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Showing posts from 2009

Thank you Veterans

I haven't really found myself commenting on anything war related - but I think today it's worth noting that war is an inevitability.  No matter how much people push for peace, there is going to be someone else pushing back. It's human nature - the need for conflict - internally and externally. Externally, we see violence as part of fulfilling that need.

There are those of us who are willing to fight and die for these United States of America, and for that I am grateful. I've never fully understood or felt the need to fight with someone using physical violence. But I can see how some people are predisposed to believing so passionately about something that they're willing to lay down their lives for it - and that's a noble thing.

Veterans are important to not only our peace and prosperity, but they supply us with something to aspire to. A person that is devoted to protecting his country deserves as much praise as we can bestow, and to be treated with dignity and …

Talk about bad luck - I'm cursed this month

So a few posts ago I talked about how my PayPal account had been compromised, and I lost almost $500 from my checking account.  Well, since then I've had absolutely the worst luck of any person I know of.  I mean, it's like literally every single thing in my house or in my name decided it's about time to break, die, or fall apart.

We'll start with the PayPal debacle. That was unfortunate luck, and it sucked when it happened, but eventually the bank sorted it all out, and I got my money back.  It just scared the crap out of me that at any time $500 could simply disappear from your bank account without doing anything wrong.
Xbox 360 - I got the Red Ring of Death (RROD) two weeks ago, and the hardware that I used the most in my entertainment system (watching movies, TV shows, Netflix, etc.) is completely dead and will cost $100 to fixASUS WL-500W router - While I was playing a video game one night (on my PS3 because the Xbox was already dead), I got a funny message saying t…

So it goes.

So...it's been a month since I've written an update for O2D. If either of my readers were wondering why this might be, well part of it is explained by Doug's update below and my response to it, and the rest can be explained by using today as a microcosm of my life over the past month. Viewer Discretion Advised... About a year and a half ago I had a job that I quite enjoyed and that I was rather good at. My boss would say, "do this" and I would do it. I would write a grant application, I would write a presentation, I would have a meeting about a program, I would do lunch, I would meet with a loan applicant, I would talk to the players and be there as deals were done. I may be romanticizing a bit, but I never woke up dreading the day ahead and I never thought my life sucked. Sure, I wanted more money, and I was a bit concerned that there was very little room for advancement since my boss showed no signs of retiring ever...but at least he was a great guy and a good bo…

I'm social media overloaded!!

So after so many months of trying out various social networking services to keep in touch with family and friends, I've got one final conclusion: There are too damn many social networking sites.

While I can definitely see the intrinsic value of keeping in touch with old friends, or using micro-blogging as a means of advertising, it's simply too much to keep up with on a regular basis.  Or I should say, it's nearly impossible to keep up with all of them. If you have a day-job, your company likely blocked many services (like Facebook, Twitter, AIM, etc.) so keeping up to date with them becomes a full-time job outside of work.  I don't care enough about all the things going on with my friends or my friends' kids/dogs/cats/etc. to have to have fresh news delivered to me via wall updates or tweets.

At some point there is a saturation level that one can reach that it all becomes overwhelming. If I had to remember to carry on this many conversations at work as I try to in…

Follow Up: You know you're in trouble when...

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So after going to my local bank's branch office, and signing 24 copies of the form that says "Under penalty of perjury, I did not authorize these charges" I had a hand-cramp.  In speaking with the bank representative, he said that upon working with his ACH department he discovered that of all the unauthorized fund transfer complaints submitted to them - 93% were related to PayPal transactions.

It turns out PayPal may have really screwed up here in terms of what happened with my account, and how the charges were applied without my knowledge or authorization. It says on PayPal's own website "As a fraud-prevention measure, we send an email confirmation for every online PayPal payment that you make." That means I should have received 24 emails from PayPal - one for each transaction as it would have been authorized with my authentication via the website. This simple fact apparently slipped their minds when they tried to explain how the unauthorized charges may ha…

DnD 4e session Debrief

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So our first official foray into Dungeons & Dragon's Fourth Edition was completed on Saturday. After weeks of prep, I finally unveiled my baby to our Playgroup: Mr. Misanthropology and his Mrs, DougV, and a gamer couple, Mr. Ego and Ms. Thrace. They played a Druid, a Rogue, a Warlock, A greatweapon Fighter, and a Paladin. At first I was worried that not having a dedicated healer would be a problem, but Thrace handled everything perfectly.

And it was fun. But...

Some things didn't work. We had originally decided to have the session around a big ol' dining room table, but afterwards people complained of being stiff. I completely understand: I think my enthusiasm for my storyline was the only thing to keep me jumping and hoping at the table. My excitement also underscored another problem: they wanted frequent breaks but I didn't want any.

This is a symptom that is easy to remedy. Caught up in the creation of my epic story, I lost sight of the goal: just to have fun. At o…

You know you're in trouble when...

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So, what does it feel like to have your bank account information stolen, and money seemingly ripped from your account against your will?  I had no idea what that feels like until this morning.  Today I woke up like any other day, checked my email, etc. before heading off to work... Except I got a horrible surprise when I took a look at my Checking account balance.

Apparently, overnight, a small video game company decided to charge me via my PayPal account almost $500 ($19.99 X 24 = $479.76) in fraudulent charges. It's like getting slapped across the face when you see something like this... but honestly I had no idea what happened until I spoke with PayPal and my bank.

Both were very helpful and understanding that something bad had happened, and tried to alleviate my worry in stating that all will be well, the charges will be reversed, we just have to walk you through some stuff to make sure it won't continue to happen.

Honestly, I've been banking online for well over 7 yea…

Netflix and Hulu - where's the rest of the season?

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So a few months ago I decided to completely leave the subscription cable TV world and go to purely digital content and video streaming.  My wife was a little hesitant because she was worried that she wouldn't be able to watch the local news and sports (we live in Pittsburgh - so football and hockey are staples)... but we decided it wasn't worth an extra $50/month for 1 or 2 days a week of sports and news.  I kept the basic cable (23 analog channels) because the Comcraptastic service for internet doubles without some sort of TV service.  Anyway, it's been pretty nice watching stuff from Netflix on my Xbox 360.  I had been using Boxee and watching Hulu on my AppleTV until Hulu caved to content providers and stripped that functionality out.  I had hoped to use my PS3 to watch Hulu as well on my TV, but again, Hulu blocked their browser, so I've put a complete personal boycott on the Hulu product.

If I can't watch TV when and where I want to, I'm not a happy camper…

Top 40

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Popular. If I was a lame student beginning a term paper, I'd be using a quotation block to add a Webster's definition to that word. The way I did it would telegraph exactly how I intended to approach the topic. A single definition cherry-picked from the possible choices (usually number 3 or 4) is a statement: "this is how I am choosing to use this word. I will brook no dissent to my chosen definition and if you come at me with an argument using any other possible definition of the term, I will defend myself by attacking you as not understanding the word at all...perhaps you have a learning disability."
Listing all of the available definitions sends a few messages: "I only started this paper last night." "I'm eating up space with a large block quotation because I don't have enough to say to fill three pages." "A good strategy for putting almost no thought into this assignment would be to spend a paragraph or two discussing each of thes…

Welcome to the new Nerd-dom... same as the old Nerd-dom

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Sitting at my computer after sleeping for 23 hours--thank you sickness for my mini vacation--I figured that I would post a small update on my latest obsession:

Dungeons & Dragons!

Yes, yes. It's hardly new. It's been around almost as long as I have. However, last year they updated the rules yet again; this time it's 4th edition. I tried my hand at 3rd edition but found it too.... much. It had too big a scope and tried to be everything. I'm sure I could have cut it down, but I just felt like there was too much minutia. Prestige classes, skill checks. I just wasn't ready for it.

For the .05 of you who don't know, Dungeons and Dragons is a Role Playing Game where you create an avatar for a high-fantasy setting. A Dungeon Master creates a basic story and the players act out that story. There are rules for how well you can swing a sword or cast a spell, which takes out the "I got you!" "No, you missed!!" aspect of the role playing games of our y…

I will not fix your freaking computer

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I've been thinking a lot lately about my side-project/hobby work that I do on computers at home, and I found myself extremely frustrated by what I've been asked to do over the last few years.  You see, I love computers, I adore technology, and I find myself wide-eyed and giddy when I get a new toy to play with.  I've been that way since the time I was about 8 when I plugged the non-business end of a Photon gun into the game port on my Commodore 64 computer and subsequently fried the motherboard (and thoroughly pissed off my dad).  I've always loved figuring out how things work, what breaks them, and how to fix them.  That thirst for knowledge still holds a strong place in my life, and I really enjoy learning something new as often as possible.  Computers are sort of a conduit through which I garner new information - much more than I would otherwise without them.

But through the years, I've realized that my hobby for fixing computers has mostly become my curse.  I k…

Little bits from youth

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As my daughter passed her 9 month birthday a couple days ago, my wife and I suffered over how much she has grown.  It's a parent's eternal yearning to want their children to stay the same - but we also want to see them grow.  I was thinking how nice it would be to see things new for the first time all over again.  Just like the first time I experienced sushi, or tried to water-ski (I nearly cracked a rib that time). The newness of living is exciting.  Just like falling in love is so amazing.  With a brand new human being living in my house, I can experience all those new things all over again with her as my proxy.

It's why mothers and fathers want to be there when the baby takes his/her first steps... We want to be a part of their lives through all the new things they do because it makes us feel good just to be there.  Parents sure are selfish when it comes to their kids.  We want them to have the nicest things, eat the best food, wear the most comfortable diapers, have t…

A little less conversation...

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Henry David Thoreau. I'll admit, I’ve got a lot of respect for the guy. If you’ve ever taken an American Literature class in college, you know that they usually split the subject matter into two distinct periods and teach those periods in different classes with the Civil War being considered a natural border between the two. Having been an English major in college, I was basically required to take both classes and I have a rather well formed opinion on these two periods of American Literature. ALMOST everything written in America before the Civil War was crap. There were some notable exceptions: E. A. Poe and the naturalists/transcendentalists (among which, Thoreau was one of the most prominent) come readily to mind, as do some of the nation’s founding documents as simple and beautifully phrased prose. These are the exceptions, though, and don’t really make up for the mind-numbing boredom of “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” or the diaries of Miles Standish. I contend that th…

Dirty Laundry - Do you like the way I smell?

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It's been a long time since I've really thought about laundry.  Luckily, I have a wife and sister-in-law who successfully manage our dirty clothes on a regular basis, so I have nice clean pants to wear every day.  When I was in college, the laundry was always a dreaded ordeal, because the pile I usually had at the end of the month was more than one person could carry.  It usually cost $30 in total for all the washing/drying to be complete and took at least 7-8 hours - basically an entire day to complete.  You see, I had at least 30 pairs of boxes so that I could go a month between laundry days.  It was helpful because I find the repeating, non-stop task of laundry (and dishes too) incredibly monotonous and annoying.  I understand that there are those repetitious tasks in life that are unavoidable... there are even some repeating tasks that aren't all that annoying... but sometimes there are tasks that feel like they're sucking the life out of you one load after another…

Vista can Kiss my Frakking Arse

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I have finally reached the point at which I am completely frustrated with my computer. Frakk you, vista 64!

You see, I always have loved computer games. From my birth, I cannot remember a time where the glowing screen did not fill some part of my life: whether it was Mario and his dog, or rescuing civilians in a helicopter, At a very young age video games have made their way into my experience of stories and narratives. Maybe that is why I like fantasy so much: it allows me to escape and experience an adventure that I may not be able to myself. Or maybe that’s why I like video games, because of the fantasy involved.

At any rate, Microsoft and vista have robbed me of the ability to play my favorite game: The Summoning. An epic masterpiece of adventure/roleplaying games, The Summoning was my first taste of a complex, subtle story where decisions must be made in order to progress but have effects on the gameplay without actually changing the story. It was less choose-your-own-adventure an…

Confession Time

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Politicians do confessing all wrong. They always seem to wait until they've been caught on something instead of airing it out, getting in front of it, and letting it go away by itself. I can recall three high-profile affairs confessed to in the past year, and if rumors are true, my very own governor may be next.

In the spirit of living my life better than a politician in every conceivable way, I've decided I have some confessing to do, and what better venue than my internet readership of three people. Also, the speech act is one of my favorite quirks of language, so I'll take any opportunity to act through words. I hereby confess: I'm the one who farted really loudly in Yoga class that one time. Everybody looked and the girl next to me got all red-faced, so I just let everyone else think it was her. It wasn't.I don't know what an airbender is, or why the last one is not even a person but an avatar, but that didn't stop me from borrowing the game expressly f…

How does my PS3 suck? Let me count the ways...

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When I turned 30 I decided to get myself a present and buy a Playstation 3.  I had long ago traded in my PS2 - the gaming device/DVD player that carried me through college.  I felt that it was time to see how awesome this new Blu-Ray experience supposedly was.  As Sony is generally known for their ability to make decent media players, TVs and gaming devices, I thought it would be worth picking up at least a used one.  I decided that the hype behind why everyone thought - it was overpriced, and underperforming was just rumor, and found one on Craigslist that was a good price for a used 60GB PS3(one of the hardware backwards compatible ones).  It came with a few games, and I thought it would be a great addition to my home theater because I've always had some nit-picky problems playing music and movies through my Xbox 360.  I have an iMac for a primary computer, so it makes it a little challanging to get through some of the hoops required to get media to stream from the computer to t…

An idea for everyone to get worked up over

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I almost got punched at a party over this one, but I still believe it to be at least 50% true, so I think I need to get it out there to at least have the option of a conversation on the topic. I live my life, as everyone does, between the small and big pictures. I recognize that my actions have consequences in my life, and I recognize that my life has an infinitesimally small, approaching zero effect on the universe. In fact, to borrow a misuse of Newton’s first law, every one of my actions is met by an equal and opposing reaction, so I’m really just a random motion in the giant equilibrium machine of existence. I’m mentally at the end of I ♥ Huckabee’s where they realize that everything is connected, but it’s nothing special.Here’s my problem, I grew up in the culture that changed “whatever” from a pronoun to a sentence. Today, that attitude is unacceptable. Today we have two generations bookending the Xers that are acting like the Vatican should add apathy to make 8 deadly sins. We …

AT&T and why I won't buy an iPhone

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If you've read anything about iPhones lately, you'll notice that there isn't a lot of good press regarding the only carrier that officially supports and sells the so-called "God-Phone."  AT&T has long been the brunt of scorn with their extremely frustrating issues supporting and handling the volume of calls and data going to and from these fantastic devices.  Most recently, there have been complaints that the visual voicemail service (where the voicemails show up as media files that you can play right on the phone) stopped working completely.  It's been almost a week since the first reports of that came through, yet AT&T has yet to actually acknowledge that there's a problem, let alone when it will be fixed.

When the iPhone was initially released on June 29th, 2007 (right before the iPod Touch which debuted on September 14, 2007), I seriously considered getting one... But I opted for the 16GB iPod Touch instead.  The first generation iPhone was a …

Who will be Next?

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Walter Cronkite passed away last Friday. He was 92. The world has lost many people this summer: people that have shaped the world with their existing. It's hard to judge a man or woman's worth in our age of information. I have lived in an age where everything is known; where everything is questioned.

It's telling, isn't it, that I was born two weeks before Cronkite retired. Known as "the most trusted man in America," Cronkite was in place to break the news that disillusioned our country. He was the voice to reveal Watergate, to sway public opinion about Viet Nam. He cried when JFK was pronounced dead and proclaimed "Wow!" when the first images of man on the Moon were broadcast.

Unfortunately, I wasn't around for him. My news casters are petty and vindictive. Whereas Cronkite thought of himself as merely a conduit of the news, now we get our choice of pundits who hawk their opinions and rants. Current news is like flavored water: just enough of a …

Writing, reading, and creating

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When I was in college, it was a requirement that undergraduate students take several different courses that included a writing component - specifically to prepare you to express yourself through written language.  I took several courses specifically for writing (Creative Writing, Contemporary American Lit, etc.) that we were instructed to provide some feedback or use some creative processes to talk about our thoughts and emotions regarding pieces of poetry, novels, etc.  It was all very academic, but the one thing I really enjoyed was the ability to explore ideas beyond the bounds that the professors assumed we had in our limited student minds.  If you could come up with an exciting idea, the professors I had were really great in that they let us explore them deeply, as long as we were ready to back up the ideas with some sort of background story, or verifiable source of information.

One of the hardest things about writing is really having some good information to start with, and some…

On Action and...Not Action.

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The other day, I was listening to a podcast in which the participants were reviewing/discussing the latest Johnny Depp vehicle, Public Enemies, a movie so far off my radar that I had to look up the title just now. I’ve seen the trailer a few times. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen enough of that movie in fewer than five minutes that I don’t need to spend the more than two hours to see it entire. I’m also pretty sure I’ve seen enough of Depp for my lifetime. It’s not that I think he’s a bad actor, and I certainly don’t see him as great. He just kind of exists on the fringes of my consciousness, exhibiting a certain Depp-ness that I’ve only once felt was very compelling. In fact, other than his turn as Thompson, the most enjoyment I ever got out of Depp was the episode of Extras wherein Orlando Bloom was totally obsessed with comparing his looks and acting to Depp’s.Back to the point of all this, these particular podcasters were discussing what they felt was the lack of characterization portra…