Tuesday, November 30, 2004

I can hear the ocean.

Been trying to stay later at work the last couple days. Got two big ol' projects due by year-end and it's go time. Something in the untended pile of scraps and weeds that composes my mind heard my voice bemoaning a lack of time in the day and finally figured out that I have the ability to make more if it. So for the last couple days, instead of running off in a depressed huff shortly after the five o'clock hour, I've been working on these projects with quiet deliberation for a bit, the constant chatter of my coworkers replaced by the slow, calming sussuration of my belly wondering just what in the Hellespont is going on. All those suck-ups may be on to something after all.

Monday, November 29, 2004


Some deficiency in my nature or upbringing (though I doubt the latter, as my parents really did try) leaves a noticable gap in my personality where the enjoyment of sports should be. Try as I might, nothing seems to stick. Through the efforts of many, I've developed into a decent hockey fan, but still can't sit and watch a whole game by myself. I managed to attend every home high school football game and come away with no idea what "fair catch" means. F1, rally racing, and skiing remain the only events I can stomach, probably because I have driven a car and have also skiied. (Skied? Too bored with it to even look it up.)

Fictional sports, on the other hand, merit being called an obsession. Watching Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban last night stoked that fire until it glowed with warm geekiness. I know as much about Quidditch as any person living. While my interest in the Harry Potter series can at most be described as passing, the merest glimpse of the oval and rings makes the blood pound in my under-exercised heart. The two other biggies are pod racing and blitzball. I sincerely wish I could explain why the distractions of made-up people keep my attention more easily than actual human competition, but I am at a complete loss, an observer of my own habits as removed as you are. Feel free to submit tentative explanations -- your guess is at least as good as mine.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Denouement to Follow

I'm sending it back. The morning after the last iteration in the saga of Alex vs. the Dell, the blue screen came up again. I spent the day getting primed for the call, running through the playbook in my mind, devising stratagems, hardening my resolve. I hate being Angry Customer Guy and have been fortunate enought not to have to don that mask but a few times. This was going to be his greatest victory.

I called the Dell I-Heart-Customers line, guns at the ready. They offered to replace the machine and send UPS to pick up the old one for free. No need to bring out the Sith lord.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Arms and the Bragiole

New research on the life of Homer has uncovered surprising details. Here's the first stanza from Butler's Iliad:

Sing, O goddess, the anger of Achilles son of Peleus, that brought countless
ills upon the Achaeans. Many a brave soul did it send hurrying down to
Hades, and many a hero did it yield a prey to dogs and vultures, for so were
the counsels of Jove fulfilled from the day on which the son of Atreus, king
of men, and great Achilles, first fell out with one another.
Compare to the following:

You know my husband, your father, your grandfather, of course he's not with us
now, but when he was alive years ago, after he started his business and we lived
on Wesland street with the red house and the Ford, which I tried to learn how to
drive, and let me tell you I heard some language from him then, he always was
out bowling, you know he liked to bowl.

Comparative study has revealed that Homer was a 75-year-old Italian woman from the Bronx.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Get a pen and paper.

I'd like to place a motion on the floor. Let's move Thanksgiving to September. Those of you who don't live in the Northeast may think this silly, but I would ask that you hear me out.

One would be foolish to miss Thanksgiving. A single day of feast and relaxed conversation in celebration of the traditions of hard work, inclusiveness,and piety that are so definitive to Americans. No singing, no church, no torn paper. Unfortunately, the gods of nature have clearly ruled that travel to and from this peaceful event be a task worthy of the great. Each year they loose the black-browed storm god upon us hapless mortals, and each year we must strain and suffer to earn our place at the table.

But we're America. The gods do not decide our fate. We have the power to circumvent their trickery by simply changing the date of our observance. Clearly another autumn month would be preferable, keeping in line with the harvest theme of the day. October has Halloween, a holiday fervently celebrated by all but the most Fundamentalist, the Ebenezers of All Hallows Eve. September comes out as the clear leader. Write your congressman.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Man, I don't know.

B A Start Poll: Should I take advantage of Dell's Total Satisfaction Return Policy? I've got until the 24th to make up my mind. And I think I would have to pay for shipping. For a year, they'll come out and replace broken stuff.

After repeated blue screens and full on crashes today, I called support and got somebody good. He recommended a registry cleaner and a full diagnostic. Some Christmas shopping and an ice-cream later, the diag tool is still running. It doesn't come up with anything. I call 'em back, they take down some info and give me the number for customer care.

So, I'm muy torn. Send in your comments and lets here what you folks have to say.

Also, I'm thinking about changing the name of this blog to "DescentIntoDell.blogspot.com".

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Stanza 3

The saga continues. I started getting the old Blue Screen of Death again, so I email Dell support about it. The next day I get a reply with some dangerous-looking instructions. There was DOS typing. So, mustering up some courage, I give it a go last night. Nearest I could tell, the idea was to remove a corrupted file from my PC and replace it with the orignal from the XP CD. I got down to the end of the process, and my PC told me "Access is denied" in its typically flat manner. So, I exit and restart, becoming the proud owner of a machine built for one thing -- bringing up a blue screen.

I call Dell Support. The nice pre-recorded lady asks me to enter my express service code. After a few seconds, she patiently informs me that it can be found on a label on my PC. This is fiction. I go back to the beginning and try to guess what combination of numbers will give me a person who knows how to do something other than sell me stuff. Twenty minutes on hold and one hour of instruction later, my PC is now allegedly configured exactly the same as when I first opened the box.

It froze up when I started it up this morning. It's ok now. Further updates as events warrant.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Tales of the Rhap

I had no plans of seeing The Matrix. Keanu Reeves? Are you joking? Having been dragged there, I fell deeply and irrevocably in love with the movie at the first sight of the green terminal text. It brought back memories. Good memories of early geek tendencies allowed to flourish.

The next day, the deep desire to bring some part of the movie back home with me to love in private led to the purchase of the soundtrack. This stayed in constant rotation for a long time. There was a splinter in my mind, though. The song Neo is listening to when we first see him, fallen asleep on his PC, was not to be found. The little that we hear sounds like the best song in the movie, and being denied it was unacceptable. Nonetheless, I pressed on with life, unsated and soured.

Years later, Her Worshipfulness was toying with Rhapsody and the song came on. I walked into the computer room wild-eyed and slack-jawed, trying to force long-dormant synapses to fire. Finally it came to me, and I did rejoice. And the best part was, another song from the soundtrack of another favorite movie of mine is on the same album. So go listen to Massive Attack's Mezzanine.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Who's a big boy?

Why do they always make me hold the baby? Is it just to watch me freak out? Do they think it's cute? Why do they say I'm a natural when I quite clearly am holding my breath and sweating? Is that what infants like? Is the sound of blood rushing from my face similar to the noises of the womb? Does the mother-baby bond cause a positive reaction to terror in others? Most people won't let you drive their new car or wear your shoes on the new carpet, but hold the progeny? I insist!

Thursday, November 18, 2004


I applied for a job this weekend. I'm not actively seeking a new job, but when this passed my field of view, I knew I could not resist. I've been checking in now and then since they posted a writing position a while back, and this position is pretty much the same as my current job. Except with more Star Wars. The Lucasfilm site used to have benefits etc posted, and working on the ranch, taking the company sailboat out for a turn about the bay, and living just a few minutes from Frisco sure sounded pretty good to me.

So, I threw together a cover letter and resume detailing my exploits and explaining beyond any doubt why I'm the guy. I pasted 'em into the provided boxes, filled out my personal info, and sent my little baby out into the wide world to see what he could do. But, as I clicked "Submit", something seemed strange. I hit the back arrow, and there it was, for all the Employment Office to see. My home phone number was wrong.

I have been the office joke at the Ranch for the last few days. Unconfirmed rumors on theforce.net have stated that the HR folks were seen laughing it up at lunch, talking about "that phone number guy". "I hope they don't ask me about attention to detail at the interview, honey." "Hey, saw you had an opening, give me a call. Oh wait." Et cetera.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Save room for later.

In the vein of yesterday's post, a story idea has been rolling around in la cabesa. This dude is skulking around a factory, on his way to assassinate the head of the company. His people have been in the thrall of the owner for ages, since before he was born. Their entire society was transplanted from the homeland to the giant factory, which as far as he can tell is in the middle of a giant city. He and his kind work the machines, toiling endlessly to make specialty foods for the decadent city-dwellers. The oldest of his fellows in slavery call the factory owner a savior, naming some long-forgotten aid he provided, but he doesn't buy it. So, he's on his way to kill the owner and free his people. His people being the Oompa-Loompas from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It's one of those stories.

I think you can see why I'm not a writer. I have zero original ideas. If
a career could be made out of writing "but he's really the Cowardly Lion!" stories, I'd be a wealthy man.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Straight on until mourning.

I'd like to see an American-McGee'd-out version of Peter Pan. Some kid falls in a barrel and becomes a Lost Boy. When he shows up in Neverland, he is immediately grabbed by Hookcorp Security and impressed into service in the Fairydust Extraction Complex. The fairies have been hooked up to Giger-looking machines that pull their flight-granting dust directly from their glands. All the fairies have to look forward to is death, but the dead are shipped down to the Reanimation Floor, where former pirates and indians sit in drug-induced comas repeating that they do believe.

With Pan gone and grown-up, the Lost Boys have split into various Lord-of-the-Flies factions. Some are hired by Hookcorp as fairy hunters. Others are bent on rebellion, fired by timeworn stories that the ancient Mother told their forefathers. Their tormented bodies are often seen on display in the Complex, an example of the natural result of non-compliance with corporate policy. Naturally, our hero falls in with one of these bands and brings about the demise of Hookcorp. And there are mermaids in there somewhere.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Day of rest, my eye.

Sorry for the wait. You still love me, don't you?

Sunday was a rough day. All I wanted to do was make a few changes and post. At ten-thirty PM, after a day of demands, I sit down at the new Dell and watch the Blue Screen of Death appear. I know no fear, having seen this screen many times in my travels. A quick reset, and I'm back in business.

Except that I'm not.

A couple hours of bugging (I mean -out, not de-) and it's time for bed. Couldn't get through to support. Set up the trusty old Win 98 rig, email support my tale of woe. Much to my surprise, this morning there's a reply. Like all oracles, this reply spoke in byzantine riddles. I replied to the replier, making sure to use the word "warranty". Another response comes, this one clear as crystal in February. And now I'm back in the game. I have a weird bruise on my knuckle, which I can only assume cam from me biting it during my tense sleep, but other than that, no harm done. Could this have caused the problem? Who can tell? Either way, I'm buying a new scanner.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Secret doors that you can't come back through.

Well that was a close one.

I went to hook up my scanner yesterday, and it was no go with XP. The company website just came right out and said "we didn't make a new driver. Too damn bad, losers." Her Worshipfulness flat out refused to even consider buying a new scanner. Wild suggestions of setting up the old machine on an as-needed basis or bringing stuff in to work to scan came up. Things were looking grim.

I bemoaned my plight to an associate at work today. He wove a wondrous tale of websites with drivers available for download. I had heard of such things, but never anything as grand as he described. XP drivers created by users and distributed on a no-pay basis? Who are these guys? At the first opportunity, I went out and found the promised driver. Weary and roadworn, I neglected to read the instructions before attempting to install. In the events that followed, I nearly went mad, lost in a labyrinth of .ini files and dizzied by the timewarp of restore points.

Finally success was mine. With pluck and wit, I beat the machine at its own riddle game, winning its servitude forever.
DHKA has updated. Go check it out.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Worth it.

Long-time readers of B A Start will remember this fan favorite, in which I poked fun at people who blog Rhapsody playlists. As a quick click on the comments will show you, this brought the architects of Rhapsody directly to my doorstep. I find this to be awesome.

Now, I know for a fact that a whole bunch of you dedicated B A Starters are equally-if-not-more-so dedicated Rhapsody members. You know the joy. Now get over to Rhapsody Rock School and check it out. Go to the source, dudes.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

If I'm not one myself.

Dude. It's here. The biggest Geek Day since the holiday's inception. Firefox and Halo 2 on the same day.

A brief history. The Geek Day tradition started long ago with the release of the Star Wars: Episode I trailer online. This event was the first recorded example of a date with attributes we now associate with Geek Day. Work is cut, internet usage spikes, and the IT guys are all abuzz. Modern historians state that the combination of the availability of high-speed internet access and genius marketing decisions made a for heady cocktail the geeks of the world were all too ready to try. Geek Day has been observed recently with midnight vigils at Best Buy, marking the release of Doom III and the extended editions of Lord of the Rings.

November 9th, 2004 marks the first full release of Firefox, the geek's choice of web browser. It's safe, fast, and easy; it's not well-known to non-geeks, thus granting uber-nerd status to those that use it; it's not by Microsoft. The kids are loving it. A pre-release version has been available for a while, but today's the day to sport your Mozilla polo shirt and celebrate. The website was frickin' mobbed this morning.

Also, Halo 2, the highly hyped sequel to one of the most successful games in recent memory, was released at midnight. There exists no decent reason for it to be anything short of unspeakably good.

Now that I've downloaded Firefox 1.0 and posted, I'm off to play Halo 2. The geek priests would be pleased with my observance rituals.

Forget Niagara Falls

I don't get a lot of email. This works out well for me, as I consistently go ages and ages without replying, leaving the poor, lonely messages in my Inbox until their big puppy eyes bug me too much and I have to let them go. Best to avoid the situation altogether, whether it makes me a bad friend or not. Regardless of the fact that I receive a paltry one to two personal emails a week, I check my email as if the log-on process was part of the rosary. It's no longer a conscious activity. Every now and then I'll notice my fingers deftly keying my username and password on the steering wheel, the kitchen table, the elevator doors. Could the constant movements of my fingers be harnessed as a power source? Could the city hook me up to some device that would provide free electricity to the needy? Would they change the password rules to force me to use more characters when there's a shortage?

Sunday, November 07, 2004

See below

Rhapsody allows you to blog playlists. At first glance, this strikes me as awesome. Subsequent glances, though, give me a strangely dissatisfied feeling in that part of my brain that knows what 'cool' means, and what it feels like to use cool as a weapon. The easiest way to do this is to like punk music. If you are one of the twisted individuals who think punk bands, the basis of whose genre is not knowing how to play one's instrument, are capable of making quality music, you no doubt have allowed yourself the satisfying evil of naming punk bands when backed into a corner by someone else's coolness. "I was listening to The Posers the other day...". Knowing music that someone else doesn't returns instant cred.

The blogged playlist is the shock-and-awe weapon in this kind of warfare. The reason to blog a Rhapsody playlist is to give people quantifiable evidence of one's own coolness.

Okay, that might be a tad much. I'm sure there are benevolent Rhapsody users out there who share their picks out of some kind of altruistic charity. They think you might like it. I argue that even these Mothers Teresa of the Rhapsody community would find it hard to deny that some part of them thinks they are the cool ones, and want to drive it home to you, you sorry sucker.


Temet nosce

The Lord of the Rings movies took me on a bit of a rollercoaster ride. I approached them with trepidation and hope, since my love of the work had already been well established. The first movie disappointed. The second disgusted. The third finally satisfied. Purism is the source for this. I had many problems with deviations in Fellowship, but was slapped in the face by the travesty that was Two Towers. Return of the King stayed close enough to the original to get the thumbs-up.

I'm a pretty big fan of the Lord of the Rings novels, but my first and best love is Star Wars. And here's the situation I find myself in: Episode I disappointed. Episode II disgusted. And now Peter Jackson has set me up for heartbreak. Try as I might to be all "it's gonna suck", there remains a small corner of my mind that hopes for a repeat. I saw the Episode III trailer yesterday, and it sure didn't help. Take out that Yoda/Palpatine lightsaber nonsense and it looks like it might just be okay. By which I mean "I can barely keep myself seated from the excitement".

One would think I would have learned from The Matrix.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

For Everything

Several firsts last night. First time seeing an AHL game. First time the Amerks played in front of a crowd that large. First time Manchester lost this season. First time I took a picture of an Australian and his kids. First time I have given very serious consideration to physically threatening a child for screeching at the back of my head.

What is a gentleman to do in this situation? You're at a sporting event and a child is sitting behind you. This child's head is at the same height as yours. He insists on making a prolonged, high-pitched Emergency Broadcast System test noise directly into your ear at every possible opportunity. Once the inevitable headache begins and mere annoyance has been augmented by physical discomfort, how does one proceed? Tell the kid to shut up? Ask the parents to keep him quiet?

I opted to make frustrated faces and rub my eyes a lot. The adult stewards of this brat seemed to catch on, as they suggested he use a deeper voice to scream. I think they told him to make a lion noise or something. "Use your lion voice, honey! Rrrawwrr! Go Ducks!" They may have saved a child's life.

Friday, November 05, 2004

By definition, monarchs rule.

New PC came in today, but there's not enough time to get it all set up before I leave for the game. It's just sitting there, quietly waiting for its life's great work to begin, a minature monolith left by the peoples of Alex past as a testament to their hope for future Alexes. I'm a little nervous about running XP from home for the first time, warren as it is for viruses and other tricksy ghoulies.

Yes, I said "game" by the way. Your eyes do not deceive you. Going to catch an AHL game tonight. So there.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

No. Jump good.

On an obligatory supply run, I came across a trove of treasure: a bin full of $1 DVDs. And not the kind of DVD's you would expect in a bin of that price. Not ill-conceived movies featuring actors whose tenure on the A list passed quickly and quietly in the early nineties, but scores of short collections of old cartoons. Really old. That Popeye where Bluto is Sinbad. Felix the Cat. Something called "Tom and Jerry", but which bears no resemblance to the blue cat and big-eared mouse.

And Superman.

The original cartoon serials, in which giant magnets pull comets from the sky and into the darkened streets of Metropolis. In which scientists are mad, police are well-intentioned but foolish, and large automobiles are at constant risk of great fiery catastrophe. I'm pretty sure Superman can't even fly in these, but simply jumps very well. The animation itself is not of great quality compared to later advances, but the look is unmistakably cool. It is the truest representation of the American avatar. If you don't like them, you are not a rational person. Your very existence causes me to question the underlying assumptions of modern Western thought. Get out of my sight.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Oh my.

I spent an hour and a half this evening trying to get a connection going between my brother's PC and mine so we could play some XWA. (Not the aforementioned brother, denizen of the geekiest place possible (and I don't mean "ever" or "on earth"; I mean actually possible as defined by the absolute laws of the universe. Oh, that's right. Nested parentheses. What's up now?!) , but his twin, who may just be a tad geekier, but whose apartment is only mildly geeky.) On any other night, I'd be pissed. But on this Election Night, I know I'd just end up following a very frustrating day at work with hours of checking the latest counts, try as I might to pretend I don't care. An hour and a half of browsing the web while making an ill-informed suggestion now and then via IM was a welcome distraction from swirling graphics of elephants, donkeys, and greens.

Move along

I've added a list of links to the blogs of people who have commented on here on B A Start. Go check 'em out!

I've also noted that all of the descriptions under the Links section sound pretty funny if you put ", bitch!" after them.

Monday, November 01, 2004

And Other Punctuation

That time has come again, right on schedule. I am an avid blood donor. Every eight weeks I walk down to the Pheresis department and let them poke holes in me until they've had their fill. And they do so love my blood. O positive, and of an excellent year.

As is always the case, I have spent the remainder of the day hungry, cold, and snappish. I've had a lot to eat, have zero patience, and feel steady a resignation towards enduring this latest bout of post-bloodloss grumpiness, making free to tell all I meet that I have given blood and am not to be messed with today. In short, by donating blood with such regularity, I have built a menstrual cycle into my life.