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Tuesday, February 23, 2010


I'm not sure why this struck me the other day. Perhaps it was seeing a Priceline commercial, or maybe it was an old StarTrek episode on Netflix. Regardless, seeing William Shatner reminded me of TekWar, his science fiction novel and subsequent television series. To be honest, I had all but forgotten this as it wasn't the best (or most original) science fiction writing. However, the premise was a bit unique in that in the not to distant future a drug was created that allowed humans to live inside a virtual world of their own making. The problem with the technology was that it was too addicting and many succumbed to living full time in their virtual worlds, unable to be part of normal society. Much like the government of today, if it feels good it must be illegal, so anyone using Tek was now a criminal.

Think about that for a second. Using technology to live in a fantasy world is illegal.

What was a startling revelation to me was the fact that I would be on the lam as we speak, were I living in that not so distant future. What is a MMO if not a fantasy world? The more immersive that world is the more popular it becomes, and thus becomes more desirable. Gamers have used terms such as "Evercrack" or "World of Warcrack" to describe such games. Is there anything to our desire to be part of these games? Are we indeed "addicts"?

Borrowing from Wikipedia, addiction is defined as:
In medicine, an addiction is a chronic neurobiological disorder that has genetic, psychosocial, and environmental dimensions and is characterized by one of the following: the continued use of a substance despite its detrimental effects, impaired control over the use of a drug (compulsive behavior), and preoccupation with a drug's use for non-therapeutic purposes (i.e. craving the drug) Addiction is often accompanied by the presence of deviant behaviors (for instance stealing money and forging prescriptions) that are used to obtain a drug.
I'm not so sure that I agree completely with the definition. I agree that an addiction is indeed a preoccupation with a substance or activity, but many such addictions have no detrimental effects and more often than not do not include deviant behavior. I believe that most people have things in their lives that are addictions. Many parents become obsessed with their children's achievements such as academics or sports. I know a lot of people (myself included) that religiously exercise and maintain a healthy lifestyle. In fact I could easily point out such behaviors in almost everyone I know.

I'm willing to step out on a limb here and state that everyone has addictive behavior. I've heard for years how some people have "additive tendencies" in their lives. I think that it is human behavior to gravitate toward something that gives them pleasure and do whatever they can to continue that pleasure. An "addiction" is simply something in ones life that is filling a need and will continue to do so until such time as something else is found to fill that need. What is love? Why do we spend our lives acquiring it, and then doing everything we can to hold on to it? Yes, my friend we are all addicts.

Anything in excess is not a good thing. Even life giving substances can kill in excess. Water, that which you can't live without can indeed kill you (more detail here). So the only thing to debate then, is how much is too much? Where does the line exist that once crossed makes your addiction detrimental to you, or others around you? Happily, I can say that there is no true answer to that, it varies from individual to individual, the variables are too complex to quantify.

So then, when do I become a Tek addict? At what point do the thought police pass a law and hunt me down like a dog because I spent an extra hour leveling my Death Knight? There are already examples that make lawmakers sit up and take notice. A down on his luck Korean man "drank" himself to death on a cocktail of Starcraft and mocha. A Taiwanese man recently completed all of the available achievements (an impressive feat if you ask me). Games are filling a need that people have, but some can take it too far. But who are we to judge? What is the difference between the two examples above? Obviously, the man who died went to the extreme, but what is to prevent some yahoo from proposing a law to keep the second man from his accomplishments in order to prevent a theoretical death?

That is silly you say. Why would anyone want to make a billion dollar industry illegal? I'm not saying that they would, only that we as players and lovers of games should be aware of the possibilities. Take for example the largest agricultural crop of the early 1900's. This miracle plant was used for clothing, paper, rope, and a myriad of other uses. Many of our fore fathers including Washington and Jefferson grew this plant. But in the late 1930's some lawmakers got it into their heads that it could also be used by humans causing madness and death, and in 1937 hemp was outlawed. This one crop was instrumental to our early growth as a country and essentially removed from the free market by "popular" thought.

So if you see me 10 years from now on the side of the road trying to score a bit of Tek, you'll know why. Don't bogart the Warcraft man!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tech Support!

The scene from Vanilla Sky has always stood out in my mind, where Tom Cruise is yelling at the top of his lungs for Tech Support. It always seemed poignant to me. I rarely yell for Tech Support myself. I've been working with computers since I was 12 (starting with a Commodore Vic20) and have been in the computer field for some 19 odd years. In fact, I dread ever having to talk to Tech Support at all because they ask the stupidest questions ("Is the device powered on?"). I know, I know, they HAVE to ask those questions, because most of the people calling have no clue what they are doing. Can I just have a "press 9 for the Guru" button please.

But for some reason, everyone thinks that because I know so much about computers, that I should be their personal Tech Support to call up whenever they need. Typically, its my wife who has the most problems and I'm often asked to fix the Internet whenever she has a problem. She doesn't understand, nor care that she doesn't understand, that the bulk of the issues are specific to things I can't control. Like someone else's website, internet connection, etc. But she will eventually understand that short of hacking into the Citi website, that I just won't be able to put in better messaging to help her find her way.

A friend of my wife, whom she hasn't spoken to in months called and asked for me. She shot me the jealous eye until she found out that she was calling about a computer problem. As is mostly the case, I couldn't help and she eventually went to Best Buy for help where she had to pay them money, good money. Ultimately, its not about me being an expert, its about me being free.

The most recent incident (the one that sparked this rant) came from my mother-in-law. She came to visit us back over the holidays and was confounded that her AOL didn't look the same on my computer as it did back home. Nevermind the fact that at home she has the AOL application and that she was seeing the website version on mine. That my computer is a Mac had other issues as well, but I won't go into that here. Suffice it to say that I had a very entertaining week.

Over this past weekend she called in a panic and needed my help. I dodged the phone call for hours because I instinctively knew that it would not be something that I could help with, but would be obliged to try. When I could no longer avoid the conversation, I was asked how she could solve her problem of no longer having a forward button on her email. Huh? She did say that she had done something, to some such, and that it might have done it. Ok, so just reverse your steps. Unfortunately for all of us, that wasn't going to happen. I calmly explained that there was nothing that I could do to help and that she should call AOL for support (especially since she was paying them money to do so). I still spent another 15 mins on the phone as she kept asking questions that I had no way of answering. It was at the point that she found herself inside of her Windows Control Panel that I INSISTED that she call AOL before AOL was no longer the problem. Sigh!

But just as I was sitting there being all pissy about the situation, I realized that its not just us computer geeks who get that treatment. My wife being the Chef, is always asked about how to prepare one dish or another. My dad is a carpenter and is always asked advice on how to repair something or advice on how to remodel. So it isn't just me. However I have discovered a way to keep anyone from asking my advice more than once, something that my wife and father can't do.

"So you are having problems with: INSERT PROBLEM HERE (World of Warcraft, AOL, Email, etc.)"
"Ok, hit the Windows button and hit Run. The big button on your bar at the bottom. On the left hand side. Yes, that's it. Ok, now hit Run. In the menu. Yes, that one. Ok, now type cmd. Yes, its supposed to be all black and white. Great! Now type fdisk c:\, yes, just like that. Reboot when it asks. Just press OK, you'll be fine. It's rebooting? Perfect. Ok, your problems are now solved. Have a good day."

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Origin

I'm sure that many of you whom have stumbled upon my blog have wondered about the name. Tonamok? Is that Native American? African? Isn't it from a book? Isn't that a city in Wisconsin? Or that famous guy in Indonesia? No. No. No. No. And no.

The name itself came about purely by accident and was such a unique name that it has become my moniker for ever more (although someone has since hijacked it in City of Heroes and Star Trek online). So just what the hell does the name mean already?

Patience. You should know by now that I love a good story, and the telling is half the fun.

It was 1995 and I was just getting my start in life. Well not exactly. I had graduated college in 1992 after six long years of study. I had started my collegiate life at Auburn University and halfway through my degree got distracted by what I thought was love, but really just turned out to be a six year infatuation. We all do a lot for love and I followed my desire to Pensacola, Florida where the infatuation eventually ended. I finished my degree and started on my Masters. I had a great job working with the US Army Corps of Engineers making great money for a 28 yr old. Being single I found myself spending entirely too much of my hard earned cash on consumables leaving nothing to show for it once it was done. I made a decision and bought my first home.

I lived literally 10 mins from the beach and often found myself there whenever possible. I realized that something else was missing from my existence. It was in February of that year that I met Amok. She was a thing of beauty. She had wonderful curves in all the right places. And she was fast! My Seadoo SPI filled a void that I had in my life at that time. It was a cold February day when I took her out for the first time. I donned a shorty wetsuit because the water was a frigid 50 something. When I was done that first day, I knew I had to name her "Amok" because when I was with her I was "running amok". OK, so that seems a bit corny now, but at the time I thought it was clever. By the next Saturday she had her name blazoned upon her stern in purple to match her trim.

Every Friday when I would get home from work, I would quickly head to the beach with her. I would spend the weekend with her at the beach, only reluctantly packing up on Sunday evening to get her home in time to clean the salt water off of her before crashing to bed. During this time, I became a staple at the beach. Many of the regulars there began to know me and we had a PWC social caste that was all our own. My set of friends grew as well, most of them joining me throughout the weekend as we played in the crystal clear waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Many of the people around me really didn't know my name. They only knew me as Tony. Tony Amok. When yelled at me from the parking lot of the boat ramp one day, it sounded like "Ton amok". And that's when it stuck. Tonamok was born.

Fortunately, the story didn't end there.

Many things started happening in my life about that time. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was finally growing up. I went from an insecure, angry young man to a very confident and poised individual in the space of about 3 months. My closest friends at the time created a company named "Amok Brothers Communications" starting with T-shirt designs. The company quickly morphed into a web design firm that we sold off to a local ISP. I eventually took that knowledge and came to Atlanta where I've been doing website design and software development since. At the same time, I met the true love of my life and was married a year later. Now, almost 14 years later I look back with wonder during that period. If not for "Amok", I would never have met my wife, I would never have started the career that I have, and I would not have the wonderful life that I now have. All partially due to one little Seadoo.

And my "Amok" is still with me. She has a place of honor in the garage. We still take her out, although not near as much as I did that first summer. When time's got tough over the last year or so, I debated selling her to help with bills, but just couldn't fathom not having her with me.

And the name that I earned that summer with her has stayed with me all this time. If anything the older I get, the more the name fits. The name is on my car, my website, and is my primary name on any website or game out there. So should you run into me on the Dalaran server, you should at least say hi, and ask me how ole "Amok" is doing.