Prey

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.

Full story »

 

Expensing computer use

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

Recently I bought a new laptop after deciding that none of the work laptops were appropriate for a business trip. When I asked my manager if there was a similar program to reimbursing personal car mileage for personal laptop use, I was told there wasn't and never would be.

To a certain extent, I do get this. The company doesn't own cars but it does own laptops. As such from their perspective, it makes sense to oblige employees to use them; after all, they're insured for work purposes and being depreciated based upon it, whereas personal computers are not.

I still get the sense there's a hole here though.

 

Posts restored (mostly)

09/12/06 | by Adam | Categories: Technology, Whining

I've restored all of the posts that were here originally, prior to the destruction of the original host. There's one I can't find as it was never cached by Google, but that's about it.

Back up the site properly, Ritchie :) (Although I'm copying all my posts locally now as well!)

 

Mad Labs

09/11/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Reviews, Television, Science

Link: http://www.nationalgeographic.ca/features/mad_labs_highlights.asp

Caught this show on television tonight. It's a science show of the type that's been desperately missing from television for the better part of a decade, apart from perhaps Mythbusters: fun, madcap and informative.

The episode today featured a dairy farm which took advantage of robotics from an opposite-of-typical point of view. It's set up so that the cows can get the robotics to milk them whenever they feel uncomfortable, and the machinery estimates how much milk the cow would have produced since last time it got milked, and dispenses the right amount of food for nutrition replacement. This, on top of cow toys, spots they can brush themselves and a relatively free run of the place, makes for pretty happy cows.

They tackled the bread-landing-butter-side-down problem, and determined after a bit of experimentation (pushing 100 pieces of buttered toast off a counter and having 89 of them land butter side down), hypothesized that it was due to the average amount of rotation from that height, and tried it again from a counter that was double the height, getting 82 landing butter side up.

Also on the program, growing mice in germ-free environments from birth versus normal germy environments having effects on their weight gain, trying to dissolve chewing gum with pepsin and hydrochloric acid, and the like.

Had to trip across the History Channel to find this show, too.

Yes, it's not teaching quantum mechanics and the like, but it looks like it ought to be able to get people excited about science again :)

 

Coco Brooks

09/10/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Reviews, Restaurants

Link: http://www.cocobrooks.ca/

Right next to Memory Express on 32rd, though the sign outside may bespeak a fancy bistro, it's nothing of the sort, really. It's a pretty casual place with lots of seating that serves individual pizzas, calzones, pasta and salads.

The pizzas are pre-made, and in fact part of their business is selling frozen pizzas, for take-home or for fundraising events. They will not customize the pizzas, which is okay because they have a fairly varied selection of thirty-odd flavours, including a few dessert pizzas, pizzas with eggs, and a pizza with pasta on it for kids.

The pizzas themselves taste pretty good, actually. Dena had the Ala Mo Wana (a pretty nice Hawaiian pizza variant), and I had the Hot Wing Pizza, which was chicken, parmesan and a good dollop of Frank's Red Hot (or a clone thereof). Tasty.

Particularly odd are the boxes that the pizzas come in. They've got little quotes up and down the sides, and under the lid, there's something semi-substantial to read. Dena's had a neat little tract on appreciating teachers (mildly odd, Dena being a teacher!), and mine had an entire little blurb on how research showed that you can read scrambled words pretty easily as long as the first and last letters are in the right place, and the blurb itself was scrambled in that fashion, and it's true: you can read it at least as quickly as you can read it aloud.

They recycle the pizza boxes, too, which confuses me a bit. I thought pizza grease and the like would totally prevent that from being feasible. What's the trick?

It's a nifty little spot if you've got a hankering for individual pizzas.

I think I'll have a salad next time I'm back. With odd things like Donair Salad and Peach Caesar Salad, I think I'd enjoy them :)

Here's a link to their menu...

 

Inconsistent Shadows in the Microwave Background

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

Link: http://www.physorg.com/news76314500.html

I had always wondered whether the cosmic microwave background radiation ought to have shadows in it where it fails to shine through nearby clusters. Apparently, it should.

Also apparently, it doesn't. At least, not consistently, and that's a problem.

"These shadows are a well-known thing that has been predicted for years," said Lieu. "This is the only direct method of determining the distance to the origin of the cosmic microwave background. Up to now, all the evidence that it originated from as far back in time as the Big Bang fireball has been circumstantial.

"If you see a shadow, however, it means the radiation comes from behind the cluster. If you don't see a shadow, then you have something of a problem. Among the 31 clusters that we studied, some show a shadow effect and others do not."

It's mildly worse than that...

Taken together, the data shows a shadow effect about one-fourth of what was predicted - an amount roughly equal in strength to natural variations previously seen in the microwave background across the entire sky.

"Either it (the microwave background) isn't coming from behind the clusters, which means the Big Bang is blown away, or ... there is something else going on," said Lieu. "One possibility is to say the clusters themselves are microwave emitting sources, either from an embedded point source or from a halo of microwave-emitting material that is part of the cluster environment.

It won't be the final word on the subject, that's for sure, but I'm pleased to see something I've anticipated for some time :)

 

From The Ground Up

09/03/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Announcements [A], Thoughts, Ethics, Internet

'Tis a sad thing - it looks like the server my site was on was essentially razed by a hacker. I'll pass along more details as I get them.

Rather sad about the timing - I'd been having troubles getting a backup generated for a very long time, but was going to try again once I was back and set up with customer support.

Google's caching has helped retrieve a number of entries from the abyss (I haven't put them back up yet... that'll be a few weeks of light manual work), but there are some entries that even Google doesn't have cached, or at least the "read more..." part isn't.

Well, they've set me up on a new server, regardless, and it looks like I've got free and clear access to doing backups.

Ugh.

 

Internet culture beats Hollywood

08/29/06 | by Adam | Categories: Technology, Silly

This was quite funny.

My mother who isn't a technology follower by any means was reading a recent copy of the Globe & Mail which advertised a charity appearance by Matt Damon. In the picture it looks like he's with a group of African children. She pointed it out to me, saying "It's Matt!" This all left me a little non-plussed as I didn't think she was interested in Hollywood stars. When I pushed a bit more to find out what the deal was, it clicked.

A few weeks earlier I'd forwarded the latest internet meme, a video of a dancing geek, taken in locations all over the world, to my father. It's a very nifty idea and presented beautifully. My mother had seen this and confused Matt Damon with Matt Harding. She still doesn't know (or care) who Matt Damon is, but the dancing video has stuck in her mind.

Score one for the internet meme-monster!

 

Upgrading systems is for the birds

08/28/06 | by Adam | Categories: Technology, Whining

As time moves on, I get less and less interested in playing with the internals of computers. Each time these days I open up a computer to do some maintenance I'm reminded again that it's not fun any more, but work.

Full story »

 

Forte Agent Newsreader Updated

08/27/06 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

I used to use Forte's Agent a lot when reading newsgroups and mail under Windows; I still have it installed although I've mostly migrated to using Open Webmail and Google Groups these days. The USD$19 upgrade fee (or USD$29 for a new license) isn't bad though if you store your mail on a local computer.

 

Passing Through The Land of Fish 'n' Chips

08/25/06 | by Nimble | Categories: Journal

We are in Epsom with my folks, a last stop before coming back home... tomorrow!

To recap the last few days...

We spent another night at the Chavda. I got Dena upstairs in time to catch the included breakfast, but the breakfast was disappointing (as it seems to be in a number of small hotels around here)... buns, some fruit, and the pineapple was unripe. I'd suggest going out for breakfast.

We then went to the Mbweni Ruins Hotel as a last little bit of luxury on Zanzibar. It's got the ruins of a mission that took in freed slave girls once upon a time, and the rest of the grounds has a bit of beach and some rather nice botanical gardens, which had silver palms, screwpines, tamarind trees, pomegranate trees and all sorts of other stuff, with more plantings in the works.

The room itself was the slightly pricy Baobab suite (#5), which had a nice bed, a good cold fridge (enjoyed the water we put in there), and a balcony that you could entertain on... it was about as big as the suite, and essentially hidden from all the other guest rooms.

Full story »

 

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