Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Fishing: induced boredom

One thing I've done several times to help me get to sleep is to fish right before bed. In World of Warcraft, I mean. WoW has this fishing game that is absolutely incredibly boring. You press a key or click a button to start fishing, and then about 20 seconds later you hear a splash, and you have a couple seconds to click a bobber. If you click it in time, and the sum of your luck and your character's fishing skill is high enough, you catch a fish. Then you start it over. It's painfully dull. And... it's exactly what I need right before bed. I've gotten back into the habit over the past week or so, and it's been effective.

One of my problems with getting to sleep is that when I lie down there are still a hundred things racing through my mind any given night. Stuff I read that day, ideas I have for projects I'm working on, work, things that friends said that day, and so on. It takes me a long time to get it out of my mind. I've tried focusing on one specific thing, focusing on nothing at all, listening to music, and other stuff, and none of it works. It just takes so long to clear my mind so I can start to fall asleep—sometimes 30 minutes, sometimes 90 minutes, sometimes longer. I'm a lot better off than I was a few years ago, but I'm still spending too much of my day wishing I could fall asleep.

The fishing game really helps. I get everything ready to go before bed—contacts out, teeth brushed, melatonin taken, etc.—and then I find a nice body of water and fish. It's boring like a morning economics class. I recline a bit in my chair, turn on the soothing in-game instrumental music (see the bottom of this post), and rest the mouse on my chest (hooray optical mice). Then, I cast my line, move my cursor to the bobber, and close my eyes. I focus my mind on the music and listen for the subtle water splash sound effect, and I immediately click the mouse. Then I cast the line again, look for the bobber, and then close my eyes. This works really well. I can focus on the sounds, which helps with my racing thoughts quite a lot, and keeping my eyes mostly closed helps me to become sleepier.

The lure I use in-game, the Aquadynamic Fish Attractor, lasts for 10 minutes. That's a pretty good length of time, though sometimes I feel like putting another one on and doing for another five minutes or so. Ten minutes of this and I'm in a totally different frame of mind than when I started. My mind is relatively clear, and I actually feel sleepy as I walk to my bed. I often find that I fall asleep in just a few minutes after doing this. In the end, basically, I'm putting myself to sleep through induced boredom and the ability to focus on something that requires no mental energy whatsoever. It's sort of like meditation with the side effect of finding that my bag is full of raw fish the next time I log into my character.

Music sample: Matt Uelmen—Zangarmarsh (very soothing)

Monday, July 28, 2008


I have a mental association with bad handwriting and smart people. When I was little I always assumed that any doctor or engineer I met would have bad handwriting. It makes me wonder a bit if I subconsciously glorified bad handwriting, perhaps thinking that if I had bad handwriting myself, I'd be smart.

My handwriting isn't all that bad. I get a lot of people telling me they really like it, and my share of people telling me that they hate it. (The text in the header of my blog is in my handwriting, if you're just joining us.)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Top of the morning top of the mind

Today I awoke with this phrase on my mind:

To reload is human, to save is divine.

There were some alternate versions sloating around, but only that one made grammatical sense.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Company of Heroes

I finished the World War II-themed RTS Company of Heroes. I'm not really sure why I did, or why that game met with such universal acclaim (93% on Metacritic). Seriously? It's the slowest RTS I've ever played: "the real-time strategy game that feels like a turn-based strategy game!" Even repairing a single vehicle takes what seems like ages, and if you want to move your forces from one end of the map to the other, you might as well go make yourself a snack. Everything is in shades of grey, all of the infantry look exactly the same, all of the vehicles look exactly the same, all of the buildings look exactly the same, and most all of the maps look exactly the same. I'm pretty sure that the word "fuck" makes up about 20% of the dialogue, and "Jerry" (slang for "German") is another 20%. (If we dropped as many bombs as these soldiers dropped F-bombs, we'd have won the war in a week.) There's way too much focus on accuracy and realism, and not nearly enough attention is paid to the raw emotion and sorts of things that make games fun. In Company of Heroes, I can choose between two boring varieties of M4 Sherman tanks. In Red Alert 3, I'll be able to choose between a levitating psionic commando dressed in a Catholic schoolgirl uniform, or a gigantic robot that shoots lasers out of its eyes. One of those two games focuses on fun.

It's not terrible, but overall it was fairly mediocre. There are good parts—the resource mechanism I liked a lot from Dawn of War is here, and implemented even better. Instead of gathering resources, you capture strategic points across the map, such as fuel and munitions depots, and as long as you control the territory between that depot and your headquarters, you'll receive a constant stream of supplies. It's quite clever and works very well, except for the fact that you're limited to a very low number of troops (about a dozen for the whole map), and if you keep a couple back behind front lines to protect your strategic points, you're down a fairly significant portion of your forces. Infantry are also pretty smart, and will travel between locations that provide cover (destroyed vehicles, sandbags, building walls, rubble) to protect themselves. When they're bored, they even share war stories, which was cute until the hundredth time I heard about that Kraut and his potato-masher. All of that is really enticing when you play the demo, but the novelty wears thin and you're left with a game that just isn't fun.

I'd say it's just interesting enough to keep playing once you get started, but not really interesting enough to stop you from questioning whether it's worth it to go on. In my opinion, it's forgettable and completely skippable. Maybe it's great to play with friends or something, or maybe it's great if you're a big fan of World War 2. But there are a lot of better games you could spend your time on.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Make this go on one more day

I went to see Mt. St. Helens yesterday. The thing about "doing stuff" on a weekend is that the weekend seems a day short. It's past midnight and I'm just now ready to start, you know, relaxing.

Well, okay, I confess. I did watch Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End tonight already, so that's two and a half hours of relaxation successfully completed. But that's it. The rest has all been chores and laundry and maintenance and that kind of stuff that I "have to" do. I gotta start taking a day off when I want to spend a day outside of my routine; every time I don't, the whole weekend seems unpleasantly rushed. The whole email debacle certainly didn't help.

Currently listening: Snow Patrol—Make This Go On Forever

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Curse of the missing mail

Due to an unfortunate mistake by my web hosting company, I missed about 7500 emails over the past six weeks or so. The problem has been resolved, and I just finished going through my backlog of tech support requests. It took five or six hours over the course of the past few days. My fingers are sore from typing, and I feel pretty bad about having had so many people email me asking for help and never getting a response all this time. (Though... it was pretty relieving to hardly answer any tech support requests for the past month and a half.)

But oh well. It's over now. Email is functioning correctly.

Currently listening: Fischerspooner—Never Win

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Preferably one who takes cache

When a hard drive is dying, is it traditional to get a priest to perform the last writes?

Currently playing: Poe—Hey Pretty

Friday, July 18, 2008

Foot hair steroids

Man, my foot hair has been growing at an alarming rate recently. I think someone might be slipping foot hair steroids into my Diet Coke.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


I'm not really sold on the wet version of Swiffer mops. They're convenient—just strap a wet cloth to the mop handle and get going, then throw it away when you're done—but they leave the floor kind of sticky, since there's no rinsing involved. Isn't a sticky floor one of the reasons why you'd mop in the first place?

The fate of small game companies

I just posted about Hellgate: London, and the fact that its producer, Flagship Studios, has basically collapsed over the past few days. It got me thinking: it's becoming less and less viable for small game companies to compete. This is a mixed blessing. On one hand, most games that are coming out these days are very polished, come with big budgets, and look and sound great. No small publisher could afford to put something like, say, Half-Life 2 together. Command and Conquer 3's cast was practically a who's-who of nerd celebrities. And Blizzard can spend half a decade or longer to make a game, dedicate a hundred or two people to it, and fund it until it's done. All of that makes for really interesting game experiences.

I'm sure that not all of the best games of the past few years were from big companies. I don't know how large the teams for, say, Crysis and Mass Effect were. Maybe they were actually pretty small. But the bar is climbing higher and higher. When I started gaming, whole games could be produced by a few people—about a dozen people worked on Might and Magic III, the game that sparked my interest in RPGs, and that game was pretty incredible for its time. Nowadays, big-budget titles could take ten times that, not even including testing and voicework. How can a small company compete with that?

I don't think they can, if they're not being fed cash by a bigger company. Most of the best games from small publishers are in different genres now. Puzzle Quest is the biggest "indie" game that comes to mind, and that succeeds because it's a totally different type of game from the big-budget titles. Most of the games produced by smaller publishers now seem to be what I'd classify as "casual" games. It takes a lot more money to satisfy more hardcore gamers now.

I think that the end result—an idea that I've read before; I'm certainly not the first person to think of it—is that the big-budget games are the ones that don't take too many risks. They're the guaranteed successes. It's not worth it to pump that much money into something that might not make back the investment. If you want the big-budget games, I think you have to live with the fact that you're going to get something that's similar to what you've played before, and it's not likely to be too innovative. I think I'm okay with that. If you want an innovative game, you have to live with it probably being lower-quality, at least as far as production value is concerned. Our boundless desire for more realism and more expensive games has changed the market into what it is today. It's our fault, both good and bad.

What does that mean for Hellgate? I don't know why Flagship failed, really. They borrowed a lot of money, took a long time to develop the game, but still it released too early. Those early reviews hurt a lot. A bigger company would have been able to wait it out, as in Blizzard's infamous "we'll release it when it's done." Did they fail because they were a new studio and bit off more than they could chew? Did they fail because they were out of money and had to release it incomplete? Probably all of that and more. I guess I'm not ever going to know.


I recently finished Hellgate: London, a pretty decent game that I can recommend with a lot of reservations. It's been out for eight months now, and while the game and online service were very buggy when the game launched, they're pretty solid now. Or rather, they were a few days ago. It was just announced that Flagship Studios has let go of almost all of their employees. The future of the game is shaky at best. They were readying their second expansion (it had been on the public test servers for months), and the game supposedly had a million paying subscribers, but apparently that wasn't enough. I imagine that the game will live on, but in what form, I can't say. Anyway.

The good news is that the gameplay is very solid. It's a Diablo-style action RPG at its core, and it doesn't disappoint in that department. Combat is fast, furious, and violent. Shiny treasures drop from your kills non-stop, and you can take down a hundred monsters in a minute, as opposed to two or five in World of Warcraft. It's a refreshing change of pace from most games I've played recently, since, well, Diablo II. The items and the way you use them are all very well-done. Weapons and their mods (gems in Diablo) have a lot more properties than "+10 to stamina" and "+15% damage"; there's a wide variety of characteristics, from increasing weapon accuracy and range to causing your shots to occasionally detonate in a shower of flaming darts that explode on contact or ricochet off walls. And unlike in Diablo, weapons are actually functionally different. By the time I finished the game I was using a sniper rifle, an electric minigun with an incredible rate of fire, and a heavy projectile launcher with significant splash damage potential. There are rocket launchers, grappler guns, flamethrowers, guns that shoot swarms of poisonous wasps, magical gloves that enhance your spells, weed whackers, cricket bats, and swords. Oh, so many swords.

The classes all play pretty differently. There are two melee classes that play in third person and swing their swords, two spellcasters that summon demons and fireballs and lightning and just tear up everything in sight, and two gun-focused ranged classes that play like a first-person shooter and actually requiring aiming, unlike the other four classes. I tried a little bit of all of them, but I finished the game as the Engineer, who constructs robots to do his bidding (like the druid or necromancer in Diablo II) and stays in back with a variety of guns and grenades, trying to avoid actually getting hit. It was a blast. And unlike in Diablo II (but like in World of Warcraft and Diablo III), you are very much encouraged to use a wide variety of abilities, instead of just sticking to a couple, though you could probably do that too. There are many little innovations that make Hellgate a great non-stop action experience, even moreso than Diablo; I could (and did a couple times) sit and play for five hours straight and not get bored with it.

But the game's not all rosy. In addition to taking many months before it was actually ready to be released, other aspects of the game aren't so good. The story is bad, and the writing is terrible. (Though, admittedly, there are a few bright spots here and there—the interactions with Techsmith 314 are all pretty funny.) For the most part I can overlook that, being an action RPG and all, but it's unfortunate. The graphics aren't that good—both in that nearly everything is grey, the official color of postapocalyptic London, and also that they're just not, well, that well-done. I can probably forgive the very low-resolution textures and low-polygon objects, since they're the reason the game still runs at playable framerates when there are a hundred zombies trying to get at my sweet, sweet brain. But the absolute worst part is that there's not enough content to justify how damned long the game is. At first that sounds odd, because the levels are randomly generated like in Diablo, so there's a basically infinite set of possible levels, but after my hundredth trip down deserted London alleys filled with trash, rubble, and barrels (sadly, no skeletons inside in this game), I'm about ready to kill myself. The game needs more locales, and it needs to be shorter. There are only a handful of types of locations, and they're reused ad nauseum. Before the end of the game you'll have probably made fifty trips to Hell, and every single area in Hell looks exactly the same. Every crypt looks the same, every deserted street looks the same, every warehouse looks the same, and every sewer looks the same, and there are tons and tons of randomly generated instances of each.

But, I still had a lot of fun. Repetitive scenery notwithstanding, there is great amusement to be had in mowing down wave after horde after swarm of demons and undead. I can't say that everyone who liked Diablo is going to like Hellgate. The near-future London setting is not as interesting to me as the fantasy settings of Diablo, though there is still plenty of plate mail and flaming swords, so not all is lost. I happen to very much like the game being in 3D instead of top-down 2D, but not everyone would. Some people will hate the two FPS-style classes, but the other four play more like traditional Diablo. Anyway, there's a demo out, and the game goes for twenty bucks right now (maybe less now that the company is dying off), so you'll still get quite a bit of game for your money. Like I said, recommended with reservations—it's a nice blend between Diablo and Doom. If that's what you're expecting, you'll probably enjoy it, at least for a while. If you do get it, you might want to stick to single-player mode for a while until the fate of the accompanying online service is more stable.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sore fingers

I played a lot of Hellgate: London this weekend. A lot. One of my fingers is actually sore—my left ring finger. Not metaphorically sore, but actual mild nerve pain. At dinner, I was puzzled as to why that finger (left strafe), would be sore and not, say, my middle finger (move forward), or my right-hand index finger (kill things). I finally figured it out a few hours ago: when using WASD, my fingers are too large to actually fit on W, A, and D all at once (since keys do not align in a grid), so my A finger rests on the "sharp" left edge of the A key. Apparently pressing on the edge of a key for hours and hours of demon-blasting and loot-collecting will irritate the nerves. Who knew.

Cheapest game ever

I got Universe at War: Earth Assault for $5. It comes with a one-month subscription to Xbox Live, which goes for about $4 on average. (You can get a month for $3.50 if you buy 13. A single-month card actually costs $7 retail.) Net, the game cost me about one dollar. Basically, I have to watch the introductory movie to get my money's worth. I paid more than a dollar for a floppy disk containing a demo of a DOS pinball game at a flea market in the early 90s.

Hopefully it will be a little better than that. I don't know when I'll get around to it since I'm working on Hellgate: London and Company of Heroes right now, but Company of Heroes hasn't really thrilled me, so maybe my desire for RTS will resurface sooner than expected. I think I'm slowly developing my skills at not playing games that aren't thrilling me, and moving on to something else. Company of Heroes isn't bad, and in fact there's a lot to like about the innovative things it does with the genre, but it's just drab and slow most of the time, in an extremely uninteresting WWII setting. But, I think I'm close to the end, so I'd like to finish it out before I move onward.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


After some effort tweaking, I've finally set up Firefox's UI exactly the way I want it. Tiny bar at the top with the only commands I care about, menu bar hidden, all bookmarks quickly accessible from a menu ("Favs"), and tabs at the bottom. No wasted space. It doesn't look as nice as IE, but it's faster to use.

(Extensions used: Tab Mix Plus, Hide Menubar. "Favs" is the only entry in my Bookmarks Toolbar, which I've moved to the main toolbar.)


One thing I always admired about the Finder on Mac OS is that you could set it to spring folders open if you dragged a file on top of them for a second. It made squirreling files away into a complex folder hierarchy really simple, which would be nice because it's something I do all the time. Assuming you had a folder visible somewhere on your desktop or another window, you could drag to that icon, hold it there for a second, and then that folder would open up, and then you could find your next destination folder, hold it there for a second, and then the next folder would open up, and you'd keep doing this until you got to your eventual destination. Once you found it, you'd let go, and the file would be moved there, and then all of those windows that sprung open would close themselves.

I really want that feature on Windows. Given equal software and hardware support I'd still choose Windows over Mac OS any day of the week, but that feature was so useful I'm still longing for it a decade later.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Poll results

Well, the results from the little test poll I ran a few days ago turned out roughly as I expected. People prefer text, and they're split about 50-50 in whether they like to read it on the site or through an RSS reader. Only two people were interested in the idea of a Sleepless in the Seattle Metro podcast.

I was actually curious what it would be like to record myself reading a few of my posts, so I did. It was kind of amusing for a while, if a bit time-consuming. I don't really have anything in mind to do with those recordings, though, so they just sit on my computer. I don't actually even know what people do to listen to podcasts—if they just download MP3s and stick them on their player, or if there's some standard RSS thing, or what. I was interested partly because I want to, relatively soon, record myself giving a few short demos and tutorials of the World of Warcraft mods I've created, as one in particular is pretty hardcore, and difficult to get started with. They'd be videos, but I'd just be a voice-over.


One thing that I hate about having my own place and being a little bit of a clean freak is that I can spend hours each weekend just tidying up before I even realize it. Mostly all I can remember doing today so far is making lunch, taking a shower, and then sitting down to write that last post. But I've been up for hours. What exactly did I do? I guess I did the dishes and started laundry. There was more, but I've already forgotten.

This is a problem for me. On one hand, I need a certain amount of relaxed stress-free mindless activity on the weekend to balance out the more "serious recreation" like playing games if I want to be in the best state of mind for the next week. On the other hand, one of my biggest perceived problems in my personal time management skills is that I "lose" a lot of time like this. I'm easily distracted, and I don't seem to have the memory capacity to recall what I just spent my time on.

At some point I will probably try to get serious about losing some weight and getting healthy and all that stuff. But before that, I need to know that I can actually manage my time correctly. The biggest thing preventing me from working out more and starting a diet program and all that is not how much I absolutely despise it (that's second); it's the time commitment. Time is my limiting resource more than anything else. If a program of diet and exercise cuts into my relaxation and gaming time, it simply won't work. My stress level will immediately rise, and to reduce it I could either focus on the one activity that significantly reduces my stress level, or the activity that significantly increases it. I already know which one I'll choose.

Before I can be truly successful at improving my overall fitness, I fear that I'll need to come up with a system of dealing with my inability to remember things I've just done moments prior, so I can keep myself on track, so I can make sure that I'm "wasting" the amount of time that I want to waste.

I want to believe

So, there's an X-Files movie coming out in two weeks. I think I may be the only person I know who is interested in it, which makes me kind of sad. I'm actually really looking forward to it. Sure, it's been ages since the show went off the air, and even longer since Mulder and Scully were the main characters, but I still have very fond memories of it. It's supposed to be a completely standalone story and not get into all of the ridiculously complex backstory, which is just about a requirement at this point since nobody remembers most of it. And that will probably make it a better overall movie than the first, even though I, as a huge fan at the time, really liked that one too.

Since this post is rather short, I'll leave you with my favorite X-Files quote, from the episode "How the Ghosts Stole Christmas" co-starring Ed Asner ("Maurice") and Lily Tomlin:

Maurice: You know why you think you see the things you do?
Mulder: Because I have seen them?
Maurice: ‘Cause you're a lonely man. A lonely man chasing paramasturbatory illusions that you believe will give your life meaning and significance and which your pathetic social maladjustment makes impossible for you to find elsewhere. You probably consider yourself passionate, serious, misunderstood. Am I right?
Mulder: Paramasturbatory?
Maurice: Most people would rather stick their fingers in a wall socket than spend a minute with you.

Currently listening: Linkin Park—My December

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Sad humps

I just realized that the new Alanis Morissette CD I recently purchased does not include her cover of "My Humps."

[image: crying smiley]

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


I've had this topic in my "rainy day blog" list for ages, but it suddenly seems appropriate and relevant to go right after a post titled "Pride," so I'm writing it now.

I've done a few things I'm ashamed of in my life. Of course, we all have. I do try to minimize these—there are very few of them, and I do try to keep things that way. But I've failed in my judgement a few times, and these failures haunt me from time to time. People tell me that they like reading about my intimate mental and emotional details, so I'm going to tell you about the two incidents in my life that cause me the greatest amount of regret.

I pushed my brother off a bridge once when I was young. He's about three years younger than I am. He was annoying me, and we were on a bridge, and I pushed him off. He didn't fall far—six feet or so—and he wasn't badly injured. We were at a state park or something like that... I don't actually recall much in the way of details because it was a good two decades ago. That's actually not even one of the two incidents I promised. Consider that a bonus, just for putting up with my wordy posts.

#2 is much more recent—fewer than ten years ago, at least. Nebraska was trying to pass their own little version of the Defense of Marriage Act, which said that marriage was between a man and a woman only, dammit, and anything else was a blasphemous affront to God. To get this thing on the ballots, they needed a bunch of signatures. My church's pastor, a generally cool guy, decided to break his personal ban on mixing church and state for just one Sunday, and take time during the service to allow people to come up to the front and sign the petition. Everyone of voting age did.

Including me. I regretted it before I made it back to my seat, but apparently not enough to go back and cross my name off, which is worth an amount of bonus regret. I'm still ashamed to this day that I signed that thing. It's not like it mattered in the end—it's not like I was voting on it, and that sort of thing was 100% entirely guaranteed to get on the ballot in Nebraska with or without my signature, but I'm still ashamed of what I did. I don't really think of myself as a person who succumbs to peer pressure like that, but it's exactly what I did. Everyone else was doing it, and I didn't want to look like a dirty queer or something for being the only person not to sign, so I did too, even though I didn't support such a terribly insulting law in any shape or form. It took a while to forgive the pastor for that, but I still haven't fully forgiven myself. So that's my #2.

My #1 was younger. I think it was third grade. My main teacher was Mrs. Imes (pronounced like the dog food, as she was reluctant to admit), and I stole things from her desk. I developed a brief fit of kleptomania. I didn't steal from anyone else; I just stole office supplies from her and kept them in my desk. My mom sent me boxes of Kleenex because I was having runny noses a lot, and I made a makeshift safe for my treasures out of it. I had an obsession of sorts with office supplies at the time—I imagined having this fully-stocked office desk at home, poring over the weekly ads from the new store Office Depot that just moved into town.

As the class would leave the room for P.E. or art class or recess or lunch, I'd always make sure that I was the last one to leave, and then I'd snatch something from the desk on my way out—a pen, another pad of sticky notes, or something else. This went on for a couple weeks: I must have been good at it. But eventually I was caught, and I don't actually remember how. Mrs. Imes cried, and told me that even worse than having things stolen from her was knowing that she couldn't trust her best student anymore. That really broke my heart.

I didn't really see it as really stealing until I was caught. I was always a really good kid, and wouldn't generally do stuff like that. I saw it more as just collecting things—things that were provided by the school system, so I wasn't hurting anybody. I wasn't aware that teachers had to buy their own supplies, so I actually was hurting somebody. I didn't use any of the things I stole or take them home or try to get rid of them, so I was able to give it all back to her—like I said, I just wanted to acquire and collect it. But I was ashamed each and every school day for the rest of that year.

Those are the two things that I've done in life that I regret the most. Even though I'm terribly ashamed by them, they've each given me a good life lesson. I'd like to think that I could stand up for what I believed in if I find myself in another peer pressure situation in the future, and the very idea of stealing something from someone is just vile to me now. Shame is a pretty rotten feeling, but at least I learned something from it.


So June was gay pride month, according to the rainbow posters near the elevators at work. (A month? Sheesh! Black history only gets a month, and I think there are a lot more black people than gay people.) I'm pretty sure someone said there was a parade too... you know, the whole nine yards. I don't get it, though. I don't get the whole "gay pride" thing. What's there to be proud of?

Now, don't read that the wrong way. I didn't think say that I thought that there was something to be ashamed of, either. It just doesn't seem like it is a quality to which pride or shame should be applied. Or black pride. Or white pride. "Gay pride" isn't such an absurd phrase that I'd call it a non-sequitur, but I've always thought it was weird. As I see it, to be proud of something you should be in some way responsible for it. You can be proud of your kids—you raised them. You can be proud to be Mormon; you may not be laying down the doctrine of the faith, but hey, you chose to be Mormon, and if you want to be, you can certainly be proud of that. You can be proud of getting straight (pun intended?) A's. You can be proud of running a five-minute mile, or proud that you managed to beat a MS warrior / resto druid combo in the 2v2 1700s bracket. (Sorry. No more World of Warcraft in this post, I swear.) Those are accomplishments. You can even be proud of being an American citizen, when you consider that you had the option to leave but decided you wanted to stay. I just don't think you get to be proud of being gay. That just happened. You didn't score 1600 on the American Idol Aptitude Test to become gay. You didn't study for five years in a Californian gay monastery under the tutelage of Saint Richard of Simmons. You just were.

I've been thinking it out while writing this post, and I think that there is some value in having a celebration. I don't mean the day when there's a feather-wearing transvestite who throws beads and condoms at you from a float. (I have never seen a gay pride parade—I am sort of inferring a more porny Mardi Gras.) I mean the festival in general. Being gay isn't strictly an accomplishment. But living as a non-male, non-white, non-straight, non-mainstream-religion person probably is enough of an achievement to be worth celebrating once a year. It's not the entire concept of what we call "gay pride" that bothers me; more simply the nomenclature, and possibly the mistagging of homosexuality with qualities that don't seem to apply to it. Maybe we can just call it "gay day" or something. Or maybe people like the name, simply because it rankles so many people and incites so many preachers.

I think that tonight, I just became slightly less annoyed with the concept of "black history month." I still think that's silly too, though I guess I'm cool with a "diversity month" in general. Not everyone in the United States—let alone some other places—is really equal. If generally supportive but disinterested white guys have to suffer through a week or a month of that a year to raise awareness, I suppose I can live with that.

Anyway, I really only had the one point and I've been rambling since then, so I think this is a good place to stop.

Currently listening: Alanis Morissette—Versions of Violence

Remote Desktop

I use Remote Desktop a lot. When I'm at work, a window is open with my home computer's desktop on it. I work from home through a remote desktop window. Whenever I work on servers, I do so in a window. But occasionally I still come across stuff I didn't know I could do.

For example, a few years ago I discovered that if your connection's settings allow access to local drives, from the remote window you can click Start, then Run, and then type "\\tsclient\c$" to access the C: drive of the computer you're connecting from. But even better than that, a few weeks ago I discovered that if you're using Vista and/or Server 2008, you can just use Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V to copy and paste files across the connection. Way easier in most situations. Drag and drop also works occasionally, but the UI seems a bit flaky to me, so I'm using the clipboard.

Sometimes I also have to restart a computer remotely through a remote desktop connection. I used to do this by opening a command prompt, and then typing "shutdown /r /t 0". That's fairly straightforward (once you remember the command), but it turns out that there's a much easier way. When I remember that the easier way exists, I just press Ctrl+Alt+End, click the arrow next to the power button, and click Restart. (Ctrl+Alt+End gets you the usual Ctrl+Alt+Delete screen, so you can log off, restart, shut down, change passwords, open Task Manager, and the like.)

Sunday, July 6, 2008


I'm trying out a web poll thingy. You should answer it. (Note that I'm not necessarily changing anything about my blog... I'm just curious, and I want to try out this poll service.)

currency exchange Polls

Update: I found a much nicer polling service. Kinda slow to load, though.

You can do better than me

The short version:
N.E.R.D.—Seeing Sounds: 6/10
OneRepublic—Dreaming Out Loud: 9/10
Death Cab for Cutie—Narrow Stairs: 6/10
Richard Gibbs—Battlestar Galactica (miniseries): 4/10

I picked up the new N.E.R.D. album Seeing Sounds, and it's pretty bizarre. My biggest complaint with the CD is that there are a couple songs that could be really good if they weren't so obnoxious. The whole disc is wacky, but not nearly so annoying as several of the early tracks. Still, there are several good songs sprinkled here and there: Time for Some Action (includes the album intro), Happy, and Laugh About It are all amusing, and there are others.

I also got the OneRepublic album Dreaming Out Loud, and I've fallen in love with it. It's fantastic grandiose pop-rock. Every single song on the disc is good, though some of them start to blur together. That's really the only fault I can give this CD—some of the songs just aren't all that distinct. Anyway, Say (All I Need), Apologize, and All Fall Down are all excellent. This is a nearly perfect pop-rock CD; definitely recommended. (Random side note: I'd heard the lead vocalist before on a pretty good rap track, where he sings in a country voice: Bubba Sparxxx and Ryan Tedder—She Tried.)

I picked up Death Cab for Cutie's newest, Narrow Stairs, and it's decent. Behind Transatlanticism and Plans, I think it's my least favorite Death Cab album, though. But, it's not that far behind, and the style is pretty much exactly the same as the other two albums. In most cases I feel like I'd have pretty good luck sorting a band's albums by release year just by listening, but I can't really Death Cab's apart. Anyway, it's not bad, not great—my favorites are I Will Possess Your Heart, You Can Do Better than Me, and Long Division.

Finally, I've also been listening to the soundtrack from the original Battlestar Galactica miniseries from several years ago. The miniseries was scored by a different person (Richard Gibbs) than the series was, and I find it interesting that while most of the musical themes (ominous, monotonous notes for the Cylons, heavy percussion for battles, moaning vocals, and so forth) were established in the original miniseries score by the original composer, the new composer Bear McCreary manages to make much more interesting music from them. I actually liked the miniseries' music and found it to be nicely fitting when it was first aired, but as an album it doesn't work very well, especially after hearing the later seasons' scores. Regardless, I think that the best tracks here are By Your Command, Cylons Fire, and The Storm and the Dead.

Next up are some more Morcheeba, Alanis Morissette's latest, and an EP by Amon Tobin.

Currently listening: Morcheeba—Otherwise

Friday, July 4, 2008

Boatcopter and sandcats

I know a lot of people are unhappy, but I'm very glad that it's relatively cool and cloudy around here today. Perfect day-off weather.

Anyway, I had a couple weird dreams last night. In one of them, I was riding around in a wheeled boat with two helicopter blade assemblies. It was about the size of a 15-passenger van, brightly painted, and pretty ridiculous-looking. That dream didn't really go anywhere. At some point in our journey we got to an intersection of dozens and dozens of interlocking train tracks that spanned for roughly four square city blocks or so. It was almost entirely train tracks, and there were no traffic lights, lines painted, or anything else to tell people where to drive, so it was just a mess of cars wandering around, all apparently hoping that they wouldn't get trapped in there the next time a train came to destroy them. We were presumably the safest people there, given that our boatcopter could likely fly away from an oncoming train.

We eventually reached a large elevator that was the entrance to an unknown building. It was not explained why we were there, but apparently we needed to enter it... with the boatcopter. The boatcopter was too large to fit inside, so we stopped and started to disassemble it. We started by taking down the helicopter blades one-by-one and carrying them down the elevator. The dream ended fairly abruptly there, and I never figured out what the point of it all was.

The second dream was very short. I was talking with a few people in someone's living room, and one woman left to go check on her newborn baby. She screamed, and we ran to see what was going on. The baby had stopped breathing. She became hysterical, and then began to accuse us of feeding her baby things to try to kill it. She screamed some more, and the dream ended.

So, that one's a downer.

In the final dream, I was in a large, mostly empty building that roughly resembled the layout of the homeowner's association clubhouse I own 5.3% of, but it was worn down and unfinished, like a barn. The floor was just sand, and the furniture was simple wooden benches. We were having a board meeting or something like that, but I wasn't paying attention to anything anyone was saying. Everyone brought their cats to the meeting, and I was just watching and playing with the cats. (Since I'm allergic, I don't have cats of my own, but I do enjoy borrowing the cats of others for short periods of time.) Most of the cats were black, but there was one adorable white kitten that seemed to like me.

As I was playing around with it, ignoring the meeting, it thrust its head into the sand like an ostrich. It was pretty cute. It got its head stuck and wiggled around a bit. I prepared to rescue it if it looked like it wasn't going to be able to get out. After a few moments, it started to dig itself in further with its claws, until it was just a tail. And then, abruptly, the tail disappeared under the sandy floor as well. A few moments later I started to see the sand move around, and then it popped its head out, letting me know it was okay. It returned to the sand and crawled around underground a little more before the dream ended.

I don't know why I had any of those dreams, but the last one might have been related to a lolcat that I saw once. I was able to find it again just now for your amusement. Here you go.

Currently listening: Death Cab for Cutie—I Will Possess Your Heart

Thursday, July 3, 2008


It's too warm outside when you're sweaty and exhausted before you start your workout.

For a while I was actually trying to get a reasonable amount of sleep. Usually it's my own fault when I stop. This time it's the heat. Now I just can't get to bed before two or three, because it takes that long for my house to cool off. Lying in bed when it's warm is pointless; I'll never fall asleep. When I was in Hawaii I was sometimes awake in bed for three hours or longer, unable to sleep due to heat. At least it's not that warm yet, and it's actually supposed to be cooler for the next couple days, which sounds fantastic.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


So, Rhapsody did a thing where the first batch of people who created accounts on their MP3 store got a $10 credit, so I did. I used it as an opportunity to buy some singles that I really like that are on albums that I don't. There are some fun tracks in there that I kind of forgot existed.

Alicia Keys—Fallin'
Chad Kroeger and Josey Scott—Hero
Dave Matthews Band—I Did It
Eurythmics—Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)
50 Cent—In da Club
Filter—Hey Man Nice Shot
Orgy—Blue Monday
Orgy—Fiction (Dreams in Digital)
t.a.t.u.—All the Things She Said
Unwritten Law—Seein' Red

I also ended up buying two albums from Amazon as a result of my little trip down memory lane: Superfast by Dynamite Hack, and Fuego by Trinity Hi-Fi. So, all in all, I think I got a pretty good deal for my 89¢.

Currently listening: Chali 2na—Come On

Music hostage

I don't remember much about my dream last night, but I do remember that it involved a young guy—maybe in the 16-18 range—who was captured and held against his will, forced to create electronic music for his captors. His captors were all middle-aged; two men and two women. They didn't look like relatives, but maybe they were. He had a guitar and keyboard in front of him, wired to a bank of synthesizers, record players, and other musical devices. He himself was strapped to a wooden chair in a dimly-lit basement, and the four of them were demanding that he compose, for his life depended on it.