Monthly Archives: October 2008

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The Qwest to Keep a Phone Number

Category : House

Strangely enough, I was told for the second time that I could not keep my phone number for moving across town. This may seem natural enough in New York or L.A. where I may be crossing area codes, but not so much here in Pocatello. Especially not when I know so many people who have moved more times and across larger distances (and into and out of the same parts of town) that have kept their phone numbers. And yet, we have had to change ours not once but twice.

Personally, I believe it is an employee scam, though one that I can understand in the high-stress sell-sell-sell environment in a call center; even if I hate it. The scam, as I see it works this way. You call the help number and are shuttled to an employee whose numbers start running. Are you getting new services? Phone services? Internet? DirectTV? Cellular service? In our case, we were upping our internet service because it is faster where we are moving. Very good. Ka-ching. Money in the employee number bank. They just made a sale. How about another one? We don't want DirectTV because we rarely watch TV. Damn. We don't want cell phones because we're with AT&T since they are the only provider that offers iPhone support in our area without reprogramming (and have the best "unlimited" data plan prices in our area to boot). Damn. Oh, we're moving? Well it looks like we cannot transfer your number. Now I have to close the current account number and open a NEW account number for you. I'm sorry for the inconvenience. But I just opened a new account and see my numbers rise.

What could I do? Say "SONOFABITCH! I WANNA KEEP MY NUMBER! LET ME TALK TO YOUR BOSS? I'MMA TRANSDER TO CABLE ONE AND KEEP MY NUMBER LIKE ADVERTISED?" Not really. Marni took care of the details, but if we had transferred, we would have had marginally less internet service in our area and new setup fees anyway (as well as a new cable modem). So, no.

Sadly, convenience can let us feel shafted; but shafted in a way that we decide. It is inconvenient that we had to switch numbers (twice, mind you, in two years), but it is convenient that we keep our current service and had next to no disruption in the move when we have only a week in the house before our honeymoon.

It's worth it, right? Right?

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Moving Day and Closing Night have Come and Gone

Category : House , theatre

We had such a wonderful turn-out of family and friends who answered the call to help us move. It was really irritating for me to wander around and not be able to help very much, but they were really good at being mean to me and telling me to back off and not try to pop a stitch. We had so many great and gracious faces that I know I'll miss a couple, but Mark and Lisa Jones (and the whole brood), Bart, Brandy, and Michelle Bullock, Dine Smith, Justine Rollins, Marvin and Norma Mongomery, Dana Facer and her girls, Joe B. Haney, Lynn Leonard, Debbie Flair, Jackie Czerepinski helped out in a massive way! (As did others, I'm sure, but I was walking around shocked by the number of people, the huge trailer that Justine and Dine brought.

The U-Haul with our crap

The U-Haul with our crap


Justine and Lisa taking a break...look at that trailer!

Justine and Lisa taking a break...look at that trailer!

So that was our saturday morning. After all of it, I was exhausted! I can't even imagine how everyone else who actually could lift stuff was feeling! That night we closed a wonderful show (Cash on Delivery). We had a nice cast party, though it didn't end up running that late. I was given one of the coolest gifts ever! I got a Portable Cooler stocked with awesome beers from around the world! The cast had Dine put it together. After all, he is a beer judge and has exquisite taste! He's also one of the nicest and most giving people I've met--but don't tell the people who work with him that! He has a reputation to keep!


Porta-Cooler - A wonderful cast gift for me!

Porta-Cooler - A wonderful cast gift for me!


Awesome Sauce (AKA. The Many Beers my Cast Gave Me!)

Awesome Sauce (AKA. The Many Beers my Cast Gave Me!)

After the cast party, Marni and I went home and slept in our house for the first time. It was a really fun night, even if it was in the dining room because the carpet layers can't get in until the middle of the week due to people being out sick. So we are still not in our bedroom since that is the last place that needs the carpet. Hopefully we will be before our cruise.


The beginnings of our office

The beginnings of our office

Marni wondering how the hell I can overload a counter so quickly with crap!

Marni wondering how the hell I can overload a counter so quickly with crap!

 We got some stuff done yesterday, mostly in terms of buying things that we needed. We also talked to Brin who is going to be putting up our French Doors starting here soon. We are thinking of taking out the load-bearing wall to the left of Marni in the picture as well as doing wall-to-wall bookshelves in the Piano Room with the piano in the center. It should be pretty sweet by the time it is finished--and Brin will have some extra cash as well!

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RockBand Tuesday (10/28/2008) Releases

Category : Games

Missed a week since I had an appendectomy, but it was Nirvana fun. So it was a good week to Rock Band!

Looks like this week will be fun as well. Here's the line-up.

Hong Kong Garden - Siouxsie and the Banshees

Kiss Them For Me - Siouxsie and the Banshees

The Killing Jar - Siouxsie and the Banshees

Dammit - Blink 182

Well Thought-Out Twinkles - Silversun Pickup

Melatonin - Silversun Pickups

Pretty in Pink - Psychadelic Furs

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New Position; Same Old Situation

Category : Uncategorized

Well, I accepted the new position of "Computer Analyst" which is now a non-classified position here at ISU. It is a raise in pay and a lot more programming, which I am quite excited about. I'm still unhappy about the situation that led to the opening of the position. Unhappy is an understatement, but the lab team has had to figure out how to pick up and move on. In fact, I'm starting something that I had planned out years ago that I'd never gotten around to. A way to help document some of the cool stuff that the lab team (past, present, and future) have been able to solve and bring to higher education at Idaho State University.

I haven't gotten very far on it since I have next to no spare time lately (or most of that has been spent sleeping after my appendectomy). I'll be posting more soon as well as contacting members of the lab team past and present to help out if they want.

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Sometimes Being Courteous Feeds You a Shit Sandwich

Category : stuff I'm doing

I've been trying to eat better, what with my surgery and all, so that I can have some energy and get better. So I decided this morning to hit Burger King before work. That's Burger King #12976 on Bench Road, for those keeping score (not that anyone is). So I get their cheesy bacon wraps because they sound good, some "hash browns" (tater tots) and cheesy tots with some coffee. I head into work. On the way, I pop a tot in my mouth and find that it's sour. Same with the "hash browns". Same with the browns inside of my cheesy wrap. Since I've tasted oil as it's starting to go rancid, I know the taste. It needs to be changed out. It's one of those inevitabilities of fast food. I know, I worked fast food.

So I get to work and call, hoping that too many other people's breakfast won't be ruined. I'm not sure who I spoke to, but when I told her that they needed to change the oil, she began arguing with me that it was new oil and there was absolutely nothing wrong with it. I can understand her hesitation to admit that the oil was going rancid in our sue-happy nation, but I was making a courtesy call. I wasn't demanding money back or a fresh order. I just didn't want other people's breakfasts to be ruined like mine. It was my one little good deed that we all often do but never think about.

But she argues with me about the oil. I can even picture her motioning to the other staff to change the oil--though I have no real proof of this; I just like the image in my head. If she had said something like "It is on our checklist and I'll make sure that it's done. Thank you." I would have been happy. Instead I get the run-around for being nice. I wasn't going to show up with a news crew and start a Chili finger situation. I was even over being irritated about my ruined breakfast until I talked to the employee.

So what of it? What's the moral of this tale? Don't eat at Burger King? Not really. I've eaten there a ton of times over the years and rarely gotten the wrong order (and then usually it was because of a new employee learning the ropes) or had a problem. I just needed to vent in hopes that someday when that employee is in the drive-through at McDonalds and gets some fries out of oil about to turn, she doesn't get hassled for a courtesy call. Then I'll be able to call the burger wars not on taste or price or selection, but on common customer courtesy. Because the Burger King that I called sure as hell doesn't understand their customers or courtesy.

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Whirlwind or Slow Motion?

Category : stuff I'm doing

Well, appendectomies seem to come at the absolute worst times. Not only have I been rendered useless when it comes to painting (which was what was on schedule this week) but also moving heavy crap (which is on schedule for next week). At least I'll be able to clean the apartment and not feel like a complete loser while Marni slaves away at the house. At least she's had some great help from her Dad and Walt (both are absolutely awesome!). Her dad, of course, came to see the show and brought the Bullock brood--or as much as could come, and Walt's just an all-around wicked-sweet guy! He's also in the play I directed as inspector George Jenkins, so you should definitely check it out this final weekend!

So they've been over at the house working, Marni basically every waking moment and moment that she's not on stage, and everyone else when they can help. And I've been sleeping. A lot. It's pretty much what I've done for the last couple of days. Slept. Which makes me feel like crap knowing that everyone else is working their butts off!

One of the worst parts of it is that I wasn't feeling well enough to go see my show. I couldn't tell my actors that they rocked, couldn't watch them rock the house. That's one of the most depressing things. I'm just so exhausted...and I'm not even doing anything. At least I don't have much pain other than the incision area where they had to get through a little muscle to get to the appendix (I have muscle!).

Marni's been absolutely wonderful, as you can imagine, though it is wearing thin on her since she's overwhelming herself a thousandfold with the stuff that the both of us were overwhelmed with before. She's strong and will make it through, though. Only two weeks and we'll be in San Diego with Steve and Randy and then on to Hawaii.

Of course, we have to move out of the apartment, which is almost all big stuff that we haven't been able to take in small loads here and there, clean the apartment, get the bills/mortgage/etc setup for autopay, and get the house into at least enough order to be able to leave it for three weeks without feeling like we're grotesquely unprepared to return.

So here I am, sitting at the computer, waiting for Marni to come home from painting with Walt so that we can go visit my mom and show her that I'm really, truly okay and not going to die any time soon (until I see the bill, maybe). At least I had a dream where I was in a Chinese emperor's household and worked in the kitchen. I basically moved prepared dishes from the kitchen to the table and placed them in the proper place. That was my entire function in life 24/7. The pasteries and dishes were amazing! It was a banquet for millions, it seemed. The entire dream was in Chinese with subtitles, so I knew what was going on. Whenever the Emperor finished eating, he would have all of the remaining food sent to the poorest districts and distributed.

At least I'm having interesting dreams even if I'm not anything remotely useful.

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I thought I only had two medical incidents scheduled for this month…

Category : medical

Obviously my appendix didn't agree with me and decided that it would be a good time to act up. On Wednesday morning my entire stomach hurt like crazy. I have a weak stomach, but am really unused to it hurting. Maybe the Molto Coldo jalepeno pizza really wasn't good for me! So I decide to buck up and go to work. So I head on in and start taking care of business at work.

I'm currently getting the Counselling and Testing image updated so I can go restore some machines we gave them a while back. They're old machines are working fine so it's been a low priority and I'm just now getting to it. I install the COMPASS testing software and am finishing up my e-mails when my stomach starts hurting more than it did before--which is quite a feat. So I decide to head home and lay down, hoping that it might be gas. I check in with my boss and head on out.

After an hour of laying in misery on my bed, I decide to head in to Physician's Immediate Care. These guys are pretty awesome (how could they not be, my friend Jenny works there) and get me in. Dr. Willey starts poking and prodding my stomach and finds what he thinks is pretty indicative of appendicitis. So he schedules me to come in five hours later to have an ultrasound to see if it really is what it appears to be. Marni gets off work and takes me in and after the ultrasound doc comes in (and Jenny gives me a hard time, funny girl that she is) it is confirmed...or at least insomuch as I am sent up to the ER to get a CT scan of the area.

So we head up to the ER. I'm always amazed by the ER. Most of the times I've gone to the ER for myself have been pretty non-threatening (except for one time that a stomach bug had severely dehydrated me and took me out of this world), so I could glance around and see the others waiting. I looked pretty normal, though I was often holding my stomach. But otherwise, I could have just been a guy in there with gas (which is what I was still hoping it was). There was a guy sitting with a rag wrapped around his fingers because he had mashed them horribly. There was another guy who had torn off part of his femur (he had gone to physician's immediate and they sent him immediately to the ER. So they get in and then they take me in.

I explain everything for what feels like the seventeenth time. The doctors found it strange that I had been diagnosed in the morning with an appendicitis and then told to wait for five hours for an ultrasound rather than boing ushered up to get it checked in the ER. Come to think of it, it was a little weird, but what do I know? I'm only the patient. I'm not supposed to know anything. Otherwise I'd have a medical degree.

The first thing they tell me that they're going to do is take some blood since that was not done at Physician's Immediate (something they found very strange as well) and then schedule a CT scan depending upon the feedback on my white count. So Marni heads to the bathroom and a very nice woman comes in and takes me away to the CT scan room where I'm put in a jet engine and have my abdomen scanned by science magics.

She takes me back and Marni was in the room wondering where I had gone. So I'm sitting there and two nurses come in to take my blood. I've never had a fear of needles or have I had anyone have difficulty finding my veins ever in my life. Until that moment. My IV arm is still bruised from where he was digging and my forehand still hurts from where he poked me for blood...and did not get any. Thinking that my other arm would be as uncooperative, he started digging around in it for a vein, but found it pretty easily after exerting entirely too much force and causing me a lot of pain. I've been poked and prodded before, but damn, these guys put it all to shame. In fact, when I had my vasectomy, Dr. Bohus found the *same* vein that they used for my IV, did a clean insert, and gave me the valium to calm me down. Nearly painless except for the burning of the valium going in. Not so here. It was pain all around, and every time another nurse saw my IV they wondered what the hell had it wasn't just me.

So Marni and I wait. We want to make sure before we call the family or my work. A nurse comes in and tells me that he has a lot of paperwork for me to sign. I'm a bit confused and he asks if Dr. Judy has seen me yet. I say no and he goes on his way with his paperwork. Then Dr. Judy comes and tells me that it is definitely appendicitis and that it would probably be best to remove it. It was my decision, but it was obvious that not doing it would be the wrong thing to do. And since I've known people who have had their appendix rupture, I really didn't want to go through that! So Marni signs the paperwork and we call the fam.

Jennifer and Emily come down to the hospital to see me. They're awesome. Always. Mom was distraught, but was happy to hear from Jennifer that I was feeling okay. I went into the recovery room at about 10ish, I think. And then into surgery around 11ish. There was a little 10 year old girl in front of me having the same procedure--and everything went fine for her as well. I was admitted into the hospital and spent the night there.

I was really, really hugry since I hadn't had anything to eat since 6pm Tuesday night and it was now after midnight. Jen and Emily and Marni went home to let me get some rest. I didn't get much, though, since the night nurse kept coming in and giving me crackers (which was awesome) and taking my vitals (which is what woke my up since the blood pressure machine would take them every 20-30 minutes. Oy!

Marni came the next morning, having taken the day off. I had breakfast and lunch and they released me into the wild. I picked up my Vicodin and antibiotics and am at home resting somewhat peacefully. I'm now starting to feel the pain around the incision points. I was going to play a little RockBand (Dr. Feelgood was released and I never got to play it!) to pass the time, but my mouth is raw so vocals is out. The incision points pretty much take guitar out of the equation. And drums would hurt like no RockBand.

Marni's coming home because she's exhausted, so I'm sure we'll sleep for a while and she'll get ready for the show. I don't know if I feel up to going to not tonight. And that makes me sad. I want to give my cast the love they deserve, but I don't know if I have the energy.

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Triggering Problems in Graphical Adventure Games

Category : Games

I'm not sure how many people played Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, but I have to say that I really enjoyed the majority of what the game had to offer. Unfortunately, I also was extremely irritated by some segments (especially the segments where I was being chased and had to lock/unlock doors with precision in timed sequences when the trigger detection was sketchy to say the least. But I liked the ambiance, the environments, and the cut-scenes. I enjoyed the storyline as well. The only parts I didn't really enjoy were the irritating action sequences.

One of the most impressive pieces of the adventuring aspect of Cthulhu to me was the means by which you connected the dots to get to one place or another. there was room for exploration, though it was semi-linear in that some of what you were discovering was triggering other events in the timeline, but it felt somewhat open-ended yet rarely made me feel like I was being led by the nose. It also rarely had me scratching my head and wondering what to do next (unlike a section of F.E.A.R. where I kept trying to find a way to avoid Alma when running backward was really the way to go).

So what went wrong with my enjoyment of the game?

I really disliked the initial chase scene. To set the scene, you are in a hotel room and some townies decide that they're going to kill you. The puzzle basically has you opening and closing doors, locking them, and sliding bookshelves up against them to stop the fishy townies. A pretty good setup for a tense escape sequence as long as it works.

It seems like a pretty easy setup...and it should be once you figure it out. Unfortunately, figuring it out is irritating because you have to perform exact steps with problematic triggers. The problem wasn't figuring out the order that I had to do things. That part was easy (though annoying since each mistake lead to death and load times). But the horrid trigger detection on the locks gave me fits.

Here is the sequence of the escape puzzle that irritated me:

  1. Run into the connecting room. Turn around. Close the door. Lock the door.
  2. Run to the bookcase and push it aside. Open the door. Run into the next room. Close the door. Lock the door.
  3. Run to the hallway door. Lock it.
  4. Run to the connecting door and unlock it. Open the door. Enter the room. Turn around and close the door. Lock it.
  5. Push the bookcase in front of the door you just locked.
  6. Run to the window and push the bookcase out of the way.
  7. Open the window. Go through it to the balcony.
  8. Jump to the next balcony. Open the door and push the clock in front of the door.

There is much more to the sequence that actually works, but this is the part that was most irritating. The main reason it is irritating is that the triggers for opening and closing the doors and locking them often get muddled in the engine. So sometimes you will be trying to lock the door only to open it and happily letting death into the room with you.

What made it more annoying is that it is a timed puzzle. Enemies are breaking down the doors around you and you have to do everything in sequence exactly...and quickly. So having bolts that don't bolt and instead open the doors to let death (and loading times) in become extremely annoying.

What could have been done?

Intelligent triggers (or at least larger trigger areas for the locks. Whenever I watch people playing first-person games, I notice that they often target the mid/upper-mid level of the door to open it. If it is a shooter, they often keep their constant mid-height target inline so as to be able to shoot crouching enemies as well as standing ones. If it is an adventure game, they usually just expect the door to open when they click it. Precision is usually not much of an issue when it comes to triggers.

But in Cthulhu, the locks were above the usual "door opening plane" (for back of a better term). So, clicking anything in approximately the right are would have been enough to lock or unlock the door. Unfortunately, that's not how it worked. It seemed that the collision was sketchy for the locks. Sometimes I thought I had clicked directly on the lock...and boom. The door opens and a townie kills me. Wait...didn't I unlock the door? Rinse, repeat. Ad infinitum. Or at least it felt like it.

I do not know how the triggering was setup in Cthulhu, but I would have made sure that the vast majority of the upper part of the door was unlocked. The yelling and chopping of the townies was enough to invoke the sense of urgency, as was the linearity of the action. I didn't need the triggers conspiring against me. Rather than making the situation feel made it feel cheap. And that pissed me off since I really enjoyed the game!

I still recommend the game to people looking for an adventure game with a hint of action, but little design pieces like this make it harder to recommend.

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Getting Our Floors Done and Painting

Category : House

Today the hardwood guys are coming in to sand and stain our floors in the living room, study, office, and front hallway. We chose a nice dark mohogany stain, though I'm about to head over to see what he would recommend. I know it would go wonderfully with the colors we have selected, but I just wanted his opinion on our stain selection.

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, the other flooring crew will be in to lay subfloor in the kitchen, back hall, and back bathroom where the horrendous blue doube-tack carpet pad used to be. We were lucky enough to contract one of Tom's guys to remove it instead of scraping it ourselves and ruining even more subfloor. They will only be replacing the ruined areas.

Gary's sewer was coming over this morning to pull the toilets for the flooring guys to lay the vinyl in the bathrooms. We also have another plumber coming to remove our old tub fixtures and install the beautiful new ones. That was something that we hoped we could do, but we didn't have the equipment to wrench the old one off the wall (and thought we might damage something in the process).

I'm about to head over to check out the progress. For all the contracting we're doing, it still seems like we're doing a whole lot! We based the majority of the back areas of the house. We only have the bathroom and dining room left to Killz and we'll be good to go. We're painting the kitchen and bedroom tonight.

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Eyeing Content Management Systems

Category : Thoughts

I'm an avid WordPress user and fan, but some of the projects that I am thinking about need something much more than a simple blogging system. They need something that traditionally falls into the CMS category. Unfortunately, a lot of the CMS's out there aren't organized the way I would like or are not as intuitive as I would like (or else, I guess I just don't like them or something). So I get to thinking about what I want in a CMS and just how I feel it needs to work for the sites that I'm planning. A big question is whether I develop my own or retrofit an existing one. The problem is time and support and development.

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