Saturday, December 31, 2005

Loxian

Hahaha, so, now, I'm kicking myself. I found this great article on Enya in Slate that I think would be interesting to most people whether you love or hate her. If you don't read it, I'll just skip right to the best part: three of the songs on it are written in an imaginary language, Loxian, "a futuristic language from a distant planet," where its denizens wonder if they're alone in the universe.

I'll give you a brief interlude to calm down.

They got the idea when Enya wrote a song in Elvish for Fellowship of the Ring. I looked in the liner notes, and what I thought were weird, artistic scratches—part of the background texture—are the original Loxian lyrics to the songs, written in Loxian. To the right are the English translations, which should have stood out because they never actually appear on the CD. Sure enough, in the copyright info, both the Loxian language and font are attributed to Enya's lyricist Roma Ryan. What I thought was Japanese (given the pre-release rumors that the album had a Japanese theme) in the title track, Less Than a Pearl, is actually just babbling nonsense.

I guess, in the end, it doesn't matter. So many of her songs are in Irish Gaelic or Latin or Italian or Spanish or Japanese or some other language I don't understand. Gaelic and nonsense sound about the same to me. In fact, it's nonsense specifically crafted to sound good. It's not the first time that Enya has had nonsense lyrics in songs, but I think it's the first time a CD of hers has had a quarter of the tracks containing lyrics but no real words.

Beyond that revelation, there was one other thing from this article that caught my attention, and I think it's why I like her latest CD less than her previous ones:


As Enya's career has progressed, and her air-goddess shtick has become more entrenched, the bottom end has disappeared from her songs, to the point where, on Amarantine, there is virtually no bass, no lower-register sounds, nothing to ground the music. Enya would do well to remember that, once in a while, everyone—earthling, Middle-Earthling, and Loxian alike—needs to bang on a drum.

Worst new year ever

Well, this new year is going to start off really well. Now I've got (1) the flu, (2) a buildup of fluid in my ear -or- an ear infection, and (3) pink eye. At first I called myself lucky because the other two people I was around for Christmas who got sick also got either an ear infection or pink eye in addition to a cold or flu, and all I got was the latter. It seems I'm just spreading my misery over time. At this rate, I won't be making it into work at all next week, hoping to work from home a bit in the second half. It's fine, I guess, since I have way more sick days than I can use anyway, but if I'm not taking an actual vacation, I think I'd rather be at work, because this just sucks. It would be okay, I guess, if I could still do things, but the pain and discomfort and grogginess is preventing me from concentrating, which means I can't write or debug any code. I also have a feeling that my reflexes and response times are pretty horrendous right now, so I haven't even bothered trying to play World of Warcraft. So, I've spent the last two days doing little but sleeping, watching Simpsons DVDs, and playing the Neverwinter Nights expansions, which thankfully require little brain power and no quick fingers.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Why I don't listen to the radio

Wow. For my own amusement (or horror), I decided to watch at least the first half or so of every one of the first ten videos on Yahoo's top 100 videos page.

  1. Beyoncé - Check on It
  2. D4L - Laffy Taffy
  3. Eminem - When I'm Gone
  4. Nelly - Grillz
  5. Black Eyed Peas - My Humps
  6. Pussycat Dolls - Stickwitu
  7. Mary J. Blige - Be Without You
  8. Chris Brown - Yo
  9. Kelly Clarkson - Because of You
  10. Chris Brown and Juelz Santana - Run It

I hadn't heard any of these modern masterpieces before. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow.

I just don't know what to say. (Luckily, that's never stopped me from blathering anyway.) First of all, what a wide range of genres! We've got everything from Rap to R&B represented on that list. And, I guess, Kelly Clarkson, which I guess is American Idol Light Pop, huh?

Really the only tolerable thing on here was Run It, #10, because it was kinda catchy. As far as I can tell, Chris is a fifteen-year-old boy who thinks he's Usher. In fact, I think this is actually a remake of the video for Yeah by Usher. The song's pretty much the same. It's pretty much the same video but without the neat lasers. Neither one's all that great. I'm pretty sure that the main reason this video exists is to make fourteen-year-old girls mast... post pictures of Chris in their lockers. Because, well, he's so-oo dreamy.

This is why I don't listen to the radio.

Not identical

The Police—Every Breath You Take:
Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I'll be watching you

Every single day
Every word you say
Every game you play
Every night you stay
I'll be watching you

Madonna—Push:
Every race I win
Every mood I’m in
Everything I do
I owe it all to you

Every move I make
Every step I take
Everything I do
It’s all because you push me


What do you mean they're really similar? Sting's version has 33% more "everies," and Madonna's new version has a new tune. Also, notice how she heard "every move you make" and "every step you take" and totally changed them into "every move I make" and "every step I take," and changed the order of the lines!

Hey, I wonder if Sting was singing about Madonna. Then that would tie up all the little loose ends.

I'd like to thank the Academy

Well, given my current not-yet-fully-recovered (-and-possibly-contagious) condition, I think I'll be missing out on these New Year's festivities. That's unfortunate. I guess they'll all need to find someone else to inexplicably trounce them at Trivial Pursuit.

I'll need to record my victory speech and Happy New Year toast in advance like they do for the Oscars when award winners are indisposed.

Treachery

After watching a few more episodes from season 7 of The Simpsons on DVD, I'm now completely certain that Fox edits at least some of the episodes down about thirty seconds or so for syndication. It seems that every episode I watch reveals a few short scenes that I've never seen before, and I've watched these episodes a lot of times. I'm not talking about the mostly-bad little deleted scenes that are clearly marked as deleted scenes that you have to press Enter to see and don't even always have the correct actors providing the voices; I'm talking about a few seconds here or there at the end of a longer scene, or maybe something that was maybe a little too racy for afternoon TV.

My favorite scene that I never saw before the DVD is from "I Love Lisa" in season 4, the "I choo-choo-choose you" one with Ralph and Lisa:

(on the way to Krusty's 29th Anniversary Special)
Lisa: Chief Wiggum, how did you ever get these tickets?
Chief Wiggum: Krusty knows how to play ball.
(scene switches to porno theatre)
Chief Wiggum: Ah… nothing beats a good porno movie.
Krusty: Chief Wiggum! Is this a bust?
Chief Wiggum: Uh, yeah! That's just what it is. A bust.
(scene switches back to police car)
Lisa: That story isn’t suitable for children.
Chief Wiggum: Really? I keep my pants on in this version.

I saw that episode about ten times on TV before DVD, and I never saw that scene. Back then, I thought that scene was an anomaly, and given its setting, I could see why it was edited for TV. But, so many things in season 7 that I'd never seen before were perfectly fine and didn't need to be cut for content.

Fun fact from Wikipedia: Al Jean's wife had "I choo-choo-choose you" engraved on his wedding band.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

I heart paperless billing

The only bill that comes to me through the mail is my trash, water, and sewer bill. I'm happy about that. But, I wish I could get that bill electronically as well. They even charge a $1.70 fee to pay the bill online versus with a check through the mail. I use my credit union's bill pay service, so they're the ones actually sending the check, but it's still a bit annoying.

Trop cher

Map of nearby homes

My goodness, homes are so expensive around here. I knew they were expensive, but I didn't quite know how expensive a house near the Microsoft campus is. Looks like the cheapest ones are half a million dollars on up.

I've been playing around with HomePages. Go to zip code 98052, pan a little to the southwest, and zoom in if you want to play along at home. It's a very cool little site.

That empty area right below the big tag thingy, as well as some of the empty area to the west of the freeway, is Microsoft. I currently live right to the west of "Beds/Baths." So, uh, I guess I won't be buying a house near work. I think just the interest on the loan would be about all I could afford each month. Most of these houses are so big anyway... I don't need two or three thousand square feet; my current place is one thousand and that's all I really need.

There aren't a lot of condo openings around here, but those that are available are under a quarter million, which, as insane as it sounds to me right now, would be fine. A $200,000 condo, even after adding in the monthly fees assessed by the complex, wouldn't be much more expensive than what I'm paying for rent right now. It looks like there's one two-level place nearby right now. That would be ideal, because I don't really want anyone living above or below me.

I'm not against living farther away from work, but I hate the idea of having to commute. I'd say that around 15-20 minutes is my absolute upper limit, and with traffic the way it is around here, that probably means nothing that takes me on the freeway. I'd have to be getting a much nicer place for the same money to consider getting something far away from work. At the very least, I'd have to factor a few extra thousand in for a car and insurance... Prices are a bit more reasonable in nearby cities like Kirkland (northwest of where I am), where a few of my friends live. I could probably live with that.

Of course, I'd greatly miss the package service my complex offers...

Getting better, maybe

After about eight mostly restless hours in bed and six decently restful hours in a recliner, I'm finally starting to feel a little better. A few minutes after my previous post I started shivering uncontrollably, and about an hour later I was in quite a bit of pain. I've been so confused for the past day and a half; every time I'd wake up, I was mostly unable to distinguish between the dream and reality, and it would take a really long time for me to figure out what was going on. It's not nearly as bad now, but writing this post is still somewhat challenging. My brain isn't quite working correctly, but I'm feeling better, which is all that I care about at the moment.

Taking a sick day (and possibly another tomorrow) right at the end of the year before they expire reminds me of the old Dilbert cartoon where the boss is informed, to his amazement, that 40% of the company's sick days are taken on Mondays and Fridays.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh...

I think it's time for bed. I'm feeling really, really bad. I think tomorrow may be a sick day. We'll see. Maybe I can get some sleep.

Vindictive mental facilities

I'm so sore today. I didn't really sleep last night. I mean, I slept a little, but I think only an hour or two; the rest of the time I just couldn't fall asleep. I didn't get up really late or anything like that; I was tired, but sleep would not come.

Right now I feel soreness and pain as if I worked out really hard last night for the first time in weeks, but also the usual warmth and slowed reactions of not having slept. Coincidentally, last night I decided that tonight would be the night that I would get back to regular workouts, having picked "around Christmas" a few weeks ago.

Here's what happened.

The part of my brain that doesn't think things through, who we'll call Albert, the part of my brain that enjoys entertaining things like games, Bill, and the part of my brain that doesn't like horrible pain, Cassandra, all had an argument.

Albert: Hey, tomorrow it's time to start working out again!
Cassandra: What? Nobody told me this. What do you mean? What's wrong with you?
Albert: It'll be great!
Bill: What are you talking about? That's insane.
Albert: It'll be great!
- Bill and Cassandra look at each other, and then Bill distracts Albert while Cassandra stealthily knocks Albert out, Splinter Cell-style. -
Bill: That was close. We should punish Albert to make sure this doesn't happen again. I'll make Travis not be able to sleep tonight.
- Bill leaves. -
Cassandra: That's pathetic. I'll remind him of how awful he feels the morning after a workout.
- Later... -
Bill: Come to think of it, he's pretty used to sleep deprivation. I'll make him feel as if he hasn't slept in a week, especially since Cassandra isn't doing anything.

And, that's what happened. Bill and Cassandra both exacted painful punishments upon me for Albert's foolishness, and, combined, I feel horrible. I can barely walk down the hall, let alone use a leg press. So, they won; no workout tonight.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Television returns

After many weeks of crap and reruns, television returns next week.

Monday: New Arrested Development
Tuesday: Two new Scrubs
Thursday: New The Office
Friday: New Malcolm in the Middle and Battlestar Galactica

Tax time

Tax time approaches. I'm really anxious to see how things turn out this year. Some of my coworkers frequenly complain that they always have a large tax bill, so I'm hoping that's not the case. I guess it's theoretically better to pay taxes in a lump each year than have it taken out of your paycheck and thus not get any interest on that money, but I'd rather just safely know that I'm not going to owe some mystery amount to the government at the beginning of each year.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

And a Christmas far from serene

I'm extremely glad that I watched Serenity yesterday and today after Christmas lunch wasn't my first time seeing it. I think I would have had to have left the room just so I could see it under more hospitable conditions later. Two hours of solid infant crying and sporadic older children screaming very effectively prevented any enjoyment I could have gotten out of it.

I hate kids.

After Serenity, I got my life's amount of D&D out of the way. Not doing that again. Basically, it alternated between very awkward and quite boring. I was impressed at the amount of preparation that the DM put into the campaign; it was something that he had developed entirely himself, but just wasn't really my cup o' tea.

Christmas recap

12 people eating
11 Playskool beads
10 hours lost
9 brownies baked
8 geeky nerds
7-decade lady
6-sided dice
5 pumpkin pies
4 loaves of bread
3 screaming kids
2 horny cats
and another watching of Serenity.

Far from frightful

The weather outside is wonderful today. We've had snow a couple times already this year, which I hear is a bit unusual, but you'd never be able to tell it looking outside today.

Merry Christmas.

I don't get it

On the topic of Serenity, it always amazes me that there are people who provide extremely detailed descriptions of the "bad" content in movies for other parents to screen. Parents who would actually read such a long article before letting their child see a movie have way too much time on their hands. Some of the horrible things in Serenity include (these are all actual quotes):
  • Smoking—A miscellaneous character smokes something in a bar/club that could be construed to be drug-related, but it's never identified one way or the other.
  • Blood/Gore—River has a small red hole or mark on her forehead from where a device was attached to her.
  • Frightening scene—Simon applies a shot to Mal's forearm, but we don't see the actual insertion.
  • Frightening scene—The crew endures a rough and shaky landing in their spaceship.
  • Imitative behavior—[Wash says] "I'm a leaf in the wind."
  • Music—A heavy amount of suspenseful, dramatic and action-oriented music plays in the film.
  • Sex—We see a miscellaneous shirtless guy.
  • Violence—Mal and Jayne throw grenades at approaching Reavers, but we don't see the explosive impact.

The author is totally right—the PG-13 Serenity definitely includes a lot of mature content that a thirteen-year-old child wouldn't be able to handle.

(Those, of course, were carefully selected for my own amusement. I left out the parts about vibrator use, the prostitute training school, machine guns used on zombies, and the constant flashes of pictures of rotting corpses: things that parents really might not want their young kids to see.)

Christmas Eve Serenity

I watched Serenity today, and I thought it was an excellent sci-fi adventure. I don't think it's necessary at all to have seen an episode of Firefly to enjoy it; the characters are introduced quite well. Having seen the series beforehand certainly gives you another angle to appreciate the plot, but since the entire movie centers around River, and she's pretty much a mystery throughout the TV series anyway, it doesn't really give you an upper hand. As an added bonus, if you've seen the show, the movie also reveals something that you probably didn't even realize was a mystery to be revealed.

I found the hand-to-hand fighting, space combat, and hovercraft chase scenes quite amusing. The movie's funny, just like the show, and if the western aspect of the TV show bothered you, you'll be happy to know that it's essentially eliminated, providing nothing more than a slight flavor to the setting.

I also saw The 40-Year-Old Virgin. (Today was movie day.) Not nearly as entertaining. Extremely vulgar and crude. Normally I'd expect that from a movie whose title might as well include the word "sex," but I had heard that it was different. And, in a way, it was. It was this weird mix of smart, cute, and incredibly vulgar. I was certainly amused, and there were some absolutely hilarious moments, but the elderly Indian man who loves that F-word got old reeeeally quickly. Full of plenty of Steve Carell goodness; expect little more than American Pie for Grown-Ups and you'll be happy.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Helpful

The Simpsons: Season 7 [4 Discs] ['Marge Head' Packaging]

That Microsoft: so helpful. I'm glad Media Center is so kind to remind me that I bought the Marge Head package instead of the regular rectangular package. I was confused.

Gone

I'm going to have plenty of time to myself for the next week and a half. Most everyone I know around here is going to be gone as of the next few days. No lunch because my coworkers will be gone, no dinner because the people I tend to eat with will be gone, and no World of Warcraft or Guild Wars because Marc will be gone. Board gaming, however, shall march on... I have enough friends from game night that I'm pretty much guaranteed some card-auctioning, strategy-exploiting, dice-rolling action over the holidays, including a full day of games Tuesday, starting with the established classic "playing hooky from work."

I finished Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow and found it excellent. My main problem was that there were too many parts where I had to search and search (or consult a walkthrough) to find where that exposed ventilation shaft is, or where I can climb up onto the building by performing a wall jump, or some other non-obvious thing. It was like a little touch of Myst in an action game.

I've recently begun the Neverwinter Nights expansion Shadows of Undrentide, but I've only put about an hour into it. I have a feeling that my paladin from the original game is woefully overleveled for the early content in the expansion.

What have I gotten myself into?

It turns out that the Christmas lunch I've been invited to comes with a string attached: I'm spending that evening playing Dungeons & Dragons. This terrifies me a bit. I've never played D&D; I've never really had any interest, despite being a huge fan of computer RPGs, and even those based on the D&D rules. I believe that this is going to be a "full role-playing" experience: I think that people are going to be in character. My heart will be so not into that that it should probably be sealed in plastic to prevent it from drying out. But, hey, just about every experience is worth having once...

At least I'll have the dice for it.

Merry Christmas Eve

Oh, and a merry Christmas Eve to you all. Just in case you need some really last-minute gift ideas, here's the entirety of things that I've bought as Christmas, Hanukkah, and Festivus gifts so far:

Firefly: The Complete Series for my parents, but specifically my mom. They both like action and sci-fi, and my mom loves westerns, so Firefly was a no-brainer. Unfortunately, I found out that they already watched the show (and loved it) when it was on TV, so they'd already seen most of the episodes that aired before it was cancelled. Thoughtfulness: 9. Selfishness: 0. Effectiveness: 3.

A big box of Baker's Candies Meltaways from Greenwood, NE for my officemate. He likes chocolate, and complains about the terrible selection in the vending machines at work. If the nutrition facts on the box are correct, they are approximately as healthy as sugar-coated butter chunks, but it's the best chocolate I've come across yet. Thoughtfulness: 8 (-2 for being a stereotypical gift). Selfishness: 3 (gave me an excuse to get a small box for myself). Effectiveness: 7.

Guild Wars for my friend Marc. We've been playing World of Warcraft for eleven months now. This gives us something interesting and new to do when we can't find a group in WoW. Thoughtfulness: 8. Selfishness: 7 (guaranteed entertainment for me included with purchase). Effectiveness: not sure, just started... fun so far, though.

And that's it. I need to get something for my brother now since he implied that he got me something. Apparently he didn't get the memo about not exchanging gifts. I didn't want to be part of the family gift exchange because it's not only a hassle, but it's also based mostly on obligation and buying things from prepared lists anyway. I enjoyed buying random stuff for people who weren't expecting anything. (Well, my parents probably had reason to expect something.) I would have gotten stuff for more people had I been able to think of anything that they wouldn't already have if they wanted... that's always the hard part for me. An interesting gift takes more time than I really spent thinking about gifts. I bought those things listed above a month or two in advance, but I started thinking of things to get other people a little too late.

700,000 downloads now

Fun fact: EclipseCrossword's record week for number of downloads was the week of December 11: 8,660 downloads in 7 days. That's not quite one download per minute. The previous week was the previous record week, at 7,970 downloads. This is kind of surprising; I always assume that the surges would be more in line with the beginnings of school semesters, as teachers and parents are looking to provide activities for kids. But, the beginning of December is also around when final projects are being turned in, and I know that there are a bunch of teachers who are giving crossword-building assignments to students, because they've told me. So, that's presumably the explanation for this particular surge.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Week of games

This has been a week of many games.

Monday—World of Warcraft, the board game.
Tuesday—Started my warrior/necromancer in Guild Wars with Marc.
Wednesday—Went to Scholomance in World of Warcraft (where the skin of shadow, the main reason we were there, was ninja-looted).
Thursday—World of Warcraft, the board game, and two other board games.

Up tomorrow is, of course, more gaming. I will also probably finish up Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow, which I played most of the way through last weekend.

Next Tuesday, four of us are taking a day off work and having a full-day game marathon. I love games.

All I have to worry about is finding time to watch Serenity. Probably Saturday.

Snap judgment

After a few hours of playing Guild Wars, here's my snap judgment:

World of Warcraft feels like a Warcraft-themed MMORPG with Diablo II influences.

Guild Wars feels like Diablo II with MMORPG influences.

Barriers to entry

Sometimes barriers to entry are nice. Case in point: Guild Wars seems to have a lower average player age than World of Warcraft (yes, it's possible). I'm certain that this is because there's no monthly fee: parents who would not be willing to buy their child a game that costs them an extra $15 until that kid gets bored would be much happer to not have to pay a monthly fee.

Maybe, maybe a solution would be some kind of adults-only mode, like the ability to block out all chat from younger players. This certainly isn't a surefire fix, but it might be nice. Acrophobia, the only online game I played with any regularity before World of Warcraft, had public rooms and adults-only rooms; I always picked the adults-only rooms. The topics of conversation were just usually less stupid in the adults-only rooms, though you got your fair share of younger-seeming people who just wanted to be able to say "tits" without it being bleeped out. There was no actual check that you were 18; you just picked a button at the start. Maybe 18+ servers in Guild Wars and World of Warcraft would be nice. But then again, it could very well never work.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

What goes around

Perhaps karma can be explained by simple armchair psychology. People who do good things will eventually tend to develop a positive attitude toward the world after seeing the happiness that their works produce. In this positive state of mind, they will tend to focus more on positive aspects of things and pay less attention to the negative aspects. So, it seems that luck is in their favor. In contrast, people who do selfish things will trend toward a negative attitude after experiencing how people treat them in return. In this negative state of mind, they may perceive the same event in a totally different light, seeming as if luck is against them.

Civilized Star Trek

A Star Trek version of Civilization would be cool. One of the most useful research topics would be Holodeck. Once you finish researching it, the morale in all of your cities and starships increases +2. However, there's a 3% chance per turn that the holodeck will malfunction and bring someone's dangerous fantasy objects to life. Everyone would race for one of two unique hero units: Seven of Nine, which increases the... morale... of all male units in your army +1, and Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the USS Enterprise, who cannot be defeated. And, whoever plays the red team has a +200% chance of any of their units dying in a given combat.

Curious burn

I have what appears to be a burn mark on my left hand, at the base of my thumb. I don't remember getting it at all. I don't even remember the last time I was really burned; it must have been many years ago, as far as I can tell.

I don't know what it is. Alien abduction?

Press J for a smile

After joining Microsoft I quickly learned that the glyph in the Wingdings font for J is a smiley face. How did I learn this? Word automatically autocorrects :) into J if you let it. (Non-Windows users might not see a smiley in that sentence.) I seem to be the only person who hates that and turns that off immediately. So, whenever someone sends me a short mail ending in a smiley, the little new mail notification toast that pops up from Outlook looks like this:

Robert Johnson
Yeah, I'll get right on that. J


The new mail notification, as you might expect, shows everything in Tahoma, not the actual font that person used to write their email. And that's how I learned how to make a smiley with the Wingdings font.

Blatant lies from quest NPCs

Well, it looks like someone finally bought my old domain blatantlies.com... I just didn't get any money from it.

If you're looking for another good domain name, I think that questnpc.com would make a good email address. You could tell your geeky friends to send you email at tyrael@questnpc.com. Except I would totally take that one.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

My head spins

So... the new movie The Producers... is a movie, based on a musical, based on a movie, about a musical, about Hitler. So, the real question: how do we link Hitler to Kevin Bacon?

(This site says Hitler has a Bacon Index of 3. We don't have that many jumps left, though.)

Like those "kissing a smoker is just as gross" commercials

You never really realize how dirty the part of the bathroom floor that your feet never touch is until you drop a contact lens.

On the merits of crotchbra

I'm not certain why boxer shorts aren't more popular among women. I would guess that the main reason is that they're simply not available for women, per se, and that they're definitely seen as masculine. I mean, if panties were the most comfortable thing around, you wouldn't see a lot of guys in them. That aside, I think that boxers are phenomenally more comfortable for everyday use than anything else available for guys, and it seems like women would find them comfortable too. I've known a couple girls who swore by them, but they were certainly a rarity.

But, eh, people are picky about these things. There are plenty of men who find briefs comfortable, which I don't really understand anymore. I thought they were comfortable up until I was about twelve or so and proportions corrected themselves, and for the latter half of my life I've found them pretty detestable. I guess there's a minority of guys who find women's underwear comfortable as well, even putting the obvious eroticism and fantasy elements aside. I don't get that. They look so uncomfortable. I mean, the higher-quality materials thing is nice, but... panties look like some kind of crotch-bra. I don't know anyone of any gender who thinks that a bra is the pinnacle of comfort, and my nipples are far less sensitive than other parts of my body.

I also don't get the commando thing. I've tried it, and going without is just horribly unpleasant with anything other than, say, gym shorts. It seems like it wouldn't be much more comfortable for a woman.

I tend to notice what underwear people are wearing. At some point you're bound to find out this crucial information about just about everyone you hang out with, as I see it. It's just yet another data point as you try to figure someone out. An interesting little nugget of uselessness.

So, I'm a boxers guy. Don't be shy; announce your preference to the world right from my comments page! Bonus points to any female who explains why they never tried boxers, or if they did, what they thought.

Serene in less than 48 hours

Serenity's out tomorrow, so I'll get it Wednesday. I still haven't seen it, and I'm very much looking forward to watching how Firefly ends.

I've never really been one for renting movies, no matter how much more financial sense it may make. I guess if I watch a movie twice, that's maybe ten bucks or so worth of rental, and four to eight more to just buy the movie. Owning movies allows me to watch a movie I've seen before a second or third or tenth time precisely when I feel like it, which is nice. A rental would either need to be planned out in advance and sent to me, or be picked up from a video store. I may still decide to rent a bunch of movies for a while someday, movies that I don't think that I'll really feel like watching a second time. Movies like Casablanca and Lawrence of Arabia and The Shining, movies that I should see just because of the world I live in, not because I think I'll feel like adding them to my permanent collection.

I think I'd be much more likely to rent if there were a large library of movies available to me on demand without having to go somewhere or order anything.

Musical masterpieces

Speaking of legendary works of musical talent, in a hundred years, when copyrights expire (assuming they ever do), which songs from our generation will people still be humming? What will be the new Beethoven's Fifth or Nutcracker suite? The Star Wars themes? My Heart Will Go On? The Simpsons theme song? I really couldn't tell you. When some holographic film recreates the 90s and the 2000s, what songs will they play to set the tone?

Repress these thoughts

As I was brushing my teeth Sunday night, I was rather vividly imagining what it would be like for the horrid song Milkshake to be performed by a full choir. (It sounded better.)

Then I started humming it.

Monday, December 19, 2005

XOOM

My first web host is now a money transfer company. They were cool because they didn't put any ads on your site at all. They just asked you to put mention of their company somewhere.

Apparently another victim of the "not making any money is not a successful business" thing.

Français, je t'aime

The words "fiancé" and "fiancée" exactly fit the pattern of the past participles of some French word "fiancer," which would be the "to do that" form of the word. For example, if fiancé and fiancée meant "gone," then then fiancer would mean "to go." I was wondering in the shower what fiancer would mean if it were really a French word, with my top choice being "to bind or tie." Something like "to dedicate" would also be cute. So, I looked it up.

It is a real word—it means "to be engaged." So, fiancé and fiancée mean "been engaged." Sigh. How anticlimactic.

Puppy helmet

This weekend, I spent a decent chunk of time playing Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow. I've been enjoying it a lot. I think it would be infuriatingly awful on a console, though. (I only played the multiplayer portion on the Xbox, and it was another story entirely. The title of that story is "incredibly boring.") You're served well to F5 quicksave every couple of rooms, because the game's all about figuring out how you're going to make it through each little room or area without being spotted or heard. Saving frequently, which I assume you can't do on the Xbox version because console FPS games always suck, allows you to try out a variety of different strategies and then stick with one that works. It also makes it not a big deal if you manage to let your foot slip out of the shadows and the enemy sees you. Without quicksave I think that the game would be absolutely intolerable, because so many things that were cool and interesting would suddenly become frustrating and tedious.

I enjoy shooting out the lights, making a noise, and then grabbing the guard who comes to take a look from behind him and putting a gun to his head, and then dragging him off into a corner to give him a swift blow to the noggin. It's refreshing playing a first-person shooter that isn't really about shooting at all. The vast majority of my bullets have been pointed at light fixtures rather than people.

It's not a terribly recent game, seeing as its sequel came out a year ago, but the visual effects are still pretty good. Far Cry ripped them off pretty effectively and added plenty of its own, but the heat goggles view is still breathtakingly awesome. It's almost weird playing a game with only two guns, considering the couple dozen or so you get in some games like Half-Life, but two's really all you need, especially when one can do such amusing things as firing cameras and nonlethal tazers.

Now I also see why Amon Tobin was hired to do the music for the sequel, the third game in the series: it's obvious that the composer for this game was a big Amon Tobin fan. It's actually pretty good, and sounds a lot like the "real thing." It's got the same kinds of rhythms and wacky beats as Amon Tobin's music, but without the wacky discordant insanity in his soundtrack to the third game.

Anyway, I'll probably end up adding the third game, Chaos Theory, to my queue after I finish this one, but I've got too much to play at the moment. I may go for the Neverwinter Nights expansions next.

Oh, and the reason for the title of this post is hidden in the link at the beginning. Some of you may recognize it already.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Band camp

During tonight's American Dad I saw an advertisement for American Pie Presents: Band Camp, an unrated, straight-to-DVD movie in the American Pie series. I laughed, of course, when I saw that it was a straight-to-DVD movie. Then it struck me: the other American Pie movies were rated R. That means that a large chunk of the potential audience can't see it in theatres... but they can see it on DVD. So, why not just release straight to DVD? It actually makes a lot of sense, now that I've thought about it more. I guess there are a few places that actually check ID to buy movies (I'm sure Wal-Mart is one, and I bet that a lot of movie rental places would), but I'd bet that a lot more theatres check ID.

Then again, I'm not sure. I've rarely had my ID checked for anything.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Timor

It’s alright, it’s alright, ‘cause the system never fails
The good guys are in power and the bad guys are in jail

It’s alright, it’s alright, just as long as we can vote
We live in democracy and that's what we promote

It’s alright, it’s alright, at least there’s half a truth
Hearing what we want’s the secret of eternal youth

It’s alright, it’s alright, with the planet split in three
‘Cause I'll keep on selling records and you’ve got your MTV

If we forget about ‘em, don't worry
If they forget about us, then hurry
How about the people who don’t matter anymore
in East Timor, Timor, Timor?

[Shakira, Oral Fixation, Volume 2—Timor]


Is it bad that, as many times as I've listened to that song (it's quite catchy), I'm not really compelled to even read the East Timor article on Wikipedia and find out what the deal is? Yeah, probably is. All I really know is that they were occupied by someone and recently got independence from the UN, or something to that effect.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Just because it makes me happy

Heroes of Might and Magic V box shot

My goodness that's pretty.

Mister Prime Minister



Prime Minister of Japan Junichiro Koizumi, for no particular reason. Bush gave him that.

Schmipod

I don't get the whole video-on-your-iPod thing. I've watched video on my Portable Media Center; two episodes of House and one of The Simpsons. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's a traumatic experience, but it's not great. I certainly wouldn't pay $1.99 a show for the privilege, even if the shows were ad-free. I'm not interested in the idea when they're free for my decide; paying money is out of the question. I even considered taking shows on the plane with me, and decided to screw that idea, just because it's a terrible experience. Watching something light like a rerun of The Simpsons makes more sense than a drama like House, though. Even on my 19" monitor, watching TV on a "big" screen lets me focus on it. Watching it on a 2-3" screen does not.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

My paranoia can subside

Having finally received my SATA power adapter, I'm finally in the process of copying my files over from Ashley (my old secondary drive) to my new 400 GB monster. I forgot how long it can take to format a drive. But, in half an hour, I'll be able to remove the old one, move the new one to its permanent home, and then stop thinking about it.

Then I need to think of a fun way to destroy the old one. Last time I replaced a hard drive, I shattered the old one with a hammer. Maybe I'll try baking this one.

Free food

There's an unwritten rule that any food left unguarded in a kitchen or common area that is not inside a refrigerator is free for the taking. One of the teams in my building had a ton of Indian food catered in. As soon as those people started leaving, word spread amongst a few key members of my team, and a few minutes later, I had free dinner. The other denizens of the building descended upon those trays like wolves.

I had some chicken vindaloo. I've never had something cold taste like burning before. That's a curious sensation.

There's an internal service that apparently used to be very popular where you can go and register leftovers so that people in nearby offices can quickly dispatch them. I don't think it's used anymore; I heard stories from older employees that half-eaten sheet cakes would disappear in minutes in that service's heyday.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Natural weight

It seems that my natural weight is around 275-280 pounds. It doesn't seem to matter how much or little I work out or how much or little I eat; I always hover around there. It's been that way for six years or so. The one exception was that for a few months I dropped all the way down to 255—I think it was the first semester of my senior year in college. For those months I worked out three or four nights a week for a couple hours, and I wasn't eating nearly as much. Once I stopped, I hit 280 again very quickly. So, it can be done... it just turns out that it requires more work than I'm willing to put in.

I wasn't happy during that time; the constant spectre of the rec center just made me look forward to the night being over. I've never understood why some people seem to enjoy working out in any form; it's just so incredibly unpleasant. Even were it not for the pain, the effort, and the awful music, there would still be the atmosphere of being with dozens of other unfriendly people who mostly don't want to be there either. I don't want to be around people who want to be working out; I don't usually like being around people who are enjoying anything that I detest. But, I don't want to be around people who are mostly all angry or depressed or bored, either. And, I don't want to hear, "oh, it's fun," or anything like that.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

What I read

Let's take a look at my NetCaptor and Firefox bookmarks.

Stuff I check almost every day:

  • IvoryTower—You know about this or you don't. It's my own website. I read the things that people post to it several times a day.
  • cnet news.com—A decent source of general computer industry news.
  • Slashdot—My best source for general technology news and incredibly biased links and articles about the software industry.
  • IGN PC—I really dislike IGN. I only go there because they're big enough that they sometimes get exclusive video game-related stories and content.
  • The Adrenaline Vault—This used to be my favorite gaming site. Now it's rarely updated, and when it is updated, it's a weird selection of new content. Hopefully it will make a comeback.
  • GameSpot PC—Still not that great, but better than IGN. My best source for general gaming news, which I don't pay much attention to anymore.
  • ToTheGame—A daily collection of links to anything about specific games, but nothing about gaming in general. My best source for up-to-the-minute information about upcoming games, as well as pretty accurate release date estimations and lots of screenshots and review links.
  • Celestial Heavens—Nothing but news about Might and Magic.
  • World of Warcraft—Duh. World of Warcraft news. Their forums make me cry more each time I visit them. If you like reading online arguments by screaming teenagers and people who are much more horrible than you, no matter how bad you may be, this is the place.
  • Penny Arcade—The funniest comic there is on any topic. Their blog posts are interesting too.
  • Ctrl+Alt+Del—Another game-related comic. I read this hoping for that rare comic or two each month that makes me smile a little bit.
  • Paul Thurrott's Windows news—The guy's crazy, and a bad reviewer and writer, but I know that when he talks about something Microsoft-related, it's okay for me to talk about it too.
  • NeoWin—News for the Windows enthusiast. Also covers big non-Windows topics, like video cards, processors, and so forth.
  • WinBeta—Similar to NeoWin; there's a lot of overlap in content.
  • SlickDeals—Cheap stuff.

Less than daily:

  • The Onion—I mostly go to the Onion anymore for the infographic, What Do You Think?, and the A.V. Club content, including the Savage Love column, the Red Meat comic, and other random crap.
  • Something Awful—NSFW. Photoshop Phriday is usually hilarious. Comedy Goldmine is sometimes funny. Hentai reviews and The Horrors of Porn are usually great.
And, uh, a few... other... sites. I'd tell you what they are, but this post is so long already...

ESP double checking

Often after I write something, whether it's an email, forums post, blog post, or something else, I'm thinking about it a few minutes later and feel like I probably made a mistake in or near one particular sentence. So, I go back and reread it. Often it's nothing, but often enough I actually did make some mistake in my wording around where I thought I did. It's a very subconscious thing; I don't know why I feel like I made a mistake there, or even necessarily much about what that sentence was. I just have a gut feeling that I made a mistake with the last sentence of the second paragraph. I guess "subconscious" is a valid word for that. After writing, I sometimes have intuitive feelings that point me to errors I didn't realize were present when the text was written. I really have no idea if this is something that most other people experience too.

That special time of year

Some people are celebrating it already, but next Monday is when I think December's most popular Microsoft holiday will start for most people: this is Unused Vacation Days Only Roll Over for One Year Month. I think I've only got about one day that not would roll over (and, thus, expire); the rest of the time I'll spend at work. It should be nice to spend some time working with few constraints, little to no increase in my total workload, and no pressing issues demanding time from what I'd rather work on at the moment. It also means that I should probably spend a few days figuring out which topics I'll need to ask coworkers about, since most won't be around for the rest of the year. But, I'm looking forward to it. Less stress is always a good thing.

All is not peachy

Of course, not all about tonight was peachy. Notably:

1. It's a near-hour drive from Redmond to the piers in Seattle. This would have been unpleasant had I not had someone to talk to.

2. The much greater evil: tomorrow is a workday. In fact, there are four more. Tonight really, really felt like a Friday, and while it was mentioned a couple times, it's just now sinking in. Ugh.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Boat party!

Tonight was the Office Server Group non-denominational winter solstice party, a dinner cruise just like last year. I had a blast; it was much more entertaining than a year ago. I took Marc as my date (but he left afterward to hang out with his girlfriend, the tease), and met up with a coworker I never speak with and his fiancée, who turned out to be a lot of fun. There wasn't enough room at the table with the people I planned on spending the evening with on the first floor, and the third floor included all three levels of management above me all together, which wasn't too attractive. So, we settled on a cozy (and I mean that in the most insulting way, as in "incredibly cramped") table for four on the second floor. Among our four hours of conversation topics, I had the distinct pleasure of having to explain to the other guy's fiancée the intricacies of goatse (do not search for that at work... or... ever) in non-obscene terms. That wasn't really the highlight of the night.

Oh, and the guy with the Utilikilt was there, at the next table over.

All in all, very entertaining. Having never really spent any time with my coworker before, I essentially met two people tonight. That's like a record.

My favorite unexpected compliment in a long time came tonight when I was introduced by one of the guys from my team as something to the effect of "Travis, by far the funniest guy on the team. He also looks like a hitman." My least favorite unexpected slam in recent years was probably "Travis? I didn't think he was creative" when Anne Sweet heard that some of my poetry was being published. (Anne Sweet was the Director of Marketing for the honors program I was in in school.)

Saturday, December 10, 2005

If I had two big-ass swords

In some bizarre fantasy world, if I had two big-ass swords, the first one would be bright and shiny, and glow a faint blue. It would be long and slender, with a golden hilt. I would name it Justice. My second one would be very dark, almost black, and reflect only red light. The hilt would be somewhat lighter steel. It would be heavy and slightly curved. I would name it Vengeance.

That would make a good story to tell when I'm in the tavern to regenerate my hit points for the next day.

Friday, December 9, 2005

When you keep your voice down, speak up so I can hear you

I find it very difficult to avoid eavesdropping. As soon as someone leaves a group to talk in private, or I hear whispering, or someone steps out to have a private phone call, I can't help but zone everything out so I can hear what they're saying. I don't even do it intentionally, though I definitely have a bad snooping habit anyway.

You know, just fair warning.

Thursday, December 8, 2005

Newsgroups

I just replied to my first customer question on a beta newsgroup. That was kind of fun. It would get old really quickly, though. I'm very, very glad to have people whose job it is to be a first line of defense against customer questions. Supporting my own software takes a lot out of me; having to support people using FrontPage 12 beta 1 would destroy me.

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Fun go-karting fact

One fun go-karting fact before I finally head off to bed:

Added weight in the car does not improve traction. It does, however, as I was told later, intimidate the other drivers.

Terminology

I've always thought of the weekend as Saturday and Sunday. There's the weekend, weekdays, weeknights, and Friday night—four separate blocks of time. I don't necessarily prefer the definition of "weekend" that doesn't include Friday night; it probably makes more sense to include Friday night than not to. My parents just never really included Friday in the weekend, so I didn't either. What drives me nuts is that there's no standard. When someone says weekend they could mean either Saturday and Sunday, or Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday. Some people infuriatingly switch between the two as it suits them. Sadly, I'm one of those people. But it's annoying. "Weekend" should have a concrete meaning.

Queue of goodness

One of the nice things about GoGamer is that they will often have in stock a DVD version of a game that doesn't normally come in a DVD version in the United States. For some reason games on DVD are more popular in Europe than they are here, so a lot of times GoGamer will have both the US English CD version and the UK English DVD version. So, I can get games for a good $10-15 less than other places and not pay tax and get them on DVD. GoGamer and Deep Discount CD/DVD for music and movies receive a frightening portion of my monthly income.

I've fallen behind; there are too many great-looking games that have gone unplayed for far too long. I'm going to make an effort this month to get to work on my queue of goodness. I need to get as much cleared out in the next three months or so as I can, because soon after will mark the potential arrivals of Oblivion, the Half-Life 2 expansion, and Heroes V, and... I just can't handle all that at once. I can imagine that I'll take a couple days off when the first of those three is released. I've got at least one game I really want to play that's already out in almost every genre I care about.

I love being a gamer.

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Thanks.

Thanks to everyone who has wished me happy birthday via IM, posts, and email. I figure that this post probably covers pretty much all of you. It's a real time-saver.

Keep dreaming of that White Christmas

According to weather.com:

The chance of seeing snow on Christmas here in Redmond is... 0%.
The record low temperature on Christmas here is... 25° F.

In contrast, in Lincoln:

The chance of seeing snow on Christmas in Lincoln is... 30%. (I figured higher.)
The average low temperature on Christmas is... 15°. (Ten degrees below Redmond's record.)

I generally like the cold, but 30-40° is plenty cool. No need to overdo it.

Go Karts

As a morale event, the development team is going go-karting tonight. Mmmmm, go-karts in thirty-degree weather. Fantastic morale event idea.

[Correction: It was indoors. Duh. Not sure why I expected otherwise.]

I don't know what to make of it

The weirdest thing just happened to me. For the past thirty minutes or so, I was quite depressed. About what, the observant reader may ask... but I was depressed about nothing. I didn't do anything or read anything or think anything, as far as I can recall, that made me depressed. It's just like some chemical in my brain misfired, and suddenly I was in really low spirits. I wasn't quite sad, I wasn't exhausted, I wasn't angry; I was just depressed. That's never happened to me before.

It started subtly. For a few minutes I was uninterested in everything—I stopped reading what I was reading, but didn't feel like going to bed yet either. I didn't feel like doing anything. I was just in a bad mood, and I only vaguely noticed it at the time. Just... depressed. I didn't have some feeling that I was all alone and that nobody loved me. Those would be reasons to be depressed, and it was just some aimless, formless, temporary depression.

It's so weird. I'm never depressed. When I say I'm depressed I don't mean it. I mean that something unfortunate has happened. I use "that depresses me" to mean "I don't like that." Because I don't get depressed. The closest I get is bored, and even then I have so much to do that it doesn't last. I'm just always happy.

To feel so depressed was out of character, and to not even know why I was depressed was just sublimely weird. I don't know what to make of it. It's over now. I feel "normal," just like I usually do at one in the morning. I feel like I'm ready to sleep. It's a fact of life; it's a standard daily event. Going to bed doesn't sadden me.

Crazy.

Monday, December 5, 2005

A bold statement

This morning I was at my desk helping a coworker investigate an issue he was running into. At one point as I turned around while he was stretching, I was greeted by the large Lifestyles Condoms logo on his boxers. I thought to myself later that wearing any kind of condom apparel is a somewhat bold statement, never mind that out of every guy I work with, this one would be just about the last one I'd expect to see wearing prophylactic-branded underwear, being a pretty quiet, conservative Christian type.

But, that aside, I later wondered, what kind of person would wear, say, a Durex T-shirt? This turned out to be an amusing brainstorming exercise.

One guy who wears a Durex T-shirt is an ass. He wants everyone to know that he's having sex, and so much in fact that he gets free stuff from condom companies. As interested as he is in sex, it doesn't really matter if he's having any or not; what matters is that everyone around him thinks he is. I knew many copies of this guy throughout high school and a few in middle school and college.

One girl who wears a Durex T-shirt is a slut. She enjoys the attention that wearing a shirt that advertises a condom company would bring, more than the reputation. She wouldn't wear it very often, because it's not very revealing, but if there were ever a way to periodically remind others that she enjoys sex, this is it. A variation of this girl is the girl who isn't that interested in sex, but still enjoys the attention that the shirt would bring her.

Another guy who wears a Durex T-shirt just really likes free clothing. He's got three dozen shirts in his dresser that advertise products, services, or brands of some sort. It fits, and it fits the very low requirements of covering his nudity, and therefore it made it into his permanent wardrobe rotation. I see so many of this guy at work that it almost makes me cry a little. Not a day goes by that I don't see people wearing Windows shirts, SharePoint jackets, Office hats, and Microsoft coats. I've got about a dozen Microsoft-related shirts so far, and there's no sign of them stopping anytime soon.

Those are the people who I think would wear a condom shirt. They're all sterotypes, and I really think that stereotypes are the people most likely to wear something that blatantly advertises a condom company. Boxers are one thing; people aren't normally going to be seeing those. But a shirt is a public statement. I don't wear my Microsoft shirts or my pile of GoGamer.com shirts or my Guild Wars shirt for the same reason that I think that a person wearing a condom shirt does.

That said, I don't know if I've seen a person wearing a shirt advertising a condom company in many years.

What the hell

I told myself I wasn't going to waste time this morning, but last night's dream was so interesting that I can't help it. It all started when I was somewhere between Nebraska and the South and I discovered a portal to Hell. It was in the floor of some kind of rickety man-made structure, like a treehouse or something. It looked pretty scary; I could hear wailing and horrible noises, and saw bizarre structures below me. So, I broke open the hole a little wider and lowered myself in as safely as I could. I know it was a dream, because my standard behavior when encountering portals to Hell in real life is to not enter.

Anyway, I got down there, and it was pretty warm. Not bad, though; like, 80 degrees. Definitely tolerable. The wails I heard were all machines and peoples' voices—not torture voices, but regular voices. The terrifying structures were just manufacturing waste, like broken bits of wood. I had landed on an empty wooden crate. I looked around, and discovered I was in a factory.

A minute later two men arrived; a wealthy-looking man riding on what appeared to be a forklift with some kind of makeshift throne. I was introduced to him by the rider as Satan. Satan said hi, and introduced me to the other person who had just arrived, who was a little taller than me and about my age. He said that Satan is more of a title; he usually goes by Sebastian. He explained that due to their very strict "no escape" policy, it might be a while before I'd be returned to the surface world. I could either take up a manufacturing job, or just wander about, if I didn't cause trouble. I kind of got the impression that he was pretty new to the job; it even sounded like he was still working a bit on his supervillian voice, which he kind drifted in and out of.

So, uninterested in a manufacturing job, I spent the rest of the dream exploring Hell waiting for my paperwork to cut out. Somewhere along the way, I met up with a couple other people in my situation; apparently had a problem with portals opening up from Earth to Hell at the moment. The civilized structures of Hell reminded me a bit of the school in whichever fairly boring Harry Potter movie it was I saw. I met up with a younger girl, maybe 19 or so, who got there intentionally, and was mulling over attempting to stage a coup and become the new Satan. Sebastian was fully aware of her plans and wasn't too worried. I made some joke about how if she doesn't succeed, at least all those dark tomes she had been reading would boost her damage when using Necromancy spells. Personally, I don't get it, but Sebastian thought it was hilarious. Maybe he doesn't get too many jokes down there.

I mostly stayed in the buildings in Hell, away from the people being tortured, though some peoples' lesser transgressions resulted in them being butlers and servants to Satan, so I got to meet them. I did venture into the caverns once, and the demon patrols (they looked a lot like the orcs from the Lord of the Rings movies with cheaper makeup, to be honest) knew that we were okay and mostly left us alone. A few thought it would be funny to try to scare us, and come up and threaten us, but they were quickly summoned back into lines, and we weren't that scared of them, because they looked kinda fake.

And, that's about it. The dream ended before I got to return to the surface world, sadly. Were it not for my alarm clock, I might have had some exciting conclusion to my most interesting dream of late.

Fun with fractions

I wonder what fraction of my posts are made while compiling code of some sort. The last two were...

I hate compiling. I hate making a two-line change in an IDL file and having to rebuild an EXE and three DLLs.

The Toothpaste Millionaire

The Toothpaste Millionaire. Anyone read that book as a kid? I did. Like ten times. I loved it.

All the good things and the bad things that may be

My cousin Taylor is in middle school now. That means that it won't be long until sex ed. From my perspective now, that seems awfully young, and I'm sure it seems even weirder to his mother. But, I guess, at that age, I pretty much knew it all anyway. I learned the basics of procreation on the playground in kindergarten, along with a copious number of swear words I'd never heard before, as that was my first mass interaction with other kids my age. I didn't have all of the details right... There was no romantic or erotic connection involved; as far as I knew. Sex was just some fun activity for adults that sometimes ended in babies. The oral and anal varieties, which I of course knew under less clinical names, were just other fun things that adults did, and were no more related to intercourse than, say, urination. At the time there was even quite a debate as to what the "weiner" was actually called; surely no name as silly as "peanus" could be it. By sixth and seventh grades, thanks to sex ed and more playground wisdom, I learned the official terms like "masturbation" and "cunnilingus" and "menstruation," but not much I didn't know about before, except perhaps the existence of STDs.

As well-informed as I was about all matters in-and-out at the time, it still seems very weird that someone I see as a "little kid" probably knows all these things now too. At the end of the fifth grade, my best friend swore to me that his one and only goal for the summer was to "get a girlfriend and then fuck her every day." He had a particular girl in mind, even, and a rough plan as to how that was going to happen. We went to different middle schools, and when he called sometime during the next year, I brought it up as a joke, and he handily avoided the topic. I don't think he was successful.

I wonder if his friends have similar goals already.

I feel like I should feel bad for being curious about all these things. My fascination with the taboo demands that I know. I'd honestly like to know what he knows and what he talks about—it would be interesting. But, long before that becomes a possibility, the "creepy old man firewall" falls into place and I decide it's best to just wonder. I always find myself really wanting to know what I can't or mustn't. Because, you know, a few more datapoints of the bizarre are probably not worth emotionally scarring a child.

Saturday, December 3, 2005

The agony of technology

I have a love/hate relationship with big technology purchases. I love to plan them out and I hate to plan them out. The last thing that I feel like buying anytime soon is a massive TV. I've got the ridiculously expensive speakers (purchased for Half-Life 2, but early enough for Doom 3); now I just need the 40+" LCD HDTV to go with them and the Segway to complete the "young technophile who doesn't know what else to do with his money" image.

But I hear that there are all these new LCD factories that aren't used in production yet because no company wants to be the first one to use them. Or something. What the hell? Why would someone tell me something like that? I'm way too obsessive to know that. They're dumping their current stock so they can begin manufacturing legions of low-cost, low-power warriors as soon as they're ready. Or maybe that's all made-up, and prices aren't going to go down much more. The first monitor I bought was a 19" CRT, at a decent price but still pricey at the time. They went down in price like a couple months later. The next monitor I bought, the one I have now, is a 19" LCD, and LCDs dropped in price a few months later. This always happens, and it will always happen, and it keeps me wary and confused.

The thing is, I wonder how this benefits companies. I don't think I get it. Everyone knows that technology only gets cheaper, and rumors that it's going to become much cheaper in the future don't sell more technology. They should be assuring me through mass marketing that the prices of LCD TVs are as cheap as they're going to get for a long while, or perish the thought, they may even go back up. Then I'd snatch one right up. But, they're not, and so now I don't know if I should buy one. So, I won't. I'm too paranoid to put much stock in the "just buy it now; prices will always go down, so just buy what you want" mantra among technology enthusiasts with more common sense than me.

I'll probably wait until I get a house or condo, which I see as probably being a good 16 months from now. I don't think I'm really going to consider moving out next spring. I really don't have a good place for a massive TV yet.

I've yet to come up with a good way to have a large TV and computer monitor coexist, and I'm certainly not buying another set of speakers. The speakers need to be with the computer, and the speakers need to be with the TV. They must coexist in harmony.

But, anyway, on the original topic, the companies manufacturing massive LCD HDTVs have not successfully marketed me into giving them five grand yet. They should work on that.

Blue flowers and Mr. F

I finally saw Batman Begins. Good movie! I was never a fan of the Batman movies, though some of the previous ones were entertaining enough, but Batman Begins was excellent. No need to really say anything more since I was the last person in the United States to see it.

Now that I've seen the reviews for Aeon Flux, I think I'm glad I nixed going to see it last night in favor of another watching of State and Main followed by three games of Diamant and then Colossal Arena. My favorite Aeon Flux review blurb:

"It was so uncomfortable to watch this film, I felt like I was desperately holding back a bout of extreme diarrhea while having dinner with my girlfriend's folks for the first time."
—Kevin Carr, 7M PICTURES

It may be failing, but at least it's fast

SpeedFan reports the following SMART information for my dying hard drive:

Fitness: 0%, Performance: 100%

The "fitness" bar was at 30-50% a couple days ago.

System performance has gotten much better since moving the pagefile to C:, and I've backed up almost everything useful on it to DVD just in case. Having a DVD burner is wonderful. I backed up 14 GB in minutes. I still don't back stuff up as much as I should, but now it's much more pleasant when I do.

Friday, December 2, 2005

Damnation

From my Event Log:
The driver has detected that device \Device\Harddisk1\DR1 has predicted that it will fail. Immediately back up your data and replace your hard disk drive. A failure may be imminent.

This wasn't my first sign, but it was the clearest. A few times now I've had the dreaded "something that was accessing the hard drive inexplicably pauses for a few seconds" glitches. So, time to order a new hard drive.

Hopefully my secondary drive is the one that's failing, because I really don't want to reinstall stuff. I'm pretty sure it is, since "Drive 1" highlights when I click on "Ashley (D:)" in Disk Management. This is the last time I install two identical hard drives, though I was greatly amused at the time for having a hard drive named Mary-Kate and an identical one named Ashley.

Thursday, December 1, 2005

Just in case you were wondering

And in case you're wondering, it works just fine in the snow. And by "snow" I mean the snow that's almost totally melted before it's even hit the ground, and has only now accumulated like a quarter inch, despite how much is falling.

It's a conversation piece

On the way to the restroom after the meeting that just ended, I took a look at our first snow through the window. It's snowing huge quarter-sized chunks; very different from what you see in Nebraska. Then I thought that I should make a post pointing out that for the rest of the week there will be a dramatic increase in the number of times people ask me how my Segway fares in rough weather.

On the way back from the restroom, my manager's manager asked me, "Hey Travis. How does your... vehicle... hold up in the snow?"

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

My website template sucks

My blog template is pretty crappy. The main reason for this is that Blogger templates use a weird custom syntax with all sorts of HTML extensions. I bet, though, if there would be a way to write some ASP.NET controls that would look like fake blog content (lorem ipsum dolor style) in an editor of some sort, like FrontPage, and then render the wacky Blogger code at runtime. Then I could design my site in a nice editor, then preview the page in the browser the copy-paste the source code into the Blogger template UI. That would be pretty neat.

Sweet, another side project I'll never get around to.

Critical eye

When I first got my contact lenses many months back, for a long time I absolutely could not tell if they were "the right way" or inside-out. The lenses haven't changed. I still can't really look at a lens and tell you if it's inverted or not most of the time. The difference is that I just kind of intuitively know now. My perception has somehow changed to be able to identify the state of a contact lens, even though I can't really consciously tell the difference most of the time.

It's true

The drops on the floor in front of the urinal are a good example of a problem that gets worse before it gets better. Once a few have accumulated, people begin to stand farther away from the urinal. This causes more drops to accumulate more rapidly. But, once a certain threshold is reached, people stop using that urinal, the miracle of evaporation takes place, and voilà, the problem has solved itself.

Monday, November 28, 2005

360

The logo signs at the entrances to and important intersections around the Microsoft campus have been fitted with green lights to celebrate the Xbox 360 in a sorta-subtle way.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Why software ships with tons of bugs

Here's a great article (written by a SourceGear developer) that explains why Windows Vista will probably ship with tens of thousands of bugs:

My life as a Code Economist

The main point of the long article is that you do it because you're willing to ship a product with known bugs that aren't too bad (1) because if you don't, you'll never ship anything, and (2) because shipping with not-so-bad bugs you know about is better than shipping with horrible bugs you don't.

That's something that I didn't fully understand before I started working at Microsoft. I rarely posted any of my own products if they had bugs. They were small, and I could do that. But that isn't possible in the real world. And, in the real world, lots of things are bugs that you don't consider bugs. When you work on something big with a lot of people, you realize that you can just absolutely nitpick the thing to death. There are a thousand little silly things you could change. If I went through any of my popular apps like EclipseCrossword or StickyPad with a scrutinizing eye, I'd have hundreds of things to change. I don't, because I don't have time to change those things. What I didn't understand before is that a feature request is a bug, random things that suck are bugs, and things that need to be revisited in the future are bugs too. They all have the same effect; they're all areas for improvement.

In a way, I understood this to some degree. If there was a behavior change that would require an option that could be set, I'd have to weigh how hard it was going to be to fix against how popular I thought that feature would be. I've even, in a few cases, chosen to work on new features instead of fixing bugs. StickyPad will sometimes lose some of your text if you use it on US English Windows with the Windows UI in Korean. I consciously decide not to care too much about Asian languages or Hebrew or Russian or any of the hard stuff, because I don't have enough knowledge in that area or the time to test every language. So, I ship StickyPad with lots of known bugs regarding those wacky languages.

This is the sort of thing that should be taught in a software engineering class, because it's always been true, and it will always be true. It can even apply to things that aren't software. It's something that I understand much better now that I've spent time in the real world, but it couldn't have hurt to have it drilled into my head earlier, instead of the much more worthless crap I got from computer science classes. Of course, computer science has fairly little to do with building software as a practice, a business, a large-scale undertaking—but it still couldn't hurt to be a little more broad...

The venerable couch gag

I was just reminded of the couch gag from last week's Simpsons—the "evil couches come alive" one. I think that might be my favorite of all time. The one where we zoom through the universe and finally end up coming out of Homer's pupil (or nostril?) would have to be #2.

Time has flown

Also holy crap, it's already been over a week since I moved back into Kauffman for a little bit. It feels like it's only been two or three days.

Nemo on Ice

Holy crap, Disney on Ice Presents Finding Nemo. An ice skating show based on that movie. That blows my mind.

The movie was so awful, too.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

More sweet music

November was a good month. In addition to the Enya album I've been awaiting for half a decade, the latest Hooverphonic album came out too, and it's absolutely fantastic. It's a two-disc set: the first is titled More Sweet Music, and the second is titled No More Sweet Music. Both contain different versions of the same songs. It's like disc A has the light side versions, and disc B has the dark side versions. In general, the No More Sweet Music versions are more electronic-y than the More Sweet Music versions. I'd have been happy with either one as an album, but getting both together is a cool experience. The set cost me something like $30 USD thanks to exchange rates and shipping from Belgium, but seeing as it's a 2-CD set, it's pretty reasonable.

It's hard to pick favorites; they all fit together. You Love Me to Death is a perfect opener. No More Sweet Music is quirky and awesome, with a bizarre Lawrence Welk-tastic flowing strings background. Wake Up is powerful and beautiful and complex. In general, I like the More Sweet Music versions a little more than the No More Sweet Music versions, but I'd have paid $30 even for the NMSM versions alone and been happy. I'm extremely pleased with this purchase. I knew Hooverphonic wouldn't let me down, despite their somewhat disappointing last album, Sit Down and Listen to Hooverphonic, orchestral and acoustic reinterpretations of their previous hits.

I've listened to each of the discs about four times today, and I can't get enough. Just to avoid insanity, I'm switching over to Enya for a bit now.

[This post was written on the flight from Grom'Gol to Kargath. It's annoying enough that the Libram of Voracity is unique despite it being a repeatable quest, but then I find out that Thottbot's quest page doesn't list the necessary Black Diamond. This will be my second time visiting Quest Guy today, and I have one more to go since the book is Unique...]

Continuous excitement

One of the things that I love about World of Warcraft is that there's another block of new content available every few months. A lot of games that are popular in online multiplayer, like Diablo II and Counter-Strike, do this, but not to the degree of World of Warcraft, which will add new weapons, spells, dungeons, and battlegrounds from patch to patch. That makes sense, of course, since World of Warcraft is subscription-based.

I'd be interested in periodic mini-expansions for some single-player game I really liked, too. The only game that comes to mind that did this was Neverwinter Nights, and I don't know if that really ever caught on or not.

I hope this is a joke

I'm going through a few of the new CDs that I picked up and ripping them, and I came to this track title on Kruder & Dorfmeister - The K&D Sessions:

Donaueschingen (Peter Kruder's Donaudampfschifffahrtsgesellschaftskapitänskajtütenremix)

Yeah, that was fun to type.

Friday, November 25, 2005

ARG

Guess whose apartment was ninety-something degrees when he got back from vacation. Guess who was not too happy.

Luckily, I have windows, and the heat pump is on its own section of the circuitbreaker, so I can turn it off "the hard way," thanks to a tip from the maintenance guy. They'll take a look tomorrow. He was very baffled.

Guests only

There are a couple artists who I only like as guest artists on other peoples’ records. At first, this seems a bit odd to me. But, I suppose it makes some sense. When they’re guests on someone else’s album, they’re blending with that artist’s style, and picking up their little influences and so on. I notice this frequently with female vocalists on electronic albums, which rarely seem to have vocalists in the actual band. The example that brought this to mind just now, though, is Gone by Kanye West, Cam’Ron, and Consequence. In that song, Cam’Ron sounds awesome. He’s got a great voice. But, I checked out some of his solo music and wasn’t really interested. It’s about as disappointing as when I hear some great single by a new artist I’d never heard of, and then find out that they don’t have an album; it’s just that single.

Amarantine

Enya’s new CD, Amarantine, is out now, and I’ve finished my first run through. My first reaction is that it’s not as good as her last two albums, The Memory of Trees and A Day Without Rain. This is how I imagine it:

(Three years after A Day Without Rain was released)
Studio executive: Hey Enya, how’s that new album coming along?
Enya: Uh, just fine.
Studio executive: Great. I just came to tell you that we want your next album to be pop.
Enya: Pop? Uh…
Studio executive: I can’t wait to hear it. See you in a year.
Enya: (to herself) I don’t know how to make a pop CD. Maybe I’ll just add more vocal tracks and fewer instrumental tracks.

So, that’s what it is—a bit more radio-friendly, a little less Irish, and much more lyrical than her previous albums... and still not pop. It’s just fine; it’s still great music, but something’s different, and I don’t like what changed. Maybe she decided to focus on a vocal album because she fears her voice won’t be around forever. I don’t know. It’s still got her trademark multi-layered, overdubbed humming and aahhhhing and chanting, but the focus is less on that and the background music and more on the lyrics.

There’s only one instrumental track on the whole CD, as opposed to a third or half like previous albums. Even Linkin Park’s CDs have had one instrumental track.

Actually, I think that several of the songs on the CD would work as remixes. That would be kind of interesting. It would sound like Delerium, but more somber. Anyway, there are still lots of interesting things on here for the zero of you who are Enya fans. Parts of it are Asian-themed, and at least two tracks are in Japanese (Sumiregusa and Water Shows the Hidden Heart, and possibly Less than a Pearl). The one instrumental track, Drifting, is pretty good. The River Sings is also very fun, and has no discernible lyrics; it’s mostly chants. Probably my favorite track is Sumiregusa; it’s majestic, yet delicate and beautiful, yet moving. Second favorite is Someone Said Goodbye, which is probably the most single-worthy track. It’s bright and fun.

Still a good purchase; just not one of my favorite couple Enya albums. Then again, A Day Without Rain wasn’t originally one of my favorites, and I grew to like it quite a lot. Amarantine follows the same path as A Day Without Rain, becoming a little less Irish and a little more pop with each album.

And, I don't really think that that exchange at the top is how it happened.

Random encounters, but not the sexy kind

I hate random encounters in games, pretty much without fail. They’re pretty common in role-playing games, and I think that they really hurt the experience for me. They’re one of the reasons that I just couldn’t bring myself to finish Wizardry 8, in fact; they just drove me nuts. They really kill the feeling of becoming more powerful and making a difference in the world. If, after your heroic return to your home town, there are still swarms of goblins terrorizing the townsfolk, you don’t feel like you’ve accomplished much.

Also, when you return to a lower-level area, you usually have a very good reason to. A quest has required you to return to a character that you met earlier in the game, or you need to retrieve an item you left there, or you need to train. You’re not there because your level 25 guy wants to go kill some level 3 monsters. Having them there is just annoying. They don’t present a challenge; they just waste your time. If you return to your hometown and now it’s peaceful and people are free to walk outside again, then you really feel like you’ve had an impact on the game world.

This isn’t as big of a deal for me with World of Warcraft, and there would be no real feasible way to happen. When I’m playing World of Warcraft, my character is much less “important” to the storyline; there are a million people all doing the same quests that I am. For that to work, I can’t really have any useful impact on the world. I don’t really expect it, and it doesn’t bother me when it doesn’t happen. And, when I’m trying to go somewhere, I can just ignore the lower-level creatures and they’ll ignore me, or if not, they’ll stop following me once they realize they have no chance of defeating me. But, when I’m saving the town from monsters on my own computer, I expect the world to change in an appropriate way, and I expect not to be trifled by those stupid low-level enemies that I fought before.

Even worse, though, is when random encounters are scaled up to match your level. This was the case with Wizardry 8, and all it did for me was make traveling so tedious that I couldn’t bear to keep playing. I couldn’t get anywhere without fighting a few dozen creatures, and they were hard creatures, not the easy ones that used to be there. That just sucked more than I could stand. The less time I have to spend on distracting things that aren’t the front-lines quests to save the world, the better, and random encounters that scale up in difficulty just ruin the game for me.

Wholehearted mistake

The sign said stop
but we went on, wholehearted.
It ended bad,
but I love what we started.

Yes, the same lyrics that bothered me before. Upon further consideration, I believe that they actually can work. It’s the comma after “on” that makes it okay. You can read it as “but we went on, [and were] wholehearted” and it works. As English text I still think it should be “wholeheartedly” and “badly,” but as song lyrics, I’ve made my peace with them.

Farmland security

The checkin desk at the Lincoln airport didn’t even check my ID. They just asked me for my name, and then gave me my boarding passes.

It's over

Well, the vacation is basically over now. I'm off to the airport in a couple hours, and then I'm headed back home to Redmond. It's fun. I'm glad I got a chance to see my friends and family again. Now it's going to be at least another year before I see most of them again.

It's very strange getting used to measuring any kind of timespan in years and not some more realistic unit of measure.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

The irony

Sitting about three feet from a bag containing trash and five feet from a bag containing newspapers to be recycled, my mother decided not to get up, and to put the newspaper advertisement promoting recycling in the trash instead.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Visiting teachers

I spent my afternoon today visiting a few of my old teachers at Lincoln East High School (Dress, Trumble, Ogden, and Dugdale). It was somewhat awkward visiting a couple of them, since they didn’t know me all that well when I was there. Ogden filled me in with her pre-retirement plans, her second Master’s degree, her son’s whereabouts, occupation, and recent marriage… that level of detail was a bit unexpected, especially since I hadn’t seen her since ninth grade. Ms. Dress was my French teacher for two years so I knew her a bit better, and I was a TA for Trumble and had a couple classes with her so she knows me pretty well. They all seemed to have this sense of wonder about what it would be like to work for a corporation as big as Microsoft, and it felt a bit strange being on the other side of the desk, so to speak.

Trumble, as always, had a bunch of students hanging out in her office who were probably avoiding what they were supposed to be doing. She was sure to introduce me to everyone who walked by, regardless of how little they were interested (though some seemed pretty impressed that Trumble knew someone from Microsoft). For a good thirty minutes it was me, Trumble, another ex-student, and a current student of hers. I don’t think I’ve ever been touched and groped that much by someone I didn’t know before.

Trumble was asking about a few of you. You probably know who you are.

After the awkward trip down memory lane, I stopped by Best Buy to pick up the brand new Enya CD, Amarantine. I’ve only listened to the first couple tracks so far, having been solidly busy since then until now, but it sounds great so far.

Back home

On that topic, I’m now back at my parents’ place, after spending several days in Kauffman. It was fun. Played some games, watched some games, and caught up with what’s going on. A great number of my friends have already moved on, though, so it was very different from previous years. I don’t know half of the people in the building now, which was a bit weird. After two Thanksgivings in Lincoln, next year I’ll be coming back for Christmas.

Sorry to everyone I missed.

Eeew.

My dad just decided to use the bathroom while on the phone. And not the quick kind either.

Not really my thing

Console games aren’t really “my thing.” There have been few that I’ve liked in about as long as I can remember, and I just feel as if they’re not marketed or designed for people who like the kinds of games that I like. Even the same genres of games—like first-person shooters and role-playing games—are wildly different in concept and play style on a console. I’m more than willing to spend far more money on computer hardware for what is, in my opinion, a far superior gaming experience. I want to play games in high resolution with a keyboard at a desk. And, you know, savegames whenever I want them.

That said, the much-hyped Dragon Quest VIII (PlayStation 2 only) did catch my attention. It did have many elements that reminded me of past games that I’ve loved. I think it most reminded me of the early Might and Magic games, but with some changes, of course. I can’t really put my finger on it. The wandering out in the wilderness fighting waves of monsters you can’t see until it’s too late is totally Might and Magic II, and the turn-based combat shows some similarities. Might and Magic I-V are pretty much the prototype of classic computer RPG combat, and Dragon Quest VIII is pretty much the prototype of console RPGs. The most outstanding difference being, of course, that Dragon Quest VIII is beautiful, and those Might and Magic games were… well, beautiful for their time.

The Might and Magic series and this Dragon Quest VIII both have this bizarrely endearing cuteness and silliness to them, without seeming too childish. I find it very difficult to play kid-themed games—I never liked them when I was young, and I certainly don’t like them now. But, this game didn’t bother me. I think I’d probably buy it if I had a PlayStation 2 for some crazy reason. But, I don’t, and I certainly don’t want to spend $175 or something to have to play it on my TV. So, I’ll instead just wait for Oblivion, and perhaps finally get around to playing the Neverwinter Nights expansions in the meantime.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Feels like home

Ah, the sweet embrace of the unbelivably unreliable UNL internet connection. How I've forgotten thee.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Wisdom is like knives

Today I was told that wisdom is like the Knives of Kwan Su, because you cannot buy it with money. I was not the one who brought them up.

Dragon Quest VIII

These animation-style 3D games hae really improved over the past few years. I've been watching Derrick and John play Dragon Quest VIII a bit so far, and it looks very nice.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

What the fog...

I wasn't sure I was going to make it. My planned first stop today was in Spokane, WA, a flight for which I woke up at the crack of 3:30 am. So, I was a bit unhappy when I arrived at the airport to discover that my flight had been cancelled due to the fog. I stood in various lines for quite some time, and finally ended about 25th on a waiting list for a flight to Denver. Oh, goody. But, I lucked out… I was one of the last people to board.

When I got to Denver, I had a four-hour layover, thanks to getting off my original schedule. But, I dug out my original itinerary from before the devastating fog swept through the Seattle area, and I found that my original Denver-Lincoln flight was just getting ready to board. So, I went to that desk, and asked if there was an open seat. The woman said that there was, but that my luggage would be four hours late. But, I lucked out again: my luggage was actually sent on the original flight on my itinerary instead of the one for which I actually had a boarding pass. So, after the large initial delays, I got to Lincoln at the original time planned, with only two flights instead of three.

Of course, had I known all this in advance, I could have gotten about three hours more sleep.

One o'clock and all is well

I need to leave here in four hours. I should get some sleep. My flight is just way too early, but I wanted to make it to Lincoln at a reasonable time, and stopping in Spokane saved me quite a bit of money, so here I am. I'm gonna be sooooo tired.

I also just realized that I never technically secured a place to sleep for my first couple days, though I did get a few offers. Whoops.

Friday, November 18, 2005

1:30am is not part of today

I wish I could configure Blogger so that times between 12:00am and 5:00am to show up under the previous day's heading.

Z-order, shmee-order

Ever wanted to have a window that refused to come to the top, staying as close to the bottom of the z-order as possible? I know I hadn't. But, someone at work was asking how it could be done, so I tried it out. It's actually not too hard; it all works through Win32 APIs, so it would be a bit easier through C/C++, but it's not too bad in .NET. Here's all the code you need to add to a form:
Protected Overrides Sub WndProc(ByRef m As Message)
MyBase.WndProc(m)
If m.Msg = WM_WINDOWPOSCHANGING Then
Dim PositionInfo As WINDOWPOS = m.GetLParam(GetType(WINDOWPOS))
PositionInfo.hwndInsertAfter = HWND_BOTTOM
Marshal.StructureToPtr(PositionInfo, m.LParam, False)
m.Result = 0
End If
End Sub
I've omitted the Imports and the declarations of those Windows constants for brevity. If any of you cares how it works, here goes: Windows sends the message WM_WINDOWPOSCHANGING to every top-level window (i.e. a "regular window," not a button) when its position changes. By responding to this message, an application can do all sorts of wacky stuff, including retaining the window's aspect ration like QuickTime, or docking to other windows like Winamp, or mucking around with the z-order like me. In the LParam (parameter #2) of that function callback is a pointer to a WINDOWPOS structure. That structure contains an HWND (window handle) to the window that the current window should be inserted after. But, instead of passing in a real window handle, you can also pass in predefined special codes, such as HWND_BOTTOM, which means to insert it into the z-order after everything. You then return 0 to indicate that you handled the message.

Windows Forms (.NET) makes this a little harder because the WINDOWPOS structure accessible from code can move around or change at any time, so it has to be copied from the pointer from Windows, then modified, and then copied back onto the pointed memory address. I believe you can do this more efficiently (without having to copy stuff) from C# using an unsafe{} block and pointers, but it was just an exercise.

This post has to win some kind of award for most worthless ever.

No longer excruciatingly hot

The heating and cooling system in my apartment is now finally back to normal. Hooray. I don't know what they did. They left a card, but the handwriting is completely incomprehensible. I think I can make out the words "set" and "drain." I'm not sure why "drain" is there... maybe it has something to do with the drainage work they did recently, though that makes little sense to me. Why would a drain affect my thermostat? Is it on the heat pump outside? Oh well. The important thing is that it's now a reasonable ~70 degrees inside my apartment, instead of 80 in the cooler areas with all of the vents shut off, and some areas warmer than that.

The ambient temperature in my computer's case has dropped 9C since this morning, which is a pretty damned big jump. That's the only other thermometer that I have in the apartment, as far as I know.

One day

Tomorrow's my last day here for a while, not counting the few hours I'll be here on Saturday before I have to leave for my painfully early flight.

Here goes nothin'.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Superstar!

I've got an inflated sense of self-worth at the moment. Outlook 12 has been crashing on me for several months with disturbing frequency. So badly, in fact, that for the last month or so I've just been using Outlook Web Access (which is very nice, though version 12 is very beta-ey), and before that, I was using Outlook 2003 for a while. But, I solved the problem. I'm a superstar.

First, I started up my debug build of Outlook 12. Yeah, yeah, so, not something people normally get to do. It's ridiculously nonperformant. Anyway, as soon as it started, I attached Visual Studio to it. Then, right on cue, a few seconds after boot, it crashed. I switched to Visual Studio and perused the callstack, looking for variables that might contain useful information. And I found it: the string "http://blogs.msdn.com/rmauceri/rss.aspx"—an RSS feed I subscribe to. I saved the callstack, and let Outlook finish crashing, and then opened up Outlook Web Access. I deleted the Outlook folders for those three RSS feeds, and then started Outlook again. Tada!

Except not tada. The cached RSS items were gone, but the RSS feeds were not. They still tried to download, and still crashed Outlook. So, I opened up the local file in your Outlook profile that stores your feeds by searching for that string. I removed the offending feeds, saved, and restarted Outlook. Tada!

Still not tada. Outlook downloaded a fresh copy of the RSS feeds I subscribe to, replaced my local file, and crashed again. Bastards! So, I had another idea: I changed the NTFS permissions on the file (after fixing it again) so that I could read it but not write to it, and then started Outlook again. Tada!

This time, it was almost eerie. Outlook 12 was running for me again. No crashing, no weird behavior, no problems at all. It was beautiful, because Outlook 12 is really nice. It just happened to crash on some particularly scary RSS feed that I subscribe to. Armed with a callstack, a list of RSS feeds that crash the app, and a workaround, I sent email to the team responsible for the RSS features in Outlook 12. Hopefully the bug will be fixed by the time I get back from vacation.

And that's one of the things that's neat about working as a developer on Office.