8.31.2009

Meet Ray, The Blind Dog

Andrea's been fostering Ray Charles, a rescue from one of the abuse / neglect cases she handled in south Georgia last week.

As you can see, Ray is blind. His eyes were so badly infected, they had to be removed surgically.




Ray is a total badass. In the course of a day or so, he's figured out how the stairs, sidewalk and lawn are all laid out. He's figured out where the grass ends and our cul-de-sac begins. He's totally managed to figure out where the water and food are.






Ray's pretty great. He's going up for adoption next week. I'm going to miss him.


8.29.2009

Fuck Reading Rainbow


Okay, maybe "Fuck Reading Rainbow" is a bit harsh. I don't actually hate Reading Rainbow. I actually loved it as a kid.

AS A KID. Just like you did.

And just like you did, I haven' t even thought of Reading Rainbow in at least 20 years, with the notable exception of the Reading Rainbow / Star Trek The Next Generation episode that recently got popular again (about 2 or 3 years ago, I think). And I don't think I'm entirely off base stating that most parents these days don't show their children Reading Rainbow - they're all tied up with Yo Gabba Gabba and Thomas the Stupid Gender-Neutral Train and Baby Einstein and whatever. Even Pengu has gotten more popular in the US than Reading Rainbow is now.

So of course, PBS decides to axe it due to the fact that no one fucking watches it and they run on donations and can't afford to just let things air because someone liked the shit 20 years ago, and suddenly, there's massive internet movements to save it, because OMG it was the most important fucking show ever to air ever, despite the fact that it was completely out of our collective consciousness for years.

Seriously, people. Love something or don't. Loving in bursts is the most disgusting type of love, because it's not actually love. It's selfish. "I loved this as a kid, then gave it up. But you can't take it away even though it's a cashsink. Why? because I loved it, okay?"

Be consistent.

8.27.2009

Retail Managers - Wake The Hell Up

I've worked retail (with disasterous results, which I'm sure you've already read about, but I linked it anyway because that's how Google and SEO and Web 2.0 work). One thing about retail that made me not work retail anymore: the goddamn rules.

I'm not talking about rules designed to keep things organized or prevent theft or other, arguably necessary, rules. Take this for instance that, if you've read my tweety whatever, you probably remember:

I bought a Nintendo DSi on a trip to Columbus, OH for Notacon earlier this year. The entire point of the purchase was to use the WiFi to bomb around the con and check things out with this nifty new gaming device. Ten seconds after powering up, I discovered it will only work on unsecured or WEP-encrypted networks, no WPA or WPA2.

This makes it useless to me. So I pop it back in the box, enjoy the con sans-DSi, and come home. I visit my local Gamestop (the one right up the road from me, the one that flat-out lied to me about the release date of Oblivion because the then-manager was almost as much of a cock as the now-manager). I give him the DSi, a receipt, and a kind smile.

Now, before I get to the punchline, I need to tell you a little about this guy. He came on board last year, after the pedophile that was before him got fired for... Well, being a pedophile (this was the guy after the liar who lied about the release date for Oblivion, for those of you keeping score). He's a mid-20's, who very obviously has never faced any real challenges in his life, and is 100% about the rules and keeping them, so that he can keep his job. I knew going into the store that there was a less than likely chance that he'd approve such a return... But because I drop easily $100 a week in that store, I figured maybe he'd bend the rules for me.

Nope. There was absolutely zero flex in that four-inch stiffy he got from telling a regular customer he couldn't return it due to some arbitrary rule. And then, he went out of his way to explain to me that he actually COULD do it, but he's not supposed to.

Now, here's the math behind all of this:

This is a store that needs customers to thrive. In order to continue to thrive, the the store needs to keep the customers happy. Every so often, a customer might ask you to break a rule in order to show that you truly appreciate that customer. The rule that he's asking you to break may have some great background and foundation, but ultimately, this guy is handing you a practically brand new item that even Wal-mart would return without question.

Do you a) enforce the rule, upsetting the customer who then moves his business elsewhere but ensuring there's not an item someone can bring up so you lose your job, or b) break that rule, effectively making that customer a customer for life?

If you do a) enough times, you will lose your regular customers. Your store will grow increasingly dependent on new faces. As the new faces become old faces, they'll receive equal treatment and go elsewhere. Eventually your store fails due to lack of revenue, and you lose your job.

If you do b) enough times, you lock down your supply chain of cash for goods. Upper management evaluates your store and sees increasing revenue from increasing traffic, who stay loyal. They may take exception with the fact that you've broken store policy, but given that the policy itself is contrary to most other store's policies, and the fact that you've increased revenue, they're not going to fire you. And if they do, that's not the kind of place you want to work anyway.

This guy chose a). So I drove to the Gamestop down the road from my gym. Those guys looked the DSi over, returned it, and said have a nice day. Not even one question asked. Ever since April, I've gone to that store instead. Four and a half years of loyalty flushed with one decision.

The other Gamestop thanks you, Keith.



8.24.2009

Alec Should Be A Falconer

My buddy Alec is exploring becoming a Falconer. But he is undecided.

I need your help convincing him to become a Falconer. And why?

Think about it - it's a job where you DRIVE A BIRD. That's what you do. You're a bird driver. For money. And it's not just any bird - it's a bird of prey that can tear your face off and eat it and then puke it back up and look at you and point it's wing in your now-eaten face and say "FUCK YOU. THAT'S WHAT'S UP." Plus, how many falconers do you know? NONE, that's how many. If you meet Alec, and he becomes a Falconer, your Falconer number goes up to one. That's in increase of infinity Falconers that you know.

And really, there's other cool gonna-kill-you animal trainers out there, but none of them have a single word using the name of the animal to describe it. There's Canine Specialists, Large Feline behavioral coaches, Elephant Trainers... And yeah, you could argue that herpetologists handle really mean vicious reptiles. But that isn't nearly as cool as falconer. You take the 'er' off Falconer, and you have someone who works with Falcons. You take the "tologist" off of herpentologist... Yeah, I don't want to be the guy who works with herpes. You?

The only real unknown for me is what exactly is the verb form of being a Falconer? Do you Falcon? Are you Falconing?

A baker bakes. A runner runs. A falconer falcons, right? But a carpenter doesn't carpen. More study is needed. But really, I think it should just be "To Falcon." Bitches better recognize my ability to Falcon. Well, not mine... Alec's, potentially. But you get what I'm saying.

But yes, everyone Twitter or Facebook or IM or otherwise pester Alec into becoming a Falconer.

8.22.2009

Here's What MIT Thinks Of Joe Peacock


(click for full size)


Go here and put in your name. Just try it... It's pretty neat.

Basically, MIT has built an engine that will scour the web, find out everything it can about you, and then builds a graph like the one above that tells you how the internet sees you. It's pretty fun, however incorrect it might be. I mean, take for example this one:



What have I ever done that was illegal? I mean, really...




8.21.2009

U2 - Three (The Treasure In The Attic)

I've always been a U2 fan. I wouldn't put myself in the category of "obsessed," but I made it a point to see them every year they came to town since Achtung Baby (1991, the year I was finally allowed to go to concerts again after the famed "contact high" incident at the Black Crowes' "Shake Your Money Maker" tour when I was 12).

Now my wife? SHE'S obsessed. And it's because of her that we essentially toured the east coast in 2001 and 2002 to see U2 during the Elevation tour (which is pretty much a book's worth of stories all by itself). She owns one of The Edge's guitars, autographed by the band. She owns a fender from the Volkswagen Beetle that was suspended from the rafters during the Achtung Baby tour. She owns posters from every tour going back to Boy.

But her prized possession? One of the 1000 original 7" copies of "U2 - Three", the band's first ever release on CBS records. And it's prized not just because it's so rare, but because it was autographed by Bono and Adam Clayton personally.



More photos at the end of this post. And for the record, it was Bono who drew the glasses on the kid.

Now, Andrea and I have never gotten to meet anyone in U2, despite trying very, very hard. But my friend Mike, works (among other places) at the airport. As a result of his position, he has what is essentially an all-access pass to the entirety of Hartsfield Airport. And back in 2002, during U2's second stop in Atlanta on the Elevation tour, he stole Andrea's copy of Three off our wall, took it up to the runway where the Elevation jet was, and had Bono and Adam Clayton sign it especially to her.

We snuck it back on the wall to see if she'd notice. When I finally called her attention to it, I told her that I actually scribbled on it, trying my best to match the signatures from her guitar, in order to make the record more valuable. She was FURIOUS. But then Mike spilled the beans and produced a photo (which I wish to God I had) of Bono signing it. She broke down and cried and hugged him about 10,000 times.

And the reason I'm writing about it today is because, for nearly a year and a half, I've lived with the guilt that I might have accidentally thrown it out during our extenive remodling of the house.

I'd packed up all of our goodies and treasures that used to hang on the "gallery" wall before we turned it into our library, and I made absolutely sure to put the "U2 - Three" seperate from the rest of everything else to keep it safe. And somehow, I misplaced it. I thought all this time that I'd thrown it away with all the other papers and garbage we tossed from the conversion. It turns out, the safe place I hid it was a book that was rougly the same size, which then went up in the attic.

The past two months, I've been doing some remodling up in the attic (nothing really extensive, just putting flooring across the open rafters and installing new insulation). And every time I was up there, I began digging through boxes hoping I'd stubmle across it. Today, I just said "fuck it - I'm finding that record, or confirming I've thrown it out. I can't live with not knowing." And I poured through every single box that might have possibly come from the old gallery, until FINALLY I found that bastard.

Anyway, that was my Friday morning. How's yours?

Here's some more photos of the record:












8.18.2009

Holy Poop - A Copy Of The New Book!!!

This isn't technically the final draft, it's a review copy sent to people who are going to review or provide quotes for the book. But still, it's sooooooooo awesome to actually hold and touch it... I want to hug it and squeeze it and name it George.




8.10.2009

Why I Write, Part One Billionty And Four

Amongst other crap, I write.

Well, I try to write, anyway. There are days I sit in front of the computer and the only tapping to be heard is the sound of my pen against the desk. Hours will pass - four, five, six - where I will just stare at the screen and wonder why the hell I do what I do. Blogging, writing about my silly life, writing these articles about how to do whatever... Who the hell pays any attention anyway?

I don't want this to sound like some self-pitying thing. I know I get comments on some things I write, and I know people buy my books, and I know that there are subscribers to my blog and blahblahblah... But behind every writer is a motivation. And whereas my motivation began as "I want to be world famous," I quickly realized that was never going to happen.

So I moved to "I'd like for someone to read something I write and realize they're not alone with the way they think or how they feel or what they're going through in their lives." I wanted people to find a way to find the humor in their lives and the crazy, sometimes difficult stuff they face the same way I try to. And sometimes, you just don't know if you're landing any of the blows you're trying to throw or if you're making any sort of impact whatsoever.

Today, I got an email from Nunka that really, really impacted me:

Subject: Romance.Net

Date: Mon, 10 Aug 2009 12:17:51 -0600

From: nunkaa (address withheld)

To: joe@mentallyincontinent.com



I'm absolutely forcing myself to keep this short, because I know that, like you, I tend to ramble an unholy amount.


So. After my twelve years or so as a resident of the interwebs, I have only just now stumbled upon your site, and your Romance.Net epic in particular. This could not have happened at a more appropriate time in my life. I am normally one to dismiss a series of coincidences as just that---a series of coincidences---but the extent to which a good chunk of that story mirrors my life is almost absurd. I am currently 21 years old, and I find myself in an eerily similar situation. I don't doubt that a lot of guys could say, and have said, the same thing... but as I'm sure you know, things like this really only hit home when you yourself experience them. I don't believe in much, but I do believe in fate, to an extent... and, as silly as this might sound to you, I think I was meant to discover your writing at this exact moment in my life.


What I'm trying to say is that your story has given me the perspective I think I need to get over myself. And her. So... thank you, Joe. You have a great talent for writing. I'll be buying your second book when it comes out. I don't think that's really adequate repayment for your unwitting help, but life's weird like that.


Bye now.


What's really funny, and long-time readers who were around when I first wrote that story in 2004 can confirm: When I was writing that story, I was completely convinced I was going to run off my entire readership with its length and subject matter. And to this day, it's one of the five stories I get the most email about. But almost all of it (like almost all my other email about stories) are opinions on how it's written or questions about what happened next. So it's very very special to hear from someone who found something to bond to in it. Because after all... That's why I write. Well, that and world fame. And since THAT will only come after I find a way to send Jupiter hurtling into the sun... Well, I'll take this every time.

Thank you very much for this, Nunka.

8.09.2009

Ms. Mac Man (Our New MAME Cabinet)

(Note: If you find texty explainy stuff boring, feel free to skip this and go right to the Ms. Mac Man picture gallery.)

Back in 2000, I got my wife Andrea an original Ms. Pac Man arcade machine. She's a Ms. Pac Man fanatic. She can play for hours and hours. I believe she has seen the level 143 blackscreen bug in person at least 200 times. She's insane about Ms. Pac Man.

That is, until it was on the receiving end of an ungrounded lightning strike. The logic board is fried. It's dead. Gone. Pining for the fjords. Etcetera. It's been sitting in our storage room for 3 years, unplayed and unloved.

So, this weekend, I thought I'd bring it back to life for her.

So, the first thing's first - I had to get a setup. Now, keeping versatility and potentially pun-worthy names for our cabinet in mind, I chose a Mac Mini Core 2 Duo for the "brain" of the beast. I did this mostly because I knew the Mini would fit in the little bucket in the coin drawer and could handle MAME and other emulators, but also because every other machine in the house is a mac and there's no sense in breaking the trend. The monitor bay is a 4:3 ratio screen, so I chose a highly-rated ViewSonic VA926 19-inch LCD Monitor as the display device. I wanted the mouse and keyboard to be cord-free, so I went with the Apple bluetooth keyboard and Mighty Mouse. For the arcade stick, I bought an X-Arcade Dual, And for speakers, I chose these cheapo-yet-decent Logitech S120 speakers.

Here's the rig pre-install, as I copy over nearly 18gb of MAME roms to it:





And here it is with its future home, our vintage 1981 Ms. Pac Man cabinet:





Now, from all the testing I could possibly do, I found that everything in the Ms. Pac is dead. Logic board, power supply, even the marquee light. It needs to be completely gutted and reoutfitted. And to get started in style, I chose to work on the one part of the machine that delivers the biggest return on investment - the marquee light.

First, I had to remove the topper housing:





Here's the marquee with the housing removed, but the topper still in place:





And now, sans-marquee:





Now, I need to hang a completely new lighting assembly in the unit, but I figured, why waste this nice little chunk of formed housing?




Stripping the old lighting units:





For the new marquee light, I wanted to "go green" or whatever, because this thing's going to be on all the time (actually, I just don't feel like changing the bulb on the topper EVER), so I went with an LED lighting assembly:




The light assembly has those little hole-posts in the back where you can hang it on almost-screwed-in screws, which is what the two bright silver things below are:




And now, a freshly-hung light:





Plugged in:




And when we add the marquee, a truly "AHHHHH!" moment:





And so now, to get into the guts of this thing. Below is the power controller:




And here's the harness for the old CRT monitor:




For those that have never seen one before, here's the inside of an '81 arcade cabinet:







Pulling the old boards and wiring wasn't too hard - a few screws, and it was all out. The big job was getting the CRT and its harness out of there. First, the screen overlay had to come out, so I had to unfasten the housing:



And then the screen overlay slides out (look at that screen burn!!!):




the CRT was mounted via 4 lag bolts.




Once the CRT and assembly were removed, I needed a place to rest the new LCD monitor. So I had to build a custom "Shelf" for it - but the stupid thing has a rounded back which is smooth on all ends, except the "bottom" (which will be the right side in this cabinet). So the positioning was a little strange:




We left the 4 metal braces which formed the major mount points for the old CRT, and laid the new shelf assembly (made from leftover maple from the Tetris Shelf project I'll be posting next week). Note the two elevation risers - cut to fit so that the LCD will rest on them at the perfect height for the screen cutaway:




To get the screen in, I had to remove the pedestal mount point (note that STUPID rounded edge of the monitor on the left):




So now we place it:



Slide in the screen topper, and voila:




Now, the joystick assembly: We took the X-Arcade Dual and mounted an exact-fit 3/4" piece of maple ply to the bottom. Why did we do this? Because, the screws for the mounting brackets needed wood to go into, and I didn't trust the masonite casing of the joystick housing to hold with #8 wood screws:






And here, I "mount" the speakers (they face toward the front of the cabinet after install, I just wanted to show the fronts here):




And now, to install the brain, the Mac Mini:




Here it rests comfortably in its new home, the coin bucket from the cabinet behind the coin door:




And now we boot - I have to say, this was one of the coolest things I'd ever seen, ever - an Apple boot screen in a Ms. Pac Man cabinet. This is why it's called Ms. Mac Man :)




A nice perspective shot:




Of course, to get it to display properly, we had to orient the monitor correctly:




IT LIVES:





And now, the whole reason it was borne into existence - the first game played on the new cabinet had to be Ms. Pac Man:




Another nice perspective shot:




When it's not emulating all-time great games, it doubles nicely as a nice little kiosk computer for visiting guests:




Now, just for your reference, I did buy a controller overlay from MameMarquees.com to apply to the X-arcade stick and maple joiner board, and I will also be spray-painting the steel mounting brackets Pac-Man Yellow to make them match the overall style of the cabinet. But it's late and I'm tired, so here's a pic of the vinyl overlay. I'll update another day when this is cut and placed:




Here's Mike playing one of the stupidest games ever made in the history of ever, Moonwalker:




And one last touch:




And there you have it. Mrs. Mac Man, in all her glory. Whatcha think?