7. To get together IRL with some friends for the angry flinging of dice. It has been far, far too long.

8. I need for the Coke Rewards people to actually put something up there that is worth (if not the actual points) at least going through the Points Redemption Process -- Something I can cash in 4,500 points on and put this sad chapter of my life to bed forever. Or they could start putting points on Pibb Zero, which may be the finest soft drink ever crafted by the hands of mortals.

9. "Automating The Upgrade Process" needs to involve more "Automating" and less "Processing". Holy crap! I've never worked with such a tangled mess of code. Someone needs some type of award whenever the program does anything without the server physically catching on fire.

10. The DeathAdder.

11. A place from which my DeathAdder can deal out death. Through addition, maybe. I don't know, really. I'm just guessing based on the name. Math kills. I've been saying it for years.

12. One of those little smugness-generating Apple stickers for the back glass of the Geek-Mobile. Smugness-generating? Maybe not, but it serves as a warning to the rest of the planet that the car is Smug-enabled. I'm all about disclosure.

13. I need some time to catch up on the 3,000 or so hours of television I've downloaded and ignored up until now.

14. I need for someone at this company (a company which makes 100% of its money from the sale of software developed here) to match my concern level about the state of our Microsoft licensing. If our product were stolen, I'm sure someone here would be pretty pissed about it. Also, when I am acting as the ethical bedrock and moral compass for any random group of people, alarm bells should be going off somewhere. Loud bells. And strobe lights. And possibly some kind of automated flag-waving robot army.


Snap your mandibles once to say you understand

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Naming Conventions


When a server is built, it needs a name. Generally, I.T. organizations have a standard naming convention to excise creativity from this process.

Most often, the format goes something like (Shortened Company Name)(Location)(Purpose)(Number).

There are extremes, of course. One company I worked for used the machine's service tag to accelerate and simplify warranty support and slow down and complicate internal identification.

Another company used the Standard format for user-accessible servers and the model names of motorcycles for everything else.

At our house, most machines are named after fictional fantasy locations -- Most often those drawn from Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games. That has worked well, mostly, except that someone at Comcast uses the same naming convention for some of their routers so (unless I run my own DNS) my MP3 collection tends to get lost from time to time.

This organization uses the names of planets. No numbers, no purpose, no useful identification, no nothing but the names of planets.

In addition to confusing the new hires, this particular naming convention limits the possible machine names to just a few different possibilities. In fact, I've already heard horror stories about when they needed to recently decommission Pluto.

But anyway, the point is this:

We needed a new system and all the planet names were taken. So we used "Miranda".

"O, wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, That has such people in't!"

It is a quiet and peaceful server. Just ignore the Reavers, please.



Even my henchmen think I'm crazy . . .

Wednesday, November 28, 2007



In a stunning reversal of everything I know about Best Practices in Corporate I.T., I've been requested to set up an Instant Messenger account -- And to actually use the thing.

Part of this stems from the fact that when I was hired this company was completely out of phones. Or extensions. Or both. I don't know/care because I'm not the phone guy.

Also, apparently instant messages are the preferred communication tactic by those who share my office space.

This is weird for me. Our team at Reliant used MSN Messenger for pretty much everything, but I started to fear being connected when the trend developed of sending embarrassing pop-up messages to whoever had their laptop hooked up to a projector for a presentation.

I'm not going to say who started that tradition, but I will say that to this very day he gets a warm feeling from remembering the time he sent a message to a co-worker who read (along with a conference room full of suits) that his "intimate" rash was probably normal and that there was little to be concerned about as long as he stopped actually sleeping in leather underwear.

Such a warm feeling indeed.

As a side effect of this new policy, I'm forever more reachable by those who want to complain about my latest post here at Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng. Feel free to add me to a "Buddy List" and ship me complaints, threats, half-baked theories on the purpose of life or (most importantly) Coke Reward Points.

Over 4,000 of those things are slowly doing absolutely nothing in my Coke Rewards account. I have to go #1 almost all the time.

So. Yahoo IM contact information is currently crammed up in my profile on the right, though I never ever check the Yahoo email -- Like even less frequently than I check my MySpace messages, if you can believe that. You should add me to your Yahoo Messenger anyway.

Go ahead. You know you want to.

In other news, my work computer came with Office 2007. I've ranted a bit in the past about the state of the Microsoft Office suite and about useless features and terminal application bloat. However, I had not had the opportunity to try the latest version until yesterday.

I'm not too proud to admit when I'm wrong about something.

That won't be necessary this time.

Holy crap, Office 2007 is the worst ever. Whatever team put this thing together should all be gathered together again when the final release version is added to the International Computing Museum's "Full of Fail" wing and made to promise never to write another program under pain of removing either their thumbs or their space bars -- Depending on how militant the mob is feeling at the time.

But wait! To their credit, there is one useful feature in Office 2007. Incoming IM's are now blocked when someone is running a Power Point presentation. This feature alone uses over 400MB of system memory -- And it is worth every byte.


Attention Whore of Hiltonian Proportions

Tuesday, November 27, 2007



You've seen the media representation of technology. Data travels flawlessly on spinning arcs of light, every surface is either chrome or neon, the full-time hackers who work on the systems have bad hair and completely coordinated "techno-goth" outfits and $900 Kenneth Cole laptop bags.

These places exist. Seriously they do.

But one must temper this knowledge with the awareness that for every high-tech awesome place, there are 5,000 little firms chugging along just keeping their code compliant and up-to-date with the latest operating system.

And so, I'm officially a "Code Monkey". My previous experience is all in working around the limitations coded into the programs by others, but now I get the chance to input limitations of my very own!

When I interviewed, I was asked if I had scripting knowledge. I replied that my experience was limited to cases where someone approaches me and says,"Hey! My code is busted! Fix it!"

And I generally can figure it out given a few minutes and access to Google. As for writing my own, I said I frequently find scripts on the interwebz and steal borrow and modify them.

Apparently, there are a lot of people who do just that and make whole careers out of it!

So there are no servers to work on here. Those are all on the East Coast somewhere I'm not concerned about.

User support is a hemisphere away from me, physically now as well as emotionally as it always has been.

Diet Coke is $.25 by the can on the honor system.

And most importantly, this morning I found a handy Starbucks where they made me a venti breve latte with sugar-free gingerbread syrup!

Of course, there are adjustments to be made.

As a people, developers are not a "Morning Folk". We do not expect them to arrive before 10am and we do not look directly at them until they return from lunch. I learned that yesterday while I dodged a stapler.

I'm faster than I look.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Well, This is I.T.


Okay, everybody! Coffee break's over! Back on your heads!

I've had two weeks to reflect on life, I.T., what cats do all day, and World of Warcraft. This has been beneficial time for me to reset emotionally and become ready to start something new. I've also enjoyed good coffee.

The whole process has been tolerable because I've been paid to do it.

There are a lot of things which become tolerable when someone is paying you to do them.

On Monday morning, I'm going to do another one.

I've accepted a job at a software company doing [insert technobabble everyone would skim anyway] and at 9am sharp I officially rejoin the in-the-trenches ranks of the over-utilized and under-appreciated nerd set. And that's okay. It's my thing. It's whatever the hell it is that I do.

At this job, I'll drive less getting there and back. There is no hardware work. As far as I can tell, there are no users to work with.

How weird is that?

I will continue to collect stories and spit them back up here for your information/amusement/State's Evidence -- I just have no idea (much like with these last two weeks) what time of day the posts will come up.

Visits to Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng will be like a glorious adventure. Think of it as a treasure hunt! Will there be some new gem posted this time or the same tired old crap that was posted yesterday? Some insightful observation or the same old mean-spirited ranting and personal attacks that just manage to skirt the libel laws of 49 states (Up yours, Idaho!)?

If we are lucky, the answer will continue to be "all of the above".

Saturday, November 24, 2007

I May Keep Live Writer



For the past decade or so, we've made most of our cash as a family from supporting Microsoft server-related support. While this doesn't mean that I've never gotten a call from someone who returned from lunch to find all of her work missing, the email she had been writing all morning gone, her Internet Explorer favorites overwritten with weird stuff and her desktop background replaced with a picture of some strange man (As it turns out, she sat down in the wrong cubicle), it does mean that I've been regularly away from the user community puttering away behind the scenes making Microsoft's server products function as well as (if not better than) they promised on the flash presentation some Executive downloaded.

Like ten freaking years, almost.

The whole time I've embraced the upgrade process from 95 to 98, from 98 to 98d, from 98d to Windows 2000 to XP to Vista on our computers at home. I've felt it was the proper thing to do to thank Microsoft for creating software with such weird glitches it requires a full-time support staff of surly, user-hating, science fiction-watching pasty people.

Bill Gates gets a "Thank You" e-card from me every year, and I don't see that tradition stopping anytime soon.

Here is a list of things which are stopping soon:

1. My user account control settings will never again be called into question.

2. If I go to a website and download a program, I will never again be asked if I'd like to download it and then again if I'd like to run it and then again if I'm sure I'd like to run it.

3. Software I purchase will no longer hobble itself if for any reason it can't access a massive database somewhere in Redmond which I have no control over.

4. "Ultimate" features I pay extra for will not have to be disabled because they slam the processor for 40% utilization while I just . . . Check . . . My freaking . . . . Webmail.

5. My totally up-to-date, much-heralded web browser will not just shut itself own in the middle of an article and toss an error message up to block my finishing the read before hitting the damn "Okay" button. You know what? It's not "Okay". It pisses me off. At least tell me why in the event log. If the OS knows enough to toss an error it should jot it down in the event log. Why else even have an event log?

6. I've got my own anti-virus. I said I'll take care of it. Windows Security Center should take my word on it, set some registry flag and leave me the hell alone about it.

7. My "Next Generation" operating system will not serve up fewer frames per second on better hardware than my old reliable one on hardware a couple of years old.

You know how I know all these problems will be going away soon?

I got the shipment notification this afternoon for my Mac.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Unfortunate Outbursts


I think it is probably safe to say that fairly regularly people drink a little and say things they may not have fully thought out.

If you need documentation, I recommend visiting any random Facebook profile.

Sometimes an outburst happens between courses at Thanksgiving, apparently.

We spent most of yesterday at our friend's house, latching onto their family gratefully for companionship and (among other things) awesome sweet potatoes.

We played Outburst a few times, boys against girls as nature intended. This has paid off for me in the past, like the time we had to name the Commandments and the Rabbi was on my team so I could pretty much take a little nap until the timer ran out.

Yesterday we got "Characters From the Bible" as our Outburst topic, and I was able to draw upon my WASPy upbringing to fill in names from the New Testament. Sadly, my ability to think on my feet (numbed by a combination of turkey and wine) all too quickly degenerated into "Sneezy, Grumpy and Doc" territory, but I sensed that the effort was appreciated. Of course, my low tolerance for alcohol makes me feel like a lot of my behavior is appreciated . . . And then I get another call from the DA's office.

Anyway, the point is this: When playing Outburst, "Nachos" is never a wrong answer. Carry that secret to victory, friends.

Today is Black Friday. I've kept my year old promise to myself so far, only venturing far enough outside to check the weather. I'm planning to avoid all non-food-related stores and shopping destinations until mid-January. All purchases for everything that won't melt during shipping can (and should) be made online. And the economy is crappy enough that shipping is cheap. Go Team Horribly Expensive Oil! I can have a whole bathroom full of towels delivered for a nickel!

You know. If I knew someone who needed a whole bathroom full of towels.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sick in a Number of Ways


< This one. This is the cat which is sick.

Her third eyelid, which normally eclipses her left eye when she is extremely happy, had been exhibiting bliss for a solid three days or so, so we decided that I should drag her up to the clinic for an exam. This duty fell to me, since I got nothing better to do, right? Actually, right.

Here are some things which I did not know about cats:

1. Sometimes the eyes just do that. Of course, there are a host of horrible illnesses which can cause it, but in the absence of those -- it just happens.

2. Cats do not enjoy having UV reactive dye squirted in their eyes for diagnostic purposes. That seems obvious, and given a moment to consider it I'm sure I would have guessed it. However, neither I nor the cat were given that moment of quiet reflection so it goes into the "stuff I didn't know" pile. For the record, it looks awesome!

3. The sweetest cat is transformed into a snarling, hissing monster when having her temperature taken. Again, if I'd known the mechanics of this procedure I could have probably made that logical leap. These are not things I think about.

4. Cats like little enclosed places to use as a lair from which to launch attacks on unsuspecting passers by. Little enclosed places do not include pet carriers, though those things seem to me to be positively made for that kind of activity.

5. Cats have . . . special glands  . . . which need to be . . . expressed from time to time. Your veterinarian will be happy to show you how to do it at home if you don't want to bring your cat in to have it done.

This isn't as much about cats as it is about life in general, but I'm adding it to the list:

6. When your veterinarian offers to show you how to do this procedure, screaming in terror and then attempting to hide under the exam table while sobbing "No, please. No, please. No please," earns you no Good Pet Owner Points with anyone. Except your cat, who watches you bemusedly from behind her third eyelid which is extended for no good reason.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tragedy Strikes!


Last night as I was composing my blog post, my daughter was in the bath.

"Mom!" she yelled. I've long since learned to ignore everything that goes on the the bathroom if I'm not in it.

"Please cut my hair!" she yelled again.

I thought surely Shana would brush off this request, deflect, distract. It was already dangerously close to my daughter's bedtime.

However, attentive mother that she is, Shana instead picked up scissors and went to work.

At the first "Hold still" I started to blog more furiously. I knew my time was limited. I knew that eventually something would interfere with (at the very latest) my first cursory pre-post proofread.


Rubber ducks were in the bath with my daughter. As is their custom when they share a bath with her, they were bobbing around, chasing each other and debating the finer points of fashion.

"Oops. Garrick!"

I hit the "Publish" button and walked in to find my daughter crying hysterically and my wife holding a huge length of hair, her face composed into an almost eerie calm.

"Find an open salon. Now."

I didn't question. Google pulled through. I called:

"Can you make room for a haircut in," I looked at my watch,"20 minutes. It's an emergency."

"Let me check," Hold music. Hold music. Hold music.

"Is the hair cut for you?"

"It's for my daughter. There was some unpleasantness. There is a lot of crying. I need 300cc's of haircut, stat!"

"Sure. Bring her in."

So we ran to the car and drove, Gwynyth sobbing and Shana still exhibiting her eerie calm.

"Don't worry, Sweetie. They'll fix it," I said followed by a quieter,"I hope."

And we arrived at the salon (without the aid of flashing lights on the roof of the car which I thought might have helped) and they dashed in while I, with plans of my own, went to Target in the same shopping center.

I strolled the toy aisles, selecting one of a series of dolls Gwynyth likes and that (I was fairly certain) she didn't already own. I bought that and a Diet Coke Plus and left the store to find out what, if anything, had been done about the hair accident.

You know what? It looks good!

The toy was just a bonus. She did come through with quite a nice,"Thanks Dad!"

To which I replied,"I'm glad you didn't have that one. I picked it but, since your mom has the job she technically paid for it."


I continued,"So what I'm saying is, I bought it and your mom paid for it."

"Thanks, Dad . . . and Mom! Awesome, Dad!"

Yes. Yes I am.