March 31, 2006

[Personal] 500 Posts

I've been holding off on making this post because I was hoping to make it really interesting, but since I haven't the energy after this week, thanks to my readers for sticking with me for 500 posts.

Here's to 500 more.

March 27, 2006

[Personal] The Bearer Of Bad News

I always seem to get quoted when it's bad news...

Maybe one of these days, I'll get quoted when it's good news.

[Conversation] The Question Heard

Pro-Bono?  Actually, I'm more anti-Cher.
(Panel from "The Duplex" by Glenn McCoy)

If you're ever having problems getting answers, stop for a second and see if your question is actually being understood.

I've found that most of the time when someone is getting frustrated with the answer that I'm giving, I'm giving the right answer to the question that they seem to be asking, but the wrong answer to what they are actually asking. Stopping for a second and verifying the question can save hours of misunderstanding and therapy down the road.

[Testing] "Bug Bash" Comic

If you've ever wondered what software development was like back at Microsoft, look no further than "Bug Bash."

It's only up to 45 strips, but does a good job of exposing some of the common problems facing software development houses today. Everything from insane triage bars to developer check-ins from hell seem to be fair game.

It's a pity the art isn't up to the quality of the writing, and it's even more of a pity that the comic doesn't come over properly with the RSS feed, but still a great strip.

[Gaming] Licensed Out Of Existence

I can definitely sympathize with the Curmudgeon Gamer's concerns about titles being licensed out of existence.

I was also very fond of the original "Ghostbusters" game, but I remember it from the Atari 800-series machines. The ANTIC-remix of the Ray Parker Jr.'s hit bouncing around in the background with a goofy, chunky backbeat, the fact that they playbalanced so that the $4,800 that the hearse cost was actually an appropriate amount, the multiple strategies people would come up with, the ghost vacuum, the portable containment system...all of it.

Oh,'s a shame.

(On the upside, only four more posts until I get to 500 total...)

[Stats] Blog Stats

I've had a few posts by an commenter bringing some of my stats into question, so I thought I'd lay out how I measure my traffic.

I use AWStats to track visitors to this site. The stats update about once every 12 hours. I use AWStats because it shows me not only who is visiting and when, but how they enter the site, where they come from, what they were searching for, etc.

I average between 4,000 and 5,000 unique visitors per month. Of these, ~600 are aggregators...people who only subscribe to the Atom feed.

I get about 2,700-3,000 links from Google and other various search engines per month. So far this month, the top queries have been:
  1. 8004022a
  2. whatip
  3. michael russell
  4. handcuff
  5. t teen
  6. blg
  7. windows media center
  8. sharpziplib
  9. quake4 font
  10. ffdshow

The top 10 pages on my site this month have been:

  1. The main page of the blog;
  2. A post about the different types of "Quality Bars;"
  3. A semi-humorous post about Yoko Ono killing my Zen PMC; (Side note on this one...most of the backlinks seem to be from an accidental link from an Asian porn company)
  4. A post on how to fix Windows Media Player 10 error 8004022a;
  5. A comment about the .NET Framework on the Xbox 360;
  6. My October '05 archive page;
  7. The WhatIP? web service interface;
  8. A diatribe about how the gaming community's single-minded focus on Jack Thompson could be hurting their cause;
  9. A tutorial on how to do a clean installation of Windows XP Media Center Edition on an HP Media Center PC; and
  10. The human-usable version of WhatIP.

The remainder are from a variety of sources. To be honest, most people tend to refer to me in other people's comments.

I don't include traffic from people hotlinking to my images, although there is some of that going on. I don't include traffic from spiders, or from aggregation services.

Do I get a lot of comments? No. I average about 5 new comments on the blog a day. I generally get three legitimate comments, one troll, and one piece of blog spam. I delete the blog spam, but I leave the rest. After all, if a person thinks strongly enough about me to take time out of his or her busy schedule to insult me, that's generally a sign that either something I'm doing needs to be addressed or that someone has issues with me personally. Either way, it's better to have it out in the open.

[Blogs] Not Me...

I've been getting a few E-mails about this article on GamePolitics.

My alias is Rom. This schmuck's last name really is Rom.

Please don't associate me with him.

March 25, 2006

[Gaming] HL2 Xbox Sold Poorly?

According to this article on Game Informer, "Half-Life 2" for the Xbox sold below expectations by a factor of 2 to 3.

I wish I could say that surprised me, but quite honestly, Valve's rabid fanbase may have bit them in the ass on this one.

Last night, I was out game-shopping with my console gamer neighbor. He loves first-person shooters on the console, but can't wrap his head around playing first-person shooters on the PC. They are two completely different animals, and use two completely different skillsets.

He picked up "Half-Life 2" for the Xbox and told me, "I really want to play this, but my buddy said that if I bought it for the Xbox, that I'd be disowned." Digging a bit further, I found out that his friend bought him the original "Half-Life" for the PC just so that he could play it the way it was meant to be played.

I'm going to generalize here, but most PC gamers are very snobbish about the fact that they play PC games. They look at "HL2-Xbox," and see reduced texture resolution, imperfect controls, and lack of multiplayer, and immediately deem it inferior. Console gamers hear about "HL2-Xbox," know it was popular on the PC, so they ask their PC brethren about it. The PC gamers say that the Xbox version is inferior, so the console gamers don't buy it.

Personally, I choose games based off of the platform they are best suited for. Just like I won't usually play platformers or racing games on the PC, I usually prefer my FPS's on the PC. However, that's me. Most console gamers just want to play the game. As PC gamers, we should not let our personal bias against a particular platform for a particular style of game prevent people from playing the game of their choice.

Games are all about making choices. We should choose to not make their choices for them.

March 23, 2006

[Blog] Nintendo doesn't like me?

It's weird. Over the last three weeks, this blog has had visits from people at Microsoft Game Studios, Indie Built, SCEA, Nival, my former co-workers in Layton, Bioware, EA Tiburon, Crate and Barrel, Autodesk, a lot of security firms with unpronouncable names (mostly because a news aggregator accidentally linked to me), and even one visitor from Dairy Queen, and about 4,000 other uniques...and that's just the last three weeks.

But to date, I haven't received any visitors from Nintendo. Guess I can't "catch 'em all..."

March 22, 2006

[Gaming] Outed?

Supposedly, I was "outed" last night because of my choice in video games.

Some background... I have fairly wide-ranging taste in games. Some nights, I just want to blow shit up and play games like "Halo" or the "Medal of Honor" series. Some nights, I want to be scared by the likes of "Fatal Frame," "Silent Hill," or "Call of Cthulu: Dark Corners of the Earth." Some nights, I want a deep, CG-illustratd story like I get from the "Final Fantasy" games. Finally, there are nights where I want a nice, low-impact friendly romp through a cool universe...and that's evidently what "outed" me.

You see, when I picked up "CSI: Three Degrees of Murder" for my wife last night, I also prepaid for "Kingdom Hearts II" and the collector's strategy guide. I made the mistake of telling some friends from next door. I made the bigger mistake of showing them the first game.

I showed them the various worlds. I fought a Rock Titan in the Colliseum. I wandered through Halloween Town. Finally, I showed off the various summons...and that's where I made my mistake.

I summoned Simba. I summoned the Genie. I summoned Mushu...and then I summoned Bambi, who prounced around me and left magical bubbles in his wake.

After Bambi, they said that it was literally "the gayest thing that they had ever seen" and "no wonder (their) pet fag [referring to a different friend] was obsessed with the game." Then they said that I had been outed, and that my wife of 11 years is really my beard.

Now, I'm not gay, and I'm secure enough in my manliness that their jests didn't bother me. Just like a straight man can enjoy listening to "Erasure" and watching Broadway musicals, a straight man can also enjoy games like "Kingdom Hearts."

...And that's exactly what I intend to do next week when "Kingdom Hearts II" is released.

March 21, 2006

[Films] Sign #3 of the Coming Apocalypse

php hit counter

There are snakes. On a plane. Yes, snakes. Yes, plane.

Everywhere I turn, there are people making jokes about this movie. Most of them involve "Samuel L. Motherfucking Jackson" saying either "We've got motherfuckin' snakes on this plane" or "We've got snakes on the motherfuckin' plane."

The buzz on the 'net is getting close to "Blair Witch" proportions.

I simultaneously want to see this film just for the sheer camp value and fear for the future of humanity.

March 20, 2006

[Ritual] What's Next?

Unfortunately, I can't be at GDC this year because I'm working on finishing up "Sin Episodes," but if anyone who reads this is going to GDC, you can play a little bit of "what's next" at the nVidia and Logitech booths.

Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more, say no more, say no more, squire.

less than 54f punch

[Testing] Death To Memory Leaks, Long Live Poor Object Finalization!

.NET Framework, Managed DirectX coming to Xbox 360

So now for the standard questions:

1) Is the XNA Framework going to be a free download, or will we have to purchase XNA Studio to access Managed DirectX from here on out?

2) XACT is hardly mod-friendly. Any hopes of making XACT a bit more mod-friendly in the future (allowing us to ship with developer mode turned on, for example)?

3) With the Xbox, a good third of my job was tracking down memory corruption and memory leaks. With XNA on the 360, I'm guessing I'm going to be spending just as much time tracking down issues with delayed finalization and other object management issues. Any hopes of getting an allocation snapshot tool?

4) The Xbox 360 is a DX9-level machine. Vista is going to have DX10. What are the plans for XNA and DX10?

5) XInput currently requires DirectSound to use the headset. How are you working around that?

Minor bitches:

1) Having to use MDX1.1 for mouse/keyboard support really blows. If possible, I'd love nothing better than to have a shared executable between the 360 and the PC.

2) Tsk, tsk. Still pitching C# with no mention of VB.NET.

Anyway, glad you gave Tom a team. He needed it.

[Politics] The Meat of the Matter

In the latest Penny Arcade comic, the Tycho character says that we're against the ban of certain games to minors. Let's rephrase the argument to what it really is and try to get to the meat of the matter.

There are three major types of meats: poultry, ham and beef. All serve a similar purpose: satisfying your hunger and providing your body with protein necessary for you to grow physically. However, there are some studies that are generally not well accepted saying that eating red meat causes all sorts of maladies and that humans aren't supposed to eat red meat.

Using these studies as their justification, a law is passed saying that anyone who wants to buy ham must be 18 or older and provide their ID. What do you think would happen in a case like this?

The ham industry would lash out, saying the studies aren't collaborated by facts and that it's unfair that their industry is singled out when other industries meet the same study criteria (red meat).

The beef industry should lash out, saying that it's a slippery slope...that treatment of one red meat like this could lead to other types of red meat being treated the same way...or worse.

The poultry industry would be silent for awhile...after all, as a "not-as-high-risk" meat group, they'd gain a lot of business...but once the red meat is all ID-only, it's only a manner of time before you need to show ID for chicken as well.

Nobody in the video game industry is saying that we should let six-year-olds purchase "God of War." What we are saying is that we have a rating system like the movie industry and the TV industry that is voluntary. We have reviewers go over the most extreme content in the games, movies and TV shows and assign an appropriate age rating. "M" and "R" rated shows are generally ID-checked voluntarily by IEMA-member companies, and the FCC has blocks of time set aside when it is considered "safe" to show "TV-M" rated shows. It is up to parents to ensure that their children only play games, view movies or watch TV shows that are in the appropriate age bracket.

So why single out video games for legislation? The studies done involve word association and honking horns, and there were assholes out on the roads blaring their horns for hours on end before the advent of video games. It's the legal equivalent of calling for a ban on tofu because it causes a small amount of additional methane to be produced in the human digestive system, while leaving peas and beans alone because they've been around longer.

Every major form of entertainment has had their "ban phase"...people have tried to ban paintings, sculpture, books, music, movies, "Dungeons & Dragons," comic books, cartoons and more. Now it's our turn, and as such, we can't let apathy reign.

March 17, 2006

[Gaming] Silent Hill remake?

Via Kotaku, 1Up is talking about the possibility of a remake of the original "Silent Hill," replacing Harry Mason with his wife (the new protagonist of the upcoming film).

Personally, I think this is a great idea. The original "Silent Hill" for the PS1 was a great game, but compared to the others in the series, it has some notable weaknesses. Footsteps sounded like microphone pops, the only control scheme available was the Resident Evil control scheme, and the combat system wasn't as refined as it is now.

A remake with improved graphics, the new camera-relative control scheme and the combat refinements from "SH2" and "SH3" would be an ideal combination. In addition, the remake could roll some of the newer mythological elements of the series back into the game.

So in short, if "SH1" gets remade, they've already got my money for it.

March 16, 2006

[Personal] The Power Of The Blog...

A funny thing happens bitch in your blog, things get fixed. My replacement PMC should arrive tomorrow.

[Testing] Buddy Testing

One of the few tenets of Extreme Programming that I agree with is Pair Development. That's where you've got two people at the machine during writing code, another analyzing the code while it's being written. You often end up with higher quality code because of the additional analysis.

Testing has something very similar called Buddy Testing. If you haven't tried it, I highly recommend that you try it at least once.

Buddy testing consists of one (or more) drivers and one (or more) observers. For a multiplayer game, you'll want at least one observer per driver.

The sole purpose of the driver is to use the product. He's not looking for bugs, he's just acting like a user. If he happens to find an issue, he'll verbally call it out, but his goal is just to use the product.

The observer has two roles. The first role is to capture any callouts from the driver. The second is to look for bugs.

This may seem like a waste of manpower, and if it's the only way that you are planning on doing testing, it can be. However, for brief periods (one hour a day), it can be invaluable.

People use products differently than they test products. By just using the product, the driver is exercising different code paths than he normally would, so he's getting better coverage.

People also act differently when they test products. They're so focused on making sure they know what led up to where they are that a blatant bug can stare them in the face and they'll miss it. That's where the observer comes in.

The observer isn't using it. He's just looking for the bugs. Because he doesn't have to dedicate any brainpower to driving, he can focus more energy on the act of seeing what's wrong.

On "Sin Episodes," about 5% of the total bug count was found via buddy testing, but those 5% were some of the strangest bugs in the database.

If you are currently working on a product and haven't tried buddy testing, give it a shot. The results may surprise you.

gross less e-teen

[Blogger] Partial vs. Full Text

For those of you who subscribe to my RSS feed, please accept my apologies. Evidently, Blogger thinks that "full text feed" means "full text except when we randomly choose to do partial text."

March 15, 2006

[Gaming] .Net, Xbox 360 and what it means for us

I always suspected that the future of game development would be the .NET Framework and the Xbox 360. I just didn't think it would be coming this quickly.

There are lots of upsides to having the CLR on a console for developers. No need to write a custom memory allocator, memory leaks become a thing of the past, and with a common executable, development and testing can be done in part on a real computer. The CLR makes writing multi-threaded and thread-safe code significantly easier (a must for the Xbox 360), and the possibility of a common executable between the Xbox 360 and PC development sides of things means fewer bugs overall because when the product is tested on both platforms, odd corner-case bugs will be able to be exposed more easily.

The downsides are plentiful, however. Game developers are most likely going to have to learn C#, and it is quite the mental shift from C++. C++/CLI is too close to C++ for most developers that I know of to really make a mental seperation between the two contexts. Optimization techniques change radically from the C++ world. Lots of developers that I know are addicted to STL, and while generics are a great step in the right direction, they're going to have to wean themselves. The .NET inliner is spotty at best. Developers are already complaining about the 256Mb memory footprint on the Xbox 360, so some of them are going to balk at the potential addition of the CLR to their memory-intensive designs.

Smooth performance is a worry for me as well. While the nice thing is that if the game uses the CLR to its fullest potential and properly codes with the GC in mind, we won't have to worry about memory leaks, etc., but we're still going to have to worry about the occasional GC. At least on the PC, a GC(1) is usually a barely-noticable hitch but GC(2)'s are full pauses that can last for multiple seconds. With the lower memory footprint on the 360, those pauses will be significantly briefer, but will occur more often.

Anyway, I'm happy to see the .NET Framework being used in a larger context. If .NET can make it in console games, it can make it anywhere.

March 14, 2006

[Personal] Yoko Ono killed my PMC...

Last May, I won a Creative Zen Personal Media Center from Microsoft Webcasts. Great little device, I loved it to death.

I had copied all of my music and ripped several of my music video DVD's down so that I could either watch my tunes or listen to my tunes, depending on my mood and how many vehicles the train had hit on the way home.

Anyway, I was walking to the train station back in December from the office, and the video for "Let It Be" started playing on the PMC. Great song, one of McCartney's best, yada yada yada.

I don't know how many of you know the video that was filmed for it of the band supposedly recording the song, but about two-thirds of the way through it, you see Yoko Ono fawning all over John Lennon like he's hung like a stallion and she wants to ride the wild horse right then...well, either that or she looked stoned, but with her, who can tell?

Anyway, that scene always disturbed me for some reason. That part of the video just felt...wrong. Evidently, my Portable Media Center agreed, because the moment that frame of the video played, I heard a click and then nothing. I stepped to the side of the sidewalk, opened my padded hip pack, opened the protective shell covering the screen, and saw a large yellow triangle with the number 5 in the middle, and an airline-style drawing showing me putting the PMC in a box and sending it to the middle of nowhere.

I got home, pulled up the documentation online, and it said to E-mail the customer service department. Now, I have to say this...Creative's products may rock my socks off, but I have never had a good experience with their customer service department. As someone who has owned almost every Creative soundcard since the original SoundBlaster!, and as someone who has had regular contact with Creative's customer service department, that's saying something. The quality of their products has generally been high enough for me to put less weight on the inevitable crap service when it comes to my purchasing decisions...

So anyway, I E-mail their customer service department, and for nearly three weeks, we bounce back and forth a series of rather discouraging E-mails. We finally determine that I need to fill out a form with all the information that I had to enter in order to even initiate the conversation in order to get my RMA, and at that point, I put them on the back shelf for about six weeks. I just kept thinking...if I had to give you all this information to even contact you, why do I need to fill out a form with the same information in order to get the thing fixed?

Anyway, I had some time and emotional energy back in February to fill out the form and get my RMA. I sent my PMC off to the deepest depths of Oklaholma, where it arrived after two weeks. (Evidently, mail goes slow there.)

Creative has had my PMC since the 6th, but according to the status page for my PMC, they haven't even tested it yet.

Still not tested?  WTF?

(Evidently, the techs are running on mail time. However, the guys who cash the checks you send in so that they'll look at your devices? They're running at light speed, because the check shows as being deposited on the same day they received it.)

So while I wait impatiently for my PMC to get tested so they can fix it, I've got plenty of time to get upset about other things, like the .NET Compact Framework 2.0 and Windows Media 9 not being supported on Pocket PC 2002 but both being supported on Windows 98, or Robert Scoble waffling about the role he created for himself (hint: When you stop doing your most popular feature [link blog] but still do mostly links in your primary blog, guess what? Your primary blog is now your link blog. Suck it up and accept your unwittingly chosen path or blog some completely original content, bitch.), or that rather than deal with the United States rapidly approaching our $8.4 trillion debt cap, our senators are choosing to speak to state assemblymen about unconstitutional laws.

[Gaming] I am defeated...

I thought my 2,000+ game collection was impressive, but via Kotaku, I've just been served.

See the collection that schooled me.

March 13, 2006

[Notice] Possible Downtime 3/18-3/19

There is a possibility of some downtime this weekend. The machine that I'm hosted on is being upgraded.

That is all.

[Politics] Ratings Comparison

Just by looking at these DVD's, which on my monitor is the equivalent of looking at the cases from approximately ten feet, can you tell what these are rated just by looking at the box?

Xbox: Return of the KingDVD: Return of the King
(Images from

(Hint: On the Xbox version, look at the big eyesore of a white spot on the box.)

Even badly pixelated, you can tell that the Xbox game is rated "T" for Teen. The DVD? It's rated "PG-13," but you can't tell by looking at the front. You have to look at the back of the DVD and look for a logo that blends with the rest of the text in the area that's about a quarter-inch tall when combined with the content descriptor. Turn a game over, and you get an even larger version of the rating symbol with a standard size content descriptor.

What's really sad is that half of the "unrated bonus features" that members of the MPAA get away with putting on their DVD's would plant most games firmly into "AO" territory...oh, well...such is life.

March 12, 2006

[Politics] One Does Not Simply Walk Into Mordor...

I wonder...has anyone ever stopped to think that maybe Jack Thompson's inflammatory tactics are part of a deeper plan?

Jack Thompson had his Wikipedia article temporarily pulled and locked, and now is threatening GamePolitics editor Dennis McCauley. Given his seeming love for media attention, it seems odd that Jack would start threatening the press in such a way.

The way I see it, one of three things is going on.

First option: Jack has actually lost it. The pressure from having his every action analyzed and his works laid bare by a group of people (gamers) that he deems so beneath himself as to not even warrant contempt, in addition to the pressure on his work from investigations by the Florida Bar Association, his losing pro hoc vice standing in Alabama, and his increasingly less frequent appearances on television could potentially have led to a psychological fracture. However, I don't think so.

Second option: Jack doesn't know how to be any other type of lawyer except for a hardball lawyer. In our judicial system, it's an unfortunate reality that quite often, the most aggressive side wins in any civil lawsuit. The mere threat of legal action can send shivers down the spine of most Americans due to the enormous cost of defending one's self in court. I think this has a lot to do with it, but I think it's really in support of option three...

Third option: Jack believes that by doing this, he is going to lose the battles, but win the ultimate war. Every time one of these new anti-videogame laws comes out, Jack tries to be right there in the forefront. He's hardly an expert on videogames or their alleged side effects. The studies he quotes are discredited almost across the board. His "scorched earth" tactics and blatant disregard for his opposition only inflames the general gaming populance even more...and that could very well be the plan.

The more I read of GamePolitics and the news, the more of a disturbing trend that I see. Rather than work with their local legislatures to show that these laws are unnecessary, show how the work that the ESA and ESRB are doing provides sufficient information to parents who care to look for it on the package, or showcase games that shouldn't be banned but would be by any of the pending or contested legislation, the vast majority of gamers are content to just attack the person who has become a personification of the mentality behind these laws. In other words, rather than attack the laws, they attack Jack.

Jack Thompson, by becoming a lightning rod, may be hoping that by becoming a martyr to the cause, he can get one of these bills to pass and potentially pass constitutional muster. After all, it's difficult to win a war in Washington if all of our troops are focused on a small and unimportant skirmish in Florida. While I hate to use this example, he's creating diversions so that the "moral minority" hobbits can toss the One Bill into the fiery depths of U.S. law.

As gamers, we can't just forget Jack, but we have to put him in perspective. He's not the captain leading the battle charge, or the general planning the assault. He's a loony private that's acting as a decoy, leading us away from where we need to be.

The best way to fight Jack is to not fight him, but to incite discontent in their army. Do you have game developers in your town? Talk to your city representative, and show them how laws like this could lead to high tech jobs leaving your area for good. Is one of these laws being considered in your state? Organize a protest on the steps of the Capitol.

Hrm...I wonder what it would take to mobilize gamers to show that we have the numbers to back our position. It would be rather interesting to see if we could Zerg-rush Washington, D.C. and have a "Million Mario March."

Actually, that would be an interesting experiment. How many gamers do you think we could get in Washington, D.C. this September? Two months before the election, stand up in front of the Washington Monument and declare that as a voting bloc, we will target any elected representative who has supported anti-game legislation. After all, it doesn't take l33t skillz to vote for someone else. All it takes is for us to show up.

[Games] Haiku Review: "God of War"

Five hours turned seven
By spinning blades, balance beams
But fun none the less

Last night about 1:30am, I beat "God of War" by SCEA. Overall, I found it to be a very fun, visceral experience. The team wanted to make a game that was all about combat, and they succeeded.

My biggest issues with the game were the button pop-up portions of battles ("Okay, I want to throw this guy now...oh, shit, he had a circle over I have to hit these damn buttons as they pop up or I lose my combo and get damaged."), the balance beam portions ("Step, step, fall, X, X, X, X, X, X, step, step, fall, X, X, X, X, X, X...") and the spinning blade puzzles in Hades.

The spinning blade puzzles in Hades deserve some special comments, as those three segments took two hours of my time. I'm at a loss to describe the frustration involved in these sections.

First off, the horizontal spinning blade section is one of the first areas where you are essentially required to jump towards the camera, so you have't acquired a way to gauge your jumps from far to near yet.

Second, most small hits by the horizontal spinning blades were instant death. ("Ouch, I jumped against the flat side of the blade...for some reason, the flat side of the blade is making me spew blood like an anime character with high blood pressure...oh, the recovery time made me fall to my doom...restart from last checkpoint...repeat thirty times.")

Third, you get to the vertical pillars, and the only way to advance is to know that you can jump up faster than you can climb up, although that particular piece of information is never taught to the player.

Fourth, the blades on the vertical pillars were often just close enough that a vertical jump would cause you to hit a blade, fall down, possibly juggle between three or four different blades, and smash the ground, forcing you to start over....thirty times or so.

Fifth, when you finally get past the vertical pillar, you beat up some guys and then you have to do another pillar with blades!!! I don't swear all that often, but when I saw the second set, I screamed at the television, "You have got to be fuckin' kidding me!"

So, while I loved the game, if I ever get the chance to meet David Jaffe, there is a very high likelihood that I'm going to kick him in the crotch and say, "That's for the spinning blades, asshat!"

March 6, 2006

[Code] WTF in my life...

I actually had something similar to this happen to me, but it was the scorecard code in "Microsoft Golf 2001 Edition" and my manager at the time. Led to a bit of embarassment on my part...

March 5, 2006

[Personal] When it rains, it pours...

So on top of all of the stuff I've already had go wrong over the last week, I had the primary drive in my server crash today. 300Gb of fairly critical gone...

Fortunately, I had backed most of it up recently, and I had a local copy of my mod source, but I lost a lot of data, and now I'm going to be losing even more time trying to restore my backups.

Joyous rapture and harmony...

[Comics] "Avalon" is back

After nearly a two-year hiatus, "Avalon" is back.

Glad to see you're going to finish what you had started, Josh. You have some interesting characters, and I look forward to a proper conclusion.

March 3, 2006

[Personal] Audited...

WARNING: This post eventually devolves into a bunch of emo bullshit. You have been warned.

I found out today that my Utah state taxes were audited. Utah's state taxes are very simple, so I generally don't have to worry about making any mistakes. For my 2003 taxes, I actually owed $4, so I paid it and all was good...or so I thought.

I got a letter today saying I owed an additional $330. Fortunately, I've got my taxes from previous years here on my machine. Turns out that the audit was correct. The tax software that I was using used my full federal tax responsibility instead of half as listed in the instructions. Check their support, and find out that the patch to fix this issue was released about two weeks after I filed my return. Contact their support, and find out their guarantee only applied if you filed using the fully patched version of their software.

So, I've got a month to come up with the extra $330 before they start applying additional penalties. Joy. It's bad enough that I owe $150 on my federal taxes, worse that even though I was only a Utah state resident for 2 hours last year, I'm not getting a refund on my Utah state taxes for last year, and it's even worse that I still haven't been able to deduct my mortgage insurance, but this extra $330 couldn't have come at a worse time. At least my federal return was error-free.

I made a choice late last year to try to knock my debts out quickly. As a result, I'm paying a lot more each month, but my debts are dropping at a significant rate. However, that reduces the amount of liquid funds I have each month down to a pretty small amount. This amount has been squished even more because of the power bill increase down here and the higher-than-expected rent increase. And of course, my trip to Utah back in January so I could try to take care of our home up there and so my wife could see our granddaughter tapped my buffer.

So in this case, I'm living with the consequences of my actions. I just find it ironic that my efforts to eliminate my debt have made it so that an unexpected debt can kick my ass.

[Blog] Minor Site Updates

  • I borrowed the subscribe button from the ASP.NET website and put it on the sidebar to the left because it seems that a lot of people are using RSS syndicators that hard-code their search paths for [Main Page Of Blog]/* instead of looking for the proper [LINK] attribute in the page.
  • I re-added a footer with my copyright notice and disclaimer.
  • Some under-the-hood work preparing these posts for transfer into a new blogging system.

March 2, 2006

[Anime] "Totoro" Is Back!

On Tuesday, Disney is finally releasing their 2-disc set of "My Neighbor Totoro" here in the United States.

Sounds like they've done the release justice.

"Totoro" was the first film my Hayao Miyazaki that I was ever exposed to. While I'd seen Americanized anime before ("Battle of the Planets," "Robotech," etc.), this was my first "pure" anime.

My father picked up the original Fox release on VHS, brought it home, and had the family watch it. Even at the jaded age of 14, this movie left me with a lump in my throat and a positive feeling in my heart that it hard to describe.

I still find it hard to imagine this movie as a double-header with "Grave of the Fireflies," a movie which is almost suicidally depressing to watch. However, the two combined really show the range and power of Studio Ghibli. I find it a bit odd that "Grave of the Fireflies" wasn't included in the Disney licensing pact. While I'm the first to admit that it's a movie that I would be shocked to death to see under the Disney label, I don't think that it's a movie that should be held back from American eyes. Fortunately, "Grave" has been licensed for release in the United States and has a spectacular dub.

It's odd. I own "Totoro" and watch the Fox dub about three times a year with my wife. I own "Grave" and have only watched it once with my wife. As strong as I may think I am, I still question myself every time I pick that DVD up. In an earlier post, I said that when I play video games, I prefer to play as a female avatar because I'm more protective of them. Well, I'm even more protective of children...and to see what happens to the children in "Grave" just makes you feel so helpless...

Anyway, pick up "Totoro." If you are intrigued by what I've said about "Grave," pick it up first, but don't watch it alone, and be sure to have "Totoro" ready to pop into the DVD player. "Grave" may sink your soul down to the deepest depths, but "Totoro" will lift it up again.

[Games] Depeche Sim

I don't know what's stranger...

...that Depeche Mode re-recorded one of their songs in Simlish for inclusion in the new "Sims 2" expansion pack...

...that they were joined by Howard Jones, Kajagoogoo and the Epoxies...

...that they made a music video of "Suffer Well" using the Sims engine...

...or that "The Sims" franchise has sold more units overall than all of Depeche Mode's albums combined.

[Testing] The Lifecycle Of A Bug

It's scary to think that a software bug may actually have a more complex lifecycle than an actual bug...
Flowchart showing a typical lifecycle of a bug

[Politics] Utah Senate 2, Utah House 0

Good job, guys. Although it would have been better to have the "games-as-porn" bill killed outright rather than time out, good job.