Recent Entries in Geek

  ISPCon 3

Must have picked up a bit of a cold on the flight down, and my throat's still a bit scratchy. Also, I've got radio voice -- that deep, sultry voice reserved for stars like Kathleen Turner, J.J. McKay, and that guy who does all the movie trailer voice-overs.

Last night there was a party in one of the presidential suites and a few geeks got to drink and eat and play Wii games. The presidential suites are pretty big, but they look like they were less designed for comfort or extravagance than as functional business rooms. There was a board room with table and whiteboard, a wet bar, and a big lounge area. The bathroom, while enormous (maybe 12' x 12') had all the same amenities as in a regular room -- the same stock tub, toilet, and countertop with sink. There was a phone by the toilet, but that doesn't impress me much. And the bed ... there didn't appear to be a bed in these rooms, but it turns out there's a king-sized murphy bed folded up in the cabinets along one wall. At the very least, it was much more open than my room.

  Busy day yesterday

Yesterday was an interesting day, despite us only getting a few things accomplished. The first thing was a birthday present that R arranged for me -- the Vertigo Mile in a glider. The glider idea was hers, but the Vertigo Mile was mine. I ended up in an acrobatic glider, some 5000 feet (or a little over a kilometre and a half) above African Lion Safari, at the SOSA Gliding Club, just south of Cambridge. We did a whole host of acrobatic routines, then took a 200km/h dive to the landing strip. We'd have done more, but I was sick as a dog afterwards. Here's a photo recap:

The course looked easy enough. Some loops, a Hammerhead or two, a Half Cuban 8, and some rolls (already my stomach was turning):

gliding_course_outline.jpg

After signing a waiver, I was given a parachute and some instructions about not pulling the rip cord until after I was out of the plane. Luckily, my rock-climbing experience allowed me to strap it on without losing future offspring.

gliding_parachute_prep.jpg

Once in the cockpit, I was strapped-in tightly. Little did I know that about 40% of the ride would be spent hanging from said straps.

gliding_strapping_in.jpg

R was able to capture some fantastic pictures of me in the air. If only I'd been able to hold a camera on the inside. With 4Gs of gravity pulling on your arms, you're lucky if you can scratch your nose.

gliding_roll.jpg

Below is a composite image of a loop. Left to right. Notice how the glider's facing different directions. Yeah.

gliding_loop.jpg

And yes, much of the time was spent upside down, as can be seen in the following picture. My straps could have been tighter. We also did some weightlessness, some extended heavy gravity (where I could feel consciousness leaving me), and some fantastic stalls where the glider came to a complete stop before diving again. In these moves, there was a dead silence in the cockpit.

gliding_upside_down.jpg

We finished up by diving at 200km/h and pulling a half roll onto the runway. Didn't have to use the parachute after all, though I had thought of using it at several points during the routine.

gliding_landing.jpg

I put on a brave face while in front of the pilot, but I was really very sick. We drove home and I napped for a couple of hours before heading on to our next exciting activity.

gliding_still_alive.jpg

Yes, after the acrobatic gliding, I got into the Laser and took one last outing before we brought the boat home. Bellwood Lake was pretty much empty -- of people and water. The water levels were so low, we had to carry the boat 25 feet beyond the base of the concrete launch platform.

laser_sailing1.jpg

We lead such fantastic lives, or so everyone else thinks. In truth, I took it easy -- I'd had enough adrenalin for one day.

laser_sailing2.jpg

  Talk Like a Pirate Day

Yarrrr.

  How Geek Are You?

OK, it's a slow work day. But it's a good quiz.

87% GeekMingle2 - mingle2.com

I've been keeping an RSS eye on "95% Of You Are Morons", along with a bunch of other blogs in my feed page. This entry got me giggling, and I remembered the big days in customer support when we has a team of 20, and actually had a huge load of calls. These days, it's not so busy, but we're hoping it will pick up again when our Sales team gets momentum.

Here's the entry: Don't Be a Moron #1 - Calling Customer Service

This one's probably the most important rule about customer support:

3. Don't call me two minutes before I leave for the day.

Do you really think I want to stay late on Friday night to listen to you bitch? No. Make your call to customer service during the mid-morning about 10:00 AM in whatever time zone you are calling. That way, I've had my coffee, picked out the eye boogers and put my thinking cap on. I haven't been yelled at all day, and I'm not thinking about going to lunch or going home. Trust me - call at 10 and your issue will receive maximum attention.

Tropical and sunny, mostly, except in Tyr, where it's always dark, and covered in bones.

In the ongoing quest for a cool virtual world to hang out in, I've joined up with There.com. Sure, I could get into WoW and hang out with so many people I know, but who's got time to go questing? There's so much going on in the real world, what with all the ... [insert stuff that I do] ... going on.

If you go by raw statistics, WoW is easily the biggest online game in terms of population. If you go by honest statistical analysis, WoW is still the most populous, exceeding, by a factor of 50 (!!) most other games, including Second Life, Planetside, Dungeons and Dragons Online, etc.

There.com is, by sharp contrast, quite intimate, with nary 20000 paying members. Perhaps intimate isn't the word -- more like being in a sunny Limbo. I reviewed and beta-tested There.com way back in 2003, and thought it might be a great place to get into. Today, it's still there (yuk), and for a non-gaming virtual world, it's still pretty neat. Here's some good points:


  • It's now free to join
  • You get a free hover-surfboard
  • Cewl tiki-themed beach clothes
  • Retro-style world
  • A one-time $9.95 membership fee
  • Cool rendering engine
  • Exciting physics engine
  • Live music streaming through in-game jukeboxes
  • Built-in voice chat

there_image4.jpg

Unfortunately, There.com's got some bad points, and it's not alone. These problems affect many other online worlds, even the ones that are based around MMORPG gaming:

No Content: Sure, leave it up to the players to generate content. Yeah, that's a brilliant idea. There.com has some user-generated stuff, but it's largely up to the people who work at There to invite new members to parties and mixers. Granted, it's kind of neat being invited to virtual parties, since I don't get invited to many in real life.
Money costs real-world money: Unlike the virtual prostitution in Second Life, and adventuring for money in WoW, and delivering things in early Star Wars Galaxies, there's not really any way to get money in There.com. You've got to spend money to make money -- literally. Then, if you make and sell in-game objects, such as clothes, or paint for hoverboards, you might make enough to afford a house, which you can then rent to other players. This doesn't sound very interesting to me.
Stuff is pretty expensive: A T-shirt is about 3000T, but you can buy a used hoverboat for 10000T, or the price of 3 T-shirts. There's no distinction either, between new and used objects, except by how fashionable they are -- stuff doesn't appear to degrade like in some of the MMORPGs. So, you sell things only if you get tired of using them. This is kind of a good thing if you save your money.
Avatar-creation could be better: It's good, but feels a little dated. It's by no means as advanced as SWG, and you don't have as much control over it at the beginning. You can pick from a small subset of hair styles, and can reshape your face to some degree. From that point on, you can only adjust your face and body shape; any new hair styles must be purchased, even beards.
The place is mostly empty: It's a big world. Bigger if you're walking anywhere. Luckily, you can teleport to most places, and can hover/fly/drive other places. Each mode of transportation relies on a different physics engine, and that's kind of neat, so I can see why people would own multiple forms. And a flying car looks pretty cool. But so does the stock hoverboard they give you -- and you can do tricks on it.
Full of rentable real estate: Chock full. And the real-estate is as garish and ostentatious as it is in Second Life. I'm still not sure what the real estate is for, unless you've got loads of crap and you need a place to put it all, or you want a private chat room in which to cyber. But the truth is, this place is so empty, you should be able to find some secluded place without too much trouble. There are acres of empty hot tubs around these islands, just waiting for private encounters.
Nothing to do, really: Unless you really like to hover-surf, or whatever. Which I do -- very much. Unlike most of these MMORPGs, you can actually fly around/over/between people in this game. You can go into a low orbit if you have the time to do so. But other than that, and other than playing dress-up with your avatar, or chatting with strangers, there's nothing to do. It's like The Big Empty -- big, and empty.

there_image2.jpg

Really, it's kind of a cool place if you just want to hang out with a bunch of friends -- think instant messaging immersion. If you really like chatting, it's also a good place to get into with a bunch of friends. I like being by myself, so I try to avoid the crowds, which aren't very numerous. I get to go into people's empty houses and see how poorly they've decorated the place. But that's no reason to get into an online virtual world.

  South Park Avatar

Heh. Zuckervati as a South Park character. Remember South Park?

south_park_zuckervati_sm.jpg

Make your own here:
http://www.sp-studio.de/

  Where's Wormy?

So, Captain America's dead now? Big deal. Like that's ever stopped anyone in comics.

Who cares about Captain America? ... what happened to Wormy? I just found out about this crazy story, and have been wondering, since I was a kid (teen, really), what happened to that cool comic.

Dave Trampier (aka Tramp) was an illustrator for TSR's Dungeons & Dragons game, and did a comic strip for Dragon Magazine. The strip, "Wormy" was a fantasy story told from the perspective of the monsters, including a snooker-playing dragon, a redneck cyclops and his cyclops dog, a bunch of bumbling ogres, and a village full of trolls and other creatures. There were funny jokes, Jim Henson-esque characters, a fantastic attention to detail, and even some real serial drama. The series mysteriously ended after issue #132, right in the middle of a storyline, and was later replaced by other plot-driven comics. I came in at issue #56, just when it was getting interesting. That would make me 11 at the time. Yikes!

The loss of "Wormy" marked the downfall of Dragon Magazine (in one blogger's opinion).

wormy3.jpg

Answers.com/Wikipedia said this about the mystery:

A few issues later there was a brief note from the editors stating that "Wormy" would never be appearing again. No explanation was given. Artist and writer Trampier pretty much vanished and has never been reliably heard from since. In a casual conversation with fellow Dragon artist Phil Foglio at the 2000 Origins Game Convention, Mr. Foglio stated that at some point the "Wormy" strips just stopped coming into Dragon magazine and all checks mailed to Trampier were returned as undeliverable. Inquiries by TSR at his residence showed that he had moved with no forwarding address.

Rumours that he had died were denied by Tom Wham, who was for a while Trampier's brother-in-law. Wham stated in the 1990s that he had actually had some contact with Tramp and that he was fine. He gave no further details.


In 1999, an unconfirmed letter from an unknown author (unknown to me, anyway) mentions knowing Trampier, and offers a glimpse into the mind of the artist:

Tramp caught me in a bar one night ... and he was raving. Don't get me wrong, I like eccentrics and idiosyncratic characters, but Dave seemed wacked out of his mind-- paranoid, delusional or something (not just drunk, though he may have been); he was very agitated. I could hardly make sense of what he was trying to tell me-- it was all so incoherent and in many cases just wrong-headed (contrary to certain facts I was privy to), but none-the-less he was rather insistent. I subsequently got the impression that this agitated state of mind Dave seemed to be in wasn't an isolated incident, but reflected a more general problem he was having. I suspect that it complicated his involvement with Dragon Magazine. Dave's reality seemed to be all his own at that time. He was being extremely creative and diligent in his artwork, but he chafed at or ignored many of the conventions and compromises the professional world demands of creators. Well, bully for him. I appreciate the dilemma he likely faced.

wormy1.jpg

In 2000, Radio Free Wyhtl 2.3 seemed to have found him in their post, "Trampier Lives?"

We do caution fans out there, that if Mr. Trampier is alive, he has plainly taken great pains to Not Be Seen. Sudden departures are signs of caution in our society, and the vanishing of the famous and outspoken must always be loudly noted in a free country. But if he is off in a new life somewhere, and you get his phone numberâ.. resist the initial temptation. Consider well if he's interested in strangers bothering him after all these years. As evidence of his peaceful continued existence mounts, so does the dynamic of insuring a fellow artist's safety: The issue of privacy is second to life, but an extremely close second.

In 2005, there was a personality piece by Arin Thompson of the Daily Egyptian, a Carbondale, IL paper in which a cab driver named Dave Trampier is interviewed:

He rolls his own - no filters. He keeps his smokes in a novelty box that displays the word "Outlaw," embossed in thick, red ink.

When the key is in the ignition, he's not just David Trampier. He's cabby No. 4, and he knows Carbondale better than people who have lived here their entire lives.

"I literally have a map of the entire city in my head," Trampier says.

Trampier has been driving in Carbondale for about eight months. The former Southern Illinois resident used to drive a cab in the northwest suburbs of Chicago but moved back to the area last year.

wormy2.jpg

The article is accompanied by a picture of the driver. An unconfirmed Wikipedia statement suggests Gary Gygax confirmed it was the David Trampier who once worked for TSR.

So what's the story? Did Trampier go nuts and leave town? Where is he now? What's the deal with him? Maybe he's just out there, floating around in the aether... in any case, it sure sounds like a terrific Exhibit A episode, doesn't it?

  Monkeys Pirates Ninjas

It's what it's all about, baby.

monkeys_pirates_ninjas.jpg

Yes, maybe we need some new memes.

Monkeys Pirates Ninjas

Outrunning the Meme Police

  Light and Flakey DSL

So, Internet is still flakey, despite having Bell come out and look at everything, changing a broken DSL card, and resetting my bandwidth from 5Mb/s to 4Mb/s. Incidentally, I think I'm only on 3Mb/s, so it was a bit of a shock to me... My connection was doing fine over the weekend, but we had a server timeout this morning, and it's been kind of up and down on its own all day.

Going to have to call my service provider and see if they know anything from their side. If you can read this, then my connection's OK for now.

  Problems with DSL *again*

â.¦ and yet another new DSL modem to try to fix the problem. This makes 5 DSL modems in 5 years, and I've still got three leftovers sitting around the place. I'm beginning to think these things have succumbed to static shocks, or power surges, or ... something. This also makes 5 DSL routers in 5 years as well. Well, technically, I have owned that many, but the D-Link is still chugging away after what I thought was a botched firmware upgrade (heh, my bad -- I went from one subnet back to the default setting).

R's getting a little fed up with the whole on-again off-again DSL relationship, and has been suggesting we do something drastic, though she didn't give me an example of what "drastic" was. I was thinking a burstable T1 fibre channel, but that's about a grand a month... I was thinking maybe getting a second phone line (about $20/month), and seeing if they'd let me run the same DSL account on it. Then I could get me one of these ... a Hotbrick LB2-VPN SOHO 4-Port Dual WAN VPN Router ($420).

hotbrick_dual_wan.jpg

Redundant DSL. Not too shabby.

  Checking timestamps

Here's a great trick for those of you who have to get a report into a certain folder 3 days before a meeting, and your boss routinely checks the timestamps on the files during the meeting, chastising anyone who was late.

touch -t [[CC]YY]MMDDhhmm[.SS] filename

I'm not in this situation, but I thought about it a couple of times in the past.

  Living the IT crowd

I know it seems like I've been living under a rock for the past couple of years, but last night we finally got around to watching "The IT Crowd" for the first time. Really, really funny show -- more so since I'm a tech support nerd. R, while not a nerd, sometimes gets a similar kind of treatment from her IT people as Roy and Moss dish out. I have to admit, I've been pretty mean to customers in the past, and so have my co-workers. Some of the more memorable moments from my IT career:


  1. "You have to plug in this network cable to get on the network"
  2. "The error says you need to purchase this option. Have you purchased this option? No?"
  3. "You need to run Notepad. Notepad.exe. Notepad. N-O-T-E... En. Oh. Tee. Eee...."
  4. "Yes, the Enter key is the same as the Return key."

Needless to say, we couldn't stop watching the show, and stayed up much too late to be any good this morning.

The thing that got me laughing the most is that Roy (played by Chris O'Dowd) reminds me a little of the Leader (also in Tech Support). Actually, quite a lot. Here's a photo comparison.

roy_and_the_leader.jpg

  Remember remember ...

Interesting story. Just before Halloween, we were at Gen-X video, looking for used movies. The employees were all done up in costumes. I picked up a copy of "V for Vendetta" for $10. It looked like a good deal, and I remembered it was a great film, despite Alan Moore's retracted endorsement. I brought it up to the front counter, and a dude in a full Guy Fawkes outfit was standing behind the cash register. "How awkward," I said, trying to sound like Jon Lovitz. He shrugged and we thought nothing more of it.

guy_fawkes_portrait.jpg

On Saturday, R and I were wondering what to do with ourselves, and decided to go see a movie at the theatre. Then we decided that we were to lazy to go out, and could just sit in with a video and drink. So, I grabbed the DVD for "V for Vendetta" and we sat back with some booze to watch the film.

Of course after it was over, we realized that it was almost midnight on November the 4th. We were watching the movie just around the same time it was taking place, on the eve of Guy Fawkes Day. "Remember remember the 5th of November."

guy_fawkes_costume.jpg

So we celebrated by having "Eggies in a Basket" for breakfast (not to be confused with toad in the hole). Mmmn.

Been eating candy all week, since I tend to eat everything in front of me, and I can't bear to throw food away, and R won't take any of it to work to hand out. In addition to the belly aches and sugar crashes I've been getting, I started thinking about that famous "Life is like a box of chocolates" monologue. No, not the one from "Forrest Gump"; the one from the Cigarette Smoking Man from the X-files:

"Life is like a box of chocolates. A cheap, thoughtless, perfunctory gift that nobody ever asks for. Unreturnable because all you get back is another box of chocolates. So you're stuck with this undefinable whipped mint crap that you mindlessly wolf down when there's nothing else left to eat. Sure, once in a while there's a Peanut Butter Cup or an English Toffee. But they're gone too fast and the taste is... fleeting. So you end up with nothing but broken bits filled with hardened jelly and teeth-shattering nuts. And if you're desperate enough to eat those, all you got left is an empty box... filled with useless brown paper wrappers."

  Halloween 2006

Got this thing at werk where we all dress up for Halloween. I figured this was my chance to break away from the stuffy corporate dress we normally have to wear (har har). So I looked on the Interwebs and found a list of the most popular costumes, and decided to mash a bunch of them together.

R didn't like the idea of my Ninja Ghost Pirate Monkey costume. She said it went a little too far over the line -- even for me. She said the Ninja Ghost Pirate was, itself, just about over the line for me. So I went entirely Ninja today (with the Ghost Pirate costume for backup).

costume_ninja1.jpg

Unfortunately, I neglected to bring lunch, thinking that some might be provided today. I guess I'll have to sneak into the pita place down the street.

Finally got internet back after 2 weeks of downtime. That's DSL for you. Unfortunately, it's meant no surfing from home, no blogging, and no torrent downloads (sigh). This problem necessitated a call to my ISP, along with many hours of troubleshooting the connection. My favourite tech support question was this one (I'd called from my land line, so that they would know my phone number from their caller-ID, and would be able to dig up my account file from that): "Have you got a dial tone your phone line?" I told them I refused to answer the question on the grounds that if they thought about it for a minute, they already had the answer.

In the end, it turned out to be Bell Canada's problem -- they switched something somewhere, and that caused a failure on more than one customer's DSL line. Here's a hint for anyone who's troubleshooting DSL in the future: Don't unplug your modem, unless it's for a short period of time (i.e. for testing other phone jacks around your place). Apparently the phone company can check for modem sync remotely, and can't help you if your modem's unplugged. No one told me this, until a full week had passed.


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About the Blogger

I suppose if you've been reading my site for any length of time, you're probably curious to know who I am, and why I think people will read my blog. Online, I'm known as Zuckervati, mostly because it's easy...
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