Friday, August 29, 2008

McCain's Choices

Well, I've decide who I am voting for. I can't wait to see who he picks for his cabinet. The supreme court may never be the same.

Woot! Go John!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

MMO Comparison: World of Warcraft, Age of Conan, Warhammer Online

This will be a first for me. I'm going to give my random opinion on 3 games that I have played recently. Perhaps some history first.

I played World of Warcraft (WoW) from the moment it was released. I played it until about a year ago and then I quit. It just got old. But, I played it for a long time. I think it was released in late 2004. Blizzard is probably my favorite gaming software company.

Age of Conan (AoC) I started playing in June. It's quite a bit different from WoW. It is more mature. I think it was released in May of 2008.

Warhammer Online (WhO) is being released September 2008. I got to participate briefly in an open beta over the weekend.

World of Warcraft

WoW is the oldest. My youngest daughter still plays it. She says that she's never seen another game with better graphics. I think this is viewed from the eyes of a child and I have to give kudos to Blizzard. The game is easy to play, but some of the puzzles are tough enough to entertain adults. It's got a very wide range of playability so no matter what your play style it's bound to have something for you. It's just old. I am surprised it has maintained the level of popularity it's maintained for this amount of time.

You can see from the above picture that the graphics are also old compared to today's standards. Of course, it will therefore play on more machines (the hardware requirements aren't as high). You can see that the shadows are just circles underneath the rams. Of course, some of this can be tuned up or down via a wide range of settings in the game. All of these games have lots of video options.

Here is a battle picture from WoW. WoW is rated Teen, but I don't really see why a 6 year old couldn't play it.

The npc (non-player character) AI (artificial intelligence) is very good in this game.

Age of Conan

AoC is my favorite game right now. There are lots of people that complain about it having crash problems and memory leaks and various other technical inadequacies. But, it's different. It's rated M for mature audiences. It's based on novels by Robert E. Howard that I wouldn't want my kids to read.

It's immersing. From the moment you start playing you zoom in on people when they talk to you and they really talk to you. All of the dialog is scripted for about 30% of the game (you still have to read a bit). Maybe more. They've done away with the cartoons and made it as realistic as possible (for a fantasy game). It makes you wish all the MMO's would come out with a maturity setting that you can turn on or off.

When you kill an opponent, they don't just fall over in a horizontal position to let you know they are dead. Sometimes heads will come off. Sometimes necks will break. Sometimes they turn a grisly blue color and do some wild electrical boogie. Sometimes a fire breaks out from below their neck and they are engulfed in flames that makes them writhe. It's all loads of fun! The NPC AI is close to if not as good as WoW's. It's different.

One story involves rescuing topless harem girls from a bunch of big fat eunuchs. I swear it is more fun than you can shake a stick at (or a two-handed meat cleaver)! Nudity abounds in AoC. Even online players can take their clothes off. The demons that are summoned to fight for the demonologists also come with clothing optional. Actually, it's not really optional. You can switch to a male demon who wears more clothing, but he's kind of vulgar. He does some pelvic thrusting during his successful attacks.

Warhammer Online
WhO is the latest. It's RvR based (realm versus realm). All of the above games have some aspect of PvP (player versus player). Some more than others. If you like playing with or against other people then WhO is probably the game you've been waiting for.

I participated in an open beta last weekend and although the maturity level made me gag a little bit, the social interaction was highly addictive.

They have a concept of Public Quests where you get in on an ongoing story and participate to completion. Then, depending on the amount of your participation, you are awarded appropriately.

There are also "scenarios" where you have to compete against the other realm in different missions (like a capture the flag type thing).

This game is also rated T for everyone and everyone's momma. Going from AoC to WhO was kind of like going from The Bunny Ranch to Chucky Cheese. Depending on your age and/or maturity level, one might be more fun than the other.

The NPC AI was seemingly non-existent. If you stick with the PvP and RvR, you don't miss it too much. And, to be fair, it was a beta.

In summary:
If you like story immersion and some amount of maturity in your gaming, I would have to recommend AoC. AoC ranks first in immersion and first in Combat and first in Maturity. I also hear they are releasing a version for the XBox360 which would be way cool. Not necessarily for me, but for my buddies who have given up on PC gaming for XBox's. I could finally play with them again (maybe).

If you want a game that is established and has a nice looking expansion pack coming out. It's fun and easy to play with loads of people already playing then you'll want to stick with or go to WoW. Blizzard continues to impress me. I just got burnt out on the game. WoW ranks first in stability, longevity and playability.

If PvP or player interaction is your style then you probably can't go wrong with WhO. It ranks first in innovative game ideas and RvR combat.

I found myself wishing that I could combine aspects of all 3 games. I suppose I could toss in my 20+ years of Software Engineering and Gaming expertise into the MMO market. But, I don't know if they are ready for me.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Brett Dennen and Pandora

I discovered another artist on Pandora today. It may just be the mood I'm in, but I really like his music.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Drinking the Strategic Fat Preserve

My reticent friend Durango coined the term "Strategic Fat Preserve".

I use it excessively. Or maybe massively excessive.

Has it ever happened to you, as it has to me, that you are refused a drink at a bar? How is this judgment made?

"Helloo mishter barrrrrtender. C'n I havsh anosher one ofsh thoshe shtequila thangsh?"

"I'm sorry sir, but I think you've had enough."

So, all because of a stumbling appearance and slirring of sentences I am denied the right to alcohol!

So, next day, I am recovering at the local burger joint enjoying a very greasy hamburger that is dripping down my chin and a large hydrating beverage of my choice, when some massive amount of strategic fat preserve somehow manages to waddle into the same burger joint as everyone else and orders a #3 combo and "Make it a MASSIVE Meal please."

So, the small and puny teenager behind the register obediently rings up the blood thickening burger and fries for the blubbery heart attack waiting to happen and takes the money. Soon, the death defying fattening will continue and now I have to eat faster before I lose my appetite.

Then, it occurs to me: the bartender can tell me I'm too drunk to drink. But, the burger joint guy was not able to tell this patron that they were too fat to eat. Why is that? Was I more obviously drunk than they were obviously fat?

Monday, August 18, 2008


I am composing a list of artists that I have discovered since I started listening to Pandora. These are artists that, had it not been for Pandora, never would have been the beneficiaries of my $12's for a CD. I have lots of CD's.

It seems that Pandora runs the risk of shutting down because of royalty costs. I'll let you do your own research.

I'll update this post as necessary to add to the list of artists. I encourage you to add comments with artists you have discovered as a result of Web Radio or the Internet.

In no particular order:
Lari White
Pitbull Daycare
Alice Smith
Lauryn Hill
Sasha Dobson
Don Ross
Flogging Molly
Barefoot Truth
Billy Dean
Ruthie Foster
Leo Kottke
Tommy Emmanuel
John Butler Trio

Gas Prices, Science, Research & Swimming

This weekend, I went swimming over at my brother's new house. I'm not much of a swimmer. My left shoulder has been bugging me for over a year now and it was not at all fond of the breast stroke.

So, we sat in the hot tub and conversed about random things. It occurred to me (may have been during, may have been before and it may have been after) that high gas prices are mostly good for us.

In fact, I'm kind of disappointed that they are going back down. When gas prices hit $4 per gallon, the alternative fuels people were having a blast. They were talking about cars that run on water, cars that run on air, using algae to make oil, electric cars, hybrid cars. It was an inventor's extravaganza!

Interestingly, we never did make it up to European gas prices from at least 6 years ago. If gas prices start going back down to a manageable level, then people will quit complaining and the inventors will quit inventing.

So, charge us more for oil please! It produces good things.

It's too bad we don't get as fired up about diseases. If we all had to take cancer medicine and the cost of the medication suddenly went up by 20% maybe they would cure it. That's one of the problems with a democracy. It's all about the majority. If everyone had to take insulin and a bottle of insulin suddenly started costing $100, I bet they'd cure diabetes.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Russia & Georgia and USA & Texas

Anytime I see conflict. I always try to walk in their shoes. It's not always possible because the media seems to be very opinionated. Instead of telling the story, they tend to take sides or only interview one side and present that side as fact.

This Russia & Georgia conflict has somehow forced me into this situation again. I've always liked Putin. I don't know why exactly. He seems very smart and I like smart people. He could be as dumb as an ox and his PR people are very good. Who knows, but I've always liked him.
I'm going to skim over the details to get right to my analogy, but if my understanding is correct, Georgia used to be part of the Soviet Union along with several other little countries around the Russian border. There is a territory called Ossetia. The southern part of Ossetia is in Georgia. The northern part is in Russia.
I was reading one news story yesterday where they "supposedly" interviewed an older woman living in the southern Ossetia region and her and her children or grandchildren were complaining about the Georgian president and were praising Putin for coming to help. So, does South Ossetia want to be part of Russia?
What would happen if Texas left the USA, but folks in the panhandle decided they wanted to stay with the USA. What would the USA do if the country of Texas began to bombard the panhandle in an attempt to "persuade" them to quiet down and be happy where they are at?

The USA supports democracy. It's worked pretty well for us. But, in this case, to honor the democracy you have to ask all the people in South Ossetia what they want. If the majority want to become part of Russia, then it's a done deal. Hopefully our government's intelligence is better than it was pre-Iraq...

Monday, August 11, 2008

KISS Party

I've decided that there are no political parties that exactly match my chaotic way of thinking.

Therefore, I am going to create the KISS Party. It's an acronym that you may be familiar with. Keep It Simple Stupid.

First read this. In summary, it talks about outlawing knives because you can kill people with a knife.

The government does this kind of thing all the time. It's not good enough to make it illegal to kill someone (the KISS Party stance), they must make it illegal to be able to kill someone. Today, in the USA, can you come up with the number of laws that were created to circumvent the ability to kill someone?

How many billions of dollars and mountains of regulations have been written to try to take away the ability to hurt someone else. The current war on drugs and all of that craziness is for what? To protect us from ourselves? Why is it illegal to smoke marijuana? People on cocaine are dangerous to themselves and others so cocaine should be illegal? Let's cut out all the BS and just make it illegal to hurt someone.

I don't know about any of you sane people, but if they'd simplify things, I'd be willing to let them install a tracking device in my butt so they could track where I am. If they'd let me be free to do what I want to do as long as I'm not hurting someone else in the process.

The Feds Tell Me I Can Be Married!!!

For a prequel, go here.

The Feds sent me a letter last Friday. They said that I am allowed to stay married for another year while they go over my evidence that my wife and I are really married.

I'm glad to be an American, where at least I know I'm free.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Paris Hilton's Energy Plan and Algae

I would say I don't like Paris Hilton. Most of the stuff I see about her on TV makes me pretty much sure I would despise her. However, since I've never met her personally, I can't say that I don't like her. I just don't like her TV persona. However, this was funny:

But, alas, even her craziness is not "outside the box" enough. Maybe, we continue to use oil, and just change the way we get it.

Let's kill 2 birds with one stone.

Think outside the box. Get the oil from somewhere else. We don't need offshore drilling.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

CableCards, Set Top Boxes , Government Regulations

I discovered last night that the government has forced digital TV providers to standardize on their encoding/decoding strategies. I'm not quite sure why the government has done this and I'm not quite sure of all the details, but it sounded good to me. It's all part of the government taking care of the little guy.
I hate paying my cable company $50 per month to pay for channels and then have to pay them an additional $20 per month to decode the channels I paid for. You spend $1200 for a new HD TV with an HD tuner and you can't use it because you have cable and your cable is scrambled and the only way to descramble is to use the cable companies set top box.
So, anyway, I read this little thing about the government taking care of the little guy. They have somehow forced cable companies to standardize. So, now there is this little gadget called a CableCARD. It sounds (on the surface) like something I've only dreamed about.
It's basically a descrambler about the size of a PCMCIA card (the little cards that plug into the side of your laptop).
The logical step is to have one of these in your computer. Go to the store, buy a CableCard for my open PCI-e slot and I've got digital HD TV coming into my PC right? Wrong.
The government also has regulations regarding recording and distributing copywritten material. It's not enough for them to bust people that do it. They must try very hard to prevent the possibility that you might be able to do so.
Because of this, the CableCARD readers for the PC can only be sold to OEM's. Currently ATI (an AMD division) is the only company manufacturing these readers. For them to get permission to do this, they had to put in copy protection.
This little device will only work on PC's that are running Windows Vista and have some code in the BIOS (firmware inside the motherboard of the computer). Basically the BIOS tells Vista, that it won't illegally copy (burn) copy protected material (like HD movies from the cable company). When Windows Vista sees this, it will allow the little CableCARD device from AMD to work.
If you have your own home grown PC (like I do), and you could get your hands on a CableCARD device, you'd probably never get it to work. Windows Vista won't recognize it and it won't run unless Windows Vista tells it to.
I looked around to see how many manufacturers are selling PC's with this special BIOS setting. There are a fairly large amount so there is some competition. The cheapest one I saw was about $1200. If I build my own computer, I could build one up with the same specs for about $500.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Dealing with Stress

I think sometimes I re-blog. I don't go back and re-read so I'm sure it's not verbatim, but rather a re-iteration of something I've already blogged. I like the word blog.

McCain is 3 months younger than my dad. Obama is 3 months older than my brother. So McCain is old enough to be Obama's dad. Bob Barr is close to the middle. He's 12 years younger than McCain and about 16 years older than Obama. I hope that helps you make a decision. It certainly pointed me in the right direction (not really, but it was fun).

I get stressed for unknown reasons. Sometimes, my wife will say, "What's wrong with you?" and I say, "I'm stressed!". Then she says, "About what?" And I say, "I don't know." Then, I have to think about why I'm stressed and a lot of times, I think it's just that time of the month or something. I can't explain it.

I discovered when I was younger that if I don't watch TV (specifically the news), then my stress level goes down. People are amazed when they ask me about current events and I know nothing about them. I literally don't read the newspaper, I don't watch the news and when the radio is talking about something that makes me tense, I turn the channel. Stress kills. People that deal in stress should get a life sentence in an inhospitable prison.

When you buy a house, you immediately get inundated with people that deal in stress. You have the insurance people calling, "What are you going to do if your house burns down?". Then, you have the security people calling you, "Did you realize that last year alone X houses in this neighborhood were victims of robbery?" And that's not even counting the nice mortgage people sending you letters every week, "We noticed you are not covered by our mortgage insurance plan! What happens to your wife and kids when you get hit by a fast moving train tomorrow? Will they be able to keep the house?"

Is there a political party that believes in taking care of the little guy (like me) while still shrinking the size of government and getting out of my business? And by taking care of the little guy, I don't want them to give me anything. But, I think some kind of regulations over big businesses are necessary. Monopolies are bad. Taking advantage of people is bad.

Of course, if you make it illegal to hurt anyone financially, physically, or mentally, then you may have covered all of your bases.