August 30, 2005

Some Small Changes

There have been some changes over the past week, and it all starts with hair. Now those of you who know me, know that I'm not a man that's too concerned with (or some would argue, even aware of), my appearance. However, there is such thing as making a first impression, and for that, I went to the hair salon.

A few months back, I colored my hair lighter blond so Melissa and I could Costume up like some Anime characters. This nice tattoo-armed lady at Hair Cuttery did a nice job and made it look pretty natural. However, that was a few months ago, and (to borrow a phrase) I was showing more ROOTS than PBS during Black History Month.

Last week, I was finally going to meet my new boss, HER boss, and the President of the Company when the department got together in Little Rock. Now "the Rock" is not the most metrosexual-friendly kind of place, as you might imagine. If a man has his hair colored, it better be "Just For Men" covering up some graying temples, or else tar and feathers may be involved. So I went back to the salon to get my color evened out.

Long story short, the nice tattoo-armed lady wasn't there, and the lady that saw me didn't speak English all that well, and after 2 hours, I ended up with the same dark roots and even lighter blond hair. (Kind of like a negative of Reed Richards.) This would not do. I could almost smell the Tar coming to a boil. I called back the next day and the nice tattoo-armed lady did all she could do, which was try and darken my hair back to the root color. It came out sort of reddish, but it was a good job. (Mel joked that she married a Weasley.) I was ready to make that impression.

First I met Suzanne, my boss. We didn't talk much during the flight, but when we got on the ground, I gave her the joke test, which she passed easily. I figured that if she got along famously with Kelly (the smart-assed former co-worker who recommended me for this job), it would be no problem. Suzanne was direct, on the verge of outspoken, which is just fine with me. I get along well with that type, as my choice of spouse proves.

At lunch, some small-talk and some history on the group was exchanged, and I thanked them for extending my contract through June of 2006. Then came the kicker: Suzanne all but offered me a lead position (permanent, not just a contract like I am now), in our Jacksonville, Florida office. I was stunned to say the least.
"Now tell him the OTHER thing," prompted Kelly.
"What other thing?"
"That he CAN say 'no' to the offer."
"Oh yeah, you can say 'no' to this, and you'll still have your contract through June, at least."

I promised to give it some thought, and I did. I called my Dad, because I didn't know anything about Jacksonville. He said it was a nice place when he visited there, a port town, lots of commerce. Of course, being my Dad, he recommended that I take the job immediately. Dad only turned down one promotion that he was offered in his life, and every time he took one, it meant a move out of state for us. It got old moving every three years, and I vowed that when I had a family of my own, I would only move when it was absolutely necessary, and if it was for THE right job that would secure my family and my career. It would have to be worth the personal cost.

I talked it over with Melissa, and she had a different view of Jacksonville, as a place to live instead of visit. And she echoed my reluctance to give up our family that lived here, friends we've known for years, our great church, and everything else that made living here great.

After a long talk, I decided that this was not THE job. It was *A* job. I'd been working for them for 3 months, and that does not make me lead material. Secondly, taking that job would mean abandoning my mentor, and losing all the work he's put into training me. Plus, I had my doubts about the city of Jacksonville. It was not worth the cost. I would tell them NO.

And I told her the next day. Kelly had prepared her for it, saying that I would never leave Atlanta. I told her I love the job, I love the department, and the work I'm doing here is very satisfying. And if there was some permanent position with them that I could work from Atlanta, I'd take it in a heartbeat. But the Lead position in Jacksonville was not the right fit for me. She nodded, and understood.

I thought that would be the end of it, but when the Atlantans were having lunch at the airport before our flight out of Little Rock, Suzanne sprung it again.

"Look, if you like what you're doing here, there's a position open on the job postings site. The one that says you can work remotely. All I'm saying is that if you apply for that one, you'll get a warm reception as well." Direct and to the point. I like this boss. I applied for it Monday morning.

In a couple months, I might have a full-time job in this department. No more contracts, no more billable hours, no more justifying my existence every few months and worrying whether I'll have work enough to keep my job. This is the way out I've been praying for. Fingers crossed.

August 29, 2005

South Farthing

Just a plug for my new T-shirt that I designed for Arms of Middle Earth, called "South Farthing". It's a mid-year replacement for our top-selling t-shirt "Lord of the Rings Triathalon", which was flagged by CafePress (our distributor) as a copyright infringement. I just don't get that. 100% created by me in photoshop, but because I use the title of the movie, it gets pulled. Freedom of speech allows fair use of parody, but apparently only after a lengthy legal battle. (You might recall the recent triumph on this issue regarding the parody novel "The Wind Done Gone"). Anyway, that's my 2 cents on the issue. I might re-issue it later with a different title, like "The LotR Triathalon" or something like that.

August 26, 2005

LinkNews Digest [08/26/2005]

Hunter S. Thompson Blow'd Up...As He Wished.

Hunter S. Thompson's grand finale went off as planned: His ashes were blasted into the night sky in an explosion friends and fans agreed he would have loved. But some said the gonzo journalist would have sneered at the Hollywood trappings — champagne toasts by movie stars and former presidential candidates.

The guests gathered in a pavilion next to the platform. Inside were blow up sex dolls and a mask of Thompson's arch enemy, late President Richard Nixon. With drums beating in the background, trays of champagne circulated before Thompson's remains flew.

The centerpiece is the 153-foot fist — two feet taller than the Statue of Liberty — near the tent. The structure was still covered in blue and gray tarps blowing in the wind Saturday morning, with a red tarp covering the fist. Around the base of the conical structure were enough fake boulders to fill three semi trucks, said designer Gregg Lacy, who was looking up at the piece he began work on nearly six months earlier.

Near the top of the structure, which features a sculpted red fist holding a peyote button with different colored lights, chrome sections gleamed in the sun. Maybe 200 feet away sat an unassuming, white truck. Inside were the 34 mortar tubes that contain a mix of fireworks, and Thompson's cremated remains. (LINK)

"The Warriors" Game in Development

Rockstar Games, makers of the wildly popular "Grand Theft Auto" series, is now working on a video game adaptation of the 1979 gang film "The Warriors". (Despite this picture, Ashton Kutcher is NOT a playable character.)

The new Web Site for the game has screens and videos of the different areas: Coney Island, home of The Warriors; Prince Street land of the mime-like Hi Hats; East Broadway hunting ground of the Savage Huns and East 110th Street, the Hurricanes barrio.

Also, there appears to be a remake of "The Warriors" in production, with Tony Scott (Top Gun, Enemy of the State) Directing, due out in 2006.

August 19, 2005

LinkNews Digest [08/19/2005]

College Teaches Course on Fishing

Now in its third year, the noncredit course is aimed at fishing novices or anglers new to Alaska who want to avoid learning by reading how-to books or trolling for tips from salesmen at sporting goods stores.

For about $1,100, $300 more with food and housing, the college offers 20 hours of classroom time and field trips that include flying to a remote lake, an excursion to the ocean or a float trip down the Kenai River. The tuition is in the same price range as that of booking individual day trips, said Atcheson, who also worked for the state as a fish and game technician.

"The idea is to teach people how to fish, but also to teach them all that goes along with being a good steward of the land and resources," Atcheson said. (LINK)

Your Name In Stephen King's Next Book

Authors are teaming up to fund The First Amendment Project, a California-based nonprofit group that promotes freedom of information and expression, by auctioning off character names in their upcoming books on eBay.
Stephen King : "One (and only one) character name in a novel called CELL, which is now in work and which will appear in either 2006 or 2007. Buyer should be aware that CELL is a violent piece of work, which comes complete with zombies set in motion by bad cell phone signals that destroy the human brain. Like cheap whiskey, it's very nasty and extremely satisfying. Character can be male or female, but a buyer who wants to die must in this case be female. In any case, I'll require physical description of auction winner, including any nickname (can be made up, I don't give a rip)."
Neil Gaiman : "My next novel will be called THE GRAVEYARD BOOK. It's a children's novel, and will be published, er, when it's published. Maybe in 2007 or failing that, 2008. It will have lots of gravestones in it. Your name, or the name of someone you love (who won't mind) can be on a gravestone."
Lemony Snicket :"(I'm offering ) An utterance by Sunny Baudelaire in Book the Thirteenth. Pronunciation and/or spelling may be slightly 'mutilated.' An example of this is in The Grim Grotto when Sunny utters 'Bushcheney.'

Warcraft Kid PWNED By Gamer Mom

Blizzard’s World of Warcraft is the biggest MMORPG ever. So big, in fact, that everyone and his mother is playing it… literally.

It used to be that a boy could play his favorite game all night and mean old Mom would be none the wiser about it.

But when WoW’s so popular that Mom’s playing too, Junior runs the risk of getting busted. In the thread linked below, little boy Brion makes a rather innocent-sounding forum post at 3:30 AM. Trouble is, his mother notices because she reads that same forum. She responds:

"Pardon me for hijacking the thread, here.. But, Brion - if you don’t want your mother to know you were up and on the computer at 3:29 in the morning - DON’T post on a forum that she reads. Busted. Grounded."(LINK)

The Viking Ship Made of Popsicle Sticks

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands - A former Hollywood stunt man now living in the Netherlands launched his greatest project to date Tuesday: a 45-foot replica Viking ship made of millions of wooden ice cream sticks and more than a ton of glue.

Rob McDonald named the ship the "Mjollnir" after the hammer of the mythic Norse god of thunder, Thor. After the 13 ton boat was lifted into the water by crane, "Captain Rob," as he is known, stood calmly on the stern as a team of volunteers rowed the apparently sturdy vessel around the IJ River behind the city's central station.

"I have a dream to show children they can do anything," McDonald said before the launch. "If they can dream it, they can do it."

The launch went smoothly, and McDonald plans to apply for a mention in the Guinness Book of Records.

He estimated that in all, he used up to 2.2 tons of glue and 15 million birch wood ice cream sticks donated by an ice cream manufacturer and found by neighborhood children. (LINK)

Russian Cows to be Fed Marijuana

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's long winter will just fly by for a herd of Russian cows which, a newspaper reported on Tuesday, will be fed confiscated marijuana over the cold months.

Drug workers said they adopted the unusual form of animal husbandry after they were forced to destroy the sunflowers and maize crops that the 40 tonnes of marijuana had been planted among, Novye Izvestia daily reported.

"There is simply no other way out. You see, the fields are planted with feed crops and if we remove it all the cows will have nothing to eat," a Federal Drugs Control Service spokeswoman for the Urals region of Sverdlovsk told the paper.

"I don't know what the milk will be like after this." (LINK)

And You Thought PlayStation Controllers Were Complex

This is the steering wheel of a Ferrari F1 Racer.
The big display in the center-top display all the information you can image: engine revs, laptimes, speed, gear, ...
The green-black button N to put the gearbox in neutral
The black-red LC button, to change setting of the launch control
The red-black L button, to apply the speed limiter in the pit lane
The yellow button radio is a switch for the onboard radio
Buttons M and Bo on the top are multifunctional buttons for display adjustments
The blue rotating button is to adjust the fuel-air mix in the engine
The button under air-fuel allows the driver to regulate the braking pressure on the front and rear wheels
The button above air-fuel permits adjustments to the power steering
The 3 rotating buttons on the right are all for engine adjustments ( LINK )

August 18, 2005

I've Got No Strings

I've been working in a basement at my in-laws for a while. I like the shorter commute but hate working in a windowless basement like a Morlock, so I appealed to my Manager to request a Wireless Router so I could work upstairs occasionally. APPROVED! I set up my Wireless-G router and my tidy little Linksys Laptop card and I'm typing from the UPSTAIRS kitchen table! Woohoo! This is PROGRESS, mein fruendes.

Then, last night I unveiled part two of my nefarious plan: a SECOND wireless router that I bought for home! Now, Melissa and I can BOTH be on the computer when we have to work! No more Rock-Paper-Scissors to see who gets the computer at night. Now I can work on my Anime Music Videos while Melissa reads her Harry Potter fan fiction stories in the living room. (Not every night mind you, we just have weeks where both of us have projects.)

So I could be posting this from ANYWHERE in the house! But, as I promised Samwise Allen, NEVER in the bathroom. Scout's honor.

August 12, 2005

LinkNews Digest [08/12/2005]

DeathMatch Takes Its Toll on Korean Man

SEOUL (Reuters) - A South Korean man who played computer games for 50 hours almost non-stop died of heart failure minutes after finishing his mammoth session in an Internet cafe, authorities said Tuesday.

The 28-year-old man, identified only by his family name Lee, had been playing on-line battle simulation games at the cybercafe in the southeastern city of Taegu, police said.

Lee had planted himself in front of a computer monitor to play on-line games on Aug. 3. He only left the spot over the next three days to go to the toilet and take brief naps on a makeshift bed, they said. Lee had recently quit his job to spend more time playing games, the daily JoongAng Ilbo reported after interviewing former work colleagues and staff at the Internet cafe.

After he failed to return home, Lee's mother asked his former colleagues to find him. When they reached the cafe, Lee said he would finish the game and then go home, the paper reported. He died a few minutes later, it said. (LINK)

70,000 Stranded at Heathrow Airport

LONDON - At least 70,000 travelers were left stranded Friday as British Airways canceled all flights to and from Heathrow Airport after catering staff, baggage handlers and other ground crew walked off the job in wildcat strikes at the height of the summer tourism season.

British Airways said flights would be suspended until at least 8 p.m. London time, as the government-backed mediation service ACAS announced it would oversee talks in a bid to resolve the dispute. With almost 100 BA aircraft out of position around the world because of the strike, Heathrow management warned that disruption would last for days.

"People are saying we won't get out of here until Monday or Tuesday," said Sally Hater, a resident of Cambridge, Vt., trying to get a flight to Boston. "We had to wait four hours last night just to get hotel accommodation. They gave us phone numbers, but you can't reach them. They're useless."

About 1,000 people spent the night on floors and in seating areas at the airport, BA spokesman Tony Cane said. He said BA had been able to put up about 4,000 others in hotels. (LINK)

Famous Boston Swans are Same-Sex Couple

Boston's beloved pair of swans -- feted by city leaders, residents, and tourists alike as one of the Hub's most celebrated summer attractions -- are a same-sex couple. Yes, scientific tests have shown that the pair, named Romeo and Juliet, are really Juliet and Juliet.

The city's Parks and Recreation Department conducted the tests months ago, but didn't announce the results for fear of destroying the image of a Shakespearean love story unfolding each year in the Public Garden.

"Each year when the swans go in, the kids immediately come to us and say, 'Which one's Romeo, and which one's Juliet?' " parks spokeswoman Mary Hines said yesterday in response to a Globe inquiry. "It's just like one of those fairy tales; why spoil it?"

The news ignited something of a debate among swan spectators in the Public Garden yesterday, with some insisting the city now should buy a true Romeo and others saying the city should embrace the two as a couple.

"If these two swans are happy together, they shouldn't have to have a guy," said Emma Stokien, a 15-year-old from New York. "It's good to have the swans as a symbol of the acceptance in Massachusetts." (LINK)
Dr. James Dobson could not be reached for comment.

Homeless Tapped as Advertising

Aug. 11, 2005 -- A budding Seattle entrepreneur looking for a low-cost marketing campaign says he's found an inexpensive and highly visible tool to publicize his Web site — he calls it "bum-vertizing."

Ben Rogovy, a 22-year-old University of Washington graduate, says the homeless and panhandlers are an untapped labor force, and he's putting them to work.

"It dawned on me this could be inexpensive and effective," he said. And he believes it's a campaign that benefits both him and the homeless people he's hired to hold signs advertizing his Web site. He said he's giving panhandlers a job and getting advertising on the cheap.

In exchange for food, water and an undisclosed amount of cash, panhandlers agree to hold their please-give-sign and Rogovy's sign advertising his Web site, which purports to be an online directory that connects "poker players from around the globe."LINK - Site Gallery

August 10, 2005

Tour of Duty

The family went up to Myerstown, PA this weekend to visit Grandma Kern. It's 14 hours by car, most of it consisting of 4 lanes of divided highway snaking diagonally through the mountains of Virginia.

On the last stretch before her house, we were passing through the Pennsylvania Dutch country and passed an Amish horse carriage on the road. Melissa thinks they're so cute, and wanted to stop them for a picture last time.

"Chris, can you imagine if we had horse carriages back in Atlanta?"
"If we did, they'd be pulled by horses with their legs lowered and had spinning hooves."
"And the fringe on the dashboard?"
"And 'GONZALES' in an arc across the back window."

Saturday, we went to the famous chocolate factory in nearby Hershey, PA. We didn't realize the significance of this at first, but little Matthew HAD just seen "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" twice in the theaters, and sings the songs incessantly, so he thought we were going to Wonka HQ. Well, as parents, we didn't outright LIE to him, but we didn't correct him either. He was excited and had a blast there, so no harm done.

Grandma Kern is 90 years old, and she still has her wits about her. She still walks around freely, keeps the most impressive flower garden in the neighborhood, and lives by herself in a cottage on the outskirts of the retirement home. It's frankly amazing to me, but I hope to God I don't live that long.

But along with the age comes the self-centered reality of retirement. All that matters is what she thinks matters. Everything she thinks is the way it IS. She didn't like one waiter's hair, but Melissa offered that it was the fashion these days for high school boys to have longer hair. Instantly, Grandma bristled and snapped back "It certainly is NOT the fashion! I know, I watch TV, and that certainly is not the fashion."

Exhibit B:
"Christopher, now park up over there. No, over THERE, right by the entrance."
"Grandma, there's no parking spaces here."
"Don't worry about that. You see that spot right up by the bench?"
"Where it says 'FIRE LANE'?"
"Yeah, park right there and cover that up."
"I'm NOT going to park in a fire lane!! I'll drop you off and park around the corner."
"Come on, I do this every week and nothing ever happens."

She's outlived her husband and all but one of her sisters. As her social circle closed, she has found herself more and more alone, a product of her own selective ideas about who is "proper." That was always her word. Dad would spout a constant stream of instructions to my brother and I on the drive to visit Grandma & Grandpa Kern for the holidays. Between my brother and I, she was known as "The Drill Sergeant", and our little song went "Elbows off the table! Sit up Straight! You're in the ARMY Now!"

Grandma was born into a farming family in a coal-mining town in central Pennsylvania. Grandpa sold heavy trucks for the local Ford dealership, and he worked until he was 78. They were never rich by any means, but they had a nice house in one of the cleaner parts of town. But among the people that she knew, Grandma kept a running tally of the "proper" people, which meant people that had money, or people who acted like they had it. Every story she tells us introduces people as "ordinary" or "proper", and if they had money or not. No one escaped her keen eye of judgment.

Today, she's alone in a retirement community, save for her sister, Ada. Most of the people she's ever considered proper are dead, and she's not likely to make any new friends. Over dinner, she told us about a new couple that moved into a cottage down the street. Her first impression was that they weren't proper because the man was about 10 or 15 years younger than his wife. Also, the wife wore her hair long, tied in the back, and that was just not right or fashionable. And with grandma, the first impression is all you get.

As we drove away, Melissa and I were relieved to be out from under her microscope. I wanted Matthew to know something of his great-grandma, but the weekend was devoid of any of the cute, photogenic moments that should have been there. Even three year-olds know the people that are genuinely kind and warm, and those who are not.

It may be lonely for grandma living all by herself up there, but it's the only place for her. Her cottage is the last outpost of the world that she deems acceptable. She's the only person left in the world that she really agrees with. And someday, there won't even be that.

August 04, 2005

LinkNews Digest [08/04/2005]

Zombie FlashMob Takes over San Francisco

Over the weekend, SF had a truly "contagious" flash-mob of Zombies, out for brains, made up and everything, shambling down the streets to "Convert" willing bystanders.
The zombie mob started at California and Grant. The mob being a bunch of brainless zombies roamed in circles for at least half an hour. I was able to avoid being bitten by taunting them with my camera. The zombies then proceeded to stream down Grant Street. They were unable to get through the tough metal of oncoming traffic but they weren't giving up. They blocked traffic. They caused mayhem. They caused tourists to scream. But fear not, they didn't eat the tourists! No BRRRAAIIINNNNSSS there!
The mob made it to market street where they were able to capture more of the local zombies. During all of this, a live hip hop video about zombies was being made. They used the zombies as a backdrop while they rapped about eating brains.

By god at this point, we had a ROT of zombies. That's what you call a gathering of shamblers that eat brains. A rot. (Story and Photos)

Asteroids Watch @ Fossil

You can't play on it, but this new watch from Fossil runs an LCD demo screen on the face. Pretty cool, no?(LINK)

August 01, 2005

2005 Bulwer-Lytton Winners

The Results are in for the 2005 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest

The goal of the contest is childishly simple: entrants are challenged to submit bad opening sentences to imaginary novels. Bulwer-Lytton opened his novel Paul Clifford (1830) with the immortal words that the "Peanuts" Beagle Snoopy plagiarized for years, "It was a dark and stormy night." )

2005 Winner :

As he stared at her ample bosom, he daydreamed of the dual Stromberg carburetors in his vintage Triumph Spitfire, highly functional yet pleasingly formed, perched prominently on top of the intake manifold, aching for experienced hands, the small knurled caps of the oil dampeners begging to be inspected and adjusted as described in chapter seven of the shop manual.
-Dan McKay, Fargo, ND

Children's Literature Runner-Up:

When Mr Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday, his children packed his bags and drove him to Golden Pastures retirement complex just off Interstate 95.
- Stephen Farnsworth, Manchester, U.K.

Winner: Western
As soon as Sherriff Russell heard Bradshaw say, "This town ain't big enough for the both of us," he inadvertantly visualized a tiny chalk-line circle with a town sign that said 'population 1,' and the two of them both trying to stand inside of it rather ineffectively, leaning this way and that, trying to keep their balance without stepping outside of the line, and that was why he was smiling when Bradshaw shot him.
- Keriann Noble, Murray, UT

Dishonorable Mention:

I peeled my body off the alcohol-soaked carpet, spat the cigarette butts out of my mouth, licked my lips with a tongue that felt and tasted like a rat that had been lightly sauteed in lighter fluid, and after struggling to what a quick visual inspection confirmed were apparently my feet, decided that the next time a seven- foot-tall Lebanese fisherman called Bottomless Mary challenged me to an ouzo-drinking contest I wouldn't wear suede shoes.
- Geoff Blackwell, Bundaberg QLD Australia