Thursday, September 29, 2005

Random thought of the day

I like my chairs like I like my women: with arms.

Write this one down

Let it be known that I was in bed by 11:55 last night. I seriously don't remember the last time that happened. It might not have been this year.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Beauty



Firefly

Seeing as Serenity is coming out this Friday, I figured I should be prepared in case I see it, so last Saturday I set basically the entire series of Firefly (the show upon which Serenity is based, in case you are reading this and not a nerd) to record during Sci-Fi's marathon yesterday. I watched the pilot and the following two episodes tonight, and it's not bad. The whole "western in space" thing isn't really my deal, but it could be a lot worse. I'd kind of put it in the same pigeonhole as House and American Dad; it's entertaining, but I wouldn't feel obligated to cry if I missed an episode. My interest is piqued enough to want to see the movie now, which I guess was really the point of Sci-Fi doing the marathon in the first place. Those crafty bastards.

The Chronicles of Travis' Vacation, days 4 and 5

(Day 4 was yesterday, and day 5 is today.)

Not a lot happened yesterday. Got a haircut, patronized various establishments that sell consumer goods, and so forth. I planned my trip for today. There was, of course, World of Warcraft in the evening. Then, after that, I sent into work to print out some maps, when I came across a startling discovery:

Olympic National Park is very, very far away. Much further than I thought.

Apparently I grossly miscalculated how long it was going to take to get to get there. Based on the crude scale at the bottom of the MapPoint window, I figured an hour. Wrong; try again. Three hours. I wanted to get there one hour before sunrise so I could find a good spot. That means that I would have to leave home at three in the morning. It was one when Marc and I finished dispatching those ghouls in Raven Hill Cemetary, and two by the time I had maps printed. That gave me a solid 30-45 minutes to sleep.

So, that didn't happen. I skipped the whole "being in a national park before sunrise" bit and left home at 10 instead of 3. All in all, I spent six hours driving and three hours walking around the Bloedel Reserve. Neat place; it would have been far more interesting in spring, though. Though many of the leaves in this part of the state have already turned, not so closer to the Pacific coast, it seems. Was it worth my ten bucks? Yeah, sure. Was it worth ten bucks, six hours of driving, thirty bucks worth of rental car, and half a tank of gas? Absolutely not.

I really hate traveling. I don't mind periodic short trips, and Segwaying to and from work for eight minutes each way each weekday is still a pleasure. But it still always feels like a waste of time. I could have had way more fun in nine hours than I did poking around a nature reserve. I could have gone to a store, bought a game, played it for eight and a half hours, and thrown it away. I could have rented five movies... I've got a huge list of movies that I never managed to see but would still like to. Now that I've gotten myself into a lifestyle where I don't have to travel anywhere, it's even harder to accept all that wasted time and money. When I do need to go somewhere, there's always the Segway, the bus, and my legs.

I sort of feel like I "should" do things that take place outside of a 10-mile radius from my home more often, but it's usually disappointing. Anyway, Bloedel was cool, and I may go back again some Spring, but probably not alone, and I'll probably take the bus, a ferry, and a taxi next time, which combined would be less expensive than just the fuel I expended today.

So, anyway, that's done. I had originally planned on getting those sunrise photos tomorrow, but I'm way too tired. I'm more exhausted than I normally am even during the week. I had really thought that I was going to catch up on my sleep, but I've been getting even less than normal. I need to correct this; I'm walking around with a permanent headache and eye-ache, always yawning, and probably more irritable than usual.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Stewie

So, the Family Guy movie was decent. Not as awesome as I had hoped. I thought it was kind of amusing that it's advertised as "uncensored," yet is just chock-full of bleeps, and could have easily been a chain of episodes on TV. According to the case the running time is 88 minutes; exactly the length of four episodes. I really don't feel that there were four episodes' worth of laughs in there. Somewhere between 2.0 and 3.0 on the roflometer.

Anyway, still definitely worth a watch. Lots of good stuff. I just hoped for more.

Goo Gone

I tend to have extremely low expectations for consumer products. I don't know if it's past experience or just general cynicism or both, but I usually don't really expect decent results from much of anything. With that attitude, though, I'm always very pleasantly shocked when something with fairly ridiculous claims actually does what it says it does, and well. Goo Gone is one of those products. It just works so well at precisely what it says it does: effortlessly removing adhesives and sticky stains. It's something that's so difficult and tedious that you just don't expect a product to make it so easy. If this stuff really worked, why wouldn't I have heard of it before a couple years ago? Why isn't it advertised on TV?

Goo Gone is one of those products. Swiffer is another product I expected to suck; now I'm attached to both the wet and the dry cleaning cloths, though not a huge fan of the mop.

As you may expect, I've been listening to music

I've had a chance to listen to quite a bit of music so far on my vacation. Recently, it's been:

Robyn Miller—Myst (soundtrack). I never played Myst beyond the first couple hours (demo), though I played the sequel, Riven. It's nice background music. It works well enough for playing during World of Warcraft; a couple weeks ago, I finally decided that nine months of listening to the in-box music was a little crazy, and started using Winamp during the game. The pause/forward/back buttons on my keyboard have been extremely helpful. Anyway, the CD is fine; nothing essential, but fine.

Adema—Planets. Adema lost their lead singer after their last album, so this is their first CD with the new guy. It's awful. The old guy had an interesting, quirky voice, the songs were often heartfelt, and it was melodic, for hard rock. The new guy has a super-generic hard rock voice (wraaaaahhh! I'm extreme!), and it's all just horribly bland. Definitely not worth the price of admission, which was admittedly only ten bucks.

Kanye West—Late Registration. Luckily, this one was good. Like any other rap album anymore, it's chock-full of guest stars, but at least that helps to keep up the pleasant variety between the tracks. There are two versions of Diamonds from Sierra Leone (the bonus track that doesn't include Jay-Z is much better), still my favorite track on the CD after hearing the rest. Addiction is sexy. Gone (with Consequence and Cam'Ron) is definitely a close #2 to Diamonds, though, not just because it's mostly strings in the background. The video for Gold Digger with Jamie Foxx also should win some sort of award for most creative censorship of the N-word despite it being an important part of the rhyme of the original song: they rhyme it with the word "broke," and it actually works.


I've still got 22 albums queued up to listen to (not all this week, of course); I love it. Up next are Bond Remixed (Bond, not James Bond), The Cosmic Game by Thievery Corporation, and Fisherman's Woman by Emiliana Torrini.

/lol

In one of our crushing defeats in Arathi Basin tonight, one of the Alliance priests had a very entertaining macro. I (Vger) was leading an assault on the lumber mill, when suddenly I found myself under the mind control of said priest. Then, that priest emoted...

Goralfas doesn't think that Vger can fly. :(

...and then I found myself turning and jumping off the cliff to my death.

The Chronicles of Travis' Vacation, day 3

Today was fun and unexpected. I ended up spending four or five hours with Louise (the coworker's wife mentioned in yesterday's plot synopsis), most of which was just talking. It's been a while since I've gotten to just sit down and have conversations with people that don't involve work, and now it's happened two days in a row.

While she was over at the apartment the Heroes card game arrived, the opening of which occupied my time from when she left and a late dinner. I assembled six balanced decks from my massive stacks of cards. I'm disappointed that out of 720 cards, I didn't get any druids or mages—no heroes that start with nature magic or order magic. Yes, I'm sure you're riveted. Anyway, it looks like it's going to be fun, but I can't tell just yet how much number-crunching is going to be involved. It doesn't look like it will be too bad. If I have time tomorrow, I'm going to play it out for a couple turns to make sure that I get the rules down before I teach it to people, hopefully on Thursday.

I'm going to go to bed a little early tonight because tomorrow has much for me to do. If everything goes as planned, I've got to get a haircut, get the Family Guy movie, schedule the rest of the week, plan my trip to the nature reserve tomorrow, and play a few hours of Warcraft with Marc. Hopefully watching the Family Guy movie comes in somewhere in there too.

Time is flying. I'm having fun, and it's relaxing, but time is ticking. I don't get to do this again for a while. I'm already trying to decide which possible vacation ideas I can "punt" to later weekends... which activities can wait. For example, I had planned on a cleaning day, but I think that's unnecessary; my apartment is already pretty clean with the exception of my shower and bathroom counter, which would use a good scrubbing. But that will only take a couple hours; I don't have any good reason to do that now and not one of the next couple weekends.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Chronicles of Travis' Vacation, day 2

Day 2 of my vacation was also quite non-vacationy. I went to Fred Meyer, a local Wal-Marty store, and picked up some random things that I've been putting off, some for six months or more, like a hand mirror, which would have been really handy when I bleached my hair. Without one I have to set up my camera and take a picture of my head with the auto-timer.

I also spent a couple hours trying out Guild Wars, which was more time than I had spent in the game the entire rest of the time I've owned it, since it came out. I can't say anything about the graphics except just agree with everyone else at how incredibly gorgeous they are. I like the fact that it's a bit more automated than World of Warcraft... and I don't. While it's annoying to have to be always facing your opponent in World of Warcraft (you won't automatically turn if they move), now that I've tried it the other way, where you don't have to, I've got mixed feelings. The items that I've gotten in Guild Wars have all been really boring, generic things so far, though GW likes to tease you with uncommon items that had really terrible special abilities, like +10% damage if you're cursed, or +3 armor but only if you're below 20% health, and crap like that. The interface also isn't nearly as refined as World of Warcraft's, though it does have certain nice things about it, such as a lack of clutter, a map that tracks where you've been, and so forth. I am incredibly attached, however, to the ability to teleport around the map as I please. In World of Warcraft you can only teleport to town once per hour (or five times per hour if you're a shaman), and from there you have to take boats, zeppelins, gryphons, bats, hippogryphs, etc. to get to your destination. All very cute, but really annoying after not very long. The fact that I didn't have to spend tons of time walking in Guild Wars is a huge plus to me, especially if I end up playing solo.

It's great that it doesn't have a monthly fee; if it did, I never would have picked it up. As it stands, I'm sure I can easily get my fifty bucks' worth of entertainment out of it. I'm going to have to try to convince Marc to get it. He won't; that would mean paying $15 a month to play WOW a couple days, and $50 to play GW a couple days. That would raise the perceived cost of WOW to the point where it doesn't really seem like it's worth it, and he'll won't want to cancel his account just yet. At least, those were the thoughts that went through my head. I ended up deciding that one good Saturday of Warcraft was worth my $15 a month, even if Blizzard is getting a really good deal out of it, so it wasn't worth closing my account anytime soon.

Anyway, this post was technically about my vacation.

Yesterday, I went to eat dinner with Marc's uncle and aunt and cousin for his birthday. Amusing people. Of course, all of my friends and my brother's friends seem to think that my parents are pretty amusing whenever they see them, but both of my parents are quite different people when company is around. At some point they really started to turn off "parent mode," and became more like "company's over mode" all the time, which was a very pleasant shift. Now that my brother just turned 21, perhaps even moreso. Anyway, I learned that perhaps I should use my Amazon.com wish list as an actual wish list and not just a place to store random items that I found while browsing.

So, that was it for yesterday. Today I've got lunch with a coworker's wife, I'm going to schedule most of the rest of my vacation so I don't just do nothing every day, and then a little card and hex game called Heroes of Might and Magic shows up. It sounds like the beta of Heroes of Might and Magic V has been delayed a week or so, so if I get in it probably won't arrive this week, which is maybe a mixed blessing...

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Free (like Sierra Mist)

Today I got a rubber mallet, two pairs of boxers, and a bath towel for free. I love it when stores put things on special that I would have bought anyway.

Resolve

I tend to let postal mail pile up until the pile becomes so depressing that I have to open those things. Everything I get is billed electronically now except for my water/trash/sewer bill, so I'm really in no hurry to look through those Explanations of Benefits, bank statements, and prospectus after prospectus after performance update from Fidelity. Finally, I get some courage and wade through all of the crap I got in a given week or two. I spend so much of my time looking through mail of some sort. I probably spend an hour or two a day dealing with email at work, then I come home and spend another half hour to an hour dealing with email... after all that, it's hard to be motivated to look through the crap that I know I won't care about that comes in stupid paper envelopes.

Holy crap, I just discovered that the payment coupon that comes with my Visa statement contains my entire credit card number. I don't know how many times I've thrown those away without noticing that.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

I realize

And yes, I realize that my blog currently has no side banner image. My main web server is down, and that's where I host that image. I don't know why it's down. Hopefully they'll give me a dumb excuse soon.

The Chronicles of Travis' Vacation, day 1

Today is the first day of my vacation, and it's been just about like every other Saturday: I got up late, and haven't done much of anything besides playing World of Warcraft with Marc and watching last night's Battlestar Galactica. About the only thing unusual that I've done so far is go to Bellevue to pick up my rental car, the first time I've driven a car in almost a year. It's an Impala; I like it. Now I need to pick out some CDs.

And that's it. I imagine that things will start to seem a little more out of the ordinary on Monday, when I have an entire day to dink around and no one to dink around with.

Oh, and I made tea.

Battlestar Pegasus

This past Friday's Battlestar Galactica redeemed itself for the previous week's awful epidode. I just finished it, and it was just awesome. That was just about the most excruciating cliffhanger I can remember from a series. After the third or fourth season of Voyager the ship was taken over and the crew deserted on a random planet without technology, and I seem to remember there being some nice ones during the X-Files. Who Shot Mr. Burns was great too, of course. This one was just mean, though. I love it.

I won't spoil it for you. One of the best this season, if not the best. Only ten episodes for a whole season, though? Maybe they're breaking it up into two half-seasons.

Bloc Party

I've been listening to Bloc Party's album Silent Alarm, and I have to say that it hasn't grown on me at all. There are a couple listenable tracks—Like Eating Glass, Helicopter, and Banquet—but overall I just can't make myself like it. It's very, very British, and I don't mean that as a compliment. The songs that aren't unpleasant are boring.

For one reason or another, it kind of reminds me of Modest Mouse. It's weird rock, somewhat experimental, with a lead singer with an awful voice... except the Bloc Party singer is even worse, and none of the qualities that make his voice hard to listen to also make him endearing. The Patrick Stewart or Monty Python "distinguished" English voice is one of my favorites; the more "common" and young English voice is really tough for me to stomach, and this guy's would be pretty painful even if he were born in Colorado. But even with a great lead voice, I still wouldn't like the music.

I also eagerly listened to Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie by Alanis Morrissette, the only album of hers I hadn't listened to yet, and it's definitely my least favorite one. It sounds a lot like her first album, except without the good tracks. That was disappointing.

Time to move on to something new and different. The next three albums I'm queueing up are Late Registration by Kanye West, Planets by Adema, and the Myst soundtrack by Robyn Miller. The only thing on any of those that I've heard is Kanye's Diamonds from Sierra Leone, which is rather delicious. Let's see how they work out.

Agony

I just hate the fact that my Heroes of Might and Magic cards are in Seattle right now, yet I won't have them until Monday. Silly "weekends" and their interruption of service.

Moonkin

Holy crap, druids with 31 Balance talents will be able to learn to shapeshift into Moonkin form in WoW 1.8. Very cool. Too bad Moonkin still can't heal or use items.

Friday, September 23, 2005

The company meeting through PIP

I've been running the company meeting through Windows Media Player's little popup picture-in-picture feature, which has worked out pretty well for me. It's definitely a productivity drain, but the number of people who stop by my office to talk to my officemate (grrr, still don't have my own office) and myself is a huge one I haven't had to worry about today while everyone's off at Safeco Field, so it's kind of evened out. I'm happy with my decision to not attend the company meeting in person; it's been very handy to be able to turn off the sound when the VP of Human Resources comes on, or when the American Idol-like singing competition resumes. From the looks of it, some employee is DJing right now, and I'm sure it's awful, but I don't have to know for sure. Not long ago, Jim Allchin (the Windows head honcho) was demoing the Vista edition of Media Center, which looks pretty hot, and Windows Media Player, which also looks hot but I'll continue to pretty much never use it.

I can only assume that the next time I'll use the PIP feature is when the next company meeting comes around. Now I can see that Steve Ballmer is up on stage, so it's time to turn up the sound and listen to the bald man scream.

Download the MSN Search toolbar today!!1

Sometimes I fail to notice just how many ads I see at work. Practically every available bit of wall space in my building has an advertisement on it. Long ago I got to the point where I don't tend to read anything I see on the walls unless I can't help it (elevator ads are particularly effective). I know that there are a couple ads at the entrance to the restroom I use most frequently, but I don't know what they're for. They're just everywhere. Everywhere I turn there are ads. The walls from the lobby to the cafeteria of the building where I play board games are covered with massive pictures of mountain vistas and the Windows logo. They're just everywhere.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The company meeting

I decided tonight not to go to the Microsoft 30th anniversary company meeting tomorrow. It's at the Mariners' stadium, Safeco Field... but I'd have to be at work by 8:00. I'm so tired as it is. I'd be sitting in the chilly stands for five hours in a bright yellow Office windbreaker. At least I'd get free lunch.

I decided to just work during that time. I've still got a decent amount of stuff I'd like to get done before I start my vacation on Saturday, and cutting five hours plus travel time to Seattle just isn't worth it, even if I get to see the Bill Gates / Napoleon Dynamite video on the big screen. I'd rather use that time to sleep in a little, get stuff done, and maybe leave work at a reasonable time, not having to think about work for another week and a half.

Of course, that practically guarantees that it will be a lot of fun. Last year's was interesting, though a bit dorky at times during the "entertainment" sections. Oh well; I'm sure I can get a synopsis of the actual content parts.

HOLY TAX

Holy crap, I just read the amount on my receipt for my rental car that I'm picking up Saturday. Tax was 18.5%. Notice the number of digits before the decimal point.

Oh no... Halloween

Ugh, Halloween's a month away. It's so dangerous. I could try to make sure that I only got candies that I don't like, like Hershey's bars and Butterfingers and Mounds and Almond Joy, but if I get stuck with 90% of it like I did last year, that would really suck.

I could be one of those people who gives out popcorn in ghost-shaped bags. You know, an ass.

I could go with nothing but cans of tuna this year. Nobody took the tuna last year. I mostly just wanted to see kids' reactions to the choice of tuna or candy.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

I dunno

I tend to be very flexible in my schedule. Am I flexible as compensation for being indecisive, or indecisive as a result of always being flexible?

My manager says such beautiful things

My manager sometimes struggles to convey his feelings in English when he's frustrated. When discussing annoyances he had with the Visual Web Developer editor (the website editor portion of Visual Studio), he finally decided on:

“Their design surface? It piss… shit… hell me off.”

Talk very briefly like a pirate day

I celebrated Talk like a Pirate Day for about two minutes today. My piratey speak will be forever preserved in the Office 12 bug database. Then I got to the next bug I had to comment on, realized that I had to write about three paragraphs, and then decided that Talk like a Pirate Day was over.

Arrrrrrr.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Air Conductin'

I've developed a bad habit: air conducting. It's like air guitar, where you play an imaginary guitar, except I'm conducting an imaginary symphony. I used to drum my fingers a lot, and I guess at some point I transitioned to the less annoying but more ridiculous air conducting.

Just now I picked up my Diet Coke (probably #7 for the day so far) with my right hand, and started conducting with my left hand without even initially realizing it.

Oh well. I guess that there are far worse habits to develop.

The sad part is that I don't even do it correctly. [Warning: the rest of this post is probably more boring than the first part.] I have a perfectly salvageable sense of rhythm; it's just the motions that I manage to screw up. A typical pattern is DOWN, right, left, up, DOWN, right, left, up. The important part is cutting down on the first beat, aptly named the "downbeat." Often I'll do something like DOWN, right, left, right, oh crap, DOWN, but the oh crap takes about half a beat, so suddenly I'm half a beat off, and my brain automatically rounds up to the next beat, and then I stop because I realize I just moved my hand down on the wrong beat. That's usually when I realize in the first place that I screwed up; the rest is fairly subconscious.

My #1 choice of instrument in elementary school was the drums, but the school didn't allow kids to learn the drums or guitar, those being the really popular ones. So, my next choice was the cello, which is a pretty difficult instrument to play properly. I decided that I had better things to do with my time and my parents' extremely limited funds than practice the cello all the time, especially being already quite aware that I had the coordination and finesse of some sort of mythical rock-beast. So, I decided not to learn an instrument at all. I think that was after I had already left the sorta-semi-pro choir I was in (the kind of choir that has performances that people not related to the kids in the choir would actually pay money to hear) after deciding that it also took too much time. I still remember what I learned, though, even though I can't really sing anymore: don't pronounce the letter "R" in the middle of a word, exaggerate "T" sounds and their kin, and always elongate vowel sounds and not consonants. "Gloria in excelsis deo" becomes "Glo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-hia in exSHELseees d-aa-aa-ay-o." It sounds pretty silly if you're not in a big choir.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

I need a haircut

Oh boy do I ever need a haircut.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Battlesnore

Wow, last night's episode of Battlestar Galactica wins the prize for worst plot and dialogue of the season. The whole thing could easily have been condensed into a single "Previously on Battlestar Galactica" montage at the beginning of a more interesting episode.

Next week's looks interesting, though: find wandering female admiral, just as female president's about to kick the bucket... how convenient.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

I'm Feeling Lucky

The proxy and caching server at work often confuses sites that are under different subdomains—for example, my blog and someone else's. So, often after the rare blog post that I make at work, I'll be taken to someone else's blog. Today I was taken to a very interesting post on how bad Microsoft's review process is. It's exactly the sort of thing I would have wanted to read from employees of a large company a couple years ago, even had I not decided to work at Microsoft. It's even more interesting now that I do work there.

Crosswalk buttons

Usually if there's another person standing in front of a crosswalk when I get there, I don't push the button, because that seems kind of insulting. It's basically saying to that person, "hey, I think you're probably too stupid to have pushed the button before waiting for the light, so I'm going to push it again." But, of course, that ends immediately once I've waited through three green lights waiting for the walk signal, and then I give up on not trying to be insulting for a while.

If a light came on when the button was activated, this thing wouldn't be a problem. Many of the lights around here even have a light, but it's only on when the button is depressed.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Office 12 and Expression revealed

Well, I wasn't expecting Office 12 to be revealed yesterday. That wasn't communicated to me at all, as far as I know. But, then again, I delete a ton of mail from people I don't know that doesn't look useful. Nobody else on the team seemed to be expecting it either.

Anyway, I'm starting to hate the new UI less. It's come a long way since several months ago when I started using it. I still like the old toolbars a lot better because they were more customizable, but I guess I haven't really missed the old menus yet. I still think that the fact that some buttons are like 120x160 and some are 16x16 is pretty nuts. I'm sure that there will be a decent amount of tweaking between now and beta 1, and more after that. What I'm curious, though, is if they'll bow to inevitable pressure from large corporations who don't want to retrain their users, and include some way to get back the classic UI. If history's any indication then I think they will.

FrontPage definitely didn't get much fanfare in the new announcement. The screenshot for FrontPage in the press release must have been taken like a month into coding or less; you can just barely distinguish anything new in it, and the only feature that I could see shown has actually been cut from the product already, replaced with something better.

And, today is the announcement of Microsoft Expression Code Name Sparkle Interactive Designer ("Sparkle"), the product that Flash designers have known something about for a while but Microsoft has denied exists, and the rest of the Expression suite. The Expression suite contains Sparkle, the previously-released Acrylic Graphic Designer based on the Creature House Expression product that Microsoft previously bought, and the interesting one: Microsoft Expression Code Name Quartz Web Designer. That's right... Microsoft now has three website editors: Microsoft Office FrontPage, Microsoft Visual Web Developer, and Microsoft Expression Code Name Quartz Web Designer. (That's seriously the name they're using right now. I like to call it Microsoft Expression Code Name Quartz Web Designer with Fries and a Medium Drink, but nobody else thinks that's funny.)

The screen shots on the teaser site for Quartz are obviously very much mockups, but observant viewers may notice what currently-shipping web design product from Microsoft they look very much like. (Hint: it's FrontPage.) I don't know when real details of Quartz are going to be released; an Acrylic preview is downloadable, and there are at least a couple pages on Sparkle, but pretty much nothing in Quartz. I've gotten to play with Quartz quite a bit, and it's pretty cool.

So, there's one little secret I've had to keep for a while: Microsoft has yet another web design product in the works. I've been watching Visual Web Developer and Quartz for a while now. Hopefully things should get even more interesting in a few months.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Where are these battlegrounds, exactly?

Does Blizzard even pretend to have an explanation for why the Battlegrounds do not fit into the geography of the world at all? Warsong Gulch isn't too bad; but Alterac and Arathi just don't make any sense. You walk through one tunnel and suddenly you're in a place that cannot possibly exist at the position in spacetime where they purport it to be.

Owie

Biting your lip or cheek is one of those problems that gets worse before it gets better.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Tempur, tempur

I finally got a mattress top made of that really awesome heat-sensitive memory foam stuff that you used to see Tempur-Pedic advertising on TV. I wasn't quite willing to pony up the dough for a whole mattress made of the stuff, and I already have a mattress I like for the most part, but it seemed like a worthwhile gamble for potentially higher bedtime comfort.

It's got to air out and return to its original shape over the next couple days, but I look forward to trying it out...

Honk

My upstairs neighbor snores so loudly that I can hear him from the floor below and one room over.

Don't remind me

And yes, I remember many months ago when I said I was ready to "move on" from World of Warcraft and do something else, but they won't let me stop. I'm still having a lot of fun with the damnable game. At least I've mostly stopped playing solo; that seems like a step on the road to recovery. With the exception of my once-or-twice-daily auction house adventures, of course.

How to make an enchanter happy

I love it when some level 50-something guy comes up to my puny level 27 enchanter, hands me a pile of money, and says "gimme everything you got." Well, actually, it only happened this once, but I'd love it again if it happened again.

I finally caved in and made a macro for my trade-channel advertisement. I stood firm for so long, but I finally got tired of typing the enchantments, costs, and what color they make your weapon glow.

As a profession, I don't make any money with enchanting; in fact, it's quite the money sink. Luckily, I can support my item-disintegrating habits by wheeling and dealing at the auction house. Enchanting does have two huge benefits that I never really thought of before: you can burn all those soulbound quest rewards and replaced equipment for valuable reagents instead of just vendoring them. But, even bigger than that is that you can almost always afford to upgrade your equipment, even if you're just replacing a +8 intellect cloak with a +9 intellect cloak, because you can just disenchant your old one. Depending on how much effort I want to spend on browsing available items, I can always stay decked out in current-level green armor at no real cost, whereas doing that on a non-enchanter would be prohibitively expensive. So, even though I rarely actually sell any enchantments, I still enjoy having an enchanter. Initially I was pretty wary of picking skinning and enchanting as my two primary professions for my mage, but it has worked out really well.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Mars Volta

I've been listening to The Mars Volta, which is a nice addition to the other truly bizarre artists in my music collection. Despite sounding very different, they kind of remind me of Amon Tobin... at least, the adjectives that I would use to describe the two artists/bands are very similar. Loud. Insane. Rhythmic. Unique. Thick. Intense.

The two Mars Volta CDs are each self-contained musical stories, something that's always a pleasant surprise in non-classical music. Because of this, the individual tracks don't often stand out that well by themselves; to get the full effect you need to listen to the whole album. But, some of the songs on the album are still single-worthy, including my favorite of the two albums, L'Via L'Viaquez. That link gets you the under-five-minute radio edit of the over-twelve-minute (!) album track. There are lots of other good free tracks (including Televators, probably my second-favorite song of theirs) on their website at marsvolta.com.

I don't want to talk about them too much, because I lack vocabulary to adequately describe it, and also because they provide free streams so I don't have to. If you like either one of those tracks above I think you'll enjoy their albums. De-Loused in the Comatorium is my favorite of the two, but Frances the Mute is very good too and includes L'Via L'Viaquez.

If I had 75-minute commutes to and from work, they'd be perfect CDs to drive to.

Eavesdropping again

I was in the apartment main office today waiting to pick up a package, and one of the employees was describing the differences between the handicapped-accessible apartment they were looking at and normal apartments:

Employee: Now, the only difference between the bathroom and a normal one is that...
Man 1: There's a ramp up to the tub?
Employee: Ha, no. Along the back wall, there's a bench.
Man 1: Oh! That'll be cool for when we have people over...
Man 2: NO.
Man 1: ...extra seating...
Man 2: NO.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Performance

Maaaaaaybe it's just my imagination, but I think that my old hyperthreaded Pentium IV at work really did handle multitasking better than the Athlon 64 I got to replace it. Overall the Athlon 64 is faster, but it doesn't seem to be as responsive when doing lots of stuff at once.

Or maybe the marketing got to me.

Friday, September 9, 2005

Peeping

I'm always annoyed when people read the sticky notes on my monitor. Clearly they're not messages for random people who pass by; they're mine. But, I can't rightfully be too annoyed, because I do the same kind of thing. I can't help it. Some people, myself included, must just have some primal urge to read things that they shouldn't.

Reality TV

I haven't really been a fan of reality TV. I've seen a bunch of assorted episodes of various shows but just haven't really been interested. I did watch most of Murder in Small Town X, which was just barely a reality show to begin with; I thought it was fairly decent, but I didn't exactly clamor for a second season. Recently, though, I've been watching Tommy Lee Goes to College.

It's even less real than a normal reality show. It's basically a comedy (not a good one by any means) set in the school where I got my degree. It's interesting solely for that fact; had he gone anywhere else I wouldn't have watched it in the first place, and I certainly wouldn't have continued watching. But, it is amusing seeing him in Selleck and Sheldon and the bookstore.

Bill Gates is going to be on The Apprentice, and that I will certainly watch. I'm very interested in how that's going to turn out.

The darndest things

It must be wonderful when your child tells you, "Mommy, I promise I'll never trade you for a new mommy, even if she's prettier and lets me have milk from here" and gestures to his chest.

It was an odd evening.

Thursday, September 8, 2005

Boob-jigglin'

Tonight at the Thursday Evening Board Gamers:

Woman: (adjusts bra alignment and then frowns) Well, that didn't work.
In unison:
Man 1: Worked for me!
Man 2: I disagree.
Man 3: You could try it again.

Probably one of those "you had to be there" things, but eh... when in Rome...


The funnier story involves her pulling me off to the side and saying in a low voice "so, when you masturbate..." to explain something that she said earlier that she thought I didn't understand but I understood fully and she just misheard me. But, she told me not to tell that story, so I won't.

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Review's in

Well, my review came in today. Basically, it's a B. Not terrible, but not something to be happy about, either. Also not something to merit a bonus or a raise, neither of which I anticipated.

Most of my expectations and fears ended up being pretty accurate. The overwhelming majority of the text was directly related to my manager's interpretations of mails that he was CC'ed on, and you basically only CC someone's manager on something if you want to be a dick. So, that didn't come out well. The first half of the year is mostly irrelevant for the final review since there's a (mostly meaningless) midyear review that covers the first half. So, the half of the year where I was working on stuff that I had experience in and did a really excellent job didn't mean anything, and the half of the year where I was dropped into the middle of an ocean of legacy C++ code and told to "fix it" is what my review was based on, which is just cute.

What I failed to keep in mind is that reviews are based on how well you're doing as an employee who happens to be a developer, not how well you're doing just as a developer. Any miscommunication with someone else, even if it's cleared up, is a thing to be avoided. This sort of thing bit me several times. Also, things that I thought were friendly suggestions, like "make sure that other people on the team know the kinds of great work you've been doing" were actually assignments that I didn't complete. Had I sent out a couple emails to the team at random points telling them how awesome I am, I would have actually done better.

I was able to get my manager to take some parts out of my final review because they were simply things that he didn't understand. For example, he saw my first code review where my coding style was being nitpicked to death, and somehow drew the conclusion from that that I refused to follow the reviewer's coding standards because I thought they were stupid. In reality, I did think that they were stupid, of course, but that mail that he saw was the first I even heard of them, so I couldn't exactly be expected to have followed them.

And, of course, it did definitely hurt that at about 40-45 hours for a normal week and 55-60 hours for a crunch week, I work less than any other developer on the team.

So, I'm annoyed. Things are mostly as I expected them, but that doesn't mean I like it. I don't like these kinds of subjective reviews because I always seem to get screwed in them. I'm quiet and calm and humble, which always ends up being seen negatively, and when I do speak out, I'm blunt and honest, which ends up being seen as me being inconsiderate. Had I spent more time fixing inconsequential little silly bugs, ignoring the important ones, I would have looked better. Had I tooted my own horn as much as my manager wanted me to, I would have looked better. Those things aren't me. I guess in the future I have to decide how exactly to balance being me and being the person fairly similar to me who "plays the game" better and gets better review scores.

Segway of Seattle

Hey, there's a Segway of Seattle now. I should see what it's like sometime; I've kind of wondered what a Segway dealership would be like, since I had to have mine shipped. Of course, I'd have to take a bus or car, since my Segway doesn't go that far, which I find delightfully ironic.

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Only sorta hypocritical

Sometimes my coworkers seem annoyed that I tend to use Metapad to edit HTML pages instead of FrontPage, and that when I do use FrontPage it's usually just in HTML source view. But, I'm definitely not alone on the team; a lot of us seem to live in source view. I roughly estimate that about 40% of the team prefers source view and 60% prefer design view, with everyone using the split view at least sometimes. This actually works out pretty well for the product, since customers use all three views too (though not nearly 40% live in source view I imagine), and it ensures that both views keep getting better and better with each release. I may even use FP 12 as my default HTML editor at home sometime soon (though I rarely find myself editing plain HTML pages anyway). There's a lot of cool stuff in there that the world gets to see pretty soon; stuff that doesn't exist in any other product. I hope beta 1 isn't an NDA-only release; that would be kind of a letdown.

It will be fun to be able to say "I go out to eat with the guy who made that cool thing." My features won't be nearly as showy, but I can pretend that I had something to do with the awesome stuff. This is a big release for all of Office... in past releases, before I started working at Microsoft, there were always a couple new things in each app that were new and cool, and I really didn't care about the rest. Version 12 is going to shock people, I think. I anticipate that blurry camera screenshots of a pre-beta version will start leaking to the web in a month or two. People will compare it to Office 2003, to Windows Vista, to OpenOffice.org, to Mac OS X, and more, and I don't know what they're going to say. Not too many builds ago a lot of the Office apps, FrontPage included, looked like bad Photoshop mockups of themselves. I'm sure there will be bad Photoshop mockups of Office 12. It will be fun.

Arg

Safeco Insurance, must you test your fire alarms at 9:00 pm? (They're right across the street.)

Clever pseudofraud

I've been continuing my policy of automatically throwing away any mail that comes from Delaware, but one credit card offer made it past my postal spam filter today. It was from Bank of America (in, sigh, Delaware, but the address was on the back). They had actually printed a picture of what looked like the kind of marks that a hard plastic credit card would make when going through dirty machinery. There was a dusty outline of a card, with dark blurry letterforms that very well could have been my name "imprinted" into the paper, all drawn on top of the text DO NOT FOLD. It all looked quite believable; believable enough that I didn't leave it in the recycling bins near my mailbox.

Update: I found a picture of this particular advertisement, courtesy Google. It's very amusing.

Sunday, September 4, 2005

Could be weirder

I have to say, though... I found it fun to be in the company of people who didn't find it even slightly absurd to buy six copies of a game. I mean, of course you'd want to make sure you get all six factions.

Intense

I just got back from sixteen hours of board gaming. Sadly, eight of those (and an hour or more for the rules) were all one game: 1870. I almost shrieked when I saw the estimated playing time of four hours on the box; boy was I in for a surprise. That was almost certainly the most intense game I've ever played. Not only do you have to manage your own resources, but the resources of each company in which you are the majority stockholder. There's a whole stock market simulation game, coupled with a whole railroad building and management game, along with secret deals between corporations and lots of other little twists thrown in.

My feelings about the game were extremely mixed: I'll never play it again. Ever. You can do too many other things in nine hours to make it worthwhile. It's a really excellent game, though; things are perfectly balanced, there's no luck after the initial turn order is picked, and you have to plan out strategies for half an hour in advance or more. I have great respect for it. But, respect does not equate love, nor desire to play the game again.

Friday, September 2, 2005

Furnishings

I still haven't paid for my furniture; it's still interest-free until next summer. I think I'll pay it off at the beginning of next year. There's no real reason to pay it off early, but it feels kind of odd owing someone so many thousands of dollars.

Once I've paid that off I won't owe anyone anything beyond my monthly bills, and that alone will feel really good. Of course, it's not going to last very long; someday I'm going to move. If they kick me out of my apartment when my lease expires next spring, I'll be much more motivated to get a house or condo, especially now that you can do it with no money down. (They haven't been totally clear on what their plans for renovation are.) I've been saving cash, so I'll be able to make some kind of a down payment, but I'm not really keen on getting into a lifelong loan, even though it really makes more sense in the long run than renting.

Having done the no-car thing for a year now, I'm not feeling too pressed to buy one right away. I know I wouldn't get nearly enough use out of it to make it not insane. When I live so close to work (and I wouldn't want to deal with the horrid traffic anyway) and everything I want can be delivered to me and I don't go anywhere, it seems silly for me to own a car. I didn't miss driving one bit in college, and it's rare that I do here.

3-day weekend

No matter how old you are, if you haven't retired yet, there's just nothing to lift spirits like a three-day weekend. The mere thought of it was making so many people happy tonight.

Thursday, September 1, 2005

Don't Tread on Me

Well, I'm ready to pass judgment on the new 311 album Don't Tread on Me, and as much as I'd like to love it, it's just not that good. The titular single is pretty catchy, but not exceptional in any way, and the rest is just really blah. I'm really disappointed. I think I'll have to give it a 5/10, which is not great but not terrible. I'd put it down with Grassroots, which is my least favorite 311 album and equally as bland.

Oh well. You can't win 'em all.

Kudos to eBay

Oh, and kudos to eBay for making the checkout process so smooth nowadays. Many years ago I rounded out my collection of Enya imports and singles over eBay, and payment was always at least a moderate pain. Now if the item's got a Buy it Now, it's almost as easy to buy and pay for as Amazon.com. It would be helpful if they could set up a seller-opt-in system of standardized policies so that the important policies of a seller could be summarized in a little box. They're already on the right track by now separating out shipping costs from having to skim the whole listing, and by integrating UPS.

Hooray for technology.