May 31, 2008

Last Mass Effect Post

My frustration is at an end.  Today, on the "peer support" forum, someone posted a solution for the problem I was having, and it worked.  I've played about an hour or two, and this game is very, very good.  Now, it is time for me to play some more.

Victory is mine!

Posted by Macknzie at 5:21 PM | Comments (0)

May 30, 2008

Friday Catblogging!

After all the nasty weather, I can, at last, open the window again.

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You can see my improvised anti-rabbit fence in the background.  Extraordinary times call for extraordinarily measures.

You know the saying "no news is good news"?  Well, that's not true when you're trying to fix a game-crippling bug in Mass Effect.  So far, I've traced the problem to something with the sound system.  If I uninstall my sound card, the game starts up--but with no sound.  I have gotten exactly zero response from the publisher's support.  At this point, I'm just wishing that someone there could tell me that they're working on it.  Communication, people!  The message boards are no help--while lots of people are having my problem, nobody has stumbled on a solution yet.

This is unbelievably frustrating.

I'm currently reading:

Have a Great Weekend!

(I know I will--if I can get Mass Effect working!)

Posted by Macknzie at 6:49 AM | Comments (0)

May 29, 2008

Frustration. I has it.

Yesterday was the launch of Mass Effect on PC, a game I've been anxiously awaiting.  So put my disk in the PC and install it--everything seems to go fine.

The first time it starts up, it runs a "configuration utility."  This is supposed to detect your PC hardware and figure out the proper graphics, etc. settings so that the game will run smoothly and look as nice as possible.

Except it crashes.  Multiple attempts, and the config. utility just won't run.

I reboot, and wonder of wonders, the utility runs just fine.  I choose appropriate settings and hit "Play," expecting the remainder of my evening to be filled with gaming goodness.

But no.

Now, the game begins and freezes right after the splash screen.  I haven't even gotten to the opening cutscene.  For the rest of the evening, I spent my time monitoring the developer's forum and trying the various solutions posted there.  Nothing worked.  I tried to submit a tech support request through the publisher (who is nominally providing support for this title), but the site would give me an error every time I tried.  I went to bed unhappy.

This morning, the forum is no more helpful than last night, though I did at least manage to submit my problem to the publisher (on my second try).

This is unbelievably frustrating, particularly since 1) I have literally been looking forward to this game for years, and 2) I took the trouble to get the game on launch day.  It's even worse because I suspect the ultimate problem is the DRM (digital rights management), which is conflicting with something on my system.

This is one reason I rarely buy a game immediately on release.

Posted by Macknzie at 6:21 AM | Comments (0)

May 28, 2008

Grand Theft Childhood

Last night I finished Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games and What Parents Can Do.  My interest was largely piqued because of my hobby (PC gaming) and my interest in psychology.  Aside from being my undergraduate major, I had planned on a career in that field before deciding on law.

The book is excellent, cutting through all the fearmongering about video games and giving good, solid advice to parents.  Perhaps more importantly, it puts electronic games into context.  An important part of the book discusses criticisms of various new media over the last 150 years or so.  The discussion begins with the dime novels of the mid to late 1800s, then covers film, radio, and comic books.  The point is to show that the same type of things uninformed alarmists say about video games today has already been said about all those other media in the past.

The book also does a good job of tearing apart the research claims of anti-game researchers by pointing out flaws in their various studies.  Examples include drawing inferences on overall aggression by measuring how long a study subject blows an air horn.  All of these various attempts at putting gaming in context and cutting through to what we do, and don't, know about gaming is a great service to parents and voters alike.

Second, the authors conducted some original research which should put parents' minds at ease.  They found, generally, that children had no trouble distinguishing games from reality, and recognized that the games were just that: games.  Just as we might watch a film or read a book to explore some aspect of life or humanity that is not part of our everyday lives, so do children--teens, really--play some M-rated games to play in a world that is not their own.  Far from adopt or idolize the game, they recognize the essential other-ness of that world, and are fully aware of the impossibility of making it a reality.

The other important part of this book is the practical advice for parents.  I think that the most important part of this advice is that parents are encouraged to teach their children general media literacy, not just limited to games.  This makes perfect sense because games are not really a separate category; they are another form of media.  It's better to provide children with the tools that they can use to evaluate any kind of media than it is to demonize any one in particular.  I've long been an advocate of media literacy and critical thinking, so this seemed like great advice.

Of course, there is also more game-specific advice, as well.  Parents should get familiar with game ratings, and the book provides web sites to help parents learn more about the games that their children want or already play.  But because parents can only exercise limited control over what their children play (what does a child play at his or her friend's house?), I think general media literacy is generally more important.

Overall, it's not only a good book for parents, but also for gamers who want to have a quick overview of the state of the public marketplace of ideas when it comes to games.  I recommend it.

Posted by Macknzie at 6:32 AM | Comments (0)

May 27, 2008

Books!

Thanks to E. McPan for the post idea. These are the top 106 books tagged "unread" at LibraryThing.


Bold the ones you’ve read, underline the ones you read for school, and italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish.


Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Crime and Punishment
Wuthering Heights
Catch-22
The Silmarillion
Don Quixote
The Odyssey
The Brothers Karamazov
Ulysses
War and Peace
Madame Bovary
A Tale of Two Cities
Jane Eyre
The Name of the Rose
Moby Dick
Emma
The Iliad
Vanity Fair
Love in the Time of Cholera
The Blind Assassin
Pride and Prejudice
The Historian: A Novel
The Canterbury Tales
The Kite Runner
Great Expectations
Life of Pi
The Time Traveler's Wife
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
Atlas Shrugged
Foucault's Pendulum
Dracula
The Grapes of Wrath
Frankenstein
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Mrs. Dalloway
Sense and Sensibility
Middlemarch
Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books
The Count of Monte Cristo
The Sound and The Fury
Memoirs of a Geisha
Brave New World
Quicksilver
American Gods
Middlesex
The Poisonwood Bible
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Dune
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
The Satanic Verses
Mansfield Park
Gulliver's Travels
The Three Musketeers
The Inferno
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Fountainhead
Tess of the D'Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
To the Lighthouse
A Clockwork Orange
Robinson Crusoe
Persuasion
The Scarlet Letter (Hate is too small a word to contain the boiling vat of bile that the mere mention of this book produces.)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
The Once and Future King
Anansi Boys
Atonement
The God of Small Things
A Short History of Nearly Everything
Cryptonomicon
Dubliners
Oryx and Crake
Angela's Ashes
Beloved
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
In Cold Blood
Lady Chatterley's Lover
A Confederacy of Dunces
Les Misérables
The Amber Spyglass
The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
Watership Down
Beowulf: A New Verse Translation
The Aeneid
A Farewell to Arms
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
Sons and Lovers
Possession
The Book Thief
The history of Tom Jones
The Road
Tender is the Night
The War of the Worlds

I'm making progress, but I have a way to go.  Notice that there are few that I start and don't finish--I tend to complete most books that I start.  The Silmarillion is a perennial exception, and I've been reading Oliver Twist in bits and pieces for some time on my PDA when caught somewhere and in need of something to do.

Also, while I'm an avid reader, my formal literary education ended at high school.  So few of these books were read as required in school.

Out of this list, I highly recommend Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (it looks intimidating, but it's faster than it appears), Middlesex, American Gods, and A Tale of Two Cities (one of my all-time favorites).

Go forth and read.

Posted by Macknzie at 7:30 AM | Comments (0)

May 23, 2008

Friday Catblogging

The "classic photo because I was too lazy this week to take a new one" edition.

CatDapple1

 

Yesterday we had some tornados.  It was interesting.  There were a bunch in northern Colorado first, and it was miserable and windy in Cheyenne.  Then, about 3:30 while I was in the middle of getting a haircut, we had a tornado warning and unconfirmed reports that there was a touchdown near the local community college.

I stayed at the salon until that danger passed, then walked the four blocks to my office (in the rain--not pleasant).  At that time, the weather.com for that evening was pretty funny:

Windy with scattered thunderstorms, some strong early, then mostly cloudy after midnight. Damaging winds, large hail, and possibly a tornado with some storms. Low around 40F. Winds SW at 25 to 35 mph, becoming ENE and diminishing to 5 to 10 mph.

I love that "possibly a tornado" line.  In fact there was another tornado that evening about 8:30 that touched down.

Tornados are not unheard of here, but they are uncommon.

What I'm Reading:

Have a great weekend!

Posted by Macknzie at 6:23 AM | Comments (0)

May 22, 2008

Mass Effect

Very little has been going on lately.  Work, home, water the lawn, rinse, repeat.

I did, however, pre-order my copy of Mass Effect (PC) yesterday.  It is one of the 3-4 new game purchases that I've allowed myself this year.  I probably would have waited until payday, but there's a $10-off preorder offer that I wanted to take advantage of.  I'll have it in about a week.

The interesting thing about this purchase was that I felt a significant twinge of, well, not guilt exactly, but a sort of double checking myself to make sure that this is something that I really wanted to spend money on.  Keep in mind, this is a game I've been looking forward to for literally years, that I'd left room in my budget to buy, and I still had a moment of reflection about whether I should get it or send that money to a creditor or my savings.

What I find interesting is what this seems to show about my spending habits.  As I've mentioned, I've been on a tear to get out of debt and save, save, save.  I have a fair amount from law school, so it will be a slow process.  But an essential part of that process has been evaluating everything I buy and balance that purchase with my overall financial goals.  There are a lot of new things I've wanted and have not purchased because of that, and I can see it's paying off in my bottom line.  That helps, as does reading various websites devoted to personal finance.  And my recent Mass Effect reflection shows what I hope will be a new habit: a switch from mindless spending to mindful spending.

Incidentally, yesterday I convinced AmEx to decrease my interest rate by nearly 5%.  Awesome.

Posted by Macknzie at 6:28 AM | Comments (0)

May 20, 2008

To the Birds

With the weather warming up, I can finally sit out on my front porch again.  Sunday was the first time I'd spent any significant time out there (I had a little dinner party).

I discovered that my porch is host to two bird's nests.  Their residents were not entirely happy to see us.  Even the one that is further away from the chairs, when he was there, eyed us with palpable suspicion.

I'd really like to get them used to people being out there so that I wouldn't have to worry about chasing them away whenever I sit out there, but I don't know how possible that is.

Posted by Macknzie at 6:39 AM | Comments (0)

May 16, 2008

Friday Catblogging!

The cat scratcher doubles as a lounge chair.

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And it also looks like it's time to sweep.

 

I'm currently reading:

The House of Mirth: Edith Wharton: Books

ISBN: 1844082938
ISBN-13: 9781844082933

Have a great weekend!

Posted by Macknzie at 7:06 AM | Comments (0)

May 14, 2008

Baby Sweaters!

I've mentioned before--but I'm too lazy to find and post a link--that I've been trying to keep up with my friends' baby-making abilities with my baby sweater-making abilities.  I'm happy to say that I've finished by latest batch, and before the kid shows, even!

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Clearly, I've tried to match my work to the personalities of those involved.  The last ones were a little more cute, with a little skull and crossbones.  Then I found this little skull pattern.  I dig it.

Posted by Macknzie at 6:15 AM | Comments (0)

May 13, 2008

BioShock Movie

Man, I hope this is good.  (The game is awesome.)

Posted by Macknzie at 6:15 AM | Comments (0)

May 12, 2008

Civil Litigation Primer

In a recent discussion here, it occurred to me that it might be useful to have a very basic overview of the civil litigation process for those who need a first step.  After a few minutes with Google, I wasn't able to find one.  So I wrote it.

Obviously, this is extremely basic, to the point of being oversimplified.  It's only meant to paint a fuzzy picture that gives people the vaguest idea of what to expect.  Volumes have been written on this topic, so a few paragraphs don't even scratch the surface.  That said, here it is.

The complaint (what we've been discussing) just sets out alleged facts and legal theories that the plaintiff has that might allow relief, and what relief is requested.  It amounts to a "this is what happened, and this is why I should get X" statement.  The point is not to be comprehensive, but to give your opponent a solid idea of what's at issue here.

The answer, in its basic form, just admits or denies the various allegations in the complaint.  If the defendant doesn't know enough to admit or deny an allegation, then he can deny based on not having enough information.  Defendants can also set out counter-claims against the plaintiff, which read like they would in a plaintiff's complaint.  (They can also sue third parties, but let's not get into that).  If there are any counter-claims, the plaintiff can answer those in the same way that the defendant answers the complaint.

If there are some factual issues to be resolved, then the parties engage in discovery.  The point here is to get all the cards on the table so everybody knows what all the evidence is.  (There are also strategic things that happen--like efforts to evade discovery and keep things secret--but that's far beyond the scope of this little comment.)  Discovery often takes the form of written questions and responses, requests that the other party admit some facts, and depositions.  At the end of discovery, a trial date is set, and you all know what happens next.  (Settlement, usually.)

Throughout this process, motions are flying back and forth.  Commonly, defendants file motions to dismiss for various reasons, most often for "failure to state a clam for which relief can be granted."  This is where the obviously frivolous lawsuits usually end.  For example, if someone sues you for lawfully parking in front of his house on a public street, that would probably get tossed immediately.  (There doesn't have to be an answer before filing this motion, but there often is.)

The other big motion is a motion for summary judgment, which is most common after discovery has been finished.  To prevail, the person making the motion (the movant) must show that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.  The point is to get rid of claims or suits where a jury trial wouldn't be helpful (juries only determine issues of fact, not law--that's the judge's job). In this process, one party makes the motion and can present discovery excerpts (submitting all depositions, affidavits, etc. to the court to figure out is, to put it mildly, frowned upon).  The other party can then submit contrary exhibits to demonstrate that there actually is a factual dispute, and a trial is necessary.  The judge has to decide if a reasonable jury could find in the non-movant's favor, and whether the law supports the movant's position.  If it's appropriate, the judge can grant the motion, and the case is done.  Otherwise, it keeps heading for trial.

Those are the basics.  Of course, there are layers and layers, even after trial.  The appeal process is a bit simpler, but can still be pretty drawn out.  Enjoy.

Posted by Macknzie at 12:54 PM | Comments (0)

Gas Prices

This article in USAToday about gas prices is fairly interesting.  When I stopped driving on a regular basis, it wasn't because of high gas prices, I just would rather walk to work, etc.  But as it turns out, my actions were prescient.

Conservatively, I save $50 per month by not driving to work.  The last time I got gas was in April, and that was only because I had to drive 45 miles to go to a competition.  I expect that it'll be June before I have to get gas again, just because my periodic trips outside my walking zone do occasionally require me to drive.

None of us are free of the tyranny of the pump, but it does feel nice to be filing away at those chains.  I'm very lucky to be someone who had the chance to do it.

Posted by Macknzie at 5:37 AM | Comments (0)

May 9, 2008

Friday Catblogging!

Bird Watching (or, Feline Food Channel):

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This is the view pretty much every morning.  They love it.

In other news, I went to our local Inn of Court final meeting last night, which was a little bittersweet.  It was a fun event, but I wish it weren't the last one until next fall.

Special congratulations to Hon. E. James Burke, Justice of the Wyoming Supreme Court (and my boss) for winning the Thomas G. Gorman Professionalism Award.  It is well deserved.

I'm currently Reading:

The House of Mirth
by Edith Wharton

Read more about this book...

 

Have a great weekend!

Posted by Macknzie at 6:01 AM | Comments (0)

May 8, 2008

Doing My Part

Uwe Boll is the Devil.  You may not know this, but that's because you're either not a gamer or are smart enough to pay no attention to his movies.  But trust me, he is the devil.

I signed the online "Stop Uwe Boll" petition some time ago.  He has publicly said that if a million people sign the petition, he'll stop making movies.  Now, the petition has corporate sponsorship.  I urge you to click through and sign the petition.  Do it for me, even if you hate the cinema.

In other news, my tax rebate showed up in my bank account.  (Technically, it's a "Pending Deposit," but my bank gives me immediate access.  Go USAA!)

While I was originally planning on using it just for paying down debt, I decided instead to use the bulk of it for a membership in the local Community Supported Agriculture program.  For $465, a "small share," I'll get a weekly box of seasonal, organic vegetables that were grown about 40 miles away and were taken out of the fields that very day.  Not only will they be delicious and environmentally friendly, but it makes economic sense, as well.  The program runs from mid-June through mid-December.  I figure I'll end up paying about $72 per month for produce.  This is about $50 less than I would probably end up paying at the grocery store, and maybe more with the way food prices are going lately.  That extra savings will allow me to raise my debt reduction payments considerably.  While I will be paying a little more interest than I would if I just sunk my rebate check, it will work out better in the long run.

It gets better.  The farm claims that the produce feeds two people.  I'm just one person.  Absent weeks that I have dinner guests, I can probably preserve the extra, either by freezing or by the pressure canner that I'm considering.  That might allow me to benefit considerably longer than the program's six months.  Plus, the farm gets as much or more money than it would selling to wholesalers, and gets to built community ties.  Everybody wins!

I hope to post about what I'm getting, and cooking with, periodically.  It's very exciting.

Posted by Macknzie at 6:09 AM | Comments (0)

May 7, 2008

Shock

When I voted yesterday, I was sure that the new Recreation Center would be approved.

I was wrong.

I was shocked when I saw the article this morning.   By that I mean outright disbelief.  Needless to say, I supported the Rec. Center, and expected it to go through.

It may be time to learn a bit more about local politics, which, until now, I haven't paid that much attention to.

Posted by Macknzie at 6:04 PM | Comments (0)

Iron Man

I saw Iron Man last night.  I'll admit that it's no great cinematic masterpiece, but it was still pretty entertaining.  My main gripe is that I wish that the Gwyneth Paltrow character were a bit less "prototypical comic-book female" and a little stronger as a character.  But it was still better than most movies in this genre.

The trailers were awesome.  The Incredible Hulk, The Dark Knight, etc.  Epic.

Posted by Macknzie at 6:40 AM | Comments (2)

May 6, 2008

Short Thoughts

I chased a rabbit out of my garden this morning.  I'm starting to sympathize with Mr. McGregor a bit.  Sadly, no rabbit-sized clothing left behind.

Posted by Macknzie at 7:12 AM | Comments (0)

Nine Inch Nails

Awesome.

Posted by Macknzie at 7:02 AM | Comments (0)

May 5, 2008

Productive Weekend

This weekend, I got most everything done that I wanted.  Not only did I finally catch up on my reading, but I changed the oil in my car, watered and mowed my lawns, and got the front plant beds cleared out an looking nice.  There were lots of additional steps, too.  For example, I had to sharpen my lawnmower blade before mowing, and my front beds had a lot of dead stuff in them that had to go into the compost pile.

The biggest thing I have to do now is to seed the thinner spots on my lawn and make sure they get watered regularly.  There are a fair number of dandelions there, and I'd really like to have grass that's so thick that no weeds can grow.  I've got a couple areas in back that are like that, but not in the front.  Then, eventually, I'm going to have to  do something about the area between the sidewalk and the busy street next to my house.  It barely has any grass at all--just weeds.  I keep the weeds mowed down, for now, but I'd like to get that part looking decent, too.

Posted by Macknzie at 6:28 AM | Comments (0)

May 3, 2008

Short Thoughts

Bad: eating a dinner with spicy food, and later feeling the sting as you remove your contact lenses.

Worse: putting in your contacts the next day and realizing too late that one, somehow, still had a fair amount of capsaicin residue on it.  Which burns.  Lots.  I'm just sayin'.

Posted by Macknzie at 11:08 AM | Comments (0)

Short Thoughts

Bad: eating a dinner with spicy food, and later feeling the sting as you remove your contact lenses.

Worse: putting in your contacts the next day and realizing too late that one, somehow, still had a fair amount of capsaicin residue on it.  Which burns.  Lots.  I'm just sayin'.

Posted by Macknzie at 11:06 AM | Comments (0)

May 2, 2008

Friday Catblogging!

"What the hell is he pointing at me now?"

DSCF0885

I'd planned on something with a little more distance, but here you go.

And a weather update:  It's cold with snow flurries, and windy.  Very windy.  I barely slept from the noise, which is highly unusual.  I'm supposed to drive (45 miles over a mountain pass) to Laramie after work today, then back home tonight.  As of now, the road is closed.  We'll see.

As far as the reading odyssey, I'm almost caught up on my magazines, with three New Yorkers to go.  I should be able to do it this weekend, then finally finish my book.

Posted by Macknzie at 6:26 AM | Comments (0)

May 1, 2008

Cold Snap: Day 1

Well, it's the first day of the cold snap we're supposed to be getting. For two days, it looks like we're to have high temperatures in the mid-30s.  Normally, I wouldn't care, but I noticed yesterday (when covering my little garden patch outside for the cold weather) that I have a few lettuce and radish sprouts.  They've just started, and they're now covered, so I think they can withstand a couple days of temps in the high 20s, with one night projected right at 20 degrees.  If not, I have lots of other seeds that haven't germinated yet, and that will probably come in after it warms again.

And if I need to trash everything, at least I can start over again in pretty short order.  The good news is that the carrots, cauliflower, and rosemary that I've started indoors is doing well, and I'm looking forward to moving them outside in a few weeks.  That might be a bit dangerous.  The average last frost date in Cheyenne is May 14, but its very possible that we may get some colder temps and snow as late as early June.  But even if that happens, it should be pretty fleeting, and my more cold-tolerant plants (see, e.g., lettuce and radish) should have no problems.

Some risks are inevitable, I'm afraid.  But it'll pay off in the end.  The delicious end.

Posted by Macknzie at 1:04 PM | Comments (0)