Wednesday, October 31, 2007

October 31, 2007




Because that's how I roll.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Official Off-Time: Day One


1. Woke up half an hour after I normally get to work.

2. Walked my kid to the bus.

3. More coffee (big manly mug).

4. Read geeky news on the interwebz.

5. Posted an in-character entry on the Revamped guild Wiki page.

6. Visited the Apple store online to gaze upon the 24" iMac in wonder at its total lack of Windows Vista.

7. Logged into World of Warcraft to do my daily quests for much-needed gold.

8. Remembered that all servers are down for weekly maintenance on Tuesday mornings.

9. Back to the Apple Online store for a while. The Macbook Pro is the fastest Windows Vista laptop.  Macintosh gets bonus points for not caring if you run Vista on their laptop at all.

10. WoW servers are still down.

11. The coffee maker is empty. Vanilla Coke Zero, For The Win.

12. I attempted to play with one of the cats.

13. The cat, bitter at having been awakened, gently warns me away by opening a 4" scratch on my forearm.

14. Why are all the Band-Aids kid-sized?

15. Holy crap. I'm still bleeding. This is the fourth paper towel.

16. Stupid cat.

17. After a surly look from her, I begin to type more quietly.

18. World of Warcraft is still being "Maintained".

19. Should my shirts be organized alphabetically by color or brand? Perhaps I'll just make more coffee. Or I would were the kitchen not so damned far.

20. Lunch. We made a game of trying to find a server without a tattoo across the small of her back. I won -- And as my prize I got to stop looking.

21. Groceries. The checker seemed somehow angry with our food, repeatedly slamming each item across the bar code reader and then tossing everything down the slope to the bagging station.

22. Back home -- In which groceries were put away and more coffee was brewed.

23. We vow to better plan the awesome for tomorrow.

24. Mmmmmm . . . . iMac.

Monday, October 29, 2007



You know, it is bad enough being a man and carrying vanilla almond exfoliating scrub without being forced to stow it in a clear ziplock bag and then flail it around an airport.

My pores cry out for attention, but they generally do it very, very quietly so as not to involve anyone -- As all crying should be.

Further, why would my laptop need to be scanned at all, much less scanned apart from my shoes as though the X-Ray could somehow irradiate them and form them into some evil footwear/Windows Vista hybrid?

The poor guy transporting a USB hard drive behind me was shuttled into a little room down a dark corridor and I never saw him again.

The important part is this: I'm home. I managed (barely) to avoid speaking all the various inappropriate comments which would have certainly had me staring at the next six months from within the confines of a bamboo cage in Guantanamo Bay, did not curse the people selling 20oz bottles of Diet Coke for $1.79 each in the little gift shops, and did not shriek in frustration at hearing the same "unattended luggage will be destroyed violently" recording for the jillionth time.

In short -- Go, me!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Late but Brief


Hey! I'm completely busy trying to cram some last-minute junk in at work before I take some time off for (relatively) good behaviour (considering).

I just wanted to share a couple of things:

1. When one's manager purposely executes a file from a suspected malicious source as a way to verify that the anti-virus solution is capable of handling viruses and other nastiness released into the wild only a few hours previous, things might very well go as badly as one would suspect.

2. In at least one software package, paying an $1800 upgrade cost for the Australian Language Pack seems to have no other function than to scan documents and replace "beer" with "Fosters". I'm not kidding.

Both of these situations leave me with the only possible response as a one-shoulder shrug and a sincere, "Good luck with that."


Difficile est saturam non scribere

Thursday, October 25, 2007



There were certain things for which I was prepared when we converted to Judaism over the summer.

I was prepared to give up bacon and shellfish and shellfish wrapped in bacon.

I was completely on board with Temple on Friday nights instead of religious observance on Sunday mornings.

I was ready to be saddened when some neo-nazi high school social misfits spray paint swastikas on everything they can reach and outraged when organized zealots try to push the Jews out of Israel -- These last two are nothing new at all, really.

I was totally unprepared for casual bigotry.  

So I quit my new guild in World of Warcraft, right?  The schedule was killing me and, one time, my group got actually cursed at over the Ventrilo voice server by a guy from New Zealand for just doing our freaking jobs, though his accent was cool.

Finding a new guild was pretty easy, really. I followed some friends into the one they chose. I was almost instantly in my first major dungeon raid with them, typing away on the raid chat channel and talking to them using their own Ventrilo server.

After one particularly harrowing epic boss fight, the conversation drifted towards another character in the guild, a priest, who did not heal the party as often as he could have. He was referred to as a "Jewish Healer".

Immediately, I typed "Jewish Healer? WTF?" in the raid chat channel. I got no response. Not that I expected one, really, since the group had moved on to a chaotic melee-fest with some glowing flying worm things. Evil glowing flying worm things.

I thought I caught a reference to Jew-Looting some 1337 lewts, but I was actually uncertain that I had heard it correctly and by that time it was getting pretty late so my judgement was in question.

But I let it fester anyway. That is what I do.

On Tuesday the big raid started before I got home from work, so there was no room for me to participate. I contented myself with running around one of the outdoor areas killing everything that moved and running little solo quests.

Occasionally someone in the big raid would speak out from the raid channel into the general guild chat channel and post an update.

"We just killed so-and-so and this is the loot he had . . ." type stuff.

Then, just as I was getting ready to log off Aldy the Warrior presumably did something which caused everyone to die. Another player chimed into the general guild chat with, "I demand that someone Jew-Kick Aldy or at least subtract 50,000 loot points."

I considered issuing a noble /gquit (for "Guild Quit" to voluntarily resign from a guild with the opposite /gkick for a forced resignation by another higher-ranking player) to end my association with these people. But then I decided I would first press the issue, to find out exactly what they meant and to make sure that they needed to express their bigotry openly.

"What does that mean?" I asked into the general channel. There was no response again, so I clarified.

"Please define "Jew-Kick". I've never heard that before."

Again, there was an uncomfortable silence.

I waited.

Eventually, the silence was broken when the same player replied, "A long time ago, a suggestion to /gkick a player was garbled by voice chat into something which sounded like "Jew Kick" and it kind of stuck as an inside joke."

Okay then.

Apparently, I need to be prepared for casual bigotry while simultaneously remembering that not everything should be taken personally.

That's turning out to be a lot harder than finding a decent Kosher pizza.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Interwebz is 20/20


We recently upgraded the internet connection at home to Comcast's upper tier service. This service is defined as "Performance Plus" and includes 8Mbps down and 768kbps up.

That's pretty standard as high-end packages go, especially with cable. You can browse all you want, but putting stuff up on the internet will be substantially slower.

Comcast also has issues with P2P (like Bittorrent) and they work against that actively, going as far as putting a device in the network to simulate a disconnect request from the machines on either end. In the network security realm, this is a traditional man-in-the-middle attack and is considered (at best) as bad form.

Side note: If you want to use Bittorrent as a Comcast subscriber, set your traffic to encrypted in the client properties. The technology Comcast uses (Sandvine, apparently) doesn't do anything with encrypted traffic.

I've always hated asymmetrical traffic limitations in ISPs. If I wanted to host Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng from a server at home, I couldn't. Further, if I want to upload photos to a print processing company or even Flickr it takes far too long.

Content delivery is the basis of the new and improved web, and anyone stuck on the slow end of the pipe is at a disadvantage.

I'm hoping what I read this morning starts to change that.

Verizon is rolling out symmetrical 20Mbps up and 20Mbps down internet in a few select locations at a price that is about $5 less than we pay for our current, slower, lopsided service.

The East Coast is getting it first, but I would think that as it reaches more markets the cable and DSL providers will be forced to take another look at these policies and unleash a little more room for traffic in both directions.

I used to work at an ISP. I can tell you that there is far more bandwidth available for use than the customers ever see. When a network is put in place and before users are added to it, the available bandwidth is immediately throttled down to around 10% of capacity to allow for subscriber growth.

In this way, they can deploy internet to more and more users without major infrastructure upgrade costs. If this were not the case, there would be no way for my service to go from 1.5Mbps to 8Mbps during the course of a phone call.

Faster speeds are coming. Hopefully soon.

I have never been described as "patient", just "pretty".

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

It is pitch black.

Grue_crossing You are likely to be eaten by a grue.


More truthful words were never uttered in a video game than those, my friends.

One of the best things we brought with us on our cultural journey through the Reagan Era (after the end of Soviet Communism and leg warmers) was Zork.

There were no guild politics, no complicated loot mechanic, no server lag.

Of course, there were also no graphics, no interaction with other humans and no server. In fact, you can play the whole thing (actually a little more feature-rich version) on a single error page. If you do, try to avoid all the grue. Those things are nasty. I think.

Either way, I didn't realize how much I hated text-based adventuring until I tried looking at it through retinas burned with images of mushrooms and pointless plumbing and weird, angry, spiky, spinning turtles. "Too many words!" my brain rebels. And I agree. If I wanted words, I'd read the news instead of having it streamed to my web browser in beautifully rendered 3d majesty.

Speaking of updates, I have 3,846 Coke Reward Points burning a hole in my account. I had actually given up on ever seeing the Nintendo Wii available on the site again and decided to pick up a Nintendo DS with the intention of pulling it out of my cargo pants at every opportunity to coach my Pokemon army into global domination with cries of, "My Pokemons! Let me show you them!"


Note: Grown men sometimes play Pokemon. The latest version is more like a giant DNA experiment than a mindless series of fights between cute tiny monsters. Fortunately, there is also a series of fights between cute tiny monsters.

However, the Coke Rewards site was sold out of the DS, too. I may have a few glasses of water today in quiet rebellion.

This morning I watched Season 2, Episode 1 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, having completed season 1 yesterday. Through a marvel of modern technology, I'm able to watch it on my drive in to work. That guy who watches TV while driving? -- That's me.

The secret to watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer is all about having faith in Joss Whedon. Yes, they are high school students fighting evil in a small town just like Scooby Doo, but Joss Whedon makes that okay somehow. Seriously.

As a final update, Mrs. Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng is settling in to her MacBook. I've been charting the effect the machine is having. As her comfort level rises, her enjoyment of the device hugs the same curve. A separate line tracks the "Mac Smugness Factor" or MSF. Every time Windows Vista asks me if I'm sure I want to be doing the thing I'm doing on purpose, there is a spike in the MSF.

These lines will intersect eventually and she and I will stand in an empty white room to debate the benefits of both platforms. I will lose. I have no doubt.

Monday, October 22, 2007

When I Grow Up


I recently took one of those online career assessments. The last one I'd taken was in High School, so I figured it was time to once again find out what I'd like to be when I grow up.

This test was multiple choice. Given four choices, with the idea that all jobs pay the same (and I guess the lines for bread and toilet paper are around the block), which would I most like to do?

150 questions that ran kind of like this:

1. Dairy Farmer

2. Detective

3. English Teacher

4. Computer Programmer

I'd actually have to put them in order from most to least, too.

(2, 3, 4, 1)

I think a more fun career assessment would have read more like a costume party quiz:

1. Pirate

2. Ninja

3. Zombie

4. Batman

(4, 2, 1, 3)

The test I took was no where near that fun. It was also pretty pointless, since I've always known exactly what I want to do.

Having spent years and years and years in I.T., I know that if the choice were made available to me -- I'd work at Starbucks.

First, coffee is awesome.

Second, people go to Starbucks, walk up to the counter and tell the Barrista exactly what they expect. When this is delivered, all parties are happy. There is no political maneuvering, no hidden power plays, no secret agendas. The customer wants some type of coffee-related something and the Barrista wants them to shut up so they can listen to the rest of the one awesome song on the Starbucks Radio Network and then go home -- I'd hope to play X-Box 360 for hours and then pass out.

Also, coffee. I have no idea if there is a discount but surely I could "mess up an order" from time to time and drink it myself so as not to be wasteful.

Lastly, there is always more money in the tip jar at Starbucks than in my jingle-free jar in the server room.

Anyway, this was my dream until Saturday.

Saturday the schooner of my aspirations was mercilessly smashed upon the rocks of reality.

We went to one of those fancy "shopping destinations" with the brick walkways and fountains and upscale shops. We had nothing to buy, but time to kill and (I was sold) there was a Starbucks.

We meandered past a fancy bath products shop, wondered aloud when the sushi restaurant might open, and questioned the need for live music in the courtyard on a lazy Saturday afternoon.

It was with much relief that we reached the end with the coffee.

I decided that I wanted "coffee". Nothing fancy. Breakfast Blend, room for cream, kthxbye.

But then we listened past Paul McCartney and Joni Mitchell and heard the other customers.

"190° Chai Latte, light foam."

"Half-caff espresso americano with soy milk."

"Quad Breve Iced Venti Organic 3 Pump Vanilla 2 Pump Cinnamon with Foam and Whipped Cream Stirred Latte"

"Double Ristretto Venti Nonfat Organic Chocolate Brownie Extra Hot with Foam and Whipped Cream Upside Down Double Blended."

I don't honestly even know what that last one is, but it intimidated me into ordering a latte. Also, they had no Breakfast Blend anyway.

Listening to these people over the comforting whine of the espresso engine made me realize I'll never be the President, I'll never be an astronaut and I'll never work at Starbucks. Less than five minutes of listening to those orders filled me with the nigh uncontrollable urge to hold their heads under the stainless steel nozzle to see how long it takes to froth their skulls.

I also took an online psychological assessment. The results were weird, though. When I take an online psychological test I'd like to be given an idea what my issues are (For the record: Compulsive Hand Washing and Clowns) with a recommendation of an easy-to-find herbal supplement to correct the issue (Perhaps Stinging Nettle and Feverfew), not some generic "please remain where you are and try to remain calm" error page. "Please remain where you are" sounds like the worst fortune ever to fall out of a cookie, not a valid assessment of emotional health.

I take "Please Remain Where You Are" to mean that I should, I guess, keep doing this I.T. thing until I die. "Remain Calm" tempers that decree with the idea that the daily stresses shouldn't get to me so much. I should find time to relax. Let them wash over me and drain away instead of getting all "stabby".

Maybe I'm reading too much into it and I should never post before coffee.

Friday, October 19, 2007



I've been (against my will) put in charge of the server side of printing. I've said many times that the paperless office is the way to go, and I've never believed it as much as I do now.

Let's remember: All offices are only a giant trash can fire away from the ideal paperless state.

Anyway, Hewlett-Packard uses a universal printer language to communicate between the printer and the computer. It is pretty well-documented and actually uses a lot of actual plain English words.

This language facilitates printer status reports, print job communication, paper tray state, file system commands and the separation of concurrent jobs.

Most importantly, even a Windows user can download the Perl scripting binaries and access and modify this code to do all kinds of productivity enhancing things.

For example, those little blue led status displays are the perfect size for the phrase "INSERT COIN".

This is only slightly less relevant than the standard message.

I'm also amazed by how few people ever look at the status screen on HP printers.

This is the code, slightly modified with a random message generator. Just insert the IP of the printer you want to "enhance" and either select a message or leave it random. Also, feel free to change them to whatever suits your mood.


namespace hphack
  using System;
  using System.Text;
  using System.Net;
  using System.Net.Sockets;

  public class PrnHack
    public static int Main(string[] args)
        return -1;
      Console.WriteLine("\nHP Display Hack");
      Console.WriteLine("Host: {0}", args[0]);
      Console.WriteLine("Message: {0}\n", message);
      IPEndPoint ipEndPoint;
      ipEndPoint = new IPEndPoint( Dns.Resolve(args[0]).AddressList[0], PJL_PORT);

      Console.WriteLine("Host is {0}", ipEndPoint.ToString());

      Socket socket;
      socket = new Socket(


      byte [] sendData;
      string sendString;

      sendString = String.Format(
                "\x1B%-12345X@PJL RDYMSG DISPLAY = \"{0}\"\r\n\x1B%-12345X\r\n",

      sendData = Encoding.ASCII.GetBytes(sendString);
      int result;
      result = socket.Send(sendData, sendData.Length, 0);

      if(result == 0)
        Console.WriteLine("Could not send on socket");
      return 0;

    protected static bool ParseArgs(string[] args)
      if(args.Length != 2)
                  "HP Display Hack: " +
                  "hphack printername \"message\" "
        return false;

      if(args[1].Length > 16)
        Console.WriteLine("Message must be <= 16 characters");
        return false;
      if(args[1].CompareTo("random") == 0)
        message = GetRandomMessage();
        message = args[1];

      return true;

    public static string GetRandomMessage()
      string [] Messages = {
                             "NINJAS RULE", 
                             "SET TO STUN",
                             "SCORE = 3418",
                             "FEED ME",
                             "TALK TO ME",
                             "IN DISTRESS",
                             "GO AWAY",
                             "NO PRINT FOR YOU",
                             "RADIATION LEAK",
                             "I R IN UR PRINTR",
                             "PRESS MY BUTTON",
                             "HI N00B KTHXBYE",
                             "NICE HAIR",
                             "NEEDS COFFEE",
                             "BE GENTLE",
                             "TPS REPORT",
                             "EMAIL BORES ME",
                             "INSERT COIN",
                             "BLACK SABBATH"

      Random r = new Random();
      return Messages[r.Next() % Messages.Length];

    protected const int PJL_PORT = 9100;
    protected static string message = "NO MESSAGE";



I doubt you need special access to do any of this. If your company locks down their PCL code they are more paranoid than any place I've ever worked.

The toughest part might be installing Perl on a controlled work-issued PC.


Here is a version that runs from a USB thumbdrive. No install, no problem.

We never had this conversation.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Because Knowledge is Power


I've been in a training class the past couple of days. Actually, I went home sick in the middle of the first day. That's how we know my illness was real. Why would I choose to go home when I'm not being expected to do anything at work?

Anyway, the important part is this: When the trainer was navigating his Start Menu while his laptop screen was projected on the wall, I noticed his shortcut for World of Warcraft. It was amazingly easy to shift the conversation to his Tauren Hunter, the upcoming game patch, the best places to farm for gold and an in-depth gear analysis.

Nine million subscribers is a lot of people. Statistically, if you are sitting in a Denny's at 2am with 32 other people and none of them play World of Warcraft, you must buy a copy on your way home. Statistics were not made to be casually disregarded. If they are broken, the whole foundation of "Math for Business Majors" would unravel and countless collegiate athletes would be forced to take actual math classes.

Now. Importantly. In an earlier post, I reviewed the Transformers movie which, I've also mentioned, came out on DVD this week. What I didn't mention was the store exclusive version.

Best Buy has a deluxe Transformers which comes with a little plastic anime-style Optimus Prime.

Wal-Mart has a deluxe Transformers which comes with a CGI prequel to the movie which features (among less important things) robot fighting.

Target has a deluxe Transformers which features a DVD case which transforms into a slightly flattened but still awesome Optimus Prime.

If I want the transforming case and the never-before-seen prequel, I have no choice but to buy more than one copy of the movie. As a long-time advocate of robot combat, this feels a bit like a slap in the face. It feels a bit more like a punch in the wallet.

I'm going to take another approach and wait for the DVD to go on sale for $8 the day after Thanksgiving. If possible, I recommend you do the same.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Just Some Updates


Okay -- This has to be fast since our cooling solution in the Data Center went offline late last night and all the servers boiled in their own juices.

First: This is Day 3 of our great Mac experiment. So far, I hate nothing about it. I haven't used an Apple anything since grade school, but that hasn't stopped us from installing stuff, configuring WPA2 security, and watching Heroes on the NBC web page last night. How odd. Stuff just makes sense on a Mac. Maybe that is the decongestant talking. This brings me to . . .

Second: I went home sick yesterday but couldn't bring myself to pull off the road to buy Aleve Cold and Sinus. Mrs. Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng stepped up and got some for me yesterday afternoon. Apparently, you have to fill out more paperwork for Aleve Cold and Sinus than for any prescription medication and you have to register your purchase, and provide a driver's license and proof of address. If we buy too much within an undisclosed period, the DEA will kick in our doors and smash everything we own as a precaution.

On the bright side, not only did it make me feel better, I've got several people willing to purchase Aleve Cold and Sinus on my behalf at a mere twice the street value. It is good to have friends.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Only Allergies


Something in the air this time of year is trying to kill me. I used a whole box of Kleenex (with aloe) before lunch Monday and continued to leak fluid from the front of my head and, it seems, into my lungs. This has resulted in both a slimy disgusting mess and a nasty cough. I've got some prescription-type decongestant which I suspect has been replaced with sugar pills in a hidden camera test and Benadryl which whatever mold or spore is in bloom seems to only find amusing.

This happens every year. The only thing that works is Aleve Cold and Sinus. I've tried everything. All I can do is treat the symptoms and wait for a hard freeze.

On Monday morning before work I stopped at a CVS drugstore to buy my first box of Aleve Cold and Sinus of the season. This event is generally commemorated with a Bayer press release to shareholders and a "Strong Buy" recommendation from 3 of 5 major brokerages.

Instead, I was greeted by an empty shelf and a sign directing me towards the pharmacy -- Which was closed.

I can't buy my over-the-counter medicine over the counter because of the slight possibility (although I am actively leaking mucus and hacking these sick, wet full-body coughs) that I might use the medication to make meth.

I tried to explain that I dropped Chemistry in school and that even if I could figure out how to make meth from Aleve I not only needed the Cold and Sinus medication because of my obvious physical discomfort, more importantly running a meth lab violates our Home Owners Association by-laws.

But, no. I was denied. Listen, if people want to get all methed up and do whatever it is people do while methed up, that's fine. It isn't the brightest thing in the world, but these things tend to work themselves out genetically in a couple of generations.

I want to be able to go into a store and buy over-the-counter medication over the counter! I can't find an online definition, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that may be why it is called "over-the-counter".

I found some orange-colored decongestant in the first aid kit in the break room. If I take six instead of two, I can get by for about an hour and a half at a time. As if my liver and kidneys haven't had enough abuse, already.

On the bright side, thanks to all the aloe my nose is smooth and kissable.

Monday, October 15, 2007

I Listen

I asked for advice and you guys provided it, so thank you.

MrGates We visited Fry's over the weekend. The store was packed to the walls with little displays of awesome, though no aliens appeared to delight and terrify us. They were showing the Transformers movie a couple of days before release and that may count. In fact, I'll go out on a limb and declare that it does. Autobots are aliens, and we saw them at Fry's.

While we were looking at new laptops, a very large man in a kilt walked by and told us how much we didn't want a MacBook. I thought at first that he was an employee in some kind of promotional costume. It turns out he was just a crazy person. Why would someone in a kilt advise against an obviously Scottish import? Clan Macintosh would certainly string him up by his entrails were they to learn of his sweaty betrayal.

So, armed with the gravity of his anti-endorsement, we were sold.

Today, I pick up our very first Mac. We may be late to the party, but I've had plenty of time to do my own informal research. I can't find anyone in real life or the interwebz who says anything like, "I used to have a Windows machine and now I use a Mac and I'm miserable." No one says, "I have a shiny new MacBook and I miss the application errors." I've never heard,"Multimedia is so much better on Windows Vista than on any form of Mac."

There are only two possible reasons for this:

1. Macs are good.

2. Macs release some form of "happiness endorphin" embedded in their Intel-based motherboards. 

Either way I'm rating that as a win.

Of course, I had to order a replacement N-Class router to take advantage of the integrated wireless as well as conveniently upgrade our old wireless router which came free at The Gap with the purchase of two pairs of khakis. A word of advice: The Gap router sounds like a good deal, and it is -- But only in the same way 4 burritos for $1 at Exxon is a good deal.

I did manage to discover the downside of making "the switch" and I discovered it while the MacBook was being evaluated by its new master. I found this.

Holy crap. The 24" iMac is amazing. I linked the same thing twice since I don't think it can ever truly be linked often enough.

I need one. Badly.


I'll go ahead and say this about the 24" iMac: "The 24-inch iMac is the most advanced computer that has ever been built or will ever be built."

I should disclose that I made the same statement about my college roommate's Amiga, my very first Windows 98 machine "with MMX" and the original Nintendo Entertainment System. Now, however, my prediction carries the weight of years of experience.

The 24" iMac could forever plunge me into the realm of the one-button mouse -- And I wouldn't even care.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Define "Best"


There are some conditions which impact computers for which there is no solution. The issues can sometimes be mitigated temporarily, but certain things are terminal.

Yesterday, such a condition manifested in Mrs. Pr3++yGeekyTh1ng's laptop.

We went to BestBuy to look at our options. Actually, we went to two different BestBuys because the computer person at the first said, "supposebly" and I thought I might physically kill her.

Please. Please. Don't buy a computer from BestBuy. I looked over the selection and compared it with the selection on the website and I'm 100% convinced that the only reason they keep computers in stock at the stores is to sell a bunch of upgrades to everyone on the way out and to charge obscene amounts of labor.

The only place on the planet to get a particular model of Gateway laptop is in BestBuy. You can't order it from or -- You have to go to the store. It comes with about a third of the memory required to run the pre-installed software. They can install more memory, but after the (marked up) cost of the memory you will be asked to pay them to unscrew the bottom panel to snap it in place.

If you can get a decent deal there (and exploit the Reward Zone program) without being upsold on accessories and service plans and extended warranties, I suppose it is alright.

Before leaving the store, pause long enough to make certain the factory tape is still in place on the box and the contents are untouched. This is essential in case there is an issue later.

We left without a replacement. I was still shaking a little from "supposebly" and I started piecing together a temporary solution to the broken laptop as soon as we got home.

It works, kind of, for now. We have no idea how long the repair will last, but hopefully it will give us enough time to find the perfect replacement machine.

Any suggestions?



Thursday, October 11, 2007

I Forgot What I Was Going To Write About



Hey! This guy published a study!

He interviewed some random people in different age groups to find out about memory and aging.

When asked to state the birthday of a close relative, 87% of people over 50 could do so. For those he asked under the age of 30 the number fell to less than 40%.

Further, when asked to give their home phone number, the older group could always rattle it off, while more often than not the younger group would reach into a pocket to pull up that information on a cellphone.

My cellphone (the same model I saw last week being used by a homeless guy) can hold about 500 numbers. I stopped memorizing them long ago.

Here is a confession: I don't know anybody's email address. GMail has auto-complete in the address line and that pretty much makes sure that any email you ever get from me was only recalled address-wise for the first one or two letters. IF THAT! I can double click to pull up the whole list and just scroll!

Around our house, we frequently Google things to clarify points and strengthen arguments. I do this while on the phone, too, so if I'm talking to any of you and come up with something brilliant you can bet safe money that I just entered the perfect search term.

I email links to back myself up, as though hypertext makes me sound more intelligent.

My memories of pop culture from my youth are either refreshed or completely filled in by Wikipedia.

From a personal standpoint, I've arrived at the beginning of our cybernetic future. My non-essential memory function has been off-loaded to the internet for storage and (in some cases) processing.

Mrs. Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng has noticed that I have a phobia about being away from the internet. She is right. I do.

But my phobia is based in the very real concern that without the internet I'm a total idiot.

It has been said that outsourcing day-to-day minutiae to the internet frees up the brain to create and daydream and discover, but how often do I do that? I read books, commit the essential ideas to memory and then move on, knowing that I can later pull up the synopsis on Amazon if I need it. All the information is there, locked away in soft gray matter storage, but I've gradually lost the ability to access it without some external stimuli.

Everything we see and experience every day is locked away there, but the recall mechanisms are changing. How often do we drive home from work with no recollection of what we had for lunch until we concentrate on it? How often do we arrive at work the following morning and not remember the drive in? The minor details, though never actively in focus, combine with one another in the spaces left empty of phone numbers and email addresses to form new perceptions and to gradually change the sum of what we know.

That's okay, I guess. Using that method over the course of decades gave me the title of the long-forgotten The Day The Sea Rolled Back (Which my Dad later found in actual paper form and shipped to me. Thanks again, Dad.) through no more effort than absorbing day-to-day information and mentally marinating. I suppose that is the way future revelations will occur, not as much through laboratory breakthroughs as a subconscious and slow piecing together of disparate facts into a cohesive and relevant whole. 

I get the feeling that some people are offended at this rapid evolution in the human mechanism for memory. To those people, I recommend that you either get with the program or develop a taste for forced labor. By the year 2027, all your smug non-silicon-based knowledge and contempt will earn you is a slot in the underclass harvesting kidneys from the addicts living in the electrical sub-systems and drainage ducts beneath our massive datacenters. Come into the light. Google something. Google everything.

To be fair, my home number is a lot like my cellphone number. I like to think that is why I get them confused.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Well, That's It Then


Since the 1930's, South American fire ants have been spreading themselves across the gulf coast in a giant sweeping arc of devastation originating at the original importation ground-zero of Mobile, Alabama. Do they have papers? No. Do they care? Oh, hell no.

We have them in our yard. Everyone I know does, actually. Nothing native to this continent eats them and regular pesticides seem to only make them more angry. You can actually spray a mound of fire ants with a hose, wash it downhill and watch as they rebuild at the spot where they stopped their water ride.

I don't like them. They leave nasty welts on people and try every week to keep me from dragging the trash can to the road.

That's why I was excited to hear that research done just a few miles from our subdivision had resulted in an exciting find. Until I learned what the find was, anyway.

For anyone who didn't bother to click the link, the solution they endorse is a virus, reproduced in a laboratory, which kills fire ants.

I'll clarify that. The solution they endorse is a virus, reproduced in a laboratory, which kills fire ants -- right now. Of course, a virus mutates. This is why flu shots are different every year.

Now, since very few of the people who read Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng are the type to spend all day every day in some entomology lab, we all know what this means. Eventually, according to all popular entertainment sources, something will go wrong with the application of this virus.

The article states that the virus is only fatal if the ants have some other form of stress. How long do you think it will be before some brilliant researcher suggests using low doses of radiation as a stressor?

And there we have it. Giant rampaging mutant ants and the end of the world as we know it -- All brought to us by our friends at Texas A&M and the Department of Agriculture.

Simple math gives us this equation:

Lab Reproduced Virus A + Non-Native Aggressive Species B + Radiation C = Giant Freaking Killer Ants

Have these researchers never seen a movie produced since the nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll? I mean any movie? I think it was a minor sub-plot in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants!

So, the question we are left with is how do we defend ourselves? These are giant chitin-armored terrors of suburbia not some spooty giant beavers. Hot soapy water (bane of the non-mutant ant) seems like a joke when the ants in question are forty feet tall and carrying off whole herds of cattle to feed their larval brood. Being caught off guard by giant ants is the quickest way to lose your home and family short of a dog fighting conviction, so remain alert for skittering noises just at the edge of your hearing. Also, listen for your normal background music to become peppered with ominous or discordant notes. Those are a dead give-away.

Upon hearing any of those, immediately drive to the nearest garden supply store and purchase at least a ton of cedar mulch. Insects hate the smell of cedar. This is the tricky part: The cedar mulch is not a weapon. Instead, burrow into the pile of mulch and (if you have time) run in some power and ethernet cables for internet access. These cedar burrows are our new homes for a while.

We can leave in groups to gather food, but for the most part we should hide in them. Eventually, the giant mutant ants will decide to reproduce the flu in some giant ant lab and dose us with radiation, which should reverse things and return the natural order, only none of our pants will fit for a while as a side effect.

I know it seems daunting, but this is all the natural cycle of rampaging mutant life as we currently understand it.



Tuesday, October 09, 2007



As you, by now, are well aware, I'm all about appearances. I'm a firm believer in the theory that while being good at one's job is fairly important, looking like one is good at one's job is crucial.

However, in order to battle traffic every day to get to work before 7am CST, I need to leave my house at dark o'clock. Sometimes my wardrobe choices are, as a result, a tad off.

Of course I've shown up with black shoes and a brown belt from time to time. While seeing this combination in the cold grim light of dawn causes me to twist and freak out a little, I'm disappointed than no one else has ever made mention of it.

Once or twice I've worn socks that didn't match my shirt. I've also made it out of the house with socks that didn't match each other, but since that "Dark Thursday" I keep a spare pair of socks (still in the factory packaging) in the glove compartment of my car.

Today's ensemble crosses into new territory. Today, due to the necessities of laundry proximity, my oxford shirt is dotted with quite a bit of blue glitter. One of the facts of glitter physics that is glossed over at the university level is that glitter, when exposed to atmosphere, coats everything. I don't mean everything on the art table, either. As little as one gram of the stuff can sparkle up surfaces in every room in a single family residence. A tube of glitter, spilled onto the tile floor, will not only stick to the floor but the walls and ceiling in every room in the house and every room of the house next door.

This same tube of glitter, when spilled and rolled in by a long-haired orange cat who would like her belly rubbed, will clone itself. A half an ounce of blue glitter almost instantly becomes ~12 cubic feet of angry sparkle. Angry sparkle which seeks out men's clothes and adds a touch of visual "pop" to everything.

However, I'm in no way upset by the statement this accessory makes. It boldly says, "I don't live alone." This is an important distinction in a geek's persona which can truly only be expressed by glitter on the sleeves. "I'm not going home to a cup of Top Ramen and an evening watching Dancing With The Stars in the dark," it proclaims.

I, as a confident man, can wear glitter outside of a rave and be better for it.

Just as long as none of it sticks to my hands. I freak out if stuff sticks to my hands.

Changing topics:

I stopped at the drug store (oddly appropriate, that) on my way in to work for a couple of 12-packs of Diet Coke (3,693 Coke Reward Points) and scored a couple of things for Mrs. Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng. I managed to find dark chocolate bars which are (according to the packaging) approximately 133% cocoa. These things were actually coating the nearby candies with a hard chocolate shell through two layers of plastic without decreasing their own mass.

Mrs. Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng likes dark chocolate which defies the basic laws of matter. Yay!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Saving Us All a Walk to the Mailbox


Gwynyth decided in first grade to not share things she learned in school about Christopher Columbus with me. Admittedly, I tend to be able to pick out a conspiracy theory in just about anything but to be fair, there is a lot for non-Imperial Spaniards to hate about that guy.

However, since Gwynyth has already grown tired of my seasonal references to "Euro-trash" and my semi-crazed rantings about the definition of "discovery", I come here -- to the familiar pages of Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng, to give voice to my objections.

It is a generally accepted historical fact that the Vikings were in the Americas first. No shock there. I think they even added that to the lesson plan in schools, due in part to a generous contribution by the Ikea corporation. The Vikings had pretty much run out of stuff to pillage in their own regions anyway and repeat pillaging is not only considered bad form for proud Nordic warrior-types it also isn't as much fun or nearly as profitable. When the Vikings pillaged something, it stayed pillaged.

Then there is the story of Prince Madoc who traveled from Wales to Florida in 1170 and started a colony. The fortifications along the Alabama river were reported by Cherokee chief Oconostota in 1810 to have belonged to a tribe called "Welsh" who called their leader "Madok". Fort Mountain State Park in Georgia supports the theory that the great stone wall along one of the mountaintops was the site of the last stand of these "Welsh" who were wiped out in the Cherokee legend of the "great slaughter" of a "moon-eyed" people who had pale skin and hair and occupied the area before the Cherokee themselves.

But okay. Today, for me, is a day to speak of Christopher Columbus, not actual explorers. Those guys can be covered on "Legitimate Discovery Day" March 21st.

Columbus supposedly couldn't get funding for his trip to the "New" World because of the widely-held belief that the world was flat. Except that at the time of his voyage, very few people believed that the Earth was flat -- And no one at all in the shipping business believed it. The spherical Earth idea was the general opinion of ancient Greek science. The actual size of the sphere was in debate and that is why there were a few failed attempts to get funding for his trip -- Most learned people considered that Columbus was using bad math. Since he was looking for a passage to India and (until his death) believed he had found one, I'd say they were spot on about that.

This isn't to say he did nothing worth remembering. We should remember the atrocities he committed against the native people he misnamed "Indians" while he was Governor in the Caribbean. We should also remember that in the end the Spanish Crown only funded Columbus to keep him from going to work for the British through their application of the "better to have the crazy flying our flag than theirs" business theory.

We also must remember that King Ferdinand gave him the impossible job of governing that region of Asia which is between Panama and (possibly) San Salvador, buried him in paperwork and demanded that more and more islands be brought under Spanish rule until other Spanish "civilians" complained and had Columbus arrested and shipped home in chains. His arrest and discharge as Governor was the reason Spain refused in the end to pay Columbus his agreed upon fee for services rendered. Never trust royalty to do anything but skip out on a check.  

So Columbus Day offers us a unique opportunity to learn about bad math, the oppression of native populations, and the joys of working for "the man".

Right now, I'm celebrating by doing about 66% of those things. Later on the party will continue when I skip the walk to the mailbox.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Plans for the End of the Month


I run across a lot of things that just don't add up.

This article, for example.

Every year we all hear about protests and demonstrations against Halloween and all the associated evils, but the real evil is rarely identified.

Is Satan corrupting children dressed up as ninjas and pirates? Obviously not, since children dressed as ninjas and pirates are too awesome to ever be corrupted by anything. What about kids dressed as clowns or Pokemon? Maybe.

Anyone in a "Barney the Dinosaur" outfit cannot be evil, since the sight of that guy always causes me to offer up a brief prayer of thanks to God for the meteor that he sent to take out the rest of the dinosaurs.

The article (for those of you who didn't make it through it) recommended other activities to replace trick-or-treating to ensure that Satan doesn't get near the children. The side bonus is that kids who don't participate in trick-or-treating fall into an easily established "non-dateable" classification which can even follow them to an out-of-state college.

Here is one of my favorite bits:

"Occultic[sic]-oriented rock performers have flourished in this generation. Some rockers even try to persuade teenage listeners to kill themselves and their parents. The influence of the occult has been behind some of the most horrific school shootings of this past decade."

Because the best way to sell a product is to kill your customer base.

Anyway, now that you have your own kids secreted away in some bunker or compound, the article recommends that you greet the neighbor kids with these. Mmmm. . . . New Testa-Mints!

In all seriousness, handing out tracts of scripture on Halloween also has a side benefit. The whole family can spend time together scrubbing egg off the house every November 1st.

"Happy Egg Scrubbing Day, everyone!" I've submitted the idea to Hallmark already and I'm proofing the latest draft of cards. Apparently there was a "Holiday Hole" (as we in the industry call it) between Halloween and "Dia De Los Muertos" which needed to be filled. Specifically, it needed to be filled with greeting cards and little stuffed plush eggs with googly eyes.

Okay. Real evil time. I'm naming it.

The true evil of Halloween is High Fructose Corn Syrup. Moderation mitigates it like a stake through the heart mitigates a vampire. The joy of this technique is that we can fully participate in Halloween and not get our house coated in eggs.

And there we go. Evil averted. That is just what we do here at the Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng Institute of Holiday Evaluation and Diet Coke Disposal Facility.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

On The Origin Of . . .


What if those people in Kansas are right and evolution never happened? If they are, I sure hope evolution happens soon.

On the left, we see an art student's rendition of the ancient Giant Beaver -- 14 feet of tree-chewing, dam-building terror which roamed the Earth in long-forgotten ages.

We don't have a lot of information about the life-cycle and personal preferences of the ancient Giant Beaver, but we know the geographic range for this beast extended at one time as far south a Florida. Early Americans chased the creatures northward into the ancient Kingdom known as "Canadon", where the tiny descendants of this ancient terror of the forest dwell unto this very day and have even found a home on our frosty northern neighbor's money.

It always comes back to money, doesn't it?

Yesterday afternoon I bought a comic. Joss Whedon's latest Buffy comic, to be precise. It cost $2.99. Without telling you how much I remember comics costing when I was a kid, I'll tell you that the $2.99 I was happy to pay sat on the cover next to a "/" and on the other side of that was a bit that said, "$3.99CAN".

I'm used to seeing that type of pricing structure on books and magazines. Somewhere in one of my emotional darker places a little part of me always giggles a bit at the misfortune of our snow-coated, moose-hugging friends who have to pay at least a dollar extra for everything.

But now, the monopoly-colored beaver-dollar is worth at least what our own dollar is worth. Canadians are getting screwed by this pricing structure more than ever.

The price for electronic media like games is as much as $10 more in the braille-friendly loonie even with the depressed value of our own currency. Is this part of some conspiracy to hobble the Canadian Video Game Olympics team? Would the plots of the entertainment industry against "le dollar" impact American media geeks in general and (more importantly) me specifically?

Probably not. Canada is another county. A country filled (if media reports are to be believed) with bears and elk and tiny degenerate inferior beavers forever stunted by their life in the ever-present snow.

As such, Canada (and Canadians) are simultaneously above the Great Lakes and beneath the threshold for concern.

But why do we keep them around? I mean, aside from the amusement factor what has Canada done for us lately?

A quick visit to Wikipedia answers this quite simply:

Oil. Canada has a lot of it and only a few billion tons of fresh lumber stands between us and all that goodness.

That is why we play nice with Canada even though all the good actors already moved here. Our publishing industry buys bulk paper from Canada, prints stuff on it, then charges Canadians extra to buy it back. This can result in either a slow bleed of their economy or the eventual total illiteracy of an entire nation.

And either way, they become much more agreeable to our drilling for oil in the land they have already cleared for us.

What does concern me is the inevitable return of the beaver. Warmer climates in the south could bring about their former gigantism. We must be ready, my friends. Remain vigilant. Always travel with a buddy. Never leave the house with wood.

Eyes ever northward-


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Spam Made From Salmon


I get a lot of email. I get some personal communications, a lot of marketing stuff and newsletters I signed up to get, and more spam than a reasonable person should ever have the unpleasant task of reviewing.

On Tuesday I was included in the CC: list on an email containing a picture from someone's fly fishing trip to Alaska. The person who sent it was a headhunter who (years ago) worked on placing me for a job somewhere or other. The picture itself was almost two megs in size.

I'm going to step away from the basic bitterness that I feel whenever someone talks about going on vacation. I haven't had one myself in . . . Does our Honeymoon count? I think it does. Bitterness counteracts the aspartame.

I was more angered that I was CC: included instead of BCC: included. The ramifications of this awful social faux pas (pardon my french) continue to annoy me this morning.

Every single asshat on the CC: list chose to "Reply to All" to comment on the salmon, inquire about the other parts of the vacation, or make poorly veiled and even more poorly constructed sexual references. And each contained another copy of the two meg image of this guy and his fish.

Each RE: made me shudder with rage at the idiocy and the inconsiderate nature of blindly replying to all on a list where I can't have been the only person who knows no one but the original sender. Now that I'm in their address list, if any of these people click the wrong link or download the wrong application my email address is available to whatever spammer plants a worm or virus on their machine and wants to pick it up and try to sell me something. This sounds paranoid, but anyone who would "Reply to All" into a group of strangers should not be trusted near a computer.

I'm all about the free and open sharing of information, but these people should be set out on a ranch somewhere far away from the rest of us given their own copy of the internet to play on. Every night the rest of us could take turns pressing a button to restore this isolation environment to the way it was before they started playing with it that morning. They would never know. It would be for their own good and for the good of society. Well, our society anyway.

Email would (by necessity) not be allowed out of this isolation environment. Those of us on the outside could email in, though. Otherwise those people on the Isolation Internet would eventually degenerate into tribal factions fighting for survival day-to-day and staking claim to huge swaths of Isolation Ebay and Isolation MySpace. Isolation YouTube would be their sacred lands, where warfare is forbidden by ancient taboo and Nal-Therionel the Dark Lord of the Pratfall holds court. Long may he reign.

Email is a tool that anyone can use. More accurately, email is a tool that anyone can use, damn it. Please don't "Reply to All" unless every single person on the list needs or has requested your input.

/end preaching to the choir

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Delusions of Gondor


Oh, no! Not another World of Warcraft post!

Yeah. But actually I'm only posting about how current events in-game apply to real life. I will endeavor to make it tolerable.

So. Three of us (Darrell and Adrian and I) quit the Innkeepers guild we founded in order to join a guild running raids into high-level instances. Since making the switch, I think we have spent more time running around with our friends the current (loyal) Innkeepers.

But anyway. Saturday morning I ran around with the new guild. I helped them out with daily quests and (in turn and just out of niceness) they helped me unlock those quest so that I can do them as well. To a person, they were polite and helpful and fun. I logged off to install the media thing I blogged about on Monday.

Saturday night at around midnight I started my first run with the guild into Karazhan (one of the longest raid dungeons in the game -- like finishing at 5am long) with nine other people from the new guild, including my real life friend Adrian who plays (as is his custom) a Mage.

I thought we did okay, mostly. We'd try to kill a big bad guy and die and run back and try again. The others in this guild have apparently run through this dungeon a lot and know everything Adrian and I were still trying to figure out. About half the time we managed to drop the big bad guy on the first try.

Again, the people in the guild were very cool to me. I got new boots for my character I hadn't actually earned the right to get just because they were a lot better than my old boots.

This is where real life intercepts and I start to go into "efficient effective meeting mode".

Every time we'd all die, there was discussion, as there should be. Blame was directed at the new people and rudeness seemed to appear from nowhere. There was a lot of stress and angst and bitterness I had seen no indication of prior to these events. The whole thing made me a very sad panda.


I want to say again that everyone was really nice to me, but in a lot of ways that made the situation worse as I would generally be on the side of the new people just learning. Hell, I was a new person just learning.

Here is my thinking on effective meetings which applies to real-life and post massive character death in World of Warcraft:

People screw up. I've had jobs where stuff breaks and everyone sits around flinging blame. In the case of a real life deleted database or in-game failure, the person in charge should ask the group what happened. This is especially true if he already knows the answer. The guilty party should be given a chance to accept fault, since that makes everyone feel better. If they do not come forward, the situation should be addressed later, one on one, because in WoW as in life a lot of stuff can go wrong at once and everyone has only their own perception of events. Either way, the meeting should end before blame gets cranked out. In the case of a disaster, everyone in the meeting should have better things to do than accuse and berate. As often as not the person singled out by the group for blame is not truly at fault at all, but having been tried and convicted in the court of mob mentality justice doesn't contribute at all to feelings of team-building.

Now, I could quit the guild. I could find another pretty easily, even. But, by my thinking I have these nice new boots to pay off. Also, they haven't been really crappy in my direction yet. Or even sort of crappy, really.

I shouldn't have this much stress (or really any stress) from a game.

Monday, October 01, 2007


I've been distressed for a while with the state of the directory where our music and video is stored at home. I'm even less happy with what iTunes chose to do with it. Access everything by search? Why can't I look by directory name?

I wanted a web interface for the whole system. Something which displays the files in an easy to understand format and streams them to whatever system accesses them.

This means I needed both a web front end to display and deliver and a database back end to keep everything organized.

I decided to use the computer which currently hosts the files as the server and installed WAMP. WAMP provides an apache webserver and MySQL open-source database engine which runs on Windows.

For the actual engine and page itself, I installed Jinzora. The installation itself was fairly straightforward, with the only addition I found to the official instructions being that the style seems to need to be set to "Classic" during the installation. Otherwise, a weird circle of errors occurs which causes the person installing the system to curse both loudly and vigorously. After installation the style can be set to something less "Classic" and more "Awesome".

Further, I can add new files to the system dynamically without re-scanning the directory again and again.

Yes. Most of a Saturday. On purpose and of my own free will.