January 29, 2005

In Utah

I'm in Utah until Monday, so I may not be blogging much.

I've got to go get the moving truck today at 11:00a, but beyond that, just packing and loading...

January 27, 2005

Unintended Weight Loss

Well, I'm getting ready to fly back to Utah tomorrow afternoon to load the moving truck, and I've noticed something rather odd. Over the last month of pseudo-bachelorhood, I have lost an entire inch off of my waist.

I'm not missing this inch by any stretch of the imagination. When I first got married, I wore a 28-34, and now I wear a 38-32. Dropping a few inches will not be a bad thing.

What I'm wondering is how, exactly, I lost this inch. I have been doing more walking, but not a significant amount more. I'm eating a bit healtier, but I still eat out five days a week.

The only thing I can think of that's different is my stress level, which has almost been through the roof for the last month and a half. Changing jobs is stressful. Changing jobs during the holiday season is doubly stressful. Leaving your wife behind for a month is triply stressful. Having to remember how to cook when you've barely cooked anything over the last ten years is almost too much to bear.

Regardless, I'm happy that I've lost the inch. We'll have to see if I lose another.

January 24, 2005

What Do I Want?

Last week, I was asked what drives me. To be honest, I wasn't sure. I'm one of those people who is most successful at things that I don't take seriously. If I'm doing it for fun, I succeed. Otherwise, I fail. It's as simple as that. However, while fun motivates me, it doesn't drive me. So, I spent most of the weekend trying to figure out what drives me, at least what drives me to test, and I think I figured it out.

I want to elevate testing to be the fourth "name" gaming discipline.

I should probably explain. There are currently three "name" gaming disciplines, disciplines where having a name associated with a product will cause or deny a sale: concept, coding and content.

"Concept" refers to the game concept and design. When you hear that Sid Meier is associated with a product, you know what you're getting. Same with Will Wright, Warren Spector and Peter Molyneux. Studio names also apply to this. For example, when you hear that Cyan Studios is making a product, you're expecting a rich world with obscure puzzles.

"Coding" refers to the game engine itself. When you hear that John Carmack is working on a product, you expect a groundbreaking engine.

"Content" refers to the level design, art direction, music, etc. Ritual has several "name" players when it comes to levels; Tommy Tallarico is gaining stature in the industry after the "knock-out-of-the-park" musical numbers in "The Bard's Tale;" the Penny Arcade crew and Scott Kurtz are now selling boxes by including game-specific comics along with the product.

I'm hoping to raise "Quality" up to name status eventually. I want it so that people know the names of the people who work on products. I want people to look at my products and say, "I know that this product will work." I want people to say, "Hey, Randy Pagulayan was the Usability guy on this product, so I can expect a game that I can play without reading the manual."

Unfortunately, this will require a bit of a sea change in the way a few things are handled in the gaming industry.

1) The Test Lead will have to be assigned from day one of design (not of concept), and follow the product to completion. The Test Lead needs to know the product inside and out, and having someone from QA there early on can help point out potential issues in the product.

2) Testing time must become sacred. Right now, if a developer slips on a milestone, publishers are all too eager to say, "Hey, we'll just snip a little time off of the testing at the end," rather than slip the schedule or scale back on the product. Unfortunately, that leads to substandard quality on products. If you short-change testing, you short-change your customers. By the way, forcing your testers to work unpaid overtime to make up for the schedule shift is not going to help. I don't know of any tester who is effective when they work over 60 hours a week.

3) Testing must be able to stop a title from shipping if the quality bar has not been met, and it must be testing, not marketing, that sets the quality bar.

It's a lofty goal, and I realize that it may be years before we get there...but I can dream, can't I?

Semi-Random Thoughts

Bunny Suicides!
Johnny Carson died on Sunday. His "Carnak" character resulted in two insults I use to this day: "May your daughter win first place in a Mr. T look-alike contest," and "May the fleas of a thousand camels infest your armpits."

Mr. Carson is survived by his sense of humor, which will remain on display sealed in a mayonnaise jar on Funk and Wagnall's porch.

I have one feature and one feature only that I want integrated into Windows XP Media Center Edition...a 10' web browser interface. I don't care if you use the MSN TV Emulator or PocketIE, but we've got to have something to make browsing from the couch easier than it currently is.

January 23, 2005

Student Sues School For Summer Homework

[Article] A Milwaukee student in an honors program is suing the school district for requiring summer homework. Personally, I think this is a load of dingo's kidneys.

Our school system has already degraded from "results matter" to "feelings and self-esteem matter more." When I was going to grade school, if I was messing up, I would get a bad grade like a "D" or an "F." The bad grades were indicators that additional work was needed.

Now, if a kid is below average in grade school, he gets a "Needs Improvement." Some people believe that a student will be humiliated if he gets held back. No shit. He should be humiliated.

Most people realize is that humiliation, shame and anger are powerful emotions. What most people nowadays are failing to realize is that these same emotions can trigger a drive to succeed. If you are told that you need to improve, it doesn't sound that shameful. If you are told that you are a failure, it is shameful. Most people, when shamed, will push themselves towards redemption. Those who don't...well, we guarantee equal opportunity to try, but not equal results.

Need MSN Help

Back in Utah, I was using Qwest DSL with MSN for my Internet access needs. Down here in Dallas, I'm using Comcast. However, I want to keep my multiple MSN E-mail accounts. Supposedly, I can subscribe to the MSN Software for something like $80 a year and keep my accounts. However, doing that is proving to be a bit of a challenge.

I've called Qwest, and they keep giving me the runaround. I can't download the MSN Explorer software for some reason down here, so I can't join live support chat. I can't find any means on the MSN site of directly contacting anyone at Microsoft about this.

So please forgive me, but I'm going to invoke the name of the almighty Scoble, lord of excessive blog bandwidth, in an effort to find a live person to speak with before the end of this week so that I can transition my account from a Qwest MSN subscription to a standard MSN Software subscription and retain my mail and settings.

Damn, as much of a deal as Microsoft has made of subscription services, you'd think they'd make something like this easier to do...

January 20, 2005

Microsoft Lays Off 62 Testers

According to this article in the Seattle Times, Microsoft has laid off 62 testers from the Windows Core OS division.

I can look at this one of a few ways.

1) The way that Microsoft wants us to look at it. Vast advancements have been made in the way that Windows testing is automated, and so these heads are no longer required.

2) The way things probably worked. The automation tests need to be written, but the test scripts can be written for pennies on the dollar by someone in either their India or China offices.

3) The cynical way. Automated testing requires stable API's, and the API's for Longhorn and the like seem to be changing on a regular basis. Without the stable API's, these guys were just spinning their wheels, and the cost-benefit analysis led Microsoft to believe it was cheaper to lay them off than it was to keep them around until they would be needed.

4) The sympathetic way. Over sixty of my fellow testers just got shafted.

5) The questioning way. Microsoft announces test layoffs from their core Windows group, but doesn't announce layoffs from other divisions in the company. Why?

Regardless of which was is the correct way to view it, 62 testers are job hunting right now. My heart goes out to you.

Weezer Can Kiss My @$$

Evidently, I look nothing like Buddy Holly...
A picture of me next to a bust of Buddy Holly.
Picture courtesy of NotWorkSafe.com.

January 16, 2005

First Post, Kinda and ++/-- Thoughts

This is my first post from my new apartment in Dallas, Texas.

Getting to this point was a challenge to say the least. Between Circuit City ending up delivering over a week late, components popping out of place in my Media Center PC and massive dents in my case thanks to UPS thinking that "Fragile" means "Beat The Living Shit Out Of It," and Comcast freaking out because it took me over a week to activate my broadband modem, it's been fun.

The Ritual crew has been amazing to say the least. They've gone out of their way to make me feel welcome in my new home state, especially since my wife won't be down here for a little over two more weeks. I've been trying to get my head wrapped around C++ again, and I've remembered why I hate the ++ and -- operators.

For those who are not aware, the ++ and -- operators either add or subtract one from a variable. If the ++ goes before the variable, it adds one prior to the value being used, and adds one after the variable is used if the operator is placed after the variable. That's fine if you only have one on a line of source code, but what if you have multiples that rely on each other? That's a recipe for disaster as the order the instructions are handled is not specified in the standard.

Let's say you've got an app like this:

//NOTE: Stunt code.  I'd never ship code like this.

int f(int a, int b, int c)
return c / (b / a);

int main()
int a;
a = 1;
return f(a++,a++,a++);

You want this code to be portable across platforms and across compilers, and you want the results to be consistent. For this discussion, I'm going to focus on the last line of main(), return f(a++,a++,a++);.

Let's say that your compiler handles the operators going from left to right. In that case, the compiler will pass in the values (1,2,3). However, several handle the operators from right to left, so those compilers will pass (3,2,1).

Now let's say that you have an aggressive inliner. Because we're using the operators in reverse order in the function, and because of the grouping in the function, some will pass in (3,1,2). You may say that the compiler is broken, but the compiler is merely following the standard, which does not specify what order they should be processed?

Fact of the matter is that ++ and -- are excellent shortcuts, but should never have multiples used in a single line of code, especially if the variables depend on each other's values. That would be bad, mmm-kay?

January 13, 2005

Me linked to Apple?

I was a little shocked today. I was doing an ego surf today, and noticed that my name popped up linked to a ZDNET article by Steve Jobs.

It turned out to be someone's comment, not Steve Jobs, but it was still weird. I wouldn't think that anything I have to say would apply to the "Think Different" crowd. Personally, I think that I think too differently even for them.

Coming Back...

I'll be back in Utah the last weekend of January to help get the truck loaded. I'll be arriving the evening of Janaury 28, and leaving early in the morning on January 31.

The Playlist Meme

Taken from here. The ten songs that pop up on my playlist are:
  1. Erasure - She Won't Be Home
  2. MXPX - Chick Magnet
  3. The Space Brothers - Shine
  4. B*Witched - Jesse Hold On
  5. Unknown Artist - Manga Maniac
  6. Denis Leary - Asshole
  7. Ai Yori Aoshi Enishi Soundtrack - Opening Theme ("Takaramono")
  8. No Mercy - Where Do You Go?
  9. The Moody Blues - Your Wildest Dreams
  10. The Wallflowers - One Headlight
I've got pretty varied taste in music. Once my main computer gets here from Utah, I'll have to redo this meme with my other computer.

January 11, 2005


I'm sure by now that everybody out there has seen the 1-800-COLLECT advertisements. You've got Dennis Miller hawking the service now, claiming that all calls up to 20 minutes are 99 cents, and 7 cents a minute after that.

That's what the television ads say. However, they don't mean it.

My phone didn't get hooked up until last night, so I had been calling my wife for a couple of minutes each night using 1-800-COLLECT and charging it to my American Express card. I was expecting some sort of additional charge for that convenience.

However, American Express put a fraud alert on my card, and I'm glad they did, otherwise I wouldn't have found out that a 32-minute call to my wife, which under the TV ad rates would cost $1.83, cost me over $68.00!

So I'm sorry, but I'm going to contest the charges. And Dennis, I'd seriously rethink who you're hawking for.

January 10, 2005

Circuit City Follow-up

As a follow-up to my previous post on the subject, Circuit City is now promising that they will be delivering this coming Saturday.

Needless to say, I'm less than impressed. There's nothing quite as humiliating as saying, "This is when I'm available," to a customer service representative and being told, "That's not how this works."

I'd have to say that on a graph where the X-axis represents time, and the Y-axis represents satisfaction, the line has dipped below the horizon and is currently in free-fall mode.

If satisfaction was a golf ball, this ball would have hit a turtle and bounced off into the Grand Canyon...and yet to have to play it where it lies.

So as far as I'm concerned, Circuit City can kiss my ass.

Microsoft Grammar #2

From Outlook 2003...

'Can you do me a small favor' suggests 'I' instead of 'me'

Evidently, me should ask you to do I a favor or two...

Circuit City Take 74...

It's no secret that I detest Circuit City. They've treated me and my family with such disrespect that I literally loathe dealing with them. However, I feel compelled to share this story.

Today marks my one-week mark alone down here in Dallas. Yvonne is still up in Layton finishing up the packing, etc. She felt kinda bad that I didn't have a TV, so she called up Circuit City and ordered me a television set on Wednesday.

The TV was supposed to be delivered on Friday between 12 noon and 2 pm. I could not be there during the delivery window, so I left a note on the door telling them to go to the office to be let in, and I signed a key release with the apartment complex I live in. I also signed a key release for Comcast to come in and set up my digital cable and broadband. (Computer is supposed to arrive today.) When I got home on Friday, there was no TV. I had cable, though. Also, the note was still on the door.

I called my wife, and she called Circuit City. They told her that it had been delivered. She was thinking that it was stolen from our apartment. I was thinking that a CC employee stole it. I called them on Saturday, and they said they told her incorrectly. I asked when they could deliver it, and they said it would be delivered "on Sunday." No time window, just "on Sunday."

Now, I'm a patient man, so I said, "Okay, I'll be home all day on Sunday." I got up before 7am, showered, got dressed, ate breakfast, and started waiting at 7am. I was thinking that the longest I would have to wait would be 4pm, and then I'd be free to go take care of my shopping and exploring.

Well, 4pm came and went. At quarter after ten, I decided that they weren't delivering, and went down to the grocery store.

So, I'm getting ready to call Circuit City now. Any guesses as to what they may say?

January 3, 2005

January 2, 2005

Sad time to leave...

I'm walking out the door in 38 minutes, and what do I find? Dave Barry retired from doing his column.

Damn, what a bummer start to 2005...

And awaaaaay we go...

In three hours, I'm going to leave my home in Layton, Utah to head to Salt Lake International Airport, jump into a large metal cylinder strapped to massive engines and extremely flammable amounts of fuel, and fly nearly 1,000 miles through a storm system to arrive in Dallas, Texas. around 8:00pm Central.

Not sure when I'll be blogging again after this, so sayonara for now.