Monday, May 31, 2010

Oh yeah, that's why we don't go to my grandfather's house...'s a mess.  He has very strange tendencies and protocols, and he lives far enough from the city that he doesn't have trash pickup.  He washes things like used paper plates, plastic zipper bags (avoiding trademarks here), and aluminum foil.  I don't think his sponges have been replaced in several years.  He loads the dishwasher with several days' worth of dishes, letting food residue harden on them in the meantime, so his utensils are incredibly stained and covered with stuff that isn't ever going to come off.

I could go on, but I won't.

The reason we were out there?  Apparently it was something to do with Memorial Day.  I dunno for sure, my parents only told me of it yesterday and acted like I already knew.  We had some freshly caught fish on the grill and some salad and cole slaw.  He saw fit to lecture me about how to get the fish off of the bones.  Dessert was some watermelon that I passed on because I don't like watermelon, and some apple pie.

Blah.  I guess it's pointless ranting about it since he's in his 80s or whatever.  He unintentionally flushed us out of the house after the meal by turning on some Patsy Clyne (who?) and turning it up really loud (he's almost deaf and doesn't like to wear his hearing aids or something).  We were taking advantage of his deafness to point out everything we noticed that wasn't the least bit clean to each other.  We had to eat the meal with salad forks because the regular ones were covered with the aforementioned unremovable food residue.

Oh wait, I said I was going to stop.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Day of Racing Part 3: Coca-Cola 600

WOOOOOOOOOOOO!  All miles of the Day of Racing are DONE!

NASCAR always has its cautions to group everyone back up and make things more interesting, and tonight definitely didn't fail.  Kurt Busch and Jamie McMurray were going back and forth for the lead, completely revolving around the yellow flag periods.  Kurt Busch's car was better on the restarts, but Jamie McMurray's was better a few laps in.  It was just a matter of whether or not Busch could hold off McMurray, and he did.

Whereas Ganassi beat Penske in the Indy 500, Penske beat Ganassi here.  No Memorial Day sweep for Ganassi.

I really don't have much to say about NASCAR because I follow it even less than Indy Racing League, but overall, a lot of good racing was done today.  Some drivers did some stupid things, but that's normal for any given day of racing.  Mike Conway has a broken leg, which is actually a really good outcome given what his crash looked like.  I just know some people will look at all the crashes and try to spin racing as some "unsafe" thing, but in reality these cars are getting safer and safer with every year.  It's important to note what actually happens to the driver(s) involved.  More often than not, you'll see some really bad crash and they'll just walk away.  If that's not safety, I don't know what is.  Also, if we had any fewer safety advancements Felipe Massa probably wouldn't be alive today.

As I've said before, I'm not much of a car buff, but I do like my racing.  If it's got wheels and goes fast, I'll watch it.  The month of May is an especially great month for auto racing fans, or at least fans of Formula 1, Indy Racing League, and/or NASCAR.  I enjoyed the hell out of it and can't wait for next year.

Day of Racing Part 2: Indianapolis 500

Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a relatively simple looking 2.5-mile oval with not a heck of a lot of banking in the corners.  So why is it that the race is continually exciting, year after year?  Well, that's obvious.  There's 33 people driving around it at over 200MPH.  When you put that many people on the track, there's going to be plenty of battles for position, and when you're going 500 miles, plenty of pit stops to mix things up.  Also crashes.  But mostly the fast driving.

Dario Franchitti absolutely dominated the race, leading the vast majority of the laps and taking the well-deserved victory.  However, my personal award for driver of the day goes to Tony Kanaan.  He had an absolutely horrible qualifying result, 32nd, and changed his chassis before the race, which carried a penalty that put him dead last.  Before the race was over, he had worked his way up to 2nd place.  If he had only had a slightly better fuel strategy, he could have won and become the first person to win from the back row, as well as the first person to win from last place.  Unfortunately he had to pit for fuel in the closing laps and finished 11th.

The race finished under caution because on the last lap, Mike Conway completely ran over the left side of Ryan Hunter-Reay's car, sending them both to the outside wall and Conway flying through the air.  His car was torn to shreds, but thankfully he survived with only a minor leg injury.  So yeah, even though they're going fast, the cars are very safe.  All that debris that flies everywhere?  Those are the parts of the car that are designed to absorb the force of impact so that the driver doesn't have to.  Essentially everything, including the engine and gearbox, is a shock absorber in that situation.  That stuff definitely did its job today as Conway's car didn't have really anything left attached to it when he finally came to a stop.

We couldn't watch a good race without having some good food.  Every year my dad gets people's sandwich orders and we go to Subway to get sandwiches before the race.  My car turned its 100,000th mile on one such trip to Subway a few years back.  In addition we had some good beer from Blue Mountain Brewery, and I brought some soda to have after my beer since I was driving (an Orange Fanta Zero and a Cherry Coke Zero).  The beer was good, the soda was good, the sandwiches were good, and the race was good.  I can't ask for much more.

There were some bullshit blocking penalties (and a couple warranted ones) called early on but once race control got the stick out of its ass, there wasn't anything else getting in the way of the race.

With this win, Chip Ganassi becomes the first car owner to win the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500 in the same year.  As long as we're talking history, the Indy 500 itself had its 200th different leader in this race (Justin Wilson).

I guess we'll have dinner in half an hour or so and then it'll be on to Charlotte for the Coca-Cola 600.  Thanks to television, I can go to Istanbul, Indianapolis, and Charlotte all in one day.  I don't really watch anything on TV other than auto racing, because non-live American entertainment is kind of balls.

Stay tuned for part 3.

Day of Racing Part 1: F1 GP of Turkey

Normally on Memorial Day weekend it's the Grand Prix of Monaco, but Monaco is scheduled based on when Easter is, and Easter was a week early this year.  So instead, Formula 1 went to the permanent road course in Istanbul, Turkey, with its massive four apex turn 8.

Qualification saw little difference from the norm, Webber up front, Vettel third instead of second due to a broken sway bar during qualifying, and who else but the McLarens of Hamilton and Button in second and fourth, respectively.  Man, if there's one team that's really good at improving their cars during the season, it's McLaren.

The race itself was pretty ho-hum until close to the end.  There were prospects of rain, radar showed a small storm headed towards the track.  There was moisture on the in-car camera lenses, but it never came down heavily enough to force a tire change.  The first four cars were right together on the track, Webber leading Vettel, with Hamilton and Button a short distance behind.

Vettel got a run down the inside of one of the final corners and tried to pass Webber.  Webber is notoriously difficult to pass, but he left just barely enough room for Vettel.  Vettel clearly had the overtaking speed, but was drawn to the right and into his teammate.  Webber managed to continue on with a drop to third place and a front wing change, but Vettel's race was done.

I say "drawn to the right" because we watched the replays very closely (even replaying them again on the DVR using its slow motion playback) and while his car did indeed move to the right, his in-car camera showed no steering input at the time.  Webber actually slowed down somewhat once he realized Vettel was reasonably past him, but that didn't avert the collision.

I personally think Webber needs to realize that if it's his teammate passing him, and that Vettel has the upper hand in terms of speed and will very likely complete the pass, he needs to give more room than he'd give to another driver from another team.  It's not worth the risk of one or both cars being taken out of the race to fight with your teammate like that.  The championship standings show this clear as day, McLaren is now precisely one point ahead of Red Bull.  Had Webber and Vettel not had their collision, Red Bull would have been much further in the lead.

It's important to note that a few laps later, Hamilton and Button had a pretty good battle for the lead in the same part of the track, ultimately ending in Turn 1.  They both managed to race each other hard, yet fair.  Room was left, no collisions, neither driver dropped out of the race, it was just a good clean fight.

My one complaint about this race is not actually anything that happened on-track, but SPEED's commercials.  They always, without fail, go to commercial right when something interesting is happening on track and then they have to replay it afterwards.  I know they value their advertising revenue or whatever, but delay the commercial for ten seconds and let us see what's happening.  To the viewers, what's happening on the track is vastly more important than your mostly unrelated commercials.  It would also spare us your flashy graphics that fill half the screen showing us the running order, and advertisements for other things on SPEED that we're not even interested in that also take up half the screen.

They could take it a step further and take a page from the BBC's book: go commercial-free for three hours.  That's right, three hours.  Not two and a half.  The races are time-limited to two hours and usually finish in an hour and a half or so, but if the race runs long, two and a half is simply not enough for combined pre- and post-race shows.  Three hours works perfectly.  Of course then they'd need to actually have all of their commentators go to each venue instead of just one guy, but it'd be a higher quality broadcast overall with them all there.

Rants aside, I'll be watching all 1100 remaining miles of racing left in the day, so stay tuned for parts 2 and 3.

Friday, May 28, 2010

My TracFone Experience Has Been Pretty Shitty

Shortly after the new year, I bought a TracFone.  Right after activation I noticed that I had no signal most of the time in my house, but if I drive pretty much a block in any direction I have a full signal.  Note that going a block in any direction from my house involves going uphill.  Now, TracFone isn't really to blame here since they don't have their own network.  They use the networks of larger cell phone companies, mainly AT&T and T-Mobile.  Googling my phone's SIM card number (TF64SIMC4) tells me that it's an AT&T SIM card.

Adding minutes is pretty simple, right?  Buy the minute card, scratch off the thing covering the PIN on the back, and enter the PIN in the phone's Prepaid menu.  A minute or so later you get a message telling you that it succeeded, and then the phone's home screen shows the new service end date and number of minutes.

Well, you need to have signal for it to work.  And you need the card to actually scan at the checkout of whatever store you're buying it from.  The checkouts at both Giants here won't actually successfully scan the cards.  Despite how they have hundreds of them in stock.  I haven't seen them in the other stores around here.  So, thankfully, you can buy online.

Online you can buy multiple cards at once, so I was going to get the double minutes for life card and a 60 minute+90 day card in one transaction, but I sat there and thought about it.  Could I trust them to add the cards in the proper order, such that the 60 minutes get doubled to 120?  I didn't want to risk it.  I bought the double minutes card and drove to where I could get a signal to receive it.  Then I came home, bought the 60 minute card, and again drove to where I could get a signal to receive it.  I needed the service days much more than the minutes, but either way, I'm set.  It would be nice if they had a card that added a ton of service days and only a few minutes.

Lately the phone (a Motorola W260g) has been randomly WSODing on me.  Closing the phone and opening it back up will make the phone useful again, but I don't know when the WSOD will be permanent.

Now let's talk about how TracFone deducts minutes.  For a text message, it deducts 0.30 minutes.  So if you're at 45.00 minutes and send or receive a text message, you're now at 44.70.  Another, you're at 44.40.  One more, 44.10.  Again, 43.80.  And so on.  You use 3 of your minutes by sending or receiving 10 text messages.  Thankfully, the system messages they send out, both to tell you of promo codes and to tell you that adding airtime was successful, don't deduct minutes.

For a call, it deducts a minute immediately.  A full minute gone, just by placing or receiving a call.  Even if the call is only 30 seconds, a minute is gone.  If the call is a minute and one second, congratulations, you just used two minutes.  Basically, they round up.  I don't agree with this, it appears extremely unethical.

Let's look at the phone itself.  The phone charges via a USB Mini-B port on its side.  Motorola says you can charge this phone with your computer, which is very attractive.  Have a USB cable, charge your phone.  I have a friend who has a phone that charges via USB and when I take my PS2 over to his place he charges his phone using one of the USB ports on my PS2.  It's just convenient.

Of course, you can't do that on the TracFone version of this phone.  Plugging it into a computer just makes it say that it can't charge.  I have to use the charging cord that came with the phone, which adapts a wall outlet to USB, to charge the phone.  Assholes.

The phone is very slow and lags from time to time while I'm navigating its menus.  While playing one of the three shitty games on it, I think I get maybe a bit over two frames per second, no higher than three.  I honestly didn't expect blazingly fast performance, but when the phone lags just from navigating its menus, something's wrong.

I'm not going to complain that the phone doesn't have a camera, MP3 player, ability to use real ringtones and wallpapers, better games, etc. because I only need it to be a phone.  If I want a camera, I'll go buy a fucking camera.  It'll take much better quality pictures than a shitty camera stuck in a cell phone.  The same for the rest of that stuff.  I would like to have a real wallpaper, but so much of it would be obscured by all the shit that needs to be displayed on the home screen that it's not really worth it to bitch about it.

Overall, if you need a cheap phone for something nonessential, or you want to get a phone with no personal information linked to it, go prepaid.  Otherwise, there's no excuse for not having a better phone from a better company on a better network.  It would be nice if there was a prepaid company that actually gave major carriers a run for their money.  But instead you get utter crap all around.

Mmm... Pizza

Continuing my Epic Quest to Experience More Pizza Awesomeness, I got a Red Baron Fire-Baked Pepperoni pizza at the store this week.  I would have gotten something better like a Red Baron Supreme pizza, but the Giant we shop at regularly downsized the amount of Red Baron stuff they had a while back and enlarged the DiGiorno and Freschetta section instead.  All us Red Baron fans get is regular and fire-baked 4-cheese and pepperoni.

Cooked directly on the rack, there's a puddle of grease on top.  I thought it was just because I was using a pan rather than putting it on the rack, but I guess not.

Also an issue I've always had with Red Baron pepperoni pizzas: I have to rearrange the pepperoni.  It comes as just a random jumbled mess.

Overall, I think I liked the crust texture of the California Pizza Kitchen pizza better.  I also like how it didn't have a huge puddle of grease on it after cooking.  I only tried one variety, but it seemed like there should be some and there wasn't any, so...

Red Baron, thou art dethroned.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Weird Dreams

The dream I had last night was pretty strange.  I was in some random school that was surrounded by a wooded area.  We went out and explored the woods and came back in, but we could move faster by bunny hopping (the FPS term, jumping repeatedly allows you to move faster in many engines including the Source engine).

One of my classmates was Saten Ruiko from Railgun (currently pictured in my MAL signature).  I think we were getting ready for a school trip because everyone had their bags full of clothing, toiletries, etc.  In the next room there was just a massive amount of shirts hung up on round racks like in clothing stores, and they were packed so close together it was practically a jungle.  I had fun sneaking up on people and scaring them.

I'm unsure if it was related, but I ended up in a small apartment that was apparently Chris Crocker's home.  I killed it with a shotgun and went into another room where there were a ton of baseball trophies.  Upon leaving the room, I was on a boat and we were grilling and there was music playing.

Then suddenly I was back in the school.  There was a purple pair of panties on the floor, among everyone's bags (I guess we hadn't left on that school trip yet).  A few minutes later Saten was looking for her panties and asked if I'd seen them (lol).  I asked if they were purple, she said no, they were pink.  I gave a shrug.   Somehow I ended up with the purple panties and a black bra that I later found.  I couldn't find who owned them so I just left them on a table.

So...  yeah...  FPSes, anime, female underwear, and killing internet has-beens.  What is this I don't even.  Also, certain parts I felt like I was in control.  This has happened before.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tooltip fail

This rant is partly pointless, seeing as how the subject of it is Opera, a browser I have installed but rarely use.  This issue also affects Mozilla Thunderbird, which I use a lot, and it's very annoying.

What's the problem?  The tooltips for things.  In the theme I'm using in Windows, I have a dark window border and title bar, and the tooltip colors mirror that with a dark grey background and white text.  In the vast majority of applications (including, oddly enough, Mozilla Firefox), these tooltips show up perfectly fine.

In Opera and Thunderbird, they show with white text on a white background, making them unreadable.

What would a niche application usability rant be without screenshots to illustrate the issue?  Here we go! (read that in Mario's voice for lulz)

Tooltip in OperaTooltip in ThunderbirdWhat they should look like

I've searched all through Thunderbird's configuration, including its about:config, and can't find a setting that I can change that will actually fix the issue.  I've found a few that look like they should, but they don't.  Being that I don't use Opera much, I hadn't bothered to try and fix it myself until today.  Searching the internet, I came across a seemingly helpful page detailing Opera's configuration, which suggests that there's an option in opera:config that I can change.

Great, right?  So I open up opera:config, expand the color section, scroll down, and...


What the hell?

Searching around the internet some more I came across a thread in Opera's forums that suggests that the settings are only available on Unix-based operating systems.  What's the logic in that?  I need to configure them on Windows, dammit.

It's interesting to note that Opera does show the text that's in the tooltip in its status bar.  This is nice, but a fix for the actual issue is still needed.

Why don't I use Opera more?  Well, this issue is one reason.  I've spelled the rest out in previous posts, but I'll summarize here for the sake of completion.  There are no useful widgets (i.e. lack of community support), ad blocking is cumbersome (no centralized list, you have to build your own), and no script blocking (a necessity on the internet these days).

One final screenshot, showing the practical implications of the issue:

Monday, May 24, 2010

Steam stuff

Since I got Portal during the promotion for the release of Steam for Mac, I now have Steam installed.  Given that it seems to be successful, despite my groans both about DRM and digital distribution, I was looking around the Steam store to see what all they had.

I remembered playing Serious Sam HD on a friend's computer, so I downloaded the demo of that.

Serious Sam HD is a remastered version of an older FPS.  The enemies are very strange and nonsensical, such as enemies that hold their own heads while firing rockets at you, headless screaming suicide bombers, and giant faces with arms and legs (the flying versions are just giant flying faces with no arms or legs).

The setting is Egypt.  I don't think there's too much of a story.  You just run around and try to stay alive while the game tries to kill you.  See that health powerup?  Pick it up, and now more enemies have spawned.  See that ammo?  You'll get rushed after picking it up.  See that nice empty room?  It'll fill with enemies.  Not every powerup and room is like this, but it happens a lot.

Naturally, with a game that has enemies like this that appear suddenly, you'll need a varied array of weapons to take them out.  The demo has a knife (so you can melee things that blow up upon death), a pistol (that gets upgraded to two), a shotgun (that gets upgraded to a double barrel shotgun), a chaingun (it chews through enemies like it chews through ammo, i.e. really quickly), and a rocket launcher.

It's pretty good.  One thing's for sure though, you'll be using the hell out of your quick save key.  Every time you clear a room, quick save.  Every time there's a lull in the action, quick save.  This sounds rather paranoid, but you never know when the action's going to start up again.

As with any FPS with a story-based single player mode, there are secrets.  These secrets are filled with helpful items, so you'll want to find them.

I've beaten the demo, and even though it's only one level, it's fairly long.  With some honed skills the number of enemy ambushes could probably be kept to a minimum (reducing your need for health powerups and becoming more efficient with ammo usage will help greatly).  There's an area at the end of the demo where you're locked in this courtyard as the game rushes you with groups of enemies, starting with the suicide bombers and working up from there.  A couple times during this it'll spawn these two large demons with chainguns up on towers that you'll have to kill so they'll stop raining bullets down on you.  Luckily five rockets a pop and they're gone (on Normal, at least).

I may have to get the full game.  Also, I might get Geometry Wars.  No multiplayer (not even local multiplayer), but it's four bucks.  I've been investigating the available racing games and might get one as well (especially if any of them has a demo).  Also, Commander Keen 1-5 for $5?  Hell yeah.  A fuckton of platforming puzzle action, and basically 5 games for $5, that's hella worth it.

I've noticed that you can add non-Steam games to your list.  I'm not sure what exactly this does other than giving you the ability to launch the game from within Steam, and I haven't done it with anything.  If you go into its interface though it'll chew up all your CPU cycles on an exhaustive search for every single fucking executable on your computer.  Fortunately there's a browse button that opens up a file open dialog, but the search still goes on in the background.

Now for the things I don't like about Steam.
  • Steam doesn't actually exit when you close it.  It leaves itself running in the background, with a tray icon.  You can exit it for real from the menu on the tray icon.
  • This is the case even if you run a game directly from a shortcut you told it to make while Steam isn't running, Steam refuses to exit when you exit the game to make the whole thing transparent.
  • What the fuck is with this custom interface?  I hate it.  Use my windows theme, god dammit.
  • The integrated browser doesn't have any of the keyboard shortcuts (backspace for back) or functionality (tabs) that I'm used to.  It just sucks.  Plus it just stops working every now and then.
  • Small Mode is awesome, but no matter what you do it reverts back to Large Mode.
  • While in Large Mode, you'd better not maximize it if you have your windows taskbar set to auto hide, because it blocks you from your taskbar, and you have to hit the windows key to get it to pop up.
  • Valve better have a fucking contingency plan in case they ever have to discontinue their authentication servers, otherwise gamers around the world will lose access to all the games that they've legally paid for.  This is the problem with DRM (before invasiveness), it assumes that the controlling company is immortal.
  • If digital distribution of games is the way of the future, I think I'll stick with the past.  I much prefer having physical install media, a print manual, and a box to hold it all together.  It gives me undeniable proof that I own a copy of the game.  With digital distribution, if their server fucks up (or just whenever some BOFH feels like it), you no longer own a copy of all those games.  They should offer to ship you (for a low low price, preferably free) the game disc, manual, and box if you request it, for any game you've purchased (or are about to purchase).  I know the purpose of digital distribution is to try and combat piracy (where you definitely don't have any undeniable proof that you own a copy of the game, because, well, you don't), but if they really want to make it viable they should take this next step and make it better than simply torrenting a cracked copy of the game.
To summarize: Serious Sam HD is good, Steam's store has some good deals, and Steam's actual software sucks balls.

Chinese Spammers GTFO my blog

Seriously.  I delete your comments.  You're also the reason why any comment on a post that's more than a day old gets moderated.

I want to eventually have people comment on a somewhat regular basis.  This is really hard because I don't have a set theme or topic, but it'd be nice.  Spam comments are absolutely meaningless to me.  They don't make me feel better about what I posted, they don't provide additional insight, etc.  They're just wasting space on the internet.

Blogger could make some changes to their commenting controls.  Currently the options are:
  • Anyone - includes Anonymous users
  • Registered Users - includes OpenID
  • Users with Google accounts
  • Only members of this blog
I have it set to Registered Users.  I also have the captcha enabled, but it's pointless because blog authors are exempt from it and every spammer that's ever commented has an empty blog for the sole purpose of getting around the captcha without even having to try.

I get spam followers on Twitter as well.  I'll go on Twitter and notice that my number of followers has gone up from three, then look at the page of my new follower and surprise, every single post is a headline and a shortened URL.  The shortened URLs are usually through a URL shortener that displays an interstitial ad before redirecting you to where you actually want to go, so I don't even dignify them with clicks to see what they're posting about (even though I won't see the ad anyway, /hug AdBlockPlus).

Every spam follower I've gotten has been blocked and reported for spam.

Once again, I'd love for real, live people to follow me on Twitter.  Three real live people do in fact already follow me on Twitter.  I know they're real because:
  • Their posts don't all conform to the same format.
  • They post stuff about what's happening, which is what Twitter's actually for.
  • I know all three of them in real life (and I'm following them).
So, yeah.  In short, reiterating a point you know very well by now if you've read any of my posts here: I hate spam.  The meat is fine.  The unsolicited internet communications, not so much.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Obsidian Armor GET

That was the most money I ever spent, ever, in Guild Wars. I bought nearly every Obsidian Shard (around 3k each) and Glob of Ectoplasm (4.8k to 8k each). I bought all the other materials (except the Tanned Hide, it's a very common drop). I got three of the red dyes as drops and got impatient and bought the fourth. But it's finally done.

I guess as a bonus or something I got an Obsidian Shard as a drop while doing the necessary Fissure of Woe quests to get the forgemaster to offer the ability to craft armor.  I didn't need it, I entered with all the materials and money I needed, but hey, I'll sell it.

That's one major item off of my to-do list.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Anime rewatch list

This is the companion post to the one with my anime backlog in it.

Sometimes I just need to watch something again.  It just becomes time to watch it again, I can't quite explain it.
  • Love Hina (Citrus or miki_sei or whatever his name is these days wanted to borrow the christmas/spring movies and I remembered it'd been a while since I last watched it.  If he's up for it maybe we can marathon it together.)
  • Lucky Star (Konami ftw)
  • To Aru Majutsu no Index (this one has an extra hidden item: I'll probably rewatch To Aru Kagaku no Railgun directly after it)
  • Steel Angel Kurumi (one of my favorite series ever, also merger of science and mysticism (series with this as an element are automatically awesome))
Well, it's not all that big, but it's the contents that count. (that's what she said)

As far as my progress working through my backlog goes, you could infer it from looking at my MAL sig above, but since that last post I've watched:
  • Canaan (girls + guns + supernatural powers = awesome)
  • Maria Holic (despite taking place at a religious school, it's surprisingly non-preachy)
  • Strike Witches (merger of science and magic + lolis + saving the world + yuri = when is season 2 airing)
Again, doesn't look like much, but other than Tsukihime (lol) I just have the longer series left.  Those need a little more planning for marathon watching since I need to set aside 8 hours, not 4.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

This season in Formula 1

I don't mention auto racing nearly enough given how much of a fan I am of it.  Basically, if it's got wheels and goes fast, I'll watch it.  That's also pretty much the extent of my interest in cars, I'm not a huge car buff or anything.

Anyway, this season of Formula 1 is interesting thus far for a number of reasons.  First off, points are now given to the top ten finishing positions of each race.  I'm not exactly sure of the point curve, but the winner gets 25 points.  The overall higher rewards should prove to make the championship a closer fight with more drivers in contention as we get to the end of the season.

No refueling is allowed.  This is, I believe, primarily a safety measure.  The last few seasons have seen multiple fires and drivers leaving with the fuel hose still attached.  Also, this lets the team qualify their cars on an insanely light fuel load since everyone can now fill back up to the brim just before the race.  On the other side, very few motor sports don't allow refueling, so F1 seems a little weird now.

The effect that no refueling has had on the races: Instead of it being advantageous to pit later than your competition, it's now much more advantageous to pit before them to get fresh tires.  Tires mean a lot more this season, it's already been shown that if a driver is easier on their tires that they will have an advantage.  Pit stops are blindingly fast, some of the teams are changing tires in less than four seconds.

There are three new teams that haven't quite figured things out yet: Lotus, HRT, and Virgin Racing.  Since there's two cars per team, that's six guaranteed backmarkers in every race.  And yeah, I've been making jokes about the Virgins.  "He can't afford to follow that Virgin around forever!" etc.

If you've been watching the past few seasons, you've no doubt noticed that Red Bull has been getting better and better.  They've taken this season by storm.  They're leading the constructor's championship and their drivers, Mark Webber and Sebastien Vettel, are leading the driver's championship.  They look like the team to beat this season.  Webber's come alive and is taking poles and winning races, including back-to-back pole to victory wins.  Vettel had some car troubles early on that caused him to retire from two races while in the lead, but that's been ironed out and he's been right there pressuring Webber.

The stewards, who hand out penalties for in-race mishaps, have been under fire for being overzealous in the past few seasons.  To try and bring that under control, the steward panel for each race now has a former driver on it, to provide that perspective.  Personally, I still see people getting penalized for things that I deem to be "racing incidents", i.e. things that just happen every now and then in racing and don't really deserve penalization.  I still think the stewards issue won't be solved until the panel is a dedicated panel consisting of the same people every race.

Felipe Massa is back after that head injury he suffered.  He's currently getting punk'd by Fernando Alonso, but it's nice to see him back in the car.

The big news is that seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher has returned and is driving for Mercedes.  He's working with his old pal, Ross Brawn.  He's already returned to being himself in a race car, riding the edge of the rulebook all the way.  He's just not winning, that's all.

Fans of Kimi Raikkonen may be disappointed to know that he's moved from Formula 1 to WRC.  I don't know if anyone broadcasts WRC live, all I can ever find on TV is after-the-fact summary programs on HD Theater.  I don't even know if it's possible to broadcast it live given where they're racing, but it'd be nice if it were.

Renault have improved a fair amount.  Their cars are yellow and black this season instead of white and yellow, I think it's a faster paint job.  Not as fast as their old iconic blue and yellow, but whatever.  They pretty much had to change it given that their old color scheme used colors from the logo of their old primary sponsor, ING, which pulled its sponsorship after the race fixing incident happened.

Overall, my prediction so far is that Red Bull will probably walk away with the constructor's championship.  Which of their drivers gets the title is currently completely up in the air.  Both are capable and deserving.

food food food

I have a mini-vacation in the next two days.  My parents are going to be gone and I have to take care of the dog, but other than that, it's open.

I'm thinking it's prime time to marathon some anime.

I also have my food planned out.  Thursday night will be tacos (homemade ftw).  I procured a pound of ground bison and a box of Old El Paso Stand N Stuff taco shells.  A pound of meat makes ten tacos, and there's ten shells in the box, so it works out perfectly.  I doubt I'll eat ten tacos, but whatever.  More for another night.

I also procured another California Pizza Kitchen frozen pizza.  This one is rising crust rather than thin crust.  It's their BBQ recipe Chicken variety.  Yeah, I know, it has onions.  I'll cope with the heartburn.

Also for daytime snacking I have a large bag of Chex Mix.

I figure that with all that stuff, I'll be set for food.  I can make sandwiches for lunch, we have plenty of bread, mustard, cheese, and lunch meat, so that little issue was solved before it even came up.

Working Through the Backlog

I said a long time ago that I'd use this season to work through my anime/manga backlog, but it took me until a few days ago to get around to starting.

I kicked it off by catching the hell up on reading Yuria 100 Shiki.  Since I couldn't remember exactly where I left off, I started over from the beginning.  There's only 56 chapters translated, so it didn't take too long to get through it.  Also MAL appears to have a definitive number of chapters (100) and volumes (12) listed for it now.  This seems fitting seeing as how it's no longer marked as "Publishing".

Next I followed up by watching the Akikan! and Kanokon OAVs.  Akikan's OAV was really funny.  Kanokon's was good, but...  pales in comparison to the TV show.

Earlier tonight I watched the K-On! Uraon bluray specials.  It's 7 episodes that are about 2.5 minutes apiece and it's pretty funny.

Still left to watch:
  • Gundam Unicorn episode 1
  • the recent Darker than Black OAV episode
  • Canaan (13 episodes)
  • Fate/Stay Night (24 episodes, and a 6 minute special)
  • Kiss x Sis OAV (4 episodes) (saving to watch when 4th episode comes out, also why the hell did they start numbering the episodes from zero)
  • Macross Frontier (25 episodes)
  • Maria Holic (12 episodes)
  • Rozen Maiden (first season (12), OAV (2), second season (12))
  • possibly Shingetsutan Tsukihime, just to see why the collective anime community denies its existence (12 episodes)
  • Strike Witches (TV (12) + OAV (1))
Currenly airing series I'm archiving for marathon enjoyment: (yeah, it's all ecchi)
  • B Gata H Kei (12 episodes)
  • Kiss x Sis TV (13 episodes)
Currently airing series that I'm watching as the episodes come out:
  • 13 episodes of Promised DayFull Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood
  • K-on!!
Other stuff I shouldn't forget:
  • At some point this year there's going to be a Gundam 00 movie
  • Whenever Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu is released on bluray, it would be nice
  • There's another Negima OAV episode due out any fucking time now god dammit
I think that's about it.  The reason for this huge backlog is that I look at the number of episodes in the series (or the total size of the backlog) and get mistakenly overwhelmed.  A 12 episode series, episodes averaging 23 minutes, assuming I only watch the OP/ED once, will only take a little over 4 hours to watch.  Parents go to sleep around 10 PM, mom gets up at 4:30 AM.  Plenty of time, plus for the longer series I can start earlier and wear headphones.

That's a lot of stuff I have to watch, but if I space it out it should go by pretty quickly.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Linux Mangaka Moe Fail

I'll say right up front: the outcome of this review should be 100% obvious.  This linux "distro" sucks.

But why does it suck?

I'll admit, I wasn't expecting much.  In the end, I got less than what I expected.  What could one possibly expect from a linux distro aimed at anime/manga fans/fansubbers/scanlators?

Here is a list of the things I expected:
  • From looking at the screenshot on the page with the download link, I expected it to be a reskinned Ubuntu with a custom set of preinstalled applications.
    • I was right.
  • When booting the livedisc in a VM to test it out, I expected to log on automatically (as is done on a regular Ubuntu livedisc); click Install, enter account information, time zone information, etc. (as is done in a regular Ubuntu install); and have it install.
    • No automatic logon.  The livedisc has a regular user account, and root.  The regular user account cannot perform the install.  You must LOG ON AS ROOT to install.
  • After unmounting the ISO and rebooting the VM, I expected to be able to log on as the user I created during the install.
    • No such luck, the user wasn't present.  Furthermore, upon logging in (as root) I discovered that it was acting like the livedisc, even when installed to the hard drive.  The Install option was still present.
  • I expected the regular user to have access to the same application set as root.
    • Sadly, nope.  It has an entire Wine menu that only appears in the system menu when you're logged on as root.  This menu contains 7-Zip and Notepad, like there aren't readily available graphical archiving utilities and text editors for linux.  Only root has the Terminal in its menu.  A terminal is necessary for anyone with even a passing knowledge of Linux, some things are just flat out simpler and easier to do on the command line and it's simply not feasible to have a GUI frontend for every last command in linux.  Hell, even Windows has things you can only do from the command line.  Both of these could probably be fixed with enough poking around, but I shouldn't have to do that.
  • I expected Firefox to be, you know, a default install of Firefox.
    • What do you think?  Firefox was configured to look like Chromium.  Or maybe it was Chromium with Firefox's icon and "Mozilla Firefox" in the titlebar (yeah, it had a titlebar), who knows.  I didn't use it long enough to check.
  • Being targeted at the anime/manga community, I expected some anime wallpapers.
    • Well, at least I got this one.  Not that any of the characters were recognizable.  I found where they were (/usr/share/backgrounds) and copied them to the samba share on my server for reasons unknown.
Two for six?  Linux is much better than this.  You're better off installing whatever fansubbing tools you want to use on a default install of Ubuntu if you want an Ubuntu-based Linux install to fansub with.  I deleted the VM, didn't even dignify the ISO by seeding it back to a 1.0 share ratio, and promptly deleted the virtual hard disk and the ISO. Good riddance.


This Just In: Free Stuff is Hard to Resist

So in case you've been living under a rock, you probably know that Valve released Steam for the Mac earlier this month.  To celebrate, there's a special deal.  Portal is free.

Yeah, I know I'm about the last person in the world to post about this.  Whatever.

I love puzzle games and had wanted to play Portal at some point, but never really had the money to get it (unemployment ftl).  But since it was free and legit, why not?

Since getting it I've beaten it four or five times.  For a game that's as good as it is, it's pretty short.  I've got all the achievements I really care to get.  Basically all of the ones you can get playing the game normally, and the achievement for finishing two of the advanced levels.  I might do the rest of the advanced levels, but it'll take some time.  The challenges I might do (I have bronze on one of them, for doing level 13 in 9 portals, and I know how I can shorten it by at least couple more), but it's not my top priority.

All of the achievements except for Camera Shy and Transmission Received I got on my first playthrough.  My second playthrough I went for Camera Shy and somehow came up two fucking cameras short.  On my third playthrough I got that as well as Transmission Received.

Earlier I was playing around with the console, giving myself all the Half-Life 2 weapons (despite not actually owning HL2), getting the upgraded portal gun early, having fun with noclip, etc.  I noclip'd my way to the room with the cake (and companion cube) in it that you see at the end, as well as the outside world area they have for that one scene.  It's kind of weird, the cake makes metal noises if you hit it with the crowbar.  Also, if you move the companion cube, it doesn't move it back before the end cutscene.  Just for kicks I noclip'd to the top of the shaft that you fly down just before seeing the cake in the cutscene and grabbed the chair on one of the ledges.  Put it by the table with the cake.  Yeah, noclip is fun.  Though you do have to watch how you use it, or you could end up like this guy.

Portal is pretty good, and it's still free until the 24th, so if you don't have it, grab it while you can!

On a side note, I would love to use a jump break but Blogger isn't putting the "click here to continue reading" link in the post.  It still properly does the jump break, but...  yeah.  Also, I swear that I enabled the thing at the bottom of the post that says "Posted by XT-8147" but it's not showing up.  Blogger's full of bugs in that area, on Random Bullshit I disabled the comments link early on in the setup, and re-enabled it later but it never showed up.  Reactions haven't worked in either place.  What the fuck.  Do they even test their features?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

California Pizza Kitchen Frozen Pizza

I mentioned a while back that their flatbread melts were pretty good, so I decided to try one of their pizzas.  After carefully considering my choices, I made my decision and ended up with a "limited edition" Cheeseburger pizza.  Basically it has little balls of seasoned ground beef, diced tomatoes, onions, and cheddar cheese on it.

The box says "Crispy Thin Crust" and oh man, they're not kidding.  The crust is extremely thin and crisps up nicely in the oven.  Most likely due to the lack of substantiality in the crust, it also sports a rather quick cooking time: 11 to 13 minutes at 425°F.

Size-wise, it clocks in at 10 inches.  Not large by any standard, but it might realistically feed a couple people if they aren't completely hungry.  The listed serving size is a third of the pizza, which means you'd have to cut it into six slices.

It tasted pretty good.  I may have to get another if they have one that isn't an ultra-thin crust, just so I can actually taste their crusts.  If their crusts are made from the same bread recipe as the bread for their flatbread melts, it should be perfectly fine.  There just wasn't enough crust for me to really get an idea of its taste.

They have several different varieties, of course.  My next decision will still be somewhat difficult.  It would be really nice if they had one without the onions.  The onions on the Cheeseburger variety were caramelized, and actually tasted kind of sweet, which didn't sit right with the rest of the pizza.

This pizza was one of those with directions telling you to place the pizza directly on the rack.  I've made my opinion about that clear before, but that opinion was based on the hypothesis that if placed directly on the rack, oil would drop down onto the heating element of the oven, potentially starting a fire.  So with this pizza I decided to test that out and see how it went.  I put in the flat pan with aluminum foil on it like I usually do, but I put it on the lower oven rack, below the pizza.  I figured this way I could see what, if anything, it dropped.

When the pizza was done (as per the directions, the cheese was melted and the crust was golden brown), I inspected the pan to find it completely clean.  I'm now shifting my hypothesis to what I hope is a reasonably educated guess that the oil amount will differ depending on the brand and variety of the pizza.  This is one of those win-win experiments.  If I prove myself right, I'll be happy that I was right.  If I prove myself wrong, I get to have a bunch of pizza in the process.

The only real problem that I encountered is that the 10 inch size of the pizza resulted in it needing fairly exact placement on the oven rack, or one side would hang slightly below the rack.  I had to move it while it was cooking and add extra time to compensate for having opened the oven.  This was basically an oversight on my part when putting it in the oven, but if it was even just a quarter inch wider the issue would have been nonexistent.

Overall, it was pretty good.  As I previously mentioned, I'm going to have to try out some of their other varieties to get the whole picture.

Classic DOS Games: Windows 3.1? Waitaminute...

Yeah, Windows 3.1 runs quite well in DOSBox.

Just to stay on the safe side of legality, I can't offer a download link.

Setting it up takes a little work.  With the right drivers you can get actual semi-decent video modes.  I have it running 1024x768 with 16 bit color.  The resolution can go higher, but my monitor doesn't go much higher...  lol ancient CRT

Anyway, everything you remember about Windows 3.1 is there, because, it IS Windows 3.1.  Just in case you think you forget, I'll mention Hotdog Stand and canyon.mid.

Here's a screenshot of me not actually using the Hotdog Stand theme (it's deliciously eyebleeding), but I am listening to canyon.mid.

And here's a screenshot of me using the Hotdog Stand theme, but not listening to canyon.mid.

While Windows 3.1 technically isn't a game, it does come with Solitaire and Minesweeper (which you already have installed in your undoubtedly more recent version of Windows), and if you install the Win32s addon that allows it to run 32 bit programs, you'll have Freecell (which again you probably already have).

However, if you have old 16 bit Windows games that act weirdly in a more recent version of Windows, this is the perfect environment to run them in.  Unfortunately I don't believe networking works in Windows 3.1 under DOSBox.  Also notably absent is scroll wheel support.  Welcome back to the good old days, when mice maybe had two buttons, were blocky non-ergonomic devices, and connected via 9-pin serial ports.

Facebook, or...

As I mentioned a few days ago, I went through the process of deleting my Facebook account, and I'm currently in the 14 day period where if I log in again the request gets cancelled.

I check my email today and what do I find?  An email from Facebook.  Or at least it claims to be from Facebook.  I'm not sure.  Gmail automatically put it in my spam folder and warns me that it's probably a phishing scam of some sort.  The message itself just says that Facebook Support sent me a message on Facebook.  That I'd have to log in to read.  Resetting my account deletion in the process.  Even if it is legit I'm not going to try to log in until the end of the month.

Naturally I'm curious about it though.  Not curious enough to do anything stupid, but...  intelligently curious.  Here are the full headers of the message (with my email address omitted):
Delivered-To: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX Received: by with SMTP id p16cs39443qag; Sat, 15 May 2010 07:34:15 -0700 (PDT) Received: by with SMTP id p42mr3803647ybc.77.1273934054897; Sat, 15 May 2010 07:34:14 -0700 (PDT) Return-Path: <> Received: from ([]) by with SMTP id u10si9523406ybe.65.2010.; Sat, 15 May 2010 07:34:14 -0700 (PDT) Received-SPF: softfail ( domain of transitioning does not designate as permitted sender) client-ip=; Authentication-Results:; spf=softfail ( domain of transitioning does not designate as permitted sender) Date: Sat, 15 May 2010 10:29:14 -0600 To: <XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX> From: Facebook <> Reply-to: noreply <> Subject: Facebook Support sent you a message on Facebook... Message-ID: <> X-Priority: 3 X-Mailer: ZuckMail [version 1.00] X-Facebook-Notify: msg; from=199712451176974; t=107020307133; mailid=e1AF7473b36e5dA64BbA0502eA00cA68 Errors-To: X-FACEBOOK-PRIORITY: 0 MIME-Version: 1.0 Content-Type: text/html; charset = "UTF-8" Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
Nothing in there looks legit to me. Especially not the part saying " doesn't designate as permitted sender". Besides, what the hell is

Also, a minor note: When setting up my Facebook account to begin with I went in and disabled everything it wanted to send me an email for, and just before deleting it I double-checked to make sure everything was unchecked; indeed it all was. So if this is legit then they ignore those settings when you tell them to delete your account.

One last thought: if Gmail hadn't blocked images (I have it set up to do so by default) then me loading the images contained in the email off of their server might in theory have reset my deletion process. I say "in theory" because I used a separate browser to log into Facebook, and I also have BlockSite configured to block anything from Facebook's domain and all subdomains, secure or not secure.

Mille Bornes

Every now and then my parents and some of their friends have a "game night" where they get together and play random games.  These are usually card games.  Most of the time these game nights are on Saturdays, which usually means I'm at the CAINE showing, but since the semester's over, I could play.

We started with Mille Bornes.  It's french, I think it means 1000 miles or something.  Basically everyone's in a car and you're racing to your destination (which is actually only 700 miles away, but when you reach that point you can opt to extend to 1000 for extra points), but you can throw hazards in each others' way to try and stay ahead (or catch up).  The whole thing is played over multiple hands which get scored and the ultimate goal is to get 5000 (or more) points.

I played it a lot as a kid, but I don't remember it being this bad.  Maybe it was just a really bad shuffling job or something.  Since we had so many people we were playing in teams, and my dad and I ended up in a car accident with no repair card available because the other teams had all six of them.  So we were stuck basically.  There's no mechanic for stealing cards from people, every hazard only has one specific type of remedy card, and the rules expressly forbid shuffling the discard pile when the draw stack runs out.  There's actually a point bonus for winning after the draw stack runs out, but I'd rather get all those cards back.

So I got to thinking how I'd fix and modify this flawed french card game.  This is what I've come up with:
  • Combination remedy cards: These will fix either of the listed hazards, but not both.
    • Full Service - fixes Car Accident or Out of Gas
    • Full Repair - fixes Car Accident or Flat Tire
    • SUV Driver - fixes Car Accident or Speed Limit
    • Roadside Assistance - fixes Out of Gas or Flat Tire
    • Gas 'N Go - fixes Out of Gas or Speed Limit
    • Burn Rubber - fixes Flat Tire or Speed Limit
  • Hazard delay cards: These let you continue for a short distance with a hazard and are discarded once that short distance has been travelled.  The purpose is to give you more chances to draw the hazard's remedy while letting you get a bit more distance on the board.
    • Gas Can - can go 25 miles before refueling (let's be realistic about gas mileage here, given that gas cans typically only hold one gallon)
    • Compact Spare - can go 50 miles before changing tires
    • Bribe - can go 50 miles before having to obey the speed limit
    • Colorblind - can go 50 miles before having to stop
    • Demolition Derby - can go 50 miles before having to repair your car
  • Instant Remedies: These can be played as shit happens to you to prevent it (they cannot be pre-played), are discarded after use (unlike safeties), and have downsides.
    • Close Call - prevents a car accident, but you become stopped
    • Use Caution - prevents a flat tire, but places a speed limit on you
    • 5 Bucks' Worth - prevents running out of gas, but you become stopped
    • Above The Law - prevents speed limit, but you become stopped
    • Illegal Light Control Device - prevents stop, but places a speed limit on you
On second thought it would be really tough to work a usable card-stealing ability in. The combination remedies would put enough extra cards in the deck that it probably wouldn't be needed. The downside to all these new cards: the deck would be even bigger, and the hand size would have to increase (probably by two, to eight cards).

I had an idea for another hazard, but when trying to implement its remedy found that it's not viable.  There was going to be a Bridge Out card that would make the affected player lose their next turn, but the remedy would have to be played on the lost turn (defeating the point) and if immediately followed up with a Go card would have the same effect as just losing the turn.

I briefly considered making it "lose two turns" but it would be even more pointless since you really couldn't play a remedy.  Remedyless hazards don't exist in this game and I think it might be bad to institute one.  Even though there would be a fifth safety card to prevent it from ever happening.

There are other good names for "lose a turn" hazards though, such as Fruit Stand, Rest Stop, Hotel Stay, Restaurant Stop, Amusement Park, Traffic Jam, etc.  Maybe instead of having generic "Stop" cards, these could be substituted and just have that effect instead.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Chrono Trigger Developer's Ending

I don't know what level should be the minimum for attempting this, but anything where you have max HP/MP without the use of items and all required weapons/armor/accessories ought to do it.  You'll only have Crono and Marle for the fastest route to it, so you only have to worry about them.  Also, you need some MP-restoring items (HyperEthers make it easy).

The setup for Crono is as such:

Weapon: Rainbow
Helm: Haste Helm
Armor: Nova Armor
Accessory: PrismSpecs

The setup for Marle is as such:

Weapon: doesn't matter, she never attacks
Helm: Safe Helm
Armor: PrismDress
Accessory: up to you, I used the Speed Belt since I didn't have her speed maxed out

Start up New Game +.  Head to the Millenial Fair, bump into Marle, get pendant, Marle joins party.  Now set up equipment, and set the menu and battle cursor position remembering on.  Talk to the guys at the entrance to where Lucca and Taban are preparing their teleportation machine, then head south one screen and talk to the woman sitting on the fountain.  She'll talk about Lucca and Taban's show and then say they should be ready by now.  Go back up there, wait for Marle to choose what she wants, and then hit the sparkle on the right pod.

Lavos will appear right away, and Crono will be ready.  Cast Luminaire until the first form dies.  If you're lower level (or rather, Crono's magic stat is lower), this may take a while, but at 65 magic (where he was when I did it), two Luminaires will seal the deal.

Run through the passage to the second form of Lavos.  Continue your Luminaire spam.  Keep Marle ready, and have her refill Crono's MP as needed.  Eventually the second form will die, and it's on to the third and final form.  It's important to finish this fight with Crono having more than 12 MP.

Right away in the final form, have Crono use Confuse on the left bit.  If his attack power is high enough it'll die instantly, if not, repeat until it does.  Marle should continue to keep Crono's MP full.  Once the left bit is dead, wait for the Lavos core to shut its defense off and then resume Luminaire spam.  Eventually the left bit will come back, so kill it again.  Shortly after this you should win.

Then it's on to the ending.  You have to talk to everybody.  There's a battle in the prison, have Marle use Ice 2 and if her magic is high enough it'll end the fight immediately.  Once you've talked to everyone, return to Gaspar and he'll open the door to the Dream Team.  Once you've talked to all of them, the credits will roll.

The equipment setup does have one caveat: Marle doesn't have status protection.  At one point during the fight with Lavos' second form I had to have Crono use a Heal on her.  Whether or not status effects get inflicted is purely luck.  If you're having a hard time with it, swap her helm for a Vigil Hat.


Quitting Caffeine Again

I already quit it once.  From about 8th grade on to my first year of college (and a few years after that, don't remember exactly when I quit the first time) I was pretty much absorbed in the stuff.  Quit by substitution, every time I had the urge for caffeine I'd consume something non-caffeinated instead.

That worked out beautifully.  I still had caffeinated drinks when I went to restaurants with friends/family, but my consumption was drastically lower.

Then I discovered Coke Zero, and back on the caffeine machine I went.

This time, quitting is part of a larger project of drastically cutting back on my soda consumption as a whole.  I've procured some Fanta Zero (which is pretty good) and I'll be gradually substituting it in for the Coke Zero.  Then I just have to reduce the amount I consume and we'll be good.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Lavos Dies!

Finally got off my ass and beat Chrono Trigger.  Farmed power tabs off of the battle with the lone Tubster in Black Omen and uselessly maxed Marle and Lucca's power.  Charmed a ton of speed tabs and got several more people to max speed.  The only stat that's difficult to max is magic since there are comparitively few magic tabs in the game.

The PlayStation version saves an extra save it calls a System File when you beat the game.  This unlocks things in the Extras mode, and getting the other endings will fill in the remaining stuff.

Now, about the battle with Lavos.  It was a pushover basically, given that my characters were all max level.  I used Crono, Ayla, and Frog.  Crono spammed Luminaire with the help of the Gold Stud accessory that cuts MP use by 75%, Ayla used items (and TripleKick on occasion, it pwns the left bit in Lavos' final form) and Frog cast *Heal as needed (mainly on the fights vs. Queen Zeal and the Mammon Machine, I fucking hate Hallation) and restored Ayla's status after Lavos' second form disabled her status protection.  There were no deaths at all, no panic moments, nothing.

Now I get to go through in New Game +, get more magic and speed tabs, and get the other endings.  I'm tempted to go do the developer's ending right now, but I think I'll wait.

Thanks to Square and Enix (they were separate companies back then) for making an awesome game and then porting it to the PlayStation.

Edit: well, I lied.  I went and got the developer's ending.  Which entails beating Lavos with just Crono and Marle.  It was easy.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Hard Mode speedbooking is Really Easy

In Guild Wars, speedbooking is the process of doing three of the Eye of the North missions in Hard Mode in order to get a Hard Mode Hero's Handbook to the minimum number of filled in pages required to turn it in for reputation.  There are four reputation titles and they all have various useful PvE-only skills linked to them, so naturally having a higher rank means these skills will last longer, deal more damage, and in general have greater effects.

Speedbooking is accomplished with a specific build for each mission.  You have three heroes (and for two of the missions, a henchman) that do all the work for you.  You, the runner, actually kill yourself off intentionally so you can switch to their points of view and flag them around the map more easily.

The two missions that use a henchman also use the same build.  I could go to great lengths describing this set of hero builds, but that's already been done on PvXwiki.  So here I'll just summarize, and then if you want the nitty-gritty you can read the build's wiki article.

The three missions you're doing are Against the Charr, Curse of the Nornbear, and A Time For Heroes.  The most difficult part of Against the Charr is actually starting the mission, since you have to run to the Vanguard Helmet in Grothmar Wardowns and confirm that you want to enter the mission.  Oh and it's surrounded by enemies.  Once you're actually in the mission, the only enemies that have to die are the bosses at the very end.  You flag your heroes to the south and run into a nearby group of Charr to get them to kill you at the beginning.  There's a completely enemyless route you can flag the heroes along.  Once there you space your heroes out a bit and use the henchman to lure the bosses, then sit back and watch 'em die.

In Curse of the Nornbear, the only enemy that's required to kill is the Nornbear at the very end.  Sometimes there will be a group of Mandragor in your way at the beginning, so you'll have to kill them off.  Since their spawn isn't guaranteed you have to abuse skill mechanics to kill yourself.  Equip a low health armor set (loaded with superior runes, I use the set I crafted for use with the build for A Time For Heroes which puts my health at 105), change to a Mesmer secondary, and put enough points into Illusion Magic so that Illusion of Weakness will deduct more health than you have available.  Then flag the heroes/henchman out of range and use Illusion of Weakness to kill yourself.

Curse of the Nornbear is what I consider to be the most difficult of the three missions.  The Nornbear is fairly strong and can easily kill your heroes/henchman if they aren't fighting back, and you have to spawn it without fighting it twice before getting to the place where the battle is actually supposed to take place.  Once you get to the end it dies pretty quickly, as when it spawns there it's friendly for a short period of time, during which it gives a short speech.  You can use this short time to place the flags for your heroes/henchman and precast all the things that need precasting.

Then it's on to the easiest of the three, A Time For Heroes.  Here, the only goal is to kill The Great Destroyer.  Normally it's very difficult to kill, but this build turns it into The Great Pushover.  Here you have three monk heroes stand in a fairly specific spot and bond the everlasting fuck out of you.  To assist in this you wear the set of armor I mentioned earlier with five superior runes to lower your health as far as it goes.  The heroes are maintaining Protective Bond and a load of other enchantments (13 in all, though some are duplicates) on you, which results in the damage you take being completely negligible.  Then you run through a ton of lava and spam some Assassin attacks on The Great Destroyer until it dies.  You have to interrupt one specific skill (Lava Wave) an average of two times every time you do the mission, but it's not that hard and it doesn't interrupt your attack skill spam since you use a shout to interrupt it.  The exact build you use can be used by any primary profession (I'm using it on my Ranger), and changes slightly according to each primary.

The thing about A Time For Heroes you might not understand is a very strange quirk with the way Protective Bond works.  When multiple people maintain it on the same target, the energy penalty for reducing damage is split between them.  Having three heroes maintain it on you means that each of them only loses one energy per instance of damage reduction instead of two.  Since they're all maintaining Essence Bond on you, they get one energy when you're hit.  Therefore...

Another quirk for A Time For Heroes is the maintained enchantments themselves.  To have your heroes actually maintain them, you have to shift-click each to disable it first, then tell the heroes to cast them.  Then the damage you take will be negligible (in fact, I'm usually paying so much attention to The Great Destroyer's skill usage and my own skill bar that I don't look at the damage I'm taking).

Speedbooking essentially entails doing those three missions over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.  Or if you can't set up the build yourself, paying someone else who has it set up to do it for you while you just stand there.

Normally I have screenshots but I turned in all five Hero's Handbooks I did this with already.  I almost feel like making a video of this build, since at the time of this writing the PvXwiki article links to a video of a different build doing this same thing.  I'll see if I can't get some screenshots up within the next couple of days or so.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

caine stuff

No, you're not getting your hidden board just for oldfags so you can be xenophobic and exclude all the newer members.  Stop asking me.  The more you ask the less I feel like doing it and the more I want to ask in return "What's wrong with posting on the regular boards?"

You forget that if it weren't for these newer members, CAINE would still be ten people meeting in front of Newcomb (or in the lobby, weather-dependent) for ten minutes, going to dinner, and then going back home.  That's not my idea of a fun night with an anime club.  There is no clear oldfag/newfag divide in CAINE.  No matter how you try to draw the line someone gets left out and it's extremely hypocritical to make an exception for just that one person.  That and "oldfag" and "newfag" are relative terms.  Each year's worth of members are oldfags in comparison to the next year's worth of members.

You also forget that I am one of the people you are mis-using the term "oldfag" to describe.  You have no unanimous consensus among your group because I disagree.  Also, I'm in control of what happens to the forums and it's a really horrible idea that would get shot down if you had the balls to bring it up publically.  Also, while I personally am against having an entire "introduce yourself" board, if the general club consensus is that one should be made, it shall be done.  Personally I think a stickied thread is enough, but I'm a rare responsible person in a position of power and thus I won't devalue the opinions of my constituents in favor of my own.  General club consensus is more than just Dave saying "make us an introduction board".

While I agree on some counts that this year's Jeopardy sucked, I don't agree on all of them.  There was way too much extremely niche stuff like seiyuu in there (that one seiyuu oricon chart bullshit clue comes to mind where L cheated and still got it wrong), and I half-agree about the CAINE History category not actually containing any CAINE History.  Your view of CAINE History is "before and including the time during which we had no meeting room".  This is completely inaccessible to most of our current members.  At the same time, it would have been nice to see some stuff in there that had happened previous to this year in CAINE, but wanting the info that current CAINE only knows as anecdotes from the club's darker days is extremely exclusionary.  Maybe one thing as the highest-point-reward double jeopardy clue, but nowhere else.

Also, it was my personal feeling that the western categories were way too difficult given that we only started re-integrating the western side of comics and animation this semester, and they will continue to be a minority demographic in the club for a while.  I'm not saying there can't be western stuff in there, but make the easy ones stuff that people with a base understanding can get and don't have a steep difficulty curve until the western demographic in the club is substantially larger.  There are those of us who really don't care, but as we step up our efforts to re-integrate that material into the club, the percentage of people who will actually know the extreme trivia questions will rise on its own and with the team format we use the problem is solved.

Re-integrating the western side back into the club will be really difficult.  It's not just as simple as telling people about it at the activities fair, having meetings discussing it, and showing a western series in showings.  There is a very large barrier to western stuff in CAINE currently that will never go away, even with our efforts to bring it back in.  I mentioned this previously, but CAINE still has a vast majority of anime/manga fans, most of which aren't terribly interested in western stuff.  Re-integration will have to go as slowly as we pick up new members who are primarily fans of the western stuff.  It will take a while.  It's not an instant thing, and it really can't go any faster than the increase in member interest.

Also, I hope to push into policy after the forum migration a rule that disallows scheduling non-club-sponsored events (such as parties at Tom's house, trips to King's Dominion, etc.) that conflict with meetings, showings, and official club events.  Forcing people to choose between going to a meeting/showing or some completely unrelated event isn't fair at all to the club.  When showings, which I will remind you are an official club event, get cancelled because Tom's having a party, something's wrong.  Not saying that Tom shouldn't have parties or that we shouldn't go to them, but they should be scheduled properly so that members will have a fair choice of what they want to do.  News flash: people who regularly attend showings will be unlikely to want to miss a single showing due to an unofficial event in another city taking precendence.  Especially when that showing happens to contain the final episodes of everything we're watching.

I know that this has been disastrous in the past, but I do think non-officers should have more of a say in what we watch in showings.  It's not much of an issue in practice since we're always open to suggestions (most of which happen informally), but having it codified into policy and made common knowledge would help tremendously.

Also regarding the forums, since they're largely my responsibility, it would be nice if the forums could have a dedicated section when we have policy meetings/votes.  The forums are basically integral to the club now, so my position as their most active administrator is similar to that of a club officer, and my area affects all club members (that use the forums) and thus deserves as much attention as showings, events, the collection, and the treasury.  Plus, if there's considerable desire within the club for a change or addition to the forums, I'd like to know about it so I can get it done, and having those desires presented formally while I take notes is the best way to do this.  I have a bad short term memory, so informal suggestions made at or after meetings/showings may not be remembered.

Once the migration is complete, deciding forum issues could in theory be done through polls on the forums, but not enough of the club uses the forums to generate relevant results.  While they're technically relevant to the subsection of the club that uses the forums, I'd prefer that all members know about potential changes to forum issues and know that as with everything else it's open to suggestion.  We should be pushing the forums upon everyone anyway since they're every member's way of staying in touch with every other member (and thus the club as a whole).  Perhaps remind people that if they don't have an internet name or one they want to associate with us, they can use their UVa email IDs as usernames and then just change their display name when they come up with something better.  Display names will still be supported after the migration, so it Just Works™.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

overdue facebook rant

A rant?  On THIS blog?  It's more likely than you think.

As of now, posts from here are no longer being syndicated on my facebook profile.  The reason I'd developed this stigma against posting random bullshit on here is because of that.  On Facebook my posts get a very targeted audience: people that know me.  This audience was targeted enough that I felt like I needed to limit what I said, hence I made Random Bullshit.

I have actually gone in and told Facebook to delete my account.  This is not the same thing as clicking the infinitely easier to find "Deactivate my account" link.  To find this link you have to go into Help and search for "delete account".  In case you want the URL (or if you're logged in and loathe Facebook enough to delete your account), here it is:

In Facebook's infinite wisdom, account deletion is not instant.  After navigating a maze of large red text, confirmations, password entry, and captcha entry, you are informed that your account will be deleted in 14 days.

Why did I do this?  Facebook has been making tons of changes to the way their privacy system works recently.  Under the guise of adding finer-grained control over who sees what on your profile, certain things are being made completely public, all the time, and you can't hide them.  The finer-grained privacy controls are indeed extensive, and are helpfully set to their least useful values by default, but can be tuned so that you know that only the specific people you want to be able to see each piece of information are seeing it.

Or so I think.  I went into the privacy settings earlier and discovered that two of them (I forget which, logging in will kill my account deletion request) had been reverted from "Only Friends" to "Everyone" for me.  I changed them back, and then changed a whole new page of options that I believe were added when they decided to link all of your profile information to pages just to piss you off.

Then I finally manned up, went in, and changed everything to its absolute most restrictive.  In most cases, this setting is "Only Me", which is buried under the "Customize" option.  Some things like allowing people to friend you can't be outright denied, but the most restrictive option will suffice.

Following this, I went on a crusade.  Removed the Blog/RSS entry for this blog and painstakingly deleted every single post it had imported one at a time because there's no mass-deletion option for notes that I could find.  So count the number of posts I've made since I believe sometime in 2008, and multiply that number of clicks by two.  Also deleted was every single picture I'd ever uploaded (I made a 50x50 profile picture containing the text "facebook does not respect your privacy" to use so I could delete my face from my profile).  I removed every single friend, and I untagged myself from everything I had ever been tagged on.  I even changed my username to "user" from its previous value of XT8147.  I didn't change my real name or delete my comments from anything, but in 14 days that shouldn't matter.  Comments will probably still be there with my name on them, but it won't link to a profile.

Anyway, back to why I haet Facebook.  Other than their glaring privacy issues, Facebook Beacons and Facebook Connect attempt to track your activity around the internet and link it back to your profile.  Even if you disable Beacons, the beacon page on Facebook's servers still gets loaded in the background, so they still know you did something.  As for Connect, it's their proprietary "alternative" to OpenID, and thus sucks balls.

They aren't content at all with the way the site ever looks or operates.  They're always changing something.  It's under the guise of providing a better user experience, but yet they ignore the feedback they get from the very users that have to experience their clusterfuck of a website.  Your news feed is not sorted chronologically by default.  It tries to pick and choose specific things that it thinks you'll find interesting and displays them in a purely random order.  You can still click "Most Recent", but you'll have to do that every time you log in.

They are trying to make their site operate more like Twitter.  It's obvious that they recognize that Twitter has a far superior interface.  This is because it's much simpler.  Sure, Twitter is basically just akin to a Facebook status update, but it's something I value very much in a service: it's dedicated.  It does only one thing, and does it well.  Facebook is this huge pile of shit that tries to be an instant messenger, Twitter, YouTube, your favorite image sharing site, a forum, newsgroups, a blog platform, event scheduler, email, and more.  There's no possible way it could ever do any of those things nearly as well as a dedicated service, because they've spread themselves way too thin.  They have so many features that are intertwined that they can't possibly do a serious upgrade on any one of them without having to perform updates on all the other features just to avoid breaking the site.

Facebook tries to coerce you into divulging every last little bit of personally identifying information you have.  They have profile fields for everything from your typical interests to your phone number and home address.  While you don't have to fill in anything for those, the fact that they have a field for some things basically means they want that information, and enough people use the site that it's very mathematically probable that someone will enter that information.  In fact, tons of people have.

Facebook employees have (anonymously) admitted that they never actually delete anything, ever.  This is very troublesome given that they ask for so much personally identifying information.  I hold the firm belief that the internet and real life should be as far separated as possible.  I've already slipped up and related my real name to the name I normally use everywhere online, but I'm beginning to use other names whenever possible.  Unfortunately, I can't really change my name anywhere because then my real name will become associated with whatever new internet name I come up with, so for sites like this one I'm stuck using this name.

I won't be importing all the posts from Random Bullshit over here or anything, but expect that blog to get fewer posts.  I may update the layout of this one (let's face it, it's been the same since I created it in 2008).  It'll probably resemble the layout on Random Bullshit, except without the opacity CSS since that does weird things with subpixel rendering/ClearType.  I'll leave the link to Random Bullshit from here just so those posts can still be experienced if you so desire.

So, things I didn't post about on here that I can now that I no longer have the stigma of having everything I post be guaranteed to be seen by people I might not want to be reading it include:
  • Chu-Bra!! (The anime about middle-school girls obsessed with underwear)
  • Kiss x Sis (I am very much into 2D wincest, not so much 3D/IRL)
  • B Gata H Kei (main character (female) has the goal of having sex with 100 guys while in high school)
  • well, this list was going to have more in it but that's really it
Also, in case you haven't been reading Random Bullshit, I now have a Twitter account.  It's taking the place of Random Bullshit, and more long-winded stuff will be here since I'm not limited to 140 characters here.

I have several unfinished posts sitting here, so hopefully I'll get around to them soon.