RBCP'S BIG STUPID HOMEPAGE

Aug 01

Thunder Tweets

Thunder is really rare in Albany. So is lightning. And snow. But I’d say in my 8 years of living in this area, we’ve only had real thunder maybe 3 or 4 times. It’s rare to even hear a rumble off in the distance. It barely exists here. But last night we had a really awesome thunderstorm, lasting nearly an hour with a lot of house-shaking thunder that really freaked out our cat.

These past few years I’ve discovered that anytime anything out of the ordinary happens here, it’s fun to turn on the local Twitter feed and watch everyone freak out about it. So I present to you all…People Who Are Way Too Old To Be Afraid Of Thunder, Being Afraid Of Thunder.

thunder tweets

thunder tweets

thunder tweets

thunder tweets

thunder tweets

thunder tweets

thunder tweets

thunder tweets

So I’m curious – outside of this weird little bubble I live in where normal weather doesn’t exist, are people really this afraid of thunder? In the places I’ve lived before here, Twitter and Facebook weren’t around yet so I never had much opportunity before to get so much enjoyment out of everyone else’s fear. Good times!

Apr 01

Explosive Toilet Drama

I’m pretty sure I experienced some horror movie stuff today. I was sitting on the toilet this morning, innocently taking my poo, and I could hear kind of a hissing sound AND THERE WAS A SNAKE and I figured it was the valve in the tank just needing to be jiggled or something. So I finish up with the pooing and the periodic hissing sound continues and I notice that the poo water in the bowl is kind of moving back and forth. Sloshing, if you will. Before I can reach to flush the toilet, it starts getting worse. Then it starts bubbling. A lot. I’m not sure if it’s an Earthquake or Judgement Day, but I really want to flush my poo before whatever is happening gets worse.

But I don’t, because by this point the water looks like it’s boiling. Imagine a pot of boiling water on the stove, but scale it up to toilet size and add poo. I figure if I hit the flush handle, it’s either going to overflow or spray poo at the ceiling. I’m pretty sure that I’ve fallen asleep and am in a Freddy Krueger dream. You’ll be happy to know, that my poo wasn’t too poo-ey. I mean, it was a healthy poo and not a liquid poo. So that was good at least.

I needed to leave the house to pick up the kids from school (no, that’s not a reverse poo euphemism) so I closed the toilet lid and left. I didn’t see much reason to be late for that since all I could do was helplessly stare at the toilet bowl of boiling water. As I left, I noticed that the pipe on the roof above the bathroom was really noisy. When I got back home, it had stopped. Things were about as I expected. I had a mess to clean up, but it wasn’t too horrifying. Mostly just toilet paper and water and little of it was on the floor.

But yeah, I’m pretty sure I have poltergeists now. Really, what causes that? I’ve lived in dozens of places all over the U.S. and I’ve never had a toilet being boiling before. There was some kind of road work happening about a block away, so I guess they could be responsible. I haven’t talked to my neighbors yet to find out if the same thing happened to them. I haven’t even seen them. Maybe they’re dead. Guess it’s a good thing I left when I did.


In other exciting news around here…Bonecage’s new album features ME leaving creepy voicemails for a girl. It’s the track called Charlie Loves You. Bonecage was also nice enough to record an entire song for PLA, which I’m currently in the process of creating a crowd-sourced music video for. I’m pretty happy about both of those things. Also, I just put a new PLA album out. It’s got all those car ding calls we did from a couple years ago. And I guess that’s it. When poltergeists aren’t trying to murder me, all my life news revolves around internet projects.

Jan 14

Answering Machine Hacking

As far as I know, answering machines in the homes of everyone you knew wasn’t really a thing until the late 80′s. I know they existed long before that, but normal people just didn’t have them. My brother and I would occasionally make prank calls in the early 80′s and I remember how weird it was to actually reach an answering machine. It seemed amazing at the time, being able to leave wacky messages for strangers that they would have to listen to when they came home. I brought an answering machine into my family’s home in the very late 80′s (or maybe it was even 1990), when I bought them one for Christmas, but I was so excited about the idea of it that I took it out of the box and played around with it for a few days before wrapping it.

I owned a few answering machines of my own when I was a teenager, for the phone line that I’d purchased for my room. Some of them I would return before the 30 day return policy expired, but I did keep a couple of them. The last one I owned before moving out of my parents house was a Panasonic KX-T1450 (the answering machine from the movie Sneakers), which had dual-cassettes and remote access so I could check messages while away from home. The remote access also let me monitor my room using the machine’s microphone and it let me change the outgoing message. I know all that seems pretty useless for a teenager, but coworkers and I sometimes passed the time by creating wacky new messages for my machine from work.

I don’t remember exactly when I discovered the fun of hacking other people’s answering machines, but it had to be at least a year before I moved out of my parents house because I know I was keeping lists of numbers I’d found that connected to machines and I began recognizing brands based on how they behaved and the tone they used. I also began opening up answering machine boxes at Wal-Mart so I could read the instruction books on how their remote access worked and write down default codes if there were any. The first one I hacked was the same model my parents had, which had a 1-digit access code. Yes, a 1-digit access code. After the beep I had to hold down the single-digit code button for at least 2 seconds and then I was in. The machine I hacked had the same code as we did so I probably ended up getting it on the first try.

Some machines didn’t have any options once you got into them. They’d just play the messages and then hang up on you. Others would let you skip messages or speed forward and backwards through them. Deleting a single message was rarely an option, because almost all machines used tapes and you couldn’t delete a message from the middle of a tape. The best machines, though, were the ones that let you change the outgoing message. I’m sure plenty of people were surprised to call a person and hear whatever weirdness I put on the machines of their friends/family. I really don’t remember a lot of what I did on them. The fun part was just figuring out how to get into them.

Most machines had 2 digit codes and they would only recognize the CORRECT tones and they would ignore the wrong ones, so if you could cycle through 0 to 9 fast enough you’d be in. Three-digit machines were a little harder, but not much because of the same reason. You always knew what the last digit of the code was because that was when the machine let you in, so the next time you called, you’d cycle 0 to 9 for the first digit and then press the 2nd digit of the code.

Zak & I probably hacked a record number of answering machines in the city of Roy, New Mexico in 1995. Our goal was to prank every resident in that town, which wasn’t too hard since there were only a few hundred people living there. A lot of people weren’t home, so we hacked a lot of machines and changed a lot of outgoing messages. We probably hacked more machines than talked to people, and then we had a list of all the numbers and the codes to their machines, so we’d call back and do it again a few days later.

What this is all leading up to is my latest weirdness involving my phone obsession. About a month ago I bought a used computer and set up Asterisk/FreePBX on it. This software allows me to run my own telephone PBX system, complete with full IVR capabilities and about any phone feature you can imagine. A few weeks later I bought a couple of Linksys PAP2T phone adapters from eBay, which allows me to connect 4 actual phones to this phone system. And you can probably guess what I’ve hooked into the system.

I’ve connected answering machines to all 4 lines and people from all over the world have been calling in to figure out how to hack them. The machines have been taking calls all day and night for about a week now. I had to open each one of the machines up and disconnect the speakers in them so they would stop waking me up in the middle of the night when people called in. People have been leaving messages of frustration because they can’t figure out how to get into them, but plenty of others are succeeding, erasing messages, changing greetings, and probably monitoring my room because I haven’t disconnected any of the microphones.

I searched a few thrift stores for old machines to plug into the system and I now own a total of 5 old machines. Only one of them uses tape and it’s probably the least-interesting one since there are no options on the remote features, but I’m hoping to add a couple of more tape machines to it. I might not have spend anymore money on machines, though, because a few people have promised to mail their old machines to me. (You can too! Brad Carter, P.O. Box 465, Albany, OR 97321)

Over the weekend a couple of people donated money to PLA, totaling $50 (Thanks, JagTV and Snorlax Security!), so I was able to buy a couple more of the phone adapters from eBay, meaning this weird thing I’ve created will soon have 8 answering machines hooked to it, sitting and waiting for people to break into them. My plan is to stop at 10 machines, but who knows how long that plan will last. If people keep helping out with the project, it could really get out of hand. But I love that people who never got to experience answering machine hacking, either because they never thought to try it out or because they weren’t born yet, are getting to do it now, and in a way that’s completely legal.

The other cool thing is that I have home phone service again, through this Asterisk computer. I’ve hooked one of the lines into our phones downstairs, so we can use the pay phone hanging in our living room, and the phone in our kitchen. We used to have MagicJack for home phone service, but it expired awhile ago and I never bothered renewing it since we all have cell phones and Skype and a few dozen other ways to communicate with people that make more sense than picking up a home phone. I’m tempted to just start wiring phone jacks into every room of the house, and on the porch, and in the bathroom, and the closets, but yeah, I sure won’t do that. Nope, not me.

I’m really excited about the whole project, though. I’ve played around with Asterisk a few times in the past, but I never got as far as actually hooking up physical telephones to it. Around 2009 I set up a system with an incoming number that did a few IVR things, but I gave up because it was constantly crashing, it turned out because of bad RAM in the machine. I’ve got all kinds of plans for this thing, though. Fun stuff, that people calling in will enjoy playing around with. And fun for me, just to play around with this amazing combination of old tech and new tech. So thanks, Asterisk and FreePBX, for creating this completely free software that lets people experience the fun of running their own phone system.

prank call

Oct 08

In your grandma’s face, like a giant lump of botox

Remember when I used to write things here? Those were the days. I’ve been up to the normal, boring fun stuff lately. On Sunday I created a music video for Rappy Mcrapperson’s song called Welcome to the Shrubz and he put it on his YouTube channel. It’s made entirely out of clips from the 1990 movie Home Alone. Here’s that:

Weeks before that I finished up a song called Free Water, then spent another week making a video for it. I figured simply writing out the lyrics in block letters would be a quick, simple video, but I was wrong. It took a full week of evenings to put it all together. Never doing that one again. Here it is:

I’ve been reading The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury for the first time. I’ve got a few Bradbury books queued up on my Kindle and I plan to read all of them before the year is over. The only thing I’ve ever read by him before is Have Spacesuit, Will Travel and that was a couple years ago. Still hating that I didn’t read tons of science fiction growing up instead of tons of horror. Nice that Ray thinks kids will still be playing “kick the can” far into the future.

A month ago the kids and I went to PAX. Tonight we watched Now You See Me. What else. Oh yeah, there was my crippling Breaking Bad addiction these past few months. People have been telling me for years to watch that TV show, but I never did because a show about meth sounded incredibly boring. But holy crap, was I wrong. I think I watched all 4 seasons in a month. Then the half-season of 5 the following week, just in time for the show to finish up. Then I watched almost all of the episodes again with the kids because they got into it. Best show ever. I’ve never loved (and hated) characters so much.

And now I’m watching Stargate SG-1 for the first time ever. I’m nearly done with season 4, with 6 seasons to go. My entire life revolves around consuming media.

I bought an Android tablet – a Nexus 7. This is my third attempt at owning an Android device. The other two attempts weren’t good at all, but I love being abused so I’m giving it another try. It started off bad with constant crashes and lockups, but then I factory reset it and updated it to the latest version and it’s been relatively stable for the past month. I’m mostly using it to play The Simpsons Tapped Out game, but the main reason I bought it was to use as a soundboard for Madhouse shows, which has worked really well so far.

Oct 07

Somebody is Missing

When I was a kid, it was always exciting to think about “the future” and all the cool advancements we’d have after the year 2000. We were promised many things, like flying cars, robots, teleportation, and fax machines in every room of our house. So where is it all? I know I’m not alone in feeling completely lied to by books and movies about what life would be like in 2012.

It’s weird to think about where we’d be technologically today if certain key people from the past had died before they invented amazing things. Like Nikola Tesla, who did amazing stuff with electricity and radio, almost died in a boat on his way to America. And he almost died as a kid of some disease. And his father hated the idea of him being an engineer and wanted him to become a priest instead. If any of those things had happened to Telsa, we might be living in a 1950′s-like world right now. Or we might just now be getting home computers and connecting them to AOL on our dialup modems. All because of one man.

What if Einstein had died as a kid? What would life be like for all of us? Sure, someone would have figured it all out eventually, but how long would it have taken? Would that drag us back another 20 years?

There must be hundreds of amazing minds from the past that died of disease or in wars or their parents forced them to work as a coal miner to support their family instead of learning about quantum mechanics and making mind boggling discoveries that completely change the course of the world. Somebody important died in the past 100 years before they got to show us how to get free energy and flying cars.

At this point in my life, I’m fairly certain that I will never see any truly amazing advances in science. If I live another 30 years, all I’m likely to see is a bunch of neat things like cooler phones and smaller computers and faster networks and a bunch of medical advancements. Which is all great, but I really doubt anything revolutionary is going to happen in my life. It sucks but it’s true. At least I got to see the internet happen and that was a really great thing to live through.

I bet if Doc Brown went 30 years into the future to see what 2015 was like, he’d think his time machine had malfunctioned. “WTF, this can’t be right. Everything is the same!”

Sep 24

Harassment Sunday

Meetup

I got this email notification today from Meetup, under the completely fictitious name of Chris Tomkinson and for local events on the other side of the country. It took a few minutes to remember why I would have something like this set up, but I finally remembered a certain hilarious Sunday in 2005 where I spent the entire day hacking into accounts and harassing some guy online.

A certain girlfriend of mine was being constantly harassed online by a guy who was in her various circles of friends. He would join any online community she joined and post mean comments on her pictures and on her Livejournal posts. This went on for years and I don’t remember why it started, just that it was annoying to see his mean-spirited posts on everything she did. This guy was actually a relative of hers, so it wasn’t that he was interested in her or anything. The main site he did this on was a photo sharing website that existed years before things like Myspace/Facebook/Flickr/etc came around. As far as I know, there wasn’t a reason for the harassment of this girl. The guy was just nuts or something. He was in his mid-20′s and most of his posts were feces-themed, so that should give you an idea of his character. For the purposes of this story, we’ll call him Jerry.

One day I ask this girl if I can screw with Jerry and she gave me her blessing. I can’t remember if it was a reluctant blessing or not, because she knew about some of the things I’ve done in the past. Shortly after, Jerry decided to throw a party at his house and he used Meetup to organize it. This was the first I’d heard of Meetup and I signed up for an account, just so I could watch his party event. His event included his phone number.

I can’t remember exactly what I said to Jerry and I’m hoping my ex-girlfriend will read this and remind me. I called him late at night, though, and assured him that I would be attending his party. I don’t think I told him my name and I don’t remember what else I said, but soon after that he completely canceled his party because he was so freaked out by my call. I doubt I made any actual threats to him, because that’s just not something I ever do. I guess I’m just really good at being creepy. Me and Girlfriend laughed hysterically about the cancellation. I think all this happened on a Saturday night. It was the next morning when things got crazy.

Jerry was using Sprint PCS as his wireless provider. I happened to know that Sprint PCS was the only wireless company where the service reps could actually look on their screens and SEE a customers password. I was really good at lying to Sprint reps, so it didn’t take much effort for me to get Jerry’s password. Me and Girlfriend used it to log into his Sprint PCS account online and look at the giant list of people he called. It also told us his address information and other things. I can’t remember if we found anything scandalous in his list of dialed numbers.

I decided to try using his Sprint PCS password to log into his Yahoo email. It worked. The photo sharing site where he constantly harassed my girlfriend? Yep, same password. Meetup? Same password. Every single thing he did online used the same password. I scrolled through years of his emails on Yahoo, finding tons of other online services he used and I was able to log into all of them using that same password. This, readers, is exactly why you never ever use the same password on anything.

I spent most of that Sunday alone, getting into all of his accounts and doing hysterically horrible things to Jerry. My girlfriend was busy most of that day, but we’d occasionally call each other and laugh constantly about whatever new things I’d done to Jerry. I locked him out of most of the accounts and had started posting crazy things as him everywhere. On the photo sharing site where he’d been posting nonstop feces jokes on all of Girlfriend’s pictures, I began posting brand new feces jokes on EVERYONE’S pictures. This was a very small photo sharing community, with maybe just a few hundred members, and most of them all knew each other. I really can’t remember if there was much backlash from this community because of my hundreds of posts, but I definitely had fun making them.

He was on the dating site match.com and I had the ability to charge his credit card for another year or so of service through them, but I don’t think Girlfriend would give me clearance to do that. She also wouldn’t allow me to buy $1,000 in phone equipment through his Sprint PCS account and have it shipped to random addresses in bad neighborhoods. Not that I would do things like that anyway. That would be illegal!

Even though this guy had been harassing my girlfriend for years, he didn’t seem to have a problem calling her up and asking if she knew who was harassing him. He suspected that she knew something about it, probably because of all the feces posts I made on the photo site, but Girlfriend played dumb and told him that he was really good at pissing people off and it could be just about anyone doing these things to him. I listened in on one of the calls and he was really upset at everything that was happening to him. He was completely devastated by the loss of all his accounts and on top of that, people were getting pissed at him because of the things I was doing with his accounts.

There are certain days where I can remember laughing nonstop for hours at a time and this event was definitely one of those times. I think that day I probably laughed constantly from morning until bedtime, because of all the crazy things I did to Jerry, then getting to relive them on the phone with Girlfriend. That single Sunday was the end of it. I’m sure I wanted to do a few more things, but was probably discouraged by Girlfriend, either because she felt bad for the guy or because she didn’t want us to get in trouble over it all. Since that day, Jerry has stayed far away from her online. I just looked on Facebook and he’s not even friends with her on there.

There’s a lot to this story that I’m sure I’m forgetting because I’m so old and decrepit. Hopefully ex-girlfriend will make a bunch of corrections and additions for me.

Next day edit: I’m too lazy to go back through this to add/change things, so I’ll just paste the chat log of my ex-girlfriend correcting a few things…

ex-girlfriend: let’s see… i think his phone number was on the [photo sharing site] boards
ex-girlfriend: and you immediately knew it was sprint and got the password
ex-girlfriend: so you got everyone’s contact info and then cancelled the party and had it mass send emails to everyone or something like that
ex-girlfriend: then he said it wasn’t cancelled
ex-girlfriend: and you called him and i think his mom answered or something and i think you actually did threaten him or her
rbcp: no way
rbcp: not me
ex-girlfriend: and she made him cancel the party anyway because you’re nuts
ex-girlfriend: i think you did! like you said you were gonna show up and beat him up or something
rbcp: haha
ex-girlfriend: you may have told his mom that
ex-girlfriend: either way she shut down the party
ex-girlfriend: so he had to recancel it
ex-girlfriend: then you logged on his AIM and spoke to his friends and said terrible things
rbcp: haha
rbcp: i rule
ex-girlfriend: pretending to be him
ex-girlfriend: and you told me all the weird sites he was on
ex-girlfriend: like some yahoo group about chicks with dirty boots on
ex-girlfriend: and you changed his [photo sharing site] profile picture to his picture with ‘PWNED’ on it
ex-girlfriend: and he called me asked me to tell whoever it was to call it off
ex-girlfriend: i was in the middle of studying so i said i didnt have time for that bullshit
ex-girlfriend: and he said “who hates me that much?”
ex-girlfriend: and i said “who doesn’t?”
ex-girlfriend: and he then thought it was this dude greg who was the boyfriend of some chick on [the photo sharing site] and jerry had been mean to him
ex-girlfriend: so he was convinced it was greg
ex-girlfriend: i think he got his accounts back a couple of weeks later but he stayed away from [the photo sharing site]
ex-girlfriend: and yes he’s been out of contact with me since

Apr 15

Stupid Technology!

At least once a year I drone on and on rant about some operating system that I hate, so I’m going to get that out of the way right now. Android is a huge, steaming pile of crap! About 6 months ago I upgraded my iPhone to an Android phone – the Samsung Nexus S. Almost immediately, programs were crashing constantly and performance sucked. I can’t believe that I didn’t return it with those first couple of weeks. I posted on Facebook, asking if this was just the way Android is and several people confirmed that it was.

I can’t believe that so many people are behind this OS when it has so many problems. It’s basically like time traveling back to the late-90′s and dealing with Windows 95/98 constantly crashing. My iPhone never crashed and rarely had to be rebooted. Android lovers can make fun of the iPhone all they want, but at least it WORKS and it’s not frustrating to use.

Besides all the crashing, my phone started overheating really bad and the battery was lasting only a couple of hours, even when I wasn’t using it. When me and the kids were in Seattle for Comicon, I decided to factory wipe the phone in hopes that whatever was causing the problem would stop, so I could keep in touch with the kids at Comicon without having to charge my phone up. I lost all my apps and information, but it fixed the problem. Within a week, though, the overheating and the battery draining was back, and I hadn’t even installed many apps yet so I have no idea what’s causing it. On Friday I mailed my phone to Samsung so they can hopefully fix or replace it. They’ll probably just factory reset it and claim that it’s fixed.

A few days ago I blew $450 on an Android tablet. After installing just a couple of basic, popular apps, CRASH. Various apps crashed throughout the evening and next day. I went to Amazon.com to look up some info on tablets and the entire thing locked up, I assume because of the Flash on the web page. I had to get on my computer to look up the magical button combination to soft-reset it. Within 24 hours I had 2 complete lockups. I used this as my excuse to return the device for a refund, and the AT&T store guy admitted that crashing was a common issue. I use friends Androids and they crash too, doing the most basic things. Why are we all putting up with this?

If anyone reading this is thinking about getting an Android, DON’T! Sure, they do more and look prettier and they’re made by a completely different giant evil corporation, but they suck! Another thing I started to do last week before I mailed my phone in to Samsung was root my phone with CyanogenMod. I’m told that rooting your phone gets rid of a lot of the bloat and makes it more stable, which I’m sure is true, but I was about 12 steps into the billion-step process and I quit, just for the principle of it all. Why should I be putting this much effort into making my cell phone not crash? Even if I didn’t want to deal with learning how to root the phone myself, I have local friends who could easily root my phone and keep it working for me, but screw that. It should just work! Why not just get an iPhone and never have to worry about retarded shit like this again?

Here’s what I did instead. I completely ditched my AT&T wireless plan. At first I attempted to keep the plan turned on by signing up for the $15/month Android tablet data plan, but not only did the Android tablet suck balls, I just couldn’t see the need for even having a tablet. It was neat to play with (all the crashing aside) but I just didn’t NEED it. And I was blowing $450 to keep from being charged the $275 early termination fee, when I’d still end up paying $270 over the next 18 months (plus all kinds of taxes and fees, I’m sure) for the $15/month data plan. When I returned the tablet, I had them just cancel my account. And then I bought a cheap, crappy prepaid phone for $50 and $25 of prepaid credit.

The phone looks like an old Blackberry and it’s capable of email, texting, taking pictures and making phone calls. And a lot more, I’m sure, but it’s all stuff I’ll never use. So now instead of paying $80/month for my Android with texting and unlimited data, I’m paying approximately $8.00 per month. I’m going to have an extra $72/month now to pay bills and have fun with. I never talk on the phone anyway and I was mainly just paying the $80/month so I could check my email or play on Facebook while I was out. Now when I’m standing in a long line at the post office, I’ll have to think of something else to do to avoid talking to people.

I still plan to keep a smartphone of some kind – I’m just not going to pay a subscription for it anymore. I’ll give my Android another try when it returns from Samsung and I really hope the overheating issues stop. It’s a fun little device and it does a lot, but really I don’t even leave the house that often so I can just use my home’s wireless connection to play games and listen to online radio stations.

I’m actually borrowing an iPhone from my friend Jessica this week, just so we can continue playing Drawsomething together while my phone is being repaired. (We’re both really addicted to that game.) She wants me to sell the phone on eBay for her when my phone gets back, but I’m kind of thinking I’ll just buy the iPhone from her. These past few days I’ve filled it up with all of my music and my old iPhone apps and it’s really nice to just have a device that works so flawlessly again.

I’m really loving the idea of not paying $80/month for a phone anymore. Prepaid plans have come a long way since I last looked at them. Prepaid wireless used to be kind of a ripoff, but now the rates actually seem better than a postpaid account. This card that I got with the phone says they have monthly plans for texting – $10/month for 1,000 texts or $20/month for unlimited. AT&T wireless forced me to pay around $40/month BEFORE my texting and data plans, for the 450 minutes that I never came close to using up. They even have a $50/month plan for unlimited talk/text and web. This makes so much more sense. If your cell phone bills are as nuts as mine was, look into some prepaid plans! See if you can save as much money as I am.

April 29th Update: After two weeks, I’m not regretting the decision to ditch my smart phone plan. I’ve been using the iPhone at home just as much as ever and I don’t miss it while I’m away. It’s a little inconvenient sometimes, like today when me and the kids were out and wanted to check movie times, we had to go drive by the theater to see when our movie started. Evie gave me her old GPS unit for her car since she’s got a car with it built in now, so that takes care of that. A lot of times I leave the house now and I don’t even take my cheap prepaid phone with me.

Samsung sent me an email to let me know that the phone was broken and they’re replacing it and it’s been shipped back to me. So maybe I was a bit harsh about my hatred for Android, but I’m still probably going to sell it to help recoup my early termination fee. This prepaid phone of mine lasts about a week without being charged. It’s like magic! I think I might buy a watch soon, so I can be amazed at the batteries that last 7 years.

Mar 19

Hikes and other equally boring nonsense that you’ll hate reading about so don’t even bother

When I first moved to Oregon in late 2005, I wanted to explore all the woods around here, so I did lots of Geocaching and hiking. There were no hiking groups in the area, so I signed up on meetup.com and set up a hiking group. Within a year, there were over 100 members and I was leading weekly/bi-weekly hikes to a dozen or so people, sometimes dragging my kids along and sometimes by myself. I think in the end there were over 150 members.

I ended up shutting down the group because a friend of mine set up her own hiking meetup and I was getting kind of bored with it since I’d already explored all of the woods and we were just going on the same hikes we’d already been on. I introduced a lot of new people to the game of Geocaching. Soon after I killed my hiking group, my friend killed HER hiking group (damn her) so the whole hiking thing just died.

I miss all the weirdos I met there, though. My favorites were Dan, who had this stereotypical Canadian way of speaking (he sounded just like one of the Moose in Brother Bear) and he spent an insane amount of time biking places. And this really old couple, George and Shirley, were a lot of fun to talk to. I usually don’t click well with old people, but those two were awesome. And a bunch of other ones that I’ve completely forgotten by now. I don’t miss hiking at all, but just the odd assortment of people that I met during the hikes and the few strange things that happened during some of them that I don’t even know how to explain here. And it was kind of cool, causing lots of people to wake up early on Saturdays and Sundays just to hang out in the woods.

Last weekend, Evie and I drove around Mount St. Helens which was the first time I’ve seen real snow in several years now. I don’t miss the midwest, but I really miss the awesome snows and the sledding. I need to visit Illinois one of these Christmases and hope they have snow.

Today I went skating for the first time in awhile. Me and the kids drove to Eugene, where my friend Kate told me about the skating rink there a few days earlier. It was lots of fun. Each of us wiped out a few times. I’m good at roller blading until I need to slow down or stop, then things turn bad. Some little kid cut me off and I crashed. Before that, we went to a flea market and I ended up buying a mid-1990′s Motorola flip phone, hoping to use it for nefarious purposes, but instead making this video:

Speaking of videos, I’ve put a lot of them on PLA’s YouTube channel lately. Just this past week, I’ve uploaded one of our pizza shenanigans, where we demonstrated how easy it is to talk pizza employees out of customer data, and another of mine and Evie’s adventures at Target this past Black Friday, where we tricked Target employees into registering our own telephone on their phone network. Both of these videos also demonstrate that I’m a huge jerk. There’s also this video of a lady who hates PLA. I hired her from fiverr.com, which is a site I’ve been completely addicted to for a few weeks now that lets you blow $5 to get people to do ridiculous things. Like this girl who danced around in a dinosaur costume for me.

I went to an improv comedy show on Friday with Kate and Cameron at the Reed Opera House in Salem. I’m only mentioning this so I’ll remember to go back there one of these days and explore the stores and restaurants inside there. The comedy was standard improv stuff and they were really good.

My car stereo got stolen again a couple weeks ago, so I’ve been driving around with a giant glob of duct tape over my back window that was broken out. So far the cheapest replacement window I’ve found is $65, and that’s without the rubber/adhesive stuff that goes under it. I’ve never replaced that type of window before and I’m having a hard time finding YouTube videos or other information on how to do it, so I might end up paying over $200 to just have a shop do it. If anyone reading this has any advice on that, please share! It’s a 2000 Ford Focus hatchback non-door window – it’s just triangle-shaped part in the back. No idea why they broke THAT window since it seems like it’d be hard to reach through that one and get the door unlocked. At least with the door windows those are easy to replace since I’ve done it several times before. So car thieves, please be nice and do that next time. I’m officially giving up on owning a nice stereo.

In other exciting news, our house almost burned down! When the kids and I got home that afternoon, we smelled something burning. I was super proud of both of them for immediately knowing that it smelled exactly like a soldering gun. (I bought them both electronics kits for Christmas.) I Googled the smell and read about how that’s usually what people smell right before their houses burn down. It was less than an hour before smoke started coming out of our electric wall heater and we could see fire behind it. Luckily, it’s all enclosed in metal, so after the rubber insulation burned off the wires, it stopped.

We were at Goodwill a few weeks ago and I spotted the tape recorder in that video. I bought it for $3.00, just to use for making this video, then returned it for a refund. Before you yell at me for being a bad person, you should know that it was broken when I brought it home, so I had to take it apart and fix it. (The belt had slipped off the motor.) So really, Goodwill should be paying me whenever I buy stuff from them just to play with for a few days before I get a refund.

That’s the exact same model of tape recorder my parents bought me one Christmas in the late 70′s or early 80′s. I would assume that I’d somehow come across the actual same tape recorder that I owned as a kid, but my old tape recorder ended up like most electronic items I owned back then – in pieces because I needed to salvage some random part from it. I remember being stealthy about throwing the casing of the tape recorder away because my parents wouldn’t have been happy to see it in pieces. To bring things full circle, the red tape from the video was used in my original tape recorder in the 80′s and still has some 80′s weirdness of mine on it, including a mid-80′s version of What’s Your Bid? and other live radio pranks, and a 1986 recording of me and a girl I babysat for programming my TRS-80 to make prank calls to Dominos and then dancing to hits of the 80′s.

It’s 1:12am and I have to wake up at 7:30 to take the kids to school. I can’t sleep, which is why this post is so long.

Mar 16

Bank Scamster

This relatively new guy at my bank really wants me to cheat the IRS. I’m self-employed and I get checks from different companies, so he starts being nosy and asking what I do. He tells me I definitely need their business account for my business. I tell him I’ve had a business account before and all it did for me was cost me extra fees.

“Well if you have a business account, then you can claim expenses for your business!” he tells me, as if this is revolutionary advice that I’d never have thought of myself.

“I already claim expenses for my business,” I tell him. “I don’t need a business name or a business account to do that.” Then he really starts getting into arguing with me, telling me how I should claim fake expenses and how I should buy an entire car and claim it on my tax return, all while taking FOREVER to give me my money so I can leave. He constantly uses “air quotes” as he tells me about all the things I should be claiming on my return and tells me about how his uncle has his own business and does this stuff all the time.

I tell him that I really don’t think it’s a good idea to cheat the IRS. This, of course, starts another argument where he says it’s not cheating, but it’s “getting creative!” or something like that. It was another air quotes term. I couldn’t believe a bank teller was insisting that I cheat on my taxes, though. Sadly, none of the other tellers or employees were nearby, so they didn’t get to witness this weirdo giving me the worst advice ever.

A day or two later I was back in the bank and once again he was the only teller there. He was just as enthusiastic about cheating the IRS this time, but I managed to escape quickly. All I can remember from this conversation is that I should buy 30 flatscreen computer monitors to claim as expenses, or something like that. THIS IS THE GUY THAT HAS ACCESS TO MY MONEY!

I went home and looked up his name on Facebook, finding him easily. If he’d had his uncle listed under the Family section, I probably would have called him up to ask him about all the tax cheating advice that he gives his nephew, but he didn’t so I didn’t look into it further.

Between that and the other tellers trying to hard-sell me stuff every time I go in there, I’ve mostly stopped going inside the bank anymore. At least in the drive-thru I can avoid eye contact and ignore their sales pitches by turning up the radio. Thanks for making an asocial person like me even more asocial, bank!

Dec 20

Hackers vs. Magicians

There used to be a magic shop in downtown Albany and the kids and I would stop by there sometimes and look around. The owners were an old couple and the wife would rave about how awesome it was being a magician. She said learning all the tricks completely alters the way you see life. The way she talked about it reminded me of how hackers are pretty much the same way, feeling like they have a completely different grasp on life than “normal” people. I wonder, as someone who has an understanding of the way hackers see the world, would learning all the magician tricks add anything to that feeling or would it be basically all the same stuff. Or maybe magicians are just newbs and don’t really have the awesome enlightenment that hackers do. Stupid magicians.

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