Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Every Five Minutes

"What's wrong with you? What you screamin' for? Every 5 minutes there's somethin', a bomb or somethin'. I'm leavin'. bzzzz."

I leave it up you, gentle readers, to decide whether I'm re-watching this:

...or whether I'm throwing out that quote as a comment on my current work environment.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Ghost Pumpkins

A conversation from our dinner table last night:

Secondborn: "When we were at Firstborn's writing place I looked out the window and there was a place with orange pumpkins and white pumpkins."

Beautiful Wife: {explaining} "They had ghost pumpkins as well as regular pumpkins."

Firstborn: "I wonder what happens if you make pumpkin pie with ghost pumpkins..."

Me: "You get ghost pumpkin pie, and it goes right through you."

This... this is what my children have to live with...

Monday, September 28, 2015

Friday, September 25, 2015

Not feeling well...

...woke up sick at about 2:00 a.m. I'm only just now getting back on track. Could be allergies, something I ate, or both; not sure.

I hate September.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

I'd die, but it would be fun...

Am I the only one who wants to try this? I mean, not even competitively, it just looks like a bit of a playground for silly grownups who haven't quite adjusted to the fact their bodies are over forty.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Database Updates for Dummies

Database Updates for Dummies:
  1. Run the Updater.
  2. Read the error message.
  3. Consult the documentation.
  4. Realize there is no such error message in the documentation.
  5. Read the error message again.
  6. Consult Google.
  7. Find instructions for how to do the thing that the error message says you need to do.
  8. Do something spectacularly ill-advised: follow those instructions.
  9. Re-run the Updater.
  10. Watch the update complete successfully.
  11. Promise yourself a stiff drink after work.
Go ahead. Ask me how yesterday went...

Monday, September 21, 2015

Saturday, September 19, 2015

R: It's not just a letter, it's a way of life!

Aye, mateys. It be that day again! The day to dress in yer finest silks, polish up yer peg leg, and dig out yer cleanest eyepatch. That's right, me hearties! Talk Like A Pirate Day is upon us. So, to help ye scurvy dogs get in th' proper spirit of the thing, let's have some music!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Ask the Readers: Character Types

My brain is not braining just now, and today will be an incredibly busy day, fraught with disruptions and likely somewhat frustrating, and anyway I need more sleep before I can be creative again. So, instead of trying to be clever myself (when I'm clearly not feeling it), I'm going ask you -- you lovely bunch of fun, interesting, and clever people -- something instead. The question, basically, is this:

What are your favorite kinds of characters, and why do you enjoy them? Are the characters you enjoy in books and movies different from the kinds of characters you like to play in games (tabletop or video games, either or both)? When you're picking out a bit of entertainment, are you most often hooked by characters, or by settings, or by plots? What kinds of genres do you most enjoy, and do your character preferences change if you're looking at a different genre?

It's not a questionnaire, obviously; it's just a topic about which I'd like to hear people's thoughts. Feel free to digress if you have something else you'd prefer to talk about; this can double as an open thread.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Odd place to live...

I had a dream the other morning in which Merlin had returned to train up our children. "Our children", in this case, included both the boys, their cousin, and the hypothetical child of some friends of ours. I don't know what exactly he was training them for, except maybe to restore the court at Camelot and rule England? No idea.

I'm honestly not sure how we found him. I mean, he was living behind a pet door that led into what appeared to be an empty closet in an abandoned building. Still, it was good to see the old guy again; I hadn't spoken to him since high school.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

In the bathtub!

These are the things my children put up with...
Me: "All right, where is Daddy going to be?"
Boys: "Um..."
Me: "In the bathtub!"
Boys: {nodding}
Me: "If something goes wrong, where will you look for Daddy?"
Boys: "Bathtub."
Me: "In the bathtub!"
Boys: {go back to playing Terraria}
Me: "If something horrible explodes out of my sinuses and attempts to devour the world, where is the breach point so you can perform the banishing ritual?"
Boys: "..."
Boys: "..."
Firstborn: "In the bathtub?"
Me: "In the bathtub!"

Monday, September 14, 2015

It keeps me going...

So, I'm reading this story a bit at a time. Small chunks, mostly. A page, maybe two, on a good night; maybe just a couple of sentences here and there, if I can't find time any other way. I'm enjoying it immensely, but it's going to take a while to get to the end.

Usually, I read pretty fast -- especially if I'm caught up in a story like this. The problem is... well, if I want to find out what happens next, I have to write it first.

It keeps me going.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

That Treasury Department Scam Has Upped Its Game...

So, remember the Legal Affairs Department of the United States Treasury scam from a while back?

Well, they're back, and evidently they've been listening to their critics. (Well, not the part where their critics point out that they're bad people, and that they need to stop what they're doing and find a better way to live. No, they're just listening to the parts where their critics have pointed out obvious flaws in their delivery.)

I just got a message from the "I.R.S." ("Internal Revenue Service") explaining that this was their final notice, and they were suing me. So, this time they've actually got the correct government agency. They've also got a passably well-spoken robot voice reading the script, instead of that one woman with the nearly-indecipherable accent.

So, how would you know this was a scam?

1. The I.R.S. will never call you up to tell you that they're initiating legal action. Government agencies simply don't work that way. You'll receive a proper legal notice, on real, physical paper, that you can touch and hold and keep for your records.

2. The computer voice left a phone number with a 206 area code (Seattle, if you're curious), but no additional information: no case number, no contact name, no reference, no directions for how to look up the details of your case on the I.R.S. website. Again, government agencies simply don't work that way. They simply don't ever call you up and try to scare you into calling them back. No, not even in Obama's America, not even with the End of Days rapidly approaching. They just don't. They've invested millions of dollars in their websites and databases, and they will direct you to those resources if at all possible. The more citizens who get their information online, the fewer employees the agency has to keep around (and keep paying) to answer the phones. This message was far too generic to be real.

3. Government agencies sure as hell don't use robo-calls to initiate legal action against people. Nobody does. There are reasons for this.

4. This is my "final notice" but also somehow the first I've heard of it? Nonsense. Again, they're trying to scare people into not thinking clearly. And it probably works, at least enough to make it profitable.

I'm tempted to call them up under an assumed name, preferably from a payphone (if I can find one) or a disposable cell phone (if I can't). Not tempted enough to actually do it, but tempted. I'm sure it's naive, but I'd like to explain that they're doing bad things in the service of bad people; that they need to stop doing this, and find a better way to live. There's always the hope, right?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Music: Fade Away

By The Black Heart Procession. I was listening to this while I was writing last night. It also shows up as the closing credits for Infamous II -- which, if you haven't played it, you really should. It's an awesome game.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

If I yell boo...

So, at one point this past weekend I went for a long walk, at night, and wound up in a playground. I'd chosen it as a destination because the last time we brought the boys here, there was a teenager up in the tower, texting to his friends about how terrible and unfair his parents were. (I'm guessing.) It seemed like a good place to come for some privacy. So I'm sitting in the tower of the play equipment, sipping from my flask ("It's dangerous to go alone. Take this.") and trying to decide if I'm ready to make the long walk back.

While I'm sitting there, a car pulls into the parking lot, finds a space, and parks. There's a certain amount of moving around inside, along with people using their iPhones as flashlights. I'm too far away to make out any details, and anyway I don't much care what's going on.

Then, about twenty minutes later, I hear a door open. Two figures emerge: a girl and a boy. The girl is slim, attractive, in a black t-shirt and shorts; the guy is taller, probably twice my size, and wearing a white shirt and... maybe jean shorts? It's dark. I'm not sure. But they come over to the play equipment, and take the stairs up (just as I did). Whatever they're doing -- and I have a pretty good guess -- I'm hoping they'll stay in some other area and not notice me.

But, no. They start across the bridge, towards the tower. It only has three levels; I'm sitting in the top, and the bridge connects to the middle, where you can circle around to a ladder to get to my area. I have no desire to have them discover me and freak out, so... as the girl reaches the end of the bridge and is about to duck into the tower... I say, dryly, "If I yell 'boo', will you scream?"

There isn't even a pause. They don't stop to consult, or ask questions, or anything. They just flee.

I've never seen people leave play equipment so fast. I don't think their feet touched the ground three times between the playground and their car. No letting the girl go first while the guy stays behind to defend her, just two people leaving a playground at a full sprint.

There's a brief blink of lights as someone unlocks the car, and I'm pretty sure they were cursing the fact that they didn't do it before they got to the vehicle. Then the car starts up and heads right back out of the parking lot. I take another sip from my flask.

I may be forty-two years old, but by the dark and forgotten gods, I've still got it.

Honestly, I don't know why they were scared. I mean, it wasn't like I said, "Don't be afraid. It's just a body." That would have been disturbing. "Two more souls to the call..." would have been scary. Me, I was just asking a perfectly innocent question...

Monday, September 7, 2015

True Parenting Experiences: Stealth Groceries

So, my beautiful wife comes home with the two boys and a whole bunch of groceries. I have been passed out on the bed, but the thunderous stampede puts an end to that, and I climb down to help unload the groceries.

Beautiful Wife: "So... Firstborn snuck some garlic in with the onions for you. He said it was surprise garlic. I put it back when he wasn't looking, but you should probably tell him you found it."

Me: "Okay, sure. Surprise garlic."

The unloading of groceries continues.

Me: "What is this?"

Beautiful Wife: "Dragon fruit. The boys wanted to try it."

Me: "Okay, then."

The unloading of groceries continues.

Beautiful Wife: "Is that bacon?"

Me: "Two pounds of it."

Beautiful Wife: "The boys got bacon for you."

Me: "Looks that way. You didn't know about this?"

Beautiful wife: "I thought that cost more than it should have."


Sunday, September 6, 2015

Demonization, lionization, Martyrdom, and County Clerk Kim Davis

I've been thinking a lot about this County Clerk, Kim Davis, and reading various points and counterpoints, and noodling over thoughts about the separation of church and state and how that plays out here, and how it would play out if the situation were just a little bit different, and what it is that bothers me about some of the criticism (and shaming) that I see directed at her, and some of the idolizing/lionizing that I also see directed at her. And the main thing that bugs me, I think, is that so much of it seems to be missing the point.

She's a government employee who can no longer perform the duties of her office. That being the case, the decent and honorable thing to do would be to step down. Whether I agree with her reasons or not doesn't matter. Whether or not she understands the religion she professes to be a part of doesn't matter. Whether or not she's a massive, flaming hypocrite doesn't matter. Whether she's just a generally horrible person (and I have no idea whether she is) doesn't matter. Her clothing, hairstyle, and body sure as hell don't matter. She is actively preventing a portion of her governmental job from being done, in defiance of a court order, and in light of that jail time seems perfectly appropriate. As far as I can see, that's really all that needs to be said about it.

It would be different if she were some sort of minister, and someone was trying to put legal pressure on her to perform weddings in her church that were not allowed by her beliefs. That would also be a violation of the separation of church and state, but in the other direction, and I would be entirely in support of her. But that is not the case; her duties as County Clerk are entirely secular, irreligious, non-sectarian, and non-denominational. Her job, or this portion of it, is to determine whether or not applicants meet the legal requirements to receive a governmental (hence, secular) marriage license; that's all.

And somewhere in the back of my mind is a vague thought about the odd Christian propensity for viewing itself as a persecuted minority religion, despite the fact that in most places that view has been out of date for something like sixteen hundred years.

Friday, September 4, 2015

It's not about the nail...

This may not, at first glance, seem to have anything to do with technical support. But... well... just watch it. The connection is there, I promise.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Book Review: Alice in Underland: The Queen of Stilled Hearts

First things first: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. That sort of thing always worries me a little -- I mean, what if I didn't like it? -- but in the case of Alice's Adventures in Underland: The Queen of Stilled Hearts, I'm happy to say that no such problem exists. The book is utterly charming (provided, of course, that you're the sort of person who enjoys phantasmagorical settings, humorous and/or macabre nonsense, and zombies).

I was expecting something on the order of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies -- that is, the original text of Alice in Wonderland but with zombies added in. That would have been enjoyable by itself, I think, and there are definitely zombies in there. (In this case, it isn't so much that there are zombies "added in" as it is that all the mad inhabitants of Wonderland are now zombies. Still mad, though.) However, the author doesn't stop there. Alice's Adventures in Underland isn't just Alice in Wonderland retold, with zombies; it's also a story about Alice Liddell, the young girl for/about whom the story was written, and something of her experience growing up in an alternate-history England where the zombie plague is wide-spread, but held in check by a special serum that allows the infected to look, act, and think like everyone else.

On that level, it's a fascinating look at the society of this not-quite-historical England, using the not-quite-Alice-in-Wonderland story as a sort of lens or mirror to explore elements of social expectation, hypocrisy, slavery... and, of course, zombies. And, by providing this not-quite-historical context, the author makes the story much more accessible than (I suspect) most casual modern readers find the original Alice in Wonderland. Alice in Underland isn't just charming, sometimes macabre nonsense; it's charming and sometimes macabre nonsense with meaning.

If that sounds like your cup of tea, you can purchase the book here. Just don't forget to take your serum.