Wednesday, November 30, 2005

My website template sucks

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

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

Critical eye

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

It's true

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

Monday, November 28, 2005


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

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Why software ships with tons of bugs

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

My life as a Code Economist

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

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

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

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

The venerable couch gag

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

Time has flown

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

Nemo on Ice

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

The movie was so awful, too.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

More sweet music

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

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

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

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

Continuous excitement

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

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

I hope this is a joke

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

Donaueschingen (Peter Kruder's Donaudampfschifffahrtsgesellschaftskapitänskajtütenremix)

Yeah, that was fun to type.

Friday, November 25, 2005


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

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

Guests only

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Random encounters, but not the sexy kind

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

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

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

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

Wholehearted mistake

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

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

Farmland security

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

It's over

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

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

Thursday, November 24, 2005

The irony

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

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Visiting teachers

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

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

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

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

Back home

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

Sorry to everyone I missed.


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

Not really my thing

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

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

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

Monday, November 21, 2005

Feels like home

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

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Wisdom is like knives

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

Dragon Quest VIII

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

Saturday, November 19, 2005

What the fog...

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

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

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

One o'clock and all is well

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

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

Friday, November 18, 2005

1:30am is not part of today

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

Z-order, shmee-order

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

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

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

No longer excruciatingly hot

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

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

One day

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

Here goes nothin'.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


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

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

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

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

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

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

It's frickin' hot

My apartment's heating won't turn off. It had better not be like a hundred degrees when I get home.


I find it somewhat ironic that the for-sensitive-teeth toothpaste that I use makes rinsing my mouth out after brushing my teeth quite painful. Maybe the idea is that you get all the pain out of the way up front, but then you're find until it's time to brush again.

On that note, off to sleep I go. It just sunk in that I'm going to have to go to bed at like 8:00 Friday night if I want to get some sleep before my flight. That will never happen, of course, so I guess I'll be exhausted when I hit Lincoln. Hopefully not so exhausted that I fall asleep while waiting for my next plane, and a small child stuffs plastic explosives in my backpack as a practical joke, and I awaken in a room made entirely of riveted steel with a single lightbulb hanging from the ceiling, wondering where my clothes went, and almost certain that I've already missed my flight. I have a feeling that "I really don't know how that got in there" is a pretty popular excuse for those TSA officers.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Who is Leeroy Jenkins?

If you are the kind of person who enjoys hearing Alex Trebek say "Leeroy Jenkins," then this video clip is for you.

If I were an elevator

Someday I'll be an elevator. I'll be the jackass kind of elevator that doesn't stop closing on you until after it's sure that it's caused nerve damage. The kind of elevator that doesn't always even stay long enough for people to get off, let alone let new people on, ensuring that people are being attacked from both sides just as they're entering.

I could be a jackass elevator and no one would care. Nobody would suspect it's intentional, and I'd be way too expensive to replace. And what are you going to tell the repairman, that your elevator might be evil? Yeah, they're gonna believe that.

Someday I'll be an elevator.

Office 12 beta 1 is here

Office 12 beta 1 has been released. It's only going out to about 10,000 people, but I have a feeling that there will be no lack of information trickling out over the next few days.

It's finally here!

I expect I'll be able to talk about it more tomorrow after the news has filtered through and it's easier to tell what I can and can't say.

Vger, Stone Guard

My World of Warcraft character Vger has now reached the rank of Stone Guard (that's Knight for all of you Alliance types). Hooray. The rewards are incredibly unrewarding; I can enter the restricted officers' area of Orgrimmar, which looks pretty much exactly like the warrior trainers' hall. There, I can buy potions that are basically identical to the ones I can already create, being an alchemist. I can also buy a tabard that looks almost exactly like the one I already have. Dumb.

I'm currently ranked 353 out of the Horde players on the server, which is not the highest I've been, but there are a lot more people participating now than before. I'm #16 out of people not in a guild, which puts me on the first page, though. That's something.

There's no way that a normal person could get much higher than where I already am. There are people who regularly play in a week more than I play in my heaviest month, and those are the people just a few ranks above me. I shudder to think about how much the people at the top must play.

Transient with a Tablet PC

Oh yeah, and if any of you Kauffmanites wants to be my host family on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, let me know soon. Someone who does not have a very loud computer where I would be sleeping is preferred.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Scroll wheeeeeeeeeeeel

The scroll wheel on my IntelliMouse is clogged up with junk. I cleaned it out somewhat, but it still catches every page or so when scrolling downward (but not upward). Reminds me of the fun we had before optical mice, except I can't remove the scroll wheel to clean it.

Some kind of laptop-like trackpad with no moving parts in the middle of the mouse would be kinda cool. I hate trackpads as pointing devices, but as scrolling devices they're actually kinda neat.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Mr. Balding

They say your lack of hair comes from your mother's side. I don't see it. I've already got about the same amount of hair as my maternal grandfather, and I'm somewhat younger.

I like my hair. :(

Sony and the scandal

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know about the whole scandal with the Sony CDs that are infected with some very unpleasant code that gets run and changes the way your system works and hooks in at very deep levels to hide itself. The fact that they stopped production of the CDs ten days after it was revealed what they were doing is good. But the fact that it happened at all is unforgivable.

There's absolutely no excuse. They can't say they didn't know what the CDs did; they had to have tested them out and asked plenty of technical questions if they were buying the technology. And there's no way that they can say that the code that gets wrong isn't harmful and just plain wrong. It's disgusting, and as unlikely as I usually am to participate in any sort of pointless boycott against a corporation, the chances of me purchasing another Sony electronics product anytime soon are now extremely low. They've lost any trust they might have had with me, and their name and image mean nothing but bad things now.

No, the motives behind this had to have been just evil. I'm normally one to give the benefit of the doubt, but not this time. They've specifically chosen a technology that hides itself. It's clearly malicious, it's clearly subversive, and it's absolutely shameful. I hope the lawsuits against them succeed, not out of spite, but just because it's nice to see the guilty punished, and hopefully it will make others think twice about doing something so incredibly stupid. Enron and its buddies mostly gave the middle finger to their investors, which was bad enough, but what Sony has done is attack its customers. To me, this is far more unacceptable than record companies suing file sharers, because those people are doing something illegal and I feel they—with a few exceptions—deserve to pay for what they've done. Sony's customers didn't deserve how they've been screwed over.

I'm glad that Microsoft has had the balls to stand up to Sony and commit to removing their DRM code through Windows Update. I honestly didn't think they would further hurt their relationship with another big, important corporation like Sony, and rather stand to the side and let things play out.


I've consciously avoided bringing the subject up for the most part, but it should be no surprise that I do not hold the common views of Microsoft software being virus-happy security nightmares. Luckily, someone has already put my thoughts to paper quite well, so I don't feel much of a need to rehash what he's said. So, pretend I wrote this:

Microsoft security is nothing to sneeze at

Agree with me (him) or not. I've grown weary over the years of arguing about it.

I think that the world has changed a lot in the past couple years, and people suddenly care about security. In the days before the internet, nobody cared too much. Computers were about letting people do whatever they wanted. Now they're about letting a few people do what they want, and everyone else not being able to do anything. I don't really blame anyone's insecure old products; there just wasn't any reason to favor security over functionality. I mean, the people who invented TCP/IP and the internet and all that jazz were pretty damned smart, and they weren't really thinking about these things either. It still boggles my mind how idiotic things like email are by today's standards, but at the time it must have seemed like a great design.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Beta looms

Beta 1 of the next version of Office is just on the horizon. News sites are reporting "sometime this month." Usually that means November 30. I don't know when it's actually getting released.

That's pretty damned exciting for me, though. Will I install beta 1 on my home computer? No; no real need to. It's about as stable as you might expect from a beta 1. Actually, FrontPage is a little better than what you'd normally expect from a beta 1, I think. Will I install it on my tablet, though? Sure. I install a new beta build every week or so on my machines at work. I can't wait until a new version comes out that doesn't have the bright orange Halloween UI and pumpkin-shaped File menu and spider webs in the background of windows. That was cute for a day or two, but I've been using Halloween builds of Office for a week and a half now, and it's slowly driving me insane.

No, the version of Office 12 beta 1 that you see will not have the orange Halloween UI.

Warcraft again

Wow, I played a lot of WoW today. About ten hours. It was a lot of fun, though. One run through the Sunken Temple, one run through the Undead half of Stratholme, four games of Arathi Basin, and one game of Alterac Valley. I joined the AV game about halfway through, and saw it through to its victorious conclusion, three hours later.

Maybe, just maybe, I'll hit Stone Guard (rank 6) on Tuesday. The reward of being able to buy potions is pretty useless to an alchemist, but at least I'll be able to enter the officers' barracks. It's the principle of the thing. Given the amount of playtime required just to maintain my current rank, it seems very unlikely that I'll ever advance past rank 6, if I ever make it there at all.

That leaves me tomorrow to get done everything that I planned for this weekend, including, you know, sort of planning the trip I'm leaving for next Saturday.

Full of endangered species

If I do not get a haircut today my head will be declared a natural wildlife habitat.

Really makes you think

It still boggles my mind that my raincoat is dry clean only.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The government rules

My grandpa had to drive down to Mississippi from Nebraska to sign papers for the Army Corps of Engineers so they could clean up his property. That seems, uh, really unnecessary. That seems like exactly what we have notaries for. How are people with no money and no transportation going to make it back to their old homes to sign papers?

Okay, I'm on for now. Like I've said earlier, the data will be terribly inaccurate for what songs I listen to most, but it will be an accurate picture of the stuff I listen to on nights and weekends.

When I'm home, you can see what I'm currently listening to in my profile.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Arrested again

Season 3 of Arrested Development was cut down to 13 episodes from 22, and the episodes originally scheduled to air this month are being postponed. Sounds like the best show on TV is soon going to live next to my Futurama, Firefly, and Wonderfalls DVDs.

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Oh Roger

Holy crap, 50 Cent's movie Get Rich or Die Tryin' got three stars from Roger Ebert. I saw a preview for that and almost died tryin' to stop laughing.

Well, that's an exaggeration, but I couldn't think of any better way to end that sentence.

An open letter

Dear woman from the east coast whom I have met but don't really know,

Hello! I got your email, thanks. I'm not certain how you got my email address, actually. Thanks a bunch for the Kaylee/Inara erotic Firefly fan fiction link; I really appreciate it. Don't worry, it's not creepy at all. Even though you sent it to my work account and it will probably be archived for six months or something and backed up, I'm sure it's nothing I need to worry about.

Well, gotta go. Seeya!



In the past fourteen hours I've gotten 172 emails to my personal account, not including any spam that was deleted at the server.

On my work email account I probably got 400-500.

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Windows Lista

"List" is my favorite view style in Explorer. Not Details, not any of the big-icon crappy views, but List. Wonderful, columnar List. Sadly, it's gone in Vista. But, it is now my personal crusade to get it back, because it's by far the most useful view, giving you much more efficient use of your screen real estate. I'm not alone by any means. Together we will prevail.


This whole thing with the Vatican declaring that evolution is proven scientific fact seems pretty significant, and I'm not Catholic.

Monday, November 7, 2005

Firefox, made better

Since a little bit before the 1.0 release, I've been pretty satisfied with Firefox. I use NetCaptor (an IE shell with tabs and other functionality) and IE at home, and Firefox only for testing web pages. At work, I use IE for intranet sites and a few selected websites, but Firefox for just about everything else. I'm happy to say that after finding the extension Tab Mix Plus, Firefox' awful tab support has been transformed into something perfectly acceptable and good enough for my everyday use. It now seems pretty likely that I'll move to Firefox as my primary browser at some point just so I use the same thing at home as I do at work, and I can't use NetCaptor at work because of the license.

As more and more sites redesign to not suck on Firefox, using it has become much more pleasant. I still think that people who insist that Firefox is faster and more stable and more secure than IE are deluding themselves—I have far more crashes in Firefox than I do in IE (Firefox and NetCaptor crash occasionally; IE never crashes for me), and I could go on about the number of security patches released for Firefox versus IE, but I won't. IE7 is still has the possibility to win back my heart, but not if its tabs continue to suck just as much as Firefox' without extensions.

It's honestly been a while since there was even any competition for the web browser to win my heart—since the first beta of IE4, to be exact. Sheesh, that's been like 7 years. It's really nice to suddenly have two browsers that I don't mind using again.

I've been using Firefox to some degree since it was Firebird (though I don't think I really used it way back when it was Phoenix), but it wasn't until a month or two ago when I discovered Tab Mix Plus that I really felt like it was a worthy competitor to IE. I still don't like having to install an extension to make its star feature usable, but I can deal with one add-on.


I was thinking about trying out this Audioscrobbler thing for a while, but it turns out that the plugin doesn't work with Windows Media Player very well—it only counts songs you play in the player itself, not plays on your portable devices, which WMP conveniently keeps track of. So, it would make my data pretty inaccurate, if it only tracked songs I play during the evenings and weekends, and not songs I play during the day or to/from work.


I just used the Unreal Tournament announcer voice by accident. My officemate was showing me something, and I yelled "Impressive!" in response. I think he might have been weirded out a bit.

Visual Studio 2005 is here

Visual Studio 2005 is here. You can now download the final versions of the Visual Studio 2005 Express Editions products for free. SQL Server Express is free and will remain free; the other ones are free forever if you download them before November 2006. I have a feeling that's BS and that they'll remain free after then, but I don't know what they're planning.

Visual Studio 2005's really cool, though. I haven't used prior versions of VS in a while now. It's the latest iteration of coding bliss, and while the free Express editions don't have all of the features of the full product, there's still a lot there to be interested in.

Words of wisdom

Today's "Words of wisdom" are brought to you by a friend from yesterday's dinner ensemble.

"A word of advice: if you're having a party and decide to send someone out to rent porn, don't send the only gay guy there."

He was quite clear that he was speaking from experience.

Sunday, November 6, 2005

Far from home

Three foods come to mind that I miss from Nebraska, in no particular order:

• Biscuits and sausage gravy. I'm sure that some IHOP-ish place out here makes it, but I've never seen it on any menu.

• Runzas. Not something that I had too frequently, but still something I miss.

• Chicken tikka kadai from The Oven. I've yet to have anything out here that was even close to as good.

When I return for Thanksgiving, I will be visiting The Oven and a Runza at least once.

Saturday, November 5, 2005

Explosions and trees

Explosions in games are often pretty lackluster compared to other visual effects. This has improved dramatically in the past few years thanks to 3D technology, but they're still an area where problems can stick out like a sore thumb, because explosions are inherently spectacular and attention-grabbing. This is most noticeable (to me) in a first-person shooter; the explosions are often the least impressive effects in the game, it seems.

Here's a screenshot from Winter Assault (click to enlarge):

Winter Assault screenshot

Now, overall, I think it looks pretty nice, including the explosions. The explosions aren't quite as nice as they are in Command and Conquer Generals, but they're pretty damned attractive. Then you see the dreaded polygon clipping at the bottom. Being the anal, picky type, those kinds of things annoy me. I'm also somewhat annoyed by the silly shadows; I generally like to turn shadows down to their minimum settings in games because (1) I like soft blob shadows, (2) shadows are an expensive effect, and (3) shadows often are crappy and blocky, especially in a game where you aren't supposed to notice them much. If you expand the picture you'll see the crappy shadow underneath my Avatar in the center.

Many modern FPS games already have some pretty incredible shadow and lighting effects, and I imagine that over the next few years those advances will transfer over to other types of games, where they aren't nearly as important for immersion. Clipping problems are getting harder and harder to notice. Someday I'll have to find new glitches to be anal about.

Maybe trees. Trees are incredibly difficult from a technical perspective just because there are so many things to calculate on them. Guild Wars has some very nice trees. World of Warcraft does a pretty decent job for low-polygon trees, but they're not that good overall. But still, they're another area where it's very clear that technical limitations are still more important than artistic freedom.

Winter Assault

It's rained pretty much non-stop today. I was planning on getting a haircut, but for some reason I feel even more hermetic than usual when it's raining out. (This is not linked in any way to Segway ownership; I didn't like driving in rain either.) I like the rain, but I don't like going places in the rain. I don't get it either.

Anyway, it's going to be like this for many, many months now: cold and rainy. In a couple months there will be an occasional morning when I'll be treated to frost instead of rain, but it will rain a lot now until springtime.

So, instead of getting a haircut, I stayed home and finished the Dawn of War expansion, Winter Assault. It's great! Dawn of War does a lot of things very well for a real-time strategy game. Resource collection is very streamlined; essentially, you increase your resource production by being aggressive and controlling territory. Infantry units are generally entire squads, which you can reinforce on the field, which I find particularly awesome. As long as you've still got at least one guy left, given time to recuperate, you can fill out the squad back to about eight men without returning to base. The units are varied and have a variety of interesting special powers, be they teleportation, jetpacks, et cetera. You can add hero units and some small vehicles to squads, letting you issue commands to a large group of soldiers as a single group that works together. It's very cool.

It's also hilariously violent. The animations are often ludicrous, with orcish shredder units grabbing enemy soldiers, throwing them to the ground, and then cutting them up. To be honest, I can't even keep track of what's going on most of the time with all of the bodies flying and fluids spurting, but the carnage is beautiful.

The original game only had one single-player campaign using one of the races, which was really disappointing. The expansion has two, but they're shorter, and each one features two of the remaining four races sort-of-allied against common enemies. In a couple missions you control more than one faction, but they're not allied—you can actually switch sides and play the enemy whenever you want. It's kinda gimmicky, but it's unique and fun. Anyway, the single campaigns are good, but still too short. They make me want to go back and play Warcraft III and The Frozen Throne.

I don't know if it's any fun multiplayer, but I don't care too much. I loved Starcraft and Warcraft III both single-player, but hated them both multiplayer. Command and Conquer is much better at multiplayer (and incidentally not as good single-player as Starcraft and Warcraft III). I realize I am in the minority on this.

And, in Warcraft III, the murlocs aren't nearly as annoying as they are in World of Warcraft.

Melting pot

I went to a fondue restaurant last night with a few friends and a guest from the east coast. My meal cost me $61.

Holy balls.

I knew that afternoon before going that it would cost a little over $50, so I was somewhat prepared. Still, that's a lot of money for food I had to cook myself.

It was a very interesting experience, and I'd recommend it to pretty much anyone. But, I don't think I'd ever want to do it again. The food was decent—but more like $15 good, not four-times-that good. It edged out Flying Fish in downtown Seattle as the most expensive meal I've ever eaten, and Flying Fish was exquisite. I like eating out because (1) I don't have to get the ingredients, (2) I can't really cook, and (3) cooking is a lot of work.

The ingredients come to you on plates instead of shrink-wrapped Safeway packages, so that's a plus. The experience of cooking (or, for certain parts, just dipping) your food in pots with long forks is just bizarre. I guess the main point is that it's a strange environment where you're doing strange things with friends, which is a natural conversation starter. (That's one of the best things about board games; they put you into odd situations that lead into interesting conversations.) Basically, I'd liken it to cooking in Iron Chef's Kitchen Stadium while a dozen half-naked ballet dancers in clown makeup dance around the kitchen and sing off-key, and then once you're done, you all go swimming in a pool of Jell-O and eat the food you've prepared while you bob around in spongey, colorful cubes. That's kind of what fondue was for me: a really absurd fantasy tale that happened to involve food. I can't imagine that it wouldn't lose most of its appeal on a second visit.

So, as an experience to have once, I'd rate it quite high. As something to do more than once, I'd rate it low. As a dinner, I'd rate it "average"—but the kind of average that's not really average and actually kind of low: it's better than the status quo, but restaurants don't exist to microwave a Red Baron frozen pizza from the grocery store. I mean, Chili's and Applebee's are kind of the definition of average, and I would have been happier with my food at one of those places.

If anyone comes out to visit me and wants to visit a nice restaurant with great food, I'll take them to Flying Fish. If they want something surreal and wacky and expensive, maybe I'd take them to The Melting Pot, because the ballet and Jell-O place is really far away, and traffic is awful.

Command and Conquer: The First Decade

There's a DVD compilation of all of the Command and Conquer games to date coming out early next year. Except, ironically, the only one that I haven't played and finished for every available side: Command and Conquer: Sole Survivor, the online-only C&C spinoff with the ridiculous premise of having each player control a single unit, and the last unit standing wins.

What's interesting, though, is that only a couple of these games work on modern PCs. It seems unlikely that they would have gone through the whole collection and made them work on Windows XP, and yet if they didn't, I'm not sure what the point of the collection is. That's the sort of thing that would only appeal to the most rabid fan—the one willing to set up another legacy PC to play those games—the person who has all of them already. Is the target consumer the hardcore C&C fan who has recently lost their discs?

Or, maybe the unthinkable has happened and they actually have patched the games to work on modern PCs. That would be pretty cool, actually. I don't think I have nearly enough desire to go back and play the old classics to buy such a collection, but it's still cool.

Friday, November 4, 2005


Sometimes grammar errors in a song frustrate me a lot, because it often makes the song nearly impossible for me to sing along to, if the correct word has more or fewer syllables. The one that's been haunting me all morning:

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

But, it should be "wholeheartedly" in the second line. So, when I sing along, I end up saying "wholeheartedly" and then I've missed "it" and might mess up "ended" while I try to get back on track. It's very difficult for me to consciously say one little thing incorrect out of a mostly-correct larger block of text, because I've trained myself to automatically fix little errors like that.


My credit union's online credit card account management site just kinda forgot that I had an account with them for the past year. Suddenly all of my balances and information was from an old card I had in 2004. I called them up, and their brilliant solution was just to create a new login for the site.

Kinda scary that they would lose that kind of information.

Thursday, November 3, 2005


WinZip 10 is out. It looks like they didn't go along with their original plan to make WinZip free to the public and only charge for WinZip Pro; WinZip Standard is still $30. Annoyingly, it's not a free upgrade for registered users of WinZip 9.

I'll still probably upgrade to Standard for the discounted price for previous users, and I'm sure I got my original money's worth, but hey, not-free is more expensive than free.

Word of the day

The word of the day is trichotillomania—an impulse control disorder characterized by the urge to pull out your own hair. I may know someone with this disorder, though they certainly don't have it as bad as the person in the picture. It's not noticeable unless you pay close attention.


Oops, two image posts in a row. I was going to post last night, but I couldn't access Google or Blogger or several other sites.


I'm getting RLY sick of the O RLY bird, so I did what any unreasonable person would: I created my own.

STFU in a Nutshell, by O'RLY

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Today's Redmond forecast


(I did not choose for that image to be converted to JPEG.)

Hey, look! At 6:00 it changes to showers instead of rain.