Monday, December 6, 2010

How to Have a Conversation with a Random Spammer

While I am a confirmed Skypernaut, I learned that Trusty Friends Nova and Stormy don't always have access to Skype.  They use Google Talk during these times.  I discovered that GTalk is pretty much like Skype, except not as good.  Now, to be fair, it works beautifully for IMing. It's fast, it integrates with Gmail nicely, and it doesn't use as much memory. However, it lacks a number of Skype features I've come to depend on.  For instance, it does not flash on my bar like Skype does to let me know there's an update in one of the numerous chats I'm in there.  GTalk beeps instead.  Anyone who knows me, or has read this blog long enough, knows that I am a Geeky Mom.

This means one of 3 things.

a. I'm playing Skillet, Lacuna Coil, Kamelot, or Handel's Messiah (depending on time of year) at outrageously loud levels while singing at the top of my lungs, and will NEVER hear the little GTalk beep. I may not have the same voice quality as Simone Simons or the sopranos singing the arias in the Messiah, but I make up for it in vocal enthusiasm.
b. The kids are screaming about who has to pack the last dirty coffee cup in the dishwasher, and I have stuck my fingers in my ears and have reached the LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA!!!!! stage of the evening, and will NEVER hear the little GTalk beep.
c. I'm fragging baddies in Middle Earth, Vabbi, Firenza the Eta Eridani Sector block, or on Dantooine, and will NEVER hear the little GTalk beep.

Switching conversations in Skype is incredibly easy if you have the recent conversation tab open.  In GTalk, you have to click on the overlapping buttons on the bottom windows bar and hope you get the right one.  There's no way I could have 9 (I'm not kidding) different conversations in GTalk like I do in Skype without that driving me crazy.  Still, I'm willing to deal with what works for others when necessary.

The other thing that Skype does much better than GTalk is handle privacy.  I can set Skype so that only people who I have exchanged contact details with can contact me.  This has saved me a lot of spam IMs from Chinese Nike shoe sellers, Russian prostitutes, and North Korean Viagra dealers.

Last night, courtesy of this blog, a spammer got through on GTalk. I answered because it was someone who had emailed me, and thus was in my contact list.  I had cheerfully ignored the email as probable spam, but GTalk decided since it was in the list of people who had emailed me, it must be OK.  It didn't help that I wasn't paying attention when I answered, since it was 2:30 am.  However, I am grateful for the line of thought this generated, because it gave me a perfect blog topic.

Anyway, here is the actual discussion we had. Names have been changed to protect the innocent and/or guilty.  Note that this was not one of the more brilliant things I've done on the internet, and you should avoid following this example.

2:30 AM jh: hi
  how r u?
 me: hello
2:31 AM jh: whr r u frm?
2:32 AM me: A Geeky town. You?
 jh: india
2:33 AM may i know about something?
2:34 AM me: It depends on the question. :)
 jh: ok
  wht is ur profession
2:35 AM are you busy?
2:36 AM me: Well, it's the middle of the night by me. :)
 jh: ohh
2:37 AM me: I write and manage the family.
 jh: it's your profession
 me: They keep me busy
  I take it you do tech?
 jh: ok
2:38 AM i can not understand what you want to tell exactly
2:39 AM me: you work with computers?
 jh: yes
  nad u
  sorry and u
 me: I play with computers. :D
 jh: ok
  what is ur age
2:40 AM me: Mary Kay had a wonderful saying when someone asked her age. She said "A woman who will tell her age will tell anything."
2:41 AM jh: ha ha
2:42 AM tell me you are man or woman
2:43 AM are you there?
2:44 AM me: My husband is calling me to bed--must go. Have a good night!
2:45 AM jh: okey
  sleep tightly
  good night

Now, let's examine this in Geeky Mom detail.  Let's say a random stranger meets you on the street or calls you up on the phone, and asks you where you live.  Do you look at him and say, "I live at 90033 South Moron Row, Stupidsville, 90210"?  No! Why?

Because that would be freaking IDIOTIC.

Who in their right mind is going to give a complete stranger their personal information? Apparently, lots of people on the internet, because I see this kind of stuff posted all the time on MySpace, Facebook, IMs, and forums.  For some reason, some people assume that everyone else on the internet is as nice and honest as they are.

Here's a newsflash, folks.  People tell lies on the internet.  Lots of them.  There are sick people out there who take great joy in sitting at their computer figuring out how to separate you from your hard-earned money, and sometimes even from your home or family.  They like to gather that information in one setting if they can, but sometimes these Bad Guys will do this over multiple conversations, gleaning little tidbits of information here and there, until it adds up to one nice, big package of information.  If you're lucky, they'll only sell your email address and info to spammers.  If you're not so lucky, they'll come visit your home and rob you blind.  If you're really unlucky, they'll find you and you'll disappear, with nothing left but a bad picture on a school milk carton and a mention on the America's Most Wanted 'Missing Children' tab.

Geeky Mom Communication Rule #1: Don't tell people you've never met ANY private information like your address, your phone, or the status of your tattoos.

If you wouldn't yell "I've got a a dove-and-heart tat on my left butt cheek!!!!" in the middle of a crowded New York subway during rush hour, don't put it on the internet. Frankly, most of it's TMI quality, anyway, and there really are some things we just don't want to know about you.

By the way, Mr. jh really is from India, believe it or not, and with any luck thinks that "A Geeky Town" is the actual name of my home city.  I can just see him looking it up on Google maps now.

Geeky Mom Communication Rule #2: Don't use your real name on the internet.

Why do I use a screen name? I don't want people looking me up in the phone book and figuring out where I, and hence my kids, live.  I'm rather protective that way.  I also don't want my boss reading my status messages, and I don't want potential future employers or complete strangers finding out about me via Facebook and other social sites, so I don't share my screen name with my co-workers or my employers.  Besides, I don't want to hear about how much my co-workers drank at some bar and then puked back up last Saturday night, either, so that works just fine.

Geeky Mom Communication Rule #3: Don't tell strangers what you do.
Unless it's a work-related site or public knowledge already, strangers don't need to know that you're a professional daisy-picker.  It'll also save you from a bunch of questions on daisy-picking techniques.

Since Mr. jh got info from this site, it was very easy for me to say 'writer and family manager' during our little chat, since as a Geeky blogging Mom, I'm obviously both by default. Of course, in the 'painfully obvious' vein, he answered that he 'works' with computers. Wow, there's a surprise.  When he asked my job, I thought briefly about answering "professional Russian hooker", but Trusty Friend Mishy had already said "5 bucks says he's going to hit on you!" I didn't want to lose the bet quite that fast.

Geeky Mom Communication Rule #4: The only people who need to know your real age are your family and your doctor.
I'm permanently 29, thank you.  This is an excellent age to be, by the way.  You're still young enough to have  great health, barring unusual circumstances, but old enough not to be insanely stupid like you are when you're going on 21.

This reminds me of a story. Yes, I know this is completely off on a tangent, but it's the most epic "I'm not telling my age" story, ever.  It needs to be told.

I had to ask a lady how old she was--in a professional capacity, of course.  She hadn't put down her age or her birthdate on the form she had filled out.  She was one of those women who colored her hair and had that non-descript kind of look that said "I'm anywhere from late 40's to early 60's".  I had absolutely no guess on her age.  Anyway, the conversation then went like this:

Me: "May I ask how old you are?"
Lady: "I'm 19."

At this point, I was thinking "Oh, she jokes around about her age like I do. That's awesome!"  I was about to laugh, when she said in a completely serious tone and with an entirely straight face:

"I've been resurrected."

At that moment, I understood why she was taking a page-long list of anti-psychotic medications.  Apparently, it was OK for her to list those on her sheet but not her age, but then we're talking about someone who, God bless her, connects regularly to the Mother Ship.  I ran my hand over my hair briefly to make sure I didn't have a tin foil hat on and just hearing things myself from the Mother Ship.  I paused, thought hard about what to say next, and wondered how I was going to find out her true age.

This was one of those moments where the insane part of the brain kicked in and hijacked my mouth before the sensible part of the brain could say, "Wait, what? NO NO NO NO NO Don't say that!!!"

Me, entirely seriously: "What year were you born in your former life?"
Lady, entirely seriously: "1953."

I couldn't believe I asked her that.  I couldn't believe she answered with her real birth year instead of whacking me over the head.  I couldn't believe the rest of our time together was spent as if absolutely nothing bizarre had just happened during that exchange.

Geeky Mom Communication Rule #5: The only people who need to know your gender are people who actually see you, like your family and your doctor.
If someone on the internet says "tell me you are man or woman", proudly tell them, "I'm a hermaphrodite, just like Jabba the Hutt!!" I'm not sure what part of "Geeky Mom" made "jh" think I might even be remotely male, but perhaps he was just trying to be polite and make small talk.

I was laughing at this point in the 'conversation', and sharing the potential hermaphrodite answer with fellow Skypernaut and Supremely Awesome Trusty Friend Sabretooth, when he cheerfully pointed out to me that "jh" was a confirmed spammer on the Stop Forum Spam site, according to this search. He also cheerfully and wisely pointed out that jh now had my email.  I said goodnight to jh, blocked him, and took the email address off my contacts list so that GTalk doesn't still think he's one of my best buddies in life.

Geeky Mom Communication Rule #6: If you are stupid enough to continue talking with a complete stranger on the net, especially one from another country, and he professes "True Love!" after only 2 weeks and wants to get hitched, he just wants a marriage visa to your country.

This actually happened to my sister-in-law, but her idea of being 'net-savvy' is knowing how to use a net to scoop fish out of the pond.  She called us from Pakistan on her honeymoon after marrying the guy in London, 6 weeks after "meeting" him in a chat-room.  Why London? He couldn't get a visa into the US to get married here.  She bubbled over in glee about marriage to Mr. True Love, and that she was staying on some family farm with a bunch of chickens running around, despite the fact that he was supposedly a banker at some unknown bank. I got off the phone with her and promptly called Homeland Security to report Mr. True Love. I thought about calling the Marines to go in and rescue her, too, but she got back to the US safely a week later, so we happily avoided an international incident.  I suspect Mr. True Love was watched rather closely for quite some time since he wasn't able to get into the US for several years after that.

Geeky Mom Communication Rule #7: If you come in contact with a spammer, run your antivirus and malware scanners.

I'm paranoid about viruses and malware.  I ran AVG antivirus, including the rootkit scan, and Malwarebytes.  These and many other fine programs are available at one of my favorite sites,

By the way, "jh" didn't hit on me, but Trusty Friend Mishy would argue that I cut him off before he got the chance.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Geeky Mom Guide to Installing, Configuring, and Opening the Package of your Razer Orochi

Razer USA Ltd snake logoImage via WikipediaLet me give you a little background first.
I a. am left-handed, and b. have small hands, being of the female persuasion.  Finding a wired gaming mouse to fit either of those requirements is hard enough.  Meeting both is darn near impossible, and thus miraculous on the order of the Virgin Birth and/or Congress abolishing income tax.  Take your pick on the miracle there.

Anyway, I was at Best Buy last night to get a new case fan to replace the cheapy one that comes from the manufacturer and has become ungodly loud.  I had to make this trip because I messed up and asked Trusty Hubby last weekend to buy a 120mm case fan, assuming in a rather large PC that this was the correct size.

Wrong.  It was an 80mm fan.

However, I'm never sad to go to any electronics store, so I was not devastated by this 'mistake'.  I found a nice Antec case fan, a 3 speed LED Tricool that glows blue.  The fact that it glows blue had nothing to do with the purchase; it was entirely because it was an Antec and looked better built than the other 2 fans on the shelf.  Honest. 

While I was looking at fans, I passed by the section with mice.  I love gaming mice, particularly wired mice, since I click buttons so often that I go through batteries approximately every 2.38 seconds.  However, the wired gaming mice found at any retailer are all made for right-handed people with Godzilla-sized palms.  When I game, it's typically for a long period of time, and huge mice make my hands cramp after awhile.  Using a righty mouse is impossible. Here's a hint for retailers--10% of the population is left-handed.  It won't kill you to keep at least 1 lefty mouse around for us to try out.  The only reason I don't buy a lefty mouse online is because I want to actually handle the thing before buying it so that I'm not stuck with something that only guys with hands the size of the Texas Roadhouse super-size 500 pound steak can use.

Usually, I've gone to ambidextrous laptop mice.  They work well enough for most of my needs--they're not righty-based, and they're usually small enough to fit my hand well.  The only problem is that they're not designed for gaming, so the dpi is not terribly high.  When you're fragging a boss, the higher the dpi, the better, and laptop mice typically just don't cut it.  Then there's the 2.38 seconds of battery life.  You have no idea how annoying it is to be gaming, have a boss down to about 2 hit points of life left, and then have the battery decide "Wow, now would be a simply EXCELLENT time to die!!"  By the time I get the battery changed, the boss has now pounded me into oblivion and regenerated all his/her/its health.  This is Not Fun.  It didn't help that I'd dropped it a few times and gotten enough cat hair inside the laser opening to create a giant hairball, so the functionality was lacking quite a bit.

So, there I was, browsing around the mice, not very hopeful of finding one that would meet all my needs. Imagine my surprise when I found a wired, ambidextrous gaming mouse that was small enough that my hand would not spasm after 3 minutes of play, called the Razer Orochi.  It's a laptop mouse that can be used either wired or wireless via bluetooth, which I thought was a very cool feature.  In case you're wondering, Razer loves naming all its mice after snakes, and giant, poisonous ones at that, like "Copperhead", "Mamba", "Naga", and "DeathAdder".  Apparently nice, friendly snakes like garden, corn, or milk snakes don't qualify.  I have to admit that the Cool Factor (tm) would not be quite the same if you called up your gaming buddy and said "Hey, I got the cool new Razer Milk Mouse!!"

In the past, I've used the Razer Lachesis, which, oddly enough, is named not after a 'Serpent of Terror' but a Greek goddess who determines one's fate and length of life. Despite the fact that it performed wonderfully for gaming, it was just a bit too big, and my hand kept cramping when gaming.  When the wire shorted out on it, I decided to go back to a mobile wireless mouse until the performance and battery issues drove me up the wall and out the door to actually shop. Having been generally pleased with Razer, I decided to try out the Orochi.  Now, the Orochi isn't a lefty mouse.  I'm probably going to have to get with some engineer to design lefty gaming mice for women or something like that.  Nonetheless, it met my needs--it could be used by a lefty, it was a gaming mouse, it was wired, and it was not Godzilla-sized.  

In case you're wondering, an Orochi is a mythical Japanese 8-forked serpent, complete with not only 8 heads, but 8 tails too.  This mouse is well named, because it takes 8 hands to get the package open.  The package had 4 separate compartments--I am not kidding.  It has the outer package, made of a sort of plasticized cardboard that was 'Hermetically Sealed For Your Protection' with about 18 thousand pieces of clear tape heat sealed on.  I.e., no one short of a 3 year old could get into it.  Fortunately, being of the female persuasion, I have some nails--not long, mind you, because that would get in the way of keyboarding, and a Geeky Mom does have her priorities.  Nevertheless, after about 10 minutes, I was able to pick enough of the tape off to get past the outer package to the 3 inner packages.  

Two of these 3 packages were in the same plasticized cardboard, but weren't heat-seal-taped shut.  These contained the handy zipper fabric pouch for the mouse, the detachable USB cord, and 2 AA alkaline batteries.  Including the necessary batteries is a very nice touch, because it is virtually guaranteed that when you buy an electronic item, you have exactly one battery less than what you need for it in the kitchen junk drawer.  

The other cardboard package contained the user manuals.  Plural.  There were 5 of them, I kid you not.  There was the 'quick start' guide for folks who have ADD and/or don't feel like reading more than one page of instructions, including the 2% portion that isn't pictures. Then there was the instruction booklet for Mac users, another one for PC users, and 2 more of the same, but in French.  Apparently, Razer ships frequently not only to the US but also to France, Quebec, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  

The final package held the actual mouse.  It was made out of that heavy-duty clear plastic, hermetically sealed with another 18 thousand pieces of heat sealed clear tape which said "You are NOT going to shoplift this thing!!!" I.e., no one short of a 3 year old could get into this one, either.  After picking at this set of tape with now-sticky nails for another 15 minutes, I finally got one end open.  I discovered the mouse was embedded in more of this heavy duty plastic.  Fortunately, my hands are small, so I was able to get one hand inside the package to grab the mouse.  It was a good thing I didn't have bigger hands.  Anyone else would need a chainsaw to cut through that plastic.  I pulled on the mouse, only to discover it was stuck in the packaging.  I pulled harder.  The top came off.  Usually, this is A Bad Thing.  What I didn't know at the time was that the top is supposed to come off in order for you to insert the batteries.  After sighing my relief that the top snapped back on and I hadn't broken it, I managed to get 2 fingers of the other hand under the plastic that was hanging on to the mouse for dear life, and push up to pop the mouse out.  If your hands are too big to get inside the package, find a 3 year old or your trusty chainsaw to help you.  It's the only way you'll get the thing out of there.

The last thing I found, in a box virtually dripping with venom and Death, was a haiku. One does not typically find poetry inside a box of any electronic items, much less those promising to kill anything that happens to get in your gaming way.  It was titled "Ode to Yamata no Orochi".  Fortunately for the Congolese, it was also conveniently translated into French.

Eight-headed serpent
of myth, longer than mountains
Whose tail hides the blade.

Serpent a huit tetes
Du mythe, plus long que les montagnes
Dont la queue cache la lame.

I would like to take a moment to point out that odes and haiku are two very different types of poetry, and that the French version violates the classic 5/7/5 syllabic convention.  I did wonder briefly if the programmers sat around and had a little contest to see who could write the best and/or worst one, with a prize being a Starbucks latte, but I'm probably descending into the snarky at this point.

Shockingly, I read all the instructions, except the ones destined for Congo, prior to plugging in my mouse.  This is a Geeky Mom, thing, I think.  I hate having to go back and fix mistakes because Someone *cough*Trusty Hubby*cough* hasn't read the instructions first.  I learned you can only configure it in wired mode, and since I always re-map my mouse buttons to work with my leftiness, this was good to know.  Of course, I planned on using it only in wired mode anyway, but I deemed that useful information if I ever get another laptop.  I then plugged the mini-USB part of the cord in the proper place on the mouse and read the instructions on how to plug the mouse in in order to load the drivers. I cheerfully went to the Razer support site and downloaded the firmware updater software as instructed in the manual.

You have to understand that this is meant to be a laptop mouse.  The cord is quite short.  If you're like normal people and have your case at some distance from the top of your desk, the cord likely won't be long enough.  My case sits on top of a nice little glass tray table next to my desk so I can reach it more easily after having the knee surgery, so this worked just fine.  

After reading the discussion of how to plug it in to install the firmware, I realized that people with the "normal" computer set up would have trouble with following the instructions on installation unless they were either human pretzels or members of the Circque du Soleil.  In order to plug it in, you first have to turn the power switch on the mouse to the 'off' position, conveniently delineated by the side of the switch not marked with a tiny hash mark that one can see only with a 5x magnifier.  Then, while pressing the left, right, and center buttons simultaneously, you plug the mouse into a USB port on your computer.  If you only have 1 hand, or have the coordination of a dead flea like me, you're screwed.  So, I did a few taekwondo arm stretches, focused my chi, said a prayer, and got the thing plugged in.

Then I tried to find the "Configurator" as instructed in the manual.  I searched all over my computer for this. I tried to search on the Razer site, only to discover I 'had to be logged in'.  This required a serial number, helpfully located in miniscule numbers on the underside of the little plastic tab that you use to pull your batteries out when they die in 5.82 seconds (I figure Razer's batteries last a little longer than Microsoft's).  It did not help that on this tiny tab of plastic there was a string of numbers that was about as long as pi carried out to the 58th digit.  I registered my product and still needed to log in.  However, Razer has apparently decided login fields are not required on their site.  So, I did the next best thing, and googled my problem.  After a few searches, I found a forum where a guy posted a similar problem to mine.  After reading several of the less-than-helpful answers, like "RTFM!!" and "Dude, are you blind? It's so EASY!!", someone asked "did you download the drivers?"

This made some part of my brain go "Wait--didn't I just download and install the drivers???"  Then I looked back at the Razer site.  It turned out that you have to download TWO programs, not just one. I'm not sure why no one thought about bundling them into one package.  It did not help that Razer separated them on the list of programs, and put the drivers, apparently as a test of our intelligence, at the bottom of the list of software, completely separate from the firmware updater, which is at the top of the list.

So, just to be clear, you need TWO things to make your Razer Orochi run in anything other than 'basic' mode.
1. The firmware updater.  Install that first, then plug your mouse in using the method described in the manual. Consult the Cirque du Soleil if you have trouble with that.
2. Then, download and install the drivers needed to install the configurator.

Once I got that done, the configurator worked as the manual instructed.  I got my mouse buttons remapped, my scroll light turned on, and the mouse is working beautifully.  

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How to be a Facebook Idiot

Famous posthumous portrait of Niccolò Machiave...Image via WikipediaDespite having been off work several months recovering from my knee replacement, I still kept up, albeit on an extremely limited basis, with what was going on at my office.  The last year in my workplace has been, shall we say, quite 'entertaining'. By 'entertaining' I mean 'full of enough political machinations, intrigue, gossip, and personality conflicts that even Machiavelli would be studying it with Great Interest'.  I make a point to hide in my 'little cave', as I call my part of the office, in order to avoid most of it.  However, at some point I have to do things like heat up my coffee or use the bathroom, and that eventually involves some level of co-worker interaction.  The new manager, fortunately, is quite skilled in handling this, and I have great faith that the situation will improve.

Anyway, I learned recently that a friend was 'no longer with her company'.  This allegedly may have had something to do with some negative comments about one of her coworkers that showed up on her facebook profile.  It got read by those above her in the chain of command, as it were, probably sent to them by one of the miffed co-workers out to get her, because I don't think those above her on the chain of command would honestly care otherwise.  Now, this is not what I would call 'a brilliant move' on her part. Of course, I'm not 100% sure on this allegation, particularly if anyone in my office or above me in the chain of command happens to be reading this blog.

I've worked in a couple places where the policy was 'no texting while working'.  This rule has been followed about as well as speed limits are observed by taxi drivers.  Not surprisingly, Facebook posting has been a big part of this. After observing my coworkers, I have learned many unique ways to be a complete and utter idiot on Facebook, and I have even made up a few of my own.  I'll leave you to decide which ones.

1. Talk about "J" or "412-ing".  Yeah, because the cops never, ever search Facebook, and will never figure that one out, since none of them ever talk to drug users or even consult (NSFW).

2.  Have an argument back and forth with your boyfriend/girlfriend.  Hearing an argument between a boyfriend and girlfriend is bad enough.  Reading it on Facebook makes me want to gouge my eyes out. Watching you on the job while you madly thumb-key insults to your 'beloved' makes me want to gouge both your eyes and my eyes out.

3. Sharing your sexual exploits.  Like the internet needs any more porn at this point.  It certainly doesn't need your crappy, fake porn.  As a mom, I do not want to read how "hawt" you think my kids are and what you did with them last night when I know they were safe at home and you weren't there. Here's a hint--your grandma doesn't want to hear it, either.

4. Saying negative things about your co-workers, your boss, or your company in your status message.  Nope, no one will ever read that, copy it, and paste a copy of that status message into an email to said co-worker, boss, or company. Not at all.  Especially after you've said something to them that made them mad. No future potential employers will ever read your facebook either.

5. Too. Much. Information.  I do NOT want to read how many times you vomited after drinking Heaven-only-knows how much alcohol the night before.  I do NOT want to read about how you managed to pee on your cell phone.  I do NOT want to know the size of your body parts.  I do NOT want to know what your psychiatrist told you to do at your latest visit.  Some things just don't need to be said.

Trusty Friend N'Eligahn introduced me to Failbook.  I'd say I nearly wet myself laughing, but that would be over-sharing. :D   Here are just a few gems:
"Over the Line"--the comments are just as good as the Failbook entry.
"A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande ECHEC"
"Bi-Polar"Enjoy, and feel free to share your favorite Failbooks!

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

GamerCatz is up to podcast 5!

Check out our latest podcast here (clicky).  Who honestly wants to see Jar-Jar's tongue in 3-D?!?  Yukk.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

You know you've reached geeky family status when....

Who says women aren't geeks?Image via WikipediaI have officially reached geeky family status with certain members of my family. Now, mind you, as a confirmed Geek, I have had my share of experiences as being 'second class'. We geeks are never in the "A-class" crowd in high school, it's just one of those things we learn to live with, and even learn from as we grow up.  For the most part we adjust and grow and even flourish.  I wouldn't be a medical professional, a mom of two great kids, and married for 2 decades without having learned a few things along the way--mostly that geeks marry geeks, produce geeky children and continue geeking out on things like video games, Star Wars, and Star Trek.  It's a genetic thing, I'm sure. 

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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Podcasting can be a Geeky Addiction

Throwing in the towelImage by spbutterworth - photographer to the feline elite via FlickrA couple years ago, I started podcasting with LucasCast.  That's been a blast, and we've managed to produce 23 episodes.  With all the insanity going on in my and my family's lives, however, I've had to throw in the towel on audio production, which I took over last December.  It takes me literally 20 hours to edit the sound on 2 hours of podcast material.  While I like to think I'm just being thorough, it's because, well, I know squat about sound editing, so I'm just plain slow.  After recording this last podcast, I started working on it, realized I felt overwhelmed by this while in the middle of recovering from my knee replacement and The Great Family Cancer Crisis, and decided it was time to pass that task on to someone else.  Fortunately, Trusty Friend acdcfanbill took the Audacity files off my hands and is now working on editing it.  It looks like most of the rest of the cast has had Attacks of Life (tm), so I suspect LucasCast is going to become one of those fun things I did for a time in life.  I guess all good things come to an end at some point.

Anyway, in the meantime, being the social butterfly talker that I am, I ended up making an occasional appearance on Outpostgamez' 'Gamers Lounge Podcast'.  When Trusty Friend N'Eligahn decided to set up GamerCatz Podcast and asked if I'd join in as a regular, minus the task of sound editing, I happily agreed.  It has quite a different flavor from LucasCast.  LucasCast, naturally, is focused more on LucasArts games.  We shared information on the games we were playing, along with some gaming information and the occasional descent to utter ridiculousness that comes from a group of people who've spent a lot of time talking to each other. 

GamerCatz is more focused on our reactions to the latest gaming news.  In our most recent cast, for instance, our 'great debate' was on the topic of 'net neutrality'.  We spend a fair amount of time on the latest MMOs, since we Catz are MMO players, but we also talk about other games as well, including even tabletop gaming.  Yes, we have our moments of laughter, there, too.  I think that might be part of the addiction--laughing with a group of fellow gamers and geeks. 

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I've Officially Joined the Youtube Family

Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBase
I'm no stranger to YouTube, trust me.  Some of the funniest videos can be found there, including the "Four Wheels of Fury!" Toyota/World of Warcraft commercial, and one of my favorites, "The Emperor's Phone Call", where Emperor Palpatine, in full claymation glory, receives a phone call from Darth VaderAdult Swim finally decided to host this video on their own site after a zillion people posted it on YouTube.
Today, my daughter decided to use my point-and-shoot camera to take a video of our new kitten playing.  I decided to share it with friends, and since YouTube cheerfully lets me host videos there, I uploaded it.  I am now the proud owner of a video on YouTube. The quality is about as good as you can get for a point-and-shoot camera being held by a child excited about her new kitten, but all things considered, unless you're a curmudgeon who doesn't like kittens, you'll probably enjoy the enthusiasm that only an 8 week old kitten can have.  So, have fun watching Jake playing.

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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

How to Decorate a Walker, Geek Style

Late last week, in a fit of frustration that the physical therapist still wasn't allowing me to 'graduate' to using a cane, the kids and I decided the walker required more 'decor'. We took a trip over to Party City for cheap items and supplies (emphasis on 'cheap'). The kids then helped me arrange the various new items on the walker, and we scotch-taped them all in place.
I knew we'd achieved 'Cheezy success' when Trusty Hubby arrived home from work, took one look at it, and declared, "I am NOT going to be seen with THAT in public."
Anyway, here are some pics of the final product.

The front view:

My view--the black thing on the left side is a bulb for a horn. The dog keeps confusing it with his squeaker toy since they sound remarkably alike.

Yes, even the wheels got pimped with some star stickers:

Yes, that is a warp nacelle on the horizontal bar, though it's taken a bit of water damage in the rain over the past few weeks. Of course there's one on the other side, too. You can't be unbalanced on your warp nacelles, you know. That would just be silly. The "One Way" sticker is for those who might possibly be confused about the direction a walker must take (yes, I have that much faith in some peoples' intelligence levels). It works well with the Scooby Doo sticker that my daughter got at the doctor's office after a routine visit. She felt they'd look best right above the wheels.

View of the left side of the walker, including the reflective cardboard blue horn, which I'll save for New Year's noisemaking:

Here's the view of the sign that Trusty Friend Sabretooth created and which we copied, printed out, put in a plastic page protector, and then attached to the walker with left over twisty-ties from loaves of bread. And yes, that is a Pokeball attached to it. There's also some weird creature that is attached on the other side because my daughter 'liked it and thought it would look good there'. I never argue with my 9 year old daughter in matters of taste and decorum.

Of course, no walker would be complete without light up features. You have no idea how hard it was to find a a really cheap battery powered string of flashing lights (emphasis on 'cheap'). Fortunately, the light-up lei worked as a good substitute, and the flashing "Princess" pin looks suitably gaudy when lit up.

Just in case you were dying to know, the Pokeball contains a Shaymin. I know your day would not have been complete without informing you of that fact.

No self-respecting sci-fi geek would be caught dead without a Star Wars Pez dispenser. I was hoping to find a Yoda Pez dispenser, but R2D2 was a good second choice. There are cherry-flavored Pez inside, in case you were just dying to know.

My physical therapist finally graduated me to a cane after laughing hysterically at the added decorations.
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Having a little fun with the new template designer

Blogger added a new template designer, and I've been having some fun with that. I still have to work on getting a dark background for the comments section, since the links are so hard to see there. I've added some fun gadgets--who can resist pics of tornadoes or funny cats? I've also added a blog list and hope to keep sharing some interesting new blogs with you all from time to time.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Come on, you know you've always wanted to tweet in Klingon!

'oH ghaH QaQ jaj DaqjaH!!
(Today is a good day to tweet!)
I was browsing the Star Trek Online forum, mostly because I play Star Trek Online, when I saw this in the drop down list of choices on the site: "Tweet in Klingon". As someone who has the official Klingon-English/English-Klingon Dictionary and tried to actually learn Klingon at one point, of course I felt compelled to check this out and see if it really works. It does. The site will cheerfully translate for you and then post your tweet in a few easy steps.

You, too, can have the opportunity to say such worthy things as "Your mother has a smooth forehead!", "Your ship is a garbage scow!", "My targ ate my homework," and "Where can I get my shoes cleaned?". There are then the important phrases such as "Where is the bathroom?" and "I'm lost." However, my favorite is "pa' 'oH tlhIngan 'op naDev" ("there are Klingons around here") and the every-important "cha' margaritas, tIv" ("two margaritas, please").

SoH Sov you're geek DI'SoH jaH DaqtlhIngan.

(You know you're a geek when you tweet in Klingon)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Surgery success!

Total Knee replacement : Lateral view (Xray).Image via WikipediaI made it through my knee replacement surgery! It's been a rough few weeks of recovery, because knee replacements are about as painful as they come in the surgery world, according to my physical therapist. I almost asked for a psych eval the first week after surgery to determine if I was insane for having chosen to go through with it, and then the pain started to calm down a bit.

It's been emotionally challenging along with the physical challenges. My sister had a huge surgery to remove as much of the cancer in her chest cavity as possible about 10 days ago. They took out her entire right lung, part of her diaphragm, the pericardial sac (which goes around the heart), and a tumor off the top of her heart. I think she wins in the severity-of-surgery department for the family this year. I still 'win' the PT pain award, however.

My friend, Karen, passed away last week after a year-long battle with pancreatic cancer. The docs had finally gotten her most painful tumors shrunk to almost nothing about a month ago, and I was beginning to have some hope that she might make it a little longer. However, God wanted her home in heaven sooner than we all wanted. The one remaining tumor in her liver didn't respond well to treatment, and about 2 weeks ago, her liver just gave out and quit working. She died about 4 days later. Her family had a memorial service last night at our church, and I was able to go to it. We don't have a small church--the sanctuary can hold a few hundred people. It was absolutely packed. It was wonderful to see so many people coming to show their love for Karen's family. I'm going to miss her dearly, but I'm so thankful she's out of pain.

With my sister-in-law having breast cancer, my daughter dealing with ADHD and being diagnosed with both soy and dairy allergies a week before my surgery, seeing funnel clouds the night of my surgery out of my window, going through PT, my friend dying, my sister having surgery, and having a red area on my knee that we initially thought was an infection (turns out it was a hematoma), I think I kind of understand what Job must have gone through. I told a friend of mine at one point I was just thankful God hadn't given me boils. I'm hoping God doesn't get any funny ideas in that department.

I did use my phone and DS during my hospital stay, but didn't actually sign up for internet access via Skylight. The evening I got out of surgery (my operation didn't start til about 2pm), we actually had tornadoes go through Milwaukee county (where my hospital is located), and the city got drenched with 7 inches of rain. I got back to my hospital room on the 11th floor around 5pm and to my delight I was able to see funnel clouds out the window. Naturally, I thought this was awesome, despite the fact that I had absolutely no place to go if we had one land on top of us. The staff apparently are instructed to close the blinds in the event of a tornado warning. I pointed out to the gentleman who was following these instructions that would have little effect at keeping debris out of the room should the tornado decide the hospital needed some re-decoration. He noted that this was an astute observation, especially considering I'd arrived from the recovery room only 15 minutes earlier, but he closed the blinds anyway. I suspect it's to keep us patients from freaking out at a tornado coming, but it ruined my perfectly good view of some lovely wall clouds and funnels. I was going to ask Trusty Hubby to open the blinds back up for me after the hospital worker left, but apparently the Good Drugs kicked in right then, and I fell asleep. I find it completely ironic that I joked about needing access to the Storm Prediction Center on my phone in my post just prior to surgery, and then having a tornado actually show up not too far from the hospital doorstep.

Over the next 2 days, I discovered that I had about a 9.2 minute attention span, so it just wasn't worth paying for the internet service. With my phone, DS, a special about tornadoes airing on The Weather Channel, and the fantastic light show put on by Mother Nature two nights in a row with fabulous storms, I had more than I could handle anyway. The hospital kept me busy with PT twice a day, and when I wasn't doing that, I fell asleep, usually in the middle of a Pokemon battle. It did not help that I got woken up in the middle of the night for shift changes, vital sign measurements, blood tests, and, believe it or not, changing my trash. The gals who came in every night to police the garbage cans tried to be quiet, but I sleep light, so I woke up the moment the door opened. I'd say hello and thanks to them, and they'd both reply in very chipper voices, "You're welcome, have a good night!" I never knew it was possible for someone to be that happy at 4:30am, but they were.

Now I'm staying busy with figuring out how to geek out in physical therapy and home recovery and surviving the use of a walker. I'll share some of my tips with you in another post later.
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Friday, July 16, 2010

Preparing for Hospital stays, Geek Style, Part 2

PikachuImage via Wikipedia

One of the things Geeky Moms do is make lots of lists. This is because we have many things on our minds, such as making sure the kids get to school on time, remembering to feed the cat and dog, cruising the forums to make sure there are no spambots there, looking around to see where we put the car keys, checking the severe weather threat on the Storm Prediction Center, reading email, making sure the hamburger has been pulled out of the freezer for dinner, Skyping/IMing, Twittering, gaming, and making sure we've drawn a Magikarp on our daughter's lunch bag that day.

I'd draw a Pikachu, but I'm artistically impaired.

In addition to making a list of things to do prior to surgery in the supreme effort to put off serious housecleaning to the very last minute, it is Important to have a list of 'Things To Bring To The Hospital'. If I don't have this list, I will undoubtedly discover I'm missing something at 2 am the night after my surgery. My Loving Hubby sleeps like a log and won't wake up for a call at 2:02 am, nor will he be inclined to crawl out of bed and drive an hour to the hospital to bring it to me at O-God-Hundred.

In addition to things like a Real Bathrobe (to cover my amble tushy while I'm stuck wearing the half-toga), toiletries, underwear without holes, regular medications, and my own toothpaste, I have determined that I also need the following Geek items.

1. My cell phone. Yes, yes, they tell you to turn them off in the hospital, with the implication that leaving it on could fry the brainwaves of patients in ICU or something.

The real reason they tell you to turn it off:



Hospital personnel have to draw the line somewhere, for heaven's sake. If you think I'm kidding, I'm not. I actually had a patient take a call while I was doing their eye exam and talk to the other person about pizza toppings. It's people like that who ruin it for us Geeks who know how not to talk at the top of our lungs in the hospital hallway at 2 am about mindless crap like what color we're going to paint our fingernails tomorrow. Anyway, I don't plan on talking much, I just want internet access in case Skylight does not play nice with Lucasforums, Lotus Fleet, and the Storm Prediction Center. It's Important for me to Know if a tornado is coming my way, after all. That fact that I would reach at most the cruising speed on my crutches/Jar-Jar Binks decorated walker of a paraplegic snail in order to escape the tornado does not daunt me in the least.

2. Cell phone recharger. There's no way the phone will stay on for 3 days, not if I'm using the shoutbox on Lotus Fleet to harass Trusty Friends N'Eligahn, Mishy, Calderwood, Kheren, Jureth, Battle Lion, evshell18, jovani, Caltern, and assorted other Lotus Fleet Unique Personalities. The admirals are aware that I'll be in the hospital and on Good Drugs. This gives me the excuse to say something that will make at least a couple of them give an eye-popping "OMG!!!!!!!" and yet be truly entertaining to the rest of forumites. Of course, they still reserve the right to ban me at any time, which would be a first for me. I may rethink this strategy at some point.

3. DSiXL and Pokemon games. I'm not kidding when I said Pokemon is gaming crack. Yes, I know the hospital website says 'don't bring video games'. I'm going to cheerfully ignore that. Pokemon withdrawal would make me bat-crazy.

4. DSiXL recharger, because I plan on playing a LOT of Pokemon. Yes, I know Skylight has games, but if they have anything besides Solitaire and Chess, I'll be stunned.

5. Individual packets of Cameron's decaf chocolate caramel brownie coffee, Splenda, and individual packets of fat-free hazelnut creamer. I cannot go without my coffee, and while hospitals are good at medical care, they are not Starbucks.

6. A coffee maker and filters. Hey, the hospital website doesn't say I can't bring my little 4-cup coffee maker.

7. Bags of tea in case the hospital staff tells Loving Hubby to take the coffee maker home because it's not Officially Sanctioned By The Bioengineering Staff.

8. Several books in case they make Loving Hubby take my DSi home.

9. Tasmanian Devil coffee mug.

If I can have my coffee, my internet, a little chocolate, a little pizza, and some books, I can survive anything.

Addendum: You know, I think Zenmata is really a cool kind of thing, until I see their 'suggested articles', including these, RIGHT BEFORE MY SURGERY. Geez, now I have to worry about the possibility of some crazed bovine wandering into my hospital room.


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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Preparing for Hospital stays, Geek Style, Part 1

It's been a crazy few months for us, and even Geeky Moms have their limits in what they can handle without needing to escape to game, chat with Trusty Friends and fellow church members via Skype/Facebook, podcast about E3, rock out to Skillet's new album 'Awake', or role-play, which is what I've done. I've played Dragon Age, Star Trek Online, Pokemon (don't laugh until you've tried it. It's gaming crack, that's all I can say), and D&D online via Skype. I also role-played in some of the RP stories on Lotus Fleet, did simulcasts with Trusty Friends Lynk and leXX during E3 presentations, and chatted. I've learned more about Andorian birthing than I ever thought was possible given that it's an imaginary alien species from a 44 year old TV show. Still, I had a good time role-playing how my ship's doctor helped save a pregnant zhen, and the pleasant diversions are very welcome. This may sound totally corny and tremendously Geeky, but some of my online friends are as close, if not closer, than some of my local friends. You all have helped me in many ways with prayers, good wishes, and warm thoughts, and I treasure you all.

My sister's cancer diagnosis has been rough on the entire family, complete with all the attendant emotional ups and downs that come with such a devastating diagnosis. The good news is that the chemotherapy has been tremendously effective, and her prognosis has improved from 'about 5 years' to 'you'll get to see your children grow up'.

We're still dealing with the roller coaster of feelings, and the family dynamic challenges. Trust me, when you get a cancer diagnosis in the family, the dynamics NEVER improve. The best you can do is keep them from going down the crapper completely and creating the family equivalent of Mt. Vesuvius, and/or something that belongs on the latest hot TV reality show.

In more cancer news, we learned a few weeks back that my sister-in-law, Glenda, had been diagnosed with breast cancer. They caught hers very early, and she did fantastic in her surgery last week. She had no lymph node involvement on initial pathology results, and we're waiting to hear for the final results, but all indications are that she'll have a complete cure. She says she's very glad to be rid of the cancer.

We have also had the challenge of dealing with my daughter's ADHD diagnosis and different medication changes associated with that. This is one of the Parental Challenges of the Century. At one point, we were trying a dose of medicine that was way too low and just made the symptoms worse, and by worse I mean, "if the pediatrician doesn't fix it Right Now, the house will explode." I told the pediatrician "I don't know who you're going to have to peel off the ceiling first--her or me." I briefly thought banshee training would be of great benefit to her as a career choice. I spoke with the Banshee College of Shrieks, and after they listened to her one time, they determined she'd test out of their PhD program and asked if in fact they could invite her for a guest lectureship. The medium dose of the medication seem to be working better, however, so I think we'll hold off on any career scream plans for the time being. Just to add to the fun, we also learned yesterday that she's still allergic to dairy after all, and also allergic to soy. Ever try to find margarine or shortening with no dairy or soy in a conventional store? Good luck with that. Soy and dairy are 2 of the 8 top food allergies. You think some major margarine manufacturer execs somewhere would say to themselves, "Hmm, maybe we should make something without dairy and soy and sell it in major groceries. We could make a ton of money from the people who have these allergy issues." Nope. It hasn't happened, though I have been assured by Earth Balance that I can find their soy and dairy-free spread at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods Market if I am willing to drive 35 miles.

Some good news--we found an absolutely delightful dog at Safe Harbor Humane Society, who we have named Sparky. We missed Lucas, we all needed a new dog in our lives, and the shelter had several available. His previous owner had to relinquish him because he lost his job and had to move to an apartment that wouldn't allow dogs. I don't know who the previous owner is, and I'm sure he was heartbroken at giving up such a wonderful dog after having him as part of the family for 5 years. I'm proud of him for doing the right thing and not just throwing the dog out on the street for animal control to find. I just wish I could let him know how happy his dog is with us and how we're working hard to take good care of him and love him.


Sparky is mostly a black Labrador retriever, possibly with a bit of pit bull or boxer in him, since he's got a massive head, very strong jaw, and quite stocky body. He's collapsed 3 tennis balls since we got him, so we finally got smart and bought Kong toys, which are much tougher. He takes tremendous joy in playing 'fetch', and we now take tremendous joy in playing 'throw'. He has a very sweet temperament and adores tummy rubs. He did well in his introduction to our cat, Joey. The two now sniff each other often. I suspect they'll be doing some playing in a few more weeks as they learn each others' boundaries.

In addition to all that, I've been dealing with my long-term knee problem, and I'm actually having a total knee replacement for it next week, which brings me to the actual point of this post--how Geeks prepare for a hospital stay. As a Geeky Mom, this involves multiple things, not the least of which is blogging about it.

First, you'll be happy to know that not only does my surgeon do nothing but knee and hip replacements, he also has a website, and he's actually tweeted a surgery. I suspect that actually someone typed for him while he did the surgery. I'll ask him next week for sure. Inquiring minds want to know.

I have a list of things needing to get done around the house prior to surgery because I'll be maneuvering on a walker and/or crutches for several weeks after I get home from the 3 day incarceration in the hospital. I'm hoping for crutches, because walkers really make me feel old beyond my permanent 29-ness. In fact, I informed the ortho that I would use it if he forced me, but I would feel the urge to decorate it with visually obnoxious items, such as pinwheels, a loud shiny horn, and neon reflective Jar-Jar Binks stickers.

Anyway, the list of tasks includes:

1. Asking my hubby for the 9th time to please put the back seat back in the van. I have been asking this since, oh, last March. I'm tired of chasing cans of kidney beans around the back of the van when they roll out of the bags. Here's a hint for those of you guys who hate being nagged: if you do something you say you'll do the first time, we'll never have to ask you again to do it. Just a pro-tip for husbands, there.
2. Not killing my daughter when she does her best banshee impression about having to clean up the mess in her room.
3. Playing STO and doing RP in the supreme effort to put off serious house-cleaning to the very last minute.
4. Creating playlists in iTunes in the supreme effort to put off serious house-cleaning to the very last minute.
5. Teaching Trusty Friend jovani how to use Audacity in the supreme effort to put off serious house-cleaning to the very last minute.
6. Making a long list of things I need to bring to the hospital in the supreme effort to put off serious house-cleaning to the very last minute.
7. Obtaining a raised toilet seat per doctor's orders. This adds to my feeling of youth about as much as a walker does.
8. Getting the dog neutered and my daughter tested for allergies the week before surgery, because I don't have enough stress in life, and I'm making the supreme effort to put off serious house-cleaning to the very last minute.
9. Mourning over the fact that Trusty Friend N'Eligahn is not going to be hosting a D&D session this Saturday, thus preventing me from making the supreme effort to put off serious house-cleaning to the very last minute. Never fear, however, I'll find something to do instead, perhaps play more STO, write another RP post, blog, or jam with the family on Lego Rock Band. I'm very creative in avoiding house-cleaning.
10. Preparing menus and doing a mass cooking marathon in the supreme effort to put off serious house-cleaning to the very last minute.

One of the things I did today was check out the hospital website to get information on my stay there. I found out important things like "as a patient you'll be given a gown to wear" (more like a half a toga), "no cell phones" (yeah, right), and "we have 24 hour security" (so the psych patients stay in psych). Since I'm going to be an inmate for 3 days, and living without internet is not my idea of A Good Time, I decided that one of the first things I, as a dedicated Geeky Mom, should do is check out internet availability. To my great delight, I found out the hospital has this cool thing called Skylight Access Interactive Patient system. It comes complete with a "wide array of services" such as cable tv, INTERNET, health videos (that'll put me to sleep for sure), 'healing music' (read, New Age interpretations of bad elevator music versions of Simon & Garfunkel songs), INTERNET, the ability to order my meals from the kitchen and extra toilet paper from housekeeping, and, INTERNET. The internet includes a wireless keyboard. My guess on why the keyboard is wireless is Skylight's lawyers feared that those of us under the influence of Good Drugs might do something with the cord that would involve lawsuits against them. This is in spite of the fact that someone like me will be a. attached to a machine that will move my knee around pretty much all the time, and b. we're all attached to IVs and assorted other medical things with odd, unintelligible Greco-Roman names.

Now, you may ask why on earth I'd want to be on the internet hours after having chunks carved out of my thigh and leg bones and pieces of titanium hammered into them for my new 'bionic robo-knee', as Trusty Friend Dath Max calls it. I mean, we're talking power-tool heaven for Mr. Fix-It types here. The answer: Because that's what Geeky Moms do. I may only be online for about 2 minutes the first night, provided I'm not drugged into oblivion by pain killers, and for limited times the next day or two after that, but by God, I actually have the opportunity, and that's the important thing.