Monday, October 31, 2005

Not even that kind of coke

Diet Coke is up to 33¢ a can in 24-packs here. A year and a half ago in Nebraska it was 20¢.

Good Lord.

NOOOOOOOO

So, apparently it was just announced today that Oblivion was pushed to spring next year. WTF? It's too late to slip when you're supposed to be in stores in like three weeks.

Trick or treat

I had four trick-or-treaters: one little kid with his mother, and three kids around 13-15, one of whom was smoking. I'm sure it didn't help that they're doing construction in the complex and the lights aren't on at night around my building, so it's eerily dark.

Oblivious

There are some really awesome videos on the Oblivion site. The one that showcases the AI is particularly interesting. I'm curious (and mostly skeptical) as to how quickly it gets repetitive. The woman casting a paralysis spell on her dog because she is annoyed by it is cute once; how long until you've seen the "woman sets dog on fire because it was barking" exchange until it's just tedious?

But, still, the game looks amazing, and I'm glad that I no longer have to use console commands to teleport quickly from place to place. :)

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Shortest music review ever

And now for my shortest music review ever:

Ill Niño, Confession—SUCKS SUCKS SUCKS SUCKS SUCKS.

That was so short I can even add "remarkably boring and unpleasant."

Alliance spies

I just experienced something interesting, and really annoying. There were a couple people in Alterac Valley just now who spent the entire game running around the base doing nothing but killing our frostwolves. The interesting thing is that they were on our side... but only technically. They weren't responding to whispers, and they never attacked the Alliance players. They took up our player slots and killed our side's animals. It's a devious way to undermine the other side, but it's also really unfair and mean. The scary thing is that they actually leveled up to 50 to be able to do this, just to make tip the balance of the game in the Alliance's favor, as if they needed it anyway.

Perfect timing

It seems that my desire for an immersive RPG to play has come at the perfect time: The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion is launching simultaneously with the Xbox 360 in a few weeks, on PC and console. Fantastic.

No more sweet music

On the off chance that anyone else out there is excited about No More Sweet Music by Hooverphonic, you can get it from www.proxis.be in Belgium—just click "en" near the upper-left unless you read gibberish. The 2-CD set will run you €25 ($30) shipped, which is acceptable for a 2-CD set, and not really bad at all considering it's a Belgium-only special edition shipped from a faraway land.

Warcraft what?

Another thing I thought of earlier today... I don't even think of Warcraft as being a real-time strategy game anymore. I can't even remember when I stopped. Warcraft is an MMORPG that just happens to have a couple strategy games in the series, just like how Command and Conquer is a strategy game that happens to have a first-person shooter in the series. The original Warcraft games are now so insignificant, after having played World of Warcraft for much longer than I ever spent playing all of them put together... and I did play all of them, every expansion, every side.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Facebookery

Sigh, I'm finally on this Facebook thing.

World of Wal-Mart

Before I head back to Winter Assault I must tell you about the second of two dreams I had last night. I'd tell you about the first one first, but it involved a certain other thing with initials W. O. W. that is similar to but not exactly like the title of this post.

So, in my second dream last night, I was with my family. They came up in conversation at lunch on Thursday, and when they show up in my dreams it's usually a mark of something weird, and this time was no exception. When the dream started, we were all riding around in the old Toyota van that my dad sold a few years ago, heading to Wal-Mart. My dad was driving pretty recklessly on the bizarre, winding, crappy roads on the way there, and my mom was freaking out. (For some reason, ever since my trip to Ireland, I've occasionally had dreams involving their horrible roads in some way.) One of my brother's roommates was also with us, though it wasn't actually one of his roommates, just some imaginary person that doesn't exist in real life. We don't actually really ever go to Wal-Mart (especially since I live out of state and my brother moved out long ago), but that's far from the most insane thing that happened.

We arrive at Wal-Mart, and the place is just massive, far larger than any real Wal-Mart. In fact, I think it might have been the same place that I originally mistook for a mall in the dream in which I was dating Jennifer Aniston, or maybe Wal-Mart was just one store in this mall. I had my Segway there; for some reason this mall or giant store and my Segway always show up together. Anyway, when we got there, we all split up.

We were there for a while, and once it was already past the prearranged time to go, my mom called me and asked me if I was with my brother, because we hadn't shown up yet, and he wasn't answering his phone. (Neither she nor my dad really have cell phones, but hey, it's a dream.) I was already riding back, and he wasn't with me, so she sent me back in to find him. So, I checked all of the places where I thought he might be: the sports section, the hunting and outdoors department, and so forth. No luck. So, I headed down to the lower level, where the health club was. Yes, this Wal-Mart had a lower level, and a health club.

At some point I must have parked my Segway, because I was suddenly on foot, and so I walked around the weight room to see if he was there. No luck there either. I ducked into the locker room to check there, walked around a bit, and found him and his roommate there. He was naked, dabbing himself with a towel. I asked him what the hell he was doing, and he removed the towel to show me that he had gotten a Prince Albert at Wal-Mart. This particular Wal-Mart, in addition to a health club, had a tattoo and piercing parlor. He figured that he would have his penis pierced on the family trip to Wal-Mart. (I guess if anyone in the family were to get a Prince Albert it would be him, having more tattoos and piercings than anyone else in the family.) His appointment had run late, and he wanted to clean things up before the rendezvous with the rest of us, because he had been bleeding.

So, the three of us returned to the main entrance to the store, his roommate and I just as uncomfortable as he was as he lied and told my parents that he had been working out and wasn't paying attention to the time. But, they bought it, and the five of us left to head back home, when the dream ended.

I never did pick up my Segway.

Longings and urges

Recently I've been having strong urges to play an RPG, which must sound silly considering I still play World of Warcraft at least once or twice a week. WoW has become too familiar, though... I've killed just about every creature, finished just about every quest, seen just about every location, and really about the only thing left is to play other classes, which I think I'm going to save for the expansion, since there will be two new races to play in exciting, far-off worlds. I haven't experienced the endgame raid content yet, but that's something that will probably never happen.

No, I want to try something new. World of Warcraft is still entertaining, but I want to do something different. I realize I've said that before, but I mean it... more... this time. I think I'm about ready to start playing Guild Wars solo, at least for a while. I played a bit of Space Rangers, and while it's fun, it's not engaging, and not something that dominates my thoughts like a good game should. I think my original assessment is right; it's a fine "side" game, but not enough to keep me going. I've been playing the Dawn of War expansion, Winter Assault, and that's very entertaining. But, in a couple weeks, I'm going to want to switch over to some new addiction, and I think that addiction will probably be Guild Wars.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Coming to an FTP server near you

Splash screen

Legal may clean up the name a bit before we release.

By air and by air

I've bought my tickets, and it looks like I'll be getting into Lincoln at around dinner time on Saturday, November 18. I guess I'll be seeing many of you in just three weeks.

Home for the holidays and Christmas in Redmond

Well, it's official: I'm heading back to Nebraska for Thanksgiving. I'll be around UNL for the preceding weekend and maybe an extra day or two, depending on which of you would like to be my hosts. :)

Since I'm heading back for Thanksgiving I'll be spending Christmas (Non-Denominational Winter Solstice Holiday) out here in Redmond again. Next year, I'll probably stay in Washington for Thanksgiving and head back to Nebraska for Christmas instead, as the number of people I know who are still going to school in Nebraska will have dropped significantly.

The Lost Coast

Half-Life 2: The Lost Coast is available on Steam for all Half-Life 2 owners now, and it looks pretty phenomenal. The work they've done to simulate how the human eye works is pretty amazing, and way ahead of the now-trite "bloom" and "glow" effects you see in a lot of recent games. At first I thought that the new high dynamic range visuals would be distracting, but that faded after about a minute, and I think they've done an incredible job. Watching my "eyes" adjust as I stepped into the dark cathedral from the bright outside was just cool. The fact that it still runs at an okay framerate at full resolution and with antialiasing turned on is just mind-boggling.

Screenshot

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Tastes in languages

One random comment before I head off to bed:

I hate the way that German sounds when spoken, but for some reason I like it when sung, as in an opera. It just sounds interesting, and the seemingly absurd number of syllables make for some nice musical potential. I don't really like spoken Spanish that much either, but I do like it when sung, perhaps because it's slower. Spanish sounds really sexy when sung. French I like spoken and sung; it just sounds pretty.

East Asian languages just sound awful spoken and almost as bad when sung. Sorry. I find it funny that the most beautiful written languages are among the most unpleasant-sounding.

The wisest human

Oh, and you will have my eternal honor and praise if you name your child "Gene Ray," even if it's "Gene Ray your-last-name."

And remember,

If the United States buries 80,000 tons of
nuclear waste inside Mother Earth, for our
children to inherit, then Americans will be
the most evil bastards to ever inhabit a planet.
A proper burial spot for nuclear waste is under
academic institutions and in Washington D.C..

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

What's in a name

I've always liked all three of my names: Travis Mark Spomer. For the longest time, I used to keep my middle name a secret known only by my best friends and government officials, but recently I've given up on it because I really do like the name. I used to really hate it, even more than usual, when my mom would yell out my full name, because I didn't want anyone else to know my M-secret. I don't like the fact that it's my dad's name, just because I always hate it when people share first or middle names with their parents, first names bothering me much more than middle names. I always write my full name as Travis M. Spomer, never just Travis Spomer, which would make even more people wonder what that M stood for.

I also don't mind the name that my parents were going to give me before I sprouted a penis, Krystal. I assume that my middle name would have been Ann, after my mother and her mother, which I wouldn't have been thrilled about. I think that Tracy was in the running for a second-place girl name for me. I enjoy the names of two of my female coworkers—Fiona, which I've always liked, and Renata, which I'd never heard before moving here. I would have been fine with my mom's name had it belonged to anyone but my mother, Grayson, and I also like my aunt's name, Amber, which was shared by one of my friends in high school. Meredith is also a great girl's name, and I've also always loved the name of my oldest friend, Kylin. With different genitals, I would have been okay with any of those names.

But, happily, I was born a guy, and I think I ended up with a pretty good name. Generally over the course of my life I would always think of how few guys' names I envied, being rather attached to Travis. Mark is probably the most boring name that I like, not being a fan of the Matthews or the Jonathans or the Stephens or the Williams or the Michaels of the world. I'm sure that has a lot to do with liking the way that Mark sounds after my first name, but it's a nice-sounding short name overall; far preferable to Mike and Matt. More character. In ninth grade I first met someone who spelled it with a C (Marc), which I thought was pretty cool and did rather envy. (There was "Marc with a C," and "Mark who gets a C," in the words of my pre-calc teacher, referring to two guys in my class.)

There are some other guys' names I'd be fine with, though. I like my little brother's name, Dayton. One of my favorites has been Heath, which I also heard for the first time in high school; I liked it despite being the name of a person I couldn't stand in one of my classes. I've recently become quite fond of the name Adrik, a freshman at UNL who I don't know, though were it my name I would pronounce it with a long A, which sounds way cooler. Malcolm's nice. Besides perhaps those, there aren't too many names I would willingly trade with. I'd also take Trian, which I thought I invented a couple years ago as a unisex name for my Jedi in Knights of the Old Republic, but apparently it already exists as an Asian name of some sort.

I never really thought of alternate last names that I liked since having an alternate last name wasn't exactly likely to happen. I like Spomer anyway. As has been commented, it sounds like a nice Bond villain name. Just imagine Sean Connery saying "Schpohmah." I do, however, admire people with punctuation in their names.

Maybe I just gravitate toward people with kickass names:

Kylin Riley, my longest friend—That's a good name. We were friends more due to closeness in birthday rather than awesomeness of name, though.
Adam Thayer, my best friend in elementary school—Okay, doesn't count. I was little.
Günter Voelker, my best friend in middle school—Getting better. Two wacky, fun names in one.
Daniel Mason-D'Croz, best friend in high school and roommate in college—No points for first name, but the last name makes up for it. An apostrophe!
Marc Popkin-Paine, acting best friend given the constraints of geography and convenience—Okay, a name doesn't really get any better than that.

(I used to try to avoid putting peoples' names in my blog, but seeing as this is a post about names... whatever.)

Personally, I find it impossible to imagine a name more awesome than either of the last two, but if I find someone with one, I will have to be sure to befriend them, for the sake of continuity.

Office is very fast

Some interesting performance metrics comparing Office with OpenOffice.org put Word and Excel as astoundingly faster than their OO.org counterparts. I've always thought that they were impressively performant. Outlook, though... sometimes makes me want to cry myself to sleep. It's the most networked of the Office apps, so I guess that explains something, but still, it drives me nuts sometimes...

The dating game

Nerd dating hint:

If you're ever in some sort of computerized dating system or speed dating night or something like that, just ask the other person, "how would you describe your skin tone in RRGGBB hex notation?" If they smile even a little bit, date them.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A loss of a perfectly good practical joke

Today I decided that I would enter an absent coworker's office and replace his English keyboard with the French Canadian model of the same keyboard (the one I bought by mistake). I was all ready to do it, and so I casually walked by his office to scout things out, and to my horror, it was already gone! He has replaced it with one of those newfangled Natural Ergonomic Keyboards 4000. So sad. A perfectly good practical joke, ruined.

I don't think that I like the new 4000, though I haven't used it yet. I lament the loss of the track forward and back buttons, and it looks like the handy log off (I use it to lock, not log off) and calculator buttons are gone too. You can use the 1-5 Favorites buttons in the middle for that, but that's a very poor substitute for dedicated keys in just the right places. Also, even worse is that the delete/home/end/etc. keys have reverted to the old classic 3x2 layout. Microsoft's first iteration at an alternate 2x3 layout wasn't that great, but their newer 2x3 layout with no insert key was absolutely perfect.

It's really too bad. I've always loved Microsoft hardware, but now my three favorite Microsoft hardware products are out of production: the Sidewinder Game Pad Pro (replaced with the Xbox 360 USB controller, which I have yet to touch), the IntelliMouse Explorer 3.0 (replaced with the far inferior 4000 model), and the Natural MultiMedia Keyboard (replaced with the Ergonomic 4000). Eventually they'll wear out and I may not be able to find replacements, which will be a sad day. I was able to track down a replacement Sidewinder, for which I am very happy, so hopefully I'll be able to do the same for my mouse and keyboard.

Of course, even better would be if Microsoft would get back to making hardware products that I like, because I have yet to find a Logitech product that touched my soul as dearly, and let's not even get started on the sad state of the crap that Saitek and Apple and Belkin put out.

Monday, October 24, 2005

It's from Arrested Development

As I prepared to enter the elevator on my Segway this morning, a woman turned the corner and saw me, and screamed, "It's Gob!" and then laughed hysterically. She then said something to the effect of "I love it; that's so great," but I can't really remember what because I was so surprised right then. I just replied "Except I don't run over flowers," waved, and got in the elevator.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

A possibility

I thought of something that I might try: for a month, I'll pay for a music subscription service, and just preview a ton of music. This way I can filter out the stuff that I don't like, and only buy the good stuff. This could have saved me from such travesties as Jewel's Pieces of You.

The problem with this plan is that I have liked an overwhelming majority of the music I've purchased in the past few years so I'd end up buying it anyway after rushing to download and listen to as much as I could in a month. I guess, in theory, if it saves me from buying one crappy CD it would be worth it financially, but it might also kind of ruin the experience to listen to have my first impressions of so many CDs be in 128 kbps and only for a relatively short period of time until I pass judgment.

Space Rangers Ho

I've stumbled across a fun game that seems like it would be a near-perfect game to live on the tablet and play whenever I had a few spare minutes, alongside Etherlords, which is my current favorite in that category: Space Rangers. It's very easy to start and stop at arbitrary points without being confused the next time you play, it has low system requirements, it's easily played entirely with the mouse or pen (good for tablets)... and it's ADD-tastic. Tired of trading? Go shoot down other ships. Or run transport missions. Or go solve a logic puzzle for some distant planet. Or play a simple land-based RTS match. (!) It's definitely an odd game, or rather an odd assortment of mini-games all tied together with a single theme. Perfect for a quick game on the go, or at least it would be if I actually kept my tablet with me. I imagine that, like Etherlords, I'll remove it from my desktop PC and it will live forever on my tablet. It's too bad that the copy protection scheme is so annoying. That's certainly one nice thing about World of Warcraft and Guild Wars; I'd rather enter a password than hunt down a disc. (Though, of course; I'd rather do neither; there's no good reason at all that I should have to enter a username/password to log in to an online game. I have my own user account for a reason.)

That's the power of matter management

I think that I might institute some rules for time use upon myself. Things like the following:
  • Check personal email and RSS feeds exactly once per day, soon after returning from work so it's not 3:00 and you're going "oh crap, I haven't responded to emails yet."
  • No reading IvoryTower during the day except once around 10:00 am when you read the news.

I don't feel so much that I've been wasting my time; more just that I'd have more time to do things if I consolidated a bit. I'll still read and respond to every email and post, but I'll do it all at once. I used to check my POP server every five minutes for new mail, and respond to it immediately. That was before I started getting so much spam. I've increased that timespan over the years; I'm now at 30 minutes per check, which basically means that I check Outlook every 30 minutes I'm at the computer and not playing a full-screen game, because I can't even imagine a 30-minute span in which I didn't get at least 10-20 emails. There's no real reason for me to check my mail periodically; urgent issues do not come through personal email. They come through phone calls and IMs. I spend a huge portion of my workdays just reading and responding to email; I want to minimize that at home.

In fact, in writing this post, I've decided that I'm going to do it. I'm turning off my email notifier program right now.

Hobag

I like leaving myself notes in which I call myself demeaning things, such as "filthmongrel" and "ass" and "hobag." This is not because of some self-esteem problem, but simply just because I find it entertaining to wake up to a sticky note that says "do laundry, hobag."

I leave myself a lot of sticky notes, both corporeal notes and the virtual notes on my computer desktop. Without them, I can't remember anything. (I have not yet taken to carrying around a Polaroid camera and writing notes on each photo, though I assume that it will come to that someday.) Of course, I'm sure relying on a billion notes as a crutch isn't helping my memory get better, if it's possible for one's memory to get stronger by relying on it more.

I really have no idea

This morning I was once again musing about things I know nothing about; in particular, laser-based intrusion detection systems. You know, the Bond-esque laser grids that let you know when someone's breaking in to steal your diamonds in that display case in the middle of the room. What I was wondering is simple: why can't these systems be defeated by some kind of portable light carried by the intruder?

Here's my scenario: I'm trying to steal the aforementioned massive diamond on display. I take with me a bag containing several devices which are essentially "flashlights" that produce light that the system would think was the laser, but they do so in a wide beam so that all of the sensors on one side of the case can be covered. I need one such flashlight for each side of the case that contains sensors. Once a steady stream of light is projected over all of the sensors, I could just reach in and take the diamond, and then turn off all of the flashlights and leave.

My first guess is that there's no portable way to generate the wavelengths of light that the sensors recognize in such a large area. Maybe laser light can't be diffused easily enough to create such a "flashlight" beam. Maybe those sensors are precisely calibrated to only recognize a very specific wavelength of light which wouldn't be known by the attacker ahead of time.

My second guess is that there's no way to trigger the sensors with diffuse light, and that it can only be done with tight beams projected directly at them, namely the lasers that are supposed to be part of the system.

If anyone knows why, please feel free to educate me.

Of course, if this were a vulnerability, there are several things you could do to protect your system from such attackers. The easiest thing to do would be to include at least one sensor that must not be receiving light to avoid triggering the alarm. The flashlight would hit this sensor along with the others and you'd be caught. The next step would be to cause all of the different lasers to turn on and off in a particular pattern, and then any sensor that didn't match the state of the laser assigned to it, either on or off, would trigger the alarm. That seems like it would be a really effective countermeasure.

La Tortura

Shakira
Figure 1. Shakira is hot.

I've been listening to Shakira's latest CD, Fijación Oral, Vol. 1. It's good; it's light, and not really what I was expecting. It seems that her music is a bit lighter and prettier when she's singing in Spanish, and a bit harsher and more pop-like when she's singing in English. This CD is completely in Spanish, and fits that description pretty well. It's got a nice variety of styles, and her voice always sounds better in Spanish than English. Good to pick up if you're a Shakira fan or like Latin music in general. Her next English-language CD, Oral Fixation, Vol. 2, is coming out pretty soon, so I'm very interested in finding out how it compares, or if it's just English versions of these songs. Best tracks: La Tortura (Shaketon remix), No, La Pared.

I've also been listening to Schizophrenic by JC Chasez, who was in *NSYNC or Backstreet Boys or one of those. I don't remember why I own it; maybe it was another Amazon recommendation. It's analogous to Justin Timberlake's solo effort; it's definitely still mindless silly pop, but somehow less geared toward teenage girls. I haven't really heard much of Justin Timberlake's work, being a little afraid, but it seems like it's more R&B-oriented. Schizophrenic is a weird variety of pop styles, including some 80s. It's decent; not really my favorite genre of music, but for blatant pop music it seems pretty good. I guess I recommend it to anyone who happens to really like pop music; I imagine that it would make good party music. Best tracks: Some Girls (Dance with Women), Blowin' Me Up (With Her Love), Something Special.

[It seems that Yahoo! Music is IE-only, so those links won't work in Firefox. Sorry.]

Extraordinarily odd

Well, I've figured out Extraordinary Machine. There are eight beats per line, but the lyrics don't quite fit the pattern and spill into the previous line. Also, sometimes there are no lyrics at all during the beat: they're syncopated in parts, which is how she gets away with putting so many syllables in some of the lines. For example:

(pause) I noticed that my opponent is always on the go, and
won't go slow so's not to focus, and I notice (pause) (pause) he'll
hitch a ride with any guide as long as they go back from whence he came, but he's
no good at being uncomfortable so he can't stop staying exactly the same.

The first, second, and last of those four lines all share a rhythm, but in the third line, only beats 1, 3, 5, and 7 take place when she's singing. I wonder if this song would be less perplexing to someone who's had some music theory classes and is trained to understand these things. It's just strange because it features so many things you don't hear in "normal" music, where words happen on the beats and everyone's happy.

Anyway, it's quite an intriguing song, and it sounds really good too. It's been stuck in my head for a while now.

Friday, October 21, 2005

It's in India

Today I was finishing up the final setup work for one of the features I worked on a year ago, and I added support for Assamese, just in case there's an Assamese version of Office in the future, because Assamese is a fun name for a language. I think it would be fun to be able to tell people that I know Assamese.

Undressed

In the three years it was on the air, Undressed had 222 episodes over six seasons. That's the sign of a quality show. If you aren't convinced that it was a quality show just yet, take a look at some of the names of the characters as listed on IMDB:
  • Girl Les has sex with
  • Stacked Woman
  • Slutty Student

Whoa

I feel I'm usually pretty decent at anticipating how new peoples' voices will sound before I actually hear them speak. It's always quite entertaining to me when I do hear them and I was totally off. There's a person who I hadn't heard speak until recently whose voice was at least two octaves lower than I was expecting, and I couldn't help but smile a little the first time I heard him say anything. There are also two guys on the Project team who are massive behemoths, I'm guessing at least 6'10" tall, and both of them have super-high-pitched voices. One of them in particular sounds like he's 11 years old.

Extraordinary Machine

I love this Extraordinary Machine song by Fiona Apple. It's so weird and poetic. The lines in each verse and chorus vary dramatically in length; when you're listening to just about every song, you know where each line is going to end because of your own sense of rhythm. But, with Extraordinary Machine, it's almost a mystery. It's wacky. Take this line:

But he's no good at being uncomfortable so he can't stop staying exactly the same
(9 measures)

compared to

I certainly haven't been shopping for any new shoes
(5 measures)

The melody is also mostly monotone, which doesn't make it easier. Actually, there's probably some pattern to the music that I'm not seeing yet just because everything's so odd.

Time keeps on slipping

After midnight, time progresses at an exponential rate. I am convinced of this now.

Right now it is 12:30. Fifteen minutes ago it was 11:00. In another half an hour it will be 4:00. I must get to bed very, very soon.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

I just want to kill things

I hate when games include real-life guns and don't provide any useful way to distinguish between them if you don't know which ones are good at what. Is the ARF-298B a good medium-range weapon that won't be effective at long range? Unless the models and sounds are very good, I'll never know unless I find some website somewhere and look it up. I don't even know what exactly counts as a rifle (I just think "long, slender gun"), let alone know which guns are best for which situations. The Doom, Unreal, and Wolfenstein series did excellent jobs at letting me know which weapons were best suited for which tasks. The Half-Life series did a pretty good job. A ton of games do a terrible job, just assuming that you know this stuff already. I think that Counter-Strike is the worst example of this that I've ever seen; if you don't have knowledge of modern firearms you're pretty much worthless at buying equipment. (Maybe it's better now; it's been years since I've played, for good reason.)

Cheese

My recent visitors. Well, and Brian, who lives here.

Henry, Luke, and Brian

Yet another bathroom story

As I stood there using the urinal today, I heard someone come into the bathroom and say, "You need to evacuate immediately. Don't say I didn't warn you." I heard a stall door close and lock, then a zipper, and then "5... 4... 3... 2... 1..." Then, well, I'm sure you can figure out what happened next.

Apparently I work in a high school.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Some like it rough, but I like my edges smooth

Games without antialiasing controls irk me. I'm looking at you, Dawn of War. I'll let it slide this time, though, because you are so, so pretty.

Speaking of Dawn of War, the Dawn of War website says that the expansion pack Winter Assault is the first RTS expansion to include a fully-realized new side. I assume that they're jabbing at Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne here; the Naga were not playable by themselves in that expansion though they were playable in many of the campaign missions. But, their memory is very short. As I started listing off moderately recent real-time strategy game expansions in my head, they were wrong by the first one: Command and Conquer Generals: Zero Hour, no new side; Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, Naga not "fully realized"; Command and Conquer: Yuri's Revenge... oops! Yuri's Revenge featured an all-new side that was completely playable in multiplayer, Yuri's own faction.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Off to Serenity

Well, I just finished Firefly. Now all I've got left is the movie.

Good stuff.

Bluetiful

Blue sunglasses lend a yellow tint to everything you see, which is really nice around this time of year. Everything's overcast and blue-grey, grass isn't as bright green as it used to be, and trees are turning colors. All of those things look better with a yellow tint. A blue sky sucks with a yellow tint, but luckily I won't be seeing one of those for many months now.

Disaster preparedness

Even though I was joking in my previous post, I did decide to back up this morning. Nero BackItUp makes it really easy; it's much nicer than just manually copying files or trying to work with the painful built-in Windows backup tool designed for tape drives. I had 2 GB of data that hadn't been backed up since May when I last did. Two gigabytes. On one hand, it's great that that easily all fits on a single DVD. On the other hand, that's two gigabytes of documents and source code and stuff I may very well have lost in the case of catastrophe. That's not backup music or saved games or programs or anything like that; it's just my own photos, documents, source code, and the like.

Yikes. I need to remember to back up more often. Once I get a new computer I'll use this one as a media server and network backup machine, and then I can just periodically make offsite backups from that, but at least I won't have to remember to back up nearly as much.

This is what happens when you get up way too late

I don't think I want to even want to know what on Earth they are constructing or deconstructing outside, but it kind of sounds like the wall of my apartment is going to fall down while I'm in the shower. I almost feel like I should back up before I leave the computer. Actually, I probably should; it's been far too many months.

Update: they were cutting down trees. Apparently people were complaining that there were too many trees. I find that really disappointing, because I really liked having so many trees around. They looked really nice. There's no bird problem, so I don't know why people want to get rid of the trees.

Monday, October 17, 2005

As free as the wind blows

As soon as my check clears, I am debt-free. (I don't count my monthly credit card balance since I pay it in full every month.) That's a pretty good feeling. I own my speakers, my Segway, my camera, and my furniture.

I've even got a bunch of money saved up that could serve as a down payment on a dwelling should I choose to move out when my lease expires. I've been having it deducted from my paychecks and automatically put into poorly-performing Microsoft stock. I don't really know if having the money magically taken away has helped me to save more; my intuition is that it hasn't, as I haven't paid any attention to my account balances when making purchases anyway.

In a few more months I get to find out what tax time is going to be like. I really don't know if I'm going to get a chunky refund, or owe the IRS lots of money, or somewhere in-between.

For now I've got a lot of charitable donations to make that I've been kind of putting off for the Microsoft charity auction. I'm going to bid on the chance to drive the wrecking ball the next time Microsoft needs to tear down a building. That's such an awesome little prize, and it has no inherent value, so I get to deduct however much I end up paying for it come tax time, and Microsoft will match whatever I pay to the United Way. Apparently you don't need any kind of certification to run a wrecking ball. I think that might be fun. And even if it's not, at least a lot of people get to eat.

Home for Non-Denominational Winter Solstice Holiday

Luke and Henry are gone. Well, not technically; they're staying just a mile away tonight, but tomorrow they're heading back to their respective states. It's been a lot of fun; thanks, guys.

I still haven't decided if I'm going back to Nebraska for Thanksgiving or Christmas. I did Thanksgiving last year and Christmas might be a nice change of pace, but if I go back for Christmas I miss out on my friends from college—my faithful readers! If I stay out here for Thanksgiving I might get to do something with my friends out here, whereas I'm thinking that most everyone will be away around the end of the year just like last time.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Eerie

EclipseCrossword and Windows Vista

The Next button from my product EclipseCrossword and the Forward button from Windows Vista. Kind of eerie. Let's see... well, the light glint on my button is smaller, and it includes a snazzy metal rim. Vista's still in beta, though; maybe it will improve. :)

Ragtag

Luke, Henry, Brian, and I have been hanging out this weekend, and it's been a good time. We went to Pike's Place yesterday and spent a good hour-plus wandering around the Discovery Park area in Seattle because the streets around there suck so much. We watched some Firefly and Battlestar Galactica, too. At the moment, the other three are out doing the winery and brewery tours, which I've done more times than really necessary already. If there were some kind of similar tour that didn't involve liquid compost, I'd be more interested in going. We should be meeting up in an hour or two to figure out what else is happening today, I suppose.

I'm not sure how disturbing it is that I've still kinda missed getting some weekend Warcraft in. Brian's kitty is adorable. If only I could have it as an in-game pet that didn't poop or throw up.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Bliss is Serenity

I don't know if anyone else noticed, but the flying dumpster in the Firefly episode "Trash" was running Windows XP. I wonder if that was a subtle jab.

I'm pretty sure it's XP in Classic mode, at least. It looks like the second window from the front is the Printers folder in Tiles view. The wizard in front tells me that it's either 2000, ME, or XP, and 2000 didn't have Tiles view.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Deadlines

There are many little deadlines in the Office development cycle as we try to stabilize the product a bit. To be fairly vague, checkins are restricted during those times to fix "important" bugs only—the ones where the problem is bad enough and the fix is cheap enough that it's "worth it." A bug where the page isn't "dirtied' when you do things to it, so you aren't notified to save when you close the program, is pretty bad. A bug where every word on a page encoded in UTF-8 shows up as a spelling error is bad but easily worked around, so it probably wouldn't be allowed to check in. The way things work is that for the duration of the "chill," the bar is raised each week until at the end only the most important fixes can be checked in. This isn't something Microsoft; this is just a common technique of controlling change in software.

Clearly you should work in priority order, fixing the bad bugs first and the less significant bugs later. But, let's say it's four weeks until beta 2 ships, and you know that after beta 2, you won't be allowed to fix little silly things like buttons being two pixels too far to the right, because they aren't going to be willing to accept the risk of breaking things for little silly bugs. You'll never have time to fix all of your important bugs in time to fix that silly bug.

A naughty developer fixes the little stupid bug before the important ones, so it's sure to be fixed in the final build of beta 2. The other ones are big, nasty issues with bad problems, so they'll definitely still let you check those in later. The point of these chills is to increase stability and get rid of the bad bugs, but they can backfire: they can cause people to frantically check in lots of fixes for little insignificant things at the last minute before the bar goes up and suddenly those aren't important enough to fix right now.

I haven't been around here long enough to see how often this kind of thing happens on my team. I think that so far we've done a good job of balancing things and bending the rules when appropriate. For example, right before a recent chill to produce a stable version for people all over Office to use for their daily work, I checked in some changes that made error messages more clear and helpful right before the deadline when those changes would have no longer been accepted. That seems to be against the spirit of the chill, but it was a super-low-risk change, and it had a positive impact.

I guess you just have to balance bending the rules to make the product better with following the rules to make the product better.

A failed experiment

Before today, I stored my audio CDs in binders and their jewel cases in wire racks. Today, I have given up on the binders. They really don't make sense. I don't take audio CDs anywhere or do anything with them after I get them; they just sit there. It's silly to keep the CD separate from the case. Now, movies and games, they still make sense. I can take my movie collection over to someone's house in one binder, which is incredibly convenient. I do the same for TV on DVD, of which I have far more discs than movies. It also makes sense for games, since games come in boxes that are far larger than a CD or DVD case.

Well, the insanity stops here. I've even been able to control my anal tendencies—so far—by not immediately emptying the binders and resorting my CD cases. Right now I'm okay with everything being in such a random and haphazard manner.

Goodbye

AIM Mobile and I are breaking up. It's been a rocky several months, and I just can't take it randomly forwarding IMs from important people to my faraway phone when I'm actively using the computer anymore. I don't think we'll be remaining friends.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Goodnight and go

Why'd you have to be so cute?
It's impossible to ignore you.
Must you make me laugh so much?
It's bad enough we get along so well.
Say goodnight and go.

Ribbons


(Excel 12)

Jensen Harris has an interesting blog on the new Office 12 UI. To be perfectly honest, I hate hate hate hate hated it when I first started working at Microsoft. Now I hate it... much less. As things have been refined (considerably) over time, the stupid things have been corrected, things have been streamlined, new icons and layouts have dramatically improved consistency, and it just makes more sense. I don't think that it's something that would prevent me from upgrading to Office 12 anymore; it certainly was a year ago. I think I now like the Ribbon better than menus, but I never really liked menus that much.

I'm skeptical of how it would apply to FrontPage, though. FrontPage is half Word half Visual Studio, and while I guess I'd be okay with the Word half using the ribbon, they're gonna have to pry the Visual Studio toolbars from my cold, dead hands. While my Word toolbars are pretty heavily customized, I've mostly just got more commands on them; I haven't removed a whole lot, except for retarded stuff like Copy, Cut, Paste, Undo, Redo, and Help. My Visual Studio toolbars, on the other hand, barely resemble the stock toolbars. I've spent a lot of time putting exactly the commands I want on there in the order that I like them. No stock UI, no matter how well-designed, is going to be better than something I put together myself.

The Office UI needs to still cater to power users of the applications, and I don't think that Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 12 are customizable enough for people who want a more personal experience. All I know is that if they switched Visual Studio over to the Ribbon, I'd probably turn into one of those eccentric wackos who uses emacs or vi, except I'd be the eccentric wacko who only uses Visual Studio 2007, and has it tricked out with all sorts of silly hacks that lets me use it to build apps for the 4.0 .NET framework, sort of.

Feedback

When/if I ever move away from Blogger and make a less sucky site for my blog, I'd like to include the ability for my guests to rate posts, so I'd know which kinds of things people liked, disliked, or ignored completely. That's something that I wish Blogger had, though you'd need an account system of some sort for the "ignored completely" thing to really make sense.

Fairly little to do with face painting

I've never been a sports fan. Yes, I'm sure that's a huge shock to some of you. I just don't find watching or playing sports all that interesting for the most part, though I admit that I always did like floor hockey and water volleyball, and I enjoyed the one and only baseball game I ever went to (Mariners). I don't even like bowling, the sport that's only a sport in the wildest reaches of the imagination. Despite living in Lincoln for 22 years and going to UNL for four of those, I've never been to a Husker football game, though I've watched a couple.

Neither of my parents are big into sports either. My dad tends to follow football and basketball on a high level, but besides wrestling, he rarely watches. An interesting theoretical question is whether I would have liked sports had they been bigger sports fans. I'm not talking about some genetic disposition to liking sports; just the simple fact of living with sports fans seems like an environmental factor that would lead to me enjoying sports. I don't really feel like I would—in fact, I imagine that I might even resent sports in all their forms even more—but then again, if I lived with two sports maniacs for eighteen years, I'd be a very different person. It's hard to imagine painting my face or screaming at a TV, but maybe if things had been different, I'd be different too.

I was on a soccer team for a year; have I ever mentioned that? I really hated it. I played defense, and I was maybe a hair above average. I did a decent job at keeping the goalie bored. I was awful at anything but defense, so I quickly found myself in a rut. My legs have always been far more useful in any kind of physical activity than my arms, so soccer sort of fit. Boy, those are some memories I must have blocked out pretty effectively, because I barely remember it. Our team colors were light blue and red. Or, maybe all of the teams were light blue and red; our uniforms were reversible. I don't recall the specifics...

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Oh well

Well, while the NDA would have prevented me from telling you that I got into the Heroes of Might and Magic V closed beta, I didn't, so I can. I didn't. Oh well. I seem to spend so little time playing games anymore anyway; might as well play finished ones.

There will still be some openings down the line, so maybe I'll get into a later beta slot.

Bitter hatred

I just hate static cling. Someone should really invent something that I could put in the dryer to get rid of it. Then, someone else could invent something that would remind me to actually use one when I dry my laundry.

Nice to be appreciated

Yesterday an undead mage who we had played with before made my day when he exclaimed before our adventures in Stratholme had even started that he had "almost forgotten how much you guys kick ass." That's probably the most rewarding part of playing World of Warcraft; meeting the occasional pleasant people who enjoy fighting by your side. Vger and Palinor do make an excellent team, and it's always nice when people notice, especially when they're fun to play with and skillful as well.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Just mocking me

I like to play a little game when I do laundry. The object of the game is to take all of the clothes from the dryer to my bed without dropping any. Tonight, I finally did it... I was so happy. Sadly, one sock fell out of the dryer immediately upon opening the door, so I lost by a technicality.

Sunday, October 9, 2005

Less delicious music

Not much to comment on for the last few CDs I've been focusing on.

Emiliana Torrini—Fisherman's Woman: There's one decent song on this CD, Thinking Out Loud. Sadly, a much better version of the song (the Line of Flight remix) is available for free on the Sneaker Pimps website, and it's not a phenomenal song to begin with. The album sounds like her first album, after removing what little joy she had, and after removing all accompaniment. Definitely not worth the twelve bucks or whatever.

Thievery Corporation—The Cosmic Game: Good enough. The problem with Thievery Corporation is that it sounds like background music, to the point that when I try to listen to it, I get distracted by something else. Usually I seem to have the opposite problem; I can't listen to certain artists while I'm doing other things because I pay too much attention to the song and not whatever else I'm doing. Anyway, I think that's kind of the point. It's great music to have on while you're playing a game or have people over. I'd say that the only real problem I have with The Cosmic Game is that it sounds exactly like their other CDs. You could mix and match tracks and no one would ever notice. I generally don't have a problem with this—if I liked it to begin with it, I'll like more of it—but it still might have been nice to hear something a little different. Oh well; I can't complain, seeing as I added every track on the CD to my permanent rotation. If forced to pick favorites, they'd be Pela Janela, Doors of Perception, and The Supreme Illusion.

Jonathan Elias and kajillion guests—The Prayer Cycle: This is an interesting CD. It's not quite a cappella, but the instrumentation is very minimal, and it focuses on a couple different choirs and some interesting guest vocalists, like Alanis Morrissette and Linda Ronstadt. It's peaceful and pretty. An interesting purchase.

Next up are Secret Garden - Earthsongs (new age), Ill Niño - Confession (hard rock), and JC Chasez - Schizophrenic (electronic pop). I know exactly what to expect from Earthsongs; it will be exactly like all of Secret Garden's previous albums. Confession will probably be mediocre. I don't know what to think about Schizophrenic. Once I'm finished with those, I'll hopefully be able to move on to a couple CDs that I've been looking forward to for a long time, like Fiona Apple - Extraordinary Machine, and Shakira - Fijacion Oral Vol. 1.

Overhelpful

At the risk of making my blog contain an even higher than usual number of complaints about things, I always get really annoyed when online payment forms show you a list of credit card expiration months using the name of the month. Sure, I know that June is 06, but the card says 06. Why would you show "June" in the dropdown box? That just doesn't make sense. It's okay to say "06 - June," but just showing "June" is silly.

At least it's not August. July and August are the ones I always have to count out; 07 and 08 never just come to mind for some reason.

So what?

It seems that I have fallen back into my bad habit of starting far too many paragraphs with the word "so."

Where have all the heroes gone?

Well, I finally got a chance to play the Heroes of Might and Magic IV card and tile game on Tuesday, and I guess it's high time I commented on it.

I expected it to kind of suck. It sucked a little more than I really expected it to, but not too much more. It served as a very good example to me of why a game is greater than the sum of its parts. The Heroes card game mimics so much from the computer game, but it fails on several key points. I won't go into all of them, but I'll mention a few.

First of all, it plays like an extremely boring map. Good Heroes maps have interesting terrain, beautiful locales, exciting monsters and treasure, and choke points, and progress in difficulty from the initial easy battles guarding the necessities your army needs to survive, like mines and gold, to long, tough battles for powerful artifacts. The Heroes card game misses all of this. Your first battle even before conquering your first town can put your puny army up against two dragon golems and a genie. Your reward for this battle is exactly the same as if you defeated a wandering squire. There's no correlation between the encounters and their rewards, and thus no feeling of overcoming appropriate challenges to develop your heroes into true leaders of vast armies. This may actually be the worst failing of the card game; this slow, gradual character development (and town development, which was almost totally removed in the card game) was one of the best aspects of the computer games. It's like an RPG on a more macro scale; an RPG where multiple parties have a single unified goal of bringing glory to your side. The card game also has a great dearth of these encounters; only a few per player. If you add more map tiles you get more encounters, but you also spend more time walking from place to place. Your encounters may very well be five turns' worth of traveling apart. A good Heroes map will give your hero several encounters in a turn.

So, that's my biggest complaint: you lose too much of the RPG feeling. My next complaint is that while they generally did a pretty good job of simplifying the game and turning it into a card game, leveling up is not something that I want left to chance. One of the things about the computer game that irked me was that there was a little randomness when you'd level up in that you'd just get your choice of a couple different new skills, instead of just picking the one you wanted. Well, in the card game, you get whatever you've drawn recently. If you haven't drawn any new skill cards that you're capable of learning, then you just don't level up after that battle. Actually, that's one area where I feel that a house rule might improve things: if skill cards were a separate deck that you could pick through at will when you leveled up, I think things would be improved. This kind of problem shows up in a couple different ways too. If you don't draw any level 1 or 2 units early in the game, then you can't recruit more units, and you can't grow your army. If you only draw level 3 and 4 unit cards, then you have to either spend them as cash (San Juan-style), or add them as guards to opponents' encounters, guards that they very well not be capable of defeating, which just slows down the game and annoys everyone. If you want to learn spells in town, you'd better hope you drew a spell card, because otherwise your mage is just going to sit in the back and sulk.

So, in the end, the card game version has far too much randomness and unpredictability, and not enough balance.

That's not to say that the game got nothing right. The ability of a player to build a customized deck of cards that suits their play style is extremely compelling. I still love that aspect of Magic: The Gathering, and the computer game Etherlords was very effective at copying Magic's deckbuilding strategies. It's something that World of Warcraft does well, too: you become very attached to your characters as you tweak and tune them. Guild Wars is perhaps even better, in that you can adjust your character's expertise on the fly between missions; you can customize everything but your equipment for free between quests. That's awesome, and it's exactly what I liked from Magic: I put exactly the cards I wanted to play in my deck, and the experience was very personal and engaging and cool. Heroes would have this if I knew other people who wanted to play it; I could put together a streamlined, magic-heavy Life/Nature deck. I wish the computer game offered this; as it stands, you generally just get to pick a single side, and then you go from there. If I got to pick precisely the towns, heroes, spells, creatures, and skills that I could learn, I think that it would be a phenomenal thing.

So, the Heroes card game was overall a disappointment after the first play, but I wasn't really expecting much. It automatically has more entertainment value due to the franchise; I just really love the six factions, the creatures, and the atmosphere of the Heroes universe. It won't be the last time I play it, and there very well may be hope in the forms of alternate play styles and optional rules. There's potential there, but also a lot that is broken.

So, now I really wonder about Heroes of Might and Magic V, the computer game sequel coming out in a few months. This I do have very high hopes for. The designers seem to have done a good job of infusing life into the series while sticking to the things that made the original games so incredible, but I won't know for sure until it releases or I get into the beta. It's not made by the original Heroes team; it's made by Nival, who incidentally created Etherlords. Based on what I've seen and what I've read from the designers, I am very optimistic that it will stay true to the series and be a really great game. I hope I'm right.

Saturday, October 8, 2005

Delicious music

November will be a good month.

Hooverphonic is releasing No More Sweet Music on November 14. But, that's the Belgium-only release date. It hits all of Europe in January. Probably no US release date. That might be hard to track down...

Enya's sixth album, Amarantine, is slated for November 21.

And, I hear that Shakira's Oral Fixation Volume 2 is coming out November 29.

Also of note are Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith and Scrubs volume 2.

Until proven more guilty

And I don't mean to pick on Katamari Damacy and company so much. I didn't actually play the game; it actually kind of looked like it would be mildly entertaining for a few minutes at a time, if I could somehow get around the awful noises. It just served as a perfect recent example.

Game reviews

I've decided what would make game reviews more useful to me. Here's how I imagine that the reviewer selection process currently works:

A: Hey, another shipment of games came in. Better distribute them.
B: Hmmm, Katamari Damacy. Looks wacky and Japanese.
A: Let's send it off to that guy who likes bizarre Japanese imports.
B: Way ahead of you!
A: Let's make out.

But what if it worked this way?

B: Katamari Damacy. Well, PC Gamer and IGN already have their guys who like bizarre Japanese imports on it. This one goes to the turn-based strategy guy.
A: Wow, he's really going to have an interesting perspective on this game.
B: I know! Let's make out.

It would take some coordination between different reviewers, who would need to publish blurbs and scores from other magazines' reviews in their own, or link to other reviews from their website. There would have to be some kind of loose alliance where reviews would be coordinated so Command and Conquer IX didn't go to The Real-Time Strategy Guy for each and every reviewing magazine and website. I don't see this type of coordination happening, but it would be very refreshing, and a way to get me to read game reviews again like I used to. Anymore, though, they're worthless.

As long as wacky Japanese import games are always reviewed by the person who really likes wacky Japanese import games, the reviews will be useless to anyone who doesn't really like wacky Japanese import games. I have a low tolerance for bad translations, bad voice acting, bad typography, and all of the terribly annoying things that Japanese consumers seem to just eat up. I don't have any sort of fondness for Nintendo. I don't have the slightest interest in Japanese pop culture. I don't order Pocky. I don't even have a gaming console of any kind. Why would a review by a person who is totally opposite from me on all those points be useful? But, if a wacky Japanese import game were reviewed by a person who really liked Planescape: Torment and X-COM and Betrayal at Krondor, then I'd hang off his every word. If he said buy, I'd probably buy.

I think we need far more reviews by people who will probably not like the game than those who automatically will. For example, I don't even need to read reviews on Blizzard games; I just auto-preorder. Being made by Blizzard is the only reason I played World of Warcraft in the first place. The Blizzard logo on a game is basically a stamp that says "you have to buy this"; what's the point of having their games reviewed only by people who love Blizzard games and that particular genre? For World of Warcraft (assuming I was on the fence), I would have liked to see reviews from at least (1) a Blizzard fan who likes MMORPGs, (2) an EverQuest fan who is skeptical of Blizzard, (3) a person who has played every PC RPG that's come out in the past decade but can't stand the idea of playing online, and (4) somebody random: maybe the guy who has Katamari posters up in his bedroom. That would have conveyed actual useful information. I seem to remember one of the gaming sites, maybe pre-CNET GameSpot, that used to also list the opinions of other staff members who played the game. That was cool, but I'd like to see full reviews by these people. Any given magazine or site won't have the resources to do it themselves, which is why an alliance of some sort among various sites is necessary.

Then I would care again. As it stands, I don't read game previews anymore because I don't spend enough time playing games to begin with, and I don't read game reviews because they're worthless. If something interesting comes out from a publisher or brand I respect, I just buy it and find out myself. I try something new if it's recommended to me.

Barbie Girl

We Love Katamari combined with an Aqua CD in the car to and from that particular Playstation 2 was perhaps too much aural torture to endure for one evening.

Speak for yourself

We Love Katamari has the absolute worst music and sound effects of any game that I have ever been near in my entire life. I didn't actually play it, but I got to hear it for a very long time. I'm ususally very tolerant of annoying music and sound effects in games just because I feel that sound plays such an important role in a game's experience, but that was just too much. Maybe I could have tolerated the horriffic cacophany of BLEEP BLOOP BLOOP BLOOP BLEEP AAH BLOOP AAH BLOOP SIREN SIREN SIREN or the humans whose lines are just "Hello! Hello! Hello! Hello! Hello! Hello!" or the Wesley Willis-tastic music individually, but all three combined brought me nearly to tears.

Friday, October 7, 2005

One or the other

My manager stopped by before leaving for his honeymoon:

Me: You heading off for your honeymoon?
Manager: Yeah, gonna be fun. So... I guess... fix bugs, enjoy life. Er...
Me: I'll make sure I do one of those things.
Manager: Yeah, that's what I mean.

Thursday, October 6, 2005

Halloween

I haven't thought of a Halloween costume for this year yet. It's gonna be hard to top my "LOCALHOST 80" football jersey from last year. I don't think I'm dedicated enough to put together something Warcraft-related that would be as awesome as the Pauldrons of Elements. (That image probably won't make any sense if you haven't spent time in Orgrimmar or PVP against high-level shamans.)

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Question

Ugh, I just hate it when people use "Question" as the subject of their emails. Things like "ASP.NET question" are just as bad. I'm willing to give people some slack when they're tech support emails, if they're computer-illiterate, but people at Microsoft should not be sending emails with the subject "Question." If someone I knew did that I think I would have to not talk to them for like a week. Although... they might like that.

Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Constant flush man returns... again

I've now verified that constant flush man is also constant hands-washing man. Three times now I've entered the bathroom as he's at the sink, conducted my important business, washed my hands (I tend to be more thorough than most, actually), and he was still washing his hands as I left. He even turned off the faucet and turned it back on once or twice just now. So, probably just some minor OCD or something to that effect.

Monday, October 3, 2005

Escape from Escape from Monkey Island

I played a little Escape from Monkey Island tonight, and despite my love for the first three games in the series, I don't know if I'm going to play any more. The graphics are awful (they weren't even really acceptable when the game first came out), the controls are abysmal, the jokes aren't funny, and the puzzles aren't clever. It's definitely not the Monkey Island I remember.

Then again, my tastes have changed. I like more action in my games than I once did, and I have less tolerance for most kinds of repetitive silliness, like hearing the same line of dialogue more than once in a conversation where I have to go through each available topic to make sure that I learn everything I can, making the experience essentially noninteractive since I may miss something crucial or fail to unlock part of the storyline if I skip some of the conversation topics... or rambling that can't be skipped over with the Escape key. It really feels like the series was dumbed down to the point that I couldn't possibly be interested anymore. The original games, while family-friendly, were aimed more at adults. The fourth and most recent game in the series seems very much aimed at children, with just enough pandering to fans of the series to try to cover it up. It kind of reminds me of what happened to Sam & Max Hit the Road. Sam & Max was an adventure game that was targeted squarely at adults; it was a time when such things were pretty rare, and the result was something that was really funny and not at all stupid, despite the main characters being a lovable dog detective with a sadistic bunny sidekick. Then they turned it into a TV show that only a kid could enjoy... except kids didn't enjoy it either, because it didn't last very long. The sophisticated humor and parody were gone, the quirkiness was eliminated, and it became just another cartoon. Sam & Max wasn't exactly GTA, but it was funny and refreshing.

Now they're making a new Sam & Max game. The original sequel was canned, but they've started working on a new sequel, and now I'm met with trepidation. If it's anything like the Sam & Max Saturday morning cartoon, or Escape from Monkey Island, I don't want any part of it.

The best content is stolen from funny TV shows

From the season premiere of Malcolm in the Middle:

They say we're stubborn; they say we're closed-minded. But I say there's nothing closed-minded about shunning ideas that make you scared and uncomfortable! And who cares if they say we're afraid of life? Life is scary! Life is things… eating things. Well, I say, let everyone out there go ahead and eat each other.
—Hal

Prototypical

It was quite the Seattle weather this past weekend. It felt like it was raining for almost all of Sunday, and it's still wet out. It's also getting pretty cool; definitely in that shorts/pants transitional period.

Here, kitty

One of my coworkers sometimes meows during the day.

Urge to kill... rising.

Someday I'm gonna do a lot of things

Someday I'm going to make a less crappy template for my blog; something that I'll spend more than about 20 minutes on. I'll even make it in FrontPage 12, and it will be pretty.

Today is not that day. Enjoy the new (recycled and mismatched) color scheme. You can also enjoy the new font, if you're using Vista.

Return of the dream reports

Okay, so here's a weird dream I had Friday night. I'm just going to report on a few little parts since I don't remember what was going on in most of it (it was even more rambling and pointless than my average blog post). I remember it involved my Segway for a while... I haven't used it in over a week; perhaps absence makes the heart grow fonder?

So, anyway, I was at a mall. (That should have been my first hint that I was dreaming.) The layout was similar to the famous Pike Place Market in Seattle, with the cramped quarters, busy crowds, low ceilings, and general feeling of unsanitary conditions, but it had normal stores like Abercrombie, Athlete's Foot, and a Starbucks. I was on my Segway, and went to visit my girlfriend, Jennifer Aniston. (Don't snicker. I don't even watch Friends.) She worked at the Starbucks there (which one of the girls worked at Central Perk? I don't know...), and she used her feminine wiles to get me to do her dirty work. She had a set of eight large stickers from "the government" that needed to be pasted on the traffic poles at a nearby intersection, right above the crosswalk buttons. The stickers explained the new laws for using crosswalks. I'm not certain how they were different from the old ones. Anyway, she was on break and wanted to read the newspaper, not put up signs for "the government."

So, I Segwayed out to that intersection, and found something odd: the streets were about sixty feet below street level. It was a very steep hill to get to and from the crosswalk buttons—steep enough that the Segway certainly wouldn't have been able to carry me up, and a bike or car wouldn't be able to either. I don't know how I got up there without some set of climbing tools; that detail was conveniently left out of the dream. Anyway, I put up all of the stickers (it seemed to take several hours) and then returned home. The next day, I found out that those stickers weren't from "the government" at all; they were part of an elaborate email forward hoax to which Jennifer had fallen victim. You know, post these crosswalk signs and Donald Trump will send you a thousand dollars or some nonsense like that.

So, there you go. I hope that entertained you.

I really have no idea why Jennifer Aniston was in my dreams.

I can quit anytime I like

Louise: Did you hear what I caught Travis playing?
Dante: What?
Louise: Guild Wars.
Dante: (gasps) Travis!
Me: It was only the first zone, I swear!
Dante: Listen, if we see EverQuest on your computer, we're holding an intervention.
Me: I can quit anytime I like.

Oh, like they're ones to talk. They each have like eight characters in World of Warcraft, almost all of which are on the role-playing servers. Nice role models they are. Reactions from other people have been pretty similar:

Marc: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

The number of Os have been approximated, since WOW doesn't save chat logs.

Phil: If we weren't at-will anyway, I'd suggest you go ahead and give your two weeks' notice right now.

I really don't intend to play it much more right now. I think I might be in the mood for some Monkey Island; I haven't played the fourth game yet. Either that or Pariah. I don't want to play Guild Wars by myself or with random people on the interwebs. And, as handy as those computer-controlled party members may be, those moochers take way too much of my XP.

Sunday, October 2, 2005

The Chronicles of Travis' Vacation, day 9

The last day of my vacation was roughly as it should be: lazy. After I dropped off the rental car ($20 cab fare back; ouch), I did basically nothing but watch Firefly. It was great.

Kudos to Sci-Fi for running nearly the entire series last week. When I heard that it was a "western in space," I kind of assumed that the "western" thing was metaphorical. From a guy who doesn't like westerns, it's a damned entertaining show, and at this point I'm sure the movie will be great. After seeing about ten episodes (not all of them today), it really feels like the main plot line is just getting started, so the movie should be reeeeally eeenteresting.

It kind of reminds me of Dark Angel a little. Futuristic, sorta postapocalyptic world. Girl experimented on by weird, secret government organization, becomes super soldier, meets up with person who wants to help save the world, one mission at a time. Experiments left her brain pretty screwed up. Except, in Firefly, she meets up with a crew of mostly kindhearted criminals, who want to make money, one mission at a time, and super soldier girl is not insanely hot.

The adorable ship's engineer Kaylee also played the coldhearted bitch wife on Wonderfalls. It would have been hard to make the transition had I even realized before now that they were the same person. It would be kind of like Dr. Cox from Scrubs playing the sensitive, quiet boyfriend in some awful romantic comedy.

Saturday, October 1, 2005

The Chronicles of Travis' Vacation, day 8

Today was unexpected. I went over to some friends' house to play video games. Not being one who enjoys console games, and certainly not being one who has played them recently, I did pretty extraordinarily badly. I still don't understand why people are willing to playing console shooter games. It just doesn't make sense.

We went out for bubble tea, which was just weird. I couldn't drink too much, being allergic to milk and fearing not being able to breathe out of my nose for days if I drank it all, but it was pretty interesting. It tasted like strawberry Quik with a slight tea flavor and lots of little chewy gummies.

So now here I am, with one day remaining in my vacation, and oh-so-very-little accomplished of what I planned to. It was fairly relaxing, but could have been better. It didn't feel like much of a vacation, though it was certainly nice not to have to go into work. One more day until I have to fight back and insist that I'm not doing two weeks' worth of work next week, which is almost certainly what will be implied but never stated.

I lost my phone for the first time, too. It's probably just stuck in a chair at those peoples' place.

Sigh

I just got this email:
I get an error message when attempting to run the program.
Sigh. This stupid email, though, I have a theory on. The error message was probably quite cryptic. The person, who was smart enough not to just say "it didn't work," didn't understand the error message, and I guess just assumed that I wouldn't understand it either. That's my only idea.

The Chronicles of Travis' Vacation, days 6 and 7

(Thursday and Friday)

Having given up on visiting more picturesque locations for various reasons, I decided to take it easy and hang out at home. I got some sleep, played eight board games on Thursday, went out to lunch with Louise again, and went to Jillian's, a bar and pool hall in Seattle. That was just an hour or so ago. I showed up with three people, and the extremely tall man at the door checked our IDs, and then proclaimed, "well, you're all 21, and there are no... flagrant... violations of the dress code, so I guess you're good to go." He probably had good reason to show very mild concern; we were the worst-dressed people I saw there. I doubt too many people were sober enough to notice.

Yep, that's about it for these chronicles. Those of you who enjoy board games might check out Diamant, designed in part by Bruno Faidutti of Citadels fame. It's great fun. Sadly, it's import-only and not available in English, but the rules are very simple and the cards just have pictures and number on them. It's a press-your-luck diamond hunting adventure, and it's been a little while since I've heard so much groaning and screaming (both from agony and victory) in a game.