See My Complete Profile
Technomancer and troubleshooter by trade. Programmer by choice. Creator of Deviant Paradigm, somewhat by accident.
The Last Ten
Back to Blogging
Post Quarter Century
The Oncoming Week
Sweet God! It BURNS!
Finally Bottled the Wheat
Cut Things Close
The Big Gay Post
Halloween Party: Images 2005
Deviant Paradigm: Beware of Catgirl
Semper Nox Noctis
Semper Nox Noctis: Memoirs of the OverAlpha 1
-- Sapph's Blog --
-- Jonathan and Luke's Blog --
Fear No Darkness...
-- Jamie's Blog --
Little Green Footballs
-- My source for political news !!Conservative Site Alert!! --
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Happy Thanksgiving, Everybody
It's Thanksgiving here in the 'States, so I hope everyone enjoys their turkey (or fried Turgoosen, as my coworkers will have Friday -- I'm going home so I miss out *sad frown*). I'll be heading home to the family Thanksgiving and then on all the way to the folks' to help with some yard work. Honestly, I'm not sure I can really say anything better than Mark Steyn had to say, so why not bump on over there and check out his commentary on the holiday. If I think of anything exciting, I'll be sure to pop on back over and make note of it.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Unfiltered Entertainment Made Its Big Premiere!
The other night, my cousin's movie company, Unfiltered Entertainment, Inc., premiered their first feature length film, Declaration of Independents. You can see the trailer here on Youtube, as well as a short, Manna for the Damned, with it's trailer as well. They did pretty well, if I do say so myself. I wish I could point you some where to actually see it, but you'll have to hit the right film festivals, I'm afraid.
I'm no expert in filmmaking, but I've seen enough indie films (mostly vampire flicks) to be frightened by that section of Blockbuster. Usually independent films suffer from what my cousin (rightly) refers to as being too close to the subject matter -- you fall in love with what you have and are unwilling to cut it out. The "fifteen minute" idea, as one of his business partners called it -- "a good idea for a fifteen minute short, stretched a little, then a little more, until you've got ninety minutes." And that's absolutely accurate. Being acutely aware of the weaknesses of their medium, Unfiltered did a good job of avoiding it. Declaration manages not to drag, and while the trailer does highlight many of the funny bits, they actually tend to be the lead-in jokes for the scenes. Unlike so many trailers, the real jokes, the funniest ones, are omitted from the trailer. And I still think the voiceover was fantastic. Manna was also pretty good. It was pretty funny, a good short, though it left off at the end (which, I suppose isn't surprising for a short). It'd be kind of an interesting idea to take all the way out to its conclusion, so I have to hope that we'll see a feature-length take on it, actually. I think we'd end up with something along the lines of Idle Hands, which I really enjoyed, so I'm in favor of it.
So good job, Unfiltered Entertainment, it was a spectacular premiere. I hope the next big one will be the one for my cousin's movie, and that Ambition will be ready for it.
I've been depressed again lately. I don't know why, just been stuck in the deep dark recently. Loneliness again, at least for the most part. It'd help if my little pup-dog didn't express her love by biting me and barking in my ear. Or tearing up everything she can get her teeth on, particularly if it's expensive and doesn't belong to me. She ate another DVD from Blockbuster yesterday, and this time she actually wrecked the DVD and not just the case. *sigh* A dog is not a very good stand in for a girlfriend, unfortunately. Even a cute one that's mostly sweet like my little girl. And for some reason, I've had really bad heartburn today.
The boss says that we're going to be moving into the new building at the end of the month. There's just a few problems -- the rooms aren't painted yet (the plan is to do that in the next week, especially over Thanksgiving weekend, though I have to go home, so I won't be involved in that) and there's no wiring for the network either. The network cabling falls to me, so that's what I'm up to. I need to talk to the boss and see if I can bill some of these hours. It'd be nice to get something back for the eight hours I spent there today, and the time I'll be spending in the next couple weeks. It's not so bad, but it's slow going, especially by myself. It shouldn't take too long though, I got eighteen cables run today, and we're only doing what's absolutely necessary for the time being. With any luck, we'll be almost ready when we move in. Of course, we probably won't actually have Internet access when we move, which is going to make our work very difficult, so life's going to be interesting for a while.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Well, rather than getting things done yesterday, I finished some outstanding entertainment instead -- I finished reading Orson Scott Card's Speaker for the Dead and beat Bioshock on Medium for the "good" ending.
First, the literature. Speaker for the Dead is a good book. Not as good as Ender's Game, but the xenology of the world is fascinating, if far-fetched, and the story is well told. I also learned one important thing: never, never, NEVER write a book where half the dialogue is in a language your reader doesn't understand. Nothing is more obnoxious than looking at a passage and not being able to work out what the characters just said to each other because it's in Portuguese. Make some signal that they're speaking a different language or translate everything and do it accurately, or make everyone speak the language you're writing the book in. I know it was done for atmosphere, and for that effect, it's nice. But it's also intensely frustrating for the reader and takes them out of the world, out of the story. It's permissible if the main character doesn't understand the language either -- they're as lost as the reader is, so the reader identifies with them and stays in the world of the story. But when everybody but the reader is in on the language, it's distracting. Stories work because the reader is in on details that the characters don't know (the "Look out behind you!" mechanism) or the reader and the main character are equally ignorant (the "I wonder what's going to happen next" mechanism). When the characters know something that the reader doesn't, and flaunts this knowledge to the reader constantly, the reader gets a little irritated by the constant condescension from the story. It's still a good story, and this is just one gripe, it's just one that really leaped out at me.
Now, Bioshock. Also a well told story, very interesting, but with some irritating bits related not to the story, but to the storytelling. There's going to be some minor spoilers here, so if you're holding off on playing the game, you read further at your own risk. If you haven't seen the Zero Punctuation review at the Escapist Magazine,
watch it, I have to agree with most of Yahtzee's commentary (then again, I played, and beat, all of his adventure games before I even knew he had this "column," so I'm inclined to like and agree with the man in the first place). Bioshock is really easy. Seriously, having the magic "come back to life" tanks spread around, used automatically at no cost just took the difficultly out back (what little there was) and shot it. Even barring those from the discussion, the only time you'll be in trouble is fighting the Big Daddies, and those go down pretty easy from ye old shotgun (seriously, don't even try anything else, the shotgun works phenomenally well, especially compared to your plasmids). The story is interestingly told. I was expecting Atlas to betray me for the whole game, so it came as no surprise when it happened. Ryan's last scene was spectacular. It gave me enormous respect for the man. The end was otherwise kind of "meh." It was much easier than the earlier parts of the game (no wonder they mess with your health and plasmids -- otherwise it'd be a cakewalk), especially Hephaestus, since it had much tougher splicers than the previous areas and a reasonably variety of types. The endgame had very little variety, though the splicers did take a reasonable amount of damage to go down. Most of the plasmids aren't as useful as you think they are. Electro-bolt is unquestionably the most useful of the bunch -- you'll be using it and Telekinesis throughout the game. I really enjoyed Insect Swarm, but that's just because I would laugh and shout "Bees!" every time I used it. The research was a nice touch, I approve of it heartily. The game's atmosphere is spectacular. In Fort Frolic, when you first realize the "statues" are spider slicers, it's delicious. One was in a chair, facing a corner. I upgrade my shotgun, turn around, and it's standing right behind me. If I hadn't mastered the reflex of "surprise = shoot the thing in the head with the shotgun," I'd have jumped out of my skin. Fort Frolic was probably my favorite area. It was so varied and actually kept me on edge.
The thing that hobbled the game the most was a disrespect for the intelligence of the players (maybe they were concerned about making it accessible for the XBox Live crowd) and an incredible laziness by the developers. I actually got an unsolvable hacking minigame. It's one thing to make them impossible because you have to flip the first piece, that's just irritating, but if I was a little quicker, I'd get it. But to have one that you can't solve at all? And before you get started -- no it's wasn't maximum difficulty either. The puzzle was around a 30% difficulty, still clearly green but pushing into yellow. How hard is it to work backwards and make sure that your random puzzle HAS a solution? Not very. It's not half as hard as writing a real AI, and they did enough of that. Whoever decided that they didn't need an inventory screen shouldn't be allowed to work in game development ever again. I would have loved to have the ability to figure out how much of the various invention ingredients I had (though that really didn't matter and by the end I had tons of crap and nothing else that I needed to build). But most of all, I wanted a way to easily sort my plasmids without having to visit a gene bank and going through the whole dang thing. That wouldn't be an issue except they resort the plasmid list every single time you get an upgraded plasmid or they jank around with your plasmids (this happens several times at the end alone). So once you finally learn the arbitrary order they put the plasmids in, they just go and reorder them on you. The only reason I had trouble with the last boss fight at all was because I couldn't find the plasmids I wanted (Electro-bolt for the curious), though in retrospect, I should have just ignored the plasmids entirely for that fight. I don't want the ability to switch in and out plasmids and tonics, that's what the gene bank's for. I just want to be able sort the list of plasmids I've got equipped and put the ones I really want to use close to my fingers. The developers also appear to think I'm retarded, because when I go through a hallway, get a thing, and then turn around to find a batch of bodies in the hall and splicers have spent the last third of the game pretending to be dead (it worked the first time), they don't seem to expect that I'm going to start shooting the "bodies" in the head. At least, that's what it says to me when it puts up the "The machine you just damaged was hacked and friendly to you" message when I shoot them. It just doesn't make any sense at all. Like I said, lazy development that has no respect for my intelligence. But apart from that, it's a lot of fun, probably one of the best games to come out this year. Check it out.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Advice for Using Dreamweaver
At work I'm deeply involved in the redesign of the website for a trendy clothing store, which includes creating a shopping cart. This is not as much fun as it sounds. We're working with a local design company, who are good at what they do, but let's just say that web design isn't their strong suit. (You know how the Internet likes rectangles and only really supports the four fonts that your Typography teacher would fail you for using in class? Yeah, this design completely ignores both of those facts.) What's worse is that it's by far easiest to put the design into Dreamweaver (my coworker Emo's job) and then make it dynamic and stuff (my job). I say that's "worse" because a.) we have an old version of Dreamweaver and b.) the use of Dreamweaver isn't taught properly by anyone in the entire world.
Let me give all you web designers a hint -- use Dreamweaver for design. It's the best WYSIWYG editor on the market, hands down. It generates almost human readable code (it doesn't like carriage returns very much). But only use it for design, and then don't touch it again. You'll be tempted to use advanced Dreamweaver things like layers. DON'T DO THIS! Dreamweaver layers are an atrocity that create unreadable code that's impossible to maintain or change. They shouldn't be taught. Unfortunately, all art classes that cover Dreamweaver seem to love the use of these things. They make me cry myself to sleep at night. The other problem with Dreamweaver (which might be better in a newer Dreamweaver) is that it's obsessed with absolute positioning in CSS. Literally everything on the page is absolutely positioned, which allows it to put things all over the place in the code rather than according to logical flow (making maintenance and changes again, nearly impossible to do). There's also one huge problem with CSS positioning, absolute positioning in particular: Every single browser on the market handles it differently. And since Dreamweaver doesn't check (and neither will 90-or-so-percent of developers) you can tell, in an instant, which browser a developer wrote the code for (i.e. which one they tested). Now, I'll grant, the weirdness in positioning is mitigated by positioning everything, but if you need to make a major change, it's a nightmare. Fortunately, Dreamweaver won't molest your PHP too badly, so it's possible, sometimes, to pull the code back into Dreamweaver to make changes. Sometimes. So the positioning is irritating, but workable. But trust me on the layers. They're a bad plan. Yeah, I can see you tempted to use them. "But Avvy! They make the site react faster and use less bandwidth! Those are good things!" Yes they are, neophytus, but utility must always be balanced with usability and maintainability. Layers are not easy to maintain, and once you start having to do development and testing outside of the Dreamweaver environment, they hobble you and drastically reduce your productivity. They're a nice idea, but they just won't work out well.