Wednesday, January 31

Eviction

Sometimes procrastination pays off. For a solid week now I've had the following on my to-do list: "Find out when your lease actually ends." Each day I move it to the next day's list. And then, just now, I came home from work to find a piece of paper with exactly the information I was looking for.

My apartment lease ends at the end of March. And, the letter goes on to say that they're not going to let me renew my contract; this is it. They're remodeling the apartments in my area, and everyone's gotta go. I can stay for a few more months at my current rate as a month-to-month rate (that's a much better deal than I was offered last year; the monthly rate was about $350 more than the nine-month lease I signed) and then I'm out of here. So, "eviction" isn't really the most appropriate word, but it made a good post title, at least.

So, it's a good thing that I'm planning on moving out around then anyway. And a good thing I didn't waste time actually looking up my lease information myself, am I right? Maybe they're reading my sticky notes.

Dead Like Me

I've started watching the series Dead Like Me with Louise, and I'm enjoying it quite a bit. It reminds me of Wonderfalls a lot, though. Like Wonderfalls, it features a young female lead who, for reasons beyond her control or understanding, has been granted a bizarre supernatural, prescient power, and is now obligated to use it to help people. The lead in Wonderfalls is spoken to by inanimate objects who give her cryptic clues that can be used to help people around here. The lead in Dead Like Me is a grim reaper who is tasked with removing the souls from the bodies of the recently deceased, who will suffer incredible torment without her assistance. Both are sarcastic and sassy, and both shows are well-written and strangely funny.

I don't have much else to say at this point after just three episodes. But, if you liked Wonderfalls, I'm thinking you might want to check out Dead Like Me too.

Tuesday, January 30

It's something

Someone is using the conference room next to my office to sit with his laptop and talk to someone over the speakerphone. He's the only one in there. I don't know if that's just lazy or weird or annoying or what.

Maybe he was just visiting our building and doesn't actually have an office here, but still needs to have a long phone conversation. I dunno.

I just generally don't think "conference phone" and "lone person at 6:30" in the same thought.

Sunday, January 28

I watch The Simpsons and I'm not afraid to say it

People here are so proud about how they "never watch TV," and love to announce this fact to the world. Someone will start some conversation about TV, and without fail, someone will interject, "oh, I don't watch TV." Good for you! I'm sure your life is fulfilling and enriched without the blaring of that hideous idiot box in your living room. There's often this look of disdain for those people who have just admitted to watching TV, as if they had just admitted to masturbating in the restrooms at Toys "R" Us. The reason is always either "there's nothing good on," or "I don't have the time." Fine. You go read your book or whatever it is you do, and I'll let the wondrous flashing lights entertain me. I watch TV for like two or three hours a week when it's not reruns, and I still always feel like someone's trying to guilt-trip me away from it.

It's the same thing with games, but worse. Any type of games. So many people are so quick to say how playing any kind of game is a waste of time—a waste of time that could be better spent, I don't know, not having fun. Before I started working out here I had met a couple people in all my life who didn't like games. Now it seems like half the people I know admit to not playing games. I kind of expected people would be really into games here, seeing as nerds generally love games, and pretty much everyone's a nerd here. But, that doesn't seem to be the case at all.

But whatever. I'm not exactly blameless. I do the same thing when someone, for example, mentions the radio. "Oh, I hate the radio. I never listen to the radio." What the hell... I don't get it.

And I bet you're licensed to drive, too

One of the most common questions I get asked via email is where the "I would like to start a new crossword" option is in EclipseCrossword.

Seems like a reasonable question, right? The person has made it through the download and installation process, and now they want to start a new crossword. But, dammit, where is that elusive "start a new crossword" option? They find out about this option by reading the tutorial that appears when you first start EclipseCrossword (EclipseCrossword is already running at this point—this is a key point to keep in mind). Often they'll actually quote the help file in their annoyed email that I've made it way too hard to find the option.

EclipseCrossword main window

Yep, it's like a frickin' Where's Waldo puzzle.


Currently listening: Anggun—Cesse la Pluie

Thursday, January 25

Sew very annoying

I hate sewing. I didn't really realize how much it sucks until a few weeks ago when I finally got around to mending several of my items of clothing that really needed it. But, it's horrible. There's a company that does free pickup and delivery of dry cleaning to Microsoft, so I think I'm going to see if they also mend things; I think they do. I'd rather just pay someone to do it. I hate getting results that look like they weren't even half-assed, but more quarter-assed, despite putting my entire ass into the task, and that's exactly what I get when I try to fix my own stuff.

Also, I really just need more shirts.

I really underestimated the value of having the free service of an extremely skilled seamstress when I lived back in Nebraska. And, actually, I used to kind of like sewing, at least cross-stitch. I had smaller hands then, so it was much easier. But, I understand now that I probably only liked it because it was something my mom loved, and I got to hang around with her.

Sewing is awful. Maybe I could just buy duplicates of every article of clothing I get, so when one gets a hole, I can just switch to the backup.

Wednesday, January 24

Cheap pens

I've decided over the past few years that I really like cheap Bic pens... the ones that are like fifteen cents apiece. They write well, they feel nice in the hand, and they last forever.

Sure, some of the fancy pens with liquid black ink look better on paper, but I generally use paper as a place for quick notes that I won't care about in a couple days anyway, not for lasting documents. And, those pens always seem to dry up quickly, and start getting scratchy even before then. Plus, you can buy a whole pack of cheap Bic pens for the same price as one of those.

The metal ball-point pens aren't bad, and they look nice, but it can be fatiguing to hold one in your hand for long periods of time. Plus, you can't bend metal pens, which is always fun, and when you intertwine the pen between your fingers and then suddenly let go, catapulting the pen toward the wall, you won't break something with a lightweight plastic pen.

Several years ago I stopped liking to write with pencil—that was roughly the time that I started keeping track of pretty much everything on the computer. When you don't need to erase or shade, I really see no reason to deal with a pencil that needs to be sharpened or have lead added to it, especially since it doesn't look nearly as clear as something written with a pen.

Bic medium black ball-point pens for me, thanks. I've been using a single one at home every day for like a year now. They must base their business model on pens getting constantly lost, because fifteen cents over the course of a full year really doesn't sound like enough money to be worth their while.

Tuesday, January 23

Fret

My memory isn't so good, and I tend to remember parts of recent events, but not all of the details. Often I'll leave the house, and not remember at all locking the door just a couple minutes prior, even though I'll vividly remember other details of my preparation to leave the apartment. I'd go back, and always find the door locked. 100%. I never forgot the things that I thought I forgot. I think about similar things... leaving lights on when I leave for work, or forgetting to lock my car back when I owned a car, or forgetting to flush the toilet. I used to go back and check these things, and I never actually forgot them; I just forgot that I did indeed do them. Now I have to make a conscious effort to not second-guess myself, and just assume that I did things correctly. I fret about it for a minute, and then I just put it out of my mind. Not once has this failed me.

Monday, January 22

On my absence

Oh, and in case you haven't yet figured out why I haven't been posting much recently...

look here.

Blogging on the honor system

I had a great, interesting topic to blog about today. I thought of it on the way to lunch, and I was going to come back right afterward and tell you all about it, since I haven't posted in a while.

I'll let you know if I ever remember what my topic was. In the meantime you will need to trust me that it was really insightful and interesting.

Friday, January 19

On Jack, and whether or not one can truly know him

A favorite game series of mine of years past is You Don't Know Jack. It's a trivia game, but it's a damned good series of trivia games.

A welcomed addition to my daily routine (list of conscious and accepted distractions) is the Daily DisOrDat. DisOrDat is one of the question types that used to be in the YDKJ game series, where you are shown seven things and must categorize them. It's about one minute out of your day, and it's a fun one.

Anyway, try it: Daily DisOrDat. (Or, one of my favorite episodes. Very amusing.)

It's good to have a schedule

I don't like having long fingernails. They just get in the way, or I scratch myself, or they are too hard to completely clean, or they make it hard to type, or they just look weird and feminine—take your pick from those reasons.

I clip my fingernails on Fridays. Sure, sometimes I clip them on different days, but it's usually Fridays. Why Friday? I play board games on Thursdays. Short fingernails can be annoying when
playing a game involving cards. I also vacuum my apartment on weekends. So, clipping my fingernails on Friday lets me have one-week-long fingernails (a very convenient length for card usage) on Thursdays, and it also allows me to just clip my nails sitting in a chair over carpet, because it's going to get vacuumed up really soon anyway, not having to deal with clipping them over a trash can or something awkward like that.

Just thought I'd share.

Tuesday, January 16

A pleasant development

I had an eye appointment this morning, and for the first time I can recall since getting glasses soon after turning 6, my eyes haven't gotten worse since my last checkup a year ago. This makes me happy; "continually getting worse year after year" is not something that I really want to be applicable to any aspect of myself. It also makes me happy because it means that Lasik or similar surgery is now a possible option in the near future; you generally can't get it done until your vision stabilizes, from what I can tell. I'm incredibly uncomfortable with the prospect of surgery on my eyes, but I'm still really intrigued, and it may become a reality in a year or two.

Monday, January 15

Less is more

A major pet peeve of mine is when people don't understand what "more" means in a mathematical sense.

I only buy double rolls of toilet paper. (You might think that those two sentences are unrelated, but you'd be wrong.) I figure it doesn't make sense, given the option, to not spend half as much time replacing rolls of toilet paper. They're just convenient. But Quilted Northern also lies on their packaging. On the front, they say that "12 double rolls = 24 regular rolls," which is true, and exactly what you'd expect "double roll" to mean. But, on the side, they say that a double roll has "2X more sheets" than a regular roll. That's a lie. If that were true, it would be called a triple roll, and it wouldn't fit in my wall anymore, so I wouldn't buy it. A double roll has 1X more sheets than a regular roll, or 2X as many as a regular roll—not 2X more.

I see this error all the time, and it makes me feel like the now-famous guy who had to explain to Verizon the difference between .002 cents and .002 dollars.


Currently listening: Quarashi—Dive In

Sunday, January 14

Pain blocks for the brainbox

I try to correct my sleeping schedule so that it resembles something nearing normal every once in a while. It never lasts. Within a week I'm back to staying up way too late, getting up too late, and still managing to not get enough sleep in-between. I've been taking 3mg of melatonin before bed for many months now, and it's worked wonders. (If it's a placebo, it's a kickass placebo.) I'm able to fall asleep pretty naturally within about 90 minutes of taking the pill, compared to lying in bed restless sometimes for hours before I started taking it. It's a definite improvement in my mind.

But physically is only one aspect of the problem. I never have time to go to sleep. I have so many things to do every day that even when I try to make sleep a priority, there are more than enough things to still push sleep to the back burner.

I've been making a conscious effort to get things done recently. I've got something concrete and cool to work on at work, and at home, I'm cleaning things, making it through email, organizing stuff, and the like. I've been doing a better job at not postponing things, even if they really probably could be postponed. All of this has somehow translated into a better sense of time that's allowing me to prepare for bed at a more reasonable hour. I'm remembering to take the melatonin at around 11:00 (instead of 1:00 or later), and that also gives me a cue that it's almost time to start getting ready to sleep. After getting things done during the day, I feel like there's less to think about at the end of it, and that's my best guess as to the reason for my newfound ability to get to sleep. When I lie down, normally my mind is still going a million miles a minute (no jokes, please—well, okay), and it just takes so long to clear my mind and put it off for another day. "Being complete," as my boss's boss's boss calls it, helps.

So, I've been sleeping more. I'd say that over the past week, I've averaged 7.5 hours, which is excellent for me. I'm feeling more energetic, even though it's weird to be pretty much fully awake at 9:30 and not feeling like death.

But that hasn't solved the problem that I was hoping it would, at least yet. A problem I've been strangely silent about for the past couple years is that I've had a mostly constant headache for that time. It's pretty irritating, really. I haven't talked to a doctor about it yet, because I'm stupid for one, and for two, I haven't made scheduling an appointment a high enough priority to ever manage to get to it.

So, for the past couple years, I've been pretty doped up on ibuprofen. It's worked for my mom, who experiences the exact same problem. She's seen all sorts of doctors about it, and nothing has been able to treat it except being doped up on ibuprofen all the time herself. Sucks to be her. And, maybe sucks to be me too.

I suppose it's about time to see a doctor about it myself. One reason—an honest reason—that I haven't done it is that I didn't want to go there, and have the first question be about my sleep habits, and then have to sheepishly reply, "well, um..." This reason (or excuse) has stopped me a couple times. But, recently I've been managing to do that whole sleep thing, so as long as World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade (Tuesday!) doesn't ruin it (it will), I'll make that appointment. I make my living mostly diagnosing complex problems, so it would be unbecoming of me to call upon the services of an expert and not at least try to simplify the problem space myself.

Anyway, I have a bunch of theories as to what's going on.
  • I've already mentioned that I think it might be sleep-related. The problem doesn't go away when I actually sleep a reasonable amount of time for a full week, but maybe a week isn't enough to undo the damage that's been done. This seems like a logical possibility to me.
  • My best guess is that it's an allergy. I haven't been tested for allergies in ages, but I was found to be allergic to pretty much everything when I was young, and this started half a year to a year after uprooting myself and moving to a very different part of the country.
  • A less exciting possibility is that I have the same undiagnosable thing that my mom does. I don't know; maybe our brains are cubic and the vertices are pressing against the insides of our skulls. She's been trying to get rid of her headaches for decades now, and nobody has come up with anything that has worked. I don't really want to deal with this for the next half a century until the time when my body has stopped working to such a degree that my entire existence is defined only by misery, suffering, and overly dramatic phrasing.
I guess the short version is "I should really see a doctor about these headaches, especially since I have great health insurance that I never use for anything." The first step to overcoming any problem, after all, is admitting that you have had the problem for years now and have been too dumb to do anything in all that time.


Currently listening: Enya—Paint the Sky with Stars, Bond—Explosive

The Native American Birthday Card

Recent comments on my blog have reminded me of a story. Often when something particularly amusing happens to me involving quotations, I write (type) them down as soon as I can, and I save them in a massive Word document sitting on my home computer, which is nearing a hundred pages now. (Observant readers should probably know by now that I love repeating conversations that amused me.) Thanks to that document, I can bring you a reasonably clear version of the quotes, as opposed to one obscured by half a decade of forgetfulness.

Now, whenever you hear one of my friends use the phrase "Native American birthday card," you'll know what they're talking about. This happened at lunch one day in college.

Jill: Guess what I got [my boyfriend] for his birthday.
Angie: What?
Jill: (in a sultry voice, with eyebrows raised) A Native American birthday card!
Angie: (faux impressed) Wow!
Everyone else at the table seems confused.
Me: What? What’s a Native American birthday card, like… two blowjobs in a row?
Jill: (upset) No! It’s just a card. They have a painting by some Native American artist.
Me: Then why did you say it like that? (imitating Jill’s sensual voice) “Native American birthday card!”
Jill: I… I don’t know. They sell them at the Union.
Me: Finally, something worthwhile you can buy with your [university debit card].


Currently listening: Olive—Creature of Comfort

Saturday, January 13

Role-playing

(Warning: long post about computer role-playing games.)

My favorite genre of computer game, ever since discovering that it existed fifteen years ago, has been the role-playing game (RPG). I greatly enjoy the feeling of being some kind of overpowered hero doing battle with generic evil things, stealing their treasure, and pimping out my weapons and armor. This morning I was thinking about three RPGs that I've loved over the past several years: Diablo II, Oblivion, and (wait for it...) World of Warcraft. The three games are very different in many ways; what are the common themes and differences between them?

(For the sake of this post, I'm talking about computer RPGs, not console RPGs, which are a somewhat different beast.)

Common themes

All of the games feature the things I described above: combat, treasure, upgrades to weapons and armor, and a sense of heroism. They're also generally games that take a long time to play, so you can develop a strong attachment to your character. I'm so overboard that I generally save copies of my characters even after uninstalling the game; I can't bear to let them die.

All those things are great, but I'm more interested in what's different about each game.

Combat

Essentially every RPG places a strong emphasis on combat. The RPG where combat isn't the most important part of the game is a rare one indeed. The three games I listed all have a different style of presenting that combat, though.

In Diablo II, you wander around left-clicking and right-clicking on things until they die. You can equip different abilities and spells for each button, and change those during combat, but you're generally not dealing with too many things at once. It's very simple, and it's fast, visceral, and exciting.

In Oblivion, combat is also fast, though not really quite as fast as Diablo. The action is in first person, and you can dodge arrows, take cover, and really get a feeling that you're surrounded by your opponents. Similar to Diablo II, you either wield a weapon or cast a spell at any given time, and can choose what you're doing in the middle of combat.

World of Warcraft is the most different here. Enemies are tougher; whereas in Diablo II taking on ten or twenty little goblin creatures at once is no big deal, you're rarely fighting more than a couple at once in WoW, and depending on your character class, you may rarely fight more than a single enemy at once. The game encourages grouping up with friends, so with only one human player whacking on the goblin, it's slow going. You rarely mow through enemies in WoW. Also wildly different is the number of abilities some characters may use at once. On my main character in WoW, I have about thirty buttons for spells and abilities on my screen, and others that I might use in a given combat are simply bound to keys or mouse clicks. While I'm certainly not using all of those in a fight, they're all very easily available, and in a complex enough fight, I may still use up to ten of them. Combat is much more interesting in WoW.

By myself, I enjoy the fast, ridiculous combat of Diablo II the most, but playing with a friend in WoW is really the experience to beat. I like the versatility of WoW and the feeling of "being there" in Oblivion. It's interesting that Diablo II's combat has the best pace but is still the least interesting.

Game objectives

In Diablo II, your objectives are simple: explore every part of the map, and kill every living (and undead) thing you come across. In Oblivion, you largely choose your own objectives: there's a main storyline to follow, but an insane number of other things you can do. I played the precursor to Oblivion, Morrowind, for over two hundred hours, and much of that was just wandering around, exploring the countryside. In World of Warcraft, there's no real objective. You keep playing because you want to, because you want to get better equipment, or because you want more money. You can never win, and you're never done, which is both an upsisde and a downside. Also, when you reach the level cap in World of Warcraft, your character can only increase in power through equipment and your own skill at playing, and that slows the pacing of the game considerably, which is unfortunate.

Quests

Every RPG has quests, but the three games do them very differently. In Diablo II, the quests are practically just checkboxes to make sure that you've killed everything. If you've killed everything in every area of tha map, you've probabably finished all of the quests. The storyline is advanced through the quests, but what it really boils down to is that after you've killed each group of X-hundred creatures, you get to continue the next part of the storyline.

World of Warcraft is kind of similar, except where Diablo II has under thirty quests in the game, World of Warcraft has something like two thousand. The storyline is also advanced through quests in WoW, but most of the quests in WoW largely exist just to make sure that you're seeing the whole world, helping to pace you and make sure you don't skip parts. Almost all of the quests are very simple: kill ten boars, or go talk to the innkeeper in the next town over, or keep killing bears until you've collected ten furry bear taints. They also serve as an excuse to give the player a constant source of new equipment; a great deal of quests will reward you with a new weapon or piece of armor when you're done, so you're always getting new shiny things.

Oblivion is different. Some Oblivion quests involve killing, but their overwhelming purpose is to advance the storyline, and there have got to be hundreds and hundreds of them. Oblivion has a very rich story, and it works through quests. Like the other games, the quests also serve as reasons to go to places that you might not have visited yet.

I like Oblivion's quest model the best. Doing tasks for the people of Cyrodiil really made me feel like I was a part of the world. World of Warcraft is good too; the quests are balanced pretty well to help you spend the "optimal" amount of time in an area, and keep you focused. Since there are other people in the same game as you, the monsters all respawn after a couple minutes, and without something to guide you, many players may just kill the same thing in the same area over and over again if not guided to new places by quests.

Items

World of Warcraft has far more interesting items than the other two games, in my opinion. There are just tons and tons of weapons, armor, and accessories to accumulate and wear. In Diablo II and Oblivion, items are much more repetitive. Every robber in the camp in Oblivion may carry the same sword and three pieces of glass armor, and almost every item you find in Oblivion and Diablo II is the same item you've found a dozen times, with a new prefix or suffix—maybe this is a Large Club of Fire, so it deals fire damage when you hit. World of Warcraft has those too, but there just seems to be a much wider variety of stuff to find, and after you've played for long enough, you'll be wearing a variety of beautiful and rare pieces of armor. In Diablo II you can barely see what you're wearing, but it will probably mostly be pretty "standard" stuff unless you're extremely hardcore. In Oblivion, you'll find tons of stuff, but it's rarely anything you'll want to keep for yourself. WoW definitely wins here.

Also, in Diablo II and Oblivion, the items you receive are almost entirely random. In World of Warcraft, the item you receive for killing an opponent is random, but it comes from a set table of possible items custom-tailored for that creature. A particular boss will have a dozen items that it can drop when killed, so if you see someone else with an item you like, you know where you could potentially find it. I love this aspect of the game. The downside is that if you really, really want a particular item and will accept no substitute, the way to get it is to kill the same thing over and over until you finally win it.

Travel

Travel is where the single-player games shine. In Diablo II, you can easily teleport between a town and your current location, and you can use waypoints to travel between major locations instantly. In Oblivion, you can open up your map and click on anywhere you've ever been and appear there instantly. In World of Warcraft, you can go back to town once an hour, but you can't return, and if you want to get to somewhere besides your one "home" town, and can't find someone to help you out with a magical portal or ritual of summoning, expect to spend five to ten minutes getting there. They say this adds to the realism, and I think that's a load of crap. Oblivion is probably the most immersive, "real" game I've ever played, and it let me teleport all over the place. Traveling through an area once and seeing the landscape can be interesting and exciting, especially in Oblivion where the world is so beautiful, but doing it for the tenth or hundredth time in WoW just sucks.

My ideal RPG

Ideally, I'd love to see a game as beautiful as Oblivion, with combat and items as interesting and complex as those in World of Warcraft, and as fast as Diablo II or Oblivion, that can be played solo or cooperatively with a friend. WoW and Oblivion were and are "big," and I'm hoping that someone else feels the same way.


Currently listening: Sneaker Pimps—Ten to Twenty, Blondie—Undone, Amon Tobin—El Cargo, ...

Morning shower guy

I'm a morning shower guy. My parents were always bedtime shower people, and they raised me that way, but as soon as I tried showering in the morning instead of at night at age twelve or so, I couldn't go back. A morning shower just makes me feel so much better. It wakes me up, and I start the day off clean instead of "clean several hours ago." It's a morale boost too.

I don't mind going to bed having not showered as some people do, probably mostly because I will start getting sweaty anyway, regardless of what kind of covering I'm under. My body is an incredible heat source.

I can imagine that this is a source of consternation between any couple involving a morning shower person and a bedtime shower person.

Listening to: The sounds of the heater.

Friday, January 12

Currently playing

I've seen a lot of blogs in the past that would have a little thing on each post that would show what the author was currently reading, watching, or listening to. Maybe I'll do that for music. I'd only want to do it if I could primarily post links to whole songs, not annoying 30-second clips like the automated services that do this give you. That's a bit of effort, so I don't know if I'll keep doing it or not, and whenever I've got a new batch of CDs, it will mostly just be tracks from them. But, maybe I'll try it for a while... if I remember...

This post and the one before it:

Listening to: Madonna—What it Feels Like for a Girl

Working from home

Wednesday night it snowed here quite a bit, and it seems to get more slippery here when it snows than it did in Nebraska. There are several possible reasons for this:
  1. I wore shoes somewhat more often in Nebraska, whereas I wear almost exclusively sandals here.
  2. I can't reliably remember how slippery the sidewalks were in Nebraska, and I'm just imagining things
  3. If I remember my meteorology class correctly, ice is most slippery at higher temperatures (Washington), and becomes less slippery at lower temperatures (Nebraska).
It only looked like a few inches here, but some people were reporting eight inches, a decent snow. Anyway, when it snows here even just a little bit, everything shuts down, and pretty much everyone stays home. I've worked from home a couple times before, including yesterday and now today, as well as a few days in the past. My initial impression is that, whether I'm at home or at work, if it's not a "regular" workday, I'm running at about 50% capacity. I don't have the resources I need, both human and technological. So much of my job is talking, not coding, especially seeing as we just shipped a finished product a couple months ago. If there aren't people around to talk to, I just can't be as effective. I've talked to other people who all seem to feel the same way... I wonder how much each snow day must cost Microsoft.

On the other hand, I think that working from home for not-too-short, not-too-long periods of time could potentially be very productive, if you could prepare for it and actually had plenty of things to do during that time. At home there are fewer distractions, as long as I'm not trying to multitask home things with work things, which seems like a recipe for disaster. During hardcore coding times, there were a couple people on my team who worked from home several days a week, swearing that they were much more productive than they were at work. The problem for me right now is that I'm working on a prototype, which would normally be great "working from home" fodder, but it's one that I nearly finished by the end of Wednesday, and it relates to an area that is very new to me.

One thing our team did quite a while back was to institute "no meeting days." On these days, there were to be no meetings, either scheduled or impromptu. If you stopped by a developer's office to ask a question, it had better be an emergency, or at least about something that was preventing you from doing your own work. We'd have a few of these days each week, and it seemed to work pretty well. (This was in the past; we don't do this anymore.) While intended distractions can be great to relax and pace yourself, tons of tiny, random, unwanted distractions destroy your productivity.

I'm just glad I have a door and not a cubicle. I think that one thing that I can work on to become more productive is find more ways that I can get "into the zone" even for a few hours—identify ahead of time everything that I need to know, so that I can just sit and think, focused, for a while.

Thursday, January 11

Sad but true

I'm kind of looking forward to the first Apple "I'm a Mac / I'm a PC" commercial targeting Vista. Despite how dishonest and misleading the commercials may be, they're still pretty amusing...

(Update: Helpful commenters have pointed out that this video already exists.)

Tuesday, January 9

Drunken fun at the dentist's office

I've never been drunk or high or really any more than slightly tipsy, but my subconscious tried to let me know what it might be like last night nonetheless.

I dreamed that my mom had taken me to the dentist back in Nebraska. (This dentist was a new person, not someone I've ever seen before.) She was really worried, and probably with good cause... there was a large metal spike jammed into the bottom of my mouth, though it didn't hurt particularly badly for being a large metal spike. I was given a pain reliever, which looked like a single pill of aspirin, that I was supposed to rub all over the inside of my mouth.

And boy-oh-boy did it ever work. The pill wasn't even halfway dissolved when I couldn't even move my arms properly enough to finish the procedure, so I just let the rest dissolve by itself. A minute later I couldn't even stay on the bed; I kept slipping off, and I couldn't talk coherently anymore. Everything I said was slurred, and nobody could understand me. Then I started giggling uncontrollably. I just kept slipping off the bed, giggling, saying things that nobody could understand... as if my mouth were full of hilarious cotton balls.

This continued for quite some time, and eventually I passed out, and that was the end of the dream.

Monday, January 8

Shattered bones

I stub my toes so often that it's miraculous that they still function.

Sunday, January 7

Winding and uncharted

I've spent much of the weekend knocking things off my to-do list. I'd let quite a bit of stuff accumulate, and it's nice now to just have a couple of things to deal with at any given moment. I even got quite a bit of development work done this weekend. I've been oh-so-productive.

Of course, one thing that's not on my actual to-do lists is to continue my quest to purchase a home. In reality, I'm not ready to get serious about touring places, talking to banks, and so forth for many weeks. (This is not solely related to World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade in a little over a week, but that certainly plays a small part.) But, I'm keeping it in my mind at all times. At some point everything will come together like some bizarre, earth-shattering coincidence, and somehow I'll manage to buy a place I like. The road there is winding and uncharted, but those roads can be pretty fun too...

Saturday, January 6

Gratuitous

Never before have I been to a party with so many unwarranted removals of shirts and pants.

And also... fun party tip: if you bring a set of anal beads as a birthday gift for your hostess, you'll have an exciting conversation topic and running gag for a solid six hours. If you play some sort of game involving guessing, such as Pictionary, "anal beads" will be the first phrase guessed each time, before the pencil even hits the paper.

Friday, January 5

Battlestar, Voyager

Well, everyone else (two other people) have posted about Star Trek: Voyager recently, so I figured I would too.

As much as I like Star Trek in general, in theory, and in concept, Battlestar Galactica is just an all-around better show. I loved the characters on Voyager, the sense of family, the high-tech gadgets, the doctor, the captain, and so much about it, but it is formulaic, and the problems aren't nearly as human and identifiable as they are on Battlestar. Too many plotlines in Voyager are about neural gelpacks that have been infected with an alien virus from the most recently-passed nebula. Plotlines in Battlestar are about election politics, terrorism, and tension amongst coworkers—things that we deal with now. Both shows have an undercurrent of subplots relating to how the different characters interact, fall in love, and pull together during tough times; Voyager seems to spend more time on these "irrelevant" stories than Battlestar.

Now, that's not to say that there aren't great human plotlines in Voyager. Some of the best episodes are ones where, for example, the ship's holographic doctor is abducted and to treat patients on a very sick world, where he is obligated to assist, but told by his captors to treat the most "important" members of society first. That's a good, interesting plotline. But, for every one of those, there's a standard cheesy nonsense sci-fi episode, not that there's anything wrong with that from time to time. Voyager is ten times more likely to feature a storyline based on technology, whereas Battlestar Galactica is practically a modern drama like 24 that occasionally remembers that it takes place in the future.

Yet I still consider myself more of a fan of Star Trek than Battlestar Galactica. I wonder why that is. Maybe fandom is inexorably linked to that strange but pleasant emotional connection I have with the fictional characters, and Battlestar Galactica somehow isn't providing that.

Thursday, January 4

Preferential treatment

I wonder if there's some law preventing there from being private hospitals that only cater to the wealthy, turning away patients who could not afford membership. I assume that there is.

Dwelling resolution

I'm at my self-imposed deadline for when I want to start seriously looking at places in the area to buy. A condo, primarily (though one nice thing about houses being retardedly too expensive out here is that I don't even have to worry about mowing...). It's sort of a new year's resolution, but I made it half a year ago, so I think that's really too much forethought to count as a resolution. Anyway, it's pretty terrifying, exciting, interesting, and a whole bunch of stuff all at once. Just about everyone I know is strangely eager to share their homebuying stories, experience, and tips, which is handy.

Soon I'll be committing myself to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to a bank over a significant portion of my life. I don't like being indebted, and that doesn't sit very well with me. The only thing that doesn't turn me off to the idea entirely is that it's the only smart financial decision; perpetually renting an apartment doesn't make any sense at all.

I also need to look into pricing central air conditioning, which I'm sure is far from affordable. Places out here, as a rule, simply don't come with air conditioning, but that's totally unacceptable to me. Air conditioning is as essential to living as running water or broadband internet access.

Monday, January 1

Outlook pro tip

Helpful tip: you can upgrade Outlook 2007's performance from brutal rape to unpleasantly slow by disabling the Windows Search service. Windows Search feels that it's necessary to write about two gigs to my hard drive every time I open my email, and it ends up taking way too long to just check my mail. Disabling it makes Outlook run much more nicely. Searches end up taking a few extra seconds, but I almost never have a reason to search my email, and certainly not frequently enough to justify ten minutes of hard drive thrashing every day.

I don't understand why Windows Search sucks so much. And yet... out of the three products in the genre I've tried (this, Google Desktop Search, and Lookout), it's still the best. :(


(Side note: my complaints are only with POP3/IMAP access; when connected to an Exchange server, Outlook's performance seems curiously fine.)