Geek Smithology

June 7, 2010

Life with the iPad

Filed under: Grab Bag by Nathan @ 4:10 pm

So, I went ahead and got an iPad. Call me an Apple fanboy if you want, because, well, I am. Predictably, I am typing this post on the iPad (using a wireless bluetooth keyboard and the WordPress app, which has a nice iPad version.)

First impressions? Well, unlike a lot of people who aren’t all that impressed, based on the completely impossible-to-be-objective-about first couple hours, I am pretty amazed by the device (for what it’s worth I have a 64GB 3G model – go big or go home) I have never been so sad to see a commute end as I was today.

So…why iPad?

Well, for me it comes down to the fact that my computing comes in four major categories:

1) Gaming
2) Programming
3) Recording
4) Other stuff

Now, I have a big rig in the basement for #1. While I have a Wii, it’s not very good at the games I like to play (Dragon Age, Fallout 3, Mass Effect, Diablo, Civ, etc.) And because HD seems kinda lo-res compared to what my GeForce 290GTX can pump out, it’s unlikely I’ll go console any time soon. At any rate, special purpose, special computer. Now, needs 2 and 3 are a bit different – my wife’s laptop handles those admirably (my laptop was doing well, but it’s kinda dying right now).

Which leaves 4, which is mostly the web, but includes other things like writing and video (not editing, but watching.) Now, I’m not a fan of grabbing the lappy every time I want to do something (to be fair, I have a 17″ MacBook Pro which is not very fun to lug around. We recently grabbed a 13″ MBP for my wife, and it is a really outstanding machine, so something to keep in mind.)

So, because I love gadgets, I decided to get an iPad and see how much of my category 4 computing happens here as opposed to anywhere else. As far as first impressions go, it’s really fast – makes the iPhone 3G look like a slug (will let you know how it compares to iPhone 4 when I inevitably pick on up next month). The construction is what you’d expect from Apple – it’s sturdy to hold and beautiful to look at. Looking at the web or comics or Plants vs. Zombies is stunning – it’s really amazing to look at.

One of the things that struck me right away is just how perfect the screen size is – For things that annoyed the hell out of me on the iPhone (to the point that I don’t do them unless I have to) like browsing the web or looking at email now seem just right. For something like games I might want a bigger screen, and for some games I might want a smaller screen, but I think the form factor is pretty much perfect. We’ll see if that becomes frustrating over time, but as is, it’s hard to think of how you could make it better.

The web is really quick (even over 3G is pretty nice) and all of the little things like scrolling and what not have really impressive response. Anyway, that’s enough for now – maybe having an iPad will result in a huge resurgence of posting to my blog (that sentence will be really funny in November when I haven’t updated since today…

Anyways, on with the grand experiment. If nothing else, new toys are always awesome.

March 7, 2010

Live Blogging the Oscars 2010

Filed under: Grab Bag by Nathan @ 7:03 pm

Well, I’ve been away from my blog so long that someone hacked it and I couldn’t log in. Luckily I fixed it. I never did my picks this year because I didn’t see very many movies this last year, so I’m just gonna wing it as I go. Also, I’m working on some budgeting spreadsheets so I might be late here and there.

First off, Hugh Jackman’s introduction was far better last year. I love Alec Baldwin, I like Steve Martin, but so far not good enough.


Best Supporting Actor
Christoph Waltz. This was pretty obvious, he was a genius.


Best Animated Film
Again, so obvious. Pixar made a movie this year, so they win again.


Best Original Song
I’m gonna pick the song Marion is singing…

I’m wrong – never bet against Crazy Heart I guess. Or should I say never bet against a man named T-Bone.


Best Writing
Robert Downey Jr. is wearing the most ridiculous bowtie I think I’ve ever seen…I love it. But this is really flat.

I think Inglorious Basterds should win – it’s Quentin’s year. At least it should be…But could The Hurt Locker as well.

Bah, the locker of hurt…2 for 4. Crap.


Makeup

I never pick short films because I never see any of them.

Ben Stiller dresses in Avatar suit, which at least hides a ridiculous beard…best makeup. I’m going with Star Trek.

So..3 for 5. I really wish we didn’t have to listen to these people give acceptance speeches….


Best Supporting Actress

Up in the Air should win, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Precious wins. Maybe I saw it too late, but I find Precious overrated (don’t get me wrong, it’s a good movie, but not super amazing). Yeah, Precious wins…I refuse to write the entire title because it’s pretty ridiculous.

3 for 6.


Best supporting actress…This one is easy. Mo’nique. But I think that’s the easy way out. That said, not the best crop of nominees here. Of course it was Mo’nique. Enjoy it girl – this is the role you were meant to play, and there are no more oscars in your future. Oh, and thanking the academy for making it about the performance instead of the politics is a joke – the politics all pointed to Mo’nique wining this award.

4 for 7


Avatar is nominated, doesn’t that mean it will win? I’d like to see Nine win. Although the Academy loves period pieces.

Yeah, Avatar wins. Talk about overrated. yawn.

but building a cushion at 5 for 8.


Costumes

Best costumes? Young Victoria of course. Of course. It’s a period piece. Thrid Oscar for a woman who looks…uh…pretentious. 6 for 9.


Sound Editing…time to find out if Avatar is the 800 pound gorilla of the Oscars or if the Hurt Locker makes a dent. I’m gonna go with Hurt Locker, because the sound was edited.

Big time.

And it’s The Hurt Locker yay!!! 7 for 10!

Let’s go with same for the other Sound Award…

And it’s The Hurt Locker again, 8 for 11. This really is a far superior movie to Avatar.


Visual Effects

Avatar wins for Visual Effects, which was probably the most secure lock this year.


Best Documentary

This has to be the Cove, although Food Inc. is far more sobering and important, in my opinion.

The Cove wins, showing that people care more about harming cute animals than food animals and people…


Editing

C’mon, editing has to be Hurt Locker…and it is. Booyeah. I’m getting psyched – I hope Bigelow gets Best Director if not Best Picture.

11 for 14.


Best Actor

C’mon, it’s gotta be Jeff Bridges. He was robbed not getting it for Lebowski…

Yaaaaayyyy! It’s getting a little dusty in the room…


Best Actress

Well, everyone says it’s Sandra Bullock’s year and I wasn’t offended by her or that movie, so let’s go with that.

And Sandra Bullock wins. After all those Miss Congeniality movies, something better had to happen. This is good – Sean Penn looks like he’s on a different planet.


Best Director

Please don’t be James Cameron, please don’t be James Cameron, please don’t be James Cameron…

And it’s Kathryn Bigelow – a great win for a great movie, not to mention the first female director to win Best Director. Outstanding.


Best Picture

HURT LOCKER!!!! Listen haters, Avatar is an amazing technical accomplishment, and a spectacle like few others, but the Hollywood foreign press is on crack – it is not the best picture of the year. Neither is this (I think Inglorious Basterds and Up in the Air were better) but I’m really quite pleased.


July 1, 2009

New from the Pragmatic Programmers

Filed under: Grab Bag by Nathan @ 7:08 am

Wow, it’s the 10th anniversary of the Pragmatic programmers, and part of going forward, they have teamed up with the inimitable Michael Swaine (you likely enjoyed his Swaine’s Flames column in addition to all the fine articles he wrote for the late, great Dr. Dobb’s journal) to put together a free online magazine called PragPub.

In addition to a great looking PDF, you can get it in mobi (kindle) and epub (Stanza on the iPhone – I can attest it works and looks great) formats for those commutes. If you’re a fan of Dave, Andy, Michael, or even just programming in general, you owe it to yourself to go check out the first 37 page issue right now…

April 26, 2009

Revenge of the Nerds 2009

Filed under: Grab Bag by Nathan @ 10:05 pm

For those of you who don’t know, the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo was held this weekend, and the family decided to check it out. It was as expected – super crowded, super crazy, and a lot of fun. I got to meet and talk for a few minutes with Terry Moore who might be my absolute favorite comic writer/artist today (with the possible exception of Larry Marder, although his output is low these days. I also got him to sign my copy of the First SiP Book. Also got to see Darwyn Cooke and Sergio Arogones, and had Ron Marz and Mike Choi sign the first Witchblade graphic novel.

Also hung out with the soup nazi:
the soup nazi
And Darth Maul:
Darth Maul

(Pictures are a little iffy ’cause our camera died and my wife is not comfortable with my iPhone!) Whether I go again will depend entirely on the guest list, but all in all a neat few hours

February 22, 2009

Live Blogging the Oscars 2009

Filed under: Grab Bag by Nathan @ 6:31 pm

6:29 The show is about to begin. I fell down the stairs yesterday and my tailbone is in bad shape, so I’ve spent most of the day off of my feet, which means I caught most of the red carpet rigamarole. I can’t say I missed it. Ooh, ooh! Here comes Hugh!

6:38 Okay, so far Hugh rules. “Robert Downey Jr. is an American playing an Australian playing an African American. Nominated. I’m an Australian who played on Australian in a movie called Australia. Hosting.” This is the best introduction of all time. Standing O? Damn straight.

6:42 and so endeth the first montage. At least it’s relevant, but still too long. Do we really need five past winners? And I’m sorry, the speeches are too long. On one hand, I like that they’re recognizing the nominees, but this is too much.

6:47 And the winner is… Penelope Cruz. Yeah, I’m on record saying I thought Marisa Tomei should win, but I can’t begrudge Penelope this win, she was a good part in a good movie. But I really don’t like the twenty year introductions. Nathan goes 1 for 1.

6:57 I like they way they did the introduction of the Best Original Screenplay , if that is indicative of the new “style” this could work out really well. And the winner is..Milk. I probably should have guessed that, but I really think In Bruges was the better script. 1 for 2.

As for adapted screenplay, the winner is Slumdog Millionaire. This was a pretty easy pick and I’m sitting at 2 for 3.

7:07 Is there anybody anywhere surprised that Wall-E is the best animated feature? In a rare move, all three nominees were excellent, but the Pixar film was heads and tails above the rest. I easily go to 3 for 4.

7:17 The Art Direction oscar is presented to the folks behind The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Silly me for thinking that it would be the latest costume drama featuring a certain Keira Knightly and I drop to to 60 percent and 3 for 5. Will Ben Button sweep the design awards or will the costume drama win? And the oscar goes to The Duchess. Ah, there’s the Knightly movie award. I feel vindicated for no reason whatsoever, but take my place at 4 for 6. Another easy call as the Makeup Oscar goes to “the movie where Brad Pitt looks all old”. Smith is looking good at 5 for 7.

7:35 Damn, Ben Stiller is hilarious, and Natalie Portman looks better than she can act. My theory that just picking Slumdog Millionaire for every category in which it was nominated will probably bear a lot of fruit as the night goes on. 6 for 8 as I say hello to 75 percent, the best I’ve been since 100% after one award.

8:12 Heath Ledger wins best supporting actor. Once again I want to stress that he was the best actor in that group, and this is not a sympathy win by any means. Very emotional, but well done. 7 for 9.

8:15 I was starting to second guess myself and thinking that Trouble the Water would win the best documentary, but I am pleased to see Man on Wire win. Such acrobatics. And you gotta love Bill Maher. 8 for 10 – what’s up?

8:27 “The movie where Brad Pitt looks old” wins another Oscar, this time for the heavyweight category Visual Effects. Make a good looking dude look old and you too can win Oscars. 9 for 11. But I think I’m going to go downhill quickly with Sound Editing and Mixing. I went with Wall-E, which should win, but won’t.

Nope. Sound editing goes to Dark Knight. I guess they had to award it something. Bah, I fall to 9 for 12. As for sound mixing, Will Smith gives the award to…Slumdog Millionaire, of course, Whatever, no-one really cares about sound…9 for 13.

After my craziness for Wall-E subsided I went back to the “if it’s Slumdog pick it, and here they win for Editing. Not much of a surprise, 10 for 14.

8:54 Slumdog wins again, this time for score. I don’t think it was the best, but it’s a Slumdog night and it continues. I go 11 for 15 and I’ve already hit my total from last year. That’s just crazy talk.

9:00 Okay, while this medley of the nominated songs is pretty annoying, it’s far better than having separate performances throughout the night as we’ve seen in the past. Slumdog has two songs nominated so the trick is to pick which one. And the winner….Jai Ho. It was a bit of a slam dunk — when in doubt, go for the dance number. Hello 12 for 16. I don’t know how I can possibly beat such a performance.

9:20 Danny Boyle wins an unsurprising Best Directing statue for Slumdog Millionaire, and received it “in the manner of Tigger”, which certainly entertained my wife. 13 for 17.

9:32 Oooh, I’m on fire. Kate Winslet wins for The Reader – watching Marion Cotillard do her little speech was almost better than Kate’s. This is really good to see her win after six nominations. 14 for 18.

9:43 “You commie, homo loving sons of guns”. Sean Penn wins another Oscar for his brilliant performance as Harvey Milk. I’m disappointed for Mickey Rourke who likely won’t be here ever again, but the bottom line is Nat X goes 15 for 19.

9:52 And after three and a half (not as torturous as other years) long, long hours, Stephen Spielberg awards the best picture to Slumdog Millionaire. Is anyone surprised by this? If you are, you’re a fool. It’s hard to believe that this movie was almost a straight to DVD release, but thanks to the magic of Toronto and its film festival, it found a distributor and found love. Even if you don’t like the movie (and if you don’t, you’re a fool) you have to like the story. Nice to see so many people from the cast make it to Hollywood for the show.

I absolutely destroy last year’s result of 11/19 by going 16/20. I’m not making any kind of prediction for next year.

And there it is, another year, another Oscar telecast. I think Hugh Jackman should be given a lifetime contract to host the Oscars – he was truly excellent.

February 19, 2009

If I picked the Oscars…again

Filed under: Grab Bag by Nathan @ 11:17 pm

As with last year, I’ve decided to throw out who would win the oscars if the Academy decided that maybe they should ditch the whole voting process and get some guy from Calgary to pick the winners. I will list both who I think the academy will pick (Who Will Win), and who I would pick if I had an actual ballot (Who Should Win.) I’ll be keeping score during the oscars to see how well I did.

Supporting Actor
Who Will Win: Heath Ledger (Dark Knight)
Who Should Win: Heath Ledger (Dark Knight)

The Dark Knight wasn’t a very good movie, but Heath Ledger was great in it. He took the Joker out of the clownish imp of Caesar Romero and Jack Nicholson and turned him into the insane monster he really is. Some will say he wouldn’t have won if he was still alive, but that’s an unnecessary excuse – it’s the best performance of the nominees.

Supporting Actress
Who Will Win: Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona)
Who Should Win: Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler)

The academy loves supporting actresses who are different See Mira Sorvino for Might Aphrodite and the bizarre win by Tomei for My Cousin Vinny. And Penelope Cruz is quite the character. But I think that this year Marisa deserves the award, and not just because she was naked, but finally real.

Lead Actor
Who Will Win: Sean Penn (Milk)
Who Should Win: Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)

I have a feeling I’m picking the wrong role for who should win, but the academy loves Sean Penn, and with the Democrats in charge, maybe they’ll put up with this politics. But thank goodness for Darren Aronofsky who wouldn’t make this movie without Rourke (hard to believe that Nicholas Cage was once attached to this role.) Forget all of the art imitates life drama, this is where MIckey proved once and for all that he is a true actor. Remember Diner?

Lead Actress
Who Will Win: Kate Winslet (The Reader)
Who Should Win: Kate Winslet (The Reader)

It’s finally Winslet’s year. So many nominations (5) and so few wins (0). This nomination makes her the youngest actor in history to have received six nominations, and she will ride the tidal wave of her dual Golden Globes to Oscar gold. She plays a character who is detestable in every way that matters, but you can’t look away.

Best Director
Who Will Win: Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire)
Who Should Win: Gus Van Sant (Milk)

Make no mistake – Slumdog Millionaire is a great film with the unmistakable stamp of Danny Boyle all over it, but it’s riding a wave of over-hype that was only fed by the Golden Globes. The true directing achievement of the year is Van Sant, who evokes old timey San Francisco while creating a truly interesting film even though we come in knowing the result.

Best Picture
Who Will Win: Slumdog Millionaire
Who Should Win: Milk

Again, the nominations are wrong this year. For Benjamin Button and Frost/Nixon to be nominated in the year that Wall-E and The Wrestler were released just shows that the Academy is, in a lot of ways, out of touch.[1] There are no masterpieces on this list, unlike There Will Be Blood and No Country For Old Men last year. Once again, while I’m a big fan of Slumdog, it doesn’t have the direction or performances of Milk. While Sean Penn seems so over the top in the movie, you need to seek out video of the real-life Harvey Milk, and you’ll see how dead-on his portrayal is.

And there it is, folks. I’m hoping to live blog during the show again and seeing how I measure up. For everyone playing at home, here are my full picks. Once again, I’ve omitted best foreign film and the shorts, because I saw none of them.

Please feel free to comment or email me with your own choices (see here for a full list of nominees) and we’ll compare our prognostication abilities.


Category Prediction
Lead Actor Sean Penn (Milk)
Supporting Actor Heath Ledger (Dark Knight)
Lead Actress Kate Winslet (The Reader)
Supporting Actress Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona)
Animated Film Wall-E
Art Direction The Duchess
Cinematography Slumdog Millionaire
Costume Design The Duchess
Director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire)
Documentary Man on Wire
Film Editing Slumdog Millionaire
Makeup The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Original Score Slumdog Millionaire
Best Picture Slumdog Millionaire
Sound Editing Wall-E
Sound Mixing Wall-E
Visual Effects The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Adapted Screenplay Slumdog Millionaire
Original Screenplay In Bruges

[1] To the fanboys complaining about The Dark Knight getting “snubbed” in the best picture category, not only is it not the best picture of the year, but in retrospect, it’s not even that good.

January 13, 2009

Rock Band 2 DLC for the Wii is Here!

Filed under: Grab Bag by Nathan @ 7:16 pm

I’m not going to comment on Rock Band 2 right now (Or it’s relationship to Guitar Hero: World Tour in the rock star simulation firmament) even though I have a lot to say, but I just want to say that as of right now (as opposed to not earlier today), the DLC is finally working on the Wii.

This is a huge deal that really makes the game. I was seriously considering getting another console just to have the ability to download songs, but thankfully the second generation of each game has given us downloadable content on the Wii. Not the best selection yet, but I downloaded a few songs and it’s only going to grow. Where the hell is China Cat Sunflower?

At least China Cat will be available one day. Why they don’t have Friend of the Devil or Dark Star is beyond me…

January 9, 2009

Not yet, my friends…

Filed under: Grab Bag by Nathan @ 7:43 pm

Heard a remark that this was the last year that people could wear stupid 200X glasses (you know, like this:

novelty glasses However, you can easily see that 2010 glasses would work out just fine. And if you’re willing to go all pirate and see out of one eye[1][2][3] you can comfortably wear hideous novelty specs at lowbrow New Year fiestas until 2111. Of course, that will be year that you can pretend it’s a visor and that you’re a bad ass knight. Or maybe your great-grandkids can pretend to be Sir Ass of Bad, ’cause even if I could live to 136, I’m reasonably certain I will not want to.

Unless either HG Wells or Ponce de Leon were correct, then it could be interesting. For different reasons, one more paradoxical than the other, yet each delicious in their own way. Like cupcakes. Chocolate cupcakes. With peanut butter icing. From Crave. With an Americano from Bumpys. Yeah, I gotta run…

[1] Thought the first: if those pirates could duel with only one eye (and the resulting depth perception issues), they must be excellent duellists.
[2] Thought the second: if those pirates are such excellent duellists, why did they lose the eye in the first place?
[3] Thought the third: it is said that footnotes 1 and 2 have the ability to keep me up at nights.

December 28, 2008

I ♥ my Time Capsule[1]

Filed under: Grab Bag by Nathan @ 10:16 am

A little way back I purchased a Time Capsule, Apple’s ingenious backup device. Not only is it beautiful (mmmm, white square with a silver apple on it…) but it manages to stay out of my way while I use my computer. Like many computer users out there, I have shoe boxes full of floppy disks, spools of CD’s and even weird proprietary pieces of plastic full of Zip disks from previous backups. These backups were ad hoc, unscheduled, unverified, and never used. Oh sure, I had a hard drive crash once, but none of my “backups” were useful at all, so I just laboriously attempted to recover everything off of that disk.

Now, you might say “sure, Mr. Fancy-Pants, you have this nice beautiful hermetically sealed and aesthetically pleasing device making little to no noise on that desk in your basement, but does it work?”

Yes.

I got a little overzealous with some photo editing/changing, etc the other day and, well, lost a bunch of pictures. This caused me great angst for about 79 seconds when I suddenly realized, “Hey, I have backups of this stuff” And I did!

What was almost as interesting as the backup story was the restore, uh, story. iPhoto itself has “Browse Backups” option that goes into an iPhoto specific version of Time Machine. You can browse through in the standard way, select the pictures you want to restore (yeah, that’s right, select the pictures you want to restore) and then click “restore all”. iPhoto does an import, you have your stuff back, “BOOM!”.

I know there are some people who aren’t fans of the Time Capsule, and I weep for them, because for me, it a joyous thing to behold.

[1] If you don’t see a heart in the title of this post, fix your character encoding settings!

December 24, 2008

Why the new Podcast functions on the iPhone suck

Filed under: Grab Bag by Nathan @ 10:25 am

Okay, I love my iPhone, but one thing it’s always done a really shitty job with is podcasts. Mostly it would refuse to honour the play count, so it wouldn’t always ditch the ones I had already listened to, and then they’d be on there after I synced, and in my OCD little world over over-organizing everything, this just didn’t do.

Then came the 2.2 software update, promising the ability to delete podcasts from the phone, and even download new episodes. This is genius!

Except that it’s not. And it kinda sucks. First off, deleting podcasts doesn’t really delete the podcasts. In fact, sometimes they just come back, much like the play count would suddenly be erased without warning. And more annoying, when you plug into iTunes, it makes sure that all of them are still there. Assuming I have “Allow Auto Delete” set for these podcasts (I do, but those setting aren’t always honoured either, but that’s a whole different rant), you’d expect them to be, uh deleted. But they aren’t, they just show as having been played. Lame.

Second, downloading new episodes just takes you to the iTunes music store. Sometimes it goes to the page of the podcast you are attempting to find new episodes of, sometimes it doesn’t. What I want to do is say “get new episodes” and have it check the feed, and ask me which (if any) of the new episodes I would like to list. I mean, what about podcasts that aren’t in the iTunes store (that I have to subscribe to using the “Advanced” menu option.)?

So, uh, how ’bout you take a Mulligan on this one Apple, and try to get it right for 2.3?

December 21, 2008

Why Tomb Raider Legend sucks.

Filed under: Grab Bag by Nathan @ 9:34 am

I’ve been a fan of the Tomb Raider franchise pretty much from the beginning – I played the first one, reviewed the second one (played on the late great Gravis gamepad – the one with the (completely useless) mini-joystick that you could screw into the d-pad), but then got less interested as the games decayed into dreck.

Then came Legend. A new creative team, a return to what made the game great in the first place. And for the vast majority of the time, it really delivers: more “tombs” to raid instead of stupid cities (although the big city level, set in Tokyo, is excellent), a ton of acrobatic action, interesting puzzles that don’t require a walk-through, and pretty stellar graphics (although the “next-gen” content was too freaky looking for my taste.

Because I’ve been accused of destroying the pending enjoyment of two-year-old games in the past, let me just say…SPOILERS AHEAD (kinda.)

Here’s the thing – after a really fun game, it all goes to hell right at the end. I mean, it completely destroys the experience. Like you’re eating a chocolate eclair and just as your about to finish it you realize that not only was there a hair on it, but that it was actually made of poop. After a silly “interactive” cut scene[1] you’re dropped into a fight against a ridiculously large number of enemies. This content seems to have been created for the sole purpose of sucking up all of your first aid kits and taking away as much health as possible. When you dispatch the hoi polloi, you are suddenly faced with a giant monster, and you realize a few things:

1) Every time this creature attacks you, not only does it take a bunch of your health away, but it throws you to the ground and it takes forever to recorder.
2) Actually targeting and hitting said creature is next to impossible.
3) The tomb raider camera is fucking useless when it comes to fights like this. Worse than useless – it actually makes the fight harder.

To make things worse, when you actually manage to whittle away enough health for the creature to enter it’s death throes, you find out that you need to run over and stab the girl who turned into the creature. But…wait! You’re not done yet, you have to do this two more fucking times. This is one of the most frustrating endings of any game ever. I downloaded a trainer to get through it because I just don’t have the time to get through it “properly”, and that’s assuming that given infinite time I actually could do it “properly.” I’m not sure that I could.

So, I hate you Tomb Raider Legend, and give you a metaphorical football to the junk. Here’s hoping that Anniversary sucks less. I’m not optimistic enough to hope that it’s good.

[1] You know, the ones where it shows your character doing some crazy cool stuff that the game engine can’t handle, so you just push directions and buttons at the right time? It’s like a modern version of Dragon’s Lair, except that the game developer forgot that Dragon’s Lair sucks and nobody wants to play that any more. Except for maybe Don Bluth, who would invite you to his house, hand you a Bud Lite while ordering a pizza and say “hey, wanna play Dragon’s Lair?”, which you politely sidestep by saying “hey Don, isn’t there a hockey game on or something?” You see by his pathetic look that he is saddened by your rejection, but he agrees to watch the game, knowing that if he gets you drunk maybe later you’ll try Space Ace.

December 18, 2008

I adore my 64…

Filed under: Grab Bag by Nathan @ 10:32 am

…my 64-bit MacBook Pro laptop, that is. This time marks the one year anniversary of finally taking the leap into Mac-hood. I had already gone part way with my love of the iPod, but I hadn’t really consummated the relationship with the full leap into OS X. Now I have, and use it for everything (except for playing Fallout 3, which looks way better on the PC with the 9800GTX video card and 21″ widescreen monitor). It’s been absolutely brilliant for organizing my photos, playing with the digital features of my piano, doing some video work, and of course doing development in Java and ruby.

I’ve also become an Apple fanboy, with a Time Capsule and an iPhone (and probably an iMac in the not so distant future). So, happy one year anniversary lappy. I’d like to toast to a long and prosperous relationship, but let’s face it — in about 19 months I’ll grow bored and you will become my wife’s computer when I replace you with something shinier.

Oh, and yeah, I still adore my Commodore 64 as well. Not as much as my Vectrex, tho’

December 14, 2008

Hugh Jackman to host the Oscars

Filed under: Grab Bag by Nathan @ 10:14 pm

This is brilliant, really brilliant. I mean, think about it:

- He’s a theater star who hosted the Tony Awards, so all of the theater folk will tune in
- He won an Emmy for said hosting of the the Tony Awards, so all the TV folk will tune in[1]
- He’s apparently the World’s Sexiest Man(TM), so all everyone whose sexual predilections would have them leaning towards Hugh-centric horizontal fantasies (or, let’s face it, leaning towards Hugh in general) will tune in.
- He was in Van Helsing, so all of the dudes who enjoyed his cleavage in that one will tune in (oh wait, that wasn’t Hugh, it was Kate Beckinsdale. Not that Hugh’s cleavage isn’t to die for)
- He was in Swordfish, so all the computer nerds will check it out[2]
- He’s Wolverine, damnit! So all the comic book nerds will tune in.

Listen, I dig Jon Stewart, I really do, but I’m looking forward to the Oscars. I don’t know what I’ll do without the standard mocking of the audience (I’m just assuming Hugh won’t do that, but you never know, he could surprise us all!). So, uh, yay.

[1] Yeah, a stretch, I know, but just go with me here.
[2] Yeah, even more of a stretch, I know, but just go with me here.

October 23, 2008

Nerd Music News

Filed under: Grab Bag by Nathan @ 7:09 pm

A few years back, like so many of us, I had a hard drive crash and lost all my music. Since I had to rip several hundred CDs again (still not finished) I now back that stuff up. Anyway, I am writing to announce that the 10,000th song imported into iTunes (mark two) was (drumroll, please. Yes, Foo, you may play it on your Rock Band drum set)…

Ball & Chain by Murder by Death

Much like the Grateful Dead, the name doesn’t really describe the music, which is kinda folk-meets-rock-meets-American McGee’s Alice.

You may now return to your (not so) regularly scheduled blog.

October 21, 2008

The End of Spam on Geek Smithology?

Filed under: Grab Bag by Nathan @ 8:20 pm

Okay, the CAPTCHA functionality got rid of all comment spam, but there was still a ton of spam coming in via trackbacks. Rather than trying to use spam software (sorry Akismet, but for spam you missed it seemed you marked a real commend as spam. I know you’ve changed, but I haven’t. Not yet.) I’ve decided to turn of trackbacks altogether.

Why? Because the only trackbacks I get seem to be by friends trying to see what a trackback is. Oh, and like 30 spams a day. So I threw the switch and…

Still got like 30 spams a day. WTF? Then it dawned on me that pingbacks are per-post, and that while trackbacks weren’t allowed for new posts, all my old stuff let the spam come flooding in. Dammit! Luckily I know some of this SQL nonsense, and for everyone else out there, to stop the trackback spam, turn off track backs (under Settings->Discussion in wordpress 2.6.2) and then connect to your database and run a query something like this:

1
2
3
<pre>
UPDATE wp_posts SET ping_status = 'closed';
</pre>

And finally, at long last, the spam, my friends, has been silenced. I wish there was some way to pingback spam trackbacks with viruses that would turn their bot-farms into something really disgusting.

Like poop.

October 19, 2008

7×5=35, or Another Update

Filed under: Grab Bag,Personal by Nathan @ 7:59 pm

It occurred to me that when I am 35 my sons will be 7 and 5, which is the kind of coincidence from which I derive tiny amounts of pleasure.

It also occurred to me that as good as Mr. Howard was as Rhodey in Iron Man, wouldn’t Don Cheadle have been even better? Actually, that didn’t occur to me at all, until my buddies over at The Movie Blog reported that that is exactly what is happening.. Remember kids, nobody’s irreplaceable[1].

So how is the great sleeping experiment going? Not bad, if a bit difficult to adjust to because it can be hard to fall asleep when you know you have to. So the first night was find, the second was really horrible – slept about 4 hours. The night after that was pretty average, and I even managed to wake up at my normal wake-up time on Saturday (5:20 – yeah, my wife says I’m insane too) and make it through the day. Today was crash day, a new concept I came up with while the experiment was beginning. Basically, I believe in the concept of a sleep deficit. While I don’t necessarily believe that you can “catch up” on sleep in any holistic sense, I think that it’s a valid concept day-to-day or even week-to-week, so that’s the day where I sleep as long as my body “thinks” it should. This was about nine hours (as opposed to six, which is “the number”).

Going forward, if I find that crash day is consistently far out of touch with my “number”, I will increase the number by some reasonably meaningful amount without going overboard – likely 20 – 30 minutes. Although it will be the harder way to go, I plan to keep the time I wake up as static as possible and start going to be earlier to “create” this extra time. That said, I don’t want to read too much into crash day the first few weeks, since there is so much difficulty just getting into the rhythm of things that it doesn’t really make a difference.

What I can already tell is that I feel much better waking up at a certain time, even on Saturday, then I do just sleeping in. It’s entirely possible that this is due to that when sleeping in I often wake up in the middle of a sleep cycle, which always makes one feel worse. I’ve managed to avoid naps for the most part, although I always get drowsy on the bus home, regardless of schedule.

Scientifically speaking, given that we often feel the same way (sleepy, hungry, etc.) at certain times every day, it occurs to me that sleeping the same time every day would lead to a more efficient sleep cycle, and there is vast literature proclaiming that to be the proverbial good thing. That number might not be six (I just really hope it isn’t something like 8.5, which would be difficult to achieve – I’d pretty much need to be in bed already!)

Hope everyone had a cool weekend. I know I did – checked out Wall-E again yesterday at the cheap theatres and not only does it stand up, I actually enjoyed it better the second time around. My wife, who didn’t see it last time really liked it, but bemoaned the fact that most people won’t get the message. I argue that they’ll get it, they just won’t care or change anything about there lives as a result. Welcome to Earth, right? And then today we took the boys to a Halloween party at the house of crazy Bill Davis, whose garage-based haunted house is truly a marvel of technology.

[1] That does not mean that some people aren’t harder to replace than others.

October 14, 2008

An Experiment (and Random Thoughts)

Filed under: Grab Bag,Personal,Sound by Nathan @ 9:31 pm

After a horrific run-in with energy drinks at the end of last week (Thursday and Friday are a blur – it was no longer my skeletal system that was supporting my weight so much as my taurine-thickened blood) I’ve decided to do what any programmer would in this situation – start hacking.

My first “experiment”, which was to just go to bed at some pseudo-random (but often way too late) time and then wake up horrifically early during the weekday and horrifically late (for relatively small values of late according to foo, who at three months and three days my junior occasionally calls me “dad”.[1] This was followed up by liberal (and I mean libertine – at one time I could be seen wandering wide-eyed and drooling, cradling seven empty cans of delicious Sobe Arush Blue (aka Fresca for men), all of which had been consumed earlier that day. As mentioned before, I believe there was some kind of caffeine/taurine blackout.

My next experiment will be to get the same amount of sleep every night (this will, of course, be hard on weekends) at the same time and see how this pans out. I figure it will take a few weeks to even itself out. I will settle on the arbitrary number of six, because that seems achievable and useful. I will try to contain my slavering devotion of beverages whose main concern is artificially providing mental focus via chemicals with little to no long-term study as to their safety to some amount that will allow me to be asleep in time to get my precious six hours.

You might think that because this is a blog, results would follow. While this might be true, since it’s my blog, we may never speak of this again.

In other news, Canada had its federal election today. I, of course, did my part by voting and hope you do to whenever fine votes are being given. Looks like I owe the Ront a coffee – while we both predicted a conservative win (although in the current Canadian political climate, “predicting” a Conservative win is quite the euphemism) I thought Harper would get the majority. He did not. Well played, sir.

In other, even more exciting news, while playing Rock Band tonight I totally grooved on Bowie and threw down a 100% on Moonage Daydream, on guitar, on hard. Now that was sweet. Then we scored 376K on More Than a Feeling[2], which has me absolutely convinced that we can take that sucker to 400K with only drums and guitar. (Medium on drums, Hard on guitar). Let me know if it’s been done. This isn’t my first 100% on hard in Rock Band – I previously did it with Should I Stay or Should I Go by the Clash, but that practically doesn’t count.

What I really want is some Elvis Costello.

[1] He should be thankful I’m not his dad, ’cause I’d make him take his pocketknife and find me a switch the size of my thumb so I could beat him to within an inch of his life, because that’s how it was done in the old-timey days)
[2] Check out the video, seriously – can you believe these guys?

October 13, 2008

Intimations on Mortality

Filed under: Grab Bag by Nathan @ 4:40 pm

I don’t believe in God. I don’t believe in fate. I don’t believe in luck. And though I believe our planet requires a certain balance that we as a species seem intent on ignoring, there is no balance on a cosmic scale — karma is nothing more than an overused dance club name.

But I do believe that life is fragile; it is easier to take away than to give. A few months ago my great aunt was diagnosed with a terminal brain cancer.

Terminal.

There is no more final word in the English language. It is there to let us know that there is no light at the end of this tunnel, just a dead end. Today I got the call I knew was coming, that she died. It was peaceful, because that is was that is what we need to believe. I won’t mourn my aunt for long, but my heart goes out for my uncle, because the room gets a little dusty just thinking about what he’s going through.

It makes me so glad that we finally decided to have children and that we have two perfect boys. You can gather a lot of money, toys, and friends in this life but one day all that you will have left is your family.

In a society where all ideals like manners, chivalry and even decency have gone by the wayside we need to know that when our time comes we’ve done all we can to take care of those we leave behind. Sure, when I die my wife and boys will have more than enough money to live a middle class life, but instead I’ve left them something far more valuable.

Each other.

Goodbye Aunty Helen. I wasn’t much of a nephew, but I love you.

October 12, 2008

My Son, the Guitar Hero

Filed under: Grab Bag,Sound by Nathan @ 10:43 am

1.jpg I don’t know if this is common, but Xander just pulled off a pair of 70% plus performances in Guitar hero (Hit Me With Your Best Shot and Slow Ride). He is four.

October 11, 2008

Just a few things that are on my mind right now…

Filed under: Grab Bag by Nathan @ 8:55 pm

The iPhone is pretty much the best thing ever. I don’t care what anyone else says.

It’s been a long time now, but there is a new version of Effective Java. It is good.

Stackoverflow is addicting as hell, even with all of the BS noise. As predicted I may be found under the name cynicalman with the Grateful Dead logo.

I have a huge crush on Karen O, the lead singer of the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs. This crush is approved by my wife.

I was about to type that bulky square-toed dress shoes with thick soles that look as though you could safely walk through a shallow pool of radioactive waste are out. But they were never in. Sorry about 70% of people “dressed up” in downtown Calgary.

No hard feelings Eskimo Bill. Give me a call. Really, I mean it.

September 25, 2008 represented the anniversary of my first year clean and sober. This is a good thing, but it’s had the side effect having making me put on some weight. I’m nowhere remotely close to 300, but I’m a little further along the unhappy side of 200 than I’d rather be (I weighed about 210 when people thought I looked really good. I weighed about 193 when people said “you look sick, what’s going on?”

Five starring Gimme Shelter in Rock Band, on guitar, on hard, with my wife on drums is one of the best natural highs around. Give me a call Fuchs – we need a rock band night so I can see your mad drum skillz (unless they are just skills, in which case I don’t care)

OMG. This conversation just happened
Nathan: Flash quiz. Who sings this song?
Marie: You know I suck at this. Uh, is it that stupid “Franz Ferdinand” or whatever.
Nathan: (gives incredulous look)
Marie: Really, is it them?
Nathan: Yeah. Crazy

I bought a Time Capsule. And I like it.

A couple of weeks ago I scored 230,900 points in the original Donkey Kong. This may be the singular most important video game achievement of my life thus far. Stop laughing and try it. See if you score 10,000.

A band who was in my music collection buy I didn’t really care about until the new iTunes “Genius” feature brought them to my attention, Modest Mouse, is now in regular rotations.

If you aren’t listening to Kevin Smith’s podcast “SModcast” you should be. Right now. Go download them all and start getting weird looks when people look at you funny as you laugh out loud despite yourself.

Mike, things are gonna get worse before they get better, but they will get better.

Safari is my browser now. Sorry Firefox. It’s not you, it’s me, really.

I can’t decide if I don’t get Neighbors by Thomas Berger or if it’s just a shitty book.

Why aren’t Lego Batman or Lego Indiana Jones even remotely as good as Lego Star Wars II?

Is the funniest thing said “on the fly” in a song Beck saying “that was a good drum break” or Harry Connick Jr. saying “go on Benny, beat that dog?” Don’t worry PETA, the dog in question was an upright bass.

Speaking of Beck, what happened to him? By the way in an unrelated note, Portishead put out a new album.

I’m a wuss, because I cried on the bus reading the first chapter of “Hey Nostrodamus” by Douglas Coupland. That’s a good one.

Speaking of books. I don’t get William Gibson. Trying to get through Mona Lisa Overdrive and it’s just not working.

Pax Romana by Jonathan Hickman is the best comic you (probably) aren’t reading right now. Go get the trade for The Nightly News right now and thank me later.

You have to listen to Brian Wilson’s latest album at least three times before you’ll stop thinking it sucks.

On the other hand, I started liking David Byrne’s latest album (AMAZING) before it was finished downloading.

7:00am coffee at Caffe Artigiano might be the single best way to start the week.

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