Tuesday, July 19, 2016

How To Win The Palio Race in The Witcher 3.

Participating in horse races in The Witcher 3 is a great way to earn coin and get upgrades for your horse. Most of the races are easily won. But the Palio is set up to be incredibly difficult. It seems like it's outright rigged from the start. The AI cheats by seemingly having unlimited stamina and by actually trying to force you off the track, resulting in an instant loss. I endured several losses before settling on a strategy to sprint in the open and cantor across the bridges (thus replenishing Roche's stamina). Even then, I'd get waylaid by a wraith or a cockatrice. Shoving off for Skellige before running the race so that I could buy the zerrikanian saddle made the difference in the end, but I still had to make sure to stick to the track or end up getting instantly disqualified.

Of course, if you're lucky, you might just be able to take advantage of a glitch where you'll have no competition at all in the Palio race. I don't know if it can be replicated on Xbox One or PC, but on PS4 make sure you save your game right before you talk to Cleaver about the letter he sent you. Every so often, the Palio will load and one of the competitor horses won't have a rider. If you keep loading Witcher 3 back to where you ask Cleaver about the letter, you'll eventually get a version where you start the Palio with both competitor horses not having riders. Once you have that, you can just cantor the whole race and finish it at your own pace. Here's a video of me winning the Palio race in The Witcher 3 because of the glitch:

Thursday, July 14, 2016

A Rebuttal To The Rebuttal Of Chris Rock Talking About Owning Their Actions

Another politically explosive yet intellectually dishonest meme is making the rounds on Facebook this week. In involves a rebutle to a statement Chris Rock made in an interview with Frank Rich back in November of 2014. The author of the meme takes Rock to task for saying "[White people must start] Owning their actions". Some group called Uncle Sam's Misguided Children took offence to the statement and tossed off a meme to decry it (in ALL CAPS, no less).

Yeah, we need to stop feeling guilty for shit we didn't do. It was black people who sold other black people into slavery and the first slave owner in America was black. All the ghettos in America are run by Democrats and more white people are shot and killed by cops than are black people. Last time I checked, it was black people looting their own businesses and killing their own people. So tell me again who needs to start taking responsibility for their actions.

Now, whether or not you agree with what Chris Rock said (in-context or out-of-context), there are some serious issues with the statements made in this meme. I'll take it line-by-line.

Yeah... we need to stop feeling guilty for shit we didn't do.
On the surface, it's not a bad sentiment, is it? The sins of the father should not be visited upon the son, right? However admirable that statement may be, we must also be mindful that the past, once it happens, does not become hermetically sealed from the present. Things that happened in the past have repercussions that can be felt well into the future. We, as a society, cannot hope to move forward by choosing to ignore problems simply because we have not personally contributed to them. The old adage, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"(George Stayana) rings true.

It was black people who sold other black people into slavery...
I'm not sure what the point of this statement is. History is replete with examples of various cultures selling their own people into slavery. One need only look as far as The Bible for an example of this. In Genesis 37:27-28 the sons of Jacob sell their own brother Joseph into slavery. More recently, The Proclamation of 1625 by King James I sold 30,000 Irish as slaves to the New World (mostly in the Caribbean). So, regardless of race, creed, or color, people are assholes and prove time and again that they will sell out their own if the price is right.

…and the first slave owner in America was black.
To begin with, this statement simply is not true. The slave trade existed in the New World since the early 1500's when slaves were brought to the Caribbean and Brazil. Even if we're limiting the concept of  "America" to the area encompassing the 13 Colonies, it's still not true that the first slave owner in America was black. The black slave owner that text is referring to is almost certainly Anthony Johnson. Many blogs with a hard-conservative bent like to pull Anthony Johnson's court record from history and use that as evidence that the first slave owner in America was black.

Here's the truth: Anthony Johnson, a black Angolan, arrived in Virginia in 1621 where he went to work on a tobacco plantation either as an indentured servant or a slave. He was eventually freed and, in 1651, Johnson claimed 250 acres of land along the Pungoteague Creek by virtue of five headrights, a colonial system put into place to help bring laborers to the colonies. In exchange for buying the contract for an indentured servant, Virginia Colony would give the purchaser 50 acres per servant. Anthony Johnson had bought the contracts for 5 indentured servants which is how Johnson came to have a servant named John Casor. At one point, John Casor escaped to a nearby farm owned by Robert Parker and claimed that Johnson had kept him longer than his agreed upon indenture. Anthony Johnson sued Robert Parker for Casor's return in 1651. This makes Anthony Johnson the first slave owner file a civil case over slavery in the Americas. So, you could say that the first slave owner to file a court case over slavery in America was black. But, you cannot say that the first slave owner in America was black.

Anthony Johnson was NOT the first slave owner in America. Documents show that slaves were sold to the colonists at Jamestown as early as 1619. And, since Anthony Jonson didn't arrive until 1621, and didn't get freed until much later, the claim that the first slave owner in America was black is erroneous. So, who was the first slave owner in America? Unfortunately, historical records don't indicate exactly who bought slaves, so if we are to go by named recognition, then the ignominious distinction of "First Slave Owner In America" would go to Hugh Gwyn (from a court case in 1640) or possibly Sir George Yeardley, colonial Virginia's Governor at the time when slaves were first brought to Jamestown in 1619.

For the sake of argument, let's just ignore facts and history for a moment (much like Uncle Sam's Misguided Children tend to do). Let's say, for sake of argument, that the first slave owner in America was black. So what? What does that prove? Does that somehow legitimize the institution of slavery? If a black man was the first slave owner in America, does it make it okay for everyone else to have owned slaves?

All ghettos in America are run by Democrats...
In case you weren't previously aware, this whole missive has a political point to make and, with this statement, all pretense of subtlety has gone out the window. In fact, the author is so eager to hit you upside the head with this that he/she fails to form a truly coherent thought on the matter. I am going to assume that the author doesn't mean that each ghetto in the United States has a designated person running it (who happens to be a Democrat in every case). Rather, the author intends to say that the poorest cities in America are governed by mayors from the Democratic party. If we look at the 10 poorest cities with a population over 300,000 according the a US Census Bureau report in 2014, then we would see that 3 of those cities had Republican mayors. This alone would mark the original statement as false. Still, a large majority of those cities are run by Democratic mayors. Are we to assume that the correlation is the causality? If that's the case, then let's have a look at the 10 poorest states according to a 2014 US Census Bureau report. Of those ten states, six Governors were Republican. What conclusion can we draw from that if we again accept that the correlation is the causality? Whatever the point that this original sentence was trying to make, it bears mentioning that our political parties are not split among racial lines. Democrats are not elusively black and Republicans are not exclusively white.

...and more white people are shot and killed by cops than are black people.
This is actually a factual statement. Yet, while it is indeed true that each year more white people are shot and killed by police than black people, it's pure statistical manipulation if you fail to adjust for population size. According to the most recent census data, white Americans make up 62% of the US population and about 49% of those who are killed by police officers. African Americans make up 13% of the US population but account for 24% of those killed by police. This means that an African American is 2.5 times more likely to be shot by a police officer than a Caucasian American.

Last time I checked, it was black people looting their own businesses and killing their own people.
This is another dubious statement. According to an FBI report from 2014, the "black on black" homicide rate was 90% compared to the "white on white" homicide rate which was at 82%. Not much of a difference there. And while I don't have any statistics available about looting, I'm thinking that the author means physical looting of a business, so-called "blue collar" looting. But, what about "white collar" looting, the sort of looting that involves embezzlement, money laundering and securities fraud. Any guesses on which race commits those crimes at a higher rate?

So tell me again who needs to start taking responsibility for their actions?
We all do. Change must come from within. If you want things to change, then change starts with you.
Let's recall that the Chris Rock quote that set off this meme was part of a larger conversation and was taken out of context. The relevant quote is as follows: "[White people must start] Owning their actions. Not even their actions. The actions of your dad. Yeah, it’s unfair that you can get judged by something you didn’t do, but it’s also unfair that you can inherit money that you didn’t work for". Rock was trying to make a comment on the state of race relations in this country and how what we perceive as progress can be skewed by one's perception. Whether or not you believe him, I don't think Chris Rock meant to imply that white people are directly guilty of the things their ancestors did. More specifically, I don't believe Rock meant to imply that white people must take responsibility in the present for the racism of the past. He just wants it acknowledged that it was a factor. That's how I see it, anyway.

Regardless of your perception of the quote, if you're going to debunk it, then you'd best be intellectually honest about the things you say when you do so. The person or group behind Uncle Sam's Misguided Children did do his/their homework and ended up tossing off some half-baked rant that people will as gospel simply because they saw it on Facebook.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Magic House St. Louis

After our somewhat disappointing visit to the St. Louis Science Center, I was a bit apprehensive about visiting the Magic House, which is essentially a children's museum in a mansion. I was wrong. So incredibly, utterly, totally wrong. The Magic House is a crazy, beautiful, wonderful place to take the kids where children and adults alike will have a good time.

The kids were especially fond of the mock construction site and the specialized STEM area. Myself, I was quite fond of the court area and the mockup of the Oval Office. My daughter and I shot a bunch of goofy videos there where she declared martial law and suspended habeas corpus. I had half a mind to re-enact Jimmy Carter's "Crisis Of Confidence" speech or Nixon's resignation speech, but decided against it as I didn't want to monopolize the area.

Ultimately, we were all blown away by the Dark Room. Kids can color their own house, plane, car etc and have it scanned into the system where it is then projected onto the wall as part of a dynamic world. At some point, a Godzilla-type creature appears and stomps the houses and cars. No worries, though, as they pop right back up after the cute monster disappears. I was totally geeked out and the kids loved seeing their creations appear on the screen.

Truth be told, we could have spent the entire day at the Magic House. Unfortunately, we arrived late and were only able to spend a few hours there. But, they were well spent.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

St. Louis Science Center

Growing up, one of my favorite things to do was take a trip to Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. Some thirty-five years ago, my Grandfather would show up to pick me and my siblings up from a half-day at school, load us into his '73 Impala (practically a boat on wheels), hand us a box of donut holes from Dunkin' Donuts. and drive us down to Hyde Park so we could spend the rest of the day at the Museum of Science and Industry. Back then, admission was free, so taking four kids wouldn't break the bank.

In the tradition of  "Chicago's Greatest Freebie", we took the kiddos to the St. Louis Science Center this weekend where admission is free but parking is $15. It's touted as one of the Top 5 Science Centers in the country, but, I feel like the place has seen better days. First off, the bathroom facilities at the St. Louis Science Center were woefully inadequate for the amount of visitors it was handling. I understand that it was a holiday weekend, but that's really no excuse for the tremendously long lines we experienced outside of the Men's room.

Overall, the St. Louis Science Center seems to be feeling its age. There wasn't a lot that my kids, who are all very curious and inquisitive, seemed to enjoy doing. The Planetarium area was a hit and they liked hanging out in the bridge over the highway and looking through the telescopes. I was particularly gleeful at the fact that you could aim radar trackers at cars to see how fast they were going. The must wreak havoc with the commuters who have radar detectors. Despite the high points, I think we could have skipped this one.  

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Natural Sunburn Remedy

Summer is here and, with it, comes those powerful UV rays that wreak havoc on the skin of poor melanin-deficient folks like myself. Due to my Irish heritage and my tendency to work indoors, my skin reacts to the Sun like a fork in a microwave. I've spent many an agonizing evening laying on the cool tile of the bathroom floor while my siblings sprayed me down with Solarcaine in order to relieve the pain from a horrible sunburn.

I've pretty well learned my lesson. I try not to go out during the Summer without a high SPF sunblock and I make sure to re-apply it often. It helps, but I'm not always vigilant enough to keep from burning. Just about a week ago, while on the boat with the family, I got a pretty nasty sunburn. It was especially bad from the top of my knees down to my ankles. Later in the day, standing became difficult for me and getting out of bed was even worse. Nevermind the fact that the sunburn itself was giving off heat and made my skin feel incredibly itchy. With no Solarcaine or generic aloe lotion available, my wife improvised a natural remedy.

Using some essential oils provided by Young Living, she mixed some coconut oil with peppermint. In a separate mixture, she used coconut oil, tea tree and lavender. I realize that essential oils aren't exactly accepted as mainstream science, but, at the time, I was in so much pain that I was willing to try anything. The mixtures definitely had an effect on my skin. While not completely relieved of my sunburn pain, I did feel that I had gotten enough relief to function adequately.

There's an encyclopedia's worth of remedies out there involving essentials oils. If you're curious and have an open mind, you can find such remedies among the independent distributors of Young Living essential oils. It seems that, whatever the problem, there's an oil for that.

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.


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,

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!


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.


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,
A more sensible recruiter would have known something was up and wouldn't have bothered to further engage. This one decided to double down.
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.

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, 

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!

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