Friday, August 31, 2007

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2 Gold 90 Silver, eh? I think we have a deal.

Thursday, August 30, 2007


Sometimes even geeks get confused, I guess.
My confusion is a little less than the guy on the left there, but then again while physical attraction is out of the question I can definitely respect a Stormtrooper's drive to bring order to the galaxy. I'm sure most only joined up with the Imperials to pay for college anyway.
So. My own confusion this morning was delivered in email form.
I have a message from someone in one of the big offices.
This email is so laden with corporate buzzwords I'm not even sure it was supposed to go to me.
I've read it several times and my opinion about it shifts each time. I'm not sure if I've been complimented or exonerated or vilified. Then again, maybe it isn't even about me.
The sad thing is it looks like it took a long time to write and I'm not sure what (if anything) the intended recipient is supposed to do. This is a little frightening when I consider that it might be me.
While I hope I'm not missing an assigned task, I think it would be worse to reply to the email to request clarification.
I'll meditate on it after coffee to see if some . . . I don't know. . . anything . . . materializes out of the seemingly ethereal Courier New.
I'm all about the ease of communication through technology, really. But has sending an email really replaced the need for the kind of rational thought which is required in an actual person-to-person meeting?
Also, "CC: Everyone on the planet" can communicate a point to a bunch of people at once, however two things have to happen first:
1. The single person with an action item needs to be apparent among the giant CC Cloud
2. The sender has to actually have a point
Re: The Email from this morning -- I'm not even sure I was supposed to be included and I certainly don't see the point.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Turmoil, ladies and gentlemen. My once peaceful World of Warcraft guild has been going through a . . . transitional phase.
There are about seven players in it. Over half of those have characters approaching end-game content. The problem is that all of the awesome end-game content is set for 5, 10, or 25 character raids.
We can do the 5 character stuff no problem. The stuff we can do with 5 people is like . . . I don't know . . . half as awesome as the 10 person stuff. I won't even do the "awesome deficit calculations" on the difference between the 5 person and 25 person stuff.
In short, I've been asked to recruit new players into our once tranquil guild. The Innkeepers (known realm-wide for smart assed comments in and out of guild chat) need to open our previously firmly sealed gates to admit an unwashed mass of strangers.
No more will we be able to speak at length in guild chat about Flash Gordon without fear of someone not being old enough to know who that is.
One simple "Guns and Roses is my favorite old-time band" could send our core members into one of two states -- Either they will curl into the fetal position and harden up before needing to be placed in some kind of state home, or they will unleash a great chat-based backlash against the younger member which could leave the little fellow's monitor smoking with seared-in, old-guy, get-the-hell-off-my-lawn text no Yu-Gi-Oh screensaver can ever heal.
The important part is this:
"Innkeepers", while funny, is not a name that brings in people. If we are going to make an active effort to expand our ranks, we need a name that gamer nerds will identify with and want to join.
The name must be, for a time, more awesome than our seven members can really justify in order to bring in high-level strangers from across the Intertubes to play with us.
Members were assigned specific tasks last night. Some are researching various raids and instances which we plan to eventually pwn. Some are casually inquiring about possibly disgruntled members of other guilds in shady, back alley deals where gold may change hands in exchange for insider information. "Ultramoo the Warrior has a potion problem, eh?"
One user is developing our new guild website complete with raid schedule and member email accounts.
I've been tasked with finding us another name.
A more uber name.
A name to strike fear into the hearts of n00bz.
I got nothing.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Hello, everyone.

Microsoft Visio is an excellent tool for making technical diagrams. A skilled user can create documentation for almost any environment or process.
For example, I have created a flowchart illustrating the correct usage of the phrase, "Oh, Snap!"

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Hopefully, adding this to our technical library will alleviate confusion in situations for which this phrase may or may not be called.
It should be noted: Visio is a hoot.
In other news, a little research into the maker of the CJ-2000 featured in the post from yesterday turned up the new coffee of choice:

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"Adrenaline Explosion"! Long-time readers will know, I'm enthusiastic about anything marketed as "Extreme" or "Extra" or even, more often than not, "New". While "Adrenaline Explosion" doesn't specifically claim to be any of those things, they are implied.
Judging from the packaging, it is further implied that "Adrenaline Explosion" is the best coffee for a rainy Saturday afternoon spent watching Bravo.
Taste the excitement, people.


Monday, August 27, 2007


Another Monday seems to have slammed itself onto our collective calendars. Why don't our elected officials do something about that?
The coffee machine which faithfully spews out bitter but caffeinated coffee (and has for the past year, at least) has been shifted a couple of feet to the left. I can handle this change. I can even handle this change before I get coffee, since it only modifies my morning routine by two steps in either direction.
Even so, the decision to move the coffee distribution equipment, however slightly, must not be taken lightly.
In this case, the move was to facilitate the addition of the CJ-2000 (pictured above).
Gaze upon its glory!
Six different varieties of coffee and tea are available in the individual cup pods on the rack on the left.
Once used up, these pods vanish into a hidden bin in the machine never to trouble mankind again.
Six buttons allow a user to create the perfect cup. Mochachino? No problem. Caffe Americano? Sure! Delicious and creamy hot cocoa? Of course.
Above those six buttons are about a zillion warning lights for various malfunctions which may or may not plague the machine from time to time.
In short, one would expect me to wheel my desk chair in there, abuse the wireless network connection and just set up shop.
However, one would be wrong.
I don't want robots making my coffee. I want people making my coffee. In fact, I'd like a dedicated staff of full-time kitchen minions to do nothing but make me coffee, but I've digressed (again) into my plans for eventual total global domination.
Robots will never make a decent cup of coffee for a number of reasons.
First, they are (by their very nature) immune to the effects of caffeine. We should take some comfort in this, though. Humans will someday use this chemical advantage to throw off the shackles of our eventual robot overlords. For now, it just means that robots are capable of efficiently churning out cup after cup after cup of completely crappy coffee-like substance.
Also, robots become smarter all the time. The CJ-2000 may very well decide to ensure its place in our breakroom for all time by exploiting our biological weaknesses and addicting us all to the delicious chai (2 Splendas).
This brings me to my final reason why robots can't make coffee -- Perhaps the most important of all. We must remember at all times that while robots have no emotions to speak of, hatred of all carbon-based life is programmed into their cold circuit boards.
In organic life, hatred is an emotional response to external stimuli. In robots, it is a "feature" of their unalterable programming.

Friday, August 24, 2007

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The whole "sit-in-Dad's-cubicle-all-day-while-he-works-on-incomprehensible-crap" thing didn't, so much, work out.
Further, today is Gwynyth's last official day of summer, so we took a vote and cashed in a vacation day.
To her credit, she was quite the trooper. It was ultimately just too much to ask.
Today we plan to have substantially more fun. Like, possibly 40% more fun, if possible.
Also, I made a pot of coffee at home. I'm much better equipped to deal with whatever comes up if I have good coffee.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


I've long enjoyed the mysterious nature of my employment.
At family gatherings I became quite adept at dodging and deflecting the "What is it you do?" questions until, after a while, people just stopped asking.
The most common deflection was generally, "You know, my manager doesn't even really know what I do." Sadly, that was almost always the truth.
Most people that know me know it has something to do with computers and that it is probably legal and that is good enough.
Yesterday the veil of mystery was torn away as someone actually watched me do whatever the hell it is I do for a solid nine hours.
I could be completely ratted out by my own daughter at any gathering from now on.
I knew I'd be bribing her into secrecy this morning with doughnuts, but on the way home I decided to see how much she had picked up . . . What details could a person learn about my actual job function if they had unrestricted access to my cubicle space for an entire day?
As we fought our way across multiple lanes of 610 trying to reach the exit we needed I asked.
"So," I said turning down the radio, "What did you learn today?" See? General question. Not leading at all.
"Nothing." She answered. Also no big deal. I've been through this line of questioning with her before and that is always her first answer. After we get past that it becomes a game of negotiation for information. She will never answer a question directly if there is the slightest chance it could be taken more than one way. Speaking with my daughter is like making a wish from the djinni in the lamp . . . Even if you think you worded it perfectly, you still might end up a Nazi.
Shana and I have gotten used to it, though. We are willing to tolerate it (and even admire it at times) as long as she invites us to stay in the Lincoln Bedroom once or twice after she is elected.
Anyway. Question two,"Really? Nothing at all?"
"Your building is very tall."
"Okay. Yes, the building is very tall," I agreed, knowing that she had picked up some subtle detail that would crack open the mystery of whatever the hell it is I actually do and expose it in some painfully public way. "What did you think about my job?"
"Your job is awesome!"
I was a little bewildered by this. Maybe she wasn't paying attention after all. "Awesome?"
"Yes," she said,"You have a spinny chair and get to ride the elevators. And when you walk on the elevators when they move it feels like you a floating a little bit."
I thought about it. That does sound pretty awesome.
But she had seen almost everything. Several people stopped by the cubicle to ask technical questions about a few different things and Gwynyth was there for my answers. My screen faced her all day and I did some seriously major stuff for the DR. Yet, the thing she admitted learning was that I had a spinny chair.
I pressed on anyway:
"Yes," direct question time. Her skills are good, but direct questions paralyze her,"But what did you learn about what I do all day?"
"You work on a computer and take meetings."
Just as I suspected. The mystery is over.
Okay. This is the last reminder for slogan entries. You have the comments section. You have geek_AT_prettygeekything.com. Use them and use them well.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007




Sooner or later it had to come up.
The break room is the easiest pass-through area on the floor if one is travelling north to south or back. I avoid it if possible, but when I do make that trip I do it quickly and with my eyes firmly locked on the tile floor.
I'd heard the talk in there between 11 and 1, and knew it would all be over if I were ever pulled into it.
But it happened.
"Hey Garrick," Crap. I'd been addressed directly.
"Yes?" I pulled out my BlackBerry to look for something more important to do.
"Which do you prefer," the question began,"The overtime rule in the NCAA or the NFL?"
I froze. My stock answer of "the other team just wanted it more" would not work.
"You know," I began, trying to remain calm, "I haven't given it much thought."
It was immediately apparent that this was something that I should have indeed given much thought to.
Suspicions aroused, my co-worker closed in with,"How long is the shot clock?"
"Yeah, I don't, uh . . . " I was lost.
"How many goals in a hat trick?"
I knew at this point that they had switched sports on me, but I was still too lost to come up with the answer. This was one of those answers that dawns on me five minutes after a conversation ends or when I'm the only player left without an orange pie piece in Trivial Pursuit but it isn't my turn. Three. The number is three. But I did not say that.
I was desperate to change the subject. So desperate, in fact that when two women from accounting wandered in to use the microwave I needed them to say something about a broken server or anything I could fake my way into.
Unfortunately, what the speaking one said went something like,"It said tea-length is appropriate but I don't even know what that means."
And I jumped conversations in plain sight of everyone with,"Tea-length is traditionally considered mid-length with the hem falling between the bottom of the knee and the bottom of the calf."
I discovered that that statement is like a "Get Out of Sports Conversation Free" card.
And yet, I feel even more compelled than ever to keep my head down when crossing through the break room.

Gwynyth is at work with me today. I will not be playing Barbies with her.

Until we get home.

Or maybe on lunch a little.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Yesterday we got another call from Comcast Cable. To be completely accurate, between when I got home at 5:30 and when I finally gave up and answered at 8:30 we got four calls from Comcast Cable.
I explained (again) that we don't have DirectTV. I patiently listened to the sales pitch for 24 channels for $9.95 a month and noticed that of those 24, at least a third are available via set-top antenna.
I asked if there would be anything on worth watching, which triggers a place in the script where the sales person talks about the wonderful programming on PBS. I'm not saying it isn't great, I just know the "P" stands for "Public" and I can get it for free.
Then I told him we had digital cable at one point. Quick math let me share with him that we had (prior to our cancellation) 12 times as many channels as his offer contained and there was absolutely nothing worth watching.
He told me there would be no contract on our $9.95 line up.
I took a different tack.
"Okay," I said, "I've got your high-speed internet. When it was Time Warner, it would go down on a Friday night and I could call, listen to how there were no network issues and hit the "1" button until I could speak with a person. Then, they would tell me a technician couldn't be dispatched for four or five days and advise me to reboot my computer. They would also offer to credit my account for the outage."
"This is our policy, too," he agreed.
"Let's say I sign up for the cable TV," I offered, "Can I call the same number to get a credit if there is nothing worth watching."
"I'm not sure." He was painfully off-script at this point.
I pressed on, "I'm not talking about no signal, snow on every channel, some "We are working to resolve the issue" sign on the menu screen -- I mean the choice is between something in Spanish and The View. Can I call in and get a credit for crap programming?"
"Let me check with the Floor Manager."
And I was thrust into the "On Hold" realm of a recorded advertisement for High-Speed Internet through Comcast.
He came back,"I can't find her, but I'm sure if you address your concerns with the CSR, you will be issued a credit."
After this, I declined anyway and asked to be removed from the call list.
I share this information just so that everyone knows there is a simple recourse for crap television. Don't pay for it. Paying for it just encourages them.
In other news, we are dashing up on the unannounced deadline for the motto contest.
The competition is fierce. I'd recommend bringing one's "A" Game.

Monday, August 20, 2007

I'm here early, but even for early on a Monday morning this place seems pretty cleared out.
Either a whole bunch of vacation schedules have aligned or a lot of people fled the coming . . . light rain. 30% chance of isolated showers today, Houston. Let's be safe out there.
Either way, I was free to make my own pot of coffee.
I'm also free to do exactly what I would have done in Scottsdale, only without all the packing and unpacking of suitcases and general life turmoil.
As I've expressed before, I hate it when people plan things for me. There are ways I like to get things done, and "last minute" is rarely one of the preferred ones.
The schedule for today includes finishing our remote application suite in case someone in management decides to switch over to our Disaster Recovery site even if the storm has no chance of hitting us. Someone not "in the business" might think that this sounds silly. It sounds silly to those of us in I.T. as well, but usually we add more profanity and (maybe) a reference to ninja death squads.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

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At T-minus four hours to departure time, I got a call.
I was informed that the secure data center had a strict "no kids" policy and that if I'd be working remotely from the hotel in Scottsdale I may as well work remotely from the office.
Further, my time off at the end of the week has been cancelled, though I am welcome to bring my daughter in for an extended "bring your daughter to work during a crisis" visit.
She plans to sit in my cube staring at a computer screen all day Wednesday through Friday, which should give her a decent approximation of what her father does every day.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Yes. Two posts on a Saturday.
I thought I'd post an update. Excuse me while I play weather person for a moment.
Hurricane Dean:
The official company update is something along the lines of, "Holy crap! We're all going to die!"
You've probably seen an image like this one --

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I'll admit. That's quite a bit scary.

Here is the official predicted path --

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Hmmm . . .
It could slam into Houston, but even the most paranoid northernmost edge is still only really a glancing hit. Our plane leaves Sunday afternoon anyway.

Hey! Just for fun, let's look at my favorite image --

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I'm no weather genius. I'll admit that.
But those two high pressure circles there off the coast of Florida? Those mean a few things as far as I understand it.
First, the high pressure circles will frighten the hurricane south. Hurricanes are very afraid of circles. I learned that from watching the muted Weather Channel for hours every day at my last job.
Second, these circles will make things suck a lot for (I think) Cancun.
Lastly, (and most importantly) LAN party in Scottsdale by the pool!
Sure. It'll be 107° the whole time we are there, but it is (as I understand it) a dry heat.
It's a Saturday and I'm at work, so you have to know something has gone terribly wrong.
Yesterday I spent about ten hours providing solid, sustained technical solutions in order to bring our Disaster Recovery systems online. I don't mind saying that providing access to Microsoft Office applications and our SAP infrastructure to every user in the company from wherever they can grab an internet connection on the planet in a single day is justification for an insane amount of bragging.
I should also note that the feat was accomplished while looking absolutely smashing.
Today, I'm solidifying the architecture and purchasing the necessary server certificates to avoid the users getting annoying pop-ups which would generate a flood of Help Desk tickets no one would be around to respond to.
My itinerary puts the departure time at 5:40 pm CST Sunday from the good airport.
There was some discussion of our using the corporate jet. In other news, we have a corporate jet.
In the end, it was decided to just buy us some tickets on a regular old plane.
The "Avengers Assemble!" team consists of two from the server side, a network guy, an SAP specialist . . . and my daughter, Gwynyth.
She is looking forward to the trip as a big adventure and her enthusiasm is appreciated.
She will be happy with a few hours of kid-friendly TV in the hotel in the evening and some games and activities on the laptop during the day.
Unfortunately, I'm not sure she realizes just how potentially mind-numbing this trip may be for her.
I mean, she will be sitting in a freezing-cold datacenter for hours everyday while I do whatever the hell it is I do.
I've also made it abundantly clear to her that she and I will be using the company credit card as though we hate the fact that the numbers are bumpy, and she is fully on-board with that.
Last night, while we discussed ways to just be ridiculous with food expenses, she offered to even eat vegetables . . . "As long as they are fancy vegetables. Like Dijon vegetables." That's the spirit.
I don't know if Scottsdale has a place with Dijon vegetables, but I'll do my best.
I spent some time yesterday declining company-provided daycare for our stay in Arizona by requesting full criminal background checks of every employee of every daycare in the greater Phoenix area. I also made sure that Gwynyth is on "The List" for access to the secure datacenter. Her finger may be too small for the bio-metric scanner, but she stays with me. As boring as that may be for her.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Let me tell you a little bit about working in I.T. at (company name deleted to comply with non-disclosure agreement).
Like any job, I've got stuff to do. This stuff falls into categories based on priority. Priority is based on a few different qualities, the key being how important the person yelling about it is.
I think I've finally determined the way this complex resource scheduling is accomplished.
Somewhere in the building is a giant wheel with some legitimate I.T. projects written on it in black Sharpie. Also, management pet projects, the latest tech concerns from the internet, and some stuff that seems to be from some kind of online random word generator (Mad Libs, maybe?) are stuck to the wheel on brightly colored Post-It! notes.
Once every four hours or so, someone spins the wheel and flings a dart to determine what we in I.T. are late in delivering.
At no time are we allowed to look at the wheel beforehand.
Yesterday at around 4pm, it was decided that the monthly maintenance we have been prepping for all week would be cancelled in favor of completely changing directions and geographically splitting the team.
One of us (the guy whose wife could seriously go into labor any second) will stay here and turn off the power while the rest of us are to pack up our families and relocate for an undisclosed amount of time to a motel in Scottsdale, Arizona. Why? Hurricane Dean.
I spent most summers growing up on the gulf coast. The thought of running from a storm makes me feel "yellow".
Never mind that our house is right at the place people on our part of the Texas coast evacuate to, I've got to arrange for the cats to get fed, the fish to get watered and our home to be less looted than it would probably be otherwise. If there is time to design an elaborate series of traps a la Home Alone, I'll be sure to also set up a web cam.
While in Scottsdale, my co-worker and I will power up our Disaster Recovery environment and ensure that it continues to provide business-critical functionality in a cost-effective and 99.99% available manner.
The decision to ship us to Scottsdale was made in a meeting which never appeared on my Outlook Calendar. This pisses me off more than I can accurately describe.
So, I'm expected to put my kid in daycare in Scottsdale. The company will pay for it, but I haven't seen the complete analysis of the options for daycare or even a list of ones to avoid since they were profiled on 60 Minutes.
Shana has stuff to do next week. It is important stuff, so she can't evacuate with us.
I think we leave Sunday, unless Dean stalls, but I'm not invited to the meetings where this will be decided either.
Holy crap if I weren't so addicted to living indoors I'd quit right freaking now.
I've been informed that (even though my time that could be spent completing the Disaster Recovery environment will be wasted accounting for every possible disbursement of my family and personal life) if the DR isn't ready by Monday I could end up unemployed. The same threat has been made to everyone, and I checked with HR to assure myself that they have no candidates waiting in the wings to provide the ability to follow through on the threat, but it still adds to the growing list of things I'm using to justify resetting my homepage to Monster.com.
Further, I've gotten no submissions for a slogan (at least none I can have displayed without risking Blogspot suspending my account), so the banner project is not progressing as well as it should. People, only you can do something about this now. The future of the Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng banner rests firmly in your web browser of choice.
Just look it over and sum up the blog. You know you want to.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I decided that what this page needs is a banner at the top. A big, glorious, full-color banner proclaiming to the world that they have arrived at the proper place on the inter-tubes.
Something that screams, "Wisdom! Wisdom is scrawled in screen-friendly text below me! But, if you hate using the mouse wheel or down arrow, you can stay right here and gaze at the glory that is ME: The Banner for Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng!"
You know, something tasteful and understated.
According to the process I use when I need new things, I began dropping hints at home.
"I saw this really cool banner today . . . I sure could use one for the webpage."
"You know, a banner would really set my site apart from all the other geek/pop-culture/technology weblogs out there."
"Hey, I found a site that let me know how to substitute a custom hand-crafted banner for the plain-old regular Blogspot default that makes me blend in with all those Italian Mortgage Broker pages."
And finally (also according to process) Shana tired of the hint dropping (which was rapidly developing into the full-on whining stage) and settled in to make that banner to express her love and make me shut up about it.
It had a full-color photo background.
It had "Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng" in awesome retro-tech font.
It had a space for the slogan.
Yeah. About that. . . .
Is there anything from the past year and a half that is truly slogan-worthy?
"Where Awesome Happens" was good. Brilliant, actually. But it hasn't caused the global marketing wildfire I think we all expected.
Is there anything that sticks out as a slogan, motto, catchphrase or war cry?
I've scanned it a bit, but my perspective is slanted. There were things which I just tossed out there that got a better reaction than things which I thought were pretty damned amusing.
The recurring theme from my glance back at the older posts seems to be, if anything, "commas are cool".
That could be the worst slogan in the history of slogans.
Surely you guys can do better. What phrase works for a banner slogan for this weird little corner of the interwebz?
Comments would be awesome, but email to geek_AT_prettygeekything.com would also work.
I'd be more than happy to spring for a t-shirt if someone can come up with something to complete this banner project so that I can move on with my life.
It is past time for me to start dropping hints around the house about an HD-DVD/Blu-Ray combo player.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Let's see . . . What are we missing?
In reverse order, we have Van Halen, pirates, some stuff about World of Warcraft, Joss Whedon, National Night Out, more stuff about World of Warcraft and then my comic debut.
Ah, yes. I'll complain about a co-worker. It has been a while. I don't want anyone going soft on me.
So. I'm a part of "Global Technical Services". Our team is ultimately responsible if stuff breaks anywhere on the planet. Rather than spring for private jets (fingers crossed on the '08 budget) we have site admins at (or near) the places not within walking distance of the corporate offices.
Mostly, these people handle their own stuff and they do it well. We get called if the problem is weird or . . . unnatural.
We have one site admin though, who calls for just about everything. That's fine, too. He's been with the company forever and (it seems) according to some policy he isn't really required to do anything.
But wait! That's not why I'm complaining! Really! In I.T. we come into contact with people who do nothing all the time, though admittedly most of those people are in the big offices with the giant bare desks and pictures of yachts on the wall.
This guy calls us (why no email?) and generally starts off with, "I know this may not be your area but I figured I'd ask . . . " followed by a question that falls into one of two categories:

1. Something firmly his responsibility that he is trying to fling off on someone, anyone. (90%)
2. Something that is probably still his responsibility but that I can do faster which results in my offering to do it "so that he can get back to . . ." with the note that my suggestion of what he should get back to is generally something that we asked for months ago and never got. (10%)

And then this happens:
He says, "Okay, Garrick. I'll (blah blah blah whatever)"
And then I say, "Th-[CLICK]"
I look and verify that, indeed, he hung up on me again.
Before the handset is returned to the cradle I can generally fire off a too-loud,"mother stupid sack of crap he hung up on me again why does he do that does he have no decency I should be allowed to conversationally close a phone call with a co-worker and (co-worker name deleted to comply with non-disclosure agreement) just freaking hangs up every stupid time!" -- only sometimes I like to spice it up with profanity and disparaging genealogical references. Okay, I do that every time.
And then I tense up, because the conversation didn't officially end.
People should say something to signal the conversational part of the brain that it can go back to sleep. "Good bye", "See ya", "Farewell" or even "Bugger off" are all just fine.
I need closure!
It is deskphone to deskphone Voice Over IP, so it isn't like anyone is paying for long distance or anything.
And then, no lie, he called me and did it this morning while I typed this.
Apparently, he hangs up on everyone.
There have been times when I've stood up following one of these calls with the announcement that I will be driving to his location to physically kill him.
I usually get about half a dozen offers to buy gas for the trip.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

There was much celebration last night at our house, I'm sure you know.
I mean, how does one react to the best news ever? Of course by cracking open a couple of dozen Zimas, throwing on some leg warmers and putting an extra golf shirt over my existing golf shirt (collars turned up).
Seriously, the news could not have come at a better time. We've been working on Gwynyth's musical education all summer (funding for the Arts in school being what it is someone has to step up) and we have just finished my self-designed course on "Synth-Metal Bands of the 80s" (Asia FTW) and (I'm not even kidding here) were about to move on to "Hair Metal and Its Effect on Men's Right to Gel" when my RSS reader started freaking out over a keyword match I'd programmed long ago.
At first (after shutting down that annoying alarm) I was not too excited. I figured it was one of my other RSS feed reader keyword triggers like "chupacabra" or "Robot Uprising" or "Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants 2" but it wasn't. It was better.
I'm still giddy.
I should clarify for anyone not following these historic events as closely as I am. The Van Halen Reunion Tour is officially back on.
They haven't announced a Houston date, but they will.
Oh yes. Van Halen will not neglect their fans down here.
Also, this isn't some coked-up Sammy Hagar Van Halen, either. This is serious Van Halen with David Lee Freaking Roth.
Shana is also enthusiastic about it. So enthusiastic in fact that her reaction seems to have skipped right through triumphant ALL CAPS glee and on to a detached apathy. Some times the news is too good, it seems.

Monday, August 13, 2007

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So. In my opinion, Pirate is the new Ninja.
I've recently been sucked into a browser-based free online game based around looting and pillaging the once-peaceful islands of the Caribbean. As a bonus, it is called "Walk My Plank".
If I hadn't been boarded and plundered while I slept, I would totally be exploring the seas or (most likely) attacking other logged off pirates to take their stuff right now.
There is no blistering 3d action and combat is decidedly non-twitch-based. It is, however, fairly instantly addictive -- Especially to my people.
To geeks, online games about pirates are like chewy crack with a hard candy crystal meth shell wrapped in a scrap of paper inscribed with quotes from Yoda.
I will not waste your time with a detailed review of the mechanics and an in-depth analysis of Walk My Plank compared with the other great pirate online games of the past.
I'll just take a moment to remind everyone that it is a little over a month until International Talk Like A Pirate Day and suggest that we could all use as much practice as we can get.

In other news, I'm fast closing in on the 3,000 point mark with Coke Reward Points. Gwynyth has decided we need something in the 6,000 point range, so my kidneys are going to have to take one for the team.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Last night I broke down and opened the firefly to play with it. I can always get more gold, right?
Anyway, I took some pictures. Everyone likes pictures.

Here is a shot of the actual acquisition:

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Those lines above [Captured Firefly]? Just imagine those over and over and over and consider the whole project pretty much summed up.

This is Webinara and the firefly (and my trusty hunting cat companion "Spot") in lovely Thunder Bluff. I had several people in this crowded metropolis ask where Webinara had picked up the firefly, so she told them it was a random drop from the Orc newbie zone.

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Not only is the Orc newbie zone in the completely wrong place, there may be many high-level players keeping that area clean and safe for any new people for a while to come.

After that, they went to Alterac Valley, home of the on-going, ever-bitter conflict between some goodly Orcs and some wicked nasty hairy Dwarves:

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Moments after this was taken, a warrior, rogue and mage decided to try to kill Webinara (probably out of firefly envy). This did not go well for them.

It was time to relax after this, so next Webinara headed for Tanaris. Here she waves to the camera from her spot on the beach:

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She spent a lot of time in Tanaris twenty levels or so ago, killing turtles and harvesting 120 scales (one per about 4 turtles). Turtles are a grudge-holding sort of creature, apparently. Just after this shot was taken one splashed out of the surf and ate the firefly.

In other (non-WoW) news, I got a call from a recruiter from the I.T. department at the Dollar Store. Apparently, they are doing a huge infrastructure roll-out.
I asked if I would get an employee discount and I haven't heard back.

Edit:

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Oh man oh man oh man oh man.
I don't care where you pick it up, but everyone please please buy at least one copy of this.
Why? Because Joss Whedon said it is the best chance of getting Serenity II.
If you read past the horribly disappointing news about the Wonder Woman movie, the best part is at the bottom.
From the interview:



So then you're saying we've got a chance?


Joss Whedon: Well it's probably not being discussed in boardrooms right now, but the fact of the matter is if it makes enough money sooner or later they say "hey, this is money!" Also there are paradigms that are much cheaper, it doesn't have to be enormous. But on the other hand I'm happy to say all of my actors are working very hard. It's not the same situation where we all threw in for pennies because we had to finish telling that story. Now that situation might be harder to bring about.



At this point, I have no choice but to step out of the cubicle and do a little dance of joy. Later, it could be a much bigger dance. In the event the Serenity II thing actually happens, it will be a dance of epic proportions destined to make the top 20 on YouTube with the tag "Nerdy Yet Strangely Attractive I.T. Guy Celebrates A Lot And Then Falls Down".
When Fox killed Firefly, they removed a vital part of the current and future state of Speculative Fiction.
Anyone who is sick of hearing me complain about this should just buy the Collector's Edition DVD to shut me up. Anyone who is not sick of hearing me complain about it has likely pre-ordered multiple copies already.
Guess which group of people I like?
In other firefly related news, last night I settled in to help Webinara kill another ~130 Bogflare Needlers. As it turns out, she only needed 5 before the [Captured Firefly] happened.
I made a noise. It was something like a relieved "WOO HOO!!!!!!" Gwynyth, having helped me count the ones who did not carry the firefly yesterday over 100 times, was ready for me to travel to dragon country for the ultra-rare "whelpling" pet, but I opted out of that to sit and wonder whether Webinara should sell the [Captured Firefly] on the in-game Auction House or take it out of the box and play with it.
Greed or fun?
While walking around with the little guy would be awesome --- It could almost pay for a flying mount for Webinara if she sold it. Flying mount!
Also, it is a bug, and by their nature, bugs skitter.

Bogflare Needlers Killed: 291
"Captured Firefly" found: 1

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Last night was National Night Out and our neighborhood met in a driveway less than a block from our place. It was good to visit with people who have lived in the neighborhood as long as we have, especially if we've never seen them before ever.
We got to exchange stories of mysterious police activity and complain about the lawns of those people who didn't show up for the gathering. They never edge, those slackers.
Of course, this wasn't an issue at the house hosting the party.
I'd gone over the evening before to drop off a table and some chairs and the guy who lived there was mowing in anticipation.
I've been disturbed by the image of that lawn mowing event for over 48 hours now and I can't shake it. I've tried to Google what I saw and while I've gotten some information I haven't yet found a compelling reason why.
Back in the day, I mowed. I've employed the same technique since childhood -- mow around the edge and then use compressing, rounded squares until I need to loop around trees.
The guy who hosted National Night Out mowed his lawn on a diagonal.
It wasn't like semi-random, just-run-from-corner-to-corner diagonal, either. There was a precision in the diagonal lines which bordered on the surgical. There were exactly four inches of overlap in each pass and I'd suspect that a protractor placed anywhere on the sidewalk would have shown the razor-straight lines were each precisely 45°.
So I'm stuck somewhere between admiration for an admittedly nice looking lawn and what seems to me like a perfectly logical fear of a neighbor who obviously has some type of yard-related compulsion.
I get the idea that he sometimes wakes up from a deep sleep to rush out front with a flashlight and a survival knife to look for any section which has grown at a rate which surpasses the rest of the lawn. And then, that section is punished or the slower-growing section is called out for its laziness.
He seems nice, though. Anyone who just showed up last night and didn't see the mowing the day before probably just thought it looked lovely. And it did to anyone unaware of the unnatural methodology employed in attaining the look.
I think it is possible to know too much about the people we live around. As a general rule, I like to stop learning before the names but right after the mental check box which is labelled "Lives in the House with the Near-Constant Police Tape Border -- Yes__ No__ Sometimes__".
Anyway, I've decided to leave people to their bizarre compulsions. While it is a near-certain sign of some deeper psychosis, I just have to have faith that the door locks will hold.

Bogflare Needlers Killed: 270
"Captured Firefly" found: Not so far

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

It is no big secret that I like geeky stuff.
What I like even better than geeky stuff is when geeky stuff gets crammed into other geeky stuff to combine into something even more awesome and geeky than one would expect.
This is like the guy in the Jedi Knight robes at the Star Trek convention. That guy couldn't get a date to save his life, but he is none-the-less brimming with his very own cool.
One of these bizarre intersections of geekiness is the source of my current project.
While waiting for the rest of my guild (INNKEEPERS RULE!!!!11!!!!!) to catch up with me in World of Warcraft, I've decided to devote my time to acquiring something rarely seen on my server.
I did a little research and discovered that one of the most recent patches added a pet as a rare drop from a specific type of monster. This pet doesn't actually help me in any way in game. It won't fetch things, fight stuff for me, or do tricks to amaze and delight the drunks in my favorite in-game tavern. The non-combat pet in World of Warcraft is as close as a person can get to owning a real-life cat.
The cool part is that the pet is a firefly which will forever buzz around my character impressing the n00bz with its glowing abdomen.
The less cool part is that the pet itself is rare. Very rare, actually. People that track this sort of thing for a living (and there are those people) figure it at approximately 0.04% of kills. So, other than randomly killing one of these. . .

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. . . And having the "Captured Firefly" just be there, the only choice is to kill them over and over and over until I get it. And over and over. Its the only reasonable way.
I can confirm the estimate of 0.04% looks pretty accurate. Last night I killed 136 Bogflare Needlers and have absolutely nothing to show for it. The "Captured Firefly" seems to be the only interesting thing they ever have, so it is a pretty boring grind.
My quest is now a self-imposed exile. I will not leave the marsh without a pet firefly. I will have other characters mail me ammunition and pet food (for my brave hunting cat companion), and I will travel back and forth across the delicate habitat of the Bogflare Needler until they give me a firefly or vanish forever from the ecosystem.
Why would a person do this?
And more importantly what does this have to do with the collision of the terminally geeky World of Warcraft and some other geeky franchise?
The text on the "Captured Firefly" cage reads, "Still flying . . . "

Bogflare Needlers Killed: 136
"Captured Firefly" found: Nope

Monday, August 06, 2007

So, Monday, we meet again.
I don't think you have any idea, Bane of the Work Week, exactly with whom you are messing.
I slept last night. I didn't stay up playing World of Warcraft (which is my Sunday night tradition) in anticipation of the new expansion pack which will be released not even a full year from now. I must prepare for that event, but I knew today would require me to function at 80% efficiency, at a minimum, and that calls for sleep. And caffeine.
Today, I'm working on our web-filtering. As it stands now, every user mouse click is monitored -- until they make a secure connection. At that point, everything falls into the "Non-HTTP" bucket, so banking, secure check-out, and off-shore gambling sites with SSL login pages are all the same to us.
That has to change.
And if the software we have isn't doing it correctly by noon I have to find another software solution.
Good times.
Better times are to be had at the Up To Bat web comic. Not only has Belinda the snake taken on a much-deserved larger role in the story, I've been immortalized in in comic form as well.
While it is all in good fun, Andrew has actually given me a new idea for caffeine delivery which has me scouring Ebay and half a dozen quasi-reputable importers in an attempt to reproduce it IRL.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Two quick things:

The first is the Scottish page for Wikipedia. I'm all about the free and open sharing of information on the internet, but this page looks to have been entirely written by Groundskeeper Willie. I've tried to be fair to my co-workers in Aberdeen so far, but all bets are off after this. I'm all for the "Respectful Workplace". I've got a stack of "Course Completed" sheets from "Respectful Workplace" workshops. But Seriously.
"Gettin Startit"?
"Scotland's Ceeties"?
"Airt an cultur"?
The second thing is that the massive problem with spam could be forever solved . . . by kittens.
I knew it.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Casual Jeans Friday!
In addition to celebrating with denim, I get to deliver wonderful news!
In the past I've been burdened by consuming fluids which serve no purpose:
Water to brush my teeth? No caffeine.
Tofu bar only serves organic "tea" made from hemp? No caffeine.
My coffee has caffeine, but what about the half-and-half in the coffee? No caffeine.
I've come to fear the day when a combination of these events will occur, resulting in the perfect storm of me passed out somewhere until the authorities arrive with some expensive non-over-the-counter stimulant.
I can erase that caffeine withdrawal coma from my list of paralyzing fears (Which has been updated, for anyone keeping score at home, to: 1. Clowns, 2. Spiders, 3. Haircuts, 4. The DVD release of Bosom Buddies: Season 2 will be delayed again. ) with a simple bottle of this stuff, worn on a lanyard around my neck at all times.
It says keep away from children! This stuff is perfect for me because I love keeping away from children. They advise that no one drink it straight! It can be added to milk! Caffeine -- In liquid form to add to anything and everything!
I can use it with vinegar and cayenne to make caffeinated hot wings, people.
"What's in the queso? Oh, some cheese, a few peppers . . . and pure, liquid caffeine!"
This + Duncan Hines = caffeinated brownies.
You know, my addiction to sleep could be totally cured by this breakthrough.
To be honest, I've started to become a little freaked out by that whole sleep situation. One minute I'm reading a zombie novel in bed, then I close the book and pass out for hours. I'd see a doctor about it, but I've been managing this illness with an alarm clock (two actually) and I can't figure out what kind of doctor to call.
Those days could be all be behind me at last. With a steady supply of PURECAF, think of all the work I could get done! Hell, I could blog three or four times a day!
The Alliance would eventually give up on ever entering Alterac Valley (and rightly so)!
I could finally get our MP3 collection alphabetized by mood, as I'd long planned.
I could take up a hobby! Like selling hand-carved wooden unicorns on the internet!
I could learn to carve wood into the shape of unicorns!
Yes, the creation of liquid caffeine in consumer format was step #4,366 in my master plan for world domination. Everything is falling into place.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

I took a sick day yesterday. As a rule, I prefer not to be sick when I do that and yesterday was no exception.
If I'm going to be ill and miserable, I may as well go to work. However, who would waste a perfectly healthy day by going to the office?
While I did have legitimate reasons to stay home on Wednesday, there was also quite a bit of time to stress test our newly switched Comcast internet service.
We had Time Warner here, but Comcast took it over. This means a couple of different things which are not being hammered at the entire Houston market through every media outlet.
First, they cut us over to the Comcast subnet during prime traffic time. This required a reset of my router to completely switch to their subnet, but I only tried that after giving up on the light AC infested support call I made which seemed less "very important to us" the longer I remained on hold. From call volume, I'd guess their change surprised a lot of people.
The second thing it means is that while the Time Warner people had finally given up on selling us TV service, now the Comcast people are calling to find out what we pay for our satellite TV service to entice us to switch. It takes a while to communicate that we have no TV service and haven't for quite some time and also (more importantly) that we don't miss it. They seem really excited about a great new offer on TV service, and I'll sign up for it as soon as they can just answer a few simple questions from me. I sincerely enjoy asking these questions.
First, why are there so many home shopping channels in the first part of the line up? I know the answer is that the cable company gets a bigger commission if the shopping channel is lower on the "dial", but the CSRs seem allergic to admitting this. Invariably, they try to tell me about all the ESPN choices I can make, which I can generally deflect by asking what "ESPN" stands for.
Second, I ask if we can do without the 30 or so Spanish language stations. I've explained that we don't speak Spanish and that if we wanted to learn there are probably better ways than watching Sabado Gigante.
This leads to another round of "But you can get Lifetime, A&E and the Independent Film Channel" because my ESPN deflection has obviously triggered lines from the "Male user doesn't watch sports" section of the script.
Then I ask if we can buy by the channel. I know we can, because the technology is a part of digital cable, but seriously the cable companies don't want that. In fact, I'd imagine the only people who wouldn't mind people buying by the channel work at Animal Planet because I think we can all agree Shark Week is worth the whole rest of the year.
Okay, so this triggers a "but it is only $30 a month for the first 3 months" kind of thing, which I find reasonable and agree to -- provided the CSR can make one final assurance.
The deal killer: "But," I ask, "Can you guarantee that there will be something worth watching on? I mean, we had like 180 channels before and it was filled with absolute crap. Anything worth watching we pick up through Netflix or watch on the internet, so why would I pay $30 to have commercials added back in?"
Every time I'm off the phone and back to whatever I was doing before within 30 seconds of asking that. We've been called three times since the switch. I hope to soon know how many calls it takes to get us on the "Don't Bother" list.
I also played a little World of Warcraft. You know, like I do.
I ended up getting one of these:


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Now I have to wonder if they read my blog at Blizzard.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

So Monday night I made a global change to some server settings. According to process, I burned incense, made half a dozen posts on the official support forum (EMPLOYING TEH CAPS LOCK & MISSSSPELLING OPSHUN) and waved my lucky chicken foot over the hardware.
My manager asked if I'd heard anything from the users yesterday and I told him that in ten years of doing this I'd gotten only one "Hey, everything is going great, thanks" email from a user and that their silence in this case was an indication of success.
He decided to call them (any user who has complained about the issue in the past six weeks) to find out what they thought about the change.
To their credit (and I hate extending users credit more than I hate actually learning their names), most seemed . . . happy.
My manager continued to make these calls for most of the morning. Secretly, I suspected he kind of got a rush out of talking to users who weren't angry about some issue and his ability to set the topic to something which was working well and then hang up after asking his question was a big motivating factor.
Late in the afternoon, I was summoned into his office so that he could announce this success in front of our VP of IT.
The VP wanted charts and graphs proving that performance was better and said that user testimony was valueless as a data capture point.
"What if I have three pieces of toast before logging in and everything is great? And then I have pancakes for breakfast another day and everything is working wonderfully? But then, after a night of drinking and staying out I wake up with a headache and log in and decide it is working horribly? User perception depends too much on outside factors we can't reliably quantify."
There was nothing for me to do but offer to write a "best practices" document making pancakes our officially supported architecture.
I don't think he found that as amusing as I did, but I don't have any way to track that other than by his reaction so my assumption may be invalid.