Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.


A Tale of Two Repairmen

As chronicled elsewhere, Chez Ronin has needed a bunch of fixes in recent days.

Repair Story One: On October 22, after being unable to find a reputable washing machine repair service that would actually service MY area or MY machine, I broke down and scheduled a repair from Sears. I had to wait another week but I had an appointment and a confirmation number, I offered up my credit card as a guarantee, I thought it was a done deal.

Monday I waited around all day for the repair guy. Nothing. My "window" was from 1:00pm to 5:00pm and I finally called at 5:45pm, whereupon I was told they were "running a little late" and I should "give them another 10 or 15 minutes." At 7:45pm I received a call from a guy with a thick accent telling me that they "weren't going to be able to make it" and "would have to reschedule." Babbling excuses about two guys hadn't shown up for work, blah blah whatever. It was extremely unclear whether or not they were actually going to call ME to reschedule or if I was going to have to call them. Yesterday, I defaulted to calling them.

When I called the person on the other end of the line tried to claim "no one was home" when they tried to make the repair call. I strongly objected, reiterated that I'd called them and had been told they were "running late" and that TWO HOURS after I made that call, I'd gotten a call that no one was coming... I was home for every minute of that alleged service window and more, thank you very much. "We will have to reschedule," said the guy. "For TODAY, right? Because I've already been waiting a week since I made the appointment..." No appointment yesterday but he did book me for today. 8:00am to noon, he said.

It's 11:45am and I've still seen no one. Still no idea if I'll be able to wash clothes at the end of all this. Status: Unresolved and unsatisfied

Repair Story Two: Meanwhile, as I was on a kick yesterday, I called Comcast about my upstairs reception problem. They were very nice, booked me a repair guy for that same afternoon! The repair person showed up promptly within the window I was told, was professional and pleasant, and fixed the problem by replacing my old cable box with a new, smaller, totally digital box. Just that easy. Well... not entirely that easy as we'd had the upstairs TiVo on a serial connection and the new box didn't have a serial port. Removing the old cable box also lost me a plug (as one of our devices was plugged into a power relay on the cable box). I had to get another IR controller and move everything to a new powerstrip to make it all work like it was supposed to (which involved moving some heavy things around to get to the appropriate outlets, too) but that's not Comcast's problem and it was nothing I couldn't handle. We're now premium channel AND TiVo-enabled upstairs. By this morning Comcast had called back to see if my problem had been fixed to my satisfaction. Status: Resolved and satisfied

Bonus Repair Story: My anti-technology field continues to cause havoc with my recent Miva purchase. The Miva troubleshooter called me back yesterday and we tried to tweak my settings to get Synchro working, to no avail. We changed settings, uninstalled, reinstalled, restarted, uninstalled, redownloaded, reinstalled... no love. Even though we haven't solved the problem, the Miva people get big points for effort, professionalism and politeness. They called me to make sure someone had contacted me about my issue since it hadn't been marked resolved and had been going on since the weekend, plus the main troubleshooter was very reassuring that I could call back with updates as I tried some of the fixes and that I didn't have to worry about being bumped around... he was going to stick with me through this until it was sorted out. Plus, they all spoke clear English, which was SUCH a relief after dealing with Sears and Microsoft. Status: Unresolved but satisfied, so far.



Dare I tempt Comcast?

After following along with Eric's trials and tribulations with Comcast I shudder to add dealing with them to my list of things to do...but I must.

We have a two-TiVo household. The "big" TiVo lives upstairs with the "little", where we enjoyed its capability to record one station while watching another or to record two shows at the same time. Chris will often work on Green Ronin business on his laptop while the History Channel plays in the background. Meanwhile, the "little" TiVo (a hand-me-down from Tim ) lives downstairs with the big tv (also a hand-me-down from the Technologically Upwardly-Mobile Tim) so Kate can watch Naruto or NCIS instead of Dogfights of WWII if she so desires.

Somewhere in late June (shortly after the Sopranos series finale, thank the cable gods!) the upstairs TiVo stopped being able to record any shows above basic cable. Not TiVo's fault... any channels over 99 no longer come in upstairs (though service is fine downstairs). Instead we see a blue screen and the message "This channel with be available shortly" but it never is available. We were entering convention season by then so aside from one day of screwing around with the connections to be sure nothing was unplugged or anything obvious, we've been just dealing with it.

If either of us really wants to record a show (from BBC America or HBO) we can record it downstairs and transfer the recording upstairs and that's worked ok as a stopgap. We have to be fast, though, because we never know when Kate will have the "little" TiVo recording a two-day marathon of something wretched, like last weekend's non-stop assault of The Suite Life of Zach and Cody. The "big" TiVo is full of offerings from basic cable but there are only so many back-to-back episodes of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report I can watch in a row before I need something else. The "big" TiVo continues to record shows that it predicts I will like but because it's pulling from a large number of channels we should have (and do pay for, and do get in the other room) there are a whole lot of blank recordings tempting me. Why yes, maybe I would like to watch V for Vendetta or Big Love... but no, they're just recordings of a blue screen.

I think it says something about the generally full and hectic pace of my life that I've only now, some four months later, had the time or energy to even consider addressing this cable issue. If we're lucky, it's something as simple as getting a new cable box. Wish me luck!



Technology's continuing campaign to thwart me

Friends offered up some helpful troubleshooting tips for the Xbox 360 problem but to no avail. My power source worked fine with the borrowed Xbox but offers nothing to the console it goes with.

Tomorrow I finally have someone coming in to fix our washing machine, after several months of nursing it along and then another several months of bringing my laundry to a drop-off service (which resulted in an unfortunate "bleach episode") and/or heading over to borrow Ray and Christine's machines. Here's hoping it actually gets fixed and it's not just another repairman dead end like some of my other attempts.

Over the weekend I bought two programs, one business and one leisure. I bought the business program first and was intending to spend the weekend working with it but I could not get it to function as advertised and, of course, their service department is only open from 7am to 3pm (hello East Coast!) Pacific Monday through Friday. Since I found myself unexpectedly free from my plan, I went trolling for a computer game to satisfy my desire for some "veg out" time. I bought Neverwinter Nights 2 after Kate told me she'd been playing at her dad's and having fun with it. I should have stuck with the Nancy Drew series and Legend of the Crystal Skull which was recently released. Neverwinter Nights 2 was nothing but frustration for me. My desktop machine doesn't have the right video hardware and my laptop has the right everything except gigahertz. It literally took me all weekend to screw around with those programs, multiple downloads, patches, machine reconfigurations, blah blah blah... all to find out that it wasn't going to happen.

Hell, even Facebook was refusing to let me play my last couple of Scrabulous turns (though really, once I was 100 points in the hole it really didn't matter anyway).

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Anti-Technology Aura and the Xbox 360

Kate is having a friend over tonight. This is a new friend this year and Kate's fairly excited about the sleepover. I took her to Hollywood video so she could rent some movies and Xbox games in anticipation of the event. She picked up Sonic the Hedgehog for the Xbox 360 and gave it a try (and a fairly enthusiastic thumbs up) last night. She also asked Ray if she could borrow his Guitar Hero guitars so they could play Guitar Hero together.

Everything seemed to be in place... except the Xbox is now not working. At all. It was working fine last night but this afternoon it's cold and dead: no power, no "red ring of death", no error messages. Just dead. What perfect timing, Microsoft, thanks! Do you enjoy making girls cry?

After an excruciating 34 minutes on the phone with a customer service agent, I felt despondent. First the woman couldn't understand my serial number. "0-1-5-6..." she'd say, and I would say slowly "NO, 0-1-5-FIVE-6..." only to have her tell me it was not a valid number, it was only eleven numbers when it should be twelve, and we'd start all over again. Finally got past the serial number and then she told me that my phone number was "not correct" (except that the third time I repeated it to her it miraculously WAS correct!) and then that my ZIP code was not correct and did I want her to change it? I had absolutely no confidence that authorizing her to make that change would have been actually correcting a problem and not causing one... but she insisted that my ZIP code was listed as "78XXX" which is somewhere in Texas so I authorized the change. Fingers crossed that she didn't blow up my account for me in the process.

It's bad enough that this will be the second time we've had to send this machine in for repair in less than 12 months. It's pretty ridiculous considering how relatively little we play with the stupid thing, which can go for weeks on end not even being turned on because we're just not hardcore console gamers in this house... But the timing! Does the timing have to stink so bad every time? Here's hoping we have it back in working order before Christmas. Hell, at this rate, I'm wondering if I shouldn't just give up and get a frickin' Wii instead... I don't hear about people having to send those back for repairs on a regular basis!

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New Laptop

Ok friends and techy sorts, if I'm going to get a new laptop, er, notebook computer, what should I get?

What I want:
  • a machine that can connect to my home network, even from (gasp) upstairs on the other side of the house
  • a machine that can run Firefox, iTunes, and Quickbooks at the same time without choking to death. Double plus bonus points if I can also have a PDF open and Trillian running at the same time.
  • a machine that doesn't require me to buy all new software
  • a machine with some decent amount of battery juice
  • a built-in CD or DVD burner for making back-ups
  • a touchpad (instead of the nubbin, which I loathe)
  • something that weighs less than the 7lbs of Thinkpad I'm currently carting around (but now we're into optional niceties)
I don't intend to play WoW or Halo or even Pirates of the Burning Sea on this machine. I don't need it to take photos, make movies, render EPS files, or dance the polka. I'd like to be able to watch a DVD when trapped in the airport. My needs are relatively few, really.

So? What do you folks recommend? I want a big ol' hard drive and enough RAM to run multiple programs at once, because that's how I work best. And what about Vista? I bought a machine with Windows ME years ago and man, I don't want to relive those horrible days. XP has always worked fine for me on the PC side, and I never really got a lot of experience with OSX because I switched to PC when Mac was running 10.1. Lead me, oh wise ones.

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Annual GenCon Technology Meltdown

Sorry for the abrupt departure, my laptop decided to die several little tiny deaths while at GenCon. Randomly freezing up, randomly restarting itself, randomly giving me a blue screen and spewing messages about memory dumps and "contact your administrator" ans so on. Stupid anti-technology aura...

Summary: GenCon was great, the ENnies voters were incredibly generous to us again this year and we're buoyed for another year. The response to our Hobby Games: the 100 Best book was incredible and people seemed very happy with Paragons, Pirate's Guide to Freeport, and the other items we had at the show. Oh, and Indianapolis still smells like piss.

My red-eye flight TO Indy went exceptionally well but I paid for it in my trip home this morning. Chris seems to be suffering as well, though we were on separate flights and he's not made it home yet so I don't have full details.

In my case I'm pretty sure when I booked my ticket I did NOT pick the middle seat in the very last row of the plane, next to the toilets. Somehow, that's where I ended up, though. And since everyone on the plane was coming from GenCon with giant bags of stuff, I couldn't put my carry-on anywhere but at my feet which meant I couldn't recline and I couldn't stretch my legs for the entire flight. Chris was jealous that I had a non-stop flight, but it was non-stop suffering. Especially since one of the guys sitting next to me was on the large side so that he overflowed into my seat, used both armrests, and generally crowded me the entire time. I know he wasn't trying to crowd me but it still wasn't a pleasant experience. It got worse when he turned on his headphones and even over the noise of the engines, the noise of the flight attendants crushing ice and whatnot, the noise of the three new BFFs in the seats across the aisle who talked and played card games together for the entire 4 hour and 40 minute flight... even over all of that other background noise I could hear this guy's music. Clearly.

So, I decided it was time to listen to my own stuff and loaded up an audiobook on the ol' iPod Nano (Ol' being figurative as I've not even had it a year...) and turned on the noise-canceling earbuds I bought this year. Except my iPod never even got to play the first word of my new audiobook! Nope, it froze between screens and wouldn't do anything else, not even shut down. My hefty neighbor offered to "help" but after prodding it uselessly a couple of times he handed it back to me with a "sorry". I tried to fire up the handful of songs I keep on my Palm for emergencies like this, but no go. Something's wrong with that program and the songs couldn't be found, blah blah. I'm growing more desperate so I struggle my laptop out and see if I can fire it up, plug in the iPod and maybe get it to reset. As I'm struggling to use the computer in the small space I'm provided, my neighbor pipes up again to suggest that if I have the cable for the iPod I could do what it is that I'm dong. I tried not to be rude but I was really NOT in the mood. Sitting crosswise in my seat with one arm wrapped around myself as if I was trying to put myself into a headlock or something, I was finally able to get the laptop fired up and connect the iPod but it made no difference. I had iTunes on the laptop but no music loaded, so I couldn't even listen to something that way... which was for the best I suppose since after 10 minutes of running on battery power (and despite having been constantly plugged in at the hotel for almost a week) it warned me that I had no battery power left and demanded to be shut down.o

At that point I gave up. My anti-technology aura was in full effect and I did not want to bring the whole plane down, as it was packed with WotC, WizKids, Privateer, Green Ronin and other unknown game industry professionals. Could have decimated the game industry in one blow!

I also discovered that Northwest now only offers food if you pay them $5 for a "snack pack". The flight was almost five hours long and they didn't offer so much as a complimentary pretzel. Lame and lamer.

The airport was a madhouse today, with luggage for four or five Northwest arrivals all coming through on one baggage carousel. After a very long wait for my suitcase I got out to the cab line and it was a mile long. I didn't even try, just went over to Shuttle Express and miraculously, that only took 20 minutes or so (people I knew from my flight were still standing in the cab line). Another 20 minutes and I made it home. Now just waiting on Pramas. I left him a message on his cell phone to warn him about the cab line and whatnot. He was scheduled to be on the ground by now but with our luck today, who knows?

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Today was a crap day. McAfee broke my internet and I spent several hours on the phone with various tech support people who were purportedly trying to help me fix the problem. Of course, because it was ME (anti-technology field intact) things were complicated, technicians were stumped, and eventually I (and half of Pakistan) had to call it a day.

I managed to get back online through a miracle that came about through swearing, copious applications of red wine, and forces as yet unknown.

I was going to write up this really interesting (to me) comparison of how the conservative anti-witch Christians read Harry Potter (example one), how Time Magazine characterized the series ("Who Dies in Harry Potter? God"), and this guy's argument that the whole blessed thing is just one big purposeful Christian metaphor, beginning to end.

Instead, I found that what I had energy for was watching Moviefone Unscripted. Bruce Willis and Halle Barry (who used to be neighbors) talk about their movie but also just shoot the shit, with Willis looking off camera and asking "Should we be screwing around like this, like we're still neighbors?" There's some element of put-on, of course, but seeing Rupert Grint talk about his real life arachnophobia (where he blushes at the mere thought of encountering a spider) and Emma Watson saying "Not that I'd wish anything bad to happen to you but I'd really like to see that..." well, it's all so unexpectedly and refreshingly human. I'm basically shy and at core, a big ol' introvert. I'm no sparkling conversationalist and my best stories are those about things that happened to my friend Ray. I've been meeting people who others consider celebrities (especially in the game industry) since I was a teenager and I'm fairly jaded to celebrity in that way. Still, that's not to say I wouldn't love to be at a cocktail party or a Dinner for Five where I got to listen to people who have had entirely different life experiences talk about those aspects of their lives.

And so, I find I'm hooked on Moviefone Unscripted. So sue me.

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More Evidence

...of my magnetic personality, or whatever it is that fuels my anti-technology aura. The light above my head made a slight cracking sound and a few seconds later went out. No biggie, light bulbs blow out all the time, nothing too weird about that.

So I thought until I went to change the bulb.

When I reached up into the fixture, the glass part of the bulb came off in my hand, leaving the metal portion screwed into the still-electrified socket!

That is unusual enough but more unusual because the bulb in the other corner did the same thing a few months ago. I never did anything about it and that corner has been dim ever since because I did not want to fiddle with shutting off the power, bringing in the ladder from the garage and whatever else might be involved in trying to remove the bulb remnants from the socket in the ceiling.

Now it seems like I have no choice but to take care of it as both lights have blown out and the side of the room where I have my desk is dark. Woohoo, something else to add to my list of household chores for the weekend.



Way to go, Ohio

Off to Ohio. After several false starts and near misses, I'm still getting a "bad disk, I/O error" with the laptop, so it will not be coming with me. Not sure how many updates to the blog I'll be able to squeeze in without it. We'll see how it goes.

The Origins Awards are on Friday night. Everyone please keep your fingers crossed for us, we were nominated in five categories but the competition this year is going to be vicious.

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Not quite fixed, but I can see it from here. Both my Palm and the Mac have come tantalizingly close to returning to working order. Tomorrow is the last day of prep before the trek to Origins and I am definitely not mentally ready for it.

In addition to making sure we've got all our Green Ronin ducks in a row, I've got personal obligations to fulfill. There is a big, ugly membership meeting and election in my future, which I will be forced to attend Wednesday, a tedious board of directors meeting to follow that on Thursday, the Origins Awards ceremony and all that entails on Friday... I'm stressed and tired and cranky.

Will definitely feel better if I can get the Palm working. When my Palm isn't working, I forget things. Now is not a good time for me to forget things.



Headache and Busy

Ah, preconvention prep. How I loathe it.

I need to get my badge requests in for GenCon. The California bureaucratic body that issues the seller's permits for Comic Con has not deigned to get back to me with my permit, so I need to sort that out as well. Have to arrange to ship the convention display, which means making sure the kit is together and ready to go. The new graphics have not been put together yet, so we probably won't have those for Origins. Managed to find people to give the eulogies for Chris Bledsoe, Paul Randles, and Sid Sackson, and hopefully we will have the Hall of Fame inductees on hand to accept their inductions. Made arrangements for our late-running June release to ship directly to Origins so we can have some on hand for the convention. Sent the proofs back for another project today, while confirming with the printer that two cases of our reprint should come here to Seattle, and what quantities we want printed on the other two books they have the files for. Tried to track down an order for a book placed by a prisoner who hasn't received it, prompting me to once again work on the webstore so that I can offer several different options for shipping (including UPS and Priority Mail with Delivery Confirmation) that aren't so easily lost or mangled. Eventually had to give up in frustration for the day, as none of the modules would load correctly (even though they were downloaded and installed from the shopping cart company's website as per their posted directions). Still have to make GenCon and DragonCon flight arrangements, plus pay for the booth and the hotel for DragonCon too.

Somewhere around 2:00pm I felt a headache coming on. I tried heading it off by having a beer and taking some over the counter migraine pills, but no dice. Driving around in the hot car did not help; I definitely had light sensitivity happening, and of course it was a warm, beautiful, sunny day. Stopped at Fed Ex, drove down to the PO Box, and stopped at the store where I got everything for tonight's dinner but the fresh mussels I wanted. Tried another store, but no luck there either. Substituted frozen scallops and went ahead with the recipe, but by the time I'd cooked dinner, my headache was bad enough that I didn't feel like eating anything at all.

Need to put Kate in the bath and get her to bed. She'll definitely want me to read the Series of Unfortunate Events book we're mid-way through. Can't wait until I can lay down, but I really need to type up the code of conduct and How You Earn Points materials for my demo volunteers.

Oh, and as is typical, technology hates me again today. My Palm is having fatal errors and the G3 won't recognize the firewire external hard disk I bought to back up the company files, or the CD burner. Need to get all those things sorted out before convention season gets into full swing, or I won't get back to them until October. And I can't live without my Palm until October!

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ARGH Computers

The comments function keeps breaking! I can't make any changes to the template for my blog, or the code for the comments function which is supposed to end with [<] /noscript> resets itself to [& l t ;] /noscript> every time I press save/publish. It was only doing this when I tried to make changes to the template itself (like adding all those little images to the links) but now it's broken after I merely tried to publish an update, and it *refuses* to be fixed.

I had a relatively peaceful month or two where the planets were aligned, the proper animal sacrifices had been made, or I'd suffered enough to earn a little good computer karma. It seems that blessed moment in the technological sun is over. ARGH.



No answers

Argh. Still no idea what to do about the display situation. Furthermore, I updated some software on my Palm tonight and now the damn thing is in an endless loop of Fatal errors and worthless resets. I updated the software because not to long ago the Mac was crashing and I tried to solve the issue by defragging the hard drive. The defrag wouldn't complete, and then when I went to start up my mail program, it wouldn't start up either until I removed all my user info and saved mail from the file. Happily, I'd backed up my date book, address book, and everything except the mail messages themselves, so I wasn't too terribly screwed, but when I was reinstalling from those back-ups I noticed that several things from my Palm were not backed up correctly. I spent something like six hours reinstalling, downloading, upgrading, and so on to get my Palm in prime working order, except for one notice that said I needed to download the latest version of some software or other. When I did that, the above-mentioned Fatal Error loop began! Lame. And frustrating.

Of course one of the things I did lose with this defrag-inspired crash was a folder of requests for convention support that I had not backed up. And wouldn't you know it, tonight a guy comes out on the internet bitching about what bad manners I have for not getting back to him about his convention support request. I honestly don't ever remember getting anything from this guy, none of the details of his request sound at all familiar... but of course I can't look in my convention requests folder to be sure.

I shouldn't worry, I suppose, but I do. I want so badly to please people, to put out products that they love and deeply enjoy, to give them that extra bit of attention that makes them happy. Every time I fail to do that it just eats at me. When someone, for example, hates a picture in one of our books and feels the need to harp on it in public, at the slightest opportunity like it's some personal vendetta, it eats at me. When someone who *knows* there are only three of us working full time at Green Ronin complains about what a rotten, rude, horrible person I am for not answering his e-mail (that I can't even say for certain I received), it eats at me. I wish I didn't take the criticism of virtually anonymous strangers to heart, but I always have and judging from my response to tonight's latest round of dismissive rantings, I clearly still do.

What can I say? I'm sorry, I suck.

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Just wrote a huge update about heading to Las Vegas for the Gama Trade Show when my browser quit without warning as I was posting it. Lost, lost, all gone.

That's the thing about blogging that's different than writing journals by hand. If I'd just spent an hour writing in my pen and paper journal, it would still be there when I put the pen down.

Grr. I'm not going to write that all up again. I'll report back on the trip after the fact, but now I don't have time to waste. 16 hours and we've got to be at the airport, convention display in hand.




I wrote an entry about productivity, how productive I'd been today and how tomorrow is Wednesday, traditionally "girls' night out" for me and Kate.

Then it was all eaten up as my computer froze. I have an extension conflict somewhere, but I hate the thought of facing the tedious process of finding it. I hate trying to make up lost writing, it's never the same and it's never as good as what was lost.

Instead of trying to repost it now, I think I'll just retire to bed and try again tomorrow. Maybe I'll have something more interesting to write about than productivity. Productivity is good for the soul, but it makes for rather boring reading. Stuff got done. Tomorrow, there will be more stuff to do.



Razza Frazza

Technology has kept me from being able to post updates the last couple of days. For people who have known me since the computer age began, this will be no surprise. Technology hates me. Computers are magical things that work one day and cease working the next, usually going on strike after I've gone to bed for the night and with no sign of what I've done to offend them. "Computer people" routinely say things like "Huh, that's weird," while puzzling over whatever my issue du jour might be. I'm currently in a state where the planets have aligned, offerings made, karma is good, and all the computers in the house are actually working *and* able to connect to each other. Hoorah. I figure I'll ride it out for as long as the current cycle holds, but it's only fair to assume that in the next phaze of the moon it could all go straight to hell again.

Have decided to host a cocktail party this weekend. I've assembled an impressive list of potential cocktails and hors d'oeuvres aplenty. I'm assembling a bossa nova soundtrack and I actually went out and bought a punch bowl. Must find a source of inexpensive swizzle sticks and little paper umbrellas before Saturday!