Thursday, November 15, 2012

OneNote

For those of you who are curious what I've been working on lately, our team recently completed the new version of OneNote, for Windows 8 and Windows RT mobile devices like the Surface.  Being a generally organized person, I've been a user and fan of OneNote since the first version, so it worked out pretty well for me.  I built the notebook organization features and all of the UI that appears to the left of your page except the More Notebooks list.



You can slide it in and out with a flick of your finger.  It's pretty fun.  I did the visuals and animations and functionality for that collapsible left portion of the app, and also worked with the XAML team in Windows to help define how some things will work for future developers.  So that's what I've been up to.

If you have Windows 8 or Windows RT, you can get the OneNote app for free.  All of your notes synchronize automatically between your tablet, phone, desktop PCs, and laptops, on pretty much every platform, so if you're already using OneNote and SkyDrive, everything will sync automatically, and if you're not, then you can download the other free OneNote apps for your iPhone or whatever.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Moar microbloggery

More Facebook wisdom for those of you who aren't my Facebook friends or followers:


(from election night)  Hahahahaha, there approximately TEN MILLION people on FoxNews.com commenting right now about how ridiculous it is that Romney is winning the popular vote but Obama has the electoral vote. IRONY LEVEL INFINITY

For some reason I always assumed that the number of dreams I had in which I was freaking out about missing a homework assignment would sort of taper off after being done with school forever.

Yesterday my hard drive died. In a moment of weakness I considered ending my vacation a day early and heading into work, but I found the strength to stay home and play the video games on my other hard drives, because that's what heroes do—they just focus and power through whatever rough situations life throws at them.

I currently have Borderlands 2 on my computer. I can't play it until Tuesday. I probably won't play it for at least a month since Mists of Pandaria opens in just days. I'm still excited. I'm that kid that just gets giddy about the Christmas tree and then only plays with the box.

I just got 27 injections of poison in my face and head, and four hours later I got ZERO lollipops at the end. I'm pretty sure this is why there are people who are upset about Obamacare.

It's probably just coincidence that the car next to me rolled its windows up right as I started singing along to Snow Patrol.

I'm making great progress on my draft for the script to I Know What You Did Last Supper, starring Jesus as Himself and Jennifer Love Hewitt as Sexy Judas.

Life tip: if it comes from an Asian grocery store and it says "hot and spicy" on the bottle, it's probably battery acid and you will regret consuming it well into the night.

Microsoft should probably have a policy where if you accidentally paste the address to a YouTube video for Call Me Maybe into source code twice in one day you have to just turn off your computer and go home.

Not too enthusiastic about the Mars mission. I've played Doom. I know where this leads... first we go to Mars, then somebody opens a portal to Hell, then you hallucinate monsters spawning behind you in hallways at work for weeks.

Pant leg touched side of urinal. DAY IS RUINED.

Probably not a good sign when you're so bored with your lunch that you forget that you were eating lunch.

First thing on my mind when I woke up this morning: some kid's yelling "Game of Thrones on Nickelodeon will be right back!" and one kid's sitting in a big orange chair, and another's in front of him about to be beheaded. A second before the sword gets to that kid's neck the camera cuts away to the Nickelodeon logo and green slime sprays on the screen.

I was just thinking of mangoes, and bam, five seconds later, I walk by a plate of mangoes. Next time I should think of a plate of $100 bills.

Eureka

One of the most satisfying things about doing engineering work is that moment when you finally come up with a solution to a problem you've been stuck with for a while.  (Coding something up that inexplicably works the first time without any problems whatsoever is just as magnificent, but it's not extremely common.)  Recently I've found, though, that I get a very similar feeling from the fiction writing that I've been doing.  Since I hadn't really written fiction in the last twenty years before now I wasn't expecting it, but I've discovered that the sensation I get when I have a plot hole and finally find a creative and interesting way to resolve it is actually very similarly euphoric.

I'm writing and designing a game.  I originally thought that I'd be spending most of my time on designing the game mechanics, but I've actually spent considerably more time on the creative writing portion so far.  Part of that is because it's easy to get little bits of creative inspiration at random times throughout the day.  (Usually this is inconvenient, because so far most of these have happened either while I'm in the shower, or at about 2:00am.)  But I think that part of it is just because it's very rewarding.  I get bursts of exciting, incremental reward in my brain just for coming up with creative plot solutions.  The game mechanics aren't as fleshed-out as the story is at this point, but I don't know if I'll get the same level of reward for every little change I make that makes the gameplay better.

I'm finding that OneNote is particularly excellent for keeping track of a creative writing project.  Since bits of inspiration come at any time, I want to be able to jot them down wherever I am, whether that's at my computer or on my phone.  OneNote will then sync anything I type between all of my devices, so I have all of my story outline notes everywhere I go, so I don't have to keep a paper journal or little scraps of sticky notes or anything like that.

Friday, November 2, 2012

My legs

The short version:
Sam Hulick, Christopher Lennertz, Cris Velasco, Sascha Dikiciyan, and Clint Mansell—Mass Effect 3 (Extended Cut): 9/10
Russell Brower, Neal Acree, Sam Cardon, Edo Guidotti, Jeremy Soule—World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria: 8/10
Florence and the Machine—Ceremonials: 8/10
Train—California 37: 7/10
Parov Stelar—The Princess: 7/10
Garbage—Not Your Kind of People: 7/10
Metric—Synthetica: 7/10
Elizaveta—Beatrix Runs: 8/10
Imagine Dragons—Night Visions: 7/10
Alex Clare—The Lateness of the Hour: 7/10
Dragonette—Bodyparts: 9/10
Muse—The 2nd Law: 7/10
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis—The Heist: 7/10

Finally, here are the great CDs that I've bought recently that I can definitely recommend.

The Mass Effect 3 soundtrack is excellent for a sci-fi action movie/game.  The parts that really excel are the tracks that fit the really emotional scenes from the game, of which there were many, and the epic moments, of which there were many.  The music that accompanied the sci-fi action moments isn't as spectacular, but it's still fitting and pleasant.  If you enjoy this sort of music at all I would highly recommend checking it out.  It's available on the various music services, and seven additional tracks from the Extended Cut were released online for free, though they're a little below average in quality.  I think the best on the soundtrack are Leaving Earth and I'm Sorry (emotional), and The Fleets Arrive (epic), but there's a lot to like for anyone who likes soundtracks.

The World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria soundtrack is almost as great.  For the most part World of Warcraft's soundtrack is just background music for each different zone in the game and not associated with particular plot points, so each area has its own musical themes, but there aren't generally separate tracks for emotional moments or epic scenes.  That said, there's some really excellent background music in here.  The soundtrack album combines multiple in-game pieces into single tracks; Way of the Monk and Valley of the Four Winds are both gorgeous, and Going Hozen is delightful.  Recommended for soundtrack lovers.

Florence and the Machine's latest CD Ceremonials is soulful and energetic.  There are plenty of really good songs on here, and while none of them reach favorite-ever status, there are enough of them that it's hard to pick just a few that I like.  But Only If for a Night, Shake It Out, and Remain Nameless are probably the strongest three.

I also got the Train album California 37 song with the catchy song everyone's sick of by now, Drive By.  In addition to that one I rather like 50 Ways to Say Goodbye and California 37.  It's a great pop CD.

It's sort of hard to sum Parov Stelar's latest album The Princess up in a number.  On one hand it has a lot of great songs.  On the other hand it's a two-CD album for the price of one, and it has a lot of crap.  Part of me likes getting more for my money, but there's value in knowing what to reject, too.  With You (featuring Lilja Bloom), Silent Shuffle, and The Fog stand out as being the most interesting on the album for me.  In 28 tracks, there's plenty to like and a bunch that I don't, as well.

I hadn't heard from Garbage in a long while (I say that as if I'm buddies with the band).  Their latest CD is interesting though.  The opening track Automatic Systematic Habit is a terribly catchy song about a lying cheating partner, and my other favorite Battle in Me has a delicious guitar part that I love.  It's a lot tougher to pick a third favorite after those two; Man on a Wire is probably it.  This album's not for everyone, but I do think that overall it's pretty good.

Synthetica by Metric might be the winner for the earliest surprise f-bomb on a CD that I own, in the great opening synth-rock track Artificial NocturneThe Void and the title track are probably my other favorites, though I'm partial to Lost Kitten too.  It's got sort of an indie, alternative, synth-y sound to it.

Beatrix Runs by Elizaveta was an unexpected and awesome random find.  It's like pop-opera... poperaOdi et Amo is the best track and it's glorious, but the opening song Dreamer is beautiful too, and Goodbye Song is touching.  I'd say that if you like female vocalists like Sara Bareilles there's a high probability you'll like this album.

I found out about Imagine Dragons because they were touring with AWOLNATION, though not when I saw them in concert.  They're an alternative band and their first CD Night Visions is good.  The opening track Radioactive is wonderful, and also may cause permanent speaker damage.  Demons and the much perkier On Top of the World are both fun times too.  The sound is notably different from AWOLNATION, but I can definitely see why you'd be likely to like Imagine Dragons if you like the other; they're both creative and interesting and experimental and really sound like they love what they're doing.

Alex Clare is known as "the guy from the Internet Explorer ads," because that's where you've heard the fabulous track Too Close from The Lateness of the Hour.  It's an energetic and funky and exciting album.  The opening track Up All Night is moderately disgusting but it's catchy and it sounds great, and Hummingbird is wild.  My biggest complaint about the CD is that too many tracks depend on repetitive wobbly wub-wub bass, which is a strange thing to say about a funky rock CD.

Dragonette's latest CD Bodyparts is the standout pop CD from this latest batch, and there are some amazing dance songs on here: My Legs, Let It Go, and Live in this City, to start with.  It finishes with Ghost, which I'm also partial to.  You've gotta check this one out if you like dance or electronic pop music.

A new Muse album is always a noteworthy affair, and their latest one The 2nd Law is no exception.  This time the controversy is that a few of their songs have a definite dubstep influence.  Most notably, their first big single, Madness, which is superb, but not even really a rock song, so I suppose I could see how some fans could potentially be upset.  My second (er, 2nd) favorite is Big Freeze, which has a much more traditional Muse sound, and finally the two-part mostly-instrumental finale (it just wouldn't be a Muse album without a big finale) The 2nd Law, specifically the second half Isolated System.  I think that most Muse fans are going to enjoy this album just fine.

Finally, I picked up the debut CD by local artists Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, The Heist.  It starts really strong and while there are definitely some duds on here, this is something worth picking up if you like hip-hop.  Thrift Shop is utterly delightful and has a hilarious video to go along with it, and Same Love has one of the best and most touching music videos I've seen.  Make the Money is catchy and Thin Line is really interesting.  It's sad that it's remarkable, but the lyrics on the CD are about actual things, and for the most part not just about bitches and going to clubs, so that's a nice plus.  I think we'll see more good stuff from these two.


Whew.

Undiscovered

The short version:
Kylie Minogue—Aphrodite: 6/10
Parov Stelar—Single Collection Volume One: 6/10
Elbow—The Seldom Seen Kid: 6/10
Fiona Apple—The Idler Wheel...: 6/10
Diddy/Dirty Money—Last Train to Paris: 6/10
Kings of Leon—Only by the Night: 6/10
Justin Bieber—Believe: 6/10
Incubus—If Not Now, When?: 6/10
Alanis Morissette—Havoc and Bright Lights: 6/10
Nelly Furtado—The Spirit Indestructible: 6/10
P!ink—The Truth About Love: 6/10
Cliff Eidelman—Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country: 6/10

In my last music post I covered some of the not-very-good albums I've bought recently.  Here are some of the kinda-recommended ones that I've picked up lately.  There were so many of these that I needed to give them their own post.

Kylie Minogue's latest album Aphrodite is kinda good.  Not great.  Just kinda good.  I would posit that you would enjoy it if you liked her last one.  To verify this hypothesis, listen to All the Lovers (video conservatively NSFW), Put Your Hands Up, and Illusion.

I tracked down Single Collection Volume One by Parov Stelar and it is precisely what it sounds like, though I doubt that they are "singles" in the sense that Americans think of the word, but rather the more literal "individual tracks that aren't on any of his other albums" definition.  I got it for Chambermaid Swing and Spygame; Charleston Butterfly is good too but I already had it.  There are a lot of misses on the CD though, which one should reasonably expect.

Elbow's The Seldom Seen Kid is a rock album with three great tracks, a few other decent ones, and a bunch of mediocrity.  Grounds for Divorce is quite excellent, and The Bones of You and One Day like This are lovely too.  The vocalist kind of sounds like he has the flu though.

Fiona Apple's 23-word-titled album The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do is probably my least favorite of hers so far.  The opening is okay, and then there are a lot of dull tracks and then a surprisingly great finish with Anything We Want and Hot Knife.

Diddy (as in Puff Daddy) and Dirty Money's album Last Train to Paris is better than I would expected, with that expectation being "utterly terrible," of course.  But there's actually a lot to like about this CD.  Plenty about the album sucks, don't get me wrong, but there's a schizophrenic mishmash of awesomeness like Coming Home, Hello Good Morning, and Ass on the Floor along with the awful crap.  I wanted to hate this CD, but I just couldn't.

Kings of Leon's album Only by the Night is fairly decent alt-rock.  Closer and Use Somebody are both wonderful, and Sex on Fire is pretty good too.  It's yet another one of those "the singer is hard to listen to for the whole album start to finish" deals though.

So yeah, I bought a Justin Bieber CD.  Believe.  It's not a masterpiece by any stretch, but it's perfectly acceptable pop music, and the kid can sing.  There's actually an interestingly diverse selection of musical styles on the album; Out of Town Girl, Die in Your Arms, and As Long as You Love Me are probably my favorites.

I decided to get the latest Incubus album If Not Now, When? after discovering that they still exist as a band when they toured with Linkin Park and Mutemath recently.  It's a really light sound; I thought of them as a fairly hard rock band, but the first two tracks on the album are If Not Now, When? and Promises, Promises are definitely not hard rock.  I rather like them, but they are not at all what I was expecting.  My other favorite from the disc, Switchblade, isn't quite as light but certainly isn't "metal" like this album is often classified either.

Alanis Morissette's latest CD Havoc and Bright Lights is okay, but her last album was great and this one definitely seems like a step down, which seems like a feeling I've had about almost every CD I've bought from a favorite artist in the past year or two.  The opening track Guardian is nice, and Numb is quite good too.  Then maybe Woman Down for third place.

After Nelly Furtado's last "look at me I'm hot" CD she has decided it's time for a "look at me I'm a serious artist" CD, so The Spirit Indestructible is her Native American-themed latest little bit of weirdness.  The best tracks are the ones that ignore that theme: High Life, Miracles, and Tiesto's remix of Thoughts.

P!nk's got a new disc of angry girl rock out, The Truth About Love, and it opens with an amazing track Are We All We Are and then kinda falls from there.  The other best ones are probably True Love (featuring Lily Rose Cooper) and Just Give Me a Reason (featuring Nate Ruess of fun.).

Finally, I tracked down a copy of Cliff Eidelman's soundtrack to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and it's not bad.  I like the Overture, The Battle for Peace, and Clear All Moorings.


So those I can all recommend with some reservations.  Next I'll get to the albums that I can wholeheartedly recommend.