Monthly Archives: June 2014

Understanding IVRs – a quick primer

For those who were wondering, IVR isn’t some new form of birth control, it stands for “Interactive voice response”, which Wikipedia defines as “a technology that allows a computer to interact with humans through the use of voice and DTMF tones input via keypad.”

You and I know it as a device that is designed to keep the customers away from real people. I also call it “The Runaround”.

Here are are few of the commoner phrases that you may hear, along with their translations. Enjoy the show:

  • “Our Menu Options have Changed” – Last week, someone got through to a real person. We have taken steps to make sure that this does not happen again.
  • “Due to unexpectedly high call volumes…” we didn’t hire enough people.
  • “…all of our representatives/associates are currently serving other customers/guests.” – we didn’t hire enough people.
  • “For a better experience, please check out our website”– we didn’t hire enough people.

Now you know

Porsches, Porsches and more Porsches

I recently finished the “Muscle Cars” version of RR3 and upgraded to the next version up: 1.3.5, also known as “50 years of 911”, but known unofficially by me as “Seven more bloody Porsches”.


I am not particularly enamored of the Porsche 911; having driven cars made by Bugatti, Koenegsegg, Pagani, McLaren and Lamborghini, the 911s in the game felt a little… weak. While they were competent enough cars, I have found them to be overrated. In the “Everyday Heroes” Series, for instance, while the 911 GT3 RS is a better car on paper than the BMW M6 Coupe, I preferred the latter. It was bigger, quieter, more civilized and more “chuckable” than the 911, which felt noisy, twitchy and difficult to control by comparison.

From the beginning, the game has boasted no less than three Porsche 911s – the 911 GT3 RS, the 911 GT3 RS 4.0, and the 911 GT3 Cup – as well as the awful Carrera GT, the indecently quick 918 RSR Concept, and the absolutely lovely 918 Spyder Concept. So with a total of six Porsches to choose from, the game has not exactly been light on this particular marque. So imagine my surprise when I found out the they were releasing an update featuring no less than *seven* more Porches – all 911s.

  • 911 Carrera RS 2.7 (1972)
  • 911 Targa (1974)
  • 911 Carrera 2 Speedster (1993)
  • 911 Carrera RS 3.8 (1995)
  • 911 GT2 (2003)
  • 911 Turbo (2009)
  • 911 RSR (2013)

A Free Porsche!

Once upon a time, the game offered a free Porsche 911 for one day only. All you had to do is enter the racing code “50 Years of 911” and…

A Free Porsche!

The 911 Carrera RS 2.7 (1972) is the oldest 911 in the game, but it is a surprisingly decent little machine, and it good enough to get you a long way down the road, so to speak. The second car in the series, however, is utter crap, and requires a couple of upgrades to get through one of the two Showcase races (the Hockenheim Speed Record). Working your way down the series from there, however, the cars get progressively better and better before culminating in the Awesome (and, at XX Gold, ruddy expensive) 911 RSR. This is the grippiest car thus far in the game (1.7G stock).

Porsche 7

A Better View

One of the most annoying changes from 1.1.12 to 1.2 is that they lowered the bonnet view. IThis made it more difficult to discern the width of your vehicle — which made it easier to run off the track — as well as making it more difficult to see past the vehicle in front of you. Apparently the FireMonkeys were listening, as they have added a high/low camera setting that gives you back the original high view — a much-appreciated touch.

The Awesome Race Continues

As the version numbering suggests, 1.3.5 does not feature any major changes in the game over 1.3; just a bunch of new cars. In my earlier piece on the muscle Cars edition, I mentioned “The Awesome Race”, an everlasting endurance race featuring the ’69 Dodge Charger. The good news is that this race is unchanged in V1.3.5, and I was able to surpass my personal best and clock up an amazing result.

The Ban Hammer Strikes

Although this was a perfectly legitimate race, the sudden influx of cash must have caught the attention of the “anti-cheat” routines built into the game as I soon got this:

Not a problem, as I was able to progress all the way through the 911 Series without needing to play online. Since the offline bots are more predictable and less capable than the saved performances of other players, this actually had the effect of making the game *easier*. Gee, thanks..!

What about the rest of us?

An article on Slate — a website that I seldom voluntarily visit, due to its tendency towards feminist rant and hysteria — was recently bought to my attention. It was called “Canada’s Vicious HIV Laws“, and screeches on at length about how wrong it is to imprison people who are unfortunate enough to have contracted HIV and somehow forgot to inform their sexual partners of this trivial fact.

Nobody deserves to contract HIV. Nobody. My heart goes out to those who have to live — and perhaps die — with this disease. And it is immoral to imprison someone who suffers from it. But that is not the case here. These people are not being punished for having HIV, they are being punished for putting someone else’s life in danger.

In other words, this is not an morality issue, it is a Public Health issue. Most of these folks had a Dread Disease and knowingly played Russian Roulette with someone else’s life. And that, by any reasonable definition, is a crime.

Is prison the answer? I don’t know. But I don’t have a better idea.

I wonder if the writer of the article would fight for the rights of the accused if they had infected someone she cares about.

Probably not

Fathers’ Day

Things are about to get messy; hold on to your hats…

There has been a lot of blathering in the press lately about “Reproductive Rights”. Indeed there are those who believe that Reproductive Rights should be considered a basic human right. But it occurs to me that nothing has been said about the reproductive rights of men.

It’s almost as if they are not allowed to have any

  • It takes two to make a baby, but only one to get an abortion.
  • If the woman chooses to get an abortion, the man has no choice, whether he wants the baby or not.
  • If the woman chooses to have the child, the man still has no choice — though he will be expected to provide for the child for at least eighteen years.
  • Whether or not the man used birth control is irrelevant.
  • Whether or not the women used birth control, or lied about it, or forgot her pill is also irrelevant – it is still his responsibility.
  • If it subsequently turns out that he was not the father, it may still be his responsibility.
  • If a man marries a “single mother” (aka divorced mother), and they subsequently divorce, he will often required to pay for the support of children that are not his.

It is the very definition of unfairness to expect one person to have to subsidize the mistakes of another. A man should not have to raise another man’s spawn, nor should he have to suffer the ignominy of having a slut for a wife — for if this sort of behavior is not the very definition of sluttery, what is? The logical extension of this train of thought is that if a man marries a woman who already has children, and they subsequently split, he should never be required to pay for the support and upkeep of children who are not his. On hearing this, many women will howl and yowl and foam at the mouth and flop on the floor; I would remind them that they cannot have both chivalry and equality; with equal rights come equal responsibilities.

It seems to me that a little balance may need to be bought to this area of life, so here are the changes I propose:

  • Put a ring on it: Marriage is the logical framework in which to have create and raise children. No marriage, no child support — PERIOD.  You want to get pregnant outside of marriage, or don’t want to marry, that’s fine. Your body, your decision, your dime.
  • Mandatory paternity testing at birth: The birth of a baby is a wonderful thing; it is also the logical time to establish who the father is. If the husband is not the father, it is also an excellent time to find out so he can divorce her and kick her out with nothing (just as she would be inclined to do if he were had impregnated some other woman).
  • Mandatory paternity testing in child support/divorce proceedings: It is a sad thing when a marriage dissolves, and the children are usually the saddest casualties . When this happens, the husband should be required by law to support those children who are identified as his if he is to have full access to them. This is right and proper. But he should never, under any circumstances, be required to support another man’s spawn, nor should he have to foot the bill for someone else’s irresponsibility. Nor should he be forced to pay for the upkeep of children he is not allowed to see. Abuse is real, but too many women have used accusations of abuse to separating fathers from their children while still helping themselves to the contents of his bank account.

No doubt a whole lot of folks will howl and yowl at my humble suggestions — and I suspect that they will all be women. This is to be expected, since they are mostly likely be the ones to lose out on the cash-and-prizes currently on offer from what is effectively a rigged game.

The alternative is that men will continue to walk away from the institution of marriage, on the very rational pretext that there is nothing in it for them.

Remember folks, “With reproductive rights come reproductive responsibilities”

Happy Fathers’ Day

Muscling In

For those of you who don’t know me, I am seriously addicted to a game called Real Racing 3. I first started playing over a year ago, but had to start the game again with an “upgrade” that was so bad that it cause me to revert to the older version, only to lose all my progress to the tune of R$1.9M and 19 cars.

I started again, and armed with what I had learned, I soon passed my previous high-water mark and went rocketing onwards. I eventually completed the game, winning every race and buying every car. By this time several newer versions had come out, and so I decided to upgrade, one version at a time, skipping over the truly awful V1.2 “Prestige Update” and moving on up to 1.3, also known as the “Classic American Muscle” update.

What’s New In This Version

  • As well as the Three Mercedes-Benz and two Bentleys from the Prestige Update, this version boasts four new cars: Dodge – ’69 Charger R/T, Dodge – ’71 Charger R/T, ’67 Cobra GT500, Shelby ’66 Cobra 427
  • There are also two new series: “Classsic American Muscle” (Career)), “The Legend Continues” (Optional)
  • Other changes include the addition of Google+ support, and the reduction of the costs of upgrading your drive points (from 2 to 3 cost has been lowered from 50 Gold to 20).

NewStuff Wide

Perhaps the the most exciting change is an unplanned one which I have dubbed “The Awesome Race“. This is an Endurance race in the Dodge ’69 Charger R/T Showcase (which means that only this car can compete in this particular race), at the Indianapolis Speedway

What makes this race “awesome” is that a sufficiently-upgraded ’69 Charger is faster than every other car on the track, which makes it theoretically possible to run this race forever. What this means is that it is possible to rack  up a huge number of miles, with matching payouts and gold. The only limitation is how much time you are willing to spend holding up your tablet and staring at it.

Being forewarned about this, I decided to experiment by doing one upgrade at a time, and seeing how it affected my score. The first few attempts were fairly pedestrian, and before long I had exhausted the cash upgrades and had to start spending gold. And that was when it started to get interesting.

The race starts off inauspiciously enough, going round and round the Indianapolis Speedway – perhaps the most boring track in the game. About twenty miles in, however, it starts to get interesting. Instead of triplets of cars strung out in single file, you start to see packs of cars all bunched up, weaving around, trying to pass each other. If there are enough cars in the pack, some fool will invariably start driving on the grass, throwing up a billowing cloud of smoke that can be seen a mile away. Since they tend to try to follow the same line, it is often easy to pass them, but they sometimes do stupid, unpredictable things, and the result is utter chaos, particularly in the corners.

Mess with the best...

Mess with the best…

Terror at Turn Two

Turn two of the Indianapolis Speedway is my favorite bit of the track; as computer-controlled cars (“Bots”) have a tendency to make a mess of this turn with occasionally hilarious results – cars weaving, wobbling, skidding, bouncing off barriers and walls and occasionally spinning off completely, often taking out other cars in the process – one of which may be yours, if you are not careful.

On the Curve


  • Feed but don’t feast. If you see a large, slow-moving pack of cars in front of you, try to resist the temptation to pass them all at once. Your time-clock is capped to ninety seconds; waiting a few seconds and staggering out your passing helps to keep your time-bank safely in the black.
  • Don’t kill the goose! When you pass a car, it fades away after a few seconds, then re-spawns somewhere on the other side of the track. This means that once you have passed the last car in a pack, you may find yourself with nobody else to pass, and may run out of time before you catch them up.
  • Watch for clouds of smoke; they signify cars that are out of control of running out of track. This may mean a passing opportunity, or it may mean a multi-car pile-up that needs to be avoided. Heads up!
  • Avoid collisions. Wherever possible, try to Dodge (pun intended) around those cars that spin out of control; hitting one of them can drop your speed down to 80MPH, It will take ages to get back up to speed, at which time you will have a lot of catching up to do. On one occasion a car sideswiped me, bounced off the wall and sideswiped me again, leaving me unable to to catch up with the pack and effectively knocking me out of the race.
  • Use the kerbs, Luke! Each of the four corners has a narrow area that you can drive on without losing traction. Having that little bit of extra room to maneuver will make your turns smoother and make it easier to keep your speed up. At turn 1 this is yellow, the other turns it is dark gray. Keep it smooth and you won’t bleed speed in the corners.
  • Watch out for the Stig. That’s a joke; they all look like the Stig,

The end result is an incredibly fun race that can only be described as “Epic”, that leaves you exhausted and elated. I have only managed to get up to 255 miles, but some players have topped the thousand-mile mark, and a few have even done their own version of the “Indy 500” — five hundred laps (1250 miles) — at a cost of more than eight hours of their time.


I strongly suspect that this “feature” was rebalanced out of later versions of the game, but I will use this to build up cash and gold in preparation for the next version — 1.3.5, or the the “Fifty Years of 911” Update (also known irreverently by me as the “Seven more bloody Porsches edition”). I’ll be back with a detailed report on that version at some time in the not-to-distant future.

I have to go… I see smoke on the horizon.

I’m just Wild about Harry’s

Once in a while, an idea comes along and you wonder why nobody thought of it years before.

Like many men, I use an electric shaver. It does not give as good a shave as a razor, but it hurts less and there is no blood on my collar.

Another reason why I do not use a razor is the expense; the blades for the best razors are, to put it bluntly, bloody expensive. Four or five dollars for one blade is simply too much. So when Steve Gibson waxed eloquent about Harry’s, I decided to give it a try. They have several products on their website, including Shave Sets, blades, creams and refill packs etc.

I decided to purchase a Truman set — A Truman handle, 3 blades and a tube of shave cream, along with a neat little “how-to-shave” booklet. The only difference is in the handle. Cost $15 with a $5 discount code bringing it down to $10 — a very competitive price indeed.  They also have a “Winston Set” which is identical, but with a better handle and a $10 higher price. For fathers’ Day, they also offer a Father & Son Set, which is the coolest thing for men with “small dudes” in their lives who still think shaving is cool.

The product arrived in a very nice box, which , unfortunately, found its way into the trash before I could snap a photo, but here are the contents.


So, as Eric Idle once said: “whats it like?”. The shave cream is very nice indeed — better than the Gillette Gel I picked up at WalMart. The quality of the shave is best described as “smooth like buttah”; as good as anything from the big boys, or better — so smooth, in fact, that it is still “good-enough-for-government-work” passable 24 hours later.

Not bad considering the blades (which are made in Germany, as Harry’s takes great care to point out) are less than half the price of the local competition.

King Gillette, you’re in trouble.


I recently purchased a replacement battery from an eBay seller. I was looking for a NFC battery, and that was the item pictured, so I ordered one.

When the item arrived, I realized that it was NOT an NFC-equipped battery. I notified the seller and his response was t#Fair enough. I did a little research and found that a lot of fake batteries are sold as OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer, in this case Samsung).

Why do they do this? Mainly because an OEM battery is worth $10+ (in the stores, such a battery is about $30), while an aftermarket one is worth less than $5. So there is money to be made in faking it. I also discovered several tests that would allow me to tell if a Samsung battery was genuine.

Test#1: The Back of the Label

In this video, the author claims that the back of the label of an authentic OEM battery is a pewter color – the same color as the front of the label – while the back of label of a counterfeit battery is a silvery color.

label color

Verdict; FAIL

Also note that the label of the original battery opens from the left, while the eBay one opens from the right. While not conclusive, this is certainly cause for concern.

Seller’s response: “We get these direct from our actual Samsung distributor which is our Samsung supplier and they jut informed me that the batteries come from different manufacturers and not all them will have the same information on them…” Oooo-kay…

Test #2: Serial number printed on the battery

According to Samsung, all batteries have a serial number printed on the battery under the label. You can see this in the battery on the left. There was no such serial number on the battery on the right.


Verdict: FAIL

Test #3: QR-Code

Samsung batteries have a QR Code printed on them. Both batteries had a QR-Code, but only the code on the the original battery that came with my phone was readable. The code on the eBay battery could bot be read no matter how hard I tried. Verdict: FAIL

Test #4: Model and Serial numbers printed on the label.

I contacted Samsung and asked them to help me with the model and serial numbers. According to them, the model number printed on the eBay battery was a proper Samsung Part number, but the part in question was an NFC-equipped battery – which this battery was not. Samsung’s response was to “contact the suppler”, which is a polite and legally-safe way of saying that they did not believe that it was genuine. Verdict: FAIL

The seller offered me a full refund.

What do you think?