Friday, March 30, 2007

There is a Buddhist saying that goes something like, "If you sit by the river long enough, eventually the body of your enemy will float past".
I've always liked that and, in fact, almost every saying which advocates inactivity.
Thursday we proved the wisdom of it.
A trouble ticket actually sat unresolved long enough for the user to find another job and move on with her life.
It wasn't that we didn't care. At least not primarily.

This has prompted me to take another look at other sayings like, "Fool me once, I need a nap" and "The early bird has time to sit around and can probably skip out in a bit" and "A penny saved is too far".
There is wisdom there, if we bother to interpret. I probably won't, because it might require effort.

Please stay with me through the topic change. I think it may be worth it.
Okay. In World of Warcraft (anyone still reading?) the game world is huge. To cut down on travel time, players are encouraged to visit a local Innkeeper (designated by the title "[Innkeeper]" under the name) to make an Inn close to where the adventure happens his or her temporary home.
There are other titles available for the non-player characters like "[Butcher]", "[Trade Goods]" and "[Banker]".
The only way for a player to have such a title is to join a guild. In that case, "[Guild Name]" appears under their character name.
Webinara formed a guild Wednesday night. If you are on the Duskwood server, look for anyone with "[Innkeepers]" under their name.
We like to hang out in Inns and stand really close to anyone labelled "[Innkeeper]" to confuse the n00bs.

Finally, Thursday my worst nightmares were realized.
I'd been getting the run-around from a software company when trying to deploy their application. I'd sent multiple emails and all the requested screen shots.
I got them on the phone and played a drawn out question and answer game until I finally posited that the installation of their security service, without an associated hard lock key, was causing a conflict with the stand-alone software key they had provided.
After a moment of stunned silence, one of the techs said, "Wait a minute. Are you trying to use the application or deploy it?"
I replied that I was installing it to deploy over terminal services.
There was some laughter on their end of the line, but a good-natured kind of laughter.
Then the second tech said, "We thought you were a user. We didn't know you were in I.T. Don't worry about it. We'll ship out a new key this afternoon."
And they did ship it. Almost immediately.
But I'd been mistaken for . . . One of them. What had I done to deserve that?
As always, my co-workers were supportive during my crisis:

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

So, as I may have mentioned, one of the most valuable assets I have as a technician is a ready supply of pictures of kittens doing cute or dumb things.
When attached to emails, presentations and reports, cat pictures can quickly and efficiently sway the viewer to the senders point of view . . . If only to get them to stop sending pictures that are so cute they are debilitating.
Towards that end, I have combed the cutest places on the internet and scraped through the very bottom of the cute kitten picture barrel.
And now we have been forced to create our own.

Nissa puts up with a lot if it means the other cats aren't jumping on her and slapping her head at that exact instant:

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Shana's cat seems ready to cook herself for warning Harry Potter to not go back to Hogwarts for book seven:

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And this OCD beast has taken a break from cleaning the fur off her legs and the middle part of her tail to judge us:

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The Hello Kitty laptop speakers are mine.
Um . . . The sound quality is . . . When I'm playing games the explosions are more . . . Life-like surround sound for my metal MP3s . . . Okay . . . They are adorable and not even plugged in at the moment.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I'm angry.
No. Wait. I'm just sad.
Hang on.
I'm both sad and angry and doubting my previously unshakable faith in anything marketed as "extreme".
You see, there was this place. And once upon a time it was called Extreme Pizza.
We visited one night and tried a few of their specialty gourmet pizzas. Both they, and the cheesy bread, were surprisingly addictive.
Extreme Pizza could easily cause us to drive 20 minutes one way to pick up an order. And it could do this a few times a week.
We were concerned about the lack of crowds. We were more concerned about the lack of staff after one order (taken and filled by the same insanely busy guy) was so confused and late that it was given to us free. It was a nice thought, even though the pizzas were all wrong.
Yesterday was a particularly brutal day at work, so we decided to call in an order while we made the drive. There is something comforting about the "Holy Cow", which is three kinds of cheese, walnuts and fresh sage.
The phone rang and rolled over to voicemail. It did this about fifteen times while we drove all the way down to view the giant, hateful "closed" signs and to see someone inside packing up the fixtures.
Of course, the only reasonable thing to do was to request franchise information so that we could again have access to the pizza. We kicked around the idea of opening a location in the "Energy Belt" so that we could enjoy a regular lunch crowd from ConocoPhillips, BP, Citgo and Global Santa Fe without having to deal with downtown Houston at all.
And then Extreme Pizza sent us the information.
Opening a little pizza shop seems to cost anywhere from $200k to $400k.
I'm not saying it isn't worth it. The "California Cactus" pizza might be worth that on its own.
I'm just saying that may be too "Extreme" for me.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

I have to apologize about yesterday. It seems Blogger, between preview and publication, decided some of the dialog I posted was, in fact, HTML. Not only that but bad, unpublishable HTML.
Rather than give me an error message, Blogger left me to not notice the glaring holes in my post until this morning.
While I'm leaving it as it posted for the sake of history, there was a whole paragraph worth of awesome that just got eaten.
This calls into question my ability to work with not only lines of code (which these were not) but language as well.
Coupled with my pre-existing aversion to numbers (and their own aversion to me) I'm left hoping to someday find a pictogram system (possibly comprised of sea shells or painted macaroni) at which I can develop a basic proficiency.
Until then, I'll stammer along here . . . Not very good word . . . using.

Monday, March 26, 2007

One of my co-workers just made the switch to a MacBook Pro. You can see my thinly-veiled jealousy in this IM exchange as he impatiently waits for his machine to be delivered:

(co-worker’s name deleted): it doesn’t say they have shipped my laptop yet
(co-worker’s name deleted): Available
(co-worker’s name deleted): this angers us
Garrick: Vista is faster
Oooo! Ooooo! Maybe the shipping software is OSX!!!! ;)
(co-worker’s name deleted): maybe you should stop sucking Bill Gate’s (message cleaned up for publication) long enough to hear how retarded you sound
(co-worker’s name deleted) has taken this chat off the record (from now on, chats with (co-worker’s name deleted) will not be saved in your Gmail account or (co-worker’s name deleted)'s) Learn more Cancel
(co-worker’s name deleted): This chat is no longer off the record
Garrick: Niiiice
I tried to reply, but Vista kept asking me if I really wanted to use such language until I gave up
(co-worker’s name deleted): lol
yeah I thought an over the top reply would be amusing
Garrick: I liked it
(co-worker’s name deleted): Vista doesn’t like you
Garrick: It says it likes me
(co-worker’s name deleted): don’t believe his lies
Garrick: keeps asking me if I want to disbelieve . . . am I sure? . . . Screw it. Vista pwnz.
(co-worker’s name deleted): OS X is best
then xp
then linux
then os/2 warp
then beOS
the nextStep
then Openstep
then DOS
then amiga os
then Vista
Garrick: Windows ME is better than Amiga
other than that, you are right
(co-worker’s name deleted): of course I am
I just checked again
they haven’t shipped it
Garrick: they are trying to right click on "ship" with a one-button Mac mouse
(co-worker’s name deleted): no
I think they are still working through allow prompts on Vista
or they cant reach the button because they only have 800 lines of vertical resolution
Garrick is typing...
Garrick: "Are you sure you want to ship someone a Mac?" "I can help you work more effectively" "You don't need to see your resolution settings, it is already optimized for your screen." "Do you need help creating a shipping label?"
(co-worker’s name deleted): Dude, that’s a damn good impression of the office assistant.
the lil paper clip guy?
Garrick: I love that guy
(co-worker’s name deleted): you would
when was the last time you right clicked on anything to execute
you right click for the context menu
Garrick: "Windows Vista can help you do more with 'Right Click'"
(co-worker’s name deleted): Windows Vista "You are trying to right click, do you wish to cancel or allow."
Garrick: OSX = "The proper key sequence is "
Clover key? WTF?
(co-worker’s name deleted): "Windows Vista, Speed, Agility, Confidence. Sorry guys, those features had to be cut from Vista to make our release date. But dont worry for we give you the crowning achievement of 5 years, WINDOWS DEFENDER!
I think Vista has been in development longer than OSX has been around yet all they managed to do was copy it.
Garrick: Windows Defender is awesome. Sometimes my IMs get ganked ... want to buy v1agra c@nadian ph@rmac13s??
Other than that, it works
(co-worker’s name deleted): yeah
it totally blocked internet explorer
"helping you do more"
Garrick: So it installs Firefox, too?
(co-worker’s name deleted): seriously, it blocked IE
I wanted to get in there and strangle it
Garrick: Defender?
(co-worker’s name deleted): yes
Garrick: Weird
(co-worker’s name deleted): its cool though
I am getting something better than windows defender
It is called OS X
and it (message cleaned up for publication) kicks your (message cleaned up for publication)
Garrick: the OS no one wants to hack
because even pwnt you can't right click
(co-worker’s name deleted): you can
attach a two button mouse
Garrick: SRSLY
(co-worker’s name deleted): or tap with three fingers
besides who uses that button anyway
Garrick: You can attach a decent browser and spyware software to Vista
(co-worker’s name deleted): touch pad masters don’t
Garrick: I love right clicking
Sometimes I just right click random stuff to see what happens
Sent at 2:16 PM on Wednesday

Friday, March 23, 2007

Helpdesk (English Subtitles)

This has been making the rounds at work. The actual post for today is a mere scroll button down away.

When an author, game designer or beat poet sets about creating a fantasy setting or science fiction universe, he or she establishes the rules.
Currently, the most important initial concerns are (for fantasy) the ways the setting is different from Tolkien's Middle Earth and (for speculative fiction) how the setting is different from Star Wars or Star Trek.
There are immutable rules for both.
Neither magic nor technology are ever completely without cost to the user.
Government, currency, and technological levels should be established early on for both types.
My favorite rule (and the focus of this post) is that every setting needs "Orcs or Nazis".
"Orcs or Nazis" refers to a type of creature that can be killed by the hero with no angst or sense of regret.
All good settings have things that can be killed freely so that the heroes can gain skills and abilities without attending lectures and classes and webinars for the first third of the book/fifteen levels of game play/initial rhyming couplets.
In the classic D&D adventure Keep on the Borderlands by Gary Gygax (long may he reign), the first level characters were given free reign to slaughter whole tribes of kobolds, goblins and orcs (even the whelplings) with no consequences at all -- unless they left survivors to seek revenge later.
I'll confess. Even as a child (I first ran through Keep on the Borderlands at the age of nine) I (hulking barbarian warrior that I was) wasn't really too keen on the six experience points I would have gained slaying kobold pups who were too young to fight back.
I distinctly remember interrupting the entire flow of this early dungeon crawl to take the surviving young to be raised in a monastery on a neighboring mountain.
Someday, in a campaign I run, these kobolds will return as powerful martial artists seeking to return the balance to their former home caves.
Okay. So maybe Mr. Gygax failed a little in establishing "Orcs and Nazis" or maybe I was just a little too involved in the ecology of the setting, but the concept was there.
I don't remember much else about that early adventure, but I'm sure the geeks I played with remember the Dungeon Master resentfully inventing that monastery on the fly and finally letting his dice roll to a stop as well as I do.
Later on I got a +1 battle axe, I think.
And probably a helmet with horns on it.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

I've so wanted to not blog about this, but I can delay no longer.
This morning I climbed into some print server configuration and then emailed several application vendor support people and then actually left a voicemail for a user . . . all in an attempt to stall on what I think, for me, may be a depressing post.
A recent survey of I.T. people who have been in I.T. for a decade or more contained several interesting bits of information. According to this survey, if given the choice for a do-over, well over half of these veteran (seasoned) I.T. people would choose a different career path.
Not 51%, not 54%, but almost 70%.
Additionally, Computer Science majors are switching to other majors (finance, business) at an alarming rate.
This last bit has little personal relevance, since I was never a Computer Science major, but it does show a trend of fewer new people hitting the market.
So, with no influx of new people and all the old geeks longing to open T-Shirt shops on the beach somewhere, it is (unfortunately) easy to see why off-shoring is becoming increasingly attractive to business.
Some people say that the mass exodus is due to a fear of this outsourcing and the employment instability that goes with it, but the outsourcing itself is a result of the commoditization of I.T.
I.T. has become a utility, like water or power, and people pay as little as possible for those things.
These seasoned I.T. people love to tell stories about the "old days", when the colas were free and the facilities were state-of-the-art. This was true outside Silicon Valley.
In the early days, we were solving problems. We helped people do their jobs more efficiently and our toys were productivity engines fueled by creativity.
Now, we pay for caffeine and toil at process, fighting fires and methodically screen-shotting everything "in case we get hit by a bus" -- the bus being driven by an off-shore I.T. worker working for 1/3 of what we need to survive.
Business can fix this by learning to rely not only on the experience of their I.T. staff, but their creativity as well. Sure, we have developed fire-fighting skills, but experience has given us the ability to prevent future fires completely if our ideas are given weight.
The draw for I.T. is no longer the giant pay checks and stock options, so it needs to be in the day-to-day mitigation of problems. Most geeks like the celebrity feeling that comes not only from our smart-assed remarks in meetings but from being technically competent profit centers for our employers.
If I had it to do over, would I choose a different career path?
I've given this a lot of thought. At this point, I'm not sure what other marketable skills I have. If we are talking about a decade-long do-over, I'd probably be doing something else.
Right now I intend to voice my opinions. If something is wrong, I will offer a solution. If there is a new technology which fits a business need, I will call attention to it.
And, if there is a fire, I will continue to suppress it.
Maybe every time I zone out, picturing myself selling those bootlegged T-Shirts out of a battered conversion van on the beach, I can bring myself back to reality via the notched Foosball table in the break room next to the white board full of awesome ideas.
If only they existed.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

As you may remember, I tried (unsuccessfully) to enroll in AT&T's UVerse awesome internet access.
When having a phone jack (ew) in my home became a deal-breaker, I cancelled without ever completing set up.
The customer service agent walked through my bill, applying credits until I owed $4. I figured this was a small price to pay for a lesson learned (and a few blog posts) and waited patiently for the bill to arrive.
Imagine my surprise when the bill (installation, equipment, a month of service and state and Federal fees) arrived in the amount of $163.25.
I assumed that it was an error, an errant billing glitch that would be worked out.
Please try to imagine my further surprise when yesterday I got the same bill with a nasty letter about "service termination" and "collection agencies".
I went into the phone call angry and bitter but resolved. I intended to not pay this bill for services I never got.
First, I'd like to suggest that the computerized "helper" employed in answering the phone is a fascist. He quickly found my account, but refused to connect me with an actual person until I'd paid my overdue amount. He'd be happy to take my bank account or credit card information. If I was not prepared to pay, I could hang up and call back when I was.
I started yelling control cues.
"Customer Service!"
This was seeming awfully authoritarian.
"Excuse me," the computerized voice droned, "Did you say you wanted to speak to an agent?"
"Yes," I replied, "Agent!" Then, more relieved, "agent."
I was thrust into an aura of light jazz hold muzak. Against my will, I began to "shake it".
I was almost disappointed ten minutes later when a person interrupted my dance.
She refused to help me, but offered to transfer me to the Billing Department. Anxious to get back to my dance, I agreed.
This time, I was shoved into tuneless light piano hold muzak.
The muzak began to attack my spine. Something in the pitch resonated in my vertebrae painfully like someone was knocking a wooden mallet against the top of my spinal column.
I was relieved when a human picked up on the other end.
"I'm so glad you answered," I started, "The hold music for collections was a funky light jazz but your hold music is an awful piano soundtrack designed to wear me down. Please please don't send me back there."
While she looked up my account information, I told her everything. I know now that I'd never stand up against actual torture-based interrogation.
I started with the internet outage on a Friday night and my desperate call on a Saturday morning to sign up for UVerse. I explained that the representative wouldn't sell me the service without TV and phone and that the DSL didn't come with a connection I could use.
I confessed my ties to Al-Qaeda and my fondness for Musharr Al-Hadim, the Al-Jazeera anchorman on-air from 8-10pm weeknights. He is fanatical and balanced.
"Oops," she interrupted, "Look at that! I just credited your account more than you actually owe!"
"Um, thanks?" I asked.
"I'm so going to get written up over this, but it was our mistake obviously."
"I'm sorry?" I still wasn't sure how to handle this news.
"It's okay," she said, "I'm going to transfer you back to collections. Tell them a manager reversed all your charges."
"Thank you!" I was relieved. And more than a little looking forward to the light jazz treatment.
The hold was nowhere near long enough this time, and after I reached a person, she said I still owed $60, which she could take by credit card or bank information.
I asked to be sent back to billing, forgetting in my dismay the light piano hell which awaited me with gaping maw.
"Noooooooo!" I screamed in agony, interrupted by the helpful voice of someone new in billing.
He interrupted my story when he found the earlier note and put my back on hold (at my request in the light jazz queue) while he called collections on my behalf.
In the end, AT&T owes me $2.
I do not expect a check.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

It is no secret that iTunes and Windows Vista do not play nice together.
Given my love for the latest OS (even crappy ones) and cheesy sci-fi and Table Top RPG Podcasts, this is a very major conflict in my life.
I've often wondered why I need a major application (that wants to not only take over as the only player for all things media and "organize" my MP3 directory into a way that makes browsing the directory without it an exercise in frustration) just to put some stupid sound files on my MP3 player.
Apparently, I wasn't the only one wondering this.
Floola answered my question.
After enabling my Shuffle as a hard drive and dragging this tiny application to it, I was a double click (no install at all) away from just dragging files over. It even puts them (with no interaction on my part) in the correct order for serialized fiction podcasts.
It plugs into my car just the same as always and plays every bit as beautifully as before.
Also, Floola doesn't care about the disarray of my MP3 directory, or if it does it gives me no indication.
I guess with a name like Floola, you tend not to judge others too harshly.
If you, like me, were bristling under the harsh authority of iTunes (which I understand works so much better on the Mac than it does on Windows, even pre-Vista) there is an alternative.
Be free, my friends.

Monday, March 19, 2007

I really enjoy turning off my cellphone.
The "turn off your cellphone" warning commercials that are played before movies actually give me a warm feeling of entitlement, like I'm off-duty suddenly. I've earned that time to watch whatever crap movie we have bought tickets for and it is my right -- no, my responsibility -- to shut off my cellphone.
Accompanying this and immediately following Cingular's "goodbye" screen, there is a feeling of seclusion. For the next 90 minutes, it is just me and the family.
After what I heard last week, I doubt that feeling will ever be as powerful.
You see, I heard from a software developer about a project they are working on as part of a government contract.
For some time now, people have been able to triangulate the location of a cellphone based on what "keep-in-touch tower" it is using at the moment. This is fairly accurate, but the new program is much more granular.
Using the new software, someone with proper authorization (all too easy to get, thanks to the Patriot Act) can determine the location of a cellphone much more specifically and -- this is the scary part -- even if the phone is off.
But wait! Guess what they can do even if your phone is off!! Guess! Guess!
They can activate it remotely, right in your pocket, and record whatever is going on around you!
I know. This seems like another paranoid rant, but this is an actual real-life project currently underway with Federal funding.
Now, I only know of one way to stop this gross invasion of privacy (besides setting the cellphone battery in a cup of water whenever you need a moment alone and that would cost a fortune in replacement batteries and probably land a person on a special list somewhere) and I hope it is only a matter of time before it takes effect.
Hopefully, someone invoking the Patriot Act will switch a phone into record mode during a movie. At that point, the MPAA should totally climb all over them with lawsuit after lawsuit after lawsuit.
The FBI warning we all have to sit through every time we watch a DVD we actually own, could be our only hope for privacy in the future.
I just frightened myself.

Okay. This should make us all feel better about the whole thing:

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Sometimes it looks like everyone wants to keep me from sending text messages.
Our internet filter killed all instant messenger programs. Fortunately, Google has provided the code for Google Talk. I've placed it in the column on the right, and I'm able to use it that way.
Anyone else is welcome to use that interface for avoiding their own workplace firewall issues, but it is there for purely selfish reasons.
My first and last name with no spaces or dots or junk should let anyone who hasn't already done so add me to their contacts, which would be beyond awesome.
In other news, tonight is another big damn Data Center Maintenance evening, which translates to no sleep for me and a jacked up sleep schedule through (on average) Wednesday of next week.
I plan to draw energy through coffee the way Kal-El draws it from the rays of our yellow sun.
I will upgrade and reboot stuff faster than a speeding data packet. I will draw more power than a clustered server. I'll be able to bypass the corporate firewall in a single hop.
I'll wear my underwear outside my pants, and my Adobe ePaper Solutions "paperless office" golf shirt to show how much I miss the glorious paper-free society lost when my home planet destroyed itself after some sleep-deprived I.T. guy rebooted the wrong print server.
I need no sleep. I have transcended rest. Caffeine and a spinning desk chair with lumbar support work every bit as well as eight hours of sleep, but the industrial medical complex doesn't want us to know that.
Why would they cover that up? Are they just trying to hurt the sales of Diet Mountain Dew? Are they in bed with the mattress companies? Are they jealous because their exam room stools are spinny but backless?
At this time I'm willing to lump the entire medical field into every possible conspiracy theory I can find.
For instance, it is a little known fact that the first people to see JFK after he was rushed to the hospital from Dealy Plaza were all in the medical field. That gets glossed over in the documentaries and even Wikipedia, but it is the truth.
Also, there were doctors working in and around Roswell during the "incident" with the "weather balloon".
Furthermore, right here in Houston, there were doctors working just a few miles from the Enron corporate offices both before and during the implosion of that company. One even treated Jeff Skilling for a rash he picked up on a business trip.
These are just data points. Arrange them on your paranoia spreadsheet however you like.

Am I the only one with a paranoia spreadsheet?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

If you ask just about anyone that lives here, Texas is awesome.
We have a lot going for us. There is no state income tax. We have people everywhere willing to do our yardwork for almost less than minimum wage. Our belt buckles can be so large that they can keep us from being arrested for indecent exposure even in Florida, and even if the belt buckle is all we wear.
When is the last time someone made a pizza in the shape of West Virginia? On purpose, I mean?
People here will tell you (even unprompted) that we could drop out of the United States legally any time we like and form our own sovereign nation. In fact, the only reason we don't is so we can still participate in the National Football League.
However, a dark cloud looms on our formerly wide-open-as-all-get-out horizon.
New legislation seems aimed squarely at shooting the empty Natural Light cans off the fence posts of our basic freedoms.
I'm not talking about the proposed STD vaccinations for school girls, either.
Ladies and gentlemen, Texas may ban text messaging while driving.
So now I have to pull over in some seedy "massage parlor" parking lot if I want to text someone? What's next? I can't email? No surfing Ebay on the BlackBerry? No Lord of the Rings marathon played on my laptop while I'm stuck on I-10?
How am I supposed to get traffic updates when I'm in my car? It isn't like I can load up-to-the-minute traffic reports on my iPod in advance.
Apparently, by the same bill, if I answer my cellphone when someone calls to find out why I haven't answered their text message and don't use a headset I can get fined for that, too.
Meanwhile, all kinds of cattle rustlin', train-robbing varmints are running around shooting up saloons and coffee bars and buying way too many duty-free cartons of Marlboro Reds at the airport at once while our Texas Rangers (like Walker, not the baseball team) are following me around hoping to slap me with a fine for hitting 'send'.
Our law enforcement resources are stretched thin enough (and I mean as a group, not individually, because "thin" is rarely a word that comes to mind when discussing a Texas law man) without this invalidation of a basic right in my cellphone contract.
It is this kind of narrow thinking that lost us the Alamo.

[BowieKnife2843 to HoustonWaistCoat] - d00d!1 Send more tr00pz!
[HoustonWaistCoat to BowieKnife2843] - SRY d00d we needs a bunch o these n00bs 2 watch th1s cann0n in gonzales
[BowieKnife2843 to BuckskinC] - OMG! Houston iz such a lam3r!!1
[BuckskinC to BowieKnife2843] - ja rly! WTF are we supposed 2 do?
[BowieKnife2843 to BuckskinC] - He sed he w1ll send a new plan when he can pull off the road
[BuckskinC to BowieKnife2843] - coolz. some d00dz R here. WTF? didn't we just mow?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

We have house guests for Spring Break.
Gwynyth's cousins from west Texas are here with Shana's mom.
Of course, this means the level of "little girlness" has been multiplied by three for the time being.
Normally, I'm more than masculine enough to compensate for our "little girlness" quantity, or at least balance it out here or there by leaving an ethernet cable stretched across the floor "temporarily" and filling the whole bottom shelf of the refrigerator with cola in those horrible, horrible can dispensing boxes. One time, I left a hammer on the kitchen counter.
Shana put it away and now I don't know where it is, though.
Three little girls churn out too much "little girlness" for anyone not employed full-time in the ninja or pirate industries to make up for.
Friends, last night I found myself in the family room slowly curling into a ball while trying not to care about Felicity's contribution to the Revolutionary War in a Hallmark American Girl movie.
In the end, I did care. And to compensate I'm pretty sure I won't be able to match my shirts to my socks or even wear deodorant for the rest of the week or risk losing my "Man Card".
I'm switching immediately to a diet of only Buffalo Wings and things made from or made to look like Buffalo Wings. And Coke Zero -- Let's not get crazy. It isn't like I get a 10% discount at Denny's with the Man Card.
Further, I've been practicing spitting. If I lean over the trash can in my cubicle like a partying Frat guy, I can get spit (or simulated spit from the water fountain in my case) into the can about 75% of the time. Of course, that includes the times it dribbles down my chin. I haven't broken that data point out in the spreadsheet where I'm tracking all this.
I'm afraid the fact that I'm tracking it in a spreadsheet may actually count against me, so I plan to cover that by spitting more.
Then I can use a simple batch file to import my spit results automatically.
Wait. That would be bad, too. As a man, I should manually import my own spit results. Because men work with their hands, and I've got the callouses to prove it on my typing fingers.
Well, I would if I didn't frequently take breaks to moisturize.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I hope we can all agree on at least one thing -- That sometimes, ninjas are cooler than pirates.
Please don't get me wrong.
I'm all about the rum, the creative application of ship parts recycled into prosthetic limbs, and of course the smell of a freshly buckled swash in the morning.
What I'm not about is extra work brought about by their modern day antics.
In the course of my day, I work with a lot of applications. Some of the larger ones (like Microsoft's stuff) require an online activation. The smaller, more specialized applications have such tight profit margins that the fear of software piracy causes paranoia bad enough that even I notice it.
While I have no idea why anyone would pirate software that ties into lab equipment and calculates viscosity, I suppose enough people do it to merit extreme measures in license tracking forced down from the vendor onto the paying customers.
Sometimes this is an online activation, which is fine . . . unless the computer hosting the application is purposely blocked from accessing the internet.
Sometimes the vendor makes us install a licensing server specific for their application. The program launches, contacts the license server (which requires us to pay for and maintain separate hardware), and checks for an available license before letting the user log in.
Sometimes the authentication integrates with our own, sometimes it requires a database all for itself.
In the case of one application recently, all these were necessary at once plus a HardLock, which is a hardware device that plugs into the back of the server hosting the application to ensure that it only runs from the place it was originally installed.
Because I'm in a hurry to have this application up and running, I opened the HardLock packaging as soon as it arrived. I expected something like a USB thumb drive.
What I got was a big ugly thing that plugs into the printer port.
As I've tried several times to explain to the vendor, there are no printer ports on the back of current model Dell servers.
Without it, the integrated license server won't even start.
Sadly, we own the software license and can't get past the licensing.


Monday, March 12, 2007

I've mentioned them before, but I have to repeat:

If you haven't tried the Starbucks Cinnamon Dolce Latte -- DON'T!
They are highly addictive and a core element of the corporation's latest plot of global domination.
I have tried them, and tried to resist them since. Even my iron will crumbles at the sign of an open Starbucks drive through. Friends, do not fall into their trap.
I've come to realize that this could easily become a $30 per week investment in Starbucks, with no return on my investment save for my own sanity (such as it is).
I have even accidentally contributed to it in more serious ways. Once, after I had apologetically completed ordering a "quad-shot, venti, breve, sugar-free cinnamon dolce latte", the barrista shrieked.
"That's the perfect drink!" I was horrified as she wiped the "Grande Americano" from the "This is your drink" board behind the counter and began to copy my order from where she had scrawled it across the side of my cup.
I knew something needed to be done, and quickly.
I also knew we have our own cappuccino machine at home. Sure, we've worn out a few gaskets so it leaks and it no longer quite heats right, but I'd been given the motivation to attack those issues with the tools at hand (hot glue and a mitre saw, to be specific) to be able to craft our own sugar-free cinnamon dolce lattes at home.
Before beginning the project, I visited to order a bottle (case) of the flavored syrup. My chest tightened as I came to the realization that while a person can order aprons, grounds dumpers, impossible-to-find coffee plumbing parts and Starbucks-branded toilet paper dispensers, the cinnamon dolce syrup is glaringly unavailable.
I tried to not freak out.
I went to my back-up source, DaVinci syrups. They have everything, the Splenda-based stuff is awesome and they are, arguably, the source for all things flavoring-related.
No cinnamon dolce flavoring there, either.
I even looked under the "new" heading, hoping their web guy was just lazy.
How could this be?
I turned to Google and frantically searched.
Google led me to a forum post by a past (or current) Starbucks barrista who claimed to know the secret.
Cinnamon Dolce flavoring is a combination of cinnamon flavoring (a no-brainer and common enough even in grocery stores), brown sugar (slightly harder to find in liquid sugar-free form, but not impossible) and butter flavoring. Butter is impossible. It doesn't exist as a syrup (because, like, gross) and real butter would congeal and/or rot in the bottle.
Someone on another message board suggested replacing butter flavoring with caramel, but also suggested that this was "not the same".
I've called attention before to Starbuxitol, the secret, highly-addictive non-nutritive additive Starbucks adds to their drinks.
Cinnamon Dolce syrup is that substance, made bold enough to leave out in plain view.
I know I have to solve this riddle, and I know I can do it using DaVinci syrup.
The answer to this mystery, this secret, this "DaVinci Code" is the only thing that can free me, free all of us.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Hello, everyone!
I've reached a new career milestone, and I feel compelled to share it. Friday I sent my best ever response to a user issue. In fact, it may be the best response to a user issue ever typed by the hand of geek.
The complete issue is below, followed by my response.
Please note, this response was actually delivered and read by the user. I hope it ends up immortalized in our company Knowledge Base.

-----Original Message-----
From: Help,Desk
Sent: Friday, March 09, 2007 11:31 AM
To: Garrick
Subject: New WO# 20679 - SAP closing
Work Order No.: 20679
Technician Assigned: Garrick
Priority: 3 - Medium
Date Due: 3/12/2007 10:55:47 AM (GMT-6:00) Central Standard Time
Requestor: [user name deleted]
Call-back number: (713) 555-7941
Location: Houston TX
Summary: SAP closing
Type: Accounts / Security
Description:3/9/2007 11:25:55 AM (GMT-6:00) Central Standard Time
Logged by:[Technician Name Deleted] - This sounds like it could be Citrix related.

When I am in SAP MRP in the unit box, I often change it from LB to DR. Ihave found repeatedly when I change it from LB to DR too quickly, myentire sap closes out and I have to restart. Can this be fixed to account for my fast typing?

-----End Original Message-----

I recommend the user switch to decaf.
After that, she should learn to take it easy. Working at [company name deleted] isn't a sprint, after all, but a glorious hike up the mountain of profitability with occasional pauses to throw corn to squirrels and watch them eat it. They look like they have little hands! Precious!
Finally, deep breathing exercises should eliminate the rest of the anxiety causing her fast typing.
She should use her PCard to expense some aromatic candles (ylang-ylang,eucalyptus, or sandalwood - most definitely not patchouli, which would make her office smell like a head shop) and employ at least a dozen at once, a combination of tapers and pillars, arranged according to the points of the compass.

I hope this helps.

Blessed be,


Friday, March 09, 2007

Thursday morning my phone rang while I was pulling out of the driveway.
One of my co-workers was calling to inform me that I hadn't gotten an email on my BlackBerry since 2am because there was some unpleasantness in the data center. I let him know that I was on my way already, while he listed off systems that would be unavailable until the current crisis had been resolved.
In part, our data center relies on the chilled water system in the office building for our cooling. Since Wednesday night was so meterologically nice, building management had switched over to the smaller chiller. That chiller doesn't provide enough water pressure to properly support the cooling for our sealed, glass-walled server area.
To supplement, we have our own AC unit dedicated for that room.
Unfortunately, Wednesday night the breaker for that unit flipped.
In a few short hours, the temperature in the server room rose to over 120 degrees.
Of course, servers started shutting themselves down, including our email (and BlackBerry) server at 2am, which effectively killed even our notification of the temperature spike. However, people noticed when the servers started vanishing from the network, and we were called.
The door was propped open and a fan put in place to exhaust some of the air before the hard drive platters started to be shaped like Pringles.
Any servers that hadn't powered themselves down were turned off to conserve heat, and we watched the thermostat slowly ease below the 99.9 read out that only reflects how hot it can display.
Long-term casualties included the voicemail server. Last I heard, it was still offline. I try to never check my voicemail anyway, as it just establishes an expectation that I would respond to it, but some people seem to actually use that stuff. I have no idea for what.
The rest of yesterday was spent clearing packing materials out of my cubicle in anticipation of the photographers showing up this morning at 10am.
Our CIO is winning an award for CIO-ing, and there is a chance my cubicle might end up in the background of one of the shots.
Aside from my laptop, at the moment my desk only holds my phone, monitor stand, a file organizer and a new yellow legal pad.
Everything else was unceremoniously dumped into an unused file drawer I hadn't noticed until yesterday. I hope none of it was important, but since most of it came with the cubicle there was no way for me to know. That is, there is no way for me to know aside from reading it, I guess, but that is on my to-do list right after checking and responding to my voicemail.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

As promised, I'm going to discuss an online phenomenon and its impact on our IRL lives.
Unfortunately, the phenomenon I've chosen is one which, I suspect, causes some of my less-geeky readers to tune out.
You guys can scroll down to the bottom now. I'll even put in a picture of a kitten to mark the spot where I stop talking about . . . Massively Multiplayer Online Games.
By one easily found estimate, last year MMOs generated over half a billion dollars in revenue.
Initial cost for the games is minor, with an average being somewhere between $20 and $50 for the boxed version.
These retail copies exist not as sources of revenue, but primarily to bring in new gamers. Each subscription grosses the company about $180 per gamer year.
Between 2003 and 2004, the amount of subscribers has increased by 75%. At the same time, more traditional forms of entertainment (movies, record sales and (no joke) live theatre) have remained stagnant or actually declined. In some cases, the decline has prompted the RIAA to sue random people.
I've thought a lot about the appeal of these games. Not being one for self-reflection, I have tried to figure out what the other 15 million people see in them.
The first reason is clearly defined goals. In today's world, people are able to spend literally years wandering from task to task with no real purpose. In some cases, this can be enough and even financially rewarding.
For most of us, we'd like a purpose. Some computer generated guy needs 16 wolf pelts and once your character has collected them for him, he tells you that you are a better person and (in some cases) rewards your character with cash and honor. The to-do list is compelling and mostly planned out in advance. There can be a very real feeling of progress.
The second powerful component is the whole idea of playing at being someone else for a while. In fact, you can even decide what you are good at and what you look like when logged in. I think of this concept as the "Awesome You" effect.
I suspect a good number of high-level barbarian types are played by people who got beat up in gym class.
I also suspect a like number of advanced brainy spell casters are played by people who beat up nerdy kids in gym class.
In a real world where dodge ball has been banned, MMOs are the great equalizer.
So, with over $500 million in revenues, it is easy to overlook the fantasy money coming out of these games. I suspect that the government will soon stop the practice of overlooking it.
You see, most of these virtual coins a character can pick up from killing rats and pirates can be traded or sold for real, actual money. In some cases, the exchange rate is better for virtual cash (WoW gold) than for some available on currency exchanges (like the peso).
Most games will ban a player for participating in these kinds of exchanges (real world for online cash), but it is difficult to track.
Some games actively participate in it, however. Second Life, for instance, bases its entire business model around the sale of virtual money. There is still some debate over whether or not Second Life qualifies as a game.
The fact is, right now there are real people playing games and making the rent selling MMO gold for real money. There are also whole businesses based around third world MMO sweatshops where multiple people toil for currency in-game and the business owner sells it online.
Since people can tie their livelihoods into games, the rest of their lives will soon follow.
Online weddings are nothing new, but I can see the possibility that whole, legal marriages may exist between people who have never met in person. After all, "Awesome You" and "Awesome Them" can be extra awesome together online, especially without real life complications.
I can also pretty easily predict that sometime soon, someone will be prosecuted for the theft of an in-game item. I understand that in-game items don't exist in a conventional sense, but there are still some arguments to treat them as real for the purposes of theft charges.
First, the owner of the item derives joy from the ownership of the item, so the theft of that item can be defined as a loss of quality of life. The item (likely) has value out of game, and could even have been sold (against the EULA) on Ebay for actual money (minus auction fees and PayPal fees).
The counter-argument that the item is only useful in a game is compelling, but if someone steals a set of golf clubs I doubt it would hold water.
The harsh truth is that there is a lot of money and a lot of people pouring into these games, and government and even the entertainment industry will not ignore it all forever.
In fact, according to online rumors, a major studio is planning a movie based around the Lord of the Rings Online Role Playing Game.

Sadly, it doesn't look like this little fellow found this interesting, either:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

"Because no peace is possible without a clean public restroom." - John Lennon

One year ago the first post appeared here. That post has been regularly followed by others. Some of these posts were surprisingly well received, while others faded into the archives unlamented.
This post is not to address the past year. That could be accomplished easily enough by clicking around randomly in those same archives.
Because of the focus on technology in this site, I'm going to talk about the future. Not just the future of Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng, but of the future of the world itself.
Perhaps Oscar Wilde said it best when he said, "Of all the advances mankind has made, none surpasses the idea of separate forks for the salad and the entree."
In the coming year, I plan to do even better. I hope to post more about things a person can do with a computer to improve their quality of life, especially if that means by freeing up the time to step away from the computer itself for a bit.
I'd like my work related stories to be more amusing, so I've started spiking the coffee.
Ernest Hemingway knew what he was about when he said, "The most certain thing in life is that drunks with power are both frightening and amusing," and I.T. people have more power than they should, even sober.
I plan to talk more about web culture and places and groups that I like. Everyday things happen in a virtual culture that can have profound effects on our real-life society. As Socrates once noted, "Society is a house and change is a tornado full of woodpeckers."
Finally, I plan to talk about whatever bits of current events I turn up accidentally while looking for ways to waste time online.
Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng - Year Two promises great things, and I don't intend to let this chance go to waste.
Jules Verne was known to be fond of the phrase, "The future is a jock strap made of live scorpions," and I promise, Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng - Year Two will be at least as fun as that.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Speaking as someone who poured coffee on his shoe from a cracked carafe this morning, Tuesday is likely going to suck.
It isn't as if every garment in my wardrobe isn't infused with rich, acidic arabica essence already, but it is the thought that even coffee, the only one who truly understands me, attempted this betrayal.
The cup I poured after correctly directing the stream seems to have little crunchy bits of something (glass?) in it, but I already added half-and-half so that it is the proper color. It would be a shame to waste it, even if the taste is rapidly becoming a tad . . . bloody.
On my way in, I varied my normal routine. I fear change, and at times this fear is justified. In fact, every time this fear is justified.
I filled my tank at the neighborhood Conoco. I suppose the cheerful 60s pop retching from the loud speakers lowered my resistance, because when prompted for a car wash, I folded like a cheap dish towel.
Do I want a car wash? Sure!
Supreme $5 car wash? Absolutely!
I wheeled my car around back and entered the sixteen digit access code. The green light beckoned me forward and I complied.
Please understand that this is the first time since I bought the car that I'd been through this process. The thick coating of highway construction grime and actual mud had left me driving the only grayish brown sport coupe I'd ever seen, or even the tortuous strains of The Mamas and the Papas would not have convinced me.
I triple checked the windows and sunroof and watched as the multi-colored foam coated the glass. I couldn't see much, but I guess the touchless wash made thirty or forty passes and finished with a wax and spot free rinse.
I drove the rest of the way to work, anxious to step out and gaze upon the sparkling glory of my car renewed.
When I arrived in the garage at work, what greeted me was not a mirror finish, but a layer of wax on top of the same grime I'd left home with this morning. And my left rear center cap had been smashed out of my still filthy wheel, shattered bits of plastic left hanging pathetically in the spring mechanism which previously held it in place.
Next time I will leave well-enough alone.
Road grime is a badge of honor my friends, and I was wrong to attempt to stash that badge like I was trying to sneak it through airport security.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Yesterday was Purim.
Gwynyth had been looking forward to dressing up. Her Disney Belle costume made for a passable Esther. In order to celebrate myself, I chose to attend in my traditional Jedi robes.
Fortunately, there were more than a few other adults who chose to dress up as well, so even dressed as a Science Fiction staple I hardly stood out.
We sang songs, watched a play and made a lot of noise every time anyone said "Haman".
Then we took a break to visit Starbucks between the service and class.
The Drive-Thru was packed, so we parked and walked in.
I ordered two (ahem) "venti breve sugar-free no-foam cinnamon dolce lattes" and discussed a variety of whole bean selections with Shana and various members of the staff.
Then Gwynyth approached the counter to watch the process.
Her arrival solicited a round of "ooohs" and "aaahs" and declarations of her cuteness.
She identified herself as Queen Esther and I said we had been to Purim.
As I stepped away from the counter with our drinks, I realized that no one had commented on my outfit.
I was dressed as a Jedi in a Starbucks on Sunday morning nowhere near Halloween and no one seemed to look twice. I tried to put myself in their shoes.
Here was the lesson I took away from this:
A seven-year-old in a princess costume is acceptable and, in fact, appreciated at just about any time of the day in just about any location.
But in a city the size of Houston, a person dressed as a Jedi at an odd-seeming time is probably crazy and likely dangerous as well. I'd avoid eye contact. Seriously, avoid eye contact.
I also learned that Gwynyth will probably never eat Hamantaschen, as apparently the act of stuffing any kind of sweet semi-liquid into a pastry disqualifies it as food to her.
Separately, pastry and sugary goo are both acceptable. Together, they are a nightmare to be avoided as though on fire, no matter how triangular and delicious they look.

Friday, March 02, 2007

I hate printers.
This is an expected side effect of my job. You see, I support an architecture where users access programs running on servers and print from those server-installed programs to their desktop-installed printers. When it works, it is awesome. When it doesn't, it is a massive pain almost impossible to troubleshoot because of the sheer number of things that could go wrong.
Since my "Paperless Office" initiative died a slow death on the desk of an Administrative Assistant, I have no choice but bravely move forward.
Back in the day, printers were less computers and more machines. There was a steel drum which (on low-speed printers) turned at 2400 RPM wrapped in a ribbon which turned at about two thirds that speed.
As the print job ran, the ribbon would slip across the surface of this drum, staying between it and the striker. Over time, the ribbon would invariably bunch towards one side, generating paper dust and friction and eventually causing paper jams.
The standard process included cleaning the whole thing with de-natured alcohol and re-installing the ribbon. You can see why so few of these beastly devices survived to make it to the computing museum. One missed cleaning or overzealous print job before the cleaning solution dried and . . . In some cases people were left with an office-less office.
The point of this story is this:
Even today, it seems that switching the setting for Printer Error Reporting to "Classic Mode" generates a standard, system-wide error for everything from "low color cartridge" to "paper tray #3 requires legal size paper." And that error is, quite frighteningly, "PRINTER ON FIRE".
"PRINTER ON FIRE" is way more frightening to management than "PC LOAD LETTER."
"PRINTER ON FIRE" generates way more questions from management than "Printer Drivers Failed to Initialize at Run Time" or "Blue Ink Low."
"PRINTER ON FIRE" causes phone calls, and my "Phone-Free Office" initiative has failed to catch on even as well as the whole paperless office thing.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

It looks like the great Daylight Saving Time move is going to destroy all hopes at productivity again today.
Apparently, appointments scheduled in the window of time between the old time change date and the new (and improved) time change are arriving at their destinations an hour early.
My test appointments for 10am are filling the 9am time slots of whoever gets them.
Applying the patch for Microsoft Outlook on my laptop moves the appointment up an hour on my calendar to match the recipient . . . And also moves their version an hour forward, allowing them to keep their edge (early bird and all) while simultaneously ensuring this meeting (were it real) would never happen.
Now, I'm all in favor of fewer meetings. However, for those members of our staff whose whole purpose seems to be the creation and attendance of various meetings this is causing quite a bit of distress.
Please understand, user distress is rarely a priority with me. Especially the mitigation of this distress. However, my boss likes to schedule meetings. And his boss likes to schedule them even more. The scheduling of meetings seems to grow in importance as one moves uphill.
Therefore, the importance of the correct functionality of the Outlook calendar rolls downhill . . . Along with various exclamation points and some bewildered-sounding profanity.
I totally blame the spotted owl.
As Dr. Phil would say, "You are only lonely if you aren't there for yourself." However, since I can only make appointments with the correct time if I am the only attendee, my tendency to skip meetings ensures that March may be very lonely indeed.