Thursday, May 31, 2007

First, I'd like to thank Ted for the contribution of Coke Reward points. When the human body is as completely devastated by diet cola as mine is, every bit of progress is a much needed step towards being able to drink actual fluids again.
Yesterday we discussed data security for the servers we are decommissioning all over the world. Most aren't worth shipping back to Houston for resale, but we can't just toss them into some landfill, either.
I mean, we could toss them in a landfill (mercury, lead, rare earth magnets and all) except that someone could potentially get possibly sensitive information off the hard drives.
Any mention of that and my inner voice instantly screams, "Must protect the data! Must protect the data!"
In fact, that stupid internal scream is what makes me hang on to paperbacks I've already read and back up (sometimes in more than two places) MP3s I'd be embarrassed to admit to owning.
The fact is, we don't need the data on those drives anymore. We copied it other places before the servers were powered off and they have been off long enough for anyone missing anything to yell about it by now. We could erase the drives.
We could boot the servers and format everything, but unless we erase and overwrite every sector seven times, I will never sleep peacefully again.
My co-workers know this, so they offered to go with the "giant magnet" option. In this process, we get a giant magnet and rub it all over the drives vigorously until we are happy. Unfortunately, no one here seems to have a giant magnet or really know where to get one and if we did, we would never want it on the same floor as our actual production servers.
"Isn't there a more violent option?" I asked. To be truthful, this is also the question I ask in any meeting where I possibly drifted off a bit and traded paying attention for organizing my mental list of stuff I'd do if lightsabers were real. "Isn't there a more violent option?" fills just about any uncomfortable silence quite nicely while triggering the self-preservation instincts of the others in the meeting so that no one questions the skull and kitten doodles on my note pad.
Manny said that in the Navy they use axes and sledgehammers to totally destroy old hard drives and, more interestingly to me, they keep the sledgehammers and axes next to the computers at all times in case the facility is overrun (by, I assume, radioactive zombies of some kind).
And then I took a moment to think of the enormous self-discipline of our geeks in uniform serving in the armed forces.
If we kept axes and sledgehammers next to our computers . . .
Let me just say I'd void the hell out of some warranties just about every day. In fact, I'd probably carry the hammer around with me everywhere. And I'd give it a name, too. Like "Smashy" or "Big happy object that makes the beeping stop" or "The Key Launcher".
I'd probably be known as "That guy with the hammer" at work until I eventually took a bad swing and broke the handle. Then I'd become "That guy with the big freaking ax".
Hopefully, by the time the ax wears out we will be able to purchase actual lightsabers, which would be more efficient and cooler looking.
I'm all about more efficient and cooler looking.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

45 5F E1 04 22 CA 29 C4 93 3F 95 05 2B 79 2A B2
I'll try my best to avoid spoilers, but I can tell you right now that my best isn't very good.
If you haven't made the soon to be constitutionally-mandated trip to see Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean 3 yet, you may want to skip this post until you have.
I've done some informal research among the geeks at work who have seen the movie. My own opinion seems to be off, I guess. That is generally to be expected, though the way my opinion is off makes me a little uncomfortable.
Usually, my opinions of a film's shortcomings run along the lines of "not enough explosions" or "it would have been more awesome if the main character had been a ninja". A bit of trivia: That last one was my actual review of Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
So what offended me about the third pirate movie?
Certainly, the duelling was amazing.
There were almost enough CGI effects and weird creatures to infest my nightmares for a suitable period of time.
To top it off, there were quite a few times when sail-powered wooden ships exploded like tanker trucks filled with jet fuel and frozen concentrated orange juice, so even that base was totally covered.
Sadly (and this confession has resulted in several opinions of me being lowered among my fellow geeks -- and geek cred takes time to build) I was upset by the ending.

This is your final spoiler warning!

How, after inflicting the boring romance between Elizabeth Swan and Will Turner upon millions of people for three freaking movies, can they end it like that?
I may be alone in this opinion. In fact, from what I can gather, I'm the only one who hated it that much and, as some have hinted, I'm a sap.
But seriously! That's the end?
I hate cliffhangers, but if that is what this is, I'll embrace it as a good one. If (and only if) they make a part four (and since people stand in line to push money at Disney for this franchise as though that money were infested with scurvy it is a possibility) I can come back, renewed, tri-cornered hat jauntily askew, stuffed pirate on my shoulder spouting microchip-embedded profanity for all to enjoy, to buy the giant tub of popcorn and enjoy it again.
If not, and the series ends like this, I have no choice but to pretend that the second and third movies never actually happened. And I liked them! It will make me sad to cram them into the already crowded denial section of my mind. But I will do it. I'll make room somehow. Perhaps by admitting that certain advertising elements of the McDonald's campaigns of the late 70's actually exist. Whoa. When I can type that without shuddering as though someone marched across my grave, maybe.
To sum up:

Pro - Sword fighting
Pro - CGI awesomeness
Pro - Explosions
Pro - Implied ninjas, expressed pirates
Pro - Almost too much Johnny Depp

Con - The freaking ending made me want to kill and kill and kill

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Monday, somewhere between the smoking grill and the pool transformed into a kid-filled splash-fest, I relaxed.
You may have heard a great noise, like a mighty redwood tree struck years before by lightning finally splitting down the middle and crashing to the loamy forest floor below. That would have been my shoulders reversing their previous course towards my ears and settling, once again, at "shoulder-level".
We visited with friends and watched the kids not drown for about eight solid hours. Then we went home to sleep the sleep of the guiltless, to wake up refreshed and ready for a short week crammed with awesome.
Yes, I gamed over the weekend. I found the Arathi Basin so filled with n00bs I spent much of my time frustrated and cursing my own team for having allowed the Alliance to gather so many resources time and time again.
I tried to enforce a "strategy", and when that idea fell by the wayside I settled for a "plan" which was honestly at one point replaced by my "directive" (and even later "suggestion") that my team mates not die so much.
It seems that even that bit of advice was largely ignored.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

We attended one of Gwynyth's swim meets yesterday.
I suspect that Gwynyth's stopping to turn to the side of the pool and smile at us may have hurt her time overall, though the other team was what we "in the business" refer to as "weak".
Frankly, it is a wonder there aren't regular drownings at that team's practices. I attribute that to the possibility that their pool is shallow, or perhaps drained of water before they enter.
And then, just before Gwynyth's final race, the sky opened in south Texas fashion, soaking the spectators and sending the competing team into fits of water fear, further cementing our team's eventual triumph.
It may seem a tad harsh to speak this way about children, but they claimed an "athleticism". They dared to issue a challenge. They have been taught the folly of this, and I doubt we will hear such talk until, perhaps, district.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Yeah, so I don't think the power structure shift lasted as long as anyone expected it might, but the way it ended surprised even me.

You see, I work set hours. The only joy of getting to work early is getting home at a decent hour, and when our intern suggested a 24 hour rotation between the three of us, with him pulling a co-shift with one of us during intern hours of 9:30 to 2:30, I lost it a little bit and said something along the lines of:

"I'm going to cut you some slack. Trust me, just shut your mouth, turn around, and walk away.

"Up until now, I've been polite. If you say anything else -- word one -- I will kill myself. And when my tainted spirit finds its destination, I will topple the master of that dark place. From my black throne, I will lash together a great machine of bone and blood, and fueled by my hatred for you this Fear Engine will bore a hole between this world and that one.

"When it begins, you will hear the sounds of children screaming -- as though from a great distance. A smoking orb of nothing will grow above your bed, and from it will emerge a thousand starving crows. As I slip through the widening maw in my new form, you will catch only a glimpse of my darkness before you are incinerated. Then, as tears of bubbling pitch stream down my face, my dark work will begin.

"I will open one of my six mouths, and I will sing the song that ends the Earth."

Or something.
It took very little time to get my desk chair re-adjusted to the hottness.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Wednesday featured the return of our intern -- Long may he reign.
I, for one, welcome our new intern overlord.
Yeah, so now that he is handling the technical decisions, I've had time to concentrate on my "lifting of things" abilities, so I guess it is working out okay.
Do you have any idea how many flapjacks it takes to fill a large cardboard box? The staff at IHOP was supportive at first, but they made me wait in the parking lot towards the end of the process. Also, they only look light and fluffy. That box was quite heavy.
I had to carry it in myself, since the cart was being used to deliver the multi-monitor set up for our intern in the area formerly known as "my cubicle".
It's alright, though, because the carpet is softer and less smelly than it looks and I can always use the corporate wireless, even though it is dog slow and has no external internet access.
This is only really a problem when our intern has me watching an Ebay auction for him. At those times, I can just plug in at the port in the storage closet. We can't let him get bid sniped, after all.
An intern needs a kayak, obviously, for reasons I'm certain he will share with me in his own time.
I need to go and rub this painful "smile ache" out of my cheeks before I cramp up.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Oddly, our intern didn't show up for day two of "The I.T. Experience". I suspect, years from now, he will look back on this missed opportunity with no small regret.
Given the position of his father at a major oil and gas company, he will most likely look back with regret from his heated leather chair in some corner office, though, so the regret will be fleeting.
As it turns out, the stuff we had him do yesterday (in addition to reading our Employee Code of Conduct) were not what he was expecting to do.
Normally, when an intern washes out, they spend the summer flipping burgers or (more likely) playing their X-Box 360 and getting stoned. In this case, since the guy's father is an important client, we were wrong to have him tidy cables and rack servers.
He was supposed to be learning business process from the I.T. side. However, most of that revolves around tidy cables and racked servers.
Obviously there was some miscommunication somewhere, but people are fairly upset that the guy opted out. If they can convince him to give us another chance, we are apparently supposed to put him in charge or something, even though he has never installed Windows at all and really has no idea what field he wants to concentrate on within the vast domain of all that is I.T. He just knows it isn't tidying cables and racking servers, I guess.
You know, the last time I swept the server room (regular maintenance people don't have access) my father (as far as I know) did not place an angry call to upper management. I'm sure he would have, but it never occurred to either of us that that might be an option.
At what point do we stop catering to our children? Is sophomore year at MIT the proper time to let the little tyke sink or swim in Corporate America? I suspect (though my data gathering is certainly suspect) it should be sooner than that. I remember taking angry messages for my manager from bitter mothers about unfair scheduling choices that had been made regarding their children at a high school summer job, but this is an actual corporate internship.
I'm just a little freaked out by the whole situation. And our marked lack of flapjacks.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Some situations just seem to invite abuse, you know?
We have been gifted with an intern. Some college kid with a powerful parent has been indentured to our group for the summer. Let us take a moment to consider the I.T. education he will be getting, and then let us take another moment to feel bad for him.
Yesterday, after he completed the reams of paperwork that accompany all new hires, we had him lift and move some heavy things, exploiting his youthful muscles while we concentrated on long-overdue documentation.
Tomorrow, he will inventory ports throughout the building. This job would take the often-interrupted regular staff months. In fact, it has. But we think the n00bie should be able to get it cranked out in a day.
Wednesday, we have decided to give him a cardboard box and send him across the freeway -- not to return until the box is filled with pornography and flapjacks.
Actually, we could find pornography pretty easily by scanning the user drives. We are running low on flapjacks, though. What kind of I.T. Taskforce can function without flapjacks? Not a very good one, as our young intern is about to learn.
Thursday he will discover our new weekly tradition of "Cable Tightening Thursday" which we have developed since being granted an intern. It should keep him in the server room most of the day, though some of the cables across my desk look a little wiggly, too. It all falls under the "intern responsibilities" for Thursday, either way.
The joy of casual jeans Friday will not be lost on our intern, either, as we will send him to wash various cars and have him transcribe various technical documents from English, to Spanish, to Dutch, to Japanese and then back to English using the Google translation engine. He can then read the amusing parts to us aloud while we partake of more delicious flapjacks, probably.
The simple joys of enriching a young mind bring a tiny little tear to my eye.
A tear that our new intern can wipe away for me when he takes a break from sorting ethernet cables by length and arranging them alphabetically by color. Those are valuable I.T. skills, too.

Monday, May 21, 2007

It was pitch black in only the way a night in the Cambodian jungle can be.
The sounds. I tell you they echo, they move weirdly in the air, distort themselves. They surround a man, but not in the way a blanket surrounds a baby. More like one of the damn snakes that turns up in a bedroll with alarming frequency around here, killing silently, then moving on.
And then there was me, running around a small village with no pants, hopped up on some jungle mushroom again, probably. Screaming about the bugs eating me from the inside -- Just like I was trained to do.

Actually, I worked midnight to six on Saturday, missed my daughter's swim meet (two blue ribbons), have been a total irritable jerk at home for two days, and still haven't quite gotten my schedule back on track. Or at all really.
But it feels a lot like that jungle thing.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Hey! If you scroll down there is a post about a giant fire with a picture and everything.
Fire rules!
If you read your way down there, you'll catch this next bit about what is happening on Saturday. It is pretty geeky, though. You've been warned.
On Saturday, Blizzard (my current "dealer" if you will) is set to make an announcement about an upcoming product.
There is much speculation about what the next product could be, but I'm drawing a couple of clues from what I know so far.
First, the announcement is being made in South Korea, where Blizzard (and especially the Real-Time Strategy game StarCraft) is almost a religion.
Seriously, Koreans have leagues and play for money in televised events. In all honesty, it was Korean Zergling rushes that made me drop out of StarCraft as anything but a single player game, if I recall correctly.
How does someone create units that quickly? It's not . . . natural.
Anyway, Blizzard has three major franchises - WarCraft, StarCraft and Diablo.
StarCraft is the only one without a sequel (though it did have a very successful expansion pack).
It could be that sequel that is announced tomorrow.
With WarCraft, there was the original, then a sequel, then an expansion pack, then another sequel, then World of WarCraft (which I may have mentioned a time or two).
They can make the sequel to StarCraft, and sell a billion copies at $40 a piece. In six months, they can release the expansion pack for another $30 and sell another billion of those, getting a nice $70 for (I assume) every man, woman and child on the planet inside of a year.
Not too bad, in my opinion.
However, Blizzard is owned by Vivendi. Both companies know they can sell a game to millions of people for $40 and then get $15 a month from them, forever, like they do with WoW. This turns the first year into over $200 per person and whatever they charge for the expansion pack after that.
Whether they make a non-subscription sequel or not (they did before WoW), Vivendi will push for more subscription-based MMORPG games. And national productivity will again be threatened.
I've got my time off request filled out already except for the date.
I told my friend in HR that I'd be out of the office for the launch of whatever it is and he looked at me with a bewildered kind of expression.
"What makes you think I'll be in the office to care?" he asked.
Holy crap!

A lot of times I talk about things being "on fire" or "going up in flames" at work, but even in the worst cases this was rarely literal.
Yesterday was different.
The lights flickered just after noon. They do that, but then the power totally failed.
There was a collective groan and the server room door was thrown open immediately.
We have back up power for most of an hour for the servers, but the cooling goes away completely instantly and the temperature starts to spike within minutes.
There was a sound like gunfire from outside, which is odd because we are on the 28th floor.
Across the freeway and about a block down, we saw a thick column of black smoke.

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A power substation, the one servicing seventeen square blocks, including ours, was actively exploding.
And it was loud where we were, a few blocks away and 28 floors up.
The Mexican restaurant next to it looked like a freshly kicked ant bed as the lunch crowd swarmed the parking lot and explosion after explosion and flames two stories high told us power wouldn't be coming up any time soon.
Seriously, the smoke was thick and the electricity was arcing all over the taller . . . metal . . . thingies.
It was awesome.
And then we had to turn off all the servers before they cooked themselves.
They gave us two hours to evacuate the building and we finished the shutdown with seven minutes to spare.
Every traffic light in seventeen blocks was out.
The parking garage was backed up to the sixth floor.
I park on the sixth floor.
We waited in the lobby, my friends who park on six and seven with me.
And finally, I went to my car.
Brian (the network guy from work and an awesome guildmate in WoW) ran up, waving at me as I started to back out of my spot.
He gestured up. I looked.
The parking garage lights were on.
I killed the engine and we headed back upstairs to turn everything back on after we confirmed the complete restoration of electrical service.
It took a few hours.
That fire was big.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

My laptop is, again, in the shop.
I almost hate to say it, but I miss Windows Vista.
I'm using XP at home again, as well as at work.
Performance and frame rates are better on the reliable XP workhorse (when taking hardware into account), and there have been literally no device driver issues.
Vista was pretty.
Sure, after installing it I took about nine days "tweaking" the settings. The important thing about "tweaking" in Windows Vista is that it isn't so much tuning the registry and software settings as much as beating the operating system into submission.
Vista, as Microsoft is constantly saying in all the marketing materials, learns things about how the user acts. It prepares in advance the applications the user likes to run so that they load faster and perform better. It goes so far as to pre-cache whole directories with near psychic ability.
But it has no clue that this is not the first time I've ever seen a computer or, apparently, any type of electrical appliance.
I get the feeling that Vista is configured on a fresh installation to assume that the user (oddly, the Administrator, even) wandered down from the hills and traded in a whole "mess" of hog shanks to some "city feller" for a powerful multi-media computer with high-speed wireless internet access.
If I want to access a webpage over a secure connection, my computer should never second guess me.
If I want to look at my screen resolution settings, Vista shouldn't give me any "Your screen is configured at the optimal resolution" crap.
If I buy software, Vista should try its very hardest to install that software without asking me half a dozen questions about whether or not I really want it. I bought it. Does Vista need to see the receipt?
When you click from window to window it fades.
It doesn't oddly stretch or weirdly compress my chosen desktop background.
The start button is round.
Vista uses a lot of system resources, I suppose, by comparison.
Some reviewers are recommending something like a minimum of nine gigs of system memory and seven hundred and sixty-eight megs of graphics power or something, and I suppose that would be nice.
But even if you have to wait a bit for Vista to acknowledge your mouse click, when it does the result is soothing it its sheer awesome swivel/fade/glow effect.
I guess it is all about priorities.
Vista makes me realize that mine are firmly in the "it is what is on the outside that counts" camp.
The newest operating system from Microsoft makes me feel like a frat guy.


"Lance's parents are totally out of town and he is going to throw a sick kegger, bro!"

I just blacked out for a second. It wasn't a graceful Vista fade out, either, but a cold wall of darkness that washed over me.

"Brad wants to play a few rounds of Golden Tee at Hooters this afternoon. Want to come with?"

Shaking. Resisting the urge to buy a ball cap and wear a Live Strong bracelet. God help me. I miss the enhanced wireless configuration wizard.

"Over lunch I'm going to wash the mud off my Jeep and drink Heineken until I spew."

What have I become?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

An Open Letter to the Alliance Player I Met in Alterac Valley Last Night,

Hey d00d,

I really have to apologize. I know this is hard to believe, but that doesn't usually happen to me.
You see, I'd just made the level cut-off for the Alterac Valley Player-vs-Player battleground and I was very anxious to earn enough tokens to buy a riding wolf from the goodly orcs of the Frostwolf Clan.
I didn't even know what I was doing really. There was mass chaos on our side of the battlefield and there isn't even a tutorial to tell me what the objectives were.
This isn't Warsong Gulch with its straightforward "Capture the Flag", after all. There are offensive and defensive struggles all over the map until (for some reason I haven't even figured out yet) someone wins. (Edit: Please see the comments where I am set straight on that.)
And then, there was our encounter.
I'll admit when I'm wrong.
Our first two meetings left me a little, you know, dead. They also left me cursing in the Horde chat channel about gnomes and rogues and especially gnome rogues.
And what happened next was quite clearly wrong, there can be no doubt.
I lost control.
I lost sight of the fact that it was a game.
I lost sight of the fact that it is wrong to sneak up behind someone (especially someone with such a vertically challenged avatar) and pepper them with arrows from the cliff above them -- stunning shot after stunning shot after stunning shot -- until they fall in a bloody heap to the snow.
I lost sight of the fact that it is wrong to then head to the Alliance graveyard and wait for them to resurrect so that I can have my pet hold them in place while I again fire arrow after arrow after arrow until the respawn process repeats itself.
I lost sight of the fact that it is, in fact, probably quite wrong to "/yell" the things I did afterwards.
I don't use that kind of language. I don't know what came over me.
Illuminated by the harsh light of dawn, I can see that I was wrong.
Were it not for the choices we each made during character creation, we could have been a formidable team. Between your sneak attacks and my deadly sniper aim, few adversaries would have walked away from a conflict with us.
My Horde allies, to their credit, called attention to my glaring breach of etiquette. When a troll tells you you've crossed a line, you kind of know you've gone too far.
They advised me to scroll up in my chat window and I was astounded at what I saw there. My own words, in glaring red text.
Were it not for that evidence, I would have doubted their claims. I had (and have) no memory of using that language.
The troll accused me of being incoherent and . . . racist . . . but I don't even know what a "lurgan" is, much less its status as hate speech. The troll didn't know what it meant either, but in context we can all agree some type of deranged slur was likely intended, however poorly it was delivered.
I am shamed.
I pride myself on my self-control, and to recall how badly I lost it is more hurtful than that bleeding wound you used to take me out before I . . . you know . . . snapped.
Please know this:
Should our blades ever cross again on some future plain of conflict, win or lose I will not "/yell" anything. There will be no revenge graveyard killing. There will be no childish teabagging.
My kills will be as quick and painless as possible, and my deaths will be as silent and dignified as the still falling snow of Ol' Alterac Valley herself.
Good hunting to you, Miss StabbinUrEye. May your daggers never dull.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

This post is going in early because I'll be away from my computer all morning on Tuesday attending a workshop.
I don't want to brag, but the workshop is at the hotel connected to the world famous Galleria mall and consumer distraction complex.
That's right, a person can't stand at one Starbucks at the Galleria and spit coffee in any direction without hitting people in line at another Starbucks. Believe me. I've tried it.
And I'll try it again.
This isn't the kind of workshop where manly guys make things out of metal or wood or condiment packets, though.
This is the kind of workshop where manly guys (and manly women, I suppose) will stand around and talk about software.
Hide your jealousy all you want, I see right through that facade of indifference.
There is no shame in begrudging me the free cookies (I can't eat) and free cola (with no freaking reward points) and free coffee (I'm too snooty to drink). After all, I'll be hanging out all morning, listening to some sales guy tell me about something I already know about and have no authority to sign off on.
Maybe I'll finally get that free shirt I've been bugging the company about for seven years. I suppose I could buy one, but then it wouldn't be free, would it?
At any rate, I'll get to return to my employment roots during this time.
I'll look on those roots and recall where it all began.
A humble cookie store was the beginning of the ascension to the geek you see before you. A cookie store full of chemically altered teenagers very much like the modern cookie stores of today.

"Snickerdoodle?" teenaged me would inquire, "Wow. I completely thought you were a guy until you ordered a snickerdoodle."

"I only busted this chocolate chip cookie up so that I could make sure it had the proper amount of chocolate chips in it. Those of us in 'the business' call that Quality Control."

"Heheh. No, seriously. The lemon bars are fine. Heheheh. Why? What have you heard?"

"I'm sure we'd all like a large banana, sir, but what flavor of smoothie would you like?"

Yeah. My history of working with users is decades old.

Monday, May 14, 2007

This time of year finds us at a bit of a disadvantage at home.
Shana and I have learned a couple of things over the past decade, mostly by trial and error.
In all balanced relationships, both parties fall into certain roles. Sometimes these roles coincide with the strengths and aptitudes of the individual, or his or her willingness to compromise, at the least.
All the responsibilities of the couple, collectively, eventually become assigned to one or the other and these roles rarely change.
After time, the couple functions with machine-like precision, each half spinning about the other in an endless dance to put the most able person facing the most suitable threat. They become a merciless problem elimination system tuned constantly through action and a shared sense of community and trust.
I remember, however, the late June event right after we were married where we realized the glaring gap in our defenses against the world.
The notion dawned as we huddled, feet pulled up, on the sofa and realized that we had no spider killer.
She figured I would do it and I just assumed that she would be in charge of spiders.
Sucking the little guy up into a vacuum left us with no option but to discard the whole appliance afterwards and we knew we were looking, employing that method, at quickly becoming indentured servants to Sears or whatever place we bought our spider removal vacuums.
Shana has a deep respect for all living things. While she has no particular affection for arachnids, she insists that they qualify in spite of their inherent ickyness.
I, on the other hand, am too aware that they employ a method of movement which almost must be described as "skittering", which disqualifies me for spider smashing duty under the "uncontrollable nauseous horror" exemption. It is the same exemption that gets me out of all contact with clowns and french people.
We set about attempting to correct this weakness immediately, however our only child shares her mother's respect for all life and also managed to genetically get quite a bit of skitter aversion from me. Go, Team DNA!
And then, there are the cats.
This time of year in the South is when the spiders start to come in to enjoy the air conditioning. We have five freaking cats. We should never see a single skitter.
So yesterday I visited each cat in turn and tried to explain the situation. Uselessness I've come to expect from most of them, but I'm sorely disappointed in the ones that the shelter swore were rescued from "the streets".
I told them they had gone soft. I told them that it showed a lack of self-respect on their part. I told them they needed to hunt spiders instead of easing over to the kibble bowl every half hour to try to starve each other out.
For my trouble I got in return one mildly bemused, half-lidded glance from one and a bite on the forehead from another. There was no reaction from the other three cats at all.
And, this morning as I slipped on my shoe, something skittered around my toes in a way that makes me shudder and cringe as I type this while another of the cats did little marchy feet up my leg and demanded that I scratch her behind the ears.
Of course, I flung the offending shoe a long, long way and am wearing a different pair. In fact, I'm fairly certain I can never wear the spider-tainted shoes again.
And Shana, if you read this early enough, there is probably still a spider in the closet somewhere, paralyzed laughing at me. Be careful and call me when it is safe to come home.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Casual Jeans Friday!
Well, I had stuff to do today.
I took yesterday off. According to procedure, I'm supposed to return to a flaming desk full of emergency issues 24 hours overdue.
Apparently, my co-workers missed that memo as almost everything was completed by the time I powered on the laptop this morning.
Damn it. I'd been planning to play catch up all day.
I have no resort but to opt for Plan B:

As I've mentioned before (many times), building management sometimes misconfigures (turns off completely) the cooling system for our server room.
This can (does) result in some slight temperature issues (up to a record 140 degrees in just a couple of hours) at times (pretty much any time we leave the building).
We are getting our own independent system, but until that gets installed we have a temporary solution.
The stop-gap cooling system involves three giant, wheeled AC units and a tangle of flexible hot air exhaust tubing running over the ceiling tiles and out what used to be my manager's 28th floor window but has now been converted into a sheet of plywood with two circular holes cut into it.
His office is a dark place now. It is almost cave-like and slightly warmer than the rest of the building due to the hot air tubing.
Plan B involves making a tiny hole in the top of the exhaust tubing and finding out how much liquid soap it takes to create giant bubbles to float out over the putting green and freeway far below.
I've borrowed two bottles from the kitchen area, but I'm not above going to buy more if it is needed.
The list of things I'm not above is very long and growing longer every day.
That list deserves its own post someday.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

I'm completely not at work today. On a Thursday.
I decided to stay home and annoy Shana. Normally, I restrict that to evenings and weekends, but sometimes a person needs to go that extra mile, you know?
Also, I got a couple of submissions via email for future guest posts, which I appreciate.
I'll post them as soon as I run out of things to say.
I mean, I'll post them as soon as my ego can take the fact that they are so much better than my normal posts.
I have great fears, actually, that an appearance of a guest writer may cause my readers to abandon me for another blogger with, perhaps, less love of commas.
As I've expressed in email, the bribes were unnecessary though appreciated. In exchange for posting one notable submission, I will graciously accept dominion over the entire state of Wyoming (from now on known as Geektopia), as was offered.
To my new subjects, I plan to leave things much as they are in your frozen homeland. I'm certain that we will get along fine -- Providing one of you finds me a freaking Nintendo Wii as tribute immediately!
So far in this morning off I've managed to have a nice cup of coffee. I don't usually get that.
The universe balanced that out in the form of a nasty cat bite on the arm I received for some imagined offense against one of the more deranged felines we rescued from an animal shelter in an oft cursed moment of weakness.
Nicely done, universe. I didn't see that coming.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I'm still amazed at exactly how broken I am.
Yesterday afternoon my manager leaned over the cubicle next to mine and invited a co-worker into a closed-door meeting.
After a few minutes, the co-worker returned laughing and smiling.
Then my manager asked me for a moment of my time.
I followed him into his office and stood until he gestured for me to sit across from him.
I did, but by the loosest definition only. I perched on the edge of the seat, with my arms on the armrest and my elbows behind me at shoulder level.
I was certain my co-worker had pinned something on me and I knew that yesterday was my last day at this company.
I wondered how long it would take for me to gather my things (the first personal items I'd brought to work in almost a decade) and how many interviews I could schedule in a week.
And then my manager gave me (I guess) the same news that had resulted in my co-worker's good mood.
And there was no dismissal. And no harsh words at all.
More, there was no blame assigned for anything done or undone.
But my relief was tainted by the realization that I don't expect good things to happen at work.
My natural assumption is that things are going to go horribly wrong. I'll be betrayed and cast out for some mistake or misunderstanding -- or for the possibility that there may someday in the future be some mistake or misunderstanding.
Some paranoia, I'm convinced, is healthy. And I take comfort in paranoia in a way, both because I'm used to it now and because, I suppose, paranoia at least gives a person the feeling that someone else cares.
Anyway, I stamped out of my manager's office in a bit of a flustered huff, I suppose.
I don't like surprises, even good ones. More, I was (and am, I guess) still expecting the rug to be pulled out from under me, exposing the spike-filled pit beneath to the glaring light of my heightened awareness.
I went into the breakroom and poured hot water into a cup, silently cursing it for the slight yellowish tinge before I dropped in a packet of chai.

What the hell kind of workplace provides yellow water?

What the hell kind of workplace provides chai?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

I am of the opinion that games are something of a big deal, so if you don't want to read about them, you're going to have to go somewhere else today. Then come back, because I'm almost certain something is broken at work in an amusing way.
There is a new Massively Multiplayer Online Game in late development right now.
I'm applying for beta testing, because I need to be a part of the magic.
I did quite a bit of gaming over the weekend anyway. I only stopped playing because I hadn't blinked for probably three hours, and -- as it turns out -- your eyes become covered with a delicious film, almost like a pudding. Or perhaps flan.
This new game, though, is based on the actual world created by Robert E. Howard -- that of Conan the Barbarian. There is no Governor of California crap going on in Howard's world. There never has been.
In fact, Robert E. Howard (and I've been reading his work since before my age hit double digits) was one of the best pulp writers ever. His writing is rich and dark and his characters were miles ahead of the serialized action heroes that still stagger along in his footsteps.
Howard was, in fact, quite deranged for a guy from Peaster, Texas.
He was a frequent collaborator with H.P. Lovecraft, and no one has ever handled horror like that guy.
From what I've seen, Age of Conan will easily fill the dripping gouge left in the genre by Dungeons and Dragons Online.
Playing Dungeons and Dragons type games on the computer sort of compounds the geekiness, compressing it then shaping it into a giant golden statue that gets beaten up after lunch. I'm not going to give anything away, because I don't want to wreck it for anybody who hasn't tried Dungeons and Dragons Online, but I almost teared up when I saw some of my favorite monsters make an appearance. I mean, that's pretty sad, and I knew it was sad then.
I've been playing D&D 3rd Edition on pencil and paper since it came out (and first and second edition as long as I've been reading Howard), and other than playing everything out in real time you get to actually see feats like Cleave and concepts like Attack of Opportunity play out. Just to make some sense of this, Cleave allows you to strike another opponent immediately after you eliminate one, in the same round. Attacks of Opportunity are taken any time a whole vast assortment of designated events occur - someone runs into your attack range, out of your attack range, tries to cast a spell, tries to bake some muffins - but in actual play, that isn't always modeled properly without hordes of plastic figures scattered across a table annoying the cats. There's a lot of fudging that just inexorably takes place when you're playing a game to have fun, and the guy who is running the game (usually me) doesn't always have time to invest in rule-mongering. Just between the two things I described, crafty minds are already making some interesting connections. Let's say my 3rd level paladin is beset by three gibbering kobolds. Two engage me in melee combat, which is inadvisable, and it is behaviour like this that makes kobolds so difficult to insure. The last one runs up late, after combat has already started - he enters the area I can attack, and due to poor nutrition and a series of bad life choices he is slain in one mighty, manly strike. Now my Cleave comes in to effect, which is almost assured to take out another one, all because one of them got there late. Spread out rule interactions like this across an entire party of characters, and it's easy to see how a man might get a wild look in his eye.
Something else I never really grasped to full effect was the idea of Summon spells. The first character I made -- now discarded, like all my first characters -- ended up a priest, and priests can ask their god to send them a monster every once in a while, if he's not too busy. Now, in the pencil and paper game, yeah, sure. You summon something like that, often something hideous, and then he helps you kick ass, but it's typically for a very specific purpose. I never realized what a bizarre idea it is to wave your hands and have a grim-looking, surly celestial badger appear. And he's not just there when you're in a fight. Oh, hell no. He snorts and capers around after you, in that strange way extra-planar badgers do, whether you're in a pitched melee or just shopping at the store. And he's there for a really long time. In a tabletop game, again, you might forget to keep track of that duration, or imagine that no matter what you're doing, a badger with ADD is going to snuffle everything in the room. You can send him away, but I wouldn't if I were you. For who can know what offends a badger from betwixt worlds?
The game is true to its 3.5E roots where it matters, does things the way they need to be done in other cases, and is about as good as we could hope it to be. It even illuminates the original game in ways I didn't expect.
However, there isn't enough option in character creation. Most races are totally unavailable. I can't be the only one wanting to play a feral anthropomorphic squid, can I?
I gave up after the free trial and haven't looked back.
But Age of Conan has no auto-attack nonsense. The characters live and die by the player's skill. An entirely new combat engine looks to deliver a mature game for grown-up players. And, in accordance with the prophecy, scores of slavering tentacle beasts.
Will it reach (or exceed) World of Warcraft? I doubt it.
Age of Conan is probably a little too niche.
And likely too hardcore and awesome for most.
The graphics look amazing and the character creation is much more organic than anything on the market, but I fear this may actually make the game less accessible in the long run.
If I make it into the beta, don't expect too many updates. According to the non-disclosure agreement, I'm admonished from using the words "tense", "mind-expanding" and "life-affirming".

Monday, May 07, 2007

So I almost literally dragged myself in to work on Friday. I had managed to wake up on time (two hours after I'd crashed following Spiderman 3) by some miracle and I was looking forward to a morning of brain-free server racking and and an afternoon of watching people put in some emergency AC units for the weekend.
I was in no condition for any kind of quick response to anything and I knew I'd need to do my best to avoid speaking to people.
As I slid around the corner into the coffee hole, I was confronted by two users between me and the coffee maker.
Oblivious to their mortal peril, they spoke to me:
"You look better than you did yesterday with the server meltdown!" the first said.
I grunted non-committally, which was about all I was capable of doing. They were blocking the damned coffee.
The second said, "I guess he hasn't been to his desk yet." She turned back to me and said, "Email and the financial applications just went offline."
I guess what blood remained drained from my face and my expression must have been truly horrible because even though there was no way for anyone to work with the systems down, both of these users hastily decided they needed to do something somewhere else in the building. Immediately.
My way clear to coffee, I poured a large cup before heading to my desk to find out what happened.
This time apparently a power surge just turned everything off for a second. The orderly restoration of services from Thursday needed to be done again.
With the practice session the day before, Friday was a lot more smooth.
There was still a lot of yelling.
I've added the yelling to our process document. For the sake of clarity, it is right between "Flailing" and "Sobbing", and many hours before "Napping".

Friday, May 04, 2007

Millions of years ago, a slime-covered sea beast ascended a rocky shore and took its first breath of oxygen-laden, humid air. It used its solitary dominance of the land to establish a breeding territory and hunt its prey among the waves with little repercussion.
Later on, this creature's descendants founded the city-state of Rome upon another rocky outcropping . . . A city-state which grew into one of the most powerful and prolific empires in recorded history.
This empire was pushed back on the northern border by "barbarians" whose ancient codes of honor and duty eventually fragmented them into idealistic splinter-groups, of which one particularly stuffy bunch set sail across the vast sea of their primeval ancestors to find an even more "barbaric" and honor-bound group of people to exploit.
Still later, the descendants of this bunch engaged in a bloody and terrible war, costing many lives yet forever ending slavery in their new nation.
One day, scientists finally unlocked the power of the atom, ending another war in dramatic and ghastly fashion while paving the way for research into better energy technologies to power a vast network of the interconnected descendants of that original slimy surf-walker, allowing them to acquire vast amounts of stolen audio files and refer to each other as "n00bz" in online games, thereby finally replacing, or at least repressing, the human urge to kill each other into mostly manageable levels.
All those events, while impressive, pale in comparison to Spiderman 3.
I saw it last night from 11:55 until whenever it ended, then dragged myself here, to work, to share my exhaustion and the big secret from the last ten minutes of the movie with everyone who didn't see it -- Those (dare I say?) cowards who chose rest and productivity over caffeine and geekishness.
My sacrifice was profound, for I was called at 4am on Thursday with news that the building cooling had crapped out (again) and the temperature in the server room was hovering at 140 degrees. That is, until the uninterruptible power supply got too hot and turned itself off as well.
Hot, dark, and quietly smelling of a foundry, the server room waited impatiently for me to wake the security guard and have her call the building engineering people.
I also had to explain to her the chilled water system had nothing to do with the sink in the breakroom and that people were expecting to use those servers for the "end of the month" data crunching -- Whatever the hell data it is that they crunch.
With great power comes great responsibility. And also with great power comes great heat, and that really sucks in a glass-walled room full of electronics.
And I returned to that silent and smoking server room to wait, while lamenting my lack of coffee, for the temperatures to drop until the power buttons were touchable again without the aid of a ball point pen.
Then I stayed up and watched Spiderman 3. Oh, yeah.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Yesterday afternoon was a veritable Joss Whedon Fest at the comic book store.
I picked up the new Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the new Astonishing X-Men, and the new Runaways -- All are written by the esteemed Mr. Whedon.
At the risk of sounding like a weasel-like fanboy, Joss Whedon is infallible. The possibility of his doing a bad bit of work is as remote as I have ever seen anything get that can still be described as a possibility.
Joss Whedon strides among the writers of today as a wolf among dogs, with no need to even express his simple and justified contempt.
I cannot express how much I enjoy his writing . . . Not because I can't find the words. The words to express it simply do not exist in the English language, or any other currently spoken tongue.
Perhaps one day, archaeologists will uncover some long-forgotten picture-based language and advanced quantum computers will decode it into something which sounds like modern speech yet carries upon its gentle syllables a tangible power, an authority, a strength long missing from the common words of man. On that fateful day, the words of praise for Whedon will be uttered with the vigor they merit.
Until then, I like his stuff a lot. SRSLY.
On the subject of comics, Saturday (this Saturday, May 5th) is Free Comic Book Day.
If you don't have plans, you should definitely go.
If you do have plans, I've given you more than enough notice to fake an illness and wriggle out of those plans to attend Free Comic Book Day.
There is a store locator on the site in the link, so no one has an excuse.
During the day Wednesday, we needed to pack up more servers to ship to the Disaster Recovery site. The problem came when we discovered that someone had thrown away the form-fitting packing foam for them.
The solution came from the shipping department in the form of a roll of bubble wrap that was two feet wide and over waist high on me.
Of course, I felt the need to pop those thousands and thousands of bubbles, but I resisted the urge. I am, after all, a professional. I've come to expect that a lot of things that might look fun to play with may be important things that should not be. Blue LEDs are sometimes important LEDs.
What I did not expect was the effect this giant roll of bubble wrap would have on the people I work with.
From across the office, formerly mild-mannered co-workers from all business units would literally shriek and dash over to the bubble wrap to hop about the roll like demented rabbits, poking it with pens and fingers and laughing delightedly at the festive popping sounds.
Then they would universally straighten their outfits and continue about their business as though it had never happened.
But I took note.
And now I've posted it online.
And I rolled across the left-overs in my desk chair with professional enthusiasm.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

This is stunning.
Government workers (in a dubious government study of some kind) have determined that I.T. professionals are lazy.
It tried emailing and calling, but both the pot and the kettle were unavailable for comment.
Anyway, I'd dig up evidence to dispute this claim, but it would interfere with my nap time.
I'm opening this space up for guest commentaries for an extremely limited time.
Topics considered will be computer-related, online or old school gaming and the catch-all topic of random geekery.
Of course, submitters will get their own byline as well as all the fame and fortune participation in Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng brings a person.
You can submit articles to If you want, you can even have your own "" email address, if you want two gigs of space to manage all the fan mail you are certain to receive.

1. I'd love to see fiction (or fiction based on actual events) about anything nerdy in just about any format.
2. Be sure to provide back links to your own space on the Interweb, so that readers may follow your work home, if possible.
3. Vampires, zombies, ninjas and pirates all rule, for the purposes of this exercise.
4. The high standards of this enterprise must be maintained. Good luck trying not to exceed those in a way that embarrasses me.
5. Have a piece of hardware or software you have strong feelings about (positive or negative)? Surely you might have a few words to say about it.
6. Submissions containing nudity will not be given special consideration.*

In other news, after extensive research I present this:

Reduced Sugar Cinnamon Dolce Flavoring Recipe

50 ml. Splenda
30 ml. Splenda Blend Brown Sugar
100 ml. water

Boil for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Boil longer for thicker syrup.
Allow to cool 15 minutes.
Add 3/4 tsp cinnamon extract and 1/8 tsp butter extract and stir well.
Pour into dispenser and store in refrigerator.
For about 10 oz. of finished syrup multiply all of the proportions in the recipe by 3.

* Submissions containing nudity will be given special consideration.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


Experiment time, everyone!
As I mentioned yesterday, we are manager-free until next week.
I'm taking this opportunity to close Microsoft Outlook and turn away.
I realized yesterday that I spend a lot of time organizing, reading and responding to email. I flag some for follow-up later, I reply to multiple work emails (in separate windows) at the same time, and I fire off replies to simple questions about five minutes after they hit my Inbox.
All that time, I'm not doing anything else.
And I have a lot to do, really.
So, while performing these "Inbox management" tasks yesterday, I took care to think of the consequences of a delay on my part.
As much as it pains me to admit, even if every email had sat unread in my Inbox overnight, no one would have died as a result.
In fact, I doubt the company would have folded or that anything would have literally caught fire.
So today I'm shutting down Outlook and sticking my BlackBerry "on the charger".
At 10am and 3pm I'll look in on it again (I may even set a scheduled task on the laptop to launch it automatically) and I'll respond to everything that has arrived.
The rest of the time is productivity time.
Here is the key:
I have to seriously not check my work email for a number of hours. In a row. While I'm at work. And awake.
Also, for added difficulty, I'm going cola-free today. This keeps the experiment pure, as I've come to think of that stuff as productivity in recyclable 20 ounce bottles.
There is an added benefit to only checking my email every few hours. User access to me is limited to emergency desk phone calls. I suspect a lot of issues trivial enough to be addressed in email can work themselves out before I get around to responding.
Either way, we will find out.