Fullmetal Alchemist

09/24/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Reviews, Television

Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fullmetal_alchemist

This anime series seems a lot like many other anime series to start with. Many of the typical anime drawings, character reactions, exaggerations and the like are present. There's a strength of story and characters that show up as you continue watching the episodes, though, and it becomes rather intriguing.

The show is based loosely on the mythology behind alchemy, such as the search for the 'Philosopher's Stone', the alchemical 'holy grail' which allows things like transmutation of lead into gold, as well as other incredible things. There is a "principle of equivalent exchange" in the alchemy in the show, loosely based on "value" (of human lives, of metals) that the Philosopher's Stone would help violate.

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Half-Life: Episode One

09/24/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Reviews, Games

Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Half-Life_2:_Episode_One

I wasn't quite sure what to make of this when I saw it in the store. If it was different from Half-Life 2 itself, wouldn't it be episode two? Is Half-Life 2 actually episode zero?

Well, it is a sequel to Half-Life 2, and picks up pretty much at the very second that Half-Life 2 leaves off.

You get your white-charged gravity gun (I love that thing) for a while until you escape, then you're back to normal weapons. There's not much 'new' per se in the matter of gameplay, save for flinging cars into ant-lion holes and having to deal with grenade-carrying zombies.

It does have HDR, though, as demonstrated in the Half-Life 2: Lost Coast demo, so if you've got a good video card, you'll experience the light adjustment and visual 'bloom' as you go into and come out of dark areas (the reactor area demonstrates this pretty well).

Main complaint: it's short. It's three times cheaper than Half-Life 2, and it feels three times shorter.

There's new technology alluded to, but which does not appear in the game.

I liked bits of Doctor Kleiner's televised speech. You can listen to the entire thing if you wait for it at the main menu once you get far enough in the game.

There is a "black hole grenade" available if you turn cheats on. I haven't checked that out yet.

Episode Two ought to be a little more interesting, but we'll see. I'm looking forward more to Team Fortress Two, though it looks awfully, awfully cartoonish, like a big 3-D Popeye episode :)


Your regular DRM update

09/21/06 | by Adam | Categories: Copyright

Link: http://www.boingboing.net/2006/09/21/windows_media_player.html

Want to see why I'm moving away from Windows? OSX may not be better in the long run, but at least so far it's not moving in this direction.


Trackbacks gone again

09/19/06 | by Adam | Categories: Technology, Whining

After a brief attempt to enable trackbacks on the blog, I've disabled them again due to the incredible spam load. Some people do seem to be doing their darndest to hobble the more interactive aspects of the web.


The most insane laptop ever

09/18/06 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

Link: http://laptopmag.com/Review/Dell-XPS-M2010.htm

Normally I'd say that Dell was smoking something particularly potent when they created the monstrous XPS M2010 but I know at least one person personally who would probably buy it.

The scary thing is that it actually has a battery and runs for about three hours on it.


Oh lordy, not more DRM

09/18/06 | by Adam | Categories: Copyright

Link: http://www.engadget.com/2006/09/16/embedded-rfid-to-smack-down-dvd-piracy/

One of my hot buttons is, and has been for a while, Digital Rights Management (aka DRM.) The main overall change is that the content (the music, movie or book) is no longer considered to be sold but merely licensed. The ability to then sell your copy (and associated license) is also being gutted with the slow move to electronic distribution.

People who've been around for a while know this in an earlier form as copy protection in software such as dongles, passcodes, overburning, bad blocks on disks (and discs), as well as other nefarious methods. Frankly, software licensing is where this all came from and when it comes to being restrictive the music and movie industries are very fast learners indeed.

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Hell Pizza?

09/18/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Distractions

Link: https://www.hell.co.nz/index.jsp?city=Christchurch

I was looking at threads on Fark as usual and someon had posted a funny billboard as an ad for, well, the sign just listed hell.co.nz at the bottom.

So what is hell, then?

About the funniest site for a pizza place I've ever seen.

All the pizzas have an "evil" theme. (Quite frankly, I'd remember "Hawaiian" a lot better than I remember "Greed") The list of ingredients they put on a pizza ranges from the mundane to the quite bizarre (avocado, tuna, satay... er, refried beans? apricot sauce? pine nuts?)

Also, you can fling the little devils around the screen on the website, which they fully deserve :)

Kinda wish we had one here, but I wonder if its success depends on how much of a sense of Kiwi humour you have :)


Anticrepuscular Rays

09/17/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Science, Travel

There was an interesting phenomenon that took place on the horizon opposite the sunset when we were leaving the Masai Mara game park one evening. It was a stark diagonal band in the sky, that resolved itself into a couple of bands a little later.

Dena followed up on an "Astronomy Picture of the Day" picture today which looked rather similar to the phenomenon we encountered, and after some digging, she found out what the effect is.

They are "anti-crepuscular rays", and they're caused by the sun shining through and being blocked by clouds and holes in the clouds. The diagonality is just a perspective effect.

They look quite pretty :)

Anticrepuscular Rays


Code Project is Moving - Literally

09/16/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Announcements [A]

Link: http://www.codeproject.com/

The Code Project is one of my favourite programming resources these days, and has a prominent place on my personalized Google home page.

But the link today to an interesting article was cut short by an interesting-looking announcement:

We are Moving!

We are currently hauling our servers halfway across Toronto in a precision operation involving some U-Haul vans, somone's old Pontiac, and a taxi. Once we have located our new hosting facility, untangled the cables and found enough powerboards we'll be back online.

Everything should be back to normal late Sunday, September 17, 2006

It's nice to see the human side pop out of sites every now and again. I don't suppose they'll be thoughtful enough to provide pictures :)


Weblog privacy

09/15/06 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

This one came up today in a discussion with a relative. She'd found a weblog belonging to yet another relative that was expressing some fairly personal information, and was wondering about the ethics of reading what's functionally a private diary. My feeling is relatively straightforward: post your writing on a weblog -- in this case blogger.com -- and it's public. You may own the copyright on the expression, but the content is now fair game for all.

I don't really see this as an issue. Want to express your feelings in writing? Buy a paper diary. Want to share your feelings amongst a group of friends? Open up a private mailing list, password protect the discussion group, or better still, have a cup of coffee with them. Post on blogger? Better be willing to live with that one when everybody and their dog finds it.

Using only Google, I can still find posts I made to newgroups dating back to early 1995 and other mailing lists. Using a variety of other tools, I can practically build a complete history of whoever I want. This stuff doesn't go away (unless you're using Ritchie's weblog :)). Even with the private mailing lists and discussion groups above; once it's in a digital form, it's out of your control and spreading in the wild is just a forward click away (or a miss-clicked CC:)

My personal rule of thumb: if you're not comfortable with your parents, siblings or friends reading what you wrote, don't write it.



09/15/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Reviews, Games

Link: http://www.2kgames.com/index.php?p=games&title=prey

This is a profoundly bizarre game. Cherokee plus science fiction. It's entertaining, but it will totally mess with you, at least for a while.

Alright, the stars of the show are admittedly a little stereotypical, but it does square with the occasional bit I've caught on APTN and with Dena's teaching experience up on a fly-in reservation. I must admit to an almost guilty guffaw when I wandered around the bar at the introduction, poked my head into the women's bathroom and as the character, Tommy, contemplates this bathroom rivaling the squalor of the men's room, he remarks "sugar and spice my ass".

Now combine this with a full-scale rather horrid alien invasion, somewhat Doom 3-like in the way it feels. The alien technology is the seemingly standard technology plus disgusting biology.

One of the fun but utterly disorienting things about this game is the fact that you're not always on the floor, and portals, even in boxes, don't have to lead to a sensible spot. There are activated floors that let you walk up walls and on ceilings (as long as they're powered) as well as gravity direction generators and the like.

Add in the almost Soul Reaver spectral-realm type ability to Spirit Walk (though you can pop in and out of spirit walking much more easily, and you always return to your body), which lets you through some force fields, walk over some spectral bridges, and even retrieve ammo and press consoles, but generally not trigger events, open doors, or walk on walls or ceilings... then add in some slightly off-kilter weapons and the biomechadisgusting array of enemies and you have the makings of an odd but fairly engaging game.

The temptation to reload is vastly reduced. You don't die per se, you enter a deathwalk where you can kill spirit wraiths to get your body back in a semblance of non-death.

I've been relatively taken in by the game. Some of it is fairly rote, but the occasional glimpses of outside, the oddities of Cherokees in Space (the typical fight against tradition and grandfather in particular), the tendency of Tommy to occasionally say just what you're thinking (except with a few more swear words), steady progress and a good, occasional "wow, what the hell is that?!" has grown on me somewhat.

Great fun if you like a sort of a Doom/Half-Life/System Shock genre :)


Sign Generator

09/15/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Distractions

Link: http://www.customsigngenerator.com/

Every now and again, you discover something that other people have already known about for quite some time. For me, that's the Custom Sign Generator Page. It's been a hard week of work for my dear wife, so I was enjoying myself, making signs and sending them along.

It's a time-waster (albeit fun), I'm warning you now.

And now, for my most idiotic masterpiece:

That wasn't kitten


Truth in preflight announcements

09/14/06 | by Adam | Categories: Silly

Link: http://www.economist.com/opinion/displaystory.cfm?story_id=7884654

Being a regular flyer and having sat through years worth of preflight briefings, this little commentary from the Economist tickled my funnybone. Title links to the original.


Blogging at work

09/14/06 | by Adam | Categories: Technology, Whining

Recently a new version of our employee handbook was posted on the corporate intranet. The interesting this is that it now has a section on weblogging listed amongst the bits on inappropriate computer use and workplace harassment.

Item #1:
Do not blog about company matters unless the content has been approved

So with that statement, that's about all you'll be hearing about my workspace. I'm aware of more than a few companies that have fired people over commentary made in the (private) weblogs and I don't care to join their numbers.

The section is quite long with a fair number of bullet-points. What I thought was interesting was that blogging was even mentioned, never mind the detail that it then goes into.

Oh, one more item (#12):
Don't forget your day job. Do not blog at work or, do not let blogging interfere with your job or your commitments to customers.

Fair enough statement there.

I hate to say this about any company policy which is designed to restrict employee choices outside of work periods, but it's actually pretty reasonable in what's prohibited or at least discouraged. It would have been a far easier job to make item #1:
Do not discuss company matters on pain of dismissal.

and forget about the rest.


The cover of "The Time Machine"

09/13/06 | by Adam | Categories: Music

One of the tracks from Alan Parsons' "The Time Machine" came up in random shuffle. As with most Alan Parsons' albums, this comes with a theme, and not entirely surprisingly, it's time on this one. On my system, that means that the cover is displayed. You can see a copy of it at Wikipedia's entry.

I can figure out some of the time references on the cover, but not all of them.

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