Friday, September 29, 2006

Small talk

One of my big pet peeves is when people start off conversations that have a specific purpose with small talk. Usually, but not always, this is people I don't know too well personally. I don't understand it at all. Maybe they think that I'm really stupid, and won't notice that they're doing it, and rather think that we were having an exciting and friendly conversation, and then a request or question just happened to slip in. It's so pointless, and so irritating. Here's how it goes...

Person: Hey, how's it going?
Me: (sigh) Fine.
Person: How are you liking the Segway?
Me: (sigh) It's fine.
Person: Gonna miss the warm weather?
Me: (sigh) Not really.
Person: Oh, one other thing; (insert question here)

Wow! Really subtle. Good work. Whatever you thought you were doing by getting on my good side or whatever, you've failed miserably. Now I'm irritated at you before you even ask your question. Compare and contrast:

Person: Hey, (insert question here)

I'm not against small talk with people I know. I can even tolerate it for a short while with people I don't know. But if you have a question, or a request, or just a statement, just SAY IT. Not to mention the fact that if I'm busy when you ask, I may ask you to come back later if you start talking about inconsequential things, but I'll happily answer a focused question.

I consider myself lucky that people on my team don't do this, which I even find kind of surprising. But a lot of people do, both in person and over IM. Even a few people I know very well will always preface questions with nonsense.

I don't think it's unreasonable to ask people not to start off conversations with topics that they don't actually care about when they have a topic that they do care about waiting.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Wine

Wine

Taken at a winery, this is another one of my favorite snapshot portraits.

Red

Red

I love almost everything about this picture. The colors, contrast, and framing are great, if I do say so myself. Everything's perfect except the focusing. Arg! It's blurry. I don't know if it's camera shake or the plant itself was swaying, but it turned a potential poster photo into something just "nice."

Flower gardens

(Updated: I have a picture now.)

The Vista version of Minesweeper has an option that lets you change it to a flower garden instead of a minefield, since a game about minefields is kind of offensive in certain areas of the world where, you know, it's a real deal. It's still called "Minesweeper," though, which is a bit odd.

Flowersweeper
Minesweeper in "flower garden" mode. Enlarged to show detail.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Knights of the Old Republic II

Well, I've just finished Knights of the Old Republic II. Excellent game. The original KOTOR was good enough that it got me to finally give in to the dark side and decide I probably didn't really hate Star Wars, and this one is a worthy sequel. Essentially, it's Neverwinter Nights (3rd Edition Dungeons and Dragons), except with a Star Wars theme, a much better storyline, better graphics... and lightsabers!

Knights of the Old Republic II
Anton versus Darth Nihilus.

If you played the original Knights of the Old Republic, you almost certainly loved it, and if that's the case, you really need to play KOTOR II. I'm kind of sad that I waited so long to play the sequel, but it hasn't aged badly. It's an easily recommendable game to any RPG fan, as long as you don't mind losing the standard medieval fantasy atmosphere.

This second iteration of the game introduces one game element that I found quite innovative. Many times throughout the storyline, you don't play as your hero, but rather as one or more secondary characters who are generally performing side tasks to aid your primary character. While your main guy is fighting his way to the boss, he might walk through a door, and the screen fades to black. Suddenly, you're now in control of the droid that's clearing your escape route or hacking the computer systems to unlock doors for your main character. Where most games would just tell you those things were happening, KOTOR II lets you play them, and I think that's pretty cool. It helps to make the events in the storyline seem bigger—they're too big for your main character and his or her party to handle by themselves all at once. At times these little gameplay vignettes would last ten or fifteen minutes and be chained together, for a neat little epic experience crossing many different characters working together. Combined with the general addictiveness of the game, it makes it hard to play for "just an hour or two."

The graphics are an interesting mix. Parts of the game are beautifully designed, with interesting and detailed environments. Yet, some parts of the game are downright ugly, with weirdly blocky models and bland textures. Also, some areas, primarily the interiors of large buildings and ships, become very repetitive, kind of like (shudder) Halo. Some character animations are bizarrely jerky and fake, and some are extremely well done, like all of the melee combat animations—you'll see swords crossed and pressed against each other in a struggle for dominance, jumping, kicking, and a wide variety of amusingly choreographed fights. Overall, though, it's good, and there's a lot of variety in what you'll see.

The hallmark feature of Knights of the Old Republic continues in the sequel, and that's that your character starts out as a neutral alignment and slowly turns to the dark side or the light side as you make plot decisions. The original game took a twist toward the end, depending on which you chose, but in the sequel, I can imagine that the plot is very different depending on how you play your character. Though I only played as a goody-goody light side Jedi, it seems that a great deal of the storyline would be very different had I played a dark side character; considerably more than in the first game. That kind of flexibility and replayability is very cool. The people who join your side change their behavior based on how you act, and even your character's gender will change the storyline and which characters will ally themselves with your cause.

Anyway, I had a great time. You can get the game for cheap if you're an RPG fan, and it's certainly worth your money.

Pop-Tart

Pop-Tart

So that's what happens if you leave a Pop-Tart in the toaster for too long.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Work dates

I should start calling 1:1 meetings "work dates." I'm sure I would find that amusing for several hours.

Game nights

Last night and Sunday night I had a bunch of people over for games, including a special guest from Arizona. That was fun. It also means that I haven't been getting enough sleep and am quite tired. A worthwhile trade, though...

Monday, September 25, 2006

Meeples

Meeple pride

"Meeple" is a word for "token representing a player in a board game." Most notably in the game pictured, Carcassonne.

At the beginning of my junior year of college, after I had kindled a love of board games in the hearts of my friends, I thought it would be amusing to start off the year with a celebration of gaming. Needing something to post on my door, I set up this photo, which was probably the most work that I've ever put into a photo. Finding so many pieces that fit together took quite some time.

I left the colorful meeples' banner blank so different messages could be Photoshopped on in the future. There's a story behind the only message I ever used. One of the orange city pieces in my copy of The Settlers of Catan is incomplete; one could imagine that someone bit a chunk out of it. Once this was observed, a friend of mine remarked "we do not gnaw on our cit-y" in a Dr. Evil fashion, mimicing his Austin Powers line "we do not gnaw on our kit-ty." This became a catchphrase of sorts, and became the text that I added to the meeples' banner for Meeple Pride Week.

Spicy

Despite all of the "Mexican" restaurants I've been to in my life, none have had salsa as good as stuff I've had from Safeway: Reser's Baja Café Original.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Small tables

I do not enjoy it when you're at a restaurant in a moderate-sized group of people, and all they have are tiny tables that they've pushed together:

Diagram of small tables

This is pretty typical when you have more than six people in your party. I find it unpleasant, though, because I can't stand to look at the person on the other side of the table for too long; they're too close, and it's uncomfortable. So, I always end up looking at a person to his or her left or right for most of the meal; they're usually at the most comfortable distance.

With somewhat larger tables, like the ones at the cafeterias at work, it isn't as bad, though someone diagonal from me is still a bit more comfortable to look at.

Path

Path

This is another one from Mt. Si. I think. Either that or Mt. Townsend. Regardless, I like what's going on here with the shadows.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Palms

Palms

Not a lot of palm trees in Washington. Or, for that matter, Nebraska.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Best phone plan ever

Last month's phone bill was $4.64, and my service was better than anything I ever got from Cingular. I heart Verizon.

Mueller

Mueller by day

Mueller by night

Mueller Tower on the UNL campus, by day and by night. The daytime picture was taken on a cloudy spring day, and the nighttime picture was taken on a misty fall night.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Goodspaceguy

My good friend Raymond Chen (okay, I don't really know him) has also posted not only about Michael Goodspaceguy Nelson for US Senate, but some of the other insane candidates in the Washington primary. All of my favorites are there! Goodspaceguy, Mike the Mover, the 120-year-old man complaining about Communists taking over America, and the guy with the penny obsession.

The Old New Thing: It is as if our leaders have not been educated in orbital space colonization

Update: Fixed link.

Mishra

Mishra

This is one of my parents' cats, Mishra. She has her own Wikipedia page.

It's so tough to take decent pictures of cats. The nice thing about this picture is that the blurry background hides how filthy their house is. Mishra's a nice cat, though like many cats, she really just tolerates people to the minimum extent necessary. People are the entities who bring food; that is all.

Segway

Segway

Sometimes photos are not flattering.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Lightsabers

I'll get back to remembering to post sometime. Right now I'm somewhat absorbed by Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II. Great RPG, with one problem: it takes waaaaaaaaay too long to get your first lightsaber. Why would you make a Star Wars RPG where you have to play for like fifteen hours without a lightsaber? It boggles the mind.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Old ladies

Someday, perhaps a bunch of old ladies will form a knitting circle that they will name The Knotsies. Occasionally they will get together to celebrate instead of knit: a Knotsie Party, if you will.

It is a testament to my current state of mind that I find that very funny right now, even while I fully realize that it is not.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Lincoln

Lincoln

Lincoln: the man, the city, the statue. This statue, and the etched Gettysburg Address, are in front of the Nebraska Capitol Building.

Another batch of music

The short version:
Jerry Goldsmith—Star Trek: The Motion Picture: 7/10
Robyn Miller—Riven: 6/10
David Arkenstone—The Celtic Book of Days: 8/10

I recently posted about some of the non-instrumental music and comedy CDs I've been listening to, but I left out the instrumental music. All three of these CDs are recommendable, for different reasons.

The first instrumental CD I've been listening to recently is the soundtrack to Star Trek: The Motion Picture by Jerry Goldsmith. I had forgotten that it had such a good soundtrack. (Plus, I named my main World of Warcraft character after the main character V'Ger from this movie, so it's fun to see that track title pop up in Winamp a couple times on each play through.) Sci-Fi movie soundtracks, at least the ones to movies that aren't trying to just be action movies, are typically grandiose and mysterious, and this is no exception. The Star Trek series is going to miss Jerry Goldsmith on the next movie. While overall the soundtrack is good, and the particular recording I have has been remastered, it was recorded a quarter century ago, and it's certainly not as crisp and bright as it should be.

Anyway, I like it; check out Ilia's Theme, the pretty opening track; Leaving Drydock, essentially an extended version of what became the Star Trek: The Next Generation theme; and V'Ger Flyover, one of the more mysterious tracks. (I could only find :30 previews on Amazon for these.)

I also have been listening to the Riven soundtrack by Robyn Miller. It's all moody, weird, and synthesized, which fits the sequel to Myst perfectly. The tracks don't really stand out on their own, but the disc from beginning to end sounds great as a whole, if you're in the mood for it. Check out these tracks, again only :30 samples: Village entrance theme, Catherine's Freedom, and Fissure. Fissure is the song played during the game's end credits, and it's the reason I decided many years ago that someday I would have to get the soundtrack. Sadly, the first thirty seconds are just a prelude; the rest of the track is better—it's a reprise of Atrus' Theme. The music is simple, but nice.

The last instrumental CD that I've been listening to is The Celtic Book of Days by David Arkenstone. I recently listened to another one of his CDs, Spirit Wind, and wasn't terribly impressed, but this one is better. It's brighter and cheerier, and more Celtic and less generic new age music. It has a few vocal tracks as well; they're not my favorites. Check out Equos Fair (full-length), Yearning Hearts (full-length), and The Quest of Culhwch (:30 sample) for a good idea of what the album is like. This is an excellent CD, and were it not for a few tracks that I'm not terribly partial to, I might have given this a 9/10.


There's lots of music that I'm really excited about on the way: a new Basement Jaxx CD, Crazy Itch Radio; a new Enigma CD, A Posteriori; a new Scissor Sisters CD, Ta Dah!; and more.

Light snow

Light snow

I really enjoy frost and light now. I just think it's a particularly beautiful phenomenon. This picture is from a few years ago, again on the UNL campus. It was along the edge of Andrews or Anderson hall... I can never remember the name of that building. It's the one near Kauffman.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Leafy

Leafy

A simple picture, but I like it because of the shadows, and it made great wallpaper.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Math

On the way to work today I passed a young guy in a suit, probably interviewing for something, who asked me about the Segway.

Guy: How fast does it go?
Me: About twelve miles an hour.
Guy: How far away do you live?
Me: A mile.
Guy: So it takes you twelve minutes to get to work, then?
Me: Uhhh... a little less.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Where's the spam?

Less than a week ago I was getting almost 5,000 emails a day. Now I'm down to under 2,000, and only a few dozen of them are making it into my inbox; Outlook is sticking the rest directly in the Spam folder. I know that part of the difference is that I've been using Outlook 2007 B2TR, but I'm still kind of scared. Where'd the mail go? It's lonely in here...

Lantern

Lantern

One of the first pictures that I ever took in an attempt to be artistic, as opposed to just taking pictures of things. This is a lantern in my grandparents' barn.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Jesse

Jesse

This is a portrait I took a couple weeks before I graduated from UNL, of my friend Jesse. I don't remember whose idea it was to take his picture in the bushes looking like a nervous animal, but it's an amusing picture nonetheless.

Harmful if Swallowed

The short version:
Death Cab for Cutie—Plans: 7/10
No Doubt—Return of Saturn: 6/10
Sheā Seger—The May Street Project: 6/10
Dane Cook—Harmful if Swallowed (Comedy): "decent"
Dane Cook—Retaliation (Comedy): "great"

Immediately after the first Death Cab for Cutie album I bought, I ordered their latest, Plans. I have to say... I definitely like Transatlanticism better. I gave it an 8, and for Plans I struggled between a 6 and a 7, before realizing that spending time on a a number rating system for music is pretty silly and arbitrary as I have no real training in music or reviewing it. All of the characteristics that made Transatlanticism good are there, really, but Plans just wasn't as interesting to me. But, it's by no means bad; I just didn't like it as much as the last one. Check out Summer Skin, Your Heart Is an Empty Room, and Someday You Will Be Loved.

I also started listening to another No Doubt CD (I bought several in one batch a long time ago), Return of Saturn. I actually haven't listened to it too many times; I find it kind of hard to listen to in one sitting, and it's not something I'm frequently in the mood for. It's not bad... now that I've heard all four No Doubt albums, I can say that each one is better than the last. This is their third one, and I like only Rock Steady, their fourth, better. But, as has been the problem with their previous CDs, only the singles really stand out, and the rest is downhill from there. The best tracks on this CD are the first three: Ex-Girlfriend, Simple Kind of Life, and Bathwater. The rest aren't even close. In retrospect, I don't recommend buying any of their CDs before Rock Steady... just get a singles compilation.

Another Pandora discovery, I tried out Sheā Seger's album The May Street Project. The track that got me interested was Last Time, which is a pretty fun pop song. There's something about her voice that I can't quite identify that I like and dislike at the same time... like it's too raw or unrefined, but in a kind of refreshing way. Her disc reminds me of Sheryl Crow a bit. Anyway, it's not bad, and it's got some good songs, but at the same time, I don't really feel like I need to recommend it to anyone. But, from what I read, fans of Ani DiFranco will like it, and I the AMG reviewer agrees that it sounds like Sheryl Crow. Anyway, besides Last Time, check out Blind Situation (featuring D.R.U.G.S.) and Twisted.

Finally, I picked up two comedy CDs from Dane Cook, Harmful If Swallowed and Retaliation, after having heard the beginning of the latter in a coworker's car. Both pretty funny, though Retaliation is better. Amusing: Someone Shit on the Coats and Abducted. (Explicit; duh.)


So, those were okay. I've got several CDs on the way that I'm very excited about, though... Basement Jaxx—Crazy Itch Radio, Enigma—A Posteriori, and Scissor Sisters—Ta Dah!. Also, one more comedy CD: Sarah Silverman—Jesus is Magic.

Happy birthday

Imogen Heap is touring in Seattle on my birthday. I may go to that. Though... I don't know how good she would sound in a live performance.

Case in point, Imogen Heap's new single, Headlock. I think that would lose most of its charms live.

Grade

Well, my annual performance review is in. Essentially, I got a "B." Given the hardcore overachievers on my team, that's really about the best I expected. And, now I know more precisely why everyone at Microsoft is excited for their September 30 paycheck, when bonuses and pay raises go into effect.

I've worked here for more than two years with the same manager, and I now know the key to getting a good review—or at least avoiding a poor one. Status reports. Lengthy, agonizingly detailed status reports. My manager loves them. I don't think he reads them, but he loves seeing tons of text there. I haven't really done anything different this past year than the one before it. The only real difference is that I talk about every little stupid thing that goes on at work. I hate it, and I hate that he wants me to brag about every little thing I do. It's just not me. But, I've got to do it, and I've finally started to get over it. My status reports actually go into a blog, but seriously—if you thought this blog was boring, you should see my work blog.

"Last week, since I haven't had any bugs in any of my features for the last six weeks, I went through Simon's bugs and took one of those. I'm waiting on the UX [user experience / design] guy's feedback before I can finish that one. I also talked with Joe about his bugs, and we decided that he didn't really have any to give away. I'm waiting on a code review from Alex for those two FTP checkin/checkout bugs, but I expect them to be checked in this weekend..."

It's basically like that.

And that's really all I've got about my review. I'm happy about the outcome; about ten times as happy as I was last time. I'm disappointed that, based on my own impressions, the reason I did better this year is a pretty stupid reason. But oh well.

Informative avions

A little bird tells me that the patch to upgrade Office 2007 beta 2 to Office 2007 beta 2 technical refresh, a near-final version that I'm using right now, will be available tomorrow. It's the last one you'll see before it's in stores. And, in my opinion, it's a very nice improvement over beta 2. For example, performance of PowerPoint 2007 has been upgraded from "granite slab" to "molasses." Not too many new features, but less crashing and more refinement all around. Anyone who's been using beta 2 should get it ASAP.

See the comments for a lame attempt to make the title of this post less stupid.

I do not think you understand how a shredder works

All of the copy rooms at Microsoft have lockboxes where you can deposit confidential paper and CDs for shredding and recycling as appropriate. There's a guy in one of the copy rooms with a handful of papers that he's manually ripping into strips before depositing into the confidential bin.

Whatever works.

Near-death experience

I dreamed that my mom sent me an email that my grandma was going to die in a couple days and I should come home. The dream just lasted a couple seconds.

That was, uh, fun.

Haircut

Why do I always put off getting a haircut? When I have it done, it always feels so, so good.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Japanese

Japanese

The Japanese garden at the University of Washington. Nice place. I love the landscaping, but it's too bad that the water is so murky.

Training

I spent all day yesterday and today in class. Boy-howdy was that fun. The topic of the class was "design patterns," a fairly popular topic in software engineering at the moment. I got the impression that despite the class being for "experienced developers," most of the people there did not seem like they had that much experience at all. So, the class focused on all sorts of really basic things that I would really expect any professional software developer to already understand, and spent maybe a quarter of the time actually talking about the kinds of things that I'd have expected from a class on the topic.

Anyway, I don't really feel like going into it. It was just really boring. I even took the season premiere of The Simpsons on my Portable Media Center to watch during lunch, and that was boring. One of the least funny episodes I can remember.

It's kind of exhausting. I'm actually sleepy right now, at 6:30. Of course, getting up at 7 doesn't help that.

Hike

Hike

Today's photo is another one from Mt. Si.

Thanks

Cingular was kind enough to send me a bill stating that my balance was $0, and last month's charges were $0, so my new balance is $0, which was charged to my credit card on file.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Keeps on slippin'

Give or take a leap day, on my birthday in December, I'll have worked at Microsoft for almost exactly 10% of my life.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Heavenrays

Heavenrays

This is one of my all-time favorite photos. It was an extremely bright day, and I was walking around the UNL campus with my camera. It was too bright to look up comfortably, so I tilted the camera upward and used the LCD to take a few pictures of the clouds. I was a little worried about damaging the camera by pointing it directly at the sun, but it survived the ordeal. I'm quite pleased with the result, despite the cheesy name I gave the series of photos.

This was a 1/1000-second exposure at F/11.3 and ISO 100 on my old camera. I don't think the new camera could have done much better, but it would have been a little less grainy and a bit more detailed.

Primary election

There's a Democratic candidate for Washington's US Senator position named Michael Goodspaceguy Nelson. His half-page "ad" in the voter guide is pretty much just rambling about how awesome it would be to have an orbiting colony.

He scares me.

Saturday, September 9, 2006

Grounds

Grounds

I love scenes like this... bright afternoon sunlight, and a series of trees casting long shadows. Photography's all about light, and it's a great effect. But, this photo isn't that great. Someday I'll replace it with a better one of the same kind of scene.

I don't know if it's terribly crooked, or just appears that way. I seem to remember that the ground was not level, but I wouldn't rule it out.

Eleven o'clock brings massive explosions

I usually keep pretty quiet in my apartment, but tonight I decided to rewatch V for Vendetta, at full volume, as I knew it would end right around the time that quiet hours would begin. It was pretty beautiful. I really need a TV, though. Sound so fantastic should not be paired with a 19" monitor.

For the record, I was wrong. I thought they would release the DVD on October 30, the last Tuesday before November 5, Guy Fawkes' Day. But, I've had the thing on my desk for a couple weeks.

Energy efficiency

I dislike having to run the air conditioner and the heater on the same day.

Friday, September 8, 2006

Butterflies

I haven't been posting too much recently, so today you get two pictures. I took them this afternoon.

Butterfly

Butterfly

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Bee

Bee

Most of you have already seen this picture a kajillion times, but for those of you who only read my RSS feed, here's my favorite recent picture. I've got a 20x30" print of it on my wall at work.

It seemed topically appropriate given the bee-at-lunch post, and also convenient, as I'm going through my selected photos in approximate alphabetical order of original filename.

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Punny

Regarding my last post...

Perhaps I need a disinsectant soap.

HA! Maybe after I run out of photos to post each day, I should post a different pun each day...

Bees

Today at lunch, I had tacos. As is typical of the tacos served by my cafeteria, they were very wet, and I got the oily taco nectar all over my hands. As I sat talking to my coworkers, a bee flew over and landed on my hands. It then wouldn't leave... it crawled all around my hands, between my fingers, on my palms, everywhere. Several people on my team are uncomfortable with insects, so we headed inside.

Albert: Whatever hand soap you're using, Travis, I suggest you find a new one.
Phil: It didn't come in a bear-shaped bottle, did it?

Monday, September 4, 2006

A clean desktop

It's really an astonishing sight to have my desktop wallpaper completely uncovered by sticky notes. I don't think I managed this over vacation, and if I didn't, I haven't been able to do this for a good two and a half years at minimum.

Vanquished Strogg

The short version:
Quake 4: excellent


I just finished Quake 4, and I have to say, after getting into it, I really enjoyed it. I initially bought it because I loved Doom 3, and Quake 4 uses the Doom 3 engine and at least had input from their designers. The first few levels started out kind of boring (more in a mediocre sense than a bad one), but after a few hours things pick up. It's a very well done "space marines versus alien monsters" kind of game, and to stand out in a genre as vast as that one, I guess it's got to be pretty special.

The Doom 3 engine is put to extremely good use here. The graphics, environments, and special effects are all excellent—as they should be; the system requirements are still very high, in the same area as Doom 3. The railgun's (laser sniper rifle, for the uninformed) beam distorts space around it, areas around flames wiggle back and forth like the top of a hot car, and the dark matter gun (BFG with gravity) warps anything unfortunate enough to get in its projectile's path. Enemies dissolve in a flurry of green, uh, bytes in the same way that Doom's demons disintegrated into sparks like in the Blade movies. Your vision shakes around beautifully when you're stunned. Characters are all well-detailed, and lighting is realistic (except the stupid-looking flashlight, which is as poor as Doom's, presumably because of the CPU requirements of a more realistic flashlight).

Screenshot: Quake 4 enemies
Screenshots from GameSpot.

The things which I consider to be advances in gameplay that I first saw in Doom 3 are also here. Things like the amazing-looking and detailed computer displays really do help a lot with the immersion. Interactive computer displays with high-resolution text and live displays of the game world do much to suspend disbelief, much more than a four-frame animation set on repeat. Unlocked doors always have green lights, and locked ones always have red lights—I hope every FPS adopts this convention in the future.

People who hated Doom will be happy to know that most of the biggest complaints about Doom are not present, or scaled down a bit, in Quake. The gory atmosphere and dark corridors are still there, but the flashlight is far less important in Quake, and when you need it, it's attached to one of two weapons, so you're not at all helpless. Monsters never spawn behind you, and it's pretty rare for enemies to descend from the ceilings or walls, compared to the practically constant occurrences in Doom. It's somewhat less intense and jarring than Doom 3, which is too bad, since I really liked that, but for the people who found those behaviors annoying, you'll like Quake 4 better.

Screenshot: Quake 4 environment

Boss battles were quite entertaining also. Some have interesting twists, such as an attack that can destroy the pillar you're trying to hide behind, and several have you having to deal with multiple other enemies at the same time. There are some levels scattered throughout the game, maybe half a dozen in total, where the gameplay is very different for a short while—perhaps you're in a hovertank or a mech, or you're on a tram mowing down the cars on the other tracks. And, in most levels where you don't get a new weapon, you get some other enhancement to an existing weapon—the ability to reload your shotgun with a clip instead of per shell, or homing nails for your nailgun. So, you've constantly got new dangerous things to play with. The only useless weapon is your "crap, I'm out of ammo" weapon, which is always a nice plus. Often you'll find yourself fighting with other people, sometimes medics and technicians that can make your life much easier if you can keep them alive.

I'd recommend Quake 4 to just about anyone who likes FPS games, even if you didn't like Doom 3... you can pick it up for $20.

Wondrous revelation

I just realized that Quake 4 doesn't require the DVD to be in the drive to play; I've been swapping out Simpsons and Stargate every time since starting a couple weeks ago. I wish more games would do this. I'm perfectly fine with having to log into a server, like World of Warcraft or Half-Life 2, to not have to deal with having the disc in to play. Optical media is so twentieth-century.

Context

I think that I hate contextual text-based popup ads almost as much as I hate those stupid Flash animations where a truck drives around your web browser unless you can find the tiny word "CLOSE" in 6pt light grey text that they've hidden somewhere on the page. You know the Flash ads I'm talking about.

I only see these text-based popups on tech-related sites, so perhaps some of you aren't familiar with them. I can't imagine that they're even half as useful as a regular text ad, but that's besides the point. The problem is that they fill the page with green underlined land mines, and if you happen to move your mouse over one, as I tend to do a lot while reading, suddenly you can't see what you're trying to read anymore. You have to click the tiny X button, and may Internet Explorer have mercy upon your soul if you miss and click the ad instead.

Text-based contextual ad

At least the horrid Flash ads usually come up right as I'm starting to read something, not when I'm already in the middle of reading it.

Free lunches did exist once

I was briefly going through my archives looking for a post I made long ago, and I found this, and it made me laugh:
There ARE free lunches at Microsoft

Who says there's no such thing as a free lunch? I was sitting right here in my office, and a guy walked in and asked, "hey, do you want a free lunch?" I said yes, and he handed me a big white box containing a free lunch. I said "thanks" and he said "sure," and then he left.
Hooray recycled content! Ahh, that was back in the days when all sorts of people read this thing and commented. :)

Sunday, September 3, 2006

My allowance

I had an allowance for a couple years as a kid. If I recall correctly, the maximum amount that I could earn each week was $1.15. I got 5¢ every night that I was ready to go to bed by bedtime, and 10¢ every night that my room was clean at bedtime. (My parents did not appreciate it when I pointed out that the room that my brother and I shared was the cleanest room in the house anyway.) Finally, if I earned all $1.05 for the week, I'd receive a 10¢ bonus.

I always thought it was kind of ludicrous that my friends all got $5 or $10 or $20 a week for their allowances, and I could max out at a little over a buck. But, hey, it was money, and it's not like my parents were going to buy into the "but Brian gets $20 a week" argument anyway. (I'm sure that the answer would have been "Brian gets $20 a week because his mommy is trying to buy his love.") It didn't ever really matter all that much, because my grandparents on my mom's side would from time to time give us considerably more just for visiting. It meant that when I bought some toy or computer software, my grandparents essentially paid for it, and my allowance paid for the tax.

Globe

Globe

I've used this photo in my blog template before. It's a small globe and painting from the same home as the photo I titled "Décor" a while back.

Saturday, September 2, 2006

Fruikakke

Fruikakke

A lovely still life photo that in no way resembles anything.

Fourth

Fourth

I took this picture on the fourth of July last year. I actually took many photos of the fireworks, but most didn't come out, which I expected. You don't have much to work with... the framing, timing, and exposure have to be correct, but it's just guesswork since you don't know when things are going to happen. Anyway, this is one of a couple out of a whole night's worth of pictures that actually worked, and I like it.

Friday, September 1, 2006

Forgotten

Forgotten

I like this picture of a very broken-down grave, not because the picture itself is good—it's not—but I thought that the subject matter was intriguing.