Politics; Deadly Rooms of Death

Well as you may have noticed, the real life event that I thought might lead me to bitching did not happen yesterday, sorry. It was such a good subject too, but since it didn’t happen it just makes me think that I am really a cynical son of a bitch. Today I will bitch, regardless of your protests.

There was, I understand, a closed door meeting today between George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and the 9/11 commission. As of now I can only find one news story about it, and it does not speak of anything that might have come to light after the meeting. I went to check the Political Animal (which is the new blog spot of the former CalPundit blogger) and he has yet to put in his two cents. I am sure that whatever news you happen to see regarding that meeting is going to say the same thing; The administration didn’t know that there was any possibility of a multi-terrorist attack on American soil. Which is obviously bull-shit. The Clinton administration left them plenty of information regarding terrorist activities in the years leading up to Dubya becoming president. A cursory search for “9 11 warning signs” on google (without the quotes for the search) just got me a few hundred thousand web sites. I read a couple of the older ones and found that, yes, the information was in place, it was simply not acted on.

This is a subject that is far too political for me. I encourage you to check out the Political Animal website if you are looking for more information, he has nothing posted about the interview with the 9/11 commission at the time I am writing this, but in the morning he will likely have whatever is available, and break it down into bite sized pieces.

I think I am gonna totally switch gears. I was flirting with actual content there for a second…

• Deadly Rooms of Death (that cumbersome name) , yet again. I don’t know what it is about these old games that drives people to play them. I know what drives me to play them, but the rest of the people, I got nothing.

The game is, first and foremost, a puzzle game. There is an illusion created that there is some hacking and slashing, but the reality is that you are just doing puzzles. That may be the thing that sours the average ‘First Person Shooter’ player, while it is what lets me look past the really sparse graphics and focus in on the puzzle. Of course, talking about this game right now is like releasing the walkthrough for the old Atari Pitfall, but I must go on.

You would not like this game. It is one of the games that you either Love or Hate, there is no middle ground. It gets progressively harder as the level number raises, but the fact is you are doing a puzzle. It might look like you are actually killing things to clear out the dungeon, but if you don’t do it in the right order it is possible to be stuck to the point where it is impossible. Perhaps I have played way too much Diablo in the last few months and welcome a mental challenge, I don’t know, I just know that those puzzles keep making me try until I find the way to do it ‘just such’ to clear the board. Yet another addiction for me, how many addictions does one have to have before he/she can stop it.

• Mandatory Birth Control

This is an idea that I have been kicking around for a couple of years. I am sure that the idea is not going to go over well with people who are very poor, but those are the exact people I am hoping to get involved in it. If you have a baby, and you can’t afford to raise the child, needing the government’s assistance in the form of WIC, WELFARE and FOOD STAMPS, as well as reduced cost Housing, I think that you should have to take passive birth control measures.

I do not mean to say or imply that there should be government regulations regarding child birth, or who can have children, just that if you do have children you need to have a way to support them. It is very easy to have a child, a lot harder to support that child. If you have no means to support that child, and ask the government to do it for you, it would only seem fair that the government would ask, in return, for you to not have any more children, until the point where you can provide for them on you own. The easiest way to get to that point, in my mind, is passive birth control.

The passive birth control will be the latest birth control implant that women can get. It seems expensive at the start, but think that the cost of raising a child (food and diapers alone will cost more). No more babies while they are on Government Assistance plans. It really doesn’t seem that bad of a deal to me. If they want to have more babies, they just need to get off of the government assistance program, then they can have a baby whenever they want.

Please don’t get me wrong, I am a high-school drop out, yet I pay all my bills with funds that I earn through my own labor. I don’t ask the government for anything (possible exception being to make the man with the most votes be President), I just think that it is wrong that two people, without one job between them, can spit out kids and live as well as I do. The government pays their rent, buys their food, pays their utilities, even gives them gas money to look for work, though they never get the job. It could be different in your area.

So a child that is raised in that environment, do you really think that child is going to go out looking for a job? I think that child is more likely to do what mom and dad did. That is my tax dollars, and your tax dollars, but them, they get money back from the government even though they never paid in a dime…

Puppies!; Deadly Rooms of Death; Wallpaper

Well again I completely skipped making a post yesterday. I have no good reason for it, so don’t ask. Not that anyone ever really asks me anything about what I write here anyway. My wife does get on my case on occasion for missing posts, but beyond that I am the only reason that I continue to do this. I guess I kind of knew that going in. I figure if I just continue to write things here, eventually I will write something that someone will find in a search and then maybe become a reader. I think that my Shadowtwinian Reign may take a bit longer that earlier anticipated though.

After a lot of thought I have decided that the way I can drive traffic to my site is to play on the weaknesses of the average person. So, perhaps if I were to put up a couple of beautiful puppy photos I could lure some unsuspecting people into my web. Here is my first attempt.

Isn’t she so cute? Of course she is, what a beautiful little puppy! I should here mention that the whole demonic green eye thing is not what she really looks like, most of the time anyway. I have been snapping away happily with the new camera, but I have yet to read the owner’s manual (which is thicker than a lot of novels that I have read) which would surely tell you how to get rid of the green eye thing. Hell this camera has so many features that I am sure I will never know what a good two thirds of them are. Oh yeah, if you click on the thumbnail you will see all of Zelda, and Warlock looking on merrily. The thing that is hanging out of her mouth is, in fact, a pig hoof. The whereabouts of the rest of the pig are currently unknown. Also I cropped the hell out of the photo, then saved it at 50% image quality so that it would come in under 100kb. If you want to see it full size/quality you will really just need to come to my house, or pay for me to get a broadband connection so it wouldn’t take me ten minutes to upload the thing at full size/quality.

You can never go wrong with puppies.

• One of the guest columnists over at DII.net had an interview with the creator of this little game called Deadly Rooms of Death or D.R.O.D. for short. I know that link is currently dead, I assume that the influx of traffic generated by being linked to on such a prominent site pushed him way past his monthly bandwidth limits. I was able to download the game before that site went down, and I found it at least a bit amusing to play. It is like a lot of puzzle type games that I have played on the pc before, pretty simple to figure out, minimal graphics. But, it comes with an editor.

So after having played a dozen or so levels in the game I figure what the hell, I am gonna make me a Dungeon. I took a scrap of paper to draw a quick layout of how I wanted the rooms for the first level to look. Mostly just for the doorways going in and out. Then I started to make “JoeBob’s Dungeon”. I only made the first level to it, and I think it is about ten rooms. One of the rooms currently just has a big block formation that spells the words “Cake Walk”, as I didn’t want to take the time to figure out another puzzle to put there, but wanted to make sure that the level clear thing would allow you to move on. It was a lot of fun trying to come up with unique little things to throw onto the boards to make them make you think, yet easy enough that it wouldn’t take you an hour to figure it all out. I did hit one snag with it, as I discovered while trying to play my new level all the way through. One of the levels that I made was unbeatable. I was able to do it while I was play-testing it, since it let me choose where to start, and I always started right next to one of the enemies so that I could clear the board before it was a horrible mess of bugs. The problem was that when you came in through the only door you could it was possible to clear all the bugs, but the spawners would put back so many of them so fast that you were not able to kill them without getting cornered. Without actually playing it you really wouldn’t know what I am talking about, so long story short, I had to eliminate a few of the bugs and a couple of the spawners to allow a player to get at least one of them killed before the new bugs would spawn.

Wow, I believe I have reached an all new low in content. Talking in length about a game that no one has ever played, on a board that I created so there is no way anyone could have played it…Now for something completely different.

• When I gave my Mother her new computer on Sunday, she was excited by the fact that the previous PeoplePC wallpaper could now be something different. I told her that I would try to download her a better picture for her desktop, and that is just what I have been trying to do, the thing is that all of the pictures that I have found which match the specifications are .exe files. That could mean that they are simply packed as .exe files with winzip or some such program, but I don’t want to take the chance with mom’s pc since she certainly doesn’t know how to fix it if something goes bad.

What I am looking for is a really pretty image of a unicorn and pegasus together. The image size would probably be best at 800×600 as I am sure that is what her screen area is set as. I found one such image at a pc wallpaper site, but after downloading it the file would not open, siting an ‘unsupported start of file marker’ or some such. If you happen to know where I can simply download a .jpg image such as described without having to sign up for weird porn email from here to eternity, please send me an email.

That is all for today. I may actually make a post tomorrow, even though it is my concrete day off, just because I have a feeling that a topic is going to present itself. I am basing that assumption on something that happened today IRL and I really beleive it could make for excellent bitching material. That being said, if I make no post tommorrow, don’t be disappointed.

Puzzles; PC; Left-Handed Whopper

Well there was not a post yesterday, it was late, I was tired, I have a couple dozen more excuses, if you really want to hear them. As always, direct your complaints Here.

The thing that was actually occupying all of my time last night was trying to find a good example of one of the puzzles that I completed in the Sherlock Holmes game, the game that I have mentioned a bit about in the last few days. This was the single most difficult puzzle that I have ever done in any game. It was not that the puzzle itself was hard, it is that it gave you absolutely no directions at all. You are sitting there with a bunch of tiles of two different colors, and a blank graph. There are numbers around the edges of the graph, but nothing that made me say, oh, I need to put so many of this color here, and the other color there.

Searching by the name of the game on Yahoo, I was able to find a page that linked to many puzzles that are like it. The one that I found that actually had a really good description of how to do the puzzles, as well as a tutorial was found at Conceptis Puzzles. The puzzle in the game was not nearly as tough as the ones that you find on this site, with the exception of the fact that you go into it without a single clue as to the rules of the game. After having seen the demo for the “pic a pix” puzzle, I was pretty easily able to solve the one in the Sherlock Holmes game.

Then, for some reason, I was taking to solving other ‘Conceptis’ puzzles, just to make sure I could. I don’t know what it is with me, any puzzles that are just simply Logic puzzles seem to consume me. If I were to leave that puzzle unsolved, hundreds of thousands of other people would solve it, the universe would not go out of alignment, yet I feel compelled to do it anyway. Hopefully this obsession won’t have the same fate as the obsession with the Lights Out game from tiger toys, where I was so obsessed with it that I made a version of it in java, which can be found Here. I must also note that it took me almost an hour to find the link to that damn game, and it doesn’t look anything like it did when I was playing it back in ’97 or so. I bet the puzzles are all still the same though, and my java-based game has all of the original puzzles, as well as the original hint moves for the first twenty-five boards. My programming of it is a bit lacking, but it is really quite faithful to the original.

So, Mom came and picked up her new computer today. I did my best to try to explain everything that they were going to need to know once they got it home, I even fired up the internet with it, and added AntiVirus.com to her favorites list. Then I figure I would go ahead and download AdAware6, I am pretty sure that the link won’t work, so the program is called “adaware6.0” and it is quite a usefull bit of freeware. It will get rid of tracking software like “gator” and “timesink”. I really do use that program on a weekly basis and it really speeds up my connection by deleting useless/harmfull crap.

I am left wondering why didn’t I do that a couple of weeks ago when I actually bought the machine. It was an office pull, after all. I mean they could have had a bunch of tracking crap on there, even some trojans, well, It does have an updated norton, so likely not. There could have been tracking software on it galore, though, and there was. I forget the name of the program, but it was described on the internet as being able to download code, and upload statistics without you ever knowing. That is a crock of stinky crap.

I have to run that “ad aware” program on my system pretty frequently. For the most part all I find are cookies that I get from visiting sites like DiabloII.net, where they aren’t really trying to harm your machine, but they have to pay for web hosting somehow. I am pretty sure that the cookies aren’t really a big deal, with the possible exception of your transfer speed, I notice that particularly since I am typing this on a modem connection. The real baddies that you can get, as far as information sharing, are the ones that you get when you download free games or anything else that you choose to download. Cookies are harmless to your system, but if you download something from that site there is a really good chance that there will be a virus in it, which is why I had to buy mom a new pc in the first place.

Why do I feel like I am trying to teach an internet 101 class? If that email came from someone you know and has an attachment, make sure you know what the attachment is before you open it. Most people do not simply send attachments to their freinds without descriptions of the attachment. “Safe attachment, open now” is not the type of message that I would expect anyone I know to send to me. If it says, “DJ beat his dad with a shovel for the first time today”, I would read that one, yet families differ. If you have never asked for or gotten, a really weird screen-saver from your family members, why would you think they would start to send them now?

So, I guess what I am saying is that you should never read your email, everyone is out to get you..

• I am gonna be damn near a month late on this one, but I read this story through a link over there at BlackChampagne, it was all about April Fools Day hoxes. I didn’t find the humor in a lot of them, but I am American and relatively young. Lots of the hoaxes that it lists were of the ‘Greatest of all time’ sort, and thus get lost to people looking at it with 21st century eyes. One did catch my attention.

The place that I stole this can be found Here. The story reads as follows:

#8: The Left-Handed Whopper:
In 1998 Burger King published a full page advertisement in USA Today announcing the introduction of a new item to their menu: a “Left-Handed Whopper” specially designed for the 32 million left-handed Americans. According to the advertisement, the new whopper included the same ingredients as the original Whopper (lettuce, tomato, hamburger patty, etc.), but all the condiments were rotated 180 degrees for the benefit of their left-handed customers. The following day Burger King issued a follow-up release revealing that although the Left-Handed Whopper was a hoax, thousands of customers had gone into restaurants to request the new sandwich. Simultaneously, according to the press release, “many others requested their own ‘right handed’ version.”

I lagughed long and hard about this. Your basic fast food burger is always circular, if you rotate it 180 degrees, you are simply turning it a half a turn. The fact that anyone fell for this is certainly proof that some of us should not be allowed to procreate. If you can not figure out how to turn the hamburger with your own two hands, and thumbs, you may be better off dead.

As I said, I am young and American, the rest of the hoaxes may be more humorous to you if you are not from America, and, as such, can find the humor in what they are doing.

Pat Tillman; New Camera

Well, I had hoped to finish the little story regarding the Sherlock Holmes video game today, I may, or not, depending on my endurance. There are actually a couple of things that I really want to comment on today, so I will jump right to it.

I am linking to the story here, though I had heard about it on the radio as soon as I got to work this morning. It is the story about the death of Pat Tillman. If you do not follow American football, you likely have never heard of him, but I tell you that he was probably twice the person you will ever be. Especially if you, like me, are just sitting here typing at your computer keyboard.

By all accounts Tillman was a bit too small to make it in college football, but he made it, and even won the Pac10 defensive player of the year award his senior(I think) season. Despite that accolade, he was not selected until the seventh round of the NFL draft. -I should mention that he played college football for the Arizona State Sundevils, and was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals, that is why I really feel the need to talk about this, as it is so very close to home- He had to fight his way through training camp, and eventually was given a starting position. He broke the rookie record for tackles in his first (obviously) season. He put every bit of himself into every game, even though he was playing for a losing team.

Shortly after the attacks on 9/11, he made a decision that shocked the world -the sports world at the very least- by walking away from a multi-million dollar contract, to join the army. I am not entirely sure what his official title was, but I do know that he was in the ‘special forces’ which is a position that you must volunteer for due to the high risk factor. Also I am not sure when he was actually sent to Afghanastan, or what exactly his unit was doing there. I am quite sure that I could find all of that information if I were so inclined, the thing is that I am just not.

When the story about Tillman leaving the NFL to join the army first hit the news (I think that was in early 2002), I remember thinking that it was some sort of a publicity stunt. I remember thinking that there was no way anyone would walk away from, not so much the money, but the dream of so many children to play in the NFL. I remember thinking that once he started boot camp he would quickly change his mind. I remember all that, yet now I remember that I have not thought about him at all in the last couple of years. The reason that I haven’t thought about him in the last couple of years is that he has declined every request for an interview since he made his decision. He went out of his way to avoid publicity, he didn’t want it to be a big deal that he was making the choice to serve his country.

I have typed this line about a dozen times and then deleted it. I don’t think that there is anything that someone in my position can say about someone in his position. There is one thing that I can say, he was twice the man that I will ever be. I have always though that we were all just ‘Dust in the Wind’, yet now I feel that some of us (myself included) are actually dust that gets stuck in the boots of people like Pat Tillman, and I know that his is a name I will never forget.

• I was talking about a new digital camera back on April 20. Well I got it in the mail today, very quick shipping in my estimation. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, what after my first digital camera purchase. This one seems to be, better..

This is the first image ever snapped from my new camera. This was right after I put the batteries into it and set the time. I was a bit curious about the shutter speed, as that was one of the many downfalls of my previous digital camera. It seemed to work pretty well. You should certainly click on the thumbnail to see it full size, and keep in mind that I saved it at almost half of the original size, else it would have been a couple of Megs. I think that the single most impressing thing is that the fan that you see in the photo was actually spinning at the time, but it seems to be off. Well, not only that, but also the fact that the box that the camera came in is like eight or ten inches from the camera, while the t.v. is about ten feet away, and even the t.v. is clear enough to read the station id in the bottom right. Keeping in mind that the picture looks twice as good with the full file size, I just have to say that this camera is simply amazing, and it is last year’s model.

One of the things that I really love about the camera, which may be possible on all cameras for all I know, is that you don’t have to install the software for it. What I mean is that you can simply install all of the drivers for it and then it will let you access the camera from an explorer window, as if it were a hard drive. The only problem with that is you don’t get to see the photo previews and thus have to click them one by one to open them into your photo program. I really don’t have enough information to form an opinion on this little beauty yet, but I gotta say that for 80 bucks after shipping it seems to be well worth it…Remind me of that in a week or two when I am calling it a sham piece of shit.

At any rate, this new camera will likely mean that lots of photos will ensue in the immediate future. Whether they are good or bad will certainly be all your own opinion, they will likely be of our dogs, our house (which is over 100 years old) and the decorating scheme that I spoke about without photographic evidence a long time ago.

Check back often as I am likely to be ‘snap happy’ for quite some time.

Sherlock Holmes game

As promised, there will be a bit of something here today, whether that actually makes you happy or sad is totally at your discression.

I am going to talk about the game that I was playing that made me miss the update two days ago, but that I actually mentioned yesterday. It was a pretty good game, for the money.

In case you have not noticed by now, I am one cheap bastard. I will not pay sticker price for pretty much anything. I am the type of person that sees a truck has rolled over on the freeway and wonders what could have been in that truck that I could buy on discount. Of course we all have to buy things at full price from time to time, I mean when you need a toilet plunger you are gonna lay out the six bucks for it, regardless of whether you saw one in the paper last week for half that price. Sometimes we simply can’t be thrifty, most of the time we can.

I take that same view into life, movies, video games, hell everything, with the possible exception of food. Sometimes it is better to pay full price for food than to pay half price for food, then pay twice the price the next morning, if you get my drift. I think “cheap” was kind of bred into me, since I did grow up pretty poor.

Once again I have gone way off topic. My intention was to speak a little bit about this game that I picked up for under ten bucks at a Wal-mart recently.

The game was The Mystery of the Mummy, and is an adaptation of the story written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Games that are based on stories are like, well, games that are based on stories. Kind of like movies that are based on books, but a bit different. The people who make the movies are trying to please the fans of the book at the same time as pleasing the average movie viewer. The people who make the games seem to be banking on the fact that ‘gamers don’t read’. That is certainly not a fact, but the game companies take a lot of liberties that would never be present in a movie, while I can not site one particular instance of it, trust me, it is all through the game.

The game in question depressed me for the fact that it made Sherlock Holmes sound like a high-pitched, whiny person. I, and I think everyone near my age, remember the voice/image of Jeremy Irons playing the character of Sherlock Holmes. The character, as portrayed by Irons, had a much deeper voice, and was really convincing as the cocaine using know-it-all. Of course all drug references are removed in the game, as well as the later adaptations of Doyle’s work.

This one will end prematurely. With luck, I will continue the discussion of that video game at a later date.

Camera; Dogs

There were a combination of factors leading to me not posting anything new yesterday. The first was yet another silly little video game, which I may go into in some more detail at a later date. The second was a telephone conversation with my mother, which at least helped to ease a bit of family tension. The third was that I was looking to buy a new digital camera so that I could show off my handsome/pretty dogs, Warlock and Zelda respectively.

The first digital camera that I ever bought was an “Argus DC2000”, I bought that little sucker for 79 bucks a few years ago. You know, back when any digital camera started at a couple of hundred. That camera is just totally fucking useless, but don’t take my word for it, here are the reviews that it got on Epinions.com. Hardly glowing recommendations, to say the least.

I wanted to ensure that my next digital camera purchase would not just, well, piss me off, so I spent a bit of time reading reviews over at Epionions.com, as well as reviews for more recent cameras from sites like amazon.com. I read through the reviews on epinions, compared them to what I saw available on ebay at the time, and bit the bullet. The camera that I bought is a Kodak, which is a name that I am certainly more familiar with than the previous “Argus” camera that I had. The particular camera that I purchased has tons of reviews over there, the average is 4.5 out of 5 stars, yet there are a couple that just give it a 1 star rating. I think that might just be based on their inability to use it, but it could also be a piece of defective equipment. Only time will tell.

At any rate, I have not yet gotten that camera so I can’t yet voice an opinion. I am sure that it will be better than what I already have, but not sure if it will be the ultimate bliss that I am hoping for. I figure it will hit somewhere halfway between the two. If it is simply usable for taking still shots, it will be a hundred times better than my last digital camera purchase.

One humorous side-note to the whole thing. The number one ‘con’ to buying this camera was that it eats batteries, while the number one ‘pro’ was that it only takes two, while most cameras take four. Do the people that call it a pro that it takes less batteries, yet a con that it goes through them faster eat sugar-frosted lead flakes for breakfast or what? Of course it is going to go through batteries a lot faster when you are only using two, as opposed to four, the energy in the batteries is used as needed and, to my knowledge, can not be divined by simply praying over them. The camera runs on 3 volts, that means that it will operate on two AA batteries, the cameras that require 4 AA batteries last twice as long, but was there actually any savings to you?

I am sure that it is written somewhere in the fine print that the use of only 2 batteries is for the purpose of reducing the weight of the camera. I could be wrong, but it would seem too silly to think that you could get the same performance from a camera that had half the power. That is just my take on it, your opinion may vary.

• Country Thunder is descending on us like cancer. You can see signs of it all over the place, most notably the big-ass sign that they put up on the tiny little road leading into town. My wife often laughs when I say that I did not get the mail because there was too much ‘traffic’ in town. When I say that what I mean is that the drive-up-and-grab-your-mail slots outside the office are full. Once Country Thunder hits, it will be an adventure to simply make it home alive.

I said in my last blog that it is like Ozzfest, and it is in many ways, especially the drinking. People getting up at nine in the morning so that they can make the first show, taking time out only long enough to go get more beer. I have heard that they have better security and the such this year, but just imagaine trying to drive through a tiny town like ours at noon, when half of the driver’s are already drunk. I am pretty sure that I don’t want to have to be in the middle of that.

• Even as I pen (type) these lines, I may be looking at the last living moments of our older dog, ‘Warlock’. He is in perfect health, has had all of his shots, he is a good dog by the definition of dogs, but he may have to be killed. The little bastard kept myself and my wife awake all last night by first scratching on our bedroom door. She (my wife) let him go out, in case he needed to pee. He came back into the room and started sniffing at everything (you wouldn’t think that was loud, but you haven’t heard it). Then he scratched on the door wanting out, it took me about twenty minutes of laying there listening to him before I let him, and Zelda (who is the good dog at this point) onto the porch.

Dogs have nails like the talons of death, or so it would seem. After an hour of not being able to sleep because of the sound of the dog scrathing at the door, I let him back in. If the dog was intelligent, he would have noted that it gets better when he quits scratching, unfortunately, the dog is an idiot. Within ten minutes they were back on the porch. And the second he got there he was scratching at the door.

Long story short, if he does that again tonight, my wife and I will have a very beautiful stuffed dog.

I should also mention that I just got a call from my employers that will make it so that I will be able to make a post tomorrow, but not on Thursday. So Wednesday and Thursday are switching places, hopefully just for this week.

Lunch; Secret Window

Today was a rather enjoyable day on the homefront. It is not often that my wife and myself go out and do things, which we did today. I suppose that the base reason for this is my agoraphobia, not that I think I actually have the affliction, but anyone seeing my reaction to large public places would surely think I did. It probably took me quite a while to become the hermit that I am, I don’t really mind going out in public places as such, I just try to avoid it when it is not necessary. I don’t think that it is a fear, or anything of that nature, it is more like a choice to simply avoid all the weird people doing weird things. Okay, I am going to change the subject here, as I seem to be digging myself an ever deeper hole.

The really strange thing about my not going out much is that the times we do, I really enjoy it. We never see the weird people doing weird things, we simply go out and have a little fun and then come home. Why, then, do I have this notion that I want to avoid all the strangeness out there? I gots no idea.

As sited in a Previous Blog, my wedding anniversary was last Wednesday, and it certainly did not get a celebration at all. We went out today to do something enjoyable to make up for the lack of being able to do so then. We decided on lunch and a movie, which is like dinner and a movie, minus the not getting home until midnight aspect of it.

My wife’s parents had given us a gift card for On the Border, which is an upscale type mexican restaurant that serves really yummy food. It is not exactly authentic mexican food, but the version of it that those of us who are not Hispanic have grown to love. Tasty, tasty stuff, and huge portions of it. Though at the prices they charge the portions had better be huge. The meal would have been completely free to us, had I not indulged in a beer once I had received my food. Perhaps it was better that I ordered that four dollar beer, as it would have seemed really cheap to try to put the tip on a gift card, IMHO. My wife left the tip for the meal, which was five dollars, even after I had offered to pay it, since that was darn near the price of the beer after tax. Oh well, tasty, tasty stuff.

My wife’s brother (yes, my brother-in-law, but it seems that I should give credit to my wife for having the family, since I never got so much as a call from any one of my relatives for the anniversary, let alone a gift) gave us a gift card to AMC theatres for the movie. The card did not have an amount printed on it, so my wife opined that it may not be enough to cover the tickets (her brother is only twenty, and not independantly wealthy) so I would make up the difference at the box office. As it turns out, he went above and beyond the call, giving a twenty dollar gift card. We spoke briefly of using the remaining balance to buy soda or popcorn, but eventually decided that one of us could go to the next movie for free if we didn’t. So we didn’t.

The movie that we saw was Secret Window. This movie has gotten really bashed in the ratings game, having only a 47% positive review on Rotten Tomatoes. Ebert has This to say. I think that Ebert does a much better job of describing the film than the people that reviewed it over at rotten tomatoes.

I don’t like Johnny Depp much as an actor, but he did do a very convincing drunkard in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie. He did a pretty good job in this movie as well. The novella, by Stephen King, that this movie was based on does not have really anyone in it. Just the main character, his (ex)wife and her boyfriend. Without character interaction there can be little dialogue, without dialogue you really don’t have any way to judge a character’s actions. Depp certainly made the point that the character was not ‘all there’ with his actions, most notably scrubbing his hands for way too long in one sequence.

It is hard to try to discuss an actor’s performance in a movie without giving away plot elements, that is what I am trying to do, so bear with me.

At exactly the point in the movie that I knew how it would end, they threw in the fiance of his (ex)wife. That was entirely too convenient to the flow of the movie, and thus, had no effect on the outcome. Had the editors put that scene further back in the screenplay, to give it enough time to fade from your memory a bit, it would have made the whole story a lot stronger. I think so anyway.

I am going to speculate that King wrote this little story while he was going through a little bit of a ‘Writer’s Block’. Like many King stories you simply must read the story to appreciate the screenplay. This is one of his stories (like most of his work) that I have not read. I am sure that it is extremely difficult to try to act out the thoughts of a character, yet Depp did it, and pretty masterfully I might add.

Johnny Depp just seems to have that touch, much like Tom Hanks, where he can act out any role and turn that movie into a blockbuster. Why that didn’t happen with this film is still a mystery to me. I think that the number one reason is that it is so similar to another King story called “the Dark Half”. Start telling the same story twice and even your fans may turn on you, no matter that the other film was released well over a decade ago.

The movie was pretty good on its own merits, better if you have never read any Stephen King. The ideas that he used may have been recycled, but they were recycled from his own twisted mind. Can one ever actually copy theirself?

Country Thunder

Well, I guess I didn’t blog yesterday. I actually did, unfortunately both the index page and the archive page have mysteriously disappeared. That just goes to show that you should never break from a habit once you have formed one in doing this sort of thing. Usually what I do is write this, then upload the index page only. The next day I will then save the index page as the archive page before starting to write the next blog. Yesterday I saved them both at the same time and uploaded them at the same time. They were both working at the time so I figured it was all working properly. After I had deleted the old index page, I went to my site to try to grab a quote that I had put in there only to find that the index page was from the previous day. No problem, I thought, and I tried to access the archive page, not there at all.

I suppose it is possible that one of you still has it in your history, unfortunately by the time you read this, it will have been over written by this. Strange irony, that. It does beg the question, if I blog and no one reads it, did I really blog at all? The answer to that question is yes, or else I would have given up on this whole thing a long time ago. In the future I will just continue to handle one upload the day I write it and the other upload the day after, it has actually saved my ass a couple of times when, for one reason or another, one of the two uploads didn’t stay uploaded. I wonder if it is a problem with my server or my ftp client, but not enough to change either, just enough that I will be a bit more careful in the future.

I know that you must all be crushed about missing out on one of my blogs, so I will do a quick recap of what you actually missed. I spent a long time talking about the battle.net community, after having read a recent guest article over at DII.net, and then had just a little blurb about the impending Country Thunder festival. I may just go into that again, as it is only a few days away now, and the signs of it are everywhere.

Yes, I will go into that again. The aforementioned festival is the bane of my existance. I absolutely loathe Country music. I mean, hell, that is not even a good title for it. Most of the people who whine those songs have never been to the country. Sure they will whine about growing up on the farm, but that doesn’t change the fact that they likely grew up in some manicured little suburb and that the boots that they wear have never touched anything other than concrete and asphalt (perhaps a dance floor as well). I know a lot of genres of music are like that, possibly all of them. You have your “Gangsta rappers”, some of whom I understand are from the ‘hood’, while others are from the same ‘hood’ that a lot of us came from. Then there is the rock scene, where every band seems to claim that they were living out of their drummer’s van for a couple of years eating nothing but ramen noodles waiting for that one big break, while in reality they were just living with their wealthy parents in SoCal. That is the way of the musician, I guess I shouldn’t slight Country “artists” for that.

You may have noticed that I used the word ‘whine’ a couple of times in the previous paragraph. I did not mean that in a bitching sense, I meant that they sound like crying three year olds when they sing. Though that is more in the male artists than the female. This is one of the two things about the songs that really annoy me, the other is the combination of slide guitar and guitars that have a thing called a “b-bender” (which is like a whammy bar, but works on only one string of the guitar, the b-string, and makes the music sound even more like a crying child). I am pretty sure that it is not really healthy, but I actually begin to get angry when I have to listen to country music for too long at a time, more on that below.

The last thing about the music that I can not stand is the “Country Accent”. It is not an accent. If you go to Boston, you will hear people with that accent, similar in New York or any place you visit. The “Country Accent” seems to be an accent that one can be infected by while living anywhere in the U.S., it simply involves trying to sound like you have a southern accent when you really don’t, and the end result is that you really sound/look like an idiot. I don’t mean while they are singing the songs, I mean while they are talking. These country artists keep that twangy, weird accent while they are talking to reporters and on talk shows, it is just sick. To site a couple of examples, from the genre of music I listen to, of other artists not doing it, look at Dave Mustaine of Megadeth and Axl Rose from the tragically doomed Guns and Roses. They both had very distinct singing voices that you either loved or hated, but sounded damn near human while actually speaking. Dave Mustaine in particular, as I heard a radio interview with him, over the course of the thirty minutes of listening to him talk I couldn’t believe that he was the man behind that acid-like, gravelly (is that a word?) tone in their songs.

But wait, I was planning to talk about the festival…Here we go. Despite my best efforts to try to find the actual population of florence, all of the estimates that I find look exactly like This. There are certainly not 17,000 free people living in this town, as the 14 new home constructions in the last year should prove (I think they count the inmates for tax benefit reasons). I have heard the number 10,000 thrown around a few times to count the number of people in the 4 male and one female prisons here. That would make the population be 7,000, which I still think is about double the actual population, but I can not find the real numbers on the internet. What I can find is a total school attendance, Kindergarten to 12th grade, of less than a thousand. I think that would support my theory that the population is far lower, but that is merely speculation. The site that I linked to said that there are 2,900 women in florence, I believe that the prison holds about 500 of them, bringing the actual population to about 2,400 women. Then, assuming that the split of men to women is nearly equal, I guess there are about 5,000 free people living in this town. That is all speculation, but I bet my number is far closer than theirs.

Now, throw in Contry Thunder. I don’t know the numbers, and I can’t find them on the internet, but imagain a show like OZZFEST, that has as many die-hard fans, and runs for four days, with ticket prices starting at free at the shops in town. There must be hundreds of thousands of people that go to the show, and the ones who camp there will invariably come into town for things like ice, water, beer, soda and chips. Never do they buy anything like, well, you know, actual food, only the items that I listed. The entire town is in chaos for four days.

Florence has two Circle K stores, placed strategically directly across the street from one another(I say that this was strategic, ’cause why in the hell else would a company put two stores within a 12 second walk of each other?). Both of them bring in those ugly port-a-potty type things (four each last year) to accomodate all of the people that show up there to buy beer, ice, water, soda and chips, never anything else at the Circle K either, as I found out from conversations with the managers at them.

At any rate, when there are like say 50,000 people invading a town of 5,000 people, it is quite insane. The roads leading to town have been revamped since last year, but the rest of the town remains the same. There are barely two lanes on main street, and they are made with a patchwork of pavement that has two inch gaps in it every fifteen feet (that is quite literal, not cracking pavement, that is how they had planned it, back in the forties, also I think it is concrete, not asphalt).

It is a major economic boom for all of the stores and resaraunts here, of course, but it is also a bit much for any of us to deal with. We all, where I work, have to work pretty much from open to close to accomodate it. The people who deliver us ice, normally twice a week in the warmer months, have to deliver it sometimes twice a day during this festival. Also, the people who work at the various museums here in town have a large spike in traffic (I think that is the leading reason that tourism has been so much higher in the last year, we actually got a group from Germany in the store a week or so ago, when I asked why they decided to visit florence for their vacation, they said that they had found a link to the tourism board from the Country Thunder website.). Perhaps German children rebel against groups like Rammstein by listening to Country?

The only real problem with this whole thing is that I literally get angry when I have to listen to country music. We play country music, exclusively, on the radio while the show is in town. I don’t get angry like I am going to go and kill, or anything like that, it just shortens my temper and makes me not the frienly butcher I usually am. I certainly don’t think that there is a drug that could help me, if you dislike something to the point of anger, the only solution is to stop doing that something. If you don’t have a choice in the matter, I guess you should look for your happy place. I can usually keep from being too angry or disgusted by the music if I just replay some old Metallica album in my head. Yet, sometimes when the combination of the slide guitar and ‘b-bender’ hit, I can no longer block it out. (I must say, again, that I am sure that it is not healthy to hate something so much, but I do.) My only respite is to turn off the radio, or go far enough away from it that I can no longer hear it, which is difficult on the four busiest days of the year.

I don’t think I have yet killed anyone in a “Country Music” induced rage, but if I had, would I actually remember it?

TV shows

Well yesterday was my weekly day off and either all of my readers know that by now, or none of them care. No one emailed to ask if I had uploaded it to the wrong directory, which has happened quite a few times, both me doing that, and me getting emails about it.

As I mentioned in my last blog thing, yesterday was also my wedding anniversary. It went about as well as could be expected when she got up at 4:30 in the morning to go to work while I slept until about 9:00 not needing to be to work until noon. I didn’t get home from work until about a quarter after eight, and she had to be in bed asleep by 9:30. I had left out a card for her before I went to bed the night before, and she left out two cards for me before she left for work, so it is not like either of us forgot the date, it was just not an opportune day for us to really make a big deal out of it. We will likely go out to eat and watch a movie on Sunday as a celebration.

We did both watch the latest South Park episode. It was not one of the funniest ones thus far this season, but there were still a few times when a normal person would laugh out loud. There were also a few times when only a sick, demented son-of-a-bitch like myself would laugh, but isn’t that exactly what we have come to expect from the show? I do wonder how any network would let a show (even if it is animated) get away with having a a child put a supposatory into another child, or let a child dressed like a robot give sexual pleasure to a movie studio exectutive, but if I question it, won’t it be banned? Best not to think about it.

•Watched the latest episode of Survivor just before I started to write this. It was sort of an introspective episode with not a lot happening other than the big ass reward/immunity challenge thing. I was extremely disappointed that they did not show how the picking of the teams went, as they were divided into groups of four before the challenge started. The thing that I found a bit interesting is that it really looked like the team that won the initial challenge is exactly the same four that are kind of the power people there right now.

Boston Rob won the challenge, of course. Now that Lex is gone there is no one there that can match his speed, dexterity and stamina. To be fair the final challenge, for individual immunity, was a puzzle challenge that required only intelligence. Now to be brutally honest. Two of the girls that were trying to solve this puzzle have children that are old enough that they must have been born while the mothers were in their teens. I am not going to go look at the profiles to see if that is true or not, I am just going to say that the average woman who gets pregnant when she is fifteen is not exactly a Rhodes Scholar, if you get my point.

The only saving grace is that it is now following a path that will lead to Shii Ann being voted next week. If you have never watched any of the other seasons of survivor, you should know that the second the votes become predictable, the game gets changed. They have always used new and unique ways to throw a mokey wrench into it in the past, I am expecting them to do something similar with the show next week. If Boston Rob actually wins the immunity challenge he will just have to start shooting the fish in the barrel. I am sure hoping that they will set up a challenge that will really show off the skills of Rupert and Big Tom, if there were an endurance challenge for them to hold a heavy load, say 50 pounds, in front of them, that would be where Rupert and Tom could really win, yet that wouldn’t be fair to the women. Hell, maybe someone should steal Rob’s beloved BoSox hat, maybe that is where he draws his strength.

I have no doubt that they are going to do something to really mix up the strategies with the players in the next episode. I don’t know how they are gonna do it, but I do know that each episode that we watch is actually three full days. I am sure that once they see that it is all getting a bit to predictable they throw in challenged that are geared for the strengths and weaknesses of certain players. That is why they call it “reality t.v.”, because there is nothing real about it.

• While I was writing that little bit about Survivor up there, I went to look for the official site. Once I got to google, a thought occured to me so I just typed in survivor.com. Now, what I thought I would get was the site for the still performing band Survivor, who had their only real breakthrough hit with the song “Eye of the Tiger”, which was featured in one of the “Rocky” movies. Not so, that site can be found Here if you really want to see it. I figured if that was not the site that it loaded that it would obviously be the official CBS survivor site (linked to above) which was also not the case. I am not going to put up a link for what you get to if you simply type in survivor.com because it doesn’t deserve one.

If you go to that address there are pop-ups galore. You feel like you are playing a video game trying to close them as fast as they come up. It tries to get you to download program files and likely gives you tons of cookies (unless you have your browser set to prompt for adding them). That site has been in business for about five years, while the t.v. show survivor has been going a couple of years longer, and the band was popular back in the eighties. This is where I am going to go well away from my normal views of government interference and say that there really should be laws about this.

I watched a show on PBS some years ago (so many years that I can not find it in their show listings at all). There is a practice called “cyber squatting” that people do. They find a name, or a term, or a typo for a name and register that domain. That is all well and good, right, but then what they do is put up tons of Malware, porn and other nasty stuff on a site that is likely to be hit by typing the name in the address bar. That is wrong!

I went to look for a solid example of this and found it in spades. I am not going to post any of the links, since I think this practice is simply atrocious. Just look at any college athlete who is getting a lot of press coverage, then type in that name .com and you will find these ‘cyber squatting’ parasites.

What they do is register that domain name, for less than twenty bucks a year, then put all of the scumware on it. They then offer to sell the domain name back to the person/company who has that name for 100-1000 times the price the registration actually cost. If that is not illegal it should be.

The question that I have is; CBS has a ton of money. They should know that a lot of people, a lot of children in particular, are going to type in survivor.com and expect to see information about the show. Wouldn’t it be in their best interest to go ahead and pay the person trying to extort them to make it so that parents won’t put the word “survivor” onto the list of things that their kids can’t look at?

Anniversary; Video Games

Well I didn’t post anything yesterday. A quick check of my site stats shows that about three people actually know that. I assume that those are the same three people who are reading this now, so I apologize to the two of you, I am one of the three and don’t deserve an apology.

As I type this it is still April 13th, but by the time most of you will read it, it will be the 14th. Being that it is the 14th of April, that means that 139 years ago today President Lincoln was assassinated. 92 years ago today, the Titanic hit a glacier in the middle of the ocean and sank, killing some 1,500 people. Also, three years ago today I married my beautiful wife, happy anniversary!

Let that be a lesson to all of you to do a little research into the date that you choose to get married. The only saving grace about the day that we chose is that Lincoln didn’t die until a bit after 7a.m. on the fifteenth, and the Titanic didn’t actually go down until about 2a.m. on the fifteenth. All the more fitting that the fifteenth is also tax day. Still having the other things happen of the fourteenth just means that they will be on the news on our anniversary, so better just to not watch the news. Besides, we should be out having a romantic dinner, instead we both have to work, and vastly different hours, so we won’t even see each other much. Life sucks, let’s move on, shall we?

The reason that I didn’t write anything yesterday was because of a game that I bought. It is a year or so old, it is called “Schizm: Mysterious Journey”. It is another one of those Dream Catcher games. I enjoy to play them from time to time, they are trying really hard to copy the original Myst with every title that they release, and doing a pretty good job of it for the most part. You can pick up any one of their titles, except for the brand new ones, on their website for ten or fifteen bucks.

Anyway, I was saying that they try to rip off the original Myst and by that I mean that there is no character interaction, only a few scattered holographic clues. -This is why I assume that their games are so inexpensive, it is pretty obvious that they have simply recycled the same game engine for every one of their games. The user interface changes just a little bit with each one, but it is so close to identical that you know they didn’t actually have to pay anyone to go in and code a new engine.- The artwork in them is beautiful, well at least it was, they have been using the 640×480 display since their first release. They still use that resolution, despite the fact that almost no one has a computer that can display images properly in that resolution anymore. That means that what would/should be beautiful artwork is more like artwork that you can kind of count the pixels in on a monitor any larger than 13 inches.

Just for fun, I just shut down and plugged in the tiny little monitor that I have as a back up (which is right here because I was using it to try to troubleshoot problems I was having with the pc that I bought for my mom and have already discussed way too much to link back to it) and restarted. I loaded one of the saved games, just to look at the artwork on a smaller monitor, and as suspected it really was quite impressive. The animations still looked a little bit bad, like maybe they were rendered in 256 colors to save on disk space, the game has 5 cds and takes over three gigs of hard disk space -at maximum- for a game that will only take you a few hours to complete.

The familiarity of the Dream Catcher games is kind of the reason that I enjoy them, once in a while anyway. Here is every one of them ever made in less than a paragraph. Game starts, short intro with voice-over. Start in unfamiliar territory, must look at everything. There are strange symbols all over the place, you have to write them all down. Somewhere you will find something that shows how the number system works (usually in the form of a pictogram or a measuring device). There will be 15 or 20 puzzles that you must complete, never very difficult, but enough to make you think. Then, after playing it for four hours or so, you complete the game and throw away your notes, ’cause there is ZERO replay value. That is it, every game they have ever made.

I have left out all of the detail, of course, but the games remain the same. It is the formula that Myst used and the formula that every company from here to hell and back has ripped off. I mostly enjoy them for the puzzles. The way that I look at it is that you are basically watching a cgi movie from a first person vantage and have to occasionally solve a puzzle to make the movie keep going. The stories are never really that compelling, or maybe they are and you just don’t think so anymore after having played so many titles that you can’t remember which story line goes with which game.

There is one thing in this game that was a bit irritating though. You have two characters that are there, but who can not see each other or touch each other, but often have to be in the same place at the same time to make an action happen. The game expains this away by saying that each person on the planet is somehow living in a different dimension? but all still there. Yet, when you put something down with one character, the other one can pick it up. That just didn’t make much sense. Some of the actions required that one person hold down a lever, then you switch to the other person to switch another lever. Just weird stuff. Especially when you have to make them both go through 15 or 20 screens and a couple of animations to get to the same place once you know what they need to do.

The puzzles in this one weren’t all that good. I was able to do the whole thing without looking to a walkthrough, with the exception of having to look at one when I had made a stupid math mistake that left me one click away from the right naviagational coordinates in one of the flying machines. I always check the walkthroughs later, just in case I missed any easter eggs also.

Now to really get bitching about it. All of these games that are supposedly set on other worlds have all of this advanced technology that is basically made out of sticks and tree trunks. Yet, there are generally only a couple of houses in the places that you explore. Am I to believe that somehow this civilization continues to survive with a population of like ten people? How do they procreate? How did they make all of the devices in the first place? What is the source of power for the flying machines, what is the source of power for the ones that can go up and down the rails without engines? Why are some of the devices made out of tree trunks and the like when others are made of obvious metal and plastics? If they can make a lens (there is always a lens, trust me) out of glass, why can’t they make windows to put into their houses? If they alone know how to run all of these systems, why didn’t they use them to get away before whatever catastrophic event took place?

I suppose that all of the last paragraph was pretty much retorical, you play the game to play the game. If you start to analyze the game too much (hell, at all really) you are gonna find things that just don’t make a damn bit of sense. The games are pretty fun to play once in a while, when you are really bored and even watching reruns of Jerry Springer doesn’t sate the boredom.

• Now the real question. How is it possible that I can buy this brand new game, five cd’s worth of it, for 10 bucks (it is a year old) while all of the music companies are still charging more for a cd than for a cassette? In a failed business venture a couple of years ago, I found that you can make a cd complete with a jewel case and front and back cards for about fifty cents. Well, that wasn’t counting the ink in the printer so I will bump that up to say fifty-two cents. If I can do it myself for that price I would think that any major music company would be able to get a much better deal by buying hundreds of thousands of the items, as opposed to the hundreds that I bought. I really believe that, at this point, it is probably more expensive to make a cassette tape than a cd/dvd because so few people are actually buying that type of media now.

The whole point of being a music star is to make your money on ticket sales. If you can not generate enough ticket sales to make you wealthy then you are not a very good musician/group. Of course, the publishers of the music are the ones that make the money, and also the ones that set the price, and also the ones who are pissed off about people sharing files over the internet (with the exception of Lars Ulrich from Metallica, who mistakenly thought that since Metallica’s music has sucked for the last decade people were downloading it instead of paying for it. No. Lars. No one is listening to that shit.)

The grand humor of that is that bands that are struggling to make it really want their music to be shared over the internet, while the bands that made it, then lost it, are pissed off that they don’t seem to have the power they did back in the ’80s. I bet that if a band like “Quiet Riot” got a song downloaded over the internet enough that it got some requests on local radio stations, thus leading to actual air-play, and resulted in a tour with their name back in the lights, “Quiet Riot” would endorse whatever file-swapping software had made that all possible. I can’t speak for “Quiet Riot” though, and I know from first-hand experience that their singer is just a total asshole who still thinks it is 1983 and he owns the world. (side note, I had no idea that Randy Rhoads was ever in that band, thank your stars that he did a couple of albums with OZZY later or his memory would be just as dead as he is.)

I did a bit of Roadie work for the now defunct band EisenBlakk (Roadie work being that Dwight let me go to the shows for free, even drove me there, and in exchange I just helped him unload all of the band’s equipment; a pretty good trade off). His band was totally cool, as were the guys in the band ‘Dirty Rhythm’, whom I met at a venue in Eugene, OR. at an Eisenblakk show.

Shortly after that brief arrangement, I had the opportunity to meet the guys from “Quiet Riot” in about 1991, bunch of assholes. On the other side of the equation, I also got to meet the guys in “Blue Oyster Cult” who were jovial, and just happy that they were still able to make a living by playing music.

This one went a bit weird, that is all for today.