Monday, March 31, 2003

Room Filters

Kelly inherited one of those free-standing room air filters from me a year or so ago when I bought a larger one for the den. Now it will occasionally go into a thrashing fit and wake her up -- I guess the bearings are going on the fan. I told Kelly that she'd have to live without a filter, since it was just an inherited hand-me-down anyway.

"I can't sleep without a fan now. 'Cause otherwise I lose sleep with the explanation cycle."

"What," I said, "is an explanation cycle?"

"Well, it's when I get woken up by a noise in the middle of the night, and I'm scared, and I have to think about what caused the noise, so I can go asleep. I can only go back to sleep when I've explained what made the noise."

So the explanation cycle is the list of likely causes for a nighttime noise she goes through until she finds a suitable explanation, and can go back to sleep. I'm going to add this to the Kelly lexicon.


Oh, and the washer smelled like it was burning this weekend, and the dishwasher makes a funny whining noise. On the plus side, Jean found the GBA SP at Toys 'R' Us for $99.99 and bought one each for me and Tom. So it's not all clouds .


I forgot to mention, that before the garage incident raised it's ugly ... door, we already had a pending life interruption event. With the warm weather have come the ants. And they are appearing in our house without a visible entry point. The bug guy is supposed to come this Thursday. So before we could even resolve one of those little interruptions of life, another has queued up. Gotta love that stinkin' home ownership.

Life As Interruption

Here I was all excited that tonight was my first night returning to the routine of studying topics on my own after work. I'd been out of my office in a meeting, and when I returned, I found a message on my phone. It was Jean. "Can you come home? There's something wrong with my garage door, and I need you to see if you can fix it."

Jean and I have been together for twenty years, and she still makes this fundamental mistake. She thinks that because I'm a guy, I have some magical ability to make hardware work. Despite numerous examples over the years to the contrary. When we first bought our current house, she bought a faucet set for the bathroom, and asked me to install it for her. I basically laughed at her -- politely. "Fine, I'll do it myself!" That afternoon I got a phone call at work. Jean wanted to know if it was okay if she called a plumber to install the faucet.

So it goes. I drove home, looked at the garage door, and by examining the other door, was able to spin a theory of what had gone wrong. Two cables had snapped that attached to the bottom of the door on one end, and to a large, evil-looking spring at the top. I guessed that the spring cancelled out most of the weight of the door. On my door, which was still okay, and newer than the broken one, was a tag: "Warning, trying to mess with this spring will get you killed. Call a professional."

Below it was a phone number for the local garage door company. I called them up and the receptionist said she'd have somebody call me tomorrow. God I feel so masculine!

Anyway, this fits the pattern I've observed before. I told Jean about it. The pattern goes like this: something goes wrong that requires a repair, an interruption to your day, or both. You take care of it, and think, "that's over." But it isn't. Life is actually marked by a series of interruptions. Just get used to it.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

Fry's Got Greedy

Well, Fry's lost out on my business today. I was at work doing a little overtime and swung by the store on the way home to see if they had the Gameboy Advance SP yet. There was an endcap display stating that they had them in stock, but that they would only be sold in 'bundles'. "See a sales associate for more information." Yeah.

So I asked a salesthing what the deal was. Turns out they won't sell me a GBA SP unless I also pay for a bunch of accessories I don't want or need. A rather shabby looking case for the console, a car power adapter, a magnifying glass fer crap's sake! The list goes on, and of the items, only the headphones are something I'm likely to buy on purpose. Total price for the 'bundle', $130, only $30 more than buying the console alone.

I said, "what colors do you have?"

"We have both colors on hand, sir."

I picked up one of the accessory packs, turned it over, fingered the cheap magnifying glass, and said, "boy, you guys..."

"It's not my choice, sir. If it were up to me we wouldn't have included those."

"So who decided this scam?"

"Our buyers down in California."

"Hmm. Okay. Yah know, I think I'm gonna wait." It's bad enough they wanna gouge me for $30, but that they insult me by trying to pawn off a bunch of junk worth $10 or $15 at best to try to justify their greed... Take a hike, losers.

I walked out, went home, and called Toys 'R' Us. They're selling the consoles separately at $99 a pop, no nonsense. They don't have 'em in the store but hope to have more in stock tomorrow. Even if it takes awhile, I'm gonna wait. No way I'm going to put up with the Fry's Tax.

Friday, March 21, 2003


I've had my ReplayTV box for about two and a half years now. I said when I bought it that it was a geek toy, a bleeding edge gadget that could stop working at any time, as the idea might not catch on, and the linkage to an online television directory, essential for it's operation, made it vulnerable to failure of the operating company.

Well, it looks like that day may have arrived. The current owner of ReplayTV, Sonicblue, has filed for bankruptcy. I've got my fingers crossed, as I still enjoy the box, but my outlook is skeptical. If it stops working, I won't be getting a replacement right away, as I (a) don't have the cash right now, and (b) think Tivo, the only viable competitor, could fold fairly soon after Sonicblue, if the market conditions affecting one hit the other.

So I may be playing a lot more PS2 games soon...

Tuesday, March 18, 2003


As you know if you've been following my posts, I've had a string of annoying problems which all seem to contribute to my lack of sleep. This isn't entirely true, as I actually slept more while fighting the flu than I had before. Now that the flu is pretty much gone, I'm apparently reverting to restless and choppy sleep, given last night as an example. I don't know when or if this condition will correct itself.

The upshot of this is that I concentrate all my mental acuity into the daylight hours at work, and by the time I arrive home, my brain is pretty much ready for a vacation. I've postponed my self-study evenings for this reason and the reason that I've been on call to act as math tutor during my wife's classes. But while I can handle algebra problems, I'm not in the mood for really tough mental acrobatics.

So where am I heading with this? Simply that I've been buying a few 'clearance sale' console games to fill the odd evening hour without a lot of thought. A few weeks ago I bought the Playstation 2 Winter 2002 Jampack, which is a sampler of playable demos and video previews for various games. This was a great purchase at $8, as I got to sample several games I was curious about without dropping list price for the full versions.

Kelly and I tried out Wild Arms 3, which looked like a cute premise, but had disappointing gameplay. Also on the disk were Mark of Kri, which has beautiful artwork and some interesting game mechanics, but overall didin't really grab me. I was very interested in the preview for Primal, as I'd just read a lengthy positive review in Play magazine. In the end, I think it's pretty clear that this is like Oni, a great idea, with an interesting story, but slanted toward someone with much faster reflexes and better coordination than I...

There were also a couple of platform games included. One, Sly Cooper and the Thievious Racoonus, was just too hard for me, so we gave it a pass, moving on to... Ratchet and Clank. I've got to say, if this didn't have so darn much blasting the bad guys built in, the platforming aspect would have made this a real winner. Kelly played it over and over, concentrating on the platforming, and throwing the controller at me whenever it came to fighting. She told me if I "wanted to buy the game, it would be okay by her." Sorry Kelly, you'll just have to make do with the demo.

The only other playable game I tried was SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs, which looked like an interesting game for it's stealth aspect, but overall didn't grab me.

Then I read a gushing review of Herdy Gerdy, a platformer with virtually no violence, and thought I'd get a copy for Kelly and I to play. So far we've just covered a couple of levels, but I think we'll be revisiting it on any given idle afternoon.

For my own entertainment, in the past month I've bought Onimusha, on sale for less than twenty bucks, and Silent Hill 2, also on sale.

Onimusha is interesting, and feels sort of like Resident Evil in medieval Japan. This right down to the 'auto-aim' Bushido blade! I kinda stalled out when I bought the Jampack mentioned above, but I'll be getting back to it eventually.

Way back when, I played the original Silent Hill, and it is probably my favorite console game of all time. It's certainly my favorite survival horror game. So I have high hopes for SH2. However, I don't have the brainpower or reflexes to take it on full force, so I've started the game in 'begginer' mode, where the monsters generally can't do a lot of damage, to spare myself the stress of trying to ax them before they bite my head off.

It's made for some amusing play. The first variety of monster I've run into is a sort of zombie-in-a-straightjacket shambling around town. If they're in a straightjacket (it's creepier than that, really), how do they attack? By bowing out their chest and spraying you with what I presume is poison. But since I'm playing beginner, it doesn't hurt my character so much as disgust him. It puts me in mind of the scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail where the Black Knight is hopping around on his remaining leg trying to get Arthur to fight him one more time. " What are you going to do, bleed on me?"

In fact, I'm afraid that the game is a little too gentle in this mode, and I may have to restart at 'normal' level. For the nonce, I've taken to referring to my sessions with SH2 as "strolling around Spooky Town." Which can lead to trouble, as the second time I used the phrase to let Jean know I was going downstairs, she acted confused, then burst out laughing. "I thought you were using some weird figure of speech!"

Lastly in my pile of gaming distractions, I've begun revisiting my little stack of Gameboy Advance games, probably in preparation for the new GBA SP when it comes out. Lately I've been playing Tactics Ogre: The Knights of Lodis. This is a turn-based strategy game, with limited role-playing aspects. I really enjoy this kind of game, but seldom have the time to play it for any length.

The other game I've begun to revisit is Castlevania: Circle of the Moon. This is a platform adventure game, and as such can be put down pretty much anytime, provided you can hie thee to a save room first. But the reason I put it aside is that it is generally too full of detail for casual play. This game is directed at the idle fan who can try every variation of every level until they know the magic combo to unlock the next area. That's generally more work than I want to do on a handheld game, so I've let it sit idle.

Maybe I'll invest in a new game when I buy the GBA SP. Two candidates are Zelda: A Link to the Past and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, though the latter may not be out in North America on the GBA SP release date. I'll cover that when I buy the unit.

Monday, March 17, 2003

Kelly Green

Kelly wanted to wear green today, though I doubt there's an iota of Irish in our bloodlines. So what did she wear? The green shirt and shorts she wore as Peter Pan on Halloween. The green shirt and shorts she wore as a Daisy in her school recital just last week. It's good to get mileage out of clothes that we bought for a Halloween costume months ago. And it's a bit bemusing to see how quickly she's filled out the shirt that once hung so loosely on her, only four, five months ago...

Sunday, March 16, 2003


I ended up getting the fever and what not too. Now I'm just cleaning gunk out of my lungs. Yesterday was mostly tutoring and being lazy. Today I'm doing long overdo chores, and more tutoring. Kelly is concerned that there's not enough fun in her life. She had the flu, classes have been a drag, her cat and her fishes died (yes, the third and final fish died this morning). We told her that this winter has just been a bad one, but that things will look up again.

Next weekend we plan to treat ourselves by going out shopping, and maybe taking Kelly to a movie. Cross your fingers that no one comes down with anything else in the meantime!

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Cough Cough

Kelly's fever is down, but not gone (99.6), Jean's is lower as well. She says she feels much better than yesterday, though still draggy.

My cold blossomed in the evening, though it is still a non-fever annoyance. Cross your fingers. I'm walking the razor's edge. I took cough medicine last night to control my coughing enough to sleep. But cough medicine dries out my sinuses, which in my case can lead to sinus infections. So during the day I take Guaifed to promote sinus drainage, flushing the bacteria before they can get a foothold (cilia-hold?).

'Twas a fun evening, running around preparing snacks and fluids for two sick women. I only got to my own dinner around 7pm. I think tonight will be easier. Well, back to work!

Monday, March 10, 2003

Two Down...

Well, I'm at work, but Jean isn't. She woke up with a fever. So I got Kelly breakfast, offered to get something for Jean, then headed out. I still feel like I have a cold, but my temperature is normal so far. Again, cross those fingers...

Sunday, March 9, 2003

Weekend Report

It's been quite a weekend. On Friday, Jean's parents arrived for a weekend visit. They visit us at least once a year, usually around February or March. See, annually, they vacation in Maui for a few weeks over the winter. It's their version of being Snow Birds. And so, each year, they stop in Oregon, either on their way to Hawaii (February), or returning from Hawaii (March). This year they caught us on the return leg.

Kelly of course was thrilled. She really enjoys visiting with the grandparents, who are more tolerant of her manipulations than Mom and Dad. I worked Friday so I don't really know what they did, but I'm sure they had a great time together. Saturday morning, Jean, her parents and Kelly went to the YMCA to see Kelly swim, and I did the grocery shopping. In the afternoon Kelly and I spent some time together before I took off for NOVA.

The NOVA meeting was typical, with the usual favorite show and the usual hobnobbing. Tom gave away a pile of anime, as he is moving into his new house soon, and doesn't need to move more stuff. After the meeting we went to his apartment. I planned to go right home after the meeting, to continue my rehabilitation of sleep patterns, but Tom insisted that I at least come over for a little bit. It seems that they had a new game they wanted to show me...

Steel Battallion has got to be the geekiest anime-inspired game on the face of the planet. Within anime there is a sub-genre which is very popular with a certain kind of geek. The same kind of geek who played micro-armor wargames in years past, I suspect. Examples of the genre in question include Gundam, Macross, and more recently, Full Metal Panic.

These are military drama shows, where tanks are replaced by giant mechanical armored suits, equipped with all the latest in firepower. Sometimes the pilots of these suits move them over the ground like tanks, other times they fly through space like spacecraft. These mecha figure prominently in the stories, but usually the stories are much more complex than simply mechanical jousting matches. But there are plenty of those.

I apologize if I've misrepresented the genre, but it's never really been my cup of tea, even after so many years of exposure by dedicated fans like James Tilton. Sorry James. Back to the game. Steel Battallion first made a splash when it's custom controller was introduced. This thing has dozens of switches, two joysticks, each festooned with triggers and buttons, a driveshift, and radio controls. At your feet sit three foot controls. Once the game starts, you have a visual representation of gauges, video screens and other cockpit instrumentation that would make a 767 pilot dizzy. In the center of the screen is the view out into the battle field.

I was very amused by the gameplay. Whenever there is a human, such as a drill instructor, on screen, what you see is a still image. Only in battle does the screen come to life. Then you get the most detailed simulation of mecha combat you could ever hope for. The care and love lavished on simulating this neverland scenario is absolutely stunning. So. No human animation, but plenty of rich mechanical combat animation. Hence the label of 'geeky'. Only an obsessed mecha geek could lavish the care and detail on this game that is evident. Oh, and the price for the whole game (with controller) puts it into that special place as well: $200.

Enough of that. I stayed until about 10:30, leaving much earlier than I would if I were not nursing my health. I got home, planning to go straight to bed. But the lights were on in the hallway, and Jean came out to greet me. Seems that Kelly had come down with a fever suddenly sometime after I left. Jean decided to let me enjoy my night out, so she didn't call me. It's a funny coincidence, but Bob, a coworker who also does the NOVA thing, was very sick with some kind of flu. I wonder if it's the same one.

Kelly doesn't appear to be in mortal danger, but we spent the entire day (it's Sunday evening as I write this) lounging around the house and pushing fluids at her. By this evening, when Jean's parents were leaving, both Jean and I had coughs and scratchy throats. Cross your fingers that no one else gets this flu thingy...

Tuesday, March 4, 2003

So It Begins

I saw my first Gameboy Advance SP commercial this evening. Yes, I've said I don't watch commercials, but if I'm in the living room reading while Kelly has the television on, some of them leak through.

The commercial is in a dark, misty wood in the middle of the night. Moths are fluttering toward a brilliant light in the distance. They break into a clearing, and there is the shining front-lit screen of the GBA SP. Some marketing text about 'simply brilliant' or some such appears as the gadget folds shut.

Almost makes me want to not buy it. However, it's too late. Kelly spotted two new Pokemon games that are for the GBA only, and asked for them for her birthday. Jean didn't know the difference between a GBA game and a GBA Advance game, so she said 'maybe'. In the course of talking it out, I more or less spilled the beans in front of Kelly that I was thinking about getting a new unit and giving my old one to her. So now it's almost set in stone.


"Mr Kiselev's explanation of aspects reminded me of that bit in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy when the planet Golgafrincham divided its population into A types (who were the leaders, the scientists and the great artists), the C types (who were the people who did all the actual making of things and doing of things), and the B types, who comprised everybody left over: telephone sanitizers, advertising account executives and hairdressers. As I understand Mr Kiselev, the AOP view of things is that objects and classes (A type thinkers) and low-level procedures and APIs (C type doers) can be nicely encapsulated using traditional components. But aspects, software's little hairdressers, get their fingers into everything, and until now there has been no way to encapsulate them. This of course is what AOP in general and specifically the AspectJ superset of the Java language set out to do."

Review of Aspect-Oriented Programming with AspectJ

Saturday, March 1, 2003

Withdrawal Inventory

I was taking a 'withdrawal inventory' in the wee hours of the morning, during one of my wakeful periods, and I'd say, discounting sleep irregularities, I'm better than 90% recovered:

  • My weight loss has stabilized, and I've even gained some of it back. Since I don't want to pursue the bad karma of losing weight by Lorazepam withdrawal, I'm fine with going all the way back up to where I was before this fiasco, but I think I'll probably retain some of the trimback. For instance, my morning body fat percentage seems to be a pretty steady 18.5%, where it was closer to 19-20 pre-crash.

  • My appetite is more or less entirely back. Some mornings are touch and go, but by the time I get to work, I'm back in the game and able to eat my usual breakfast items. Lunch and dinner are no problem.

  • Digestion still seems a little slow. I think that's why I haven't snapped back to 190 pounds as quickly as my eating might suggest. Still, it's tons better than it was in the beginning.

  • Temperature sensitivity is still there, but I don't launch into a volley of shivers if the house is 69 degrees. The underlying thrumming of the nerves is still noticable sometimes, and I do notice occasionally that my shoulders are bunched up even when I'm sitting relaxed, and I have to force myself to unwind. You could say that I have superior muscle tone right now.

  • That really only leaves sleep. In the beginning of this journey, I was getting 3-4 hours a night. More recently it's been 5-6 hours. The last two nights, it's been at least six, and quite possibly seven hours a night. I've been taking melatonin those two nights, so it's not unaided, but I'm hoping that now, around four weeks after starting withdrawal, that I'm seeing the final stages here. Some of my reading suggests that I can expect a couple of months of irregularities, so I'm not going to set myself up for disappointment, but I feel better all around already.

As for the root cause of all this, the nerve twitch that caused Dr. Winans to ignorantly prescribe a large dose of Lorazepam in the first place, it is still there. Something changed with the period of meds though, as it is now weaker, thready and random, rather than chronic, strong and cyclical. I can pretty much ignore it when trying to sleep. This is not saying that it won't get worse again. None of the doctors were sure of the cause, so nobody can say how it will progress.

I'm going to follow Dr. Devere's advice and buy a better bike seat, though. And while I have no evidence that Neurontin would help, it's nice to know there is a fallback strategy should the problem worsen again.

Gotta take Kelly to her swim class now, so enough rambling!