28 October, 2009

Side Step...Not taking it lying down

(Preface: Yes I know this is a rant. Yes I know I am not swearing that much either. I am hoping that those who read this learn something. I sure as Hell did.)

Everyone goes through this at least once in the course of owning a contemptible cellular phone.

Your phone dies. It decides to pick the most inopportune of times to do it. You go insane.

You go to a store selling your cell phone. You go in with a plan and a purpose. It is formed around one desire: To get a new cell phone.

You talk to a sales rep. You make your wishes known as to what you are looking for. The sales rep shows you some phones. You discuss a few things, and make a decision.

You get the phone and you take off.

Everything is happy. Or is it?

I found myself in this boat on Tuesday last week. My trusted old LG VX8100 finally could go no more. I could not get the thing to charge, as the interface was shot. I mourned it, having had the phone for 3-4 years.

I went into a store and spoke with a salesman. I let him know up front that if the phone side flipped, was a slider, capable of doing my laundry, that I was not interested in seeing it. He promptly moved to action, showing me some standard flip phones. We talked and I asked.

I left the store with a Motorola Moto VU204. Seemed to be a good phone, with a rubber feeling exterior. I owned a pair of Motorola V60 phones years back and they were great phones.

I found myself back in the store the next day. I noticed the phone was chewing up the battery worse than I chew up Chinese. I saw the same sales rep, and he got me with the in store tech. The in store tech checked the phone and the battery and determined the battery was toast. He got me a new battery and away I went.

The phone did not see much use so it appeared to be fine. Over the last 2 days, I noted it once again was chewing up battery life at a ridiculous pace. I made sure it got charged properly, but that did not a bloody thing.

Today, I returned to the store. I told a different sales rep the story. He informed me that there was no way to test the phone. He also told me that the new phones used more power because of the 3G chip set in them. He also told me that if I was to exchange the phone I was going to be paying a restocking fee.

A restocking fee...on a phone that does not seem to be working properly? One that has had a new battery for it?

I took issue with this and voiced my displeasure. I got an option on the extended life battery, and told the guy I would think about it. I knew I could get it cheaper online.

I had made my mind up as I drove away and to my friend's to do video work that I would keep the phone and get an extended life battery. I calmed down to do work.

Then the phone changed my decision. By losing another bar of charge. After 25 minutes of talking. After about 15 sent and 15 received text messages. After taking 1 photo.

And just sitting idle the rest of the time, not doing a thing.

I called the store back in seconds. Asking for a manager, I informed her of my story in detail. She basically told me the same thing the sales rep had. I was now thoroughly disgusted with everything. Boiling it down, I was told the following:

We can get you a new phone of the same model.

We can get you a new phone of a different model, but you are paying the restocking fee.

That is just the way the phone is.

In my anger I decided to call the 800 number for my cell phone provider. I spent an indeterminate about of time on the phone with a woman who was most helpful. She listened to everything I had to say about the problems I was encountering. She was as baffled as I was by it, but refusing to hide behind statements like "Oh I hear that about the phone you have from everyone.", quite unlike the sales rep and manager from the store.

Needless to say the LG VX8360 ships tonight for delivery on Friday.

In short, my message to you dear reader: Be extremely careful if going into a store to buy a cell phone. Your best bet may be to buy the thing online or via the phone.

26 October, 2009

Rewritten from the Archives: Nightmare's Edge III

(Since this one never managed to get published anywhere, I took the liberty of rewriting it. It is in the same vein as the previous Nightmare's Edge story. The difference with this one was the serious science fiction elements I added to it, and a background on the character. Those who also know me too well will instantly see the influence of one of my favourite sci-fi series. I decided to update some of the elements as well as the writing to go with it. I had not seen the copy of the the story in quite some years. Incase you are wondering why III, It was the third in the series I was working on at the time. I have so far been unable to locate the second story.)

In the beginning, I had been a Time Tracer. Traveling for countless centuries and doing battle with countless unspeakable evils, I'd grown tired. Seriously tired of the running, fighting and death. My life at times was meddled with by outside forces and sent on assignments I rather skipped on. Feeling tired and old, I decided to end the drama.
One staged accident later, with my death widely reported to go with it, I found myself burning through Time and Space.
The destination: Earth
The time period: The early 21st century

I found myself landing in the United States of America. Smiling, I grabbed a careully prepared backpack. I managed to get the co-ordinates right for once, landing where I wished. I paused only long enough to set the camoflauge control, and make a note that I landed on target. (A first in 500 or so years!)
Stepping outside, my smile grew wider. I had landed during the Earth Fall season for the region. A mish mash of colours greeted my eyes as I walked to the door of a modest looking house. My smile faded, realising that I had too many keys to root through.
After several minutes, and three return trips to my 'shed', I located the right key. Entering the house, I saw it was in the same state I'd left it. A bit of dust had landed in places, but that was minor.
Settling in, I found my way to a computer terminal. Interfacing it with the planet's Internet system, I quickly worked my way through various government sites. Identity firmly established, I powered the system down and hid it in the wall. I feel asleep smiling, relaxed for the first time in so many years.
No one knew I was alive, let alone where I disappeared to.

Awaking to a beautiful day, I walked into the nearly town. Leisurely strolling through the streets, I beheld many amusing sights. The people passing barely noticed me, suiting me perfectly.
Walking along a store caught my attention. Intrigued, I deceided to enter it. Greeting my eyes as they adjusted to the darkness, computers of all description littered the room. I meandered about a bit, taking in the systems, some old for the time period, others extremely modern. I paused before several of the older systems that bore a card. Reading each brief history I found memories flowing of other systems in other times on other worlds.
I hailed the gentleman at the counter for more information. I listened as he explained various bits of history about the machines. I followed him about the store as he spoke, intrigued and the like. After a good 30 minutes, I bought several of the antigues and two of the modern computers from him, plus anything else not nailed down for each system.
Transaction concluded (Who says a large amount of cash or credits doesn't work wonder.) to his satisfaction, I asked for him to deliever. A little more cash and the promise everything would be delievered the next day, I departed.

I spent the next day unpacking and setting up. I acquired two modern PC's, a Commodore 64C and a Commodore Amiga 4000. The gentleman at the store had been all afire about the Commodore systems. I still wondered at the military rank of the computers.
Speculation waited as I taught myself to use a system a day. After a week, I felt assured of my mastery of such simple things. My smile returned, as did my amusement at the situation.
I spent the next several days working out a plausible occupation to keep me in the shadows. After much searching, I turned to a talent of my youth, called desktop publishing on this planet. I figured maybe, just maybe that the days spent as the editor of the Colrion Royal Time Academy hololetter could be transferred to paper and the like.

I'd been working on a newsletter for a client most of the night. Nearly finished, and with a deadline a couple of days out, a break was called for. I pushhed away from the PC and turned to the Commodore 64C. As I reached for the disk to the game I was failing miserably at beating, the clock caught my eye.
Frozen at 9:26pm. I felt my hair rise and...
I chastised myself. Panic faded, reason returned, logic simply throwing out that the clock hasd stopped on its own accord. No monsters need apply. Logic drove me to pull out the pocket watch I carried for time and tricks.
Frozen at 9:26pm. My skin now joined my hair in the danger feeling.
Shaking my head, I cast about for explanation. Time slip suddenly came to mind. I began counting time units in my head.
Reaching 60 seconds, I stopped. Too long for a time slip. Worry replacing the earlier panic, I directed my movements to the nearest window. Moving the curtain aside, a glowing orange greeted my senses. Groaning I looked about as far as I could.
Absolutely lovely, I thought sourly, and I was going to beat that game tonight to.
A flicker from the edge of my vision caused my head to turn. An object slowly faded into my view. First sight of it caused a groan to escape, followed by a whistle of contempt. It was a seriously large mega-mainframe system.
A Supreme Totaliras.
A living computer.
Bent on the conquest of everything organic in a quest to rid the universe of 'plaugue'.
Apparently, I thought drawing back the curtain fully, the blasted machine detected my presence on this planet.
Wondering, I noted my computers showing as connected to the Totaliras. I turned to look at it for a count. Deciding the thing wasn't going to read my mind, I voiced my contempt.
"Pick your weapon and have a battle of wits?"
The Totaliras sprang to life. Muttering darkly about Galactic Games Channels and Let's Make a Deal, I strolled slowly over to the PC. Mind running furiously, I pondered alternatives and plans. My best weapon would be shielded by the Totaliras.
Entering into the system I saw what I was going to be up against.
Solving the Galactic Riddle of Light equation.
Inspiration struck home in a flash. Firing the PC into a defrag, I vaulted to the Amiga. I punched in some commands to a simple 3D model I was running, then ran across the room for the 64. Reaching it, I tossed the disk into the drive for the game I was vexed by.
Crashing into the opposite wall, I rose (In some considerable pain.) to confront not one, but two Argulian attack droids. Scrambling and throwing anything not nailed down, I managed to knock one droid down and evade the other. Typing faster than anything, I managed to get back to the 64 and finish typing the load sequence.
I found myself bodily removed and about to be tossed out the window. Calling upon a guess, I dangled the pocket watch across the visual sensor of the droid. This distraction proved just enough to allow for a simple magic trick.
A simple manual screw driver to said visual sensor.
Rudely dropped I bolted from the room. Racing out the front door, the Totaliras sat, running furiously. My trick of computers had it confounded, but this was not going to last. Casting about, I needed something to destroyed it. Quickly.
A crashing sound reminded me the time for contemplation was extremely limited. I needed a virus...something totally foreign.
The potted plant at my feet went sailing through the air. As it arced towards the Totaliras, a three thoughts flashed through my panting mind.
Firstly, the thing's shield better be down.
Secondly, the plant was dead so no harm to it.
Third, my aim is hopefully better than the last time.
The pot, dead plant, and soil exploded on impact. To the instant, smoke poured from the Totaliras. Smiling I raced past the incapacitated droids to my computers. One last magic trick to perform.
I quickly (23 seconds quick) cobbled a space shooter game into a gold chip from the Amiga. Running back out to the smoking, sputtering Totaliras, I jammed the chip into it. I was rewarded with instant success, as the coding of the game fried the bloody thing.
Watching everything fade into view, I stared for a count at the spot where the contemptible machine stood, letting the frustration ebb away. Satisfied, I smiled and marched into the house.
"The more advanced the technology, the easier it falls to primitive assault."

25 October, 2009

Side Step...My Funny Old Computer

I find myself, as per the usual, working at the radio station of a Sunday afternoon. I actually, for once, managed to remember that the Steelers game at 1pm was a home game and therefore left early enough not to have to tailgate on 279 from the airport. Normally mornings start roughly for little old me.

My conversation this morning with the girl who is in before me got my brain rolling. Describing the trials of getting the first story onto this site, I realised how old I was.

How many of us remember the days when you had more than a PC or a Mac? I know there are a few off-beat computer systems now, but nothing like we had as children (For those over 30 and then some.)

How many people today would remember, let alone have used a Commodore 64 or 128? (I still own my Commodore 64C, sitting in a box away from damage.)

How about the Atari ST line of home computers? (I used to log on to a BBS run from one.)

Try the Texas Instruments TI-99-4/A as another. (This was the first computer my mother bought. She taught herself BASIC programming on it. I never did learned.)

I could make this list longer still but don't want to make drooling into keyboards occur. I am not paying for new keyboards. :-)

There are some great stories from the time. Such as Jack Tramill from Commodore bailing out and running to Atari and the fight there. The great statement of Bill Gates: "640k ought to be enough for anybody." A statement Gates denies handily. The great Mac price disasters also are another fun one to look at as well. This is another list that could continue indefinately.

Granted, I miss the days of much variety. Although most of the companies have faded into the mist of History, their mark is left today. Windows 7 is going to be a better thing than Vista and with each passing day Linux gains popularity. Even Apple has rebounded, and as much as I despise the Mac (Institutional hatred built into from using one of the best home and video platforms ever, the Commodore Amiga.) it has evolved into something other than just a simple toy.

So in that virtual cafe of the mind, imagine a room with the latest and most up to date computers, plus all the classics. A place to once again relive the days of playing text based games, quick boot times, and a good deal of typing.

I am waxing nostalgic I know but what the Hell. Every so often, it is fun.

24 October, 2009

Reposting: Things I have learned whilst laid off

1. Slippers are not water proof

2. A garden hose beats a paint scraper any day

3. I am still scared to death of bees that can sting me

4. That Facebook really does have a use from time to time

5. Going to the flea market in Rogers, OH when unemployed is a situation that could make someone cry.

6. That wanting to write and actually having the motivation to write are 2 entirely different things.

7. That, yes, I can trip over my own 2 feet. And I wasn't even chewing gum.

8. That I almost forgot how much I enjoyed Fall

9. That it is good to see old friends.

10. That having a cell phone die on you produces something akin to widespread panic.

11. That stinkbugs are loud as Hell when they are flying around

12. That it is easy to get sucked into a never ending cycle of self pity if you are none to careful.

13. That I still hate my birthday with extreme prejudice.

14. That some tired old cliches sometimes have more meaning than some of the 'new way of thinking' garbage

15. That I can still mangle any kind of food that I get my hands on

16. That doing a lot of work around the house is actually not a bad thing

17. That I may very well still find World Peace in my collection of boxes

18. That I smiled more than once in a 3 month period, a new record.

19. That some people looking to offer you a job are just plain useless and nothing more than a place to grind you up for fishing bait

20. That sometimes Darkness isn't as bad as people think it is.

21. That my tennis shoes are not water proof either

22. That waiting for new Doctor Who stuff to come out is a patience wearing thin adventure

23. That chasing something new to believe in is a good thing

24. That remembering where you have been will help you get to where you are going

25. That washing an open pack of chewing gum and drying it is one of the worst things you can do.

Side Step...When the Wind Blows

It is a lovely Fall day that I find myself in. I was outside for a bit listening to the wind. I enjoyed it immensely, especially all the leaves blowing all over the yard.

Finding myself bemused and out of sorts I returned indoors. After reading some quick news headlines, and a couple of stories, I cast about for something to do. Then I saw what the date was today.

Today is the 24th of October.

What is so special about this day? In and of itself, nothing I can think of.

The reason I mention it is because I had lost track of time. It is amazing how easy it is to do. I have found myself quite lost on where I am at in a week quite often while not working full time. It made me think about how structured we make our lives. An odd notion, one occurring only once my day lost being at work for eight hours.

It was while I was thinking this that another thought occurred to me. Three months plus change prior I received the shoe from my last full time employer. And by shoe I mean laid off.

I had never been laid off in 15 years of working. Fired yes...walked out on my own two feet from a job yes as well. I remember the day clearly. Shock, anger and the grim satisfaction of knowing I called it happening fought for supremacy that day. In the end, I kept my tongue and managed to walk out with dignity.

On the downhill side of three months with no full time job, the sights and sounds roll on. Through the wonders of social networking sites, I have seen friends attempt to get jobs. Interviews aplenty occur, but nothing in the form of a callback happens it seems. In my attempts to find work, I find myself in full agreement with an article on another blog, The Bread Line Blog, written by my friend Amanada. (Goto: http://thebreadlineblog.blogspot.com/2009/10/one-if-by-mail-two-if-by-e-mail.html for the full read and excellent writing. I wish I wrote that good.)

So ponderment arrives unbidden: The Future and what of it?

I find no answers in my thought. I am not sure any of us do. But try we do and keep rolling and running and perhaps screaming for good measure.

Perhaps we are all akin to the wind. Just blowing around and picking things up as we go.

23 October, 2009

Side Step: Odd things I find

I have spent a good chunk of the evening going around the house searching for anything I have written, either started, or finished. In the course of my travels I have found all kinds of things.

One of the things I found was a folder started when I was in the fourth grade at Moon. It contains all my early writing from class. Some of them are classically hilarious to see. Such an odd child I was. Wait...I still am

I also found some other folders from later in high school. One of these was from 12th grade. Upon opening it I found a single sheet of paper. Removed across the echoes of time, I have zero clue as to what it was about but it contains a short list:

Grateful Dead concert
White House
TV Station
NSA Building
In the can of Trump's house
Napoleon's Waterloo

I laughed when I saw it. I suspect it had something to do with some video thing I was planning all those years ago. I suspect I will never know.

But it is something so totally random. One never knows what they will find when they go searching.

From the Archives...Nightmare's Edge

(This was written in the early 90s. It was published in the Pittsburgh Commodore Group newsletter, of which I was a member. I do not know the publish date, as I only found my story original and not the newsletter it was in. I find it amusing to see this again after all these years. It was inspired by a fund raising ad I saw on Channel 16, WQEX. For the younger readers, feel free to ask me for explanations. The technology cited in this one is very ancient now. I have done very minimal editing to it, preferring to present it as original as it was on paper.)

My eyes were burning and head was pounding. I couldn't make any schemes for wealth beyond the Dreams of Avarice work. Disillusioned, I sat down at my Commodore 64C and decided to be bored by TV.
True to form, nothing worth watching was on. In sheer desperation, I switched over to the local public TV channel, WQEX.
Almost immediately, I flipped off to another channel. I didn't need to listen to a pledge break where they whine for members. I barely missed being thoroughly sick.
In my anger, it took me a few centuries to realise the channel hadn't changed. Great, I thought, now my stupid TV doesn't want to work. Totally dismayed, I unplugged my TV and trudged back to my computer.
I activated the computer, monitor and disk drive, wondering what to do on my 64C. I suddenly remembered that I'd recently hooked up a 1200 baud modem. Eager to test it out, I got online with the Pittsburgh Commodore Group Bulletin Board. I was in the process of uploading my story when a flash of lightning illuminated the sky outside.
Absolutely, positively bloody well great, I thought sourly, cursing weathermen everywhere. Rather than run the risk of blowing up or frying my 64, I decided to turn everything off. Unwillingly, I reached over to shut down. Just a simple flick of the switch and it'll...
Continue running without a second's hesitation?
This must not be my day for electrical equipment, I thought. I reached over and eyed the wall socket. As I stretched my arm out, a sickening smell assulted my nose. I turned myself around to locate the source and...
Received the shock of my lives.
For issuing forth from my Commodore 64C was a sinister black cloud. It assumed the shape of Jason and was holding a meat cleaver and a cellular phone.
Cellular phone? Wait a second...
I hardly hesitated as I picked up and tossed the chair at it. When the thing barely slowed down, I opted for Plan B. I ran
Outside it was raining in torrents. I ran and ran for a time through the storm. At one point I paused to catch my breath.
The thing's fist closed like a vice around my throat. As the cleaver was raised, I understood that I'd never ever scoff at or make a pledge again...

I awoke in a cold sweat. Silly, I told myself, to be afraid of a stupid pledge. Laughing at myself, I promptly fell asleep.

Outside the Doctour's house, someone opened his eyes. There was nothing wrong with that. Except he was holding a meat cleaver and a cellular phone.
And the eyes were glowing red.
Blood red.

In the Beginning...

...there was an idea. A dream if you will. It fit with the Dream of Stars...to never stop reaching no matter how far it seemed.

It was to always listen and try to help others. I have tried to live up to that ideal.

That was 22 years ago. A long stretch across the Gulf of Time has passed since the.

Back in the 90s I formed a message forum on a BBS (Bulletin Board System) with the same name as this blogsite. It was a place to discuss problems, get advice and generally rant and rave.

So as I get this organised I will be moving in things from the past, and adding new stuff as it comes to me. Sometimes it will be random thoughts. Sometimes it will be stories.

So come on in and relax. There are drinks at the bar, a table and some good jazz for the fun of it all. The entertainment will be provided for you. Remember that all drugs and screaming children should be deposited to the left.