Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas at "the World"

Now, while I don't necissarily have memories of it fully, I've been going to Walt Disney World since I was 13 months old. Over the course of that time I have many memories, from traveling on the Monorail to see EPCOT Center before it opened (the Monorail didn't even stop at the station, just slowed down a bit), to seeing President Regan's innagural parade. I spent days on end inside of "the Living Seas" when it first opened on a miriad of various school field trips. I snuck over to Disney/MGM to see the new "Star Tours" ride when on one of said field trips with friends. The year Christy and I were married we went to opening day of "Animal Kingdom", heck we spent our honeymoon at Disney's Boardwalk resort! I remember at Grad Nite '92 when Splash Mountain wasn't open just yet.. and having to wait to experience the ride until years later. Some of my favorite, and most cherished memories have revolved around Disney World, and I feel they will continue to do so for years to come despite the move.

Because of said move, which is immenant, we are no longer going to be annual passholders. Christy has been a passholder since they started doing passes back in the early 80's. She's a charter member, and not having them I know is affecting her. I had passes back as a child, but I didn't start having full annual passes until we were married. This is the second time we've come up to the fact that we cannot justify the passes, and each time it seems to get more difficult. I promised myself, and in all realities the kids, that I would continue to provide for us to go to Disney as long as we lived so close. Well, now we are moving, and the money we'd spend on this year's passes would be a big chunk of what we'll need to spend on things for them at the new house. The passes really aren't a good option for us, again. Since they expire on the 6th, I decided that we should do something I have never dared to do: go to the Magic Kingdom on Christmas Day.

It's the busiest day of the Disney Year. They supposedly close the park by 10am, because it's at (or possibly over) capacity by that time. We get told by employees to be there no later than 7:30, to insure we can get in. Thus Christmas Eve we have our day to open presents and have family time, and we set the alarms for 5:30am, setting out our clothes for the next morning. The alarm goes off all too early, and the kids are up like a shot. We manage to get there a little after 7, and I'm expecting huge lines of cars and massive lines just to get in the park.. but amazingly they don't appear. We parked as close as I've ever been without being with a Disney employee, and we had the time of our lives. We went on more rides than I think we have in the last 3 trips this year, and went to have dinner at 3:15 at the Wispering Canyon Cafe at the Wilderness Lodge. By 6pm we're on our way home, and while exhausted, filled with memories that all of us with cherish for years to come.
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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Net Bloomers

One thing I was realizing this morning while I was getting ready to go to work, was how much my life has revolved, nay developed around the internet. I can remember a time when mailing letters and spending $200 on a phone bill to call home from school was normal, but I can't fathom spending that money now. For the past 15 years my life has been determined, both for good and for bad, by the growth of the Internet. I set my mom up with CompuServe so she could email my brother and I at school, and save on postage and the costs of a phone call. I used instant messaging well before there was such a thing - we used the Unix "talk" function from server to server.

Wanted to write about something, and have it where friends from all over could read about it? Create a web page! Web logs hadn't really been invented yet, but folks were doing it; they had to code it in HTML, or maybe create up a perl script-based site that they could just post updates too. No fancy web-2.0 to make it do. My first adult jobs were helping folks connect to the Internet - I had an internship at Harris and a student job at UCF that were based around TCP/IP and getting folks online.

First job out of college? I was a "telecommunications coordinator"... it was more of an IT job than a router job, but I got exposed to USRobotics dialup equipment, Cisco routers, and even more deeply into TCP/IP than I thought was possible.

I've been a web server administrator, a router jockey, and a planner. I turned up DSL when you had to order "alarm circuits" from the local phone company and not tell them what it was for. I rattled the sabers to have the "little" ISP I worked for be able to resell ADSL with one of the biggest phone companies in the US. I learned ATM, BGP, OSPF, RIP and a variety of other acronyms by necessity, I'd go do searches on AltaVista for resources and read. I didn't have the time or the money to go get my CCIE, although I wanted it. Now, while I wouldn't refuse getting it, I don't see the value in it anymore.

In a world that values "get in and get out as quickly as you can", I've been with 3 companies since I graduated from UCF in 1996. I've grown each companies brand, I've put a piece of myself into everything I've done, and I can say that I have some level of pride on what I created. Not that the networks were ever pretty, or the best, but that with nothing I've been repeatedly a part of organizations that succeed.

I know that many like to place people like me into "Generation X", but I really think that we are the "Net Bloomers"; we don't always get the glory, but we have been what the Internet grows on. We've been the early adopters, the ones that see the need for a service and create it. Once others see folks like us doing something, they create the business model for it. Much like the hobbiest that created PC's from kits in the 70's, we created services for the Internet with basic building blocks.

Maybe that's worth writing about, maybe it's just something good to keep around to read myself later on, or to have as a written document to give to my grandchildren about the "early days of the Internet generation(s)". Considering that people 50 years ago could barely hear each others voices across town, you really have to wonder what things will be like 50 years from now.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Charlie Brown...

I'm sure there will be a day when the name "Charlie Brown" doesn't automatically bring up pictures of the nation's childhood. I'm sure that when I have grandchildren, they will remember it as a strip from long ago, not something in the vernacular of the society. That said, I think that Scott Kurtz hit the nail on the head with his strip this week.

Everyone feels like Charlie Brown from time to time; The lovable boy that never got mail in his mailbox, or had their own personal Lucy pull the ball out from underneath them at the last minute. So many of these pictures I don't even have to close my eyes to see. Days like yesterday, with the Club Live garbage, definitely made me feel like the lovable looser that can't seem to get a bone to chew on, let alone make it big. Thing is, I'm not Charlie Brown, I get to kick that football every so often. I get to feel that joy. Scott did a great job by letting Cole "kick the ball" every so often, because it makes Cole more real. He gets to not just be a consummate lovable looser, but a person.

As I've grown older, franchises like Peanuts and Garfield have become less a part of my life. Mostly I feel like they are marketing cliché's; created in order to make the author money, not for the joy of the character. They became indentured servants of the creator, forced to go through their "life", being documented, never getting to have a full set of emotions or expressions, but instead to live out the same experiences and never grow. You know, a comic strip sitcom, or soap opera. These always make me feel empty, like eating cotton candy; it tastes good, but in the end you don't feel full.

Maybe I need to start writing more about when I kick the ball, instead of just random thoughts. I know that I get to more often than I realize. The focus would do me good.

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes.”
Charles Swindoll

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Club Live scam...

I'm not even sure how to post this one up, I'm so angry right now. Back in July I was surfing around and found out about Microsoft's "Club Live" offering, where you could play word puzzles and win tickets that can be used to "purchase" Microsoft products, including copies of Vista, a Zune or maybe even a xbox360!

Needless to say, I was excited. I already had my sites on a 360, and this was a great way to "earn" one without plunking down what was then almost $400 for the pro set, plus this came with a few games. My wife and I both were playing, so our household would only use one account (and follow the EULA), and we were working towards the goal of getting a 360. Christy spent more time than me working on it, actually; she figured she's get it for me as a Birthday present. She was 10 times faster than me playing the games, and she really liked the word puzzles in general.

Fast forward to mid-August. We've gone through all the puzzles on the games we liked to play, everything else was just not fun for us to play. I also started evaluating the value of the packages, and came to the realization that I really wanted the 360 elite, with it's 120gig drive, instead of the pro. So I settled on getting a wireless controller and a few games from the reward list. Figured, "at least I got something worthwhile and enjoyable from my time"; all good. The order status says it takes 30-60 days to review the order and fulfill it, and I get a confirmation that my order should ship on Oct 12. Fine, Fine.. I can wait.

Slow motion to November. No fulfillment; no emails; nothing. I email support for a status, in return I receive an auto-responder with answers to "frequently asked questions"; I sent a response (as the email states I should), and receive no responses from my queries. Re-check the information, and I guess in September they started saying it would be 120 days to get prizes. 120 days is mid-November, only a few weeks away. Already have my 360, looking forward to the 2nd controller; figure I can wait.

All but stop until Monday. Original date and 120-day period that is now mentioned in the T&C long gone. Decided to send an email over to CNET, since they cover all sorts of things Microsoft related. Got a great response from Elinor Mills, saying that the Microsoft PR contact she had would like my account name so he can have someone research it. Good, good.. maybe finally I'll get somewhere with this order.

Leap up to today. I get an email at 12:30am today saying they are reviewing my order with fulfillment to see what the status is. Good, good. Then this afternoon I get the following email -

"Dear Live Search Club Participant:

Thank you for your patience while our Technical Support Team has further reviewed and re-evaluated the game play history on your account. Upon review of your account, it appears that a number of the games played meet our criteria of unfair game play and violates our terms and conditions ( resulting in a cancellation of your order.

Best Regards,

Live Search Club Customer Support"
Now, the terms and conditions they speak of state -
"You must comply with the Terms and Rules, as determined by Microsoft, to receive a Ticket or Reward. You must not use any bot, cheat code or other automated way to do an Activity or participate in the Program. You may not use more than one user account to avoid caps or other restrictions on Activities and Tickets you can earn."
Best I can figure, I broke it because both Christy and I played on the same account. But, if we played on our own accounts we would have broken the "You may not use more than one user account" clause, since we are in the same household.

This smells, sounds and acts like a scam to me. The way the T&C is written it's clear they can just cancel all the orders done, because if you play the games "too fast", you must be cheating. If you have folks in your "Household" play on one account, you are cheating. If you each have your own account, you are "cheating".

All of this over 3 xbox360 games and a wireless controller. I'm very disappointed in Microsoft, and how they are handling this service. 180 days with no way for the customer to be in contact with them, and then claim they are cheating. No way to spin around this; it really makes me question Microsoft's ethics.

The sad thing is, I love my 360... but if I had gotten this treatment before I got the 360, I wouldn't have bought one. Makes me really question all future Microsoft products, too.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Partial Review - Rock Band

I'm going to continue to write more of my feelings about various games that I am playing/have played over time down. I guess I could say I got Rock Band for my birthday, but it would have been an 'unbirthday present', as I was the one that went out on the 20th, bought it, and brought it home.

Rock band is a very simple overall concept game - you simulate the concept of a Rock Band. You get drums, a guitar, and a microphone. You can connect an additional guitar to "round out" the band as well. Each part of the band has a rhythm game associated with it, and while you can work through the "solo careers" in the game, the primary focus is on the "party game" aspect when you get 4 people together to play.

I'd give the single player game minimal reviews, as it's pretty basic. I've completed guitar on easy and medium so far, and done a little bit with hard. Working on adding that 5th fret button is a bit of work. I'm working through the easy mode on Drums, and done a few songs on the Mic. All of them seem to do well. The Hardware is not "professional quality", but so far mine's been solid. Some folks have complained about various issues, but I haven't had anything that I'd say is a problem. EA has already stated a 60-day warrenty is in effect on the hardware, so if folks find a flaw, they can get it replaced by EA. And from what the boards state, they are being rather quick to respond and replace equipment.

As stated above, the real draw to the game is the "Band World Tour" multiplayer. You can get up to 4 people total onto the game and play the various parts of the game. And this is really where this game completely shines. There are parts where if you really want to get serious with it you can get achievements and unlock all sorts of stuff, but in the end what you are really looking to do is have a good time with some friends.

Where this game doesn't shine is in the fanaticism of the folks on the board. I've made a few dozen posts on there, but honestly the game has gotten overly competitive for many. There could be a draw where you wouldn't look to have fun, but rather "recruit" people to play in order to get those last few achievements and unlock the last little bit. With a lack of true online co-op play for Band World Tour, the ability to "rock out" with friends from around the globe is likewise missing, which is a bit disappointing, as I have friends all over. It would be a blast to make up an online band that could rock out together online.

There are also a lot of issues with the concept of "cross game" hardware. For the folks that bought both Rock Band and Guitar Hero games, not all the controllers work either way. So you are buying a controller specific to the game, which always hinders the "value" of the package you bought to some level. So the perceived value of buying both Guitar Hero and Rock Band so you could play co-op on both with a significant other is limited as of right now. Hopefully this is a patch away from being fixed on both the Guitar Hero and Rock Band sides of the fence.

Overall, I'd give this game a 4.5 out of 5 stars or something if I had to rate it, although it's probably more of an arbitrary number more than anything else. I've had a heck of a lot of fun with it, and there is a pretty large amount of replay value even without the download content that is available. Being able to add more songs to play will only increase it. I'm not sure with the pricing of the download content if the draw will be there to buy it for everyone, but they are looking to have a great selection of additional songs to pick from. The drawbacks are needing to find extra people to come over to play, and I'm not even sure that having the online co-op would really help that all that much. The game is definitely an evolution well beyond what the "Guitar Hero" games did, but it's probably still very early in the genre to tell where it'll go. There is plenty of room in the industry for multiple games of this type.

It's interesting to watch the evolution from Pong to PS3/360/Wii how the gaming world has changed, and is still changing, focus. The need for new markets and new people to be interested in games, and the use of games to introduce folks to new ways of thinking, is amazing.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Parental Involvement

This is going to end up being a double-post day for me, a rarity indeed! Gaming is one of my passions, and I really enjoy watching my kids spend time enjoying a pastime I love. With that in mind, it's difficult to find games that I find appropriate for a 4, 5 and 8 year old to really enjoy. Our oldest, since she can read, is easier to find games for, but they are all a challenge. I mean, do I really want to see my daughters in Halo 3 deathmatches?

While it was (and still is) humorous to watch our kids playing the demo of "Virtua Fighter 5" on our 360, we actively try to make sure that they are playing age-appropriate games. I do admit though, watching our youngest play "boxing" and actually do a pretty good job in VF5 is interesting... but I digress.

There are many games out there that are not for a younger audience anymore. The days of mostly "innocent" games have long been gone (although a topic for a later day will be how much I appreciate the classics returning, even if I have to pay for them again). Outside of a couple of games on the Live Arcade service for the 360, my kids haven't had a collection of xbox games that I feel comfortable to play. I spent time looking at review sites, but they focus on the "Halo 3's" of the community much more than the "Dora the Explorer"s. And even though it may be a kid friendly theme, most of the "Everyone" games end up being poorly done because they know parents will end up blindly getting it because it has a popular kid's show on it. So you plunk down $50 for a game they don't enjoy, and don't play.. and then go out and get them a game that's not really appropriate because it's what they want to play and you know nothing about it...

Then there's a site called What they Play ( This is a site dedicated to being a resource for parents to help them make good decisions about games for their kids. It's still new on the scene, but I have really high hopes that a community will grow around the seed they've planted, and good quality of parental reviews will prosper and help both gaming and non-gaming parents to get involved with their kids on what games they play, and maybe even join in on some fun!

Lighting your Soul Ablaze

During lunch the other day, a coworker of mine was talking about having to find something that "sets his soul on fire". That got me to really thinking about what I'm passionate about, and how I'm living my life.

These are deep thoughts, and things I don't typically like to be forced into thinking about. In fact, when I usually bring myself to think about these things I tend to become rather melancholy, to the point of near depression. Am I doing what really sets my soul ablaze? Is what I'm doing in my personal, spiritual, and professional life in line with what God wants for me? Where will I be in 5, 10, 20 years? Is it what I'm doing now? What I can say is that this time I seem to have a much more grounded response to these questions that typically.. maybe I'm growing up. I sure hope not!

Where this interpersonal exploration took me was to a place where I seldom really go - self acceptance. I typically spend my time looking at my life and wondering what I'm doing wrong, not what I've done right. I'm passionate about what I'm doing, and typically "flame out" easily on things because of disillusionment or lack of long-term interest. What I can tell you is that if I'm passionate about it, it consumes me. It doesn't matter if it's work, or church, or home.. if it's what's lighting my soul ablaze I will be into it 100%.

What I've come to realize is that I am doing what I love to do, which is dream a better dream. The work I do is all about how to make the network better and improve the company, and I'm pretty dang good at it. While I get upset about where we might be in 5-10 years, I get the chance to dream and research where we should be, and try to help steer our direction. That's really an incredible opportunity. I've had the chance to help build 2 different internet-based services from small online presences. When I first started working here our aggregate bandwidth for all of our customers was under 10meg. We are almost to the 2-gig mark now. Customers are thought of in tens of thousands, not just tens like when I started. It's comforting to see what we've accomplished as a company.

And maybe that's what really sets my soul ablaze. The opportunity to dream.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Current Gaming Addiction - GH3

Okay, going to start something new here - what game I'm currently enthralled with. Maybe I'll start posting up reviews of the games I've been playing or something as well in the future, if I can think of a format that I will actually stick to.

Since getting a xbox360 back in September, I have already gone through several games I really like. Currently the game of passion is "Guitar Hero 3", which I'd say that I'm going to get, or have gotten, my $99 worth of money out of.

That said, the game is fun but also limited. I found the unlockable music to be interesting, but not much to repeat. I'd think they would have some level of golden rock song, or interesting co-op song nestled in there that completing the others would tempt you with. I've found a few of those, but in general the song you "buy" with in-game money (not the MicroSoft Points ones) have been by bands I've never heard of, and several of them are in German - which is kinda cool, but not something I'd say is worthy of "unlock" status in a music game.

And probably the worst part of the game should be it's total redeeming factor - Downloadable Content (DLC). The DLC for GH3 is now starting to show up on xboxLIVE, and the pricing on it is way over the top. While the price of MP3's goes down, and the ways you are entitled to use it are increasing, the GH tracks are limited to just inside the game, and cost more than twice the typical MP3 alternative. From a marketing perspective this is just poor design. You have a fixed cost to create the content, and a near zero cost to distribute it. You have a limited customer base for the product, but the price is set at a very limited take rate. Even a simple bystanding thought would make you think that the pricing is out of line if you aren't getting 60-80% take rate on the songs, since you already know the folks that would possibly buy it would be the ones that already plunked down $60 for the game, and maybe bought a special controller to play.

Oh well, I'd still give the game a high score because it's fun, and more than just a couple of hours of fun at that. Christy and I have played it a lot in the past couple of weeks now, and I don't see us really putting another game ahead of it on the play list much... at least until Rock Band comes out on 11/20.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

"Constructive" Criticism

I think I'm finally to a point in my life where I can say that I'm completely and totally fed up with the concept of "constructive criticism". What I mean is, folks trying to "better you" by noting all your flaws. People my entire life have spent hours of my time going over in minute details all the tings I don't do right. This is supposed to make me a better person, because I can focus on these things, right?

The more that I look back on it, the more I feel that what it's really doing is making the other person feel better about themself instead of helping me in the least. People who say they love you, and they care about you, should not casually wound you mentally. They claim it's "for your own good", but they wouldn't fathom actually physically harming you, so why is the psyche that much different?

I feel that for most of my life I've ended up focusing on the things that are "wrong" with myself, things I've done wrong, said wrong, thought wrong. Always wrong, always negative. I end up obsessing about it, and inflicting mental wounds onto myself and my love ones over it. I hide myself away from others over it, I don't want to open myself up for another "shot to the gut". It's self destructive, and I'm tired of it.

For those that think that pointing out someone elses flaws actually helps. It doesn't. It hurts. I think I'd rather have someone physically attack me than keep sniping at my psyche at this point.

Cause at least with a physical attack I don't start hitting myself later because you hit me first.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Money for nothing, Clips for free

I'm realizing that I don't post up all that much on here these days, but right now I wanted to just write up my feelings on something - free content.

In the age of the Internet, the concept of free has been horridly warped. I don't care if it's movies, music, or video games. I don't care if your are 15 or 55, the problem is the same: folks think that everything on the Internet should be free.

Free television to me is what you get from broadcast signals, and is paid for by the advertisements that you watch. You pay for a cable version of this programming simply because you want to be able to watch a clearer signal, or have more channels available. These stations still have commercials on them, because the channel gets paid by you watching commercials. The costs of distribution are covered, for the most part, in your cable access. Not the production of the shows, or the folks that put together the programming schedule. The cable company gives you a conduit to additional programming that you pay for, but you still pay for the content by commercials.

Radio is free, because you listen to commercials. There are premium radio, where you have more selection and it's commercial-free (well, except for commercials for themselves it seems), but you pay for that expanded selection.

The Internet is NOT free, there is no "broadcast" method to gain access to it for free. What you are paying that $20-50 a month for is the ability to connect into the large web of networks. That gives you no entitlement for anything and everything that is available on the Internet. It gives you a conduit to the world. Why is it that people do not want to understand that the content providers aren't paid by their internet host, but rather that the content has to make money somehow?

Downloading movies, music, television and video games without any level of compensation is illegal: it's no less illegal than you shoplifting from Best Buy a DVD or CD. Yet folks feel entitled because it's the Internet, and everything should be free on the Internet! There are plenty of incredible things that are free on the internet (this blog site is just an example), but not everything is free.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Jr High School

At 32 years of age, I'm realizing that all I needed to know in order to survive in the business world I learned in Junior High. Now, depending on the size of the school, the lessons are adaptive. In a smaller environment it seems that the interpersonal requirements change as you are forced to do more things and interact with the cliques you don't like on a regular basis. If you happen to be in a really big school, however, the rules definitely change some. People can hide behind reasons that don't make sense, you can not like someone just for who they hang out with or because they like Transformers instead of GI Joe. And I don't mean "I'm not going to hang out with you" type of dislike, I mean decide that the person deserves a wedgie every afternoon at 4. The level of drama seems to be exponential to the number of people in the organization.

You would think that people would have figured out well before their 30's that this type of behavior is disrupting and counter productive in a business environment where it's supposed to be "all about the customer". I guess I learn what happens when I think...

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Club Live cheating

Recently, I found out about Club Live by Microsoft. This is a service that by playing word games that utilize Microsoft's Live Search service you earn up tickets. With those tickets you can get various rewards, including the top reward being an xbox360. Now, I've wanted a 360 for a while, but the price tag has always been a deterant for the amount of enjoyment that I predicted I'd have with it. See, I have a Wii, original xbox, Dreamcast, Saturn, GameCube... well, you get the idea. Another game console is always a bit of a harsh decision at this point, but I really like the concept of the 360 and what it brings to the table. So I start playing, and I've earned up 13,000 "tickets". Now I'm doing some research as I'm running out of games to play (both the Chicktionary and Flexicon games are locked out to me -- seems I've played all the possible puzzles), and I find that folks have been using cheat programs in order to gain multiple copies of the same reward for whatever reason.

So.. because of these cheaters the costs of the rewards have gone up, but the number of puzzles haven't. Thus the people that are actually doing the puzzles to get the rewards are faced with an issue -- some of the rewards may not be attainable. This cheeses me off. The fact that cheaters are ruining the experience for the regular players is something that always upsets me, and this is no exception. Thus, I'm writing the following to Microsoft's Help service, the head of the Live Search Division, Steve Balhmer, and whoever else I can find to send it to. Hopefully I'll get some level of response.

There seems to be a lot of concern in various forums about the cheating that
seems to have occured inside of Club Live, and the impact that it is having on
the players that are playing the games and not using outside programs "cheat"
for them.

My main question is this - is it currently possible to earn
enough points to actually get the xbox 360 bundle reward? I've earned up over
13,000 points, but the games I'm enjoying are telling me that no more puzzles
are available. I'm trying out the new games you have provided, but it seems at
least according to the leader board that you have up there, that the number of
tickets that are required to get the 360 package is unattainable.

I can
fully appreciate the problems that you are experiencing with the service, and I
think that this system is an awesome idea by Microsoft to get traction in
markets where you have recently been struggling. My concern is that the
"cheaters" are going to cost you the folks that are helping out your market

I'd suggest that you consider some of the following concepts
that several of us that use the games legitimately have come up with -

- impose a rule on the rewards where you can only get a single type of reward
per physical mailing address. In a quick "Live Search" on the topic, I found
numerous message boards where folks are openly stating that they used outside
programs to complete the ticket requirement, and have ordered multiple rewards
to the same address. This includes copies of Windows, Office and Zunes.

2 - impose either shipping & handling or sales tax for the item.
Personally, I would have no issue with paying only the sales tax and/or a
shipping and handling charge for my reward, but for cheaters looking to 'resale'
the item, it would become some level of deterrant.

I'm sure there are
other concepts that you or your loyal customers can come up with that can help
twart these folks that are really ruining the concept of this service, without
having the service itself be disrupted (like it has recently).



Thursday, June 28, 2007


Spent the last 2 days in Greenville, SC. Been talking to folks, and learning about the new "surf & turf" that the two companies have become.

It's amazing how companies can develop 600 miles apart, and still make others welcome and have similar experiences. Trying to figure out "what group would you prefer to be in" has been extremely difficult for me. I'm not one to make decisions easily, and definitely not ones that are as "life impacting" as these. I've been praying about the possibility of change for a while now, but now it comes down to figuring out what God really wants for me. Part of me is worried about making choices and upsetting folks, and part of me is worried about making the "wrong choice". I think, though, that the worst choice would be "not making a choice".

I've had a chance to meet and talk with a bunch of very great people. I'm genuinely excited to think that I will continue to be part of an organization that is providing services folks use every day, and we are "outperforming" the competition. While Mike has stated that "we are the winner", once you see the group of people that are all making things happen, you can sit in your own little world and wonder about it.

After what I've seen... we are the winner. A group this talents and this dedicated to providing a top notch solution will not fail to meet it's goals.
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Wednesday, June 6, 2007


This was an interesting week, before it started. On Saturday we went out, and ended up signing up to foster a dog from one of the rescue organizations here in Orlando for a week. The intention was to make sure that the dog would acclimate properly to the environment and adopt, but by Sunday night we already had doubts that we were ready for the level of commitment and responsibility that it was going to entail.

The dog's name was "Dakota", and we ended up sending her back this morning to be with the shelter. She was a Shetland Sheepdog "mix", we think with a Japanese Shiba, and was an amazing animal. She had been rescued from a Georgia kill shelter, but she was young. It's amazing that a 5 month old animal would be put down, and couldn't get adopted. She was energetic and definitely adopted us as at least playmates for the little bit of time that we took care of her. For example - she didn't get taken on walks, she took you for runs. Her whole body would wag when she was excited, like when you got home...

We just didn't have the space she needed, and the kids weren't ready for the level of commitment it was going to take. They are used to a cat, and ours is the kind that you can do almost to and she doesn't go bananas to you. The kids are in many ways "spoiled" by that, and I think that Christy and I are as well. She was also a puppy, and even house-broken puppies need a lot of attention and a level of care that is "above and beyond" that an older dog needs or wants. Just to top it off, she was rescued from a kill shelter. I think given enough time, effort, commitment and love, she would have been incredible. Love alone just wouldn't have been enough.

I know that we will look at the "fostering/adopting" process again in the future, but right now I don't think I could. She's only been back at the rescue since around lunchtime, and I already miss her. I missed her before we took her back, but I also knew that it was definitely for the best that she went back. I know she'll make an amazing pet for someone, and someone will love her as much as we do and provide her the things we can. It doesn't mean that I won't miss the time that we had.

Friday, June 1, 2007

MLB vs Slingbox?

Okay, for the record I think that Major League Baseball jumped the shark a long time ago. This has to be a crowning achievement for them, though. To think, just because someone is watching a game that they didn't pay for on their subscription service (, they want to sue the people that make it possible.

Maybe they should sue Brighthouse or Comcast next. I mean, they are broadcasting the games into people's homes via a cable instead of over the airwaves! How many more people can Major League Baseball disenfranchise and drive away from their revenue stream?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

"Popular" Science

Yes, I know that it's the name of a magazine that's been around since the 50's, or 1872 or whatever. What I'm referring to is the concept of mass consumption of the theories that are put out by researchers while attempting to explain the universe. And boy is it frustrating to read, knowing that folks are hanging onto some of these hypothesis' as fact.

My example for today is the "Wunder Blog" by Jeff Masters. I found the article, and his blog, rather interesting; in fact, I found that the concept that ocean life could play a major role in our climate is astounding. What I found disheartening is the fact that he states in the blog that "While the authors admit that their calculations may have large errors, this research shows that marine life may have a heretofore unappreciated large impact on Earth's climate"; he states that the "proof" of the concept is unsound, but the results are not! This is not the foundation that our scientific "forefathers" set forth, and definitely not a part of any "scientific method" that I've used both in school and outside of school. This is more like the "facts" that religions used in ancient Rome and Greece than anything else, to be honest. There is a hypothesis, some calculations, and a result. But the result is not proof yet, because the calculations are under speculation.

I really don't have a problem with this being spread as a "theory", but sadly most people today have no clue what the difference between theory and fact are anymore. They do not allow their minds to have conflicting concepts and linger on it like a wine connoisseur would let a flavor linger and appreciate it for the possibilities that it has. They take all "theories" as facts, and one cannot overlap another. If the conflict, one must be right, and the other has to be false. This "fast food" science intake is creating a society that really does not want to think for itself, and I fear for that.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Low Country

I had a chance to spend a few days up in Connecticut last weekend, and it's interesting to really look at places, people and things when you travel. My family is originally from the central part of the state, and we happened to be there to intern my Grandfather's ashes. For those that haven't been there, the Central part of Connecticut is full of large hills (I'm not sure I'd really call them mountains) that consist of a lot of rock. The roads in many places are cut into the sides of these, and at times you'll be on a road and be at rooftop level of the houses just beside you.

Then, you can travel less than an hour, and be to the "low country" of the state. They are not directly on the Ocean, but rather their beaches are on Long Island Sound. You can see Long Island in the distance. There aren't really "waves" like a Florida-boy would consider them, but it's not still waters, either. The land is rather rocky, and the sand on the public "beach" we went to was much more coarse than I'm used to.

The thing I was amazed at was how much more I was drawn to the "low country" than I thought. I don't know if that's because I grew up on the beach or not, but I've found that while I'm not drawn to the concept of going "to the beach", I like the areas that are by the water. I find I'm more at peace for some reason. Maybe the concept of the vast ocean calms me or something.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


One thing that I'm not, is patient. I've learned to force myself to do a lot of things, but in general the ability to "wait" has never really been in my nature. Waiting to see what the future holds, and not being able to interact with it is a very frustrating thing for me. It makes me become introspective and question what I'm doing with my life and if where I am is where I should be.

Am I doing the right things? Is the path for the future what I want to be doing? I have always had problems "seeing myself doing what I do now in 5-10 years", and I've been doing this same type of job since 1994. I started doing it as a help-desk position at UCF, and it's grown into a career. I just have never really seen where it's leading to, I just focus on the now and the things I need to do to take care of my current needs, seldom looking at my future goals.

At some point, things change. Time for hobbies and being introspectively visionary gives way to doing the dishes and taking out the trash. The problem really becomes times when you really notice it, and how you deal with it.

Right now... I'm not dealing with it very well.

Monday, May 7, 2007


It was one of those weekends, more planned than we really thought we could manage.

We had planned on going down to EPCOT to watch the Nelson Brothers do a set at the Flower and Garden festival, but we were tired. It had started to rain, and the kids were not in the best of moods. Somehow we got everything together, the rain had stopped, piled us and the kids into the car, and headed out. For those that haven't (or will never) experience Orlando traffic... it's an adventure. We get down to EPCOT and park, and praise God, we get a spot 4 rows from the front gate. Pretty amazing for 4pm on a Sunday at the parks, really.

We get inside, and the park is busy (like you would expect from Disney) but a fair number of people are heading out. We make it around to the World Showcase, and it starts to rain again. Again, for those not familiar with Florida showers, they are usually fast - lasting only 20-30 minutes on average - but they are wet. So we duck into the shops over in the Norway pavillion to stay somewhat dry, of course by now we are all soaking wet, but it's what is done. The kids gravitate to the "Kidcot" kids corner, where they can color a mask, and Christy and myself poke around a little bit in the shop. After 20 minutes or so I look outside, and the rain looks like it is letting up. The kids are all but finished with their masks, and I know it's going to be relatively crowded at the show.. so we head out. Now, it's still raining when we head out but we are wet already so I figured it wouldn't make that much of a difference. Christy decides to encourage the kids to jump in puddles and dance around in the rain. And watching them experience dancing around and playing in the rain brought back memories, and feelings. We both recognized that we were experiencing, through them, what it was like to be kids again. We both grew up around Disney, the parks were special experiences.

And we got to share those memories - not the ones of "Mission Space" or "Journey into Imagination" that make the Disney experience special, but rather the little things like running around in the end of rain, jumping in puddles while the tourists are spending $5 (or whatever crazy amount they are now) for plastic ponchos and attempting for all their life to stay dry. It cost us nothing to get up the energy to take them down to the parks, but what we got in return was priceless.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Memory Game

I really hate it when I try to remember something that was so ingrained my skull at one point, and after some period of time it's lost to the "ether" around me somehow.

The latest of these "memory lapses" comes in the form of Mexican restaurant names. At one point there were two Mexican places literally beside each other around here, one was a local "chain" called Amigo's, and one was a national chain, which turned into Chevy's back about 10 years ago. Now for the life of me I cannot remember the name of the place.

I have 7 years of email from this job, every email that ever entered my yahoo or gmail account, and enough documents that I've written since college (including some printouts of Modula-2 programs that I did my freshman year on a VAX mainframe!), but little things like this will consume me until at some point I figure it out.

Doesn't help that wikipedia states that Chevy's is just a front name for a conglomorate now (used to be Pepsico, but they sold it off in the late 90's). I'll figure it out, it'll come to me at 2am and I'll blurt it out.. then my wife will be wondering what caused me to think of it then.

Edit: Many thanks to John, who's mad Google-fu skills figured out that it was Rio Bravo I was trying to remember!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

School Boy Heart.

Every so often, I get moments of Clarity.. things just seem to make sense. Been avoiding the "blog" scene .. well.. since it started, but I'm thinking it's time to start putting my thoughts into words on a screen, for my own edification.

I'm not intending this to be a "regular" thing that folks intend on getting an RSS feed of or anything, but rather more like a way for me to track myself.

If I had to use one word to describe myself, it would be "eclectic". I'm into an insanely large variety of music, love gaming in a variety of methods (PC, table-top RPG, minatures, Console), collecting Toys (one of these days I need to get up enough time to put all my Star Wars 3 3/4" figures up and take pictures again), and had a desire for music as well as art. I'm a Networking Professional (they call me a "Technology Development Engineer" at my job) by trade, and a Parrothead by heart.

This week, after nearly 20 years of avoiding it, I picked up a guitar and amp. Nothing fancy, nothing "expensive" (although it was painful for me to see the price tag, I mean it was in the triple digits!). I got a "Squire 51" guitar, and a Roland "Micro-Cube" amp to plug it into. That, a few books on how to play, and some determination is all that I have to go by right now. After 3 days of working on it, I'm still building up the callouses to have any length of play, but I'm determined to play some "six string music" eventually. For the first time in months I was drawn to listen to some of my Buffett collection, and picked "Far Side of the World" on my iPod while at work (I've loved "Tonight I just need my Guitar" since the first time I heard it), and the track list got to "Someday I will".. I think that's motivation enough for me right now.