Tuesday, May 31, 2005


Maybe one way that the VB language could move for the future is to allow a second way to express some things syntactically. Some of the things that suck about VB currently are the Dim statement, the array syntax, and the idiotic operators like CType. All of these things could have new syntaxes created to make them less silly and more, well, normal. Then, developers who are interested in doing things in a more clear and logical manner could use the new syntax, people new to the language could use the new syntax, and people who insist on syntactical backward compatibility could use the old syntax. The downsides to this are that the language is now more complex because it offers more than one way to do the exact same thing (though this is mitigated somewhat by the deprecation of the "old way"), and that people will eventually still need to learn the other way of doing something, just because they'll stumble across code samples that use it. But, I think that it's a small price to pay to change things like "CType(ThisCustomer, Person)" to something more understandable like "ThisCustomer Into Person." (This is the VB equivalent of "(Person) ThisCustomer" in C# or Java. It's less of a problem in reality since you can implicitly cast anything to anything in VB.)


My phone crashed at 10:37 am Tuesday... and no, it's not a Windows smartphone, because I know some of you were thinking that.

A couple times I've thought that my Windows-based Portable Media Center has crashed, but it turned out that the "lock" switch was just engaged, and that's why it wasn't responding. (Well, one time, it did crash, but it was a hardware failure.)

Fun statistic

One more, and then I'm off to work. It would be fun to know what percentage of the time my favorite track on a CD is the first single, any single at all, or never was a single. Maybe I'll do a random sampling of a few CDs and see what I come up with. Or, maybe not. I'd have to look up which tracks from a lot of my CDs actually were singles, because I don't usually pay attention since I don't listen to radio or MTV...

They're back

They're back... the leaf-blowers at 9:00 sharp. My nemeses from last year. My apartment is right by where they park, so I guess I'm one of the first very lucky people to get to hear them each weekday morning.

Ooooh, but...

Oh, hey, but, at least it's Tuesday already. That means that Thursday and Friday will be here sooner. That's good news. Well, it really shouldn't be news that Tuesday comes after Monday, but... shut up.

It's over

I worked more than sixty hours last week, and by "last week," I'm including everything from last Monday to yesterday, inclusive. Perhaps the most creepy thing is that my officemate works at least sixty hours each week. Anyway, I'm exhausted. Sure, in the end, it's all just looking and typing, but this last project has been the most mentally exhausing thing I've ever done, I think. Normally, for school projects, the only kind of technical review I've gotten has been a joke, and the problems were much more conceptually simple and uncomplicated compared to what I'm working on now. Now, I'm getting technical reviews from very smart people, and when very smart people look over the work that other very smart people (hey, I don't have to be that modest) have done, they find errors. Not even necessarily functional errors, just style errors. Things that I probably would have ended up tweaking myself once I had more time to worry about those sorts of things. Things that even had a good reason originally, but are no longer needed, and I didn't clean them up before submitting for review. Some of them make me look kind of dumb, because I look at them now, and I say, "well, yeah, now I could make it like that, but I couldn't before, because, well, I don't remember." There were several of those. My coding style also differs quite greatly from that of my reviewer—at least he isn't one of those filthy creeps who puts braces on the same line as their statements. Unfortunately, he's been working on the product for a long time, and his coding style is very similar to the team's official standards, so I must comply. Just some of the differences I was called on...

  • I failed to use Hungarian notation in a few places. (Hungarian notation is things like szText for "null-termated string Text" and ppvFiles for "pointer to a pointer of a vector of Files," for those of you who have only been coding this century or never at all.)
  • If statements and the "then" condition can never be on the same line. Never. You can't have "if (bExit) return;"—you have to waste two lines for this. Never mind that wasted vertical space makes you lose context and hurts the flow of the text.
  • Spaces instead of tabs in one particular area of the product. This is because the command prompt tabstops are at 8 characters, not 4, and some people use things like vi to edit and view source files. It sounds like we're changing to all tabs everywhere soon, though... that's something, I guess.
  • Lines wrapped to 80 characters. I think this one hurt the most, because some lines had to be wrapped absurdly. Word wrap has been invented. All of our screens are 1600x1200. There is no reason to break lines at an arbitrary limit. If you must break lines because every code editor's word wrap is stupid, do it at a good place, not just because you've already typed 75 characters and your next word is six characters. This is retarded. I will not back down on this. It will always be retarded.
  • I put the asterisk after the type name, not the variable name. This one I wasn't made to change. But, dammit, it's a wide char pointer, not a wide character-and-oh-look-it-also-happens-to-be-a-pointer. (I like "wchar* szText"; he likes "wchar *szText". When surrounded in code, I find the first one infinitely easier to read at a glance.)

It was a long process. This review and the final round of pre-checkin testing has been going on for the whole last week, and by the end, we were both having to try very hard to remain civil and professional, because I still disagree with a lot of what he says. I'm sure he felt at some point like I'm an arrogant prick... like, "here's someone who hasn't even been on the team for a year, with lines in excess of 100 characters (!) that use up a full half of the width of the screen, and he's disagreeing with me on technical issues." But, oh well. It's over. Wounds will heal. No more 60+-hour weeks for a long time, I think. I got to watch a couple movies and play Warcraft on Saturday and Monday, only working partial days then. Out of my three-day weekend, I got a total of a day or maybe even a day and a half of relaxation.

Monday, May 30, 2005


Well, despite my best intentions not to, I ended up spending most of yesterday either at work or working remotely from home. I'd really like to not spend more of today doing the same. Something's leaking 80 bytes of memory, and if I can verify that it's not my fault, then I can check in and enjoy the rest of the day...

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Might and Magic

[More game-related rambling reminiscing]

It's no secret to most of my gamer friends that I've played almost all of the Might and Magic games. That includes:

Might and Magic III-IX
Heroes of Might and Magic I-IV and all expansions
Legends of Might and Magic
(Crusaders of Might and Magic and Warriors of Might and Magic don't count since they were just licensed titles, but I did suffer through the first part of Crusaders.)

That's a lot of games.

The games missing from that list are Might and Magic I: Secret of the Inner Sanctum, Might and Magic: Gates to Another World, and Might and Magic: Swords of XEEN (a bonus add-on to IV and V). While I'd love to be able to say that I've played all of the Might and Magic games, I don't think that it will ever happen. I tracked then down a few years ago—they were already almost impossible to find—so I could play them sometime if I wanted. But, the sad truth is that computer games have evolved a lot in the past twenty years. The original two Might and Magic games just aren't going to be that fun to me, now that I've come to expect certain things from my games. The crappy graphics and lack of real sound and music aside, gameplay has made significant strides as well. In the original Might and Magic, you couldn't even save unless you made your way back to an inn, there was no automap, and monsters didn't appear until you were standing on the same space as you (like all older RPGs it was based on a simple grid). I don't think that I could take that anymore, regardless of loyalty to the series. I'd be better off playing something a little more recent. Oh well.

In an ideal, unrealistic fantasy world, I'd like to see remakes of all of the Might and Magic games. I'm sure there are plenty of people who wish similar things with all of the great RPG series. The basic gameplay would remain, and the story and characters and places would remain constant, but the games would be updated to include all of the things that one might expect from an RPG today, like the ability to turn less than 90 degrees at a time. If I had the resources of Bill Gates I would do this. The nostalgia would be incredible. I could relive some of those hauntingly beautiful memories of my childhood playing Might and Magic III: Isles of Terra, stumbling across a field overrun with orcs, finding my first enchanted item, or being terrified when I began walking into that valley with the floating screaming heads.

A bad day for entertainment

Yesterday, I was waiting on mail from a couple of my coworkers and there wasn't anything I had to do until they mailed me, so I stayed at home and watched some movies. I wasn't feeling all that great (seems to happen the first time it gets hot each year), so it seemed appropriate. I picked a bad set of things to watch.

First, Garden State. I already blogged about that.

Still not feeling well, I decided to watch Kids a bit later, which was the only other movie I had around that I haven't seen before. Wow, again, not a great choice. The movie's about a bunch of misbehaving teenage kids in a bleak urban environment; I won't go into the plot. The movie was okay, but again not at all what I really wanted to see right then.

Still feeling feverish, with another hour until my laundry finished, I decided to put in the next episode of Voyager (I'm finishing up season five out of seven; I never saw much of it when it was on TV since there was no UPN available in Lincoln). Star Trek's generally pretty positive. So, how unfortunate it was that the next episode in line was one in which the crew discovers that they aren't the actual Voyager crew at all; they're the duplicates that were created in an episode a while back, "Demon." As they became more and more like their source material, they forgot that they weren't actually the people they thought they were. Spoiler: they all die at the end. All of them.

Anyway, bad choices all around. I should have just put in a Simpsons DVD or something. No new episodes of anything tonight. Now that's depressing.

Saturday, May 28, 2005


I ordered Garden State a few weeks ago and just finished watching it... and I'm a little disappointed. It wasn't at all what I was expecting. I had heard that it was funny, and it was listed as Drama / Comedy / Romance on IMDB. I'd take "Comedy" off that list; it started out mildly funny, but that didn't last for too long. It was a fairly interesting story, and it was touching, but not at all what I was in the mood for. I was hoping for something quirky and hilarious like Scrubs, and what I got was something that was sad and cute instead. It seems like it would be a very good date movie. Of course, I watched it alone in my apartment on a Saturday while doing laundry, and I don't have actual experience from which to conclude that it is a good date movie, but that's still the impression I got.

The best moment in the movie happened early on when Natalie Portman's character uses "lipstick" to decribe... something. I don't want to ruin it for you. Hilarious, though.

The soundtrack was kind of entertaining. I already own a third of the tracks, even including the weirdest one, the Iron and Wine cover of The Postal Service's Such Great Heights.

Anyway, final verdict: don't think that you'll like it just because you're a Scrubs fan. Watch it when you need a chick flick for your significant other... it's not really a chick flick, but it could probably pass for one, and you could do much worse. At least it doesn't have Hugh Grant in it. Don't rent it to laugh or to watch by yourself.

72 hours of vespene gas

I just got a spam with the subject (spelling and grammar corrected) "Can you last 36 hours?" 36? Easy. I did 72 hours once. Yep, many years ago, the rest of my family decided that they would vacation in Utah and New Mexico. Much of those places being rather uninhabitable, I asked to stay home, and to my surprise, they accepted. (After this, I asked if I could have some share of the vacation budget to spend; they shot that down.) So, what does a teenager do with about eleven days with a house to himself? He sees how long he can play Starcraft without sleeping. It turns out that it's about 72 hours, thanks in part to the magic of Diet Mountain Dew, a beverage I used to be somewhat indifferent to but now hate. I still ate meals at roughly normal times, and I showered once in there somewhere, but out of those three days, I spent at least sixty hours playing Starcraft, probably closer to sixty-five.

[Somewhat rambling reminiscing]
Starcraft was released on March 31, 1998, so this must have been the summer of 1998, because I got it right when it came out, being from Blizzard and all. So, I was a few months past 16 then, which sounds right, because my parents left a car for me. It's funny that I played Starcraft so much, and made so many maps and campaigns for it, and then never played the expansion, Brood War, released just in time for my birthday that year. Brood War must have simply come out too late, and I was playing something else by then, and didn't feel like going back to Starcraft. (This was probably Half-Life... but it also could have been Dungeon Keeper or Might and Magic VI: The Mandate of Heaven, going by the Moby Games 1998 list.) I even bought Brood War a few years ago with the intention of trying it out, but then something newer and more exciting was released, and once again it was pushed aside. Starcraft is one game that I actually own multiple licenses to, which is somewhat silly: this is the case with Might and Magic IV: Clouds of XEEN, Might and Magic V: Darkside of XEEN, and Starcraft, all excellent games. (The second copy of each of those came with a collection of some sort.)

It won't help

Today's post was inspired by today's Dilbert. One thing that's bugged me ever since MS-DOS started including defrag.exe is that there's this idea that generic, random computer problems can be solved by defragmenting the hard drive. Generic, random hard disk performance problems can be solved by defragmenting. Those popups you're getting? Those are because you've installed spyware. Defragmenting your hard drive may allow Internet Explorer to load them from your cache half a millisecond faster, but it won't make them go away. I guess there is some good to come from it, though... it gets people defragmenting their hard drives occasionally.

My thermostat sucks

I think I'm going to see if I can get a new thermostat. My current one is just retarded. Often it will go past the temperature I set by like eight degrees if I leave it going when I'm out or at work. Last night it was simply refusing to shut off manually, so I had to fiddle with it manually several times to keep the temperature pleasant. I guess it's not as bad as the Kauffman thermostats, which were an insult to thermostatkind, but it's still irritating me. My parents have a nice electric one that does do quite a nice job at keeping things at the temperature you set; the only problem is that my room at home was always warmer than the rest of the house thanks to the equipment in it. Getting an LCD monitor helped a lot in that regard.

Wallpaper coordination

At work, I have two machines connected by a KVM (keyboard / video / mouse) switch. When I started, I sometimes found it a bit disorienting trying to remember which computer I was working on, so I decided that my FrontPage development machine would have red wallpaper, and my everything-else machine would have blue wallpaper. I've since extended this scheme to mean that warm colors mean FrontPage and cool colors mean everything-else, but I've stuck with it very consistently over the past year. That should tell you something about me.

Bill Cosby's Picture Pages

Bill Cosby's Picture Pages. I don't know when I would have seen these things, but I did. All I remember are couple-minute little snippets of Bill Cosby drawing things with a beeping pen. Maybe they were before or after some show I watched.

I wonder... if they put it on DVD, how many people would buy it for no good reason?

Friday, May 27, 2005

Left to my own devices

The PSP is undoubtedly cool, and it's about half the price of my Portable Media Center. But, the PSP doesn't have a hard drive, and that's something that's very important to me... my current 20GB hard drive is too small—I'd ideally like a portable device like the PSP that has a hard drive more in the 40GB+ range. Ironically, the game-playing functionality of the PSP is something I care little about: my top priority is music; being able to store photos grabbed from a CF card would also be huge if such a device existed. Recorded TV sync'ed from my computer like my PMC does (Family Guy on the go!) and games like the PSP has would be nice, but I don't care that much, and I wouldn't be willing to pay much extra for that kind of functionality. I'm still looking for a device that plays music, stores photos, either reads CF cards or would connect to a CF reader, and has a big hard drive. There are lots of devices that come close, but I don't know of any that fits those requirements. If such a thing existed I would covet it greatly.

Update: Someone forwarded to me a link to the Archos Gmini 400, which is almost what I want, but 20GB is still just way too small. 20GB isn't even enough for the selection of music I want to put on (I have to trim things down a lot for my current 20GB device), let alone for any photos I've taken. It doesn't take too long to take two gigs worth of photos when photos are 8MB each. It does have a CF slot, though, which is hot.

New faces

In the past two weeks, the FrontPage team has grown by five: one program manager intern, one developer intern, two test interns, and a full-time tester. All that, and we still have open positions that we're trying to fill. Add all of that together with the deadline that I vaguely described earlier, and you may get some insight as to why I've been so burned out recently. I don't know how much we're allowed to say about internal poll results, but it's safe to say that, according to the statistics, I'm in one of the toughest teams in the company, it seems, which I kind of suspected all along. Ohhhh boy is it going to suck when review time comes around and I still look bad compared to the rest of the team because I went home "early" at 2:30 am.

Wanted, dead or alive

I've been pretty incredibly busy for the last few days. Last night I left work at 2:30 am; it's been around midnight for most of this week. Deadlines—especially fairly arbitrary, well-meaning deadlines that you don't agree with—suck. I feel like utter crap right now; I'm so exhausted and burned out. Just a few more days of this and I'll be able to sleep more and relax a bit. That will be wondrous.

I'm going to try to take it a little easier this weekend than I have been for the last several days, but I still anticipate working through much of it. I picked up a couple movies; I haven't decided which I'm going to watch this weekend: Garden State, which I have wanted to see since I found out about its existence back before it came out, and Kids, which Amazon.com suggested for me, and, well, Amazon.com seems to know me pretty well. I don't really know what to expect from either.

Goals, goals, goals

(The title of today's post should be sung to the tune of a Mötley Crüe song.)

I don't find goals all that motivating. Why would someone be motivated by a goal? If someone else set it, then it's usually meaningless. If you set it, why would you feel motivated to hit some arbitrary estimate of performance that you set a while back? I just find it kind of weird. What I find motivating is visible progress, even if it's artificially visible, like a checklist of things that are done. "Do X before Y?" No thanks. That's not motivation; it's stress.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Spam templates

I think that there must be some collection somewhere of templates used in spam. Sometimes I'll get the same messages that I got months and months ago that appear to be sent from a different person... maybe one of them was addressed to %FNAME %LNAME and from "eBay customer support," and another came from the "Word1 X. Word2" (as in Malarkey E. Silverback) format that's so popular right now.

Someone should start spamtemplates.com, your one-stop source for pre-made spam templates. The domain is still available. I mean, Office has the same thing for documents and PowerPoint templates already; it seems natural that someone might want a website where they can get free, professionally-designed spam templates. Maybe it would even improve the quality of the spam we receive.

Awww, sad.

I thought of a tongue twister tonight: "turtle murder." Try saying that a few times.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

NDAs are hard

NDAs are hard. It's becoming more and more taxing not being able to tell people what I'm working on. Hopefully once beta 1 is rolled out, I'll be able to... I really hope it's not until beta 2 that I can. And even then, I will still only be able to tell people about the stuff that I'm working on that will ship in FrontPage 12. This, in combination with a dozen other little things, is slowly driving me batty.

Humor is proportional to spare time

All of the developers in Office are very busy at the moment. I am mostly around developers in Office. When people are busy, they have less spare time by definition. When people have less spare time, they are less happy. When people are less happy, they are less funny. When people around me are less funny, I become less funny.

Therefore, when Office is in crunch mode, I am less humorous. Hmmm. That at least checks out.

It seems that I buy a lot of music

According to my query, I have purchased a little more than 2,275 tracks worth of music in the past year, for a total of about 190 CDs. (Search for *.mp3 created in the last year, and then manually check to make sure the list looks right.) That figure should be pretty accurate... of course, any given rap CD is 50% filler tracks, but I don't buy too much in the way of rap (looks like I picked up five CDs by The Roots and one by Kanye West). Assuming I'm awake for 18 hours a day, that gives me approximately three hours to enjoy each song before it's time to move on to the next one. I kind of wonder how many hours I've actually listened to each of these in the past year (all songs I bought since this time last year):

Amon Tobin - El Cargo
Amon Tobin - Ruthless (reprise)
Basement Jaxx - Good Luck
Gorillaz - Dirty Harry
Gorillaz - Feel Good Inc.
The Postal Service - Clark Gable
The Postal Service - Nothing Better
The Postal Service - Such Great Heights
The Roots - The Seed 2.0
The Roots - Don't Say Nuthin'
Snow Patrol - How to Be Dead
Snow Patrol - Run

I'm sure that I've listened to each of those tracks for at least three hours straight. The track most likely to be added to this list next is The Chemical Brothers - Galvanize. It's as retardedly catchy as O-Zone - Dragostea Din Tei ("Numanuma"), but doesn't force me to deny that I was listening to it.

Music subscriptions

It seems that legitimate online music is finally getting a little more reasonable. Yahoo! has a music subscription service that you can join for $60 a month that gets you unlimited downloads and the ability to copy those songs to your portable player. That's something that I may take advantage of once I have trimmed down my fairly-long queue of unlistened new music. I guess that if it were convenient enough, I'd consider doing something like that over buying CDs some of the time, but while I'm sure the quality would be just fine for my portable player, I don't think I'd probably be satisfied with the quality on my desktop PC; once I get a new hard drive I still plan on re-ripping my music (gradually) into a lossless format, and downloaded music would be a step down, not a step up.

But, I'm glad that things seem to be getting less stupid. There's absolutely no way that I'm paying ten bucks to download a compressed version of an album when I could get the same album on a physical disc for two bucks more. I don't think I'd even pay ten bucks for a downloadable lossless version of the album. For individual tracks, the price is still too high, and the quality too low... I think it would have to get down to about six dollars for a lossless album for me to be interested. I think that I'm getting screwed by getting lumped in the same group of people who want to burn CDs; buying music online and then burning it back to a disc just seems kind of insane. Downloadable tracks are still priced as if everyone who gets them is going to burn them to a disc, it seems. If there were a service that just flat-out didn't allow you to burn tracks, I'm sure it would be less expensive, and much more likely to offer a lossless version.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Yet another thing that I do not get

Why is it so hard for people to people to figure out whether or not something will be funny when removed from its original context and told to others? This seems like an extremely simple thing to calculate, yet it isn't. I'm not much good at it, and as far as I can tell, neither is anyone else.


Guys who unbutton the top button of a button-down shirt, or no buttons at all, are perfectly normal. Guys who unbutton the top two buttons are a little odd, unless they have a hairy chest, in which case they are either unpleasant or obliviously creepy. Guys who unbutton the top HALF of their shirt are just bizarre. This isn't Star Trek or Europe. Please learn to button your shirt properly. Here is a simple summary of the rules that you can print out and post in your closet:
  • Am I wearing a tie? If so, utilize all buttons.
  • Am I unnaturally attractive? If so, utilize all buttons except the top button; you may leave 0-2 buttons on the bottom unfastened at your discretion if you are also pretentious.
  • Otherwise, utilize all buttons except the top button.
I do not want to see your torso-pubes. I do not want to see mine; I certainly do not want to see yours.

As they do not typically exhibit this problem, women are exempt from these rules. Please feel free to ignore as many buttons as you would like.

Here's to crappy weekends

I have a strong feeling that this weekend's going to suck. I have one more week to finalize and check in my latest massive feature, so I'll almost certainly be putting two pretty full days in this weekend. It sounds like I won't have my usual World of Warcraft to keep me afloat either.

But, I guess that I can take consolation in the fact that after the next ten days or so, life should magically get a whole lot simpler. I'm going to take a couple sick days and rest, because I'm quite sleep-deprived right now, though obviously that's almost completely my fault.

Sometime in the next few months, I think I'm going to use some vacation time. I don't think I really want to go anywhere; I might go visit a few gardens and parks and take a ton of pictures, but I think that would be it. I'll spend the rest at home, catching up on games, exercise, and organize my ever-growing pile of account statements and receipts and stuff that I need to save in the file cabinet I bought many months ago and don't even have folders for.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Oooh, burn

A friend of mine was telling me a story in which she was arguing with her sorority's house mother:

Mother: What do you think my purpose is? Making sure that all of you girls are tucked in at night?

Friend: Of course not. You'd never have time to drive around to each and every fraternity every night.

Oooh. Burn.


I wonder how long it will be until conversations with NPCs in RPGs will happen through speech recognition, and you just talk to them, and they recognize key words in your speech and react accordingly. Some games such as Morrowind are practically already set up for this, with each NPC having a long, visible list of different topics that they're willing to converse about. They could integrate with the MS speech command system in very little code, though coming up with several of the different ways that users might mispronounce the name of every little Dwemer ruin might prove a daunting task. But, I'm not sure that speech recognition would make the game any more fun. I know that it works excellently in Unreal Tournament 2004, where you can give commands to your teammates through voice commands ("alpha, cover me," or "everybody, dance!")... but I think that UT and squad-based shooters would be the exception, not the rule.

Glad I went

Episode III was very good. Everyone should go see it. My Jedi mind tricks worked on the stormtrooper taking tickets; he didn't even notice that I gave him two tickets for different theatres.

The lightsaber battles were fun, and General Grievous was quite entertaining. Yoda, just like in the previous two movies, stole the show whenever he was on. A couple of the arenas where the lightsaber duels took place were pretty ridiculous and contrived, and the romance scenes are just as bad as you remember them from Episode II, but overall, it was very worthwhile... even though I was soaked through the entire movie from when it was pouring outside while we were waiting in line.

I have mixed feelings about the ending. I'm not going to talk about it because I don't want to spoil anything, but after you see it, think about Return of the King's ending. This is kind of like how I wished Return of the King would have ended... but yet, in this movie, it seemed... incorrect. Maybe because this movie is more like the Two Towers of the Star Wars series than the Return of the King.

My proudest moment of the night was when someone behind us commented during the opening ads that there was a dead pixel on the screen. Then, he and I (I don't even know who he was) whispered roughly in unison, "I see dead pixel."

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Here we go

Well, here we go. Tonight's the night. As far as I know, this will be the first and only Star Wars movie that I will have seen in a theatre. A year ago, I would have laughed if you would have told me that I'd be seeing it on opening night.

24 hours left

In 24 hours I'll be watching Star Wars Episode III. I watched Episode II tonight, and, wow, I had forgotten about how bad the acting is, even from people who can otherwise act. Still fun, though, and the last few minutes (starting from the beginning of the arena scene) are so overwhelmingly entertaining that I find myself ignoring just how bad some of the rest is.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Trash tech

You know what I'd really like to see? Trash can liners with elastic at the top so they don't fall inside the can. That might be too expensive to be practical, but it would be awesome. Maybe someone could compromise by inventing a cheap plastic pulltie that can be tightened but not loosened.


Holy crap, Adobe Reader is now more than 20 MB, and that's without the Yahoo! toolbar and all of that stuff that they bundle with it. You know what you can get in about 20 MB? The .NET Framework. The Java runtime. Might and Magic IV and V, complete with 256-color VGA graphics, music, sounds, and voices. Windows 3.1. DOOM. A few hundred badly-Photoshopped pictures of Britney Spears.

Uh-huh, okay

You know what might just be the most annoying conversation pattern ever? People who interrupt you while you're speaking and then ask you the question you were already trying to answer. Things like this (a made-up example):

They: So, can you ride your Segway on the streets?
Me: In Washington you can, but it only goes—
They: Uh-huh, okay. How fast does it go?
Me: It only goes 12 miles an hour.
They: Uh-huh, okay.

Conversations with these people are so bewildering. At least they're always short.

The dashes are irrelevant

One thing that annoys me is when I see a credit card field in an online shop that says "please do not include spaces or dashes." In this world of >3 GHz dual-core processors, is it really that much strain on your web server to filter those characters out? Out of habit, I never enter my card number with punctuation, but it's a good example of a pretty stupid requirement to force onto a user.

White herons with long plumes

I saw someone with a sweatshirt that said:

Developer Division:
changing the world,
one developer at a time.

(Developer Division is the division of Microsoft that makes Visual Studio.) However, when I saw this shirt, the fabric was folded in such a way that the "C" was missing from "changing," presenting a less-than-flattering view of the product. I wasn't sure if he would find that funny or if I should keep it to myself, but like I've always said, "live your life without egrets."

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Less sleepless

Over each of the last two nights, I've gotten a full eight hours of sleep, and I have to say, it feels pretty fantastic. At least my eyes don't hurt anymore, though I haven't gotten rid of the creepy dark bags under my eyes yet. Maybe I'll just try and keep this up for a while.


I got a noise complaint from my upstairs neighbors a few days ago, which resulted in me getting a letter from the main office saying roughly "you were noisy once; don't do that." Maybe in some cases, for some people, that's actionable, but I have no idea what they want me to change / not do / whatever. I really wish that they would have told me rather than just filing a generic complaint.

It's just a game

Sure, it's just a game. But behind those polygons (five years ago, I would have said "pixels") is still a person, and good qualities—honesty, compassion, intelligence, humor—and bad qualities—selfishness, anger, and being an annoying prick—still all shine through. Sure, some people have a very different online personality than their normal personality, but the way that someone acts in a game can still tell you things about who they really are.

Friday, May 13, 2005


Bathroom stall doors should have springs in them so that they would eventually return to a state where they are almost closed but not quite if left to their own devices. That way, it would be easy to tell which ones are unoccupied, but without the doors sticking out into the bathroom or leaving the toilet in plain view.

Marker nemesis

But, seriously, though. I've been writing for how long... two decades, maybe? And I still can't manage to use markers without coloring my hands. A dry erase marker is not chalk. The color only comes out one end. I should not be failing at this.


One of the nice things about back when I was rooming with Daniel was how we had an unwritten rule allowing each of us to bother the other one about whatever stories from the day, rants, or "neat things" that came to mind, and they would pretend to listen. It was great. I'd think of something really clever, and I'd go tell him, and he'd pretend to listen, and then I'd feel like I told someone about it. Or, he'd tell me some potentially interesting historical figure, and I'd pretend like I knew what he was talking about. Sure, it was kind of hollow, but sometimes I don't actually require anyone to really care about what I have to say; I just really want to say it. Sometimes it's just nice to get a load off your chest. Maybe that's one reason why I've kept writing this.


There's nothing cuter than hearing a husband and wife say "Mmmmmmkay?" in perfect Mr. Garrison unison in response to someone saying "that would be bad."

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Trick me once, shame on me

You know, I just abhor trick-taking games. Can't stand them. It's too bad, too, because I enjoy card games in general quite a lot. But there are so many more things you can do with cards besides take tricks, and I'm not just talking about Magic: The Gathering, which is still a great game, no matter how much I'd like to pretend it isn't sometimes.

6 Nimmt!
Atlantic Star
San Juan

All of those card games are excellent, and it's pretty rare that I'd turn down any of them. In fact, the only trick-taking game that I can think of that I really like is Dilbert: Corporate Shuffle / The Great Dalmuti / Asshole / Who's the Ass?, which are all mostly identical, a trick-taking game that doesn't have suits. Then, of course, there are lots of good card games that are really just board games with cards, like Magic, Netrunner, Dune, Razzia!, The Settlers of Catan Card Game, Illuminati, and I could go on forever.

In fact, I'm usually pretty good at trick-taking games that use a standard deck of playing cards, once I refamiliarize myself with the rules, even though I don't like them. Tonight's game, whatever it was called, was not one of those. We were playing to 100. After three rounds, someone's score was in the twenties. Mine was -100, and that was after taking first in the first round. So, at least someone got to a 100 when we quit.

Force persuade

I wonder how many people at the Episode III midnight showing are going to wave their hand in front of the person taking tickets and say, "you don't need to see my ticket." I've been told that the one in Seattle will probably get out of hand with super-nerdiness, but the one in Redmond will probably be fine.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Regularly scheduled fun

For the first time in as long as I can remember, I'm doing fun things regularly with other people. I've always played a lot of games, but (counting my internship) this is the only time when I've played games regularly. I play board games on Thursdays. I play World of Warcraft throughout the weekend and on Tuesdays. There's something pleasant and comforting about having scheduled fun. I like schedules. I like fun. Why shouldn't I like scheduled fun? It gives me something to look forward to and be happy about.

Sure, I've had scheduled activities in the past. I did karate for six years, and soccer for a summer. Those things aren't fun. I had church on Sundays and Wednesdays for a very long time, and Sunday School was oft-entertaining. But, the primary purpose of each of those things is not to have fun. (Sure, soccer is fun to some people, but I absolutely hated it, and as you may have guessed, I was pretty bad at it. Soccer was for my parents, which seemed to be the case with a lot of people on my team.)

But now I have regularly scheduled fun, with a mostly static set of (for the most part) extremely pleasant people. It's new and exhilarating. It almost makes me sorry that I'm so damned antisocial. But not quite. One of the nice things is that it's always the same people, so I don't have to meet too many new people. Meeting new people would take the fun out of it.

"Competition" has a naughty word inside it

I used to think of myself as competitive. I've always loved games; how can you like games and not be competitive? Several years ago I began to change my mind about this. I see a couple different aspects to competitiveness:
  • A desire to win, and becoming upset if you lose and it was because of a lack of effort or a preventable failure
  • Becoming upset if you lose, even if it wasn't your fault, and you really did try
  • The perception that people not on your team are enemies that you must defeat

I really only see myself as the first one. I don't really get upset if I lose, and I mean that in a more general sense that takes into account life in general, not just games. And, I don't see other people as enemies, even if they are my opponents. But, "competitive" as I see it really encompasses all three of the things I listed, at least to some degree. So, maybe I'm not competitive. Maybe what I am just needs a more specific word... say, "drive." I'm driven.

Normally I'd look these things up, but most of the definitions I could find online for "competitive" (and other forms of the word) were economic, which I think is strange.

I do like to win. I try to win. Games aren't fun if one side isn't trying to win, or doesn't have a chance to win. But, I don't care if I don't. That's probably good, since I rarely seem to win at anything. But losing doesn't upset me. Maybe I'm a good loser just because I have so much experience at it.

So, there, I guess I'm not competitive after all. I'm too laid back for that. Nobody wins at everything anyway; it almost seems unhealthy to expect to win or to get upset when you don't.

Turkey bologna: practically meat

INGREDIENTS: Turkey ingredients (mechanically separated turkey, turkey), water, modified corn starch*, contains less than 2% of corn syrup, sodium lactate, salt, dextrose, flavor, sodium phosphates, sodium diacetate, sodium erythorbate (made from sugar), sodium nitrite, extractives of paprika.
*Exceeds amount permitted in regular turkey bologna.

Now, a few things stand out about that. First, I rather enjoy "ingredients: turkey ingredients." Second, that's a lot of sodium things. But the best, though, is how it has more corn starch than permitted in "regular turkey bologna." What's regular turkey bologna? Why is this turkey bologna excused from the rules?

For those who have been paying attention, this is the same package of turkey bologna that I have already blogged about. Now that's something I thought I'd never say.


I still can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, but at least the power’s back on now.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Mr. Beckmann

My little story about computer science and school and all that jazz reminded me of a little anecdote. My sophomore year in high school, I had calculus I and II with Mr. Beckmann, a very strange old man. He would frequently leave the room in the middle of a sentence, and then leave for five minutes. When he would come back, he would resume right in the sentence where he left off. It was surreal. But that's not the story. The story was that everyone hated him... we just couldn't stand him. But there was one good thing: he was retiring that year. On the last day of classes before finals, he brought in a retirement cake. I think I was in his sixth period class, his last class for the day. Nobody had touched the cake. He kept offering cake to the students, but nobody would take any. I kinda feel bad for the guy; I mean, he had to have known that nobody liked him, but apparently people hated him so much that they thought he was going to poison them with his own retirement cake.

On an unrelated note, in that class I always sat with Julie Dunbar, the daughter of one Dr. Steve Dunbar, which may prompt a couple of you to comment about how this is such a small world after all.

[Note: Originally, I had thought that his name was Mr. Bateman, but Andy corrected me in the comments.]

Monday, May 9, 2005


My building has about eight stairs from the curb to the main door, and about seven steps of flat space before you reach the door. As I started climbing the steps, a woman was leaving, and she held the door for me for the last eight or so seconds that it took for me to reach the door. When I got there, she said, “I just did this to see if you’d run to the door or not.” I smiled and said thanks, and then we parted. I found that kind of interesting.

Les fabuleux destins

I just lent out my DVD of [Le Fabuleux Destin d'] Amélie [Poulain], the mere act of which has caused me to want to see it again. Often remembering a particularly excellent scene from a movie that I haven't seen for a while will make me want to see it again; this time, it was the line "Fifteen!" from the beginning of the movie ("how many couples..."). But, then I remembered that there are others less fortunate who may not have even seen it yet, and I decided that it was more important to educate these people than to hoard it all for myself.

Saturday, May 7, 2005

Dildos and gum

Yes, you read that correctly.

So, on the way to Hitchhiker's Guide tonight, I was concocting a particularly improbable scenario with the help of a friend, in which there is a dildo store that also has cheap gum. It would be run by a weird elderly couple, and it would be right next to the 7-11. People who were disgusted by the prices of gum at the 7-11 could go next door and buy it from the dildo store where it was less expensive. If someone saw you there and looked at you funny, you could just flash a pack and say, "I just went in for gum." Middle school boys would lock themselves in the bathroom and chew gum.

Well, we didn't flesh out the story any more than that. I guess you have to fill in the details yourself. Right now I'm imagining something that looks like a locally-owned hardware store or bait shop, with the old woman in front yelling back to her husband in the stockroom, "honey, we got any more-a those ten-inchers back there?"

Don't Panic

I saw Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy tonight. Quite good. I never read the book(s), so I had really no idea what to expect. I was shivering in terror by the time it started from the hideous previews of other PG-rated movies coming soon, and what seemed like a 10-minute montage of scenes from "Today" on NBC. But, it ended up being quite pleasant. The yarn scene... wow. Just wow.

Thursday, May 5, 2005


I wonder how many hardware engineers have used the phrase "Plug and Play" to describe something they did with their wife or girlfriend.

Trainee spam

You know what's more annoying than regular spam? Well, there's the spam that you get 800 copies of in a single day, all sent to the same address. That's pretty annoying... but it's only happened a few times to me. No, what's really more annoying than regular spam is trainee spam. This is presumably from some person who just bought their first home spamming kit, but they don't really understand anything about email or computers, so they end up sending one or more of the following:
  • Spam with no message body
  • Spam containing replaceable tokens, such as $TO or %%USER_EMAIL%%
  • Spam with a subject of "subject" and a body of "body"

I'm not sure if all of the spam I get that doesn't advertise any sort of product or service or website, and it just a bunch of nonsense words or sentences, is trainee spam. I'd guess that it's more likely to just be probing to see if my address is real. But the examples I listed above must be spam sent by people who are just learning how.

Athletic fashion

(I clarified this post after the original posting, which caused some confusion.)

Do athletic guys in middle school and high school still wear gym shorts between their boxers and their outer shorts or pants? What was the point of that, originally, before it just became cool? It seemed like everybody did that a decade ago. It doesn't make sense to me. I asked friends who did that why, and nobody had a reason; it was always something to the effect of "I don't know" or "I like it." But it isn't comfortable. Not at all.

Fashion, even middle-school fashion, is weird.

Toenail tragedy

Last Saturday, I stubbed my toe pretty hard on some cement steps at a friend's house. I guess I pulled the toenail up a bit, because was pretty bloody when I got home. Anyway, I thought I would clean out from under my toenail a little bit tonight before heading off to bed, to be hygienic and all, but as soon as I began, I started bleeding. What I don't get is how I went four days without bothering it, and then as soon as I went to carefully clean it up, it started bleeding all over. Especially with my superhuman clotting powers. Stupid toes.

Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Computer science at 14

(This is a long post, but it's a pretty good one.)

In 1996, when I was 14, I took a summer session of Computer Science 230, Computer Organization at UNL. Unless you count being bussed back and forth between my elementary school and Lincoln East High School to take a programming class from one Tim Janssen there, it was my first real computer science course. 230 is a sophomore-level course that serves as a computer science student's first real introduction to hardware, processors, memory, assembly language, and all of the other little nitty-gritty internals of the computer.

Each weekday, my mom drove me to campus, and then she would run off to do errands, come back a couple hours later, and sit outside of the classroom reading fiction until class was up. She looked young enough and I looked old enough that it didn't really look like she was my mom. The two sophomore guys I sat with in the back corner (I almost always sit in whichever back corner is closest to the door) didn't even realize that I was really young until they asked me about other summer classes I was taking and I told them that I hadn't even started high school. It's hard to describe my appearance, but I had long hair and big, thick glasses, so I probably just looked like your "typical" supernerdy freshman. Despite the five-year gap in our ages, we seemed to get along pretty well.

Anyway, the class kinda sucked. At that time, this class about processors and circuit design and assembly programming didn't involve computers in any way; it was pure lecture. Tests involved assembly programs that we would write and debug and correct on paper, with little outlines of boxes to represent registers. I liked the circuit design, having been introduced to logic diagrams and NAND gates when I was about seven or eight thanks to the game Robot Odyssey. I liked the assembly programming. I really hated a lot of the computer internals stuff, though. I also had my first real experience of just giving up on learning something that I didn't care about (virtual memory)... I guess college will do that to you. Later on, once I started my degree, 230 included a lab portion, so I had to take the lab by itself, and do the circuits and assembly stuff again, except this time on computers.

The professor just sucked. We couldn't understand him, and it was usually just an incompetent review of what was in the book. Those two guys and I would constantly ask each other what he was saying for the first week or two, until we gave up on listening to him and just copied down what he wrote in tiny letters on the chalkboard. I think they gave up entirely on taking notes after a couple more weeks. He was my first introduction to the "incomprehensible foreign computer science professor who never showers" stereotype. The fact that he wore the same white shirt and chalk-soaked black jeans each and every day was just icing on the cake.

In the end, I got a B+ in the class. I think that I was pretty upset when I found out that I didn't get an A, so my dad went in with me to the professor's office hours, where he showed me my final, and I saw that I totally failed about two out of the seven sections of the test, which were on... virtual memory.

So, that's what happened for half of that summer. It was the summer before high school, so I guess at that time I was hanging out with my friends Günter and Jim, who I very rarely ever saw again after starting high school, though my very anti-Christian friend Günter called me a few years later to tell me that he had become a Christian and was starting a band. He invited me to his first concert, which I absolutely couldn't go to for some reason I can't remember, and we never spoke again.

Windows 95 was pretty big back then. Our computer at home was a 486DX-50 at the time, and wasn't really good enough to run Windows 95, but I remember seeing screenshots of it in magazines and really wishing I had a taskbar in Windows 3.1, so I actually made my own using the Windows APIs, Start button and everything. Besides my Poor Man's Taskbar, one of the early programs I wrote under the name Green Eclipse (which I coined on May 10, 1994), I also must have been working on an iteration of my game Stocks & Shares and my Windows help file editor.

Several months later, I remember seeing an episode of the show Computer Chronicles in which someone from Blizzard was showing Diablo, a demo for which had recently been released. I remember that I insisted that my dad take me to his lab so that we could install it on the computers there. We started it downloading, and then I think we went to Dairy Queen while it finished. When we got back, I started playing, and he started taking care of his bugs. When he came over to see it, he was just blown away, and we installed it on the other computer in the lab, too. When I first heard "Mmmmm, fresh meat!" upon meeting the Butcher on level 2, I think I was about as scared as I had ever been while playing a game. We played it for several hours over the network, and my dad was so impressed that he decided to get a new computer so that he could play it at home, which was an even more insanely impulsive decision when you take into account the fact that my family was not well off at all, and we couldn't afford the thing. But, a few days later, we had brought home a new Pentium-120 with Windows 95 and a copy of Diablo. In the epilogue of this touching story, other people in my dad's office stumbled across the Diablo shortcut, and it spread like wildfire; a couple weekends later, I was playing a co-op game with my dad's boss and two of his coworkers over the campus network.

Unintentional memory

I think I just remembered my Lincoln Public Schools student ID number. I think it was 101136. Now, if only I could remember things I want to remember, like peoples' names.

Like dogs

We had a developers' dinner at work tonight; ribs and roast chicken and cole slaw and that kind of stuff. Not really my cup of tea, but it smelled good. Before we even left the conference room some of the testers started popping their heads in the door to try to steal food. (To be fair, I'm sure the devs did the same a couple weeks ago when the testers had dinner.) The best story we could come up with is that the food was poisoned, but that we were injected with the antidote before we started eating. That story didn't fend anyone off for very long, I'm afraid.

Services for fools

Someone should start up a service where you can custom-assemble your own virtual bouquet online (or pick from a set of professionally-designed JPEGs, for the busy man), and then send it to your mom on Mother's Day for far less than real flowers... say, five bucks. People are stupid enough to pay for that. Maybe I should do that sometime in the next three hundred days. I could call it Url May. Get it?

A nearly-shoe-free four months

I've only worn shoes a few times so far this year, having moved to almost exclusively sandals. I can't even remember why exactly I would have worn shoes since January 1 besides working out; maybe I haven't. The last time I remember wearing them for a significant length of time was at the Christmas party.

Tuesday, May 3, 2005

You bitch, I listen

(This post's title inspired by my admin's comment tonight, "I'm not complaining, just bitching.")

For those of you who didn't know, I do respond to nearly every comment that you post. So, if you ask a question as a comment, check back in the comments section 24 hours later. I don't IM people back or anything like that.

Worrisome freshness

I opened this package of turkey bologna about a month ago, and it doesn't appear to have spoiled or have even discolored. The expiration date is in June. It kinda seems that meat should go bad in less time than a few months.

Coming to terms with hatred

I have C++. I hate it more and more with each and every passing day. Each day that I spend writing C++ code I find more things about it that I hate. Each day that I spend writing code in just about anything except C++ I find more things that other languages do better. It's something that I've spent a while trying to understand: I know at least the basics of why I don't like it. What I don't know is why other people like it.

Some people like cold, terse, compact, mathematical code. These people should use C. Some people need high performance. These people should use C. Some people like object-oriented programming. These people should use C# or Java or VB.

After about a year of being around professional C++ developers, I still completely fail to understand what they like about the language. It doesn't let me easily do any of the things I want to do in programming. I want my code to look like thoughts, to look like some kind of shorthand for English sentences. I want my code to include things that explain what the program does, not how the computer stores the bits. Objects are the things that separate C++ from C, and yet they still seem like a hastily-designed (though admittedly technically sound) afterthought.

I saw *const*int (or something to that effect... a pointer to a const pointer or whatever) a few days ago. I think that's what pushed me over the edge; the point where I absolutely cannot grow to accept C++. (I don't know; maybe it's possible in C too.) The syntax is so bad that it doesn't even matter if it's a useful construct or not.

I'm still disappointed with the syntax of C# and VB and Java too. They're still full of baggage from years gone by. People seem content with letting the language stay the same, and only adding new nouns and verbs to it, but I don't see why. I want new syntactical constructs. It's not that there's nothing much left to add to languages... I invented three bits of syntax just this afternoon on my whiteboard. There are tons of weird, experimental languages, and I've never been really satisfied with any of them; while they often have some interesting ideas, they always seem to come at the expense of functionality. I want a language that is redesigned from the ground up to be readable and expressive and predictable and still performant, free of unnecessary legacy syntax, and yet still allow me to do all of the things I used to do.

I think that the .NET and Java environments are the perfect incubation chambers for an experimental language: so much of the things that you want a new language to do so it has all of the functionality of an old language are still there: memory management, program flow, and a massive class library to draw on. I've wanted to write my own language for five or ten years now, and my desire to do so has increased dramatically since starting to use C++ more often. It's just so broken and awful.

Monday, May 2, 2005

What's funny

It's funny watching people try to retrieve a phone from a knee pocket while they're walking. It always seems to be harder than you'd expect. Today I got to see how ridiculous I must look when I do it.

Sunday, May 1, 2005

Family Guy

Perhaps it may not be necessary to formally state it, but I'm quite excited about Family Guy's return tonight. There was a time that I was very upset that it was cancelled, and then I kind of forgot about it, and then it returned to Cartoon Network and DVD, and since then I have longed for more Family Guy, and my wish has finally been granted. All of you back in Nebraska are going to get to see it many hours before me, and that's disappointing. But it's here. Barring catastrophe, it's tonight. This is a very good thing.

Please please please please please don't suck.

Button rapist

My dryer is like some sort of button rapist. Over the past couple months three shirts have lost buttons to it, and they're all hanging from my lamp, waiting to be fixed. Eventually I'm going to want to wear one of those shirts again, or just won't be able to stand seeing them hang from my lamp, and I'll have to sew.

April has come and gone

I made it through my first April in the Seattle area, and to my surprise, it wasn't really that rainy at all. I think I had to use an umbrella like twice.