Thursday, June 9, 2016

Some School Search Service Calls Me

One of those school search companies called looking for Clovis. When he asked how much education I had under my belt, I told him that I wasn't comfortable talking with other men about what might be under my belt. The rep couldn't stop laughing.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

National Claims Center Calls Me

I got a call from a rep claiming to be from the National Claims Center using the phone number (561) 413-1026. Initially, I was impressed that the rep was actually a native English speaker, as foreign accents are usually more indicative of a scam. Anyway, the rep went into some pitch about Social Security Disability Benefits and it sounded like a classic scam to me. When asked my age (shouldn't a legitimate organization have that info before calling me?) I said I was 65. The rep told me that, since I qualify for Social Security, I wouldn't need her services. I then said that I was mistaken and that my real age was 34. She went into her pitch, asking if I suffered from a condition. I said I suffered from Tourette's and punctuated it with a few "Fuck You"s. She decided to end the call at that point.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

I Had A Root Canal

I can now cross "Endure a painfully invasive dental procedure" off of my bucket list. A few weeks ago, I was noshing on a bacon cheeseburger and felt one of my back molars crack. I writhed in pain, cursing the Son Of Baconator that brought me to such a low ebb. A cursory examination involving three mirrors and several weird arm contortions revealed that I had cracked my tooth bad enough to knock the filling out. The dentist would later give me three options: 1) Pull the tooth, 2) attempt to refill it or 3) root canal. He advised that I get a root canal, so I decided to go along with his suggestion.

Over the next two weeks, I heard a lot of horror stories about sadistic dentists, botched procedures and stingy Novocaine treatments. Meanwhile, I tried my best to educate myself on what a root canal actually is. I'd heard a lot about it on tv, where it's fodder for situation comedies, but I really had no idea what the procedure entails. In short, a root canal, more technically known as endodontic therapy, is a procedure in which the dentist drills down through your tooth into the dental pulp tissue . The dentist drills out the pulp and then pulls the nerve out through the root canal. Once that's done, he fills the tooth with a polymer substance and attaches a temporary crown. You get the permanent crown a few weeks later.

The Implements Of Torture
I had resigned myself to enduring the procedure and mustered up the courage to sit in the chair despite my expectation that there would be a tremendous amount of pain involved. Watching the dental assistant lay out the tools that would be used in the procedure didn't help. There was no going back. The dentist shot me up with Novocaine and went to work. He only make me scream in pain twice. Most notibly, it hurt like a bitch when he got down to the pulp, as a bunch of pressure had been released from the tooth. He took the time to shoot me up with more Novocane. Overall, though, it was a relatively painless experience. I honestly felt more pain from the tongue depressor and the bite guard than I felt from the actual procedure. It was slightly worse than getting a tooth drilled and filled. The only other complaint I have is that my temporary crown feels weird and is raised slightly above where my actual tooth was, so I am having a hard time being comfortable when I bite down on my back teeth.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Multi Level Marketer Has No Morals

Clovis continues to get calls from people pushing multi-level marketing schemes. He invited a rep from a widely known financial services corporation to call him in order to discuss a comission based sales position. I answer the call as Ernie, pass it off to Diksmash and then answer as Clovis. The rep had no idea she was talking to three different people. Clovis explains that he's the ideal salesman because he has no morals and would bilk old ladies and sell his own mother's kidney if he had to. The rep is unfazed.When I reveal to her that she has actually been talking to one person using three different voices, she's actually impressed. It isn't until I tell her that she should be ashamed of herself that she actually decides to end the call.

Listen to her in the middle of the call. As much as Clovis tries to get her to describe the job he'd theoretically be doing, she refuses and re-directs. She's just there to put warm bodies into the seats so that the managing director can sell people on joining up.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Aflac Recruiter Is A Quack

Generally, when you get contacted by one of those multi-level marketing recruiters off of a job search site, it's a sure bet that those financial predators are just playing a numbers game. They harvest your information off of the job search site, e-mail you a form letter and direct you to sign up for an "interview" via an online calendar app or some other website. Very rarely do they engage with you directly, as that would cut into their time making sales, pushing their underlings' noses to the grindstone and getting more warm bodies to cover their high turnover. Every so often, though, you can dangle the carrot and get a recruiter to engage.

Clovis has set about looking for a job and gets a number of multi-level marketing interview requests every day. He recently had the following exchange with an Aflac ponzi scheme pusher:

Hello, My name is [REDACTED] and I am the [POSITION] at Aflac Chicago. I am reaching out to you to consider Aflac as a career. We have a huge need to satisfy the demand for our product so we are hiring for the Associate position. Fully trained on by Aflac, an Associate is hired to educate the marketplace on what we do as a company. Right now is a great time to become part of our team because the opportunity is HUGE. Due to healthcare reform, out-of-pocket expenses are increasing while employee benefits are decreasing. Aflac helps deal with this shift. Due to increasing demands for our services, Aflac HQ is investing in city markets to increase penetration during a time when people need Aflac the most. There is explosive growth in Chicago right now and we need more Associates to take on the opportunity.

If this sounds like a career for you, please attend an open house to start the interviewing process. Respond back to confirm for our next session on Wednesday, 4/20 at 10am or Thursday, 4/21 at noon. Please include a contact number and I look forward to hearing from you soon! Please note- We keep track of candidates electronically so please respond to this email to confirm your attendance to an open house.

Sincerely,
[NAME]
[CONTACT INFORMATION]

I wasn't sure what Clovis' endgame should be on this, so, in order to see if the recruiter actually reads the emails being sent, he responded that he would be unable to attend the upcoming open house but would like to attend a subsequent one.

Unfortunately, I am unable to attend the upcoming open house sessions due to upcoming dental surgery on April 20. I do not expect to be fully recovered enough to attend on April 21. However, I do remain interested in attending at some point. Perhaps alternate arrangements can be made.

Warm Retards,
Clovis

The recruiter responded with an alternate date.

Clovis, Thanks for letting me know and I wish you good luck on your surgery! I have a few open houses scheduled for next week and the week of May 2nd so please let me know which one would work best with and I will write you back with some times. Thanks and I hope to hear from you soon!

Best,

[NAME]
[CONTACT INFORMATION]
Clovis responded in the affirmative that he'd be able to attend. I had wondered if, when the open house date came and went, the recruiter would notice that Clovis hadn't shown up. I was going to let that thread hang for a while and see if there would be a response. However, before that happened, Clovis got another copy of the same form mail from the same recruiter.
Hello, My name is [REDACTED] and I am the [POSITION] at Aflac Chicago. I am reaching out to you to consider Aflac as a career. We have a huge need to satisfy the demand for our product so we are hiring for the Associate position. Fully trained on by Aflac, an Associate is hired to educate the marketplace on what we do as a company. Right now is a great time to become part of our team because the opportunity is HUGE. Due to healthcare reform, out-of-pocket expenses are increasing while employee benefits are decreasing. Aflac helps deal with this shift. Due to increasing demands for our services, Aflac HQ is investing in city markets to increase penetration during a time when people need Aflac the most. There is explosive growth in Chicago right now and we need more Associates to take on the opportunity.

If this sounds like a career for you, please attend an open house to start the interviewing process. Respond back to confirm for our next session on Wednesday, 4/20 at 10am or Thursday, 4/21 at noon. Please include a contact number and I look forward to hearing from you soon! Please note- We keep track of candidates electronically so please respond to this email to confirm your attendance to an open house.

Sincerely,
[NAME]
[CONTACT INFORMATION]

Any recruiter worth their salt should be keeping track of who they already contacted. This was a pretty obvious screwup and Clovis had to respond to it:
I believe we had already discussed a potential open house and I responded to you indicating that I would not be available for the dates in April. Yet, here I find this morning that you sent out two additional e-mails to me regarding said open house. I'm sure it's an error in your form mail.

As a sales professional, I shouldn't need to tell you that Personalized Service is one of the Beatitudes of Salesmanship. As outlined in my recently published e-book, The Beatitudes of Salesmanship, "Blessed are the Personalizers, for they shall reap the rewards the sales". I then go on to explain that, even though prospects often expect to be subjected to mail-merge or form mail, one should always take care not to make it obvious that one is using such tools on prospects. It makes people feel like a number. As I further explain in the chapter, "Don't make people feel like a number". So, I guess my question is: How many contacts did you scrape from Monster this week and what number am I? 
Best Witches,
Clovis
A more sensible recruiter would have known something was up and wouldn't have bothered to further engage. This one decided to double down.
Clovis,
I apologize you received multiple emails from us about an open house. I do not expect you to understand our systems for recruiting but I urge you to be careful to jump to conclusions about our business. The open house is a general group session that gives out information on our company and the position. This position isn't for everyone and we know that fact. That is why we are providing job seekers the option to come in and learn about the opportunity at our office. From there, if there is interest from the candidate, we will take the time to meet extensively on a 1-on-1 basis to make sure this is a mutual fit to move forward.

Again, I apologize you received multiple emails from our office. I will take your feedback into consideration as I move forward. I just wanted to make sure you knew we don't treat our candidates as numbers. We treat them respectfully as people. Best wishes to you in your career search.

Sincerely,
[NAME]
[CONTACT INFORMATION]
Now, this is an interesting bit of information. Notice how, in the initial contact form-letter, the Open House isn't really described. It's just referred to as a means to start the "interviewing process". In the subsequent e-mail, the Aflac recruiter outlines the open house a bit better so that it's more obvious that it's a presentation. No doubt it's something akin to a hard-sell timeshare presentation. Clovis took the opportunity to respond with a little more snark.
I believe I understand your systems quite well. Even if I didn't, the system is not in error here. You are. I arranged a date in May with you for an open house. A day later, you sent me yet another form mail asking about a date in April. Surely you can see where the breakdown in communications occurred. As I explained in my e-book, 100 Do's and 100 Don'ts In Salesmanship, "DO take ownership of mistakes". You made a mistake. Own it. Save the lectures about jumping to conclusions for the "Jump To Conclusions Mat" (Patent Pending).

Upon further consideration, I am afraid that I cannot accept your invitation for an open house. As I indicated (and as you forgot) in the earlier e-mail, I'm having dental surgery on April 20th. The prospect of a dentist slowly drilling into my tooth and pulling out nerves sounds far more interesting than anything Aflac has to offer. That is, unless you can put me in contact with that talking duck. He's quite the charmer. I bet he could sell caligae to a decurio.
The recruiter seemed to get the hint at this point and tossed off a quick "Thanks for your feedback and I wish you the best of luck in your career search!" e-mail. Yet, the very next day, Clovis got the same form mail yet again. And, when he changed his resume two days later, he got another one!

My point in this whole exercise is to show that these sort of companies are only interested in numbers. They want to put warm bodies in the seats so that they can get them cold calling and selling as soon as possible. These are commission-only based positions with high turnover and few successes. These are "jobs" only in the strictest technical sense. And they're certainly not careers. Even if you're desperate, you should be sending all these sorts of e-mails straight to your trash folder.


Monday, April 25, 2016

Kangaroo Plus Mobile Desktop

I just picked up the Kangaroo Plus Mobile Desktop PC from InFocus. The standard edition ships with an Intel Atom x5-Z8500 processor, 2GB of RAM, a 32GB SSD and Windows 10 Home for $99. The Plus edition uses the same processor as the standard, but ships with 4GB of RAM, a 64 GB SSD and no OS for $169.99. It also has a fingerprint reader, which is cool, but I don't personally have any use for it.

Right out of the box, I hooked the display port on the Kangaroo Plus to my television via the HDMI port. Since it ships with no OS, I had to install one. In order to do that, I used the Rufus tool to make a bootable USB drive out of a Windows 7 iso. The trick here is to make sure to format it using the GPT partition scheme for UEFI as the Kangaroo PC doesn't seem to support booting via MBR. Rufus wants to default to MBR, so make sure you've actually got it on GPT before hitting START.

Kangaroo PC
My Windows 7 install kept freezing up on the splash screen when I tried to install it on the Kangraoo. It may have been an issue with my ISO file, it may have been an issue with Kangaroo. I don't know. I used the Windows 10 download tool and downloaded the Windows 10 ISO for Rufus to use. I was able to install Windows 10 on the Kangaroo Plus PC without a problem. Even better, I was able to use the Windows 7 product key in order to activate Windows 10. If I had wanted to, I could have installed Windows 10 using a a Rufus modified microSD card, but I decided that the USB drive would be easier. I tested both the USB 3 and the USB 2 inputs and Kangaroo was able to boot using either of them.

Getting the audio to work via the HDMI interface took a little doing. The Kangaroo support site has drivers that you can install to get it working,  and the instructions say that you merely update the existing sound driver. But, in my particular instance, there was no sound device listed. I had to attempt to install the drivers against EVERY unknown device listed in the Device Manager in order to get HDMI sound working. Not a huge deal, though.

Once it's up and running, Kangaroo runs snappy enough. The real question is, what would you use it for? Here are my thoughts:

Uses For The Kangaroo PC:



  1. Light Office Work: Microsoft Office 2016 runs fine and web browsing is a breeze, so if you plan on doing things like checking e-mail, writing documents, making presentations, and/or browsing the web, the Kangaroo PC will fit the bill. 

  2. Thin Client: My organization makes extensive use of virtual desktops, so the first app I installed was VMWare Horizon View. The Kangaroo PC won't even break a sweat when connecting to a virtual desktop, so, that, along with the price ($99 for the standard, $169 for the Kangaroo Plus) makes this an ideal box for such a task. 

  3. Media Server And/Or Movie Player: My family takes a few vacations a year, and the portability of the Kangraroo PC makes it ideal to bring along to plug into a hotel TV in order to play some movies via VLC for the kids during downtime. Otherwise, I've got it running Plex Media Server while docked at home and connected to a USB hard drive. 

  4. Home File Server: I've got a bunch of family pictures on a USB hard drive and the Kangaroo PC would be idea to create a share so that the wife can have easy access from her laptop to all the pictures I have taken over the years. Some folks would want to go full NAS rather than file server, but I think making a file share is a better option for folks who don't want to delve too deep into the waters. 

  5. Old School Gaming Box: Whenever I am feeling nostalgic, I can head on over to GOG.com where I can download one of my favorite old school titles and run her off of the Kangaroo PC. Currently, I'm pushing my way through Fallout and Fallout 2. Next up will be X-Wing and the Quest for Glory series. 

If you're interested in buying your very own Kangaroo Mobile Desktop, you can find one via The Microsoft Store and Newegg. You might be able to find one via Amazon, but, generally, they are re-sells from private individuals who already bought one and are looking to make an extra profit. You can also buy extra docks in case you're regularly taking your Kangaroo between different locations and don't want to have to bring the dock with you. Kangaroo has an internal battery that should give you about 4 hours of life should you want to keep the machine running while you travel. Also, the battery can be charged via the Micro-USB port. 







Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Multi Level Marketers and Ponzi Schemers on Monster.com

After nearly 15 years working for the same company, I started to think that it might be time for a change. To that end, I put my resume up on Monster.com, and, while I got a few decent inquiries from prospective employers, I ended up getting a whole lot more muti-level marketing opportunities. Most of them came in the form of annoying form letters offering me a "great opportunity" to be my own boss while selling whatever shit product they represented. A few aggressive ones actually called me and tried to give me the hard sell until I informed them that I work in IT and have no sales experience nor the desire to develop any. These multi level marketing jobs come from recruiters who merely scrape contact info off of Monster and send form letters to prospects in the hopes that 1% will respond and possibly buy into their ponzi scheme. After a particular annoying weekend call from one of these purveyors, I decided that Clovis had to get involved. He posted a resume on Monster, and, within 12 hours, the multi level marketing offers came pouring in.


I got a few phone calls as well. Most merely hung up when I didn't answer. However, a rep from Tru Green left a message and then sent a follow-up email:
Hi Clovis,  
I wanted to follow up regarding the message I left earlier on your voicemail. Based on the experience listed on your Monster resume, I feel this position will be a great fit for you and I would like to speak with you to provide additional information.  I can be reached at [REDACTED].
Clovis responded to her:
Thank you for your interest. Due to the demands of my current position, I am generally unable to answer the phone for personal calls during working hours. However, I can be reached any time after 4:30 PM and would like to invite you to call me in order to discuss details.  
 
Warm Retards, 
 Clovis 

The rep called right after 4:30. I answered the phone as Rodney from "E.Z. Lay Carpeting Company". When she asked for Clovis, I passed her off to a few different people (which was just me doing different voices) and she quickly hung up. Here's the exchange:



She later e-mailed Clovis explaining her actions:

Hi Clovis,
 I tried to call you back but it was a bit of a circus as different people answered the phone and kept passing it on. Eventually I hung up. Feel free to call me back when you can. Thank you.

Eventually she hung up??? She wasn't on the phone for more than 90 seconds. This could not go unanswered. Clovis responded to her:

I must express my deep disappointment at your low frustration level. I regret to have to inform you that Persistence is one of the key virtues of Salesmanship. Indeed, in my recently published e-book, "The Seven Virtues Of Salesmanship", I detail how my own persistence allowed me to sell carpeting to my dentist while I talked to him through my first root canal. It also details how I was not deterred from selling new tile to my ex-wife AND her lawyer for their new love nest while I was being sued for divorce by grounds of irreconcilable differences. And you bailed out because you had to wade through a few people on the phone in order to get to me? It sounds like the well has been poisoned over there at Tru Green. I have no problem leading a horse to water, but if that water is muddied with unhealthy practices, I cannot, in good conscience, allow that horse to drink. For, you see, Honor is another one of the Seven Virtues Of Salesmanship. There's no honor in hanging up the phone. There is only defeat.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression, but you do get a first chance to take on a second chance the first time. I invite you to show me that my initial assessment of Tru Green is incorrect. I'll leave the method up to you.
 
I Wish You All The Breast!
Clovis

The rep called the next day. Clovis answered and asked her to apologize to the owner of the carpet company for referring to his operation as "a circus". She declined and hung up.


She must have thought better of it, because she called back a few minutes later and offered an apology. She then went into her pitch. Clovis asked that the base salary of $500 per week be upped to $800 and that there be a finder's fee of $300 for him to come into an interview. She refused and eventually referred Clovis to her General Manager. Clovis was impressed that the Manager was General in the Armed Forces and wished to speak to him directly. The rep promptly hung up. Again.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Coastal.com vs Zenni Optical

When I was a kid, the process of ordering glasses was excruciating. It was the stone age of buying glasses. The biggest advance in glasses technology at the time was being able to have your glasses within an hour. But, that was so expensive that only the monied gentry could afford it. For us plebs, you'd have your exam at some place that was pre-approved of by your insurance, and, after getting your prescription set, you'd have no choice put to pick from the frames that were available at your optometrist's office. The office we went to had some seriously ugly frames in the lower-to-mid-level category. I almost always ended up with something that would mark me as a nerd at school...moreso.

Thankfully, the process of ordering glasses has evolved over the last 30 years. Now, you can order glasses from several different places online. All you need is a prescription. For that, you still need to get an exam, but, once that's out of the way, your eye doctor is legally obligated to give you a copy of your prescription. There are so many options online now that it can be overwhelming to have to choose frames and lenses. When my daughter and I both when in for exams recently, I decided to order glasses from two different site: Coastal.com and Zenni Optical.

Coastal Vs Zenni


The Rundown:


Both Coastal and Zenni have some really nice looking frames to choose from. And both have various lens options to choose from. I purchased my glasses from Coastal for $167.05 which includes a set of Kodak Advance Thin Blue Reflect lenses. My daughter's glasses, with a better set of lens options cost me $228.17. My glasses from Zenni Optical cost me $31.85. My daughter's glasses from Zenni, which look a lot like the ones she got from Coastal, cost me $30.90.  

The Verdict


In general, I'll say that, if you want higher quality frames, you should probably goal with Coastal.com. The frames I got from Coastal feel sturdier and feel like they are made from better material than the ones I got from Zenni. But, for the price, you really can't beat Zenni. The glasses I got from Zenni may feel a bit more fragile, but they work perfectly fine. My daughter and I use our Zenni glasses as backups for our Coastal glasses.

Coastal Coupon Code


Coastal has a referral program, but they don't give customers who sign up through it any discount (bastards). Still, if you want to help a guy out, please consider signing up via my referral link.

Zenni Coupon Code


If you sign up for Zenni via my referral link you can get five dollars off your first Zenni order.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Big Rock Dude Ranch

Once upon a time, I was pretty damn good at riding horses. I used to ride them a few times a year while going to summer camp. That is, until I had a bad experience. When I was about 10, I had gotten on a horse that was in a temperamental mood. He tried to throw me, and, failing that, tried to roll over on top of me. Still not content to have me on his back, he galloped off the trail and into the forest which smacked my head against several tree branches. I came out of it with some bruises, a few cuts and the feeling that every horse in the world now wanted to bite my face off.

Thirty years later, when the family wanted to go to Big Rock Dude Ranch in Pigeon Forge, TN to ride horses, I was more than a little apprehensive. But, since the family was pretty well set on doing this, I agreed to give it a go. And I'm glad I did. Thanks to the folks at Big Rock Dude Ranch, I've conquered my fear of horses. There really wasn't anything to be worried about. The horses are calm, are responsive to commands and know the trail so well that they could walk it in their sleep. It was just what a nervous rider like myself needed in order to feel at ease.

There's a lot of other stuff to do at Big Rock Dude Ranch besides riding horses. They offer ATV riding, gem mining, fishing (catch and release) and a few other odds and ends. I can't really comment on their other offerings since we didn't participate, but it looks like you won't be bored if you decide to spend part of the day there.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Ober Gatlinburg

Ober Gatlinburg is an amusement park and ski area, located in the Smoky Mountains overlooking Gatlinburg, Tennessee. It offers a mall, ice skating rink, a snack bar, a lounge, a video arcade, a full service restaurant and various gift and clothing stores. Outside, you'll find a number of cool amusements like an Alpine Slide, ski slopes, a black bear habitat, a mountain coaster and tubing slides. In order to get to Ober Gatlinburg, you've got to drive through the downtown Gatlinburg strip and take their aerial tram up the mountain. The tram ride itself is a bit unnerving for a guy like me who is afraid of heights. It's especially unnerving when the tram passes by another tram going the opposite way and they both shake a bit. But, it's all in my head, as aerial trams are incredibly safe. Once we got up the mountain, we poked around the mall area and checked out the things to do inside. I was actually impressed that the snacks and drinks (especially beer) were reasonably priced for an amusement area. Their Reuben is actually pretty tasty.

We eventually went outside and got on the chair lift that brings you to the top of Mount Harrison. Again, being afraid of heights, this was a particularly nervous trip for me at the beginning, but I calmed down pretty quickly. Halfway up the mountain is the drop-off for the Alpine Slide where you can get on a handbrake-enabled cart and slide down the mountain. If you elect to keep going up the mountain, you'll reach the top in about 15 min from that point. At some point, you'll have your picture taken by an automatic camera. There wasn't much of a view when we went up due to the weather rolling in. But, it's still nice up there. Heading down via the chair lift was a lot less nerve wracking than heading up. The ride put me at ease enough to head back up again, this time to stop mid-way and dart down the mountain via the Alpine Slide. Those things can really get moving, especially around the corners.

The rest of the family went on the famous Ober Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster while I stayed behind to watch the little one. There was a pretty long wait for them to go, but I'm told that they thought it was worth it. I could tell by the look on their faces in the pictures that the auto-camera took of them. Which brings me to another point: The folks at Ober Gatlinburg are pretty snap happy. You get your picture taken coming off the aero-tram, going up the chair lift, riding the mountain coaster and sliding down the tubing hill. At about 10 bucks a pop multiplied by several family members each, it got to be pretty pricey. The folks at Ober Gatlinburg call it "memory insurance". Your wallet may have another word for it.

Not Much To See Here. Riding The Chair Lift Down Mount Harrison

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Foxfire Mountain

We're motoring around the great Smoky Mountains this week for a family vacation. Our first stop today was Foxfire Mountain, located in Sevierville, Tennessee in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The mountain has had its share of brushes with history. It had been home to an iron mine, a Confederate military camp and a private farm. Now, it's the home of Foxfire Mountain Adventures and offers a number of fun activities such as Zip Lining, Four wheeling, hiking and bear crawler tours. Foxfire Mountain Adventures boasts the highest rock climbing wall in Tennessee, the second highest zip line course int he country and the longest swinging bridge in the United States. We didn't do any zip lining because our youngest wasn't old enough to do it. We did, however, hike over the bridge to the waterfall. The entire area is peaceful and quite scenic. The prices for zip lining seem pretty reasonable, and the hike over the bridge will cost you around $20, but it's worth it.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Pinball Arcade

Back when I was in college, my friends and I would spend far too much time and money in the lobby of our residence hall playing pinball. There were two games that we were particularly fond of: Addam's Family and Bram Stoker's Dracula. Manufactured by Bally/Midway in 1992, Addams Family is the best selling pinball machine of all time. Bram Stoker's Dracula was released in 1993 and was especially noteworthy for it's "Mist Multi-Ball" where a magnet was used to drag a ball across the board and the player was required to knock it loose from the magnet's grasp in order to start the multi-ball.

Last year, a digital version of Addam's Family was released for use with The Pinball Arcade, a game by FarSight Studios. I downloaded the game and both the Addams Family and Bram Stoker's Dracula pinball boards this week. They're almost as fun as the real thing. Better yet, you don't have to keep shelling out quarters in order to play. The only drawback I can see is that the controls are a bit laggy on Dualshock controllers, which makes it especially hard to make skillshots. But, if you're just using a keyboard, you'll be fine.

All told, my stills with both the Addam's Family and Bram Stoker's Dracula pinball games are quite rusty. I haven't been able to hit the jackpot in either game yet, but I have managed to hit the multi-ball. It's especially satisfying to hear Raul Julia's voice excitedly exclaim "SHOWTIME" upon triggering it in Addam's Family.

I've got a few playthrough videos up already. They'll give you a good idea of how well these games replicate the experience of actually playing the Addams Family and Bram Stoker's Dracula pinball games.

Addams Family Pinball

Bram Stoker's Dracula

Monday, March 7, 2016

Classmates.com sucks

There was a time when Classmates.com was a useful site. I think it was sometime in the late 1990's. Back before the corruption of Myspace and the rise of Facebook, Classmates.com was about the only way you could keep up with your former high school and college friends. I first signed up back when talk of a 10 year high school reunion was circulating among the few people I kept in contact with from my high school. It never came to pass, and, by the time my 20 year reunion came around, I had just let my Classmates.com account languish in the back of my mind.

From its inception, Classmates.com has engaged in what many people would call shady business practices. In order to maintain the integrity of their closed system, Classmates.com automatically filtered their internal messaging system in order to scrub out email addresses, phone numbers and street addresses, which would have allowed users to communicate outside of Classmates.com, thus negating the need for a membership. Even worse, Classmates.com had sent a significant number of emails that told recipients that their old friends from school wished to reconnect with them. The recipients then would need to buy a Classmates.com memberships in order to read their old friends' contact information. Classmates.com got hit with a class action lawsuit and ended up settling for $9.5 Million. There are many more examples, but, I'm sure you get the picture. Classmates.com is the Internet equivalent of some letch pulling up in a windowless van telling you to get inside because your mother is in the hospital and you need to get to her ASAP.

Normally, I just ignore SPAM from Classmates.com. I normally get stuff with the following subject lines:


  • Is this one of your buddies?
  • Start bragging, you made the list!
  • Is this someone you've been expecting?
  • You have 1 profile visit waiting to be revealed!
Those sort of messages are obvious SPAM bait on a par with "Sexy, local ladies are waiting to meet you" ads and are easily ignored. However, the other day, Classmates.com sent me something a little different. The subject line was We've left a message in your inbox that might interest you. With my 25 year reunion coming up, I thought that this perhaps was from someone in my graduating class sending out an event invite. Here's what greeted me when I logged in: 


So,  Classmates.com essentially spammed my Classmates.com inbox with some drivel so that they could later have an excuse to spam my regular inbox. Pretty sneaky, Classmates.com. This sort of chicanery was enough motivation for me to go through the process of deleting my Classmates.com account. 

How To Delete Your Classmates.com Account


They sure don't make it easy, do they? You'd think that, in order to delete your Classmates.com account, you could just go to your account settings and do it. But, you can't. Instead, you either have to navigate through their FAQ or contact a Classmates.com representative who will then try to guilt you into sticking around. Or, you could follow the steps below:

  1. Log-in  to your Classmates.com account
  2. Navigate to https://secure.classmates.com/auth/removemember
  3. Select a reason why you want to remove your registration (you must choose one)
  4. Click the "Remove Registration" button.
  5. A tiny pop-up will appear and ask you if you are sure. Click "Yes". Interestingly enough, the pop-up did not appear when I tried to do this in Internet Explorer 11. It worked in Chrome, though. 
So, that's it. Hopefully, after deleting the account, you won't get any more deceptive SPAM from Classmates.com.



Friday, February 26, 2016

Bryant and Stratton College Calls Me

An overly perky rep from Bryant and Stratton College called me yesterday. Bryant and Stratton College is a for-profit institution with campuses in a handful of states across the country. They have noted alumni such as John D. Rockefeller and Henry Ford. They must be eager to add Clovis to their list of distinguished alumni, as they've been spamming his inbox for nearly a year now.

The Bryant and Stratton College rep indicated that Clovis has requested information on March 5th. Clovis, of course, wondered if she was from the future, as it was still only February. The rep then backtracked and said that Clovis requested information on February 5th of last year. All this talk of fifths made Clovis eager for a fifth of Jack Daniels, which Clovis immediately took a swig of and ended up barfing back up. The rep didn't stick around in order to overhear the cleanup effort. So, it would appear that Clovis won't be attending Bryant and Stratton College anytime soon.


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Nextbook 8 Tablet Review

We picked up the Nextbook 8 tablet (manufactured by E Fun INC) over Christmas for our pre-schooler. It's basically just something for him to use to play games during long car rides. For around $75, it's a decent entry-level tablet. I'm mostly geeked out about the HDMI interface which would come in handy for watching Netflix on a hotel's television. But, as I said, it's mostly used for playing games during long car rides, and, in that aspect, it works fine. With Android games being more and more memory intensive, the RAM on the Nextbook 8 tablet gets used up pretty quickly. Storage isn't really an issue, though, because the SD card slot allows for expansion when needed. There's no Bluetooth available, so that's a bit of a letdown as well. Where the Nextbook 8 tablet really fails epically is customer support.

After about a month, the touch screen on the Nextbook 8 went bad. I would have originally taken the tablet back to the store to exchange it, but it was past the 30 day return period. So, I called Nextbook customer support. I couldn't get through, so I went to their website and filled out a ticket asking for an RMA (return materials authorization). It took them over 24 hours to respond to me. I was given the typical rundown of troubleshooting techniques which I dutifully ran through and then responded that the screen was still dead. Another 24 hours after my response, I head back from Nextbook again and was told that, since I did not purchase the Nextbook 8 tablet from a national retailer (indeed, I purchased from what might be considered a small regional retailer) that they would not fix it. Period.

So, when faced with this situation, I backtracked and told the support representative that I had mis-spoke and that I had purchased the Nextbook 8 from Wal-Mart. I was then assured that they would fix the Nextbook 8 as long as I still had the receipt. Since I didn't have the receipt handy, and since I found it highly unusual that a manufacturer would require a receipt in order to fix a physical defect, especially since the Clickscreen Death on the Nextbook 8 is so widely known.  I asked for my request to be escalated up a tier. And this is where the stonewalling started. I kept getting asked for more and more information between 24 hour communication intervals. Finally, I was told that, since I had initially said that I had bought the Nextbook 8 from a regional retailer, rather than Wal-Mart, they would not process my RMA and that I would have to take up my case with the regional retailer.

At this point, I had come too far and I wasn't going to start this battle up again with another customer support team. Instead, I told the Nextbook 8 representative that I had indeed bought the tablet from Wal-Mart and could prove it with a receipt. The rep then sternly warned me that their Nextbook 8 techs would thoroughly inspect the unit and if it hadn't been purchased from Wal-Mart, they'd charge me for a new Nextbook 8 and for return shipping. Since I had never used my real name in any communication with them, I wasn't worried. I took my original receipt from the regional retailer, used Photoshop to make it look like it was from Wal-Mart and sent them a copy. They issued me a new Nextbook 8 tablet free-of-charge within two weeks.

So far, the new Nextbook 8 has been working pretty well. We'll see what happens, though.