Archive for January, 2005

Flying

Sunday, January 30th, 2005

Had a chance to do two types of flying this weekend.

First was Craig’s birthday at the Red Lion out in Silverlake. I’ve always liked that place as it reminds of Resi’s Bierstube back in Chicago. After a few shots & beers, I think most us had reached cruising altitude. It was a lot of fun, especially now that Craig is older than me again.

Second was a little bit more literal, heading out to the Rose Bowl to fly RC planes with Rick. I had picked up a Aerobird Challenger on his advice, and turned out to be a great starter plane — forgiving of rookie mistakes, including one or two that plunged it into the ground. Rick’s a great teacher and I expect to bugging him to go flying a lot more.

Go Figure

Monday, January 24th, 2005

Commenting on my previous entry, I saw an ad for this:

http://www.power-leveling.com/

Yep, a service you pay to play your character & level you up quickly.

Several thoughts ran through my mind in quick succession:

  • “Uh, isn’t the fun of the game the actual playing? If not, what’s the point?”
  • “Huh, only costs $1.80/hr of play. $80 to get a level 60. Wow, for $80 I could get a level 60 and torment Sang to no end.”
  • “Wonder if they’re hiring…”

WoW Doublenotgood

Monday, January 24th, 2005

Grah.

I am an admitted whore for almost anything Warcraft. With that, it was a shock to none that I went out and got World of Warcraft as soon as it hit the shelves.

It’s interesting the phenomenon of WoW & the MMORPG genre.

I think for many of us, by the time we heard about EverQuest, it was associated with how crazy it was — people taking the game too seriously, items being sold on Ebay, Korean cybercafe gangs. We joined in with our normal friends scoffing at them, calling it EverCrack and wondering how one could waste their time on something so stupid.

(I mean, Warcraft III was out and that was the game to be playing. D’uh.)

Okay, we didn’t say that last bit out loud (at least around normal friends), but we thought it. And we also thought at the same time, in the back of our neal-stephson-snowcrash- infatuated little brains about how cool the concept was. “A mudd with graphics! I knew this day would come.” Still, we stayed away.

But then came WoW. This was our chance. No stigma of Everquest and the added coolness of Blizzard! This is gonna be awesome.

So we went in.

A lot of us.

600,000 of us.

All at once.

Blizzard, however, was apparently caught unaware. For, if you follow any bit of WoW, or the gaming community in general, you’ll know that their server performance has been an utter disaster.

In many ways, it is kinda like a snowcrash — watching your character lock-up in a weird position, wondering if it’s lag, banging the keyboard repeatedly, then watching him act spastic in response when the queue actions finally caught up, then locking up again — this time taking damage from an audible, but invisible opponent with attacks that apparently take no hit points. And that’s before you say fuck it & tyr to run back to the inn, all the while your character locked in the kneel position, so it kinda looks like you’re surfing along the trail (all the while phantom monster thing still attacking).

Most annoying has been Blizzard’s utter silence on the matter. You can page a GM when issues arise, but so many things are borked, they never get around to responding. (Well, not technically true, 18 hours latter, you’ll get an email saying “Hey, you where offline when I tried to respond, so I can’t do anything. Open a new issue if you’re still having problems.”)

I thought the spell had finally broken & Blizzard might give forth a red-faced apology along the lines of “Wow, this was better than we hoped! Sorry about that, but here’s what we’re doing & when we’ll have it fixed.” Reading the interview between pennyarcade & Blizzard over Slashdot, you can see that is not the case.

Worse, it’s probably one of the biggest pieces of corporate double-speak I’ve seen in a while. In fact, I thought this comment kinda hit the nail on the head.

Note to future MMORPGs: this is not the way to communicate to your customers.

Bloglines Geekness

Thursday, January 20th, 2005

Annoyed with the chaos that had quickly overtaken my bloglines blogroll, I went through the pain of organizing all 171 feeds into a dozen or so folders. It’s actually pretty cool, in that I have a “Comics” folder that I click on to pull in all the new comics that I’ve subscribed to (as opposed to looking at each individual feed). Neat.

My nerd karma must also be running high, in that the folder I created of various tech feeds (Gizmodo, Tech Dirt, etc.), the one I called “Geek”, currently has 256 unread messages.

Okay, so maybe I shouldn’t have picked on the wine people so much.

The Blog Blob Grows

Monday, January 17th, 2005

A most excellent day as $friends_who_blog++. Today adds my old friend Dave Viner. Dave will be forever engrained in my mind as a cohort over the summer of ’94 for 1) taking part in the Master Plan and 2) carrying my sorry ass in roller hockey.

Of course, this was when he looked like Jesus and was a walking version of The Dude.

Damn hippies.

Sideways

Sunday, January 16th, 2005

If you haven’t seen it yet, you need to add Sidways to you list of movies to check out. A story about two friends on a bachelor party trip to Santa Barbara’s wine country, it’s a funny flick with terrific character development. I’m not sure why it hasn’t gotten wider distribution, as I think it would have done just as well outside of the independent movie circuit.

By coincidence, for Brandon’s bachelor party, we also took a trip to the region a year or so back. During the movie, I thought I recognized one of the vineyards as one we visited; a theory latter confirmed by Brandon.

Also by coincidence, our friend Alan — the most wine savvy individual I know — was in town this weekend. His current job is vice president of wines for Christie’s Auctioneers and, in between watching the Jets miss a stunning two consecutive field goals to his precious Steelers, he let us in on an “in” joke from the movie: apparently the ’61 Cheval Blanc, the one that Miles was holding away for a special occasion, is a blend of merlot & cabernet, the two specific wines over which he threw many a fit.

(Okay, not that funny, but whoever associated wine people with funny?)

Tahoe 1, Bill 0

Sunday, January 9th, 2005

Ice Beard Watching TV, CNN is reporting on the bad weather hitting California right now. They’re reporting live on the rain in LA & the snow in Tahoe. In other words, where I live & where I spent this weekend. Utter craziness. In LA, they are reporting about a house that slide down the mountain along Laurel Canyon Blvd, I road I regularly take when visiting Brandon.

In Tahoe, they are saying it’s the worst storm to hit the area since 1916. Of course, that’s the weekend I happen to head that way with Neb & Misa. Heading up on Friday, we thought we had lucked out as both traffic and weather light. We zipped up 50, the key road between the Bay Area & Tahoe. “Fools!”, we thought, “Scared off too easily by the threat of a storm, they have surrendered the mountain to us!”

Boldly the next morning we headed off to Sierra. But the mountain had decided it was not to be. For over night, two feet of snow had fallen, closing down 50. Rebuffed but indomitable, we decided to head to Heavenly, a resort closer to our hotel.

A few hours on the mountain was really all we could bear. Gusting winds that would put to Chicago to shame. Snowfall rivaling a shaken snow globe. Zero visibility. Not zero in what I had previously considered it be, but literally zero. When things were good you could see 20 or 30 feet, just barely enough to move a bit forward.

Latter that day we found that not just 50 was closed down, but all three routes that crossed through the Sierra’s (including I-80), meaning we were snowbound in Tahoe. Not good since Lisa & I had to be at work on Monday. (On up shot, we did find a great buffet that night at Harrahs.)

We had hoped to ski on Sunday as well, but we found out first thing that while 50 was closed, I-80 was open. We decided to get out while the gettin’ was good. We had to do a long loop around, heading north-east (instead of south-west), into Carson City, through Reno and over to 80.

We got back a little while ago and I’m now resting comfortable in Sunnyvale. Oddly, on first arriving in LA, back from the holidays in the midwest, I had thought I was going to miss the weather a little bit.

Apparently not.

UPDATE: Photo fixed (thanks Ben). Also, forgot to mention: I stealthfully snagged an entire box giant slim jim’s from the slim jim display tent at Heavenly. Ben & Lisa thought it was stealing, but how can you steal something that’s free?


At the very least, I would think they would be happy about it. Those slim jims could have provided a few critical days of sustenance for me before having to turn to alternative food sources had the snow trapped us in the car over Donner’s Pass, if you did my drift… and apparently my stolen goods wheren’t too taboo to snack on during the drive home.


But then who can resist a slim jim!?


SNAP INTO A SLIM JIM!

Calvin & Hobbes RSS Feed

Monday, January 3rd, 2005

I recently stumbled upon Tapestry. I like the idea — RSS feeds for comics. (In particular the feed for Dilbert.)

As they didn’t have one for Calvin & Hobbes (my personal favorite of all time) and I’ve been poking at RSS recently, I decided to throw one together:

http://wdr1.com/blog/calvin_and_hobbes.rdf

Of course, it’s totally dependent upon how the official site builds their URLs, and if they ever change that, expect this to break as well. The code to create it was remarkably simple, but if anyone is interested, you can snag it here:

http://www.wdr1.com/projects/jnt/john_and_thomas.pl