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I’m rich now, because of this one simple trick.

Or, well,I will be. Soon.

We got a new soda machine at work recently. That’s a pop machine to those of you who think two word phrases should be abbreviated using the second word rather than the first. You’re wrong, but I know you exist, so I threw you a bone here.

Anyway, this soda machine is quirky. A frosty beverage costs 65 cents, unless you pay by credit card, in which case it’s 75 cents. Ok, so there’s a discount for cash, that’s pretty common. But it doesn’t stop there.  A soda is 65 cents, but only if you put in exactly 65 cents. If you put in three quarters, you get a soda and a quarter back in change. So in that case, the soda only cost 50 cents. Similarly, if you put in a dollar, you get a soda and 50 cents change. However, if you put exactly 50 cents in, the machine will not sell you a soda, because sodas, as you will recall, definitely cost 65 cents.

So basically, you’re a chump if you put exact change in. But that’s difficult to do anyway, because the machine doesn’t take dimes. Quarters and nickels work fine, but dimes fall right through the machine every time.

You’re probably thinking “This is interesting, you found a quirk to get discounted sodas, how is this going to make you rich?” Ah, well, let me continue. The machine doesn’t take dimes, but it will, under the right circumstances, give dimes in change. I attempted to put exact change in once, but since it wouldn’t take my dime, I ended up with 55 cents in the machine. I hit the coin return, and the machine spit out two quarters and a dime in change. Do you see where this is going now? To test this further, my friend put just a nickel in the machine. The digital display said five cents had been inserted. Then he hit the coin return… and a dime came out.

Tomorrow,I’m coming to work with a hoard of nickels. I’m going to put them into the machine one by one and get a dime for each of them. I’m going to do this until the dimes in the machine run out. I don’t know exactly what will happen then, but I’m hoping once all the dimes are gone, the machine will start giving me a quarter for each nickel I put in!

And I’m going to keep doing this one simple trick until I’m RICH.

UPDATE: I just tried another test. The nickel trick is no longer working. Putting a nickel in the machine and hitting the coin return gives you your nickel back. Bummer. However, when I put a quarter and nickel in the machine and hit the coin return, I got a nickel and a dollar coin back.  A dollar coin!!! WTF? I tried again, with two quarters only, and got a quarter and another dollar coin back.

Bizarrely, the machine accepts the dollar coins. If you put it in, it registers that you’ve put a dollar in the machine. However, if you then buy an item that costs a dollar, you get fifty cents back as change. Because you should definitely always get change back from any purchase.

Finally, I put the dollar coin in and immediately hit the coin return. Can you guess what I got back? If you guessed a quarter and three dollars, you’re right!

I’m going to be rich faster than expected!

SECOND UPDATE: This morning the guy who services the machine visited the office. I gave him back the four dollars I’d gained from the machine (as, all joking aside, I wasn’t trying to get rich, I just had a burning need to figure out the extent of the machine’s brokenness) and explained what had been happening. He said the machine was programmed incorrectly and money was being put into the wrong bins, and immediately called a technician to come and fix it.

About an hour later, I went and got a Diet Coke. I put three quarters into the machine, and got a soda and a dollar coin in change. The machine paid me twenty-five cents for the soda!

I’m keeping this one.

Posted in Miscellaneous.

Plumbing woes

I took a shower in my downstairs bathroom last night. When I got out of the shower, I noticed something no homeowner wants to see. One of the tiles of the drop ceiling was water stained. It was over the sink, across the room from the shower, so it wasn’t just excessive splashing from my shower.

A little background. I just bought this house two and a half months ago. I bought the house and then immediately lost my job, so I’ve been basically stuck here all that time. I’ve come to know the place intimately very quickly, so I knew this was new and not something old I was just noticing.

I pushed up the ceiling tile. Or tried to. The drop ceiling is much too low, the tiles don’t actually pop up and out like they’re supposed to. But this tile was so water damaged it basically crumbled, and so I ended up just tearing it out. Now that the underside of the sub-floor was exposed, I could see three different possible culprits for the leak.

Two were copper pipes running across the ceiling. It was nice to see they were copper and not that older galvanized shit they used to put in houses a lot. The third was a PVC pipe that looked like a drain. Since the upstairs bathroom is right above the downstairs bathroom, I cleverly deduced that this was probably the upstairs tub drain.

There was no major dampness anywhere that I could tell, so it was probably not the water pipes themselves that were leaking. If they were, there would have been a lot more water and dampness, I figured. So that left the tub drain.

So I did what I always do when a home repair issue rears its ugly head. I ignored it. I went to bed and tried to forget about it. Maybe the problem would just magically go away?

I got up this morning and took a bath. After draining the tub and getting dressed, I went downstairs to check on the water situation. Unfortunately, the problem had not magically solved itself as I had hoped it would. Instead, there was water all over the floor under the missing tile. So, yeah. The tub drain needs fixing.

I briefly toyed with the idea of fixing it myself. I used my Google-fu to find some info on fixing leaky tub drains. I found several websites and a few videos. After a few minutes of reading about tools for removing tub drains and some stuff about plumber’s putty, I stopped. I’m a computer geek. I can fix and repair computers, but that’s about it. Every time I try a home improvement or DIY repair project, I fail miserably and end up breaking things. Sometimes my anger gets the best of me and I deliberately break things in frustration, thus making the problem worse rather than solving it.

So I did what guys like me do when they have these problems. I swallowed my pride and called a plumber. The first plumber I called said they couldn’t get anybody out to me until Monday. That’s no good, so I called another plumber. He was busy on a job, and said he’d call me back. He didn’t. I should have been a plumber. Or an electrician. Or a carpenter. It seems like those guys never lack for work!

While waiting for the second plumber to not call me back, I decided to put my troubleshooting skills to work. I’d read something about how there are various points in the drainage system that could be the problem, not just the main tub drain. So I tested it out by… taking a shower. I mean, why not? I’ve got nothing else to do. Afterwards I went back downstairs, and… no water!

So what does this mean? It means the tub drain doesn’t leak. That’s good! But where does the water come from then?

Turns out, from the tub overflow drain. The little drain under the lever that controls the plug. When I take a bath, the water overflows into that drain and then leaks out into the basement bathroom below.

So. My course of action was now clear. Stop taking baths. Problem solved! Check it out, I’m a plumber!!

As Red Green would say: It’s a temporary fix. Unless it works.

Posted in Miscellaneous.

Go to hell, Comcast

I know I’ve ranted about Comcast before, but fuck it, I’m going to do it again.  Because they deserve it.

I’m moving. This sucks and I hate it. What I hate worse, though, is trying to get Comcast to move my service. I’m busy with packing and, more importantly, avoiding packing. Plus I’m an introvert, so taking time to sit down to make a phone call is not something I’m keen to do. I went online, and lo and behold, Comcast has a form to fill out to request a move, right on their website!  Oh happy day!

Naturally, I filled it out, and forgot about it, assuming all was well. Then today I came to my senses, realized this is Comcast we’re talking about, and logged in again to check the status of my move request. What do I find? An email, tucked away in my stupid Comcast email account that I never check because who the fuck actually uses their Comcast email account?

It says, hey… guess what? Fuck you if you thought this was going to be handled online! We’re going to call you to “confirm.”  (Which of course means, they’re going to call to actually set up the appointment, because the form clearly does nothing at all.)  Worse, the number they apparently have attached to my account isn’t even one I recognize. So they may have tried to call me, but I sure didn’t get the message.

Worse, the email exhorts me to simply call them for faster service. “Just think. You’re a phone call away from experiencing XFINITY® and all that it has to offer at your new address!”  That’s an actual quote from the email.

I was always just a phone call away from this, assholes! The web form was supposed to help me avoid the goddamn phone call! What you’re really saying is, guess what? That web form? POINTLESS! It’s just there to get your hopes up, busy introvert! All it really did was trigger this form email!

So, it’s looking like I may not get my teevee and interwebs hooked up in a timely fashion at my new place. Why would I expect anything less from good old Comcast?


I discovered that the phone number they had on my account is one they apparently provide me as part of my package.  So I logged in to their online voice mail thing, and found a message waiting for me, from the toll free number they wanted me to call. The entire message was a minute long, consisting of thirty seconds of their own hold music, followed by thirty seconds of silence.  Oh Comcast.  Can you do anything right?


I broke down and called Comcast. It took FIFTY MINUTES on the phone to get them to schedule an appointment to come hook me up at my new place.  How could it take this long, you ask? I’d love to be able to say, but I CAN’T. Most of my time was spent listening to the guy type.  And type, and type.  And then put me on hold for ten minutes to speak with his supervisor. Then type some more. IT’S TWO ADDRESSES!  How hard can it be?  Apparently, it’s so hard it requires nearly an hour of typing and pondering to complete. How is this even possible? Because COMCAST, that’s how.

Posted in Miscellaneous.

The best kind of correct

It’s no secret that the overlap between “geek” and “pedant” is pretty big. Not all pedants are geeks, but a high percentage of geeks are unapologetic pedants. It makes sense, really. Science and engineering are precise disciplines, where attention to detail and the ability to follow directions exactly are rewarded. So people with a natural proclivity for exactness are often drawn to these subjects. Naturally, if a little of something is good, a whole lot of it must be better! At least, that’s what some geeky pedants seem to think.

The other day I was having a problem. It’s a problem I’m sure we’ve all had at one time or another.  I needed a recursive list of a directory tree, printed out one file per line, with the full path included. OK, I realize I just lost some of you. I promise you though, you won’t need to understand the jargon to get the punchline for this one. Anywho, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to make ‘ls’ spit this out. It seemed really simple, but everything I tried wasn’t producing acceptable results.

So I took to Google. I very quickly came across this page at Stack Overflow. This person was asking my exact question. And the second answer made me slap my forehead. It helpfully points out that ‘ls’ is the wrong tool for the job at hand. What I really wanted was ‘find.’ Specifically, this is all I needed to do:

find .

Duh, I knew that. Huge brain cramp there! I was about to close my browser tab and head on my way when I noticed the first answer.  I’m going to quote it here so you can enjoy its craziness:

@OP, if you really want to use ls, then format its output using awk
ls -R /path | awk '
NF&&f{ print s"/"$0 }'

Let me assure you non-technical people out there that even most technical people can’t parse that garbage. What looks like a long string of nonsense characters is in fact part of the ‘awk’ programming language, and while I’m sure there exist plenty of people who can tell at a glance what exactly that is doing, I am not one of them. And I don’t think I’m in the minority here, even among tech professionals.

But the person replying to the question stubbornly stuck to the question asked, which was “How can I get ls to spit out a flat list of recursive one-per-line paths?” Now, to be sure, this could be geek humor here. Geeks often poke fun at their own predilection for pedantry by providing overly-exact answers to simple questions. I have no issues with that at all. But of course that’s not the actual problem here.

The questioner originally marked the “find” answer as correct.  But a later comment insisted that he change it, and mark the gobbledy-gook answer as correct.  Why? Well, if you guessed “pedantry,” you’re paying attention! He complained that the answer marked correct was only the most useful answer, not the objectively correct answer.

In defense of his insanity, he wrote this gem:

this is, objectively speaking, the right answer to the question that you wrote, intentionally or not. Yes, possibly it wasn’t the right answer to the question that you hoped to have written. And while i agree with your bigger point: “when the wise points to the moon, the fool looks at the finger” it is only fair that we minimize the impact of subjectiveness to evaluate correctness, specially when the criteria does not have any possible ambiguity

We gotta minimize that pesky subjectivity dammit! It’s your own fault for asking the wrong question, you deserve to be punished with overly-complex nonsense answers even when there’s a simple answer to the problem you’re experiencing. That’ll teach you to fucking ask imprecise questions! Never mind that if the person asking the question knew about (or remembered, as in my case) the function of the ‘find’ command, he never would have asked this question in the first place!

No, much better to simply pedantically stick to the actual question asked, rather than solve the problem in the most efficient manner. This is akin to a person asking “How do I chop down a tree with a rifle?” and telling him in painstaking detail the best way to do so, rather than simply saying “Actually, what you really want isn’t a rifle, it’s an ax. Or maybe a chainsaw.”

And the hell of it is, the questioner was geekily pedantic enough to actually change the answer marked as “correct.”  Which is why it appears as the first response to the question, and the actual useful answer is second.

In short, fuck both those dudes.


Posted in Miscellaneous.

Craft my ASS

I don’t know when it started, but at some point, video games became all about crafting. Back in the day, crafting in video games was strictly a secondary thing. Sort of like a mini-game almost. And at first, it was kind of fun. Hey, I can go pick this flower, and then chop this tree, and then combine them to make a… something. Hooray! But if you didn’t want to do that, you could almost always ignore that part of the game and just do other stuff.  Such as play the actual game.

Then I guess Minecraft happened. I don’t know for sure, and doing any sort of research is sort of against my personal rules for this site, but I’m going to guess that was one of the first games to go mainstream that focused entirely on the crafting. There isn’t anything else to Minecraft except crafting and survival. And it’s fun as hell! But it’s more of a sandbox than a game, even though it does have a way to “win.”

Since then, games, especially indie games, have become more and more about crafting, to the point where I personally just sunk 40 hours into a game called “Craft the World,” an indie game about dwarves crafting stuff. Lots and lots and lots of useless stuff. That you then have to find places to put. The entire game is nothing but an unlock-able crafting tree full of repetitive iterations of the same basic things. It too has a “win” scenario, which involves opening a portal to another world, where you get to start over.  I quit as soon as I saw that my reward for “finishing” the game was… playing the game again. To be fair, it’s one of those incomplete indie games that you pay to beta test, so improvements may be in store in later versions of the game.

But I didn’t come here to talk about indie games. It’s hard to make fun of crafting in video games by picking on games called “Minecraft” and “Craft the World.”  I mean, hey, what did I think I was getting myself into, right? I can fucking read, I see that word “craft” featured prominently in the titles.

No, I want to bitch about how crafting has bled over into every other game released since Minecraft. Specifically, I want to talk about Far Cry 3. Notice it’s not called “Far Craft 3″ or anything like that. Notice further that it’s not at all an indie game, it’s a big budget title put out by Ubisoft. Presumably it’s part of a franchise, since this is apparently the third game in the series, but I wouldn’t know, because I haven’t played any of the others and, you know, research is verboten.

If you watch the trailer and read comments about the game online, you’re left with the impression that the game is a first person shooter, with support for different play styles. You can choose to focus on stealthy take downs of your enemies, or long range sniping, or you can go the more traditional run-and-gun method of solving all your FPS woes. Your character can be customized by spending skill points in three different skill trees that focus on the different play styles. There are tons of different weapons and upgrades available for purchase.

The backstory is pretty simple.  You and a bunch of friends were vacationing on a tropical island and were captured by pirates. You escaped from the pirate camp, but in the process your brother was killed. Now you have to try to find the rest of your friends and set them free. Meanwhile, the pirates are fighting an eternal war with the natives, so part of the game is all about taking back parts of the islands from the pirates and turning them over to the natives so you can use them as safe houses and bases. It’s pretty free-form and open world, and I’ve heard it described as “Skyrim with guns.” It’s all pretty rad, and after the opening tutorial mission, I was all set to dive right in and start murdering the shit out of pirates.

The first thing I attempted to do once I had full control of my character was change to my other guns. It’s an FPS game, of course I have other guns. You start off with just a .45 pistol, but there’s a store in the very first location where you can purchase other weapons if you wish. Turns out I already owned a few, so, great!  Let’s bust those out.

Well, first of all, it was a nightmare just figuring out how I was supposed to change weapons. Listen closely, developers.  The mouse wheel scrolls through your weapons. This is PC gaming 101. I get that you’re a bunch of lazy shits just doing a quick port from the Xbox, but fuck you if you can’t make this simple, universally accepted modification to your game. Get rid of your awful-ass console radial menu and let me just use the fucking scroll wheel to select my weapons already.

But that wasn’t even the main problem. The main problem was that although I apparently owned a bunch of guns, I was only carrying the one. Why was this? Because out of four weapon quick slots, three of them are locked at the start of the game. This confused the hell out of me, as standard FPS practice is to have 4-6 hot keyed action slots for weapons from the get go. OK, well, I guess I have to do something to unlock these so I can have more than one fucking gun at a time. Fine, what do I have to do?

If you guessed “kill animals and skin them for their hides so you can craft weapon holsters,” you’ve been paying attention! Yes indeed, I just busted my way out of a vicious pirate camp, watched my brother die in front of my eyes, have no idea where my friends are, and am suddenly in the middle of a war between pirates and natives; but what I have to do now is kill some pigs so I can make holsters and ammo bags, so I can kill deer, so I can make bigger bags, so I can have more room for crafting mats, so I can eventually unlock all the weapon slots and make some really big bags so I can get to the FUN FUCKING PART OF THE GAME.

It’s like a four hour cock-block for no goddamn reason. As near as I can tell once you craft all the stupid holsters, pouches, and bags, you can basically stop skinning animals and then you “only” have to collect flowers to make healing syringes and stuff. That doesn’t mean you can stop killing animals, of course. No, like Skyrim, the world contains tons of wildlife, and nearly all of it wants you dead. So you’re still going to be killing wild dogs and boar and tigers and bears for a long time after you don’t need to skin them anymore.

Why on earth anybody thought this was a good idea is beyond me. I’m pretty sure it’s the result of someone saying “Well, crafting in games is a thing now, we need crafting in our game. How should we implement it?” And then, picking the absolute worst possible way to add crafting to an FPS game about killing pirates. Let’s make it nearly impossible to kill any pirates right away, because you can only carry the one gun and hardly any ammo! Then we’ll force you to craft shit you should have just started the game with. You can’t even buy these things in the in-game stores. They can sell you an AK-47, but fuck if they can rig you up a strap to carry it with! Here’s a sniper rifle, but good luck finding some sort of container for the ammo you’ll need to carry around with you. That shit’s a mystery to us natives. Backpacks? What kind of sorcery is this?? We have C4 explosives and land mines, but we’ve never even seen a duffel bag!

It’s awful and annoying and part of a trend that just needs to stop already. Can we just agree to stop shoehorning crafting into every game? Not every game needs a multi-player mode, not every game needs micro-transaction bullshit, and sure as fuck not every game needs goddamn crafting.

Posted in Miscellaneous.