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Title: Today at Wal-Mart
Posted: September 06, 2007 (03:23 PM)
My wife went to work today to pick up her first paycheck, and I drove her. While she headed to the HR department, I looked in electronics. The guy working there opened up a box and there were some Wii consoles.
I asked him if they regularly have Wii systems in stock around here, since they certainly don't seem to anywhere else. He laughed and said that they don't, that the only time they have them in is when a shipment comes in like this (and they don't even have access to information about when those shipments will come, as the vendor handles that side of things).
Long story short: I bought an extra Wii. Now I'm going to be giving it away on the site. There will be a prize drawing on December 10.
There should be no secrets here: this is an effort to increase site activity, and to generate site content. There will be only one winner--not a staff member--and that is that. I expect a lot of content to come in and I will promote this contest wherever I can because that $250 came out of my pocket. I want to see it succeed.
Submit content. Tell friends. Tell enemies. Make sure that everyone knows. The Wii is the most valuable prize I am likely to give away on the site for a long time to come, possibly forever. This is what you've been saving HG Points for. Even if you don't want the system, you can probably sell it online this holiday season for big bucks (imagine all the moms that will be shopping online when they can't find them in stores). If this contest works and generates a lot of good content and new users, I will consider it a success and try to do more things like it. If it doesn't work, that's it. I tried.
The results of this contest will have a huge impact on the nature of contests in the future, so have fun and get to work!
Title: The GoDaddy adventure...
Posted: September 04, 2007 (08:42 PM)
So, the site is hosted with GoDaddy. They're a pretty good host, but I finally had my first problem with them. I worked through it and still like them as a host because I'm understanding and realistic, but I thought I'd share the story so you get a feel for the work that sometimes goes on behind the scenes to keep the site running and growing.
Anyway, I had decided that I wanted to allow video files on the site. Coding the pages to do that was the easy part. I created a form and set things up so that the files would place themselves in the appropriate new folder on the server. Most of that went pretty smoothly, as expected. However, there was one minor thing that annoyed me: files larger than 8MB caused a timeout and a "This page cannot be displayed" error.
Well, I decided to see if I could fix that. Eventually, it became clear that the problem was what more expert designers will have already guessed: the php.ini file on the server indicates that files larger than 8MB aren't allowed. To fix this problem, I decided to try using a .htaccess file to override some of the php.ini file settings. That didn't work out so well.
I decided to try calling my host next, to see if they wanted to up my limit for me. They didn't, but they said I could do it myself. "You can create a custom php.ini file and change the setting!" they told me.
That sounded almost too good to be true. The problem was that I wasn't sure about what to put into the file. I read online that the wrong contents can be a big deal. I found out the location of the default file using phpinfo() and it was revealed that its location was outside my area of access, in a folder I can't touch. So I read some online and talked to espiga and decided to try SSH. After downloading Putty and finding my IP address for the server, though, it became clear that since the server is shared, I can't log in (even though GoDaddy had pages on how to use Putty).
So I was back to square one, mostly. However, a fileget() script allowed me to finally get the contents of the file and I was able to parse them in a meaningful way. Finally, I had a php.ini file I could trust. I uploaded it onto the server, delighted... only to find that the php.ini file wasn't recognized as the configuration path. According to all of the tech support I got, it should've been recognized immediately.
Irriated, I called my host a few times, and they basically told me that it was a coding issue, that they can't help me with my custom scripts. I made clear to them that I don't care about my page loads, that they're doing fine (and they are). I told them that I simply wanted the path to the php.ini file changed.
"Well, we can't help you with that," they said. "We can't provide that sort of support, we can just make sure the servers are working like they're supposed to, which they are."
They had a point, but blaming it on my coding didn't sit well with me. Sure, my coding isn't always perfect, but this clearly wasn't a coding issue. It wound up being a situation where I knew as much as any of the people I was able to talk to on the phone. They e-mailed me messages full of things I knew and everything.
Then I got a brain storm. While accessing the control panel, I noticed that there were two configuration options. I updated to the other configuration option on their server and VOILA! Everything works perfectly. It turns out that the option they told me I could and should use was only available to me if I selected a certain hosting configuration.
They could've saved me 6 hours if they just put the clues together. Anyway, at least I always got on the phone with someone within 30 seconds of calling, and they were local American support staff and very courteous (even when giving me flawed info). So I still like GoDaddy. This was just... frustrating.
Title: My incredible interactive fiction (#1)
Posted: August 23, 2007 (06:57 PM)
Okay, let's try something weird. I'll include the first few paragraphs of a story I've written. They are, in fact, ALL that I have written to this point. Read them. If you'd like to see more, tell me. Tell me WHAT you think should happen next. If I get enough feedback and interest, I'll settle on a suggestion (maybe) and write some more. We can keep this going for awhile, see where it goes. Interested? Read on!
You can tell a lot about a man by the smell of his farts, and Jim's told me that he'd been somewhere on the east side, where they serve burritos and enchiladas but not much else.
“Crack the window,” I said as he reached to the glove box for some Skittles.
“Man, you noticed?” he asked.
“Of course I noticed. It smells like shit.”
He growled but rolled the window down maybe an inch as I turned on the defroster. We sat there for a few minutes while the windows warmed and the spot I could see through grew into something bigger than a quarter. He was munching on Skittles and I was wishing I were anywhere, anywhere but here.
“The Knicks lost again,” Jim said momentarily, like he thought I'd care. “They lost and I'm not sure they'll ever win again. I don't know why they try three-pointers anymore, not even sometimes. They miss them all the time. That coach should be fired.”
“You're a fair-weather fan,” I told him, then laughed as I looked outside at the needles of frost blanketing the curb, the fire hydrant and the sign about one-hour parking.
“Yeah? And you're an ass.”
“Put your seatbelt on.”
I reached for mine, slid it over my chest and clicked it into place, then turned the key in the lock and winced as the car wined. This was not the morning for engine troubles. I pumped the gas a few times, gave the car a minute to rest, then tried again and it sputtered to life. I pressed in a few more times and the engine roared before settling into an uneven idle.
“So between feeding your face,” I said, “you got the stuff?”
“Yeah. It's here in my pocket.”
“You checked it, right? It's good?”
“Yeah, it's good.”
The back window hadn't cleared as much as the front one, but it looked good enough that I decided to risk backing out. We were in a mostly empty parking lot and I figured odds were pretty good we'd get out of our space without incident. I was wrong, though, and so began the worst day of my life.
So, what happens next? I have no clue. Tell me! Oh, and tell me how you like things so far...
Title: The move is done...
Posted: August 21, 2007 (04:33 PM)
Well, I'm typing this entry from my home office.
Friday, we packed our stuff from a storage unit and into a Budget rental truck, drove it across town and unloaded everything into our new apartment (after filling out some paperwork and writing a check).
Saturday was more unpacking, and then again on Sunday and Monday.
Monday, I called the cable Internet company about internet, and today they installed it. I now get my internet through Charter, which I guess is okay. It seems to be nice and fast.
My wife is now employed by Wal-Mart, which is a nice step up for her (and us). I still only have part-time work and I am broke as broke can be. We're going to have a tough time paying bills for awhile, but I'm still looking for work so maybe something good will happen there.
In any event, I can finally settle back into a routine and work on the site more, so look for the stuff that I was doing to get done more regularly again. Other staff members have been doing a great job filling in for me while I had horrible internet access, so it's not like I'm returning to an absolute mess. Thanks, guys!
And, uh... yeah, I think that about covers things.
Title: A short story for you...
Posted: August 07, 2007 (06:53 PM)
I just wrote this short story on the laptop and I feel like sharing. It's rough because it's only a first (though probably final, now that I'm sharing it in a public venue) draft. The story does shine through, though. This isn't like my usual stuff, which tends to have more dialogue than this, but dialogue mostly wasn't right for this story. Anyway, I'd love to hear comments if you read it.
By Jason Venter
James handed the driver his fare then stumbled toward the back of the bus and took his place three seats up, just in front of a young boy who had fallen asleep hunched over a canvas backpack. Tired, James didn't pay much heed to anyone until it was too late and he was leaning against the window with his breath fogging the pane of glass. Then he heard the click.
His pulse started racing and he forced himself to keep his breathing even. He would recognize that sound anywhere. He couldn't remember the make of the gun, but such facts hardly mattered. With seats this thin and in this lighting, his assassin could squeeze off a shot or two, kill him dead, then escape through the emergency door on the back of the bus with no one able to give the authorities a description.
Not that it mattered. He knew his luck with the police. Half the ones in this wretched city wanted him dead. He was a murderer, the evening news said. Three dead and no end to his rampage, it said.
He shifted slightly, as much as he dared, and felt in his pocket for the handle of his pistol. Cold metal brushed against him, reassuring. If he could reach the weapon, he could be okay. He could survive the ride. Only he was pinned against the side, his own stupid mistake. If he shifted too much, it might bring about the shots sooner. For now, his assassin seemed content to watch. He had to keep it that way.
The doors at the front of the bus closed with creaks of protest and the sharp hiss of air told him that the bus was about to move even before it did. Then the vehicle was rolling forward, slowly at first as the driver cranked its too-large handle, then faster as it started out of the parking lot and the diner rolled slowly by.
He thought about trying to reason with his assassin for a second. He couldn't be sure that a slight turn of his head wouldn't be his undoing, though, and he wasn't about to start talking and attract the attention of an innocent bystander. Instead, he let his hand edge its way deeper into his pocket, until his first finger touched the back side of the trigger. A smile crept across his face as he thought about their possible reaction if he ended it all right here, if he lifted the gun to his temple and pulled the trigger before someone could kill him. There'd be no bounty, then. His hunter would go home empty-handed and disappointed, just as he should.
It almost would have been worth it, but James hadn't come this far through lack of will. He knew there was a way out of this. He could taste it in the air, smell the fear the other passengers felt without realizing it. How many of them were decoys? He wondered that, wondered how many were placed here just to lull him into a false sense of security. The master touch was the boy, of course. The child was the last person he would have expected to them to throw in his path, so of course he was the first one they had.
“I'm alone,” he whispered, only it didn't sound loud enough to him. He couldn't even make out his own words, so surely the assassin had the same problem.
He cleared his throat but didn't say anything for a second more, just gave his voice a chance to rest.
In the seat ahead of him, a woman shifted slightly and retrieved a magazine from her knapsack. She looked up as she did so and her eyes met his. She looked away quickly.
That had been too quick, James thought. She didn't seem comfortable looking in his face and he knew the reason. So she was in on this, was she? That made two, and he knew from the past there would be a third somewhere on the bus. Where, though? The driver didn't make sense. Someone had to keep the bus moving and these people didn't mind throwing harmless innocents in his way. They knew he'd hesitate to kill them. They knew that gave them an edge.
The woman and the boy, the woman and the boy. Mentally, he kept repeating that in his head. He still hadn't given up on reaching the pistol, either. He could feel the trigger cradled in his first finger now. A slight distraction was all it would take now. He could roll out of his seat, turn and fire. The boy would go down and maybe a quick kick could knock the gun out of the woman's hand, if she'd even had time to grab it by that point. Or maybe he'd break her neck. She looked heavyset, but he thought her neck couldn't be all that different from anyone else's. A quick turn and she would go down without a fight.
There was just the third assassin to worry about, but whom? He wished he'd paid more attention when boarding the bus now. He could have spotted the third, taken action right then and there with his hands free when they weren't expecting it. That was always their mistake: they didn't expect it.
He thought back to the three on the news, the 'innocent victims,' as the news anchor said. She was just reading what they wrote for her so he couldn't blame her for that. Plus, she had a pretty face. But she had said there were three innocent victims and he knew they weren't. They'd trailed him along three streets, he in his borrowed car and them in their station wagon packed full of camping gear. It was another decoy, another perfect decoy.
The bus rounded another corner now, sharper than it should have, and James bumped softly against the window. The movement jarred him, brought his thoughts whirling back to the present. He'd missed a chance there. He'd let regrets cloud his judgment, just for a second, and that was one wasted chance to act. Would they even give him another? He couldn't be sure. Why had they even let him make it this far?
Now the bus was gaining elevation, working its way along rough roads that skirted the foothills. James smiled wryly. Why had he ever thought he could make Canada with no one noticing? They must have at least another 50 people combing the borders for him. There were only so many roads to watch and he was in a hurry. They'd known he would take a bus or a small plane.
“I'm alone,” he said again, more to break the silence than anything.
The old man in the seat in front of him looked back over his shoulder, feigning surprise, then turned toward the front of the bus again without saying a word.
That didn't make sense, James thought. Any rational person would ask questions, wouldn't he? They might ask maybe how his wife was, or why it was that he was alone, or if he wanted some company maybe. Those responses made sense. They were human. This wasn't, and just like that he knew the identity of the third assassin.
They had ringed him in quite nicely. The woman with her magazine probably had a gun hidden there, so if he moved fast but not quickly enough, she would have him before he even rose from the seat. The boy behind him might take a little longer but he could fire a shot pretty easy and that wouldn't miss, not at this range. That didn't factor in the old man, who could have the muzzle of his gun pressed against the seat right now. The assassins were a triangle around him and James was the base, incapable of escaping.
He felt a bead of sweat form on his forehead, then run down his cheek. It itched and he wanted to brush it away, but they might take that for aggression. He couldn't let them mistake anything. He couldn't act until he was ready to go all the way, to jump from his seat in a rush and take out the threats in the order he determined. First the boy would go, then the woman, then the old man.
His choices were made clinically, and he told himself that in his younger days he might have cared but now he couldn't afford to. The mission had to go through. He had to do this and he couldn't stop to regret the cost, the loss of life. These were hardened killers and they'd have to sleep in the beds they made themselves. Tonight, someone would die.
The bus rounded the next curve too fast and the driver turned the wheel to correct it. James saw it all in slow motion. Then he was rolling out of his seat and the gun was coming up out of his pocket and people were looking at him as he lurched to the side and flame flashed from the muzzle. Shots. Screams. The bus crashed against the side of the road, metal scraping against rock and soil, people tumbling from seats and more screams. When the dust cleared, James was alone again.
Posted: August 05, 2007 (01:22 PM)
Well, the move went fairly well. The last 2 days were a royal pain in the butt, as expected, but now I can finally sit down to catch my breath.
On Friday, we picked up the U-Haul truck in the morning. I was already tired from a day of packing and cleaning leading up to that, but we had to do everything in a rush. So we picked up the U-Haul and then I began carrying boxes downstairs to it (we lived upstairs in our apartment, a fact I came to regret more than ever before).
My wife packed boxes from her workplace, Wendy's, so we had a lot of big boxes and they were mostly full of games and books. So they were quite heavy, since they were able to fit so much heavy stuff and my wife didn't move them herself. I carried boxes most of the day and my arms were worn out like you wouldn't believe by that evening.
Then, we got word that my brother-in-law was willing to help. So I drove about 30 miles one way to pick him up, then back so that he could work with us. That allowed us to get some good work done, moving things like our mattress and box spring and computers and shelves and so forth. Lots of heavy stuff, but we got that done. Then I took him back to his place that night, which meant my wife and I got to sleep at 2 in the morning... in sleeping bags on the floor.
The next morning at 9ish, we got up and started working again, carrying out smaller stuff my brother-in-law didn't have time to help with. We made good progress, then my in-laws showed up around 1 in the afternoon and helped get the final stuff in the truck. Then we drove 5 hours to Newport, where we'll be living, and unloaded everything in a storage unit.
After that, we went to the motor home where my wife and I are staying now. I checked online for a few minutes and saw that I won this last week's matchup in the Team Tournament, then went to bed. This morning, we got up and returned the U-Haul, so from then on I've finally been able to breathe. Whew!
Title: Notes while moving
Posted: August 01, 2007 (08:31 PM)
Yesterday was my wife's last day at her job, so today our packing went into full swing. She'd started packing before then--mostly my games--but today things finally began in earnest.
I've spent most of the afternoon and now the evening packing up my game systems. There are quite a few of them, and plenty of accessories. Systems go in their boxes when available--basically back to the Dreamcast--and will just be handled the best I can when there's no dedicated box (mostly older Nintendo systems).
As I was packing, I noticed that my Dreamcast looks like it's been through a war. I've kept a lot of systems I don't often play under the table where my computers are, so that I can easily hook them up to a capture card and grab screenshots for the site (if only I had done so more often). The Dreamcast is turning a sickly yellowish color and has dust bunnies caked to it all over. It's odd, because no liquid has been spilled there or anything. Dust and the Dreamcast just don't get along.
When our move is complete, I should have an 'office' for my game systems and computers and such. Hopefully, I'll be able to take better care of them then. I'd hate for my systems to stop working through neglect. I don't have more than about 20 Dreamcast games, but it would suck if suddenly I couldn't play them and it had been preventable...
Also: remember 1991?
Title: Radio excitement
Posted: July 31, 2007 (09:29 AM)
A stupid person called in on the radio this morning.
The local radio station is giving away tickets to see JoDee Messina, a Country/Western singer, in concert. So they said they'd give a pair of tickets to the first person to call in with a question to ask her when the station interviews her.
So a lady called in. They asked her where she was and she explained that she's driving and proceeded to pinpoint the exact street she was following, with crossroad. Too much information, I think. They told her to be careful driving while on the phone (probably because so many idiots around here get in wrecks while driving and talking on the phone), then asked what question she would ask.
"It needs to be a really intelligent one, right?" the lady asked.
"Well, yeah," they said. "We can ask the really dumb ones. If we ask an intelligent one they'll know it's not from us, see."
"I would ask..." the woman paused, so it was pretty obvious that her previous conversation had all been a stall and she didn't know the first thing about what to ask. Then, finally, she came up with a generic question and announced it like it was the most intelligent thing in the world: "I would ask her what it's like to be on the road all the time and raising kids."
"Ooh," the DJ said. "Good question! But, uh... does JoDee Messina have kids?"
"What?" the lady asked. "I mean, uh, she has kids doesn't she?"
"I know she's engaged," the other DJ said. "I mean... I guess she might have kids, maybe."
Okay, so it was funny to me. This lady, identified on the air only as Jenny, is a good example of the common dork around here. I mean, if you're going to be winning tickets to the show, you should be more than the person able to press 'redial' the quickest. You should, well... you should probably know a little bit about the artist or let someone who is actually a fan get the tickets instead.
Title: New laptop
Posted: July 26, 2007 (12:35 AM)
My wife and I are moving soon, in just about two weeks. Wow, huh?
So anyway, we won't have an apartment to move into, just a motorhome for awhile. So rather than be completely without Internet, I went ahead and bought a laptop today. I'm using it now.
The laptop has an Intel Core Duo processor, and Intel graphics card (lolz0rs) and 2GB of DDR2 RAM. Oh, and I got a computer with Windows XP on it. I'm so clever!
Hopefully, even as I'm moving, any emergencies that may come up on the site can still be handled efficiently, though I'm going to be working without three of my best tools now: Photoshop, HomeSite and Microsoft Office. Oh, my!
Title: Sharpton looks sharp...
Posted: July 23, 2007 (07:55 PM)
Al Sharpton is looking sharp in the photo you'll find on this page:
You should read the article. It's an important piece on the assault of free speech by Conservatives. Very interesting.