The Best Of The Old Blog: Adventures In Tech Support

[I’m not saying this happened where I work, because I NEVER blog about my day job.  However, I’m saying this did happen.  Probably today.  And not far from Cincinnati’s Fountain Square, which I can see from my office window.]

(L)user:  Jim, it’s Ben.  About that nonstandard app you don’t support that you installed for me.

Me:  What about it, Mr. Dover?

(L)user:  Well, it doesn’t have all the features I wanted.  Could you come up and fix it for me?

Me:  Well, Mr. Dover…

(L)user:  Call me Ben.

Me:  Middle name “Gay”?

(L)user:  What?

Me:  Sorry.  Benji, when we installed this, we did so because you had a business case that warranted it.  However, we also told you we can’t support it because it’s a non-standard application that really should not be on our network.

(L)user:  But what about those features I wanted?

Me:  Ben, I have a customer with a blown hard drive who needs to be back up and running or her department will lose a $100 thousand dollar contract.  I have another user who’s been waiting for me to deliver a new laptop since last week, and he really can’t wait anymore now that I have the part he needs.  And we have an Internet worm that’s wreaking havoc with most of our business units.  So really, your non-standard app that you’re not supposed to be running on company machines is going to have to wait.

(L)user:  So you’ll be right up, right?

Me:  [Mutes phone]  Why the f*** do I keep getting these motherf******s?  Were his f***ing parents brother and sister or what!?!

Coworker:  Calm down, Jim.  Send him to The Master.

Me:  [Smiling]  The Master. [Said reverentlyUnmutes phone.]  Ben, I’m going to put our top guy on it.  Okay?

(L)user:  Thanks, Jim.  Thanks a lot.  I really appreciate this.

Me:  [Transfers call.]

The Master:  ‘Allo?  [He’s from Ray Banks old stomping grounds, so he talks funny.  I mean for a guy from Manchester.]

(L)user:  Hi, this is Ben.  Ben Dover.

The Master:  Yeah, what the f*** do you want?

(L)user:  You know that app you told me never to install?

The Master:  Yeah?

(L)user:  It doesn’t work.

The Master:  Well, of course it doesn’t bloody work, you stupid git!  You’re not supposed to be running it!

(L)user:  [In full on nasally whine] But I can’t get all my features!!!!!!!

The Master:  Okay, calm down there, Benny.  Go to Start, then Run.

(L)user:  [Typing noises]  Okay.  Now what?

The Master:  Type “cmd”.

(L)user:  Okay.  Got it.

The Master:  Hit enter.  You should get a big black box with a blinking cursor.  Got it?

(L)user:  Yes.  Will this get me my features?

The Master:  Not yet.  Type “Format C:”

(L)user:  Okay.

The Master:  Hit enter.

(L)user:  Okay.  Says it’s formatting IDE Device 0.

The Master:  Good.  Now go show your manager when it’s done and tell him it was your idea.

(L)user:  Great!  Thanks.  I really appreciate this.

Later

Another coworker:  Hey, why was Ben Dover cleaning out his desk?

[True story from June 9, 2005, somewhat embellishedThe Master no longer works for BigHugeCo.  He is missed.  – Jim]

The Best Of Edged In Blue: So Long, CompUSSR… Er, Um, CompUSA

[One of the earliest blog entries here, it reveals a sad chapter in my IT career.]

The two worst jobs I ever had were a Burger King I worked at for about three weeks in 1985 and CompUSA. Looking back, Burger King was not nearly as bad, the bi-polar assistant manager with delusions of grandeur notwithstanding.

CompUSA? Well, let me put it this way. When I received my offer to come work for BigHugeCo, where I’d been laid off in 1997, I followed the Dotcom Boom mentality of “I need to think about it.” I thought about the more civilized work environment and 35% salary increase long enough to go buy a pair of dress shoes. Then I spent three weeks trying to get fired from CompUSA.

They wouldn’t bite.

Now comes word that CompUSA is closing its doors. Good riddance. In its heyday, CompUSA might have been geek central, the place to go when you wanted to build your own box instead of paying outrageous sums to Compaq, Dell, or Packard Bell for one. By 1998, when I worked for them, it had become a monument to customer abuse and employee discontent.

We are talking about a company that regularly put it’s customers on hold for 45 minutes and punished employees for clocking out one minute late. (“Overtime is not permitted nor tolerated at CompUSA” was the corporate mantra.) One coworker I know was asked to help the general manager use those new-fangled CD burner thangies in exchange for burning copies of any software off the shelf my coworker wanted.

Microsoft and Adobe got a little upset about that. So was the GM fired for allowing this? No, he fired my coworker. Within a month, 3/4 of the technicians had moved on to other, better-paying jobs with better work climates. Initech in Office Space would have been a major step up from there.

I left CompUSA for good on New Year’s Day, 1999, vowing never to return. And for the next seven years, I made good on that vow. When I finally did re-enter the store, searching for cheap speakers for laptop, I was shocked. While gone were Packard Bell, IBM, and most of the Compaqs, the store itself hadn’t changed at all. Well, yes, it did. I was the only customer in the place, and I still had to wait to get service.

There was no reason CompUSA couldn’t compete with Best Buy. While Best Buy has everything under one roof, CompUSA’s focus made it just geeky enough to find a niche. Instead, America’s one-time “Computer Superstore” had a cold corporate climate that inspired customer frustration and employee disloyalty to the point where some called it “CompUSSR.”

Best of My Town Mondays: WKRP Vs. The Real Cincinnati

The first thing people ask me when they learn I live in Cincinnati is, “Is it really like they show on WKRP in Cincinnati? This was my answer a few months back. – Jim

wkrplogo

20th Television

Ever since I moved to the Queen City, people keep asking me if the city is like WKRP in Cincinnati. The answer?

Yes and no.

Is there a station in Cincinnati WKRP was based on?

Actually, no. WKRP was based on a couple of radio stations producer Hugh Wilson worked for. However…

Retired afternoon drive jock Gary Burbank once described AM powerhouse WLW as “the real WKRP.” Back when Burbank started in Cincinnati as the morning jock, WLW still played music. The station, however, remains colorful enough to be its own sitcom. In fact, current afternoon host Eddie Fingers was once the city’s equivalent of Johnny Fever.

The tower in the opening credits is no longer there. It was originally the television transmitter for WLWT, Channel 5, and torn down five years ago. I know. I watched them take it down from my office back then.

Les Nessman – Yes, the gentle, stuck-in-the-fifties, pinko-fearing nerd was odd, even by Cincinnati’s conservative standards. Still, for several years, Cincinnati was a one-helicopter town when it came to traffic. It now has none since the advent of ARTEMIS. Still, when I first moved to the city in 1991, WLW still ran farm reports during the morning broadcasts. I haven’t heard them since about 1994 or so, but everytime they ran them, I kept thinking of Les Nessman’s hog reports.

Where did most of Jennifer’s boyfriend’s live? Probably in tony Indian Hill (home of Peter Frampton, actually) or ritzy Amberly Village. Though it was never mentioned in the show, Jennifer’s apartment could easily have been in One Lytle Place, downtown’s first upscale condo building.

So what was the Flynn Building? The establishing shots for the station itself were actually of the old Cincinnati Enquirer Building on Vine Street. The building is still there, but the Enquirer moved to a shiny new building on Third Street. As far as I know, Abe Lincoln never set foot in the building as Mr. Carlson said in the episode where they attempted to keep the building from being condemned. In fact, I don’t think the building existed until the 1920’s.

Where did turkeys fly?

(Fox has since had the video of the Great Turkey Drop taken down, the filthy bastards.  Otherwise, you’d be seeing Les Nessman crying “Oh, the humanity!” was about a dozen turkeys fell to the pavement.)

As God as my witness, I thought they would fly over the Tri-County Mall, north of Cincinnati in Springdale. In the show, it was called the Tri-State Mall. Was it actually the Tri-County Mall? Given that the show was in its second or third season when this infamous episode aired, it’s quite likely the writers were trying to sprinkle in some local color.

And finally, what the hell were the lyrics to the end credits?

Um… Well…

I think these are the words.

More My Town Monday posts at the My Town Monday Blog here.

Best Of The Old Blog: So Bad, Jack Taylor Used Her To Replace Booze

[Originally posted to Northcoast Exile June 9, 2007 after blowing through the entire Jack Taylor series.]

As you know, I’ve been tearing through Ken Bruen‘s Jack Taylor series at a pretty good clip.  Recently, Ken shared with me this snatch of dialogue he wrote for the next Jack Taylor book, Paris, wherein our favorite non-drinking pub dweller and Father Malachy discover they share a common, and rather unhealthy, obsession.  With Ken’s permission, I’ve been allowed to post an early draft of the opening confessional scene.

[Jack has come to Galway Cathedral because something happened the previous night that has shaken him to his very soul and sworn him off Sky News and CNN, at least for the time being.  Poor guy had to order and stare at a six of Guiness to right himself.  He goes to an unlikely ally for help.]

JACK:  Bless me, Fr. Malachy, ya stupid git…

MALACHY:  Hey!

JACK:  Sorry.  ‘Tis an English term of affection, and me mother did think highly of you.

MALACHY:  Very well.  Go ahead.

JACK:  I’ve lost track of when my last confession was…

MALACHY:  You were probably drunk at the time.

JACK:  Watch it.

MALACHY:  Sorry.  Please continue.

JACK:  I have touched myself in…

MALACHY:  Hey, hey, HEY!  There are just some images I really don’t need to deal with.

JACK:  It was while thinking about Paris Hilton in prison.

MALACHY:  Well, that’s different.  We must examine this sin closely.  Please tell me more.  In detail.  What was this fantasy that caused you to sin much less than usual?  [A metallic noise emerges from Father Malachy’s side of the confessional.]

JACK:  Was that a zipper?

MALACHY:  We have rats.  Go ahead.  I’m listening.

[Jack proceeds to tell Fr. Malachy the rudest Paris-in-prison story ever imagined.  He ignores the grunts from Fr. Malachy during the steamier parts.  He finishes.]

MALACHY:  Well, my son, we all…  um…  Could I trouble you to get me a paper towel on your way out?

JACK:  Get it yer feckin self.  My pants got too tight just telling you that story.  Would it count if I confessed ahead of time?  I’m going to need to do that again now, then stare at a double of Jameson tonight.

MALACHY:  Yes, yes.  Say one Lord Bless the Pygmies and you may go.

JACK:  “Bless the Pygmies?”

MALACHY:  Pope Benedict is a huge Larry the Cable Guy fan.

JACK:  Very well.  Lord, I apologize for that.  Please be with the little pygmies in Africa.  Amen.

MALACHY:  Great.  You’re absolved.  Now get out of here.

JACK:  Brit!  [Slams door to confessional on way out.]

MALACHY:  Paris and Lindsey Lohan?  Oh, mama, I gotta do a homily on the evils of that.

[Note:  Ken really did ask me to blog this after I sent him an earlier version by email.  Yes, Paris confuses everyone in the Western world. ]

The Best Of Edged In Blue: Band Of The 2000’s: The Foo Fighters

[Originally posted on September 17, 2008.]

Monday, I listed, in order, the band of the decade for the entire rock era through 2000. Elvis, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, U2, and Metallica, with The Rolling Stones being the band of the era.

But notice there really isn’t a “band of the 2000’s.” Why is this?

Some of it is the Internet. A lot of it is MTV and corporate radio. The coming of Clear Channel, CBS (aka Infinity in the pre-Viacom days), and Radio One destroyed local radio, which built Elvis and The Beatles and…

Much of it has to do with the sheer fragmentation of rock music in the last 25 years. Led Zep may have invented heavy metal. Metallica seems to be confined to it.

And let’s be honest. Rock as we knew it from 1964 through the end of the grunge era is a fading form. It’s one thing to see Mick Jagger and Keith Richards bouncing across the stage at 64. (Hell, Mick is more limber approaching 70 than I am leaving 40 behind.) It’s kind of embarrassing to watch Vince Neil of Motley Crue get a facelift on a reality show because 50’s coming and that’s hell on a former party boy.

I’m sure there are some who will argue, from a purely commercial standpoint, that Coldplay would be this decade’s band. While I like Coldplay, I would disagree, and many people would howl in agony at that suggestion. In fact, the sheer number howling in agony convinces me this is not the case. They are successful, but hardly earth-shattering. Their sound has too many echoes of Oasis, Radiohead, the post-Fish Marillion, and some of the poppier sounding U2. While honoring and using what came before is all well and good, being the band that “sounds like those other guys” negates any claim to band of the decade status.

Radiohead, on the other hand, probably has a bigger claim. And indeed, they were the first major act to bypass the big labels and go direct to the fans. Still, too many people my age and younger hear the name Radiohead and go, “Huh?” Is it an American thing? Or is the Pink Floyd of the Nineties label more appropriate for Radiohead? (Not a bad title, considering they don’t suffer from the instabilities of a Syd Barrett or, more mercifully, Roger Waters in his bipolar phase.)

But one band has kept its collective head down and forged on, putting out better and better albums year in and year out since their inception as a side project for one member of Nirvana: The Foo Fighters.

The Foos, or more specifically Dave Grohl, have been one of the hardest working acts in music since Kurt Cobain died. Every move is well thought out, and between commercial success and sheer creative prowess, The Foo Fighters in all its incarnations have been second to none, particularly on 2005’s In Your Honor. Whereas Elvis became The King, The Beatles leaders of a cultural revolution, Led Zeppelin the first true rock gods, U2 a political force, and Metallica an industry, The Foo Fighters simply have been pwning. No bravado. No boasts. Just great music played well and connecting with their audience like few other bands.

And perhaps that’s what makes The Foo Fighters the band of the 2000’s. They just do their job, do it well, and tell you this might be the last Foo Fighters album. They’re not threatening to break up. They’re only telling you they’re not going to indulge in post-creative suckage (A lesson learned by The Beatles and irrelevant to U2, but sorely needed by Elvis, Zeppelin, Metallica, and for a few years, the Rolling Stones).

So what about it? Am I right? Do the Foos own the New Millennium?

Best Of MTM Cincinnati: Fountain Square

Most towns have their central plazas. San Francisco has the Embarcadero. New York as Times Square. DC has The Mall. Cincinnati’s is Fountain Square. If you remember the opening credits to WKRP in Cincinnati, it was the first thing you saw of the city, the fountain, officially called The Genius of Waters or informally called the Tyler-Davidson Memorial, framed against a building that looked suspiciously like one of the Twin Towers. It’s actually the Fifth Third Building.

Fountain Square has since undergone several radical transformations. Gone is the Skywalk, which let one walk from the old Cincinnati Bell Atrium (now Convergys Center) over at Fourth and Main to the Duke Energy Convention Center all the way on the western edge of downtown. An ugly shell of a department store, so obscure it’s barely remembered as Fountain Square West, stood next to the Square when I first moved here in 1991. A week later, they blew it up for a parking lot. Now it’s a Macy’s (formerly Lazarus, whose parent owns Macy’s.)

The Fountain has moved. It once stood near the Fifth Third Tower overlooking a stage and a wide, empty section of the Square. Now it stands dead center. Plus, Fifth Third no longer dominates the Square. Its tower and adjacent office building fronting Sixth Street still stands, but only a branch and a mortgage office face the Square itself. The rest has been given over to restaurants. Yes, kids, there is a reason now to come downtown after work now. Or even on weekends.

In fact, you might hardly recognize the place if you haven’t been here in the last ten years. Photos after the jump.

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Best Of The Old Blog: Gaze Upon My Manuscript, Mortals, And Despair!

[Kind of appropriate for this month, dontcha think?  Alas, no race with another writer this time. – Jim]

[Originally posted to Northcoast Exile June 6, 2005. Unfortunately, I wound up scrapping this book, and Graham Powell never had a chance to get out of the gate. Oh, well. At least Graham got Crimespot live.]

Yea, verily, I did thus utter the sacred incantation on this very blog – the Seven Sacred Words – to call upon the Muse.

And lo did she come unto me in the middle of the night and whisper in mine ear. And thus, her whisperings begat Chapter 10.

Yet I despaired, for as I sat in Starbucks after working, admiring the beauty and the grace of that creature known as “MILF,” lo, did I despair, for I knew not how to follow the first scene in Chapter 10.

And yea, verily, the saints, they did appear: Hammett with a venti Yukon blend and MacDonald with a carmel frap, flanking the man himself, Chandler, who thus opted for a skim no-whip mocha, with triple expresso.

And yea, verily, did St. Raymond say unto me, “James, James, why doest thou despair so? Doth thy wallet cry out in agony from this overpriced java?”

An verily, I said, “No, St. Raymond. I have set up my protagonist in a bar and have no way of turning the situation.”

“Truly, truly, I say unto you,” St. Raymond said unto me, “first, you really did pay too much for a venti decaf. You could have gotten it at the IHOP up the road for $1.20 and all the refills you wanted. Second, James, remember my words and heed them well. When thou knowest not what to do, throw in someone with a gun.”

And thus, the Three Wisemen hopped in Hammett’s SUV and drove to Deja Vu because yea, verily, couch dances are half off on Monday nights. MacDonald was heard to exclaim, “Don’t tell Margaret where we’re going.” To which Hammett replied, “Isn’t it bad enough she knows we’re in Cincinnati?”

And lo, I took the advice of the Three Wisemen and threw in some guns. Two characters ate lead, then dirt sandwiches. And I looked and I saw it was good.

26,000 words.

Verily, I say unto thee, Graham Powell, who art thy daddy?

Best Of Edged In Blue: Band Of The 2000’s?

[Got a lot of hits originally.  The follow up, which I’ll repost next week, sparked some serious debate.]

As we close in on the final year of the decade, one burning question remains.

No, not how much longer before we’re rid of George Bush.

Who is the band of this decade. What band defined the decade more than any other?

After the jump, we take a look at what bands came before, starting with the dawn of rock and roll.

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The Best Of MTM Cincinnati: The Chili Wars – Chain Edition

Possibly the most popular My Town Mondays post on this blog to date. – Jim

A couple of weeks ago, I told you about Cincinnati-style chili.  I also passed on posting a recipe, since I’ve never made it from scratch.  George Matthai, in the comments section, offered one of his own.  I also promised to give you a run-down of the different chains and a few indie shops.  Today, I look at the chains after the jump.

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Best Of The Old Blog: Stones Vs. Beatles? No Way!

[Originally posted to Northcoast Exile on April 13, 2005. This was the most popular post on the old blog that didn’t feature a naked soccer mom. – Jim]

John Scalzi, in his Reader Request Week post for today, tackles his weightiest subject to date:

“Beatles or Rolling Stones?

Superman or Batman?

‘He or she’ or singular ‘they’?”

Let’s get the first two out of the way. Batman, because when Superman has to be Clark Kent, he’s a wimp. When Batman has to be Bruce Wayne, he’s still a bad ass and not to be screwed with.

They. Linguists and grammarians need to just get over it. English lacks a proper gender nonspecific pronoun. Sorry, but “it” doesn’t cut it. So if we can have a royal “we” and an all-purpose “you,” English can survive a generic “they” for gender non-specific third person.

Now to the heart of the matter: Beatles vs. Stones. Beatles. Hands down. They were all working class stiffs. Quite frankly, they reinvented rock. Poppy? Hell, yes, and so what? Without The White Album, Sgt. Pepper’s, and the criminally underrated Abbey Road, rock simply would not be rock. That’s not to say the Stones didn’t do their part. “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Satisfaction,” and “Gimme Shelter” anyone? But… Well, let Scalzi tell you:

“The Beatles had the stones (so to speak) to break up and stay broken up, meaning that their canon is undiluted from years of post-creative suckage.”

Scalzi cuts off the Stones productive years at Tattoo You. I say Steel Wheels had merit, but, like Pink Floyd’s Momentary Lapse of Reason, it was designed to be an album you’d expect from the band. The only difference is that David Gilmour used that phrase as a title. Mick and Keith really did have a momentary lapse of reason. It’s the double whammy of musical crap called Dirty Work and Undercover, both the worst Stones albums I’ve ever heard. (And yes, I include the two post-Wyman yawn fests. “Anybody See My Baby” my ass!)

A lot of bands should have packed it in or at least shed deadweight. Much sooner. Led Zep probably needed to call it a career anyway when John Bonham died. Page just wanted to play guitar, and Plant had already developed his own sound. Pink Floyd did a Wall too far with the bloated Final Cut in 1983. One wonders if the follow up would have been stronger if Roger Waters had either quit sooner or let David Gilmour and Richard Wright have their way. Genesis… Invisible Touch? I’m still pissed off about the title track off that song. What was that? Phil Collins and Mike & the Mechanics rejects? (To be fair, We Can’t Dance was decent, but the post-Phil Calling All Stations was a huge mistake.)

Prog bands generally outlive their usefulness. Somebody tell me why Emerson, Lake, & Percussionist and Yes are still around? Have you heard their post-eighties work? Tragic. Have you heard their eighties work? The Asia albums that never were.

I’d call for Metallica’s demise, but I want to see them live. I’d also call for Guns & Roses demise, but then I like them again since they became Velvet Revolver.

The band that should be around, but can never be again, is Alice in Chains. Remember Alice? This is a rant about Alice. I miss the hell out of those guys.

UPDATE: I wrote this before A Bigger Bang came out. While not earth-shattering or by any means a classic, it is a decent album. If the Stones had gone from Tattoo You to Steel Wheels to A Bigger Bang, skipping everything in between, this post would have been very, very different.