Thursday, January 31, 2008

We'll be okay


Sure, Shana is out of town for a couple of days.

Gwynyth and I are just fine.

We are both mature enough to take care of ourselves.

For a few days, we can remain civilized. We can prepare our own nutritious yet nacho-based food. We can (probably) keep ourselves relatively clean, considering. We can make our appointments and meet our obligations. We can "for once find our own damned pants", as the no doubt common saying goes.

So far, neither of us has started a campfire on the floor of the kitchen to cast shadows on the cabinets and tell tales of the dark gods of the forest. We have refrained from fashioning instruments from the turtle shells we've been gathering by filling them with shells. We know enough to know that those shells can be traded to the neighbors for food and protection from the ravenous packs of carnivores which prowl the grasslands of the suburbs.

Of course, neither of us has been home all day, either, so all bets are off starting around 5pm CST.

This will not be like last time Shana went off on an adventure without me. There will most likely be no incident where I curl up into a ball on the carpet listening to Sting and slice my grief into my legs with the shattered remains of my favorite Boyz2Men CD. No, that CD is long gone. I will not put on a bunch of black eyeliner and mope about in a buckle-studded black shirt and moan about how awful life can be.

This time, Gwynyth is with me so my time will be spent making chicken nuggets and mac and cheese, most likely.

Shana will be back Monday.

Geek miss Shana very much.


Geek make coffee. Offer sacrifice to Kona gods for good harvest.

Geek bang rock on bigger rock make happy sound.

Geek try not get tears on sweater mess up cashmere. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Sorry For the Late Post

I was busy getting kicked off another Ben Affleck Fan Forum.



betteraffleck3   betteraffleck4

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Not Psychic Enough

WastingTime  Yesterday's highlight (after spending an hour of my morning in the hallway due to a failure of the "security" system) has to have been the meeting.  

In my experience, a Monday morning meeting with a manager is rarely a good thing. The tip off that things are not going well are:

1. No doughnuts

2. No scheduled meeting

3. Conference bridge already open to the VP in another state

I didn't get fired, but it seems the 40 hours I put in last weekend have been erased from the corporate memory. They have issues contacting me after hours.

Now, I figured there might be an issue when I got the email from Friday night on Monday morning which let me know that I was on call for Sunday. I didn't know in time for Sunday, and therefore did not spend the whole day hovering over my email client just in case.

I was told I don't answer my phone. I let them know it never rang. My missed call log was empty in three separate contact numbers.

In the end, I was (for lack of a better term) bitched at for not answering a call on Sunday which they admitted was never placed.

They admitted that no one tried to call me, but I was still in a conference room being berated for not answering my phone. 

What the hell am I supposed to do with that?

What action item would you come away with?

I suppose I could burn up my cell minutes (which are, thanks to the fact that I pay for them, my cell minutes) calling all the managers every 15 minutes or so to find out if there was anything for me to do.

I did ask what my Service Level Agreement was for this job, because no one ever mentioned one. So, how long do I have to get to a computer and get working after hours and on weekends? The reply (I swear this was the reply) was "Instant".

By definition, my commute time could get me fired.

That's insane. I'm telling you that. I told them that. On some level, being members of the same species as the rest of us, they have to understand. But understanding has little place in corporate policy.

The action item I took away from this meeting is: Update your resume and find a better use for your time. I'm on it.

This is honestly the first time I've ever heard of anyone getting penalized for not answering a call which was never placed.

If someone uses the work "proactive" around me today I'm punching them in the neck.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Some Inappropriate Things

1. Gruul the Dragonslayer is a giant monster in World of Warcraft who requires a minimum of twenty-five players to fight/kill.

2. The Arena System in World of Warcraft allows the creation of 2v2, 3v3, or 5v5 teams which are named by the players.

3. Winning or losing in the Arena system has only a marginal difference in points awarded at most levels of play.

4. The best name we could come up with for our very own 2v2 team was "2 Gruuls 1Cup".

If you get the reference, I'm sorry. If you don't, please go on about your life without further research into these matters. It is for the best for all parties involved.

Moving on:


To: Marketing

From: Staff Photographer

Subject: Some editing required before publication


I got the picture you wanted. I went ahead and used Photoshop to mark the nerds with our standard "delete me" red boob tag. Just airbrush out everyone but Bono and maybe put some women in bikinis or something. Anything would be an improvement.

Even getting this shot was a pain. Gates kept touching Bono's ass and then his Windows Vista compatible sweater seemed to blue screen.

Good luck fixing Bono's face so it doesn't look like he hates us all and is pissed to be doing something about AIDS or whatever.

You up for coffee later?


Staff Photographer

p.s. Keep an original of this for historical purposes. Seconds after I took the picture Steve Jobs stormed in with a strike force of iNinja Fembots and destroyed all sentient life in the room in a swirling vortex of razor-sharpened death. You know. Like he does.

Of course, Michael Dell was uninjured.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Just Sad


First, these posts seem to be getting later and later. Sorry about that, work has been filling my mornings with . . . well . . . work, I guess.

Have you ever been CC'd on an email thread which you regretted witnessing? Yesterday featured such a thread for me.

I was included on the Carbon Copy line of an email from our Software Build Manager to our Development Manager which posed a question about process, with specific inquiries about the method we might go about altering that process.

This email was met with a reply which was terse and bordering on rude.

The reply suggested that alterations in the build process were subject to approval by the build team, especially when the changes came in a manner which seemed arbitrary.

An explanation arrived in reply. It was brief. To the tune of "your process sucks and this is better" brief, to quote. There was an included offer to set up a conference call to discuss the details.

The Build Manager replied his thanks at the conference call offer.

The Development Manager replied to that with "I was being sarcastic about the conference call".

And the hostilities, which I would classify as veiled until this point, escalated. Angry emails soared back and forth across the twenty feet or so separating the two managers until I feared that the only possible outcome would involve an actual physical confrontation between these two men.

If there is ever a thing which would cause a person to feel ashamed on behalf of the whole male gender, it is most likely a slap fight between two software professionals.

Seriously. It makes a witness want to just turn in his penis and call it a day.

Fortunately a VP (and by now the CC list included people I'd never ever heard of) stepped in and threw the ice water of cooperation and team spirit on the whole tussle and both settled into an uneasy silence which has carried over for the past 18 hours or so.

It is kind of nice.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

User, Generic


Ah, the "generic user". Bane of the IT set. How I hate you, you lazy little tool.

Instead of making everyone use their existing domain account, sometimes the decision is made to grant access to network resources via generic accounts not tied to specific users. In some cases (let's not name names, stupid non-disclosure agreements) the password restrictions are relaxed and the permissions enhanced. For instance, the generic account "testuser03" with the password "testuser03" would have complete authority to change anything and everything on the system while the user making use of the account would be much more limited in his own granted permission set.

Why would a company ever allow this kind of foolishness?

The answer is probably more simple than you'd think.

Unfortunately, I don't have it. Other than basic laziness or malicious purpose, I have no idea why anyone would allow it. Yet many do.

While having Superusers test an application makes coding that application easier no doubt (what with no worry about permission issues and all), recovering from an issue becomes an exercise in ghost-chasing. Sure, you can eventually figure out which machine was connected to the server at the time of crisis, but tying even that information to a real, punchable, living human is difficult.

This morning a user (an actual person) was directed to my desk because his remote session was unable to connect. This happens, so I logged into the server to find his session and actually end it to resolve his problem.

Instead of his name, or any name but my own, I was greeted with a list of connected sessions for "Testuser01" - "Testuser09", all in the same state according to the server.

"What are you logged in as?" I asked him over the cubicle wall as he had drifted back to his desk.

"I'm logged in as me."

I didn't see him, so I figured I was on the wrong server. It isn't like there is a list somewhere of what server has what purpose, so this is all guesswork anyway.

I cycled through half a dozen servers looking for his account and feeling more and more dumb.

Maybe, I decided, his session ended on its own while I was looking.

"Hey," I attempted to get his attention again as he was surfing,"Try it again."

Sometimes just giving it a minute allows an IT person to look like a miracle worker. The only work involved is crafting a root cause, which (in my experience) usually has something to do with phase modulation or a faulty flux capacitor sub-system.

However, his session was still stuck.

"Are you getting an error message? Are you sure you are logging in as you?"

"No error. It just sits there."

Between you and me, it does not "just sit there". It never "just sits there". Something happens, even if you have to note the order in which the system fails to a hung state and appears to do nothing.

I walked over to look. The screen was blank and looked for all the world like his disconnected session was not allowing him access.

"Start over, please. A new browser window."

He sighed, obviously very sad, and did as I requested.

The username field was blank, and he typed in his account name. You can probably guess that opposed to some variation of his first and last names it instead read "Testuser03".

Rather than stab him, I just logged off the session to give him access I am certain he did not merit.

I went immediately to the Corporate Wiki Site and posted this haiku:


Generic Account

Who the hell are you really?

Probably a noob.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Couple of Quick Things


The first is this: I've fallen ill with the plague that yearly strikes all Houstonians. A nasty cough, sinuses that fill to overflowing, general aches and discomfort and a small, annoying, fever.

At the risk of sounding like an alarmist, I must tell you that I will likely die. Soon.

Before the illness took me, I managed to get to a large screen to see Cloverfield. As I feel it is my duty to provide public feedback on popular sci-fi and fantasy works from the geeky perspective, I will do so now. As always, I will try my hardest to keep this space free of spoilers.


Wash dies.


Okay. There are a couple of things you should know before going in to see the monster movie Cloverfield. The idea is that a handheld camcorder captures a ground-level view of a giant monster attack on New York. That much is clear from the trailers. For anyone expecting a jerky vision of destruction from the point of view of the screaming citizens in a Godzilla movie, it is in there.

But the first thing you must keep in mind about this monster movie is that it is not meant to be viewed as a movie at all.

There are seizure warnings at the ticket booth. Anyone who has spent more than half an hour on YouTube knows the queasy feeling associated with hand-held video. Cloverfield is well over an hour of that, so let your eyes relax and glaze a bit. The director is good enough to show you what needs to be seen. In that way, this film is more a series of powerful stills broken up by incoherent motion and yelling which is often unimportant to the story. It's a slide show. Don't vomit.

The second thing to remember about this monster movie is that it is not about a monster at all. Sure, there is a monster in it. And a monster is a plot point, I suppose. But Cloverfield is no more about a giant monster crushing Manhattan than Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is about a giant monster crushing Manhattan.

Note to self: Time to break out the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Director's Cut DVD again. There is no better way to cheer up a sick person than with that film. Every single time I see it I end up weeping for about an hour afterwards, but even sick people need a good cathartic cry now and again.

Cloverfield has a side-plot about some screaming people and relationships or something, but the movie isn't about that either.

The problem with my spoiler-free review is that I can't tell you what the movie is actually about without giving it away completely and leaving you either pissed that I ruined it or so smug watching it in the theatre with people there to see a "Monster Movie" that actual fights may break out during the pre-show -- Probably right between the ad for Ford trucks and the AT&T "please turn off your cellphone" message. Once the real previews start there is rarely time for violence.   

In short, unless you are prone to nausea and motion sickness, I'd recommend Cloverfield. Due to the filming style, this may be an sci-fi movie which actually plays better at home on DVD. You may want to keep that in mind.

You may also want to keep Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants in mind as well. 

It is, after all, cold and flu season.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Feel Free to Leave Me a Message


I had a pretty busy three-day weekend.

And by "busy" I mean I worked (just counted) over 40 hours.

And by "weekend" I mean . . . We'll I guess I don't mean anything by that.

When I was doing my new-hire paperwork here they asked for "Emergency Contact Information" and I provided my wife's cellphone number, knowing that if I fall into the machinery and my shattered body is being rushed to some Emergency Room, Shana would probably like to know which Emergency Room that would be.

What I failed to understand was that "Emergency" as defined by this company is "Any time Garrick fails to answer his own cellphone within 3 rings."

Note: This company pays for neither line. I don't feel obligated to answer my cellphone ever. It is, after all, my cellphone. I do not belong to it.

Then, once I told Shana she needed to not answer unknown callers to her cellphone for the weekend, they started calling my home number. Late at night and early in the morning. While I was connected to email and fully reachable through that means.

My thought is, since I can't undo the damage done by giving out this information, my only recourse is to reduce the value of that information by making it false. So neither my home number nor Shana's cell number works as a way to contact me for anyone but friends and family. Sorry. I don't check that voicemail either.

A while back I declared "Voicemail Bankruptcy" and said I wouldn't be checking it due to the huge backlog. I've decided that I'm purposely not going to catch up on that.

If I miss a call, my phone displays it. There are extra steps in checking voicemail I can skip by returning the call or sending an email. I'd have to listen to over thirty messages at this point to hear the most recent.

This may sound extreme, but I think news of a sincere emergency should never be left in voicemail form. Emergencies are immediate. If the call isn't returned, voicemail be damned, within 15 minutes whatever life I was meant to save is probably gone already.

If it isn't an emergency, I can call back whenever and the information exchanged is immediate with that call. Live sentiment. Conversation in real-time. Speaking in "the Now".

Sure, this makes leaving a voicemail for me about picking up beer on my way somewhere kind of a wasted exercise. Towards resolving that, I've loaded a spare six-pack in the back of the car.

"Did you get my voicemail?"

"No, but I brought beer."

Even if the voicemail was about something totally unrelated to beer, that response works. For $8.99, I never need to check my voicemail again.

I do feel pretty bad that this leak of my personal contact information and my subsequent extreme screening methods to re-falsify that information with my most recent employer may make me slightly harder to reach. If you show up on my caller id, I'll answer. Or return your call if I'm in the bathroom.

I've been over how I feel about talking on the phone in there.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Good news from Macworld


I get it. The Macbook Air is thin.

Really, really thin. It weighs less than the Macbook, costs more and has slower hardware specs.

The important thing we are supposed to carry away with us is that it is eerily, spectrally, bordering on death-like thin.



The big news from Macworld came in a small, understated announcement from Dr. Guy (Bud) Tribble, VP of Apple Software:

"With the finalization of our patent process, we are please to announce a new offering as part of the Mac OS X software suite.

"iLolcat will revolutionize the way Mac users interact with cat-based internet memes. Using state-of-the-art Tabby Pattern Pixel Recognition technology, amusing cat pictures are automatically detected and imported into the intuitive iLolcat interface for modification.

"Let's say a co-worker emails this image to your Apple Mail client:


"We can all agree this is completely precious, right? But iLolcat takes this idea a step further and imprints the image with one of over two thousand pre-configured and amusingly spelled text portions. It's as simple as this:



"Ha Ha! Of course you can has cheeseburger, you adorable little ball of fluff! You know Uncle Bud can deny you nothing!

"But let's try a slightly less cliche text selection, completely at random:


"HA HA HA HA! That old classic NEVER gets old! Many years in the future, Mac users may want to input custom text instead of these default nuggets of comedy gold. Once cut-and-paste is possible on the iPhone, this kind of wizardry will be possible from anywhere in the world:


"Wow. That kitten has his facts straight, doesn't he? Also, he is so precious I just want to lick him. Don't you?

"iLolcat can also take the base image and mathematically compute ways the graphic can be made more cute than the original subject. This "Cuteness Integer" is controlled by an easy to use slider. By ramping the base image up to 100x the original base cuteness value, iLolcat returns this image:


"Spooky, isn't it? Its like iLolcat knows what we are all thinking. Patrick Swayze can act, dance and sing. We can all most certainly agree that he represents the Total Package. Am I right?"



We here at the Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng Institute of Fact Distribution and LOLcat Appreciation will truly value this addition to our software library and anticipate that if it functions as promised it will reduce our Lolcat creation time by approximately 40%.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

I was going to stop


Okay. Seriously.

I emailed a friend yesterday and pledged that I would lay off on touting Mac superiority for a while.

But then, Microsoft comes up with this patent application . . . . And I get all short of breath and twitchy . . . And I know that the technology (If you didn't click through, it monitors employee productivity and mental stability using bio-metric devices and hidden cameras. I can't make that up. Seriously, click the link.) in the patent would totally flag me as "about to punch someone in the freaking neck" . . . And it would be right!

Alright. I just need to calm down and think about something not so soul-crushing. Hang on a second. I'm going to look at a picture of a kitten.


There we go.

Much better.


Okay, so the thing about this patent that scares the absolute crap out of me is that essentially, managers can check some kind of database of behaviors to determine who is slacking and conduct employee stress reviews based on automated email which this system flings out whenever a worker exceeds some kind of Microsoft-established Stabbiness Threshold! Who are they to judge how stabby I can get before I actually stab someone! I can control it! My urges do not control me!

Hang on, please.


Ooooo. He's wearin' a lil hat on his lil head.

So cute.

Okay. Pressing on.

The tension levels of employees is something that management should have a handle on. Admittedly, they quite often don't. However a software-based solution of stress-tracking is not a fix for out-of-touch managers. Every freaking time someone goes nuts and shoots up his workplace, his co-workers talk about how they never saw it coming. They never saw it coming, even though he kept a desk covered in tiny clown figurines and if you moved one, just a bit, he'd flip out and email the whole company about someone screwing with ClownLand on his desk and everyone would just stay quiet for a few days. He kept roadkill in the breakroom refrigerator and spent hours everyday naming his pencils, arranging them according to their moods and then singing to them. But no one ever thought he'd snap and launch an assault from the stairwell. Just pay attention, damn it! Software will never correct cluelessness!

Just a minute.


Oh, yeah. That's the stuff there.

Kitten + Multiple Ducklings = Awesome.

Okay. So essentially what I'm suggesting is that technology will never be a substitute for actual human interaction. Not in any meaningful way. I suppose Apple's iGrope robot research division has their own ideas, but I doubt even that no-doubt intuitive interface will ever impact anyone's performance evaluation. Allowing inept managers to further distance themselves from their staff will not improve productivity for anyone long-term. And people could freaking die as a result.

"Oh, our managers don't seem to have any idea what their people are doing! Let's let them monitor everyone by webcam and provide baseline indicators for 'normal' so their ability to deal one-on-one with an actual disgruntled employee atrophies and, when the barrage of gunfire starts, they can be safely stashed away in the inner sanctum of the viewing dome to emerge when the smoke clears to build a new department out of the ashes!"

Sorry. One more.


Oh, look! That's not a Pop-Tart! Real Pop-Tarts contain slightly less pet hair.


We all have our ways of dealing with stress in the workplace. No automated system can track all of them. If it could, it may as well just be in charge, cranking out robotic minions from some lightning backlit mountain top while using all carbon-based life for slave labor and bio-fuel. It's really the only thing that makes sense.

I'm going to find out if the dust has cleared at MacWorld. Maybe there is some good news there.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008



I've pretty much given up on ever seeing a Nintendo Wii at retail. I'm starting to come to terms with that after a year of looking for one.

I refuse to buy a "Bundle" packaged with games I don't want and I refuse to buy one off the internet after a few websites claimed to have one and offered to let me order something (A token? A Wii voucher?) which would guarantee the Wii would be sent my way in the event anyone ever saw one.

In truth, I wanted (No. Expected.) to walk into EB Games and pick up the console for the price advertised, carry it to the register and walk out with one a few moments later after advising the clerk that the magnetic stripe on my bank card has worn through and he will have to type in the number. This is the way things should be purchased in an ideal world.

Except for music. Music should be purchased from the iTunes Store. Or maybe it falls off a truck.

I'm not sure about music.

I've been in a lot of video game stores in the past year, and my methods have degenerated a bit over time. I once strode in and demanded the precise date and time of the next shipment of Wiis. This information is not given freely to people who wander in from the mall. This information is reserved for those relationship masters who cultivate a friendship with the staff at a game store.

The last time I walked in, I walked up to the counter and requested a Wii as though it was a bag of ice at the grocery store "and I guess I'll need a second controller, right?" Since the staff is still shocked I could even ask, I know that the bitterness these supply problems have instilled in me will eventually prevent my purchase, even in the coming days when the Wii flows like cheap beer at a frat party.

People regularly send me video clips from YouTube or on MySpace which speak to the bliss which can only be achieved through Wii-ownership, yet I remain Wii-less -- Engrossed in the daily struggles of my daughter's Webkinz and threatening anyone who will listen that I'll set up a Second Life account and spend my evenings as a giant, rubber-clad raccoon-man. Don't think I won't do it.

As you may have already guessed, my post from yesterday was not well-received. When I pulled into my driveway in the afternoon my front yard was entirely filled with little killer robots, all powered by Windows CE and Liquid Hate. Fortunately, they were very tiny and slow. They continued to pound away on the doors and glass most of the evening until it started to rain and they departed, damp and bored and in need of the kind of love only an all-night waffle house can provide.

An iPhone-based killer robot would have traveled back in time to kill me before the offending post was ever written and then been elected Governor of California. 

These are not the typical issues of website content generators like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. No. Issues relating to killer robots powered by Microsoft seem specific to me. It is the path I have chosen. Up until now.

Things have to change here at the Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng Center For Pop-Culture References And Comic Book Movie Review Discount Emporium.

This morning I'm announcing (in my very own black mock turtleneck and jeans clad keynote) that we are rethinking our chosen demographic. In order to avoid another rainy morning of picking robot parts out of the lawn, I need to reach out to a more media-driven reader-base. People who care what Avril Lavigne is doing. People who know the lyrics to Hannah Montana songs. People with Facebook accounts they are looking to migrate to Twitter with a kind of cold dread normally reserved for routine surgical procedures. People who watch TV live rather than off the DVR with the commercials stripped out or downloaded off the internet. People who know the rules to Texas Hold 'Em.

To put it directly: Goodbye "Pasty IT Guy", hello "Slutty MILF".

I hope this transition is a smooth one for all parties involved.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Why now?


Most guys will be able to relate to this analogy:

Ever remember having a crush on a girl in school and being totally ignored by her until you started being interested in someone else?

Now, with me typing away happily on my Mac and all but giddy (in a manly sort of way) about whatever will be announced at Macworld in a few hours, why is Microsoft suddenly interested in talking to me about a consulting position?

I entertained it. I even went to the Microsoft website to enter my information. When I came to the point where my resume could be copied and pasted into place, the instructions on the screen told me that Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V would allow that function. It also told me that if I were using a Mac, the proper keys would be Command-C, Command-V.

I found this odd from the Microsoft HR site. While technically accurate, I would hope the Microsoft site would instead instruct me to use Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V and, if filling out the Microsoft HR form from a Mac, "Screw you. This interview is over."

I suppose it is just part of some "Mac User Outreach" program Microsoft has in place. But seriously. If use of the products sold were a requirement from a software company, I doubt it could be called unfair hiring practices. If I'm supposed to enable corporations to best utilize Microsoft products to make a better IT Life for themselves, shouldn't I actually believe that to be in their best interests? Or at least possible?

Clinging to the Microsoft Corporate Volume Licensing Agreement already in place while asking them to pay Microsoft to update the systems anyway doesn't seem to avoid the possibility of harmful change. It just keeps the harmful change in a state where Microsoft continues to get paid and the user's utilization of technology continues to stagnate.

That said (and please remember I prefer the term "Mercenary" to "Whore") if they offer enough money I'd be an idiot (if a true-to-myself-and-my-core-technological-beliefs idiot) to not take the job. At least that's what I keep telling myself. As I type away happily on my Mac.

Right click? Me? For what?

Cisco Systems (according to their website, though I suspect at least a little marketing spin in this figure) provides the hardware and software support for 80% of the backbone of the internet. Their share of the Corporate VPN market is staggering, a behemoth of remote connectivity which may never truly vanish from the Earth.

The IT staff at my company can't seem to easily locate or produce a VPN client which will work from Windows Vista, much less the "Virtual Vista" I run in a window on my Mac.

The Cisco VPN client for OS X runs just fine.

I can't stress this enough: I lost more applications to compatibility issues switching from Microsoft XP to Microsoft Vista than I did by switching to a Mac. 

And whatever they announce at Macworld in a few hours will be cool. Maybe not revolutionary, maybe not Earth-Shaking, maybe not iPhone-Awesome, but "cool" is a given. Apple has cornered the market on that.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Now what?


Okay n00bs, stop filling Guild Chat with your feeble ideas of how awesome Chuck Norris is and listen up.

You might think it sounds fun to team up with twenty-four other like-minded people to  kill Gruul the Dragonslayer. You'd be wrong, n00b.

This is serious. All twenty-five of us have to have our head on straight, know the strategy, and execute that strategy flawlessly or this is going to be an evening of nothing but long and lonely corpse runs and high equipment repair bills.

This is not The Sims Online. This is not Barbie Dreamhouse Online Fashion Adventure. This isn't even Windows Solitaire, though I know that shuffle sound better than I know the sound of Rick Astley's dreamy voice and if I hear that shuffle noise again over the headset while there is a raid going on someone is getting freaking kicked out of the guild.

This is World of Warcraft, n00bs. See that last word? It indicates that this game is about war and specifically the crafting of that war. And we can all agree that war is serious, right? Right.

Alright, let's take a look at the attached diagram, shall we? That big black dot in the middle of the cave is Gruul himself. Everyone should be hitting him a lot until he dies, except the Healers.

The Healers need to concentrate all healing energy on or around the place on the map designated "K". That's where I, Webinara, will be hanging out as long as I can until Gruul starts throwing us all around like 25 ice cubes in a rented margarita machine. 

Okay, so here is how it will go down:

Everyone steps just inside the door. We all need to argue for a few minutes (maybe 20) until everyone has the right spell effects in place. Then we hang out while someone goes to pee. And then we wait while someone else goes to pee because they missed the first person going to pee when it wasn't a Guild-Sanctioned Raid Pee-Break. Bring a bottle, n00bz.

Finally, the raid leader issues half a dozen ready checks and we find out who has gone Away From Keyboard. We spend another five or ten minutes giggling about what they may be doing AFK until they come back and ask what they missed.


We renew the preparatory spells which were wearing off.

Then, someone rushes in and starts this thing.

Webinara will dash across the floor, taking an ineffective swipe at Gruul on her way (She's not Specialized to hit in melee, no giggling because she hits like a second grade girl) to take up her position at the back of the room.

Now, you'll probably get raid warnings about cave-ins overhead and standing too close to other raid members for the shatter phase which will multiply your damage and holy-crap-kill-us-all. A lot of guilds will tell you to "Flee" or "Run Away" or "Move calmly away from the other group members until the warnings stop". A lot of other guilds are made up of cowards and losers and ultra-n00bz. What happens if you move right while the guy with a warning with your name on it moves left? I'll tell you what happens: More damage to us and we all die and Gruul laughs his horrible digital laugh while we head back to fetch our corpses.

Do what I do: Just stand there taking the damage. This is why we let Healers in the guild even though their damage is so pathetic. You don't want to put those poor pacifists out of a job, do you? Sometimes healing gear drops and de-enchanting it all is fun but ultimately useless.

Anyway, back to the fight. So Gruul gets more and more angry the longer we survive and there are fewer and fewer of us left standing to do anything about it. Things get chaotic and it gets harder and harder for the Healers to find us to save our lives. This is why it is vital that we stand exactly wherever Gruul chooses to throw us. And keep hitting that guy.

Eventually, he falls down and drops gear someone may want.

So, let's get in there, pull together, work as a team to keep Webinara alive and . . . What?

The Raid is canceled? There aren't enough Healers online?

Now what am I supposed to do?


Friday, January 11, 2008

In which I voice my rage at the internet


There is so much stuff for me to be upset about . . . Where do I even start?

Maybe it is the ongoing chair situation which has me on edge. In order to "resolve" that issue, I stole a chair from a conference room. But to keep that chair through the occasional trip to the restroom or to get coffee, I taped a sign on the back which reads,"Please don't steal my chair. Seriously. If you do, I will hunt you down and kill you -- Probably by bludgeoning you with this very chair". This accomplished three things:

1. It got people thinking about improvised weaponry in the workplace. In that way, I've made my office a little bit more like a Ninja Training Center. (New Year's Resolution #242 -- Check!)

2. Someone asked me about the sign while I was sitting in the chair and I replied that it was on the chair when I stole it and that the original owner needed more follow through on his weak threats. This last bit I yelled over the cubicle walls as though in challenge.

3. Most importantly, no one has wheeled away with my chair.

Okay. I apologize for not being better about posting my progress about this, but yesterday I broke the 5000 point mark with Diet Coke Rewards. 5024, to be fully accurate, though I still have more to type in today sometime. I think I've actually replaced all my bodily fluids with caramel color and carbonated water.

There is nothing at all worth buying on the Coke Reward Points page. Really. Go look. They had a Nintendo Wii for about 15 minutes last year, but now there is just nothing. Also, the site is Flash-based and annoys the hell out of me. I hate going there and I hate drinking Diet Coke and I hate spending points on stupid sweepstakes. I'm only continuing to drink the stuff now so that eventually I can trade the points in for stock options. Or a replacement liver.

I've been working on some content for a web page a bit at a time. I hate having to test it in two browsers. In Firefox it looks okay, but if I open Internet Explorer and look at it through that it looks like crap. Also, the mere act of opening Internet Explorer probably instantly sends all my banking information to Al-Queda, formats the three closest hard drives and (from fifteen miles away) tells my cat that she has weight issues. I'll admit, the security bulletins about Internet Explorer seem to have melded into each other in my head and possibly mixed themselves with some especially paranoid Wikipedia entries. Here is the point:

The internet has standards. And by "standards" I mean a regular format, certainly not an ethical baseline. A friend talked to me about "Furries" last night and I fell asleep quietly weeping. Note: There is no link for "Furries" intentionally. If you want to look that up, feel free. I'm just not helping.

So, back to my hate-fueled rant, HTML should look the same in whatever browser a person uses to view it. I know there are work-arounds for content-creation people, and I use them. But I shouldn't have to.

AT&T says they will probably filter the internet traffic their subscribers produce, at the very least moving certain protocols up and down the traffic priority scale. Basic web? Sure. Email? Maybe. File sharing? Even the "C0mpl3t3 Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng Masterwork Collectors Edition Digitally Signed Open-Format Archive"? Oh, hell no.

This means, in essence, my right to distribute my personal writings is less important to AT&T than someone's search results on the term "Furries". My right to free speech is at least as important as that. Maybe.

And I'm upset that this news is from AT&T, because that means that the Comcast people (who already filter content in this way) are making sense to some demographic I fear may have the right to vote.

As a final note, my Spell Check really, really wants me to use a capital "I" when typing "internet".

No way, internet. Not until you earn back my respect.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Stuff That Is Happening/Has Happened


Yesterday, following the loud ringing of a bell, the people who share my office area and I were given the news that our company had closed a pretty major deal.

While I can't disclose the exact amount of this deal, I can say with absolute certainty that we would have enough chairs to go around if some of that money were allocated towards seating.

In fact, I asked management if anything would be done about the the disparity between the number of asses in the office and the number of chairs.

The matter is under review.

In other news, my media player ran out of power in the middle of an audiobook. Before you rush to judgement, please be aware that I also spend plenty of time with actual "paper-style" books. Books in audible format merely allow me to use my commuting time to wedge more literature into my brain.

But anyway, the media player needed a charge. I brought it inside and plugged it into the wall charger overnight, only to discover that the power levels had not changed at all the following morning. This made me very sad.

I was forced to listen to sounds recorded onto these archaic foil disk things encased in hard clear plastic. Someday my grandchildren may ask about these things and I will claim that they were before my time. In spite of the ancient media, Carbon Leaf still rocks. It should be noted that I liked them long before I heard them played over the sound system at Office Max.

In a final recent observation, there are little TV screens in the elevators in my office building. Rather than playing re-runs of The View all day, there is a dedicated network of advertisement delivery, news, advertisements, current weather and advertisements which simulcasts to all of the elevators in this building. Someday it will do so in all of the elevators in all buildings. It features some old headlines and blurbs which make no sense because they have to edit out verbs to fit the space and half the screen is taken up with messages about getting a BlackBerry or taking a cruise.

The name of this network?

Please know that I am not kidding when I tell you the name of the network is "Captivate", presumably a semi-clever play on the fact that anyone not watching their screen in an elevator is staring at another human or having a conversation -- Both things apparently impossible in elevators.

I do not think flashing the passengers of a tiny metal box with a word which brings to mind being trapped in a small space is the wisest move to make in the world of marketing.

It does go a long way towards explaining why those elevators smell of primal fear and urine so very often.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

My Chair!!!

Let me show you it:


What, I ask you, the crap?

There is some kind of manager's meeting in the office today. I got up to grab something off the copier and my wheelie spinny office chair got ganked and dragged into a conference room.

Then, the two stacked boxes of copier paper I was using as a seat were returned to the copy room on my next coffee run.

So now, my only seat is the empty husk of a Dell Dimension XPS R400. There is a sticker on the top which lets me know that the device is ready for Y2K.

That sticker does not comfort me.

In fact, my ass has been asleep for the past 20 minutes and I'm having some trouble feeling my feet.

Note to Management: You can go ahead and put a minus sign by the "Team Player" bullet point on my next review. I want my freaking chair back.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Technically Complex


Remember my highly advanced yet broken and then replaced old-lady phone?

It seems to be handling the whole "inbound and outbound calls" process now, so I've moved on towards playing with testing the multimedia functionality for review purposes.

While I could connect via Bluetooth, I don't trust that weird wireless junk. Instead, I use a cable which has a USB plug on one end and a weird thing that looks kind of like a shovel that plugs into the phone.

I replaced my ringtone with a MIDI file of Madonna's Material Girl with no difficulty. You know. Just as a test. For science.

What bothers me about the whole process is that there is no Mac client for my phone. In order to move files on or off the device, I have to launch my virtual Windows machine from deep within the bowels of OS X.

But wait, it gets better:

Ok, so I start my laptop (careful to not plug in the phone before the virtual Windows starts, lest OS X freak right out and shut down) then launch the Windows Vista virtual machine, let it initialize through the part where it has access to the USB ports on the laptop, then I plug in the phone, launch the Samsung application, and drag files around like USB bandwidth is free. Oh, wait! It is free.

This phone will record video until the internal memory runs out, which is nice since I don't have to time the cool stuff to within a 15 second video. This limitation of my old phone left me with dozens of clips of nothing followed by an explanation of how awesome the next thing that happened was except I missed it while slogging through the stupid save/delete/send menu.

And I can take these videos off my phone and put them on the Vista desktop or whatever.

Windows Vista has no idea what to do with these video clips. The file format is not supported and (it is implied by the constantly launching Windows Vista Help Menu) I'm a pretty lousy person even for asking about it.

So, Windows Vista is the only way to access these files created on my phone -- Even though Windows Vista has no idea what they are.

You know what it turns out I can use to decode and playback and edit these clips?

The Mac.

Apparently, the weird phone video format is just fine as far as Apple Quicktime is concerned. I appreciate that.

This isn't a big deal, anyway. I can use Windows Vista to drag videos to Quicktime on the Mac itself. I just found it odd and needlessly complicated.

However, the only true issue remaining is in finding something worthy of video documentation and online presentation. It isn't like my workday is filled with a near-constant stream of ninja attacks and zombie invasions.

Whenever those happen I've generally left my phone on the charger anyway.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Like a Big, Rude Force of Nature


It isn't bad enough that people walk around here in cargo shorts and flip-flops in January, spoiling the illusion of a Winter in my mind which allows me to wear a sweater now and then.

No. Here in Texas, we leave our Water Parks open all year. The only problem with that is that people in the southern half of Texas have grown soft when it comes to actual cold. To mitigate this, the Water Parks are actually indoors with heated water and a bunch of climate control equipment which keeps the air a fairly even temperature equivalent with mid-Spring.

While I fear that my internal seasonal clock will be forever damaged by the trip, yesterday the family went to see this freak show firsthand.

What I think is probably a pretty standard Water Park most of the year is covered in plastic in the winter, allowing in some sun and trapping the heat from the water and millions and millions of space heaters.

Some of the larger rides are closed as there is no way to shield them from the natural process of the Earth's unending journey around the sun, but a surprising number of tube slides, wave pools, splash pads and lounging pools are open and eerily warm in January.

Gwynyth's favorite was the Lazy River, in which a person sits in a giant, air-filled donut and . . . Nothing, I guess. That's about it. The whole course makes a blissfully warm, enclosed circle around the park and the water is directed so that no effort is required or, in fact, appreciated.

Most of the "river" is pretty calm, but there is one corner which houses the main jets for the attraction and it gets quite turbulent there. I tried it sans tube and got bounced along the tile bottom for quite some time.

We'd take breaks from it to do other stuff, but the Lazy River was Gwynyth's favorite and we were often dragged back there.

While we had lunch in the beach area, I pulled on my Dumbledore's Army hoodie. When I later removed this hoodie, I discovered that my entire torso was coated in black fuzz. This broke my beach illusion and replaced it with one in which I mine coal, so the only reasonable thing to do was drag Gwynyth to the river and to abandon Shana to shuttle our stuff to the locker area. It was all I could do. I had stuff on me!  

Gwynyth and I started our trip around, her in a floating thing and me dragging that floating thing by the handle while rubbing the fuzz off my arms underwater. There was a lot of fuzz. My Dumbledore's Army hoodie is a warm one.

Having been around this ride a few times, I knew that the corner just before the biggest jets tends to trap the riders and hold them in place when they hit that area on the left side. I decided to avoid that fate by hugging the right side, with the idea that we would be joyfully bounced across the rapids area and out the other side, laughing and enjoying our fake summer while pointing at the noobs stuck in the corner on the left. It was a good plan. It was a solid plan.

But then, on the first bounce, it all went horribly wrong.

We were hurtling towards a woman and her small child. He was wearing a life vest and they seemed to be having a pretty difficult time crossing that area with no floatation tube. They were moving slowly. Too slowly.

I struggled to gain some purchase on the slick tile river bed and pulled back on the tube Gwynyth was riding to slow us or even just push us to one side, with the only result that I was pulled under and rolled across the bottom, where I saw this small child (apparently hit from behind by our raft) also tumbling along. He did not seem distressed, though, and when the river spit us back to the surface he was laughing. His mother was not as amused.

And that is the story of how Gwynyth and I almost drowned some kid with Down's Syndrome at a Water Park.

If you laughed at all about this, you are a horrible person. I'm looking at you Joe, Darrell and Adrian.

When the four of us get to Hell, we should have coffee.

Friday, January 04, 2008

A Post Filled With Win

Photo 46

Ah, the artificially sweet taste of victory!

That highlighted line denotes that I was able to purchase and then enjoy a Sugar-Free Cinnamon Dolce Latte, ladies and gentlemen. I recommend you all do the same. The Breve part of the order moves it from the realm of "Drink" and firmly into the area I like to call "Primary Food Group". It is optional for most, but we at the Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng Institute of Relevant Social Change and Discount Sarcasm Emporium have made it mandatory for all employees.

This is a copy of he actual receipt, since a person with a worn-out bank card has to generally sign for everything for some reason. This morning I realized, given the time of year, that it has been over 18 months since I signed my name on the bottom line of a receipt for anything even though I've been asked to do so multiple times a week.

I decided a while back that if it were my job to process those things I might check ID (that happens) and I might examine the bank card to see if it were fake (perhaps made of cheese) but I would never, ever look at the scrap of paper after it had been signed by the customer. Why would I? The transaction is complete and I'd probably have stuff to do.

I've learned that my theory about this is correct, as no one has ever called me on it. In addition to rushing out to buy anything flavored with Sugar-Free Cinnamon Dolce syrup, I recommend you try having fun with the signature lines.

When I first started this experiment, I drew a straight line across the signature area, as though I were crossing it out. Variations in my muscle control could produce a wavy line, though, and I decided a person looking at it might decide the wavy line constituted a name.

I switched to a bold "X" and I used that for a few days, but then I started thinking about how that was a legitimate signature for people who are illiterate, or it used to be years ago at least.

Note: I do not use the term "illiterate" in a derogatory way, but I'll offer apologies in advance if I've offended any of my no doubt many illiterate readers.

So, for fear of having the clerk/barrista/attendant/waiter think me unable to write my own name, I switched to real words.

For over four months, all I wrote on the signature line of anything involving my bank card was the phrase "STOLEN CARD" in as neat a text as I could produce. I anticipated calls from the bank where I would explain and we (the bank employee and I) would have a good laugh and they would have a story to tell their friends.

That call never happened, and I began to be concerned for the state of my financial security. Rather than address the issue with retailers or my bank, I switched my signature again.

"Not My Name" became a pretty solid contender for my signature of choice, but the combination of differently angled vertical lines combined with my keyboard-related reduction in writing proficiency made that take too long and I feared that might give the game away.

For over a year now, I've signed everything with the words "ChimP Ass". Now I write it better than I write my actual name and I fear that it looks close enough that I will never, ever be caught. I'd switch again, but it still makes me giggle when I write it and even that act of laughing while signing has not evoked an even cursory examination of my "signature".

For Great Justice,

ChimP Ass

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Making a Difference


I believe that in every life there is an opportunity to make the world around us better. Sure, sweeping social reform or a repaired education system or a reasonable and sustainable healthcare program for our elderly are a bit out of reach for the regular reader of Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng, but there are other ways to improve society which present themselves to us every day.

I guess I never really believed that until yesterday, though I thought I did. One has to really see that kind of opportunity happen before the concept crystallizes and crosses over into reality, becomes a part of a person, a new-found core belief that there is work to be done and that in the end, all the work will be worth it because people's lives will be made better, and the world will make more sense. Like the butterfly in Brazil which flutters and causes the powerful storm across the planet, effort will translate into result.

Side note: Why doesn't someone kill those butterflies? They cause billions of dollars a year in damage across the globe and gave us an Ashton Kutcher movie. Do I have to do everything myself?

Okay. My opportunity:

Every day I mostly wake up, stumble into some pants or something and then drive to work. I park on the third floor and walk down two flights of stairs, then across a breezeway and into the lobby. I select the correct elevator bay and climb in the first one with an up arrow, then ride up to my floor.

You may have seen the flaw in this plan already. There is no coffee in it.

I spend the first hour of consciousness every day with no coffee. At all.

Side note #2: Avoid me early in the morning like I have some kind of nasty disease which turns people into brain-devouring zombies.

So yesterday I got most of the routine correct, except that the elevator door opened a few floors below mine and I reflexively stepped out.

As one would expect, my office was not there.

But now I know what is there. 

The regional headquarters for Starbucks Coffee is there. And now they know me.

Apparently, all the Baristas come to my building for training and the cafe downstairs sells beta-version Starbucks coffee you can't get anywhere else and, most importantly, I can stop by every day several times until we get back our freaking sugar-free cinnamon dolce syrup!

This, my friends, will be my contribution to the world, my kindness, my truest hope for meaningful change in our lives.

- G

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Never Be The First To Fall Asleep


Monday night we were invited to watch 2007 go away forever with some friends.

Gwynyth was sleeping over, so we figured we would too. This was partially to avoid all the drunks on the road after dark and more to avoid being two more drunks on the road.

And to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and protect our fragile eco-system. On that note, one of our many resolutions as a family is to reduce our carbon footprint in 2008. I've ordered us all smaller carbon shoes from Ebay. You, too, can Buy It Now for the baby seals.

So anyway, we drank and played games and drank and visited and drank and stepped outside from time to time to complain about how cold it was and how Texas should just be warmer. We also, if I remember correctly, drank.

A short time ago I established my status as "Lightweight", since I never drink and four beers in one evening has me wearing a lampshade on my head and absolutely nothing else. Drinking poorly is what I do. I've come to accept that.

Monday night I drank a few more than four beers, though only about that number if the count stops where my memory does.

And I'm also sure that I was the first one asleep.

Did anyone else play that game at summer camp where the first person asleep has their hand filled with fresh deer droppings and their nose is tickled with a feather? Or their hand is put in warm water with the idea that they will suddenly lose all bladder control (even though I've never personally seen that one work)? Or one eyebrow is shaved off and horrible things are scrawled on their foreheads with Sharpie markers?

Those pranks apparently follow us into adulthood, as it seems that shortly after I went into my 12:30am "Power Nap" some comedian (I still haven't figured out who, though I have my suspicions) removed a chunk of the front of my brain and replaced it with, I think, a hedgehog.

And that little guy spent all day yesterday flailing around in my skull looking for the exit, doing that cute little thing where he rolls up into a little ball and then stretches out to chew on the back of my forehead.

I think he found his way out around 8pm, which is good since I had no idea how to get Hedgehog Kibble to him.

Either way, well done guys. You really got me.

News for 2008, people: Be careful where you pass out. Who knew?

Aside from the incident which we have now filed under "Hedgehog 2008", we had a great time. We played Taboo (which the guys "lost" even though it was obviously rigged -- I mean how does one indicate "Denzel Washington" without using the word "Actor"? He defines the word!) and something called Buzz Word, in which we redeemed ourselves while making a token effort to be good sports about it.

As for my other resolutions, I'm still working on those -- Though I think one for 2008 should probably be "Come up with a list of resolutions before 2009 actually starts". I keep meaning to be better about this procrastination thing but there never seems to be enough time to make a real effort at it.