Saturday, December 30, 2006

Friday, December 29, 2006

Big mouth

Pop cans. Beer cans. 20 oz. bottles of Mountain Dew. 1-Liter bottles. Out of all of the beverages that come in easy-to-pour, large-mouth containers, it's kind of silly that the one container that's actually meant for pouring—the 2-Liter bottle—doesn't.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


My favorite quote of the week, courtesy my uncle, to his sister.

Uncle: Your hair looks so pretty and different. Did you wash it?

After most everyone had gone home, the same uncle and his wife were reminiscing about when they were dating.

Aunt: Oh, did you see my new diamond? [Uncle] got it for me.
Me: It’s very… big.
Aunt: It’s very fake.
Me: (sarcastic) I’d never have guessed.
Aunt: He was such a cheap bastard when we were dating too. Remember that time that you said we were going to have a romantic dinner and see a movie? Where did we end up going? We went to Wendy’s instead of McDonald’s… and then we went for a walk in the park, because that was free.
Uncle: Well, honey, you weren’t really worth it... and by that time I realized that the more I spent on women, the worse things ended up, so for you I just didn’t spend anything, and look how it worked out.
Aunt: I still can’t believe I married you.
Me: At least you knew he’d be good with money.
Uncle: Oh, I wish I’d have thought of that talking to her father twenty years ago.

And finally, my favorite non-one-liner quotation event of the vacation:

Me: ...oh, you know... who's that stupid guy on Comedy Central who everyone hates?
Entire room in unison: Carlos Mencia.


Over my vacation, my friends and I came to some conclusions that I will share.
  • Adding an “H” to words that do not require one, à la Family Guy, can be entertaining for hours on end. It’s just wheird.
  • Mario Lopez is gay.
  • MTV’s “Next” is an awful show with awful people, and is still pretty entertaining in a shameful sort of way.

Monday, December 25, 2006


As is the fashion, I’ve spent quite a lot of my time here reconnecting with old friends, including two important ones: Günter, my best friend from middle school, and Daniel, my best friend from high school and college roommate. (I need to stay in touch better.) I also ran into my now-retired high school chemistry teacher by accident. In a few hours I’ll be off to Christmas lunch to visit with the family. It’s been a pleasant trip, but as always, it will be a great feeling to make it back to my apartment, and just have a few days off to myself before heading back into work.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Office 2007 converter pack

The previous blog posts, composed in Word 2007 on my tablet and posted on my parents' computer with Office 2003, were brought to you by the Office 2007 compatibility pack. (Of course, in Word 2007 you can set your default document format to be the old Word 87-2003 style, but I only use the new formats.) Thoughtfully, the compatibility pack even includes all of the new Office document fonts, like Calibri and Constantia and Consolas (but not Segoe UI, which isn't intended for documents). I wasn't expecting that.

Friday, December 22, 2006

I like

I love Hamburger Helper. It’s the perfect embodiment of fake American food. I love fake American food. It comes in a box, with everything I need to make it except the beef and sometimes the milk. And it’s so delicious! The cheese powder tastes like no cheese that actually exists, and much to the chagrin of nearly every friend I’ve eaten with in the past decade, I just adore fake cheese. I love less-fake cheese too… gouda and colby-jack and those little Baby Bel discs with the cow head on them… but I’m completely fine with a nice overprocessed American cheese.

The best Hamburger Helper is their hashbrowns mix. The box comes with crispy hashbrowns laced with onion flakes, and a sauce powder. I don’t know what it is—the salt, preservatives, or delicious mystery chemicals—but when I make it I’m the happiest guy in the world.

I like taking my Segway to work. I’d rather be standing and going at twelve miles an hour than stopped in traffic in a car and then having to park. I don’t really like going fast anyway.

I love smells. I’ve read many times that the sense of smell is a “feminine” sense, but it’s not like I’m the manliest man in the world, so I suppose I can be comfortable with that. The smells that I like don’t mesh very well with what normal people like, especially what women seem to like, but that can be said about so many of my preferences. I can’t stand, for example, scented candles and the mall stores that sell them, and Bath and Body Works. The last time I was with a group of girls who wanted to shop around, I actually had to leave and stand outside because I was getting physically ill being in there. Not a huge fan of most flowers, either.

I do love the smells of bread and cookies. (Who doesn’t?) And, I like the smell of rain. A bit weirder, I like the smell of certain people. Not their perfume or cologne or deodorant or shampoo, but just the person’s smell. If it weren’t incredibly creepy, I would just go around smelling people. There are a lot of things I’d do if it weren’t incredibly creepy, I guess. (Never make the mistake of asking a coworker what cologne they wear; it’s very awkward to tell someone that they smell great only to find out that they don’t wear cologne at all.) Also—and this is going to gross some people out—I enjoy the smell of a popped zit. (See, I warned you.) What is that, white blood cells? I dunno. I like the smell of blood in small quantities, so perhaps that’s why. And gasoline! My mom always used to tell me not to breathe the fumes at the gas station because it would give me brain damage, but gasoline was my favorite smell in all the world. I used to roll down the windows and stick my head out to get a better whiff. I still find it wonderful.

(By the way, I shamelessly stole the idea of talking about smells from a good friend’s blog. I don’t think he reads this, so let’s keep it quiet.)

I like starting programs from the Run command on the Start menu. I still usually start Internet Explorer by pressing Win+R and then typing “iexplore” and pressing Enter.

I like unwrapping things and punching things out of cardboard. Getting a box in the mail is always so exciting, and if it’s a box that contains another box that contains a board game whose pieces need to be punched out of cardboard, I’m in Heaven for ten minutes.

I like the feeling of a fresh haircut, especially when I go home right afterward and shower.

I love fonts. Something about a great typeface is just so absurdly appealing and beautiful. My favorite typeface in all the world is Myriad. It’s Apple’s corporate branding font, and the font used by a kajillion other companies too.

I like big-ass keyboards with a split down the middle, like my Microsoft Natural MultiMedia Keyboard. It pains me to type on this laughable “full-size” tablet keyboard right now.

I like first-person shooter games, especially when I get a sniper rifle or something that shoots cool laser beams. I tried for a long time to convince myself that I didn’t and that I somehow had more sophisticated game tastes, even though I really liked those shareware versions of Wolfenstein and Doom, but when Half-Life came around I just couldn’t deny it anymore. Sneaking around and shooting people in the head is just so intensely satisfying. Kind of like how I was totally, 100% convinced that World of Warcraft would be terrible—something for those idiots who play loser games like EverQuest—and that I’d lose interest within that first trial month. By next month I’ll have put about five hundred bucks into the damned game, and I don’t regret it for a second. (I may be one of those loser-game idiots, but I’m proud to be one!)

I like cats. I’ll never get one of my own because I’m allergic and I don’t want to change the litter box and deal with them peeing everywhere, but I’ll always wish I had one.

That’s probably enough.


With my plane departure quite a bit delayed after all—the refueling truck had to have a path dug to our plane, and then the tires were stuck, and then we had to wait for another aircraft, then we had to deice…

Ahem. With my plane departure delayed, I’ve already finished the book that I brought to last me through both flights. (It was The Best Software Writing, collected by Joel Spolsky, and it was excellent and insightful. I recommend it.) A lot of the topics that the authors chose to write about were related to social software—blogs, newsgroups, Facebook, and the like—and how to engineer and manage them. This got me thinking of those little internet surveys that get passed around on blogs and chain letters. You know, the “when did you first kiss a girl, what’s your favorite drink, what’s your favorite TV show” kind of junk. I hate those things. I’ve seen the term “meme” used for these things, as well as any old internet fad; both seem like curious though semiunderstandable terms, since “même” is the French word for “same.”

I hate those things because (1) they create a sense of obligation to reply in kind, and (2) usually they’re things that tell you very little about a person, because it’s a template. As far as #1 goes, well, I’m already quite adept at ignoring irritating things that I get from people—seriously; after 9/11, I never want to see another flag animated GIF in an email ever again. (Actually, before 9/11 I still never wanted to see another one again.) And, wouldn’t it be better just for a person to tell you random things about themselves that they chose? Even if the answers were boring, the topics that the author chose tell you something about them.

So, I’ll do just that. But, I’m going to do it in a separate post, because most everyone has probably already stopped reading this by now. You know, because of the rambling wall of text.

The refugee camp

The terminal here in the Denver airport is pretty nuts right now. There are extra chairs everywhere, and it’s by far the most crowded that I’ve ever seen it. It could just be standard fare for Christmas, having never flown at this time, but given the conditions here at the airport and the days and days of delayed flights, I don’t think that’s it.

Not everyone is in the best of moods. One guy here just threw the baggage size check cage thingy and his little girl’s suitcase into the moving walkway, and at my gate there’s a man screaming at the very patient airline employee. A woman near me, also from Seattle, has been stuck here for three days and is finally headed home to Lincoln. I’m one of the very fortunate; my flight is supposed to leave right on time.

The Medic

On the flight from Seattle to Denver, I sat next to an army medic in training. He looked really young—I’d guess about 19. He’s been in training for twelve weeks, and now he’s returning home for Christmas. In two weeks, he’s going to return for the last bit of basic training, and then he’s being shipped off to what he described briefly as the primary base of US operations in Germany. From there, he’s “probably” getting deployed to Iraq, but he’s still hoping for Korea instead. He’s excited about his first duty as a field medic, and understandably anxious.

I just sat there and listened… glad that there hasn’t been a draft.

Off I go

I'm off to the airport. Here's hoping that I get to actually fly through Denver like United thinks I will.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


The short version:

Varèse Sarabande: A 25th Anniversary Celebration: 5/10
Jerry Goldsmith—Star Trek: The Final Frontier: 6/10
Hilary Hahn and Natalie Zhu—Mozart Violin Sonatas: 6/10

I've been listening to a lot of instrumental music recently. The largest bunch of it has been A 25th Anniversary Celebration, a four-disc collection of movie music. The set includes a variety of tracks, not just theme songs. Unfortunately, I'm not that thrilled with it. I like movie music, but for intrumental music to be interesting to me, it needs to tell a coherent musical story, and this is just a collection of random tracks that are generally fine on their own, but don't work as an album.

There's still good stuff in here, and at four discs it comes at a killer price. But, I still don't know if it's worth buying. Tracks worth checking out if you have the chance:

Bob Cobert—The Winds of War, theme
Danny Elfman—Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Breakfast Machine
John Williams—The Empire Strikes Back, The Imperial March
Basil Poledouris—Starship Troopers, Klendathu Drop
Don Davis—The Matrix, Main Title / Trinity Infinity
John Powell—The Bourne Identity, Drum and Bass Remix
Randy Edelman—XXX, Prague Arrival

I also got, specifically, the soundtrack to Star Trek: The Final Frontier by Jerry Goldsmith. As I already knew, it's a pretty good sci-fi movie sountrack. Nothing exceptional. The best track is probably An Angry God. It ends with a bizarre 80s pop ballad, The Moon's a Window to Heaven, which must have played in the last half of the credits or something. That track is pretty hilariously bad.

Finally, I listened to a disc of Mozart sonatas performed by Hilary Hahn and Natalie Zhu. The performance is excellent... but I'm rarely in the mood for listening to just a violin and a piano, especially for an hour.

So, I wasn't too excited about those CDs. They were good, but still of somewhat limited appeal. I now have the lowest number of yet-unlistened CDs that I've had in about two and a half years: five. But, it's fine; I've been listening to a lot of the stuff from the past few years recently, and I'm more than entertained with that.


The Denver airport is currently closed due to blizzard conditions. My flight to Nebraska goes through Denver. This... will be fun.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Single draenei female

I've been in the closed beta test for World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade for several days now. I don't intend to overdo it, since I'll be playing the real thing in under a month. But, I'd enjoy the advance chance to check out some of the early content, and I've created a low-level character to check out Azuremyst Isle (currently pictured in my blog template) and the Exodar crash site. In a few hours of play, I've already filed like ten bugs. Hopefully it's not too late for them to get fixed for release. One of the nice things (well, for the players, perhaps not the overworked developers) about an online-only game is that it doesn't really matter what ships on the DVD; at any time you like, you can force all of the players to upgrade to the latest version. So, they don't even have to be done with the game when it ships. They could have shipped the boxes six months ago; the only real reason not to is because it would be disappointing to have the game in the summer of 2006 but not be able to visit any of the new lands until early 2007.

Share the power

I spent most of what a normal person would term "today" with Matt and Steven, as they were without power up until a few hours ago. (In reality, I've been up for 21 hours now, and I'm getting reeeeally tired.) Part of our travels involved Fry's Electronics, where I bought a nice new monitor. It's widescreen, so DVDs look excellent on it. In retrospect, I should have bought a widescreen monitor long ago, since I use my monitor as my TV too. World of Warcraft looks kickass, though it just seems like "too much space" for everyday computing. I'm sure I'll get used to it. Thanks to Christmas deals, the price was actually quite reasonable (under $400 for a 22" widescreen LCD), and getting a power adapter for my old monitor would have been $100. I guess I'll get it one at some point, though I don't really have a use for it right now.


Storm - crash

Storm - leaning

Storm - Microsoft

African-American Friday

Twenty-four hours ago, I, like everyone else in the area, lost power, in what was the worst storm in more than a decade, leaving four people dead and one million people without power. It's estimated to be two to three more days until power is restored in many areas. One of the nice things about living near Microsoft, I guess, is that the state of your electricity gets a high priority.

Yesterday, I awoke to a very cold apartment, around fifty degrees, and still no power from the night before. So, I headed in to work, where at least there would be emergency heat and lighting. We actually had quite the little party going in our building's atrium; maybe three dozen people at one point, plus whoever else was in other areas of the building. I broke out the emergency stash of games (Cathedral, Lost Cities) and we and our lukewarm beverages were entertained for a few hours. A little after 2:00, three of us got into a car, ignored the reports of "parking lot" traffic (which we were largely able to avoid), and headed to Bellevue, based on rumors that part of Bellevue had electricity.

On the way, after a couple dozen intersections with no lights, the driver nominated that today be the new Black Friday of 2006, but perhaps with a more politically-correct name to distinguish it from the day after Thanksgiving: African-American Friday. I thought that had a better ring than "Four dead, one million without power." (That's just like a white guy, too—always blaming problems on the blacks!)

So, we got to Bellevue, and it seemed that only two blocks in the city had electricity: the ones next to Puget Sound Energy. This included two Starbucks across the street from each other, and possibly one more a little down the street. We found one extremely busy Thai restaurant, and basked in the heat and light for close to two hours before heading back to a darker, chillier Microsoft. At that point I headed home, deciding to get ready for today's full day at Microsoft, and then running out the battery on my tablet watching Family Guy. I headed to sleep at about 6:00.

And then, at midnight, twenty-three hours later, the power came back on. I couldn't get to sleep, now that there was light coming in from outside, the heater was going full-blast, and I had just slept six hours, so here I am.

Personally, I survived the storm pretty well. I'll need to throw out a few things in the fridge, and it seems that the power adapter for my monitor is fried. This is strange, because it was plugged into a UPS, and thinking that the one at 1:00 was just another one of the short-lived power outages I'd been having all night, I kept playing for a minute or so into the outage. I don't know how it managed to die, but I've had the thing for half a decade, and I guess it's had a good run. Hopefully it's just the adapter (it doesn't light up when I plug it in anymore), and the one that my monitor uses at work is compatible.

A less rational part of me hopes that my current monitor is busted so I'll have to buy a nice 24-inch one to replace it. Isn't that stupid how we think like that sometimes?

Some people didn't survive the storm so well. I counted twelve large trees that were uprooted just in the mile between my place and work. One of them tore up a bunch of sidewalk tiles, and crashed through the wall of an apartment on the way. I hope those people are okay. There's debris everywhere... after sunrise when I head into work in search of a monitor power adapter, I'm going to try to snap some shots.

And that's how I survived African-American Friday.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


I don't get it. There are a bunch of people in my building who now wear scarves indoors, often each and every day. Old and young, male and female.

Seems like it would be extraordinarily uncomfortable.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006



Thursday night after the Christmas party, I arrived in my office to find a tray of 72 cookies, six each of twelve types. Such a beautiful bounty of baked goods I'd never seen before. I won them from a woman in HR in a charity auction a few months ago, and had nearly forgotten that they would be arriving some random day in December. In addition to the lovely tray of 72 cookies, another 72 awaited me in a separate package on my desk.

Now, normally, a cookie is not something that is terribly difficult to get rid of. 144 cookies, however, is a force to be reckoned with. It took the help of my coworkers on two separate workdays and two game groups to dispatch them, and there are still a dozen or two left.

The peanut butter cup cookies in the upper-right were the best. Those went quickly. The cherry ones on the left were the only bad ones of the bunch; there are still several of those remaining...


Well, the ol' blog's been pretty empty lately, and I guess it's mostly because everything's fine. Nothing of note is really going on at the moment. I'm prototyping stuff for the next version of SharePoint Designer, which largely means not fixing other peoples' bugs, which means that I don't have much of anything to bitch about. Observant readers may notice that mostly all I do on this thing is bitch in one form or another, so when there's nothing to complain about, I guess I'm not a gleaming fount of topics.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


I finally got around to checking out Gears of War last night, and it's certainly a great-looking game. I'm sure that it will make its way to PC at some point, and though it's third-person, it might still be fun to play. The effects and realism and the level of detail are just jaw-dropping. But, one of the things that impressed me most is that there's no health bar. You don't walk around knowing you're at 78% life or oh crap 31% life. When you're in combat, and take damage, a red gear appears on the screen, and it gets brighter as you become more and more hurt. If you get hurt too much, then you die. If you don't, once combat ends, the gear will fade out after a few seconds, and your magic nano-implants or whatever will fix you up, and you're good as new again. That seems like an excellent way to keep people in the game and interested in the story; people like me see their health at 29% and reload, hoping that they can end the fight with a little more health this time, but as soon as that happens, immersion is lost.

I'm sure that some really hardcore people would be disgusted at making things so "easy," so maybe in the easy and normal difficulty modes you could regenerate fully between combats, and in the hard mode, you don't. Feel free to steal that idea for your own first-person shooter game in development.

Friday, December 8, 2006


In one dream I had last night, I was in a large building and had to use elevators frequently to get around. Over the course of the dream, the elevator I was in broke down three separate times. One time was particularly catastrophic; the side of the building broke completely off, and the elevator car fell out of the building. I remember it being quite painful but surprisingly non-fatal.

The Christmas party

Last night was the Christmas party for the Office server products, the division best fitting SharePoint Designer, and thus the party that I was invited to. It was a pretty amusing time. I think that the standout moment from the party was the conversation making a drastic turn to the topic of anal beads (!) about three seconds after our administrative assistant sat down to chat, unbeknownst to the person currently talking. I don't think I've seen an expression of purer horror on someone's face before.

Second place would be when The Guy Who Always Wears Kilts was dancing with his girlfriend, and twirling just a little too much. A significant portion of my evening was spent privately making fun of the people dancing with my little clique, but I happened to not be watching when half of the group got a flash of ass.

Monday, December 4, 2006

The big non-event

At 1:00 am they're starting the server maintenance for World of Warcraft 2.0. I am excited about this. I realize that none of you really get why I would be excited about this. I didn't get it when my friend Britton was so into EverQuest, either. But 2.0 will be cool. Lots of new little things to tide me over until World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade releases in a month and a half. Change keeps things interesting. Keeping things at least mildly interesting keeps me paying them $15 a month.

Gotta be kidding me

This is a word-for-word recap of an email conversation with "Rob," who announced a big team meeting on Wednesday in Woodinville, WA (quite a drive) at 8:30 AM.

Me: Hahahahahahahaha.

Rob: Meaning, presumably that a) you go nowhere by 8:30 and b) you don’t know where Woodinville is and couldn’t get there if you did? I can fix BOTH of those problems.

Me: The answer is (a). I’m somewhat disturbed by how you could or would fix (a).

Rob: Well, if you get there at 8:30, you’ll never have to find out.

Expression Web

Microsoft Expression Web is now shipping. Handy for all of you who make websites. :)

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Morning musings

I still remember the first two things in my mind this morning, and I thought I'd share:


2. If you swallowed a bee, could it make it to your stomach alive? What would happen if it stung you on the inside of your stomach?


My monitor of about five years has finally developed its first dead pixel. It's not completely dead; I think that just the blue component is dead, so you don't notice it on a dark background, and on a white background, it appears reddish. But, then again, any new monitor I get might come with several dead pixels, so I suppose I can still be happy with one.


Yesterday I spent an hour or two just organizing things and getting rid of simple things I'd been postponing—some on my computer, and some in my apartment. I emptied my inbox, sorted files, got rid of papers I didn't need, and so forth. It's always so unpleasant to start, but toward the end it's invigorating to see that much smaller list of things that one needs to do, even if it's more of an "implied to-do list" such as a stack of papers or mail that needs to be dealt with.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Arctic Stronghold

The soundtrack to the Unreal Tournament 2004 Onslaught map "Arctic Stronghold" is really great. You should go play that map now... at least for the first three minutes and twenty-three seconds.

Or you can do what I do, and just play SDG-ONS08.ogg in the UT2004\Music folder.

I should play a little UT sometime.

Counting at the guilty grill

I've been counting calories and fat for the past week, mainly to see exactly what I eat on a given day. So far, before yesterday, I've been clocking in between 1700-2050 each day, which is honestly less than I'd expected, especially since during high school I'd ingest more than half of that just in Mountain Dew a day. (Now, those numbers will go up a little once I'm back to eating lunch in the Microsoft cafeteria five times a week, I'm sure.) I'm not on a diet, but I figure it can't really hurt to gather data for a couple weeks, other than the annoying amount of time it takes to compile everything.

Anyway, last night I went to Chili's with some coworkers and former coworkers. Chili's has a section of their menu called the "guiltless grill," with reduced-fat and -calorie menu items. But, before dinner, I'd only had 450 calories and 7 grams of fat, which was at about 10:00, so I was very hungry, and I remarked that I'd stick with the "guilty grill," which nobody but me thought was funny.

I normally refrain from expletives, but I feel that this case is well worth a holy shit. My meal was 2550 calories and 158 grams of fat. That one meal was at least 25% more calories than I normally consume in an entire day, and well over double the fat.

But it gets worse. After Chili's someone suggested that we head over to Cold Stone. I always imagined that Cold Stone's ice cream must be the most calorie-packed substance to exist, but actually, a cup of their incredible vanilla bean ice cream is better for you than a serving of Chili's mashed potatoes.

I always knew that food from a restaurant was worse for you than stuff I'd prepare at home, but this is the first time I've really looked at the numbers. (I guess I've kind of ruined eating out for the rest of my life now; oh well.) What I don't understand is, if the food is really that bad for you, how these people aren't hulking meatbeasts, since the average number of nights that any of the other people in the group eats out is about 4.5, and some of them work out even less than I do. But, everyone else in the group is inexplicably thin, except for the muscular ex coworker who modeled for Abercrombie not long ago.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Two hundred dollars

Well, I seem to have popped my second Segway tire, which will bring the total maintenance costs over the past to years up to $200, which in my opinion is still pretty decent. It's just a pain, especially since the company seems to no longer sell parts directly, instead only selling through dealers. Maybe I should take this opportunity to take it into a dealer to get that safety software upgrade that they sent me emails and a letter about. Problem is, the nearest one is in Seattle, which is a 20-minute drive away, or more for a person who doesn't have a car. I can't really take it on a bus. This is where the cheapass transportation model breaks down.


What do people here have against headlights? It's dark outside, and the fog is thick. Why don't you have your headlights on?

This is not a one-time thing. People go around without headlights at ridiculous times frequently here. It boggles my mind.