Nintendo Wii: Fun, But Is It Exercise?

You Sii Mii Wii!As I mentioned in a recent post, I’ve been visited by the eccentric Japanese guys driving the white Smart Car. They told me that they would like to play, and since they drove such a long way (across the Pacific apparently) I decided the least I could do was buy a Nintendo Wii. And play we did.

It’s a little over a week later, they’ve finished off all of my Sake and have motored down the road, leaving me alone to contemplate my Wii. So now that the rice wine buzz is gone what do I think of it? Is it worth the price? Is it fun? And more importantly, is playing with your Wii exercise? Way back in April I blogged about people using it as fitness regime!

Well the verdict is in on the fun part. It is. I love being able to play tennis at night. I love playing baseball whenever the desire strikes without having to call up my busy middle-aged friends and finding a free baseball diamond. I love playing a quick three holes of golf at lunch without having to take the afternoon off. And that’s all on the Wii Sports game the console comes with. There’s a proliferation of games designed to work with the Wii‘s revolutionary new motion-sensitive controller design.

But is the time I spend fiddling with my Wii time wasted, or does it do more than provide me entertainment when I should be working or reviewing cigars? This question is a bit more difficult to answer. A week later, I think I’ve noticed an improvement in the way my clothes fit and increased energy, but my bathroom scale tells me nothing has changed. The words of the scale might be enough information for some, but I’ve long suspected my scale of being a malicious, pathological liar. So I’ve decided to back that suspicion with a bit of science and fitness geekery: I donned a heart rate monitor.

We’re not talking about just any heart rate monitor here. This thing has been calibrated with my age, weight and gender. It can tell me exactly what my heart rate should be to achieve an optimal workout. It can tell me how may calories I burned, how long I worked out, and how long I achieved that optimal heart rate. And once it does all that, it’ll tell me what my Body Mass Index (BMI) is and how horribly overweight I am. In short, I have the technology to prove my bathroom scale a liar and justify my hours spend playing to my wife.

Here’s stats for an average session:

Playing Time: 35 minutes
Activities: Batting practice, Tennis, boxing practice
Target Heart Rate: 122 – 150 BPM

Heart Rate
Pre-Wii: 76 BPM
Average: 126 BPM
Highest: 158 BPM

Total Time in “The Zone”: 19:54
Calories Burned: 491

Wow. It’s hard to argue with the stats. With nearly 20 minutes spend in the optimal heart rate range and 491 calories burned, it’s safe to say this qualifies as exercise. And my scale is a damn liar. I happen to know that at a brisk 3.2 MPH walk on a 5% grade only burns around 300 calories.

So it’s exercise, but is it worth it? I already pay hefty HOA fees that include work out facilities. Is the additional money spent just redundant. Well, that all depends. Yes, it would appear redundant, but the truth of the matter is that I haven’t been using those facilities. (Excluding the sauna!) My wife takes great pleasure in pointing this out. (I swore I’d us them because of the convenience!) I am using the Wii. So while I’m not exactly being responsible with my money, I am getting exercise I wasn’t getting before. So I’m going to say yes, it is worth it. Especially if you pay the lower $250 price tag.

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Weekend Realizations

Brian's Random Thoughts: No nutritional value, but tasty!Though I do my very best to avoid it, I found my self thinking this weekend. My wife hadn’t realized I had a free moment to myself, and my mind wandered. And these are the random things that came to mind.

Advertising is sucking the meaning out of our words. I came to this realization as I watched a ridiculous feel-good commercial for some boring product or business. The lyrics to the background music featured the phrase “just another ordinary day miracle“. I’m sorry, but weren’t “miracles” supposed to be rare, amazing occurrences that were difficult, if not impossible to explain using rational or scientific means? I’m sorry, your underdog hockey team winning a prestigious game is not a miracle. It’s just unlikely. And it’s probably the plot for fifty unimaginative sports movies.

I’m seeing this in the cigar world too. At one point, a “premium” cigar would have been a top dollar, high quality cigar, full of rare and well-aged tobacco. Now almost any cigar that’s made by hand with long filler claims the word. So what is a really great cigar to do to distinguish itself in the “premium” forest? The only thing that can be done is to stack up increasingly meaningless words. Hence the new labels “super-premium” and “ultra premium”. If I ever come out with a cigar line, I’m gonna slap “hot-fucking-damn premium cigar” on the label, and outline the words with fire. And since I can’t count on any of those words conveying the desired meaning, I’ll also have a Navy Seal fist-fighting a dragon in front of a massive explosion on the cigar band. (Anybody see the move Idiocracy? I’m totally thinking about it right now.)

If pot is a “gateway drug”, the Nintendo Wii is a gateway activity. Suckered in by the lower price tag and fake scarcity of the Wii, I finally took the plunge and bought one. Holy crap, I love it. It’s the first new game console I’ve purchased in years. And I do mean years. The last brand new console I purchased was a Super Nintendo! I feel a review coming on. But that will have to wait until I’ve given it a good workout. (Or vice versa.)

But it’s dangerous. After a weekend of playing tennis and fishing I’m reminded of when I actually did these things. For real. Outside. And I kinda want to do them again. Its scary to think that around the country there might be chubby, pasty white guys remembering what it was like to be physically active. And emerging from their basements to fish, play baseball and tennis! It been like a zombie movie, only with more mountain dew. That can’t be good for video game sales.

The tasks my wife has for me multiply to fit the my available hours. As I’ve been scaling my weekly work hours down to something that doesn’t make me want to light myself on fire and leap from a freeway overpass, my wife is ramping up the random tasks she expects me to get done. They’re multiplying like guppies unattended. (Or attended. I don’t think presence of an audience makes a difference.) It’s simply not possible to accomplish even half of them, but when I start working on one, she gets excited. She gets a look in her like she’s won an expenses-paid shopping spree. So while I’m trying to complete one task, she’ll rattle off fifteen more that I really must remember to do.

Sound irritating? It is. But the good news is that even she can’t remember all the random chores she comes up with in the heat of the moment. (It really is like blood in the water for a shark.) To maintain sanity, I try to forget them all. The ones I can’t forget are probably the ones that really need doing. Or the ones my wife keeps bringing up. So yeah, the ones that really need doing. I find a similar approach often works in the office. (Use at your own risk.)

It’s been a week since I put up a post. It’s also been a week since I started this post. I really need to get adjusted to the new schedule. This new job is so absorbing that it’s easy to work longer than normal hours. And the convenience of working from home just magnifies that. That’s the danger of working from home: Because you can work anytime, you may just start working all the time!

OK, I’ve got some cigars to smoke, and some reviews to write. And it I think I hear the footsteps of my wife coming heading this way…

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The Mystery Of The 5 Minute Browser

Heed the sage words of Brian!I had the weirdest problem recently. Five minutes after booting up my office laptop, in the midst of checking the news online, my browser stopped working. That isn’t to say I couldn’t use the buttons or select items from the menus. Functionally speaking, the browser application was fine. The problem is that pages stopped loading. All of them.

Expecting that it was a network outage or a corporate firewall problem, checked the usual things. I verified that my network cable hadn’t broken or been disconnected. I tried unplugging it and plugging it back in. Still dead. I fired up Innernut Exploder (I use Firefox by default. [Funny Side Note: In getting this link, I've noticed Firefox's website has determined I'm Italian. I have no idea why, and there's no convincing it that I'm not. I wonder if it's flirting with me.]) Still nothing. I checked with some other people in the office. Their connections were fine, and they hadn’t experienced any outages whatsoever. Damn, it’s me.

I often listen to radio programming streamed over the internet while I’m in the office. Every now and then the little embedded applications used by these stations will cause me trouble that can only be resolved by rebooting. So I reboot. And I’m back online, happily getting my news fix. For about five minutes. Then I’m dead in the water again. About this time, I get an email. What the heck is going on? My browsers are dead by my email application is humming right along like everything’s fine. And I can ping Yahoo from the command window.

So I reboot again. This time, I don’t expect this to fix the problem, I just want to establish that this problem is a repeatable and demonstrable, so I don’t look like an idiot when I speak with the help desk. Like clockwork, after about 5 minutes, I’m dead in the water again. So off I go on a help desk adventure. I’ll spare you the details. All you really need to know is that this bug owned the help desk. If you seriously suggest wiping and re-imaging a PC, you are conceding defeat. You are owned. I have to give them credit though, before admitting defeat, they spent hours chasing this problem, trying increasingly more obscure solutions. I’m probably not worth the effort they put into it, if you run the metrics.

I had no intention of reinstalling and reconfiguring this machine. I’ve spent too much time getting it configured just right. I took the problem home, and scoured the internet for a solution. (From another PC, of course.) And I found a lot of possible fixes, which I sent to my Crackberry for use the following day at work.

Here are the valid candidate solutions I found. I’m listing them all here, because what worked for me may not be what works for you. I know you won’t be surprised to hear that there are a variety of things that can cause this problem.

Fix Candidate #1 – IP Renewal:
This is probably the easiest possible fix and least likely to cause trouble. For this reason it was the first I tried. (I’m kind of surprised that neither Help Desk or I thought of this.)

  1. Open a command window (Start -> Run -> “cmd”)
  2. Type ipconfig /release and enter.
  3. Type ipconfig /renew and enter.
  4. Close the window and try the browser. If this was gonna work, it would be now.

Fix Candidate #2 – Flushing DNS Cache:
This is similar to the first, and if the websites and newsgroups I read are any indication, the odds favor it as the winning solution. (There are some additional steps that involve updating registry values to set minimums and maximums for DNS cache, but I’m leaving them out. They’re non-essential, and I don’t want to encourage people to go mucking around in their registry. If you want to know, let me know.)

  1. Open a command window (Start -> Run -> “cmd”)
  2. Type ipconfig /flushdns and enter.
  3. You should get a message indicating success.
  4. Close the window and try the browser. If this was gonna work, it would be now.

Fix Candidate #3 – Hijack This:
This fix is simple as downloading HijackThis (official website on Trend Micro), running it, and deleting the following items, if they appear. If they don’t, this isn’t the fix for you. Because I’m all about saving time, do a search for “win32exe.exe” on your machine before downloading or installing anything.

  • O4 – HKLM\..\Run: [winbin32] win32exe.exe
  • O4 – HKLM\..\RunServices: [winbin32] win32exe.exe
  • O4 – HKCU\..\Run: [winbin32] win32exe.exe
  • O4 – HKCU\..\RunServices: [winbin32] win32exe.exe

After that you need to reboot and delete the file file named “win32exe.exe”.

Fix Candidate #4 – The Repair Install:
I save this one for last for a couple of reasons. To begin with, it sounds kind of stupid. Also, it happens to be the fix that got me back on track. It’s dumb and it works. As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently began the slow, painful process of migrating from one mail client to another in the office. As a part of that transition (which, I’m annoyed to say, is ongoing) I had to install AT&T network client software. And wouldn’t you know it, the install blue-screened. That’s all the background you need for this fix.

  1. Start -> Settings -> Control Panel -> Add or Remove Programs
  2. Select AT&T Network Client from the list and click the “Change” button.
  3. Select the repair install option. (Or uninstall, if you no longer need the software.)
  4. Follow instructions.
  5. Reboot optional. You may find that your browser works immediately.

If you don’t have the AT&T Network Client installed, and are having this problem, have no fear. The word is that these steps can also be used on systems with Symantec AntiVirus or Microsoft Media Connect. Generally speaking, if you have the problem shorty after installing new software, consider re-installing it, or removing it.

I hope in posting this, I’ll save somebody the pain of formatting and reinstalling their PC in frustration. If you do use this information to fix your machine, let me know! I’ll consider the warm-fuzzy payment for services rendered. :)

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2200 Percent Growth In This Ugly Flower Of A Blog

Brian’s brain is still in weekend mode. Which isn’t such a bad thing since the big item of the day is to get a software side-grade (transitioning from Microsoft Outhouse to NoDice Notes does not qualify upgrade, I don’t care how many cute graphics it automatically embeds in your email). Of course, I don’t want to get into incriminating things like where I work or what I do specifically. (Those things are best left to your imagination.) Well no more than to say this is a big, big place, and new software and network access is comes to you at the speed of Heinz 57 ketchup.

Of course there are two things I do when business is slow. Troll (in the fishing sense, but sometimes in the inflammatory sense if the mood strikes) blogs and cigar auctions looking for what passes for action while sitting on your backside. What passes for action today is a graphical representation of my blog (via BabyChaos‘ list o’ links, which I hope someday to make it onto ;) ). And as a graph, this blog makes a pretty ugly flower. One that had a dangerous session with the Weed-B-Gon. The kind you’d back up the lawn mower for to be sure you got it all. Check it out:

Brian’s Random Thoughts: A Certifiable Cluster-F*ck

If you click on the image above, you can go see how your website/blog stands up.  [UPDATE: Image link fixed.] Is your blog a delicate orchid, or is an abusive, alcoholic dandelion like mine? C’mon. You know you wanna. Don’t make me “tag” you.

Of course, after that a sad spectacle, it’s fun to go re-inflate the ego with lies, damn lies and statistics. My favorite being the “How much is my blog worth calculator“. Of course, this isn’t the first time I’ve tried this thing out. Previously this blog came in at a handy little figure of $1,129.08. So lets see if I’ve made any progress in the mythical blog stock exchange:


Congratulations!
You’ve just agreed to pay $25,968.84 for my blog!

How much is your blog worth?

 

Ah, now that’s what I like to see! Progress! A 2200% increase in value! :) Oh yes, and thank you for your interest in buying my blog. Very kind of you. While I’m certain the check is in the mail, I regret to inform you that this blog isn’t yet for sale! (Though perhaps I should consider selling shares of blog stock…) ;) Anyway! If you haven’t checked your blog recently, you may want to take another peep. You might be in for a surprise!

Oops, looks like business is picking up. And as this particular post wasn’t going anywhere interesting, so I’ll be back when I have more interesting things to discuss. (Which may be soon. Apparently, I’ve just been “tagged”! Word has it if you don’t immediately act on it, your spleen will explode and you’ll have a rough bit of luck. :) )

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Aaron Pierce And The 24 Spin-Off We Want

Under-Appreciated 24 StallionWe’ve finally done it. We’re a bit late, but given we only started during the recently finished season, it’s an accomplishment. (Well, as much as watching TV can be considered an accomplishment. ;) ) This weekend we finished the final hour of the whole 144 hours of 24 (IMDB). That’s every episode of the whole 6-day series.

If you haven’t seen the series yet, I recommend setting up your TiVo to start picking up episodes. Or better yet, you could do it my way: Queue up the series back to back in NetFlix. (NetFlix is my Tivo, I just can’t justify paying for both services at the same time.) Either way, you’ve got a lot of edge-of-your seat entertainment ahead of you. I’m kinda jealous.

It’s safe to say that 24 is my favorite, non-animated, television series that’s still running. (Now that The Sopranos (IMDB) is over.) Even when plot lines of several of the seasons became dangerously similar, and I was sure I could predict the outcome, a twist or two would send the plot off in a complete new, fascinating direction. Heck, the show was so engrossing, that my wife, normally an early-to-bed, early-to-rise person, would stay up until 4 AM with me watching the episodes back to back.

But I don’t want to dig deep into the many story lines and thoroughly review the series. It’s been done by people who love the show more than I do, and have way more time to burn. What I want to talk about is the 24 spin off that my wife and I think might make for thoroughly enjoyable show.

Before I get to that, lets start with the characters that should not have a spin-off. I keep hearing people say how much they love Chloe. I agree with the sentiment. She’s great, and hopefully, she’ll be with the series until the end. But Chloe is like Thai chili peppers (Phrik Khii Nuu to be exact). A little of her adds a good amount of spice to the show. A whole show dedicated to her would melt your eyes and char the frontal lobes of your brain. You know I’m right.

And I’m pretty sure most people are very, very tired of seeing Bauer’s daughter Kim in the show. I know, I know, she is fun to look at, but her character is just far too accurate. And by accurate, I mean annoying. Annoying in that way that only angst-filled, know-it-all kids can be. (I don’t care what her age is supposed to be in any given season, she is always the same pain-in-the-ass kid.) In any situation where she was in danger (which was any and every time she appeared in the show), my wife and I would find ourselves yelling “just shoot her!” at the bad guys with slow trigger fingers.

That pretty much covers all the potential spin-off characters. All the other good candidates are pushing up daisies. (That is, if there was enough of them left to bury.) Well, all except one. The character we both really, really liked: Aaron Pierce (Glenn Morshower). The unassuming, ethical, tough-as-nails secret service agent that appeared unglamorously in every season of 24. (The only character other than Jack Bauer to do so.) Always near and closely guarding the current president, his performance in the show stood out. As we were finishing up Day 5 of the series, my wife and I determined that we’d really like to see more of him in action. Heck if Law And Order and CSI can have something like 90 spin offs (Law And Order: Apartment Security. CSI: Branson, MO.) why not 24? How about “24:SS” or “24: Secret Service” with Agent Pierce in the Jack Bauer role? (Don’t worry Kiefer, you’re always welcome to cameo!) Or maybe dispense with the 24 format completely and make a show about the Agent Pierce’s experiences in the Secret Service?

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, “that’d be as fun to watch as paint drying.” Possibly, if the wrong people do it. But keep in mind, 24 doesn’t have room for two Jack Bauers. Agent Pierce simply can’t be as exciting or engaging as Bauer without stealing the show. (And at points he almost does in Day 5.) Given his own show, it could be every bit as action packed as 24, or alternately, the producers of such a show could substitute more elements of drama in place of some of the action. Either way, I think that it could be a great show. And if it helps get it made, I’ll even commit to watching the first season. (Hey, that’s more than generous, I’m not flush with spare time here.) :)

And because lists are fun, here’s a list of fan sites dedicated to Aaron Pierce, who, if asked, would probably agree that he deserves his own show:

Of course, in keeping with my previously mentioned attitude toward actors and celebrities, I’m not likely to join “The Glenn Morshower Society”, or start hanging posters of him up on my wall. However, I’ve added him to the list of guys who are welcome to join me for a fine cigar in celebration of a fine bit of acting any time they happen to visit Atlanta. On me. (I don’t have a formal written list yet, but the cast of the Sopranos is on it, as is Harrison Ford, Sean Connery and of course, Kiefer Sutherland.) No kidding. I have a some Ashton VSG robustos on their way even as I type. Drop me a line, and I’ll pencil you in. ;)

And for those of you that prefer buying to renting or TiVo-ing, here’s a handy list of the seasons currently available on DVD via Amazon. (I know, I’m so terribly helpful, huh?)

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The CarPod: Saving The World By Stealing Scott Adams’ Ideas

The Green and Black Smart Car (My Favorite)On his blog today, Scott Adams’ put forth an idea of how to handily deal with a laundry list of problems plaguing the world today, including energy consumption and international oil dependence, terrorism, drunk driving and pollution. (And a few other items that are so politically-charged and boring to me that I won’t bother to mention.) To sum it up in a heavily hyphenated sentence, GPS-phone-enabled, Google-powered car-pooling.

Basically using the power of your GPS-enabled phone and a service provided by some behemoth like Google, people could enter a destination and automatically be connected with somebody heading that way. Web 2.0 hitchhiking, essentially. And in an attempt to anticipate problems that might arise from hitching the ride with the wrong person, you would be able to configure your service to filter out people based upon a number of predefined criteria. (Age, sex, propensity to mistreat kittens, etc.) Also, applicants to the service would be screened to eliminate obvious problems such as ax-murders and sexual predators. And anyone who forwards chain email.

In all, a pretty well consider solution. If you haven’t read it already, give it a read. Because I’m going to address the flaw I see in the system. The biggest problem I see with it is that people just don’t like sharing their ride with other people. If you’ve ridden a bus or the subway, you know you can’t count on people to bathe or be considerate. And if you’re commuting to or from work, you’re probably tired and just want to be left alone. Even with the incentives built into Mr. Adams’ plan, it will only take one sick drunk on a Friday night to change your mind about carpooling.

So the plan is doomed for failure, right? Well, not quite. This is where Brian steps in and harness the power of his caffeine-infused cranium to save the day. With mind bullets! No, wait, sorry, the mind bullets are for another post. I got carried away. :)

Anyway, what we actually need is to revamp the way the bus system works. I’m talking about literally gutting the buses. (Stick with me here, it’ll make sense in a minute.) Here’s how it will work. The same system Mr. Adams described with the GPS-enhanced phone and ride sharing service would apply here. Except, you would dock that phone in a “CarPod” (hey, everybody else is ripping off the iPod, why not me?). A CarPod will be a small, solar-powered, single person vehicle. Kinda like the Smart car shown above, except a lot smaller, and lot more boxy. A bit more like a large phone booth with really cozy chair.

When you need a ride someplace, you hop in a CarPod, dock your uber-phone, enter your destination and it will coordinate with the nearest bus. Either you or the CarPod drives to a nearby intercept point with the bus. (We’ll say the CarPod does it, because we’re talking about the future, and cars just have to drive themselves in the future.) And here’s the cool part; the reason you’ve been reading this post. Instead of getting out of your CarPod to get on the bus, the CarPod docks with the bus and takes you along with it. You see, the bus is merely a large, green-fuel-propelled CarPod carrier. Kinda like the transports shown in this action sequence from I, Robot:

Except instead of being full of evil, human-killing robots, it’d be full of evil, meeting-calling, email-sending co-workers. Tell me you wouldn’t ride the bus all the time if you could do it in a CarPod.

Why the bus? Because buses already cover more ground in the U.S. than any other form of mass transportation. And because it uses existing road systems. We wouldn’t have to dig large expensive tunnels through cities to accommodate this. We could also outfit the existing subway trains to function in a similar way, which would also be cool, but not as practical.

Of course, the CarPod would have many of the features of the modern car, and a few that aren’t legal, like user-controlled window blackening. And television. Just for fun, here are the kind of features I imagine the CarPod having.

CarPod Features

  • User controlled window blackening. This way you can have all the privacy you could possibly want while still riding mass transit. You could sleep, or even change on your way to or from work. You could even work on your secret plans for world domination without need of one of those laptop privacy screens.
  • Cozy reclining chair. The CarPod will be small, but not airplane-seat-small.
  • Air Conditioning. No brainer.
  • Television/Music playing system. Who knows what crazy space-age way we’ll listen to tunes and watch the tube in the future. Rest assured that it will be very compact, whatever it is, and that the CarPod will have it. It will likely be integrated with your futuristic GPS-enabled phone.
  • Steering system. In case you need to actually drive the thing. Which you won’t. But it’ll be there because some politician or another will make a big deal about it. And probably an organized group of overly concerned mothers.
  • Built in humidor. Since I’m making this thing, it will have a humidor and a cigar-sized ash tray. And a built in cigar lighter. Hey, it’s single occupancy, so don’t give me any crap about bothering other people with second hand tobacco perfume.

Now quick, somebody build one, because I want to ride my CarPod home from the office. I’m tired.

P.S. I’ve trademarked the term “CarPod”. And “Commuti-Car”, just in case. Licensing available! And at great rates!

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5 Tips For I.T. Recruiters

You don’t have to look like this to be a good I.T. consultant.I’m no xenophobe, some of my best friends are xenos. (Take a moment to let that sink in and have a hearty chuckle. The rest of this post will be happy to wait.) Seriously though, I just don’t get I.T. recruiting firms that hire recruiters with nearly-impregnable foreign accents. A little exotic spice is one thing, a mouth full of proverbial peanut butter (or the 300-horse power galloping tongue) is another matter entirely. I’m also at a loss as to why anybody would get into the field that doesn’t love sales and marketing. (OK, you don’t have to love it, but you have to at least be good at it.) I’ve been crossing paths with more and more recruiters of late who, for one reason or another cannot possibly be successful in this line of work because they simply can’t communicate effectively. And it just blows my mind.

For those of you who don’t work in the eccentric and introverted world of technology, bear with me, this will make sense in the end. Recruiters are essentially the I.T. professional’s marketing department. You put your resume up online, and they give you a call and pitch you a job. If you’re interested (i.e. they offer to pay you enough to afford both your mortgage and your expensive cigar habit), they then pitch you to the employer who actually has the job. If the recruiter is any good, and you don’t stick both feet in your mouth at the same time during the interview, they’ll not only land you a job, but they’ll actually remember who you are by the time the contract is over. And if they’re great, they’ll buy you a lunch. (Or sometimes they do that because they’re snagging an unusually large percentage of your hourly contract rate.) Make sense? Quick review: I.T. Recruiters are pimps: They find you, they find the John, and they take a percentage. But unlike the world’s oldest profession, these technological pimps actually have to do some work and a lot of talking. (And I don’t have a desk on a street corner.)

As a guy who really gets around in a professional sense (if there was a communicable disease specific to the I.T. world, I’d not only have it, I’d be infecting people) I have a reasonable grip on sales and marketing. You’ve got to. You’re selling you in every interview. (One more for The Quotable Brian!) If there’s one thing that’s as important as technical prowess, it’s your ability to communicate and establish report. We’ve all seen guys that couldn’t (insert your occupation’s primary action verb here) their way out of a wet paper bag. But damn were they a heck of a lot of fun to hang out with, and they knew everybody. Even people in senior management. And they got you invited to parties that you weren’t cool enough to get into on your own. That’s just how powerful the ability to build relationships can be. It’s the jet fuel that powers the Peter Principle.

So back to the I.T. recruiters. These guys have to both sell themselves to you, and sell themselves and you to the person who has the job. So basically, they have to be the best sales people in the world, right? You’d think so. And you’d be right about fifty percent of the time. The rest of the time it’s absolutely the opposite. They’re people that are extremely uncomfortable with the phone. They’re people with really thick accents or even worse, weak grasp of language du jour. And they’re people who read a pre-written script and know nothing about sales, and are clearly not at all interested in you either. The thing I don’t get is how they stay in business. And why they all seem to call me.

Of course, its easy enough to shake my head and complain about it. God knows I do plenty of that. It’s more challenging to try to fix it. And I’m all about challenges and fixing stuff. It’s what I do. So here are a few pointers for my awkward I.T. Recruiters friends that I’ve cooked up over the years. Follow these, and I can guarantee you success… in not pissing me off when we talk. :)

  • Get a speech coach or study your target accent. If you find that people in your chosen market have a great deal of difficulty understanding you, study the accent. Or better yet, study the Australian accent (if English is the language du jour). I read an article recently (sorry, I can’t find it, I really tried! :( ) of all the English language dialects, the Australian accent is most universally understood form. And if you’re doing business in the United States, it has the benefit of sounding really cool.
  • Develop and refine your rap. I’m not talking about clever rhymes carefully laid down over old disco hooks. Giant diamond-encrusted chains that spell “Stallion” in an exaggerated script font are not required. (But who knows, maybe you’ll find it helpful. If you can afford one, you’re taking too big a percentage of my take!) Everyone in every business has one, even if they don’t realize it. It’s your stock set of brainless words, phrases and jargon you can use even when you’re drunk, half asleep and hanging upside down in a tree. They’ve been polished with usage, they roll off the tongue, and you can mix them into every conversation with ease. Find them and use them. If a phone call goes extremely well, consider harvesting some of the dialog for use later.
  • You’re a sales person, speak accordingly. I literally cringe every time a recruiter calls me and says they have “a requirement” for such and such a developer. Not to be a heartless prick or anything, but I don’t give a rat’s ass about your requirement. I have plenty of my own, and they all involve late nights, walking on water and having it done by yesterday. You need to remember that you’re selling me on the idea of taking the job through your firm. Potential customers want to hear about what’s in it for them, which is why you’ll never hear the term requirement used by any successful recruiter. Successful recruiters speak of positions, or better yet, opportunities. Those words get you excited, requirements weigh a prospect down or scare them away.
  • Not listening. I can’t tell you how much I hate it when I tell a recruiter that I’m not on the market, only to have them go on with a monotonous scripted speech about the position anyways. I’m not on the market. That means you’re calling me at work, on my customer’s dime. Sure, you can ask me if I know anybody else that’s looking and send me your contact details, but that’s it. I gotta go before you get me fired. I don’t wanna hang up on you, but I have once or twice when somebody just doesn’t get it. And don’t you dare try to hard sell me. I will tell you off. (Honestly happened, and the “requirement” was a lot worse than my current gig! :twisted: )
  • Poor email grammar or awfully formatted template job forwards. If you make it obvious that you’ve spent zero time to contact me by email, I’ll spend zero time considering your email. It is not OK to contact me with SMS/text message grammar, I won’t take you seriously, and I won’t trust you to pay my invoices. Ya rly! Of course, I’m a bit more forgiving in tougher job markets. But right now, the ball is totally in my court. :)

I don’t want anybody thinking I’m beating on visa holders/legal immigrants to this country. I’m not one of those guys screaming “they took our jobs!”

And you know why? To begin with, my wife is a legal immigrant to this country. But more importantly, they didn’t take your job, I did. Any position I fill is a job outsourced or one that didn’t exist to begin with. I’m a consultant. (And a bastard.) :D

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Air Trumpet? I Call Bullshit

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or in a country with an ultra-repressive government sporting a Virtue and Vice Ministry (which is kind of like living under a rock) you’ve likely been exposed to it. If you live in the United States, and you watch any television or even pass through a major city on your way to work, you’ve seen it. You simply can’t escape it. It’s the manic, flailing-haired, iPod-bearing, convulsing silhouette. And there’s no apparent cure. But I’m not interested in curing you. (If you’re infected, that’s your problem.)

Like the slick little MP3 player, the commercial seems to be tremendously popular. Probably every ad that has ever been shown on TV has made it to YouTube, with titles and comments indicating that each new one is much better than the previous. Bullshit. Each new one is the same thing, with different music and different background colors. But that’s not what this post is about.

What I’m really calling bullshit on is the “Air Trumpet”. (I’ve trademarked that term. Wanna use it? It’ll cost you. But we can come up with a reasonable payment plan.) Of all the instruments you could pretend to play, the “Air Trumpet” is only slightly more likely than the “Air Tuba”. (Also thoroughly trademarked.) Does anybody really play air trumpet when they’re listening to jazz? Or anything else with a prominent brass section? And before you correct me on this, you need to know that I’ve eliminated actual trumpet players from consideration. They actually have a reason to wiggle their fingers.

Offending iPod Commercial (“Air Trumpet” at about 0:22)

What makes this even more ridiculous is that I’ve seen the air trumpet in at least two iPod ads, the latest (above) and another I couldn’t find. (Actually I got too sick of watching iPod ads to finish my pursuit.) What I don’t see is air guitar. You know there’s a lot of that being played behind locked doors to music being cranked out of the iPod. Way more than air trumpet. So I’m calling bullshit there too.
You know what really bugs me about these commercials? The narcissism. I have no time for narcissism other than my own. (OK, and in some blogs I read, but they have the added benefit of being amusing/funny.) It’s irritating to have somebody other than myself making a scene in my living room. I want to reach a silhouetted hand into the screen and tap them on the shoulder. When the figure momentarily halts his epileptic fit, I lean in with my silhouetted head and whisper, “you know, you look like a complete idiot dancing by your self like that.” I envision myself talking to Mr. Stompy-Dance in this video (about 9 seconds in):

And the worst thing about this popular silliness is that it inspires lesser mortals to make (huge, labored sigh) their own iPod commercials. And that invariably involves acting out an old Barenaked Ladies song while while walking on a treadmill or standing on a desk in your socks. View at your own risk. There’s a reason this one carries the prestigious one-star designation. (Safe for work, but not safe for your mental health.)

But surely, you say, there’s one of these innovative commercials you like, Brian. Oh yes, there is. But probably not one that CrApple sanctions:

You’ve been serrrrved! (Still don’t know what it means, but it seems like such a great way to end a post.)

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5 Passive-Aggressive Super Heroes (And Baldwin-Tron)

Alec Baldwin on 30 RockOne of the dangers of excessive blogging is that it opens a brain-geyser of random nonsense that doesn’t stop flowing when your head hits the pillow at night. And for me, its often still flowing when I wake up in the morning. Friday morning, as I was trying to get to the office, my brain had fixed on two things. Passive-aggressiveness and super powers.

I think it had something to do with a poll I found online the previous day regarding the virtues of being able to change water to Colt 45 versus the ability to summon the Baldwins to do your bidding. (Please note that Colt 45 is not featured in my parallel universe Irish pub. It is, however, available in the alley behind it.) Apparently my comment was uproariously funny to be accepted by the blog’s owner (I can understand that, I’d hate to draw attention away from his poll with my witty banter).

My thoughts on the matter is that summoning the Baldwin brothers would be a great thing if you call them individually for specific task (“Quickly Alec, that kid’s being a selfish little pig! Use your power of scathing voicemail!“), or all together, if you were shooting a bad action movie. Or a funny, self-deprecating TV show about showbiz. The deal would be made even sweeter if they could all come together to form Baldwin-Tron to fight Godzilla. Or the Decepticons.

Anyway, back to passive-aggressiveness and super powers. Combining the two, I’ve compiled a list of likely super heroes/villains that you should watch out for:

The Tire Flattener
This super hero has the ability to flatten all the tires of any car improperly or illegally parked. Meaning that if your tire is touching a yellow stripe or your bumper is resting over a handy capped pavement graphic, one glare from this irate super hero will have you calling a tow truck.

However the Tire Flattener is powerless against a properly parked vehicle. And traveling vehicles, for that matter. And angry assholes toting tire-irons who park improperly, but are able to put two and two together. One evening the Flattener will himself be flattened and found laying in the tracks of a monster-jacked-up truck in his own lawn.

The Eavesdropper
The Eavesdropper could be friend or could be foe, but will always be a pain in the ass. He has the ability to hear past dialog by standing in the same place as the person who spoke earlier. The challenge here is that people rarely stand still while talking, which means this guy has to play charades with himself to get the full scoop. This leads the Eavesdropper to perform no end of ridiculous activities. Alone. And sometimes in office supply closet.

The thing that keeps this villain from achieving levels of greatness in the corporate world is that everybody hates a gossip, especially one with a quiver full of daggers with everyone’s name on them. They have the uncanny natural ability to alienate. Combine this with his weird antics alone in the board room and supply closet, he’s destined for short flight to the sidewalk outside the company’s front door. But not before he spills the beans to everyone on Peggy and Bill’s forbidden office affair, outs Tom in accounting, and gets you fired for toilet papering the boss’s car. (Hey, if you wanted to get away with it, you shouldn’t have had that whispered conversation in the conference room.)

The Trash Teleporter
This cranky office laborer is annoyed by other people’s messes. And when her rage builds to the point that blood vessels tango on her forehead, she assumes the power to beam a heap of garbage directly onto the pillow of the offending party.

The good news is that her secret power is never wrong. The bad news is that she never gets the satisfaction of seeing the look on the slob’s face when he finds the balled-up, half-used stack of paper towels he threw on the break room floor on his bed after a hard day of being a messy prick. This lack of closure will ultimately lead to her succumbing to a massive heart attack, but not before doubling the price of Bed Bath and Beyond stock. (You know, ‘cuz they sell bedding. Get it? No? Well, your blog isn’t funny either. I’m kidding. I love you blog. Really. It’s the only one for me.)

The Tear Jerker
This jerk is able to summon ambient moisture in the atmosphere and direct it into a persons eyes and throat, making them appear to be totally losing it. Though he will use this in meetings to emasculate his competitors for the open position in upper management, this bastard prefers to use his power on underlings in public. The combination of uncontrollable sobbing of a coworker with the heavy pepper of his ridicule in a public setting is his caviar.

Though more deserving than most super villains to be defeated utterly (but as passive aggressively as possible), this ass will continue to thrive well into old age. Ultimately, he will make it to the top of several large corporations, pillaging them one by one, screwing shareholders and employees alike by expensing luxurious personal vacations in the French Riviera and acquiring other poorly-managed irrelevant businesses so he can get their product for free.

His only weakness is unbalanced, unrealistically beautiful women. He will realize this flaw only moments before one shoots him aboard the “corporate” yacht at the ripe old age of 89. His power will be useless, because this synthetic beauty will already be crying, and likely on a nearly lethal combination of pain killers and antidepressants. Hey, it was a good run, jerk.

The Petard Hoister
This villain has the magical ability to steer people toward courses of thought, speech and action that ultimately result in them being “hoist on their own petard.” He has a supernatural talent for drawing out people’s natural inclination to try to screw the him, and even boasts the ability to cultivate the desire when none previously existed. In short, the Petard Hoister is a bastard.

Though the source of numerous career suicides, untimely deaths involving explosives and computer mice and two freak car accidents, the Petard Hoister is truly untouchable. And by virtue of the inherent convolution of his power, he is likely to remain that way, at least until his backfire backfires. Until then he lurks as a consultant I.T. world, and blogs in his spare time about passive-aggressive super heroes.


Having achieved the necessary volume of narcissism required on a per-post basis by this blog, we draw our super hero list to a close. Be safe out there, and clean up after yourselves. Feel free to use these ideas in this post for a summer movie blockbuster. All I ask is that I’m listed in the credits as “executive production stallion”. And a million bucks. And merchandising. I really don’t think that’s asking too much.

And careful about those mean thoughts you have about me, they’re not good for you. :)

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Six Unusal Free eBooks On My Reading List

The Sony eBook ReaderThe thing about blogging is that it tends to steal bits of your time away from daily activities, if you let it. And I’ve been letting it run rampant. Happily though, in my situation, it seems to mostly be cannibalizing my TV time, which is wasted time anyway. But unfortunately it has also been sneaking bites out of my reading time.

Now that my wife has read all the things she’s interested in reading on my Sony Reader (meaning I can use it again), I plan to reclaim some of that time. As an incentive to get myself reading again, I’ve picked a list of the most random, intriguing and off-the-wall books I could find for free on ManyBooks.

Here, more or less in the order I’ve found them, are my selections:

Trapped by Malays by George Manville Fenn – From what I can gather, this is a turn of the (last) century English colonial adventure story that takes place on the Malay peninsula (probably somewhere in modern day Malaysia). News and stories about Malaysia are few and far between where I live now, and I always make a point to check out anything I come across relating to my wife’s home. (I always have to chuckle whenever I hear the word “Malays”, it sounds just like “malaise“. It’s an almost irresistible call for a witty pun. Almost. :) )

The Practical Distiller by Samuel McHarry – As the subtitle to the books says, it’s “An Introduction To Making Whiskey, Gin, Brandy, Spirits, &c. &c. of Better Quality, and in Larger Quantities, than Produced by the Present Mode of Distilling, from the Produce of the United States.” Sounds like a must read for anybody interested in making a bit of moonshine or bathtub gin! This will be especially interesting to me because my friends took me on a tour of an Oregon distillery as part of my recent all-day bachelor party. (Eat your heart out, I got to try a little somethin’ right from the still! “Mmmm… this tastes like blindness!” :D )

King Solomon’s Mines and Allan Quatermain by H. Rider Haggard – These are the books that inspired the Allan Quatermain character in the truly unfortunate movie The League of Extraordinary Gentleman. If one thing positive can be said for that movie, it forever locked Sean Connery in my head as Allan Quatermain, which can only help make these books more fun to read.

The Hacker’s Dictionary by Eric S. Raymond – This is the youngest book on this list, being a mere 15 years old (1992) as of this writing. It also has the chance of being a book that is impossible to read in the conventional sense, if it truly is a dictionary. However, I’m gonna take a stab at it, and I may just fire up the movie Hackers (1995) to get me in the mood. (The most up to date version of this book can also be found online here, under the name The Jargon File).

The Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by Thomas De Quincey – All I can say is that it’s hard to pass up a title like that. Based on the excerpt listed with it, it could be a pompous, insufferable read. If it is, I hope it will so bad that its actually makes a good, but unitentional, comedy. Based on the wikipedia page dedicated to the book, it was considered both “taboo” during its Victoria era context, due at least in part to the description of Mr. De Quincey’s opium trips in great detail. Perhaps it will be a pretentious R-rated Alice in Wonderland?

If any of these sound interesting to you, check ‘em out. Maybe we can compare notes later. And if you do enjoy them, consider making a small donation to ManyBooks. I plan to. They really provide an awesome service to eBooks fans. Happy reading!

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