Thursday, December 28, 2006

Black Listed Companies 12/28/2006
  • I don't know how good the product is just yet, since I'm still in the process of dealing with an order snafu. However, my experience with the company has been absolute misery. Once I finally chose the can opener that seemed the best for me, I was forced to go through a number of other pages asking me if I wanted to add to the order. Granted, there was something I wanted in all those pages, but really, what a pain! I'd think that if they were offering more stuff, that stuff would appear in their online catalog...which, by the way, doesn't exist, except in the form of a number of pages you have to go through to get to the checkout page.
    • Summary: shopping experience was like being taken by the scruff of the neck and forced to look at each item in the grocery store by a rather brutish geek.
  • When I finally got to the checkout page, since I was in a huge hurry to finish the process, I just clicked through everything to get to the order confirmation page. The order confirmation page read, "You've been sent a confirmation email." I have yet to see that email. Which doesn't seem all that annoying...until you read further.
    • Summary: extremely slow online ordering process.
  • Christmas comes and goes and I see no delivery. And still no email. So as not to disappoint the receiver of the would-be gift, I ordered again, thinking perhaps I had imagined I'd seen the confirmation page, mixing up the countless other order confirmation pages I'd seen through the weeks. When the next order confirmation page came up, the organization and presentation of the page was exactly like one I'd seen before. So, I knew for sure I'd seen it before. And if I'd seen it before, it's obvious I now had two orders in the works...maybe.
    • Summary: sketchy online ordering confirmation process.
  • I searched around on their site for a way to contact them, thinking there was a real-time way to do so. Nope. Call this number during these hours. Luckily it was during those special hours. I dial the number. I get a busy signal. Busy for 15 minutes. Finally I connect. It's a phone operator with quite a thick Middle-Eastern accent. I ask what the situation is with my order. "Yes, we have your order, it's going to be shipped very soon." Very soon. "Very soon." Ha. (Read on.) I ask him to read the order back to me. He reads the first order I placed. I ask him about the second order. He asks when I placed that order. I said, "About ten minutes ago." He asks me to call back in about two business days because that information is not in his system yet.
    • Summary: Hello? Automation? Computers? Instant information pathways? IT?
    • Summary II: while I appreciate the hard working spirit and the skills of others learning English as a second language so they can improve themselves and their situations, I abhor having to figure out how I can communicate with such people; picking through obfuscating accents; getting my point--that might not fit their scripts--across!
  • Very soon he said. As I recalled the second time through the ordering process (when I wasn't feeling quite as rushed) the shipping details read something like, "Ships from 1 to 4 weeks...unless you pay another $x--then it'll ship in 1 to 2 weeks." One to four weeks!? One to two weeks!? Come ON. Postage isn't that difficult. Unless it's shipping from over seas (and even then!) one to four weeks!?
    • Summary: one to four weeks!?
  • As I was casting my mind back to the other screens I'd just blown by I realized that for a can opener and 4 flashlights (the forced-impulse buy I fell into) the shipping charges were more than $33.
    • Summary: $33 shipping for something that can fit in a box smaller than your office's wastebasket...? I can only guess that this stuff must be coming from overseas and the company is having us pay the bribe money necessary to get the goods off port.
  • Three days later (I wanted to give their ridiculously slow system a chance) I call back. I get a fax tone on their 1-800 number. I call back again. Fax tone. I call back again...ah, a nice, friendly "[We want you to believe that] your call is important to us" message and am on perma-hold. 15 minutes later an operator answers my quite obviously important call with that familiar Middle-Eastern accent. "Thank you for calling. Can I help you." I tell him I want to check the status of one order and cancel another. "Thank you for calling. Can I help you?" I repeat myself. Silence. For like 3 minutes...silence. "Thank you for calling. Can I help you?" I repeat myself again...but before I can finish I'm disconnected.
    • Summary: customer service systems are very disappointing.
  • I call the 1-800 number again. Fax tone. For the next 15 minutes I'm calling that number. Fax tones. I start alternating the 1-800 number and the 508 area code number they offer. Fax tone. "The person is unavailable." Fax tone. "The person is unavailable." Finally I get a nice, friendly, lying computer voice telling me how important my call is to them.
    • Summary: customer service systems are exceeding asinine.
  • 10 minutes later (hey! better than the previous 15!) I get that familiar Middle Eastern accent, but it's a different guy this time. I tell him I'd like to check the status of my order and cancel the newer order. "Your order will ship very soon." I thank him and tell him I'd like to cancel the newer order. "Your order will ship very soon." (See Summary II in the fourth bullet.) I ask him to tell me which orders he has in the system. "Thank you. Is there something else I can do for you?" I ask him again to tell me how many orders I have in the system. "You have two orders." I tell him I'd like to cancel the most recent order. "The order you made first will ship very soon." I tell him I'd like to cancel the order I made a couple of days ago. "Okay. Can I ask why?" I explain the situation about my thinking that the order hadn't been filled. "Okay. Please hold." I hold. "Okay, your order has been cancelled."
    • Summary: good effort. Please, for the love of all that's holy, find someone who speaks English in your customer-facing jobs!!
In short: onetouchcanopeners...while the product might be great (which apparently I won't know for another 1 to 3 weeks), the rest of the experience ensures this company's long-time inclusion in my Black List.

Friday, August 11, 2006

War Isn't Hell, It's Insanity

War isn't hell, it's insanity.

I just got done watching We Were Soldiers again, with Mel Gibson and Sam Elliott again. (I love those actors!) What a show. Once again I marveled at how absolutely insane people must be to actually go to war, especially a war that from all appearances was little other than a series of experimentations.

"Let's see how well it works, our landing people into battle fields on helicopters. Oh, gosh. They're completely overrun and surrounded. Exactly as darn it, they got themselves into this mess, let them get themselves out of it!"

Or course, we all know all the rest of the tragedy that came of the idiocy and insanity that followed that experiment.

In any case, as I watched this time I actually allowed my mind to not get so sucked into the movie that I imagined myself in that situation (as I do with just about everything I view or read). I could watch with at least a semblance of a critical mind, thinking about how I'd do things very differently on a tactical scale; thinking about how likely I would be to hunt down every politician that played games with the lives of me and my men.... Okay, okay, so there were times I was sucked in. Even so, I ended up thinking about how anyone not forced into a war through an actual need to defend one's self (country), or through a need to eliminate an imminent threat through a pre-emptive attack is absolutely, unequivocally insane--let alone those who perpetrated the actions that required a war-like response.

Don't misunderstand me. I've done what my time and finances have allowed to train in ways of death and destruction, and at the same time I learn how important it is that we treat everyone with reason, kindness and selflessness (until we're taught by that "everyone's" actions that they are no longer worthy of such treatment). The simple reason is this: your selfish actions, your intent to harm and/or get gain without the intent of helping as many parties as possible must be neutralized. You know this. And yet you persist in these actions. This is insane.

What would anyone do to a social animal that has suddenly begun treating its fellow creatures as nothing but a source of sustenance, a source of emotional satisfaction through unprovoked violence? You would have no other choice but to neutralize it. The insanity of the sick social animal must be neutralized. And damn it for perpetuating its insanity through requiring others to do unto it as it has done unto others to bring balance back into the environment.

So, in the movie, Lt. Colonel Hal Moore has this wonderful idea of how to take back control of the situation. He charges up the hill through the enemy's attempt at throwing "everything they had" at the Americans. The idea works. The enemy is wholly surprised. The Americans reach the enemy HQ where there are lots and lots of guns and reinforcements. It doesn't look good for the Americans. Just before the enemy can open fire, a helicopter with some seriously cool guns mounted on it opens up and cuts the enemy to ribbons.

I was stunned at my reaction. I was part exultant, part disgusted. I could not have been happier that "the good guys" won, and I was made almost nauseated by the death and destruction--the insanity--visited on the enemy. That that had to happen in order to save some more lives--on both sides--is insane.

To have to kill thousands upon thousands of people in order to save millions upon millions of people might seem logical, but it isn't. It's insane. Saving people by killing people? It's not logical. It may be accurate, but it's not logical. It's insane. It may be necessary because it's accurate, but it's really insane. Destroying near-countless lives in a couple of flashes in order to end World War II, while necessary and effective, was simply crazy.

Understand that I am all for war. I am all for visiting such horrible, complete, unutterable death and destruction upon an enemy such that neither they nor any future would-be enemies would consider doing anything like what caused such horrendous visitations never, ever again on anyone. And damn them for requiring me to enter a state of insanity and inflict such wounds on the fabric of existence.

I say again, we are social creatures. Social creatures that do well in the wild typically will do something to aid others in their social circles. In a not-too-difficult-to-see perspective we are all in the same social circle. If you are unkind or in any other way responsible for actions that in any way harm another human being (undeservedly), you are a sick, insane animal and need to be put down. And when you are put down, don't be surprised. Expect it. It's going to happen. It needs to happen. And when such retribution is perpetrated by someone who enjoys doing it, or who thinks it an intellectual exercise, damn them and their insanity.

Let me sum up. Be nice. Don't be crazy. If for no other reason than you really don't know how crazy your would-be victim can get....

Rather reminds me of an instance at the gym. I'm working out, life is good. I get to a point in the workout that I need a particular piece of equipment. Of course, someone's on it. I wait for them. They get up, eventually, and walk toward the drinking fountain. I ask, "Are you done there?"

He puffs up and squares his rather impressive shoulders at me and growls, "Yeah!" with an unspoken disprespect and all-but-direct challenge.

My first reaction was amazement that he would behave so aggressively to me due to my not having done anything offensive that I knew of. This was quickly replaced by complete irritation. I've trained in various martial arts for more than 1/2 my life. There was no question in my mind that I could have taken this muscle-bound mental patient apart in less time than he could've puffed up his chest again. And yet he treated me unkindly. Of course, the logic missing there was that he could not have possibly known what I was capable of, so why would he have treated me with respect and/or kindness? Well, for the simple fact that he had no idea of what I was capable.

Lesson: be nice. You never know when the guy you just pissed off is carrying a nuke. If you can't be nice, consider yourself insane and get checked out at the nearest asylum. If you can't admit you have an insanity problem, do not be startled or surprised when someone visits such insanity on you as you've never conceived of. And be glad it happened; the herd is now a bit safer, a bit more balanced, a bit more able to get along and play nicely.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Adventures In Home Improvement (8/3/2006)

Screwing a Chair
My home office chair just decided to up and nearly deposit me on the floor backward last week. I thought it was just the reclining lever that popped out without my permission again. But instead of nearly depositing me on the floor directly backward, this was a bit different. I nearly fell over my left shoulder. Closer inspection revealed that one of the screws in the arm of the chair--which coincidentally was about 1/4 of the support of the chair's back--had been shorn. It was broken. Screwed, as it were.

I figured I had put it off too long today, and went to the hardware store, broken screw in-hand. Rather, the part of the broken screw that wasn't still screwed into the...well, screw hole.

I found a nut that went onto the screw nicely and figured I'd found the correct threading for the screw, and using the nut chose out two nice shiny new bolts of differing lengths (I wasn't sure if the original had been 1" or 3/4") and of course the nut, just in case.

Back in the office I drilled out the bolt that remained in the chair. I did what I could to make the hole a bit oblong so I could get a flat-head screwdriver into it and remove it without chancing drilling out the screw-hole's threading.

Aside: I know "screw-hole's" not the right word, but 1) I don't know what that right word is, and 2) I'm amused by the word "screw-hole". It accurately describes where the screw belongs, and can have many other amusing connotations.

Anyway I successfully removed the 3/16" piece of screw left in the chair with a screwdriver stuck rather awkwardly in the hole I'd just drilled. Woohoo! Something I thought of worked!

Feeling rather smug and a bit excited that this might be the one home improvement (can this really be called "home improvement"?) task I did right start to finish. Apparently I'm either very non-observant of my past experiences, or I'm just really quite optimistic. You see, the bolt I'd gotten to replace the screw was not threaded correctly.

Now who would have thought that two bolts that can take the same nut wouldn't be the same thread? So, a bit puzzled, I put the nut back on the original, broken screw. This time I put it down all the way. Well, I attempted to put it down all the way. It siezed up not even 1/4 of the way down the screw. Apparently if you're going to use a nut to guage threading equivalencies between bolts, you must put the nut all the way to the head of the bolt in order to really guage it. But really...if you must do that...don't.

Of course I was a bit...annoyed, though the state of the house and the behavior of all its residents kept me with a nice cool head (and incidentally, the only cool head in the house). (I have this need to be opposite everyone else I'm with. You're mad? Well, look at how cool I am. You're scared? Well, see how brave I'm being? You're being brave? Oh my gosh--we're all gonna DIE!) A few moments' thought and I had the solution.

See, the original screw had apparent sheared off only 1/8" down its length. It's a 3/4" screw. And the distance between the piece of the arm rest that is used to fasten down the arm rest is perhaps 1/16"...I thought I could most likely just use the broken screw, since I was still working with a screw that's see...carry the 4...5/8" long, giving me 9/16" to work with.

Short solution: I took a long screw out of a part of the arm-rest that was okay and replaced it with the short screw, considering that part of the arm rest doesn't have to deal with my not unimpressive bulk flouncing back to the back rest. I took the longer screw and put it into the hole wherein the broken screw was once a hair ball in the drain of...the...thing. (I'm not so good with similes.)

I tightened everything and voila! (or whatever the French word is for voila!) we have a chair that is once again functional.

By the way, if ever you buy an office chair from RCWilley for a nice, discounted sure to check the screw tightness often. For your safety.

The useless bolts and nut I bought are living in a nice, snug bucket of homeless screws, bolts, nuts and other fascinating hardware...mostly presumably fasteners of some sort.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Adventures In Home Improvement (7/29/2006)

Electrical Outlet Repair

Oh how I dislike doing home repair. Okay, strike that. Doing home repair is quite fun for me. When in the ridiculously off-chance that everything (okay, okay, ONE thing) actually works.

Today was a long-overdue adventure in replacing electrical outlets. The entire east wall is powerless. I did some testing with a nifty little electrical outlet testing...thing. It had a black wire and a red wire, attached to a readout that included "110", "210" and the like, and each wire terminated in a couple of cool looking spikes that apparently are supposed to be stuck into the individual slots of the outlet to be tested. (Of course this was something I preferred doing when my kids weren't watching, for obvious reasons.) Anyway, the testing revealed that I had an "Open Neutral"--the actual name of which I got from my brother-in-law who'd recently discovered the same situation in his electrical setup.

"Just go to the electrical panel and be sure all the white (neutral) wires are screwed down nice and tight."

Sounded reasonable.

"But be careful; there's still a
lot of electricity running around in that box."


So, I went to the box, opened it up, and sure enough, every wire I could see and (very carefully) touch--with the end of my screwdriver--was screwed down nice and tight.

What's left? Well, replacing all of the outlets, of course, because surely if nothing's loose in the panel, chances are quite good that there must be something wrong with one of the outlets, or the wires in each of the outlets' boxes.

Three and half hours later, all outlets on the east wall (and one on the south) are replaced. I call down to the wife to have her throw the breaker switch (believe it or not I was actually smart enough to shut off the breaker every time I opened up an outlet cover). No change. Open Neutrals all over the place.

Being rather happy that the kids are in bed so they couldn't hear the rather impressive list of expletives building up pressure behind my lips, I swallowed hard and didn't give in to the temptation to let loose a blue streak that would do many a sailor--or rapper--proud. The wife was still up and around, after all.

Looks like I get to contact one of my old students with whom I agreed to trade lessons for electrical work, considering he's an electrician. Lucky him.

I love home improvement. It's not unlike a rather swift kick in the boys.

Update (8/4/2006):
Success! An incredible, liberating, exulting...and a bit embarrassing...success!

A few months ago when I was looking into the above electrical problem I noticed an outlet that had a white wire unattached to anything. Not knowing anything about such things I assumed that that was the way it was supposed to be, so I taped it off to prevent any kind of shorting or the like, and closed it back up.

You see, I thought that it was entirely possible that the east wall's lack of power was probably a short due to that wire touching something it shouldn't. This was supported by the scorch marks I saw on the outlet plate and box. Surely the wire had been touching something it should not have been, shorted, and caused a near-fire. The near-fire then burned back whatever the wire was touching, so it wasn't touching anymore, clearly preventing further shorting and possibly a worse fire. Add that to the fact that the bared part of the loose wire was straight, and anything attached to the outlet had a nice loop in it so the wire could go around the fastening screw, it was obvious the wire never had been attached to the outlet. Logical safety precaution: prevent shorting and possible fire; tape up loose white wire.

Well, that clearly didn't solve the problem. A few months go by--okay, about a year goes by--and we have a bunch of shiny, all-but-new electrical outlets that are getting no power.

I talked over the problem with my brother-in-law some more, and that one loose wire came up in the discussion, rather as a side-note to something else. As you probably guessed, that was the problem. That was the neutral wire that was suppose to complete the circuit, and it was the wire that was the neutral for the rest of the east wall. And it wasn't connected, so all that juice had nowhere to go, except to ground.

I attached that white wire (after removing all my masterfully-applied electrical tape, of course), and bingo. Everything works.

Yay me. Okay, okay, yay my brother-in-law.

311 Concert...Didn't LMD

I went to the 311 concert a couple of night ago (7/27/2006). Wow. TOO much fun. Love those guys--and apparently the fans, too.

A couple things I found very interesting, though, revolving around the fact that I very much dislike going to concerts. Why do I dislike concerts? Usually the people at concerts are wound so tight that at any moment I expect a random knife to be put between my ribs, or to be the next fool who unknowingly attempted catching a stray bullet from someone going all weird. Why are people like that at concerts? Who knows. Why do people destroy their city when their favorite sports team wins? Or loses? People are stupid, that's why. People are inconsiderate morons who with absolutely no regard for others. This is why I have never liked going to concerts.

The obvious question, then, is this: why did I go to 311's concert if I hate going to concerts so much? Answer(s): I love 311, and just about every one of their songs are high energy, happy, positive (or very telling), etc., and I thought it very likely that people who like such music are going to be very mellow types of people. The other reason I wanted to go to the concert was that I love 311, and I was quite sure that their show was going to be just the kind of show I'd like. High energy, relaxed (non-militant), etc. Turns out I was right on both reasons for going. The concert was very high energy, very positive, and the crowd was surprisingly respectful and quite unassuming and even cordial (never before have I been at a concert where the traffic moved slowly because everyone waved everyone else in).

My recommendation if ever you get the change to see 311 in concert: DO IT!

Monday, July 17, 2006

A New Life--er, Job

That previous post in which I was rambling about having too many job opportunties. Well, all those opportunities were rather nicely shaved down to just one. This one job opportunity seems to be quite a good one, based on first appearances of my first day there.

Okay, I know how silly it seems my making a judgement like that based on one day's experience. But what else can I do when my first impression of the application I'll be working on is not dissimilar to the reaction one would feel looking at a small, rather unattractive--and still cute (because it is small)--child. At least it appears all young and tiny and defenseless (a couple more factors in the cuteness quotient) compared to the strapping young twenty-something that was the Mercury project. (What is Mercury? Well, read my journal and find out. But in short, it was the payroll project I was working on in my last position as Database Developer.)

I'm looking at working on my one personal workstation that has 6GB of RAM and 300GB of HD space. Wow. But then I hear why my workstation is beefier than the first SQL Servers I cut my teeth on. They want each of the developers to have their own multiple (up to 5) instances of the environment on Virtual Machines.

Okay, I think that's strange. But wait. There's more!

I found out in one of the design meetings for the next release that the intent is to "virtualize" the system, and put multiple instances of the same server and database on multiple Virtual Machines. Why? Because they think they'll operate faster.

Pardon me while I enjoy the slack-jawed dumfounded relaxation of my face muscles...again.

I guess it might be faster. Who knows. But between you and me...and you...oh, and you in the corner there...I really doubt it.

Moral of the story: don't judge a project--or its design team--on your first day on the job. But then again...there is something to be said about intuition.....

You never know. Maybe I'll be the Database Architect that saves a decent company from making some seriously fatal mistakes. Or I could be the dude that sits idly by and learns something more.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Stop Murdering Our Language!

Enough with changing the language to suit the few who choose to take offense at innocuous things.

Because I use the word "niggardly" and get in trouble for it means only two things: you need to find a dictionary (I use Merriam-Webster's online dictionary), and find something that really matters to complain about.

Because I like to look at beautiful things (a strange thing, I know) does it mean I'm "objectifying" that which I'm admiring?

Because I have a friend from South Africa, does that mean my friend is African-American, despite the fact that he's white? And what about my Egyptian buddy?

Because a guy points at and laughs at a tiny, winged sprite, calling her a silly fairy, does that make him bigot?

Because I push someone aside because they're in the way or in my face, is it a hate crime because they wear a turban?

Because someone dresses like a group of people who are well-known to act in violent and aggressive ways, does it make me prejudiced if I choose to stay away from them or be on guard for something unpleasant from them?

Because I believe in the fundamentals of something, does that make me a fundamentalist? And as such, am I worthy of demonization or marginalization? And if so, is that not a hate crime? Or at least bigotry?

Take a deep breath and repeat to yourself, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, not everyone is out to get me!" Then take another deep breath and repeat to yourself, "...and if everyone was out to get me, I'd still stand for who I am...without being a complete ass about it--unless of course I'm required to in order to change the situation to something less threatening."

What I'm saying here is...relax, people! It's not all about you! It's not even all about the special causes you've decided to attach yourselves to so you can feel important and like you're making a difference.

It's about life, living, loving, and believing like you like, and allowing others to do the same--as strange as the concept of "others" might be.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Independence Day!

Only almost got a little bit misty tonight, watching the darkened night sky shattered by a million points of dazzling, multicolored lights. And then my mind was turned again to people all around, watching in amazement and wonder and deserved awe the explosive spectacle--awe and wonder at the exquisite beauty of the fireworks, and my eyes dried up under the heat of my irritation and sadness.

I was duly impressed with the beautiful, colorful explosions. Unfortunately, whenever my mind wanders to the reason we light fireworks, and whenever I remember what the fireworks represent, my emotions run a bit high, and my heart goes out in gratitude to our founding fathers, to our armed forces, to any and all who prize our independence and freedoms so greatly as to be willing to pay for it with their lives (which, of course, include those who live and who die for the noble ideals).

With all highs, there are generally lows; my appreciation for the symbolism of the fireworks and many other activities on the fourth day of July is nicely balanced with my...unease at how few of us realize what we're doing and why we do it on that day. These...less-than-positive thoughts are magnified when I hear teens and adults talking about everything but our independence. And it's so much worse, so much more potently driven into our collective unconscious that July Fourth is the holiday, not Independence Day, when people wish me "Happy Fourth of July!" While I appreciate the friendly nature and kind intent behind such wishes, I am left wondering, "Do you have any idea what this day is about?" But I often retort, "And Happy Independence Day to you!"

But let's leave on a positive note. Thank you to all of our armed forces. Thank you to all of our uniformed protectors. Much gratitude to those idealists in politics who truly are in it for the betterment of our nation (as few and far-between as they appear to be). Thank you to all who appreciate our country, the sacrifices our men and women have made and continue making to secure our freedom; our rights; our happiness; our Independence.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Death To Consoles!

Microsoft and Sony should be ashamed of themselves. If for no other reason than their exceptionally skilled, amoral exploitation of console gamers.

There was a period of time that my computer was nothing more than a ridiculously over-priced video game machine and web browser. Which is to say that my computer was nothing more than a ridiculously over-priced video game machine.

I worked in an IT shop as a database administrator and ASP web developer, so when I got home, the very idea of doing anything productive on my computer was akin to thinking about how long I can keep my arm on the hood of my black car in 105F weather. So video games was the only use I could see for my computer for a long time.

Then I got a family. Suddenly my piddly salary was insufficient to pay for diapers and toys and a house...and a family car...and...well, you get the idea. Side jobs seemed the best answer.

Time spent video gaming on my computer was gradually nibbled away by side projects, until the idea of installing a video game on my computer (especially, my nice, shiny new computer) seemed just silly. My mindset: you sit in front of a computer, you should be working or learning; you have the XBox, PS2, and the GameCube for any video game jonesing you might be experiencing. That mindset worked just fine. Until the advent of the XBox 360.

From this blogger's (read: complainer's) perspective, what Microsoft did in their "release" of the XBox 360 was brilliant. And evil.

Under-produce, under-release to create even more of a demand than there already was. This demand, of course, warrants a higher price. Coupling that with the demographic of video game players, and you have a wonderful windfall. After all, 18- to 35-year-olds can afford that ridiculous price, right? And if they can afford it, why shouldn't we charge that much? Why not? Because it's unnecessary!

Okay, so the console is expensive (but only about 3 times more expensive than its predecessor), because it has all sorts of new game-playing-experience-enhancing creaminess. Now, let's charge an additional 50% on the games, too! Brilliant. And evil. Especially from the perspective of we 18- to 35-year-olds (okay, so I'm a bit outside that demographic--leave me alone!) who would like to play games (with our kids, sometimes, too) and support families...all the while attempting to teach one's family that spending money wisely is important. "But dad, you just spent $1000 on this game machine and a few games." "Yes, son. That's because it allows me to spend more time with you...while you watch me playing this video game that you're not allowed to play because it's...well...for me."

I see this brilliant and reprehensible tactic perpetrated by Microsoft, and I think, "Hey, it's Microsoft. Who'd expect anything different from them?" And I wait patiently for Sony and how they're going to stick it to Microsoft, hoping for a price war.

Of course, Sony's doing exactly the same thing as Microsoft. Under-produce, over-charge, then, when everyone's used to paying such high prices for the rare and precious consoles and games...keep the prices that high when there are enough products. Sly, huh? (Although we all hope that the PS3 won't have the same--or any--hardware issues that the XBox 360 had--which, by the way, caused my bitter self no end of acid amusement.)

My solution, however impotent it might be: boycotting Microsoft and Sony. Of course that's not the end of it, but the details of it should probably not be part of public knowledge--for legal considerations. (Hey, MS and Sony aren't the only ones that can do unethical things!)

But on the legal, ethical side of things, let's just say that Open Source operating systems and programs are getting a very close look. And from all appearances, I'm thinking that my computer is going to become a video game machine again.

Stupid Microsoft. Bloody Sony. Poor me.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Work, family, friends, education, and other hobbies. Who would have thought that an irrational decision from fools from above would land me in a quagmire of too much opportunity? Put aside for the moment the fact that I shouldn't even have a job given the generosity of so many employers and their benevolent actions of giving developing countries all our jobs. (It IS benevolence, right?)

A sudden cranial amputation of an all but revolutionary project using bleeding edge tools and I find myself landed in the middle of hordes of ravening recruiters making me feel almost necessary and important. Then when I realize that my finding employment is the key to their employment, I realize that I really shouldn't have felt that way at all. But I digress.

Suffice it to say that at this point--probably due to some presuppositions I've made in the recent past, and for quite some time before then--culture and experience has put the fear of unemployment into me so deeply that I fully expect to have to scramble for a job. When the project was killed and I was told to find employment elsewhere, I was pretty sure I could find a job, but I was also quite certain it was going to be at least a bit of a struggle to find something I would find interesting and educational; something at which I could earn sufficient money to support my family; something that would keep me in touch with talented and interesting friends made during the life of the project. I was wrong. In a big way. Well, at least in the number of jobs I perceived I'd have to choose from. One, maybe two. But five!?

So, having been trained to be in a Yang state of mind regarding finding a job--fiercely hunting, aggressively selling, sheepishly settling--I'm floundering in the need for an Yin mindset--methodically weighing, meticulously comparing, brutally eliminating--in a job market that seems rather interested in me--or at least my skills.

So a few things to think about when looking for a job: is it what you want to do? Is it in an environment you want to do it in? Will it allow you time for what you really want to do? (A job is only something you like to do to supply the resources necessary to allow you do what you love to do.) And for all the things the job is not, are your skills in sufficient demand that the prospective employers are willing to pay for the aspects of the job that are...unpleasant, subpar, or undesirable?

Oh, that it were that simple. Me? I apparently have this subconscious desire to torture myself in any decision that needs to be made. Not only do I find myself weighing the above questions, but I also made the mistake of making friends with people at the job I'm leaving. Friends that have really good ideas for other employment. Friends that took pains to keep me on the same team--okay, okay, friends that took pains to create a team on which we could both work.

Finally I'm left with the question: what am I doing in this business? Unstable. Unsteady. Unattractive.

Of course the answer is always: having fun doing what I like to do, and getting paid enough doing it that it frees up time and creates resources to let me do what I love with those I love. Well, most of those I love...or at least care about. The others I'll just have to make time for.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Adventures In Home Improvement I (2006-01-02)

This post is one of many upcoming posts on my adventures (misadventures?) in home improvement.

See, I have the good fortune to have a house that isn't really all that old...except that it's fallen into disrepair for a few reasons.
  1. Previous owners were worse idiots than I am in this kind of thing.
  2. Current owner claims to be too busy to complete any home improvement type tasks. (Though in my--I mean his--defense, he really is quite busy, and is sadly lacking in construction and home-improvement know-how.) (If that's any kind of "defense.")
  3. The items that require repair make for other things that need repairing, and generally sooner.
  4. [Insert busy computer-geek family-man reasons here.]
In short, these posts are going to be my log, my journal, my diary, my confessional as I make embarrassing attempts at home improvement. Hopefully not all of them will contain phrases like, "So I finally just called in a professional," or, "A few roles of duct tape later...."