Archive for September, 2010

Nerdy Monday 4: My Ode to a Forgotten Legend

Posted in 1980's, Nerdy Monday, Retro, Transformers on September 26, 2010 by Divide By Zero

Many people think I harp on the past too much when it comes to pop culture.  I’ve caught myself saying, on many occasions, “When I was your age, we did [insert 80’s activity here]!” or “Back in the 90’s, T.V. was actually good. We watched [insert 90’s show here]!”  Some of it may have been exaggerated in my mind a little bit, but my intentions are good.  I do believe that my generation had a lot more going for it than past generations, and I’d be willing to put money down, saying that it has more going for it than the generations since then.

The [Optimus] prime example that comes to mind are the toys and enjoyable television.  For this article, I’m going to focus on one t.v. show from my youth, but I wanted to touch on the toys we had first.  When I was growing up, I had Transformers.  Taking a toy designed after a Rubik’s cube and changing it from one toy to another, like a giant robot into a semi-tractor trailer, stimulates the part of the brain to teach itself to solve problems, don’t you agree?  What do kids have today?  Pokemon?  I don’t see the problem solving stimulation there.  That’s something to keep in mind when you’re talking to an 80’s kid like myself.

Anyways, on to what I want to talk about today.  Legends of the Hidden Temple.

With your host, Kirk Fogg.. and the popular one, Olmec

You can’t think of 1990’s Nickelodeon without thinking about Legends of the Hidden Temple.  Yeah, there were other Nick competition shows that I enjoyed.  There was Double Dare (the regular version, super sloppy, family, and 2000), Figure It Out!, Finders Keepers, Get the Picture, Make the Grade, G.U.T.S. of all varieties, Nickelodeon Arcade, Think Fast!, What Would You Do?, Nickelodeon SPLAT!, and You’re On!.  Needless to say, there were a lot of competition among the game shows offered by Nickelodeon back then.  My favorite though, was Legends of the Hidden Temple.  It appealed to me because I had been conditioned (by my toys, other t.v. shows, etc.) to solve problems.  That’s all this game show was about!  It was basically a competition to see who could solve the problems the fastest.  I remember thinking: “Okay, I have to get across this 30 foot pool of water without touching the water, there’s a rope here, what do I do?”  It combined physical ability with competitive spirit, and problem solving skills.

Not to mention the set was made out of sand-dusted awesomeness.

Here is a verbatim synopsis of the show from Wikipedia, which is entirely accurate, and verified by yours truly: “The show incorporated physical stunts, as well as questions based on topics related to history, mythology, and geography. Each episode featured six teams of two children (one boy and one girl) competing for prizes. Teams competed in various elimination contests until one team remained, who then earned the right to go through “the Hidden Temple” and retrieve a historical artifact to win a grand prize.”

That’s it in a nutshell.  The Hidden Temple, or the final obstacle was always the most fun to watch.  The contestants had to go through the maze like temple, and use the keys they won in each event leading up to this finale.  The more keys they earned, the easier it was for them to get through the Hidden Temple.

I dreamed more than once about getting into the Hidden Temple.  There used to be mummies and other guys that would jump out at random and take their keys, or make them lose their turn.  I remember thinking to myself: “Man, I’m so much faster than those kids, I’d run under those guys’ legs, or kick them in the shin, or something!”  I’d so totally win.  It would be so totally awesome.

"I punched 3 guys in the throat to get here."

Everything about this show was fantastic.  Everything was enjoyable.  Yet, the show barely lasted 3 seasons.  Why, you ask?  Let’s take a look at a list of prizes they ended up giving away for people who won 3-4 competitions, and mastered the final hidden temple maze to get all of the glory:

  • Book WITH Bookmark
  • Shampoo and Conditioner
  • A PushPop & box of Nerds
  • A disposable camera
  • Some weird key chain thing
  • A Fashion Bug Gift Certificate
  • Video Game Controllers (but no game system)
  • A tennis racket (no balls or net included)
  • Hush Puppies brand shoes

Yeah, that would make ANYONE want to go on a competitive show.  Or a 7-11.  It’s okay though, they also offered trips and a chance to go to Space Camp.  I guess in the end, that’s pretty cool.  I would have loved to go to space camp when I was that age.  There I go again, living in the 80’s.  I’m going to end this here before I get to nostalgic and weepy, and start having flashbacks of watching Operation Desert Storm on T.V..  Thank you all for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it.  If I made any typos or mistakes or anything, be sure to do the respectful thing and mock me in the comments section.  Happy Nerdery.

Advertisements

A Grape Place to Be

Posted in Downtown Bristol, Gourmet, Inari Wines, Sophistication on September 24, 2010 by Divide By Zero

This week, I ventured into a little spot near State Street called Inari Wines.  If you haven’t been here yet, I recommend you get there soon.  It’s right across the street from the Bristol Public Library.  It’s sort of easy to miss if you’re not looking for it.  But once you see it, you can’t un-see it.  My girlfriend and I have had a chance to take part in one of their wine tastings, and we both had a very pleasant experience.  We learned some things about wine that we didn’t know before, and enjoyed the company of everyone in the store.

That wine tasting was the first time I remember having some free time to look around their store, and it really is a different place you can find some interesting things.  Like Whimsical Gems & Treasures, there are a lot of nifty little gifts that you wouldn’t find in mainstream stores.  The items Mr. and Mrs. Brandt (the owners) have at Inari Wines make perfect gifts for people who are hard to buy for, or already have everything.  If you take the time to browse a little bit, I’m sure you could find a perfect gift for everyone you know.

I was fortunate enough to be able to interview Mrs. Aulikki Brandt for a few minutes, when she had some time.  She was very welcoming to me, and seemed to enjoy the questions I had to ask.  She gave very informative answers and was very friendly.. as has been my experience with her store overall.  I have taken the time to transcribe my mini-interview for you all.

Del Dotson: Okay, so you’re the owner?

Aulikki Brandt: I’m one of the owners.  Me and my husband.

DD: And what’s your name?

AB: My name is Aulikki.  Aulikki Brandt, here’s my card.

DD: That’s a pretty name.  Okay, my first question is What made you choose to open a business, like, in downtown Bristol, right near State Street?

AB: When.. We used to live in Houston, and our dream was to leave Houston and come to a small town and open our own business.  And we didn’t really know what it was going to be.  We thought maybe a computer business, or a coffee shop.  Then when it finally came the time where we were in Bristol, and we kind of evaluated what we did not have here, this is what we came up with.

DD: Yeah, okay.

AB: We wanted to do gourmet food, wine, cheese, beer, gifts.  Things like that.

DD: Yeah, because you have a lovely store.  And I’ve noticed there’s not too many places like this.. you know..

AB: mm-mm (as she shook her head ‘no’)

DD: In or around Bristol.  Or the Tri-Cities, really.

AB: Right

DD: Um, is this the first business you’ve opened up?

AB: Yes.

DD: So you’re a first-time business owner, that’s cool. And um, I think you’ve already answered this, but what do you think Inari Wines brings to downtown Bristol that wasn’t already here?

AB: I would think that we have a really unique.. niche that is very different than anything else, anybody has downtown.  So I think that for the whole area, I think that we have definitely changed a lot about of the appreciation of good wine.

DD: Definitely, yeah.  I’ve come to your wine tastings a few times on Saturdays and I really enjoyed that.  Um, my next question is this.  How do you think Inari Wines fits in with the whole personality of downtown Bristol?

AB: I think it really fits into the specialty shops.  And I think that, I think we have lots of great antique shops but it’s really neat to see, now that we’re getting more specialty shops.  There’s a shoe shop, there’s ladies purses and all that kind of stuff.  There’s art shops, so I think it really fits into that kind of a..

DD: That kind of atmosphere.

AB: Yes!

DD: It kind of “goes with the flow”?

AB: Mm-hmmm.

DD: Is there anything we can look forward to?  Any, um.  Besides the wine tastings.  We always look forward to the wine tastings!

AB: Well, we are hoping to expand our store to have a whole special wine tasting area.  It seems to be getting so busy right now but we are planning to remove one of the walls up here and build a special tasting area.  That’s something we are slowly starting to work on.

DD: Very nice.  And the last question is, is there anything else you’d like to tell me, or share that I haven’t already asked about?

AB: We’re still kind of the best kept secret down here, that people just.. Still, people walk in every day.  They say: “Oh I never knew that you were here!”  And I say “Well, we’ve been in business 7 and a half years, so..”

DD: And you guys used to (looks out the window and points across the street)…

AB: We started across the street and we were there for 2 years.  We ran out of space so we moved to State Street across from Paramount for 2 years.  Now there’s a fabric shop in that space.  And then we moved here, and what really works for us in this location is that we have the whole front for parking, the back for parking.  Parking for us is a big issue, especially when you start to move the cases of wine.

DD: Oh yeah, I’ll bet.  Hahaha.

AB: We really lucked out to get this spot.

DD: Alright, well thank you very much for your time.

AB: Thank you!

That concluded my interview with Mrs. Brandt.  I wish we both had more time for her to answer more questions.  I also wish I hadn’t just spent my money in the antique shops.  There was a big can of Wasabi Peas with my name on it in there!

Seriously though, I recommend this establishment to everyone.  There’s really no way I can write down the passion and information the staff (especially the owners) of Inari Wines freely gives out to its customers.  You can visit their website here.  It has a more extensive list of the inventory they have to offer, and a detailed schedule of events they have planned.  Whether you’re a wine connoisseur, just have a general interest in wine, or are (like myself) a complete novice of everything wine and just want to learn a little bit about it.. this is the place to go.

I also highly recommend attending one of their wine tastings, I am certain that they will offer a wine that you will have to take home with you.  They really know their stuff.

Thank you Mrs. Brandt for the opportunity to talk with you.  And thank you both for being a big part of the downtown Bristol community, all the best in the future!

Inari Wines Gourmet Market

39 Piedmont Avenue, Bristol VA, 24201

(276) 821-WINE (9643)

http://inariwines.com

Rhythm & Roots Special!

Posted in Alcohol Involved, Annual, Downtown Bristol, RHYTHM & ROOTS! on September 20, 2010 by Divide By Zero

I had the opportunity to go to Rhythm & Roots this weekend, and I had a blast.  I haven’t been in about 4 years, but could tell right away that it has been getting better every year.  The atmosphere was great, and embodied everything it should have embodied.  And the personality of State Street was allowed to shine through.  There was a great turn out this year, and from what I could see, everyone enjoyed themselves.

This might be the reason why.

It was great, the old shops got customers, the new shops got their name out there in a very big way, and the other shops that are wanting to sell got some advertising.  In any case, here’s the rundown of the weekend I had.

I got to go into the Cameo Theater.  A big thank you goes out to Kroger’s for sponsoring that stage.  Ted Olsen put on a very good performance, with a fair audience.  I took a few pictures, but wish I had the opportunity to go into the balcony (something the Cameo has that the Paramount does not).  I also noticed that even though the Cameo could use a face-lift, it was in pretty decent shape for not being renovated in a while.

Inside the Cameo.

I loved seeing all the local artists come out and offer their work for reasonable prices.  It was pretty awesome.  I almost got a “Charcoal drawing by Nick” of the Burger Bar that was being offered for $40.  The only reason why I didn’t was because I was short by $10.  It’s okay though.  Another highlight was Java J’s gelato.  All of the flavors I sampled were delicious, but the one that stood out the most was the caramel latte.  Definitely a good treat to cool off from the heat with.  While I was enjoying the gelato, I sat outside of J’s at one of their bistro tables.  The stage by the Bristol sign was featuring a band by the name of “The Possum Playboys”.  They were very good, very funny, and put on a great show.  No local band was better, in my opinion, than the 3:00 Paramount performance by a band called Red Molly.  They are 3 enormously talented young women who were astonishingly entertaining.  I can’t lie, I went to their performance by accident, and hadn’t heard of them before Rhythm & Roots, but glad it happened.  I looked at the wrong showing and ambled into the paramount expecting to hear ETSU’s Celtic band, as I am a huge fan of Celtic culture and music.  I was disappointed for a second when I was informed this wasn’t the Celtic band, but that feeling went away quickly when they started singing.  They all have a great set of pipes, and really brought the house down.  I loved the encore song they sang.  I don’t remember the name of it, but it was an accapella number that really showcased the range of each individual ladies voice.  It was incredible.  I recommend their CD to anyone who likes the troubled love songs.  Anyone period, really.  They are a great overall band and were my personal favorite band of the entire weekend.  Another thank you goes out to Red Molly for attending Rhythm & Roots, I hope you all come back next year!  You can visit their website here.

They're not bad to look at either.

In other R&RR news, Whimsical Gems & Treasures had an outstanding weekend, and I would like to thank everyone who played a part in that.  I had a chance to meet with the owner of Shoozies, and we were both interested in me interviewing her for this blog.  Her name is Peggy, and she is a wonderfully nice woman who is very approachable.  She informed me that her and her workers busted their humps to make sure they were open in time for Rhythm & Roots.  I applaud her efforts and will surely follow up with her in the near future.

The vendors this year were fantastic, and there really did seem to be something for everyone.  The atmosphere (as I said) was great.  Especially with the vendors, I usually feel pressured to buy things from vendors in similar situations.  At R&RR though, there wasn’t any pressure, everyone was very friendly, had a lot to talk about, and were interesting people.  I was able to pick up new dog collars and tags for my mutts, and they loved them.  My whole family (minus my brother who’s in the Air Force), my girlfriend and I all had a fantastic time.  The event that capped off the entire weekend was Joe Diffie’s performance at the mural stage on Sunday.  He played a lot of songs from his new bluegrass album (released Sept. 26th), along with a lot of his older hits.  He had a lot of fun with the audience, and the band that accompanied him were fantastic.  It was some of the best Banjo pickin’ I’ve heard live in a long time.  I can’t wait for Rhythm & Roots next year, and the years after.  It has been a blast for me and my friends, and I hope it continues to be.

Thank you to everyone who attended, performed, and participated.  I couldn’t have had more fun.

*All photos are subject to copyright, and are property of their respective owners (I obtained these images off of Google Image Search)*

Nerdy Mondays III: Fan Tributes

Posted in Fan Art, Nerdy Monday on September 20, 2010 by Divide By Zero

As anyone even half as nerdy as me knows, video games seep into popular culture more and more every day.  Fifty years ago, there was no such thing as Video Game Addiction, but now it is not only common, but an officially documented psychological disorder.  I think most people my age (25) and younger either have it now, or have had it for a while sometime in the past (I don’t want to say they “suffer from” it, because there is no suffering in video games).  And if you’re like me, you’re a victim of the current economic conditions and find yourself with more spare time than usual.

CAN I GET AN AMEN?!?1

It’s not too surprising that people who generally watch an average of 3-8 hours of constant visual stimuli PER DAY, tend to be a little more creative.  I haven’t found any proof, and in all honesty I haven’t looked.  But it makes sense to me that people who play video games might end up more talented painters.  If that weren’t the case, then the world wouldn’t have such awesome artwork as:

THERE'S my Amen.

Or this…

"They've collected enough gold coins to make Nintendo richer than Oil Tycoon Jesus." -Michael Swaim

Or this one, it’s a little dark but my gosh, look at the detail!

Pictured: what should be hanging in Mona Lisa's spot at the Louvre

Some of the art work and creativity are amazing on these fan tributes to video games, and their characters.  I however, am not so creative.  But I am a writer, and being all worked up over seeing how other people pay homage to their favorite games, I wrote a poem.  I wrote it at 6am a few days ago before I had my coffee, so it should be pretty awesome.  Hope you enjoy it!

When it comes to video games, you can call me the Doctor, Hugh Laurie,

I’m one of the nerds to blame, for keeping alive the Atari.

I can’t imagine & don’t know why I like the retros so much,

I wasn’t the only kid in the 90’s who used his Nintendo as a crutch.

I can appreciate sports, and see how fun tennis is,

But I’d rather be home, playing my Sega Genesis.

Super Nintendo came on scene next, and people thought it was better,

But as a Sega fan back then, I’d rather be caught reading The Scarlet Letter.

I always wanted, but couldn’t afford the 32X or Sega CD,

I spent my allowance on Virtual Boy, a bad decision on which we all agree.

The Dreamcast came out near Christmas and was the only thing I wanted,

It was fun for a while, but the library of games left me daunted.

Then I got a Playstation, while my brother got 64,

The controllers for that looked like too much of a chore.

I like networking with the PS3 & Xbox Live,

But much prefer cartridges to a Compact Disk Drive.

I now play the Wii, and enjoy all of Mario’s Adventures,

I hope to be playing them until I have to use dentures.

That’s right.  That’s the next internet sensation right there.  I’m in talks with T.I. about turning that into an obscene rap video.  But I should tell you that “T.I.” really means “Not T.I.”.  And by “obscene rap video”, I mean it’s probably not going to go any farther than this article.  It’s not my best work, is what I’m saying, shut up.

Back to my original train of thought though.  I wish the market were bigger for all the things people come up with.  Check this one out:

 

Handmade awesomeness!

According to Dorkly.com, this was handmade by some kid in woodshop.  WOODSHOP!  The last thing I made in woodshop looked less like this, and more like an oval-y, circle-y thing that resembled the used-end of a wood chipper.  But then again, I write and do math, I can’t do pictures, I leave that up to the people who are actually good at it.  Also, how cool is this bed?

 

Whoever sewed this together needs to be on the cover of a very sophisticated magazine, like Game Player.

Granted if you had this bedspread you’d probably never ever have a girl in it.  BUT HOW COOL IS IT?!  This picture single-handedly makes me want to learn how to sew.  And this list goes on, and on, and on, dear readers.  I can’t tell you how many cool things nerdy video game fanatics have come up with.  Seriously, go do a Google Image Search for “video game fan tributes”.  There are more pages of those, than there have been unclaimed farts in elevators since the dawn of time.  It astonishes me.

It just goes to show that sometimes, our parents were overly worried about us staying inside to play vids, when all the other kids were outside in the sun, using their muscles, playing with some kind of ball or something.  Sure we turned out a little paler than the other kids, and our muscles weren’t overly developed, but our imagination and mind got enough stimulation to keep us out of trouble.  And we got some cool merchandise and art work out of it.

*All photos are subject to copyright, and are property of their respective owners (I obtained these images off of Google Image Search)*

What’s the deal, [name redacted]?

Posted in Bad employment, Terrible work on September 17, 2010 by Divide By Zero

I think we can all agree on two things.  1) We all work hard for our paycheck.  B) The economy sucks.  And a follow-up to that last one is that it’s not getting better anytime soon.  As I’ve said before, the economy has hit me pretty hard, as I know it has for most other people.  I’ve been in and out of work for a few years now, and so has my mother — who has had a steady job since I was 12.  It’s rough times.  But that certainly doesn’t mean that employers should take advantage of us as employees.

If you live in the area, I’m sure you know about [name redacted].  If you have ever worked there, like most of us (myself included) have, you already know a little bit about the company.  Here are 4 basic reasons why [name redacted] is not a great place to work.

#4. Bathroom breaks are frowned upon.

I noticed this a little bit while I was working there, but the more current employees I talk to about it, the more I find out how much the management doesn’t like its employees to take bathroom breaks.  I understand that while running a business, the more productivity there is, the better the overall numbers look, the more contracts you get, and the more money you make.  That’s all well and good and everything, but there’s a few lines between you and your employees that you do not cross.  And repeatedly telling people “you’re not supposed to be up, walking around” when they are going to the bathroom is one of them.  A few of the people I know that are currently employed at [name redacted] work the 6AM-4:30PM shift.  I don’t know anyone that can function properly that early in the morning without a few cups of strong, dark, bold coffee.  That increases productivity, right?  Of course it does.  The more awake/alert you are, the more efficient your motor skills will be, and there’s your productivity, it makes sense.  It bumps up the productivity so much that it would offset any productivity lost while taking a bathroom break.  I have 5 cups of coffee every morning, and I have to pee 3 or 4 times before everything is out of my system.  Neither I, nor anyone else should be penalized for waking up and being fresh to go to work, regardless of how often we have to go to the bathroom.

What I suggest should be done:

Either stop hassling your employees about taking a whiz, or set everyone up in a chair that has a built in toilet.  That would maximize productivity right there.  Give everyone a coffee pot & their own port-o-pottie.  Sure there would be some sanitary issues, and a smell would linger around all the employees all day long, but if you get to that point, you aren’t even trying to pretend about care and consideration for your employees, are you?

#3.  There are whole departments who have no chairs.

This is kind of a minor thing, unless you work in either [redacted], or [redacted], in which case it’s a huge deal.  When you get hired to work at [name redacted] and you get told you’ll be working on phones, you think of sitting in a chair.  No one needs to stand up for 8-12 hours a day to work on cellular telephones, AMIRIGHT?!  Only a sadistic type of management structure would do that, right?  Right you are, my friend!  [name redacted] is guilty of making some of their employees stand for the duration of their shift.  The reason for this, I was told when I worked there, is that someone fell asleep in a chair some 3 or 4 years ago.  He got fired on the spot and the chairs were taken awayfor the whole department.  Some time later, the same thing happened in a different department, and the consequences were the very same.

I can understand punishing someone for falling asleep at work, that’s unacceptable.  I can also understand making an example out of the first person that does it, so that other people see what would happen to them, and discourage them from doing the same thing.  In this case, I think firing the person on the spot would send a strong enough signal out to everyone in the place that says: “THIS IS NOT THE PLACE TO SLEEP!”  But to punish everyone in that whole department, by taking away something as basically comforting as a chair?  That’s a little cold hearted.  I would agree with the management if they took away the chair “privileges” (I guess) for a week or so.  [name redacted] took them away for not just one, but two departments.. indefinitely.  Aren’t we in America?  By 2010 America, sitting in a chair at shouldn’t be a privilege that can be this easily taken away.

 

What I suggest should be done:

Port-o-Potties, see above.  OR just have everyone bring their own harness in, and suspend them from wires, then you can regulate where everyone is, AND assure that none of them are sitting down, thus are not likely to fall asleep.  You can get 2 birds stoned at once if you implement this.  If that fails, you can give them all magnetic boots that control where they walk, monitor where they are, and lock them down should things get rowdy like that prison in the movie Face/Off.  Man, that was a great prison.

#2  No Re-Hire Policy.

That’s right, [name redacted] will not hire you back if something happens and you can’t work there continuously for the near to distant future.  Once you’re gone, you’re gone.  This is directly taking advantage of all Bristoleans, or anyone from the Tri-Cities that works there.  It takes advantage of everyone, in the entire community, and the community itself.  This type of policy might work in a big city like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, or in a country like India.  Those places have the population to do that, but Bristol doesn’t.  We have modest population numbers.  The people that live here, like living here, like working here, like raising a family here, and they’re proud of all of that.  Some people spend their whole lives here and can get fired and re-hired at the same company many times over.  I think that’s awesome.  [name redacted] (in this regard) reminds me of the factories in New York when all of the European Immigrants (especially the Irish) were coming in onthe ships into New York Harbor.  If the Irish could find a job back then, which was rare, they got paid next to nothing.  And if it should happen that that person loses an arm in a piece of company machinery, there was no insurance, no worker’s comp, the guy didn’t even get to keep his job.  Why should he, there were hundreds and thousands of people just like him coming over every week.  Having a no re-hire policy the way [name redacted] does says to me that when it comes to their employees: “if you don’t like it here, leave and never come back, there are more people out there just like you, you are totally replaceable.”

Welcome to [name redacted], are you here for orientation?”

I really disagree with any kind of no re-hire policy.  Because there are people like myself out there who are trying to finish up school.  For one reason or another, a lot of people take semesters off from college and work.  At restaurants and other such establishments you can still remain an employee, and they just won’t schedule you until your next break, long weekend, or whatever.  I got fired from [name redacted] because I wanted to go back to school, and when school for that semester didn’t work out, I didn’t even have a job to go back to.  It was rough times.  I think it took them 3 days to replace me.  That includes training, orientation, and all the paperwork you have to fill out for a new job.

I called back to the hiring agency, and the managers at [name redacted], and there was nothing anyone could do about my situation.  Thanks for looking out for your employees there [name redacted]!

What I suggest should be done:

Either abolish the no re-hire policy for the Bristol branch of [name redacted], or move that location to Russia in the 1950’s where it would be the norm.  Let another entrepreneur take over that property and open up jobs that the locals actually enjoy and want to go to.

#1  The Attendance Policy.

This is probably the most common frustration for anyone that works there.  It’s the reason why no one smiles while on the clock, and they line up in fear of getting “an occurrence”.  That’s right, they basically have a merit/demerit system.  You get warnings along the way as your occurrences pile up.  They range from verbal warnings, to getting fired.  It takes 10 occurrences in one year to get fired.  Don’t worry though, if you try hard enough you can get 3 in a day.  And by “try hard enough” I mean “don’t try at all”.  You’re allowed to clock in 5 minutes early, and 5 minutes late, on that sixth minute, you’re late.  There’s one occurrence.  For lunch, you can clock out at the scheduled time, or 5 minutes late.  If you clock out one minute early, or 6 minutes late, there’s your second occurrence.  When you clock back in from lunch, you can clock in right on time or 5 minutes early.  One minute late or any earlier than that 5 minutes, there’s you’re third occurrence.  If you clock out early to go home, or there’s an emergency and you can’t clock out on your scheduled time, there’s 4 occurrences.  That’s past your verbal warning and on your way to a formal written warning.  Like a teacher’s note being sent home, that’s what it feels like.

Our management style is based on giving the finger and making fun of your mom!

People cling to their jobs tightly there and still, people (like myself) can get canned at any time.  They fired 350 people at the beginning of this year alone.  There wasn’t any reason for it, there was a loose rumor running around town that had something to do with budget cuts.  I might have believed that if I didn’t find out about one of the owners of that place erecting a $3,000,000 house around here.

What I suggest should be done:

This is simple.  Take care of your employees.  Relax about the attendance policy a little bit.  I also forgot to mention this in the last few paragraphs. [name redacted]’s time clock doesn’t record minutes.  It recognizes if you punched in within the grace period or not.  So even if you clock in 5 minutes early every day, you don’t get paid for those 5 minutes.  Get on the ball, [name redacted]!

In all honesty though, if they chilled on the regulations, cut out the no re-hire policy, and gave everyone some chairs, I’d work there again.  I love technical things, and as you know, am pretty dorky.  Working on cell phones was fun for me.  The management, policies, and requirements are a huge downer, and they need re-vamping.  I wish it were a better place to work, and I hope one day people enjoy their job there.  But for now though, it doesn’t look like the “big-boys upstairs” are focused on anything except their money.

*All photos are subject to copyright, and are property of their respective owners (I obtained these images off of Google Image Search)*

Nerdy Monday: Where’s Duke?

Posted in Duke Nukem, Forgotten, Retro, Video Game on September 12, 2010 by Divide By Zero

Being a collector of retro video games, I like acquiring games that I played while growing up.  I can’t get more excited when I find a good copy of Castlevania at the flea market, or a copy of Atari’s “Defender” for $2 at an Antique Shop downtown (which really happened!).  But nothing gives me the kind of satisfaction that finding a game that I’ve already put hours upon hours into, does.  The Duke Nukem franchise is a good example of this.  That’s right, after hundreds of hours of long, hard, and complicated research, I am writing a Duke Nukem tribute.  By “hundreds” I mean like 5.  And by “long, hard, and complicated research”, I mean sitting on the couch playing video games.

That's what I'm talkin' 'bout!

That's what I'm talkin' 'bout!

Duke Nukem was truly a one of a kind First Person Shooter.  I don’t know all of the buzz about Duke on the internet these days, but I was there when it first gained popularity.  It was the bench mark for pretty much every first person shooter to come out after 1993, like Doom. Everyone thinks that doom was the first real deal when it came to first person shooters.  Doom wasn’t on the market until 1993.  Duke Nukem made his first appearance in MS-DOS in 1991.  I always thought it was funny that parents wouldn’t let their kids play, let alone even buy them a copy of Doom.  Oh wait, yeah I do.  Duke Nukem battled aliens that came down to earth for one reason or another.  In Doom, you battled supernatural forces that supposedly burst through the Gates of Hell itself to come take over the earth.   Yeah, there were a lot of the demonic overtones involved with Doom.  Taking all of that into account, parents would then give their children an “acceptable substitute” to get them to shut-up about Doom, which usually meant they came home with Duke Nukem.  Little did the parents know (and I’ll be darned if any of us kids told them) that they were pretty much the same game.  In some cases, Duke Nukem was even worse than Doom, not satanic or anything, but characteristically speaking.  Allow me to explain:

In the Doom franchise, you played as a nameless Space Marine working for the United Aerospace Corp. (the UAC).  Your job as a player is to walk him through all the levels collecting different weapons, finding secret passageways, keeping your health up, don’t forget to look for some ammo!, and killing all kinds of alien enemies like the zombieman, shotgun guy, imp, demon, spectre, cacodemon, lost soul, baron of hell, cyberdemon, spiderdemon, the hell knight, mancubus, arachnatron, arch-vile, and wolfenstein.

All they're missing is clowns.

All they're missing is clowns.

I understand why parents wouldn’t want their kids playing this game.  It was a little too graphic for its time.  It was released in 1993 and has sparked controversy ever since.  Yes it’s fun to play games like this, and it has been scientifically proven to lower stress by playing video games.  But think about this game in the right time frame.  It was 1993/1994, I was 9.  Kids my age wanted this game.  Kids my age almost never got this game from their parents.  I myself, ended up not owning this game until I was 19 and in college.  But I had played it on and off for 10 years before that.

Duke Nukem on the other hand.  What can I say about him that hasn’t already been said?  He is the epitome of hardcore, that showed up on the video game scene to “kick @$$ and chew bubble gum.  And he’s all out of gum!”  Duke brought to his video games (which first debuted 2 years BEFORE doom) a personality.  You weren’t some anonymous marine who didn’t talk.  You were Duke Freakin’ Nukem!  In the game, you could control Duke to pee in the urinals, tip strippers, and most important of all, you had catchphrases!  “But Del, what about the graphic enemies?  Weren’t they just as bad as Dooms?”  They were aliens, or some form thereof.  Were they as bad as Dooms?  I thought they were on the same playing field, just a little.. I don’t know, quirky, or original or something.  It just goes to show you though, that even the enemies in the Duke Nukem franchise gave personality to the game.  Doom is just Doom.  You either love it or you hate it.  Duke Nukem has a cult following.  Not a cult, like a castrating, rat-poison/kool-ade cocktail drinking cult.  But it has had influence all over the internet as more than a video game.  As almost a cultural phenomenon.  The enemies though, they must be horrible, what did I say they were again?

Mutated Pig-Cops? I knew it.

That’s right, mutated pig cops.  There were other enemies sure, but these were the most memorable.  They made appearances in a lot of the games throughout the franchise.  Duke had to save different cities throughout the U.S. from these guys.  Which is why you don’t see any of them running around today, thankfully.

Duke Nukem or Doom, can you tell the difference?

My favorite game, which I more recently snatched off of eBay for $6, is Duke Nukem: Zero Hour for the Nintendo 64.  It’s the last Duke Nukem game I remember playing for a long time, to the point of beating it, erasing the file, then beating it again.  It was classic Duke with a little twist.  The plot of the game involved aliens who traveled through time to kill Duke’s ancestors.  It was cool seeing Duke in new outfits instead of his standard red tee, black pants, and suspenders that looked like they were made out of tire treads.  It was also pretty cool seeing the historical accuracy (not perfect, but better than most video games of the ’90s); for instance in the Victorian Era level.  Duke transports to that time and winds up at a fresh murder scene in 1888 in London.  That’s right, a huge reference to Jack The Ripper.  This is the game parents handed over to their kids because “Doom was waaaaaaayyyy too violent.”  Also, towards the end of Zero Hour, Duke runs around New York City after an atomic attack.

So like I said, there were similar ideas there.  I’m not certain, but I’ve heard rumors that the software engineers in the 1990’s were notorious for quitting one company in order to start at another company for higher pay.  So it’s entirely possible that some of the Id software team (creators of Doom) got a better offer at 3D Realms (creators of Duke Nukem), brought some of their ideas over, and vice-versa.  Same concept, and I wouldn’t be totally surprised if Duke Nukem inspired the people at Id software during the creation of Doom, even if team-member-swapping didn’t happen at all.

I know it’s widely accepted that Doom was THE pioneer of first person shooters, but by the time Doom hit the market, Duke was releasing his sequel.  And since then, there have been at least 4 graphic novels released about Doom, along with a movie, comic books, and I vaguely remember there being some doom action figures in Spencer’s here and there.  What about Duke?  Where is he?

If you look around the internet for Duke Nukem, you’ll quickly read about the probably-never-going-to-see-the-light-of-day Duke Nukem Forever.  I really hope it happens, and would even go as far as saying that I would sign up on whatever list I had to, to reserve a copy.  Duke’s memory has been kept alive through internet memes and they even had Duke Nukem backpacks, action figures, and clothing lines.  They were expensive during the initial public offering, and are even more valuable today as collectors items.  I can only guesstimate that prices will go through the roof if Duke Nukem Forever hits the market in 2011 like it’s supposed to (still pretty doubtful though).

In any case, I’ll still get a lot of enjoyment hunting down copies of the N64, playstation, or even PC versions of the game.  I love anticipating game releases, but I don’t get deeply saddened if it never happens.  The classics are just as good, and in some cases even better than new releases, to me.  While I’m playing those old cartridge games though, all I can think about is where Duke is today.  There’s a lot of conspiracy theories out there, but I know the truth.  I had a phone conversation with him, a few months back (he’s a hard man to get a hold of).  Duke Nukem is relaxing in his own country (read: not his native country, but a country that he bought).  He’s surrounded with all of the beautiful pixelated women left alive after the video game franchise came to an end.  He spends most of his time staring at his bank statement.  Because god knows, 3D Realms brought him so much money that Duke’s bank stopped printing the amount on his statements because it took too much ink.  All it has on it under account balance is an “8” on its side.  He’s pretty excited about Trident Layers, as a bubble gum aficionado.  He also has a firing range, throne (both royal, and toilet), and vending machines made out of alien skeletons.  Every one of them represents a confirmed kill.  As you can see, Duke never has to make an appearance again.  He lined his pockets, the company’s pockets, and a lot of plagiarizers’ pockets with a metric crap-ton of dough.

Just so we're clear, I'm talking about this guy.

*All photos are subject to copyright, and are property of their respective owners (I obtained these images off of Google Image Search)*

A Hidden Gem in a Buried Treasure

Posted in Downtown Bristol, Whimsical Gems & Treasures on September 11, 2010 by Divide By Zero

As you all probably know by now, I like very much, and am fascinated by downtown Bristol.  All I want to see is Bristol rejuvenate, and grow (both richer and bigger!).  I want to see it adapt to an ever changing world, while maintaining its enormous history.  In writing this blog, and spending a lot of time on State Street, I came across a locally owned business that I am very excited about.  Recently I had the chance to interview one of the owners for a few minutes, which only made me more satisfied with what is going on downtown, business-wise.

Tammy Pickett, along with her sister Dina Miller, both own and operate Whimsical Gems & Treasures.  I have met both of these women, and in both instances, they couldn’t have been more welcoming, helpful, and friendly.  Ms. Pickett was the owner who happened to be there to give me the opportunity to ask questions about her store.

whim·si·cal

1. given to whimsy or fanciful notions; capricious

(Okay.  What does that mean?)

whim·sy

1.capricious humor or disposition; extravagant, fanciful, or excessively playful expression
2.an odd or fanciful notion.
3. anything odd or fanciful; a product of playful or capricious fancy
(There honestly couldn’t be a more spot on name for this out-of-the-ordinary, off-the-beaten-path, not-what-you-usually-find gift store.)

First and foremost, I want to say that I love the fact that the owners spend so much time in the store.  I think most of us can agree that no one should be able to help a customer out in their store, more than the person/people who own it.  Both of these women easily answered every one of my questions about the various products they have to offer.  Which brings me to my next point: a lot of the products are locally made.  It might not seem like it from the outside, but I’d be willing to bet that there is a little something for everyone if they took the time to mosey on inside.  Ms. Pickett was very informative about the local products she had available.  There were some interesting pieces I found.  There are a lot of gemstone jewelry items on display in Whimsical’s showroom.  All of which is handmade, and to my understanding, most of the gemstone items are handmade by Dina Miller, one of the owners!  Again, this is very impressive to me because in my experience, the owners usually don’t participate in the day-to-day business within their establishment.  And here we have 2 local women, who own their own business, on State Street, and make some of their own inventory!  Fantastic!  As I said before, I am very excited about Whimsical Gems & Treasures because it and the owners seem to embody what I want to see happen all over downtown Bristol. Along with the handmade jewelry, there are natural and organic soaps, herbal foot baths, bath salts, wind-chimes, and other assorted nick-nacks that are all unique, and very much representative of the local culture.  In fact, the person who makes the herbal bath accessories (I assume a close friend of the owners), is a local woman who gets the ingredients and materials from her own garden.  I am very serious when I say that this store is a breath of fresh air, and is exactly what Bristol needs.

This unique little store gives off a certain charm that I can’t really put my finger on.  It just feels good to be inside.  It’s not like walking into a Wal-Mart, or other chain store.  It’s more down-to-Earth, comfortable, and.. just different.  I don’t want that to be misconstrued into something bad.  Walking around the shops and eateries on State Street, every one is a little different.  They each stand out in their own way.  No shop downtown though, stands out more than Whimsical Gems & Treasures.

Also I believe that Ms. Pickett and Ms. Miller have the same mindset I do about our little spot on the map.  When I asked Ms. Pickett why her and her sister decided to open their first business on State Street, she responded by saying: “We saw the progress that downtown Bristol is making, and wanted to be a part of it!”  I wish more people were like Ms. Pickett.  Or even just shared her enthusiasm.  Another question I wanted to ask (because I’m pretty critical about what’s going on) was “What do you think your store brings to downtown Bristol that wasn’t already here?”  Ms. Pickett then explained to me the ins-and-outs of their children’s section.  “Kids can come in here any time of day and make their own beaded jewelry.”  The children’s section is very accommodating to kids.  It looks like a great little play area, with stools and a miniature bar-like setting which serves as an arts and crafts section.  I don’t have any kids, but if I did I would take them there.

All in all, Whimsical Gems & Treasures is a great addition to the personality and face of downtown Bristol.  It’s fun for the kids, has some stuff for the teens, and accommodates just about everyone older than that.  It really has a good atmosphere, and might spark your interest in things you may not have thought you were interested in.

The sisters opened the store in March of this year, so it’s fairly new.  And all I see for the store is great things.  The things Ms. Pickett told me we can look forward to is their beading classes they hold every Wednesday night at 6:30.  They both are very into arts and crafts, and are willing to teach their customers how to make crafty little things (which I think would make great “white elephant” Christmas gifts).  Also, there will be a book signing on September 16th, which will have V.N. “Bud” Phillips, and Joe Tennis in attendance.  Of course both of their books are available for sale at Whimsical Gems & Treasures.  I was then informed that there are more events and happenings put on by the owners around the holidays.  And lastly, as we all know the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion is coming up!  Since Whimsical hasn’t been open for a year yet, they haven’t experienced a Rhythm & Roots weekend.  I wish them all the best especially during that weekend, and hope they have more customers then they can handle.  This truly is a unique store that Bristol needs to embrace.

Good luck ladies!!!

Whimsical Gems & Treasures

509 State Street, Bristol VA

(276) 644-1863

Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00am-7:00pm

http://www.whimgems2.com