Tuesday, February 27, 2007
I'm doing it. I'm going to be a homeowner.
As soon as I sign these last thousand pages of ridiculous documents.
And as long as the stock market doesn't keep tanking and I can no longer make a down payment.
Monday, February 26, 2007
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Múm—Summer Make Good: 3/10
One CD that I've also been listening to a bit recently is Múm's latest, Summer Make Good. It's the first Múm CD that I've heard, and I can't say that I really like it. It's really, really weird, and the minimalistic vocalist has an awful voice. I get this impression that you're supposed to be embarrassed if you say you don't like it, in some kind of Emperor's New Album sort of way. It's artsy and pretentious. While the album has a lot of interesting, dreamy, dark soundscapes, it's hard to say that I really "like" any particular track on here all that much. Three good examples are Nightly Cares, The Island of the Children's Children, and Will the Summer Make Good for All of Our Sins? All of these sound best a little louder than I normally listen to music; if the volume is too low, you won't hear all of the delightful little bits of weirdness in the background, and those are just about the only saving grace on the disc for me.
Had the disc been on Napster when I ordered it, I wouldn't have. But, if I'd known that I'd like their previous album Finally We Are No One much better, I very well might have ordered that. So far, it sounds much more pleasant and happy and perky; I'm enjoying Green Grass of Tunnel and Don't Be Afraid, You Have Just Got Your Eyes Closed. It's still about the maximum level of weird that I can tolerate right now, but I may check their previous CD out someday.
If that's not your thing, I've also been listening to the Bond album Shine a lot recently, after noticing that I never added any songs from it to my main playlist, even though every track there deserves it. It's a great CD that I nearly forgot I owned, a string quartet that pumps out fun, danceable songs. (I have their other CDs as well, and all are amusing.) Check out Ride and Shine if you're depressed from listening to those first Múm tracks.
Out of homes in this area that are actually within my price range, it's pretty much my dream home. A few blocks from Microsoft, it's a free-standing townhome, which basically makes it like a small house, except I pay someone else to take care of the yard and the exterior maintenance, and I get access to the clubhouse and pool and gym and such.
It's got three bedrooms, more than I need, and two bathrooms, and it's on a cobblestone road in a strangely secluded little area. The inside is reasonably spacious at 1150 square feet, though it's pretty old and ugly. The kitchen is pretty hideous, decorated in dingy yellow and off-white, with a stove that looks like it's from 1960.
I'll probably end up replacing just about everything in the kitchen once I get settled in and deal with the high-priority things, like lack of air conditioning.
It meets or exceeds just about everything I'm looking for in a place, so I decided that if I could get this one, I don't even need to look at any more. (I've only toured about ten places so far, though I've checked out a couple dozen more online.) I can see myself living there. I can't wait to see what happens next.
Friday, February 23, 2007
Over drinks (none of which were mine) today at the SharePoint Designer developers morale event, I was talking with my manager's manager, and found out that not only does he play World of Warcraft, but he considers himself an avid fan. I suppose that in order to suck up successfully, I would need to either run a dungeon with him and bond, or an arena match against him and lose intentionally. I must admit that I'm not good at this sucking up stuff.
World of Warcraft: Golf 2.0.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
- Having never done it before, you want to get a feel of what it's like to go house-shopping.
- You want to see how nice of a place a certain amount of money gets you in a particular market.
- Your real estate agent is hot and you're just making an excuse.
- You've turned to a life of crime, and are casing the location for later theft.
But none of those things describe me. By the process of elimination and sweeping generalizations, there's only one reason for me to do it:
Because I'm actually seriously planning on buying a home. From the outside, it probably seems like I'm going insane or something. Why does he keep posting the same thing about being excited and anxious about moving? Maybe I am insane. It's still hard for me to believe exactly what's about to happen. I'm basically getting married. Whichever place I pick, I'm stuck with it. Sure, I can divorce it and move out if I just can't make things work, but it's messy and drawn out. The big difference is that I'm getting married in a matter of days or weeks, and I haven't even met my bride yet.
This weekend, I'm going to fall in love. Or, at least, I hope to.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
That seemed like it would be useful. So, one day I sat there in front of the computer and typed something to the effect of
e 0000 0A 4C 33 28 DE E8 12 08 78 C3 B7 DA AD E2 C3 9A
over and over again for like half an hour. It was awful. After a line (or several lines?) you'd get another code that you'd match up to the one printed in the magazine. If they differed, you'd know you made a mistake and had to go back and retype the last chunk.
Now we have programs that automatically download updates to themselves from the internet, and games that stream new worlds and new characters in the background to you while you play.
Technology is great.
(I think that's as close as I'm going to ever get to a "punch cards" story.)
Currently listening: Pandora
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
What if you could get a single number that represented how good of a date someone was in the past? I can imagine some woman who considers Paris Hilton one of her personal heroes and likes to tell people that she only dates men with a 800 FICO and a 820 DateMark. Then a guy could freak out about not being able to get a date for seven years because once he didn't do anything for Valentine's Day because the girl said it "wasn't that important," but then knocked 180 points off his score for skipping it.
Monday, February 19, 2007
Saturday, February 17, 2007
Anggun—Snow on the Sahara: 4/10
The Roots—Game Theory: 7/10
I've been listening to (what I believe is) Anggun's debut album, Snow on the Sahara. It's really light pop, mostly sung in French. And... it's pretty forgettable. Nothing on this CD really sticks out or makes you want to check out any future Anggun albums. The best tracks on here are A Rose in the Wind (video) and Dream of Me (0:30 clip).
But, it's a good thing that I heard her latest album first. Anggun's Luminescence is great! It's much more upbeat and fun. In contrast to Snow, it was tough picking just a few favorites from here. For me, this is one of those CDs that you start again immediately after it finishes. Anggun's got a beautiful, powerful voice, and the accompaniment is excellent. There's a variety of styles on the disc, from electronic pop to rock to easy listening to the dance remixes at the end of the album. For a good sampling, check out Cesse la Pluie (video for Transporter II), to which I'm addicted, Être une Femme (video), Quelqu'un, and Human.
Finally, I checked out the latest disc from The Roots, Game Theory. Overall it's a fine rap CD, but at best it's my third favorite Roots CD, after Phrenology and The Tipping Point. Even though it's not one of my favorites, there are plenty of good tracks on here. The Roots sort of bill themselves are more serious, less pop-oriented rap music, though they've had their share of radio-friendly singles. Some of the songs on here are kind of intense. My favorite tracks on this disc are Baby featuring John-John of Nouveau Riche, Here I Come featuring Dice Raw of Nouveau Riche and Malik B., and Long Time featuring Peedi Peedi and Bunny Sigler, all great. This is another CD with a lot of different styles all on one disc—in contrast to my three favorites, you might check out Don't Feel Right (0:30) and In the Music.
Some of the things I'm looking at in a condo:
- Under $350,000. Holy crap, why would someone give me $350,000? This one actually narrows down the list of places available a lot.
- A heat pump or at least forced air heating. A heat pump would provide me with air conditioning during the summer. Growing up in Nebraska, air conditioning is no longer an optional creature comfort; it's as essential as drinking water. A place with central heating could be converted to also provide air conditioning. A place with baseboard heating is a lost cause; baseboard heating automatically disqualifies the place.
- Reasonably close to Microsoft. I don't want to have to buy a car, and I'd really rather not take the bus. Unfortunately, there are very few options near Microsoft at the moment. I may end up getting a place in Kirkland or Yarrow Point, WA, and taking a bus, though I loathe the idea. I hate commutes.
There used to be a lot more things there, but those three criteria are already strict enough that they don't even yield a dozen places as it is. I kept lowering standard after standard until I reached the above list. Next week I'll be talking to banks and touring places, taking notes and pictures. Very soon after that, I'll have to pick one. This is crazy.
I can also now make blog.travisspomer.com the primary address of this blog, and the old address will automatically redirect to this one. Since those updates take a while to propagate, my blog might disappear off the face of the internet this weekend.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
For some reason I think that's kind of funny.
This is the one I was looking for: "Security." It's pretty much exactly what I was expecting. I am now pleased.
Monday, February 12, 2007
Is it the amount of effort required? Maybe it's creepy for someone to spend a lot of time finding out personal things about you, but not if it's really easy.
It's even more creepy to actually follow someone around, of course. That requires a lot of effort and time, and there's the element of physical proximity. You can Googlestalk anyone from anywhere in the world.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Let's say there's an intern on my team, and I decide to post one of the following things about her:
"A new intern joined the team this week. I haven't talked to her much yet, but wow... hot."
"This week I've been exchanging a lot of emails with the intern. I don't know how exactly she got this job, but it certainly wasn't through competence. At least she's cute."
"Recently I've been eating lunch with one of the new intern girls quite a lot. It's strange, but I find myself really wishing she gets a job with our team; I'll hate for this to all end for good at the end of the summer."
All of those things, while potentially true, are embarrassing for different reasons if the person in question finds the post at some point in time. Maybe she finds it by accident, or adds me as a friend or Facebook, or something like that. If she goes through the post history, she'd find one about her. Creepy for her, embarrassing for me.
(This strikes me as a relatively new problem. A decade ago, nobody blogged, there was no Facebook or MySpace, and this sort of thing was unlikely to be a problem for anyone. Now it's pretty routine for some of your personal thoughts to end up archived on the internet forever in some way or another, whether or not you intended it.)
Finding a way to balance that unfortunate aspect of things with actually wanting to post things that relate to me personally instead of just random quotes or musings can actually be difficult. But, usually, I have to end up eliminating all assessments of people I know or might know in the future. I imagine it detracts from the context of the post, which is unfortunate. But, I think that being vague on the internet is better in the long run than later regretting a post I made long ago.
Currently listening: Linkin Park and Jay-Z—Collision Course—Faint / Jigga What
(Five years from now, am I really going to want it to be archived for all time that I was listening to that?)
As an intern, I did the intern version, Intern Puzzleday. The difference is that Puzzleday is one day, and has dumbed-down puzzles for the interns. Puzzlehunt is the whole weekend. Many people don't sleep at all over the weekend, opting to spend Sunday hopped up on something solving puzzles for more than thirty hours straight. I actually find the idea of Puzzleday much more appealing; one day of doing nothing but solving puzzles in a team sounds much more tolerable to me than two. I need my weekends to do stuff and sleep.
Intern Puzzleday was an interesting affair. The hundreds and hundreds of interns met up in a big conference room to distribute the puzzles put togther by the full-timers, and then raced to our assigned buildings and smaller conference rooms, along with the snacks and beer that the team captains set up. I'm thinking that the Intern Puzzleday was about 25 puzzles, and that Puzzlehunt is about 50 tougher ones, but that's mostly an irrelevant detail. Some of the puzzles had instructions or hints of some sort, and some had nothing. Our team gave out puzzles to people based on their declared strengths, and then those people started thinking. If the thinking wasn't very productive, they'd put the puzzle down and look for another one to solve, or start working with someone else on the team.
I don't actually even remember details about the puzzles for the most part, which is why I've been so vague thus far. But I do remember one. There was another intern on the FrontPage team when I was interning by the name of Sharif. He pulled a puzzle he hadn't seen before out of the stack. The puzzle was just a Photoshopped picture of candy conversation hearts with nonsense messages, like "IRU R" and "WT NOQT." Sharif looked at the picture for about five seconds, and started translating the candy hearts into English, almost as fast as he could write. He had finished the thing in a couple minutes, after many other people had just stared at it and never made it past the "here's my idea of what this puzzle might be stage." In a few seconds he had determined that the hearts contained non-Valentine's-related English messages abbreviated like a text message and then encoded with a cryptogram, and begun unscrambling the cryptogram.
That event was one of the creepiest instances of incredible mental acuity I've ever seen in my life.
It was fun for a while, but I was getting pretty tired of brain teasers by the end of a Saturday after like eight or ten hours... I can't imagine how sick of brain teasers I'd be after three times that long. Maybe it would be crazy fun, and I'm missing out.
Currently listening: Delerium—After All
Friday, February 9, 2007
I find this very weird. Perhaps it happens more often than I realize, and I just have never noticed this until now.
Thursday, February 8, 2007
Here are some examples of each type of game I'm talking about.
Cooperative, common goal—Arkham Horror, World of Warcraft when playing in a group
Mostly independent—Princes of Florence (often called "multiplayer solitaire"), standard racing games, Monopoly, Clue
One of those with PVP sprinkled in—Runebound, World of Warcraft on a PVP server
Focusing on PVP—Unreal Tournament, Worms, Mario Kart, Starcraft, Command and Conquer, Magic: The Gathering, ...
My anti-competitive, friendly nature makes it very difficult to rationalize or even think of hurting others to further my own goals. Yet in Runebound, an RPG-like board game, this is often what you must do to do well. If another player has spent a couple turns fighting monsters and hasn't been particularly successful, the best move is probably to hit him while he's down and steal his stuff. I can't stand that, to the point that I don't want to play the game ever again unless we play without the ability to PVP. I don't want my success in the game to be measured by how often I picked on people who didn't deserve it, but rather success versus the "common enemy," the monsters on the board.
In World of Warcraft, on a PVP server, players of one faction can fight players of the other faction while they're out questing, playing the game as normal. I have considerable experience on a PVP server, and at the time it seemed fine, because I hadn't experienced just how much more fun the game is on a normal server. Essentially, what it boils down to, is that playing on a PVP server means that you spend 60 levels (now 70, I suppose) being constantly killed by players more powerful than you. You're off doing a quest, having fun, fighting monsters, and then suddenly you're approached by someone who is so much more powerful than you that the game won't even display your level to you (it shows up as ??). This happens several times an hour. Often after they kill you once, they hang around your corpse so once you resurrect to start playing again, they can easily chase you down and kill you again. You learn strategies to avoid this, by fighting in strange, obscure areas, avoiding the common roads, and playing at odd hours, but it's a nuisance, and I didn't find it fun in the slightest. I spent half of my play time as a ghost, running to find my freshly slaughtered corpse. I would have quit the game long before had I not started a second character with my friend Marc on a normal server.
Anyway, I can't stand those mechanics. They just aren't fun to me. There's no reward to me in kicking someone once they're down, or even when they're not down, but focused on another task. There's certainly no reward in the feeling of "danger" that I can and will be interrupted and killed by other players at any time. There are people who do find that amusing, and while I think that's just bizarre, good for them. I don't know for certain whether I dislike that very concept of mixing PVP with non-PVP, or whether it just always ends up sucking because I have this broken sense of honor and people in general are assholes, but I know I don't like it.
On the other hand, games which are only competitive are perfectly fine for me. There are a ton of these; they're the majority of multiplayer video games. I certainly don't feel bad about finding myself a good nook, whipping out the sniper rifle, and pecking peoples' heads off from a distance. I don't feel bad about firing a turtle shell at other drivers in Mario Kart, or launching a nuclear strike against my foes in Command and Conquer. It's a mandatory part of the game, and I fully expect the same from the other players.
Of course, my metric for deciding whether a game is the type of game I like is very subjective. I might think that a particular game is "all non-PVP," and someone else might think that the same game is totally oriented around PVP. It's all perception.
Luckily for me, there is a wide variety of different styles of games to choose from.
I think I threw away the wrong contact. My left eye is moist and happy, and my right eye is dry and uncomfortable. I've had my new contacts for a few hours, and I've already ruined one.
Wednesday, February 7, 2007
They've since removed the sign.
Currently listening: Zero 7—This Fine Social Scene
Of course, this group also included a person who speaks and reads Klingon and sets his watch to UTC because it's "more convenient."
Tuesday, February 6, 2007
But one place where I really, really like the feature is the Add or Remove Programs control panel, now the Programs and Features control panel. The things in there I don't have control over, and thus I often can't find what I'm looking for. The latest release of WPF/E (it doesn't matter what that is) requires that I uninstall the previous version. Oh, okay, I'll just do that.
But wait... where is it? I've got a billion programs in that list. Before Vista I'd have to first wait a ridiculously long time for the dialog to come up in the first place, and then I'd have to scan through the awful dialog alphabetically. (At least it's easier to read than the awful version from Windows 95...) But you never know where things are going to be sorted. Where's WPF/E?
Is it under Microsoft WPF/E?
Is it under WPF/E?
It's an unreleased product. Is it under Microsoft Codename WPF/E?
Is it under Microsoft Windows Presentation Foundation Everywhere?
All of those things are possible, so you have to either read every item in the list, or find at least those four places and look for it. As it turns out, in this particular example, you'd still not find it. It turns out that it's...
"WPF/E" (codename) Community Technology Preview (Feb 2007)
Ugh. Because of the quotation mark, it doesn't sort with any of the possibilities I listed above. On any previous release of Windows, it would be a pain. But, in Vista, you just click in the search box and type wpf and you find it.
This is the way things should be. It's a pity that search boxes were so rare until the past few years.
Their goal is simple: to make product teams fight to get their fixes into the product. It's sort of like a trial, condensed into a few minutes, and they're the Supreme Court. They make sure that the fix has been extensively tested, and that I've done all of the little "process" things I need to in order to get the build lab to produce official Office patches for me. It keeps people from taking shortcuts that might result in unintended side-effects down the road. Unless something incredibly bad pops up very soon, my small change is the last change that will happen to Portuguese SharePoint Designer 2007 before it ships. They're not taking any chances.
There, I'm an outsider. I'm the spiky-haired guy in the long black coat riding a Segway through a building where I don't belong, looking for a room full of people who get paid way more than I do, really hoping that I find it on time, hoping that I filled out the forms properly before I left my office.
It was sort of a neat experience to go through, and I'll most likely be able to say that I made the final change to the product before they burned the discs. I was the last one to virtually "touch" them before they went out to thousands of customers.
Monday, February 5, 2007
I don't think moving will be that big of a deal for me. I expect it to be relatively painless as moves go, and I tend to overestimate the badness of just about everything. I've kept much of my things in my original moving boxes, and I threw or gave away massive piles of things I never thought I'd want again when I first moved out here. (Another few boxes are books that I was going to donate more than two and a half years ago and forgot about; oops.)
Since I don't plan on moving very far, I can move a lot of things without having to repack them; they'll just require a little extra care when moving. I'm going to have movers come and move the furniture, and the only things that look like they're going to be much of a hassle at all are my racks and racks and shelves of CDs and DVDs, and the stuff in my kitchen. I'm still going to take a week or two off work to get things done, but now I'm beginning to think that the packing and moving process is actually going to be very easy for me compared to actually selecting a place to live and paying for it.
Currently listening: The Roots and John-John of Nouveau Riche—Baby
Saturday, February 3, 2007
Thursday, February 1, 2007
To make fun of the British, you act stuck-up and bring out your best fake British accent. Come on; everyone's got one.
To make fun of the Japanese, you change the letter "L" to "R," say "ohhhhhhh" a lot, and speak quickly with broken grammar.
We're not very good at making fun of Mexicans; usually we just name menu items at Taco Bell.
How do you make fun of Americans?
It probably differs a lot depending on where you are. The Spanish, for example, probably have a very different way of making fun of the French. I'm thinking that typical American jokes involve a hick accent and pretending to be stupid. This was probably the case even before our current president. Anybody know?
Currently listening: The Roots, Dice Raw of Nouveau Riche, and Malik B.—Here I Come