Sunday, April 30, 2006

Memory

Friday night, I upgraded to 2 GB RAM, and reduced my pagefile size to 4 MB. It seems to have made a nice difference so far in performance for certain tasks—opening a group of a dozen or so browser tabs in NetCaptor or Firefox used to bog things down grinding at the hard drive, but now it seems to go pretty easily. Photoshop also loads faster, it seems. It doesn't seem to really affect game performance, which is what I would have expected would have gotten the most obvious boost, but it's only been a couple days; maybe it will end up being a more noticeable boost later on.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Like losing my mind

Something's gone wrong with my internet connection. This makes me sad. My connection has been dropping for several seconds every couple minutes for the last couple days. I was hoping that they would fix it, but I should know better than that. All I know right now is that it isn't my computer... it's happening on multiple computers on the same connection. I guess I need to find out now if it's my router.

Sigh.

Complex

I was sent an issue of Complex magazine, and I think that the publication could best be described as a cross between Maxim and SkyMall. Take the content of Maxim, get rid of the articles, and replace them with pictures of expensive things to buy. It's half a catalog of products and half pictures of attractive women. There are a variety of magazines that exist solely to contain advertisements for things that people might want to buy, not containing any actual news or information, so I guess it makes perfect sense to combine pictures of things that men would like to buy with pictures of things that men would like to have sex with.

It's weird, yet... compelling...

How amusing that a magazine named Complex would have such a simple formula.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Plans within plans

P: Well, if the plans [for this evening] ever hatch, I'll... send you an egg.
J: Why would I want the egg after it already hatched?
P: Good point. I'll send you the baby chick.
J: Where did the chick come from? I thought the egg contained plans.
P: This is too confusing.

Under a rock / in a cave

My officemate had never heard of O RLY or the corresponding owl(s) until about a minute ago.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

WTF

Does anyone remember this post?

More physical deformities

It's been less than a year and I don't remember writing that at all. But, it's kind of awesome. I must have been on something.

Stupid sexy Flanders

I hate it when I can't stop thinking about something some morning, and at the end of the day, I can't even remember what I couldn't stop thinking about. What was so damned important?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I've foreseen my death

I am fairly certain that I know how I'm going to die now. Some jerk built a metal bench in the middle of the sidewalk at a bus stop between my apartment and my office.

My death will come at night. I will be on my Segway. First, in the darkness, I will hit the black bench. Startled, I will jump off my Segway into the street. An oncoming vehicle with no headlights will pummel me. It will be gruesome. Someone will take a picture of the bloody mess and post it to their MySpace site. I am sure of these things.

(There are an inordinate number of people here who drive at night with no headlights. This boggles my mind.)

Monday, April 24, 2006

If I were homeless in Oblivion...

If I were homeless in Cyrodiil (Oblivion), I would wander the roads looking for bandit camps. If I saw one, and didn't see anyone there, I would approach slowly, and then scan the area for corpses left by some adventurer who couldn't carry all of the loot. I'd grab some nice piece of glass or ebony armor, and then run back to town. I'd be able to eat for two years.

I do find it very satisfying that in Oblivion, when you kill enemies wielding weapons and wearing armor, you can take their weapons and armor. You don't kill some orc bandit wearing full plate armor holding a claymore and then find that all he's got in his inventory is a feather and a decorative medallion. It ends up being that in Oblivion, you find enough sweet stuff to justify a trip back to town after one or two kills—or, if you're as weak as my character, you can't even carry an extra suit of armor at all. It's a nice change from pretty much every other RPG, where enemies drop semi-random things upon death, and never what they were actually wearing and using.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Way past tense

One thing's for certain: when you've been playing a game for nine of the past eleven hours, you've got a lot riding on every decision, every action, and every card draw, even if you're losing. Things get a little tense, even amongst close friends. That's one of many good reasons that you should never play a game for much more than eight hours.

Almost allergy-free

Well, the game of Civilization took about nine hours, not including time explaining rules, setting up, having dinner, or waiting for people to log off their machines at work and get to the table. It was a lot of fun. But, as is usually my opinion with longer games, it's not something that I'd want to do more than "very rarely," because you can get a lot of fun games in if you have nine hours to spend. You just can't get an experience like Civilization playing a "normal" length game.

Oh, I lost horribly. I didn't understand how to properly place cities or manage disasters early on, which crippled me for the whole game, then I got quite a few unlucky card draws in a row, and then I failed to be aggressive enough in my trades and conquests later on. Out of the seven of us, five were extremely close, and then Louise and I were way behind.

But perhaps the best part is that Louise's cat usually destroys my eyes. After a couple hours in her place, I can barely breathe, and my eyes are on fire in terrible pain. But that didn't happen today. I did get a little stuffy, and I'm sure my respiratory system will still be getting over the cat exposure tomorrow, but my eyes are just fine. These new contact lenses are miracles with respect to my feline nemeses.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Making a splash with a first impression

Perhaps the most visible change that I've made for Office SharePoint Designer 2007 beta 2 is the new splash screen. That's right; were it not for my diligence, we would have had the same splash screen in beta 2 as we had in beta 1.

There will be people who will use SPD beta 2 who will see nothing that I've added to the product besides the new splash screen, a mostly useless and ephemeral thing that few people care about. That's a bit of a downer.

Dichotomy

If someone were to call me up while I was with friends or at work and ask me about how leveling up in Oblivion worked, I wouldn't be annoyed. Yet, I would never do something like that myself for fear of being too annoying, even to another person who I knew was similar to me.

Why the double standard?

Friday, April 21, 2006

Today was a great day

Today was just a plain old great day, for no particuar reason other than dozens of little reasons throughout the day. I didn't even get much done; it was just a pleasant day. There were many interesting conversations throughout the day, including a couple with people I never normally get to talk to, which was great.

I went out to dinner with several people, including one of the aforementioned guys I never normally get to talk to, who has very recently moved to Washington from Puerto Rico. In the parking lot after dinner:

PR guy: Aren't you cold?
Me: I guess it's a little chilly, but not really.
PR guy: Oh, okay, a little chilly. It's only the coldest I've ever felt in my life. I'm glad you're fine.

(The Weather Channel says that it's 37 out here, and 75 there, for those who are interested in these things.)

Workplace Oblivion jokes

After lunch, as the crew was ascending the stairs to our floor, the guy in front suddenly stopped in place for several seconds, then said "gotta cast Feather again!" and then continued.

Kirk and Spock

Holy crap, the new Star Trek movie planned for 2008 will star Kirk and Spock.

A particular word

The little immature side of me always makes me smile whenever someone who never swears at all... does.

Actually, the immature side of me is most of me, I think.

Civilization

I've gotten myself into a game of Civilization this Saturday. (The board game, not the computer game, and also not the board game based on the computer game.) I've never played it, and I know very little about it. All I know is that I've got to block out the entirety of a Saturday for a single play, going from roughly noon to midnight.

(Correction: originally, I thought that I was going to be playing Advanced Civilization, but I was mistaken; it was the 1981 original.)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Working at Microsoft

This recently-Slashdotted essay titled "Working at Microsoft" is well worth a read for anyone who wants to know what my job is like, which I assume is at least some of you. I agree with the guy on just about every single point.

Express is free

As I (and I'm sure many other people) predicted, Microsoft has decided that all of the Express Editions of Visual Studio won't, in fact, cost $49 at the end of this year, and will be free forever. Since their previous pricing plan made no sense whatsoever, I'm happy to see the change.

In other news, there's now a free version of SQL Server that includes full-text search (SQL Server Express Edition with Advanced Services, ugh), which was about the only thing missing from the free version that made it unsuitable for a lot of people. Now it should be a much more attractive product for a lot of small websites that can't remotely afford an enterprise database server.

Contacts

I got new silicone contact lenses today. They're pretty nice; a definite improvement over my old plastic ones. They're supposed to allow more oxygen and moisture to pass through to the eye, and it certainly feels like they're working. I couldn't even feel them on this morning, something I could never say about my old ones.

I also ordered updated glasses today, as it's been a few years for me now. Having bad eyesight is expensive; it cost me about $500 after rebate for my glasses and contact lenses today, and that's after insurance paid about $650.

Command and Conquer 3

Command and Conquer 3 has been announced. I am a happy boy.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Windows Tip #0002

Here's something that I love doing on my machines that may be of use to people. I like to start programs from the Run dialog. I start Internet Explorer by pressing Win+R to open the Run dialog and then typing "iexplore" and pressing Enter. I open a lot of stuff from the Run dialog. But, by default, you can't open Winamp from the Run dialog, because it's buried in C:\Program Files, and Windows doesn't search your entire hard drive whenever you type something in there. So, here's what you do.

Open the Registry Editor. (If you don't know how to do that, you should probably stop now.)

Find the key HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\App Paths. Create a key under that with the name "winamp.exe" (or the name of any EXE you like). Go to the new key, and set the (Default) value to the full path to that program: "C:\Program Files\Winamp\Winamp.exe".

And that's it. Now you can start Winamp with Win+R, "winamp," Enter. Of course, I generally start Winamp now by pressing the "My Music" key on my wonderful keyboard, but sometimes I find myself using the Run dialog for old time's sake.

Hey nonny nonny

Many nerds everywhere have been awaiting the release of Robin Hood: Men in Tights on region 1 DVD. Well, it's finally here. The only downside? It's almost $70. It comes bundled with The Twelve Chairs, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Silent Movie, High Anxiety, History of the World Part 1, and To Be or Not to Be for free, though.

Sacrifice

Is it really a good quality that someone might be willing to sacrifice oneself for a stranger? Let's imagine a theoretical scenario in which a small child is about to be hit by a train. It's just you and the child; nobody else is around. You can either let the child be hit by the train with a 100% chance of death, or you can sacrifice yourself with a 100% chance of death, but a 100% chance that the child will survive.

Should you sacrifice yourself to save the child? I'm not so certain. It's safe to assume that if you're reading this, you're older than the child I'm picturing, so the child would probably live longer than you, and therefore all things considered, he or she would contribute more to society. We have no idea whether this child will grow up to be a good or evil person, of course. But, what we do know is that if you're the type who would sacrifice your own life for a random kid, you're probably a pretty good person. So, society trades a person who's almost certainly good (assuming that fewer than 50% of the world would make that sacrifice, which may not be true) for a person who has a 50% chance of being better than average and a 50% chance of being more evil than average. Plus, if you assume that for the first quarter of your life you're pretty much just a drain on society, it makes that older person even more attractive, especially if they've just finished that first quarter of theirs.

It looks to me like society's probably better off if that really nice person just lets the kid get hit by a train.

My, that's morbid.

So, what's the point of this post? If you ever go with me to play near some "abandoned" train tracks, watch your step.


(I assure you that I have no secret motive for posting on the topic of sacrificing one's own life on Easter Sunday. Just something that came to mind.)

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Deal or No Deal

Hey, I've got a great idea for a show: Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

Sir, that show already existed.

Oh. Well, how about we make the same show, but get rid of the questions and make it completely random.

Sounds great!


And that's how Deal or No Deal on NBC was born. I watched two episodes, and it was actually kinda entertaining. There's no point to the show; it's just a bunch of people winning random cash. I don't know if it has any staying power, but for now, it's amusing enough to watch while eating dinner...

King's Quest V and Might and Magic III

I remember the first two games that I ever bought: King's Quest V, and Might and Magic III. Both required many months of saving every penny I could get, being young at the time. If I recall correctly, I split the cost of King's Quest with my dad, since he played it too, and then once I was done I sold it to a computer shop for $8, down from the extravagant $40ish I paid for it. King's Quest was fun, but what really caught my eye at Best Buy (which was a relatively new store to Lincoln at the time) was this Might and Magic III: Isles of Terra.

I was initially a bit wary since I hadn't heard of the first two, but it said "no prior Might and Magic experience needed to play," and it promised hours of 3D adventure, an engaging storyline, and killing lots of monsters. I wasn't really too familiar with the concept of an RPG at the time, I believe. So, I bought the game when I finally saved up that kind of cash many months later. And wow. It was jaw-dropping. It was an experience that I never imagined. The "3D" world was still just a big grid and you could only turn at 90-degree angles, but the graphics were drop-dead gorgeous. At the time, it was very standard practice to put fake screenshots on boxes that were way better than anything you'd actually see in-game, and while Might and Magic III also had fake screenshots on the box, the game actually looked as good! I never expected that.

But it was so cool. I got to lead a team of fearless adventurers on countless hours of quests. There was a storyline. There was exploration. There was a lot of fighting. It was such a life-changing experience, and I loved every second of it. There have been few games since M&M3 that have changed what I've thought about games in general so much—no other revelations so divine besides Dune II and Heroes of Might and Magic.

Later on, I sold Might and Magic III for about $15 at a garage sale, so I could get something else, but the game was so memorable that three or four years ago, I managed to find a copy on eBay and buy it back, just because I couldn't bear to not own a copy. It was such a great game, and from then on, I knew that anything that bore the name Might and Magic would earn my money, and that ended up being a very safe bet. There were two spinoff games, Crusaders of Might and Magic (just a licensed product) and Legends of Might and Magic (a Counter-Strike clone), and those sucked. But, all of the core Might and Magic and Heroes of Might and Magic games so far have done well by me, and each has earned a special place in my heart. They're unforgettable.

Nox

Nox, by the now-gone Westwood Studios, was a gem of an underappreciated game. The single-player was good, with lots of neat spells and abilities, and a cool top-down line-of-sight system. But the multiplayer was quite unique. The multiplayer was a cool cross between Diablo and Unreal. It was still RPGish, with different character classes, abilities, and spells, but the gameplay modes were the kinds of things you'd find in Unreal Tournament—deathmatch, capture the flag, a sports mode, king of the hill, and so forth. It was action-packed, and it was greatly entertaining. It's a pity that it never caught on. Later on, they added a free cooperative multiplayer campaign too. It was extremely innovative at its time, received almost universal critical acclaim, and was made by one of the top development houses at the time. I don't really know why it didn't succeed. Maybe it just didn't get marketed correctly. Regardless, it's a sequel that I'd love to see and never will.

I'd link to a demo, but the demo is multiplayer-only, so you'd need to find some friends. It might have also been back in the day where multiplayer games were played over IPX, which is a pain to get working in some networks. You can buy the full game for thirteen bucks if that sounds interesting to you, though. :)

Friday, April 14, 2006

Tuned

Wow, Heroes V is much more performant now than it was in beta. Graphics look great at the high settings, and there's no slowdown or stutter... everything's smooth. In the beta, in some parts I was getting about three frames per second.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Overencapsulation

I love it when (0) zip files contain (1) a self-extractor which contains (2) the InstallShield setup files which contain (3) the software I actually want to install. That's not a lot of time wasted compressing, decompressing, and copying at all.

Perhaps not sleepless for once

Hmmm, I should stay at work until 11:00 more often. It's now ten minutes past midnight, and I'm ready to go to bed. I've answered my email, put stuff up for auction in WoW, and taken care of everything that needs to be. I may just get some sleep.

Unlike last night, when I stayed up past 4:00 playing World of Warcraft (you thought I was going to say Oblivion).

Hmmm... Heroes V demo tomorrow, Heroes V release soon, Office 2007 beta 2 release soon, Oblivion, and a thousand other things to do and take up my time. Sigh. More than a million people are going to see Office 2007 beta 2. I don't know how many of them will use SharePoint Designer, but out of a million, I'm sure there will be a few. My own software has been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times, and that's exciting, but this is a different kind of exciting. This time I'm part of something big... I'm responsible for only litle bits of SharePoint Designer compared to the whole, but SharePoint Designer is orders of magnitude omre complex than stuff I've written. It's satisfying in a very different way.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Arby's

I went to Arby's for dinner. They used to have the Regular roast beef sandwich, and the Giant roast beef sandwich. (There was also a Super, but that was just a Giant with lettuce and crap.) Now they have Regular, Medium, and Large. Let's repeat that. There's Regular, and then Medium, which is not the same as Regular, and then Large. "Regular" is the old regular, and "Medium" is the old giant. Large is even bigger. Then, underneath those, they have the labels "big," "bigger," and "biggest," respectively. So, the regular, which used to be called regular, is big, the medium, which used to be called giant, is bigger, and then large, which has no preexisting counterpart, is biggest. Okay, that's clear. But their wrappers still call them by their old names. So, today, I purchased a medium roast beef sandwich, labeled "bigger" on the menu. Not to be confused with a regular roast beef sandwich, of course. It came in a wrapper that said "giant," which is what the cashier called it, even though "giant" was nowhere on the menu.

Good Lord. And people compare about Microsoft's naming. It should have just been Arby's Roast Beef-Based Lunch or Dinner Sandwich 2006 Ultimate À-la-Carte Edition.

And then the cashier damned me to Hell. No, really! He damned me to the depths of Hell. He asked if my officemate or I wanted any ketchup, horsey sauce, Arby's sauce, honey mustard, or barbecue sauce, and we both said no. Then he said, "Well then damn you... damn you both to Hell. Have a great evening!"

Ack

Hebrew Windows hurts my eyes. Everything's backwards... it's... it's... awful...

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

My secret confession

My secret confession is that, despite working on the SharePoint Designer team since it was created, and the FrontPage team before that, I've never successfully gotten Windows SharePoint Services to install on a server. My development machine gets SharePoint kind of hacked into place when I build it, and the one time I tried to install it on another server, I couldn't get it working. There was already a site running on port 80 on that server, and I think SharePoint didn't like that. I dunno. All I remember is that two hours and a tedious review of the administration guide later, I was left with no SharePoint...

If you don't know what SharePoint is (I didn't know what it was before starting at Microsoft either), it's a pretty cool website-in-a-box thing that pretty much every team at Microsoft uses to facilitate team communication and information storage. It stores documents and calendars, presents views of data from other servers, runs ASP.NET components, integrates with a variety of Office apps, and allows each user to rearrange the site to their liking, a lot like live.com. I'd link to some official Microsoft info on SharePoint, but the marketing site for the product is incredibly worthless.

Demo imminent

A demo of Heroes of Might and Magic V is scheduled to become available on GameSpot Thursday morning. Highly recommended, and I'm sure it's gotten plenty of love since the betas.

Myself, I think I'm going to just wait until it's released, and stick to Oblivion, but at least I'll give it a peek... I've managed to go a week without PVPing in World of Warcraft, finally acknowledging that maintaining my ranking takes way, way too much time, so I think I'm cured of that now. Now I'll have more time for other games. Or, work.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Most negative page ever

Digg: FrontPage 2003 is dead.

That may be the most negative page ever. (It would probably be up against Maddox' The Best Page in the Universe.) Then again, what those people are saying is mostly what came to mind when I thought of FrontPage about three years ago.

Richard Dean Anderson

Richard Dean Anderson (MacGyver) was a great guest star on Simpsons tonight. Usually so many of the guest stars suck hard.

Home Sweet Cheydinhal

I spent several hours today working on a survey that I'll be running soon; most of you know what I'm talking about already, and the rest can just wonder, I suppose. I spent most of the rest of the day playing more Oblivion. (I "paid" for my full weekend of Oblivion by putting in a couple late weeknights.) It's a great game. It's a pity that it's horribly imbalanced: the system at which you gain levels can cause monsters to become unplayably difficult simply because you made too many potions or got too much exercise. There's a difficulty slider that makes everything okay again, but it's a poor solution. But, I guess by increasing the difficulty of the enemies as you improve your skills (even non-combat skills), it keeps the game potentially challenging, which Morrowind wasn't after the first twenty levels or so.

The funny thing is that while the Elder Scrolls system of leveling up your character through use of skills and not generic experience points allows for some really fantastic freeform play, if they would have stuck with XP or some mechanism that would require you to actually fight enemies in order to level up, it wouldn't be much of a problem. I got my first eight levels or so without hardly fighting any enemies, so when I went into the wilderness, just about anything I ran into was a serious challenge. Now that I've picked up better equipment and have started using my combat skills, it's not bad, but if I manage to go up a couple levels without much combat, everything's back to kicking my butt again.

I bought an in-game house. Right now it's a couple pieces of furniture with artifacts that I can't bear to part with, but don't want to carry everywhere, sitting in disarray on the foyer table. It's not much, but eventually I'm sure it will be nice. Decorating a house is more challenging than you think. Oblivion uses the same physics engine as Half-Life 2... imagine decorating your house with the precision of the gravity gun, and you'll have a pretty good idea as to how hard it is.

Sunday, April 9, 2006

Aptly named

So, I've been playing Oblivion for roughly the past ten hours. This is what happens when I don't get enough gaming in for a week.

Saturday, April 8, 2006

Supernature

I had such luck with last Saturday's two CDs that I decided to start on another one a couple days later, Supernature by Goldfrapp, and it is also excellent. It's my favorite of her three albums so far, but it's also not as insane and cool as her previous two, Felt Mountain and Black Cherry. If you're not familiar with Goldfrapp (this seems likely), it's a strange brand of probably-undanceable, bizarre electronic pop. Every track is great, but check out Lovely 2 C U, Ride a White Horse, and You Never Know. Good luck trying to find samples of the other songs on her insane website.

Goldfrapp - Supernature
Goldfrapp, Supernature DVD edition slipcover. On the CD cover, they blacken out her wrist so it looks less like a deformed breast.


That Scissor Sisters CD that I mentioned last time is quite addictive. There are a couple tracks I don't care too much for (Tits on the Radio, Filthy/Gorgeous), but by the time I hit the end, I can't believe it's over already.

Thursday, April 6, 2006

Earthbound

One of the things different about that venerable old classic Doom versus today's shooters is that you couldn't jump. (Also, there was never more than one vertical level; you couldn't have rooms under other rooms. The engine just didn't support it.) While this would no doubt feel very strange and constricting to a person used to modern shooters (Guild Wars also doesn't let you jump, which did indeed feel very strange last time I played) , it did have one advantage: when you hit a ledge, you knew that you couldn't get over it. There was no "oh, maybe if I press forward at just the right time, or maybe hold down crouch while I jump." There was also no "maybe I can jump from this crate to this one if I press spacebar at just the right time." You could either go there or you couldn't. No ambiguity, and no jumping puzzles. Gordon Freeman is, after all, not Super Mario.

SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

The car belonging to someone who lives near me makes hideous, loud screeching noises, apparently the whole time it's running. Sometimes it's loud enough to wake me up at night. They should really take it to a mechanic.

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Good riddance

So, the ex-Microsoft developer who invented Hungarian notation is going into outer space. So, it appears, he is receiving a punishment befitting his crimes against humanity—exile from the planet.

For those who are unfamiliar and also not willing to skim an entire Wikipedia article, here's an example of Hungarian notation: lpszBar. If you had a variable named lpszBar, you could conclude that it is named Bar, and a long pointer to a null-terminated (z) string. Personally, I would vastly prefer to name it Bar.

Mother's miak

Every time I think of milk, I think of "mother's miak" from the movie Ernest Scared Stupid. It's been this way since I saw that movie long, long ago. I don't know if I'll ever get over that association.

Useless

I was pretty happy when I found out a couple days ago that my officemate too had forgotten basic calculus. We both remembered 2x and x3/3, and that's about it.

Monday, April 3, 2006

Frontier Psychiatrist

I love the song Frontier Psychiatrist by The Avalanches. A lot. But little did I know, it has a video too, and it is also awesome...

I recommend this video to anyone who enjoys turtles with human heads, a man in a bird suit being chased around a stage, or old women playing drums.

Photocopier

Someone photocopied a whole bunch of driver's licenses and then left the printout by the copier... last week. How do you forget something like that? It seems like you'd photocopy driver's licenses for something important... the kind of thing where you'd go, "oh crap, I left those photocopies at work." But, who knows.

Hmmm

Weekend, weekend, wherefore art thou, weekend?

I played a couple hours of World of Warcraft and a couple of Oblivion. Besides that and playing poker Saturday night, the rest I spent working, be it a short period of time for Microsoft, or stuff around the apartment. Sure seems like the weekend disappeared much too quickly.

Sunday, April 2, 2006

I heart music

I haven't been listening to too much new music recently; I've mostly been listening to some of the more recent stuff I've bought. But, over the past couple months I have finished a few more CDs.

Delerium—Archives Volume 1, and Archives Volume 2. Delerium is a personal favorite of mine. They've got a really cool sound that mixes pop, electronic music, and ambient world music. And, as with many of the bands on my playlist, ethereal female vocals.

This is not that Delerium.

Well, it's the same band. But it's not the same Delerium. Their older tracks would be best described as "industrial and moody." They're kind of like the soundtrack to American McGee's Alice, or a less-energetic Unreal soundtrack. Or, the show Unsolved Mysteries, if you're not familiar with those games. It's weird. Some of the tracks are decent, and several suck. But, each of those albums is two CDs, so out of four CDs I got my $25 worth. It's interesting to see how a band that originally made music like that makes music like this.

From Archives Volume 1, check out Sword (originally from Faces, Forms, and Illusions, 1989), Fragments of Fear (from Morpheus, 1989), and Shroud (from Syrophenikan, 1991). From Archives Volume 2, check out Drama (from Spiritual Archives, 1993), Monolith (from Spheres, 1994), and Shockwave (from Spheres II, 1994). None of those sound like the new Delerium in any way.

But, that transition didn't make sense. There's a missing link somewhere that combines the two...

Delerium—Semantic Spaces. Between their old sound and their new sound, Delerium had an album called Semantic Spaces that is more between the two. It sounds more like their new stuff than their old stuff, but now it makes the transition more obvious. I don't know why they changed their whole style, but I like their new style much better, so I don't mind too much...

From Semantic Spaces, check out Flatlands and Gateway.

It's hard to decide who to recommend Delerium to. Delerium would appeal to most people who like E.S. Posthumus, which is about as obscure as musical artists get. I'd say that anyone who likes Enigma will probably like Delerium, but anyone who likes ambient fake world music or light electronic music with female vocals will probably like them too.

For a more recent Delerium sound, check out Silence featuring Sarah McLachlan (from Karma, 1997), which is the only one that sounds anything like the older CDs I listed above, After All featuring Jaël (from Chimera, 2003), and Stopwatch Hearts featuring Emily Haines (also from Chimera), which is basically just pop.

Fredalba—Uptown Music for Downtown Kids. This is a pretty decent CD. I think it's also the only CD that I have that's by someone who's primarily known as being an actor: Eric Balfour, who is apparently on The OC, but that's not where I've seen him. Actually, I don't know where I'd seen him, but I recognized the face.

Photo of Eric Balfour
Eric Balfour

So, it turns out that that guy sings well, and the band is interesting. I don't know who I'd recommend it to, though. It's some variant of rock; maybe I'd classify it as funk. Check out Gimme More, Prepare to Reactivate, and Progression.

Good Charlotte—The Chronicles of Life and Death. This was a purchase I put into my computer to rip with some trepidation. Despite really enjoying the only song of theirs I had heard, I Just Wanna Live, I feared that they would be a pretty horrible pop/punk band. To my joy and surprise, they turned out to just be a pop/punk band. I love Murder (In This World), I Just Wanna Live, The Chronicles of Life and Death, and the fairly absurd Once Upon a Time: The Battle of Life and Death.


Finally, today, I got into the sudden mood to listen to new music while working, and I happened to get a couple new CDs in the mail on Friday, so I listened to them both.

Fischerspooner—Odyssey. I like this. It's electronic alternative rock, I'd say. Parts are a bit unpleasantly emo in a Depeche Mode kind of way, but overall it's fine. It's got a lot of interesting sounds. Watch the Never Win video and you'll have a pretty good idea of what they sound like, though much of the rest of the CD is a little less poppy, so not my fault if you hate it... Also check out Everything to Gain, and the annoyingly-titled "•" for some insane retro electronic wackiness.

Scissor Sisters—Scissor Sisters. This isn't at all the kind of music I normally listen to, and I loved my first play through. Keeping with the theme of today's post, I don't really know what genre it is. All Music Guide calls it "genre-defying" in the first line of its bio, so I guess I don't feel too bad. Fischerspooner and OutKast are both listed bands that sound similar to Scissor Sisters, which confuses the hell out of me. Their album review uses phrases like "fancy-pants disco" and "twittering glitterball beat," and somehow those seem really fitting. Not knowing really where to put it, I think I'd have to call it "disco." Anyway, it's very cool. Check out Laura, Take Your Mama, and Music Is the Victim. You can always minimize the window if the lead singer creeps you out too much.

A damn fine hand

Tonight while playing poker, I felt my phone vibrate...

Joe: Bid's to you.
Me: Hmmm, I thought I felt my phone vibrate, but no one called me. Weird.
Joe: I call.
Peter: Well, if your hand's so good that it made something vibrate in your pants, I fold.

And he did.

The Office

Since getting to a point where I enjoy the NBC series The Office, I decided that I'd check out the British version. So far I've seen two episodes, and so far I'm hatin' it. I don't like the cast at all. So far, I feel that the American equivalent of each of the characters is absolutely better, across the board. Also, the first two episodes had the same plot as episodes in the American version that I'd already seen, so that made it easier to compare the episodes more directly.

So, from the British to the American version, the plot and jokes are mostly the same, the actors are better, the production quality is better, the theme song is better, and the American version doesn't feature so many unpleasant British accents.

I like some British accents, but not these. I don't really know how to tell apart British accents. Michael Caine has a good accent. Ricky Gervais (the boss from BBC's The Office) does not.

Not being in "my" English hurts the show a bit, though I expected that, of course. Comedy just doesn't work as well with a language barrier, even if it's... the same language. I can't even imagine how hilarious Amélie would have been if I was fluent in French; it's a very, very funny movie reading the subtitles, but so much of the humor in the NBC version of The Office is dealt in facial expressions and tones of voices. Tones of voices are lost for me in the British version.

But oh well. I bought the DVDs, and it's not like I'm stopping after two episodes...

All of my faces are poker faces

I played two games of poker tonight, doing average in the first and taking all in the second. I tend to do pretty well in poker whenever I play it, despite playing it infrequently enough that I need a refresher on bidding each time. I'm not sure why that is. It's certainly not due to skill; I don't really put much thought into my hands. I'm clueless enough that I cheerily announced that I had three pair in a game of Texas hold'em tonight, not even knowing that I only get to use five of the seven cards. I don't think that it's luck, either, because I always feel like I have terrible luck in games.

My best guess is that I make much, much riskier moves in poker than anything else. Generally in every other game I play, I'm extremely cautious, but for some reason in poker, I'm not. It's probably because it's kind of fun to pretend like I'm risking a huge sum of cash but actually not. Being willing to take risks is, of course, quite important.

Also, I've been told that I'm impossible to read. All of my faces are poker faces. And, the way I play a given hand is pretty erratic, so people can't seem to guess how I'll react to any given situation.

Or maybe it's something else entirely, like a lack of statistically sufficient data to make an accurate estimation of my wins, so it seems like I'm doing better than I really am.

Saturday, April 1, 2006

Open-ended

It's interesting that out of an arbitrary set of three people playing Oblivion, myself and two others, we each decided to start the game in a different way. I headed off into the wilderness and have been exploring ruins and only showing up in towns to sell my goods, one friend of mine headed to the towns to join the Mages' Guild and advance in their ranks, and another friend went directly to the capitol city to start questing there, and is the only one of us to have put any effort into the main quest line. It's awesome that there's so much freedom in the game, and that's what I love about the series.

I was worried that Oblivion would not run with acceptable performance on my aging PC, but it seems to be okay. The framerate isn't great, but it's not bad, and there's not much in the way of loading times, compared to the 360, where they are apparently quite prevalent.