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.