Category Archives: Geek

General computer babble, or stuff about geeky companies like Apple or TiVo. Possibly links to nerd pastimes or cool hacks someone pulled off. Kind of a catch-all category for stuff that is about things I’m interested in but doesn’t quite fall under the “Journal” topic.

Turn Me Back Into the Pet That I Was When We Met

An undilluted flurry of silly linkage.

I Do What I Do Best, I Take Scores

If it seems like my updates are coming in rapid-fire bursts instead of nice, evenly spaced distribution that has something to do with the fact that my schedule is kind of wacky at the moment and as such I get about 80% done with most of my posts a day or two before I finally get around to finishing them so I end up spending short amounts of time on several entries at once since I’m catching up before I get new stuff written/started. Maybe I’ll figure out a decent schedule one of these days.

Disclaimer taken care of, time for some bullet points:

  • I came up in the silent auction that Lister held for some salvaged game stuff a co-worker was going to toss out: I bid $40 on a box of assorted Chaos Marines 40K figures and I picked them up this weekend to happily discover that had I purchased these models outright I’d be looking at over $250. Nothing like saving over two bills to make a Hamilton man happy.
  • I also scored a complete and basically mint condition Battlefleet Gothic box set which looks like it will be a lot of fun (and mercifully easy to paint the models since they’re just ships—I have enough difficult painting projects in the queue already, thanks!) plus Lister has an alternate set of rules that we could use to play some crazy battles like Starfleet ships versus 40K Chaos ships versus Imperial Navy ships. Just ’cause it’s fun to be a geek like that.
  • Speaking of Lister, we got a chance to meet his and Whimsy‘s new daughter, Delia. She’s an adorable and very sweet little girl and her parents look like they couldn’t be happier, which makes me happy in turn. It’s satisfying to see good things happen to good people.
  • Apropos of nothing, there is a new poll up.

Star Drek

Slashdot is carrying a story about the new JJ Abrams-directed Star Trek movie casting Matt Damon as a young Captian James T. Kirk.

Now, I’m not a huge Trekkie. I do like Star Trek—as a card-carrying geek it’s part of the bylaws—but I don’t obsess on it the way some folks do. Still, I like the original series (campy old SF TV gets the thumbs up) and The Next Generation was often very good and occasionally awesome. Deep Space Nine was intriguing but I sort of drifted away from it during the initial run and I haven’t made time to go back and watch it on DVD yet. Voyager and Enterprise somehow inspired no interest from me and I haven’t see a movie since Generations, probably because it wasn’t very good and didn’t bode well for the direction they were taking the series. Honestly if you think about it most of what Rick Berman has done to the series has made me like it a lot less than I might have otherwise. Roddenberry knew what he was doing. Berman’s a hack. And that ain’t opinion, baby.

Anyway the point is that JJ Abrams directing a Star Trek movie is intriguing although I fear that Abrams is becoming the new go-to pseudo geek that people tap because of his success with Lost to do stuff that is really wild but popular. The thing is I don’t know that he’s really that guy because what he has done is come up with two very interesting shows with some memorable characters. He’s a start-up guy: He has the good high-concept ideas that get other people’s creative juices flowing. That’s a good thing, entertainment needs people like that.

But what he hasn’t shown any indication of is that he can take existing properties or ideas (including his own) and come up with some way to move them forward past the initial idea point. Alias, anyone? Mission Impossibe 3 (which I haven’t seen but was a huge disappointment in the box office)? I’m not sure that handing the reins to him and saying, “Save our franchise, Mr. Abrams!” is really the correct path to take here.

Especially since they’re talking about doing the flashback thing.

Here’s something funny about SF: It really needs to go forward, as in, toward the future. It sounds strange since most SF is futuristic anyway, but there is more than just this one example of SF universes that have a hard time moving past their own initially fabricated realities. Pushing foward and making up new things to happen to a cast of characters is something that should be obvious in SF but frustratingly often isn’t. Star Wars prequels anyone? The problem lies in the fact that once you start flashing back and doing prequel-type stories you run into the problem of the anticlimax: Since we started with these characters (or this universe or whatever) at some point in the future, some of the dramatic license is sucked out of the stories from the relative past because to a certain extent, we know how it ends.

I once had an English/writing teacher tell me that flashbacks are only useful as tools which shed new light on events happening in the current setting. If they exist solely to flesh out a story that can otherwise be alluded to, better the allusion than the full on exposition in flashback form. What happens with all these Episode Ones and Temple of Dooms and Animatrixes is that things we don’t need to be told in gritty detail are fully fleshed out to the point where we physically can’t form a sense of suspense because we know how it ends. How can you fear for Indiana Jones’ life if you know he lived to experience the events in Raiders of the Lost Ark? Did anyone really need to know for sure that Anakin Skywalker lost most of his limbs and was put into the Darth Vader suit because of lava burning off his limbs? We could have lived our whole lives and never needed to know that particular tidbit, but it was supposed to be the ultimate climax of six hours worth of films.

In the end I don’t care if they cast Matt Damon or Tommy Lee Jones as a young James Kirk: I don’t want them to have to cast a young James Kirk at all. Move on, people. Let’s get on with the story: There are plenty to tell that don’t involve re-visiting characters that have practically been cast as 24/7 reality show stars as much screen time as they’ve had. Isn’t it maybe time for a new group of characters? Why can’t we have the next Next Generation?

Oooh, I’m Shaking

There is a new poll up inspired by the recent Focus on Fear entry (which has a lively—in relative ironSoap terms—discussion going on) and also inspired by the fact that I am a dork.

Other than that the only things of note are that Apple finally did the Bluetooth thing with their Mighty Mouse and you should check out this freaky precognitive letter to the editor from an ancient issue of Nintendo Power which foretells the coming of Super Mario Galaxy.

Oh, and in breaking news, Whimsy is apparently en route to the hospital, hopefully to dispel their new daughter from her innards and wean her from her parasitic ways into something that isn’t so easily comparable to a creature from Alien.

I may have spent too much time thinking about scary movies lately. Just a hunch.

An Uber-Newbie’s Guide to Syndication, Feeds and Saving Time on the Internet

The thrust of the two polls I’ve been running over the last few weeks has been to try and subtly feel out whether a simplified intro to the sometimes unintuitive realm of RSS would be useful. It’s hard to say for sure from the polls, but I gathered that there were enough people who either didn’t know about it or didn’t care to try and learn that it might at least be of some value to a couple of people. So here goes.

Part I: What is RSS?

RSS stands for “Really Simply Syndication.” Yes, it’s kind of a stupid acronym. Then again, most acronyms in the computer industry are pretty stupid. But ignoring what the letters stand for, what RSS really covers is a series of related technologies that allow the content of a site to be broadcast in a way that can be easily read and reformatted by other entities.

The technical mumbo jumbo isn’t really important, what is important is that RSS allows any site that has a Feed—which is a little broadcastable file that contains the content of a site—to interact with a Feed Reader. A Feed Reader can be one of many different things: A small snippet of code attached to something else like another website (see my Netflix and lists in the right hand column of for examples) or an email program or it can be a standalone application that does nothing else but read Feeds.

You will note that most people use RSS the way they use the phrase Kleenex: What they mean is any of several technologies, products and services that work to create, detect, read and deliver Feeds. RSS itself is just one type of Feed, specifically a specification for a Feed format. There are a couple of different versions of the RSS specification as well so you might see something like RSS 2.0 or RSS 1. Another common specification for Feeds is Atom. Generally speaking they are interchangeable and most Feed Readers treat them equally; their only differences lie in the nitty-griity technical details that you don’t need to bother with.

Part II: Why Should I Care About RSS?

RSS is cool, and I can prove it. How many web sites do you visit? 5? 20? 500? 2,000? Let’s say you’re a fairly typical casual web surfer and you check out 25 sites on a semi-regular basis. Some you check maybe once a week or less because they don’t update that much. Others update really sporadically but sometimes there will be a lot of new stuff in a short span of time (like, say, A few update all the time (daily) but at different times during the day and one or two update many times per day, every day.

How long does it take you to check 25 sites like that? If you went through all 25 and read the latest stuff, it could take you hours. What if there was a way to check only the sites that had new content? Maybe you could cut the time in half since only maybe 10 of the sites update regularly anyway. What if you could preview the new updates before you ever even went to the site? If several of the sites weren’t devoted to a particular topic and you didn’t always like what they posted, maybe you could save yourself another hour of wasted time.

This is why you should care about RSS: Because surfing the Web is fun but it is also a huge time sink. Anything that lets you surf without wasting time is a very Good Thing. RSS lets you know when the sites you like have something new to read. It lets you preview the new content and decide if you want to go ahead and visit the site. Some RSS Feeds and/or Feed Readers let you view the entire content without having to actually load the site. Mostly RSS gives you the chance to avoid wasting time checking on or loading sites that don’t have anything to say that you haven’t already heard.

Part III: How Do I Get Started?

The first thing you’ll need is a few Feeds. If you use a modern browser like Firefox, Safari or Internet Explorer 7 (which is still in Beta mode, by the way), there is typically a notification method whenever you visit a site that offers a Feed. In Firefox it looks something like this: An orange square with a “broadcasting” dot. The Safari icon is simply a blue rectangle with the letters RSS. IE7 is reported to use the Firefox icon, but I can’t be sure because IE7 Beta requires XP Service Pack 2 and I only have SP1. (It looks from this Microsoft article that the IE7 icon is a minor variation on the Firefox broadcasting dot icon.)

If you’re still using IE6, you may need to do a little looking. There are plugins available for IE (such as Pluck) which allow it to mimic the features of Firefox and Safari, but it doesn’t hurt to be able to locate RSS feeds on your own.

The easiest way to do this is to look for an RSS icon on a site. Most sites use either an icon that looks like the Firefox RSS icon or an orange XML button. Before you start getting confused, you can safely assume that in this case XML is completely synonymous with RSS; in fact RSS is a specific type of XML if you want to be technical. Usually clicking these icons will either bring you to a page that lists the various different Feeds the site offers or they will open the feed itself.

Looking at a Feed in a Web Browser that doesn’t actively support Feeds (like IE6) will result in something that looks like some sort of bizarre code. That’s okay, you don’t need to worry about what’s in the Feed, you just need to know how to get there. If you do see something like the code, you’ve located the Feed so now you just want the Feed’s address. The address is the same as a site address (…); this is what you’ll want to provide to your Feed Reader so it knows where to go look for the updates to the Feeds.

Other sites use a variety of different methods of describing their Feeds: They may have a variety of different icons, logos, textual links or in some cases, no indication at all that they offer Feeds. We’ll deal with those particularly insidious sites in a moment, but in the meantime the best thing to do is search over a site (especially in the fine print areas since Feeds are typically considered to be extraneous once you’re actually on the site) and see if you can find something that looks like it has something to do with RSS, Atom, XML, Syndication or Feeds. If you can locate the Feed and copy it’s address, you’re halfway there. If you can’t find it, your best bet is probably to email the site’s Webmaster and ask if they have a Feed and if not, what their problem is! Sites without Feeds are pretty rare these days, especially if the site has any kind of updating content. Also keep in mind that some sites have Feeds that are only for specific parts of the site and you may need to navigate to those sections before you can find any Feed links.

Part IV: So, Uh, What Do I Do With This Silly Feed Address?

So you have a Feed. You’re halfway there! Of course, having a Feed address is pretty useless unless you can provide it to a Feed Reader and have that do the heavy lifting for you. That’s what this is all about anyway, having software check your favorite sites for you.

Feed Readers these days are a dime a dozen. We’ll take a look at just three, but the basics will be regardless of which program you decide to go with. The three we’ll check out are Thunderbird (it is to Outlook Express what Firefox is to Internet Explorer and made by the same people), Firefox and RSS Bandit. This should show the three most common types of Feed Readers: Email client-style, browser-style and standalone.


Thunderbird looks a lot like the familiar Outlook Express. For our purposes we’ll want to Create A New Account in Thunderbird. When the Account Wizard comes up, select “RSS News & Blogs” and click Next. Name the account and click Next again, then click Finish. Now there should be a new item in your left hand pane that looks somewhat like a new Mailbox. If you right-click on the new account name and choose Manage Subscriptions… from the menu, a RSS Subscriptions box will appear. From here, click Add and when it asks for the Feed URL, paste in the Feed address you found from your favorite site (see Part III). Once you click OK, Thunderbird will verify the Feed and load the most recent content. If you close the RSS Subscriptions box and go back to your new RSS News & Blogs account, you should see a new item under there for the site you just added. It should have a number after the name in parentheses.

You should get used to seeing this parenthetical number when dealing with Feeds: They represent the number of new articles/entries for the site since the last time you checked on the Feed. In this case the Feed is new so you’ll see a fairly high number. If you open that site’s entry you should see the site updates listed like new emails. As you click through them, the headlines (subjects) will un-bold just like a read email and the content of the update will appear in the lower pane. Once you read or click on all the articles you should see the parenthetical number disappear. Next time the site updates and you check your Thunderbird, you will see a new (1) after the site name, indicating that there is new content for you to read. Sweet!

RSS Bandit

RSS Bandit is kind of like an email program, too, except that it is strictly dedicated to Feeds. RSS Bandit comes with some feeds pre-installed. You can click through and see RSS Bandit check the status of these feeds and return the most recent updates to those sites. To add your own feed (that you located and carefully copied the address for in Part III), click the New… button in the upper left. The Add Subscription Wizard will appear and you can click Next. The Wizard then asks you for a URL (address) for a feed. But that’s way too easy… you could just paste the address you have.

Instead let’s try Auto Discovery. Check the Autodiscover and Verifty Feed box (if it isn’t already) and instead of pasting in the Feed you found (you can do that later), type in PuckUpdate is a pretty cool hockey blog which up until recently didn’t have a clear way to locate the site Feed. Now hit Next. RSS Bandit does what a lot of the newer and more feature-rich Feed Readers does which is search an entire site for Feeds for you. After a progress bar indicating that the search is underway RSS Bandit will locate PuckUpdate’s Feed and ask you if you want to change the title or re-categorize the Feed. Click Next when you’re done and you’ll be presented with a login option.

Some advanced Feeds for sites with subscription content have enabled login routines to access their Feeds. This allows them to offer Feeds of their premium content without having to let non-subscribers read their for-pay stuff. In this case the PuckUpdate Feed (like most) is free, so you can click Next. RSS Bandit has several advanced features specific to the fact that it is dedicated to delivering Feed content. You can safely ignore most of the next screen but you may want to note the “Update frequency” option.

Feed Readers work by periodically checking on the status of the Feed(s) they are subscribed to. They can compare the copy they have most recently accessed to the version currently resting on the server and that’s how they determine if the site has been updated or not. You could set the update frequency to something very small like one minute. But that’s sort of like loading a web page and hitting the Refresh button on your browser once per minute. If enough people did this the site would probably crash! Most Feed Readers default to about once per hour, which is fairly reasonable. But you can customize this based on the site itself. For example, updates probably three times per hour. If you wanted to know fairly soon after an update hit that site, you might change the update frequency to 15 minutes. On the other hand, a site that updates weekly (but irregularly) might be set to check in once every 24 hours. And of course you can always change the update frequency after the fact.

The next screen talks about formatters: One of the key features of newer Feeds is that they contain much or all of the content of the site updates. This means that technically, you never have to visit the site in question in person; you just get the information/content and read it in your Feed Reader. Because of this you could also re-format that content however you want. In this case we won’t bother, so just click Next and then click Finish.

Now if you check under the Blogs folder in the Feeds pane on the main RSS Bandit window, you’ll see PuckUpdate listed there with all the latest hockey news. Aren’t you lucky?


So now you know how to successfully add a regular Feed to a Reader, you can do autodiscovery… what else is there?

Well if you use a browser like Firefox you can get “smart” bookmarks that will give you quick and easy links to new content on your favorite bookmarked sites. Of course, it accomplishes this through Feeds. In Firefox it couldn’t be easier: When you browse to a site that offers a Feed, the icon will appear in the right side of the Address Bar. If you click that icon, you’ll get an Add Live Bookmark dialog box. The Feed address is already filled in for you, all you need to do is give it a name and choose a location. If you choose Bookmarks Toolbar Folder the bookmark along with the Feed icon will appear below the Address Bar; clicking the title will show a dropdown list of recent article headlines and clicking one will bring you to the content in question.

If you need to know what the Feed address is for that particular Live Bookmark, right-click the bookmark and choose Properties… and the address is found under Feed Location. You can copy this and paste it into RSS Bandit, Thunderbird or any other Feed Reader that happens to strike your fancy.

Part V: Now What?

At this point you should be able to locate and use basic Feeds. Of course there is a lot more you can do from there, including adding Feeds to your own site or using Feeds on sites you may have set as your home page (like Netvibes or My Yahoo!). There are also sites like Feedburner that act as a buffer between Feeds and the sites they represent in order to provide site owners with detailed statistics about who is using their Feeds and how. Most of this is comparatively advanced but once you get comfortable with the idea of Feeds in general, you may never use the Web the same way again.

Happy Feeding!

Questions, comments or requests for clarification are welcome. Please leave a comment or email the author.

Take a Spin With Me

I have writings in the works. But they aren’t done. As an appetizer, enjoy these links.

  • I don’t know that one other person agreeing with me counts as true validation, but Curmudgeon Gamer agrees with me about how the PS3 shortage will shake out in terms of the XBox 360.
  • Nintendo fanboy site Infendo waxes critical on the strength of the Wii as a legitimate next-gen contender. I totally understand what they’re saying: The Wii is so goofy that it might as well be called GameCube2. The GameCube was a nice little bit of hardware and it had some of the best individual games of any system in the current gen. The sorry part was that nearly all of those games were first party (or based on first party licenses) and there were vast, sprawling expanses of time between those games when there was just nothing to do with the GC except watch it collect dust or play Wind Waker for the 12th time. I hate to say it but I don’t see third party developers jumping all over themselves to build games specific to one company’s crazed idea about what makes a fun game. None of which necessarily erases the appeal of the Wii as a purchase for gamers, but I thought the whole point was to get new gamers excited or convince non-gamers to give it a shot. I keep thinking of people like my parents who really like games in general and have even had some fun playing video games in the past as the people Nintendo is talking about attracting with this new system. Then I watch videos from E3 of people playing Wii games and I just can’t imagine my folks going out and buying one of these systems. And what really has me sighing and shaking my head is that what no one seems to be realizing is that the key point at the top of the sheet with 48-point bold font that should be selling the Wii is the Virtual Console and GameCube backwards compatibility. Every Nintendo game for every Nintendo system in one box. Yes, please.
  • It’s been hard to admit that I once really thought the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were cool. I could have coped with the cheesy cartoon show (which I didn’t think was too bad after all) and the original Turtles live-action(ish) movie was actually pretty good (having been lifted almost exactly from the original comic book). But the sequels to the movie were repugnant as they tried to blend the worst aspects of the cartoon with the lamest parts of the original movie. I’m not saying I’m ready to wave the TMNT-geek flag again just yet, but this 3D preview clip shows some real promise.
  • Don’t ask how I stumbled across this article, but I have to ask a couple of questions about the Ms. Wheelchair pageant and the ensuing scandal that rippled through its hallowed, storied legacy. First of all, they have a Ms. Wheelchair pageant? Call me insensitive but I thought the whole point of the handi-capable thing and all the surrounding Amercians with Disabilities brouhaha was supposed to get us all to believe that people in wheelchairs were just like everyone else and they could do whatever anyone else could. Assuming I’m not wrong, doesn’t it seem a bit contrary to that message to have to hold a separate pageant just for people with that particular condition? Also, there were only five contestants. And after all the protests and title-strippings, the third place girl won. Talk about your hollow victories: “Congratulations! You beat two other women to be crowned…!”

Doggedly Updating

I have much that I want to write about but I’ve been really tired the last week or so. The best I can muster is a few bullet points for now, begging your pardon.

  • So according to my poll (a new one is now up) I have (drumroll please…) eleven readers. Discounting those who are related to me and therefore read out of a sense of obligation, that means that I have attracted the attention of four whole people. Look out, syndicated columnists! Your time is nigh!
  • I went up to Seattle for a few days last week to hang out a bit with Fast Track. Seattle is a really cool place and I had a great time. A little advice for you, though: In Seattle, wait by the curb for a cab because those guys won’t call when they get to your place if they don’t see you standing around out there. I’m not sure why that is.
  • There is an interesting article on about not forcing players into your plots. It was eye-opening because I know that as a GM I tend to really work hard to get a super sweet story rolling when I finally sit down to design and build a campaign or adventure. I don’t want players to miss out on the totally rad scenarios I have cooked up so when they start misinterpreting clues or roughing up characters that were supposed to be allies, it is really easy for me to get frustrated and try to start the railroading process. My most recent foray into GMing was a good example because as the players went a bit off-track my descriptions started getting more and more vague until they followed the breadcrumbs back to the path where I could read from my pre-written exposition again. For me part of the problem is that I love to tell stories but I’m really very lazy so designing a role-playing game is a good way to tell stories like that because I only need to do the fun stuff which is come up with the general plot and a few key characters and then I get to both tell the story and get other people to help me with the details (the hard part) at the same time. But I like what the article has to say so for my upcoming Shadowrun 4th Edition campaign I’m going to try and make a conscious effort to roll with it a little more and be less tunnel-visioned when it comes to keeping the players on the rails.
  • Nik and I have been playing an obscene amount of Catan Card Game, specifically the tournament-style game from the Expansion Set. In a way the game plays like Magic-lite because you need two full copies of the game and the expansion so that each player builds their own custom 33-card deck. There are combos, strategies and all sorts of unique things to try in this variant and I like it quite a bit. The game’s mechanics are pretty well balanced to begin with (nevermind the 5th Settlement naysayers, we’ve had games recently that demonstrate this is not true including me winning soundly with only one additional settlement and Nik winning after falling behind 6:3 settlement-wise) and having to come up with clever ways to work the cards you have in your deck to your advantage works in some cases even better than Magic. I’ve always thought Magic worked best in closed-system style games (hence my propensity for Type-P or sealed deck style games of Magic) and since Catan is a closed-system, it’s neatly sidesteps a lot of the potential balance issues Magic runs into regularly. Of course Nik and I are only able to play this way because we borrowed Lister and Whimsy‘s copies of the game sets and we need to give those back at some point so we’re probably going to have to buy new copies of the game and expansion… I don’t see going back to the old style very often now that we’ve experienced the wonder of tournament style.
  • There is a pretty interesting article over on the Wall Street Journal about abundance paradox with Netflix movies. I’ve noticed this myself because Netflix gives me a greater chance to watch movies that I might otherwise only see if they A) happened to be on TV or B) someone else sat me down to watch. The article’s mention of weightier fare being common bottlenecks in queues is absolutely true: I see lots of the movies I put on my list because they earned high praise from a lot of critics or because they were nominated for awards (stuff like “The Constant Gardener” and “Millions”). But when it comes to seeing movies in the theater I tend to stick to mainstream stuff, mostly action and Science Fiction (at least when it’s up to me). But watching movies that are designed to make you think or that are more artistic for art’s sake requires a certain frame of mind: One that I don’t necessarily attain all that readily when I get home from work. The only thing I’ve been able to do is finally decide that I’ll give a movie two chances: If I fall asleep twice or if I just can’t make myself sit through it after a couple of attempts, I’ll send it back. I may re-queue it for later, but I’d rather try something else (considering there is essentially no drawback to returning it unwatched and in fact it is less economical to hang on to something you aren’t watching—an interesting reversal from the regular video store) now and see if I’m not more in the mood at a later date. This works pretty well but doesn’t address the real problem which is trying to get two people to find the right frame of mind concurrently to allow them to watch a movie they both want to see. Oddly enough Netflix works best as a solo venture and Nik and I have a lot better luck finding stuff to watch together when we hit the video store and can take advantage of the instant gratification factor.
  • So it sounds like my brother didn’t care for a lot of the music I sent him. It’s not a big deal, but it kind of surprised me how opinionated he was with some of the stuff. Back in high school he’d pretty much listen to whatever I handed to him and nod along thoughtfully without really saying much about it one way or the other. The only way I knew he actually liked anything was if he actively listened to it on his own accord. To hear him go out of his way to bash on Interpol and Wilco was somewhat unexpected not because the bands are that wonderful (though I happen to like them both quite a bit) but because it seemed somewhat out of character for Scott. I suppose this just means he’s got a bit of a curmudgeonly streak in him as well (not nearly as wide or as thick as my own of course). In his comments to me about the music he noted that he missed some of the rocking that indie bands aren’t necessarily as prone to do as mainstream rock acts; I realized that I missed the boat by passing over Muse as a possibility. Those guys totally know how to rock and do it all the time. He might have dug them even more than The Decemberists.
  • Speaking of music, I was on a roll there for a while keeping my library of songs growing at a steady but manageable clip. Then I ran across a co-worker who hooked me up with a veritable bounty of new stuff and it steamrolled my playlists with new and unfamiliar tracks. I’ve finally gotten to where I recognize a lot of what he gave me when it pops up on shuffle but I haven’t gotten back to expanding and exploring again. Sad, too, since Thom Yorke just put out a solo album I have yet to pick up and the List of Bands to Check Out When I Have Time that sits on my Netvibes home page has swollen to somewhere in the neighborhood of 22. I’m thinking of re-titling it “List of Bands to Check Out Many Years From Now When They’ve All Broken Up and I Don’t Have to Worry About Them Putting Out New Albums.” Doesn’t quite roll off the tongue so well.
  • There has been a lot of talk about TVs lately. This stems primarily from a new HD LCD set purchased by my friend Foster and the subsequent contemplation it initiated in HB about his own television situation. Then I went to visit Fast-Track and noted his jamma wall-mounted HD plasma TV and felt the twinge of jealousy begin to grow within myself. The problem with a new TV purchase at the moment was well summarized by HB last night when he noted that the real problem is that the technology is advancing at a rate comparable to that of regular PCs so that anything you buy now is going to seem positively ancient in three or four years. And the real rub is that for all the sweet potential of a snazzy new HD flatscreen, it isn’t just the cost of the device you have to consider it also has a lot to do with your signal inputs since without an HD signal to take advantage of the monitor’s capability, you might as well not even bother. The cable situation in our apartment is so abysmal that it hardly seems worth the effort to try and get anything fancier than what we already have. Then again, raw real estate would be an unparalleled delight since I’ve been tolerating a mere 30″ screen (at most!) for the last six years or so.
  • I fiddled ever so briefly with Fast-Track’s PC playing Battlefield 2… I should know better by now than to mess with gaming PCs. Every time I do so I start getting all these wild machinations about being able to play PC games (Half-Life 2 beckons…) which is probably not so great considering my specs for a gaming PC tend to run in the range of $900+. I did see an ad in Electronic Gaming Monthly that I picked up at the airport to flip through while I was waiting for my flight to board that had a pre-built machine of reasonable specs for about $400. The problem with that is the price there is identical to that of an XBox 360. I keep telling myself I’m going to hold out on any more consoles until the price drops but if I was willing to spend $400 for a PC, how much more of a stretch is it for the 360? Granted there could be (potentially) other uses for the PC besides just gaming where the 360 would be little more than another bit of clutter in the ol’ entertainment center, but you have to understand that logic such as this plays no part in my decision-making processes. I fear that at some point it may come down to “$400 for a PC, $400 for an XBox or horde the $400 away like a squirrel collecting acorns?” Those are the kinds of decisions that usually lead to buyer’s remorse because I have very little in common with squirrels.
  • Except cheek capacity. I can hold a surprising amount of matter (typically food) in my cheeks. I don’t usually use this ability as a storage mechanism, but I could.

I Wish I Nu How To Spel

I found an article about spelling reform through a link from a Slashdot that got me thinking a bit.

My dad and I have had a number of conversations about the English language and specifically as relates to spelling. It’s clear that English makes very little sense and despite the general griping on Slashdot about the laziness inferred by the spelling reformers I think the point brought up in the article by American Literacy Council’s Alan Mole that modern English spelling requires more rote memorization than logical application is completely valid. I’ve heard that English is one of the hardest languages to learn for non-native speakers primarily because it has little or no internal consistency and I believe it. Heck, it’s hard to figure out for me and I’ve been speaking it exclusively for almost 30 years.

The problem with the way the article presents it in a sort of backhanded tongue-in-cheek way by intentionally spelling words “phonetically” is that it gives readers the impression that reformed spelling would result in idiotic-looking writing. And I actually think the phonetic spellings they chose make it harder to read rather than easier. But that’s because they’re trying to use current alphabetical constructs to fabricate approximizations of phonetic sounds. The real problem isn’t with our spelling, it’s with our alphabet.

Assume for a moment that the ALC’s statement is true and there are 400 ways to spell 42 different sounds. What that suggests is that we need—at most—42 characters in our alphabet in order to have a completely phonetic and logical spelling system. But in truth some of those sounds can come from letter combinations, rather than individual characters. So if you set a couple of ground rules it isn’t difficult to pick out a few simple ways to improve the alphabet (some of these ideas are directly from my dad).

Rule 1: No character in the alphabet may be used for more than one sound on its own. Therefore the hard ‘k’ sound cannot be duplicated by ‘k’ and ‘c’.
Rule 2: No sound must require more than two characters to spell. That eliminates ‘eigh’ as a legitimate spelling for the sound ‘ay’.
Rule 3: Brevity is key so additional characters should not be added simply to convey a single sound; accent characters are preferred.
Rule 4: Doubling up letters is not an acceptable sound/character combination. “Book” and “Glass” should be adjusted accordingly.

So let’s review the alphabet with these in mind. First of all we can clearly dispose entirely of the letter ‘c': It is duplicated in its hard sound by ‘k’ and duped in the soft sound with ‘s’. It goes. ‘G’ is occasionally pronounced with the harder ‘j’ sound so we have to stop that lest we break rule one so ‘g’ is only as in “God” or “Great” but never as in “Gym.” ‘I’ is tricky because as a standalone word it is pronounced like the letter, “eye.” In use though it usually sounds like “ih,” for example “in” and “stupid.” We do still need the “eye” sound for “life” and “quiet.” I say this letter needs an accent, so Ï is now the way the first person pronoun is spelled and likewise lïfe but “pinch” and “grin” remain the same. ‘O’ is occasionally duplicated to make a longer sound. Likewise ‘e’ and ‘s’, but that’s clunky. Instead I suggest that lengthening sounds should be handled by an accent like “grén” and “bók.”

‘Q’ is tricky because it is sometimes used at the end of a work to approximate a ‘ck’ sound (usually for artistic merit) but usually it makes the “Kw” sound… only it requires a ‘u’ to do so. ‘P’ is fine as is, but ‘ph’ is no longer valid: It’s just ‘f’. I’m torn between making ‘Q’ simply have the ‘u’ built into its sound, eliminating it for the ‘kw’ sequence and introducing a replacement character altogether. For now let’s just say ‘q’ no longer needs the ‘u’ to complete its sound: It is complete on its own. ‘X’ is pointless since it only ever replaces ‘z’ at the beginning of a word (“Xylophone”) or it sounds like ‘ks’ so it gets the heave-ho. That leaves us with:

A B D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W Y Z and only two instances of accents to handle either ï sounds and to elongate certain vowel sounds (á, é, ó, etc).

A few other sound combinations that are standardized:

  • ‘Ch’ – With no more ‘c’ we need an approximation. ‘Tsh’ might work but that’s three letters and violates Rule 2. So we’ll just use ‘ts’.
  • Long ‘a’ sounds require a trailng ‘i’ as in “grain.” Short ‘a’ sounds need only a single ‘a’.
  • ‘L’ sounds at the end of a word are modified by a preceeding ‘e’ not a trailing ‘e’ as in “marble,” which would instead be “marbel”.
  • ‘Sh’ sounds will always be produced by those two letters and never ‘tio’ or ‘sio’ so it would be “vishon” and “eksklamashon” instead of “vision” and “exclamation”.
  • Some sample word spellings:

    Apel – Apple
    Ardvark – Aardvark
    Aimy – Amy
    Asosheaishon – Association

    Buter – Butter
    Brayk – Break
    Bït – Bite

    Dayvid – David
    Duns – Dunce
    Drém – Dream

    So what do you think? Anything I missed? Suggestions for improvement? Leave a comment!

    Oh hey, also vote in my poll. No registration required or anything. Convenient!

Slow of Mind

Not much to say today… yesterday afternoon was so rough that I’m still recovering today. I don’t even want to talk about it. Instead I’ll just give you a few links and call it a day.

  • Joss Whedon: Funny guy. The thing about Mr. Whedon is that while he does make a person laugh he manages to somehow use those laughs as a hook to get an insightful message across or somehow treat it as a building block to pretty high drama. It’s impressive and there is an eight minute speech about gender equality he gave at an Equality Now awards show which showcases this brilliantly.
  • I saw that Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies got picked up for screen adaptation. I’m reading the first book of the trilogy now. It’s good stuff.
  • Sweet Nethack T-shirt. That baby’s goin’ on the wishlist.
  • I ran across a pretty interesting game site called GamerDad which reviews games from the perspective of a parent who enjoys vids. It’s kinda cool because it’s by gamers but keeps the rugrats in mind both in terms of “Will your kids be able to play this game” and also “Can you play this game with your kids around?” It works pretty well and I think more video game reviews should reveal this kind of information since perhaps part of the problem with the ESRB ratings is that they don’t actually sit down and play through the games they rate. At least you can assume that a reviewer has played quite a bit if not all of a game before posting or publishing a review.

RSS > Email

I used to think Jakob Neilsen was really on to something. And don’t misunderstand, I still feel that his robot-like usability/simplicity mantra has some merit, but I think he’s getting to the point where he’s no longer really understanding technology and is instead stuck on a 1994 version of the usability meme and stubbornly refusing to budge.

Witness the latest interview on the Wall Street Journal where he discusses RSS. He says that email newsletters are better than RSS feeds because people look forward to them and they can be targetted at specific time periods. He also says that we shouldn’t use the ‘RSS’ moniker because people don’t know what it means and we should say “news feeds” instead.

First of all, go ask Richard Stallman about retroactively re-naming technology. GNU/Linux anyone? Anyone? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Perhaps ‘news feeds’ is a better term. In fact, I’d submit that he’s absolutely right since RSS is only one type of feed and it’s like saying “Kleenex” when you mean “facial tissue.” Still, RSS is easy to type and there are a lot of people who are already really used to calling it RSS. Chances are, the term won’t go away and it almost sounds like Neilsen is rejecting the technology because he doesn’t like the name.

What’s even more insane is that he goes on to trumpet the heavens about the benefits of email newsletters instead. Check it:

With the best ones, it’s like a service you are waiting for and expecting. The email newsletter comes to you; it arrives in your in box, and becomes part of the one place you go to get information. That’s the great strength.

Okay, let’s compare and contrast. I have about 35 news feeds on my Netvibes page. I also subscribe to about six or seven email newsletters including the iTunes weekly, TiVo’s newsletter, Ticketmaster’s events calendar and GameSpot’s “targeted” weekly. Of the newsletters I probably only ever really find anything of value in Ticketmaster’s and even then it’s probably on the level of one out of every three contains a listing for a show I’m interested in seeing and wouldn’t have otherwise known existed. My least favorite is GameSpot’s because no matter how much they try to cater to my preferences, it’s still fluffy, week-old cruft that I either don’t care about or already knew.

Of my 35 feeds, however, I probably read about 25% of the articles that come through. That’s a lot more value to me not because I get that much content from them but because I skip the other 75% not based on time-wasting skim-throughs to get to the good stuff but based on clear information gathered from the linked text and blurbs or fed articles that I can examine one at a time. Take for example my feed from RPGNet: There are probably ten to twelve articles that come through per day and many of them don’t interest me in the least. Yesterday a column came through with the headline and preview text: “Behind the Counter: A Busy Season. Origins, Sales Analysis, Online Sales, and GAMA.” No click. I don’t care about the details of distribution methods for gaming shops. It might have been an interesting article, but I didn’t feel like spending the time finding out, it didn’t sound interesting and I didn’t have to read more than 13 words to determine that. On the other hand the article whose feed read “Keeping Kosher: Balancing Characters and Stories. Character-focused and story-focused players in RPGs.” got a click. I didn’t have to run my eyeballs past the four screens worth of text on the distribution article to get to the character/story article like I would have in a newsletter. That’s great strength, and Neilsen is missing the point.

As an Aside…

  • I picked up Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow used this weekend. Man, I love this game. Castlevania has been sort of reinvigorated on the GBA but I never got around to trying any of the Aria of Sorrow/Harmony of Dissonance/Orchestra of Discomfort whatever they are. Now I kinda wish I had because Dawn of Sorrow is awesome with a capital Sweet.
  • My Hori screen filters also came in. They are very nice but I put them on wrong because I figured they would be either perfectly sized for the screens (they aren’t) or run slightly large (they don’t) so in both cases the filter comes up a couple of milimeters short on the right side. It’s not a big deal and I should be able to reapply them if necessary but I don’t want to risk messing them all up just now since I just got them put on and for the time being they’re doing the trick.
  • We totally cleaned out our computer/game room this weekend. I think Nik was less than thrilled with the project since it took up most of Saturday and a big chunk of Sunday afternoon, but the end result is that all the piles of paper and other assorted junk are gone from the floor (Mobility: It’s gonna be huge!), my gaming area is actually useable, we have two pretty organized closets, we threw out a slew of random stuff that I have no idea why we were keeping (broken computer parts, non-functioning hair styling products and—I’m not making this up—silverware and cooking utensils that had been packed unwashed two moves ago) and we have a table covered in stuff to trade in/sell/donate. Once all that is gone, we’re about 94% clutter-free.
  • Except for the books. We have a stupid amount of books. I guess in the grand scheme of things there are worse things to have too much of than books. But it’s getting out of control because we have no place to put them so they stack up like modern architectural experiments designed to give engineering students word problems to solve such as “If Nikki has 463 books which weigh between 1 and 3 kilograms, how many can she stack on her nightstand made from particleboard whose maximum load capacity is 100 kilograms before they crash through the floor and kill her downstairs neighbor?” Hopefully we’ll rectify the situation in the next couple of weeks as we’ve picked out an Ikea bookshelf that is 72″ square which is like 18 feet of book-storin’ area that will probably still not hold everything. But it will be better than being convicted of negligent homicide on our neighbors. I mean, I’m guessing.
  • So we’re running through The World’s Largest Dungeon every other week with Lister, Strahd, Fwaaa, Skorn and a few others. Of course, by every other week I mean “We did it one week and said we’d pick it up again in two weeks but then half the party flaked so we just played Magic all night instead.” But whatever.
  • We tried a new Magic tournament type since we were unable to continue the D&D adventure where each person opens a booster pack, chooses one card and then passes the rest to the next player. They do this until all the cards are gone and then go again, switching directions for the pass. At the end you flesh out the decks with some loose land cards and play a best-of-three tournament. It was kind of fun although we were using Mirrodin block boosters for the most part which meant we all had a crazy number of Artifacts and, as usual, I picked Blue as one of my colors so of course my deck was dog slow and I got trounced, eventually being the Ultimate Loser. Still it was fun.
  • Next session (two more weeks… sigh) I’m bringing my new Shadowrun adventure, On the Run so if people flake again (I hope they won’t and that it was a one-time thing due to lots of people being out of town for Father’s Day) we’ll have some kind of cool adventure to try.
  • I must be getting lazy. I used to spend hours and hours working up my own homebrew adventures for all sorts of games. I made adventures that I didn’t even ever plan to run because I knew no one else wanted to play the game. Now it’s so much effort that I’d almost rather run a pre-made adventure and pay the few bucks for it as a trade-off.
  • Want to know why I was nearly crushed by the weight of pretentious poo spewing from Metal Gear Solid 2’s postmodern dialog diharrea and why I couldn’t get more than a few minutes into MGS3 and why I’m wary of MGS4 like a recently-bitten child entering a yard with a sleeping doberman? Because Hideo Kojima is flat out nuts, that’s why. Seriously, does anyone understand what he’s talking about? Ever?
  • I know admitting this marks me as a terrible son, but my dad wrote several books and while I read most of them I didn’t get around to reading one of them (maybe because it was billed as sort of a romance and… well, you know… romance. Gah). Anyway I actually did finally finish it and it was good. One thing that struck me was that in the book there are a couple of scenes where a rapist attacks a college co-ed. In both scenes the narrative voice delivers powerful judgement on the perpetrator by referring to him as both a “coward” and a “fiend.” It struck me mostly because, stylistically, it isn’t something I see very often. I think that usually judgement is left to the reader based on character actions or dialogue but in this case it was specifically necessary that the attacks be described briefly (this is a Christian book after all—detailed descriptions of brutal rapes would fall outside the comfort zone for the audience) and that there not be a lot of dialogue since it comes up later as a plot point. I just thought it was interesting.
  • I went to the doctor on Friday for my stomach issues. He basically gave me some high-strength Pepcid and told me to take it before dinner and to pretty much go on a diet (no fatty foods, no spicy foods, etc.) since he suspected that I might be creating too much stomach acid which was why I felt like junk most evenings. They also took a blood sample to test for ulcers. But what was really amazing was that the lady took two vials of blood in roughly 27 seconds, didn’t hurt me a bit (even when she swapped the vials) and left no discernable bruising. I felt like asking for her autograph.
  • I went for a run on Saturday since my doctor was griping about me slipping off the health wagon. I may have overdone it a bit, as evidenced by the fact that I’ve been walking like I have some sort of mild palsy ever since due to the severe soreness in my legs. Stupid exercise.
  • I finally got Mayfair Games on the phone Friday. We picked up a copy of Settlers of Catan around Christmas time and unfortunately we found that the game was missing all the red road pieces. I sent Mayfair a couple of emails and got form replies back saying they would “contact me shortly.” They must live in some sort of temporal vortex because six months qualifies as “shortly” to no one on this planet. But they have weird office hours so it’s always been a pain to get them on the phone. Having the day off Friday as I did, I finally caught up with them. They promised they would ship the bits out to me today. Forgive me if I don’t hold my breath.

With a Cold Sense of Recognition

In in full Short Attention Span Theater mode this day. Forgive.

  • ‘Twas not a good weekend for movies, it seems. We watched March of the Penguins—a film lavished with priase by one and all—and came away from it going, “meh.” I mean, it was a nice nature show and all, but why it was a feature film and not a regular Animal Planet special escapes me.
  • We also tried to watch The Break-Up as it was Nikki’s turn to pick a theater experience. I understand her choice in a way, she likes Jennifer Aniston, she likes comedies and she enjoys romance stories. You might infer from the title that this isn’t that romantic of a movie but then again it was advertised and billed as a romantic comedy. It isn’t. What it is most closely resembles a 105-minute torture session for humans claiming legitimate ownership to more than four brain cells. It isn’t exactly the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but it is quite high up there among the most unpleasant movies I’ve had the displeasure to experience. Among the movie’s primary sins was that it was ostensibly a comedy that utterly failed at any point to be amusing (let alone actually funny) and the one part that could have been comedic was stretched on for ten times longer than the joke had steam to push through. Sad.
  • Got the DS Lite Sunday. After all my yammering about trade-ins and what not, I ended up trading in nothing except some recycled cans for about $25 and then GameStop had a “Buy 2 Used Games, Get 1 Used Game Free” promotion. Since they had Mario Kart DS, Advance Wars Dual Strike and Metroid Prime Hunters used, I got those.
  • Never did get a case or any screen protectors, but I’m ordering the screen protectors online and I’ll probably just do without a case. That’s roughly typical.
  • I like all the games but I have a hard time with the control scheme in Metroid because it involves the stylus, the D-Pad and several of the buttons and triggers and whatnot. It probably takes some practice is all, which I haven’t put in because I’ve been too preoccupied pwning Black Hole forces in Advance Wars.
  • As for the hardware I’m impressed with the unit as a whole. Good battery life, brilliant screens that make good-looking games (Mario Kart DS) remarkable and okay-looking games (Advance Wars) good, and reasonably comfortable. I must confess that I avoid the touchscreen business when possible, perhaps because I lack screen protectors and I don’t wish to tarnish a handsome new electronic device, but more likely because I just don’t dig on it as an improvement in terms of control over regular ol’ D-Pad and buttons. Also the DS Lite is heavier than I expected; it’s far lighter than the brick that was the original DS, but compared to the featherweight GBA SP it’s a beast. I suppose that’s the price to pay for sweet 3D graphics and WiFi capability.
  • My backpack that I carried my work laptop around in ripped last week. It was a really ugly carrying device but I liked it because it had a spot for my little fold-up umbrella, it would (in a pinch) accommodate two laptops, plus it had room for all my random do-dads, a book, a spare floppy drive for the laptop, the laptop’s bulky AC adpater plus my CD case. But it was cheaply made and the zippers were a huge pain to get to work right. Anyway now I’m back down to my old Samsonite laptop case that I originally got for the iBook which holds practically nothing except the laptop, my namebadge/key card and a pack of gum. But it is solid as a rock and I’ve never had any problems zipping it up.
  • Except that time I zipped my favorite shirt into it first thing in the morning and ended up with a big snaggy rip thing across my stomach all day. That was weak.
  • Speaking of weak, I’ve seen people (aside from my brother that is) using the phrase “Weak sauce” quite a lot lately. It even makes an appearance as a catch phrase for one of the (more annoying) characters in Advance Wars. Weird. I kind of assumed my brother had made that up. Unless he invented a meme… Gasp! Scott is Internet Famous!
  • Not really.
  • After much fiddling I think I got my IMAP email working from DreamHost. I love the new hosting company and they have some stellar features but sometimes it seems like getting things to work they way you expect them to is just a few centimeters short of being Really Totally Easy. I’ve noticed this a lot with computing tasks: No matter how good it is, it’s not like working a Microwave. The chasm between, say, a clever bit of software or a clean user interface and RTE is theoretically minute, but it seems like in practice it might as well be the Grand Canyon because no one (not even Apple a lot of the time) can get to that point where you have to want to do something quite unusual before you have to ask for some help.
  • Case in point: I was trying to set up the DS to use my home’s WiFi connection. I was able to do so after a couple of hours’ frustration (also time when I was not actually playing with my new game console so frustration falls a little short, description-wise) and the solution I came up with was to change the type of WEP encryption I was using. This worked great for the DS but of course immediately kicked all other wireless devices off the network. It was a temporary panic moment before I realized how to change the other devices’ settings to reflect the updated environment. My point is that I use Macs at home and it should have been like, “Oh, you want to get your DS on this network? Plink! There you go.”
  • I suppose if that were the case I (and half the people I know and call friends or loved ones) would be out of a job. Viva job security through ineptitude!
  • There is something wrong with me. My stomach starts to hurt and gurgle and get a general bathroom-y feeling after I eat dinner and occasionally after I eat other meals as well, if I eat too much or the wrong thing. I’m seeing a doctor about it, but it’s starting to (ahem) cramp my style.
  • We went up last week to see Beans graduate from eighth grade. I know I graduated from Jr. High with a similar level of pomp and circumstance (Ha! I kill me!), but I remember thinking it was a little overdone considering what our relative accomplishment level was and I had a thought-deja-vu in witnessing the proceedings at Beans’ event. Still, he was class president and got to give the opening speech and his girlfriend was Valedictorian (with something ridiculous like a 4.36 GPA… something I didn’t know was possible since that would mean getting straight A+’s and something else, like—I don’t know—saving twelve drowning people between classes or something). So it was at least quasi-entertaining. There were a couple of musical numbers, and while I don’t recall my mother actually ever telling me that if I didn’t have anything nice to say not to say anything at all, it sounds like a solid policy. One which I will employ at this time.
  • Seriously. Nothing nice to say.
  • I would like to submit, for the records, a few facts. It is June. I live in California. In an area widely regarded for mild weather. It is overcast and cold today. With a chance of rain. What?
  • Stupid non-summer.
  • I keep meaning to watch the World Cup. I actually like watching Futbol, but I think it’s usually on at freaky hours like 7:45 am. I suppose watching World Cup soccer beats working, but I doubt my boss would be thrilled with the “Ole Ole” chant while people are conducting business.
  • Plus he might take back the bonus he told me about yesterday. All things considered it was a lot better than I thought it would be, especially since the targets I and various parts of the company (such as our team, our division, etc) were supposed to meet were graded stuff like “Pretty good, but not great.” If this is what I get for “Pretty good,” I’m fairly intrigued to see what I get for “Great.”

Groans and Eye Rolls

A few links have managed to get my eyes rollin’ before I’ve even completely opened them for the day. Care to join me?

The first article is from Hardcore Gamer and is (yet another) article on getting girls to play video games. How original.

The problem with the article (aside from it saying the same basic things that every single other article with this same title has ever said) is that it falls into the same basic presumptive trap that all other similar articles fall into. The presumption is that there is some secret password or combination of tricks that can be executed to magically unlock the secret gamer in all females (not unlike solving a video game puzzle). I suggest that the very notion is patently false.

I think that in a broad sense there are probably a few games out there that any person could get into. Lots of people who have vicerally negative reactions to video games wouldn’t consider it untoward to play a few rounds of Tetris or Solitare. Of course those are actually video games, but they are so removed from what a lot of people percieve as “gamer games” that they find a class all their own which sits outside that realm in people’s minds, even if technically a distinction does not exist.

But the thrust of the article and the implication it puts forth is not that you might be able to find a handful of games that your girlfriend will tolerate but rather that you can actually convert her into (at least an approximation of) a full-fledged gamer. Which is, of course, a ridiculous notion. There is no more guarantee that you can convince your significant other to join your hobby than there is that she can convince you to get really excited about visiting Sephora, taking ballroom dance classes or shopping for fun. She might, but the guarantee is bogus and misleading.

My opinion is that games are self-selling in a very significant way. And I’m not just talking about video games, either. Lots of game companies and gaming communities spend a lot of time saying, “How can we get more people to play our game?” The truth is that you can market until the cows come home and maybe you’ll get lucky and start a fad or something (witness Pictionary which was everywhere for a while there in the late 80s but realistically is only a ho-hum game) but you generally won’t convince anyone to play a game that doesn’t already want to play it.

Certain things (games in this case) attract certain types of people. I love Science Fiction, strategy games, complex rules, artistic opportunities and collecting stuff: You could easily say that a game like Warhammer 40K was more or less made for me but it wasn’t Games Workshop that came calling to me saying, “Hey, try this game on for size, Mr. Collecting-Strategy-SF-Arty-Rules Guy!” They merely existed, and somewhere in my geekly travels I developed a conscious notion of Warhammer and what it was and what it represented to give it a shot. I wanted to play for years before I actually did not because of some marketing blitz but just because I had a sense before I even knew what the game was like in practice and what the hobby entailed that it was something I could “see myself getting into.” I think I used those exact words when describing it to Nik.

The point is that some girls are going to look at video games and say, “Hey, what’s that all about?” They’ll have a strange sort of passing interest in them. They may not actively play the games, but they could because the interest level is there. And it’s not that they are going to always be thrilled with gaming (especially their guys’ gaming habits), but just that there is either a tolerance or a certain set of preferences and predispositions that make video games more acceptable to them.

In the end it comes down to individuals. I know that Nik will probably very, very rarely—if ever—play a lot of video games. She’s picked up a few puzzle games now and again but for the most part her interest in video games has been hovering somewhere around nil. But for the most part she’s understanding when I play games and she’s more predisposed to other types of gaming (hence why she accompanies me to KublaCon and DunDraCon but probably would take a pass if I ever had a chance to go to E3 or PAX or something similar) which have more social aspects. That’s fine: There is something in there that we both have to accept about each other. But as much as she may love for me to be really excited about purse shopping or whatever, the fact is that I probably am going to only ever be capable of tolerating that she does it without ever really getting on the same page as her about it. I hope she’d be cool with that just as I feel it’s actually better for me to just accept that Nik isn’t a video gamer and if the best I can get is that she doesn’t actively fight me on game-playing (tossing out consoles and the like) that’s certainly good enough.

The second article is this surreal take on why Apple doesn’t care about gaming. The thrust of the article seems to be that video games are all violent death-and-destruction simulations and Apple is a lovey-dovey kind of peace-and-hippies enterprise which eschews video games as unpleasant by-products of an unenlightened Windows world.


Boy did this chump ever buy the Apple lifestyle line—including hook and sinker. Come on, buddy, do you really think that Apple is some love-and-harmony utopia with a lickable candy shell? Did Santa Claus tell you so and his story was corroborated by The Tooth Fairy and her entourage of Leprechauns? Cut me some slack. Apple is a business. They want profits.

I’m sorry, were you expecting more? Something profound, perhaps? Nope, sadly, they just want money. As a matter of fact, as a publicly traded company, they are obligated to make money. Anything else? That’s just marketing. Plain, simple and ugly.

I’ll tell you why Apple doesn’t care about gaming: They don’t think there is enough money in it. Could they put out a gaming rig? Sure. But they won’t because they don’t think it will increase sales enough to make a difference.

Florian Eckhardt thinks the reason is that game computers are centered around upgradeability and Apple would rather you buy a new computer than upgrade, which is a valid point. But it still comes down to money: It would cost Apple money in upgrade-system sales to provide an open box system suitable for gaming.

It’s kind of unfortunate, but it is what it is. For the most part I’m content to use Macs for computing stuff and play video games on consoles. The crazy thing about open markets is that I actually have that choice. Not as crazy as the notion that a company would turn down the opportunity to improve their products’ capabilities for some sort of altruism or bravura of concern for the family unit, but still.

Finally, (and this one didn’t annoy me, really, I just wanted to link to it) Tales of a Scorched Earth reviews X-Men 3 and hates it. Or at least compares it unfavorably to the uncomfortably campy Batman Forever (which of course hearalded the second worst movie of all time, Batman and Robin), so I think we agree on one thing: If there is an X-Men 4, it’s going to be dirty booty pants.