Wednesday, October 31, 2007

It is actually quite unhealthy

I must think about poking my eyes out or getting my eyes poked out about a dozen times a day. It's an irrational fear of mine. As my eyes start to get tired, I actually get to a point where I don't like to look at corners (on anything—tables, other square objects) because they freak me out.

Twenty-five thousand is over nine thousand

Well, last week, EclipseCrossword was downloaded more than 25,000 times, up from an average of 8,000-9,000 per week half a year ago. I'm up to a million and a half total downloads. It seems that my work to reorganize my domains and sites to give it a little bit of the star treatment has helped in the end. I'm still #11 on Google for "free crossword", though, which is not nearly as nice as being #10.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Fall colors

The Microsoft campus looks really great this time of year, as does much of the rest of the state. I haven't taken any pictures of it myself, but I found a really nice one:

Flickr - Esther & Paul 013


It is SO HOT at work right now. I can barely think. I'm just about ready to head home. Someone needs to fix the air conditioner or turn off the heater or SOMETHING.

Currently listening: I sure as hell hope that's not the heater whirring.

Orange Box

Well, I just finished Half-Life 2 Episode Two, the last game in The Orange Box that I'm all that excited about. (I'm not too keen on Team Fortress 2, but I'm sure I'll try it someday.) Considering Portal, Episode One, and Episode Two, I got my $45 worth... I already had Half-Life 2, so if you don't have that yet or you're interested in Team Fortress 2, it's a great buy. And, honestly, it's probably a worthwhile buy even if you already had Episode One and were buying it for Episode Two and Portal; it's still only about three bucks an hour. You could do much worse.

And damn you, Achievement Points. I have not yet fallen into the trap of forcing myself to do ridiculous things to get them like so many Xbox 360 owners (these are Steam achievements, not Xbox achievements), but I did go for the straightforward ones like "kill 20 people with your car."

These guys haven't heard of Partial Credit.

Oh, and just in time. Hellgate: London arrives tomorrow to seal the deal and ensure that I won't be productive for weeks on end. This is a good time to have five weeks of vacation stored up.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Or Mrs. Petrelli

As I was watching Heroes tonight, I remembered why I probably thought about Sharon Osbourne: I think that Mrs. Petrelli on Heroes looks like her. Well, that doesn't really explain why I was dreaming about her, but it explains the "her" part.

[Originally this post said "Claire's mom." I don't know why I wrote that. I meant Angela Petrelli, Nathan and Peter's mom.]

Sharon Osbourne

Now I can no longer say that I've never dreamed about Sharon Osbourne. When I woke up this morning, I immediately stumbled over to a pen and paper so I could write things down. I think I've figured out what all of the words are now, and I remember a couple vague scenes from the dream.

Sharon Osbourne dancing
& singing at school (college)
rally - heavy
metal? - students
sitting on grass near
large fountain

Kind of like poetry, don't you think? But yeah. I remember that Winona Ryder was there, dressed up as her character from Edward Scissorhands, the typical teenage girl who doesn't look at all like she's actually a teenager. She was sitting under a patio table umbrella, with her purse out on the table. Her father, Chevy Chase, walked by and picked up her purse to search it. He removed five Trojan condoms from her purse and said something like "have a lovely day, sweetie," to which she responded with a whiny "Dad!" Then, I looked over to a hill over by a big fountain, and Sharon Osbourne was there, beginning to perform for a scattered bunch of students. I don't know what she was singing, but it was hard rock, and she was dancing awkwardly. And that's when I woke up.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Sometimes when I'm picking up or moving a tall object such as a vacuum cleaner, I pick it up with both my hands and one of my feet, just so I get a little extra stabilization. Sometimes, when I'm picking up or moving a tall object such as a vacuum cleaner while barefoot, I forget that vacuum cleaners have fast-moving parts on the bottom. I won't forget this for a while, though—at least not until that part of my toe grows back.

Currently listening: O-Zone—Dragostea Din Tei


The short version:
Mute Math—Reset EP: 7/10
Kanye West—Graduation: 6/10
KT Tunstall—Drastic Fantastic: 6/10

After enjoying the first self-titled Mute Math album, I picked up their prior Reset EP. There are only a few songs on it that aren't on their first album, but it was cheap, and I wanted to hear the rest. It sounds pretty much exactly like the album; the tracks would all fit right in. The best track on here that didn't make the album is Peculiar People (irrelevant YouTube video with the song).

I've been listening to the new Kanye West CD, Graduation. It's my least favorite of his releases so far. The first single Stronger is excellent (as well as the Daft Punk song Harder Better Faster Stronger it's based on), and about as good as his previous hits. Also good are I Wonder and Homecoming. I can't really put my finger on what I don't like as much about this album compared to his last two; it seems as if he just didn't put as much effort into polishing this one. The lyrics don't sounds as well-developed on this CD. Or, maybe it's because the whole album sounds like it's in a minor key and everything sounds dark and often a little out of place. I don't know. But it's not even close to Late Registration. Big plus, though: no filler or "skit" tracks.

Also I've been checking out KT Tunstall's latest, Drastic Fantastic. I'm not sure that "Fantastic" is the best word for it. It's okay. I like Funnyman, Hold On, and Beauty of Uncertainty, but none of those are as good as Black Horse and the Cherry Tree, Suddenly I See, or Other Side of the World. I can't put my finger on what's different here either. If I had to put my finger somewhere, it would be on the "trying to be more popular but not doing very well at it" button, though.

I've also been listening to Rachael Yamagata's Happenstance, which sounds quite a bit like Fiona Apple, and Radiohead's new (and downloadable) In Rainbows. I'm not much of a Radiohead fan, but free album is free album. I only wish I could get a karaoke version or something so I wouldn't have to hear the guy's awful wailing. Not ready to pass judgment on those yet.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Best class I never took

I think that the best class that wasn't a part of my business minor but should have been would be a negotiation class. It certainly seems like something that could actually be useful to be trained in before entering the business world. More than, say, spending two full classes on economics.

Slippery when wet

Sometimes I wonder how much safer having "wet floor" signs in commonly-traveled bathroom paths are than just the wet floors themselves. I suppose they're a little safer.

New rule

Okay, new rule: Travis should only buy shirts with colors that mask dribbles of Diet Coke. Or, he should learn to drink from the correct side of the can with much greater frequency.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Oppression of the shift key

Something struck me earlier tonight: in general, people I work with always type in generally-grammatically-correct complete sentences. This includes my non-work communications with them. In contrast, it seems like more people I went to school with only capitalize words and punctuate properly when they "have" to.

There's one guy who specifically comes to mind who bucks the trend, avoiding uppercase letters and punctuation whenever possible, but he left the team quite a while ago, presumably feeling oppressed by those hideous shift and period keys. Hell, I try not to even end a sentence I write on a sticky note in a preposition.

Now, one likely reason is that everyone else writes that way, and most of our writing takes place at work, so people just get into the habit of writing things mostly correctly. That's the one I'm sticking with—peer pressure and mental conditioning. It's also possible that Microsoft tends to hire a certain type of person, so my sample set is even more skewed than I realize. Or, maybe that's just the way that things work in the professional world, and to try to compare it with people in school is futile. I have had little exposure to professionalism outside of my current job, and that doesn't seem to be the case, but I have few details upon which to make judgment.

Anyway, I wasn't really going anywhere with that post...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


When some people use the word "lonely," they often mean something fairly different from my definition of the word. Often when people say that they are lonely they mean simply that they aren't having sex as often as they would prefer. That's, I suppose, one definition.

At first I thought there were only two definitions—actual loneliness, and turgidity-of-reproductive-organ loneliness—but now I think that there are at least three. I think that some people are lonely like they're lonely for a million dollars. I would like a million dollars, but I have no valid reason to expect a million dollars, so it causes me no real pain that I don't have a million dollars. I think that's the key. Ideally, I can see the value in having a companion. (I can also see the personality nuances that could make the endeavor fairly challenging.) However, it brings me no pain to know that I do not have such a companion. Therefore, by my definition, I am not lonely. (I'm purposely ignoring the fact that loneliness can also easily deal with being around multiple people, and doesn't have to be specific to a single companion.)

When I say I live alone, occasionally people will ask if I'm lonely, or just assume that I am. But I'm not. I don't yearn for someone; I simply don't have someone. The fact that I do not have someone doesn't make me depressed. I merely recognize that, at some point, I could be potentially happier with a mate. I could be happier with a million dollars also. Or, possibly some combination of the two.

Some people call that loneliness, and I think it's incorrect. Perhaps people who are themselves lonely, and assume that all other single people are too.


I've been thinking about different methods and situations I use for conversations. I still really, really like instant messaging. It's convenient, and can be used in different ways. You can use it for real-time conversation, or it can be used in more of a "get back to me when you have a spare moment" type of conversation, and you can mix and match the two. You get presence information about the person you're talking to, so you have some idea if they're busy or otherwise can't talk to you.

I still hate the phone. When talking on the phone, that's the main thing I'm doing, as opposed to IM, where I can hold a couple conversations simultaneously while still doing something else that doesn't require much mental effort. The nice thing about the telephone is that you get to hear the other person's voice, so it's much more expressive.

Marc and I use voice chat when we fight our competitive WoW arena battles, and it works well there, because we need instantaneous communication. We've tried it elsewhere while just playing the "rest of the game" normally, and it's much more awkward. I'm pretty awkward on the phone, but in the game it's even worse. I don't have two-hour phone conversations, but I need something to fill the awkward silence when we're chatting while playing. I end up talking really slowly, or just trailing off into nothingness, or forgetting what I was saying in the first place. It's weird. It's given me a good idea of just how awful I am at phone conversations, though.

Conversations at dinner or around a board game work pretty well for me. I hear peoples' voices, and I get to see body language and facial expressions. Both of those activities have a primary focus that is not talking to the other people there, even though you may go out to eat or play games mostly to have an excuse to talk to people. My biggest problem here is that I'm not good at interrupting people (with perhaps one exception who may or may not read this), but I get pretty frustrated if I'm trying to say something and don't ever get an opening. IM is great too; you can interrupt the conversation whenever you want and talk about something completely different, and it doesn't seem weird or inappropriate.

I type very quickly, though. I'm sure that IM is much less convenient for people who don't. I probably just need to become better at talking to people I can't actually see. Without the context of being able to visually focus on peoples' faces, I seem to be unable to mentally focus on the conversation when I'm actually talking. This probably has something to do with the fact that I use like eight minutes of time on my cell phone each month. I'm just out of practice.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


I'm not actually quite as much of a procrastinator as other people think. When I decide do to something, often I go into a "planning phase" for that action, even if it's something that other people would just do immediately, even impulsively. To other people, it looks like I'm procrastinating. To me, that's just part of the act of doing something, so I don't feel like I'm procrastinating. Once I have all of the little details figured out, I'll execute on my glorious plan. That's the engineer in me.

One example I can think of is that when it was time (or past time) to start seeing a doctor about the headaches I've been having, I had decided it was time to see a doctor, and was in the process of selecting one and deciding when I was going to go. I wasn't going to go or call immediately, because I was busy at work. But, when other people ask if I've seen a doctor about it yet, I have to answer no, and the result of that is well-meaning nagging. It's not that I'm putting it off; it's that I'm purposely putting it off while I figure out the details. A normal people would figure out the details all at once and call a doctor the same day. That's not nearly enough time for me to obsess about meaningless details, though. Give me a couple weeks.

So, maybe that's still sorta procrastinating. But I don't think it should count.

Forty-eight hours

Well, now that I've resumed exercising somewhat more frequently, I've hit that crucial point where I only hurt for about 48 hours after a workout. That's the best I ever got when I was in college when I lifted three times a week. This is what will potentially allow me to get back on a schedule where I work out that often, which is what I'm hoping for.

Deep beneath my layers of comfortable, insulating blubber there are muscles slowly reactivating. Slowly. I won't ever be as in-shape as my character in World of Warcraft, but at least I can set a goal of being less squishy. Seems like a good target to me.

Currently listening: Kanye West—Good Morning

Monday, October 22, 2007

Money management

For about as long as I can remember, my dad has complained about my complete and utter lack of money management skills. He made some hints along those lines when my parents visited recently. I think that this is rather unfair. (I do not, for example, live paycheck to paycheck with a half dozen loans... I have only the two mortgages on my house, and no other debt or credit card balances.) When I was growing up, I'd save up pretty much all of the money that I got until I had enough to buy something that I wanted, and then I'd buy it. The thing that I would buy would usually cost all of my money, because I have expensive hobbies. It was this periodic dumping of all of my cash that was the source of all of his money management concerns; I heard the cliché "burning a hole in your pocket" so many times that I should have it inscribed on a plaque.

To me, that seems like pretty good money management for a teenager with no financial obligations. I completely understood the costs of what I was buying, and waited until I could afford things before buying them. I planned purchases in advance so that I wouldn't spend impulsively.

Really the only difference today is that the numbers are bigger, and I keep buffer cash around because I do have financial obligations. My money management habits are what I consider to be simple and good enough for me. When I want to buy something more than a few hundred bucks, and it's something I'm sure that I want to buy, I check how much money I have. I make sure that the price of the item I'm buying is no more than the amount of money I have minus, say, five grand. If it fits that criteria, I buy it. If it doesn't, I wait to buy it.

It seems that if kids would understand that, they'd probably learn to manage money just fine. For bonus points, maybe parents of older kids should insist that they keep around buffer cash, as if they were paying rent and bills. It helped growing up in a somewhat unprivileged environment, being responsible for purchasing most of my own entertainment items with my own money and not receiving much in the way of handouts and allowances, other than gifts from grandparents. I think that, by the time a lot of kids start having money to spend on things, they're used to having things they want purchased for them, and they don't have any idea how to deal with it. Having to manage my money to maximize my enjoyment at a fairly young age was helpful, I think.

But, kids are stupid, and none of these ideas really acknowledge that fact very well. I probably shouldn't have kids.

Uh, what was that

I think that the most unnerving noise that my body makes is this fizzing sound that I hear every once in a while from what appears to be my neck. Necks aren't supposed to make noises.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


Over time, many people have entrusted with me some very private secrets, including people who I don't even know that well. I've been told at least once that it was because I'm a trustworthy guy and they felt comfortable telling me and only me that fact. I guess I kind of just assumed that was the only reason. But, I just thought of two other reasons why people might have felt comfortable to tell me things that they didn't tell anyone else:

  1. I am good at projecting the façade of being a good listener. (Well, I actually am a pretty good listener, unless you're boring me, in which case I pretend to be one, and usually that's all people want anyway.)
  2. It is fairly likely that I will forget what you tell me.

Already, many of these secret details have been lost to the ages. I know you told me something private a long time ago, but I don't remember what.

Writing assignments

Despite enjoying writing, I generally disliked writing assignments in English classes in school. They were always the same; the teacher always wanted three drafts, and there was supposed to a dramatic improvement between each draft. I learned, I think before even high school, that I had to game the system a bit if I wanted to do well on those assignments.

When I write, I produce a third draft or so right from the start. I revise and reorder as I type; it's distracting to do those sorts of things after the fact. I make few spelling and grammar errors, and generally those are typos and the result of my in-flight modifications to the text rather than an actual mistake. I don't call it a "third draft" out of hubris; I just tend to put multiple drafts' worth of effort into my first draft of things merely because of the way I like to write. This is why I hate writing in anything other than Word; using pencil and paper is excruciating because I can't write the way I think (and because I type faster than I write).

So, assignments in which I had to turn in multiple drafts were the bane of my educational existence. Generally the teacher would require handing in three different drafts, so what I'd have to do was save my first draft and call that a second draft, then cut things out of it (sentences, paragraphs, sections) to make a phony first draft, and then any changes that I thought of making to the paper while bored would go into a final draft which would be almost identical to the second draft. Besides the extra effort that these types of assignments required to produce drafts, I often dislike showing people work that I'm not finished with, so they were doubly annoying.

With this system, generally I'd get a great grade. Without it, I'd often get points knocked off for not making enough changes in subsequent drafts, points that wouldn't get taken off if the assignment didn't require turning in drafts and so I didn't write any. It was annoying, but certainly much less effort than changing the way I write for unaccommodating assignments. School's all about gaming the system.

Currently listening: Mute Math—Peculiar People (YouTube video is irrelevant)


If you've read more than a few posts on my blog, you have likely noticed that I have a soft spot for puns. As it turns out, I also have a thing for pejorative portmanteau nicknames; even ones that aren't that clever. For example, a pretty common one is "sorostitute," which as you might guess is a combination of "sorority" and "prostitute," and is used insultingly to refer to a sorority member, while implying that everyone in a sorority is a slut.

I love these things. More than I should. World of Warcraft culture, if I can call it such a thing, is chock-full of these things. By all right I should be sick of them by now. For example, "skillcoil" is the name given to the warlock spell "Death Coil," which is widely regarded as very powerful, and the insult is that it's too powerful for a character ability that requires no player skill. Hence, skillcoil. There are about a thousand others. I will not go into them here.

Friday, October 19, 2007


Today at lunch, as I was standing in line behind the "smoked turkey" sign, the server got the next meat-hunk out of the warmer and began slicing it. Someone came up to ask a question:

Person: Is there going to be any more turkey?
Server: This is turkey.
Person: (Looks confused.) It is? Really.
Server: Yes. It's smoked turkey.
Person: (Still incredulous. Leaves.)

I looked at the meat being cut, and it didn't really look like turkey either. It was in the shape that lunchmeat turkey usually arrived in when I worked in a deli, but it was a little pinker than I'm used to seeing turkey, and the shell around it was the color of smoked ham, not smoked turkey. Also, I could smell ham from across the counter.

A few moments after I arrived at the table with my coworkers, I was asked about my meal.

Jon: Have you tried your "turkey" yet?
Me: Not yet, no.
Jon: Try it and see if you still think it's turkey.
Me: (I try it. It tastes like ham.)
Jon: It tastes like ham. It looks like ham. It smells like ham. It has the consistency of ham. I think... it's ham.

I tried a few more bites, and I'm quite certain that I was eating ham, not turkey. But the server, who is our cafeteria's Sous Chef—whatever that's supposed to mean in the context of a cafeteria—was insistent that it was turkey.

After that, the table focused its energies on trying to think of a person who they could find to be religiously offended by buying ham that was pretending to be turkey. I think that the best that anyone came up with was that "they looked kind of Jewish."

I just ate my ham and wished that it was turkey.

The best power outages

The best power outages are the ones that happen when you're not at home. Unless, of course, you had a show set to record at that time.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Near-absolute power corrupts sorta

Let's say that, theoretically, you save the world, or at least our little portion of the world. You're given one wish by President Hillary. You choose the power to be above the law. Nearly anything you do is fine. You can take stuff, you can destroy stuff, you can arrest people, you can give people tickets for whatever you like, et cetera. You probably wouldn't be allowed to kill people at random or poison the town's water supply or ratify Constitutional amendments, but most stuff you'd do would be cool. Like diplomatic immunity on steroids or something. Do you think you could handle this power responsibility? We all know that absolute power corrupts absolutely, but does near-absolute power corrupt sorta?

I think I could probably handle it. Maybe. Oh, sure, I'd abuse it all the time, but they'd be little abuses. Maybe I'd flash my Agent of the President badge and cut in line, or get a car and put sirens on it to bypass traffic. I'd hand out tickets all the time.

But if it didn't drive me mad with power right away, things would certainly quickly get out of control and need to be reigned in. At some point I'd need to figure out how to best acquire an expensive home that I wouldn't be paying for. This has a very high level of abuse potential. I'd also need an elite security force, because probably a lot of people would either want to kill me or worship me or something, which also has very high potential for abuse.

After the selfish basics, I'd probably attempt to make the world a better place with my power. This is probably where things would make the biggest turn for the worse. I'm the most powerful guy in the world; I wouldn't have to think about what I was going to do. If I wanted to redistribute wealth from corporations I didn't like to charities that I did, I'd probably do it without putting much thought into what that charity would do with the money or the other consequences of my actions—I mean, I'm doing good, so I can't be making a mistake, can I? Eventually using my powers for "good" too much would probably cause more corruption in whatever I tried to help.

Assuming I wasn't crazy by this point, this would probably start to really get to me. I don't know if I'd keep trying to fix things, or if I'd just give up and realize that having all this power was making things worse, not better. I guess my decision at that point would decide if I was crazy or not.

Anyway, that doesn't seem like a very positive scenario. So, it's probably best if I don't ever save the world. Or maybe, if I do, I should ask Hillary for something smaller, like just the whole "be able to write tickets for people who are jerks" part.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Top 100 worst ways to start off a day: #86

86. Instead of shutting off an alarm clock, snooze it. Then, listen to it go off throughout your morning shower and drying.

The many faces of Travis

Here are all of the AOL Instant Messenger buddy icons that I've used since 2002, or at least all of them that I could find. Each one says a little something about me. Maybe.

(Click for a slightly larger version)

A few icons of note:

Everyone Else Has Had More Sex Than Me
Once, after watching the music video for Everyone Else Has Had More Sex Than Me, I decided that the bunnies were cute and decided to make the "1" bunny a buddy icon. A little later, someone asked me if I finally found a girlfriend. I then corrected things and made a new buddy icon based on the "0" bunny.

Non-Handicapped Accessible
This one was in pretty poor taste, which, well, is me. I was trying to decide what a sign that meant "not handicapped accessible" might look like. This was my favorite idea that came up during brainstorming. I made a poster of it and put it on my door in college. It made a couple people kind of angry.

Stick porn
This one makes more sense in its original, animated form. Click to see it animate.

SharePoint Designer 12
When we were building SharePoint Designer, it was a new product and therefore it didn't have a logo or icon yet. This is the placeholder icon we got, I presume from the Office design folks: a mostly nondescript purple square. What better icon to visually describe the program that lets you "Create and customize Microsoft SharePoint Web sites and build workflow-enabled applications"?

Most of the rest are cryptic references to nerdy things.

Currently listening: Bond—Hungarian

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Ten Storms

Well, this weekend I sold my few pieces of The Ten Storms. They were some of the more elite and prestigious pieces of armor that a shaman in World of Warcraft could own before The Burning Crusade expansion pack hit in January. In the scope of all World of Warcraft players, sure, a lot of players had those items, seeing as there are nine million people playing, but only a small fraction of them owned any piece of The Ten Storms. They represented some hard work, some skill, some dedication, and some luck. But, as with all items from nearly a year ago, they aren't as good as what I have now, and I'd never find myself wearing them again. I was saving them around for nostalgia value. But, practicality has won out, and I don't have room to spare to keep those things around. So I sold them. When non-commodity items are sold in World of Warcraft, they don't belong to another player; they're lost forever. Gone.

I'd already sold Maexxna's Fang a couple months ago, a dagger that I'm fairly certain no other character on my server has ever owned. But, again, better things are available now, and inventory space concerns won out over that iota of prestige I might have had from owning a virtual item in an online game.

I tend to obsess about retaining keepsakes in role-playing games. I've still got a bunch of old saved games lying around, and the characters in those games have all sorts of mementos of past exploits and adventures stored away somewhere. I'm just a sentimental kind of guy, I guess. It's not like I'm ever going to install Knights of the Old Republic and try out all of those different-colored lightsaber crystals I collected.

(I've still got my complete set of The Earthfury, though. I can't bear to get rid of it just yet, simply because I look so smashing when I put it on.)

Currently listening: Kanye West and Dwele—Flashing Lights


I took my own subconscious mind's advice and did the thing I'd been putting off for so long. It wasn't too painful—a bit painful, sure—but tolerable. I'm not going to bore you with the details of what exactly it was, but I did it, and I'm glad that it's over with.

Schedule modifications

It seems that, with great effort, I can manage one modification to my schedule at a time. For a while there I was doing pretty good about getting eight hours of sleep most nights, which was a nice change, making me feel a bit better throughout the day. So, I decided to ruin it and try to also get back into a more regular exercise schedule, so I could feel awful during the day again.

Two schedule modifications are apparently too much for me to handle; I'm now doing poorly at both. (As you might guess, I plan on getting up less than eight hours from now.)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Start a new full build before you go-go

When I need to write myself a note that ends in "before you go," I have a [bad] habit of writing it as "before you go-go" instead. Usually it amuses me when I get around to reading that note. Just now I read a note I'd written for myself this morning with the following text:
bb/qts before you go-go
and indeed, it made me smile just a little bit.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Now I'm thinking with Portal

Well, after a little under four hours, and within 24 hours of it being released, I finished Portal, and I had a blast. Unfortunately, upon release, the game was bugged so that some people didn't hear any voices in the game. It was patched right as I finished the game. So, uh, at least there will be voices next time I decide to play.

Anyway, it's very good. It's not like anything else I've ever played. It's actually probably even worth the $20 that it costs if you buy it individually over Steam, even though it's four hours, but you're better off buying it in a package, of course, like The Orange Box. I already enjoyed Half-Life 2 Episode One, and I've still got Episode Two left, as well as Team Fortress 2, which I doubt I'll play too much of.

I assume that there will be a demo sometime, but perhaps not since it's just a few hours. If you're not already getting The Orange Box (why not?), make the effort to try it out on someone else's computer.

Sherman's Lagoon

Today when I woke up, I had a vivid image of the comic strip Sherman's Lagoon in my mind. I only vaguely remember the third panel of the strip; there was a small, skinny fish telling Sherman to stop being such a pussy (and he didn't intend the "sweet and gentle" British meaning). This is very strange to me because I have not seen or thought about Sherman's Lagoon in years; probably not once since moving to Washington. My subconscious mind dredged up Sherman's Lagoon from my college era, the last time I read Sunday comic strips.

Apparently my subconscious mind is telling my conscious mind to stop being such a pussy. And perhaps that I should read more comic strips.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Pop-Up Heroes

One thing that I really like about Heroes is that each episode (so far; I'm a little more than a third of the way through the first season) shows the names of the characters the first time that they appear on screen. So, in case you forget who Niki or Hiro or Micah are, you're reminded. That's helpful for people like me who have trouble keeping track of characters' names. I've always thought that DVDs should come with a Pop-Up Video mode that you could turn on and off that would remind you who's who. You'd be watching The X-Files, and then if it's an episode where The Lone Gunmen show up, the first time they appeared on screen you'd get three little popups that say "Frohike" and "Langly" and "Byers" to remind you which conspiracy nerd is which.


One human interaction scenario that gives me pause is self-deprecation. This is something I do myself quite frequently ("I forgot to do that because I'm worthless"). I always mean it in a joking sense; I really don't think I suck all that much. But, I can't always tell if other people mean it or not. I just tend to assume that they are also joking, even though it's never true. So, I'm pretty terrible at appropriately responding to this situation.

Probably the socially correct thing to do in these situations is to be encouraging and uplifting to the person, especially if they deserve it. But it seems to me that anyone who knows me well enough would see right through that. I wouldn't be being sincere; I don't do encouraging and uplifting. So, I usually just emit an awkward laugh and continue on as if the person never said anything, because awkward and oblivious is something I do do.

Monday, October 8, 2007

All law and no play makes Congress a dull legislative body

Last night I dreamed that I was reading about a law that Congress passed on Wikipedia. Collectively it was something like the Intellectual Property Reform Act of 2004, but it was broken up into four laws, each one named individually. I didn't get around to reading two through four, but the name of the first one really stuck out: "Cat Disease and Southpark Character Naming Contest Act." If I recall correctly, it was just the title; the law had nothing to do with a naming contest of any sort.

It did not occur to me at the time to check and see if it was merely Wikipedia vandalism. I thought that somebody in Congress had a sense of humor.

Theft and how it opens up legal questions

So, when four of my CDs were stolen from me, was my legal license to play MP3s ripped from them stolen as well? That's sort of a confusing area for me. The discs were the physical manifestation and proof of that license. Now I have nothing to show for them other than a receipt email if I ever, Heaven forbid, had to prove that I really do buy an asston of CDs and DVDs. Clearly if I voluntarily gave up my license by giving away or selling the CD I would be obligated to delete my digital copies. Am I obligated to do so even if it's involuntary?

Black Holes and Revelations

The short version:
Muse—Black Holes and Revelations: 9/10
Mute Math—Mute Math: 8/10
Bat for Lashes—Fur and Gold: 5/10
N.E.R.D.—In Search Of...: 7/10

I've been listening to Black Holes and Revelations by Muse recently, and it's pretty great. It's a good 8.5/10, but I'm in a round-up sort of mood right now. I'll definitely be picking up some of their past albums. (And, well, probably this one again since it was stolen.) There's a variety of different rock styles on here—some rhythmic and electronic, some harder "regular" rock, and some lighter vocal-focused songs. Check out Starlight (video) (which reminds me a lot of Keane), Supermassive Black Hole (video), and Knights of Cydonia (awesomely weird video), which are all apparently singles.

Additionally amusing is Mute Math's self-titled debut album. It's also rock, but focusing more on the percussion side of things, which is a cool twist. (Or, maybe they just have a really good drummer.) I picked it up after hearing their rendition of the Transformers theme. The obvious first single Typical (cool video) is the best track on the disc, but there's plenty more quality stuff. Try Noticed or Plan B.

Fur and Gold by Bat for Lashes was not as great. It's yet another rock CD, this time on the weird indie-rock side of things. My favorite track is the one that made me want to buy the CD, What's a Girl to Do? (wacky video). Also good are Horse and I and Prescilla (video with radio version, or original). Most of the rest of the album is a bit stranger and a little tougher to love, like The Wizard. If there were more tracks like those three favorites, I'd happily give the album a higher rating than a 5/10, but the stuff I love on this disc is only about fifteen minutes.

Finally, somewhat ruining my all-rock streak is an interesting rap/rock album In Search Of... by N.E.R.D., aka The Neptunes, who produced Britney Spears' excellent (seriously) I'm a Slave 4 U, Nelly's Hot in Herre, and other hits. This is an interesting CD; I want to classify it as hip-hop, but there's little rap, and it seems more rock-ish and rap-ish. I don't know how to describe it (raising the question of why I even bother writing sentences around these links to music), so check out Lapdance featuring Lee Harvey and Vita (decently hot video with weird sound and a lot of censoring*, or original), Baby Doll, and Stay Together. Worth checking out, especially since it's an unusual sound.

* I think that the video for Lapdance has the least amount of bleeping I've ever heard of the word "motherfucker." I think they bleeped out the "u." And yet, in the same video, they bleep out entirely the words "crackers" and "white trash."

Next up are new CDs by Kanye West and KT Tunstall, as well as one by Rachael Yamagata.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Archive this post and use it to prevent me from running for office

On Saturday I went to a Seattle annual amateur film festival run by local newspaper The Stranger. It was a classy event, and I feel more cultured and refined by attending. Or, perhaps I would have were the particular film festival in question not named "Hump!" and featuring pornography. Dan Savage was there.

It was actually much less seedy and creepy than I was fearing. Attendees were about 60% male and 40% female, and looked no different from the crowd you might expect to see entering any other Seattle theatre. I dunno; I was expecting to see tall, unshaven, overweight men with black trenchcoats—you know, seedy people—with their hands in their pants throughout the show. But, I saw none of that.

In fact, only a few of the 8-minute-or-shorter movies were intended to have any erotic value whatsoever, and many featured no nudity of any kind. There was a very-well-done furniture porn video, an animated cartoon titled Alien Fucks Predator, which was exactly what it sounds like, a parody of Senator Larry Craig's recent sex solicitation incident featuring dry-humping lesbians, a love story between a bobble-head doll and a dildo, and other weird stuff. In fact, I only recall Vampire Strip Club being remotely arousing, and it was about vampire strippers, and "remotely" is the key word in "remotely arousing." (See a list of all of the films here, with descriptions.)

The best film was in the style of Crocodile Hunter (Steve Irwin would be, uh...), titled Queer Safari. It's a fairly hilarious instructional video of a man wandering around a Seattle park teaching the audience how to identify different types of homosexuals. A couple minutes before the end, it gets dark, and suddenly switches to a Blair Witch parody (wow, been a while), with a disturbingly funny shock ending. All of the screener copies of all of the films shown at the festival were destroyed to protect the identity of the entrants, and they had bouncers watching everyone like a hawk to ensure that nobody was taping anything, but hopefully the authors of Queer Safari will get it online someday to share it with the world.

Would I recommend it next year? Sure, though clearly not to the easily disturbed. If you went this year, you did have to set through an unsettling bondage video and the enactment of each one of some guy's creepy foot fetishes. But, there were quite a few laughs to be had. At $20 it's a bit pricey, but not that bad. Honestly, I'd be much happier if all of the videos were supposed to be funny, instead of funny and/or erotica, but I doubt that will change for next year.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

All naturey and junk

This morning I was feeling all nature-y and junk. There were two deer eating apples from the tree on the side of my house. I managed to snap a couple pictures of them before they retreated off into the pseudo-wilderness.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Fortune cookies

I got a broken fortune cookie today:

Your love life will be happy and harmonious.

What? You can't add "in bed" or "in your pants" to that. It's already there. Maybe they're all like that now; perhaps the 2008-model fortune cookies come with sexual innuendo already included.

Source code

So, Microsoft is releasing the .NET Framework 3.5 source code when it releases the final version relatively soon here. You'll be able to be stepping through your code, jump into a method call, and find yourself browsing through Microsoft sources automatically downloaded from MSDN and matched up. This is pretty cool, and a welcome change. (It should be even easier than how I currently get framework source code on the corporate network.)

At first, I was skeptical that having the source code to something as big as the .NET Framework would be all that useful, and often, it's not. But, there are certain times when documentation is ambiguous and stepping into source code answers your question almost immediately. Having access to the source code by virtue of my Microsoftness has indeed been pretty helpful at least a couple times while working on ASP.NET features for SharePoint Designer and Expression Web. It won't answer all of your questions instantly, but I'm sure there are times when it will be a handy option, especially when you're dealing with "weird" things that are not usually documented too well, so it's cool that Microsoft is finally offering it to the world.

Mom and Dad

Well, the parental units who had been staying with me since the end of last week have packed up and returned home to Nebraska. They're pretty easy to get along with in small doses; they really only drove me nuts when it was 18 years all in one stretch. It was a nice little mini-vacation, though as always, it would have been nice to have thought ahead and taken an extra day off before returning to work so I could actually relax for a day while I'm spending vacation time anyway. At least I got eight hours of sleep last night; that was pretty excellent and unexpected.

We went to Vancouver, middle-eastern Washington, and had planned to go to western Washington but were rained out. I'm not entirely sure why we ventured all the way to a foreign nation to mostly only visit an aquarium when there is a perfectly good aquarium none of us had been to in Seattle, but I guess there's something slightly more interesting about sightseeing after a moderately lengthy road trip. Maybe.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


Several weeks ago, I made a critical error in judgment. I paid dearly for my error, and have relearned the lesson I'd already learned in the past. Several weeks ago, I installed the software that came with my new wireless card.

I know; I should have known better. I trust Microsoft to write decent wireless software about a hundred times more than I trust Random Hardware Vendor X (in this case, Gigabyte) to. And, in some level of fairness, I didn't quite realize that that button I was clicking was going to install extra software besides the drivers. I was in a rush to get an internet connection on my downstairs TV PC.

I paid for my error with weeks of incredibly unreliable internet access. I'd lose my connection after a few hours or after locking my PC, and it wouldn't come back until restarting the box. I had to deal with an idiotic access point selector tool instead of the stuff that comes with Windows. But worst of all, it caused me to run out of program guide data a couple hours before The Simpsons, causing it to fail to record.

Finally I uninstalled all of the "required" Gigabyte wireless software, and just used the regular drivers and the functionality that comes with Windows XP, and now everything works just fine. I should have just done that to begin with, and saved myself at least an hour of restarts and fiddling over the past month or two. I need a little warning that pops up that says NO DON'T DO THAT WHAT ARE YOU DOING YOU IDIOT whenever I go down the dark path of installing the "required" software that comes with something. It's always crap.

Things that make it impossible for me to concentrate

Things that make it impossible for me to concentrate and generally just drive me up the wall, but I find myself often having to deal with them anyway:
  • Having a TV on (any situation when I am not devoting my energy to specifically watching it, including if it's on and showing a blue screen in the same room as me, making that high-pitched whine that most people seem unable to hear)
  • Ambient noises of cafeterias, coffee houses, and bars
  • Vacuum cleaners and similar motors

Currently listening: Bat for Lashes—What's a Girl to Do?