A New Project for Myself

Not so long ago I started up a project here where I would post doodles.  I did it for a few weeks and then stopped.  I’ve still been doodling, but work and other things have kept me from it more often than not and I’ve found if I don’t get right into doodling early on Saturday mornings, then I don’t produce anything worth posting.  If I start late, I end up just screwing around and trying to learn some of the functions of GIMP and not actually drawing anything.  I’ll still keep doing it when I can, but I’ve missed enough weeks to realize that I’m not going to be regular about it.

Plus, I still can’t draw for shit, so while I’m working at it, I don’t impress myself very often.  I’m more apt to delete an image than share it.  I’m working on not doing that.

Anyway, I decided that I also wanted to start something to work on writing.  So, today, in just a few minutes I’m going to post the first in what I hope to be a long series of posts.  This new project will involve me going to one of the many places on the Internet where you can find photos that people take and allow to be used by others (here is a list of places to look), and finding one that inspires something in me.  I’ll then write what I’m inspired to write and post it with the accompanying photo (and a link to where I got the photo so that credit is given along with whatever text they require for use).  I hope this works out well… if not… well, then I only hope I don’t get sued.

Dragon*Con 2009: Day Zero

It is Thursday, the day before Dragon*Con officially begins, and like every year that means registration.  Some years it is a tiring journey downtown after work followed by a couple or three hours spent in line and then a trek back home to finish packing and sleep before making the real journey down on Friday for Con.

This year, however, the wife and I decided we’d just extend our hotel stay by one day so that our trip down for registration would end in us hanging around and meeting people and stumbling back to our room when we get tired.

Dragon*Con this year is going to be a little different for me.  Normally, I just post daily wrap-ups, but thanks to my purchase of a Palm Pre, I’ll be a little more “on time”.  First and foremost, the Pre has that awesome synergy thing you may have heard about, and what that means is that it blends my calendars from several sources into one display without syncing the calendars and duplicating stuff.  And with the folks at Dragon*Con providing a Google Calendar of events, it means I won’t really need to carry around the book and schedule, it will all be on my phone.  Next, with the use of Twitter and TwitPic, as well as Facebook, I’ll be able to snap photos from my phone and immediately get them out to all the people.  So, if you’d like to see them, here is me on Twitter, and here is me on Facebook.  I’ll try not to annoy people too much, but I make no promises.

So much to do, so much to see, so exciting… You know, the idea of PAX intrigues me, and I want to go, but I never will.  Dragon*Con is just so much… more.

Of course, it helps if you get to registration early.  They were open until 11, but they cut off the line at 9:30 at about where they estimated it would take two and a half hours to get through… we were beyond that point.  Registration opens again at 8 in the morning.  So without our badges we went down to the Marriott bar, Pulse, and hung around chatting and people watching… In New York, they say if you hang out in Times Square, you’ll see a million people walk by.  At Dragon*Con, the place to stand is in the Marriott.

Two Wallpapers

So, last weekend I didn’t post any doodles.  The reason for that is I went to go see a movie at the theater (and actually pay!) and then spent most of the day running around shopping.  In the previous week, my wife’s cell phone broke, and while we were discussing what we should do about it my cell phone broke.  My wife could conceivably live without her cell phone, but I rely on mine so that I’m reachable for work stuff.  We ended up at the local Best Buy, and they happened to be running a special on Palm Pre phones: $149.  Well, we already happen to be Sprint customers and both of use are out of our contracts so we get the full sign up discount.  We just couldn’t pass it up.

Love the phones.  They are fantastic, especially for me.  I’ve got it connected to my Google mail and calendar accounts as well as my work Exchange server, I can see both calendars at the same time but not sync them, so my work never knows about my personal appointments and I don’t have to clutter my personal calendar with work junk.  Sure, the Pre is a little lite on applications thus far, but eventually that will change.  Besides, while the iPhone has a million apps, most of them are crap anyways.  Yeah, that’s a real application.  But the Pre’s got the web, which gets to most things, and its got a Twitter app and a couple of movie time apps and other basics.

Anyway, this week I spent a little time messing around and making myself some wallpapers for the phone.  I mean, I’m not 17, so pictures of hot chicks, which is what 99% of wallpapers for phones are, aren’t what I’m looking for, and besides, I like making my own stuff.  Some of my experiments were complete crap, so I won’t post those, but I will post two that I am happy with.  The first is a cut version of a previous doodle, the castle and the moon:

The Castle and Moon wallpaper version
The Castle and Moon wallpaper version

After doing that one, I spent a while messing around with Gimp and various brushes.  So, while not a traditional freehand doodle, here is the best of the bunch, and the only one I felt worth sharing.

City with Symbols
City with Symbols

Clearly, I like black and white since I’ve been in more of a “sketchy” mood lately.  The whole thing was done with a city brush, a couple of mystic symbol brushes and some blood spatter and gunshots brushes.  Here it looks sort of bland, but I dig the way it looks on the phone where it takes over the screen with the icon bar overlay at the  bottom.

Anyhow, I’m sure to make some more wallpapers, and I’ll continue to share them.


I’m a big fan of Christopher Moore.  He is probably one of the few authors of whom I can say that I have read all of his books.  More impressive is that I have enjoyed them all.  Fool is no different.

It is Shakespeare’s King Lear told from the perspective of the king’s fool, twists the story a bit and tells it as a comedy.  A dark black tragic comedy, but a comedy nonetheless.  It is not Moore’s best work, Lamb still holds that distinction in my opinion, with The Stupidest Angel coming next, but Fool is a good read and worth the time.  And don’t worry if you don’t know the tale of King Lear, it won’t spoil the book for you.

The Tools You Need

There is an old saying that goes something like this:

Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.

Throughout my career in computers, I have often referred to various tasks as “handing out fish” or “fishing lessons” depending on how I decided to approach it.  In recent years, I have often leaned toward fishing lessons over handing out fish because I hate having to repeat work, though sometimes if a task will never need to be repeated obviously teaching is a waste.

More recently, I’ve come to realize that I enjoy working with people who can figure things out, where I don’t need to actually teach them, but I can just give them the tools they need and they’ll teach themselves.  This I have come to refer to as “giving them a pole and showing them the ocean.”  Of course, this technique does require that the person is familiar in the arena.  I couldn’t do this for a programming job with the guy who cuts my neighbor’s lawn, but if I’m talking to another programmer then he should already be familiar with enough basics that if I give them a language and a goal they should be able to fill in all the missing steps themselves.

Since I put this in the gaming category, how does this pertain?

I’ve always admired EVE Online, even if I didn’t overly enjoy the game, because the game itself is little more than a set of mechanics and some tutorials in how to use them.  If that is all the effort you even put into the game, EVE is shallow, bland, repetitive and boring.  However, using the tools of the game and the Internet (in the form of message boards and other bits) and stepping outside the safeguards of high security space, the players have crafted themselves a very deep game of social interactions and political intrigue that rivals the plots of many popular novels.  And it is a game you can’t teach.  You can’t be an EVE player and teach someone how to get involved in the machinations of the social entities.  You can only give them a pole and show them the ocean.

The Problem with Ticketmaster

I absolutely understand why there are service charges on tickets.  I get it, and I even support it.  People need to get paid for their work, and since musicians actually get so little of their album sales they take the lion share of the ticket sale, and the promoter, the venue, and the staff, and of course running a service like Ticketmaster isn’t free, so they need a cut to pay for running their service that lets you get the tickets.

The problem I have is that the presentation of the service fee blows.  They sneak up on you.  I go to the site, find my concert, see the ticket price is $23, pick my ticket amount, hit the “Find Tickets” button and then, WHAM!, now they are $32 each.  You know, I don’t mind the $9 service charges, I understand them, but it would have been nice to have seen, on the original price listing page, an all-inclusive price.  Even if it was shown as “$23 (+ $9 service fees)” or “$23 ($32 with service fees)” or just “$32”, something to let me know upfront what the total cost per ticket is going to be rather than slapping it on at the end.

This is ultimately why people dislike Ticketmaster.  It is not the service charges, it is the presentation of the service charges.  People just don’t respond well in any context when they are given a price, and then at a later point told the actual purchase price is more.  I mean, if you went to buy a car and the price tag said “$23,000”, but once you talk to the sales rep he explains that there are $9,000 in service fees, so to drive it off the lot you have to pay $32,000, you’d be a tad upset that the price tag didn’t tell you that upfront.  Or how about if you went to a restaurant and bought a steak dinner listed as $23 only to find out there is a $9 preparation fee. Sales tax is one thing, since its a relatively fixed amount, but seeing a service charge after you’ve seen the original price is another, especially with Ticketmaster service charges being as unpredictable as they are.  I’ve seen $100 tickets with a $9 charge, and I’ve also seen $9 tickets with a $15 charge (yes, the service charge was almost twice the price of the ticket).  There is nothing on the initial page that lets you know what your final price might be.

Anyway, that’s my gripe of the week.

Movie Round-Up: June 19th, 2009

Year One:

Every time Jack Black puts out a new film, I approach it with caution.  I find I’m either going to love or hate his work.  There really is not a middle ground.  But the trailers for this film have actually had me chuckling.  They have a very History of the World Part I or Life of Brian feel.  I probably won’t make it to the theater for this one, but I’ll be chomping at the bit to catch it on DVD.

The Proposal:

You’ve seen this movie before.  She’s the boss, a book editor, treats people like crap, and is a Canadian about to be deported, so she promises to a promotion to her assistant in exchange for marriage.  The twist here is that she always thought he was just another assistant, but it turns out he’s from a very wealthy family in Alaska (they own most of the town) and he was in New York chasing his dream of being an editor and avoiding the family business.  So they head to Alaska to meet his family and try to fool the immigration department… comedy ensues.  And while you have seen this movie before, that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.  Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds are both great and their on screen chemistry pops.  You know how its going to end before it starts, but it is an enjoyable ride to the finish.  In my opinion, easily worth the matinee price if chick flick romantic comedies are your style.

Seaside is dead to me

I decided this past weekend to grind my first town in Free Realms.  I happened to be standing in Seaside so that is the one I picked.

By grinding a town, what I mean is to do whatever I can to remain in town and work on quests.  First off, I completed the collection quests of Seaside, then I visited every quest giver and completed every quest that is available to a person who is playing for free.  Quite often the game tried to encourage me not to do this by having quests that would lead me off to another town, but I would always run do that quest and teleport back, rather than the expected behavior of seeing quests in the new town and sticking around to work them.

When I logged out on Sunday morning, the only quests that remained in Seaside were the ones I can’t do.  That doesn’t mean there are not more quests, but there might be some that just are not unlocked (because of level or because I haven’t done the lead in quest from another town or random world NPC).  At this point, unless I get a quest that sends me to Seaside, I don’t expect to go back there until I get bored and start looking for things I missed (or things that have since unlocked).

Sanctuary is next.


It has been very close for a while now, but I finally hit the mark, and maintained it for a few days (maintaining is the key).  Two hundred pounds.

The best part about this is that I am doing it slow and steady.  I’m watching my diet, but I don’t feel like I’m starving or cheating myself.  I’m exercising, but I don’t feel like I’m “working out”.  I’m just getting leaner, and stronger, and feeling better.  I don’t think I would ever actually want to do one of those crash diet and exercise programs where you lose fifty pounds in two weeks because I don’t think I’d actually keep the weight off.  But the way I am approaching it, breaking one bad habit at a time and instilling one good habit at a time, it feels good and I doubt I’ll have trouble sticking with it.

I’m still doing my 100 push-ups and 100 sit-ups daily (most of the time, some days I skip but I’d like to think I still hit 5 days a week).  Before spring got here I was doing a cardio step thing once a week, but I’ve since replaced it with mowing the lawn and other yard work.  I use a push reel mower for the lawn.  Look it up, you’ll think I’m crazy.  But crazy like a fox…  I’m to the point now where I’ll keep the yard work and try to add a cardio bit somewhere in the middle of the week.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for now.  199, here I come…


With my last post being on February 26th, meaning that it has been over two weeks since my last post, I guess you can say that I went dark, or underground.  Of course, prolonged absences are not unusual for me and my weblog.  I’ve done months before.  But sometimes things happen…

So what happened?

Well, I got a job.  Nice place, good work.  I’m back at a small company again, and let me say that after four years working at BellSouth/AT&T I don’t think I ever want to go back to a giant corporation again.  Too much politics and middle management.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved my work, and the immediate team of people I worked with, and at the end of every segment of the project when the people who had been giving us hell and ulcers for months finally broke down and said they liked the work and looked forward to using it and copious rounds of attaboys for all it was sweet… but the bureaucracy of meetings and playing the blame game and jockeying around all the folks who want to make sure they get all of the credit with none of the responsibility… well… to be blunt, fuck that.  There are only so many times you can have someone hand you a problem they spent no time looking into and after you spend a few hours or days digging through it you discover that not only is it not your responsibility but that the only person with the ability and authority to fix it is the guy who passed it to you before you want to strangle someone.  But I’m out of that now, and I hope never to go back.  Getting a new job, though, does mean a bit of a learning curve as I feel out the new folks and the new company, get up to speed on the products and projects, so the first couple or three weeks are always a bit of a cram-fest.  After nearly four months of being unemployed, working feels good, especially in this economy.

On a non-work related note, a place where I normally hang out has become a place I don’t want to hang out anymore.  Have you ever had a group of people that you liked to be around, except for one guy?  Its always that one guy, the one who seems to want to be a part of the group, but doesn’t seem to know how to do it.  He joins in every conversation and drives everyone away, or into fits of anger, as he insists that he knows more or better than everyone else, despite repeated showings that he clearly does not.  Well, one of my favorite places to go has one of those guys, and in the past I have had varying levels of success in just ignoring him or putting up with his crap, but recently he just pushed a few too many of my buttons a few too many times, and as much as I love the rest of the people I just can’t handle the anger and frustration that I feel in having to deal with this monumental douchebag on a daily basis.  So, my choices are to continue to go there and feel pissed off all the time, or stop going.  It is depressing.  Perhaps I’ll return there after a nice long stay away.

All in all, however, life is good.  And I’ll be back to posting more soon enough.  I’m even going to bring back movie reviews since my idea for doing a movie review site didn’t really pan out like I hoped.  You’d think being unemployed would equate to having more free time… but looking for a job in a shitty economy is hard work and more thoroughly exhausting than actually having a job.