April 2008 Archives
I'm sort of a mild early riser. I love mornings, reading the various feeds in Google Reader, drinking tea, maybe having an apple. It's a nice calm way to start the day. I used to get up before 5 a.m. and run 5-7 miles every day, but I haven't done that in quite a while. Maybe I can get back to it when the weather gets warmer. It's supposed to drop drastically starting tomorrow, so it'll be after that. Realistically, it'll probably be longer. It's what we call an "aspirational goal."
I follow GamePolitics.com, Next Generation, and other gaming news sites fairly closely. As a result, I see a lot of discussion about the "mainstream" media's reaction to my hobby, and I've reflected a bit on the cause.
Ultimately, I think non-gamers have an outmoded view of who plays games. In the early days, when electronic games were first catching on, I think that games were marketed above all to children. When the first Nintendo system was released, it was pretty clear that that's the demographic they were going for. This is not surprising. Children were probably the first to see the great potential of this medium. They (we) weren't hampered by preconceived notions of the world. Sure, games were new. But everything was new--we were kids!
But the effect of this was to pidgeonhole games into a "kids' stuff" category. This perception lives on today. The problem is that gamers aren't kids anymore. As we grew up, so did the medium. And it's still maturing. Many games express adult themes that are not for kids, and they're not meant for kids. Of course, some kids will want to play those games, just as some kids want to watch films that have more adult themes. That's where parental control comes in.
Parents have often been criticized for failing to supervise their kids' game purchases. I think that's valid, but it's not entirely their fault. This perception that games are only for kids leads some parents to think that any games are fine. I think as time goes by, this lack of awareness will fade. There's no need to panic.
Incidentally, the history of animated film and TV is somewhat similar. Just because it's animated doesn't mean that it's for kids. For example, I was fascinated with Serial Experiments Lain, but it's not for kids (though I think it would just be more confusing than harmful).
As predicted, I didn't really get much done this weekend, despite my twelve or so hours of computer work on this site. I started out with a list of high-minded, idealistic chores, like checking the gutters and removing debris from my front flower beds.
But with the snow on Saturday, all motivation drained right out of me. At least I learned a lot about the nuts and bolts of Movable Type's new template system. I also got through a lot of my reading and made bread, but I do both of those things pretty much every week anyway, so it's not much of a victory.
Of course, I could have done all the outdoor stuff on Sunday-the weather was much better. But by then, I just didn't feel like it. The list, however, remains. It looks like that's what I'll be doing this week after work.
We have the technology.
It looks like everything is back up and running, though as you can see, I had to take rather drastic measures. In the end, my old template was just not able to run with the big dogs, those dogs being the latest version of Movable Type.
That's fine, it's spring after all, and a little overhaul isn't a bad thing. I may change again, if I happen to find some cool templates, but that'll probably be a while. After all, it took me about twelve hours to get this taken care of!
One note: If your comment doesn't show up right away, that means I have to approve it. I'll try to stay on that, but hopefully the system won't take long to learn that you aren't a comment spammer.
If you find any problems, please let me know via email (at right).
Better, stronger, faster.
So, I had this great little list of things to do this weekend. Most of them were outdoor things, like making sure the gutters are clear and clearing out the front flowerbeds of all their debris. Unfortunately, I woke up to this:
And in back, this:
In case you're wondering, that is indeed a lot of snow still coming down. In fact, as I write this, it looks much snowier, and it's snowing even harder. The grass is now covered in white. For those familiar with Wyoming, this is not a surprise. I just wish it didn't happen on the weekend, when I was planning on getting a bunch of things done that sort of depended on the weather being nice.
In other news, I was inspired to get my original NES working after seeing this instructional post from Wired Magazine. Talk about a nostalgia bomb! I remember the NES being my first really must-have Christmas present, and I remember getting it in, I believe, about 1987 or so. That Christmas, all my family did was play Super Mario Bros., Duck Hunt, and Track and Field. Mostly the first two. We did it all day, while we ate leftovers from the previous night's Christmas dinner. It was awesome. Come to think of it, I can't think of any other present that I've ever gotten so much use out of. It was truly the perfect gift at the perfect time.
Now, of course, I have many other games on my list, and all of them are far, far more advanced than any of my NES games. But pulling out the original Final Fantasy or Legend of Zelda (in its original gold game pack!) for a few minutes of play sure does take me back.
Here's Sebastian, looking a bit wistful. The birds like to congregate in my little backyard, often foraging for nesting material, from what I can tell.
You'd get a nice shot of my compost pile, but Sebastian's head is squarely blocking it. Blockhead.
This week has been "reading week." I haven't been reading my book, but instead focusing on my backlog of magazines. Those New Yorker's really add up if you don't stay on top of them. The exception has been the little timeout to read Watchmen. This weekend, I'll probably continue to catch up in between some spring gardening/maintenance/housework that's also on the list. No rest for the wicked.
I'm Currently Reading:
Island of the Sequined Love Nun
Have a great weekend!
I enjoy comic book movies despite the fact that I grew up as a sci-fi/fantasy geek rather than a comic book geek. I've noted that a film version of the graphic novel Watchmen is currently in production. I've long heard that this is a seminal work, but haven't read it myself. I just finished it last night, and I have to agree. It's absolutely fantastic. Go, check it out from the library, read it. Now.
But I can also understand why someone might oppose the movie. I don't think that even a 3-hour movie could possibly convey all the complex themes. Something has to be left out, which would make the film only a two-dimensional shadow of the original narrative. (I love the 1935 film version of A Tale of Two Cities, but it can't compare to the original novel.)
I'll see it, of course. And I hope it adequately conveys the main themes, at least. But I'll tell you right now that you should find the book and read it. In fact, I'll probably let it sit a while an re-read it, just to help me digest it a bit more.
For never was a story of more woe
Than this of how my website wouldn’t go.
Ok, so that might be a bit of an overstatement, but you get the point.
So, on Sunday, about 8:30 or so my time, it appears that my website wasn’t working. I immediately tried to go onto the tech support chat, but there was a problem. Apparently, my host has decided that it will no longer provide technical support via chat. This is very unfortunate. I’ve never had a problem getting a quick solution and fix when I’ve used their chat tech support.
So, I submitted a “trouble ticket.” For those who don’t deal with IT on a regular basis, it’s basically a problem report. Given how long the site was down (nearly 60 hours, by my count), you can tell how effective this was. Most troublesome was the period of about 30 hours when I kept emailing and posting pleas for help, all with no response. Once they did respond, this morning, they got the site back up in short order.
What really gets me is that the priority on my ticket was “low.” Maybe it’s just me, but I’d think that my entire site being down would warrant a pretty high priority. Worst of all, my email address was also out of commission. I hope I didn’t get kicked off any of the newsletters I actually enjoy because of this little incident. (I actually enjoy the thought of being taken off of spamming lists, but that seems pretty unlikely.)
Apparently the root problem was the trackback function. It was hogging server processing power, so my account was simply suspended. This is not the first time I’ve had this type of problem, though the other occasion was a pretty quick and easy fix.
I’m increasingly unhappy with my host, who I’ve generally been pretty satisfied with until recently. This encourages me even more to find a new provider.
Regular readers (both of you) may have noticed that the site has been down for a couple days. I don't have time to get into the reasons because I must get ready for and go to work. But I will post.
Oh, how I will post.
Seriously, would this guy's behavior been any more appropriate if, as he claimed, it was aimed at the prosecutor?
I think not.
Last weekend, Jupiter managed to snag himself a bath. That's what happens when the clumping cat litter is clumping between one's feline toes. Here's the "after" shot.
I'm Currently Reading:
Island of the Sequined Love Nun
Have a great weekend!
Some time ago, I elected to cut down on political and legal comments on this blog, at least for now. There are several reasons for doing this, which I’m sure you can already imagine.
I’m not backing off from that position yet, but I think now is a great time to express some frustration with it. I follow a number of legal topics reasonably closely, and it certainly appears at the moment that we are living in a very exciting time. Even though there are a lot of voices already, I’d certainly like to be able to think out loud (as it were) in this space.
But, while it is frustrating sometimes, I chose to limit myself. Next time, I’ll make sure it’s not an election year.
Since I went caffeine-free a while ago, I’ve been indulging in frou-frou hot teas. Monday, I tried Celestial Seasonings’ Apple Cinnamon herbal tea. As soon as it started steeping, I was struck by how much the smell reminded me of red wine. It was eerie.
After a bit, I came to the conclusion that it must be the cinnamon, or maybe that combined with the fruit. This is based on my recollection that the familiar quality that I was smelling was most pronounced in Syrah/Shiraz varietals, and in wines from the Rhone region of France (which use mostly Syrah, as well). One feature of these wines tends to be a spicy, cinnamon element that is fairly strong. I’m pretty sure that’s what I’m getting.
I’m actually quite gratified to figure this out (assuming I’m right, which I don’t think we can ever know). I enjoy wines, and I try to learn as much about them as my budget—of both time and money—allows. But I think this is the first time that I’ve been able to really make this great connection between something in wine and something in not-wine. I’d like to do it again, somehow.
I commented a while ago that I don't think the economic stimulus package will really have the intended effect. As far as I know, everyone I talk to is using their tax rebate to pay debt or they're putting it into savings.
It appears that my observations are no aberration. According to this USAToday article, only 21% of people receiving a rebate check plan to spend it on non-necessities. Everyone else intends to pay down debt (47%) or save (32%).
Of course, probably more will be spent than what people originally intend, and apparently there is some research that says these consumer plans don't usually pan out. But still, I think this time may be different, considering how bad the economic problems are.
I have to say, I had one fine weekend. It was quite nostalgic, in a way.
On Saturday, I had a few friends over for dinner. It was a real community effort. I made the starch/side, and various people brought over everything else. I loved the dining and sharing and everything. (We also went bowling and “out” after that. It was fun, but I think dinner was the high point.)
It reminded me of a time long, long ago. I think it would have been around 2001 or so when a group of us, which included my best friend J and two others—one of whom I’m not friends with anymore and the other I talk to only rarely—used to have dinner each week at someone’s house. We did it on Sundays, and it was really, really fun. Each of us hosted once a month, basically, which meant that no one person was particularly burdened. We were all poor back then, so meals were simple, as were the accommodations. I have fond memories of eating and chatting in a circle on the living room floor. After dinner, we’d usually just talk for a couple hours about things big and small.
Nowadays, it’s harder to even consider doing that with such frequency. Mainly, there’s the problem of finding a time that everyone has free. That’s difficult enough with one-off events; I can’t imagine how hard it would be to arrange a weekly event. No doubt people would be missing with some regularity.
There’s also an issue when it comes to the time on that particular night. While hanging out for hours used to be the norm, I can only think of one or two occasions in the last four or five years when an event has stretched that long. There’s something about just sitting around that is a kind of luxury that most of us don’t have anymore.
That’s really too bad.
There’s a part of me that’s coming up with ways to make these events a bit more frequent. I don’t know how possible that is, or to what extent I’ll pursue it, but it really would be nice.
This week, on Saturday. Sorry.
I'm Currently Reading:
Have a great weekend!
Don't you hate it when you take an idle swipe at a flying bug, fully expecting that it'll get out of the way, and you hit it, which smears its contents all over your hand?
Yeah, I wouldn't know, either.
I've been late in my discussion of this book, which I finished about three weeks ago.
It's the "true" story of Greg Mortenson, a man who dedicated his life to building schools in central Asia, beginning with remote areas of Pakistan. I have quotation marks about the "true" part because at times, the book reads more like a gospel than a narrative, focusing on how great the guy is. Often in explicitly tells us, the readers, of that fact. And that's just irritating.
My major complaint, however, is the writing. The man who actually wrote it (though Mortenson is billed as one of the authors) is a reporter, and it shows. The writing is in a disjointed, temporally scattered style that is well-suited for shorter pieces of reporting, but is just confusing in a novel. It will often have a few sentences about something that happened in one place and time, then jump back to another, but without sufficient transition to signal to the reader that that's what is happening. I found myself having to re-read paragraphs several times: once to get a general idea of what was happening, and again to actually get the content. That's just irritating.
The same trend continues in some of the dialog. A paragraph might begin with a discussion about one person, followed by a line of dialog ending with "[somebody completely different] said." This is irritating because we're trained to associate the speech with the character who was just being discussed, and it's jarring to find that the dialog came from someone else.
That said, the story is good, and for anybody not familiar with life in that part of the world, it can be a great introduction. It's important to understand the cultures and the people that are different from us, and this provides some insight.
In short, I'm glad to have read it, though the actual reading was painful.
In other news, I just got Audiosurf on Steam. That is one fun, addictive game. It's sort of a mix of a racing game and guitar hero, but you get to use your own music. That sounds pretty weird, but trust me--it really makes for a fun game. I've already played it for six hours, so at $10 for the game, it rivals the dollar theater for cost-effective entertainment.
They still cuddle from time to time:
And I'm currently reading:
| Atonement |
by Ian McEwan
Read more about this book...
Have a great weekend!
While the housing market seems to be plummeting, my house is apparently doing fine. That's according to Zillow.com, which tells me that my home is now worth over $40k more than what I paid for it. I know the value is greater than what I paid because the tax assessment went up, but not by that much. Hell, it has gone up in just the last 35 hours or so since I last looked at it. [Update: it went up again while I was looking at it and composing this post.]
There are only two explanations: either I got a totally sweet deal, or Zillow is wrong. I'm guessing the latter. Unfortunately, there's no way to know how accurate Zillow's estimate is. The value range is about $50k wide, and I suspect that the true value is somewhere on the lower end of that range. Still, that's a Interestingly, it appears that since I bought my home, values in my zip code have decreased by 4.3%, and in Cheyenne overall, 2.3%. I don't know how accurate that is, but it hardly seems too terrible compared to many other areas. That's nice to know.
In other "house" news, Zillow.com reports that the house next door is sold, as of January 22. That must mean that the people fixing it up have been the new owners rather than the old ones. Good for them. Having seen the old interior, I'll bet they got a great deal.
I've recently gotten into the show Jericho, a post-apocalyptic TV series. It's pretty entertaining, especially later in the series when it gets into the national politics. Brief plot: terrorists nuke 23 major American cities, and the story takes place in a small town in Western Kansas. It's a fun show, but it's over now--canceled.
I was amused by the depictions of Cheyenne, where one of the governments arising after the attacks had arisen. I realize in the story that there was a huge influx of people, but still, the view from a distance showed several unreasonably tall buildings. When the main characters were looking for a hospital, there were about eight or so, but right now you have basically two (though both with the same name--they're owned by the same company). Those could be recent changes, though I have my doubts that the building could be accomplished in so short a time. What was really amusing was to see hills in the background (we're high plains, you have to go pretty far to find significant hills) and the fact that there was some pretty lush vegetation despite these events occurring in early spring. For a bit of perspective, it's April and I still have snow on the ground, and none of the deciduous trees have leaves yet.
They got the design on the side of the ambulance correct, though.
In other news, I spent all evening yesterday trying to fix the comments. I may need to nuke my Movable type installation and try a fresh install. If that happens, the site will be down as long as it takes to get it done. I hope that won't be long, but I really have no idea. This won't be right away--I want to leave myself plenty of time and I'm busy tonight and tomorrow. I guess I know what I'll be doing this Friday night. Part-tay!
When I built my new desktop PC in September, I bought two sticks of 1GB RAM from Crucial. The first stick went out in December. The second went out on Monday. Supposedly, Crucial is a major memory manufacturer. I don't think I'll be buying from them again.
I'm not overclocking--everything is running at stock speed and voltage. I don't think it's the motherboard; I'm actually running a different one (though the same model) than I was when the first stick blew out. What really gets me is that I've had two sticks blow out in six months. I could deal with one (and did). These things happen. But with both of them blown, I can only conclude it was a manufacturing problem.
Unfortunately, this memory is out of warranty, so I had to buy more. It's on its way, so I'll have to suffer a slow desktop this week (it should be here Friday). At least I don't do anything mission critical during the week, but it looks like I won't be able to buy the nice sheets I'd hoped to get for my new bed this month.
Meh. And I haven't been able to get comments working yet. What a pain.