Friday, March 29, 2013

Big "Bender" Statue

I mentioned the character Bender from Futurama in a recent post. Coincidentally, Jason was working on a project near St. Louis yesterday and happened by a statue of Bender in Dittmer, MO. The statue is displayed at Dittmer Auto Repair wearing a peace sign medallion which appears to have been made from a tire rim. It's about 10 miles off of Route 66 which is appropriate considering the kitschy nature of the statue.

"I Am Bender! Please Insert Girder!"

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Simple Sermon On Moving Mountains

I am not much for giving sermons or evangelizing, but, every so often, my status as an ordained minister is discovered by a religious friend and I am invited to speak to a small congregation. I don't take those opportunities unless I have something inspiring to say. Here's something I came up with recently.  

I woke up one Monday morning after a particularly bad nightmare (I need to stop watching "The Walking Dead" before bedtime). In my startled state, I slammed my right hand against my nightstand hard enough to knock the jewel out of the ring I always wear. The ring is made from titanium and featured a small jewel suspended by two little prongs. Since I destroyed the prongs and there was no way to set new ones into titanium, the ring could not be fixed.

I was pretty upset. I've worn that ring for years and it carries a lot of sentimental value since it was a Father's Day gift from my former step-daughter. It was considered a pre-divorce "you're still my dad"gift. I simply couldn't believe that we as a society were technologically advanced enough to put a man on the moon but we could not cheaply manipulate titanium in such a way as to allow it to have two new prongs inserted into it so that I could have the jewel re-set. Then I turned to the last refuge for a scoundrel like myself: Prayer.

Matthew 21:21 says

If you have faith, and do not doubt...if you shall say unto this mountain, "Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea"; it shall be done.

And why is this? Why not simply reach down and throw the mountain into the sea? An episode of Futurama put it best: 

God Entity: Bender, being God isn't easy. If you do too much, people get dependent on you. And if you do nothing, they lose hope. You have to use a light touch, like a safecracker or a pickpocket.

Bender: Or a guy who burns down a bar for the insurance money.

God Entity: Yes, if you make it look like an electrical thing. When you do things right, people won't be sure you've done anything at all.
The day after ruining my ring, my girlfriend presented me with a new one. It's a gorgeous tungsten ring that carries with it all new sentimental value that is similar to what the old ring brought. Both are thoughtful gifts from someone whom I love. In both cases, though, the physical ring isn't nearly as important as the emotion attached to them or the emotion that inspired the gift in the first place. So, as far as I am concerned, the giving of the new ring and the remembrance of what the old ring was given for has moved this mountain of a problem into the sea.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Really, Family Video?

My local Family Video had a very unique way of encouraging people to support the local blood drive. Considering that the blood drive coincided with the release of Breaking Dawn Part II on DVD, I can understand how they came up with the idea. I just can't decide if I find it clever or if I find it tacky.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Anne With Account Services

Have you ever gotten a call from a telemarketer that starts off with a recording? Usually it's "Anne with account services" with some sort of offer to lower your interest rate. Other times, it's a recording from someone else offering cheap medical insurance or a Discover Account Services (not to be confused with Discover Card) or some other service that sounds a lot like a scam. Whatever the voice on the recording is offering, you're met with two choices: Dial 1 to speak with a rep or 4 to be added to their "do not call" list. Of course, all dialing 4 does is disconnect you and the calls keep coming. And, if you call the number back, you just get a generic "out of service" message.

Most of these calls are coming from call center boiler rooms with VOIP phones. Some of them are even using Magic Jack devices. Thankfully, there's still something you can do if these calls are driving you crazy. All you need to do is look up the phone services provider of that number via On the left-hand navbar of the site, you'll see a heading that says "Area Code/Exchange Listings By". Click the "Area Code/Exchange" link under it. Then, enter in the three digit area code and the three digit exchange and search for the provider. Once you have the provider's name, do a Google search for their contact information and call them.

Remember, the telephone services provider is probably a legitimate business and simply provides telephone services to the boiler room telemarketers. So, make sure you're polite when you contact them. Kindness will go a long way here. Simply tell them that you'd like to lodge a complaint about abuse coming from a number they own. They'll take down the number that was calling you along with the number that the scammers have been calling and, if everything works out, they'll make sure that you're never called again.

Your mileage may vary depending on a lot of factors, but, for me, I can say that I haven't been contacted by Anne from account services in two weeks whereas I used to get a call twice a day. And don't bother trying to get a contact information connected to the number that has been harassing you. Most providers strictly protect their customer information, so, unless you have a subpoena, you won't be able to contact Anne from Account Services directly.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Skyrim Armor Duplication Glitch

Being a Skyrim player on the PS3, I've only just recently gotten up to speed on the Dawnguard, Dragonborn and Hearthfire DLC packs. This is mainly due to Bethesda releasing these packs late for the PS3. So, what I'm about to reveal may be old news to some of you more seasoned Xbox 360 and PC players.

After I built a home on the Lakeview Manor property (via Hearthfire), I soon discovered that there's a neat little glitch where you can duplicate sets of armor using the mannequins in the armory wing of your house. Here's what you need to do.

  • Make sure you've got Hearthfire installed so that you can buy a home plot. You’ll then need to construct one of the wings of your house into an armory.
  • Once you have your armory constructed, make sure you furnish it with all available armor mannequins. Place whatever armor set you want to duplicate on any of the mannequins for display, then leave.
  • Come back to the room and take the armor off of the mannequin. Leave the room again and when you return you'll find a duplicate set of armor on that mannequin.
  • Whatever armor set you've first put on a mannequin, that's the one that will keep on duplicating. You won’t be able to switch it out. If you want to duplicate other sets of armor, you’ll need to use a different mannequin.

The Dragonborn and Serana Both Wearing The Ancient Falmer Armor

Thursday, March 7, 2013

SimCity Burns

I was looking forward to writing a SimCity review. Unfortunately, I have been unable to play the game for more than a few minutes at a time thanks to the colossal launch issues caused by EA and their lack of foresight. I have been able to play. Unless you live under a rock, you probably already know that, in order to play SimCity, you need to be able to stay in contact with the EA servers, which, of course, requires that you have an internet connection. Problem is, EA hadn't provided enough server capacity at launch which resulted in constant game crashes and long server connect queue times.

I should have known better. EA has a reputation for being a complete piece of shit when it comes to gaming. However, Maxis, which put together the original SimCity in 1989 and has been a subsidiary of EA since 1997, has always had a stellar reputation. Even though I was a bit put off by having to always be online, even when all I want is a single-player experience, I bit the bullet. I rationalized it by thinking of SimCity more as "SimCity Online". And, indeed, there are a lot of social aspects to the game that serve to enhance its playability (when you can actually play it). It's a lot like a free-to-play MMORPG. I was okay with that. What I'm not okay with is the inability to actually play SimCity.

The saddest part of this whole debacle is that there's a great game buried underneath all these launch issues. I love that every Sim in SimCity has a story and a purpose. I love that you can negotiate with other players to exchange vital city services. I just hate how poorly planned out this launch was. It's something that probably could have been remedied by running an open beta of the game before its actual release. And, unfortunately, this has been a bad deal for everyone involved from the developers at Maxis who who poured countless hours into building this gorgeous game to all the people who paid for SimCity and just want to be able to play. When it works, it's fantastic. But, when SimCity doesn't work, it's frustrating.

There aren't enough face-palm meme images on the internet to adequately illustrate the level of fuckery that SimCity has reached. Ultimately, I asked for a received a refund on SimCity.  I might pick it back up if things start to clear up, but, a big part of me is thinking that the SimCity servers are going to major ghost towns once the dust settles over this.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Canon Powershot SX500 IS review

My Sony Cybershot DSC-T500 has about had it. It had a good run, considering that I bought it four years ago and that I have taken it nearly everywhere with me. It was starting to fall apart, though, and, once I started having to duct tape the battery hatch shut, I knew I had to retire it.

I went with the Canon PowerShot SX500 IS. What sold me on it was its mega zoom (30x optical) backed with a 16 mega pixel chip, seated in an ultra-compact setting. This isn't the sort of camera that you can slip into your pocket, but it's compact enough to carry around comfortably. Think of the Canon Powershot SX500 IS as a mid-range camera that sits between pocket point and shoots and digital DSLR cameras. And, yet, the Canon Powershot SX500 IS has all of the settings of a DSLR, just without the price. The Powershot boasts the following modes: P (Program); TV (Shutter Speed Priority); AV (Aperture Priority), Manual, Auto, "LIVE" and also comes with a nice collection of fun shooting modes (miniature, fisheye, discreet, fireworks, low light, snow etc). There is also a record button on the camera so you don't have to switch the dial to video mode to start recording.

If you're just a beginner, or if you just want a point-and-shoot camera, then the Canon PowerShot  SX500 IS is not for you. Casual shutterbugs are going to constantly forget to lift up the flash (it is not automatic, even on AUTO mode). Low light, high action shots seem to come out a bit grainy in AUTO mode, but, it takes great portrait shots in AUTO mode. And, if you're in the nosebleed seats of your kid's school concert and want to get a close up shot, the Canon Powershot SX500 offers great image stabilization for those situations where you're using its 30x optical zoom.  

The bottom line here is, if you're looking for a camera that approaches professional quality but don't want to spend the money on a DSLR, then the Canon Powershot SX500 IS would be a good camera for you to consider. If you just want to point and shoot and carry a camera around in your pocket, then you're going to need to look elsewhere.