Thursday, June 28, 2007

I Know It's An Old Joke, But....

I just found out that all the volume settings on Guitar Hero 2 go up to 11. It's been 23 years since that movie, and I still giggle at references like that.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Going To Chicago!

Well, I bit the bullet and did it. After two years of wanting to go, yesterday I purchased my bus ticket to Games Day Chicago 2007. This is a yearly event in four U.S. cities (Altanta, Baltimore, Chicago and L.A.) and a few other cities world wide where Games Workshop has a dog and pony show. There are previews of unreleased items, seminars and workshops, and the "Golden Demon" national painting competition. I am greatly looking forward to seeing world class painted miniatures in person after seeing only photos of them for the two years I've been painting. I'm going to have my own entry, and I will be thrilled to death if I make first cut. I'd also like to meet any CMON'ers who might be there in person.

One nice thing is that a bus is leaving from the Paint Creek Crossing GW store, about 10 minutes from my house, early Saturday morning for the event. I can veg out for the four hour trip, go like crazy all day, sleep the whole way home, and it costs less then the gas would cost for me to drive the truck there!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Fourth Grade Logic

I don't know who Steven D. Krause is. Maybe you do. All I really know about the guy I learned by reading this. Maybe I'm just being cranky, but I didn't find it particularly funny. Okay, maybe a little funny but still exasperating.

Assertion: If you want to run some arbitrary system and ICT refuses to support it, citing "security and support issues," it really means they don't want to or they don't know how.

I work in ICT. We support a lot of stuff. Really. As soon as we take part in whatever server/software you are interested in running, we have to own it. That means every little problem with the system falls directly into our lap. That means that every difficulty the user has with the system falls directly into our lap, even if the software is working exactly as designed. It means that we have to stay abreast of updates, including security vulnerabilities, that this software may have. It means we have to add this system to a backup plan. It means we need a disaster recovery procedure for this system. It becomes part of our job. It becomes part of our life.

In elementary school it was a common activity to try and get peers to do things they shouldn't or didn't want to do. To the mob, reluctance to perform would only indicate that the person either didn't know how or was, heaven forbid, "chicken."

Some attitudes never die, I suppose.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Retroactive Distrust

My trust in my employer, Eastern Michigan University, is wavering. In the past I have given them a great deal of slack about things such as the University House. Now I am starting to wonder if my trust was ill placed.

In December a student, Laura Dickinson, was raped and murdered on campus. The strange part was that we (the university community) didn't know that a crime had been committed until another student was arrested for the crime on February 23. We had received the sad news that a student had died on campus, something that seems to happens once every few years for various reasons, but until the arrest the university's communications with the community (and with her parents) had indicated that there was no reason to suspect foul play. Even after the arrest I wanted to give the university the benefit of the doubt and assume that either officials were ignorant of the facts surrounding her death or that they had some other justifiable reason for the "no cause for alarm" communiques.

On June 8, the board of regents hired a law firm to investigate and report on the situation. I'm no lawyer, but the time frame given in the report (here) sure makes it look like the university performed a cover-up operation. When it comes to conspiracy theories, I have always tended to assume incompetence over impropriety, but this is just too fishy. EMU may have even broken the "Clery Act," a law that requires federally funded institutions to divulge crimes that occur on campus.

I now find myself wondering if any of the slack I had formerly extended the university was well founded. If the default position is "deny everything, but recant and apologize in the face of incontrovertible evidence" then I am hardly inspired to trust.

EDIT: I have met most of the EMU staff cited in these stories during my time here. If someone wants to contact me and set me straight on some of this, especially regarding the "no foul play" communique, I would love to hear from you.

Friday, June 22, 2007


I've been keeping up with Kongregate's challenges for the last few months, collecting their pointless little online cards. The latest one involves (in part) the game LightSprites, and I'd like to take a moment to say how much I love this little game.

LightSprites is a little flash game that involves throwing colored balls at similarly colored circles on a landscape that scrolls by to a sunny little tune. Hit a circle with the correct color ball and a little person will pop up and dance. Hit the circle with the wrong colored ball and a little person will pop up and suffer a horrible fate... burned, killed by a ninja, carried off by a bird... you get the picture.

What makes it so great? Does it have gameplay longevity? No, not really. I'm sure I'll play it over the next month or so and never again. What makes it great for me is the presentation. It looks polished, the game mechanics are solid, and it's fun to watch. I think more games (and even movies and books) should be like this. Pick your scope, execute it well, and move on. Not everything has to be epic.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Outside the Demographic

There is a link to a survey by Games Workshop and computer games publisher THQ on the Games Workshop web site. I decided to participate since I truly enjoy THQ's Warhammer 40k game, Dawn of War.

I started the survey and was informed that it would take me approximately 20 minutes to complete. For question #1 I was asked if I was male or female. I answered. Question #2 asked for my age, to the nearest whole number. I answered.

There was no question #3. My age apparently put me outside the relevant demographic for the survey, and I was shuffled off to the "Thank you for your participation" screen. The 20 minute survey took less than 20 seconds. Am I a little miffed about being marginalized? Yeah, just a little.

Reliving Futurama

Buck and I have been watching Futurama on our lunch break. Despite the fact that I have seen every episode 10 times, watching it with someone who has not seen it before makes it even more entertaining. We watched all of the season 1 DVD's, then I brought seasons 2 and 3 in.

After two episodes of season 2, it became clear that Buck was lost. Things were being referenced that he didn't remember having seen. I have seen all the episodes so many times that I couldn't remember which he had seen and which he hadn't, so then I was confused. It turns out that the last person I had lent the DVD's to had put the season 2 DVD's in the season 3 box and vice versa. Buck and I had started watching season 3 thinking we were starting season 2.

Boring, yet true!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I Miss Jen Morgan

It seems random, but today I thought of Jennifer Morgan. Jen hung out with Stef and me in the late 90's, back when there used to be a Silverman's restaurant on Washtenaw Ave. in Ypsilanti. She worked at a deli in town where Stef was job coaching a person with developmental disability, and she and Stef struck up a friendship. Since Silverman's was open 24 hours, they used to hang out there at all hours. Jen took a fall in the cooler at work and hurt her back to the point where she couldn't work at the deli anymore. Zingerman's certainly seemed to go to a great deal of trouble to deny her any kind of workman's comp.

In any case, sometime around 2000 or 2001 Jen ended up moving to Canada to ... you know, I don't really remember the exact circumstances. I'm pretty sure there was a guy up there, and I think she was also planning on going to school. In any case, she moved and just ... disappeared. We couldn't get in touch with her. Her parent's couldn't get in touch with her. She had just vanished. I know Jen's folks tried a number of avenues to find her, but as far as I know never have. What do you do? I was somewhat dismissive about the whole thing at first.... oh, she'll turn up. It seems naive now.

Jen was really Stef's friend, but I developed a certain kinship with her that I haven't experienced with Stef's other friends. It's difficult to describe.... she just seemed like she was on the same frequency as me, something I would describe only a handful of people in my lifetime as being. She was a firm believer in living your life in such a way as to not be in other people's way. She and I would commiserate about the casual breakdown of societal rules... things like parking right by the door of an establishment because you (or someone in your car) only needed to run in for a second. She hated movies with Bruce Willis merely on principal. She introduced me to the band Soul Coughing.

Jen, if you're out there somewhere, we miss you.

Looking Skyward

Tonight, apparently, the Space Shuttle (STS-117) and I.S.S. will be visible to the naked eye in my neck of the woods. Around 10:00 PM moving from northwest to southeast at about the visible speed of a commercial jet.

Sarah got a telescope for her birthday a year-and-a-half ago. Time to bust that sucker out of the box, says I.

EDIT: The telescope seems to work, although it's not the most stable platform for viewing things. The real problem is the haze... the moon is a yellow crescent blob in the sky, the stars are entirely invisible, and all hope of seeing relatively tiny vehicles is gone.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Family IT Foibles

This one is for the search engines more than anything.

Stef's computer was repeatedly crashing when attempting to play anything from Shockwave games. (She has a subscription to which let's you download and play tons of "casual" games... most are quite good, with high production values and ... back to the point.)

Anyway, the games would lock her computer up after a few minutes of play. I tried swapping out the video card, reinstalling all Shockwave drivers (per tech support) and just generally being "family IT guy" to fix yet another computer problem. Nothing at all helped.

The breakthrough came last night, after I had completely removed Shockwave and Flash drivers from her computer (both files and registry entries) and realized that the games all still played. All this time I had assumed that these were Shockwave content games, especially since their tech support recommended reinstalling the drivers. Anyhoo, the games still ran and still crashed in exactly the same fashion... the screen would freeze and whatever sound was playing would repeat in about a half-second loop for maybe ten second and then the computer would reboot. The sound is what finally tipped me off. I disabled the sound device in control panel and everything started working perfectly (minus sound, of course.) I uninstalled as much of the sound devices as I could, then rebooted and let windows reload the sound drivers, and now everything works perfectly!

So, all you search engine peoples, if Shockwave / games are freezing / crashing / locking up try reinstalling your sound card drivers. It worked for us.

EDIT: Things started going south again, and I discovered that the fan on the video card was freezing up. It may have been a combination of the two issues at the time, but replacing the video card (or in our case, reverting to the on-board video) has solved the problem.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Breakfast Showdown - part 2

Contender 1: Kroger brand "Chip Mates" Cookie Cereal, chocolate chip
Contender 2: Kroger brand "Chip Mates" Cookies, chunky chocolate chip

Cereal: "Chester" the cartoon pirate
Cookies: "Chester" the cartoon pirate

Serving size
Cereal: 1 cup (30g)
Cookies: 2 cookies (29g)

Calories / fat
Cereal: 120 / 1.5g (0 saturated)
Cookies: 150 / 7g (3 saturated)

Cereal: 26g (13g sugar)
Cookies: 20g (11g sugar)

Cereal: various, 10-30% vitamins and minerals mostly
Cookies: iron 6%... but they taste so good.

Verdict: Despite the fact that the cookies somehow have less sugar and carbs than the cereal, I've gotta go with the cereal on this one. Maybe it's the chunky chocolate chips that add all the fat and calories.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Bose Experience ... Guitar Hero 2

My parents got me a pair of around-the-ear Bose triport headphones for my birthday this year. Um, wow. No, seriously. If you haven't tried a pair, I sincerely recommend them. I'm not much of an audiophile so I never would have given much thought to headphone above the $30 range, but these Bose headphones are a thing of beauty. I could hear things I didn't even know were in the original recording. I've been letting my coworkers demo them, and reactions have been consistently enthusiastic. In one recording I have, you can actually hear the orchestra members shifting in their seats during the lulls. Not in a distracting way, mind you, just in a "you are there" way.

Last night I managed to finally get 5 stars on all 40 songs of Guitar Hero 2 on medium difficulty. I went on to complete the first set of songs on hard. I don't think I could ever 5 star hard in a gajillion years. Literally. I've had multiple people ask me if guitar hero was teaching me to play the guitar, and every one of them loses interest in the subject when I tell them that it doesn't. Everyone seems to accept the fact that playing a snowboarding game on a game console will not make you a competent snowboarder or that a barnstorming game is not preparing you to be a pilot. Playing Galaga prepares me to be neither an astronaut nor an exterminator. It shouldn't really be a stretch to assume that the act of simulating an exciting activity is sufficient in itself to be worthwhile. Somehow, if the controller of a game vaguely resembles a guitar then it needs to have some additional life skill acquisition attached to it for them to care. I don't want to learn guitar right now. It's a real skill that requires a serious level of commitment for one to excel. I want to play "air guitar: the game." The key word there was "play."

Monday, June 04, 2007

Happy Birthday Lily!

My "Lilyest" is six years old today! She's been losing teeth like crazy lately (three in three days!) so she has a cute little cat smile.

Tonight Stef's Mom is coming over to take Lily out, as has become birthday tradition for our kids. We're probably going to have a little party with the neighborhood kids later in the week, then again over at my folks on the weekend.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Gaming Compeition

I'm not much of a competitive gamer. I participate when the people I know are involved, but I don't honestly do very well in competition. Today's happy fun time activities included a "World of Warcraft" card game tournament at work, followed by a Warmachine/Hordes tournament at Rider's in the evening. I did okay in the WoW tournament, earning a few booster packs as a prize, but I got totally smoked at Warmachine. Just like last time.

I like friendly pick-up games. Competition is mainly fun because you get to meet more people (can you believe I'm saying that as a positive?) I'd have to say that tonight's tournament was probably worth the $10 it cost to join, at least from the fun standpoint.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Peace. Movement.

I'm finding that I have very little stomach for commotion right now. Not that I ever have, mind you, but right now I'm especially nervous when things get crazy around me. With three kids of my own, a friend of ours who visits frequently with her four year old, two dogs who enjoy crashing through the house barking at just about anything and three neighborhood kids who would spend every waking moment at my house given the chance I find commotion to be my daily norm. Even my usual reprieve from chaos in the night hours is becoming hard to enjoy. I find that the commotion leaves me drained to the point where I'm too sleepy to really get anything done. I'm sure it's just a cyclical phase, but I feel like I'm at the bottom of the curve right now.

At this very moment, dear reader, my truck is getting fixed. Come to think of it, I don't really know when you will read this so I suppose my assertion probably isn't accurate. Suffice to say I will have my wheels back yet again sometime today. This will allow me to drive to the happy fun time events tomorrow, which I'm sure I will write about later.