Friday, September 30, 2011

A Former Student Gets One Last Lesson

I was testing to qualify for a new position at work recently. A fair amount of people had to do the same thing, so the human resources office threw the lot of us in a room so that they could get the whole process over with for all of us quickly. I sat down near a gangly young man who had a weird smile plastered on his face.

"I bet you're going to ace this test", he said.

"Probably", I replied.

"Are you a ringer or something?" he asked half-serious.

"Excuse me?"

"You don't remember me, do you?", the young man asked seemingly dejected.

"Nope. Sorry. Should I?"

"You taught my networking class a few years back"

I still didn't recognize this kid and I wasn't in the mood to rehash ancient history with him, so I cut him off in the first way I could think of.

"That wasn't me,", I said. "You're thinking of my twin brother, Thomas. He's the teacher."

"He never told us he had a twin", my former student exclaimed.

"That's because he hates me. We're just so different. He's all goofy and in-your-face. I can't stand it".

"Yeah, he is a little much to handle", my former student said. "He's just always 'on', you know? Always joking. I was always wishing he'd rope it in"

Before I could retort, a fellow co-worker of mine who was also taking the test yelled "Hey, Thomas! You gonna ace this test?" across the room.

With that, my former student hung his head in shame. I smiled to myself, for I had taught a much-needed lesson to a former student.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Calzone Has Become Self-Aware

I had a weird dream last night. I dreamt that I bought the pizza place that I worked at back when I was a teenager and decided to use my prowess with computers to streamline production. My subsequent research into procuring the perfect ingredients and optimizing cooking time promised to produce the most delicious calzone that Chicago had ever seen. But, something went horribly wrong. The calzone had become self-aware.

I'm not sure when I first suspected that my calzone had achieved sentience. It may have been when it began to move using its edges like pseudopodia. It may have been when it began to push grease bubbles out of its air slits in prime-number sequences. It may have been when it began playing the stock market using funds from my own trading account. But, when the calzone commanded the pepperoni slices to march in lock-step out of the walk-in fridge, I pretty much knew.

Soon, the restaurant was overrun with ingredients primed to start a revolution. The green olives began chanting "First the restaurant, then THE WORLD" in unison with the black olives. The sausage campaigned for re-unification with its mother cows. The sardines sought to arm themselves. All the while, the calzone pontificated above them. These ingredients were nothing more than pawns in the calzone's greater plan. It was planning on making more calzones like itself.

I could no longer stand to witness the calzone fomenting insurrection. I burst into action with a shovel and began smashing ingredients wherever I could find them. Running past the oven, I turned its temperature up to 800 degrees, ensuring that the proto-calzones in there would burn to death before emerging. Soon, it was just me and the calzone. It dared me to engage it in hand-to-hand combat. It fought valiantly and even came close to defeating me. But, that was before I sank my teeth into it like Mike Tyson biting into an unprotected ear-lobe. A delicious combination of cheese, sauce and meaty goodness flowed from the calzone's gaping wound. And, with that, I simply ate the calzone to death and enjoyed every succulent bite.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Fallout New Vegas Lonesome Road Review

I spent a good chunk of this past weekend working through the last downloadable content pack for Fallout: New Vegas. Lonesome Road brings your character's story full circle as you are brought into a conflict with Ulysses, the original "courier six". In order to lure the player into meeting with him, Ulysses promises to answer why he had refused to deliver the platinum chip. In order to get this answer, you have to traverse the Divide and come face-to-face with Ulysses himself.

Lonesome Road reminds me a lot of the Uncharted franchise in that it feels so linear. There are no towns to hang around in, no side quests or even any NPCs aside from the generic "marked men" enemies that attack the player throughout the game. This sort of gameplay goes against the nature of Fallout, but Lonesome Road makes up for this dissonance by providing some truly challenging gameplay. Lonesome Road is hard, but not annoyingly hard like Dead Money.

So, is Lonesome Road worth your valuable time and money? I don't know. It's heavy on backstory and is easily the glitchiest Fallout DLC I have ever downloaded. These glitches are inexcusable, especially in light of the fact that Bethesda delayed Lonesome Road. You do, however, get some great perks, some cool upgrades to ED-E and access to commissary computers that never run out of caps.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Google Plus Is Still A Big Minus

For the past month, MikeMac had been asking me to send him an invitation to Google Plus. It took me a while to get around to it, because, quite frankly, I'm not all that impressed with Google Plus. It isn't so much that I have a problem with features or lacktherof (still no event function on Google Plus. WTF?). The fundamental issue is that there's nobody there. And, now that it's fully open to the public, I don't see that changing anytime soon.

Now that the buzz over Google Plus has died down, it's even more of a ghost town. This isn't like the mass migration from Myspace to Facebook. Myspace started out as a place for people who didn't have personal web pages. Myspace became far too bloated and ugly right at the time when the less tech-savvy people of the world began to discover social networking. Those people, of course, went to Facebook.

For me to commit myself fully to Google Plus and completely abandon Facebook, I would have to lose touch with the vast majority of my old high school and college friends, a number of workmates and a few of my family. So, unless there is some kind of killer feature that will entice huge numbers of Facebook's user base to make the switch, making a commitment is not an option for me.

There's some logic in arguing that Google is committed to building an audience slowly. It's like they've built an entirely new city rather than just one apartment complex. In order to fill the city, they need to do it one block at a time.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Check Out Net 10

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Net10 for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

The price of cell phone calling packages are out of control these days. What's worse is that most companies will do everything they can to bind you to a long-term contract. Thanks to Net10 and their Unlimited deal, people are starting to See the Light.

Whether you're looking for pre-paid cell phone plans for personal or business purposes, Net10 Unlimited is a great deal. There are no contracts to worry about and there are no surprise bills or redit checks. With Net10 you get great nationwide coverage with excellent reception/connectivity. And you don't need to worry about getting bound to some second-rate cell phone because Net10 only uses trusted phone manufacturers like LG, Motorola, Kyocera, Nokia and Samsung.

One of the best parts about Net10 plans is that you can switch between them from month to month. Are you going to do a lot of communicating this month? Activate the Net10 Unlimited plan with text and web for $50. Are you on a tight budget this month? Go with the Easy Minutes plan and get 200 minutes for $15. There's no penalty for switching  between plans.This is a great feature for people or businesses who have changing communication needs.

You don't have to just take my word for it. Do some investigating yourself and check out this Cute NET10 commercial. Don't forget to check out their facebook page and follow them on Twitter, Or hear what a Real NET10 customer has to say. Make sure you listen to  What Rob has to say,

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Look Into NMEDA

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of NMEDA for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

I saw my neighbor struggling to get his wheelchair bound wife out of his van the other day. My neighborhood is populated mainly by elderly couples and, as such, a sight like this is common. My poor neighbor had actually fallen out of a faulty wheelchair lift attached to the van. It has to be difficult to be a caregiver to the elderly, and with so many vehicle modifications for the disabled available on the Internet and through catalogs, it's hard to know which products you can trust. This is why an NMEDA qualified dealer may be able to help the elderly or disabled get back onto the road of independence by conducting an in-person evaluation to make sure you are getting the right customization solution for your needs.

NMEDA doesn't sell anything. NMEDA is a non-profit association that promotes safe driving and equipment for the disabled such as handicap vans and vehicle modifications. NMEDA dealers must adhere to the safety standards put forth by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

NMEDA has quality assurance program dealers. The NMEDA Quality Assurance Program (QAP) is the only nationally recognized accreditation program for the Adaptive Mobility Equipment Industry. NMEDA believes that, in order to provide consistently excellent customer service, companies must have a systematic and documented approach to quality. Because of this, you can be sure that NMEDA endorsed products are of the highest quality.

Why not check out NMEDA for yourself? Leave me a comment and let me know where the nearest NMEDA dealer in your area is.

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Lincoln College of Technology

I got a call from Lincoln College of Technology recently. It was an automated message inviting Clovis to an open house and asking for an RSVP. When I pressed the number to send my intention to attend, I was connected with a rep named Trevor. I asked him if there would be beer at this open house and informed him that I could bring some homebrew. Trevor politely hung up on me.



I couldn't let this stand. I called him back and asked him why he hung up on me. Trevor informed me that alcohol was not appropriate at college functions. I laughed at him and told him that alcohol and college went hand-in-hand. He hung up on me again.

A number of days later, Lincoln College of Technology called me again and this particular rep seemed to really enjoy Clovis' unrefined charm even though I trashed Trevor the entire time.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Baconified Chocolate!

The Pig is Enjoying This Way Too Much.
I attended a local Fall festival this past weekend. I was hoping to absorb a little local culture while avoiding the impetigo and tetanus that would likely accompany it. While perusing the wares of the vendors, I snatched up some candied almonds, Amish cheese and spiced dilly beans. Those little gems were meant to be eaten later and, as such, I would need something more substantial to get me through the rest of the day. That's when my eyes settled upon a certain Greek restaurant kiosk. I was in the mood for a gyro or perhaps a chicken spinacchi. But, almost as an after-thought, the Greek kiosk was offering something decidedly un-Geek: Chocolate dipped in bacon. Two flavors that you never thought should have ever gotten together finally have and the result was sitting right before me in some small town festival. I approached the proprietor and simply had to ask: "Why am I only hearing about chocolate dipped in bacon NOW?".

Baconated chocolate is not a new concoction, I'm sorry to say. Chocolate-covered bacon appeared at the Minnesota State Fair under the name "Pig Lickers" and is sold as "Pig Candy" by a chocolate maker in New York. Chocolate covered bacon made its most public appearance on Dinner: Impossible as one of the foods served by chef Michael Symon as part of his "mission" to turn everyday boardwalk foods into a gourmet meal.

But, how does it taste? It tastes as good as you'd think it does.

The Bacon Could Have Been Crispier....

Monday, September 12, 2011

Who Is In Charge Of New Vegas?

Playing through Fallout: New Vegas over the past month has left me with the gnawing problem of choosing who to side with in the ultimate battle for control of New Vegas. There are four courses for the player to take, and I have found that none of them offer anything even close to a satisfying resolution. Here's what we're left with.

The New California Republic (NCR): They're as close to the "good guys" as you can hope to get in New Vegas, but they're corrupt, inefficient and have no strong leadership. They've focused too much on acquiring new territory and not enough on shoring up what they already control. They do have a hopeful outlook on the future of the Mojave, but the NCR's attitude towards bringing back pre-Apocalypse America is flawed in that they grip too tightly on its citizenry and harass everyone who isn't NCR. I would be inclined to side with them if I wasn't certain that they would eventually crumble from within.

Caesar's Legion: These are the obvious "bad guys". The Legion is a cadre of murderous, slaving assholes whose allegiance is more to the rule of Caesar himself rather than the ideals he portends to uphold. Their appeal is in that Caesar will establish uniform rule over the Mojave in a faster, more absolute manner than any other faction. I might side with them in the hopes that, while it would certainly take generations, reform would eventually come about in Caesar's Legion.

Mr. House: He has spent 200 years establishing New Vegas as the flower of society growing out of the garbage dump of the Mojave Wasteland. The problem is, he only cares about New Vegas itself and not the the rest of the Mojave. Leaving him in charge is the "status quo" ending and I was fairly content to go with it until he demanded that I destroy the Brotherhood of Steel rather than accept the diplomatic solution I had given him.

Yes Man: This is the idiot proof ending, the one that you can go to when you can't stand any of the other factions. It's the ending that you're stuck with if you've destroyed the other three factions. This is the ending that cannot be messed up because Yes Man will do whatever you say. Leaving Yes Man in charge leads to an independent New Vegas with the player serving as arbitrator. The validity of this option depends on the character having the vision and intelligence of House along with the compassion that he lacked and I just don't think that a simple courier is capable.

I realize that history dictates that there will never be any truly happy endings. I can accept that. However, I have to wonder if New Vegas isn't better off without my interference. Maybe I should just let them all figure it out for themselves while I chase down all the named weapons, explore all the areas and then walk off into the sunset. That does seem like the best option.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have three more Sunset Sarsaparilla Star Bottle-caps to find before I can claim the legendary prize. They're out there somewhere.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Free IMVU Credits Feast

I found out recently about IMVU which is a social network where members use 3D avatars to meet new people, chat And play games with friends. There are already over 50 million registered users, 10 million unique visitors per month and three million monthly active users. How am I only finding out about this just now? One of the attractions of IMVU is that it has the world’s largest virtual goods catalog with more than six million items, almost all of which are created by its own members.

IMVU hosts its own economy with a currency system based on imvu credits. Credits can be purchased online using actual currency either directly from IMVU or from third party resellers. But, why spend your own money when you can get free imvu credits? It's a simply and fast way to get imvu credits without spending your own money doing so. All you have to do is register for a free account, complete some of the offers and then redeem your prize.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Toilet Duck

Gene and I were having a discussion recently about our exploits at the past two Gen Con trips and the potential craziness that we might initiate at Gen Con 2012. I tried to make some kind of connection between Gen Con 2012 and the Mayan Apocalypse but eventually veered off into the idea of hosting a Gen Con rubber duckie race. Gene stopped me. He had a story to tell and he wasn't sure how I would react to it.

While attending Gen Con 2010, I had brought along with me a small rubber duckie that I had obtained in New Orleans during Microsoft Tech Ed 2010. It had won some race for me during a tech presentation and, at the time, I had considered it a good luck charm. Naturally, I brought this good luck charm along with me to Gen Con and stuck it on the sink in the hotel bathroom near my toothbrush, deodorant and shaving materials. I soon ran off to see what the Indianapolis night life had to offer me. 

Sometime between my departure from the room that night and my drunken return early the next morning, the rubber duckie got knocked into the toilet. The boys thought this was rather comical to see the duck floating around like that, so Gene took a picture, got the duck out and tossed it into the trash. When I returned to the room, quite inebriated, I insisted that I needed to have a conversation with the duck about its lack of luck bringing. Gene washed off the duck, brought it to me, and I apparently fell asleep with it in my hands. Thankfully, nobody got a picture of this.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Everest College Calls Me Again

Once again, I got a call from Everest College. The rep was looking to pass Clovis over to an adviser as soon as possible, especially since the discussion quickly moved towards the drop-out rate at Everest College. The conversation then careens into Clovis asking about the "special" perks he might get from signing up to go to school there and whether or not the admissions rep would be willing to participate in them.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I Got Pulled Over

I live in a college town, so when the students come back, I expect there to be a week's worth of interplay between them and the local authorities as the police try to establish boundaries and the students try to push the envelope. I also expect the cops to lay in wait that first weekend for students who might be speeding or driving drunk so that they can fill the city coffers with ticket revenue.

I must not have been thinking as my car rounded the square last Saturday night. I had been heading up to the local tavern to meet up with some friends and apparently, in my attempt to find a parking space on the square, I drifted into the passing lane. Red and blue rollers suddenly flashed behind me and I pulled into a parking spot and rolled down my window.

Officer Friendly was no doubt expecting to find an inebriated college student,  so his sigh upon seeing me didn't surprise me. He told me that he had pulled me over for improper lane usage and asked me for my license, registration and proof of insurance. I sat there for a few minutes expecting to get a slip of paper telling me that I had to shell out upwards of $75 to clear this gaffe up. The officer came back to my car and told me he was giving me a written warning. I thanked him and told him I'd be more careful in the future. I thought I was home free.

"I have one more thing to ask you", Officer Friendly said sternly.

"Okay", I said. I was expecting some kind of quip.

"Have you been using any illegal substances?"

I laughed. I still thought he was joking. The stoic, smileless look on his face told me that he was very serious.

"The reason I ask," the Officer said, "is that your eyes aren't reacting to my flashlight".

"I really don't know what to say to that other than I haven't been drinking and I haven't been taking any illegal substances".

"Any prescription drugs?"

"Not even an aspirin".

"Then, why are you talking so fast?"

"It's just how I talk".

The Officer looked me over again, said "Okay then" and asked me if I was going to be driving any more that night.

"Nope," I said. "In fact I'm going to just head home right now rather than hang out up here".

"Nobody is saying you can't hang out with your friends".

"No offense, Officer, I just don't feel like pushing my luck"

He looked at me again and flashed his flashlight in my eyes for the umpteenth time. "Are you SURE you aren't on any illegal substances?".

"Positive."

With that, the officer wished me good night and went back to his car. I sat there for a moment considering the events of the last few minutes and decided I needed a beer.