Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Weather

It seems that recently I've been really obsessed with the weather, specifically the temperature. I've always had something of an adversarial relationship with the hot summer months, but I think this is new. I find myself compulsively checking the 10 day forecast, sighing in stoic resignation at all the days in the 80s, cursing any days in the 90s, raising a ragged cheer at any day in the 70s and sending e-mails with screenshots and titles like "Did you ever see anything more beautiful?" when it drops into the 60s. (You may think that last bit is an exaggeration, it's not.)

I was talking with a friend about this and he replied that he really liked summer, that it was winter he had a hard time with and that if things work out with his South African ingénue (and they have the money) they'll split their time between locations and avoid winter altogether. He mentioned all the things you couldn't do in winter, like hike, and bike and barbecue. Fair enough, but there are a lot of things you can do in winter that you can't do in the summer, like ski, or snowshoe, or snowmobile, or perhaps my favorite hibernate. It's this last bit which probably appeals to me the most (not that I don't enjoy the others). I enjoy bundling up against the long winter night with a book, or a DVD (or a good computer game). While it's summer you've got all this daylight to burn and you feel a certain obligation to fill all of it with activity, not so in winter.

Perhaps (probably) this indicates some fundamental laziness on my part. If so it wouldn't be the only symptom. In any case this is not to say that Winter is my favorite season, it probably goes fall, winter, spring then summer. As a result I confess to having this idyllic vision of moving farther north (or higher up the mountain) and finding a place that only has two seasons, winter and fall, with maybe a little bit of spring thrown in. Not sure if such a place exists... but one can dare to dream.

I also dream about unicorns

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Laser Dinosaur Wars

I've noticed that comments have been kind of sparse lately. I can take a hint, things have been a little bit boring, so I cast my mind backwards for some really interesting story, something really exciting to blog about, and I eventually it came to me, "Laser Dinosaur Wars"! You may think that nothing could be as exciting as this title indicates, but you would be wrong!

As with all things really exciting, Laser Dinosaur Wars (hereafter referred to as LDW) started while I was in college. 7-11 was giving away little (2 inches or so) glow-in-the-dark plastic dinosaurs. My friend Josh managed to acquire over 100 of these little dinosaurs and that's how LDW was born. The core idea is simple, turn off all the lights and throw dinosaurs at one another. But it turned out that there was a hidden depth to the game. Your initial instinct is to horde your dinosuars, but having a big pile of glowing dinosaurs gives away your position. In fact just the act of throwing the dinosaurs reveals approximately where you are. This might not have been a big deal if the dinosaurs were softer, but they were made of relatively hard plastic, so getting whacked by one hurt quite a bit (and yes I suppose that it is possible that someone could have had their eye put out).

So as you can see the core dynamic of LDW was that your ammunition was also your only source of light, and not a very good source of light at that, this made gameplay actually pretty dangerous (from an "Ow! that really hurt! standpoint, not a "911? we've got a man down with dinosaur in his jugular" standpoint). The "run and gun" offense was very effective (immediately moving after every throw) but it was very easy to run into someone else, or a desk, or the wall... My career ending injury ended up taking the form of that last obstacle. Josh had just bought a new house and the basement was totally empty. By this time we were out of college (that should have been a clue right there) and we decided to take advantage of all the open space to play LDW one more time. I was running the fire and leap offense, and didn't realise that I was only about two inches from the wall. So when I flung my brontosaurus and immediately dove forward, the top of my head impacted into the wall with considerable force. In fact I think I must have hit a stud because otherwise I'm sure I would have gone through the dry wall. My wretched gasping sobs brought the lights up, to never go off again...

Laser Koosh Wars might have worked better

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Weekend Report

Well it was a busy weekend, I'm pretty tired. Friday I got together with the guys for some games. We played Shadows Over Camelot and Illuminati: New World Order. We played without the traitor in SoC, so we managed to win without too much trouble, though as usual near the end it was all we could do to keep the siege engines in check. INWO was quite fun as well, though one of my friends misread the rules and thought that to win you had to reach the victory condition and then maintain it for one complete pass around the board (in reality you just have to hit it on your turn and the game is over). As a result the game lasted a lot longer than it should have. I wouldn't have minded except I had to get up early the next morning to go hiking.

Saturday I went hiking for about three hours, good exercise, but after not getting enough sleep the night before, it really wiped me out. That night we had the family campaign, which went pretty well, although I think my son may get into character a little too much. He plays a monk so he spends most of the session doing shadow kung-fu at his corner of the table. Sunday was church and then a drive up to Ogden for another family gathering. Monday I tried to get some work done around the house and then we had another family gathering that evening. So overall a very enjoyable weekend, but very tiring as well. I think it actually feels like something of a break to be at work.

In other news, it looks like the Jazz are about out of the playoffs. The theory used to be that if I watched the game they would do poorly. And Saturday seemed to bear that out somewhat. Since I was at the family campaign there was no opportunity for me to even tune in, and they did awesome. Monday I took it even a step further, I wasn't even aware that they were playing until this morning (for some reason I thought the game was tonight) but of course they still lost, so I guess there goes that theory, not that I ever believed it, but it made a nice narrative.

Going to bed early tonight

Friday, May 25, 2007

Game Night

Well tonight is the monthly game night with the guys. I'm not sure what we'll end up playing, so I tossed six different games into my car:

Puerto Rico: Widely regarded as one of the best designed games ever (for example it's #1 on The only downside is that I'm the only one of the group who's ever played it, and that was several years ago. (This is one of the games in my "Played and Picked up at GenCon and then never played again collection".) It's supposed to only take a couple of hours to play, so maybe we'll find a place for it in tonight's line up.

Dreamblade: I have a bunch of unopened Anvilborn boosters, so we could easily do a little sealed tournament tonight. The only problem is that it looks like we'll end up with five people tonight, which means someone would have to have a bye each round. Still having one guaranteed break tonight is not the worst thing in the world. If it wasn't for the odd number of attendees this would be my first choice.

Samurai Swords (AKA Shogun): Part of the Milton Bradley GameMaster series, which gave us Axis and Allies. I enjoy it more than A&A because the starting positions are random so you aren't faced with the same opening move every time you play. It's about the right length for tonight and we have the right number of people too.

Illuminati NWO: One of my favorite games for this size of group. The only downside is that a couple of the guys who will be there tonight have already played it a fair amount recently. Plus my cards are kind of disorganized, so it would take a while to get everything ready.

Order of the Stick Adventure Game: The one person who missed last time really wants to play this, but I would prefer to play something else, partially because I haven't figured out how best to tweak it yet, and partially because it's such a long game, and I'm supposed to go on the weekly hike tomorrow at 8:00 am. It's my last choice, though I'll play it if that's what everyone else wants to do.

Shadows Over Camelot: Another really enjoyable game, and not too long either, we could probably play it twice if we wanted to. I've only played with seven players, I imagine the dynamic is different with five. It's a hard game to win, and it's cooperative which makes me a little reluctant to play it. I'm kind of in the mood to crush someone, perhaps that's why I would like to play Dreamblade, since I have quite a bit more experience than any of my friends.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Getting a refund from the Government

I'm not sure how much of this story I've already mentioned in my blog, but since I think I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, it may be time to tell the story in its entirety. So back in December I signed up my oldest daughter for ski school, the total cost was $220 dollars. Just enough to make it worth getting back, but small enough that every additional effort makes you wonder if your time wouldn't be better spent elsewhere, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Shortly after we signed her up, she broke her arm. And the doctor said that she definitely couldn't go skiing. So I took the doctor's note, I went to the county rec center where we'd signed her up, and requested a refund. They told me no problem, I filled out some paperwork and they said it would be a few weeks. This was right at the beginning of January. Well when the money hadn't shown up by March I called them to see what the deal was. They referred me to Penny... From then until now I've probably called Penny 50 times. Most of the time she's not in. I've mostly given up on leaving messages, since she's never once called me back.

Three weeks ago I decided that the only way I was going to get any progress was to go over there in person. I knew that she was in the office (though it was impossible to get her on the phone), so I left work a little early and headed over there. I'm not sure about you, but generally I have a difficult time being as angry in person as I am in "rehearsals". Still I think I expressed my frustration adequately and she promised that she would talk to the main office and call me back the next morning. I didn't hear from her the next day, and when I called back the day after that I discovered that she was on vacation for a week.

Since she got back I've called at least a half dozen times, but never gotten ahold of her, so great was my desperation that I even tried leaving a message on her voice mail on Monday. Of course she didn't call back, it was a pretty angry message, but she didn't call back on my polite messages either. This morning as I faced the prospect of one more fruitless call to Penny, I decided that I had had enough, that I was going to talk to someone higher up. I had tried to thread the bureaucracy once before without any success, but this time I was not going to give up. Finally after many transfers, and a lot of time on hold I ended up talking to the person who actually sends out the refunds. She didn't have any record of it, but she told me I would need to talk to the lady who actually processed the refunds, but of course she wasn't in yet. So I got the name of the lady, and left my name and number.

And then a miracle occurred, she called me back. I know, you probably think I'm lying, a government employee called you back?!?! But it's true I swear on my life. She had no record of the refund either, which is sort of good, I mean she could have had a record that a check was sent out and that it was cashed, that would have been bad. In any case she promised to get to the bottom of it. I hate to be overly optimistic, but I think I could finally be nearing the end of this incredibly frustrating journey.

One more reason to be a libertarian

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Humor from the world of IT

Some reasonably funny stories from the world of IT today. As a fair warning I should remind my readers that funny IT stories is something of an oxymoron. At a minimum it's important to remember that any story involving activities after midnight, alcohol or Las Vegas is 100 times funnier than any IT story, just as a baseline, it goes up from there. So with that warning in place, I'll continue.

So I was working on moving a virtual server to a physical server. I was going to do this by swapping IPs. Both machines had two network cards, an external and an internal. So my plan was to disable both of the cards on the server I was moving to, give them the old server's IP addresses, disable the cards on the old server and enable the cards on the new server. Well I had overlooked the fact that I was remoting in to the new server so the minute I disabled the internal card my own connection was cut off... No big deal right I can just go into the server room. When I got there I noticed that one of the doors had been taken off and replaced by a wall with a bunch of fans. It was then that I remembered the e-mail I got yesterday "No one will be able to get into the server room tomorrow they're doing a pressure test for the fire suppression system." With no network or physical access I was basically screwed. Fortunately they were just about done and I was able to get back in a few minutes later.

The reason I was moving from virtual to physical is that the searches were really slow (the machine was running the software for all of our web searches). We'd had a consultant come out and spend a day looking at things and he was convinced that that was the problem. And in fact when I had set up a physical server to test it the searches were about 30 times as fast, so it certainly looked like he had a point. Well that was just temporary, this morning was the permanent move and when we made the switch it was just as slow... Obviously that's a bad thing. So I started to examine what was missing. The search software uses a backend database to track what people search on (called SearchTrends). I turned out when I did the first physical test I hadn't had the time to set that up, but since this mornings move was permanent, I did set it up and it turns out all the slow-down was due to that.

Now you would think that the consultant from the company would have checked that out. I mean it's really easy to test, and I can only imagine that if we had a problem with it, someone, somewhere would have had the same problem and it would have been one of the things he checked. I'm fully aware that the vast majority of my excuses are thin rationalizations for sloth, but on this point, I think that if someone who works for the company can't figure out what's wrong with their product, then I can hardly be expected to.

A little steamed

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Karma, which originally was confined to the accumulation of good (and bad) energy as a determination of what one is reincarnated as in Hinduism, has morphed in popular usage to cover the more immediate consequences of bad and good actions without any apparent direct casuality. The biggest current example of this is the show "My Name is Earl", where the title character realizes that nothing good has ever happened to him, and wonders if it is because he has never done anything good, so he makes a list of everything bad he's ever done and resolves to make amends for each item. (I thought the second season was a little bit weaker than the first, though it does end with a bang.)

In any event I had a very funny karmic experience the other day (at least under the second definition.) On Friday as I was leaving work, I saw one of my friends crossing the parking lot, while talking on his cell phone. I got close and revved my engine, no reaction, which made me realize that he had no idea I was there. So I coasted until my front bumper was just about touching him and then I laid on the horn. To say I scared him would be an understatement. He jumped, he turned, he landed in his best karate stance ready, I suppose, to sell his life dearly. The adrenaline level was such that he needed to fight something and so he jumped on the hood of my car and bared his teeth.

You might think that the karmic consequences of my action occured immediately when I peed my pants because I was laughing so hard, but no it wasn't until the next day when I went to pick up my friend so we could go on our hike. He's a notoriously deep sleeper, so the plan was for him to leave the door open and I would just wake him up when I got there. Well somehow he woke up a couple of minutes before I did and was waiting to scare me when I opened the door. I admit he got me, the first time in many years which is why I made the connection, but not nearly as good as I got my co-worker (he needed to be closer, if he had put his face right at the opening I would have wet my pants, for real this time). So my speculation is that the difference in how bad I scared my co-worker, vs. how bad I was scared represents the amount that my act was justified. In other words it was right to scare him, just perhaps not quite so badly...

Fear is funny

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Dreamblade Tournament

As you may recall on Friday I was unsure whether I wanted to go to the Dreamblade tournament on Saturday or not. Part of my reluctance about going hinged on getting my Saturday hike in. Once I scheduled that for 8:00 am, I figured I could do both. My plan was to go, play the first two rounds and take it from there. If I was 0-2 then I could just leave, if I was 2-0 then it would be clear that I should stick around. If I was 1-1 then I would just be mad...

I got done with the hike earlier than I expected, but there still wasn't enough time between it and the tournament to get anything to eat, though if I had known that they were going to be an hour late getting things started... I'll leave my rant on how poorly run it was for a little later. I don't want to whine, but... actually that's precisely what I want to do, my pull was really bad. I not only had sucky pieces I had duplicates of sucky pieces.

The first game was ugly, possibly the ugliest I've ever played, mostly because I was still learning the pieces. I won it on time (in other words the game hadn't finished when time was called, but I was ahead). I hate it when a game goes to time, it always feels like you're winning (or losing) on a technicality. I probably shouldn't feel as bad as I do, since it was the other guy who was playing slow.

Right when I was in the middle of that ugly first game, my friend Wil called. He had had a dream the night before about the tournament. In the dream I was bummed because the #2 player in the world had driven up from LA to attend the tournament. As it turns out the #2 player had driven up, and was standing right next to me when the phone rang. Since I was in the middle of the game and since the #2 guy knows Wil pretty well I handed him the phone and said talk to Wil for awhile. Now remember I had no idea about the dream. Well after having that dream to call and have that very guy pick up the phone... Well apparently it was like something out of the Twilight Zone.

The second game was with a 12 year old girl. One might think that it would be an easy game, but she's ranked fourth in the state, and has made it to a couple of 1k top fours, so she's no slouch. But apparently sealed is not her favorite format, so I beat her, though I felt bad about it, I think she might have even teared up a little at the end, I thought that was a pretty underhanded play myself. I mean if I tear up people just think I'm a pansy.

The third game was against the aforementioned #2 player in the world. This was was when my bands weakness really hurt me, also the die rolls did not go in my favor. I only say this because I have a witness. On a couple of rolls I made my opponent agree to testify to anyone who asked that the dice just weren't going my way. So anyway I lost on time, but I managed to keep reasonably close. Of course with all my games going to the time limit I didn't have any opportunity to rectify the food situation. Certainly that had to play a role in my performance right?

The fourth game was for all the marbles so to speak. If I win I go to the top four and make some money, if I lose then it's all over. I won't bore you with all the details, but it was a hard fought match and we ended up tied at 5-5, whoever won the next round would win the game. In Dreamblade the average damage per die is 1. (three faces that do no damage, and three faces that do 1,2 or 3 points of damage respectively, for those that don't trust my math) To win the game I needed to roll 5 points of damage on 7 dice or 6 points of damage on 8 dice. I didn't need to do both, just one or the other... well I think at this point you can guess what happened, I didn't make either roll and I lost.

This wasn't the worst result in the world. The tournament had already gone a lot longer than it should have. Part of the delay was in distributing the playing rewards. The tournament organizer, claimed that Wizards hadn't told him how to do it (that was his excuse for a lot of things) so he was just going to do it randomly. When I mentioned that it was on the website he retorted that, the website wasn't official. At which point all the dreamblade players rose up en masse and clubbed him to death with our unused Gun Behemoths. Okay not really, but that's what should have happened. Eventually he saw the light, but then he had to look up all of our points on his crappy dial-up connection, which added another 45 minutes to things. So a tournament that should have taken five hours ended up taking nearly seven, and don't even get me started on his complete lack of rules knowledge.

50k here I come

Friday, May 18, 2007

Dreamblade Tournament

Well there's a Dreamblade 1k tomorrow here in town. I'm woefully unprepared, in part because of a lack of time and in part because my interest in Dreamblade is in something of a trough. That, coupled with the fact that none of my friends are coming with me, has left me mostly ambivalent about attending. Perhaps it would help if I made a pro and a con list.

Could win up to $500
Will almost certainly have fun
I'm #1 in the state I should defend my title
Could meet some interesting people
I'll get practice which could help me at the GenCon 50k
People expect me to be there
I'll be supporting the Dreamblade Community

It's that last point which probably pulls on me the most. Dreamblade is an awesome game and it really deserves to be successful. Even though, in the ever oscillating cycle of my own interest (picture a sine wave), my excitement is at a low point, that doesn't mean that I still don't really want the game to do well.

The tournament costs $45
It will probably take 6-8 hours of the day
I haven't practiced hardly at all
The product I get will mostly be duplicates of what I already have
Could end up being a complete waste of time
None of my friends are coming with me

Again its the last point (actually probably the last two points) that carry the most weight. At this point I'm still planning on going, but we'll see. I'll let you know on Monday. Course as people often say, "Most of my regrets come from not doing things, very few come from doing something." I guess if I were to follow that advice I'd be there with bells on.

The Human Sine Wave

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Lately I've been going through a process of trying to refine my music library. The first step was to get it all into one place, which mostly consists of ripping all my CDs. This is taking long enough that while I do that I've moved on to step 2 which is to seperate the wheat from the chaff. In other words take the songs I actually like from each album and make a play list. So far I've dumped everything into one playlist. Initially it was titled "Good Stuff". Mostly it was a dump of everything I thought might be good. Once I realized that a lot of it wasn't and that new music was coming in all the time from the albums I was ripping I created a second playlist, "Really Good Stuff". I imagine at some point I'll want to filter it again and I'll have to create a "Really, Really Good Stuff" (perhaps to be followed by a "Really, Really Good Stuff (and this time I mean it)" list).

At the moment all genres are mixed together. At some point I'd like to create mood lists: Energetic Music, mellow music, sad music, classical, etc. But for now the all-purpose list seems to work. In the process of assembling all my music I got rid of a lot of CDs from my wishlist, mostly because I realized that I already have more music than I can handle (the "Really Good Stuff" list has a 606 with a playtime of 1.6 days and I still have CDs left to rip), and so something would have to really fill a gap rather than just be the 9th They Might be Giants CD I own.

To give you an idea of my tastes here are the next 20 songs on the playlist (random shuffle):

Sabotage -- Beastie Boys -- Ill Communication
Everytime You Say Goodbye -- Allison Krauss -- Now That I've Found You
Find The River -- R.E.M. -- Automatic For The People
Crazy -- Gnarls Barkley -- St. Elsewhere
Somebody -- Veruca Salt -- For the Masses: A Tribute to Depeche Mode
Mrs. Robinson -- Simon & Garfunkel -- The Best of Simon & Garfunkel
Crystal -- New Order -- Get Ready
Dan y Dwr -- Enya -- Enya (The Celts)
Bleed American -- Jimmy Eat World -- Bleed American
Freak Out -- Avril Lavigne -- Under My Skin
Insanity -- Oingo Boingo -- Boingo
Girl Sailor -- The Shins -- Wincing The Night Away
Just Like Heaven -- The Cure -- Acoustic Hits
Cover: Ship Song -- Heather Nova -- Coverville Podcast
Aliens Exist -- blink-182 -- Enema of the State
L'Estro Armonico, Op. 3 - Concerto #6 in A minor -- Itzhak Perlman -- Vivaldi: The Four Seasons, Etc.
Mother -- Pink Floyd -- The Wall
Little Stereo -- Teddybears -- Soft Machine
Speak To Me -- The Connells -- One Simple Word
I Feel You -- Depeche Mode -- Songs of Faith and Devotion

The Tuvan throat singing hasn't been ripped yet

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

City Library

On Monday night, for Family Home Evening, I took the family to the downtown city library, since it was my turn to choose. It's quite a spectacular building (it's even won some awards scroll to near the bottom). One thing it incorporates, which seems to be very popular these days, is a rooftop garden. I actually intentially parked far away so we could walk across the grounds a little bit. Then we took the long curving stairs up to the roof, before dropping down into the library.

I hate to admit this but I don't go to the library very often. Mostly because I have more books at home then I could ever read, so it's rare that I need to supplement my collection with a library book. But I wish I could go there more often. It's obvious that the new library is more popular than the old library. They went to a lot of effort to make it into a place where people could hang out. Obviously a lot of the "hanging out" revolves around the internet kiosks, but there's a lot of people who go there to study and read as well. I found myself experiencing jealousy, particularly for people who appeared to be homeless (I'm going primarily off the size and wear of their backpack). How would it be to dispense with it all (except the wife and kids, they're getting old enough to be able to haul a backpack) and hang out at the library all day?

In other news Blizzard has given notice that they're going to be making a big announcement this Saturday in Korea. If I had to choose I'd probably want it to be Diablo III, or some new world (very unlikely), but my money is on "World of Starcraft". Starcraft is huge in South Korea, so right off the bat it seems unlikely to be a non-starcraft game (another RTS, i.e. Starcraft 2, would be the other possibility). Blizzard is in a class by itself, so I'll definitely be picking it up whatever it is, and I personally know a hundred people just like me, so whatever it is, it should be a success. Recently they seem to be announcing closer to the actual release, so my other hope would be that whatever it is, it's coming soon.

I'm not very good at waiting

Late Edit: Further research revealed that the countdown to "question mark" front back of is mirrored on the site Too bad of all the possible game announcements that's the one I'm the least excited about...

Monday, May 14, 2007

Trees and Guitar Hero

Well I did something pretty dumb yesterday. We were putting up a tarp in the back yard yesterday and we had decided to tie of the two corners to trees growing out of the ravine behind my parents house. My dad happened to mention that last time he had done this he had climbed the tree. I figured if the old man could do it then I could. Of course I happened to be wearing sandals, so that should be your first clue that this story doesn't end well.Anyway so I went down into the ravine. The tree I wanted to climb actually had two trunks which split about a foot above the ground. So I stepped into this "V" braced my fore arms against each side and started to shimmy upwards. Well I was only a little ways up when my feet slipped.

At that point my forearms were all that was holding me up. I use the term "hold" very losely because I immediately started to slide, also not an ideal term since there was a lot more grinding then sliding involved. After a few seconds of intense pain I dropped out of the tree. Initially it was my shoulders that hurt the most, from where they'd been bent up and back at an angle beyond their design specifications. But it didn't take too long for the tree rash which streched from the inside of my elbow to the inside of my wrist to start stinging. I thought the stinging was pretty bad, but the worst came only after I revealed my injury to my wife. (No I'm not talking about a caustic beratement.) After washing my injury, she thought she should spray on a temporary bandage. Initially I thought this sounded like a good idea as well, little did I know that it would hurt like the stings of a million bees. That will teach me I suppose.

Earlier in the weekend I finally got a chance to play Guitar Hero (II actually). I'd heard nothing but praise for it, from the moment it was released, and several times I was a submit button away from buying a PS2, but I never did. The reviews did not lie, Guitar Hero is awesome. The only thing keeping me from immediately rushing out and buying a PS2 are the reports that Guitar Hero III will be available for the Wii. Still it can't come soon enough.

I wanna be a rock star

Friday, May 11, 2007

Book Clubs

My wife belongs one of these pseudo-feminist book clubs, which she quite enjoys. It was started by an old friend of mine from high school. I'm not sure why that is important. Anyway, they meet once a month, and a couple of years ago they decided that once a year they would invite the husbands. Last year we discussed the "Paradox of Choice". A very interesting selection because it broke down stongly into two camps, those that felt it was theophany on order with the road to Damascus, and others who felt that it was post-modern sewage. But I may be exagratting the size and vehemence of the two camps since it turned out later that many of the husbands had not read the book.

So this year, they were thinking of not reading a book at all. In fact, because "Paradox of Choice" was based on an article in Scientific America the suggestion was floated that they just have the husbands read an article. Well I don't need to tell you that I find that suggestion fairly insulting. What's next a pithy quote? If they're going to go in that direction that I would rather junk the discussion entirely and just get together as a social function. And yes I know the suggestion was directed at the other husbands, but I can't help but feel insulted on behalf of my entire gender.

In other news we watched an Emma Thompson movie called "Wit" last night. It was pretty depressing, and not at all what I expected. Of course at least, unlike most dying of cancer movies, it doesn't try and ambush you. You know she's got really bad cancer right from the first scene. I'm not sure if I'd recommend it. I'm guessing there's some people who will feel like watching it based on the description, regardless of my recommendation. To those people then I do recommend it, the rest of you should probably avoid it.

Runaway Bunny has never been sadder

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Every so often I'll hit on some trick that really helps me be productive. The problem is that none of these tricks last very long. Partially I think that I already have to be in a manic phase, not to say that I'm bipolar, more to say that my ambition and drive ebbs and flows like most other peoples. Secondly I have to be engaged with a project that is interesting and motivating all by itself. Finally, whatever the trick is eventually my powerful sloth infection develops an immunity to the trick. Fortunately it's not a life time immunity and sometimes if the mania is already flowing I can dust off some old trick and get some more work out of it.

What is my current trick you might ask? Well its pretty simple really, in fact it may fall under the category of an old trick that I've lost my immunity to. Basically I make a short list of small things to do, followed by a small reward (generally surfing political websites) followed by another short list of things to do. Then I treat each little list as a sprint. As I said, nothing too extraordinary, and I'm sure that I'll develop an immunity to it within a week or two, but for now I'm feeling... effective. Oh yeah, you heard me, effective. This is only day two with this trick so I'll let you know how far I make it.

Occasionally you can teach an old dog new tricks

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Endoscopy

Well the sedation wasn't nearly as bad this time as it was the last time. I guess they're using some new drug which wears off a lot more quickly. They still wheeled me out, but this time I had to pretend to be totally out of it so I didn't feel guilty about the valet service, rather than actually being out of it. This is not to say that I didn't feel some effects. I ended up sleeping for about 5 hours (3 hours after I first got home and then another 2 in the afternoon) yesterday and my head still feels a little bit "cottony".

My big worry is that I would be too out of it to go to Les Misarables last night at the local theater. In the past that would have been dicey, but it worked out just fine yesterday. Of course the general agreement was that it would have been better for me if I been out of it. The man playing the role of Jean Valjean had played that role on broadway, 20 years ago... Also some of the female leads had a weird cadence. The ensemble was great and Javert did really well but over all it wasn't quite the transcendent experience one might have hoped for.

Still the people in Utah can't seem to get enough the play was suppossed to end this weekend (as I recall) but it's been held over. They keep adding new weeks, they just added the last week of June, so at this rate it will only go away when the new season starts at the end of September. We're planning on getting season tickets again, though I only recognize three of the seven plays. They're opening with "Paint Your Wagon", doing Midsummer as the obiligatory classic, and ending with Mel Brooks' "The Producers". The rest include, "Doubt", "The Foreigner", "The Vertical Hour" and "The Heiress". With the exception of one they all sound okay. The exception "The Vertical Hour" is a mediation on the Iraq war, and I'm not sure I want to step on that IED.

Apparently I fought the sedation, not sure if I landed any blows though

Monday, May 07, 2007

Titan Quest

Many moons ago a co-worker told me about a new game he was enjoying called Titan Quest. It's essentially a Diablo (or perhaps more accurately a Diablo II) clone set in Ancient Greece. It sounded like a lot of fun (of course they all do) but at the time I vacillated, and eventually "Responsible Ross" won out over "Gamer Ross". There are good and bad points to the wait. The good points include the fact that not only is it fully patched, but that the expansion is out as well. Also there's plenty of information online including a character editor.

The bad side is that having eventually succumbed I'm in an even worse place (in terms of other stuff I need to take care of) than I was when I first heard about it. Oh well I guess them's the breaks. I can draw some comfort from the fact that if I wasn't using Titan Quest to procrastinate it would probably be something else. As I mentioned it's basically a Diablo II clone or what they call an "Action Role-Playing Game". Rather than having five (later 7) well defined classes, they have 8 masteries. Each character can select two which means there are 36 possible classes. Obviously there's no shortage of variety.

So far I'm enjoying it, but I'm at most 1/6 of the way through so we'll have to see if it holds up, and whether "Responsible Ross" manages to reassert himself at some point. If nothing else my son is having fun with it, so that's enough for me. I'm going in for an endoscopy tomorrow, assuming that I can get them to reduce the drugs enough for me to regain consciousness sometime before Wednesday, maybe I'll have a good block of time to play it tomorrow. If for some reason I don't regain consciousness in some reasonable amount of time (and possibly even if I do) there won't be a blog tomorrow. The drugs are my big worry, I never even remember the procedure itself, but for some reason the drugs hit my like a ton of bricks. The money quote is always, "He's not recovering as fast as we would like... In fact he doesn't seem to be recovering at all..."

Now we see the consequences of a youth spent foolishly avoiding all drugs

Friday, May 04, 2007

Spiderman 3

My initial plan was to wait a while before seeing Spider-Man 3 (in fact I think I may have even mentioned that here), but one of my co-workers talked me into taking off early and going to see it at the IMAX. So I’m guessing you want to know what I thought. Well the last time I checked Rotten Tomatoes Spider Man 3 stood at 61%, just barely fresh (the cut off is 60% for some reason), which is a pretty fair assessment I think. Going in my big worry was that they had tried to do too much, for one thing three villains seemed excessive. On that count they did pretty good, which is not to say that three villains wasn’t excessive just that it went about as well as it could. So as you can see I went in with fairly low expectations, and as a result was probably overall pleasantly surprised.

Other good things: The final fight was quite good; the actors who have just joined the franchise were excellent. As usual J. Jonah Jameson was hilarious (though I think the funniest scene was Bruce Campbell’s obligatory cameo). I was once again reminded that James Franco would have been 10 times better than Hayden Christiansen as Anakin (IMHO). Some of the scenes with Peter and Mary Jane were painfully realistic. On the negative side, there’s a section in the middle after Spiderman gets the black suit (not spoiling anything I hope) that is… well awful. If you’re like me and you drank too much soda pop, when Peter changes his hair style, that’s your cue to make a break for the restroom. Which bring up another point, it’s long… nearly 2 hours 20 minutes as I recall.

Anyway it’s pretty late, but I figured I should post something, plus I feel reviewing Spider-man 3 is just the sort of public service my loyal readers expect from me. Oh one last thing, I noticed that “Gilwell Park” was the featured article on Wikipedia today. That probably doesn’t mean anything to most of you, but trust me it’s cool.

Bear your weekend with longanimity

Thursday, May 03, 2007

A moral quandry

Normally I alot about 15 minutes for my blog post, most of the time that's sufficient, though obviously sometimes I go over that. Oftentimes when I select a topic I can tell it's going to take longer than 15. This is one of those times, but the trouble is I really do only have 15 minutes, so we'll have to see how far we get...

Earlier in the week someone submitted (or dugg) a story that contained the decryption code for Blu-ray and HD DVD disks. Well was sent a cease and desist letter, and so they removed the link to the story. Well a revolt ensued and Digg users flooded the site with hundreds of stories and thousands of comments all containing the code. Someone even wrote a song with the code in it and posted it on YouTube. For a more complete look at what happened here's the NYT article on it, and here's an Information week story with a larger discussion of the DMCA.

Digg eventually gave into the pressure and stopped removing links to stories with the offending code. Here's what the founder said:

After seeing hundreds of stories and reading thousands of comments, you’ve made it clear. You’d rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company. We hear you, and effective immediately we won’t delete stories or comments containing the code and will deal with whatever the consequences might be.

If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying.

So the quandry arises what was the right thing to do in this situation? Now IMHO the DMCA is a bad law, particularly in the area of cryptography. Also it's clear that "The Code" got much, much more exposure in this ill-considered attempt to stifle it then it would have ever gotten otherwise. In other words even if they had the legal standing to send a Cease and Desist, it was a dumb thing to do. On the other hand respect for the rule of law is quite possibly the single greatest factor seperating a successful country from an unsuccessful country, and there is an element in this story that reminds me of a child throwing a tantrum.

Of course respect for the rule of law is greatly facilitated when the rules are just and wise, which as I mention is probably not the case with the DMCA (though I hardly think it's the end of all creativity in the universe that it's more vocal detractors make it out to be.) Perhaps the more intersting statement is what this incident reflects about the architecture of Web 2.0. This ABC News article said it best:

But the biggest problem with Digg is not the business itself, which is an impressive creation, but its community. One of the things we’re learning about the Web 2.0 world is that all communities aren’t alike; when you let millions of anonymous users design your product, you also let them determine your fate. And Digg has put itself in the hands of an army of postadolescents with too much education and too much free time, the age cohort that gets its news from “The Colbert Report” and holds the anarchistic view that all information should be, in fact, “wants to be,” free.

Nothing wrong with that. Indeed, been there, done that. But now, in my gray-haired middle-age I’ve come to realize that if you are going to create a venue for children to play, someone has to be the grown-up. And that is where Digg blew it.

Don't look at me I'm not the grown-up

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


Well I went to the doctor yesterday. Apparently I'm still suffering from Low corpuscular volume, so he wants me to get an endoscopy. I had one in 2000 which is why he went staight for the colon back in October, but I guess it's time to go back in... I ended up scheduling it for Tuesday before I realized that that's the day I'm going to see Les Miserables. The procedure is at 7:30, so hopefully I'll be recovered enough to go to the theater, though it's tough to be sure, since I'm really susceptable to the sedative they use. I plan on telling them to crank it way, way down. I'm so far away from the discomfort side of things that I'm not really worried about getting too little.

It was actually the day to see health care professionals. Yesterday evening I went to the eye doctor. It turns out that my right eye has gotten quite a bit worse. We have vision insurance, which covered new lenses every year and new frames every other year, so I got a new set of glasses (though it will take a week for them to be ready). I have the hardest time picking out frames though. In the end I went with some that look about the same as the glasses I have now, but they come with magnetic clip-on sun glasses.

Later that night my back, feeling left out, went into pain overdrive, so I took a muscle relexant and went to bed about 9:00. Today there's still some twitches of pain, and instead of feeling well rested I'm still a little groggy from the muscle relaxant (see the first paragraph for a discussion of my low resistance to drugs). I think I need to go back to only taking half of one, when my back is giving me problems.

Old and infirm

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Super Karate Monkey Death Car

While eating lunch in the company cafeteria I was reminded of the single greatest sitcom moment ever, here or abroad. It happened in an episode of News Radio, titled "Super Karate Monkey Death Car". I know I've mentioned it before, but like "It's a Wonderful Life" you're going to have to see it about once a year, and if you don't like it you can always change the channel. Jimmy James, played by Stephen Root (love that guy) wrote a book called "Jimmy James: Capitalist Lion Tamer". The book didn't do that well in the US, but when it was translated into Japanese it does great, so he decides to have it translated back into English, that's when, as they say, hilarity ensues... Some quotes:

I had a small house of brokerage on Wall Street... many days no business come to my hut... my hut... but Jimmy has fear? A thousand times no. I never doubted myself for a minute for I knew that my monkey strong bowels were girded with strength like the loins of a dragon ribboned with fat and the opulence of buffalo... dung.

...Glorious sunset of my heart was fading. Soon the super karate monkey death car would park in my space. But Jimmy has fancy plans... and pants to match.

Question: "Mr. James, what did you mean when you wrote bad clown making like super American car racers, I would make them sweat, War War?"

Question: "What did you mean when you said, "Feel my skills, donkey donkey donkey, donkey donkey?"

Macho Business Donkey Wrestler