Friday, July 30, 2010

We're Doomed!

In honor of System Administrator Appreciation Day, I'm presenting an old motivational video that my old Systems Administration Team and I put together a number of years ago. You may not know what a systems administrator does, but generally, a systems administrator is the guy who gets the call at 2am when the e-mail server goes down. He ensures the smooth operation of several different types of servers. If you're able to read this webpage, then there's a systems administrator to thank somewhere, so make sure you wish him/her a happy System Administrator Appreciation Day today. And buy your system administrator some coffee. We all love coffee.

Anyway, about the video:

The Systems Administration Team overworked and under tight deadlines, struggle to maintain their sanity in the face of imminent doom. What could possibly bring them out of their funk?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Really Getting Ticked Off At Blizzard

It has been over a week since I was informed that my World of Warcraft account had been compromised and suspended. I managed to get the password reset and get all of the gear belonging to each of my characters restored. The one remaining issue is the authenticator code. An authenticator is a set of random digits that are associated with your username and password. Each time you log in to your World of Warcraft account you have to input the authenticator code as an extra layer of security. This unauthorized authenticator code is all that stands in the way of my return to Azeroth. The problem is, despite five e-mails asking for it to be removed and endless hours in the tech support hold queue, the issue still has not been resolved and the customer service reps over at Blizzard don't seem to understand what I am asking to them to do.

I'm frustrated. I'm angry. And I have a huge desire to take it out on the next live person I reach at Blizzard. But, I'm not going to lose my cool. I'm not going to lash out. It's easy to slip into asshole mode under these sort of circumstances, whether it be due to a technical support issue, poor service at a restaurant or an important order gone wrong. I have lost it on certain extreme occasions in the past, but, this time, I'm determined to remain calm, even if the Blizzard rep is horribly rude to me again.

Some people call this "having class" or being a gentleman. Kindness is its own reward and generally it indicates that you lead a happy life when you spread some small measure of humanity and respect in a world overrun with the opposite. In the end, World of Warcraft is just a game. No lives are hanging in the balance while my account is in limbo. I want my account back, but I've got other things that are worth holding onto.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The 90's Are Back!

It is said that nostalgia trends tend to reach back about 20 years. First Futurama, now Beavis and Butthead ... is the 90s revival in full swing yet? There has been one for quite sometime. On the TV front there was Melrose Place 2.0, 90210 etc. VH1 resurrected Divas, Save the Music, Behind the Music, Storytellers etc. Lilith Fair came back this year. Now Beavis & Butthead are returning to MTV for a 13 episode stint.

The problem is you can't go back! Sure it is nice to see something from our youth back after pining away for it but then it turns out to be a horrible bastardization of the original to the point where you can barely recognize it beyond just the trappings. Futurama has been very uneven, Melrose Place 2.0 sucked worse than the original, Behind the Music is featuring flash-in-the-pan artists and the Lilith Fair is a lumbering zombie of a music festival.

I'd rather something end and not be brought back than have crap like Karate Kid, Bionic Woman, Knight Rider, Melrose Place, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Lilith Fair etc where some young idiot gets a hold of them and defiles them. In situations like these, I look to John Lennon who often said that one of the primary reasons why the Beatles never re-united (aside from Yoko being a pain and Paul's ego getting in the way) was because he knew it could never be as good as their first run through. It's better to go out on top and leave the audience wanting more than to make comeback after disappointing comeback.

Sadly, where there's money to be made and a franchise to be milked, there will always be a dormant property waiting to be resurrected.

Monday, July 26, 2010

My Shoes Are Always Untied

Ever since kindergarten, I have seldom bothered to tie my shoes. Back in the day, before the rampant popularity of Velcro or bungee cord, I was forced to learn how to tie my shoes using the standard bow knot. My five-year-old mind couldn't grasp the concept even with the help of the "bunny chases the other bunny around the tree and through the hole" metaphor. Mrs. Woodyatt, my kindergarten teacher, was thoroughly displeased. Although, having had both of my older brothers and my older sister in her class throughout the years, I'm sure she was used to Macs disappointing her.

I had failed to learn how to tie my shoes in kindergarten, yet, despite this, and despite my propensity to spell my name backwards, I was still considered to be a gifted student. While attending my weekly accelerated learning class at a local Jesuit institution, I was instructed on how to tie my shoes properly. The teacher, instead of sitting in front of me and showing me, sat behind me and guided my hands in the appropriate manner. It didn't take long for me to grasp the concept this time. Indeed, I even learned methods beyond the standard bow, including the granny knot. I was, of course, proud of my success and was even more proud when I was sent to Mother Superior to demonstrate for her. She gave me a bouncy ball and two holy cards.

You might argue that my refusal to tie my shoes thirty years hence is an act of rebellion, a virtual bird-flipping dedicated to the harsh treatment I received at the hands of Mrs. Woodyatt. And you might be right. Truth is, I don't do much during the day that requires me to keep my shoes firmly clasped to my feet and I find that I feel more comfortable with my shoes untied. Besides, it's just another thing that makes me unique.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Save The Historic Folger's Plant

I consider myself something of a coffee connoisseur. While many Americans may drink coffee just for the caffeine buzz, I actually enjoy and appreciate the taste of coffee. As a fan of the beverage, I took notice when it was announced that Folger's would be closing its historic plant located in Kansas City. In yet another douche-bag corporate move to "consolidate operations", plant operations will be relocated to Smuckers headquarters in Ohio. This may not seem like a big deal to a lot of people, and, indeed, it probably won't affect the taste of your favorite Folger's brew. However, the closing of the plant will mean job losses for Kansas City and the locale will also lose an iconic building. There's some hope that the plant won't be turned into condos.

While I personally envision the corporate folks at Folger's issuing a statement saying something like "We've secretly replaced the old Folger's plant in Kansas City with condos. Let's see if anyone notices", a blogger named TheSnackHound has some interesting ideas on what to do with the old building. TheSnackHound suggests leaving small operations in the plant as a tourist attraction and allowing visitors to taste various coffee roasts and possibly create their own. It sounds like a good idea to me and, were I in Kansas City, it's something I'd take some time out to go and experience.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Planet Wiener

A new restaurant is opening up near my office. If the name didn't sound like a kinky male version of Hooters, I might be more excited to check the place out. Still, it's nice to see a new business appear in this crappy economy, especially one that portends to offer decent, non-franchised food.

If Planet Wiener has two moons, I don't want to know about them.

UPDATE: It's open now. Check out my review

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The ampm Secret Menu

This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of ampm. All opinions are 100% mine.

Secret menu items at fast food restaurants have become all the rage lately. There's a measure of excitement, mystery and rebellion that accompanies the knowledge of these secret items. It's almost like you know the chef. Not too long ago, I slid up to the counter at my local McDonald's and ordered a "McGangBang" which is a McDouble from the Dollar Menu with a McChicken squished between the beef patties.

If you're in the mood for grab-and-go sandwiches yet, still desire the thrill of discovering secret menu items, then the folks over at ampm have some delicious items in store for you. For thirty years, ampm has been helping their customer conquer their cravings while providing great value and variety. And now, they've got some yummy secret menu items ready for you to try. To help you discover the secrets, ampm has a secret menu tab on their Facebook page.

The next chance I get, I'm going to try the Chili Conquistador. You start with a burger and then add chili and spicy Funyuns. Not only does it sound delicious, but I bet it's incredibly spicy too, which it just how I like my burgers. There are many more secret menu items listed on the page for you to try out, so have a look and leave a comment to let everyone know what you think. New secret menu items come out 7/26, 8/2, 8/9, 8/16 and 8/30. And, what's even better is that on August 2nd you'll be able to create your own ampm secret menu concoctions right on Facebook.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Some Gold Digger Hacked My World of Warcraft Account

I haven't had time to play much World of Warcraft lately. Maison du TommyMac has been a very busy place since I got back from New Orleans. I had let my latest gameplay card lapse, so my Level 80 Death Knight has been holed up in Dalaran, my Level 78 Rogue has been stuck with the Knights of the Ebon Blade and my Level 73 Warrior had been left perpetually neglected somewhere in the Borean Tundra eagerly awaiting my return to the game. One can only imagine my surprise last night when I received an e-mail from Blizzard indicating that my WOW account had been temporarily suspended for gold spamming. Gold Spamming is normally associated with unsolicited contact of players in World of Warcraft for the express purpose of selling them in-game gold in exchange for real money. So, it appeared that my account was taken over by someone hoping to turn my WOW gold into real life cash. In order to maximize the amount of WOW gold, all of my in-game items were sold off.

My Death Knight Suffering A Fate Worse Than Death
Upon discovering that my account had been hijacked, I went to reset my password. An unauthorized authenticator string had been put onto the account which meant, without knowing that string, I couldn't fully reclaim the account. I placed a call to Blizzard Tech Support.....and remained on hold for over an hour. It stands to reason that, if I don't have time to play WOW, I don't have time to sit on hold for any longer than it takes to run through a heroic dungeon. I had to hang up and call back later. I called first thing the next morning and was greeted with a recording telling me that the support queue was full. Great. The best I could do was send an e-mail to Blizzard customer support telling them that my World of Warcraft account had been hacked, the gear had been sold off and I needed the authenticator taken off.

That was over 24 hours ago and I'm still waiting for a response from the fine folks at Blizzard. Meanwhile, my characters are naked and cold and feel neglected. I'm told that Blizzard is capable of investigating the matter. However, I have little hope in seeing my characters restored back to what they were. I have in-game friends that will help me if need be, but what would happen if they didn't exist? Am I not allowed to keep on adventuring in Azeroth due to a flaw in the system? Isn't there any kind of protection? Are the hackers really one step ahead?

I have played World of Warcraft for 5 years, and it boggles my mind how lousy Blizzard's customer service is. Blizzard makes over $100 million a month, and Wolrd of Warcraft has been online for nearly 6 years, yet this sort of customer support is what victims like myself can expect? Yes, I'm the one who got hacked, not Blizzard and not World of Warcraft itself, but Blizzard should put better controls onto their account management system. The second my password was changed on my account, I should have gotten an e-mail notification. The second an authenticator code was put onto my account, I should have been sent an e-mail to confirm. These aren't hard features to implement, it's just a case of Blizzard being content to address the symptoms and not the overall problem.

Further Updates To This Story: 

Saturday, July 10, 2010

I Give An Insurance Industry Operator The Runaround

Looks like my Google Voice number has been given out to a number of telemarketing firms. One unlucky representative got an earful from me tonight as I pretended to be drunk and barely coherent. Have a listen.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

And The Invasion Continues

War is Hell, my friends. Once again, my sovereign territory has been invaded. While leaving the house recently to procure some chow, my attention was called to yet another wasp nest being constructed on my property. I dispatched them by spraying some generic insect killing spray onto the nest which quickly killed the five wasps that were building the nest.

I can no longer tolerate these pests trying to establish a beach head on my territory. Something has to be done, and, since I still am not willing to choke on my pride and call in a professional exterminator, I am considering a number of precautions to keep these winged mini-demons from returning for a sixth attempt. Thanks to the wonder of Google and the Internet, I have found a number of exotic solutions that I think may help in my continuing battle. Have a look at some of the suggestions below. Some of them, I have already implemented, some of them, I might get to should another invasion take place.

  • I got my trash bin fixed so that the lid will not pop open any more, thus eliminating a large food source for the wasps. 
  • I'm going to eliminate standing water as a drinking source by making sure the pool is chlorinated and shocked weekly. 
  • Supposedly, you can place a penny in a plastic sandwich bag and fill the bag with water. Then, use some clothespins to attach the bag to a clothes hanger and hang it around your porches, doors, windows and patios. Any insect with compound eyes (such as bees and wasps) will be tricked into thinking that the bag is a spider's web, and the penny will look like a spider sitting in the web. 
  • There is a product called the Waspinator which mimics a wasp nest. Hangingone or several around the outside of the house will indicate to other wasps that the area is already taken and they will supposedly stay away. It is sold at most garden centers.

Remember, that if you do find a wasp nest and intend to get rid of it yourself, make sure to do so at dusk or at dawn when wasps are the least active. Good luck to you all, and let's be careful out there.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

True Streaming HD Video With The FV Touchcam N1

This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of faceVsion Technology USA. All opinions are 100% mine.

My parents and my brothers and I have all recently gotten in to chatting via Skype. It allows everyone involved to have a much richer conversational experience than a traditional phone call. Of course, video quality is so very important to us when we're making Skype calls. High quality video allows my parents to see how my daughter is doing, allows me to see how my nieces are doing and allows me to see how my father is doing. Since video is an integral part of my family's Skype experience, low quality video cameras or poor video streaming quality can easily ruin the call. Recently, my daughter wanted to show my mother that she had a loose tooth. Due to poor video quality, my mother couldn't see what my daughter was showing her.
Maybe you've felt the same pain as I have when using Skype. Thankfully, there's a solution out there and the folks over at faceVsion have it. How does a Skype-certified webcam that is capable of delivering full screen 720p streaming video over the Internet sound? That's exactly what the FV touchcam N1 offers. I have no doubt that, had I had one of these while my daughter was trying to show my mother her loose tooth, the video quality would have been excellent.

You might be tempted to go out and pick up some other webcam that has "HD" stamped on it, but the fact is that most of those supposed HD webcams cannot stream true HD quality over Internet. Sure, you'll get HD quality video, but you will only see it locally, you won't be able to stream it over the Internet. That's where the FV touchcam N1 excels. The built in H.264 hardware encoder is the key to making true HD quality video calls over Internet.

Don't just take my word for it. Check it out for yourself. The FV touchcam N1 is available at the faceVision on line store. If you're using a Notebook based PC, you can purchase the FV ExpressCombo.

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Dragnet: SimCity

I made this movie about two years ago using a game called The Movies by Lionhead Studios as well as some elements from The Sims 2 and SimCity 4. It's sort of a combination of the Dragnet TV series and 70's era cop drama movies. I wasn't too terribly pleased with the end result as The Movies doesn't allow for a level of customization that was required for me to make the story flow seamlessly. It feels a little blocky to me and I'm always a tad embarrassed when I provide all the voices for an animated project.

Still, I am my own worst critic. Upon reviewing this movie recently, I have found that there are many aspects that I like about it. I like how it flows much like an actual Dragnet episode. I like how I was able to shoehorn a story into the form that The Movies had given me. It may actually be worth watching. Have a look for yourself.