Monday, January 31, 2011

I Make The Movie, Jason Gets The Glory

About two months ago, Jason called me from Washington D.C. where he was attending some industry conference.

"You need to list me as a staff member on the website", he said. I was barely able to make out what he was saying amongst the din of crowd chatter shrunken down to munchkin-sized decibel levels. It wasn't an unreasonable request. I often bounce story ideas off of him and his opinion often influences whether or not I'll post something, rewrite something or completely discard an idea. He also comes up with story ideas and has been known to forward me some pictures to put up on the site.

"Alright, no problem. But, what's your angle?", I asked. I wondered if there wasn't some ulterior motive.

"I'm promoting the site while I'm out here. I need to be on it when I show people". Five minutes later, his picture and staff member status were posted.

Recently, after slogging away at the computer for six hours, I managed to produce a somewhat cool zombie flick using the Moviestorm interface. I very proudly informed the fine folks at Moviestorm of my creation and they enthusiastically promoted my movie via their twitter feed and their website. Soon, however, I began to notice a number of hits coming in from a Facebook link. It turns out that Moviestorm also promoted my movie via their Facebook page. When I looked at their link, I noticed that the picture they used to accompany the link was Jason's.

With mock-indignation, I called Jason up, informed him of the situation and jokingly told him to stop hogging all my fame. The laughter that exuded from the other end of the line nearly made my cell phone burst into flames.

"So, I get heaps of glory and I hardly raised a hand? This is what it must feel like to be you!", Jason exclaimed.

I'm never going to hear the end of this.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Champions Online Is Now Free To Play

Champions Online is a super-hero themed MMORPG that grew out of the old City of Heroes and City of Villans games. I had heard a lot of rumblings about Champions Online when it was first in beta back in late 2009. Apparently, once it went into full release, Champions Online nerfed all of the classes, bringing them down from their near demi-god status. I remember various geek boards exploding with anger over this. People felt cheated, and it was the first time I have ever seen a gaming community that up in arms over something. How did Cryptic Studios, the creators of Champions Online respond? They threw it right back in the face of the Champions Online community and told the players that they had never intended to let the characters become so powerful.

Disco Inferno
A rampaging river of angry gamers left Champions Online and vowed to never touch a game again with Cryptic attached to it. A year and a half later, we now see the game in its current state. I've stayed away from the game, despite hearing great things about the character creator feature. But, with Champions Online being free to play now, I figured I'd at least create a character to see what all of the fuss was about. With that, I give you my own superhero: Disco Inferno!

 Arriving in a nick of time to Millennium City, Disco Inferno fans the flames of justice with his chest-mounted strobe light. Should he find a mob getting loose and breaking the law, Disco Inferno will use his powerful flames, then it's "Burn, baby, burn" as the boogie starts to explode! And if he were to encounter a villain and engage in some groovalicious combat, he'd celebrate his victory by spamming every available /dance emote command. He can't get enough, so he'll have to self destruct.
In all seriousness, I don't find the game interesting enough to keep on playing. The game play reminds me too much of Star Trek Online, which I couldn't stand. It's fun to create a character, but it looks way too cartoonish to me and the interface is atrocious. This isn't going to make me want to ditch World of Warcraft, despite Champions Online being touted as the "casual alternative" to WOW. It's a little TOO casual. The combat is laggy and squishy, which ultimately makes the game worthless, even in a F2P mode. Maybe DC Universe Online will offer some hope for pushing the superhero MMORPG model once all the post-launch kinks are worked out.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Lovesick Are The Damned

I've been investigating a lot of animation platforms over the past two months and, so far, Moviestorm has become the best of the bunch, providing the most value for the least amount of money. Over the course of about six hours, I was able to learn the Moviestorm interface and put together a simple two-and-a-half minute movie.

Zombie films are incredibly popular these days, so it was an easy decision for me to choose an animated zombie movie as my first Moviestorm project. The developers have given fans of zombie movies a large amount of sets, characters and zombie animations that unlocks some amazing potential in prospective zombie film makers.

Lovesick Are The Damned is a timeless tale of love, loss and the zombie apocalypse. One of the great things about using Moviestorm for this project was the ability of the characters to convey emotion through their facial expressions. Bearing in mind, of course, that, in zombie movies, emotion comes from the uninfected people, not the zombies themselves. I was hoping to get an emotional response by simply using music and expressions instead of relying on voice work. Hopefully, amidst the backdrop of the zombie apocalypse, the emotional stuff comes out.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Remote Support Software

As an IT professional in my "real" life, I find that one of the most indispensable tools in my tech support arsenal is the remote desktop application. Being able to control a client's computer via remote support eliminates the need for me to spend precious time running between offices to solve computer issues. Instead, I can fix issues from the comfort of my own office, which allows me to be much more productive.

With the proliferation of internet enabled phones around the office, I have often found myself wishing that I had remote support software for smart phones. As it stands right now, if a client has a smart phone issue, I've got to either schedule a time to meet with them and look into the issue, which takes time out of my day, or I have to ask the client to leave their phone with me which lowers their productivity. What I really need is remote support software that will allow me to control a smart phone from my desktop.

Bomgar has answered my prayers with Bomgar 10.5 and their remote desktop control features. With Bomgar, I can control smartphones as well as computers and servers over the network from my own desktop. Instead of having to use a set of different applications for each platform, I can use Bomgar to remote control Mac, Windows, Linux, Blackberry and Windows Mobile from one convenient interface.

If you're in need of a remote support solution that will lower your support costs without compromising security, then try Bomgar yourself and see what a difference it can make for you.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Grantham University Reminds Me Of Niagara Falls

For the last week or so, I've been playing phone tag with a recruiter from Grantham University. When we finally connected, I decided to pay homage to the classic vaudevillian sketch about a man who flips out every time he's reminded of a confrontation he had at Niagara Falls. The bit was also made famous by both Abbot and Costello and The Three Stooges.

Anyway, the recruiter was being such a good sport and seemed to be so pleasant that I refrained from adding the rant about the rivers of blood that usually accompanies the skit. I kept her on the line for about 8 minutes.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

That Toyota Highlander Kid

Have you seen this set of commercials? If you can actually make it through the entire thing, you've got a stronger will than I do.

Would someone from Toyota like to tell me why they think that this pre-teen hipster kid would make me want to buy a Highlander? Let's see, pre-teen hipster hairstyle, skinny jeans, listening to electronica, declares that he "doesn't tolerate" dorkiness, wearing a leather jacket over a long-sleeve button-up on a Summer day in the SouthWest. Yep. Kid's a douche.

In the original series of commercials, which had more of a focus on the parents, we agree with Toyota that the parents are annoying and shallow. But, as viewers we are not supposed to identify and agree with everything the parents are saying. The whole thing is meant to be tongue-in-cheek. In these recent batch of commercials, it seems that Toyota either wants us to identify with the little douche, or they're doing a terrible job of being tongue-in-cheek about it. I just want to run over that little douche with my ghetto Saturn, not listen to him drone on about how awesome Highlanders are.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Replacing The Car's Battery Cable

My car karma seemed to run out the other day. After about two months of not having any starting issues, it started to act up again. Offering a prayer up to the car gods didn't seem to make the situation any better, and I couldn't find any goats to sacrifice, so I figured that it was time to take direct action. I resolved to replace the car's positive battery cable. I could have taken the car to a professional, but I just couldn't fathom spending $100 for a simple fix. 

The last time I tangled with a car's battery, I nearly burned my eyebrows off. Several years ago, while trying to remove a battery from my friend's derelict van, the end of the wrench I was using to disconnect the battery terminals accidentally touched the other terminal, completing the circuit. I don't remember much after being thrown to the ground, but I'm told that my body was convulsing and the wrench was smoking.

I like to think that I've learned a lot since then, especially when it comes to handling electricity. Cautiously, I removed the connections to my car's battery and traced the positive wire to the fuse box and removed the cable from the clamp. I then removed the cable from the starter, cut off the zip ties holding it down and pulled it away. This thing was in bad shape. No wonder why it was having trouble staying connected. I then secured the new cable to the starter, connected it through the fuse box and re-attached it to the battery terminal along with the negative cable.

All in all, not a bad job. Sure, I had to spend an hour outside in the freezing cold getting it done, but it only cost me $10 and the car starts up better than ever. And I didn't get so much as a little shock.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Wacky Mac

I've known my friend Leigh for around 20 years now.  She's well aware of my proclivity for collecting pictures of snack foods with suggestive names. She sent me a photo via text the other day.

"Not snack smut, but funny anyway. Wacky Tommy Mac!".

Of course, I had to go out and get some of this stuff for myself so I could try it. After tracking down a box, I cooked some up. It lacks a little subtlety, hits a few unexpected notes here and there, but is ultimately satisfying in a way that's somewhat unexpected. It's got an unexpected charm. In short: It tastes funny.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

How I Nearly Failed 7th Grade Computer Class

I starting teaching a computing essentials class this week. I've got a good group of students who seem to be really sharp and very eager to learn. After getting an idea of where everyone's computer skill set was at, I told them the story about how I nearly failed my first computer class.

My first exposure to computers was in the 7th grade. I was thrown into a computer programming class despite never having touched a computer before in my life. We were learning to program in BASIC on the APPLE II. Writing a program consisted of typing a line number and then typing out the command. Once you were ready to run the program and see the results, you might have two dozen lines of code. The problem was, if you made a mistake somewhere in your code, there wasn't a way to go back to directly edit that line like in a word processor. And I was always making mistakes in my code. My programs never ran on the first try. As the assignments got longer, rather than going back to re-type the whole thing, I just wouldn't turn in the assignment.

Near the end of the quarter, when Mrs. O'Shea pitched a bitch fit about the poor grades in the class, she hurled a dig at me: "And Thomas Mac has an F- which I didn't think was even possible".

I tried to take the jab in good humor, but the laughter of my fellow classmates made me bristle. I stood up and declared "What do you want me to do? Re-type the whole thing when the program won't run? I don't have time to do that".

The way Mrs. O'Shea looked at me, I could have sworn that I had grown a third eyeball or something. She scoffingly said "Oh, my dear do know that, when you have an error in your program, you only have to re-type the one line that's causing the error?".

Mrs. O'Shea's snarky tone along with the eruption of laughter from my fellow classmates motivated me to get an A in the class. For the next two weeks, I spent hours after school using my friend Matt's computer to finish all of the work I had neglected to turn in. At the end of the quarter, I received an A in the class plus some measure of my pride back.

After getting all of my assignments to run properly, I found that I had an aptitude for it and ended up actually going into that field. Hopefully, the story, as I imparted it to my new students, serves as a lesson that, even from the most humble beginnings, a modicum of greatness can be achieved.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Interview

 It has been quite some time since I have made a scripted video. Over the past month, I've noticed that GEICO has taken to using the Xtranormal animation and text-to-speech engine to make a number of cheap commercials. I made a similar attempt several months back and wasn't too terribly impressed with the results. After seeing the GEICO superhero commercial, I decided to give it another shot.

This particular video is a creative spin on the classic interview horror story.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Pizza Fail

My favorite pizza place was destroyed in a fire about a year ago. It re-opened just before Christmas last month and I had been pretty anxious to drive the 10 miles out of the city to get some delicious pizza goodness. It just so happened that I was in that part of town the other night running errands and I decided that a visit to the pizza place was in order. I called from my cell phone. Busy signal. No matter, I continued on with my errands. I tried calling every 5 minutes or so and each time, I got the same result. Like an addict desperate for a fix, I pulled into the parking lot of the pizza place and stormed into the restaurant.

The smell of pizza permeated the room and, for a moment, I forgot that I was supposed to be pissed off. However, the line reaching from the counter to the entry way quickly reminded me. Once I got up to the counter, I expected to see a kitchen full of busy workers scrambling to keep up with an outrageous demand of orders. I expected to see a phone operator frantically taking orders and hanging up the phone just to have to pick it back up again. I saw none of this. Instead, I saw a kitchen staff dragging there asses and a phone sitting off of the hook.

"You know, it's pretty hard for me to call in an order when you leave a phone off the hook", I said to the cashier.

She looked over at the phone and shrugged her shoulders. "Do you want to order something?", she asked, seemingly only half-caring whether I wanted to or not.

"No. I don't think I want to patronize a place that is so blatantly rude to its customers. I'm going to take my business elsewhere.", I replied as I turned around to leave.

Just before I got to the door, I heard her call out after me. "You'll be back!".

Later on that day, as I bit into a marginally satisfying piece of pizza from a different pizza place, I realized that she's right. And that's what really sucks.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Some IRS Negotiation Group Calls Me

I recently received a call from an IRS tax debt negotiation company. I normally don't pay much attention to the sort of calls that immediately push out some recorded pitch and then direct you to press a few numbers to be connected to a representative, but, as I was in a very good mood, I decided to play along.

Once I was finally connected, I put on my most flamboyant voice and indicated that I thought I was being offered a free makeover consultation. The tax consultant went along with it for a bit before either she decided to hang up or the call got dropped.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Sci Fi Hopes Dashed

I was working in my home office the other day when a loud crash came from the living room. I had a bad feeling about this. I called out to my daughter to ask if she was alright.

"Everything's perfectly alright now. We're fine. We're all fine here, now. Thank you......How are you?"

Instantly recognizing this as a classic Star Wars reference, I leaped to my feet and spoke the appropriate response. "We're sending a squad up".

"Uh...what?", the kiddo replied.

"Aren't you a little short to be a Stormtrooper?" I asked.

"Dad, what are you talking about?", she replied, obviously not understanding that I was attempting to further the Star Wars banter.

"That thing you said. It was from Star Wars. I'm just glad you like it now. You always told me you thought it was boring".

"No, that was from Phineas and Ferb. Star Wars is boring".