Sunday, July 31, 2005

Degrees of anality

My 2650-track "main playlist" of my favorite songs has been completely alphabetized by hand, so 311 sorts right before Thunderball, and 10,000 Maniacs sorts right before Thievery Corporation. I wish there were a way to tell Winamp (or Windows Media Player, or any other software) that "311" should be sorted as if it were "Three Eleven," not just DIGIT THREE, DIGIT ONE, DIGIT ONE in Unicode. Windows is already smart enough to sort File31 before File101; ignoring spacing and punctuation and replacing numbers with words and allowing user-defined substitutions (like the example I just gave) would be wonderful. Sadly, I don't think that enough people besides me probably care about sort order for this to happen.

Immi post 3

Okay, so I've now listened to both Imogen Heap albums in their entirety, and now it's a little easier to see the difference. Different instruments and styles are indeed used to achieve the emotional effect desired... I just don't really have the words to explain it. The solo albums are more intense, and use more of an Alanis Morrissette set of instruments: guitars, synthesizers, and the like. The beats on the solo albums are a bit more complex and jarring, and the background music is a little pop-normal, with less of the ethereal quality that the Frou Frou tracks have. The Frou Frou CD has an Amélie cuteness that the solo albums don't.

Imogen Heap's second solo album, Speak for Yourself, is more like Frou Frou - Details than her first album, I Megaphone. Out of the three, I like Details the best, then Speak for Yourself, and then I Megaphone, but they're all very good.

Those of you who enjoyed Frou Frou's album—and I know there are quite a few of you—should check out Speak for Yourself. (I'm done talking about Imogen Heap now; time to find something else to write about.)

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Immi post 2

I'm trying to reconcile the differences between Imogen Heap's solo effort and the band Frou Frou, and it's hard, because they're really similar. About the best I can say is that Imogen's solo music is a bit more danceable and pop and violent, and Frou Frou is a little more ethereal and melodic and emotional and soft. But, I mean, I've seen bigger differences between the first and second albums of the same band before. Take any track from any of the albums she's in and swap it with one from a different album and probably nobody would notice.

I'm not complaining.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Imogen Heap

I now have the autograph of the singer from Frou Frou, Imogen Heap. Neat.

Imogen Heap, Speak for Yourself, copy #435, signed by the artist.

It's not even released in the US yet. I haven't listened to much yet, but so far it's ever-so-tasty.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Fanboy? Let me count the ways.

In the realm of computer software, I'm a Microsoft fanboy, a Westwood Studios fanboy, a New World Computing fanboy, and a Blizzard fanboy. Half of those companies (Westwood and NWC) don't exist anymore, as of the last couple years. I guess I need to find replacement fanboyism. I don't think that Valve and BioWare (is BW still around?) are quite there yet; Valve's not simply because they haven't released enough products.

I was reminded of this when I was directed to this series of posts on getting classic games to run in Virtual PC. I guess that someday I may have to use something like Virtual PC to get games to run. I can use DOSbox and VMSound to get a lot of old DOS games to work, and Virtual PC would probably work for Windows 9x-era games. I've feared for a long time that there would be a point when I could no longer play the classics if I wanted to. I think that the ones most in danger are the Command & Conquer games, which have a lot of compatibility problems with newer computers and Windows versions, and Planescape: Torment, which is finicky as well. Betrayal at Krondor and the old Might and Magic games will run fine in a DOS emulator, I'm sure. I'm pretty confident that X-COM and Heroes of Might and Magic will live on in some form for a while. In reality, I'll never actually play them again, though it kinda scares me that I couldn't easily do so even if I wanted to. Maybe when I retire I will embark on an epic, doomed-to-failure fan project called Betrayal at Krondor 2040.

Seriously, though... so many great old games on that page. I played Cosmo's Cosmic Adventure, StarCraft, Warlords II, Diablo I-II, SimCity 1-4, Civilization II, MinerVGA (well, that one's not that great), Alone in the Dark (innovative but I wasn't a fan), Raptor: Call of the Shadows, Duke Nukem I-II, Doom, X-COM, X-COM: Terror from the Deep, Dune 2000, Command & Conquer Gold, Command & Conquer: Red Alert, and Dune II. That's one page with a lot of memories...

Birkenstocks

It's a wonder that Birkenstocks are as popular as they (sort of) are. Someone somewhere must have told someone else that they were comfortable, so that person bought a pair. Then that person had to live with them for a week until they started to become sort of comfortable. Another week later they were fine. Then, they told someone else, who got a pair, and suffered through them for a week...

Today I am wearing my fourth (I think) pair of Birkenstocks in the past seven or so years for the first time. Maybe by next Friday they won't be so horrid.

It hurts

I am going to start sleeping. Soon. I must. I wake up and I'm about tired enough to go back to bed. I have to start getting more than five hours of sleep. I've been going on five hours for tooooooooooo long.

Blog title be damned, I must start sleeping.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Profilin'

AOL Instant Messenger's profile feature is pretty cool. It was my blog before I had a blog. It's something that could be even greater than it is now (and I'm not talking about those sites that let you generate a link with target=_self to load new content into the frame), and it's something that I miss when I use any messaging client that doesn't have it. AIM's profile feature has two things that I like better than blogs: (1) once it's updated, the old content is gone forever, and (2) it's private. I've never really understood the appeal of having everything archived. Sure, on the content consumption end of things, it's nice; you can go back and see what things looked like in the past, or you can find content from sites that no longer exist. But, from the content provider side, it's really unpleasant, at least for me. Internet caches take away a lot of the control that providers used to have. Phone conversations, passed notes, and in-person verbal exchanges aren't generally archived; something you say in them can only come back to haunt you if the other person remembers. But now everything's saved forever. Instead of people basing their opinions of Green Eclipse's software on our website and current versions, they can base their opinions on the whole history of our website and ancient, archaic versions of products. That I find quite unpleasant. In the same way, as open as I occasionally am on this blog, I do constrain myself much more than I normally would in an IM conversation or in person. Everyone can read my blog, and it's going to be cached forever somewhere. I dislike that.

Your AIM profile is a place to put more personal things that only your acquaintances will see; things that will go away as soon as you decide that they should. That's wonderful.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Dislikes

I don't like old-style numerals (1234567890), and I don't like typefaces where the ten digits are not equal width. One of the cool features of OpenType is that a typeface can include old-style numerals for people who like them, but modern-style numerals (1234567890) for normal people.

I wonder how long it will take before the new Vista fonts are leaked to a substantial number of XP and Mac machines. Most of them use old-style numerals; Microsoft's research said that they are easier to read, but I don't think they are at all. I think they're distracting and unpleasant.

Sexy lawn work

The "rad dyke plumber" thing from a couple days ago got me thinking. There's this cliché of lonely, wealthy, married women hiring attractive men to do housework and then having an affair with the poolboy or the kid who mows the lawn or whatever. Perhaps this is a service that should be offered to the general populace. Make it absolutely well known in the community that your lawnmowers and pool boys are guaranteed hot or your money back. I think that this would be a service primarily for women and gay older men, but it could also be for straight men and lesbians. I just have a feeling that there aren't as many attractive women who would be willing to do yard work for a company that's paying them just because they're hot. I'm not really sure whether the typical guy would be willing to pay for a hot girl to do lawn work... but I'm certain that there would be at least enough demand to cover supply. Seems like a good idea to me.

No, this post was not just an excuse to post a link to the music video for Satisfaction.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Random

I think a spider bit me on the nose while I was sleeping several nights ago. I have a large bump on my nose that was red and painful the morning that I first noticed it. Now it's mostly just weird and unattractive.

Reading or lack thereof

I don't really enjoy reading for long periods of time. The web has ruined me; now I can't stand to just read text for more than a few minutes at a time. Actually, I don't think it really was the web; I had started to dislike reading close to a decade ago. During the first semester of my freshman year in high school I read a lot of fiction, partially because it was required by my English class, and partially because I guess I didn't have anything better to do. I read Raymond E. Feist's Riftwar saga (Magician, Silverthorn, and A Darkness at Sethanon) and one or two other books of his, all of which I enjoyed a lot. But at some point not too long after I decided that I didn't like reading fiction enough to justify doing that over other things. A few years later I decided that it wasn't too worthwhile to read technical manuals and references, something I used to enjoy doing, just because technical content can become outdated so quickly. I also used to enjoy reading about computer games, but I stopped reading computer game magazines when I got more frequent internet access, because it's old news by the time it's in print. Anymore I don't even usually read about them online, because there are just too many things I'd rather do. In short... I just don't read anymore. I read tech news and humor and a few blogs of people I know or respect, a couple forums, and that's about it. I'm pretty happy with this arrangement.

But, that doesn't stop me from wishing I had enough time to justify reading more of certain things. I don't know; maybe I should take more time out to read, or I could do it while exercising. Maybe it would be calming. I don't know. Today arrived two more books that may very well sit around for a year or more, both by Joel Spolsky, a man whose writing I enjoy even if I often disagree with him. (Well, one is written by him, and one is a collection of works chosen by him.) I added it to the stack of books that I have around and haven't bothered cracking open yet. Then I realized that it might be interesting to list those.

Actually, I have read a couple books in the past year or so. I read Jon Stewart's America: The Book, which was quite excellent, though spotty in some parts. I also "read" several compilations of my favorite comics: Red Meat, More Red Meat, Red Meat Gold, Get Your War On, and Get Your War On II, all quite hilarious. But, those are the exceptions, not the rule. Here are the books I've picked up and haven't started:
  • Whole Body Massage. I took a non-credit massage class at UNL my senior year. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I found it pretty relaxing and entertaining. What I didn't take into the account is that pretty much everyone seems to be pretty uninterested in the idea of receiving a massage from someone they know, something that I probably should have been able to figure out on my own. Consequently, it's a skill that I've been able to practice exactly once. Anyway, I got this book because it was in the discount bin while I was waiting for a movie almost a year ago. If I never open it, I'm only out five bucks.
  • Bread: The Breads of the World and How to Bake Them at Home. I love bread. I love all sorts of bread. I love making it. I love eating it. I love just about everything about bread. If there's one food that I couldn't live without, it's bread. But, my mom got me a breadmaker a year and a half ago for Christmas, and while handmade bread is a bit better, it's not so much better that I normally want to spend 90 minutes working on something that takes 5 minutes with a machine. Maybe I'll get some use out of this one if I ever need to make bread for some occasion, because some of these are fairly elaborate. Anyway, this was the other book I got from that bargain bin. Not bad for a full-color coffee table book.
  • You Are Worthless: Depressing Nuggets of Wisdom Sure to Ruin Your Day. This book isn't even prose. It's just a bunch of Deep Thoughts-like tidbits such as this one: "When you're crossing the street, people in cars are making jokes about getting points for running you down." That one and about five others are the only ones I've read so far.
  • Joel on Software. This is Joel Spolsky's book that I mentioned earlier. Joel worked at Microsoft long ago, and now has his own company. I haven't read the book, but I did turn randomly to this quote which I find to be excellent: "Oh, and, by the way, if you think that it's unprofessional to be funny, then I'm sorry, but you just don't have a sense of humor. (Don't deny it. People without senses of humor always deny it. You can't fool me.) And if you work in a company where people will respect you less because your specs are breezy, funny, and enjoyable to read, then go find another company to work for, because life is just too damn short to spend your daylight hours in such a stern and miserable place."
  • The Best Software Writing I. This is similar in content to the previous book, but it's a collection of writings by people who aren't Joel Spolsky, assembled by someone who is.

Ouch

My left wrist started hurting this afternoon, just out of the blue. I don't know of anything I've done to cause it. Sometimes my wrists are a little sore just from spending so much of my time in front of a keyboard, but this is different. It's kind of annoying. If it doesn't clear up by Monday I guess I'll have to go visit a doctor or something and get some use out of this health plan.

And, before the first porn-related repetitive stress injury joke, I'll remind you all that I'm right-handed.

On the topic of wrists, I haven't worn a watch in a year, and I'm quite happy about it. Watches became fairly useless to me when I got a phone. My phone is basically always with me, and I never need to know the time so badly that I can't take two extra seconds to get it out of my pocket. I thought a while back that I would enjoy having a pocket watch instead of a wristwatch, but now I've basically got just that in my phone. Of course, it was an expensive pocket watch that I pay forty bucks a month to use...

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Gigabytes and gigabytes

I was over at a friend's house for the day, and the topic of DVRs came up. Then someone mentioned the Media Center.

Mike: The Media Center PC is just great. The DVR is way better than the Comcast one or TiVo, and it plays DVDs better than a DVD player. I've got all my music on there. Plus, it's got links right on the main screen for your porn, both pictures and videos.
Me: The problem with that is that they put links to the last three things you looked at right on the main screen when you arrow down to Pictures or Videos, so when Mom comes over...
Mike: Yeah, they didn't really think the privacy issue through.
Peter: Well, it could be good for other things.
Mike: Like what?
Peter: Well, vacation photos.
Mike: Yeah, 'cause I've got gigs and gigs of vacation photos.
Jack: I could really use a vacation.

Later, the privacy issue surfaces again.

Peter: So, I was looking through my son's closet, and I found a watermelon. A whole watermelon. I wonder what that's about.
Mike: Did it have syringe holes?
Peter: What? Why?
Mike: Vodka. You poke a few holes in a watermelon, and then slowly pump it with vodka. Let it sit for a day so the vodka distributes evenly, and then you've got a great dessert.
Peter: Oh. I don't think it's that. He knows I'm going to look through his closet, because last time I did I found pot in there. Why would he be hiding a watermelon?
Mike: I really bet it's full of vodka, or going to be.
Marc: Maybe it's a distraction. He had to take the watermelon out of the fridge to make room for the pot. Maybe it's in the vegetable crisper.
Me: You'd never find it there!
Jack: Well, I heard that when you're in Texas, you should watch out for watermelons with holes in the side. 'Cause.
Mike: No way; that's got to be an urban legend. Watermelons are abrasive.
Jack: Maybe they're softer in Texas.
Peter: Alright, alright...

(Conversations to the best of my recollection...)

Rad

I saw the back page of the Seattle Weekly newspaper today, which contains various random unclassified ads. One in particular stood out: "RAD DYKE PLUMBER," with a first name and a phone number. What an interesting set of things to advertise.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Quiet; I wonder a lot of things

I wonder what percentage of pop-culture references to Bill Cosby since the year 2000 have included the phrase "Jell-O Pudding Pops." I believe that this number must be close to 95%.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Compiler errors

Oh yeah, and for the record, either the Visual Studio 2005 beta 2 ASP.NET project converter is really bad, or I was unknowingly doing something totally bizarre with my web project, because after converting I got about twenty compile errors, some of which were due to files being placed in impossibly wrong locations in the new website. (At least the ASP.NET 2.0 beta 2 runtime had no problem figuring out my old project.) Those are on top of the tons of compile errors I got when trying to split my old web project into a web project and a standalone server DLL. This was the default in older versions of Visual Studio, and something that I really liked. It wouldn't be hard at all to use that method in Visual Studio 2005 for a brand new project, but converting an old project that worked like that to a pair of projects that work like that in Visual Studio 2005 is surprisingly difficult.

I understand that the Visual Web Developer guys wanted to reduce complexity because of complaints from some developers that the model of having a website and a separate DLL was confusing, but writing a converter that takes a complex project and mashes it into a simplified system is just recipe for confusion.

Fickle

I hate how fickle and twiddly video card drivers are. It seems that every time I upgrade it fixes one problem and introduces another. I guess you therefore shouldn't ever upgrade when nothing's wrong, because when I upgraded my ATI drivers I lost the ability to play DVDs and Windows Media files properly, though oddly enough MPEG and DVR files were fine. So, back to the old ones.

It really bothers me how often random problems with computers can be fixed by new video and sound card drivers.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Winamp

Winamp's still my music player of choice. I like the interface a lot better than iTunes or Windows Media Player (based on the default skins of each, which tend to be my favorites anyway). But, wow, it's had quite a few security vulnerabilities recently. This latest one requires an MP3 with an extremely-long ID3v2 tag, which means I'm fine, since I roll my own MP3s. A day may come when I switch to a different media player just because AOL decides it's no longer worthwhile producing updates to an outdated free product. I guess I'll be kind of like those people still using Windows 98, except Windows 98 cost a bit more than nothing...

Monday, July 18, 2005

Gag gifts for a certain class of nerd

Somebody should manufacture and sell bags of replacement Shift keys. Whenever you come across someone who needs to learn to use one, you could send it to them through postal or interoffice mail, along with a little card explaining its usage.

Just remember... you read it here first. If someone makes money on this, I'm taking half. (I also claim rights to this idea for the F1 key, for people who ask questions that are clearly answered in the first page of help results.)

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Sometimes good things are bad

If there were a web-based interface for World of Warcraft's auction system, life as I know it would end. It would be Armageddon. There could even be SOAP web services. You could set up little taskbar tray apps that would pop up toast whenever you're outbid on that Arcanite Bar or that Cord of Elements.

Resurrection of Evil

I just finished Resurrection of Evil, the expansion pack to Doom 3. I found it pretty entertaining, but not in the same way as the original Doom 3. Doom 3 was really scary. The expansion just really wasn't. It used a lot of graphics and sounds from the original game, and added more along the same lines, but it just wasn't scary. I don't think it's a problem of being "more of the same," because Doom 3 is pretty long, and by the end, it's still scary. I think it's more that Nerve (the company that made the expansion) just expected that if they made more levels for Doom 3, they'd be scary too. I don't know... the expansion levels just weren't as suspenseful, as creepy, or as unnerving as the original Doom 3 missions. It's still a good game (extremely hard in many parts), but it didn't have the same magic for me that the original did.

There were a couple bugs, too... in one level you have to pace yourself and kill zombies at a particular interval so you can take their life support packs. It's similar to the outdoor sections where you have to periodically pick up air tanks, except this was prolonged and difficult, including a miniboss battle. The bug is that if your life support runs out for even a second, and then you pick up a new pack, you get stuck at something like -39 points of life support, so you eventually suffocate. You have to make sure that you pick up another tank before you hit 0. I couldn't ever manage it, so I had to switch on god mode for that part. The final battle was just too hard also, so I turned on god mode for that too. Maybe I should have picked a lower difficulty level. Anyway... if you thought that the original was too hard, then don't bother with the expansion, or pick an easier difficulty level.

The new content is pretty cool. Despite what you might have heard, the bugged section of the game I mentioned earlier is the only part where you get a forehead-mounted flashlight. With that exception, it's just like the original, which will be bad for most of you, but I rather liked having to switch between flashlight and weapon. The double-barreled shotgun is incredibly powerful, but you only get one shot every few seconds, so make sure you aim well. The Artifact, though, is the focus of the expansion. Since there's no Soulcube (or "Time Cube," as I preferred to call it) in the expansion, you get your evil alien technology in the form of this pulsating heart. You can hold it out as you run over human corpses and it will steal their souls, disintegrating the body in the process. You can expend a soul to activate it. Each time you complete a boss battle you get a new power for the artifact. What I didn't know from the reviews is that you get all of the powers at once when you activate it. So, if you've ever thought to yourself, "man, I wish this game had a weapon that would give me super speed, slow time like in Max Payne, quadruple (!) my damage, and make me invulnerable, all at once," then Resurrection of Evil is your game. The fact that the game is still hard even with the Artifact is noteworthy. In retrospect, I probably could have used the Artifact more than I did, because there are souls everywhere with which to replenish it. The designers were considerate enough to include piles of human corpses around the arena for all of the boss battles, so you can use the Artifact pretty much as much as you want. Except... the last one. I only found one or two corpses for the final battle versus (it would only be a spoiler if you never finished the original) the Betruger-dragon-thingy, which is why it was so hard.

The gravity gun (yes, it has a gravity gun) is interesting. In some ways it's easier to use than the one in Half-Life 2, and in others, it's more difficult. One thing's for certain, though; the Doom 3 version looks much, much cooler. It's necessary for one of the boss battles. Some of the demons' own projectiles do a ton of damage when thrown back at them, so it's the best way to get rid of a cacodemon (the big floating heads that spew plasma, not the little floating heads that charge you). You can also pick up the little floating heads and throw them into the ground, pick up spiders and throw them at other spiders, and pick up babies and throw them across the room.

If you loved Doom 3 as much as I did, you'll probably still like Resurrection of Evil quite a bit. I enjoyed myself. But, still, it's kind of annoying how much better the original was. I think that what I think of the expansion is similar to what other people thought of the original: just another fast-paced action game with dark corridors and loud noises and blinking lights. But, hey, if it's going to be that, at least it's a fun one.


Oh yeah, and there aren't very many locker codes in this one either.

Battlestar Galactica is back too

Oh yeah, and in case you inferred it, let me confirm your inferences by officially stating for the record that I am quite happy that Battlestar Galactica season 2 has started. Good stuff so far.

Like just about any red-blooded guy, I like explosions. I like damage. I like things flying around and smashing into each other. Battlestar Galactica promises a little bit of this each episode. Plus, you know, the plot is really interesting.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

A bridge too hard

I want to learn to bridge cards. As often as I find myself shuffling cards, it would be a worthwhile skill, I think. Just think of the time savings I'd have enjoyed if I'd learned how to bridge way back when I played Magic: The Gathering.

Sneaker Pimps

Sneaker Pimps, one of my favorite bands, has the entire instrumental version of their great album Splinter for free download on their website. They've also got four alternate versions of Loretta Young Silks, my favorite song of theirs (the standard English version is still the best), and some other random tracks on their The Mix You Miss site.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Money for nothing and your Crusader for free

Sometime in the future Blizzard's going to be getting money from me for doing next to nothing. Even once I've moved on and don't really play much WoW anymore, I'm still going to be paying them money to keep my characters alive and play every once in a while. I'll be paying the same amount I am now. That's almost unsettling.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

1

Somehow I don't really feel like I get enough time to myself anymore, which is kind of weird, seeing as I live alone. I think it has something to do with the fact that I'm constantly interacting with people at work, and I have an officemate in the same office as me. School was more of a one-way thing... I didn't have to talk to anyone during classes, though normally there was someone I knew and I could. And, despite sometimes feeling like I don't have enough me-time, it still occasionally seems like it would be fun to have a roommate. But not for very long. At Chez Spomer, pants are optional, and on Saturday, showers are optional before dinner.

The loneliest kilocalorie

I bet that the calorie in Pepsi One is intentionally added just to create the perception that the product tastes better because it has more caloriest than Diet Pepsi, but not enough for it to be bad for you. This seems quite likely.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Wonderfalls is over

I stayed up until just now watching the last three episodes of Wonderfalls (couldn't help myself), and I have to say, it was an awesome series. My DVD purchases should all be so good. It's hilarious, quirky, cute, interesting, and not at all run-of-the-mill. Thanks to everyone who suggested it to me. Those were a great nine and a half hours.

I knew that there was no more Wonderfalls coming before I started. I didn't expect to like the show so much. Maybe, just maybe, if there were any more episodes, the show would have started to go downhill, and thus by ending after a half-length season, it ended in the perfect place: on a very high note. Sorry, I'm not good with comforting optimism.

Sometimes I need to make a conscious effort to not become a fanboy.

Monday, July 11, 2005

SLEEP

You know, I whine about not getting enough sleep, and I never do anything about it. You'd think I'd learn. Well, some of you might.

Ipecac

Tonight's Family Guy and the ipecac? So awesome. My upstairs neighbors had already started having pre-sleep sex when I was watching it, so I was trying my best not to burst out in raucous laughter, but it was really hard.

I felt like that once, the point where I no longer had the will to not groan. I wasn't drinking ipecac at the time, though.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

I Wonder Why the Wonderfalls

It's kinda funny when you hear the full version of a TV show's theme song for the first time (if the show's theme has a full version). The part after the first minute often just sucks so, so much. Most recent case in point is I Wonder Why the Wonderfalls, the Wonderfalls theme song. It's on the DVD. Basically every part of the song that isn't exactly like the few seconds that they use in the show's opening credits is just painful. And, as much as people complained about the Enterprise theme song—which I grew to accept, until they changed it in the fourth season and made it even worse—the full song is just an assault on your senses.

Yet another post about music I like

Back in February of 2004, I sat down, went through my entire music collection, and narrowed it down to lists of my top 10, 25, 50, and 100 tracks. I've been meaning to update it for quite some time, and I've finally finished the 2005 versions of the lists. I decided that I could no longer pretend to pick my top 10 songs so I got rid of that list, and the 50 list wasn't very useful so I got rid of that list too. So here's what I ended up with for my top 25, with the new additions for this year in bold:

Balligomingo - Privilege
Basement Jaxx and Lisa Kekaula - Good Luck
Bubba Sparxxx - Deliverance
Enigma - Gravity of Love
Enya - Anywhere Is
E.S. Posthumus - Ebla
Frou Frou - Breathe In
Gorillaz and De La Soul - Feel Good Inc.
Hooverphonic - Human Interest
Jerry Goldsmith - Ba'ku Village
Jurassic 5 and Nelly Furtado - Thin Line
Kelli Ali - Angel in L.A.
Linkin Park - Somewhere I Belong
Madonna - Nothing Fails
Maroon 5 - Harder to Breathe
Michelle Branch - 'Til I Get Over You
Nelly Furtado and the Kronos Quartet - One-Trick Pony
Newsboys - Million Pieces (Kissin' Your Cares Goodbye)
Olive - Smile
The Postal Service - Nothing Better
The Roots and Cody ChesnuTT - The Seed 2.0
Sneaker Pimps - Loretta Young Silks
Snow Patrol - Run
Vanessa Carlton - Paradise
Zack Hexum - How Many Times

I imposed a maximum of one song per artist on my top 25 list, and three per artist on my top 100 list. (Nelly Furtado broke the rules as a guest artist on a Jurassic 5 album.) I really can't say enough about those tracks; I've listened to them so many times. I'd recommend basically all of them to just about anyone. They're my desert island songs, my time capsule songs, and my weld-the-CD-player-shut songs. Some of them (but definitely not all of them) I can sing in their entirety (and often have on the way to/from work).

As I was doing this I came across a few other interesting things. First, there are some artists who barely show up on my lists at all despite being some of my favorites. Included in this list are Amon Tobin and 311. In the case of Amon Tobin, I think it's because his work is all so strong but also blends together so well, and it's hard to pick out single tracks that I like better than others. I'd need a whole Amon Tobin section if I'm going to include much of his work at all. There's also 311, which is one of several groups whose work I really enjoy, but none of it quite made it onto my top 25 list.

Soundtrack artists had a tough time getting on even the 100 list despite how much I love soundtracks; the list includes exactly one from Hans Zimmer (Now We Are Free from Gladiator), Jeremy Soule (Easthaven in Peace from Icewind Dale), Jerry Goldsmith (Ba'ku Village from Insurrection), John Williams (Anakin's Betrayal from Revenge of the Sith), Matt Uelmen (Tristram from Diablo), and Yann Tiersen (La valse d'Amélie from Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain). Brian Tyler had two because they're so singleworthy, even though I don't think his work is quite on par with those others (House Atreides and Inama Nushif from Children of Dune). Howard Shore had two from The Two Towers (The Riders of Rohan and Evenstar from The Two Towers), but it was really hard to pick those; the LOTR soundtrack is too rich and intertwined to pull out single threads. Finally, Rob King got two spots as well (the theme from Armageddon's Blade and The Academy of Honor from Heroes of Might and Magic IV), partially because his work is so incredibly memorable for me, having played the Might and Magic games for far more time than I've spent watching any movie or series of movies. Out of all those, though, the only one that made it into my top 25 is Ba'ku Village from Insurrection, a simple song that makes me happy and sad all at once. It beat out songs that probably deserved more to be in the more exclusive list, but I just didn't have the heart to demote it.

Maybe I should have an emergency list of five desert-island albums. I should probably disqualify greatest hits albums, though. It would look something like this, I think: A Day Without Rain by Enya (2000), Final Straw by Snow Patrol (2003), Bloodsport by Sneaker Pimps (2002), The Two Towers by Howard Shore (2002), and Hooverphonic Presents Jackie Cane by Hooverphonic (2002). 2002 was clearly quite the year for music. Like most of the music I like, all of those are recent. Besides classical music and soundtracks, I really don't know of that many older albums that I particularly like. Enya's been good since 1981, Newsboys have been good since 1992; basically all of my other albums have been released in the past ten years. I haven't really found a whole lot that I like that was older besides scattered singles (like, say, Every Breath You Take by The Police, and what have you).

I find this pretty interesting. Basically from as far back as I remember until the mid-90s (end of middle school), I didn't like much in the way of popular music. There wasn't a whole lot in the way of any music that I liked, actually. When I was little I heard a lot of 80s rock music from my parents and a lot of Christian sing-along tapes that my mom would buy for me, but I hadn't really heard enough types of music to really know what I liked. Before high school, I only had a few CDs and tapes. So, for the past year or two I've been wondering: am I just unaware of music that I would like from before the mid-90s, or did the styles of music that I generally like not really exist until then? There's one thing that's for certain, though; a strong part of whether or not I like music depends on its production. A well-produced, quality recording will always rate higher with me than something equivalent that was produced in a basement. It pervades the entire piece, making everything sound much more appealing to me. So, the lower production and recording technology that was available before that time period undoubtedly has something to do with why I rarely find music from earlier time periods that I enjoy.


Those 1,000 words just flew by, though in reality I apparently spent fifty minutes on this post, and much, much more than that making my top 25 and 100 lists.

Thursday, July 7, 2005

Subtle difference

(Now-defunct) Westwood games were designed to make people want to play them and to make people have a good, often silly time while doing so. Blizzard games seem designed to make you not want to not play. Starcraft, Diablo II, World of Warcraft... one of the greatest things that they have in common is that they have their own extremely obsessive cultures. (They're also, you know, very well-designed games.) They're the type of games that can cause people to die of exhaustion in an internet café. I can imagine this scenario in which the Westwood employee goes home happy because a gamer had a good time with their product, and the Blizzard employee goes home happy because a gamer had such a good time with their product that they will call in sick tomorrow so that they can play more.

That's all imagination, but it almost seems plausible. World of Warcraft just feels like it's a game that demands more and more of you. It's designed to be addictive. That's not to say that there aren't a lot of addictive games... but Blizzard knows better than anyone how to craft games that are addictive right from the drawing board, rather than just creating something that it's so fun that you don't want to stop playing. It's now clear to me that they have subversive plans of worldwide mind control.

Wednesday, July 6, 2005

The Story So Far

Today I was feeling musical, so I listened to two new CDs: The Story So Far by Zack Hexum and Requiem for My Friend by Zbigniew Preisner. (Don't worry; I still have 30 unlistened CDs queued up for more rainy or musical days.) I've listened to each a couple times now, roughly, and I'm glad I picked both of them up.

I don't have a lot to say about Requiem, but it's good. It's haunting, beautiful, entrancing, and emotional. It's somewhat minimalist modern instrumental music; honestly, I thought that parts could have used a larger orchestra and more parts. When it was totally instrumental, its smallness has an interesting and kinda creepy charm that worked quite well. I didn't like this minimalism when placed next to a choir. I generally enjoy choral works, though there are some misses (ahem, contemporary gospel, madrigals). The choral portions of Requiem were disturbing and sad, but they just seemed too weird without more accompaniment. Anyway, there's not much more I can say. It's basically a funeral soundtrack, which is not something I'm always in the mood to hear. Favorite tracks: Meeting (nervous and depressing), Discovering the World (emotional and depressing), and Love (creepy and depressing), the opening three tracks of the second movement, Life. It may shock one or two of you to hear me say that I loved the saxophone in those tracks.

The Story So Far was a welcome surprise. Zack Hexum is the little brother of 311's lead singer Nick. The style is very different, though... somewhere around pop-rock with a little country sprinkled in. It's all very radio-friendly, but it also just has a feeling of genuineness that I don't associate with a lot of popular music. Just about every song on this CD could be a single, which I don't mean as an insult. The guy knows what he's doing, and he's very good at it. The band that it reminded me most of was Maroon 5, though this is a bit calmer and relaxed. Favorite tracks: Met a Girl like You Once (warm and heartfelt), How Many Times (catchy and smile-inducing), and Princess of Darkness (funky and fun).

Potentially imaginary transgression

I was thinking today. (Seriously!) I think... now, I have no factual basis for this, but I think... that a friend of mine lied to me about something long ago. A particular something. This something is nothing, really. It's not all that significant. They might not even remember it. But... I think they lied about it. It was a friendly lie, not malicious, not really hurting anyone; a lie to be nice to me that I just assumed as fact. I obsess about a lot of things, and one particular statement that this person said has bounced around in my mind for quite some time. I think that the net change of my opinion of this person wouldn't even change if it were true; there are so many ways that I'd see this person in a new light if they did in fact lie about this one little minor thing. It's kind of funny.

I'm not going to tell you who it is, because several of you know this person. I'm not going to tell you what it was, because it may not be true. But it wasn't anything big. It was a "they're out of corn dogs" kind of lie, not an "I'm actually a transvestite; now on to our honeymoon" kind of lie. It just makes a few things more interesting, so I think I'm going to believe that it was untruthful until I find new evidence saying otherwise. Otherwise the lack of closure may drive me further into madness.

Fireworks

Trying out Blogger's image hosting functionality with a couple pictures I took of the fireworks Monday.

Tuesday, July 5, 2005

Dreaming

I occasionally get requests for more dream reports, and last night's were the last ones I've remembered in a while, so here we go. First dream:

In the first dream, I was walking in a parking lot when a woman backed her car into me. I was startled but not really hurt, so we didn't exchange insurance information or anything like that. An hour or so later, a policeman showed up at my door to inform me that I should have reported the event, and that since I was involved in a vehicular accident, there were some safety videos I was required to watch. I explained that I wasn't driving—that I was the one who was hit—but he said it didn't matter; both parties had to watch the videos. There were something like fifteen of them, ranging from 15 minutes to 2 and a half hours apiece, totalling nine hours. Well, I would have none of this.

I asked him, "if I show you my keychain to prove that I don't have a car, will you just forget about this?" He thought about it for a while, and finallly said, "okay, well, fine; I won't make you watch the first one." The first one was 30 minutes; that's still 510 minutes of safety videos to watch. So, I spent basically the rest of the day trying to not have to watch these videos. By the time I gave up it was late into the night—about 3:00 or so. My mom and brother (I was living at home) returned from their trip, and I realized that I would have been done by now had I just watched the safety videos. (Maybe this is a parable.) But, I kept going... I had another plan to get out of watching them, so I headed back to the police station, which was conveniently located next door in this dream. When I arrived there, the officer I had been talking to had to leave because of a disturbance. Which ties me into dream #2...

In dream #2, I was at a friend's house when someone (Tracie Thoms—Mahandra from Wonderfalls, oddly enough) noticed that the host's toe was blue. He said that it had felt numb, so we took him to the hospital. Once at the hospital (a very nice-looking hospital with marble walls, lots of fountains, courtyard gardens...), the perspective changed to that man's eyes, and the doctor told him/me that it was lucky that I got there in time; it would have been inoperable in an hour. So, the doctor started the procedure, when the power cut out. The doctors got word that there was some Middle-Eastern madman in the hospital with his German (sometimes he was French) companion and a host of guards. They hastily finished the procedure, bandaged my toe up, and then escaped down the stairway.

Not knowing where to go and not being able to get there very quickly, I hid in a bathroom located off of the stairway. The "bad people" were there soon enough, and the man in charge barked, "break down the door!" I quickly made grunting sounds and exaggeratedly played with the toilet paper roll, which was convincing enough to the German man, who replied, "no, sheeee isss... not here."

Once I heard them leaving, I ran down the stairway; I was on the top floor, so I knew that they came from below. Unfortunately, I got down to the next floor, and they saw me. They seemed upset that I was avoiding them, and chased after me, cornering me in the stairwell. I was worried for a bit; they started asking me where the manager was. I didn't have any idea; I was just a patient. As they closed in on me, the manager appeared—an older woman with red hair and a commanding but friendly presence. (I've seen her in a movie or a TV show, but I can't recall what.) They turned their attention to her, and she whispered "go!" to me, so I did, at which point the dream shifted to third person.

The conversation between the Middle-Eastern man and the manager went something like this:
Man: Woman have no place in a position of authority. Woman are immoral, and consequently they make immoral decisions.
Woman: How dare you call me immoral, after breaking into my hospital with your guards and tormenting my patients.
Man: I can prove it to you. Let us say that I arrived here as a patient unconscious. Would you treat me?
Woman: If you needed treatment.
Man: But how would you know if I wanted treatment?
Woman: We make the judgment whether or not to treat you based on your condition.
Man: But you have no right to make that judgment! See? I tell you; woman have no place with authority.

With that, they captured her. The dream cut to her tied down to an operating table, with only the German/French doctor in the room. He said, "now, I shine!" and took a large knife (looked like a shaving knife, actually) from the tray. He playfully made several cuts on her foot as she screamed and struggled to move. Then he started carving her foot gruesomely, cutting out chunks of it. And that's when it was time for the dream to end, and my alarm clock went off.

Monday, July 4, 2005

Wonderful

I've watched a few episodes of Wonderfalls, which comes recommended to me by Amazon.com and several of my readers, and I'm liking it so far. Someone likened it to Amélie: the TV show, and I can definitely see how. It's got a lot of the same funny quirkiness, but a bit darker and more sarcastic, which is nice, of course. Hey, who doesn't want to get in the car with Dad, buckle up, and then hear him say, "hey, did you know that our basic cable comes with lesbian porn?"

I guess I can kinda see why it didn't do well on TV. I mean, it was on Fox, for one. And, well, maybe that's the main problem. It's kind of like Early Edition, a show that I didn't think was too bad, though it was kind of bland at times. The difference is that Wonderfalls isn't family-friendly and sanitized like Early Edition was. The similarities are there: a kinda cutesy comedy where a normal person gains the ability to help others through a bizarre means (getting tomorrow's newspaper today vs. being spoken to by inanimate objects). It just doesn't seem like it really fits in with Fox, but I can't really see that it fits much better with any of the other networks. It actually strikes me as something that would fit on UPN, which is about as good of a kiss of death as any.

Previews of shows never really entice me unless I'm already watching the show. I still remember the previews for Wonderfalls and House, and neither really compelled me to watch. It seems like maybe it would be more effective if they would just show a single 15-second clip of the show, edited for length, instead of ten 1.5-second clips like you usually see. Or, maybe they could have just showed a 1.5-second clip of the phrase "lesbian porn" and then show the Wonderfalls logo.

I wanna blow stuff up

The Fourth just isn't as exciting up here. I want to blow stuff up. No fireworks allowed in town, though.

Sunday, July 3, 2005

We will, we will dock you

Dear Adobe,

You think that if I sent you a screenshot of Visual Studio or CorelDraw that you'd be able to figure out what docking windows and real toolbars are, or should I include a tutorial? Just because Photoshop was big on the Mac doesn't mean you have to pretend Windows is Mac OS and that it's magically acceptable for you not to have those things. People spend their entire day in your software; it'd be really neat if you would make their day suck less, and your product would be much more pleasant to use.

No need to thank me.

Love,
Travis

Life would have been different

The first week of my internship on the FrontPage team two years ago, in my introductory email to the team, I mentioned that I enjoyed board games, which prompted someone on the team to mention the Thursday Night Board Gamers that met weekly (he wasn't even a part of it; he just knew they existed). Were it not for that, my life would have been very different. I'd no longer have a weekly social activity, I wouldn't have met a very significant portion of my non-coworker friends, I wouldn't have gotten to play a ton of interesting games, and I'd no longer be playing World of Warcraft. Basically, I don't know what my life would be like outside of work right now if it weren't for him telling me about Thursdays.

Saturday, July 2, 2005

I'll get right on that

In the mail today I received my voter registration card from when I got my driver's license and registered to vote more than a year ago. That's a slight delay. Not only do I have to cut the thing out of the cardstock myself, but even if I actually wanted to carry around the card just in case I need to know my school district in a flash, the card isn't even quite a normal wallet-sized card.

I'd ask what the point is, but I know already; it allows people with no driver's license or photo ID to still be able to vote, since it counts as proof of identification. Just something else to add to my stack of cards I have no use for, I guess. The Russ's Market Privilege Plus Platinum cards will keep it company.

Friday, July 1, 2005

All your blog are belong to us

I drew the robot thing that I'm using as my new blog image last night in Acrylic. It's still a pretty cool product... just not one that I have a lot of use for. I can't draw much of anything. I can draw and shade geometric shapes, and that's pretty much it. It still may be worthwhile trying Acrylic out for some what I currently use CorelDraw for; vector-based icons and small pictures. But, it's certainly nothing to make me put away CorelDraw or Photoshop.

It would help a lot of what you were drawing rendered as you draw it. Currently, everything you draw exists as a grey texture until you lift the pen, which is fine for simple strokes, but makes it hard to know what you're actually doing when you're trying to shade an area in.