Saturday, December 30, 2006

Friday, December 29, 2006

Big mouth

Pop cans. Beer cans. 20 oz. bottles of Mountain Dew. 1-Liter bottles. Out of all of the beverages that come in easy-to-pour, large-mouth containers, it's kind of silly that the one container that's actually meant for pouring—the 2-Liter bottle—doesn't.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Burn

My favorite quote of the week, courtesy my uncle, to his sister.

Uncle: Your hair looks so pretty and different. Did you wash it?


After most everyone had gone home, the same uncle and his wife were reminiscing about when they were dating.

Aunt: Oh, did you see my new diamond? [Uncle] got it for me.
Me: It’s very… big.
Aunt: It’s very fake.
Me: (sarcastic) I’d never have guessed.
Aunt: He was such a cheap bastard when we were dating too. Remember that time that you said we were going to have a romantic dinner and see a movie? Where did we end up going? We went to Wendy’s instead of McDonald’s… and then we went for a walk in the park, because that was free.
Uncle: Well, honey, you weren’t really worth it... and by that time I realized that the more I spent on women, the worse things ended up, so for you I just didn’t spend anything, and look how it worked out.
Aunt: I still can’t believe I married you.
Me: At least you knew he’d be good with money.
Uncle: Oh, I wish I’d have thought of that talking to her father twenty years ago.


And finally, my favorite non-one-liner quotation event of the vacation:

Me: ...oh, you know... who's that stupid guy on Comedy Central who everyone hates?
Entire room in unison: Carlos Mencia.

Consensus

Over my vacation, my friends and I came to some conclusions that I will share.
  • Adding an “H” to words that do not require one, à la Family Guy, can be entertaining for hours on end. It’s just wheird.
  • Mario Lopez is gay.
  • MTV’s “Next” is an awful show with awful people, and is still pretty entertaining in a shameful sort of way.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Reconnection

As is the fashion, I’ve spent quite a lot of my time here reconnecting with old friends, including two important ones: Günter, my best friend from middle school, and Daniel, my best friend from high school and college roommate. (I need to stay in touch better.) I also ran into my now-retired high school chemistry teacher by accident. In a few hours I’ll be off to Christmas lunch to visit with the family. It’s been a pleasant trip, but as always, it will be a great feeling to make it back to my apartment, and just have a few days off to myself before heading back into work.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Office 2007 converter pack

The previous blog posts, composed in Word 2007 on my tablet and posted on my parents' computer with Office 2003, were brought to you by the Office 2007 compatibility pack. (Of course, in Word 2007 you can set your default document format to be the old Word 87-2003 style, but I only use the new formats.) Thoughtfully, the compatibility pack even includes all of the new Office document fonts, like Calibri and Constantia and Consolas (but not Segoe UI, which isn't intended for documents). I wasn't expecting that.

Friday, December 22, 2006

I like

I love Hamburger Helper. It’s the perfect embodiment of fake American food. I love fake American food. It comes in a box, with everything I need to make it except the beef and sometimes the milk. And it’s so delicious! The cheese powder tastes like no cheese that actually exists, and much to the chagrin of nearly every friend I’ve eaten with in the past decade, I just adore fake cheese. I love less-fake cheese too… gouda and colby-jack and those little Baby Bel discs with the cow head on them… but I’m completely fine with a nice overprocessed American cheese.

The best Hamburger Helper is their hashbrowns mix. The box comes with crispy hashbrowns laced with onion flakes, and a sauce powder. I don’t know what it is—the salt, preservatives, or delicious mystery chemicals—but when I make it I’m the happiest guy in the world.

I like taking my Segway to work. I’d rather be standing and going at twelve miles an hour than stopped in traffic in a car and then having to park. I don’t really like going fast anyway.

I love smells. I’ve read many times that the sense of smell is a “feminine” sense, but it’s not like I’m the manliest man in the world, so I suppose I can be comfortable with that. The smells that I like don’t mesh very well with what normal people like, especially what women seem to like, but that can be said about so many of my preferences. I can’t stand, for example, scented candles and the mall stores that sell them, and Bath and Body Works. The last time I was with a group of girls who wanted to shop around, I actually had to leave and stand outside because I was getting physically ill being in there. Not a huge fan of most flowers, either.

I do love the smells of bread and cookies. (Who doesn’t?) And, I like the smell of rain. A bit weirder, I like the smell of certain people. Not their perfume or cologne or deodorant or shampoo, but just the person’s smell. If it weren’t incredibly creepy, I would just go around smelling people. There are a lot of things I’d do if it weren’t incredibly creepy, I guess. (Never make the mistake of asking a coworker what cologne they wear; it’s very awkward to tell someone that they smell great only to find out that they don’t wear cologne at all.) Also—and this is going to gross some people out—I enjoy the smell of a popped zit. (See, I warned you.) What is that, white blood cells? I dunno. I like the smell of blood in small quantities, so perhaps that’s why. And gasoline! My mom always used to tell me not to breathe the fumes at the gas station because it would give me brain damage, but gasoline was my favorite smell in all the world. I used to roll down the windows and stick my head out to get a better whiff. I still find it wonderful.

(By the way, I shamelessly stole the idea of talking about smells from a good friend’s blog. I don’t think he reads this, so let’s keep it quiet.)

I like starting programs from the Run command on the Start menu. I still usually start Internet Explorer by pressing Win+R and then typing “iexplore” and pressing Enter.

I like unwrapping things and punching things out of cardboard. Getting a box in the mail is always so exciting, and if it’s a box that contains another box that contains a board game whose pieces need to be punched out of cardboard, I’m in Heaven for ten minutes.

I like the feeling of a fresh haircut, especially when I go home right afterward and shower.

I love fonts. Something about a great typeface is just so absurdly appealing and beautiful. My favorite typeface in all the world is Myriad. It’s Apple’s corporate branding font, and the font used by a kajillion other companies too.

I like big-ass keyboards with a split down the middle, like my Microsoft Natural MultiMedia Keyboard. It pains me to type on this laughable “full-size” tablet keyboard right now.

I like first-person shooter games, especially when I get a sniper rifle or something that shoots cool laser beams. I tried for a long time to convince myself that I didn’t and that I somehow had more sophisticated game tastes, even though I really liked those shareware versions of Wolfenstein and Doom, but when Half-Life came around I just couldn’t deny it anymore. Sneaking around and shooting people in the head is just so intensely satisfying. Kind of like how I was totally, 100% convinced that World of Warcraft would be terrible—something for those idiots who play loser games like EverQuest—and that I’d lose interest within that first trial month. By next month I’ll have put about five hundred bucks into the damned game, and I don’t regret it for a second. (I may be one of those loser-game idiots, but I’m proud to be one!)

I like cats. I’ll never get one of my own because I’m allergic and I don’t want to change the litter box and deal with them peeing everywhere, but I’ll always wish I had one.

That’s probably enough.

Même

With my plane departure quite a bit delayed after all—the refueling truck had to have a path dug to our plane, and then the tires were stuck, and then we had to wait for another aircraft, then we had to deice…

Ahem. With my plane departure delayed, I’ve already finished the book that I brought to last me through both flights. (It was The Best Software Writing, collected by Joel Spolsky, and it was excellent and insightful. I recommend it.) A lot of the topics that the authors chose to write about were related to social software—blogs, newsgroups, Facebook, and the like—and how to engineer and manage them. This got me thinking of those little internet surveys that get passed around on blogs and chain letters. You know, the “when did you first kiss a girl, what’s your favorite drink, what’s your favorite TV show” kind of junk. I hate those things. I’ve seen the term “meme” used for these things, as well as any old internet fad; both seem like curious though semiunderstandable terms, since “même” is the French word for “same.”

I hate those things because (1) they create a sense of obligation to reply in kind, and (2) usually they’re things that tell you very little about a person, because it’s a template. As far as #1 goes, well, I’m already quite adept at ignoring irritating things that I get from people—seriously; after 9/11, I never want to see another flag animated GIF in an email ever again. (Actually, before 9/11 I still never wanted to see another one again.) And, wouldn’t it be better just for a person to tell you random things about themselves that they chose? Even if the answers were boring, the topics that the author chose tell you something about them.

So, I’ll do just that. But, I’m going to do it in a separate post, because most everyone has probably already stopped reading this by now. You know, because of the rambling wall of text.

The refugee camp

The terminal here in the Denver airport is pretty nuts right now. There are extra chairs everywhere, and it’s by far the most crowded that I’ve ever seen it. It could just be standard fare for Christmas, having never flown at this time, but given the conditions here at the airport and the days and days of delayed flights, I don’t think that’s it.

Not everyone is in the best of moods. One guy here just threw the baggage size check cage thingy and his little girl’s suitcase into the moving walkway, and at my gate there’s a man screaming at the very patient airline employee. A woman near me, also from Seattle, has been stuck here for three days and is finally headed home to Lincoln. I’m one of the very fortunate; my flight is supposed to leave right on time.

The Medic

On the flight from Seattle to Denver, I sat next to an army medic in training. He looked really young—I’d guess about 19. He’s been in training for twelve weeks, and now he’s returning home for Christmas. In two weeks, he’s going to return for the last bit of basic training, and then he’s being shipped off to what he described briefly as the primary base of US operations in Germany. From there, he’s “probably” getting deployed to Iraq, but he’s still hoping for Korea instead. He’s excited about his first duty as a field medic, and understandably anxious.

I just sat there and listened… glad that there hasn’t been a draft.

Off I go

I'm off to the airport. Here's hoping that I get to actually fly through Denver like United thinks I will.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Instrumental

The short version:

Varèse Sarabande: A 25th Anniversary Celebration: 5/10
Jerry Goldsmith—Star Trek: The Final Frontier: 6/10
Hilary Hahn and Natalie Zhu—Mozart Violin Sonatas: 6/10

I've been listening to a lot of instrumental music recently. The largest bunch of it has been A 25th Anniversary Celebration, a four-disc collection of movie music. The set includes a variety of tracks, not just theme songs. Unfortunately, I'm not that thrilled with it. I like movie music, but for intrumental music to be interesting to me, it needs to tell a coherent musical story, and this is just a collection of random tracks that are generally fine on their own, but don't work as an album.

There's still good stuff in here, and at four discs it comes at a killer price. But, I still don't know if it's worth buying. Tracks worth checking out if you have the chance:

Bob Cobert—The Winds of War, theme
Danny Elfman—Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Breakfast Machine
John Williams—The Empire Strikes Back, The Imperial March
Basil Poledouris—Starship Troopers, Klendathu Drop
Don Davis—The Matrix, Main Title / Trinity Infinity
John Powell—The Bourne Identity, Drum and Bass Remix
Randy Edelman—XXX, Prague Arrival

I also got, specifically, the soundtrack to Star Trek: The Final Frontier by Jerry Goldsmith. As I already knew, it's a pretty good sci-fi movie sountrack. Nothing exceptional. The best track is probably An Angry God. It ends with a bizarre 80s pop ballad, The Moon's a Window to Heaven, which must have played in the last half of the credits or something. That track is pretty hilariously bad.

Finally, I listened to a disc of Mozart sonatas performed by Hilary Hahn and Natalie Zhu. The performance is excellent... but I'm rarely in the mood for listening to just a violin and a piano, especially for an hour.


So, I wasn't too excited about those CDs. They were good, but still of somewhat limited appeal. I now have the lowest number of yet-unlistened CDs that I've had in about two and a half years: five. But, it's fine; I've been listening to a lot of the stuff from the past few years recently, and I'm more than entertained with that.

Whiteout

The Denver airport is currently closed due to blizzard conditions. My flight to Nebraska goes through Denver. This... will be fun.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Single draenei female

I've been in the closed beta test for World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade for several days now. I don't intend to overdo it, since I'll be playing the real thing in under a month. But, I'd enjoy the advance chance to check out some of the early content, and I've created a low-level character to check out Azuremyst Isle (currently pictured in my blog template) and the Exodar crash site. In a few hours of play, I've already filed like ten bugs. Hopefully it's not too late for them to get fixed for release. One of the nice things (well, for the players, perhaps not the overworked developers) about an online-only game is that it doesn't really matter what ships on the DVD; at any time you like, you can force all of the players to upgrade to the latest version. So, they don't even have to be done with the game when it ships. They could have shipped the boxes six months ago; the only real reason not to is because it would be disappointing to have the game in the summer of 2006 but not be able to visit any of the new lands until early 2007.

Share the power

I spent most of what a normal person would term "today" with Matt and Steven, as they were without power up until a few hours ago. (In reality, I've been up for 21 hours now, and I'm getting reeeeally tired.) Part of our travels involved Fry's Electronics, where I bought a nice new monitor. It's widescreen, so DVDs look excellent on it. In retrospect, I should have bought a widescreen monitor long ago, since I use my monitor as my TV too. World of Warcraft looks kickass, though it just seems like "too much space" for everyday computing. I'm sure I'll get used to it. Thanks to Christmas deals, the price was actually quite reasonable (under $400 for a 22" widescreen LCD), and getting a power adapter for my old monitor would have been $100. I guess I'll get it one at some point, though I don't really have a use for it right now.

Storm

Storm - crash

Storm - leaning

Storm - Microsoft

African-American Friday

Twenty-four hours ago, I, like everyone else in the area, lost power, in what was the worst storm in more than a decade, leaving four people dead and one million people without power. It's estimated to be two to three more days until power is restored in many areas. One of the nice things about living near Microsoft, I guess, is that the state of your electricity gets a high priority.

Yesterday, I awoke to a very cold apartment, around fifty degrees, and still no power from the night before. So, I headed in to work, where at least there would be emergency heat and lighting. We actually had quite the little party going in our building's atrium; maybe three dozen people at one point, plus whoever else was in other areas of the building. I broke out the emergency stash of games (Cathedral, Lost Cities) and we and our lukewarm beverages were entertained for a few hours. A little after 2:00, three of us got into a car, ignored the reports of "parking lot" traffic (which we were largely able to avoid), and headed to Bellevue, based on rumors that part of Bellevue had electricity.

On the way, after a couple dozen intersections with no lights, the driver nominated that today be the new Black Friday of 2006, but perhaps with a more politically-correct name to distinguish it from the day after Thanksgiving: African-American Friday. I thought that had a better ring than "Four dead, one million without power." (That's just like a white guy, too—always blaming problems on the blacks!)

So, we got to Bellevue, and it seemed that only two blocks in the city had electricity: the ones next to Puget Sound Energy. This included two Starbucks across the street from each other, and possibly one more a little down the street. We found one extremely busy Thai restaurant, and basked in the heat and light for close to two hours before heading back to a darker, chillier Microsoft. At that point I headed home, deciding to get ready for today's full day at Microsoft, and then running out the battery on my tablet watching Family Guy. I headed to sleep at about 6:00.

And then, at midnight, twenty-three hours later, the power came back on. I couldn't get to sleep, now that there was light coming in from outside, the heater was going full-blast, and I had just slept six hours, so here I am.

Personally, I survived the storm pretty well. I'll need to throw out a few things in the fridge, and it seems that the power adapter for my monitor is fried. This is strange, because it was plugged into a UPS, and thinking that the one at 1:00 was just another one of the short-lived power outages I'd been having all night, I kept playing for a minute or so into the outage. I don't know how it managed to die, but I've had the thing for half a decade, and I guess it's had a good run. Hopefully it's just the adapter (it doesn't light up when I plug it in anymore), and the one that my monitor uses at work is compatible.

A less rational part of me hopes that my current monitor is busted so I'll have to buy a nice 24-inch one to replace it. Isn't that stupid how we think like that sometimes?

Some people didn't survive the storm so well. I counted twelve large trees that were uprooted just in the mile between my place and work. One of them tore up a bunch of sidewalk tiles, and crashed through the wall of an apartment on the way. I hope those people are okay. There's debris everywhere... after sunrise when I head into work in search of a monitor power adapter, I'm going to try to snap some shots.

And that's how I survived African-American Friday.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Scarves

I don't get it. There are a bunch of people in my building who now wear scarves indoors, often each and every day. Old and young, male and female.

Seems like it would be extraordinarily uncomfortable.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Surprise

Cookies

Thursday night after the Christmas party, I arrived in my office to find a tray of 72 cookies, six each of twelve types. Such a beautiful bounty of baked goods I'd never seen before. I won them from a woman in HR in a charity auction a few months ago, and had nearly forgotten that they would be arriving some random day in December. In addition to the lovely tray of 72 cookies, another 72 awaited me in a separate package on my desk.

Now, normally, a cookie is not something that is terribly difficult to get rid of. 144 cookies, however, is a force to be reckoned with. It took the help of my coworkers on two separate workdays and two game groups to dispatch them, and there are still a dozen or two left.

The peanut butter cup cookies in the upper-right were the best. Those went quickly. The cherry ones on the left were the only bad ones of the bunch; there are still several of those remaining...

Uneventful

Well, the ol' blog's been pretty empty lately, and I guess it's mostly because everything's fine. Nothing of note is really going on at the moment. I'm prototyping stuff for the next version of SharePoint Designer, which largely means not fixing other peoples' bugs, which means that I don't have much of anything to bitch about. Observant readers may notice that mostly all I do on this thing is bitch in one form or another, so when there's nothing to complain about, I guess I'm not a gleaming fount of topics.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Gears

I finally got around to checking out Gears of War last night, and it's certainly a great-looking game. I'm sure that it will make its way to PC at some point, and though it's third-person, it might still be fun to play. The effects and realism and the level of detail are just jaw-dropping. But, one of the things that impressed me most is that there's no health bar. You don't walk around knowing you're at 78% life or oh crap 31% life. When you're in combat, and take damage, a red gear appears on the screen, and it gets brighter as you become more and more hurt. If you get hurt too much, then you die. If you don't, once combat ends, the gear will fade out after a few seconds, and your magic nano-implants or whatever will fix you up, and you're good as new again. That seems like an excellent way to keep people in the game and interested in the story; people like me see their health at 29% and reload, hoping that they can end the fight with a little more health this time, but as soon as that happens, immersion is lost.

I'm sure that some really hardcore people would be disgusted at making things so "easy," so maybe in the easy and normal difficulty modes you could regenerate fully between combats, and in the hard mode, you don't. Feel free to steal that idea for your own first-person shooter game in development.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Elevators

In one dream I had last night, I was in a large building and had to use elevators frequently to get around. Over the course of the dream, the elevator I was in broke down three separate times. One time was particularly catastrophic; the side of the building broke completely off, and the elevator car fell out of the building. I remember it being quite painful but surprisingly non-fatal.

The Christmas party

Last night was the Christmas party for the Office server products, the division best fitting SharePoint Designer, and thus the party that I was invited to. It was a pretty amusing time. I think that the standout moment from the party was the conversation making a drastic turn to the topic of anal beads (!) about three seconds after our administrative assistant sat down to chat, unbeknownst to the person currently talking. I don't think I've seen an expression of purer horror on someone's face before.

Second place would be when The Guy Who Always Wears Kilts was dancing with his girlfriend, and twirling just a little too much. A significant portion of my evening was spent privately making fun of the people dancing with my little clique, but I happened to not be watching when half of the group got a flash of ass.

Monday, December 4, 2006

The big non-event

At 1:00 am they're starting the server maintenance for World of Warcraft 2.0. I am excited about this. I realize that none of you really get why I would be excited about this. I didn't get it when my friend Britton was so into EverQuest, either. But 2.0 will be cool. Lots of new little things to tide me over until World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade releases in a month and a half. Change keeps things interesting. Keeping things at least mildly interesting keeps me paying them $15 a month.

Gotta be kidding me

This is a word-for-word recap of an email conversation with "Rob," who announced a big team meeting on Wednesday in Woodinville, WA (quite a drive) at 8:30 AM.

Me: Hahahahahahahaha.

Rob: Meaning, presumably that a) you go nowhere by 8:30 and b) you don’t know where Woodinville is and couldn’t get there if you did? I can fix BOTH of those problems.

Me: The answer is (a). I’m somewhat disturbed by how you could or would fix (a).

Rob: Well, if you get there at 8:30, you’ll never have to find out.

Expression Web

Microsoft Expression Web is now shipping. Handy for all of you who make websites. :)

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Morning musings

I still remember the first two things in my mind this morning, and I thought I'd share:

1. AAAAAHHHHHHHH ALARM CLOCK MAKE IT STOP

2. If you swallowed a bee, could it make it to your stomach alive? What would happen if it stung you on the inside of your stomach?

Death

My monitor of about five years has finally developed its first dead pixel. It's not completely dead; I think that just the blue component is dead, so you don't notice it on a dark background, and on a white background, it appears reddish. But, then again, any new monitor I get might come with several dead pixels, so I suppose I can still be happy with one.

Organized

Yesterday I spent an hour or two just organizing things and getting rid of simple things I'd been postponing—some on my computer, and some in my apartment. I emptied my inbox, sorted files, got rid of papers I didn't need, and so forth. It's always so unpleasant to start, but toward the end it's invigorating to see that much smaller list of things that one needs to do, even if it's more of an "implied to-do list" such as a stack of papers or mail that needs to be dealt with.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Arctic Stronghold

The soundtrack to the Unreal Tournament 2004 Onslaught map "Arctic Stronghold" is really great. You should go play that map now... at least for the first three minutes and twenty-three seconds.

Or you can do what I do, and just play SDG-ONS08.ogg in the UT2004\Music folder.

I should play a little UT sometime.

Counting at the guilty grill

I've been counting calories and fat for the past week, mainly to see exactly what I eat on a given day. So far, before yesterday, I've been clocking in between 1700-2050 each day, which is honestly less than I'd expected, especially since during high school I'd ingest more than half of that just in Mountain Dew a day. (Now, those numbers will go up a little once I'm back to eating lunch in the Microsoft cafeteria five times a week, I'm sure.) I'm not on a diet, but I figure it can't really hurt to gather data for a couple weeks, other than the annoying amount of time it takes to compile everything.

Anyway, last night I went to Chili's with some coworkers and former coworkers. Chili's has a section of their menu called the "guiltless grill," with reduced-fat and -calorie menu items. But, before dinner, I'd only had 450 calories and 7 grams of fat, which was at about 10:00, so I was very hungry, and I remarked that I'd stick with the "guilty grill," which nobody but me thought was funny.

I normally refrain from expletives, but I feel that this case is well worth a holy shit. My meal was 2550 calories and 158 grams of fat. That one meal was at least 25% more calories than I normally consume in an entire day, and well over double the fat.

But it gets worse. After Chili's someone suggested that we head over to Cold Stone. I always imagined that Cold Stone's ice cream must be the most calorie-packed substance to exist, but actually, a cup of their incredible vanilla bean ice cream is better for you than a serving of Chili's mashed potatoes.

I always knew that food from a restaurant was worse for you than stuff I'd prepare at home, but this is the first time I've really looked at the numbers. (I guess I've kind of ruined eating out for the rest of my life now; oh well.) What I don't understand is, if the food is really that bad for you, how these people aren't hulking meatbeasts, since the average number of nights that any of the other people in the group eats out is about 4.5, and some of them work out even less than I do. But, everyone else in the group is inexplicably thin, except for the muscular ex coworker who modeled for Abercrombie not long ago.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Two hundred dollars

Well, I seem to have popped my second Segway tire, which will bring the total maintenance costs over the past to years up to $200, which in my opinion is still pretty decent. It's just a pain, especially since the company seems to no longer sell parts directly, instead only selling through dealers. Maybe I should take this opportunity to take it into a dealer to get that safety software upgrade that they sent me emails and a letter about. Problem is, the nearest one is in Seattle, which is a 20-minute drive away, or more for a person who doesn't have a car. I can't really take it on a bus. This is where the cheapass transportation model breaks down.

...shmeadlights

What do people here have against headlights? It's dark outside, and the fog is thick. Why don't you have your headlights on?

This is not a one-time thing. People go around without headlights at ridiculous times frequently here. It boggles my mind.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Slippery when... covered in sheets of lumpy ice

Of course, my problems with the weather right now would all be solved if apartment complexes would just shovel their damned sidewalks. As soon as I get to the Microsoft campus, everything's great. The half mile before that is a tundra wasteland, and takes a surprising amount of time to traverse.

Reduce, reuse, recycle

I was going to post something about the weather outside, but Something Awful has done it for me. Safe for work, even.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

D'oh

I wish I would have read my work email before coming in today and discovered that the cafeteria is closed and most people are working from home.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Congratulations are in order

By the way, congratulations on the new house, fiancé, or fiancée; whichever one or more of those applies to you today. If you're one of the people to whom none of those apply, um... I hope lunch was delicious.

But the world is not ideal

In a more ideal world, I would have awakened at 12:00pm on Sunday and 7:33am on Monday, not the other way around.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Casino Generale

I awoke this morning at 7:33am, considerably earlier than I had planned, feeling quite refreshed, other than the aching in my shoulders and legs from a workout, and despite falling asleep about five hours before that. I couldn't fall asleep again at that point, so I decided to consider today my lucky day, and I got up and made myself breakfast. I had awoken from an interesting dream that I thought I'd share, since I now have all the time in the world to do so.

I have this strange thing where I just know details from the beginnings of dreams. I don't know how this works. Maybe the setting and early details of the dream are just inferred during the course of the rest, or maybe my brain gives me a quick trailer before the movie part of the dream starts. Or, maybe the early details actually were part of the dream, and I just don't have the faintest memory of them anymore. (That one's probably most likely.) But anyway, I don't know how I know the following paragraph of setup details, but I do.

I had been invited to a celebration and awards show honoring people who do interesting things that most of the world doesn't know about. Hey, it's my dream. Shut up. I remember that the first thing that came to mind is that it sounded an awful lot like those yearbooks that gullible parents are offered—the ones that contain pictures of kids whose parents were dumb enough to buy one or more close-to-$100 books of pictures of kids with other stupid parents. (I feel like I've blogged about this before, but I can't find the post anywhere.) Anyway, it was a free flight and hotel to a place I'd never been before, so I decided to go. The city was the headquarters of IBM, wherever that is—or wherever my sleep-deprived brain completely made up that it is.

The dream, as I remember it, started out with me driving around in this city. It was icy, and the IBM fall/winter interns had sanded the roads using colored sand that spelled out distracting phrases like "IBM INTERNS 2006" on the roads. Don't worry; this is an entirely useless detail; I only mention it because I was driving for quite a long time through this dark, foggy city. I made it to the building where the event was to take place around dinnertime, having skipped the numerous intellectual presentations that afternoon, from other nominees who were interested in various academic topics in math and sciences. Symposia just ain't my thang.

I arrived at the registration desk, and suddenly my "scam" lights turned on once more. The evening's "welcome entertainment," which had been glossed over in the brochure as an "exciting surprise," was a casino night. Except, unlike a typical "for fun" casino night, this one was for real cash. There was a required $500 buy-in, with a requirement that you have an extra $4,500 on standby in case you want more funds. Those who did not gamble were not eligible for recognition at the ceremonies the following day. Scam! Scam!

But I did it anyway. I've never actually gambled with real cash, so it seemed like an interesting thing to do. I charged the $500, and took the stack of cardboard tokens that I was handed. These tokens had to be traded in for actual gambling chips at a different table. So, essentially I used my plastic card that represents money to buy cardboard tokens that represent money to be traded in for plastic chips that represent money. Anyway, I showed up at the exchange table, and the banker asked me how many chips I wanted to buy. I wasn't required by the event rules to spend any particular amount for chips, so I decided to start out with $200, saving out $100. The cardboard chips had bizarre denominations like $45 and $55 and $3, so I started trying to count out $200 in chips. There were a lot of people in line, so I went quickly, and wasn't sure if I ended up with $190 or $200, but clearly the other guy would recount them, so I just handed him the stack. Then, I decided it was silly to spend so little on chips up front, so I counted out another $200 and handed them to the banker. He said I was ten short, so I gave him another token for $10. I was then given two red chips. I examined these, and they said $50 on the face. I asked the banker what was up, and he said, "That's one hundred dollars. You gave me ninety dollars and then another ten; one hundred." Now, I know that's not right at all. I gave him way more than $90 to begin with. Just two of the tokens were worth that; I remember them quite clearly, because they were yellowish-tan and had a picture of a fish on them. I gave him two of those, plus plenty of $55 tokens and lower denominations. I asked for my tokens back so I could recount them, but he had already added them into his stacks, so there was no longer any proof of how much I gave him. I was quite frustrated at this point, much to the annoyance to the jerk behind me in line, and I was just about to complain when the dream ended.

Dreams should not require math skills.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Pox

A pox upon all TV-on-DVD producers who do not put a chapter break directly following the opening credits. I have seen the stupid opening credits for your show a million times. I do not want to watch them again. Don't make me fast-forward; DVDs have chapter breaks for a very good reason.

Corn

I didn't have corn at Thanksgiving. Had I imagined that there would not be corn, I could have brought it; I always have a dozen cans of corn sitting around. Who has Thanksgiving without corn?

To me, it's as much a part of Thanksgiving as turkey and mashed potatoes. But, I guess corn isn't as big of a deal outside of Nebraska...

Fish Market

Recently, I've mostly been listening to a bunch of the same stuff from previous months, but I've finished passing judgment on two more albums.

The short version:
Chali 2na—Fish Market: 4/10
Newsboys—Go: 9/10

The first album was Chali 2na's Fish Market, essentially a compilation album of collaborations with this Jurassic 5 rapper. Now, I love 2na's voice, and this album obviously has plenty of it, and his band Jurassic 5, but this "official mixtape" just isn't doing it for me. (I debated even giving it a 4 out of 10; I was pretty close to a 3.) Most of the songs just aren't very good; good vocals won't save a track that's not worth saving. Some aren't just bad; some are outright obnoxious.

The best tracks here are probably Join the Dots with Roots Manuva, the annoyingly-titled Frgt/10 with Linkin Park (which I already had on the Linkin Park CD Reanimation), and the just-as-annoyingly-titled Whose 2 Blame with Don Coleon. It's tough to find samples of many tracks on the disc; it's not on Napster, there are no samples on Amazon, and the back of the case doesn't even have a track listening. But, it's probably not worth your time. Just skip it, even if you're a big Jurassic 5 fan.

The second one was much better: Go, by the Newsboys. It's somewhere around their twelveth album, so they know what they're doing by this point, and it's very well constructed from start to finish. Their last two released albums weren't even in their normal style, and this one is their return to the realm of pop. They're one of the very first groups whose CD I purchased (possibly the second), and I even got a signed copy of this one. They're a Christian band, and while that usually seems to mean festering crap-pile, these guys are quite talented, and their music is neither sappy nor horrible.

This one was another tough one to rate. On one hand, it's definitely not my favorite album they've released—maybe third or so. On the other hand, every song on the disc is at least good, and some are excellent. So, compared to all albums, it's still a really great CD. I was listening to one of the tracks, Something Beautiful (:30 sample), about ten times a day for a while—it's delicious pop music candy that did not lose its flavor. Other favorites from the disc are Wherever We Go (full song), Your Love Is Better than Life (:30 sample), and The Letter (:30 sample).


I've made it through most of the CDs I've bought now; I'll probably check out some of the instrumental discs now... maybe some Mozart and that multi-disc collection of movie score favorites.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Chaos Theory

I finally finished Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory today, taking maximum advantage of my time off from work. Good game; equal to Pandora Tomorrow. Sometimes, you just feel like sneaking up behind someone and putting a dagger to their throat, interrogating them, knocking them out, and throwing them in a bathroom stall.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Extended family

Well, Thanksgiving was fun. Definitely my first one with such an eclectic group of people; usually the family back home will have one boyfriend or girlfriend at the table and that's it, if any. This time, I was four degrees separated from a couple of the people. (Kevin Bacon couldn't make it.) But, it was still a good time; we watched Finding Nemo and the last part of Shrek 2 before the toddler left, and then moved on to State and Main, which I seem to see once a year now.

Diagram of Thanksgiving visitors

On the... bright... side

One nice thing about having six lights in your bathroom is that when three of them go out, there's still little reason to replace them.

Happy Thanksgiving

This will be my first Thanksgiving away from Nebraska. I went back last year and the year before with the not-so-secret secondary motive of visiting with old friends while there. Now, many more of the Nebraskans I knew have left, and I already planned to go back for Christmas this year. That was before Grandma died; had I not already promised to return, I'd have waited until next Christmas to go back. Oh well.

I took the first part of this week off as vacation, and it's been nice, as always. I've still got quite a bit left to use up before it expires at the end of the year. As is typically the case, I start off well, getting eight hours of sleep a night and being proud of myself for doing so. Then, after a day or two, I go back to my usual schedule of five or six, and waking up wishing I'd have gone to bed earlier. I don't know why. Somehow I delude myself each and every night into thinking that I can get one more little thing done before bed, whether that's writing one more function, or finishing one more quest, or reading one more article. One thing leads to another, and suddenly it's been hours since I planned on sleeping. I need to become more disciplined; when it's time to sleep, it's time to sleep. I'm sure I'd be a happier, more effective person if I could manage that.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Ouch

Right now, I feel like someone punched me in the ribs this afternoon. It is not a pleasant feeling.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Bond Begins

The new Bond movie, Casino Royale, is a good movie. But is it a good Bond movie?

Charismatic Bond: The new guy isn't bad. But Pierce Brosnan was definitely better. Also, I can maybe believe women seeing Pierce Brosnan in a Speedo and at least not being repulsed, but the new guy is gritty (ugly) and creepy, and there's no way those hot beach chicks would have been checking him out... 6/10.

Attractive female characters: Pretty good in this department, but no Halle Berry either. 8/10.

Awesome gadgets: Bond has some incredible (and Sony-branded!) technology at his disposal, such as phones that can send and receive text messages and email, and a GPS system to help him find places while driving. Wow! It's like I'm gazing into the future! The only cool gadget that even comes to mind is a phone attachment that lets Bond send a blood sample to MI:6 for analysis over the internet. There's not even a Q. I've seen documentaries about the Amish showing off more cool tech. (Well, not really.) 2/10.

Explosions and action: But of course. Well done in this category. 8/10.

Ridiculous supervillians: WHAT? Not even one supervillian? 0/10.

Ridiculous superweapons: WHAT? Not even one superweapon? 0/10.

Ridiculous storyline: They dropped the ball here too. The story wasn't actually that bad. Definitely a good spy movie. 3/10, because it wasn't very ridiculous.


Anyway, it's a good spy movie and a dubious Bond movie. I'm glad that I went in with the knowledge that this one's a bit different and not like a typical "Bond movie," because I think I would have been disappointed if I were hoping for another Die Another Day. Definitely worth seeing... just don't expect any lasers.

The Shadow of Death

In high school I had a great computer teacher, Mrs. T, with whom some of you are familiar. I took a few classes with her, knowing that they were essentially free credits requiring essentially no effort, in which I could download stuff using the school's high-speed connection and save it onto Zip disks to take home. I was also her TA, which was more of the same. (I actually don't remember how this worked. I don't recall actually doing the tiniest bit of work for her as a teacher's assistant.) When Heroes of Might and Magic III: The Shadow of Death was released, she let me skip out on my TA period to head to the mall and pick up our two pre-ordered copies of the game, which I then brought back just in time for the subsequent class I had with her, where I tried out the game on the projector screen for the hour. Normally I wouldn't have been allowed to leave the school grounds, but I was a TA with a pass and an important errand for my teacher, so everything was A-OK.

High school was a very enriching time. I only wish that I would have discovered the wonders of classes with Mrs. T before my junior year.

Advanced Civilization

If you come in last place, but only by a margin of about 1.5%, and you successfully pull off the most diabolically fraudulent act of the night, is that really still a loss?

Well, yeah, I'd say so. But it's a loss I will happily accept.

(If you know the game, I offered one player a gold, a 1, and a 2 for three cards that were great for me. I actually gave him a 1, a 2, and I believe iconoclasm / heresy. I was then free to trade that 9 to another player for more cards that were great for me.)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Do what you love

There's a bit of old wisdom that says that you should do what you love doing, and that you should never be unhappy with your career for long. I work with some people who say that they do do exactly what they'd most like to.

The first thing that comes to mind for me is, sheesh, you really need better hobbies.

I think that there are a few lucky occupations that are, indeed, exactly what that person would most like to do in the entire world. I'm thinking things like high-profile scientists for a fusion research lab... things that you're passionate about and can only do in that setting. But those kinds of jobs seem like a small minority. The other thing that comes to mind is a stay-at-home parent; if that's what you'd most like to do, that's something that you can generally manage (at least on a technical level) with a few nights' worth of effort.

It's hard for me to really imagine why one would want to be a semiproductive member of society if you don't have to be. I mean, I love my job; I love software. But... I could sit at home and write software. It wouldn't be as big, or as complicated, or affect the lives of nearly as many people... but I could do it. In fact, if that's all I did, I bet I could write something pretty great, and the internet would let me share it with the world. Or, if I felt like it, I could take a month off and just play games for an entire month. Maybe I could work at Microsoft, but not have to ever do what my manager wanted me to do... just come in when I felt like it, leave when I felt like it, and do whatever I wanted.

All of these fantasy scenarios seem better than a realistic one... like my current life. The mere existence of them as very unlikely possibilities makes me scoff anytime someone makes the remark that they already do what they would most like to do. Sure, in the realm of realistic jobs, I'm pretty darned pleased. But I can certainly imagine something much more appealing.

So, maybe if those people don't need better hobbies, they at least need more active imaginations.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

No smoking

Think of someone you love; someone who you're certain you could spend your life with. Now imagine that they smoke, or have some other habit that you just absolutely can't stand. Do you still love them enough that you'd want to spend your life with them?

That's an interesting threshold, at least for me. There are few people I know who I think I could spend my life with as it is, but with the gotcha that they smoke, that number drops to maybe one or two. It's something that I've really not thought about until now. It's nothing inherent to smoking; there would be several habits that would make someone similarly unpleasant to live with. There are people who love those who are chronically untrustworthy, or who cheat on their loved ones, or are alcoholics... and there are those who thought that they loved someone before those habits developed, and found that they no longer do.

Anyway, I thought it was interesting how one little everyday habit could so dramatically affect something so important and profound.

Crisp

Mmmmm, few things feel quite as nice as a fresh pair of contacts.

Maybe lying down and having a dozen kitties snuggle with you. That would probably feel pretty great. But that's not really on the table.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

IOU

When five of us went to Ireland for Spring Break of my senior year in college, there was a lot of debt to keep track of. Rental cars, lodging, and meals really added up; I'd say a couple hundred dollars of expenses to keep track of each day. Splitting each little transaction five ways was out of the question; it would have been a terrible amount of effort. Now, if it were just two people, it probably would have been pretty simple to keep things fair. But, with five people, you're practically guaranteed that the honor system is going to be very nice to at least one person and really shaft at least one person. I was determined not to let this happen. So, I tracked every little thing each person paid for in a little book, whether it was a ridiculously overpriced (and not very tasty) Irish Coke for one person at the St. Patrick's Day parade, or the whole gang's stay at the bed and breakfast. Then, it didn't matter at all if one person was mooching hardcore and one person was paying for everything.

After the trip, I typed all of the numbers into Excel. Then, with just a totals row, I had a number that quantified each person's generosity (positive number) or mooch factor (negative number) in an exact dollar amount. These could then be paired up, and with just like four or five transactions, the dozens and dozens of debts could all be rationalized and paid off, and everything was fair.

I was very pleased with how it all worked out in the end. Both of the extremes in my example—the quiet, generous person and the major mooch—tend to annoy me. Now, none of the people I went with would have intentionally been the one to pay a hundred bucks less than everyone else, but it seemed silly to me to have someone who got gypped out of a hundred bucks when it was completely unnecessary and extremely easy to prevent.

I imagine that at least one of the other four people thought I was needlessly obsessing over money a little too much, but nobody said anything, and I didn't see it that way. I don't like being indebted to anyone, even if they never expect me to pay them back. Besides being fair and easy to keep track of, the system brought me peace of mind; I could be sure that I wasn't cheating my friends, without just dumping cash on the problem.

Dead celebrities

I don't frequently like to make predictions into the future, at least not past a few days. But, I'm willing to make one. Sometime in my lifetime, businesses will exist that try to duplicate celebrities' voices, including those of the deceased, for computerized speech synthesis. Finally, you could have Majel Barrett read your email to you, or perhaps Fran Drescher for the so inclined.

I would love this service. There are many peoples' voices, celebrities and otherwise, who I'd love to hear more often. For example, I love the voice of the guy who did the voiceovers for the ancient books you'd find in Diablo (it might be this guy; I was thinking it was Tassadar himself, but didn't realize it was also Cain)... I'd love to hear that voice give me all sorts of idiotic status updates, like "you can't delete that file; it's in use by another program" or "you have two thousand three hundred and seventy-six new emails." Or, hey, it's the future; "your pot roast is ready."

If such a service existed today, I think that Sean Connery would be a very popular model, as would various Simpsons and Family Guy characters.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Jump and shimmy

I've been playing Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory recently. It's the third game in the series; I played the second one a while back and it was tasty, and this one features the music of Amon Tobin, which makes it even more excellent. But the one thing that drives me bonkers about the game is a problem I have with many games in many genres: at some point you just get stuck. You just can't figure out what to do next, so you either spend ten minutes backtracking and looking for things you missed, or you open up a web browser and find someone else who already figured out what to do next. Even open-ended games like Far Cry and less story-oriented games like Doom 3 suffer from this.

I guess they think it sells those Prima Official Strategy Guides. I've played a few games with built-in hints and cheats, like The Seventh Guest, and they're always appreciated. There's a line between an interestingly challenging little puzzle and an annoying waste of my time. I'd love it if some game developer would invest in building a game system where you wouldn't get stuck, or if you did, you could immediately become unstuck. Then everyone else would just rip it off, and I'd be a happier gamer.

Of course, games are getting better at eliminating these sorts of player annoyances all the time, and for that I'm thankful. King's Quest V (1990), I'm looking in your direction, Mr. making the game impossible to complete because you forgot to buy the pie at the very beginning of the game like twenty hours ago.


The post title is in reference to the particularly annoying room I was stuck on. Oh, of course you have to climb up on the truck, face the opposite wall, jump, hang onto the pipe on the ceiling, and then shimmy across to the opposite wall. How silly of me to not have noticed.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Without reason

One thing that always drives me up the wall is a rule without reason. If you're going to tell me I should do something, or shouldn't do something, or that something is good or bad for me, you're going to need to tell me why.

When I was in, I believe, kindergarten, I used to enjoy flipping off the other kids. A lot of us thought it was pretty entertaining to go around giving each other the middle finger at every opportunity. At one point, one of the paras saw me—not any of the other kids, apparently, just me—and pulled me aside. She told me to stop doing it. I asked her why. She didn't have an answer. I finally got her to say that it was a stupid rule and a silly thing for people to care about, which I was pretty proud of myself for, talking some sense into that para as a mere kindergartener. But, she got back at me; she said that since some people were offended by it, and if it really didn't mean anything, then it wouldn't be so bad if I stopped doing it. Ahh, Travis 1, Ms. Paraeducator 1.

So finally I had a reason not to do it, and I stopped. But I do not enjoy following rules without a reason, or at least ones where I can't even think of a reason to. A lot of people like this, though there are certainly people who don't mind not having a reason to do things. I don't really understand those people.

End-of-year resolution

I have a goal for this week: write one post per day on a backlogged topic that I've been storing for rainy days for the past year or two. It's rainy now, and it's gonna be rainy all week, so it seems like a wildly appropriate time to do it.

Goal, not commitment.

Public transportation is for jerks and lesbians

One of the things I use Google for most is to make sure that I'm getting a quotation right. For example, I wasn't sure if the title of this post was an actual Homer Simpson quote or if I was mangling it. It turns out that I was correct.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Huge... Winamp playlist

One very odd thing about sending my data to last.fm is that everyone can see exactly what music I'm listening to. That's, of course, the point, but it's just kind of unnerving. Then I get IMs like this one:

OK, I don't understand how you can have Hans Zimmer - The Battle and Linkin Park - My_Dsmbr in the same playlist

that is just wrong
(I added the links.)

Hey, they're good tracks. Sometimes I feel like listening to everything. My playlist of all of my favorite songs has hit 230 hours.

Search boxes

I dislike search boxes in browsers. I generally use Firefox for my normal web browsing nowadays, and I have a very minimalist toolbar layout without a search box:

Firefox toolbar

It's nice and clean, and I normally have my browser window wider than that, so the address bar is a nice size. By default, Firefox has a lot more buttons and a search box, but I removed those things because they're useless. When I want to search, I type 'goo "rime of the ancient mariner" drink' in the address bar. I'd much rather type "goo" and a space than type my search in a special box (the default was "g" but I changed it to "goo" because I was already used to that).

In Internet Explorer 7 I can't get rid of the box:

Internet Explorer 7 toolbar

So much wasted space. (In fairness, if I had more than one site open, Firefox would have a tab bar too, but I keep it at the bottom of the screen.) This wasn't a problem in IE6; it was customizable, and I modeled my Firefox layout after how I had IE set up. Internet Explorer does have a hidden feature that lets you do quick searches with keywords like "goo", but there's no UI to configure it (mmm, hidden registry settings), and unlike NetCaptor and Firefox, you can't set up those kinds keywords to work without a search string. For example, I have "s" set up to go to Slashdot in Firefox, but I can't do that in IE.

So, the wasted space is one irritant. But, even as great is the annoyance of having whatever I searched for last appearing in the window for all of my tabs. What if it was something embarrassing? Here are just some of the things in my actual Google search history that I probably wouldn't want to haunt me in that box...

"dragostea din tei" video
madonna "hung up" lyrics
tall quarter socks
"burst of speed" effect kotor "turn off" graphical
"tiny muffins spaced so far apart"
kitty "hair down" "glasses off" "arrested development"
annoying flash ads with close button

Nor any drop to drink

A recurring event in my dreams for the past six months or year or so is being in a situation where water is in limited supply. The setting changes—last night, it was in the Redmond area, and it was due to some disaster that contaminated the water supply, so it was shut off. In the past I've been stuck in a college cafeteria due to a blizzard, and probably a dozen other situations with the same theme.

I don't know what the source of these dreams could be, if there is one. I don't wake up thirsty, or really having to go to the bathroom, or soaking in a mess of my own urine. There appears to be no real-world correlation.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Deli Idol

My (delicious, by the way) Land O' Frost Sliced Honey Smoked Turkey says it's "America's Favorite 1 lb. Deli Pouch." Now, is that the prime time lunchmeat awards show with Billy Crystal, or the prime time lunchmeat talent show with Simon Cowell? I can never remember.

Toothbrush fellatio

The last batch of toothbrushes that I got (some subbrand of Reach) have an intriguing feature that I'd never seen before: little rubbery grooves on the back of the head meant for scraping your tongue afterward. They do an excellent job at cleaning up the tongue; my mouth feels cleaner after brushing now, and I'm pretty sure that this feature has also resulted in reduced morning breath. I'm very pleased.

There's only one drawback. Whenever I use the back of the toothbrush, I cough. Not just some little cough; an unpleasant, gagging cough with enough force to turn my eyes red. I've actually gotten to the point where just thinking about flipping the toothbrush over is enough to make me gag, and that's not an exaggeration.

At first I had hoped that I would simply get used to performing nightly toothbrush fellatio and the coughing would stop, but I'm annoyed that it's actually getting worse, because it actually is a very nice toothbrush feature.

IntelliMice

It seems that Microsoft has realized that their latest mice kinda suck, so they've gone back to producing the classic IntelliMouse Explorer 3.0 again. This makes me happy. I was not looking forward to tracking down another one when my current one reaches its end of life.

Postal spam

I think I get a piece of mail from Fidelity about a dozen times a month—sometimes two or three separate pieces of mail each day. I'm sure they're required by law to send me all of this crap, but I certainly don't read it, and could hardly care less about it. I've checked every "please just send me email and not crap through the postal service" option I can find on their website, but I still get another thing from them almost every time I check my mailbox. No wonder the fees are so high.

Maybe if, instead of "Fidelity® Export and Multinational Fund Shareholder Update (Pages I to VIII) and Annual Report (Pages 1 to 48) August 31, 2006" it were titled "MIDGET PORN INSIDE" it wouldn't go straight to the trash can.

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Greedy

Microsoft is paying Universal $1 per Zune sold, because "the Zune can play pirated content, so this helps us recoup our losses" (paraphrased). Wtf. That's just greedy.

I expect this deal to produce an extra $150 in revenues for Universal.

Monday, November 6, 2006

Release



Today it was announced that the 2007 Office System has been released to manufacturing!

It's a pretty exciting day for me. I have, after all, spent nearly 10% of my life working on it. In June of 2004, I joined Microsoft working on Microsoft Office FrontPage 12, and when that product ceased to exist, Microsoft Office SharePoint Designer 2007, to which pretty much everything I did for FrontPage was ported. It's a pretty great little app, and I got to be a part of it.

In the reasonably near future, I'll talk a little more about what I did. But for now, I'm content to know that I played a small part in building what's got to be the biggest suite of business software in the world.

Oh, and I skipped work today—they gave us three days off to relax, which is lovely, because the office probably smells like liquor and mildew after the celebration on Friday. It looked like a proverbial frat house. The carpet was so warped from buckets of water being thrown around that it was sticking up four inches from the ground in places. There was standing water in the kitchens and bathrooms. There were bottles and cups everywhere. There were extremely drunk people sitting down in the hallways singing and playing guitar. There was a man in a bright orange kilt directing traffic. It was... weird.

I do not envy the cleaning crew.

Saturday, November 4, 2006

One and a half

In World of Warcraft I play a shaman, a type of character who is proficient in melee combat, offensive magic, healing, and support, and master of none. There are mods that you can download which will keep track of how much damage you do, or how much you heal your comrades, and then display this information in a scoreboard of sorts. I'm developing a reputation in my guild of friends I play with for being the one who tends to top the healing charts nowadays. Today when I was playing, another shaman was looking to learn my secrets.

He asked how it was that I was able to be so much more effective than the other fifteen or so healers in our group of forty. It caught me a little off guard, and he seemed pretty disappointed that there wasn't some secret—that I wasn't using a fantastic mod that somehow automatically made me heal better than everyone else playing normally.

At the end of the evening, the healing "scoreboard" was published, and as the lead healer in the guild put the numbers up on the screen he said, "Once again I'd like to thank Vger [that's me] for making us all look like fools and healing 50% more than the person in second place [that's him]." It may just be a game, but I'm not above being pleased when I do well and someone else tells the world. :)

Cause of death: idiocy

Sometimes when I finish stretching I find myself doing something dumb like pretending to break my own neck. Someday I'm going to be at home, innocently stretching, and then someone will find me a week later, having accidentally broken my neck for real.

Friday, November 3, 2006

Dysfunction

I've been watching Help Me Help You on ABC, and I think it's actually pretty good. I like dysfunctional characters (Arrested Development, The Simpsons, Family Guy, ...), and that's the focus of this show—all of the main characters are in group therapy for their unfortunate conditions. That includes the therapist, Ted Danson's character, who has issues of his own and attends group therapy for group therapists. It's a reasonably clever, light little comedy. Check it out!

Squishy itchy

Don't you hate it when the squishy pink area on the inside corner of your eye gets an itch? This one's been driving me mad for more than a day now.

I've heard better

The short version:
Hybrid—Morning Sci-Fi: 6/10
Métisse—My Fault: 3/10
Scissor Sisters—Ta-Dah: 5/10
Zero 7—Simple Things Remixes: 2/10


On the plane and on my trip I had quite a while to check out some more CDs I'd ordered. One I've been listening to is Morning Sci-Fi by Hybrid, another Pandora discovery, one that I may not have purchased had Napster's free service existed when I bought it. It's hard to rate this CD, because there are two different styles, one of which I like much more than the other. Half of the CD is what I consider pretty standard and bland techno. The other half sounds a little more creative, but is often peppered with vocals that I don't like all that much. I don't know what it reminds me of... maybe The Cure or Fischerspooner or something.

The highlights are Marrakech, a nice little faux-world-music number, I'm Still Awake, great electro-pop with a nice beat, and and Higher than a Skyscraper, full of very synth strings. Most of the rest is pretty standard techno fare like Visible Noise, which I could easily live without. To me, there's not really enough on the CD to recommend it. But, I think that the CD has helped me realize something: I think that I like electronic music that's almost danceable but not quite. The songs I like best on this CD are the ones that wouldn't quite work in a techno dance club. But, then again, everything on Madonna's latest CD is dance-friendly, and I loved that. Hmm.

Next is My Fault by Métisse. The standout track here is Boom Boom Bâ, the only one that I'd heard before, and sadly it's the only track that I really like. Some of the music has potential, but it's not produced very well, and a lot of it is just awkward and mildly unpleasant. If you like Fool Inside you might like the rest of the CD. Some part of me makes me think that I should like it for some reason, since it's fundamentally similar to music that I do like, but I just don't. Hopefully the fact that you have to order the CD from Ireland will help to discourage you from bothering with this one.

The latest Scissor Sisters album, Ta-Dah, is another tough one. I loved their first one—it was so unexpected and silly and interesting. I don't know what to say other than that there were a million directions they could have gone after the first album, and they picked one that I'm not too excited about. The first single I Don't Feel Like Dancin' is probably a good indicator of what to expect from the rest of the album, and I don't really like it all that much. The album comes with what is probably the most awesome CD case ever—kind of like a pop-up book—and another upside is that there are are eightteen tracks on the limited edition, so there's variety. I like I Can't Decide, the delightfully wacky Intermission, and the dirty Kiss You Off... the rest of the album gives me mixed feelings.

I'm not unhappy with my purchase, but I am a bit disappointed, and this isn't the kind of album that would make me a fan of the group. Get it if you liked their first album, and probably pass if you didn't.

Finally, I checked out the EP of five remixes from Zero 7's album Simple Things. They're not very good. Don't waste your time.


Quite the disappointing bunch there. Next on my plate are Chali 2na—Fish Market, which isn't that exciting so far, and Newsboys—Go, which seems pretty decent.

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Yet another post where I mostly just bitch

I hate travel.
  • I hate how it destroys a full day going east, and two-thirds of one going west.
  • I hate the physical discomfort.
  • I hate packing.
  • I hate unpacking.
  • I hate sleeping in a place that is not my own bed.
  • I hate not having a constant internet connection.
  • I hate not being near my desktop computer. That's where my everything is.
  • I hate how I still have to respond to email when I'm on vacation (or, as the case may be, bereavement leave).
  • I hate how frickin' expensive it is to fly.
  • I hate airports.
  • I hate how I forget something every time I go someplace, whether it's leaving dress socks at home or my favorite vinyl-coated thick wire hangers at my destination.
  • I hate it when I leave my passport in my coat at a hostel halfway across Ireland.

I just really hate traveling.

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

I read a book!

That's right... I read a book. Planes will do strange things to a man. I finally got around to reading Joel on Software on the flight back, which was actually quite good. (Two, if you include Penny Arcade Volume II: Epic Legends of the Magic Sword Kings.) The full title as listed on the cover is:

"Joel on Software: And on Diverse and Occasionally Related Matters That Will Prove of Interest to Software Developers, Designers, and Managers, and to Those Who, Whether by Good Fortune or Ill Luck, Work with Them in Some Capacity."

To save my fingers, I'll continue to refer to it as "the book" or "Joel on Software," and I will continue my trend of not italicizing book titles because I think it's silly and inconsistent.

Really, the title tells you a lot about the book, which you might expect, since it is a paragraph unto itself. It's an example of the writing style contained therein. Joel Spolsky is a rather well-respected tech writer, and this is essentially a collection of the best stuff he's written over the past six years or so. I'd read scattered bits that he had written, but certainly not a whole book's worth of them. If you're not going on a long flight anytime soon, and don't mind reading long passages on a computer screen, there's no strong reason to buy the book, as it's all online. But, it's great stuff.

Joel has a lot of good ideas—some ideas that every good software developer probably already has, and some that are a bit more controversial. I'd like to share a couple interesting passages. The first is The Joel Test. Joel lists twelve things that every software team should have and do. (It's right at the beginning of that page I linked to. I'll wait.) It's a great checklist to anyone who's looking for a place to work in the computer industry—if your prospective employer scores in the single digits, and it doesn't look like you'd have the authority to make the kinds of changes required to increase the score, you probably should look elsewhere.

Probably my favorite part of the book is one that I had read before, from Painless Functional Specifications, Part Four: Tips. Rule number one when writing a spec is to be funny: "Oh, and, by the way, if you think that it's unprofessional to be funny, then I'm sorry, but you just don't have a sense of humor. (Don't deny it. People without senses of humors always deny it. You can't fool me.) And if you work in a company where people will respect you less because your specs are breezy, funny, and enjoyable to read, then go find another company to work for, because life is just too damn short to spend your daylight hours in such a stern and miserable place."

Another great article is Fire and Motion. Not every day will be productive. Some days you just can't get "in the zone." Learn to live with those days. Make a little progress each and every day, and things will work out in the end.

Those who need to regularly present their project to non-developers, people who don't really understand how software is built, should read The Iceberg Secret, Revealed. Make unfinished parts of your software look unfinished. That way, they won't assume you're 90% done when you've really just made a nice mockup. And, make high-quality parts of your software look high-quality. It's good advice.

I'd recommend Joel on Software to anyone who's interested in developing software. It's a good read, even if done in a dark plane when you can't feel your legs and your back is in excruciating pain.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Closure

Today was the final part of the funeral. It was pretty short; afterward, our group walked around the cemetery visiting the graves of past family members. It’s over now. We’ve “returned to normal,” so to speak. We were all prepared for Grandma’s death, and I’m sure that helped. I’ve never experienced an unexpected death—I suppose I’ll deal with that if it ever happens.

Thursday I return to work.

Closure

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Reunion

Tonight I went to The Oven with Clay, Jesse, and Andy—my favoritest restaurant in the world. It’s still the best Indian food that I’ve had anywhere. The first time I went there, I refused to eat anything, having had such terrible experiences with East Asian and Indian food for years prior. But, my second time there, I loved it, and it’s been my number one restaurant ever since.

Anyway, it was a great time meeting up with people I don’t usually hang out with, and my apologies to everyone I couldn’t invite on short notice. It’s too bad it wasn’t a better occasion.

Pirate's Booty

After the funeral on Saturday, the family headed to my grandfather’s house to eat together and talk for a while. Later that evening, my uncle, a gemcutter, brought all of the grandkids to the spare bedroom with a well-stuffed backpack. He then proceeded to empty from the backpack various containers of jewelry. We were instructed to take what we wanted, either to give away, save as a future gift, become an heirloom, or whatever else, and then the rest he would take back to his lab to identify. From the backpack he pulled box after box and bag after bag of rings, necklaces, bracelets, pins, and more, primarily ranging from gaudy to absolutely ridiculous. There were things in there that would make he flashiest rapper blush—my grandmother had… interesting… tastes. At one point my uncle remarked that it looked like someone emptied a pirate chest onto the bed; it was just completely covered in silver and gold and jewelry boxes at that point. We referred to the collection as “grandma’s bling.”

Fairly little of the jewelry had any real value; most of it was random things that were either purchased on QVC, or had been acquired over the course of her life. A large portion of it was so outlandish that I couldn’t imagine any sane person wanting to wear it. But some pieces were nice, so we all kept what we thought we might like to have as a keepsake. My aunt remarked that the five of us making fun of Grandma’s Bling for an hour or so was probably the most effective bonding that we’d ever had. I think she was right.

Pirate's Booty

And now for something completely different

A while back, my mom was taking care of my brother’s dog (not to be confused with my parents’ dog, Crooked Dog) for a bit. When the dog did his business, my mother was rather surprised to find that he had pooped four condoms, which he had eaten out of my brother’s roommate’s dresser.

Crooked Dog

My parents’ dog, Sonic, had a stroke a couple months ago. My mom found him in one of the window wells of the house, looking very confused and unable to get out. Ever since then, his head has been “stuck” tilted to one side, and he can’t walk in a straight line—seeing him in action was one of those “sad but funny” kinds of things. He was given the nickname “Crooked Dog.”

Crooked Dog

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Oops

Feedback card

“The woman so nice we mourned her twice.” This afternoon after the services, the weeping funeral attendees got into their cars, and followed the funeral director on a nice tour of the grounds, leading up to a lovely spot near a pond and a fountain. The somewhat confused man then got out of the hearse, paused for a second, and then walked back to tell everyone that they forgot to dig the grave. So, funeral part two is going to take place on Monday. It’s a good thing that I picked the Tuesday return flight.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Linebacker cuddling

The Puget Sound University football team took the same flight from Seattle to Denver that I did today. Fortuitous indeed that the biggest guy on the team and I were seat-buddies. As most of you know I’m quite a big guy myself, often mistaken for a wrestler or football player, though I’m manboobier than your average football player. Anyway, on two separate occasions during boarding, a player from the team saw the two of us attempting to sit next to each other in the tiny airplane seats, got a sympathetic smile, and then apologized for my misfortune.

Thus began my trek of discomfort. Both of our torsos were nearly the full width of our seats, so we had to overlap our shoulders. It’s been an hour since that flight now, and my spine still hurts from contorting my body to fill the available space as comfortably as possible. Essentially, I spent two and a half hours cuddling with the biggest guy on the football team, except that would have been far more comfortable were the Rules of Manhood to allow such a thing. I imagine that I’ll get the feeling back in my legs back just in time to board my next flight, which is running about 75 minutes late.

I’ve included this lovely diagram to help illustrate the situation:

Diagram of airplane discomfort

Reclining

It’s come to my attention that there may be people in the world who don’t realize that, under any circumstances, reclining your seat in an airplane when there is a person behind you makes you an asshole. 100 more bonus asshole points if the person in front of you doesn’t have their seat reclined.

It’s pretty simple. Airplanes are already extremely crowded. Reclining your seat is equivalent to turning around and saying to the person behind you, “My comfort is far more important than yours, so you can go to hell.”

I’m posting this as a public service… I’m sure that someone, somewhere, has been reclining their seat and didn’t even realize that it made them an asshole!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Zigzag

Zigzag

In some Asian culture's mythology, evil spirits can't make ninety-degree turns. So, by crossing this zigzag bridge, you can free yourself of any evil spirits who may have been tagging along.


This is the last of the photos that I had queued up to post. I may not post much over the next week, but hopefully after that, I'll have some new things to talk about. I also plan to put up a higher-resolution gallery of the pictures I've been posting sometime relatively soon.

Effects

I've been a little distracted for the past few days... it's been hard to be productive. But, it hasn't been too bad. This weekend is going to be tough.

Bereavement $aving$

Yesterday I got a confirmed date and time for the funeral, and went about buying plane tickets. I almost always fly United, so I went to their website and planned out my flight, with the cheapest tickets being $950 or so. Ouch. Short-notice flights suck. I checked Orbitz, and found that Northwest Airlines would take me for $575.

So, I called United's 24-hour customer service line and asked about an emergency rate. After talking a while, I got the ticket price down to about $575. The flight times were pretty awful, and there was a multi-hour layover, but it wasn't much worse than the Northwest flight I had seen earlier. I started the ticket purchase process, and then I was asked for the name of the deceased. Marie Spomer. Then the name of the funeral home. Um... I don't know. Then the name and phone number of the funeral director. I didn't have this information, and it was already too late to call my parents, so I had to hang up, looking like someone who wasn't actually going for a funeral, and just wanted cheap tickets.

I was ready to just forget about the frequent flier miles and go with Northwest. So, I went back to Orbitz and typed in almost exactly the same flight information, but I couldn't remember exactly which options I chose the first time, so I guessed on a couple. And then I found a United flight—the best one by far, actually—for like $525. Sometimes mistakes can save you money.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Marie Spomer

Marie Spomer

My grandmother Marie Spomer died from cancer this morning. She had been on very strong pain medication for some time now, but she chose that over treatment for the cancer, treatment she had already endured once before and had thought was finished. She died peacefully, and for that I'm thankful.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Just rubbing it in now

Your current Verizon Wireless bill statement is now available for online viewing at www.verizonwireless.com. The current balance due is $2.71 and is scheduled for automatic payment from your credit/debit card on 11/07/2006.

Power-ups

It's coming about time to upgrade my computer. Morbo has served me well for many, many years now, but the last real upgrade it got was a new video card two and a half years ago. I'm actually considering the idea of buying a pre-built machine this time. A year ago this would have sounded insane—why buy when you can build?—but maybe it isn't. I've heard recently that it can actually be cheaper to buy from Dell than to build yourself, due to their wacky bulk hardware deals. I'm skeptical, as that has never, ever been the general case, excepting perhaps insane doorbuster Christmas sales. But, it's worth looking into, I suppose.

I think I want to wait until DX10 video cards come out. I don't really know anything about PCIe... I assume that I can't use an AGP card in the meantime while I wait for DX10 cards to exist. If I could, I'd buy sooner rather than later. Let me know if you know either way, so I don't have to do the research myself. :)

Zebra

Zebra

This zebra swallowtail looks Photoshopped... but I insist that it is an actual macro photograph that I've taken. It was quite challenging to take a picture that close without the use of a tripod.

Small world

So, it turns out that I share an aunt and an uncle with one of my loyal readers. I'm blood-related to the uncle, and they're blood-related to the aunt, so we're only "related" by the loosest definition of the word, but still... how wacky.

Accompaniment

I've realized something—something that I should have realized earlier than now, for sure, given my love of gaming. But here it is.

All other things equal, the most fun people to play games with are those who are precisely as intent on winning as you. You don't want someone who cares less about winning than you do, because they'll screw things up. You don't want someone who cares more about winning, because they'll kick your ass and not be willing to engage in useless side conversations. For a tiebreaker, play games with people who are as skilled as you.

Now, of course, it won't be fun to play with someone who's just a jerk, for example. But that falls under the "all other things equal" restriction.

Yellow

Yellow

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Suspiciously nice homes

I've spent most of today putting together a budget, deciding what kind of place I could afford, and looking at condos in the area. I've seen some nice ones and some not-so-nice ones. The nicest one in my price range (more accurately, at the absolute top of my price range) is this townhome—I guess that means that I'd get half of this thing:

Suspiciously nice home

Everything about this place seemed great except the price. In fact, it was attractive enough that I'd almost have considered fast-tracking a tour and a loan and everything to see if I could get it, despite having planned to not actually move until the spring. Close to work, roomy, just renovated, no upstairs or downstairs neighbors... until I looked at the map one more time. What you can't tell from the picture is that there's a major street right behind the house. In fact, I had an apartment right up against that street as an intern, and it was hell. I couldn't get to sleep at night from the traffic. So... no. I suppose it's possible that it's not as noisy on the second floor where the bedrooms are; I was told by other people in that complex that their places weren't too bad. But I'm wary. Wary enough that I'm going to go back to waiting a few more months before getting serious again.

Thank goodness for those web-based aerial maps.

Kids don't care

Maybe US students' test scores are lower than other countries' simply because students in the United States just don't care about school performance as students elsewhere. Maybe a fundamental societal difference is primarily responsible, not necessarily bad or underfunded schools. I know that when I was in school, I got the impression that not too many people cared about how well they did, or school in general. Even kids in the honors classes were often only there because their parents insisted on it.

It doesn't even have to mean that kids in the United States don't believe in or strive for personal excellence. It could just be that in the US, people are less likely to corrolate good grades with that. I know that I tried to ensure that the grades I got in school had little to nothing to do with my own self-image.

Note that I've spent about three minutes thinking of this theory.

Early birds

On the way to my office from my apartment, there are two households that have already put up Non-Denominational Winter Holiday Celebration Lights. It's the middle of October.

Whoopty-Doo

Whoopty-Doo

I can't recount the exact details of the rivalry without ruining them in the process, but for several years the two depicted people (the printed page and the person holding it) had an April Fool's prank thing going on, always involving the now-unavailable store brand pop Whoopty-Doo.

This particular year, Clay, the one holding the printed page, handed out cans of the beverage to students walking by, heading toward a particular dorm basement. Each student was given instructions on what to do with the can, and a few dozen cans later, he headed to that location himself. When Tom, the one on the printed page, arrived at that basement, he suddenly and quite unexpectedly found himself surrounded by a mob of unknown people offering him cans of this strange beverage. It was very surreal.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

ASP.NET AJAX

I've been playing around with ASP.NET AJAX ("Atlas") a bit recently. It's got some pretty cool stuff if you're into web development, and ASP.NET in particular. The documentation isn't that great, so it's hard to see exactly what all it can do, but there's definitely a lot of potential in there. I'm sure I'll post more about it once I've learned more.

But what it can do to a databound GridView control is pretty amazing. You add one ScriptManager control to the top of the page, set a property on it, and then wrap your GridView inside of an UpdatePanel, and then magically the old non-AJAX GridView becomes AJAX-enabled and doesn't require page postbacks to update. You can page through data, sort, and even get live updates, insertions, and deletes, all without page reloads or any code at all.

US Bank

US Bank

The US Bank building in Lincoln. I love the reflection.

Refreshing

Today it was cold outside and there was a heavy mist. I was damp from head to toe when I got to work. It was great.

Upward

Upward

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Phase

It's 7:00. Right now about 10% of the team is at work. A year ago that number would have been 90%.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Final words

I got an interesting email from my mom today. There was a lot in the email, but it ended with a paragraph that meant, in essence: "If you have anything to tell Grandma Spomer, you should email it to me today so I can print it out and read it to her, because it's probably your last chance."

The timing caught me a little by surprise. I don't know what I'll write. But whatever it is, I need to think of it quickly.

Turtles

Turtles

Awwww, turtles. I like this picture because it's kind of serene and dreamy, and turtles are cute.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

From Thanksgiving last year. This is a display put together by some people who were borrowing my parents' church, as they didn't have a building of their own. If I win the lottery or retire anytime soon, I will totally spend hours and hours each week putting together beautiful and elaborate displays like this to photograph.

Or I'll play a lot more games. One of the two.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Crazy Itch Radio

The short version:
Tom McRae—Just like Blood: 6/10
Yann Tiersen—Les Retrouvailles: 8/10
Sarah Silverman—Jesus is Magic (Comedy): "very funny but too many misses"
Basement Jaxx—Crazy Itch Radio: 9/10
Enigma—A Posteriori: 6/10

Feel free to skip the text, but I highly recommend clicking the music links. There's some beautiful stuff in this round of albums.

Tom McRae's album Just like Blood is an album I bought for the first track. And, as tends to be the case, that's the best one on the disc. But, it's not bad... it's just not my normal cup of tea. I tend to like thick music with a lot going on at once. Tom McRae is a singer-songwriter (a term I had to look up on Wikipedia, being one of those phrases I'd heard a lot but wasn't really sure about), and as such his music does not have a lot of accompaniment. Anyway, the standout track is the first one, A Day like Today, which is exciting and different from the rest, with strings, a weird xylophone thing, and more. My other two favorite tracks, predictably enough if you've heard the CD, are Karaoke Soul and Stronger than You, both with strong, pop-friendly drums and bass. The rest of the CD is much more mellow, and while it's not bad, it's not what I usually am in the mood for. Ghost of a Shark is not one of my favorites, but it's a good example of what the rest of the CD is like if you heard those first three and decide you like them.

Next I moved onto Yann Tiersen's latest album, Les Retrouvailles ("meeting again"). Tiersen did the soundtrack to Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain (Amélie), one of my favorite movie soundtracks ever. It's very varied, interesting, pretty, and French—though much of the music that I associate with the French is actually based on the Amélie soundtrack. It's a nice album that tells a musical story, with lots of instruments and sounds that you don't hear too often, in soundtracks or otherwise. It's not a soundtrack, but it probably could be one—probably to a romantic film. Best tracks are Kala, La Boulange ("the baker?"), and Les Retrouvailles/La Jetée ("the pier"). You can listen at yanntiersen.com, though I wasn't able to get the RealPlayer clips to work. Definitely worth your time if you liked the Amélie soundtrack; you'll hate it if you didn't.

Sarah Silverman's Jesus is Magic was pretty amusing. It's available on DVD and CD; in retrospect I should have gotten the DVD, as some of the videos are amusing, and a comedy CD is not something that I tend to listen to frequently. I love Sarah Silverman's brand of horribly offensive comedy; something about a cute, innocent little woman dancing around in a nursing home singing "you're gonna die soon!" is hilarious. Essentially, it's a comedy routine with songs spliced in between bits. It seems even more silly to talk about comedy than music, so here are some samples—very much not safe for work: That's What I Do ("I was raped by a doctor, which is, um, so bittersweet for a Jewish girl") and I Love You More ("I love you even if it's not hip / I love you more than black people don't tip"). If you like those, listen to the whole album. Versus other comedy albums I've heard, there are more "misses," but she's got an interesting sense of humor that makes them worth it.

The new Basement Jaxx album Crazy Itch Radio is excellent and was worth the wait. Few albums you'll come across have so much stuff going on at once—this album is the polar opposite of the Tom McRae CD. The lovely but very short opening track is modeled after the final crescendo of a symphony, which is a pretty good clue of how the album is going to sound: over the top, wacky, hyperactive, and insane. Right after that you're thrown into Hush Boy, easily worth the price of the album itself... absolutely fantastic. After an irritating interlude is Take Me Back to Your House, also excellent. If those are too much, you might enjoy Smoke Bubbles from the second half of the album, which is a bit more relaxed.

This disc is a party for your ears, so at some point someone's gonna break something. The horribly annoying song Run 4 Cover is the point in the party where things just get stupid and out of hand and the cops have to come break things up; the rest of the album is a little less nuts, but still tame by no means. One miss out of a dozen tracks isn't bad—I highly recommend this album to anyone who enjoys dance music.

Finally, Enigma has a new CD out, A Posteriori. Enigma is a very pleasant blend of chillout and world and electronic music, and having been three years since his last CD, I've been looking forward to this one for a while. Unfortunately, it's not quite up to his previous work. I think the tracks are a little too similar and a little too generic; they're not interesting or new enough. It's still an okay album, but not what I was hoping for. If you're into his style, you'll still probably enjoy this. Check out the light and pretty Eppur Si Muove, the strange The Alchemist, and the even more bizarre finale Goodbye Milky Way, all good stuff.