Thursday, January 31, 2002

Learn By Doing

Oops! When I put the page together, I renamed all the full-size images with nice Macintosh names. You know, embedded spaces, exclamation points, no .jpg suffix. That worked just fine with my Macintosh web browser from home. And seeing as how it was after midnight when I did the final test, I didn't think about 'cross-platform' issues.

But if you checked the pictures out from some other platform, they were rendered as garbage text. So I've renamed all the Jpeg files again, and rebuilt the index file. Give 'em a whirl!

Wednesday, January 30, 2002

Minor Retraction

Okay, just to be fair, the prints envelope offers Kodak prints, but Jean checked 'Standard' film processing, so it's perhaps not as professional where preserving the negatives is concerned. I'll probably do some experimenting in that regard with the next roll...

<em>Still</em> No Sign Of Land!

I've lost track of how long it's been since I've gotten stranded in Macalania Wood (FFX reference). I put it aside since I couldn't figure out how to get past the monsters, and got killed twice. I have now even resorted to checking some walkthroughs on, and they all uniformly agree "the fights are tough". Thanks alot for that tip. I browsed one of those tip books at Fry's this evening, but no more help there.

Anyway, I assumed that I'd set some time aside to try getting past it again tonight after putting everybody to bed, but I got sidetracked. I bought a film scanner today (yeah, I know, I said no more toys). It's a Canon Canoscan FS2720U, and will scan negatives and slides. I'm currently trying it out with our generic Point and Shoot (P&S). Here are the samples, covering Kelly's birthday, Christmas, and some Summer shots too!

The initial short story is that negatives from Kodak mailers have lots of scratches! But Photoshop to the rescue, and it's almost hard to tell. The second point is, film scanning is slow compared to uploading digital photos. And of course, P&S photos are not all that impressive to begin with. But it's still a way for me to get those photos from our camera up on the web when I find them appealing.

Tuesday, January 29, 2002

Finite and Infinite Games

Back in my old weblog, I posted a note about Nomic, which is a game about making rules. It's very open-ended, and is one of those games where the quality of play is largely determined by the participants. I think someday I'll try my hand at it again, in which case I'll need the starting rules. Peter Suber is the creator, who invented the game to illustrate a point in his book, The Paradox of Self-Amendment.

What got me off on this thread again was a reference by David McCusker to Finite and Infinite Games, a book by James P. Carse which I read several years ago. It struck me as a bit gosh-wow, but had some interesting viewpoints regarding life as 'infinite game'. Since McCusker mentions Nomic in another post, that got me onto the realization that Nomic could very well be one of the sources of inspiration for Carse's book, since I believe it predates it by a decade.

Does this article have a point? No, it's really just a bookmark for me to record things I'm interested in. I'll probably transcribe the links to various other open-ended games I had included in my original Nomic article (from Terebi I) when I've got time.

Why a Duck?

Friday I rented Duck Soup and Horse Feathers with my own money* because Kelly said she wanted to see some Marx Brothers. Of course my own enthusiasm tainted my decision. I should have rented just one.

Sunday afternoon we all sat down with popcorn to watch Duck Soup, supposedly one of the best of their films. Less than an hour into the movie, Kelly was fidgeting, and tried to squirm onto my lap. I was shifting my weight at that moment, and she slid to the floor. For some reason she decided to throw a wobbly over this, but the upshot was we ended up stopping the movie.

Eventually things calmed down, and I went to start the movie again. Kelly was dead set against it. "It's too slow," she said. So Jean and I went on to do other things, and Kelly started watching All That on Nickelodeon. I blame shows like this for making the Marx Brothers seem 'too slow'.

*: $3.98 at Blockbuster's .

Monday, January 28, 2002

Pa Moyer

I just realized that I need to post an update on Jean's Dad and his condition. News is that he came through the angioplasty fine--we have pictures, before and after, though I don't have the URL handy right now. Though he claims not to feel any different, he is filling his calendar with activities, like leading an investment club meeting, so at least he seems to be feeling okay.


I was listening to Morning Edition on the way to work. They were interviewing Diana Wells, who has a new book out, 100 Birds and How They Got Their Names.

One of the most interesting tidbits: Mayan legend has it that hummingbirds were created out of all the scraps of feathers left over when the creation of the other birds was done.

Sunday, January 27, 2002

Snow Snit

click for small gallery of snow picsLast night it started to snow. And I mean snow! Okay, I've done time in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and Ohio's no picnic either. But I left those arctic armpits behind for a reason, so I always greet the two or three days of snow and ice in Portland with a grimace.

My hope is that the cold snap passes quickly. Sometimes it can drag on for a couple of weeks and we have to deal with ice on the roads as well as the bitter cold. I never liked it back East, grrrr, grumble, grumble...

New Banner

I finally went out and bought a corkboard to put Kelly's artwork on. She can generate art faster than I can find places to put it, without breaking a sweat. I installed the board yesterday, with only a little difficulty. Note to self: once an expansion bolt is installed, you can't unscrew it, even a little.

So now, even though Kelly will still be cranking out tons of stuff, she can't complain that I never hang it up (not a real large problem, but I like to be preemptive with this sort of thing). The rule is, if you want it posted, Kelly, you get to pick what comes off of the board to make room for it. Neat, huh?

Click on the banner image to see a blow-up of one of her drawings on the board.

Wednesday, January 23, 2002

As the Tongue Curls

I don't want to become a word maven, but sometimes I get rather annoyed at linguistic abuses. Here's one.

I was reading The Haskell School of Expression this evening, when my eyes lit on the following phrase on page 144: "Instead of pushing this line of reasoning further, let's pursue a different tact based on the (valid) assumption that if m is even, then: m = m `quot` 2 + m `quot` 2."

You don't need to know anything about the equation, I just included that to show the complete quote. The important point is the abuse of the word tact in this context, which I've seen more than once. This comes from people imitating the sound of a common figure of speech without understanding it's origin. "Taking a different tack", from context clearly means trying a new approach or new direction, but to the ear, and the lazy tongue, tact rolls out almost as easily.

But it's wrong! Tact and tack are short words. Even if the average person has no reason to know what a tack(line) is, or how to tack into the wind, they must surely understand the meaning of tact well enough to wonder what the heck "pursue a different tact" should mean?

Google search pursue +different +tack: 11,000 results.

Google search pursue +different +tact: 12,500 results!

The illiterate are winning!

Tuesday, January 22, 2002

The Check Is In The Ether...

This explains exactly why I do not now nor ever intend to adopt automated electronic bill-payments. Send me a paper bill and if I agree with the amount, then you can have a check in payment.

Photo Finish

About a week ago I engaged in an experiment. It was precipitated by Apple's new iPhoto software, though I didn't use it. iPhoto allows the user to upload their digital photos to Kodak/Ophoto to have physical glossy prints made. I read on one of the Mac newsgroups that in fact the prices were lower, and the picture quality higher, through

So I selected five random digital photographs from our trip to the coast and uploaded them to Walmart (the storage for these online photos will go away in a year, so ... linkrot!!!). I selected 4"X6" glossies, which were 26 cents apiece. Since there is no Walmart convenient to my home, I had them mailed for an additional $1.25. So for less than two dollars I got my five sample photos.

And they were great! They were, to me and to Jean and to the friends I showed them, indistinguishable from point-and-shoot photos. Now if I were to try to compare them to SLR photos, they'd probably fall short, but since I'm only competing with Jean's point-and-shoot on our little road trips, I can now get 'archival' photos of any special shots I like.

P.S.: I no longer have the link to the article which started this all, but Yann Ricard's post to Macintouch covers the same ground even better.

Monday, January 21, 2002

The Analytical Engine

Actually, this is my last entry for tonight .

Jean's taking a math class this term. The recommended calculator is the TI-89. If you ask me, it's overkill for an introductory math class, but if she can unlock the features, it might actually accelerate her understanding.

Unfortunately, the manual isn't the most user friendly, not even having an index. Jean wanted me to help her figure out how to do unit conversions, and I did. After about an hour. Of course, I now know how to do it forever.

And this isn't even the top-of-the-line TI calculator. I picture this as being a calculator which a student buys in their freshman year at an engineering school. After four years the poor schmuck has uncovered 30 or 40 percent of the functionality of the gadget, and is set for a lifetime of discovery.

Another impression I got is that this is like learning Unix from scratch. Except it's a closed platform, so more like learning the Macintosh from scratch. Only it's not easy to use, so more like a Wintel box .


One last item. I'll keep it short since the story is still evolving. Jean's dad had a heart attack (they think) this weekend, and after a catheterization exam, they determined that two of his arteries were 90% blocked. The options were double-bypass surgery or angioplasty. In cases of such advanced blockage, bypasses are the norm, but Jean's dad is diabetic, so losing veins for an operation is an unattractive proposition at best.

Anyway, the decision was made to perform angioplasties, and the procedure was performed this morning. Jean's dad is apparently doing fine, and will be allowed to go home after a brief observation period (24 hours?). They installed stents, one of which was 'coated'. They couldn't use two coated stents as that's not approved in America as yet (it is in some countries). Apparently, the coating is some form of immune system suppressant, to prevent additional plaque buildup.

Apparently Mr. Moyer observed that he knows other people who have lived profligate lives and have no apparent health problems at all, whereas he has always taken care of himself (his doctors agree) and yet he has to deal with this sort of problem. Well, I wish him luck, anyway.

Sunday Outing

Kelly and I tried to go see Snow Dogs on Sunday. We got there, Kelly all excited, and found out that the 2:35 showing was sold out. Man is Kelly's face expressive. The ticket agent said there were still tickets for the 5pm show, but I nixed it (5:15 after the trailers, the movie runs 1:37, time to drive home ten to fifteen minutes, we would have been home after 7pm). That had her even more disappointed.

So instead, we went to McDonald's Playland, where she had the Happy Meal and played with other kids for the longest time. I hadn't been planning on being there, so I hadn't brought any books to read. Stare into space, answer a million calls of "Daddy, look at me!" Snore.

About the only amusing thing about it was that while I was sitting there and Kelly was climbing in the play structure, a little kid kept coming up and trying to grab Kelly's Happy Meal toy (a 'dancing' flower pot). His mom would keep running over and taking it away from him, putting it back and flashing me an embarrassed smile. The final time, he grabbed the toy, she took it from him, he turned to Kelly's chair and knocked her coat off the back, then when mom was picking that up, he grabbed the toy again. This from a kid who was obviously no more than three years old. I was cracking up.

Missed Opportunities

Saturday was a NOVA night. I had plans to go with my friends afterward to see the French film Brotherhood of the Wolf with is a genre-blender of a movie, and sounded quite appealing.

Unfortunately, as you may recall, I got about two hours of sleep the previous night, and while I managed to get an hour nap Saturday afternoon, I was surely not operating at full efficiency. I let Tom know that I might not be able to make the movie after the meeting.

Then I went out to my car late in the meeting to find something in the trunk. I set my keys on a ledge in the back of the hatch, and dug around in my stuff. I found what I was looking for, pushed down the lock on the inside of the trunk hatch, and closed the trunk. Gah! As the door was swinging down, I felt that awful feeling, and could see the keys sitting there on the ledge behind the closing hatch. I'd locked myself out of my car.

A quick call home verified that there was a spare key for my car where I though it was. Alan offered to drive me home so I could get the keys. After the round-trip, I successfully got my car keys out of my car. I took the hint that I'd not be in shape to drive myself home after an additional two or three hours spent at a movie, and went home early that night .

The Anti-Palindrome

Jean's been reading a book on Martin Luther recommended by her sister. I just glanced at the title, Luther: Man Between God and the Devil, and my brain did it's mysterious work:

"Luther: A man, a plan, Protestantism!"

Pain Explained

Years and years ago I began experiencing a chronic condition wherein my head would be subjected to sharp stabbing pain, sometimes as frequently as every couple of minutes. I attributed it to a smack in the head I received from a swing when I was a wee tyke, on my way to the library with my parents in Washington, D.C. I've got a clear memory of feeling/hearing a tremendous thud, and vaguer memories of being lifted off my feet, followed by a buzzing silence and then my parents (and maybe my sister, I can't remember this at all) asking if I was okay.

When I was a teenager, my parents were having lunch in a restaurant with me, and noticed me wincing at irregular intervals. At that point I described the symptoms. Again, I can't really remember if I went to see a doctor at that time, but nothing much must have happened, as I continued to live with stabbing.

This condition comes and goes, and I've given it little notice because it never seemed to amount to anything (see above history, stretching back over the years). Finally I got fed up when I was wincing every couple of minutes and I went to see my current doctor, Dr. Selby. Less than five minutes into my explanation, he had his otoscope in my ear and was making significant noises. "Don" he asked knowingly, "were you ever a surfer?"

This came as a complete non sequitur. "No, never. I'm not even that fond of swimming." [which is another story...]

To cut to the chase, he detected that a bone in my ear canal was enlarged, causing wax to build up in the ear and place pressure on the trigeminal nerve. This condition is often observed in surfers, who are exposed to large volumes of cold water pounding into their ear canals. Hence the name of the condition, surfer's ear. I don't know how I got this extra growth of bone, but it may have something to do with me spending my youth merrily lacking a hat in the windy, wet, cold Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

A brief, painful session with what looked like a waterpick and the pain was gone! Shazzam! Dr. Selby got several brownie points that day. Combine that with his willingness to share excruciating details on every possible symptomatic regime, and he is a goldmine in General Practitioners.

So now I'm supposed to use ear drops (twice a day, four days in a row, flush with hot water on the fourth day) twice a year to avoid this condition. Trouble is that it doesn't follow a clock, and it crept up on me so that I was having nasty stabbing pain by Friday night. I didn't sleep more than two hours that evening. So I've begun the regimen, and should be done by Tuesday evening. The frequency of stabs has already gone down tremendously.

Invader Zim

I watched this show with Kelly yesterday, fully paying attention to it for the first time. And it's my new favorite cartoon show! It has super art design, the writing is just hilariously off kilter, I can't even begin to explain it. It just is too cool.

So far, when I read a cancellation of a show I've been watching, I've actually had to agree (see Tick and X-Files). But now I find out that Nickelodeon is planning to cancel Invader Zim! C'mon guys, I just found this show. I was laughing out loud, already, for cripes sakes!

Sunday, January 20, 2002


It's official, the X-Files is ending this year. Not everybody cares for this show, but for many of it's nine years, it was my favorite show on television.

It started slumping seriously last year, and this year, creator Chris Carter has been trying hard to recapture his core audience. Unfortunately, I think he mistakes who his core audience is, since most of the episodes this season focus on government conspiracy, one of my least favorite aspects of the show. Additionally, there has been a tendency to make the show more ensemble oriented, and the trend shows no sign of slowing. Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish try hard, but I'm not really interested in seeing them 'role-reverse' Mulder and Scully.

So much as I hate to say it, nine seasons is definitely enough. I've got a show on tape I haven't watched for a week. I expect I'll catch all the remaining episodes, but it's more out of a sense of nostalgia and closure than anticipation any more.

Friday, January 18, 2002

Dead End, Literally

I finally managed to work in some game time, but I'm stuck. I've gotten my party killed twice trying to cross a forest. I don't know if I'll ever be able to beat it from this save point, so I may end up backing up a couple of save spots. At least Kelly didn't get my party killed this time. It's my own fault.

Taking a break now...


Jean is taking a nutrition class this term. They're making her record all the items she eats as a project: precisely how much, nutritional components, time of day...

It's a measure of Jean's personality that she's actually putting off eating things when it might require some calculation. She was talking about it and came up with this gem:

"I'd rather be crabby and hungry than do math."

Thursday, January 17, 2002

The Tyranny of Style Sheets

I like 'em in general, but dislike that most browsers use the font-families specified in the style sheet over those specified by the user (okay, some of them let you choose in 'preferences', but the default is set to use the site's specified fonts if available).

So I'm experimenting with turning off most of the font-family directives in my style sheet. Lemme know if this is worse or better...

Strings and Woodwinds

Gah! It's driving me nuts! I'm working on a spec now, but that damn puzzle room theme music is playing over and over and over in my head. I tried playing my Chrono Cross Original Soundtrack album, but it just didn't work. Now I know why people buy game soundtrack albums even when they own the stinking game.

For the record, I didn't play last night because I was working with the contractor on the gas insert downstairs. I had to postpone 'self-study night' as well. Well, you can bet your bippy I'm gonna play FFX tonight if I have to stay up til midnight to accomplish it!

Wednesday, January 16, 2002

The Fire This Time

It's installed, it's working, it's warm!

Quest For Fire

I just realized that I'd failed to document our Friday visit by the fireplace contractors. Why did I realize it now? Because I just got off the phone with Jean, who was reporting on the visit by the city inspector. He's convinced we won't all die from CO poisoning or gas asphyxiation. We just need to get the contractors to seal one entry point with 'fire caulk' when they come to hook it up (they aren't allowed to do the final connections until the inspection has been completed).

So working backwards from the successful inspection...

Friday was a pain. I have most of this second-hand, since Jean dealt with it for most of the day. The contractors arrived around 11am and dragged Jean around the house while they examined the setup and decided how they were going to do the job. Jean tells me it took them two hours just to decide it was possible, and then they needed a decision on whether they should continue, since there were some irregularities which would complicate the job.

I got a call from the contractors' office just before I had to go into a big work meeting. I listened to all the hoo-hah, and hung up. Jean called right on their heels, and asked me to help her decide what to do. But as I had a truly important meeting, I asked Jean to decide. I'm afraid I was a bit testy (more on this later). Time passed...

When I got home that evening, it was clear that Jean had told them to go ahead, as they were working on it. All told, they were working on the insert until about 9:30 pm. I think Allen, the main contractor, wanted to complete the job in one day because he had another on Saturday. We picked up in the basement family room and went to bed.

Saturday when driving to get groceries, Jean and I had a heart to heart talk, and she let me know how much work she had to do (how much time she had to sacrifice from her studies, really) to get this insert in. I apologized for being testy at work, and thanked her for all the time sacrificed. Kelly got to see first hand that grown-up partners can have disagreements, and talk them out reasonably, as she was in the carseat behind us during this discussion.

So flashing forward to the present, we are hoping that the contractors can come by today to finish the hookup. Jean is going to call me to let me know if I have to cover for her while she gets Kelly from school this afternoon, in which case I'll race home, then back to work for a late day. Updates later.

School Days

Kelly's homework last night was two tasks:

Write "The cat was on the little mat" several times and be prepared to spell each word. I watched her practice each word on paper, then I walked her into the kitchen, where there was a whiteboard for her to practice on without the example sheet. She got every word right!

Read Little Bear Visits His Grandparents. By 6-year old standards this is a long book, and I took Jean's advice: Kelly read a page, then I read one, and so on. She did very well, but the book took us around 45 minutes.

At bedtime Jean was quizzing Kelly on her cat sentence, and Kelly was able to spell every word, even 'little'. I'm very pleased.

Must ... Play ... FFX!

Gah. The 'puzzle room' theme from Final Fantasy X is running through my head continuously this morning. It's been a few days since I played. I stopped at Djose Temple after getting a new Aeon (by playing my way through a puzzle room, oddly enough), because there was a Tutorial panel there on the best way to fight certain monsters, and I wanted to take notes .

So I need a block of time just to 'study' before I can play again. Last night I was feeling under the weather, so that wasn't the right time.

Monday, January 14, 2002


I'm about to reveal a fact which may shock some of my family not familiar with the current game console market. A new game for the PS2 can cost around $50. There, I said it. Why is this relevant? Because with such a price tag, one might occasionally want to know if they've gotten their money's worth.

I crossed the twenty hour mark of cumulative gameplay on Final Fantasy X this weekend. For me, a general benchmark of value is seeing a movie in a theatre. This is because I enjoy going to movies so much. Currently, movies at matinee prices in the Portland Metro area run $5.25. An average movie runs around two hours. So twenty hours of gameplay is ten movies, or $52.50 of tickets. Voila, I am even!

Disclaimer: this benchmark does not take into account the quality of movies I have seen.

Nothing Happened This Weekend

Jean and I saw a movie together while Kelly was visiting her friend Trinity. We saw The Royal Tannenbaums which was much better than I'd set my expectations for. It was unusual in that a sizable chunk of the movie was narrated (by Alex Baldwin), rather than directly revealed in the action. It didn't really tell a story so much as present a lot of episodes in the life of a dysfunctional family. The larger than life characters and extended family reminded me a lot of John Irving.

We picked up Kelly afterwards, hanging out for awhile with Sari, Trinity's grandma. She's a cool person, and Jean and I both get along well with her. She works at a food testing laboratory, and has recently taken to giving us food product from the test lots. We got about a dozen salad dressings a couple of weeks ago, and this time, she gave Jean a couple of bags of yeast. I joked "let me know if you get some wasabi."

She went running into the other room, and emerged a few moments later with a container of dry wasabi! I was just joking, honest!

Friday, January 11, 2002

High Concept Nostalgia

MTV has announced they are coming out with a branded line of computers to appeal to the college-age crowd.

In other news, you can now bid on a Superman Lunchbox dating from 1967 starting at $25.

Humor Rules For Six-year Olds

Rule One: If a joke is funny the first time you tell it, it will be funny the twentieth time you tell it.

Rule Two: If Rule One fails, tell it again, then ... Laugh. Real. Hard.

Final Fantasy Distractions

Everything you do in Final Fantasy X is building towards a final confrontation with the Uber-boss monster, Sin. One of the infrequent but recurring activities is acquiring Aeons (read: big monsters that fight for your team). If you don't get the Aeons, there are probably going to be battles which you won't be able to win; certainly the 'final' battle will be lost (I'm guessing).

So how do you get Aeons? Your Summoner, named Yuna, a pseudo-religious figure, must visit a temple of Yevon and pray for purification. What this ultimately boils down to in terms of gameplay is that your player-character, Tidus, has to solve a puzzle room to get to the area where the Aeon will be granted.

I've gone through this once before, and have two Aeons (the first was one Yuna had to start with). So last night Kelly and I were sitting downstairs playing the Temple of Djose scenario. Kelly wanted to solve the puzzle. She played and played, asked questions, tried everything she could think of, and eventually the clock ran out on her and it was bedtime.

After I put everyone else to bed, I went back down and noodled for something like thirty minutes on variations to the 'puzzle'. Finally I struck on the sequence of actions which let me progress to the temple chambers, and we got our Aeon.

My complaint with this puzzle is that it is more of an obstruction than a puzzle. I'm sure when the programmers and designers were working out this puzzle, it had a model in their mind. They probably thought the various glowing glyphs and patterns sent out clear messages that the logical game-playing mind would use to construct the solution. And it is true that most every part of the puzzle room played a role in solving the puzzle. But, and this is a big but, none of that is obvious to the neophyte player.

To prove the point, the following morning before going to work, I described to Kelly what sequence of moves I made to 'open' the puzzle. It took me two minutes, and I enumerated something like ten steps. When I was done, Kelly and I were both laughing our fool heads off.

I'm really tempted to write a walkthrough on just this one puzzle for just to document how arbitrary it really is.

Still, I'm still playing...

Live 'Tick' Series Cancelled

Here's the article. I'm not surprised. It isn't, as some claim, because the show was placed in a competitive timeslot, or that it was an intelligent show on Fox (stupid viewers). In fact, it was just deadly dull. Best QOTD: It's probably because PBS put Frontline on in the same timeslot.

I read the comic, and it was great. Ben Edlund's humor worked so well in the graphic print medium. The cartoon show was different, but translated very well. The television show, well ... aside from changing characters, paring the cast down to sitcom size and otherwise keeping a featherweight budget, somehow failed to capture that off-kilter banter which Edlund generated so successfully in the original.

Patrick Warburton is a fun character actor, and may have been the best choice for a live-action Tick, but his dialog just didn't have any syncopation. It felt like he was calling in the part.

I watched three episodes of this show. The second one, because I forgot about it's premiere, and two over the Christmas holidays, when everything else was in reruns. I'm not planning on making an effort to see the other five. Sorry, the show just sucked.

Thursday, January 10, 2002

Milk Dud Memories

I have a flakey long-term memory. Go back more than ten years, and I have a very difficult time remembering details of my life. So it was with some surprise that I had a flash of memory the other night.

Kelly was eating some candy out of a box, and Jean explained that it was a free sample. I asked Kelly what it was, and she read the label: "Milk Duds, Daddy."

My mind went spiraling back to my own childhood. I was sitting in a theatre with a tub of popcorn and a box of Milk Duds. I took a handful of popcorn, nestled a Milk Dud in the middle, and popped the whole conglomeration into my mouth. The taste and texture of the two 'foods' in my mouth is vivid even now. This was how I ate Milk Duds when a child, without fail!

So sensory memories can be the strongest, even if they lie dormant for decades. Cool.

I Even Washed My Hands Later

When Kelly was younger and attended the Mentor daycare (Child Development Center, CDC for you TLA lovers), I'd occasionally go over to visit with her around lunchtime. Often enough that it didn't seem a fluke, I got mobbed by lots of little munchkins. Maybe they did it to everybody, but I never saw them swarm another adult like they did me.

So today I took Kelly to school at Bridgeport, and we had to wait at a crossing for a schoolbus to clear the lane. Standing near us was a young boy, about Kelly's age. He sidled up to me, and as I was warming my hands in my pockets, he snaked his hand into my pocket and tried to grab my hand.

I pulled my hand away and asked "do I know you?"

"Uh huh. I'm Gavin."

Well, I swear that even if this kid had been introduced to me, it wasn't as his long-lost father! He kept trying to grab my hand, until finally I put Kelly's backpack in my right hand, and her hand in my left. We went inside, and the kid tried to hug me while I was trying to get Kelly settled. Who are you, kid?!!?

Other than his unusual affection, he seemed normal enough, for a six-year old. But he creeps me out.

Wednesday, January 9, 2002


Yay! Three evenings without playing FFX! (Yeah, I broke my streak by playing on Sunday -- it was every bit as gruesome as I'd feared -- the game AI finally brought in a high-level non-player character (NPC) to rescue my butt before it got toasted). At this rate, I'll be able to claim I'm normal in no time!

Of course, the alternative has been the bruised toe gallery, so you decide which is worse... By the way, if you haven't read the Welcome message recently, because you are one of my (two) regular readers, click on the picture of Kelly to see the candid Christmas snaps associated with it. Not all are flattering, but they're faithful to life.

See you toe-morrow!

Bon Mots II

Kelly's Draedl song wasn't all she had in her. Later she grabbed me while I was sitting at the computer, and nearly speared my hand with her sharp nails. "Ow! You've got sharp nails!"

Kelly, in her best America Online voice, pointing at the screen to indicate a pop-up: "You've got sharp nails!"

Bon Mots I

I was tussling with Kelly last night, and chanted in a sing-song voice "Kelly, Kelly, Kelly". She didn't miss a beat:

Kelly, to the tune of Draedl: I made her out of clay ... And when she's dry and ready, with Kelly I will play!

As The Toes Turn (Color)

Second Toes Image, Small My toes, the second day! How annoying for you my reader .

I only wish I'd thought of this when I wrecked my ankle!

Tuesday, January 8, 2002


New Banner Time again. This time it's a whiteboard drawing from that famous primitivist artist, Kelly Rene. If you miss the old one, just go to the images directory and have a browse.

On a more medical note, I'm not hobbling anymore. If I put serious weight on the toes they scream, but I can walk without a noticeable limp. I am a little slower than usual though. Wish me luck.

I just found out from Jean that the gas insert is going to take several days to go live. Friday, install by contractors. Monday following, inspection by the City of Tualatin. Then finally Wednesday next, the contractors come by and turn everything on. I don't want to wait!

iPhoto Not For Me

'In one fell swoop, it replies to almost any argument that any non-professional camera user could raise as to why they still prefer traditional cameras to digital cameras' -- Ted Landau.

Um... Batteries, 'Film' capacity, Resolution, ISO, Dynamic Range. These are some of the things that even a point-and-shoot such as the Yashica T4 Super can do better than a whole raft of digital cameras can. Don't get me wrong, I love my Nikon Coolpix 950, but it is limited in ways that even Photoshop can't fix.

Ted Landau's MacFixit quip seems mainly impressed by the bundled ability to order prints of digital photos online. But as I mention above, that's only a piece of the puzzle. Jeff Keller gives a quick review of the functionality, pointing out several other shortcomings, not least of which is that it requires MacOS X. Add to that the fact that version 1.0 lacks even a basic 'sharpen' feature, and I won't be throwing away my ancient copy of Photoshop 4.2 anytime soon.

This is another overhyped item from the wave of hype Apple generated this time at Macworld. Next.

<A HREF="">Moses Supposes His Toeses Are Roses</A>

Autopsy Photo As promised, here's the gruesome image, taken 14 hours after the incident. I was in no mood last night to snap photos, or there'd probably be a much more colorful photo to look at.

Now don't say I never do anything to gross you out!

Monday, January 7, 2002

On My Toes

This afternoon I went over to the Mentor gym and spent some time on the treadmill. Afterwards I was walking across the tile floor to the shower when I slipped, and catching myself I bent two of my smaller toes on my right foot way over. Right now they smart like the dickens.

I'm gonna wait a day or two, and if the pain doesn't decrease markedly, I'll make an appointment to get them x-rayed. I doubt it'll result in a cast either way, so I'm not investing a lot of anguish in it. Add the toes to the ankle and maybe in a few years I'll need a wooden foot .

Browser Agnosticism

Cameron Barrett writes:

"Hey, you know those one or two people who keep hitting your site with Netscape 4.x and Lynx? Well, that's me! Just keeping you on your toes..."

Tee hee. I've always taken the stand that NOVA's website should be inclusive, eschewing flashy ... er Flash programs, dynamic html and Java applets in favor of being readable by anyone with any browser and hardware configuration. Okay, I experimented with a DHTML pop-out toolbar one time, but quickly convinced myself of it's flakiness.

Contrarily, this weblog uses CSS Style Sheets which definiltely do not render on older browsers. As my audience is a small circle of friends and family, I don't feel the same constraints that I did when designing a 'benevolent club' website. So you mostly won't find any TABLE tags in this website, unless they're generated by Greymatter.

But you most likely won't see Flash or Java applets here either, as they are often horrendous kludges, and serve to make the site less accessible, rather than more. For a good example of that, try visiting Tokyo Pop sometime. Try buying something through their website. Part of their problem is their database design, but part is the site layout and implementation. What browser were they testing this with?!!? I've tried everything, including the industry gorilla of Internet Explorer (though admittedly running on a Mac), and menus tread on graphics (and vice versa), links fail to activate... Geeze. It's like they don't actually want business.

Maybe they have such a small staff that they can only handle like twenty orders a week, so they deliberately make it hard to use their site. Like the old saw that claims the standard typewriter keyboard is purposely designed to slow down typists to avoid jamming the mechanical keys together...

The iLamp

The new Apple iMac is pretty neat. The pundits are pointing out that it's not the first computer to have a swing-arm LCD, but I think I like it. I might even consider getting one eventually to replace my aging Powermac 8500/120.

But is this supposed to match the hype even Apple was generating? Taking it in combination with the other items mentioned, such as iPhoto, I'd have to say no. Apple's PR department gets a black eye this time.

Sunday, January 6, 2002

Weekend Field Trips

I ran several errands this weekend, of which I'll highlight two. The first was a trip to trade in books at Powell's. I had two credit slips already, one dating from 1996! That's what happens when you clean out your closets.

I picked up two different editions of The Velveteen Rabbit for Kelly, Surfing Through Hyperspace for Jean and I, and a combo-book of three novels by Nancy Collins for me.

Then in an effort to combat Kelly's encroachment of my game time on the Gameboy Advance, I went to Toys R Us and used the last of my Christmas money to buy her her own Gameboy Color and a game, Tigger's Honey Hunt. Let's hope that's enough!

Gas, Gas, Gas

Late this week sees the installation of a gas insert for our basement fireplace. I'm looking forward to it. The basement gets cold when winter kicks in. The heat vent in the ceiling just doesn't work so well when confronted with Jack Frost.

This model is a closed system, drawing air for the flames from down the flue, and exhausting waste gases up the flue by a separate pipe. It has a blower, for when the electricity is working (!) and a wireless remote thermostat that runs on batteries, for when the electricity isn't working. According the the guy at the shop, the fireplace works with a thermocouple, so even in the absence of electricity, it can adjust the flames with the battery powered remote thermostat. Cool!

So next time the power goes out for more than an hour--and judging from the history at this house in Tualatin, that will be very infrequent--we'll be able to move our activities downstairs and remain toasty for the entire outage.

Now to investigate that gas-powered refrigerator .

Multitasking Redux

I managed to pass Thursday, Friday and Saturday not playing Final Fantasy X. The rest period was very helpful. One night, Thursday, I think, I was downstairs in the 'family room', and I was trying to get the Haskell Graphics Library working with my Mac OS X iBook. I've got XFree86 installed, and Mac OS X is a BSD (Unix) based OS, so I had hopes that I could get the graphics working under X. But while I've managed to leap several hurdles, I ran into a dead end on Thursday (multiple defines of _initModule), and I need more time to resolve it. I knew I was into trouble when I discovered that Mac OS X treats shared libraries and dynamically loaded libraries differently.

While doing this, I had my ReplayTV playing Godzilla vs. the Cosmic Monster. As if that wasn't enough, I had ICQ running, and was holding a periodic conversation with Tom, Alan, et. al. on various topics, including what movie we were going to see on Saturday (which turned out to be Imposter, based on the Philip K. Dick story of the same name).

I do love a multitasking evening!

Wednesday, January 2, 2002


I know I'm back at work. A while ago, my boss swung by to share the good news about financials for my group last year. After telling me, he mentioned that he'd tell everyone else, but he "couldn't find anybody."

I didn't think of it at the time, but he was truly puzzled that nobody was in besides me yet. And the time: 8:15am. He's a real go-getter, that one...


Before anyone else mentions it, yes, Goku's thumbs are backwards (in the banner photo). Kelly put the hands on, and her aesthetic is beyond that of mere mortals .

Vacation From Vacation

I'm back at work! Yipee!

I played FFX yesterday without Kelly and managed to get past the point where we got killed on New Year's Eve. Then she insisted on coming down to play for a half hour before her bedtime. That left me in the middle of play between save points, so after I put her to bed, I played long enough to reach one. It took me until 10:15pm! I forced myself to quit at that point. And good thing too. When I slept last night, I was doing turn-based dreaming, complete with menus and save points.

Amusingly, my last save point was at what looked like a major story point. The Al Bhaed are preparing for a battle with the Uber Boss Monster at the edge of the sea using 'machina', in this case cannons. Machina are forbidden by the major religion, and all my characters are standing by bemoaning this fact. And my save time: 13:13 hours on the game clock. Scary, kids! OOOOooooohhh!!!

I think I'll take tonight off, since it's a self-study night and I'll be getting home in the evening as it is. Maybe a couple of days away from FFX would be a good idea. As the title says, I need a vacation from my vacation...

Tuesday, January 1, 2002

The Honeymoon Is Over: Final Fantasy X

As of last night I've logged on the order of nine hours (game clock, I'm sure it's been even more in the 'real world') playing FFX. My initial impressions have held pretty true. The game is about 80% 'movie' fragments, and 20% interaction, usually in battles against various minor and boss monsters, though also in dialog with minor characters.

Most recently they introduced a minigame, Blitzball, which as expected, I sucked at. If winning a Blitzball game is not pivotal to the plot, I'll be okay, but if the authors insist on my succeeding at the arcade stuff, then the game will eventually languish on the shelf without my finishing it. This is a very real possibility, as the link above claims: "Blitzball is not a 'mini-game' by any accounts since it plays a major role in the story."

The holidays are almost over, so soon my progress will slow to a crawl. Even with the holidays, I spend less time playing the game than I actually want to. Two nights ago I started playing at 9pm, with the intention of playing an hour or two then going to bed, and ended up playing til 1am! Yesterday evening, New Year's Eve, I went down at 8:30pm and played til 11:30pm, with Kelly contributing. That sort of schedule won't wash when I have to get up for work in the morning. And even weekends generally don't tolerate that sort of schedule, since I have a family life which makes it's own demands.

Between playing this game and the Oracle of Ages game on my GBA handheld, I've had enough time to truly assess where I am in the game-playing menagerie. I'm a casual player, and will probably remain so for the next decade. There are basically four reasons for this:


As I've mentioned before, I suck at games requiring speed and dexterity. This is partly why I favor the RPG games. A lot of interesting things can happen before I end up encountering something that requires dexterity and I get whacked. I was going to title this section Age, but I'm sure there are guys my age who can still hold their own against a mean platform game.


Chunks of time where I can disappear for hours at a time are rare. After a full day's work, there's parenting, and interacting with Jean. I enjoy this enough that I don't resent not having time to play games. And it's not as if external demands are all that keep me away from the PS2. I also dedicate some of my precious time to strength training to keep my back from collapsing entirely. And after a full day of demanding cogitation, I sometimes only want to flop down for an hour before bed and vegetate before the tv or with a book. So holidays are the biggest time for attacking those games.


I got the Gameboy Advance so I'd have a handheld that I could carry around with me, to Kelly's swim class, and other places where I'm basically just sitting around waiting for the next activity. Unfortunately, now that I've got Oracle of Ages, Kelly won't let me play it. She spent several hours playing with it after I started it. Now she's doing something else, but the moment I turn it on, she'll be there, murmuring "let me, let me."

The same thing has been happening with Final Fantasy X. She has been coming down while I play and asking for the controller. Last night, she inserted herself into the gameplay and kept the game moving forward while I went upstairs to use the restroom and get a glass of water. The main problem here is that she doesn't want to take time to explore, finding potions and whatnot. She wants to charge down the path, and every time we run into a monster, she throws the controller at me and hunkers down under her blanket. That happened may fifteen times last night, with my players getting progressively weaker, until they all got KO'ed, and I saw the 'Game Over' sign for the first time. Fortunately, I have been saving at every opportunity, so I have a number of choices for restarting without running everything from the beginning. But it is clear that while Kelly is in the house, I'm not master of my own destiny.


This is the final problem here. My interest is mostly in RPGs (role-playing games), preferably with rich storylines. I'm not nearly as interested in arcade-style action as I used to be, though I still enjoy dipping my toes into the pool now and then. But when playing an RPG, I want story first, mini-games and thud-and-blunder dead last. But even the RPGs nowadays are targetted at a different demographic than mine. Gotta satisfy that twitchy-finger crowd. As a result, I can't get the perfect game.

If I wanted to spend a couple of thousand dollars on a Wintel box with a powerful graphics card and lots of memory just to play games, I could get a few good matches, such as Black and White (which I just found out is coming out on the Macintosh! One Problem Solved!) and The Lost, that seem to be closer to my preferences. But I'm not playing games nearly often enough to justify constant investment in hardware. Maybe an Xbox? Not now, that's for sure. Maybe when Kelly hits her teens and wants nothing to do with me .