SpaceBrew Malty Musings from Space

Farewell to the Help Desk

For the last 18 years I’ve been working on computers in some capacity. About eight of those years were server engineering and data center operations, but the rest has been help desk. I’ve always preferred the help desk because it’s more hands-on with people. I have the great privilege to make people happy, one person at a time.

Help desk obviously doesn’t pay near as well as the server side of things, but it’s always been enough to support my family and me. And you know me – I’m not greedy. I only want to make enough to cover what I need, plus a little allowance for toys and beer. I have no desire to drive a fifty-thousand-dollar luxury automobile, or have a summer cabin in the mountains. Though that does sound quite nice now that I think about it.

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SpaceBrew Review: Ancient Shores

Ancient Shores
by Jack McDevitt

as posted on Goodreads

This book was like a “wave” at a football game. You know the one where people stand up in turn waving their arms around and it gives the effect that the stadium is an ocean? Yeah. That. Let me explain the analogy.

Well you probably got that it was up and down with the suspense, drama and general kickassery of the story. It was indeed. The gait would pick up and get me real interested, then it would slow back down and even bog down with unnecessary character introductions and irrelevant loose ends. But it also reminded me of a stadium wave because of how imperfect the wave part of the wave actually was.

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The Low-Memory Rubik’s Cube Solution

Are you one of those people who has a Rubik’s Cube sitting on a shelf or in a drawer somewhere, and you’ve had it since the 80s but you’ve never solved it? Are you the type of person who uses more than one conjunction in the same sentence? Great! Then we have one thing in common! No, but seriously, folks.

So I wrote a sort of beginner’s guide to solving the Cube. And I call it the Low-Memory Method, because you only have to memorize 8 (eight) algorithms. There are probably several hundred algorithms one could possibly learn to solve the Cube, but my theory is that the fewer you need to actually solve it, the more people will get interested in picking up their old Cube and giving it a shot. And the trick is that if there’s an alg for rotating three pieces clockwise, then two things are true:

  1. There’s also an alg for rotating those pieces anti-clockwise, and
  2. You can perform the clockwise alg twice and it will achieve the same end result.

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Twisty Puzzle Solutions

I have a rather ridiculous collection of Twisty Puzzles. I used to be able to call it a Cube Collection. But now a large lot of them simply aren’t cubes. I have several dodecahedrons, an octahedron, a quadrahedron, et cetera. And I, being a literal guy, cannot in good conscience call them all cubes any longer. This meant broken links on my website. But all that’s been fixed now.

Anyway, I have a few that I needed a little help with. Megaminx? Seriously? That thing’s got twelve sides. With ten pieces on each side. I was able to solve eight sides on it with no help. But the last four started to get crazy. After several days of pulling out my hair and almost Throwing It Out The Window, I finally sought help. And got it. Well, some of my puzzles weren’t so easy to find help on.

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New York Diaries, Vol 2

The first order of business upon arriving in a foreign town is to locate a good place to drink. Well, maybe that’s not a rule or anything, but it seems to work well for me. I’ve had almost one-hundred-percent success in using this little scheme when I visit new towns. I want you to look at the inset picture here really closely, without clicking on it yet. There. Right in the middle. Do you see it? Okay, now click it.

Now you see it, don’t you? Yes, friends, that is indeed a BREWERY. Sorry for the shittastic image – there were raindrops on the window through which I took the photo. {aside} When I checked in, I played some charm on the cute clerk and said in my best Texas accent, “I’m from Dallas. I’ve never been here. Can you give me something really high up?” She smiled and said yes, then upgraded my room to the 43rd floor, so I got a pretty good look. So yes, I walked into my room, dropped my crap on the floor and immediately walked to the window to have a look at the world below. Once I spotted the brewery, I was back down on the street within three minutes. My suitcase was still on the bed, zipped up tight.

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New York Diaries, Vol 1

I’m finally changing career paths. At almost forty years old. But they say it’s never too late to learn something new, right? I’m tired of fixing computers for a living. I’m pretty good at it, and I’m almost never stumped by a problem for too long anymore. I mean, there are perhaps an infinite number of things that can go wrong with a computer or a piece of software, or a printer… But a lot of them start to look alike – and certainly have the same solution. And I’ve been doing this a really long time. Yeah, it’s time for a change. So my company sent me to a three-day training course in New York City. So this is it, huh? I finally get to go to New York. Well let’s do it!

You see, all my friends have been. Well, most of my friends anyway. My red-haired wife has been. My dad has been. And everyone says you have to experience it firsthand to really get the full drift of what it’s like down on the street. Well, I’ve been here for four days now, and let me just say this about it: you have to experience it firsthand to really get the full drift of what it’s like down on the street.

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Smart Phone, Dumb User

Have you ever paid attention to your phone bill? Do you know that they actually still send you a list of all the phone calls you made and received during the billing cycle? Why do they do that? I mean, sure, I think the log should be available if we need it, but really? Who the hell actually looks at every call every month? Does anyone keep a record of it on a notepad or something and then check it like a bank statement, making sure he didn’t get billed for a call he didn’t make?

Another thing you might not have noticed on your bill – for those of you with smartphones – is the fact that they charge you thirty dollars a month for a data plan. Well, I know some charge more, some charge less. But the median is somewhere right around thirty bucks. Well, I know you know you get charged that every month, because when you signed up for the service and got the smartphone you agreed that you had to have a plan on it to be able to use it. But have you really sat back and thought about what this really means? Of course you haven’t, you silly goose!

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The Panama Chronicles: Part 5

Part Five: Dancing in the Streets

When you think of vacation spots, you probably don’t very frequently list Panama City as one of your choices. It seems – to me, at least – to be one of those spots like the Roman Coliseum. It’s beautiful, and you’d love to see it, but you’re not going to lie out and catch some rays on the theater floor. These seem more like educational spots. Culturally rich locations where you go with a history team, or a college class for a field trip. And certainly if you’re staying at Playa Bonita on Diesel Beach, it’s not a great place to catch some sun. The pools are fine for it. Amy (“I’m not getting any sun! I need to wash this crap off my back!”) burned like an unconscious lobster left on a grill. While the fire was lit. On high. And people threw cigarette butts at it. While laughing. Even my red-haired wife caught a little too much sun, and when her skin started peeling it really made a picture of her new Embera Ink tattoos.

But a large part of me is glad we didn’t get to choose the vacation spot for our getaway. Panama is literally the last place on the planet I would have chosen. Ireland? Turkey? Germany? Canada? Kansas? These are all places that sound reasonably like good tourist spots for a nice week away from work. But the company chose for us. As they do every year on their Presidents’ Club vacation. And this unlikely spot made for a fantastic, and life-changing experience I won’t soon forget. Yes, even I – with my terrible memory – am not likely to forget this one.

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The Panama Chronicles: Part 4

Part Four: The Tribal Village of the Embera

We’ve come a long way with technology. This to me is science. I like to stay at the forefront – the leading edge, and all the other buzzwords you can think of that have to do with technology. I sometimes buy devices and gadgets with the full intention of returning them within the fourteen-day window just so I can become familiar with them, learn all about them, and be able to speak intelligibly of them. I would never personally own a Windows phone, but I was quick to hop on my mother’s for an hour or two when she got it, just to check out what they’re all about. I have more gadgets and technology in my house than a Best Buy distribution warehouse. Well, one that’s very small and only has like five laptops and three tablets in it.

I never dreamed I could part with my tech so easily. And maybe I can’t. I brought my tablet and my D/SLR camera with me on this trip to Panama. And my cell phone. And my wife’s laptop, her cell phone, a pocket camera, a 3G wireless hotspot, a GRUB analyzer, a Trip Socket spectrometer, and a bag full of cords, cables, chargers and SD cards. I came fully prepared. Our phones, however, remained off the entire trip. It was nice to be disconnected. Sort of. Not sort of nice. Sort of disconnected. Of course we still fired up Lync and Google Talk to video chat with the kids in the evenings, and I checked my email on my tablet and sent my drawings to my game mates on Draw Something. But we were more off-the-grid than usual. Especially when we went to see the Indians.

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The Panama Chronicles: Part 3

Part Three: The Heart of Panama City

Panama has three beers to offer us. There’s nothing special or fancy – they’re all golden beers, light in flavor and body, and all pretty similar. We tried them all, of course, and actually wanted to venture out into the city to pick some up to keep in our hotel room. Those Panama nights get long, and that balcony that overlooks the Diesel Beach just seems to call to us like the crickets of the jungle. We longed to sit out on that balcony and enjoy a few cold cans of Balboa. Alas, here now we sit in our comfortable leather couches back in Dallas, Texas, and can say we not once sat in those chairs on the balcony.

We did do plenty of sitting and drinking though. I met some really great people on this trip. Certain people with whom I’ve spoken and supported many times were there, and it was great to meet them. But they also brought with them their spouses, and that really rounded out the vacation for me. Tom and Jeremy and Sean – these guys were the perfect compliment to the Suzanne, Shana and Kacy I’ve already come to know and love. Though I’d not yet met Suzanne and Kacy, I was already very fond of them from my dealings with them on the phone. The nights we spent out by the pool crowded around a table drinking beer we had bribed a waiter into serving us were as memorable as the tours and experiences we were talking about around those tables.

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