March 4, 2008

Warcraft – The Main Assist

Posted in Role Playing Games, World of Warcrack at 10:42 am by loolar

I’ve been doing a lot of World of Warcraft reading lately, and I’ve decided that I should pass along things that might be helpful. I know this may not be of interest to many of you, so I will tag these posts Warcraft, and if you’re not a player, feel free to skip them.

This post comes from The Egotistical Priest, a blog concerned with the priest role – however, this post is about the concept of a Main Assist – basically, a dps role who picks which target to melt down while the tank is controlling general aggro. By definition, the tank should never be the MA, since they will be rotating targets to keep aggro. Even better in this post, however, is clarifying how to pick your MA, a very simple macro (two words) to help you help the MA, and why using raid markers isn’t enough.

Last night, it took us forever to down Hydromancer Thespia in Heroic Steamvaults – a good ten wipes – before we finally started dispelling her blasted lung debuff and cyclone (and came up with this without checking Thottbot – we were proud). Anyway, we were having problems before that, and largely because we were not focusing our dps the way that Ego describes. Give this post a read – if you’re raiding or doing heroics, you really need a new level of coordination.


Online Piracy – or smart promotion?

Posted in Character, Movies, Music at 9:59 am by loolar

Stumbled on this link awhile ago and forgot to share it.  Great post about the new “digital” model being basically an extension of the library and free promotion model.  In my experience, people who really like things will ultimately want to own them; and giving your product away to build word of mouth can be much more successful than spending tons on advertising.  But this guy says it better…

February 2, 2008

World of Warcraft = D&D?

Posted in Role Playing Games, World of Warcrack at 5:55 pm by loolar

Near as I can tell, the online roleplaying magazine Places to Go, People to Be hasn’t published an issue since the one featuring this article – perhaps Blizzard took offense, and then took them out

Either way, it’s an hilarious read for all us old “paper and pencil” folks. Thanks to Tony for the link.

January 19, 2008

What gives with the stink at John Harvard’s brew pub?

Posted in Fatherhood, Other Stuff at 10:08 pm by loolar

It just goes to show they’re right – you should always ask Dad first.

One Sunday last November, I was in Boston with some friends for a wedding. We were enjoying the football games at John Harvard’s brewery in Harvard Square, for a nostalgic trip to one of our former favorite haunts (all but one of us has since moved away; the remaining holdout now lives far out in the burbs).

Our experience was marred, however, by the apparent stink of manure that periodically wafted through the bar. After repeatedly checking our shoes, we dismissed it as a possible by-product of the local mounted police, brought in whenever the door opened.

I asked my dad (former brewmaster at a brew pub in Ohio), and he immediately recognized the issue. It seems that, after brewing a batch, if you leave the spent grain (the barley) around for a few days (after essentially accelerating the decomposition of the grain by using it to create the wort), it starts the stink up the place – really badly.

And the stink may be pretty close to what we mistook for manure, since you’ve essentially done the same thing to the grain that a horse/cow digestive tract would – brew it in a moisture bath, leaching out the sugars that can be metabolized, leaving behind bacterial waste and spent, indigestible fiber (a few days exposed to air takes care of the bacterial part of the equation).

He says they never brewed on Friday or Saturday if they couldn’t be sure they could get the grain hauled away (usually by a pig farmer), because the smell only took a day or two to develop. So he surmised that they did a brew on Friday, and we got the benefits of it on Sunday.

I’m sure you’ll all sleep better now that this mystery has been put to rest.

January 13, 2008

NFL season almost over – goodbye, UPS Wipeboard twit

Posted in Advertising, Customer Lack of Service, NFL and other lesser sports at 8:04 pm by loolar

A fun divisional playoff weekend – only the conference weekend remains, and then I will be free of glimpses of the UPS Wipeboard twit for another six months.

I say glimpses, thanks to the digital powers that be, who have provided the Digital Video Recorder. My stepfather John was in town last weekend for NFL wild card weekend, and we introduced him to the wonder of watching an NFL game without commercials. As a result, he enjoyed watching his Giants beat Tampa Bay with nary an annoyance last week, and then spent the AFC game on my computer researching which one to buy.

Anyone with a TiVo or DVR knows the drill – the program starts, you hit pause, do errands or chores for an appropriate interval (about 25% the length of the actual program – so, 15 minutes for an hour long, 45 minutes for a three hour game), and return to the program with a “buffer” that allows you to fast forward through all the commercials. For yesterday’s Patriots divisional game against the Jaguars, my buddy Kris and I went to Costco for pizzas. When we got back, we had 50 minutes of buffer, and so never watched a single commercial.

Every now and then, however, for whatever reason, I end up watching a program in real time. Patriots-Giants in week 17, for example – some events have to be watched in real time. As most guys know, you need to add your personal mojo to the contest to help edge it in your favor.

And when that happens, I am invariably subjected to the UPS Wipeboard twit.

You’ve probably seen him. Near as I can tell, he’s looks like Steve Carell in a mullet, doing “clever” wipeboard marker tricks like he’s Bob Ross offering arts and crafts tips on PBS (“Look, a small truck is a big truck if you just add two figure 8s and a squiggle!”).

I don’t mind the Steve Carrell part – I just wish he was actually funny, like Steve Carrell. I can even forgive the effete mullet (it’s more of a bob cut), since, hell, during the height of 90s grunge, I used to have a somewhat similar haircut.*

What drives me up the wall is his smug, pompous, pretentious, dismissive delivery. Hence the “twit.” I mean, I get the sense that this guy thinks his wipe board abilities are commensurate with kung fu skills, bow hunting skills, or computer hacking skills; that they’re profoundly fascinating, and we should be awed and reverent that he’s deigned to share them with us. It’s like he thinks he can pick up chicks with this shit. At least the guy doing amateur card tricks has the good taste to pretend he’s having fun, while acknowledging it as inherently silly.

Never mind the fact that I could never get UPS to make home delivery during hours that weren’t when the average person was at, y’know, their frickin job.

UPS, you and your pompous Wipeboard twit shall not be missed.

*But didn’t look like a dorkus malorcus.

December 29, 2007

Time Warner Cable Internet and Sneaky Price Increase

Posted in Customer Lack of Service, Life in Los Angeles, Movies, Music at 5:06 pm by loolar

Time Warner, without so much as an insert to the bill, raised my internet access monthly bill from $34.95 to $44.95.

Most of my bills are on autopay, and most of them are flat fees per month, meaning I only open the statements when I’ve got two or three; I quickly make sure they’re charging what they should, then file them.

So imagine my shock when I opened this month’s statement from Time Warner Cable and found the price increase. No new line item, no notation, not even an insert explaining the 30% increase – let alone a phone call. I quickly checked the last two months; nothing in there either. Were they just hoping I wouldn’t notice?

Naturally, I immediately called them. After an acceptable wait time (about 3-4 minutes), I got a human being. Male, heavily accented, didn’t offer his name. He called up my account and told me I have been “under a promotion” for the last year, and now that the year is up, the promotion has expired, and my service is reverting to the original price.

Understandably, I told him to put the “promotion” back. He said the only promotions they have are for more services, like digital phone (of course!). So I asked to speak to a supervisor.

At this point, it got surreal. He put me on hold, then came back to say, “No supervisors are available. Besides, they won’t change the pricing, what I’ve told you is how it works.” I insisted he let me speak to a supervisor, at which point he added that they were, “busy doing other things.” He could not elaborate. The best he could offer was that I should, “call back later.” When they’re finished doing other things? “Why should I call back later,” I asked, “if I don’t know what they’re doing, and therefore, if they’ll be finished?”

Never mind the gigantic, crushingly obvious question of just what in the Grinch’s goiter is more important than talking to your customers?

I insisted he try again; I was on hold for less than 20 seconds before he came back with the same scripted line, that, “no supervisors are available.” And continued to insist that they couldn’t help me anyway, he’d already given me the answer they would.

So it seems that companies, in a continuing effort to anally abuse their customers while taking our money without any responsibility for actually servicing them, have escalated the fight. They now have realized that most of us understand the poor minimum wage lackey front line customer service phone drone – assuming, of course, that they’re not some fungible galley slave from a sweatshop in another country – is useless.

They know that we the customers are no longer satisfied with scripted platitudes – horror of horrors, we actually want results! I want to be treated with common sense and character. Not companies that suddenly change the deal because it’s not in their favor anymore.

The most frustrating thing, however is this – what can I do about it? Cable companies are still monopolies; I can’t decide to leave this company in favor of another. So assuming I still like high speed internet, all I can do is shut up and keep paying. Hell, they could double the price, and it would still be cheaper than me putting in a land line to get DSL, the only viable alternative.

Oh for when satellite internet comes around. Time Warner, I am now counting the days until I can tell you where to shove your promotion. In the mean time, at least I can hurl stones at Goliath thanks to my David – the blog.

Oh, and I can also resolve to stop paying for Time Warner products. In fact, with the extra $120 a year they’re getting from me, I’m sure they’ll completely understand if I obtain a commensurate amount of TV, movie and musical entertainment “free of charge,” courtesy of this expensive internet connection.

I’ll just tell them that me paying for that stuff was a “promotion” which has now expired.

December 14, 2007

Christmas Cards and my friend’s kids I’ve never met

Posted in Fatherhood, Life in Los Angeles at 6:06 pm by loolar

Treading on thin ice here – about to offend friends, family, assorted loved ones, etc. Days like this should be savored. Probably spit out, actually.

But hey, when you gotta blog, you gotta blog.

<Rant on>

Today we opened five Christmas cards sent by friends and family (and clearly people far more organized than we). All five shared this same quality – the card was a picture of their kid(s). Not the whole family. Just the kid(s).

Now, don’t get me wrong – being a father of a certain wonderful one year-old, I definitely understand the pride and joy thing. But I also understand that I’m a bit biased in this regard; i.e., I don’t have any illusions that anyone else cares as much as I do (read: gives a shit).

And yet, here’s this new tradition of sending out personalized Christmas cards consisting only of the children of the family. Unless the cards are going to your kid’s friends (or, let’s face it, grandparents – they don’t want to see any more of you, anyway; you fulfilled your purpose), what in Rudolph’s Red Nosed boogers is the point of leaving out the people I know?

Understand, friends and family and loved ones, I say all this only with deep and heartfelt love and lemon drop kisses, etc., but I don’t know these kids. In many cases, I’ve never actually even MET these kids. The person I know – and miss – and would love to see a recent photo of, and I promise not to snort holiday cheer out my nose when I guffaw about your receding and gray hair and extra padding, trust me – is, y’know, the person I actually know.

Sure, put your kids in the picture with you; makes total sense (and isn’t that charming). But in the same way your kid doesn’t want to get Christmas cards with my picture, why in Scrooge’s shorts do you think I want to get a picture of your kid?

</Rant off>

Tidings of comfort and joy.

December 10, 2007

TOYS R US invades my privacy

Posted in Customer Lack of Service, Fatherhood, Life in Los Angeles, Toys at 8:54 pm by loolar

Toys R Us attempted to invade our privacy this last weekend.

So on Saturday, Catherine and Logan and I attended a birthday party for the son of our friends, who is about Logan’s age (i.e., just turned one).

A pleasant surprise was that one of the attendees remembered that Logan had just celebrated his birthday, and so presented us with a gift – a $25 gift card to Toys R Us.

Another thing we encountered was that most of the other kids, all a month older or younger than Logan, were already walking, while our son is still a crawler. The mother of the birthday boy showed us his “shoes,” little leather slipper type things with an elastic band. They stay on easily, and provide good feedback through the soles as the little feet are still figuring out how to stay up. We thought they looked like a great solution, especially since our day care center has just told us shoes are required at his new age bracket.

So on the way home, we decided to stop in at Toys R Us and see if we couldn’t find those shoes. Success! Two pairs, at $12.99 each (turns out they were on sale, $3.90 off, for $9.09). We grabbed two pairs and a pack of socks and got into line.

The guy ahead of us used his credit card to pay, and the cashier asked him for his phone number. Interesting, I thought – didn’t they used to ask for the zip code? Well, either way, I knew I would decline to participate. For one thing, I don’t appreciate sharing personal information in front of strangers (the others in line behind us), and for another, a zip code is bad enough – but a phone number? Why would they need that? I shrugged it off as perhaps something to do with his credit card.

Our items scanned in at $25.08 – just 8 cents more than the gift card. Oh well, I break out a buck and hand it to him. Politely, he takes it. The rest of the exchange needs to be given verbatim:

TRU Employee (TRUE?): Thanks. And I need your phone number.

Me: Oh. Well, I decline, thanks.

TRUE: No, I need it.

Me: I’m sorry?

TRUE: I need your phone number to finish the transaction.

Me: Well, I don’t want to give it to you.

TRUE: It’s not me; it’s the computer – it won’t let me finish without a phone number.

Me: For eight cents? Fine… five five five…

(you saw that one coming, right?)

TRUE (interrupting): Yeah, it won’t accept that.

(so this policy has pissed off enough people that so many customers have already tried giving the information number, to the point where this poor minimum wage sap has a reflex reaction to it?)

Man behind me: They want your phone number?

Me: Yeah, he says the computer won’t do the transaction without it.

Man: Unreal.

Man’s wife: Just give them my work number.

Man: Yeah, it’s 661-(I don’t remember the rest, but it was a suitably neutral sounding switchboard number, e.g., ending in a bunch of the same number).

And so we got out of there. I was honestly considering if we were going to walk out when they intervened.

Toys R Us is getting more and more obnoxious.

Our last nightmare experience was how they refused to take certain returns if the items had been bought online (we encountered this trying to return items from our registry on Babies R Us – extras, duplicates, etc.). Not only would they not take “web only” items, we were informed we would have to pay to ship them back, and that the merchandise credit would go to the person who had bought the gift – not us!

What moronic, sub-human, worm-brained, feces-chewing, sniveling twit thought this was remotely customer friendly – and what boob manager approved the idea?

We were faced with returning a $200 crib that would have cost us $75 to ship, and the credit would have gone to the person who gave it to us, not only giving us nothing in return, but embarrassing us to the generous party who had bought it. Yes, we had the baby registry, yes, the item had been bought through our registry, yes, we could prove who we were – and yet still, in an attempt at “fraud protection,” we were treated like so much dirt.

As for this latest twist of imbecilic idiocy, what possible reason can there be for demanding my phone number? Further identity verification in the case of an attempted return? If I have a valid receipt, why isn’t that enough? And for the guy with the credit card, why isn’t his credit card and the receipt enough (or his zip code matching his billing address?)

My zip code, I can see (though still can’t abide), as they try to see where their customers are coming from. But my phone number?

Simply unacceptable. I’d love to hear some comments on this – but my feeling is that we’re done shopping with Toys R Us.

November 30, 2007

No Child Left Behind (or with critical thinking skills)

Posted in Life in Los Angeles, Teaching at 6:14 pm by loolar

Sad, but true.

The latest annoyance, thanks to the idiocy known as “No Child Left Behind” (code name: No Teacher Left Standing), is that we’re spending 8 weeks doing a straight from the prep course book CAHSEE review (California High School Exit Exam). We might as well be a strip mall prep course – only $49.99!

That’s right, folks, because if our scores don’t raise enough, we’ll get more administrative, bureaucratic oversight, despite the fact that four years of home-grown innovation have our scores through the roof. See, they’re rising, just not “fast enough.” So to preserve our autonomy, we have sunk to the lowest of the lows – teaching to the test. Normally we’d be studying Fahrenheit 451 right now. And writing about it.

I love the irony. (No, I don’t.)

Please, please, please, for the love of learning instead of cramming crap standardized tests, tell your congressperson/senator to REPEAL No Child Left Behind.

Underfunded Schools Forced To Cut Past Tense From Language Programs

The Onion

Underfunded Schools Forced To Cut Past Tense From Language Programs

November 12, 2007

Saving Baseball

Posted in Life in Los Angeles, NFL and other lesser sports at 12:03 pm by loolar

So with the World Series now a distant and mostly irrelevant memory, I have come to wonder – why don’t I care? Why are fewer and fewer people watching baseball?

Let me start off by saying that I have nearly zero baseball knowledge. Football is my sport. Now, there are certainly age-old debates why one sport is better than the other, but as my man Jimmy recently stated, “can’t we just agree that these are apples and oranges?” Sure. Delicious, juicy oranges vs. rotten, mealy apples. But I digress. It doesn’t change the fact that baseball is in trouble.

While stadiums are routinely selling out, the newer stadiums being built are also smaller. And television revenues are shrinking compared to other sports (most notably, NFL, NBA, and NASCAR*).

The fact is, the boys of summer are, well, boring. Watching the Cleveland-Yankees series a few weeks ago, I’d swear a reaction shot of Joe Torre showed him nodding off. During the game. I mean, why not? Nothing was happening anyway.

Now, I can argue about a number of things about baseball that are pointless. Five and seven game series for instance (what kind of a pansy game makes you beat the other team more than once? Damn, it’s already got 9 innings for a comeback, now you want another chance tomorrow – and the next day?); or how about the terminally long 162 game season. Are you serious? How do the fans keep up?

I have a theory about this**: I think baseball, developed back when there were a lot of vacant lots and people with nothing to do anyway, had to justify these guys playing a game for a living, or face resentment from the new fans. Solution? Make these guys play as often as a working stiff goes to work, five days a week.

Well, now that we have pampered pansies like Manny Ramirez and A-Rod making millions every time they scratch their jockstrap, do we really need the illusion?

But those things aside, and recognizing that baseball is steeped in tradition, even really, really, really pointless and annoying ones (Is there any good reason not to put the player’s name on the back of the jersey? That was a rhetorical question, because the real answer is, “who gives a rat’s booger about baseball,” but if you were to take that question seriously, the answer would be, “only to annoy me.”), I think I can still offer some critical changes that would really change the face of things:

  1. No more than one relief pitcher. I would love someone who cares to look up the stats on this (I got bored after two minutes), but I would be shocked and awed if I’m wrong. It’s my perception that the number of triple plays has drastically shrunk in the past 2-3 decades, and the double play is as rare as the triple play used to be. Baseball has become a boring pitcher’s duel, or a slugger derby. Where is the fielding? What are the other seven guys doing while the pitcher and catcher have all the fun, y’know, besides spitting and scratching their crotch? BORING. However, if managers can’t substitute seventeen guys in from the bullpen; if they only get a single reliever, you’d see a lot more interest and debate as to when to bring in your single reliever when your starting pitcher tires (the current debate consists of five words: “Jesus Christ, take him out!”).
  2. No designated hitter (related to the first point). Weakloaf in extra weaksauce, you pansies. Perhaps if the pitchers had to work on their hitting as much as their pitching, we’d have more excitement in the fielding game, and no more nancy-skirts prancing up to the plate and swinging like Mary Poppins with an umbrella. Again, more interesting fielding opportunities, and less pitching duel-slugger crap.
  3. Cheaper Tickets. Look, the fans of tomorrow are in diapers today, and there’s no way in hell I’m taking my son to a Dodgers game when it’s going to cost us $120 in tickets alone ($80 if we ditch his mommy) – to sit in the damn nosebleeds! Add a couple of hot dogs, cokes, crackerjack and peanuts, and there goes another $40-50. Want a hat, too? $35. And face it – if you don’t take your kid to a live game, his head will explode from the boredom of watching it on TV, especially compared to, y’know, watching grass wilt (or, as is more likely, playing a video game or watching an action movie). So with more families electing not to go to a live game, and therefore never becoming fans enough to endure it on TV, you know that means lower television revenues. Start realizing what Hollywood has figured out about feature films – they’re just commercials for the DVD. And the live game should just be the “concert” that gets you to buy the “record.” Make it cheap, or face losing your fans – and lucrative TV contracts – of tomorrow.
  4. Cheaper Parking. You bastards. After charging me $40 to sit with the pigeons in the rafters, you’re going to charge me $15 to park my car, too? Forget it. Not going.

And I haven’t been to a Dodgers game in nearly two years. I did go to a single MLB game this year – the Padres at Petco park (corporate naming to be attacked in an upcoming rant), because, hey, Jimmy got tickets for free, and that park is lovely. But we spent $60 each on food and beer. Crap food and crap beer, mind you. For that cash, I can get a steak and a nice glass of wine.

Oh, and I think you should be able to get a runner out by pegging them with the ball. But let’s be realistic; if we’re going to allow that, the batter should be able to take the bat to first to club the First Baseman.

*not actually a sport
**based purely on nothing

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