June 30, 2008

Horse and Carriage

So, time for a little rant. I don't want to go into specifics as to how this came up, save that it's only tangentially got anything to do with me. I don't speak from experience, but I'd hope that I'm well enough informed - plus, this is only an opinion.

Anything that anyone goes through as a result of a marriage ceremony is entirely self-inflicted (the only part that's not is any legal documentation you may need, should you wish your union to be legal). I don't mean this to degrade what people do for/at/because of weddings, but merely to say that, if you suffered to make it happen, it was your choice to suffer.

I'll admit that societal pressures don't make it easy to make other choices, but they are there. If you want a big wedding but you or your parents don't have the money, or if you want a small wedding but you or your parents don't want to alienate any of the 5000 friends and family you have, there's a lot of pressure.

If you're Catholic, I happen to know that they don't (or didn't in the past) recognize weddings "outside" the church. This could cause problems if your future spouse is Southern Baptist or United Methodist, let alone if they're a practicing Jew. Off on a tangent here, but at least to my knowledge, the reason you always see Jewish mothers pleading with their sons to find a "nice Jewish girl" is partially based on Jewish tradition: religion is passed down to children by/from the mother.

Personally, I'm all about the intimate ceremony, if you're going to have one. If you need to invite your 5000 family and friends to something after that, rent out a big hotel space and have a huge reception. Marriage may be seen in some cases as a joining of families (a big deal in ancient political arenas, for sure), it's really about the union of the two people being wed.

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Age Verification

I gotta say I thought this was silly when I first heard about it, but this is hilarious. Japan has rolled out facial age recognition for cigarette vending machines.

Problem is, it can be fooled by photos, even ones in magazines.

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June 29, 2008

That's All Folks! (For Today)

Apparently I shot myself out of interesting thoughts for the day.

Random thought: Watching it right through like I am now, I can really see the writing quality difference in The West Wing after Sorkin's departure at the end of season 4.

Sad that Studio 60 had to suck so much.

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I don't want to survive, I want to live!

Last night, I went to see WALL-E. I'm not the first and I won't be the last, but I have to applaud John Lasseter's crew at Pixar for another job well done. I can only hope that he can spread the magic to Disney Animation, since he's the Chief Creative Officer of that now, too.

Before we get to the main attraction, I wanna talk about two things: one of the trailers, and the traditional Pixar pre-movie short. First, there was a trailer for Disney's next non-Pixar 3D animated movie, Bolt. It's about a dog who plays a "superdog" on TV, only he doesn't know it. I have to admit this looks interesting, but it seems much more like a traditional kids/family movie than anything Pixar produces. In fact, just the trailer makes one big point the differentiates Pixar from most of modern animation: it gives quite a bit of focus to the voice talent. I'm not saying they shouldn't get recognition (especially people like Maurice LaMarche and Tress MacNeille), but that it shows that perhaps the production companies are focused too much on one aspect of the production.

The short, Presto, is about a rabbit who just wants his carrot and the magician trying to perform a hat trick with the rabbit. Hilarity ensues because the magician's hat is indeed magically connected to another hat (a wizard's hat of all things), and the rabbit uses this to his advantage. It's a brilliantly hilarious piece of animation completely lacking in voice, in a way reminiscent of the silent comedies of a bygone era.

WALL-E, in its own way, is a cautionary tale of waste, love, laziness, and life - which isn't to say it's not a family movie, as all the Pixar films have been, because it most definitely is. Most of the movie lacks traditional dialogue, though there is quite a bit in the second half. There are, to my mind fewer laugh out loud moments compared to Presto, but the movie definitely keeps it self light-hearted.

For those who don't know the premise, WALL-E (short for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-class) is about a robot, one of many, left behind to clean up the Earth's trash problem. After 700 years, he's the only one of his kind still functional and he's developed a personality. His world and life are changed when a spaceship lands and deposits EVE, another robot, onto the surface.

It's odd that it does so, but WALL-E actually makes me think of the current Battlestar Galactica series. Let me explain: several times, the elder Adama has made a point that it's not enough to survive, that humanity has to be worthy of its survival. I wouldn't say that WALL-E says quite that, but the film does make the point that survival isn't enough: you have to live. Slowly but surely, as the film progresses, the robots and people with whom WALL-E comes into contact start to break out of their mere survival routines and start to live.

It's really quite amazing.

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June 28, 2008

Inter-Dimensional Love-a-thon

For those who don't know (and who doesn't know?), the second of the direct-to-DVD Futurama movies, The Beast With A Billion Backs, came out Tuesday.

I watched it earlier today and am sitting through the commentary right now. It's great, though I'm still not sure if they live up to the record of show's run on FOX back in the day. Like Bender's Big Score, it's a cavalcade of characters from earlier episodes and a few new ones, but this feels more like Futurama than Big Score did.

I'm always surprised at how funny the commentors are, but I guess that kind of makes sense given that they're the people who write, voice, and animate the show.

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Stay a while and listen...

Well, it's official: Blizzard announced Diablo III at the Worldwide Invitational in Paris.

The only thing I have to say is, this in no way means that it's near ready to go. It's probably a few years away.

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June 27, 2008

End of An Era

For those who didn't know, today is/was Bill Gate's last day at Microsoft.

It's not quite retirement from the company though: he'll still be the chairman, and he's going to be taking a more active hand in the administration of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

I was going to segue into a geeky marriage proposal story (like Richard Garfield's custom magic card, "Proposal", that it apparently took him 4 games to put into play legally), but it turns out it wasn't really. No point to it, but it would be an interesting highlight.

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Martian Soil

The Phoenix lander says that, in addition to water, the soil appears to be able to sustain life. Sounds like the only thing missing is some nitrogen. That and some actual life.

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June 26, 2008


I don't know why, but this is just too funny.

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The Internet Crazies

Apparently in Sweden, children are becoming increasingly concerned about their parent's internet habits.

I think this falls into the category with school shooting being blamed on video games and suicides blamed on roleplaying games: they would be doing these things or something similar without the internet.

The dads surfing for porn or hooking up with younger women would just be out surfing bars and buying Playboys. The mom addicted to WoW would just be addicted to something else, whether benign or malignant.

That's my opinion anyway.

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June 25, 2008

Potential Energy (and other Phenomena)

I had thought today, regarding an older post. I realize that what I called "potential energy" is probably just another word for restlessness, but that's not what the thought was about. I was thinking, going with the potential energy analogy and imagining myself as a spring that's been compressed into that state.

What happens to a spring press it down hard enough for longer than "normal"? Although I'd say it tends to stay a little more compressed from then on, in more general terms it deforms. I have to wonder what not being able to resolve those energy states is doing to my mental landscape.

Along similar terms, I have to wonder if the knowledge I've gained, and continue to gain, due to my semi-encyclopedic memory has given me any handicaps. If anything, maybe it's contributed to my lack of memory regarding other things. I can't remember what I told my counselor last except in vague terms. I occasionally get distracted in the shower (probably by thoughts like these) and lose track of where I am in my routine. It's just weird is what it is.

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Search and Seizure

It's been an annoying issue lately, but at the border they've been searching the file systems of laptops passing through. If they find anything that they suspect is in violation of any laws (copyright, etc.), they can seize them.

My problem isn't that they can search the machines, that makes sense. What doesn't? The idea that I can trust the judgment of a standard border patrol/customs agent regarding more questionable areas of the law. I don't trust the judgment of our elected officials regarding most modern electronics legislation.

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June 24, 2008

Worldwide Invitational?

Apparently the Blizzard Worldwide Invitational is on for this weekend and tradition indicates we should expect a game announcement. So sayeth Rock, Paper, Shotgun at least.

I don't have much to say about it, except to say that I like RPS's nickname for Wrath of the Lich King: Anger of the Zombie Monarch.

It's funny. I almost don't need an excuse for this post being short: there's a scheduled outage at blogger in 15 minutes.

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Memento Mori

For those who don't know or would like to know before they google it, the phrase memento mori can mean several things - chiefly, "remember that you are mortal" or "remember that you will die."

I bring this up because, as I recently found out, one of my contemporaries (a church-mate from when my family still went - we've all lapsed at some point, at least temporarily, since living in Louisiana) has passed away. It's actually kind of tough to deal with, not because we were ever close (the closest ties I have with my time there is with one of my teachers' family, and that's only through my parents), but because it is shocking to think of someone that I knew being dead.

I remember (and I hope this is right), my mom helping out her mother who, in addition to being the Lakeview's Music Director, was a florist. I remember one of her piano teachers (who also briefly taught my sister I believe) and I could swear she was the one who chose me and directed me in the only choir I've ever been a part of (a fifth grade, elementary school choir - I remember singing German and singing vocal parts I couldn't get close to now).

One thing I almost have trouble believing is that she was a part of the Society for Creative Anachronism. But I suppose I didn't know her for that part of her life.

I don't know why, but I've got A Perfect Circle's version of Joni Mitchell's "Fiddle and the Drum" repeating. I know it's an anti-war anthem, but it feels like funeral dirge, like a real song of mourning. Of course, I'm also mourning my ever short-lived book reading, for once I finish, it's unlikely I'll ever pick them back up again.

Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels' hierarchies?
And even if one of them pressed me suddenly against his heart:
I would be consumed in that overwhelming existence.
For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror,
Which we are just able to endure,
And we are so awed because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
Every angel is terrifying.
--Rainer Maria Rilke, Excerpt from "The First Elegy"

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June 23, 2008

Time is a face upon the water

Non-linear storytelling is not something new (The Odyssey begins in media res). It's was, I believe, rare to see being largely used until recent times though. It's been used to both dramatic and comedic effect, and is sometimes used because the story is non-linear (rare, but it does happen) or because it lends a story extra punch.

I've never seen Memento, but supposedly it's the standard piece for film non-linearity. Although, having not seen it, it could just reverse linearity (looking at the article I just linked, it appears not). Christopher Nolan also makes use of non-linear narrative in movie of The Prestige, through the use of journals. The novel is similar in its non-linearity, but it's narrative structure has longer bouts of linear narrative.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine posed the idea that even if our bodies exist linearly our minds don't, they constantly flit back to key moments in our lives. This point is illustrated by the "prophets" insisting the Sisko exists both at the point in time that he's speaking with them inside the wormhole and during the Battle of Wolf 359, when his wife died (which is to say, he still hasn't gotten past her death).

The Gunslinger, at least the original version, begins with Roland's pursuit through the desert but then unwinds to several earlier events. Even after it catches back up to the "present" we're still treated to flashbacks as Roland tells some of his story to Jake.

There was even an episode of Seinfeld that was effectively played in reverse order by scene.

But that's not why I'm here. I haven't finished it yet, but I'm past the half-way mark and feel I have to recommend The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. It's a love story told with a backdrop of inadvertant time travel to shake things up. I would put it only loosely in the category of Science Fiction, and that's only because of the time travel, mostly it's a work about life in extraordinary circumstances and could, therefore, also be standard dramatic fiction (it almost has a certain day-in-the-life quality). I'll post some other time about why I'm recommending this, but it's in this post because it is non-linear in the extreme (although you always know when you are).

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Introducing Unit Tests (aka The Joy of Tweets)

You know, this is one of the reasons I like Twitter. If you follow people who interest you, you'll find out interesting things and possibly see some good ideas.

In particular, Jeff Atwood was tweeting about unit testing a linked to this old blog post of his. In it, he complains about excessive religious fervor from the TDD crowd, and suggests it's more important that people get used to using unit tests than that they get used to writing them before the code. Honestly, I agree and not just because I'm not used to unit tests.

I say this because he then goes on to make 2 great suggestions. First, that unit tests are important enough that they should be first class language constructs instead of being implemented the way they are now, with 3rd party libraries and external executables. Second, though quoting someone else (the link's dead though, now), that a great - if not the best - way to get people used to writing unit tests is to write a test whenever you'd think about using print or debugger code.

It may be an old post, but it's one I didn't know about and one I wouldn't have found without Twitter. Now, if only we could magically make it more scalable.

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June 22, 2008


Interesting factiod, if you didn't know it about Age of Conan: From 1-20, or there abouts, the game plays largely the same for all players. This is because a decent part of play during that period is 100% solo. You're never forced to go solo, but it's an option for those classes that have an easier time of it.

I think this is done largely because, similar to WoW, if you start on a PvP, you need an area to get used to your character.

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Get Smart

Oh, the times I watched this 1960s TV show on Nick-At-Nite and laughed. Don Adams as Agent 86, Maxwell Smart, the CONTROL agent who manages to save the day in spite of himself, oh bumbling man that he was.

Last night I went to see the new movie adaptation. In the film, Steve Carell plays Max who, when we first meet him, is merely an analyst at CONTROL, which has taken itself further underground by pretending to be a defunct intelligence agency. He is their best analyst, although his thoroughness leads him to producing absolutely massive briefing reports (600+ pages), and he wants to become a field agent.

Through circumstances I'd rather not reveal, he does become one. Unlike in the TV series, where Max mostly was just what he appeared - a bumbling fool, the movies Maxwell Smart does a lot of the silly things he does because he has no field experience. That makes it ring a little truer, especially given that one would expect an intelligence agent to have shown some competencies.

Overall, I'd say the movie was good, and a worthy successor to the TV series. However, and this could be a result of the underwhelming audience, it wasn't exceptionally funny. It had moments (Bill Murray has a cameo as Agent 13, whom fans of the series will remember as the agent who was always in something, like a trash can or behind a painting, things like that), but it was mostly amusing and less laugh-out-loud funny.

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June 21, 2008

I guarantee

If you can guess the right accent to say that title in after the end of this post, you must have seen the same PBS cooking show I did.

I'm going to a friend of mine's (at least semi-)annual crawfish boil. It'll be the first time I try them, so I have no idea if I'll be focusing on other dishes post-taste test or not.

I'm also working on a little point-buy calculator based on the stuff in the D&D 4E PHB. Not sure how well it's gonna work out though.

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Key, Rose, Door

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.
So begins the Dark Tower cycle.

It's a tale of change, an attempt at redemption, of hope that things can be better in future, regardless of the past.

A tale of how people can be drawn out of their lives, out of their ruts, out of their element and survive, bond, form a family, and truly live again.

In other words, it's very difficult to discuss without spoilers. I cry your pardon.

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June 20, 2008

Outrageous Deaths

I'm getting this one in quick before the scheduled Blogger outage.

Some games just have great or funny deaths. I've never played Karateka, but that sounds quite harsh.

In other news, I'm going to be finishing the The Dark Tower tonight. I might have something kind of interesting to talk about tomorrow.

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More Darkmagic

Episode 4 of the Penny Arcade/PvP D&D 4E Podcast is online.

It's a bit of a cop-out post, true, but here it is anyway.

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June 19, 2008

Limbo...a game...a place...infringement?

This story has been developing over the last few days. There's a point-and-click game called Limbo of the Lost which appears to have ripped off, well, quite a few games' art and/or model assets. There's a forum thread with comparison shots.

I'm all for relaxing restrictions with regard to copyrights (seriously, life + 75 years? 90-ish years for corporate works? outrageous) but this is most definitely not fair use.

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There are always tradeoffs

It's true. In computers, the trade-offs are usually between "fast", "big", and "cheap" - pick two of the three. Increasingly the trade-offs in that particular area are less noticeable, but that's not my point.

A new study, reported on by the NY Times, says that increased focus on gains for "low-achieving" students is leaving out, or leaving behind, the top students. I don't think it's wrong to focus on the lower achievers, in fact, I think it's the most important thing we can do. However, I also think that the whole educational system needs some revision.

I won't claim to know what needs to be done, but I think we need to have less focus on testing. True, it's the only way we know of to get some sort of bead on the effect of our educational efforts but it's also responsible for the worst turn I've seen education in a long time: teaching to the test. That pattern of teaching towards regurgitation is a poor use of our educators and a waste of time for our children (admittedly, I say this without having a family of my own).

Sometimes our school systems drive me crazy.

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June 18, 2008

What did we name that again?

Though it may be somewhat arcane knowledge, the browser now known as Firefox was once named Firebird, and before that Phoenix. One of, if not the, most popular browsers out there, too (well, at least if you count IE7 and IE6 as two different browsers).

In case you didn't know, there's a new version out there. If you download it, all I ask is that you check out "about:robots".

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Zombie Coffee Maker

This is just a weird story. Someone can turn your PC into a zombie via your internet-enabled coffee maker.

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June 17, 2008

I’m Not A Crazed Gunman, Dad - I’m An Assassin

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Things Are Happening

M. Night Shyamalan started off promising. The Sixth Sense, though easily spoilable, had a fairly surprising twist even if it doesn't have a whole lot else going for it. Unbreakable is a startling look at what could be the source of our hero mythology and point towards the possibility of mediocre heroes for mediocre times. Signs was misunderstood by some people. It's not an alien invasion story, it's all about a man regaining his faith, not just in God but in life and wonder around us.

After that, things seem to go downhill. I didn't think The Village was that bad for the story it was telling, but it really wasn't what people were expecting. I never saw Lady in the Water, but making yourself - even if it's not "yourself" - a focal point of your story as an agent of change for the better (as a key figure in the future) is a difficult road to walk in a story.

With that said, here's a hilarious, spoiler-filled review of The Happening. I know the original title was a little spoiler-ish, but who came up with that name?

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June 16, 2008


It spawns everywhere - I'm guilty of it and have to admit it's a hard habit to break - and divides us. What's worse is that it spawns in places where it really doesn't matter or that it hurts.

Educational elitism pushes away the people who need education the most.

Workplace (or professional) elitism can alienate people who don't deserve the scorn just because they end their work-day before you do or put in less time outside of the office.

One of sillier pieces of elitism that I've seen has to do with women: "working women" vs. "stay-at-home-moms". Either option is a choice under normal circumstances, and I don't think either should be looked down upon.

The silliest elitism out there, in my opinion, has to do with hobbies or how people spend their "free" time: readers, writers, and musicians who scorn those who don't read/listen to the "classics" or who read/don't read certain authors, the "indie" movement in various fields where those who become popular (and those who like those who become popular) are seen as inherently lesser, and others.

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Name that Song (Answers)

Answers will be posted as tomorrow morning's post. Artist and Title; No google please.

  1. How cruel is the golden rule
    When the lies we lived are only golden plated
    Golden, Fall Out Boy
  2. Now please a don’t bother knockin'
    cause God knows I ain’t now stopping till you breathe none
    Gravemakers & Gunslingers, Coheed And Cambria
  3. The first star I see may not be a star
    We can't do a thing but wait
    So let's wait for one more
    For Me This Is Heaven, Jimmy Eat World
  4. What's the use of autonomy
    when a button does it all?
    Idiot Box, Incubus
  5. And perhaps the piano knows
    The piano knows something I don’t know.
    The Piano Knows Something I Don't Know, Panic At The Disco
  6. Feel the building all around me
    Like a wrap of armoured skin
    But the more we are protected
    The more we're trapped within
    The That Ate People, Peter Gabriel
  7. When you just cannot remember
    how you came by the memories that you have
    These are days that go on too long,
    these are days that you really don't want to last
    Come Undone, The Delgados

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June 15, 2008

"Artificial" Suspense

Ok, time to get a little annoyance off my chest from yesterday.

I was reading Wolves of the Calla (Dark Tower V for those who don't know), and one mystery left throughout the book is what the "wolves" are. At about the half-way point in the novel, the main characters of the series come into this piece of knowledge but it remains unconfirmed/unrevealed until almost the very end. Thing is, we're used to getting at least a bit of inside scoop from the character's thoughts and conversations, but all the conversations and thoughts regarding the nature of the Wolves are cut short, giving us only small clues. I think I had the right answer at some early point, but the book made my doubt my own thoughts.

I suppose, though, that this was in keeping with a fairly major theme in the book: trust and betrayal. A ka-tet may be broken by these, just as a town may be.

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Name that Song

Answers will be posted as tomorrow morning's post. Artist and Title; No google please.

  1. How cruel is the golden rule
    When the lies we lived are only golden plated
  2. Now please a don’t bother knockin'
    cause God knows I ain’t now stopping till you breathe none
  3. The first star I see may not be a star
    We can't do a thing but wait
    So let's wait for one more
  4. What's the use of autonomy
    when a button does it all?
  5. And perhaps the piano knows
    The piano knows something I don’t know.
  6. Feel the building all around me
    Like a wrap of armoured skin
    But the more we are protected
    The more we're trapped within
  7. When you just cannot remember
    how you came by the memories that you have
    These are days that go on too long,
    these are days that you really don't want to last

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June 14, 2008

Building Blocks

I can't speak from experience but for some reason, these seem like they'd be usable for the creative needs of several groups: kids, artists, people who want to build things without tools.

Seems pretty cool, if a bit expensive.

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You Blew It Up!

Well according to last night's Battlestar Galactica, one or more of Al Gore, Charlton Heston, and M. Night Shyamalan is right.

WARNING: Spoilers for the episode below the fold!

I half expected the camera to pan to a half-buried or at least partially demolished Statue of Liberty at the end. They made it to Earth, and assuming that the little thing they were holding next to the soil is the BSG equivalent of a Geiger Counter, I'm think we'll have to go with Charlton Heston - Apes.

"This has all happened before, and it will all happen again." Maybe not this time. It's not completely my own thought - I got the idea from someone in a spoiler thread - but what if this is the time they break the cycle?

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June 13, 2008


See also: Green Blackboards (And Other Anomalies)

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Bad Rollers

Apparently, cartoonists can't get a break, at least when it comes to rolling d20s. Part 3 of the Penny Arcade/PvP D&D 4E podcast was posted yesterday.

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June 12, 2008

The Crackpots and These Women

No, it's not Big Block of Cheese Day, I just thought I'd point some kinda funny things.

Those of you who follow MMOs at all probably know that Age of Conan dropped a few weeks ago. If you can't tell from the requirement of an age once you pick your country of residence, it's actually one of the first [M]ature-rated MMORPGs. This means two things: blood and breasts - that's right, if you remove the chest armor from a female character, you see naked, digital breasts with nipples. In fact, if you go into the "advanced" character design, there's sliders for pretty much everything (too many sliders, in my opinion).

That's somewhat to the side of the point, except to say that apparently some of the female character models had an unintentional breast reduction. Oh, and apparently Funcom (creators of Anarchy Online, one of the worst MMO launches in history) screwed something up such that, if you're playing a female character or possibly if your first character is female, your attack speed is slowed. In the heavily PVP-oriented world of AoC, this can be a very bad thing.

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Wizard And Glass

"So do we pass ghosts that haunts us later in our lives; they sit undramatically by the roadside like poor beggars, and we see them only from the corners of our eyes, if we see them at all. The idea that they have been waiting there for us rarely if ever crosses our minds. Yet they do wait, and when we have passed, they gather up their bundles of memory and fall in behind, treading in our footsteps and catching up, little by little."

-- Wizard and Glass, Stephen King

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June 11, 2008

Kobold Overboobie?

It's a non-sense name, devised in the new nomenclature found in the depths of the D&D 4E Monster Manual. Because monster species now frequently have members who have different combat roles (artillery, soldier, controller, skirmisher), and so they give them different names (Rakshasa Warrior, Kobold Wyrmpriest, Ogre Deathcrotch, etc.).

John Kovalic, creator of Dork Tower, created a random name generation system and that's where I got the title.

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Stored Procedures

A friend of mine is studying up for an SQL Server certification, and posted some commentary on a section about stored procedures.

I have to say I don't like the tone of the passage either. I think I see where the author's coming from, though, and, like the first commenter, I think it's largely for protection against injection attacks. In particular, I'd say it's because they provide language-agnostic protection against injection attacks. I almost wanna say that it's an attempt at protection against developer error creating attack vectors in your software.

What I mean by this is simple: if your policy is to only ever use stored procedures, you don't have to worry about a choice of languages, libraries, or SQL server calls allowing end-users to get into your database. You don't have to depend on someone coding input sanitization (which you should do anyway) or the use of parameterized queries when all the data access is being done with delegated authority through a stored procedure.

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June 10, 2008

Hellgate? In more ways than they intended

At least, it seems like it. To me, that seems like such a let down from the (or at least a large portion of the core) team that gave us the Diablo games.

I haven't played it personally, but I'm thoroughly enjoying Shamus Young's autopsy of the game. Here's the three parts so far: Statement of Intent, Part One, Part Two.

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Doctrine of First Sale

The "first-sale doctrine" allows purchasers to transfer ownership of their copy of copyrighted material (books, CDs, DVDs, etc.). Yesterday, even though it was in application to patents, the Supreme Court of the United States took a position that could be said to strengthen that doctrine.

I think it's a good thing.

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June 9, 2008

iPhone? schmi-Phone

If you've seen any news at all today, odds are it was news of Steve Job's keynote at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (see immediately prior post). Really, it was just an announcement of the expected: a new 3G iPhone with GPS, along with some expanded coverage of the upcoming App store (and the iPhone 2.0 software, available on all models later this year).

It's interesting, but it'll be a while for me before I get a new iPhone, seeing that I have the current model already. The most interesting thing to me, so far, is that Apple and AT&T are willing to let a whole month go by without and iPhone sales. Right now, neither company is selling the older model (in fact, it appears that they purposely let stock run out about a week or two ago).

In other news, if you don't plan on playing the Keep on the Shadowfell (H1) module for D&D 4E - and if you plan on playing with me, you will be - that "actual play" with the 7-year old now has an entry up to the encounter with Irontooth.

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Well, I finished The Wastelands, and have started Wizard and Glass. I cry your pardon, gunslinger: we don't need something he can't solve, we need something he refuses to solve - aka, Eddie pulled a Kirk on Blaine. I kind of like Oy, if only as faithful companion and minor comic relief.

In other news, I'll probably be watching the TWiTLive (starts at 11:30 CDT) meta-coverage of today's WWDC keynote. As Leo said yesterday, "We'll refresh Engadget so you don't have to."

Since I have a first-gen iPhone and probably won't be looking to replace for a little while, I'm mostly interested in when they'll unveil the app store. 3G doesn't entice me that much unless I can tether the phone without jail-breaking it. GPS is the only thing that's really tempting, but I think Apple's more likely to produce a GPS add-on due to self-inflicted size limitations.

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June 8, 2008

Yeah, more D's

I'm gonna do some more D&D 4E plugging. No, I still don't have my books (they're still on order from Amazon), though I have taken a look at the leaked PDFs (no, I'm not telling you where to get them; I only felt alright doing so because I've purchased the books already).

Martin at Gnome Stew does have the books and has made both a first impressions post and an initial questions post. I hope he doesn't mind if I quote him, and the books, here (this if from the DMG section of the first impressions post):

Very first page: “It’s just as vital for everyone at the table to cooperate toward making the game fun for everyone as it is for the player characters to cooperate within the adventure.

Third page: “It’s not the DM’s job to entertain the players and make sure they have fun. Every person playing the game is responsible for the fun of the game.”

Those three sentences right there are more and better GMing advice than I’ve gotten from the 2e, 3.0 and 3.5e DMGs combined.
This gives me hope. The only thing that doesn't is the now practical requirement that you use a battle-mat. However, ever since 3.0 at least (and technically at it's heart, from the wargames that the great Gygax and Arnesson derived their game from), D&D has been a tactical game and it's pretty hard to run mechanically implemented tactics without some sort of firm placement in the world around you.

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Jim Darkmagic (of the New Hampshire Darkmagics)

First, Boom Blox = soreness. I guess I was a little overactive throwing balls at towers of blocks.

Second, the guys at Penny Arcade along with Scott Kurtz from PvP recorded a pre-release D&D 4E game session that's being released in parts (one a week, and I'm not sure how many) as a podcast.

It's pretty cool, and shows you some of the depth of the new power system.

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June 7, 2008

Big Badda Boom

So I'm a little later than normal posting. The culprit: Boom Blox. It's not the only thing either, as right now I'm about half-way through The Wastelands, and the nap I had this afternoon threw off my sense of time.

Also, last night's Battlestar Galactica showed that the promo team at Sci-Fi has figured out at least one trick of the trade: a quote used out of context.

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Floss you brain?

mental_floss is a nifty little site with odd pieces of trivia. The other day, they had a "Lunchtime Quiz" over some classic video game themes.

You might want to check it out. I sucked it up on the quiz, but at least got the obvious ones.

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June 6, 2008

4E is here

But it's not here-here. (I took Amazon up on their nice discount gift set, which for me hasn't shipped yet) For those confused so far, I'm referring to D&D 4E.

In the realm of things that are awesome, over on RPG.net someone played the introductory adventure (which has been out for a while) with his seven year old son. Beyond the fact that the kid was running all 5 of the pre-gens at once (there's a sixth on Wizard's site now) and not having any serious trouble (including some pretty close to roleplay situations, although he didn't have any intra-party conflict, obviously), they used Lego(!) figures for miniatures and for mocking up the town.

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Games Galore


That's a lot of equipment.

Update: No purchase necessary entry form.

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June 5, 2008

Points of View

I think I've hit upon the one hitch I've run into while reading the Dark Tower series: the narrative viewpoint switches with far less warning than I'm used to.

Stephen King uses a third person limited (at least that's what I think...it's close enough) that I'd swear switches points of view without switching even extra paragraph breaks (I think...I blazed through The Gunslinger and The Drawing of The Three so fast I'm not sure).

I've gotten used to third person limited with switching view points. Terry Pratchett (so sad about his Alzheimer's diagnosis) and Robert Jordan (sad he died, even though his later Wheel of Time books weren't as good - or, were stagnant as the case seemed - apparently Brandon Sanderson is finishing A Memory of Light which will be the last book as planned) both use the method, with Jordan normally changing the focus at chapter breaks and Pratchett doing so after some extra blank lines (this is nominally because the switches are often short, and because he doesn't normally use chapters - only his "Children's" books and the "Moist von Lipwig" Discworld books are exceptions so far).

One of the more interesting books I've read in years past is My Name is Red by Turkish author Orhan Pamuk. I'll admit, I only started reading it because of my world literature class in college, but I kept the book and finished it later. It's a murder mystery told in a rotating first person PoV, where the narrator switches every chapter and isn't limited to the living. In fact, it starts out with the narrator being the person who has just been killed. From that point on, it goes through all the people involved in the murder and its investigation with unreliable narrators abounding. This is not to mention that occasionally the narrator is a color, like red, or drawing of a tree or dog. It's bizarre, but it's pretty good.

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There I will sing all their names!

Well, last night I finished The Drawing of The Three.

I have to say I was glad when Eddie told Roland that Detta's speech didn't make any sense, that it seemed like a combination of fictional characters. Up to that point I had to wonder where King had found the source for that speech pattern.

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June 4, 2008

More Linkage

Yeah, I'm being lazy. Here's some more links (to various places, instead of from one place):

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Remix Culture

Shawn Gaston - artist, DJ, GM, and more from St. Louis - has posted a very catchy remix. It's a blend of Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" and NIN's "Discipline".

Of course, then Luke from Fear the Boot (see right), decided to challenge people to a high score competition in Audiosurf, which is available on Steam. I've tried it out before, and it's an interesting game, mostly useful for passing time and "actively" listening to music.

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June 3, 2008

Ars Linknica

Here's a few gaming links from Ars Technica:

Guitar Hero: Aerosmith now has a partial track list.

The guys behind Lumines are working on localizing Rock Band for Japan.

I don't follow gaming magazines, but apparently EGM was so offended by Konami's restrictions on any pre-release Metal Gear Solid 4 reviews that they didn't give the game a score. They're holding off until next month, when they'll be free to publish all their thoughts.

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The Geek Hierarchy

For those who haven't seen it before, here's the geek hierarchy. It's not relevant to anything, just kinda funny.

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June 2, 2008

Object-Relational Mapping

For those of you who haven't noticed these past three months, I tend to blog about the FSDNUG meetings relatively shortly after. Since the meetings happen on the first Monday of every month, guess what time it is?

Since the dawn of time (ok, for as long as there have been databases and programmers that could connect to them), man has searched for ways to get database ... data ... into a usable form that programs could use. One of the solutions to this problem, in the land of object-oriented programming, is to use an ORM (see title) tool to help. There are a variety of these available, probably as many as there are motivated, capable people who have different ideas of how to do things. Of the many, the .NET world includes NHibernate (a port of Hibernate Core for Java), the ADO.NET Entity Framework (which hasn't quite been released yet, I believe), and SubSonic.

Tonight, Michael Paladino gave a presentation on ORMs and, in particular, SubSonic. SubSonic is an open-source (free as in speech and free as in beer) ORM tool designed for use with ASP.NET websites. From the demos offered, it looks like an incredibly useful tool if you set you database up properly (it's definitely possible to use configurations to get some functionality out of it, but at its base it relies on certain conventions being followed). They even include some fairly handy web forms controls, even if some of them are only really useful to accelerate your RAD processes at the earlier stages.

It really sucks, IMNSHO (that's right, look it up), that I'll probably never see use out of any tools like this at my current office. First, we'd have to find something that supported DB2 (I jokingly asked during the meeting, "So we won't be getting LINQ to Mainframe?"). Then we'd have to convince the DBAs and the cpu-efficiency folks that it was a good idea.

By the way, Paladino, you should at least update your blog to mention/discuss the presentation. For those interested in the PPT or the sample project, click the Fort Smith .NET User Group link to the right and then go to "Previous Meetings". Until next month, it should be the first meeting at the top of the page (for future reference, it's the June 2, 2008 meeting).

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The Prisoner

No, not the TV series. I'm referring to the first of Roland's three draws in the Dark Tower series. As an update, I made it to the first "shuffle" section of The Drawing of the Three. Good read so far.

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June 1, 2008


Sign in SF
Sign in SF,
originally uploaded by jcoulton.
Nor should you jump on the historic beds.

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Narrow Stairs

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