June 2003 Archives

Star Wars Galaxies - First Thoughts

Well, the obvious first thought is what everone else is already saying - there's NO WAY they were prepared to launch this game. It took people 4+ hours to register for the game (it only took me about 2-1/2, but I gave up for a bit), and now the servers keep rocking up and down, up and down. They're saying it's an Oracle problem, something that never came up during the beta...which tells me that beta wasn't (a) long enough or (b) inclusive enough.

Oh well...second thoughts will be posted tomorrow -- what I've seen so far (when I've been in the game, at least) has been pretty impressive.

NW Hauntings Rebuild DONE!

Finally! I've been planning this site revuild for the past six months, and due to a variety of ever-changing distractions, it's taken until today to get this shit done. The NW Hauntings site, if you don't know, is my pet project to document haunted sites and ghost stories from throughout the Pacific NW. I started it way back in...I think it was '95(?)...and never really got around to keeping it updated, mostly because each page was manually created, and I'm lazy. So I upgraded the server and got mySQL running on it, and now the whole thing is PHP & mySQL database-driven dynamic content. Yay!!

So if you have time, check it out, and let me know what you think.

The Hulk (Review)

The Hulk
(2003, d: Ang Lee, s: Eric Bana, Jennifer Connolly, Nick Nolte)

Let me lay this all out in the first sentence - The Hulk is a fun, action-packed comic-book movie. That's not, however, to say it's in the league of Spider-Man or the X-Men franchise. In fact, the one thing that hampers The Hulk the most is the one thing that was missing from these other Marvel comic adaptations - Ang Lee apparently didn't want you to forget for more than thirty seconds that you were watching a comic book movie. See, that's one thing that I really liked about Spider-Man and the X-Men movies - they didn't feel like comic books. Unfortunately, in The Hulk, all of the split-screens and transitions ultimately took away the feeling of watching a movie. Instead, I was constantly wondering whether the CryptKeeper was going to suddenly appear and make some wiseass crack about the Hulk's pants.

First Amendment Article

The Chronicle: 6/13/2003: The Free-Speech Follies

Wow...it's astonishing to read an article wherein the author actually understands the First Amendment, and discusses its protections (or lack thereof) in such a compelling fashion. Don't miss this one.

Chris Isaak @ The Pier

Hooray for me! Went on my yearly pilgrimage to see Chris Isaak at the AT&T Summer Nights At The Pier concert downtown last night. As usual, the concert rocked, and believe it or not, the Seattle weather almost cooperated!

Opening band was a new Warner Bros recording artist, Lizzie West. Not too bad, more interesting (and entertaining) than most of the other opening artists I've seen at the Pier. She was good (looked pretty damn hot, too), but not amazing.

Chris, on the other hand, kicked ass! Though I do honestly have one complaint - the show was very, very similar to the Pier concert last August - down to the patter between songs. Not that that's too surprising, since it was essentially a second tour for Always Got Tonight. Started out in a pastel blue suit covered in rhinestone globes. Very bizarre...got to see his mirrorball suit, of course, and the music was great - an even better mix of old, new, and some covers than last time.

If you ever have a chance to see this guy in concert, go. Go immediately. You'll love it.

Teh Int@rW3b Iz 1337

If you don't understand the subject, congratulations! You can probably read (either that or you're completely illiterate, and you can't understand a word I'm writing here). My latest rant is about the death of grammar and spelling in the computer age. See, back when I was in school (read: college), the Internet was just beginning to become popular. And the majority of emails, chats, and web sites that I encountered could be read and understood by a normal human being. Granted, the spelling and grammar were never perfect, but at least people tried.

However, with the advent of Instant Messaging and cell phones with text capabilities, and the general shortening of attention spans, Internet shorthand has begun to kill grammar.

Now, maybe I'm being a Luddite here; maybe this is just a natural evolution to the language. But reading some of the stuff that's coming from high-school and college-age kids these days is frightening. Hell, the FBI has even hired three teenage girls to help them understand and join in on Internet chats (source).

The problem is, unfortunately, not as simple as blaming the Internet. There's also television (which pulls kids from books, in turn pulling them away from examples of good grammar), overcrowded schools (where kids can't get enough attention paid to their individual progress), and even standardized tests (how can a multiple-choice test really take into account a child's writing skill, or lack thereof?). And, of course, there's the parents. My parents encouraged me to write well. They encouraged me to write, edit, revise, and rewrite everything that came out of my brain and on to paper. The final responsibility for all of our children lies with the parents. Always.

The Death of My Internet Life

I've been thinking a bit about my Buddy Lists lately. Once upon a time, back when I was a lowly Guide on AOL, I used to have a BL that was hundreds of people long. And at least 20 of those people were always online at any given time. Now, my BL looks pretty pathetic - there's only about 30 people on there, and most of them are rarely online (or perhaps they've just blocked me for no apparent reason). Granted, I haven't really been a regular online chatter recently - life sometimes gets in the way of things like that. But still, I miss chatting it up during slow times here at work, or when I'm rebuilding something at home. Or hell, when I'm bored at any time. Oh well...I suppose that a Buddy List being depleted really isn't the worst thing that can happen to you. Maybe I'm just growing up....nah!

Anyway, if you read this blog and want to chat with me (for some godforsaken reason), my Yahoo! handle is sirsnarky, my AIM handle is SnarkyBoy, and my ICQ is 897161. Managing all these is pretty freaking simple with Trillian - if you use multiple IM systems, it's an invaluable tool!

Tim Eyman IS a Horse's Ass!

Okay, even if the initiative to declare it a fact was ruled off the ballot in March, Tim Eyman is in fact a horse's ass. Not only has the man openly admitted to misusing "campaign" funding for personal expenses, but he's batting a measly .250 in creating constitutional intiatives (.200 if you include the latest of his endeavors - but I'm being nice, since he was just an "advisor" on this latest SNAFU).

For those of you who don't know (if you're not from WA, there's no reason for you to know), Tim Eyman is the rat-bastard former watch salesman that has been single-handedly decapitating Washington's budget for the past four or five years, abusing the state's initiative process to push his own agenda of "populist" politics. All he's gotten for his efforts is massive media coverage, which I'm quite sure is perfectly to his liking.

Let's be realistic - if the man actually were interested in changing the political climate, wouldn't he have learned his lesson when his first initiative was ruled unconstitutional, for including more than one topic within the initiative itself (I-695)? No - in fact, his next initiative (I-722, drafted after the first ruling) suffered from the very same fate. Granted, he may have been in denial over the lower court's initial I-695 ruling, given his delusions of grandeur, but rule #1 of the legal system is that you don't count your chickens before they hatch (or in this case, before the Supreme Court rules against you).

Yet, undaunted by the press coverage of his own inacccuracies and falsehoods, he continues to press forward, this past week accusing the state (after finally coming through with a budget that fit both House and Senate requirements) of a "4 Billion-Dollar Lie".

What Mr. Eyman and many of his supporters continually fail to grasp is that the money that they pay in taxes is going to support the society around them, a society that they have supported by electing representatives that make policy decisions for them. This is not a direct democracy, never has been and never will be. If you want to change politics, vote the bastards out of office. But don't handicap our police, fire, jails, teachers, and transportation systems just to "make a statement" to the Legislature.

Eyman, if you're really interested in driving change, do it the way the Founding Fathers of this state intended you to do it - run for office. If you're actually elected, then maybe I'll listen to your opinions of the system. Until then, keep coming up with half-assed, unconstitutional initiatives. We'll keep laughing you out of court on them. Hope you like your 15 minutes of fame, 'cause God knows this isn't "for the people" anymore.

28 Days Later

Just watched the first six minutes of the new "zombie" movie 28 Days Later...and I'm hooked. Looks pretty damn good, if a little off-kilter. About damn time that Americans get last crack at a film release like this. Might make all those filmmakers who think movies like Wrong Turn or Fear Dot Com are horrific (well, I suppose they are, just not in the way intended) think again about their chosen careers. I'm definitely adding this to my zombie movie festival for next year's Whistler trip...

All in all, I must see this movie - and then revisit the "Living Dead" trilogy.

Some thoughts on online gaming...

Okay, let me say first of all that I'm not one of those people in the world that have 80 hours a week to spend sitting in front of a computer, existing on a diet of Red Bull and Pizza Hut, with the occasional McDonald's chaser.

But I'd like to play online...

Therein lies the rub. The kinds of games I prefer are generally adventure or role-playing games. Not the shoot-em-ups where there's little-to-no story. Unfortunately, there's nothing out right now that lends itself to my type of gamer - the 10-hour/week adventure/RPG'er.

There was some possible promise in The Sims Online, but I beta tested it and quickly determined that it was crap, at least as far as I was concerned. What they were thinking when they required interaction and such to drive your money (and thus development) is beyond me. Similarly, the relationship process was seriously lacking.

That's why I was excited to read a review on MSN of a new game that's currently in open beta testing - Second Life. I've played it a little bit, and aside from some lag issues (which I've come to expect in practically any online beta), it definitely fills in many of the gaps left by TSO. You can build practically anything your mind can come up with, there is a very detailed scripting engine that allows you to do practically anything you want within the game world. Hell, you can even change the world itself - morphing and sculpting the land. Bottom line - it's awesome, and they were pretty smart in offering (to beta testers, at least) a lifetime subscription option that's actually reasonable.

The only problem with Second Life, though, is that there's no script, no adventure. As fun as it is to meet people and talk, laugh, and generally have fun, I do occasionally like a little action in my games. I must admit that I like fighting with virtual creatures...so if that makes me a violent sicko, so be it.

Which is why I'm looking forward to Star Wars Galaxies from Sony. Although I haven't had any opportunity to beta test this one, from all the features and feedback information that I've read, it looks to have a really great balance of socialization, design/building mechanics, and fighting. Oh, and it's in the Star Wars universe, which means I'll probably buy it even if it sucks. However, I'm still betting that within 6 months, the whole game world will be dominated by those with lesser lives than I, who spend 10 hours a day online fighting with Tusken Raiders and such.

So...what's a wanna-be online gamer to do? There's a hopeful answer coming in World of Warcraft, which is being designed by Blizzard especially for my kind of player (with benefits to those with no lives, I'm sure).

And there's always Neverwinter Nights - which I'm looking forward to maybe playing online when the new expansion pack comes out. The original campaign was fun and all, but I'm really hoping that there's enough new stuff in the expansion pack that it might be worth making my own campaign. I did start one with the original, but got bogged down by a lack of variety in the creatures and items.

That's it for now...be kind to your enemies, as you never know when you'll wind up working for them.

So I bit the Friendster bullet...


Okay, so I finally bit the bullet and signed up for this thing. So far I'm apparently connected to 15,000 people that I don't know, all through one friend. Pretty impressive, huh? Anyway, not that I'm all that excited about it - hell, I'm not even sure I really understand fully how it works. But I'm there now, forever and ever, amen.


Inspired by the Randy Johnson antiperspirant ad on TV, I've decided to establish the Eastside Dodgeball League here in Bellevue. I'm hoping to find a suitable location for dodgeball shenanigans, so that I can get this started ASAP. I already know about ten people here in the office who are willing to go throw rubber utility balls at each other, so I'm pretty hyped!

Rebuilt My Server!

Alrighty!! Finally got my server rebuilt. I was running out of drive space on several of my partitions (thanks to a horribly underinformed initial install of RedHat 7.2 oh-so-long ago), and I couldn't get PartitionMagic to work on the linux box. Looks like it might have a problem with ext3 partitions. Oh well. After six straight hours of work, I've backed up the system, scrapped all the partitions, and reinstalled Linux from scratch. Now everything looks to be working (fingers crossed), so I'm a happy camper, off to bed with me!!

Why a Weblog?

On one of the sites I frequent, there's been a recent backlash against "bloggers", and considering that I just set this one up last week, I started to question why I decided to do it. I'm not really a developer, so I don't have useful information on upcoming or existing projects to relate. I'm not famous, so I don't have throngs of people hanging on my every word. I'm an occasional writer, but I really don't feel comfortable sharing most of what I've written with complete strangers.

So why a blog for me?

It's not ego - I really couldn't care less if anyone in the world out there reads anything here. It's not pretension - my opinions are just that, opinions, and as such as as valid as anyone elses.

I guess what it really is is simply a way for me to keep something resembling a journal (something that I've tried off and on over the years and failed miserably at each time), and maybe the fact that it's somewhat public will keep me updating it. I'd hate for someone to wander over to my site, find the blog, and see that I haven't updated it in six months. That would suck - for them and for me.

So, for what it's worth, if you found this blog by happenstance or design, I hope you like what you find. It may not be earth-shattering or tought-provoking, but it is a reflection of me.

"Le Merde"

On the way to work this morning, we passed a car that had a license plate that read LEMERDE. I laughed, and then had to explain that it meant (loosely translated) "The Shit" in French.

After laughing, I wondered how long it would take before some idiot with no sense of humor reports the plate to the DOL and gets it yanked. Ah, the sad state of our society...

The Voter's Dilemma

I got into an interesting online discussion this weekend about voting and civil rights. The person that started the discussion was ranting about how limited our alleged "freedom" really is in America, and how we delude ourselves into supporting the "oppressive" regime that's slowly sucking our rights away from us. He then went on to characterize things like voting and owning guns as "privileges" and not "rights."

Granted, he wasn't exactly a sophisticated gent, and I can somewhat understand his position regarding his "privileges" - he has a friend who's a convicted felon and has had his civil rights suspended (common practice). However, this doesn't mean that voting or bearing arms are "privileges" - they're "rights" and unless suspended by the government (for cause or not), they're protected by the full strength of the Constitution.

Of course, that begs the question as to how strong the Constitution is anymore, in an era of Ashcrofts and Rumsfelds out there trying to "protect" us from ourselves. And I honestly can say that I believe we're still the most free country in the world, even if we have been sacrificing our rights to feel more safe since 9/11.

But whose fault is it really if we wind up losing these rights? Well, folks...the blame falls squarely on all of us. Each and every person out there who decided not to vote, or decided to vote along party lines, or decided to vote without really investigating the voting record of any member of the House, Senate, or Presidency. And if you're not among those three groups, I salute you - though I really doubt there are many of you out there.

That's the real problem with America nowadays - it's not that not enough people are voting (although there are definitely concerning statistics about the voting habits of the poor or minority populations...but lest I digress...); it's simply that the people who are voting are not doing so intelligently. Making a voting decision based on what party a person is with simply isn't enough nowadays. The lines between the two parties are so blurred on everything except the most extreme topics like abortion, gay rights, flag-burning, and so many more, that it's nearly impossible to simply vote Republican or Democrat and actually be making a decision.

So what about third party candidates? In my experience, they've been little better in general than a Republican or Democrat - they all seem to focus on one or two incredibly sensitive (and in the grand scheme of things, less important than a well-rounded approach) topics, and let those define who they are and what they stand for. "I'm pro-choice, anti-gun control, and pro-gay rights! Vote for me!"

The bottom line is that nothing's going to get better in this country until people start taking their right to vote and influence seriously. It's somewhat like sitting on a jury - there, you have the fate of one person sitting in your hands; you may even be holding the decision whether they live or die. Nobody takes this responsibility lightly - why do they take the responsibility for ensuring their freedom, for ensuring their prosperity, and for protecting the lives of all Americans so lightly? That's what voting really is, people - the right to keep us all safe.

RIAA Be Damned...

I've been in the process of ripping all my CDs to MP3 format, so I've got my own little jukebox on my computer. So far I'm up to 269 albums, for a total of 26.3 GB. Had to postpone it all for a couple weeks when I ran out of disk space.

Oh, and I rip all my CDs at 256k...for those of you 128k'ers out there that claim you can't tell the difference, I say to thee NAY! 128k drops a lot of the low and high definition that's the whole reason for having digital music. I can tell the difference, and only deal with 128k files when there's no alternative.

Hooray for the 8th Circuit!

Interactive Digital Software Association v. Saint Louis County, Missouri

In a huge win for the gaming industry, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that a St. Louis County ordinance banning the sale, rental, or "making available" of "graphically violent video games" is unconstitutional in its reliance upon violent content (a similar part of the ordinance, blocking sexually explicit content was untouched at this time).

This marks a landmark in the First Amendment protection of video games as works of "expressions" under the Constitution. It's a huge win for those of us who believe that games shouldn't be censored, and that it's a parent's responsibility (not the State's) to determine what their child should or should not play.

Some key quotes:

"The County suggests in fact that with video games, the story lines are incidental and players may skip the expressive parts of the game and proceed straight to the player-controlled action. But the same could be said of action-packed movies like "The Matrix" or "Charlie's Angels"; any viewer with a videocassette or DVD player could simply skip to and isolate the action sequences." p. 4

"The County's conclusion that there is a strong likelihood that minors who play violent video games will suffer a deleterious effect on their psychological health is simply unsupported in the record." p. 6

"We merely hold that the government cannot silence protected speech by wrapping itself in the cloak of parental authority." p. 8

Whaaaaaaa! MP3s are KILLING us!

O'Reilly Network: Liebowitz finds that MP3s are hurting the music industry [June 05, 2003]

Not to detract from the article itself - Liebowitz does an excellent job of examining the facts. But the one thing that is missing is the simple economics of disgust. CDs now cost about the same as they did (adjusted for inflation - perhaps actually more than they did) when they were first introduced. The associated production costs have, of coursed declined drastically (who in 1990 would have imagined being able to burn your own CD on your home computer!?). So why am I paying $18.99 for the new "Weird Al" CD (okay, so I found it online for $13.99, but locally it was $16.99-18.99)?

What the recording industry continues to turn a blind eye on is the simple fact that they're charging an arm and a leg for crap that people aren't interested in paying for. Why buy a new CD for $18 that only has one or two songs on it that I want? C'mon, folks! The top-selling CDs for the past several years (over time, excepting out the 1-2 weeks' worth of new release) have been the "Now! That's What I Call Music" collections. Why? Because most people will pay $18 for songs that they know they like!

The recording industry will continue to slowly siphon off its own profits until it realizes that they only have three viable options to regain the market: (1) create a per-song kiosk system that allows me to create customized CDs for ~$1/song; (2) lower overall CD prices to no more than $12/each for a new CD, $10 for a back-catalog disc (I remember the days when ALL CDs at Circuit City were $11.88 or less. Who killed that? The industry, when they threatened to pull their distribution channels!); and/or (3) follow Apple's lead and make a real effort to create an online distribution model.

Unless they do that, they're already dead; they just don't know it yet.

Wireless Schmireless

I read an article in this month's Washington State Bar News (http://www.wsba.org/) that touted wireless networking as the "next phase" in law practice flexibility. And, to their credit, while they did address some of the more obvious concerns (like WEP encryption turned off by default, and SSIDs broadcase by default), but didn't really address the bigger issues of snoopers, network security in general, or of liability concerns.

Now, you'd think that since this is a laywer publication, they'd focus on this stuff. But they didn't. **sigh** I guess it's my fault for choosing a profession that's so far behind technically that many firms still use WordPerfect for DOS, yet still want to appear trendy and "cutting edge".

New Style...

Okay - this is much better. Chose the "Trendy" style from www.movabletype.org. Still needs some tweaking, but at least it's better than the default!

My First Entry...

Okay, so here's my first shot at creating (and keeping up) and actual blog. Just set up and installed Movable Type, and although it isn't as cool as SnarkyBlog was going to be (and alas may never be), it should do the job well. First things first, though, I need to destroy this "style" and make a new one. How boring can this be!? Nobody's going to want to read this - they'll take one look at it, at the Times font at the top, and fall asleep. Oh well...