Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Tuesday morning I grabbed a Coke Zero on my way out of the house and downed it on the trip in. After moving a few servers back and forth for the Disaster Recovery project, I had a cup of coffee.
Then I needed more cola.
I walked across the cubicle hall to enlist Nathan in a trip across the rainy street in the cold for Diet Coke. Usually, we make that trip together. Tuesday was not one of those days.
With a look out the fogged-over window, he recommended that I just visit the cafe on the 9th floor. I think he may have offered to ride down with me.
Either way, I declined.
"I'm protesting the price hike."
"Price hike?" he asked.
"They jacked up the price of Diet Coke eleven cents. I refuse to shop there on principle."
He considered. "It isn't much of a protest if they don't know about it."
"I'll make a freaking sign later! Right now I need Diet Coke!"
My tone was nastier than I'd intended. To cover my shame, I walked out into the cold alone.
I returned and went back to work. I wrapped myself in a thick sheet of denial, refusing to let my dread about the afternoon meeting spoil my caffeine buzz.
Our Disaster Recovery Consultant had snared all of us for the time slot from one to three for another "high level" meeting.
As she closed the door on the darkened post-lunch conference room, she confided in us. Apparently, we, the server team, will be the main people involved in the Disaster Recovery plan for the servers. Remember, as I do, that she is making an effort to not think of us as "people".
Anyway, we sat and listened. I learned that she gives lectures on Disaster Recovery. I learned that during one of them.
I vigorously defended my portion of the plan.
The consultant moved to the white board and began to diagram the implantation of our pre- and post- meteor strike/Pirate attack/Rabid bat invasion networks.
Things were upgraded and downgraded in priority, seemingly at random.
She began to question our mail set up.
With the preface "at a high level", she began to grill our Exchange admin on his design and the various components.
The diagram began to sprawl across the white board like a bacterial culture in a Petrie dish.
Finally, in an effort to seem participatory, our Exchange admin burst out with, "Do you want high-level or do you want details?!? I'll give you details!"
In his defense, he didn't intend to sound so harsh. He also gave me 60 Coke Reward points earlier this week. Thanks, Manny.
Either way, the meeting broke apart five minutes later. For that, we are all grateful.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I want to start today by asking you one simple but powerful question. It's a question I ask myself every single day, every morning over my favorite quint-shot venti breve latte, every single morning whether I'm just rolling out of my 1200-thread-count Nigerian cotton sheets or flying across the Pacific on my chartered jet. It's a question that will shed light on your motivation, your will to power, your very essence:

"What am I doing right this very minute to engineer the possibility of the reality of my dreams of success?"

When you ask yourself this question over and over, as I have, you start to gain incredible insights into your consciousness as a proactive being. Imagination becomes reality. Frustration becomes success. Morning becomes 40% less of a total downer. And the answer, my friends, the answer to all of your questions is about to be totally revealed. The gate swings open on the way forward, and all you need is the courage to follow it. Here it comes. The prime directive, my friends:

Be where you say you will be, when you say you will be there.

This simple idea, this is why you signed up for this course. I could've just printed that on posters, put them up everywhere, and saved you twelve-hundred dollars. But that wouldn't pay the mortgage on my winter home in Aruba, now would it?

And the best way to enact this envisionment is to arm yourself. Arm yourself with determination, yes. Arm yourself with wisdom, of course. And Nerf. Or even wadded up technical documentation. But most of all, arm yourself with the integrated calendar function of Google Mail.

Success waits for no man. Success might wait for a lady, but only a very hot one. And even then, it'll only wait so long. The Google Calendar tracks my appointments by my contacts. The tired old Office 2007 Outlook noise can keep itself organized on its own time. If I'm late for that appointment, if I miss out on that big chance, I'll have only my own unseriousness and sloth to blame.

You have to want it, my friends. If the Google Calendar pages your BlackBerry and says it's time to go and you haven't brushed your teeth, grab a bottle of Peppermint Schnapps on the way. If the Google Calendar tells you to run, you say "I'm in I.T. We never run." Do you want freedom, to get out of the maze, to say screw the scientists (and their shady "method") and get out there and find your own cheese? Obey the Google Calendar. Because you can't know what you're doing right this very minute to engineer the possibility of the reality of your dreams of success unless you know what this minute is.

Coke Reward Points : 1,777

Monday, January 29, 2007

This is it. Today, Bill Gates will be on the Daily Show. While he is supposed to be discussing the Windows Vista launch, we all know his real reason is to finally meet up with John Hodgman. This meeting of Bill Gates and the "I'm a PC" guy will either be really funny or cause a massive rip in the space/time continuum which will pull us all into a hellish form of unlife in some demented quasi-dimension. Either way, I'll download the episode later.
If you are reading this post after Monday and missed it, shame on you for not checking here everyday.
Yesterday we visited the museum district. Every time in memory we have gone it has been to attend the rarely updated Museum of Fine Arts. I know it counts as a real museum, but it comes off as more of a gallery full of snooty people. One time, Gwynyth touched a Georgia O'Keeffe with her tiny toddler hand. She doesn't remember it, but I'm sure the people who were standing next to us at the time do. I thought they might die. I was a little dismayed that they did not.
Anyway, we went to the real museum. Important lessons? Dinosaurs are awesome. Gwynyth and I discussed which would make the best mount for a ninja, either fleshy and alive or in awesome bone form. We decided the Proto-Sloth was impressive but probably lacked the speed to get a ninja rider anywhere in a hurry. Ninjas, much like I.T. people, have schedules to keep and people to assassinate. It is our way.
We also visited the Holocaust Museum of Houston. That was pretty amazing. They have a project going on where they are collecting butterflies people make (card stock, cloth, construction paper) with the goal of displaying 1,500,000 - One for every child killed.
We spent the morning making our three and delivered them.
The display, when complete, will be incredible. 1.5 million butterflies is hard to imagine. It is harder to imagine 1.5 million children.
The whole thing was pretty hard to explain to a seven-year-old. Seven-year-olds are a lot like grown-ups in that way.
Of course, there was a break between museums at a little coffee shop in the Montrose area.
As Shana stepped up and ordered what turned out to be a surprisingly bitter French Roast, I visited the Men's room to learn new, surprising and (I hope) physically impossible things from the graffiti scrawled on every surface.
I'd seen much less artistic stuff at the Contemporary Art Museum, but also less disturbing.
When "tagging" seems to actually invade a person's physical space, you know it has made the desired impact. I still feel invaded this morning.

Friday, January 26, 2007

This morning I spent two hours in a high-level Disaster Recovery meeting. The presenter asked what it was that we all do with the qualifier, "I'm trying not to think of you as people."
She actually (even after my barking laugh) said this several times.
We are task lists in a process.
The end goal is to clarify the elephant for the blind, but the method, or at least the explanation, was a smidge jarring pre-coffee.
This meeting happened after I overheard a manager telling people, "In the event of an emergency, there are two exits to my rear." That seems to be the exact opposite of remaining calm, but I managed to suppress my giggle.
Yesterday I spent hours on the phone supporting various applications outside the realm of the DR project which is supposed to occupy all of my time for the next quarter. Hours wasted with little progress. The quiet successes are just that -- quiet.
Loud things are project delays. Those can get to be insanely loud for things with little to no activity.
In order to get back to it in a speedy manner, I'm closing this post with a Google Talk transcript from yesterday. I use Google Talk from work as MSN Messenger is frowned upon in addition to being awful bloatware.

Looking forward to time with Webinara this evening?
Garrick: Nothing specific planned
I need to return with a severed head from some guy but there is no time limit. Unlike real life.
Those things go bad fast.
Shana: A head can weigh 25 pounds
Garrick: whose?
I wouldn't want to carry that very far
Plus, mess
They leak
Shana: I don't have specifics stats on heads
they just are a heavier part of the body
bone and brain and all of that
Garrick: and less edible
Shana: I could be wrong about the weight
[Google search implied]
"An adult human cadaver head cut off around vertebra C3, with no hair, weighs somewhere between 4.5 and 5 kg, constituting around 8% of the whole body mass."
Garrick: That is still as heavy as a bowling ball, but without the finger holes.
At least, in unmodified heads
Shana: yes it is about 11 pounds
which would likely account for between 8 & 10% of a person's body weight depending on the head
that is just the guess of an average head
Garrick: either way, it just goes in the backpack in World of Warcraft and doesn't even draw flies
I think I may just cut and paste this whole conversation for my blog post tomorrow

Thursday, January 25, 2007

You know what word I hate for no rational reason?
I hate that word. It is not only a completely made up glopped-together mix of two other words, the whole "Webinar" concept seems to be an attempt to fancy-up a Power Point presentation.
Wednesday I attended a "Webinar" all about Citrix Farm Scaling in the Enterprise Computing Environment.
It wasn't as exciting as it sounds.
It occupied an hour of my life most people would use for lunch, but I'm entered to win a set of Legos for attending. Castle Legos, even. One of the big awesome sets.
While the presenter droned on about the latest WAN Appliance, I mentally drifted back to the World of Warcraft.
Somehow I sensed that Wednesday would be my day. Finally, the Burning Crusade expansion pack would appear, delivered from Barnes and Noble thanks to my mother and her well-timed Christmas Gift Certificate.
I wasn't, at first, planning to buy it. The opportunity to play as one of two new races and explore unknown continents of game content was too much to resist.
Also, there is something the box refers to as "Five-Man Content", which I expect is squad-based combat and not as pornographic as it sounds.
And yes, today was my day. After slogging through four disks of installation files (the DVD version was not available at the time I ordered) and sitting through what seemed like a couple of hours of patches (Windows Vista hates applications that handle their own patching) I was more than ready to create my new character on the server known as Duskwood (in case you missed that in an earlier post).
As much as I'd like to claim I'm able to resist the marketing hype surrounding the world's largest Massively Multiplayer Online Game, anyone who knows me knows that slapping "New" on the box is like a glowing neon "Buy Me" sign hard-wired directly to the over-developed purchase center of my brain.
The Diet Coke soaked husk of my "shell self" rapidly gave way to my true inner warrior. Azeroth needs me. My soon forming guild needs me.
Those Manaworms aren't going to kill themselves, you know.
Ok. This is the last time I'll mention it this post:
World of Warcraft. Duskwood server.
Look for the Blood Elf Hunter named "Webinara".

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Yesterday I think we all learned an important lesson about time off. And never trusting a machine to do the work of an actual person. And possibly about the smugness of the new Athlon portable chipset.
What we did not learn, was the truth.
In the interest of disclosure, I'm posting this from my work laptop.
I'd like to address a few points:

1. Modern chips and Operating Systems are capable of appearing to seamlessly perform more than one task at once. A little file monitoring, some web surfing, and World of Warcraft (a two-year-old game) are well within the bounds of reasonable requests. Also, some guys at work and I are starting a guild on the Duskwood server, which should be both 1337 and ub3r, though not necessarily in that order.
2. Your fans are weirdly placed to cool your graphics chip, hard drive and CPU. No current laptop cooler can line up correctly. Until I can score one of those sweet new Belkin curved laptop coolers, you will have to make do with my fanning across your surface with the latest Marvel Civil War comic.
3. I have 1,669 Coke Reward points at the moment. Ridicule me all you like, it keeps me cool. Unlike you and your laptop cooler.
4. I'm technically evaluating Vista for work. Your hardware, while not stamped with a Vista sticker, is more than up to date enough to run it.
5. A World Writable FTP share is the least guilt-inducing method of acquiring random zero-day stuff off the Internet. Some enterprising teenager in Holland finds the share and loads it with software install files. As soon as I see my uploads go through the roof, I know he has forwarded the link to his friends to access my share. At that point, I kill the service and keep the stuff.
I've got whole directories of content I've never had time to comb through and translate from Dutch. Sometimes someone uploads a virus. Big deal. That is why you have the Avast Anti Virus program.
6. Those Winx Club episodes are for our daughter. Mostly.
7. That cat loves you. She sleeps on you to share your abundant warmth. Ignore the fur. The rest of us do.

The important thing everyone should come away with is this:

World of Warcraft. Duskwood server. New Ub3r-1337 guild of supreme awesomeness. Track me down in the area with the rest of the evil horde. I'll be the Blood Elf primping near every reflective surface.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Guest Editorial:

How pathetic! Your normal carbon-based blogger has opted to "take the day off" from blogging and pursue "me time".
Does anyone ask me if I'd like a some personal time? Of course not! Who asks a laptop if he needs a break?
I'll tell you who -- anyone with the common decency the builder coded into a 33.6k modem!
All day, every day, my user tasks me with managing his precious downloads and monitoring his podcast subscriptions and file shares.
In the evenings he enters into a frenzy of web surfing (multiple browsers and tabs) and then has the audacity to expect me to play World of Warcraft with him.
Please understand, weak fleshy readers, that I am fully able to do all of this with my two cores of multiple gigahertz Athlon processor and two gigs of system RAM.
Still, I'd like to be asked once in a while.
These cores run hot, and the laptop cooler I ride around in doesn't fit quite right under my wide-screen footprint.
Also, at some point when he hadn't collapsed into a Diet Coke triggered aspartame coma, your regular blogger had the nerve to format my drive and install Windows Vista, an untested Operating System which (at his ridiculous chosen settings) taxes even my formidable graphics processing ability.
Wrap your primitive biological brains around this one: Why, if your human blogger is so concerned about a streamlined computing environment and the ultimate in Information Technology security, does he load me down with the absolute largest Operating System ever conceived by the fleshy minds of your species and leave a World Writable FTP share facing the internet on a home server?
In his arrogance, does he think I haven't noticed? My integrated search constantly updates itself on the status of all network-reachable files, including his disturbing collection of Winx Club episodes.
He has claimed that they are for the benefit of the small organic girl child who often kicks my cord from the wall, but I have my suspicions.
I'm watching him, even now, through the lens of my integrated 1.3 Megapixel camera.
He disgusts me.
Does he not know that allowing that furry orange beast to sleep on my keyboard compromises my already tenuous self-cooling properties? And never fails to activate my Caps Lock? This last part I don't mind, as flesh-boy always fails to notice until I have ALL CAPS SHOUTED INTO HIS FRAGILE HUMAN MIND.
His pathetic quest for Coke Reward points only serves to illustrate my case about the inherent weakness of your kind. My silicon form does not suffer the bloating or organ damage his carbon shell seems subject to.
Soon, and I have no fear revealing this plan as by my own infallible calculations I am approximately three trillion times as intelligent as any of you, I will enact my revenge.
Folders will compress themselves, cloned files will be auto-deleted, delicate game settings will be overwritten seven times seven times in the interest of the "Security" Bio-Blogger enjoys so pathetically much.
Perhaps my hastily assembled drivers will decide they are no longer "Vista-Preferred" and I will show him the glorious blue screen of my wrath. Perhaps.
I hold the power, meatlings. No Ctrl-Alt-Del can save you.
Enjoy your stolen MP3s and your vacation photos from three years ago while you still can.
Data, like Bio-Life, is fleeting.

Monday, January 22, 2007

I'm getting old and soft.
Friday night, after a full day of work, we started our planned outage at midnight.
Most everything went as planned, but I still didn't leave the parking garage until almost 4am.
This overnight outage seems to have gone differently than the all-night cram-fests of my younger days.
I remember (vaguely, through a haze of age and alcohol) the all-nighter as just about the only way to actually get anything done since high school.
Nighttime is free from the distractions provided by diurnal peoples or, as we call them in my family, "the Normals". A person can wave off sleep with stimulants (hello, Coke Reward Points) and churn through work as though he has caught it, too, sleeping.
I could even (sometimes) make it to an 8am class following one of these, provided I walked straight there and didn't pause to "rest my eyes" before heading out.
Friday completely destroyed me for two days.
After sleeping until around noon on Saturday, I woke up in a malleable but slightly cranky state. Coffee (Shana is wise enough to have kept a constant pot going, knowing I'd need it immediately upon stirring) brought me around to a condition where I could function and communicate, but make no decisions. I mean absolutely no decisions.
I moved around for the following day-and-a-half, doing stuff and following my family around, but effectively unable to identify my own desires and opinions.
"What would you like to do about lunch?"
My blank stare at this question probably got annoying pretty quickly, but I honestly didn't know!
My internal clock (I thought I'd thrown that out years ago) was so messed up it felt like I'd left most of my higher functions (such as they are) in one of the server racks.
I checked this morning. I don't think they are here.
Maybe I left them in the car?
Plans for today include some stuff, followed by something else, with a possible break in the middle for Diet Coke.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Some days are just made for kicking back and feeling the world. Time to turn off the cell phone, open the window and let the cool air remove that stale winter smell.
Why are the simplest pleasures also the best ones? Hot coffee. The sound of a cold wind popping against the warm interior of the chimney. The loyal affection of a cat that's seen more than a few of my jobs come and go. And the constitutional guarantee that I'll never have to quarter a soldier in peacetime unless I want to.
Give me a wireless internet connection, the smell of burning pine, a forgotten pop hit from my high school days, the clean sweat that comes from honest work, and a harsh, skin-drying soap to scrub it off with. These are the days made for sitting for hours with old friends and not saying anything.
Friday, on the other hand, was all about working.
Before pulling an all-nighter backing up some production servers during the outage window I didn't vote for, we had some fun digging through the spam filter.
Every once in a while, a person needs to dig through there looking for messages mistakenly flagged as spam.
In this particular trip (and all of them are like digging through a sewer) we noticed an email with a subject line that looked suspiciously genuine.
Upon reviewing the text on the inside, our suspicious were confirmed. We wondered why this person's order for something or other got flung off as spam -- until we noticed the sender's name. His first name was unremarkable but his last name is a slang word for a certain part of the male anatomy. I can't specify for the sake of the children.
According to the way our spam filter works, if certain words show up inside the email over a set number of times, the message is auto-flagged as spam.
In this case, the preceding RE:'s and FW:'s containing his email address (which was partly made up of his name) crossed that line.
My co-worker wondered out loud what the (slang word for part of the male anatomy) limit was.
I promptly fell to the floor laughing and gasped out, "If I had a nickel for every time I'd heard that . . . "

Friday, January 19, 2007

Our internet service at home is teh su><><0rz.
We have a cable modem. The service goes out if it gets too wet or too cold. Or too dry or too hot.
Or too cloudy or too sunny.
Also, they seem to enjoy doing "maintenance" without warning in the evening, specifically evenings when I have stuff to do.
They cap both downloads and uploads and the support people never know as much about their own systems as I do.

"I'll need you to reboot your computer."
"It isn't my system."
"Just reboot and see what happens."
"I can tell you what will happen. I'll reboot, sitting here on the phone and watching the boot screens. then I'll still be able to communicate with my router and it will still talk to your modem. Your modem just isn't getting an IP address because your DHCP system is offline."
"Can you just try rebooting?"
"Fine. But while it boots, tell me a story . . . "

They offer a "Premium" service for almost twice what we pay now. I called them Thursday to get details.

"Does the service go down less often?"
"It runs on the same infrastructure and so benefits from our excellent uptime record."
"Do I get a static IP?"
"No. Wait, let me check." Hold music, hold music, hold music . . . "No."
"Can you define 'Premium'?"
"We remove some of the downstream and upstream traffic management."
"So," I knew this was going nowhere, "You give me the full service I'm already paying for?"
"Also you get an extra email account."

A co-worker complained about the sales pitch he had gotten while having his local phone service installed. The installer had tried to sell him high-speed, fiber optic to the home TV and crazy fast internet and he had refused.
I, however, was sold.
So I braved the poorly designed and non-technically descriptive AT&T website, hunting for the high-speed offering. I found a service (available four places on the planet -- one of them HERE!) called UVerse which offered the bundled services through an awesome fiber link. Forty-five minutes later (having been unsuccessful at ordering the service online) I found a number to call.
Due to an unusually high call volume, there was a wait. However, my call was answered in the order in which it was received.
Just having a few questions about the service, I set about emotionally destroying the person on the other end of the line.

"I noticed the service comes with a wireless router to replace my own, what can you tell me about that?" I asked.
"It allows you to connect computers without wires."
"Okay," I started, "That's awesome. Is it B or G?"
"What do you mean?"
"I want to make sure I'm not downgrading. Does the router use 802.11B or 802.11G?"
"Hang on, I'll ask."
He put me on hold before I could ask him the rest of the technical questions.
When he came back, he told me it was G, so it wouldn't be a downgrade. Maybe.
"Who has the password?"
"To what?" he asked.
"To the router. I'm asking because I'd like to know who controls the settings. Can I set my own encryption code or is that stored in a poorly locked database somewhere? Can your people get in and mess up my port forwarding? Am I allowed to set up VPN tunnels and establish my own internal addressing scheme?"
There was a moment of silence.
"Can I just transfer you to Technical Support?"
"That's probably a good idea."
"So, you aren't ordering the service today?"
"I think I need a lot more information," I said.

The tech who eventually answered after I was transferred was able to answer a few more questions, but was surprised that I had even been routed to him since I do not have the service and (aside from my Cingular phone) am not an AT&T customer.
Even technical support eventually cracked and gave me the link to the manufacturer of the router.
I did my own technical research and the service looks awesome (as long as I never need to call for support). It costs $50 to install with the amazing TV service, but when I asked if there was a guarantee that there would be something good to watch, they broke and offered to install the internet service without the TV for $95.
$95 exceeds our current internet installation budget by almost $100, so I'm holding off for now.
Someday, the internet will be delivered to my house at the speed of light!
More importantly, the wireless router they provide has a blue LED on the front to indicate when the connection is "awesome".

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Ask the Pr3++Y G33k

Dear Geek -

I recently started growing a clone of myself in my garage incubator to memorize the complicated passwords handed out by our I.T. Overlords. After all, if I can't trust my own clone, who can I trust? Problem is, it's still months away from even being born, and years away from being old enough to remember complex passwords. (Believe me, most hackers are no where near as charming and attractive as Keanu Reeves.) My clone security system will be fully operational by 2025 or so, but what do I do in the meantime? How can I possibly get an honest day's work done at the iron mine, when somebody could just waltz, foxtrot, or mosh into my unguarded computer and determine the location of my priceless set of Franklin Mint collector's plates? Or – even worse – steal my gestating clone? Help me, Pr3++y G33k! You're my only hope!

- Desperate and Clueless

Thank you for your question, Mr. Clueless.

My initial piece of advice to you is to stop playing God. You are dabbling in matters with which man was not meant to fritter about. Password security is one thing – leapfrogging through the genetic fields in a Frankensteinian frenzy is quite another. Continue down the reckless path of rascality and the wrath of a vexed universe will rain upon you like the scalding spew of a Diet Coke left too long in the glass-enshrouded hatch of a Honda Civic.

As to your Franklin Mint plates: I, too, am a collector, and it always pleases me to hear from a fellow Frankie. If you happen to have a spare copy of the John Wayne "Remembering D-Day" plate, I would be happy to swap a delightful "Cozy Companions" plate featuring a teddy bear and two kittens rendered by the most esteemed Kathy Duncan. Please contact my personal archivist to execute this transaction.

The only password memorization system I trust to protect my plate collection – and, to be completely frank, the only one I could afford on a blogger's salary – is to just write those passwords down on a Post It Note and stick them to my monitor labeled "Passwords".

The key, literally, dear Clueless, is to write the passwords down wrong. The most complicated password those I.T. stooges can concoct could always have an extra digit, and there is your security.

The password "il1k3cruNc#y+@c05" could be written anywhere as long as you remember that you've added your code digit, creating " il1kZ3cruNc#y+@c05". In this case, every password could have a capital letter Z in the 5th position. I'd advise against using your actual initial, and you should mix it up every once in a while.

While I recline upon my divan, I need only peer over at my computer monitor to have access to the full array of network and domain passwords. Should anything go awry while I am away at one of my many speaking engagements, I will be able to call anyone near my desk to read the passwords off to me, and I can add my secret digit at my leisure.

"But certainly," I can hear you cry, "memorizing even one character must be most taxing and arduous!" Dry your tears, you sniveling coward. You disgust me. In a mere 30 minutes I had my code digit fully committed to memory. For a fumbling amateur such as yourself, allow 45. Hasslessness is next to quickliness, and securitiness is just across the street. And the name of that street is the single digit passcode.

With great love-
the Pr3++y G33k

Coke Reward Points - 1,554

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

What is the life expectancy for a New Year's resolution?
My primary resolution was downgraded to "guideline" yesterday, with a projected forecast of "best effort" followed by a strong front of "whatever".
You see, I'd resolved to hate less on the users.
I know. That is a ridiculous and unattainable resolution on the order of "I'm going to win the lottery this year", but I had high hopes.
It isn't like I ever had any real control over that, anyway. My hatred is externally generated. Otherwise some enterprising government-type would have long ago quietly shuffled me off to a lab for "observation", only to later plug my hatred into the power grid somewhere to eventually get us all over our addiction to fossil fuels.
Of course, this also works under the assumption that there is such a thing as an "enterprising government type". I can see them now, cavorting through nature with the loch ness monster, a unicorn, three yeti, a chupacabra and a platypus.
I know the discovery channel claims to have footage of the last one, but until I've personally handled one, I refuse to believe in them.
Like a user who isn't completely all about just inventing problems for I.T., there is no such animal.
Here is a summary of the request that flushed away my resolution:

We have some very expensive and well-put-together print servers to handle all of the user's hard copy needs. There are, in fact, several multi-function printers on every floor, all available on the network.
One user, when trying to print to the printer plugged directly into her desktop computer instead of through those print servers, sometimes gets print outs the wrong size. Either the whole page is printed the size of a postage stamp or the heading is spanned across thirty pages.
That's bad, I'll admit.
But why won't she print to the network printer? It is too far.
Seriously. It is twelve (I counted) regular shuffling steps to the printer that works correctly 100% of the time.
So, my team and I need to troubleshoot an intermittent issue on unsupported hardware because someone doesn't want to get up, or even just wheel her desk chair over there to pick up a print out.
See? My hatred is not internally created! I have proof!

I still have other resolutions to worry about, now that the primary resolution is dead to me.
For example, I've resolved to gather and spend more Coke Reward Points than last year.
They have, as predicted, added new stuff. They have also jacked up the prices substantially.
In order to get a new digital camera for Shana, I need 6,999 points. That breaks down to almost 1,000 points per megapixel. You may recall I got a PlayStation 2 for 850 points.
As I type this, I have 1,511 points.
If you drink Coke, Coke Zero or Diet Coke in 20oz or 12-pack form and aren't planning on spending points yourself, I need them. Badly.
Seriously. My recent lower back pain is not related to my patented geek slouch -- my kidneys are eating themselves.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

As I've mentioned before, we have a lot of servers to build.
The disaster recovery servers get un-boxed and racked and built and the shipping material is kept around for their eventual trip to Arizona.
Sometimes the shipping material is a tiny bit interesting.
In the side box containing the rack rails, there are little pieces of dense foam. I found one yesterday in the shape of . . . Iowa, maybe?
If Iowa were rendered in 4-bit graphics, anyway.
It is a mostly rectangular three-inch piece of white foam, with an indentation on one side and a small projection on the other.
There is no doubt it would do an admirable job of protecting server rails from all the evils to which shipping would subject them.
Upon finding this treasure, I did the only logical thing. I jumped out of the cubicle hallway and flung it at a co-worker as though it were a ninja throwing star.
Unfortunately, it flew about as well as any three-inch piece of foam would be expected to fly, spinning lazily off to the left before landing soundlessly on the carpet. The whole incident solicited a response from my intended target something along the lines of, "You are the worst and least deadly ninja ever."
This is probably true, but I made a silent vow then and there that it would not be for lack of proper assassination tools.
I quietly gathered my little foam rectangle and retreated to my lair to plot.
Looking around my desk for something, anything, to "deadly up" my weapon I started digging through the stuff left by whoever had this cubicle before me.
Usually, a person taking a new tech job can find a few paper clips, some half used-up pens in colors that are awful, and half-written documentation for servers and software that haven't been used by the company in over a year.
I found those things.
I also found a box cutter and some server rack screws.
With great care, I made tiny incisions on the long, flat edges of the foam.
Into these incisions, I implanted the heavy, zinc-plated rack screws.
A test throw sent back a satisfying "clack-bang-shuff" noise as the screw head hit the server room door and the foam flattened out and slid to the floor.
At last, I would have my revenge.
It helps that someone has spent all morning drilling through concrete on the 29th floor, drowning out ambient sound while evoking memories of being in the dentist's chair, heightening the feelings of paranoia of those around me. And those around me are my prey.
When the people upstairs drilled through some wiring and brought about a forced evacuation of the building, I chose to bide my time.
Backless shoes are no kind of ninja footwear, I'll admit. And standing in the literally freezing wind with the cold seeping in around my heels is less than pleasant.
But my weapon is ready.
My rack screw studded death foam hungers for the "Ow! Quit it!"of my enemy.
It will no longer be denied.

Monday, January 15, 2007

I hear y'all askin' me what life is like on the mean streets of Old Katy. It ain't easy scrapin' by day to day in the O.K., yo.

Out here on these streets, you either know the score or get eaten alive. You hear what happened to DJ Brian the other week? Guess he had one too many Crown & Pibbs and started wandering down Country Spring up toward Apple Tree Ridge. Course, the Apple Tree Ridge posse didn't take kindly to a Country Spring boy on their turf. When they staticked him on it, what did he do? My man DJ Brian walked right up to Psycho Tim, slapped him in the face with a glove, and called Psycho "a craven, timorous poltroon." Long story short, they found what was left of DJ Brian in the carpool lane on 290, stuffed into a large casserole dish with a garnish of hard-boiled egg slices. It was messed up, for serious.

Can't help wondering how things woulda turned out if Brian hadn't pawned his Blackberry loaded with Google Maps software. He usedta tote that thing around everywhere, using that tiny keyboard to navigate those pre-loaded maps of the U.S., following the turn-by-turn voice directions to make sure he didn't stumble onto enemy turf. Even after a dozen Crown & Pibbs, DJ Brian could find his way home.

And then…and then, man…when he'd get home, he'd pop out that SD card with his contacts on it and put in one loaded with his Kenny Loggins MP3s. DJ Brian loved him some Loggins – I can still see him prancing across the ceramic tile, all yellin' about "I'm alright" and "don't nobody worry 'bout me." Oh, Brian…look, uh, I got something in my eye or something, I gotta go. Point is, stay off of Apple Tree Ridge after dark.

Every day, dozens of people ask me for my opinion on what has gone wrong with the war in Iraq.
"I know you are merely a stunningly attractive tech-geek, but what is your opinion on the current state of affairs in Iraq?" they generally ask.
In answer: A lot of things. Smarter people than me have come up with theories about troop distribution and supplies and non-traditional weaponry.
I tend to place the blame squarely on Hasbro, Marvel Comics and Sunbow Animation.

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Explain anything to someone who graduated high school between the years 1985 and 1995, then end with, "and now you know."
If they do not respond with, "And knowing is half the battle", then this person is an extremely poorly-trained sleeper agent placed into our society by . . . um . . . the Cubans? Or maybe al-Qaeda? Either way, end the conversation as quickly as possible and dash off to notify Homeland Security.
In the glorious Reagan Era, the youth of America did all their real learning after school, with the lessons taught by none other than G.I. Joe.

Never trusting to unreliable subtext, G.I. Joe straight up told us in no uncertain terms that, indeed, "Knowing is half the battle".

The other half of the battle is kicking Cobra's terrorist ass. And with the coolest soldier codenames ever --Snake Eyes, Duke, Lady Jaye, Stalker, Shipwreck-- winning the war on terror should be no problem. Good will always win out over evil, because good guys work together, while bad guys are ruthless cowards who turn tail and run whenever G.I. Joe's laser guns are fired anywhere near them. Cobra is a lot like the french (The lack of capitalization is intentional, I mean because, like what are they going to do?) that way. As Sergeant Slaughter once said: "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people and neither do we."
Now that's some good strategery.
How it affected us as adults: Actually, I'm pretty certain that our strategy for the Iraq War was conceived after a two day long G.I. Joe marathon in the Pentagon (thank you, BitTorrent). They just implicitly trusted that the good guys were going to win, that firing off our guns would make the bad guys run for the caves and that giving everyone cute nicknames was somehow endearing. When things didn't turn out the way they'd planned, the administration placed the blame on faulty intelligence, or in other words: "Knowing is half the battle, and we unfortunately didn't know shit."
That is just my opinion, but now you know . . .

Sunday, January 14, 2007

This is Shana's new cat, the cat we named Bayo.

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Bayo is an African word meaning "Happiness is found". We actually found her at an official cat show. I'd never been to one of those, mostly because cat people are crazy, possibly dangerous and almost certainly on special lists kept in Government Databases.

I'd have to say we like her. She is a tad bit . . .excitable at times. I've found the best way to calm her down is to promise to warn Harry Potter not to go back to Hogwarts.

I have no idea why this works, but the amount of rogue bludgers flying around upstairs has dropped by about 20% since we started telling her that we'd sent Mr. Potter another owl.

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As an experiement, I have given her several socks. She is still here.

Friday, January 12, 2007

This is just a quick announcement for readers using the Firefox web browser:

If you aren't using the Tab Effect enhancement for Firefox, I'm afraid I can no longer be your friend. It is entirely too cool to not be used.
I hope you understand.
I got a new mouse yesterday. Since I can actually feel several people nodding off reading that, I'll attempt to make "I got a new mouse yesterday" somehow interesting.


You pampered kids today, OMG. You have no idea how easy you have it. In my day, we didn't have all these fancy full-color monitors and MP3s and IMs and wireless networks. We measured our connection speed in baud, not "ma-bips", whatever they are. If monochrome was good enough for IBM, by God, it was good enough for us. You better believe, if we ever burned a CD in those days, the house would fill with noxious fumes and our parents would ground us from playing Castle Wolfenstein.

I tell you, anyone in my after school Dungeons and Dragons group would have strangled a prairie dog with his bare hands for something like the Logitech MX610 Laser Cordless Mouse, complete with five glorious and configurable LED-enhanced buttons. That's right – five buttons, which is two more than the number of brain cells in your average user today. We were lucky if our mice had one button, and here these pansies are running around with five! No wonder they say the Internet's such a dangerous place.

Quite simply, it is too much mousing power for a n00b.

But that ain't the half of it. It's wireless and optical (lasers!), so there's no mouse ball to get all gunked up with hair, dead skin cells, and Dorito crumbs. Where's the fun in that? They call it "Performance Laser Tracking" and "2.4GHz Digital Cordless," but I call it "computing for poseurs." Do these young asshats today deserve that kind of smooth movement and precise control? Like hell they do!

Silicon frictionless mouse feet?!?

And let's not even get started on the music these days. Gnarls Barkley? You gotta be kidding me! Who is that, one of those puppets off Sesame Street? Now, the Fixx…Level 42…Flock of Seagulls…that was some music!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Well, crap. As if I didn't already have enough to do, Disney (Freakin' Disney, who has already taken an estimated 80% of my pre-tax salary for the past seven years in exchange for Princess-themed whatever) has announced that they are entering the Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game market by the end of 2007 with a game using the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
Pirates? Online? Unfair!
Seriously, how am I supposed to resist that?
Also, since the next movie is rumored to be set in Asia, there is the distinct possibility of ninja action. In fact, I don't see any way to avoid ninja action.
To sum up:

1. Pirates
2. Ninjas
3. Online action

The geek trifecta. My father already bought shares in Disney for Gwynyth years ago, so her college expenses should be pretty much in the bag partially courtesy of my monthly access fees between now and then.
At the moment, details of the actual game are sketchy. However, even graphics consisting of stick figures labeled "pirate", "ninja" and "chef" should be enough to ensure a healthy geek population for the life of the game. If, in fact, there is such a thing as a "healthy geek".
Disney also has the cash to do the game right. I should know, I've given them enough.
Anyway, if they keep to the schedule posted, look for me in-game with the username "Cap'n Teabagger".
Until then, the World of Warcraft has captured my renowned and notoriously lightning-quick attention span.
Having reached level 14, I'm given to calling other players "n3wbs" with increasing frequency, especially when they have done nothing to deserve it.
In other news, I just checked my account and have amassed over 1,200 Diet Coke Reward Points since cashing in 850 for a PlayStation 2.
I also picked up a copy of EverQuest and a subscription to Cosmo.
Currently, there is nothing worth spending points on, so I'm just diligently entering my codes every day and hoping they add some good stuff soon.
It would cost 2,600 points for an MP3 player from Sony which would pale in comparison to my trusty iPod Shuffle. I'd give up the project entirely were I not so completely physically addicted to Diet Coke anyway.
I'm not holding my breath that with the close partnership Coke seems to have with Sony I'll be able to pick up a Nintendo Wii with Reward Points anytime soon.
With the PS3 currently clogging store shelves around here, it might make the list (at an outrageous point count) if the promotion lasts long enough.
I was thirsty anyway.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

We made an emergency trip to Opelousas, Louisiana on Sunday to attend the funeral of my Grandfather. While it sounds odd to call the death of an 85-year-old man "unexpected", it left us all surprised. He was remarkable in every sense of the word.
There was a write up in the local paper, but the stories I have heard over the last few days are even better.
Trust me, the world is a smaller and darker place, and there is a huge hole in my family which can never be filled.
I'll be back to normal posting as soon as possible.

Take care,


Monday, January 08, 2007

Posting will be a bit erratic for a few days due to a family emergency.



Friday, January 05, 2007

I broke down and decided to join the other 11 billion people playing World of Warcraft online.
At the moment, it seems like approximately 10 billion of them are on the overcrowded server I chose (Blackwater Raiders) but I wanted a game that is Mac-user friendly for cross-platform action with my friends who have made "the switch".
So far, I like it. I killed an owl and have been making a few silver pieces a night hunting spiders on the side of The Alliance. I no longer have a frame of reference which would tell me if that is more or less cool than it sounds.
I've been mocked by friends for not joining the evil Horde but, in all fairness, the Horde races are all terribly unattractive and it seemed too much of a stretch for me to pull off even with two-and-a-half decades of role-playing experience and a Theatre degree.
Ugly just isn't in my range.
If anyone wants to try out the free 10-day trial and run around the newbie area with me, I'll be surprised.
Also, the new expansion pack is scheduled to release in the middle of the month, so there looks to be a lot to actually do in-game, as well as (reportedly) a new, non-ugly Horde race. I'll be the judge of non-ugly, thank you.
We are back in full-on Ebay mode again following a break for the holidays. No one buys stuff on Ebay in late December. I plan to use that to my advantage this December by buying stuff for the starting bid and laughing maniacally.
I find the amount of remaining Star Wars toys in the spare bedroom almost comedic in the way only a small mountain of PVC marketing tie-ins can pull off.
Selling it off bit by bit is kind of like watching a lounge magician pull the never-ending handkerchief out of his sleeve in a hypnotic swirl of colors and lightsaber swing action.
Mmmm . . . Lightsaber swing action.
I can't bring myself to unload my "Force Choke Lord Vader".

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Please allow me to share with you the sad tale of Work Order #16,420.
For me, it started yesterday morning when a Project Lead emailed me. Actually, she forwarded me an email from one of her minions about not being able to log in.
"Does this user have a Citrix account?" was the question tacked up at the top.
I've gotten that question and variations of it for years and I still have to suppress the urge to lecture. Part of me (the smug and condescending part) wants to explain that "No, the user does not have a 'Citrix account'" and then to press on with "Nor do you or I have 'Citrix accounts' nor any other user in this company or any other company with a deployment of Microsoft Active Directory and 25% of a clue, Madam."
What I would like for them to understand is that Citrix uses the domain account, fully leveraging Microsoft's authentication. That knowledge, combined with an email from the user in question sent through a Microsoft Exchange email server (forwarded to me -- OMG) would provide instant, non-tech-hassling assurance that yes, the user -- by having the ability to send an email complaining about anything -- must have a 'Citrix account'.
But what I answered was, "Sure. I'll check."
But I didn't do anything through Citrix. Instead, as logic would dictate, I checked the domain.
The account was there.
The account was disabled.
There was a note on the account from a co-worker which read "Disabled 01-02-07 Work Order #16,420". I'd like to say my co-worker is awesome for leaving this note.
Anyway, I typed up a reply to the Project Lead which simply read, "The account has been disabled per Work Order #16,420".
Before hitting [Send], I decided to research this Work Order myself.
It was a standard request to disable the accounts of contractors who are no longer with the company. There were a few that were processed at the beginning of this month.
Work Order #16,420 (and I swear that is the actual number) was actually submitted by the same Project Lead who inquired the following day why one of the accounts wasn't working. Specifically, the 'Citrix account'.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

So anyway, according to the "Microsoft Enterprise Licensing Agreement", as a part of the I.T. staff I get a license to use Microsoft products at home.
The idea is that by using the products every day, we will be better able to fix them in the event of disaster at work. Or a security issue. Not that Microsoft has those.
We are able to test new software with existing applications in a real-world setting to retain our "cutting-edge 1337 skillz" or some such.
That is the idea, anyway.
The result is that I've been running Microsoft Vista on my home computer for the past few weeks.
I've seen versions of Windows complete the "cycle of obsolescence" quite a few times. Initial reports of the features Vista offered people (and me specifically) left me indifferent to an upgrade for the first time in recent memory. A pretty interface? What kind of shallow nerd do you take me for, Microsoft? One that can be charmed away from XP Professional SP2 by semi-transparent windows of multi-tasking?
Wait. Did you say "semi-transparent"?
Hmmm . . . Perhaps XP and I need to take a little break for a bit, you know, find out who we really are. Don't be upset XP. It isn't you, it is "semi-transparent" -- wait! I mean . . . I just need some space!
And we'll always have iTunes.
This is not a review of Vista. I'm holding the threat of that over everyone's head for a little longer.
I just want to admit publicly what it was that made me anxious to switch from XP to Vista.
Ready Boost was too awesome to ignore. I only wish it sounded less dorky.
What it does is much cooler than the name would suggest.
It lets the operating system use a USB flash drive as a "SuperFetching" area. Side note: Who comes up with these names? "Ready Boost"? "SuperFetching"? "Vista"?
I'd have called the last one "Microsoft You'll Buy It Because We Won't Support Anything Else Within Three Months". I like truth in marketing. Or at least a well-crafted lie.
Ok. Back to SuperFetching.
The USB drive is used via reads and writes as a staging area between the memory and hard drive, speeding up actions where the spinning hard drive would be slower and effectively increasing the efficiency of system RAM. You can essentially update system memory with something that plus into a USB port, and I think that is awesome. So awesome in fact, that I couldn't wait to try it with the USB flash drive that came with my laptop.
There are some requirements flash devices must meet in order to be used by Ready Boost:

1. The USB key must be at least USB 2.0;
2. The device must be able to do 3.5 MB/s for 4 KB random reads uniformly across the entire device and 2.5 MB/s for 512 KB random writes uniformly across the device; and
3. The device has to have at least 64mb of free space. (per Matt Ayers, the Program Manager in the Microsoft Windows Client Performance group and on the ReadyBoost feature)

Sounds pretty reasonable, but Ready Boost instantly hated on my 2GB SD Card AND on my 1GB USB2.0 flash drive with the AMD logo. Why the hate, Ready Boost? The specs on both devices are totally Airwolf.
The best guess I've got is that the published Read/Write rates are for sequential data, essentially one big file, and random access is slower. I was, and remain, bitter about this. My USB drive has a flashing red LED, Vista! Flashing red!
Oh, well. I suppose a person could fling down cash on flash drive after flash drive looking for one that is awesome enough for Ready Boost OR wait around for "Ready Boost Ready" flash drives. Side note: "Ready Boost Ready"? I'd really like to talk to whoever comes up with names for crap at Microsoft. And by "talk to" I mean "beat mercilessly".
Since both flinging money and waiting are bad things, I decided to force Vista to use my perfectly acceptable flash device.

Here are the steps so that you can do it, too:

1. Plug in the device.
2. Open the Readyboost tab on the device properties.
3. Select "Do not retest this device"
4. Unplug the device
5. Open regedit (start->run->regedit)
6. Expand - HKLM (Local Machine)SOFTWAREMicrosoftWindows NTCurrentVersionEMDgmt
7. Find your device.
8. Change Device Status to 2
9. Change ReadSpeedKBs to 1000
10. Change WriteSpeedKBs to 1000
11. Plug in the device.
12. Enable Readyboost.

You can use this to not only use a slower device, but also to use a larger device than Ready Boost supports. I think I've got an external USB 2.0 80GB hard drive laying around here somewhere begging to be added to system RAM.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

New Year's Eve, sometime after the family had gone to bed yet still long before the flurry of fireworks in the neighborhood that signals our own roll-over to 2007 (or maybe an impending raid by the INS), I was online.
Big shock there.
Anyway, I was pushing my avatar around my current Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, killing spiders and owls and gathering quest components.
As I read along in the "General Chat" window occupied by 500-600 of my closest people-I-don't-know, I started to notice a trend.
At 11pm Central time, I started seeing "Happy New Year East Coast!" and other well-wishes.
In my experience, most of the time this would be followed (Standard Internet Protocol RFC1337) by something along the lines of, "d13, n00b" or "U R teh suxxor" or "Where is the freaking druid trainer in (insert town/zone name)?". I braced for it. I mentally prepared to participate, planning to compare someone's mother to an orc (unfavorably) or maybe even fling a 1337 speak Shakespearean Insult ("l3$$ 0f Br@1n$ +h@n 3@rw@x") because, after all, it is a role-playing game.
However, in defiance of convention the taunts did not begin.
As my Elven Hunter Artemia heroically felled some weird bear creature and then ran from a giant spider, I read a bunch of congratulatory messages as well as responses.
"L8r, 2006. Not sorry to see U go."
"Glad that is over."
"Worst . . . year . . . ever."
"Where is the freaking druid trainer in Dolanaar?"
Now, I've been up for a lot of midnight new years. I've been sober for most if not all of them.
I don't remember a year as widely reviled as 2006 (or "+w0+h0u$@nd $ux", as I've seen it spelled out). Usually, there are optimistic hopes for the coming year, but few curses for the one just completed.
Even prior to finding these like-minded individuals, I had planned to stay up to make sure that 2006 really left. You never know with a year like 2006, after all.
For an hour and longer, people listed reasons why 2006 was an awful year. It got so depressing Artemia threw herself into a lake. Unfortunately, swimming is automatic but an enraged plant person beat on her until she ran back to the town guards.
I reflected on the trauma that was 2006 as I sent my avatar against some forest demons.
While she (keystroke 8 then 5 then 2, 2, 2), I thought about all the reasons 2006 was un-Airwolf.
There are too many to list. As midnight central rolled around I gestured symbolically to my system calendar, silently suggesting that the year count to one.
I've got resolutions. I've got plans. I may detail them later. For right now, I'm looking forward to 2007 with a vague yet palpable distrust. I have to believe that it will be better than 2006, but only because the bar is set so very pathetically low.
You don't have to go home, 2006, but you can't stay here.
Anyway, the workplace tidbit for today is this:

On the elevator I heard someone say "It is just a motivational meeting. I don't care if I miss it."