Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Life takes Microsoft badges

You know what I hate? People paying cash for lunch. Basically everyone at lunch swipes their card. It takes like two seconds to pay. A few people to decide to pay with cash. They dig for it in their purses, wallets, and pockets, pulling out individual bills and dimes, and they take as long to pay as about a dozen reasonable people. It's far, far more work than just having a few bucks deducted from each paycheck to cover your lunch—money that can be withdrawn and refunded, in case you thought maybe it was somehow risky for them to do so.

It's pretty much exactly like that Visa commercial where the slow person in line holds up the entire cafeteria while he pays with cash. That commercial really hits home.

Under construction

Facebook applications are the Java applets of 2007.

Either you'll know exactly what I'm talking about when I say that, or you won't. If you don't, you likely don't care anyway.

They're little, obnoxious ways of expressing your individuality by doing things exactly like everyone else. Top Friends is the new Java Applet that Simulates Ripples of Water under a Reflected Image. The different enhanced-poke applications are the new Java Applet that Just Renders a Button with Text on a Gradient Background that Changes Color When You Hover. Sure, some of them are a little Web 2.0ish, but most are pretty worthless and just clutter things up.

How long until hit counters and web rings?

I should make an application called Web 1.0 Nostalgia that lets you include gradient button and water ripple Java applets, and maybe that animated GIF of the "under construction" guy hammering at the ground with his shovel.

Constantly obsessing over holes

As someone who obsesses about dumb things, I find it difficult to wear the shirt that I wore today. The buttonholes are a little too large for the buttons, so they don't stay attached. But, I don't like wearing it with the buttons all undone, because it shows about an inch too much man-cleavage for my tastes. So, I keep reattaching the buttons, and then they keep popping open. It drives me batty.

Well, cleavage isn't the right word. I am just generally not a fan of guys exposing chest hair more than necessary due to unbuttoned polo shirts. I don't like it when it's inflicted upon me; I try to be courteous enough to not do it myself.

Currently listening: The Mars Volta—Vermicide

Monday, July 30, 2007

Fear of Pop

The short version:
Ben Folds—Fear of Pop Volume I: 5/10
Paul Schwartz—State of Grace III: 5/10
Les Musiciens du Louvre—Opera Proibita: Meh

The latest two albums I've been checking out are side projects by their artists that were released under pseudonyms of sorts. The first is Ben Folds' short-lived band Fear of Pop, with Fear of Pop Volume I. The disc sounds like a series of ridiculous B-sides that don't fit with Ben Folds' previous CDs, which is to say that it's not that great. It contains one excellent track that I'd heard before: In Love, featuring William Shatner. There's another song on the CD that I find pretty funny: I Paid My Money (:30 sample), about a guy who paid for an awful movie, and no matter how bad, he's going to sit through the whole thing to get his money's worth. Then, besides a few instrumental tracks like Avery M. Powers Memorial Beltway, there's not much on here that's very memorable. I don't recommend the CD, even if you're a Ben Folds fan, unless you're a big Ben Folds fan and must have a complete collection.

Next was the latest from Paul Schwartz' side project State of Grace, a choir for which he arranges modernized songs based on religious texts, the aptly-titled State of Grace III. This one has a couple sickening ultra-light pop tracks like Center of My Heart featuring Lisbeth Scott that make me throw up a little in my mouth. The highlights here are Listen featuring Lisbeth Scott, and Agnus Dei with the whole choir, but even those aren't that spectacular. Overall, the album is okay, but the first two in the series were considerably better and less sappy. Like Fear of Pop, there's no real reason to recommend this disc, especially since there are two already-released discs with almost identical names that are better.

I also listened to Opera Proibita by Les Musiciens du Louvre, but I'm just not in much of an opera mood. This one seems okay. It's not really interesting enough to make me want to listen to it while not doing other things, but the vocals make it distracting enough that it doesn't really work as background music. So... meh.

Next up I've got Amputecture by The Mars Volta, and the Generations soundtrack by Dennis McCarthy, both of which I've at least previewed. I've finally nearly run out my backlog of music.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Simpsons

Just got back from the Simpsons movie. It's excellent. Solid laughs all the way through, even with so many great moments in the previews—there were more where those came from.

I won't spoil anything for you, but it's worth noting that the movie contains: (1) the death of a popular character, (2) one curse word, and (3) vile pornography.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Limited interest

A service that I think would be interesting, and probably not terribly profitable, would be made-to-order clothing. If, say, you want a polo shirt, you might have a choice of two different cuts, a few different basic styles per cut, and a few color combinations per style. The idea here is that you'd have hundreds of possible color combinations, as the buyer could choose all of the colors involved, and you could apply your colors to any of the styles available. You'd never have to worry about seeing someone else wearing an identical item of clothing again.

There are tons of problems with this approach. One is that this would almost certainly happen over the internet, and I'd imagine that the average sort of person who buys clothes off of the internet doesn't care enough about how the item looks to pay for a premium service like this, and to generalize even further, maybe they don't even have a good eye for color. (All speculation.) The process would likely be expensive, and the items wouldn't be returnable, so you'd have to make sure that things were sized properly beforehand. How do you do this? I know the sizing of a few brands, which allows me to buy their clothes online instead of in stores, but in this situation, you'd have to know that a custom XXLT was exactly like a regular Gap XXLT. Now you've got brand names in the mix, pushing prices up higher. On top of that, I'm pretty sure this just isn't the way that textiles are made. There's probably no process anywhere to produce shirts in custom color combinations like this.

I'm sure some clever clothing manufacturing expert could think of ways to trim down costs, but these things would still be expensive. Still, I'd love the opportunity to someday go to a website, pick out a pattern and style, choose my favorite color combinations, and get a custom shirt a couple weeks later. I wonder how long it will be before this idea is feasible... because I just can't imagine it's even close right now.

A perception of improvement

Well, I think that my work to consolidate some of my URLs has been at least somewhat effective in improving my Google page rankings. A search for free crossword puts me at #10, and free crossword maker puts me at #6. I can live with that for now. I was #11 for free crossword just a month ago, so now I've climbed back to the far superior first page from the depressing page 2.

Of course, since I don't have an actual known baseline to compare against, I don't know if I've actually improved since before all of my changes, and I don't think I care enough to keep track of it all right now, given the many phrases people use to find my software, but it seems to have maybe helped, and at least not hurt.

Through my server logs I can see that a huge portion of my visitors are finding out about EclipseCrossword through word of mouth. In 2005, I remarked that more people were finding out about my site through TheKnot, a wedding site, than Google. Now in 2007, this seems to be more true than ever. TheKnot brings 3.5% of my traffic (they're easily my #1 referrer now), and Google only brings .5%. Those numbers are very different from 2005's, as there is now a much wider variety of sites that link to me.

I'm also getting lots of non-English visitors now too. Italy, Brazil, and Korea are some of the top non-English-speaking countries that send traffic to my site. Korea is particularly depressing because my software is pretty terrible with Asian text in general. In high school and college I never anticipated a wide international audience, so it was all designed for English only.


I'm really looking forward to the Simpsons movie on Friday... but with some reservations. I'm certain that it will be entertaining. What I'm wondering is if it will be better than the Family Guy movie. The Family Guy movie was really just three episodes stuck together and the word "fuck" a few times. I still have high expectations; I'm just not so sure they'll be met.

I can't think of a better way to word that right now. It won't matter in a couple days anyway.

Harder, better, faster, stronger

A very interesting take on the Daft Punk song Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger:

Kanye West f. Daft Punk—Stronger

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


One of my most common reoccurring dreams is one in which I'm caught by someone using counterfeit money. Sometimes I get in serious trouble for it, and sometimes the other person laughs and demands real money. Never is it intentional; I'm always respending money I got from another source.

I had another one this morning. I was on a road trip with an unlikely group of people, and having heard of my epic tales of riches won at Muckleshoot Casino, the driver decided we should stop at a roadside casino for a while. I decided to go cash in for chips a little bit while I was waiting, and among the bills I turned in were a ten-dollar bill that was severely offset in its printing (so it was more like a "llten dollar bi" than a "ten dollar bill"), and a thirty-eight dollar bill. The man selling me chips thought it was a funny joke (which seems like an unlikely reaction from a casino cashier) and patiently waited while I provided real cash. I was just annoyed that someone gave me $48 in fake money at some point and I had accepted it.

There's never any constancy in the setting, but there are a few constants in the climax of the dream. I'm always very embarrassed to have given someone such obviously fake money; it's never some clever counterfeit, but rather Monopoly-like obvious fakes. One of the bills is always an absurd amount that clearly isn't a real denomination, like $38 in this case—I recall trying to get change for something like a $1,647 bill once. And, the dream always starts after I've already received the fake money, and sometimes I know where it came from, and sometimes I don't.

Monday, July 23, 2007

I chose... poorly

Bad idea #1: Trying to wipe the fog off of the bathroom mirror with toilet paper. The result, for the curious, is a still-mostly-cloudly mirror covered in a layer of toilet paper fibers.

Bad idea #2: Failing to move your toothbrush out of the way before spraying the mirror with generic store-brand Windex.

Air conditioned

Well, the past few days have been nice and cool outside, but before that, it was pretty warm around here. I've found that a few air circulators (in the real world, we call these fans) make a dramatic difference in cooling efficiency. My house is great at cooling the downstairs, but there's not much airflow to the upstairs, so it was still staying fairly toasty even with the A/C on. It was better than before the heat pump, but not necessarily good enough to justify the many thousands of dollars I spent to cool it. Now I have a fan bringing cold air from downstairs to the second floor, and all is well. The only drawback is that now I have a fan in my stairwell. I imagine that this will only be necessary for the hottest couple of months each year, but it's hard to tell at this point. I'll need to come up with some creative solution for next summer.

Next time I buy a place, in the distant future, I will make sure that the house was designed for air conditioning. It's still hard for me to grasp that air conditioning is not common here, so ventilation systems are designed lazily and do not support it well.

I've become a statistic

A few weeks ago I noticed that I hadn't put any new photos up on my corkboard at work in a while, so I resolved to get some new prints made. Not long after, I got a notice from Snapfish saying that they were going to delete my old pictures since I hadn't ordered in a year. I don't care; they're stored on my PC anyway. But, I placed the order yesterday, about two days before the deletion deadline. By doing so, I prevented account deactivation, and they sent me an email thanking me for preventing them from deleting my account.

This annoys me. Not a lot; just a little bit. I'm ever-so-slightly annoyed that now I count as a statistic of one person who was persuaded by their "hey, make another order or we delete your pictures" email into buying prints. I wasn't. I swear!

Note: I think I may have blogged about this sort of thing before. Oh well.

Look closely and you will find a lesson

Posts like the last one are directly related to the title of this blog: Sleepless in the Seattle Metro Area.

Like, gag me with a spoon

Oh man. If Facebook were ever cool, I don't think it is anymore. All of these people are on Facebook:

  • My manager's manager
  • My manager's manager's manager
  • My manager's manager's manager's manager (Kurt DelBene, VP) *
  • My manager's manager's manager's manager's manager's manager (Steve Ballmer, CEO) *
  • My manager's manager's manager's manager's manager's manager's manager (Bill Gates, Chairman)

All of those people, at the very least, have confirmed Microsoft email addresses. Bill's email address is actually confirmed, so it's him or an assistant. For Kurt and Steve, no email address is listed, so it could have been anyone at Microsoft. The only people in my entire management chain who aren't on Facebook are my direct manager and Jeff Raikes (between Kurt and Steve).

I kiiiiiiinda want to send Bill Gates ['s assistant] a friend request. But he's not even the richest man in the world anymore. Lame.

Update: I forgot Jeff Raikes.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Better than expected

Well, now I'm confused. I've had my Zune constantly running for almost seven hours now, and its battery meter is showing it's only half done. I know I haven't gotten seven hours before. I've even been moving over and turning on the display whenever I remembered to, to simulate being picky about tracks or volume.

My best guess now is that the battery life is being hurt by the device being in my pocket on the trek to work, and jostled around a lot in the process. So, once I get the Segway back up and running, maybe everything will be okay. I guess that's nice.

Update: It's been going for ten hours now, and the charge is mostly out. I haven't had headphones plugged in; perhaps that would have been a better test. I guess they probably draw a slight amount of power. Or not... I don't know how speakers work.

Currently listening: Madonna—American Life

More puns

I've known for a while that were I ever to open a bakery, I would call it The Yeast Affection. Now, if I ever decide to open a fragrance store, I know what I'll call it too:

Attack of the Colognes.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Zune boons

Well, I've had my Zune for a couple weeks now (something like that). First impressions:


  • The "black" one is a nice charcoal color with blue accents. I like it a little better than the black iPods.
  • The screen is great.
  • The UI is overall good; it's very similar to my old Portable Media Center, and I like it a little better than the iPod UI.
  • The Zune software is pretty good.
  • The charging cable and the PC sync cable is... the same cable! If you want to use the AC adapter, you plug the sync cable into the adapter's USB port.
  • I got it at a discount.
  • The wireless sharing is kind of neat.
  • I love the fact that I can customize the device's wallpaper.


  • It's nearly impossible to operate the device when it's in your pocket. I could control everything about my previous player when it was in my pocket, but the Zune has a near-smooth surface with iPod-like buttons you can't easily operate when not looking at the device, and certainly not through the fabric of your pants. This is the worst downside in my opinion.
  • The battery life is abysmal—just a few hours per charge, even with wireless sharing off. My old player had bad battery life too, but this one was advertised at 9. I'm going to do a test this weekend, and if it's half as bad as it appears to be, I'll go bonk some heads.
  • The Zune software is pretty much exactly the same as Windows Media Player, but it's not. They're separate apps with almost identical features, but separate libraries.
  • Capacity is low—only 30GB.

Overall, I can't say I really recommend for or against the device versus the iPod, though that is, in a way, praise. I think it's a fine iPod alternative, but the iPod has all the accessories in the world, and if you aren't getting a company discount on the Zune, it seems there's little reason to go for one. The Zune software is nicer than iTunes, and the wireless sharing feature is cool, but realistically, you're not going to be sharing too many songs with all of those other Zune owners you're constantly running into. If it were priced just a little bit lower, I'd have gone for the 80GB iPod instead, and been able to carry all of my music with me... but 30GB at least allows a pretty sizeable subset.


I make a mental note whenever I notice someone leave a restroom without washing their hands. I've only observed a few people here do so... probably less than half a dozen in three years. So far, universally, they've been exactly the sort of people you'd look at and think, "that guy probably doesn't wash his hands when he goes to the bathroom." You know the people I'm talking about.

The Far Side by Gary Larson

Roll for infinity damage

I had a terrifying thought in the shower today: someone, somewhere, has probably made their own Chuck Norris RPG. It's probably complete with THACN (To Hit A Chuck Norris) calculations and everything. A search for "chuck norris rpg" came up with nothing to suggest that such a thing actually exists, but the very idea still haunts me.

It also came up with a weird and slightly amusing YouTube video featuring Chuck Norris in Oblivion.

Things are looking up

Segway's still out of commission due to broken handlebars, but things are looking up...

Weather report for this week

Cloudy? Highs in the 70s? Yes please.

Currently listening: Thievery Corporation and Sarah McLachlan—Dirty Little Secret

Inconvenient wounds

There are some places that, when wounded, take an absurdly long time to heal. One of these places is the soft spot on the palm side of your innermost knuckles—you know, the ones you use to determine how many days there are in the month.

Picture of a hand

I've had a cut there for like two weeks now, and it doesn't heal because I'm constantly stretching out my hand and reopening it. Having cracks in your feet is equally as irritating, though I haven't had that problem in the past few months thanks to heel balm.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


So, we all knew about the Futurama movie coming out this year, Bender's Big Score (yay!), and a Star Trek movie coming out next year also (yay!), but as it turns out, there's an X-Files movie coming out next year too (yay!). Which nerdy TV show or movie is next to be resurrected?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

When I grow up

My apologies if I've written on this before. It's getting harder and harder to remember the approximately 1,750 things I've written on so far.

When I was young, I wanted to be a lot of things when I grew up.

I wanted to be a writer. I used to love writing fanciful, imaginative stories. Many of them made fairly little sense, having been based at least loosely on some insane dream I'd had. But I loved writing them. I loved playing around with the English language, and I loved telling the story. I even wrote and directed plays that were performed for the other students at my elementary school on at least one or two occasions. This was one of my first choices of potential professions, and it didn't really make its way past elementary school if I recall. This blog is about as close as I get nowadays. Writing here, and business communications, and documents, and writing for my other websites seems to satiate my desire to play around with words. I've come to enjoy the informal writing style of nonfiction articles and humor books, and for the most part lost interest in the style of most fiction. That, and I truly believe that in most cases film is a far superior method of storytelling than the mere written word—an unpopular opinion.

I wanted to be an artist. I'd draw and doodle and paint and everything else. I think I realized in late elementary school or middle school, though, that I didn't want that to be my source of income. Nowadays, I don't draw or doodle too much. I've grown to vastly prefer graphic design in general, as well as photography. I didn't ever really think of graphic design as an interest until the end of high school and the beginning of college, but the hints were there—I'd enjoyed design for quite some time. I drew maps and diagrams in my childhood, carefully choosing colors and layouts, and imitated designs of things I enjoyed. I made letterheads and cover sheets for my assignments, and in high school I started playing around with web design, which is a pretty fertile playground for anyone with an interest in general design.

I wanted to be a doctor, so I could help people. I also wanted to make games, because games are fun. Like any kid, I had a lot of short-lived desires to become an X when I grew up, but most of them weren't grounded in any real interests or understanding or talents, so I gave up on them.

I wanted to be an "electronics expert." I didn't really know what that meant, but I knew I wanted to do something with electronic machines—I've always loves machines and gadgets. Even as a child I always seemed to be the one who knew how things like the VCR worked, starting me on the long, dark path of which the technically-inclined are quite familiar: tech support. This eventually led me on the path to computers.

I believe I was still in kindergarten (no later than early first grade) when the family got our first computer, and it was then that I started programming. It was all silly stuff back then, of course; I had a fascination with cash registers at that time, so I made a lot of cash register programs. There would be codes for everything you could buy, and you'd type codes and quantities, and it would print out totals, taxes, and receipts. It was all very exciting for a nerdy five-year-old who was only allowed to "play computer" for one hour a day. (The one-hour-a-day restriction lasted throughout elementary school; around middle school I got to two hours, and by the time the middle of high school came around, my parents largely knew I was a good kid and eliminated most of the rules that applied to me.)

This interest was my first and only one that never faltered or changed—I've been developing software for twenty years now, at least in some fashion, and I've always loved it. In elementary school I saw programming as a very likely career choice... I had other artistic interests, and I knew I'd never be able to escape writing and art, but by the time I left elementary school I just knew I'd be doing something with computers. A few years later I grew to understand how computers allowed me to combine almost all of my interests into a single activity: art, writing, math, and that sense of engineering joy you get when you build things. I also started to understand that writing programs could be used to help people, just in a different way from how, say, a doctor helps people. All that was very appealing.

I knew exactly the major I wanted long before I started college, and nothing else was going to get in my way. I was not one of those guys who changes his major twice a year trying to find something that he loves; I'd known for ages by that point.

And now here I am. I write software just about every day of my life, and I'm happy with it. I still get to write and make art when it suits me, and I still enjoy how software design has subtle artistic aspects built right in.

A couple months after getting that first family computer, I started programming because one of the school administrators knew I was a smart kid who liked math and building things, and happened to know that there was a book on the subject (sort of—it was really just listings of BASIC source code) in the school library. Every once in a while I wonder how things would have been different today if she hadn't tipped me off to that book when I was five.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Donations that are not tax-deductible

Today I showed my support for the Muckleshoot tribe by donating $240 to their cause.

It was my first time gambling at a casino or for actual money, so I purposely made some silly bets—there's something entertaining about throwing $40 on the table like it's play money. (Well, that seems like quite a bit of money to me, at least.) I'm totally unimpressed with video slots; there's something elegant and beautiful about the classic three-picture slot machines (which were nowhere to be found), but these slots had fifteen pictures and nine betting lines and I didn't even begin to understand why I was winning or losing money. So, that was money poorly spent, but only $20. The other $220 was lost playing Blackjack.

Anyway, it was a fun enough time. Now I can say I've done it once. Not exactly the most fun I've ever had for $240, but an amusing enough time-waster with my current houseguest, blog-reader, and college classmate. Luke did a better job, turning $20 into $82.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

I hate summer

Ugh. I just hate summer. I feel tired all the time, and I can't concentrate on anything. I mean, in school it was nice because there wasn't school, but as a time of year in general, it just sucks. I feel like I'm getting done in a week what would have taken a day during the spring or fall.

Indiana Jones

Over the past week I've watched all of the Indiana Jones movies, all for the first time. I wasn't terribly impressed after the first two, which I'd say are pretty average, but I thought that the third, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, was quite good. The action was well-done, and the story seemed much more complete. Raiders of the Lost Ark skipped around quite a bit, Temple of Doom was a little more focused, but Last Crusade was a much better adventure overall.

I'd recommend Last Crusade to the other guy in all the world who hasn't seen the Indiana Jones movies yet, but I'd tell him to skip the first two.

The bright side

It was 98 degrees today. The bright side of the hottest day of the year is that, well, the next day seems a whole lot more tolerable.

The walk to work today was pretty miserable. I tried carrying an umbrella like a little old lady. It may have prevented further tanning of my scalp (spiky hair does little to prevent head sunburn, I'm afraid), but it didn't seem to make me feel less hot. I think I'll skip the umbrella tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Is it bad that it feels like it should be Friday already?

Monday, July 9, 2007

Travis Spomer is typing a message...

I don't like it when IM clients tell people when I am typing. I dunno; it's like this tiny invasion of my privacy. One of the nice things about IM versus real conversations is that I can change things before I say them, or choose not to say them at all. When the other person's window says "Travis Spomer is typing..." as soon as I type the first letter, some of that is lost. It's actually probably not a big deal at all; I'm sure most people aren't as neurotic as I am.

In addition to the "person is typing" notifications, the business IM client I use at work also gives me a notice when someone I'm talking to closes the window. This gives me even more things to obsess over. Now I can't close my IM windows until you do, because I don't want to be the one who says "hey you're boring me, so I'm going to go do something else now." It may be true, but I don't want to say it, even so implicitly.

I tend to read a little bit too far into those kinds of notifications. If you start typing, then delete your message, and then start again, and then delete it again, and then do that once or twice more, I notice. I don't know what it means, but I notice it. Did you want to continue the conversation, but couldn't think of anything else to say? Are you nervous when talking to me? Is it my fault? Should I think of something else to say so we can continue our conversation? So many suffocating possibilities... I always overanalyze things like that.

I don't really want people to know when I'm typing for that reason. It's not a good reason. I just don't want to tip my hand like that. I like that little private aspect of IM conversations.

Caramel Apple Pops

An acquaintance in the process of becoming a friend* ("he" from my "The scribbles of drunks" post) today gave me a Caramel Apple Pop**. I remarked that not only did he give me delicious sugar, but also long-lost memories. Like a lollipop that has been licked and then fallen to the floor, these memories are a bit fuzzy, but they are still pleasant ones.

Wikipedia says that these candies came out in 1995, which seems about right. When they first showed up, they were extraordinarily popular at my middle school. Gas station convenience stores and other popular middle school hangouts sold them for exorbitant prices, such as 50¢. My parents had just gotten a membership to Sam's Club (think "Costco" or any other store that sells mayonnaise in vats), and I had the idea to purchase Caramel Apple Pops in bulk, and then vend them from my backpack during school hours. I think I priced mine at 35¢, and I think there was a discount if you bought four—only $1. My Caramel Apple Pops were not only cheaper than the normal sources of the candies, but far more convenient, as they were sold right in class, the lunchroom, or at my locker.

Eventually, my idea caught on. Or, maybe it wasn't even my idea to begin with. Soon there were a small handful of us Caramel Dealers roaming the school, selling our delicious and addictive contraband. (I don't know for sure if it was against the rules, but it probably was; they weren't too cool with kids having candy at school. Or hats. Or sagging pants.) I don't remember when it ended, exactly... perhaps I realized that the profit I was making was miniscule, or perhaps I just got tired of it, or perhaps I was threatened by the Caramel Mafia. (Perhaps one of my readers who went to middle school with me has a clearer recollection of how things went down.) All I know is that it was pretty sweet while it lasted.

* I use this awkward construct only to reference my previous post (and to be a little bit obnoxious). Since he is trending toward the "friend" side of things I would normally round up to friendship.

** Who am I kidding? Anyone who gives you a Caramel Apple Pop
has to be a friend...

Currently listening: The Avalanches—Electricity (Dr. Rockit's Dirty Kiss), Fallen from Grace—Break Us

Respect your elders

That dead bug that just fell out of my bathroom ceiling fan while I was cleaning it... is it older than I am? It's possible. I'm fairly certain that some of the dust in there was some of the original dust that's as old as the house is.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Unpopular things

For some reason I felt compelled to click on the links in my Facebook profile to see who likes things that I like, out of everyone in every network I'm in (Microsoft employees, Seattle-area people, and UNL students and alumni). I found a couple people who I discovered were cooler than I previously thought, and I found a few things that I like are quite unpopular.


Rejected (0 people)—This thing was an internet sensation when I was in college. I'm surprised more people didn't list it as a favorite. It was Oscar-nominated, for Pete's sake.

Star Trek: Insurrection (1 person)—Okay, I wasn't expecting much here. I really like this movie, and I still don't really get it why everyone seems to hate it. (Maybe that's an exaggeration. Metacritic says it had "generally favorable reviews." Its main problem is that it caters to fans a lot, perhaps to a point where it's annoying to others.


Wonderfalls (0 people)—This was a great show. It was only on for a couple episodes before cancelled, though, so I guess it's not surprising it's nobody's favorite. Still, I was under the impression that the DVD set sold decently well.


Heroes of Might and Magic (1 person)—Heroes is a venerable, well-known classic series in PC gaming. Only one other person in all my networks lists it as a favorite?

Saturday, July 7, 2007

F for Friendship

Friendship online works differently from friendship in real life. The extent to which it differs may vary based on whether you're an introvert or an extrovert. Here are some quick examples of what constitutes a friend (or a buddy, etc.) in various situations.

Instant messaging: Friends, or buddies, are people who talk to frequently, or at least want to see the online status of. In some networks (such as AOL) you can befriend someone without them even knowing. Basically, your friends are the people in your address book.

Facebook: Friends are anyone you've met before. If you're an attention whore or just want to get the maximal number of friends, your "friends" may even be friends of friends you've never met. You can be looking at anyone on the site, click the button to add them as a friend, and there's basically no chance that the other person won't confirm that you're their friend, unless you're their parent or professor or someone with nefarious sub-goals. Once you're friends with someone, you get a live feed of what's new in their life, which is pretty cool. (Funny how it was controversial and made it to the front page of Slashdot a year ago, and now it's just the way things are.) Coworkers you talk to every day are Facebook friends, long-time friends who have moved to other continents that you never talk to are Facebook friends, and even people you don't really like that much are Facebook friends. "Friend" just connotates a connection of some sort.

World of Warcraft: In World of Warcraft, your friends are either people you know and are actually friends with, or people you've played with in the past who didn't suck. This is pretty different from my previous examples; reputation is involved. You don't add random people you come across to your friends list, and once you've been playing for a while, the list becomes pretty exclusive. You're limited to a pretty low number of friends (maybe 80 or less), so you can't just add everyone to this list—it gets filtered to a list of competent players who are pleasant people to play with. In addition, there's an ignore list, which is basically your anti-friends list. People on this list can't even talk to you anymore, so it's where annoying spammers and bad people and incompetent players go.

Xbox Live: I'm not terribly familiar with the Live reputation system since I don't have any game consoles, but in addition to maintaining a friends list like World of Warcraft, you can give feedback on other players to adjust their global reputation score, so in theory you can know a little something about other players before you even meet them.

The Xbox Live and World of Warcraft definitions of "friend" are very similar, but they're quite different from the other two I mentioned, and those are quite different from what I'd consider a "friend" in real life, and even that is different from what an extrovert might consider a "friend." As a bona-fide introvert, "friend" means something. Friend means that I think that they're a good person... maybe at least 6 or 7 on a 10-point scale, and that I know them at least somewhat well, after spending a reasonable amount of time around the person. It means that, at least to some small degree, I'm willing to put my own reputation on the line to vouch for the quality of that person.

People who meet only some of these qualifications might just be an "acquaintance." I may call them a friend from time to time for simplicity and to avoid hurting feelings, but the term really means something to me.

Online, being someone's "friend" doesn't mean too much. But in real life, for me, it can mean quite a lot. What I wonder is how this is different for other people. In the end, it matters little. It's just a word, and what matters is the relationship that word represents. (Somehow I see V from V for Vendetta saying that line.) What's intriguing is how other peoples' qualifications for friendship differ. I imagine that there are people who don't, for example, feel that another person doesn't have to be what they'd consider a good person to be a friend. Who are your friends? Are there extroverts who regard real friendship as something so relatively insignificant as clicking a link on Facebook? I think there are.

(Not that I have too much against extroverts...)

Currently listening: Jewel—Standing Still, Massive Attack—Antistar

The scribbles of drunks

I write myself notes all the time. I happened to do so at a party tonight. Someone was very excited to read my secret notes, and decided to read them aloud and add some of her own. A little later, I decided to open my notes page and see what was added.

She added:
Dear Travis,
I think (guy) wants to grab your ass. Also, please rock on. The end.

He added:
Miss (girl) wants to see your yellow/blue balls!!

Just thought I'd share.

Thanks, Amazon

Thanks, Amazon

Thanks, Amazon!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

To know me you must walk 1.5 miles in my shoes

Well, last weekend I sadly cracked my Segway's handlebars. I got a little close to some tangly ivy and a wall, and was paying more attention to the trash can that someone had placed to entirely block the sidewalk than the deathplants to my right. I wasn't injured; thanks for asking. I always wondered how well the Segway protects the rider from injury when it hits something; it turns out very well.

It still ran just fine on the way home, holding the handlebar in place, but after I fixed it with the magic of packing tape, it stopped working, so I've been walking to and from work this week. The walking is decent exercise; the hill on the way to work is pretty nasty. It it weren't so hot outside I would hardly mind at all. (It's about 90—90 counts as hot now.) I've ordered new handlebars, but it looks like I'll be getting exercise every morning for a while. How awful.

High-intensity heat rays

Having domed skylights is a mixed bag.

Pros: When approaching my house at night, if I have the lights on, there's a sweet glowing bubble on my roof like the Luxor.

Cons: During the hot summer months, high-intensity heat rays shine down from the sky.

The music plays on

The short version:
Air—10,000 Hz Legend: 6/10
Maroon 5—It Won't Be Soon Before Long: 8/10
Modest Mouse—We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank: 4/10
World of Warcraft Black Temple soundtrack: pretty good

I've been listening to yet another Air CD recently, 10,000 Hz Legend. This one's fine, but not as good as the last two I bought. It's a bit weirder than Moon Safari and Pocket Symphony. My favorite tracks here are Electronic Performers (:30 sample), The Vagabond (featuring Beck, full track), and People in the City (:30 sample). My award for the most bizarre song I've heard in a while, though, goes to How Does it Make You Feel?, performed with synthesizers, computer speech synthesis, and real voices. This is what it sounds like when a computer whispers sweet nothings in your ear.

I've also been checking out the second Maroon 5 album, It Won't Be Soon Before Long. This one's a tough one to rate. I like their first album better, but this one is more mature and has a certain something I can't quite put my finger on. It could just be the sharper production, or that it's even more sultry than Songs About Jane. Maybe this one's slightly darker, but if it is, it's not in a solemn way; it's just as energetic as their last. You wouldn't know it from the opener, If I Never See Your Face Again, though, which sounds like business as usual. Right after that are Makes Me Wonder and Little of Your Time, more excellent tracks. All of those are a bit more electronic-sounding than their previous hits, so maybe that's it. It's absolutely worth checking out if you liked their last CD, and if you didn't like their last CD you won't like this one, even though the sound is a little different. (Apparently the Circuit City version of the album has an extra track, Story, which fits the rest of the album appropriately.)

I've also listened to the new Modest Mouse, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. The title is clever but the music isn't that new. I can't really tell much of a difference between this and their previous music, except that their last album was more pop-friendly. It's a disc full of the strange sounds and insane screeching you expect from Modest Mouse if you've heard their music, but for some reason or another it's not as endearing this time around. Maybe I'm just not in the mood for it. My favorites here are March into the Sea, Missed the Boat, and Education, but there are a lot of misses on here, at least for me. It's an obnoxious CD, though it's unfair to call it a bad one per se.

Finally, I've also been listening to the Black Temple soundtrack from the latest World of Warcraft patch. They added another hour of music in the last patch, and like almost all of the music they've added to the game since the initial release, it's pretty good game music. It's a pity that most everyone turned the in-game music off long ago to play their own stuff. There's a nice mix of atmospheric sounds, choirs, and orchestral themes—it sounds quite a bit like the music from Act V of the Diablo II expansion, actually. The biggest downside is that it's not an album; it's a bunch of short mp3 files that come with the patch, meant to be played in a particular order but interspersed with gameplay as the adventurers progress through the temple. It would work quite a bit better in a single-player game, I think; the sort of hardcore people who will get to hear this music in the game will have voice chat running, and by the time they hear the end, they'll have been listening to the first parts over and over for weeks as they practice the different bosses and encounters. Probably none of them play with the game music on anyway. I don't have any links to share, unfortunately. While it's all freely downloadable, it's buried in 8 GB of game files.

Up next are Ben Folds, The Mars Volta, and some opera.

Currently listening: Newsboys—Everyone's Someone, Mute Math—Transformers Theme (pretty funny)

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

So that's what a filing cabinet is for

I've learned what a filing cabinet is for: it is a metal pedestal upon which you can pile stacks of papers that you don't want to throw away but will likely never want to see again or organize in any way.

The Cartoon Screen of Death

On the way home from work last night, my music suddenly stopped playing. I removed my Zen Portable Media Center from my pocket only to see something I'd seen once before... something I dreaded: the Cartoon Screen of Death.

The Cartoon Screen of Death

I know this screen: it was the last thing I saw before I had to send it in for warranty repair after a few months of owning this thing about two and a half years ago. As you might tell from the picture, it means that the device is irreparably damaged and will never start again without repairs.

I tried several things, like charging overnight, opening it up and using the hard reset switch, taking out the batteries, and so forth, but just like last time, no luck. Well, the thing is three years old, scratched up, and behind the times, so it's not worth the $100-200 I'd probably pay minimum to get it fixed. So, it's time to get a new portable player.

It's looking like the Zune kind of wins by default. I get a slight discount at the company store, and I can leave my office for about 15 minutes and have one in my possession. I was looking at the tiny 2 GB Creative Zen Stone Plus for only about $70, the sexy U20 iRiver Clix, and the new 30GB model of the Toshiba Gigabeat, all rated highly and not available anywhere. I am quite addicted to listening to music on the way to and from work, I am very motivated to get a new player now, so that Zune is looking pretty appealing. I was also looking at the iPod 80GB, which has the added bonuses of being able to store my entire music collection and would let me play Cubis those three times a year when I would feel like playing a game on my music player. So would the Creative Zen Vision:M, but I've used a Zen before and it was as fun as being stabbed with needles. I decided that being able to have all of my music with me at all times wasn't worth the extra premium; for the price of a large-capacity player I could get two Zunes. And then, uh, share songs between them.

So, I think I'm going to get a Zune tomorrow. A nice black one. It's not my top choice of player, but people I know who have them enjoy them, and it will certainly be a nice upgrade from my current player at four times the size and two-thirds the capacity.

Last song started before my old Zen PMC kicked the bucket: Keane—Atlantic

Childlike glee

Oh man, Transformers was awesome. I went in expecting nothing, but it was great. I was filled with a sense of childlike glee almost the entire time, and I didn't even like Transformers as a kid. Even the incredibly cheesy parts like the names of the characters and how they had to, apparently, get a bunch of famous lines from the cartoons in there, bounced right off of the glee forcefield I'd developed just a few minutes in.

Definitely worth seeing in theatres.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Vice presidents are people too

One of Microsoft's vice presidents just walked by my office in gym shorts and a white undershirt.

Hey, vice presidents are people too.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Pros and cons

Protected wetlands as your neighbors—pros and cons:

Pros—quiet, and no new development likely in the future

The mosquitoes aren't as bad as they'd be in Nebraska right now, at least.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Search engine optimization

One of my projects for this weekend was some search engine optimization work. I've gone from a system where most files on my websites have half a dozen URLs that work, to just one URL per file, and all of the old URLs 301-redirecting to the new ones. In theory, this should improve my search engine rankings, especially for EclipseCrossword, which is really the only one that I care about. Even if it doesn't, it makes my URLs cooler.

I am now an .htaccess and mod_rewrite ninja.

Like butter scraped across too much bread

Every few months I get this urge to design a game. I've decided that I have waaaaay too many projects going on right now to start something big like designing a board game, so I just did what I always do: type up all of my thoughts into OneNote in my "board game ideas" section. Someday when I feel like I actually have time to dedicate to creating something new I'll read through those notes and hopefully make a much better game because of it.

(And besides, it's unfair to the world to have spent so many resources producing a genius of this magnitude, and then have him not be able to focus on his game because he's working on too many things at once...)