A Look at Lives Less Ordinary

So much of what we encounter is life boarders on the absurd. There’s a very small margin that separates the three categories: so absurd its funny, not absurd enough to really care and, right in the middle, the kind of absurd that makes us angry.

Lately, it would seem that the middle variety is growing wider in scope. So many things seem crazy to us these days, that we’ll spout off about basically anything. The anonymity of social media has given us all license to bitch about everything; from bad customer service at Walmart to hundred-year-old government policies, not a single thing in this world is liked by all.

As I said, the kinds of things that bother us are expanding, and beginning to encompass items that wouldn’t have bothered previous generations. When I began working in the grocery industry sixteen years ago, places like Walmart and Target were notorious for their long lines and terrible service. People would say, if you want those prices, that’s just what you have to deal with.

More days than not, this is my Facebook page.
More days than not, this is my Facebook page.

Now, nothing is sacred, and people have become so demanding of quality service, that all you hear are complaints about the same things that were just part of the system, only a decade before.

Let’s look at an old-world concept, namely tipping, and how it has been forever altered by our demands for more and better.

According to historians, to give someone a “tip” is to actually present them with the acronym “to insure promptitude”. In the 17th century, the English elite would slip money to the person in charge of restaurant seating, in order to get at the head of the line. Rich American tourists brought this concept to the US, and over time the idea of tipping became giving thanks for the service you received, instead of for showing the people you cut in front of that you’re more wealthy than they are.

Fast forward to today, and tipping has become a way for people to silently punish unsatisfactory service. There are accepted standards for tipping in today’s society, generally 15-18%, and many people have begun seeing this as a glass ceiling, without fully understanding just how important this percentage is to the service person’s livelihood.

The minimum wage for tipped employees is $2.13 an hour.

Thanks a bunch. You got to enjoy authentic diner cuisine and I'll be having a bologna sandwich tonight.
Thanks a bunch. You got to enjoy authentic diner cuisine and I’ll be having a bologna sandwich tonight.

The theory is that people will make more money than the minimum wage, if they count their tips. If they don’t make the extra money in tips, the employer only has to provide the difference, to make the waiter a federally accepted minimum wage employee. So, when you hear the expression “working for tips” this is what that means.

I’ve had meals with people who truly don’t understand this basic concept; either that, or they don’t feel the need to rise above the human desire to control situations by any means at their disposal. One person grumbles about a reduction in tip quantity because his soda isn’t promptly topped off, even while the restaurant is packed and the staff obviously short handed. Another suggests that the quality of the meal should determine the tip, even though all the waiter did was bring it out. If the waiter can’t make money in tips, all they can ever hope for is to bust their ass for $9 an hour, and that’s only in California.

If we all thought about this, just a little bit, how many would change their attitude? Personally, I have experienced bad food service, but I have a hard time punishing a person for the experience. Maybe I won’t return, but while I’m there, I have an obligation to function correctly within my society.

What if your job worked in the same way? Think about it. You had a bad day, or things were slow at the office, or you upset the boss or a client. Suddenly your wages for the week are drastically reduced. You’re not being paid by the hour, but rather by the whim of those around you. Your supervisor didn’t like the report you submitted, so she decided that you would only get minimum wage this pay period.

Is that fair? No matter what you job it, you are essentially a service, providing a function to another for money. If you’re tipping a waiter based on your feelings about their service quality, why shouldn’t the people you provide your service for do the same to you?

We’ve all got a job to do, so why go out of our way to make it hard for someone to do theirs. (This video, by the way, is a classic from a talented local man, Aaron Durr.)

The Business of Monetizing One’s Exploits

In looking over the things I wish to accomplish, I see the potential for many of them to make money. Perhaps some are longer shots than others, but how does one decide what to pursue?

Follow your heart, I guess.

I have a definite business idea, but it’s not far enough along for me to talk about it openly. At first, I thought it would be an easy deal to put together, but now realize that I need to learn a number of things about the particular technology involved before I can proceed.

I’ve applied for, and been accepted into, a special studies course at Delta College. My semester-long research project will give me a better understanding of what I need to do, in order to get that particular business off the ground. It is my hope that, by the end of the semester, I will have a working prototype model, that I was able to build myself.

In the meantime, what other kinds of trouble can a guy with loads of free time get himself into?

I’m being sent on my first in-home repair mission, to fix a customer’s treadmill. One of my instructors, a man with a lifetime of consumer electronics experience, has set me up to succeed in this endeavor. With my recent work on the very similar handicap scooters I fixed for the Delta disabled persons department, I should be able to transmit my knowledge to this endeavor. Of course, I missed the one day window that the customer had this week, and now will have to wait until they get back from two weeks of vacation.

In the meantime…

A couple of my video-producing friends are planning to launch a YouTube channel. They want to produce a number of short episode television shows, and have asked me to contribute. Since I have been considering doing this anyway, as part of my renaissance list, it was an easy fit to say yes. Plus, I will gain the benefit of their aid, expertise, and (best of all) equipment. This is still in the planning stages, and my show is the furthest along as far as development is concerned, but we still won’t be filming anything for another couple of months, at least.

In the meantime’s meantime…

With the help of a friend, I’ve fixed and cleaned up the three Slick Shot arcade games in my garage. They are now ready for sale, and I plan to put them up for purchase soon. With the money from their removal, I would like to start up an arcade repair and restoration business. It is my hope that I can generate enough income with the sale of newly-repaired machines to supplement my other endeavors, the most of important of which is not working.

While this is the most presently viable option as far a execution, I fear it may be the least monetarily potent. I mean, how often do we see broken arcade games for sale?

Still, there are business ideas worth forging ahead with, and I plan to pursue them all, at some point. I’ve also submitted my band’s first album for play on Pandora, and if we are accepted, may begin to see a whole new slew of listeners interested in our music. Who knows, that may just help us go platinum, and all will problems will solve themselves.

Repair: “Slick Shot” by Grand Products

Yeah it looks cool. Just don't play it in a bad mood.
Yeah it looks cool. Just don’t play it in a bad mood.

What we have here is a rare “gem” in the land of classic arcades, a 1990 Slick Shot by the short lived gaming company Grand Products. I put gem in quotes because the game is high on style and concept, but short on lasting fun. Still, I bought three of them, all broken, for $100.

If you have one of the 1,500 of these ever produced, chances are you have been experiencing some of the following problems. If you were lucky enough to find this blog post from the your desperate Google search attempts, I hope it helps.

The big issue with these machines is probably that they were seemingly all put together by hand. If you’ve found the manual online, you’ve probably noticed that the monitor schematics are wrong, that there is very little in the way of troubleshooting advice, and that the wiring diagrams and schematics weren’t added before Grand went out of business, almost immediately after their release of the Slick Shot game it would seem. These games break so fast, that one of the three I have only has 192 games tallied on the coin counter.

The Ball Return Gate

There it is, on the left side of the cabinet, still in place, forever a curse to Grand Product investors.
There it is, on the left side of the cabinet, still in place, forever a curse to Grand Product investors.

For arcade use, there is a ball return gate that holds the ball inside the machine, so people won’t walk off with the ball when they are done playing. In all three of my machines, the sensor board was bad. The game developers knew damn well that this was a major fault, and they even put an option in the owner’s menu to disable the gate entirely.

Of course, if you do this, the gate just stays down, trapping the ball, regardless of whether you’re playing or not. Since these games aren’t going to be spending much time in any modern-day arcade, the best thing to do for home use is to disable the gate and remove it.

There, the gate is removed. But, don't stop reading, because you'll probably have to change the CMOS battery, too.
There, the gate is removed. But, don’t stop reading, because you’ll probably have to change the CMOS battery, too.

There are four screws on the front side of the gate unit, which attach it to the ball return pipe. On the back, the spring that lifts the gate is attached to the ball return pipe, and has to be removed as well. There is a two prong Molex plug, and another screw attaching the unit to a ground wire. Remove these, and the gate comes free. You can screw the ground wire back into the ball return pipe, if you’re worried about that.

The little board above the ball return pipe is probably the real problem, but can just stay there, all alone, to think about what it has done wrong.

The CMOS Battery and Game Settings

Now that you have removed the ball return gate, you’ll need to turn off the gate in the options menu. Before you do that, however, you’re probably going to have to replace the battery that allows the CPU to store data.

I just put the new battery on, and left it on the floor of the cabinet. No big deal, but you can glue it to the board if you like. The battery will surely outlive your desire to keep the game.
I just put the new battery on, and left it on the floor of the cabinet. No big deal, but you can glue it to the board if you like. The battery will surely outlive your desire to keep the game.

Depending on what kind of battery there is, you may just be able to stick in a new AAA and move on. For me, the housings were all leaky and didn’t look safe, so I just replaced the entire thing with a double-decker lithium battery. You can buy them with the wires attached, and just replace the current battery with a little soldering on the board. The holes are labeled. Red is + and Black is -.

Now you can change the settings in the menu, and they will stay put when you turn off the game. Boot up the game, and then hit that red button on the inside upper right corner of the coin door. The third screen has an option “USE CUE BALL SWITCH”. Turn that to “NO” and you’ll be ready to play the game. Other settings that you’ll want to check out include setting the game to FREEPLAY, and changing the time the game gives you per credit.

You can just recycle that gate unit, unless you think it will come in handy as a model train crossing bar or something.
You can just recycle that gate unit, unless you think it will come in handy as a model train crossing bar or something.

The Monitor

As for the monitors in these things, they are probably still in great shape, especially since the games almost never got played while they were in arcade owner possession. Still, there are a few things I’ll put here, just to document the things I had to do.

If the monitor has blown out, that’s beyond my scope. If you’ve never worked with CRT television monitors before, you need to be extremely careful. Those things have open coils and a lot of power going through them. The best advice I can give you is don’t screw with it. The monitor is busted, end of story.

I sure hope you didn't spend a lot of time trying to adjust the monitor like I did...
I sure hope you didn’t spend a lot of time trying to adjust the monitor like I did…

If you look at the front of your screen, and see this crusty looking strip of tape across the top, that’s an easier thing to fix. There’s a plastic boarder behind the game’s painted glass, that is glued to a cardboard frame. The plastic boarder has come loose, fallen down, and is blocking part of the monitor. You’ll have to remove the glass, and get some double-sided tape to get that thing back where it belongs.

These kinds of things pop up occasionally while you are working with arcade machines. Buying one of those kits with the detachable heads isn't a bad idea.
These kinds of things pop up occasionally while you are working with arcade machines. Buying one of those kits with the detachable heads isn’t a bad idea.

 

At the bottom of the glass, the frame that has the cue sticks holders on either side of it, also keeps the glass in place. The frame is easy to remove, if you have the right tool. You’ll need specialty screw kit, with a T25 star driver head. Feel free to replace the screws with something less obscure, once you get them out.

Remove the frame, and the glass will come out easily.

If you want to remove the playfield, there are three screws holding that in place as well. That, and there are two latches on the underside of the playfield, and a single Molex plug; pull these and the entire thing can be removed.

If the monitor needs any kind of adjusting from there, the size and hold dials are in the front of the cabinet, bolted to a panel at the very back. If you pull off the playfield, they can be adjusted very easily, while the game is running. The color dials are in the back, attached to the TV board. Again, be very careful about messing with this area while the game is on. If you must, wear long sleeves at the very least, as electricity can jump right onto your sweat and give you the free game of your life. Take your time, and be very careful.

And that’s all I know about the Grand Products Slick Shot arcade hybrid. I hope this helped anyone that might need it, and I sincerely hope that, after you get your game running smoothly, you have more fun with it than I ever did.