Montana n: A state of the northwest United States bordering on Canada. Admitted as the 41st state in 1889. The fourth largest state in the union, it includes vast prairies and numerous majestic mountain ranges.
Syn: Treasure State, Big Sky Country, Last Best Place.
Jones n: slang. An addiction or very deep craving.
Sunday, April 30, 2006
Saturday, April 29, 2006
- I've been invited to a picnic and Ultimate Frisbee game.
- So what can you tell me about Ultimate? It's not Frisbee golf is it?
- No, it's not golf. Think more of a team sport like Frisbee football or Frisbee soccer.
- Okay, so how does it work.
- Without too many details it works sorta like this; you start with a big field, a soccer field or football field or grassy rectangular play area of some sort. Divide your group into two teams, people wearing white tee shirts vs. people wearing not white tee shirts is pretty common. You are not allowed to run while holding the Frisbee you move it by passing it to someone else on your team. When someone catches the Frisbee in the end zone that scores a point.
- That scares me. I don't do so well with team sports and I haven't thrown a Frisbee since elementary school. When I try to throw a Frisbee it usually ends up going backwards over my shoulder. I don't want to be embarrassed.
- So practice a little. It's just a Frisbee. If little kids can learn it so can you. Don't take it so seriously.
- Will they let me just sit and watch?
- Sure they will. Ultimate is big into sportsmanship. There are never any referees, not even in the leagues or bigger matches. It's all about sportsmanship and respecting each other. If you don't want to play then don't. But you should at least throw a little catch with someone. Go have fun.
- Have you been able to play Ultimate in Montana?
- No, I haven't found any groups in my area. I have heard of people playing around here. I've talked to people that know people that know people that play, so I know it exists. I just haven't found it yet.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
- I have this old Motorola bag phone I would like to activate.
- Phone Store Lady:
- Well, I don't think, uh...
- Now you are going to tell me that you can't do it because of the upcoming FCC E-911 law that only allows digital phones on the network.
- But then I tell you that the law does not go into effect until 2008 so there is nothing illegal about activating this phone right now.
- But we still can't do it.
- Well let me explain the problem I am trying to solve. I work in some remote wilderness areas and I need to communicate with the people there daily. Digital phones simply do not work out there but these old analog phones work great.
- Have you tried using an antenna or a booster.
- Yes, I fought with a phone all last summer that had a directional antenna and a three watt booster. It simply would not work at all unless you forced it into analog mode. Then it would work fine.
- Well our regulations say that only phones that have the E-911 service, which is only digital, can be allowed on our network. It's for safety reasons.
- Well I need a way to communicate out to the field for safety reasons. The E-911 phones don't work. Besides, I will never ever call 911 from this phone anyway. If there is an emergency out there my staff has a different call center they are trained to use.
- We still can't activate your phone.
- I know you are just a clerk, is there someone higher up in the company that I can petition for a special dispensation?
- We have a second one of these bag phones working on your network right now. Can we use that account and add another number?
- No. We can't activate non digital phones.
- It is not against the law, you are already servicing non digital phones, analog phones are absolutely required for emergency communication, life and death sort of things, and you won't provide service?
- And you won't let me talk to a supervisor or give me an address to write to for a special dispensation?
- You are a phone company right? You do sell services for talking on the telephone?
- Can you sell me two tin cans and about twelve miles of string?
For the record, I have had this conversation with both Verizon and Alltell (formerly Cellular One). Both companies refuse to acknowledge the need for analog signals. Both companies refuse my requests to speak to higher authorities or ask for a dispensation for special circumstances. Both companies fail to show interest in providing communication services, even emergency services, that don't fit their neat little 'sell a bunch of phones' business model. They care more about making money than serving the public.
My situation is not unique, there are a great many Montanans that work in remote areas in the mountains and out on ranches where newfangled cell phone technology does not work as well as phones that are 10 years old. The congress has passed a nationwide law that requires cell phones to locate themselves when calling 911. This is good for the phone companies because everyone using cell phones must buy new ones that comply. However no exceptions are available to those of us who are cut off because of the change. A little ironic that a law promoting safety leaves some of us less safe. A little ironic that in this day of instant global communications rural America is getting more cut off.
I am tempted to make a political rant about this and complain that rural Montanans are being alienated by laws that serve urban areas. It would be interesting to look up voting records and campaign contributions for our representatives to see who is in the phone companies pockets and serving big business at the expense of their constituents. The problem with this is that the E-911 laws are quite popular and actually useful to a great many Americans. I am clearly in the minority in being harmed by it. Also the ranting will do absolutely nothing to solve my problem of communicating in the wilderness. I will leave the politicizing as an exercise for the reader.
I have researched satellite phones. They are very popular with world travelers, adventurers, mountain climbers and so on. The service they provide is excellent with crystal clear phone calls practically anywhere on the planet. They are blessed expensive. The phones themselves cost anywhere from $400 to $2000 dollars. Rentals are available for $100-$300 per month. It is the air time that is the killer. A satellite phone bill would be close to $1000 a month for me. Is it any wonder that I am trying so hard to get good old fashioned cell phone service.
An internet connection would also make a good substitute. A lot of what I use the phone for could be passed in an Email. Emergency calls could use VOIP.
There is an upcoming wireless protocol called WiMax. It is being developed for blanketing many square miles of city space with wireless internet. The sort of thing that makes my inner geek very happy. It supposedly has a range of 20 miles with limitations. Turns out that the limitations are mountains. Without line of sight the practical range is about 4-5 miles. And that 20 mile limit, well that is just on paper. In the real world no one has come close to that. To their credit a tech evangelist for a WiMax company did take the time to answer my Emails. That puts them one step above everyone else I have asked for help with my problem. Unfortunately I am beyond the current range of their technology and the $10,000 price tag for a WiMax base station is a little off putting too.
I have scratched the surface with companies that provide satellite internet. For the most part they tend toward servicing places with roads and electricity. They use those 24 inch dishes that also get television signals and have to be installed by a certified installer dude. No one wants to tell me anything about power requirements, temporary installation infrastructure or what it would cost me to have the certified installer dude transported out into the wilderness for a service call. As far as I can tell these companies are a lot like the phone companies. They don't care about people, only wallets.
I have heard of other options as well. Modems using the same satellites and antennas the sat-phones use. Still expensive and strangely enough service is not available in North America. Does it count as ironic that the heart of Africa can get better communication than parts of the most technologically advanced country in the world?
I don't like to go backwards but the technology of the 70's might save me. Can anyone point me toward info on ham radio?
Why is it that everyone thinks I am joking when I start to inquire about tin cans and twelve miles of string?
Addendum. April 28
Keith makes a good point in the comments about dual mode phones. In the summer of 2005 I tried working with a dual mode phone connected to a booster and antenna. While in its digital mode it received enough of a signal that it would not revert to analog mode automatically. However the signal was so inferior that the phone could not place or receive calls. The phone could be forced into analog mode (with nine button presses on the keypad) however it would not stay in analog mode for more than 30-60 seconds. Outgoing calls could be placed but it would not stay in analog mode to wait for an incoming call.
Dual mode phones provide me with half of a communications channel, outgoing but not incoming. A barely acceptable workaround. I spent all of last summer in fear of being cut off from my employees in an emergency situation such as the forest fires of 2000 and 2003.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
- So were you in Iraq or Kuwait?
- I just got home from Iraq. Things are going really well over there.
- That's what I hear. My brother was in Baghdad for a year and he and everyone else I have talked to that have actually been there say things are going well and don't listen to the news media, they have it wrong.
- Uh huh, that's about right. I think that in this day and age of 24 hour news channels the media companies are having problems filling all 24 of those hours with news. They have to sensationalize to keep people watching.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Monday, April 17, 2006
So what are the games you enjoy? I've never tried an online game, mainly because I'm afraid I would play too much... But I also prefer games like CivIII, where you get to take over a planet, bwhahahaha!
Glad you asked.
For those of you not keeping up with the Jones's, this question came from my recent rant about online games.
Touchstone you are so right, the Civilization games totally kick ass and taking over planets, well, that kicks more ass. I have been a longtime fan of strategy games like Civ or Age of Empires. But I believe the question is about online games.
The reality is that I am not a serious gamer. I don't keep up with the state of the art and, like you, I find that too much gaming gets in the way of real life. Another rant is probably out of place. Short answer; I like online games that are simple, easy to play, easy to quit, and where there is equality among the players. No one should have more power ups, bonuses, mod points, rank or other attributes than anyone else does. I like games where skill and strategy make the winner.
So I present to you a short list of two of my favorite online games and one bad one to avoid.
The greatest and most addictive online game of all time has been around since the late 90's. Check out Subspace.
Simple concept, top down view of space ships roaming around blowing each other to bits and has a high degree of playability and fun. Added bonus, it's free! I have been playing this since 1996 and would like to recommend the powerball arena. Bad point to this game that occasionally stops me from playing: some of the regulars tend to be assholes. There are a few really annoying and disrespectful people playing here.
Another great game that has taken much of my time: Aces High.
This game is sweet. It is a flight simulator combat game that puts you in the cockpit of pretty much any WWII aircraft (and other vehicles like tanks and boats) and you get to fly head to head against other aviators. I love this game because of the attention to detail. The flight simulation is top notch, the selection of aircraft is impressive. You will need a joystick and a microphone helps too. It is super easy to get caught up in this for hours. Downside: Being a real time flight simulator it can get tedious flying across the map to get into combat.
I got totally sucked into Warrock not to long ago. But don't bother with it now, the free beta abruptly ended in February and I think the pay version is in Korean. Since I was left without a fix for my FPS addiction I gave planetside a try. This is a sci-fi themed massively multiplayer FPS, you can play for free until next March (with some restrictions) and it pretty much sucks. I have been spending too much time trying to figure out how the game works and getting killed a lot (no fun). It is bloated, overdone, over complicated, and weighted toward the players that spend the most time and money so the casual gamer doesn't stand a chance and did I mention not much fun? If I am to satisfy my FPS craving I think I am going to have to bite the bullet and go buy Battlefield II.
Montana Jones is not really a know-it-all but he plays one on the internet. If you have questions about games, the internet or how stuff works feel free to write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, April 13, 2006
- I'm sorry to be talking about work all the time. Spring is here, getting ready is on my mind.
- It's okay. I've decided it's sorta like tourette's. You just blurt out some random thing every so often. It's funny.
- Well, as long as it makes you laugh. My brain doesn't work quite like it used to. I think I am picking up my families absent mindedness trait.
- You mentioned it runs in your family.
- Oh, I gotta remember to get fire extinguishers.
- Yup, there's that tourette's again.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
- Girl 1:
- Yup, there go more stoner hippy guys.
- Girl 2:
- Missoula's finest.
- Girl 1:
- You see. This is why I am dating a guy in Minnesota.
- I still think you would be happier with a local boyfriend. Surly there has to be someone nice around here.
- Girl 1:
- Not that I have found.
- Girl 2:
- The guys in the dating pool around here are a little lacking. That's how it is in Missoula. They are all hippies and stoners and students, no one with a good job or a career or anything like that.
- Hmmm. Now that I think about it I have had better luck meeting women in my first year in Montana than I had over several years back at previous address. Nice guys must be in demand around here.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
- That's how many people are moving into the Flathead right now.
- Yes, well, no wonder real estate is so crazy here. Do you know what I learned this morning?
- Yeah, the same thing I have been learning all year. Our money is no good.
- And so those seven people per day all move here and get all this great property for a quarter million or a half million or whatever. And then after they get all settled in and after they sold the old place wherever they came from, that's when they find out that you can't get a job here that pays more than $10.00 per hour.
- Oh, yes. I just can't believe how expensive property is here. I don't know how anyone can afford it.
- And so you have a whole bunch of people moving here and getting what looks like a good deal compared to wherever they are coming from and uprooting and suddenly they can't support themselves living on these half million lot's they are buying.
- And then they will have to sell low to bail out.
- Or sell out high. Or… hell, there are a million ways to screw the economy from there. You know, I am old enough to remember the post Vietnam economy. I remember how bad things got right after Vietnam. People can't afford to live like they are accustomed to. We are not even close to being out of Iraq yet and I can already see it coming.
Monday, April 10, 2006
- I have news.
- Oh? Do tell.
- I met someone. At my conference.
- That's great.
I made the appropriate 'I'm happy for you' and 'congratulations' noises but I still felt a sinking in my heart. It has been a year since we were together and still the reality of a lover moving on causes a sting.
What do we know about this guy? I know she was tipsy at her conference, is she trying to make something more out of a drunken fling? Is he really a good guy or is he just using her? Some protective instincts are still there.
In the end I cant decide if I feel the sting because I worry about a friend leaping into the unknown or if I feel it because I must admit the reality of a past lover being forever gone. She is smart, she is a grownup, I will give her the benefit of the doubt and wish her the best with the new person in her life. The sting was bound to come sooner or later.
Friday, April 07, 2006
The giant rock creature lumbered up the hill at me and swung its massive fists in powerful arcs to collide with my head. My reaction was boredom. I parried and attacked with my sword of course, struck the "auto attack" key on my keyboard and wandered away from the action to piss and fetch another beer. By the time I returned the rock creature had lost half of its hit points and my avatar had only lost a fourth of his. I sipped my beer and watched the battle slowly conclude with the same enthusiasm I have for any boring chore. Computer games have changed since I was a kid. Perhaps I am getting old and don't understand what counts as fun these days but this is just boring.
Most of my friends back at previous address play online mmorpg games. These guys are too old school for World of Warcraft, they started out when classic Everquest was in its infancy and they have stuck with it. So I figured a good way to stay in touch would be to play along. A year ago I signed up for Everquest.
Have I mentioned that mmorpg games annoy me? I had to quit. I am giving up on Everquest, no WoW for me. As much as I enjoy the company of my friends I can't stand the game. It is a big time and money investment for very little fun. I have spent a year listening to my friends tell me over and over "as soon as you get up in level you will enjoy it." Sorry guys, I'm not enjoying it.
I hate the way that the games force you to pay attention to the mundane aspects of running from place to place. Dodge the tree, wind through twisty turny passages, don't fall in the water. Then when you get to the action and the combat it requires so little attention that the exciting part is the best time to leave the computer to fetch a beer. This is supposed to be fun?
Too many of these games come with a figure it out for yourself aspect. It's not a figure out how to solve problems or even figure out how to beat your opponent like the games I enjoy; it's more of a figure out how the game works at all. The game universe comes equipped with vast economies and social structures but the game designers offer very little guidance on how to take advantage of them. There are even quests that take you to places where there are no maps and no help on finding what you need. Apparently the fun is supposed to be in figuring out how to do simple tasks. Once you have learned the task it is pathetically simple or boringly repetitive and you have to do a lot of it to score the points you need. Mmorpg games don't require skill they require time. Games used to be fun because they challenged me. The only challenge I found in Everquest was figuring out how to do something without instructions.
I guess the point is that you are supposed to interact with others. Form groups and pool your wisdom, teach each other what you know. Socializing is supposed to be fun. Somehow socializing in these games lacks entertainment for me. There are lots of people and ways to chat with them but you are still tied to the game universe where you are rewarded by "leveling up" and gaining rank. With each gained rank you can acquire skills and items previously forbidden to you. With higher rank you gain access to places you could not go previously. So when you socialize you can't socialize with just anyone, you can only spend time with people of similar or lower rank to yourself. A caste system that is entirely dependant on how much time has been spent playing the game. Forgive me for not having fun being ignored or put down by the uber characters. Forgive me if I don't enjoy being shunned because I am not the correct rank. Forgive me if I don't find shunning lower ranked members of society to be entertaining.
The games are designed to reward those who form larger groups of higher ranked players. Again, forgive me if I don't find this fun. I don't want to solve in game problems by throwing larger and larger groups of people at them. I want to solve in game problems through my skills. I want to use my brain, my understanding of the game and the interface. I want to use timing and direction of attack and problem solving. Throwing more people of higher rank at a problem is not a skill. Finding the best tactics to solve a problem is a skill and much more entertaining.
After leaving Everquest I have sampled other games and the trend is pervasive. Most online games, particularly mmorpg games, are designed to reward those who spend the most time and money on them. There is no reward for being smarter or learning faster.
I worry that this is a sign I am getting older and I don't understand kids anymore or how they have fun. I worry that I am out of touch with a new generation. So it goes. Amusingly, the kids are getting trained to expect meager rewards for performing mindless and repetitive tasks over great lengths of time. Very similar to a game I play called "work". They are also being trained to interact with a complex interface to a multifaceted, undocumented and richly detailed world. Very similar to a game called "real life." Maybe one day the online game players will learn about "work" and "real life" and realize like I did that the meager rewards gained here are far more satisfying than the largest of treasures the online games offer. They may even discover some great chat rooms I know in "real life" called "bars" and "clubs" where if you are lucky you can find the "get laid" power up.
I'd like to think I still know more about having fun than these online gamers and kids do. Perhaps I am still one up on them. Besides, I can still kick their butts at Street Fighter.
Saturday, April 01, 2006
Will you activate this mobile phone that works at my remote location?
Can I get these inaccuracies off my credit report?
Can I get a replacement part for my paper shredder?
Will my credit score allow me to get a mortgage on this property?
Do you know how to fix the paper folding machine?
Will my income allow me to get a mortgage on this property?
Do you carry this special sized battery?
Can my business income help me get a mortgage on this property?
This paperwork does not help either of us, can I skip it?
Does my business have enough collateral to get a loan to buy this property?
May I lease that same office space we used last year?
You are pretty expensive, are there better prices on laundry service?
Does constantly hearing the word "no" ever get any easier?
There is more Jones in the archives: February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 December 2009 January 2010 May 2014