Tuesday, November 23, 2004


Australian Idol Mixup

According to statements issued by BigPond, a "human error" caused the URL for the Web site of the winner of talent quest Australian Idol, Casey Donovan (www.caseydonovan.com.au) to be substituted with the URL of the dead gay porn icon Mr Casey Donovan (www.caseydonovan.com).

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Headlines of Unread News Reports

Without reading it, I assume this article is about an Ozzy Osbourne concert:

Explosion at bat factory rocks Springboro

Oh, the Humanity!

Dangerous toys ID'd
Consumer safety group picks its 10 worst of 2004, toy industry shrugs off list.

Some of them make sense: The usual choking hazards from buttons and things. I can see how toddlers on trampolines might cause concern.

But this one is just comical:
3 Gun Squad Set - UZ-1 Commando Machine Gun

Age Recommendation: "Not for children under 3 years"
Warnings: "CHOKING HAZARD-Small parts. Not for children under 3 years"
Manufacturer: 411 Toys
SRP: $14.95 (set of 3)

WATCH says: "In today's world, there is no excuse for outfitting children with realistic toy weapons designed to produce dangerous and unnecessary thrills."

Children experiencing thrills while playing? Dear God, no! AAAAAUUGGGHHH!

EDIT: Ok, that's just too good to let go. I'm going to change the title of my blog now...

Monday, November 15, 2004

Let the healing begin

There should be a government program of some kind to pay for this sort of thing:
A post-therapy John Kerry supporter spoke out about her trauma treatment for the first time this weekend, saying Florida psychologist Douglas Schooler took her from the depths of despair over President Bush’s victory to a new lease on life.

Movie Roundup

This weekend's movie roundup: We didn't make it out to see The Incredibles, but we did watch a couple of DVDs.

Around the World in 80 Days - This was the recent version, with Jackie Chan as Passepartout. Enjoyable fluff. Jackie Chan still stages some of the best martial arts scenes around. Here, he uncharacteristically includes some "wire work", but it is relatively unobtrusive: Rather than the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sort of flying trapeze routines, Chan uses wires to allow his stunt people (and himself) to do impractical, and even unlikely things, but not quite physically impossible things.

The Day After Tomorrow - A real howler; an uproarious comedy, although I don't think they meant it as one. Still, it's hard to believe they weren't giggling when they not only introduced Cancer Boy as a serious character, but just to kick the pathos up a notch, made him blind. And reading Peter Pan, no less (well, not reading exactly, since he's going blind, but "remember[ing] the story from the pictures" he can just barely see). And that's without even getting into the ludicrous "science" behind the story. I'll just point out the not-very-prominant credit at the end, saying the story was inspired by a book co-written by Art Bell and Whitley Strieber, two utter nutjobs who ought to stick to their more credible stories, like being abducted by little grey aliens.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Better Living Through Chemistry

Sodium Party
LOX Barbecue (from a mirror site, since the powers-that-be made him take down the original page)
Purple Smoke
Assorted Demos
Liberty is about protecting the right of others to disagree with you.
(Solomon Short)

Thursday, November 11, 2004

I wonder what they'd do with The Passion of the Christ

People in a few cities, at least, won't be corrupted by that filthy movie, Saving Private Ryan.

I think the following paragraph may be the most perfect illustration of the absurdity of the recent FCC enforcement that I've seen:
Cole cited recent FCC actions and last week's re-election of President Bush as reasons for replacing "Saving Private Ryan" on Thursday with a music program and the TV movie "Return to Mayberry."

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Stage 3: Bargaining

Ah, here comes the bargaining...
I thought [...] I would invite libertarians to join...the dark side of the force. I mean, the Democratic party. It is...your destiny (spooky wiggling fingers). Look at me, reliable Democratic voter! I support 2nd amendment rights, think drugs should be legalized, support means testing of social security, and think running permanent trillion-dollar deficits is a bad idea.
So what do you say, Libertarians? Feel the love. Feeeel the love. I'm not the only Democrat who's like this. No, there's, like, 100 of us! OK, 5. Still, don't you want to feel the love? OK, this is my last concession: I kinda like Rush. I mean, in an ironic way, but still.

Monday, November 08, 2004

They need spikier hair, though

One of the games I'm currently playing is Lord of the Rings: The Third Age (for the PS2), which bills itself as "the first console RPG set in Middle-Earth", which is certainly true (there were earlier RPGs based on FotR and TTT, but they weren't on consoles). Quick summary: It's Final Fantasy X in Middle-Earth. In more detail, on the plus side:

  1. It may be a blatant rip-off of Final Fantasy X in terms of gameplay, but that means it's a pretty good game they’re ripping off.

  2. Taking an essentially fun system of play, and moving it from a generic sci-fantasy world into Middle-Earth is a good thing. It’s inherently more fun to run through Moria than to run through Generic Dungeon #219.

  3. One cute, creative feature: "Evil Mode" – after you’ve completed a chapter, you can go back and play through several of the battles from that chapter as the bad guys. Mostly, it's a way of obtaining some bonus stuff, but it's sort of neat to be able to go back and kill those goody-two-shoes heroes you’ve been playing as.

  4. Good graphics. Everything matches the look of the films pretty well, and it has a very good sense of scale. There are some great scenes up in the mountains around Caradhras where you can look out and see the massive range of the Misty Mountains stretching off to the horizon, and places in Moria where you can look across a vast pit and see precarious stairs which you can then work your way over to and climb around on.

  5. It has footage from the movies, so those cutscenes are of rather higher quality than you usually see in videogames.

However, there are also some problems:

  1. It has footage from the movies, so those cutscenes are all things you've seen already. The footage from the movies also doesn't particularly advance the story of the characters you're actually playing. It fills in some small amount of history, and lets you know what the Fellowship is up to, but has little to do with the story you're playing through, which is meant to be a parallel story to the quest to destroy the ring.

  2. That story, so far, is pretty thin. You start out as a Gondorian who's trying to meet up with Boromir for some (so far) never-adequately-explained reason. Some other characters join up quickly for, as far as I can tell, no reason at all except to become an adventuring party. They might just as well have had everyone meet in a tavern and overhear a strange man talking about treasure in the mountains... There is a tradition in console RPGs of some mind-blowing plot twist about halfway into the game, so maybe there's something interesting ahead, but I'm not counting on it.

  3. That adventuring party isn't The Fellowship, but boy, the characters all sure look familiar. They managed to resist the temptation to include any hobbits, amazingly enough, but otherwise the characters you play are the aforementioned Gondorian (i.e., Boromir), a Dunedain ranger (i.e., Strider/Aragorn), an elf healer/swordwoman (i.e., Arwen), and a dwarf axe fighter (i.e., Gimli). I gather that later in the game, Legolas-with-the-serial-number-filed-off joins the party, and I think one more human character I don't really remember. Probably PseudoFaramir or Not-Eomer or something.

  4. The characters' personalities are probably similar to the "real" characters, but I wouldn't really know: There's virtually no character interaction. The longest conversation I've seen so far was Don't-Call-Me-Gimli telling Aragornish to be more respectful of the ancient Dwarven relic axe he picked up off of an altar in Moria and tossed from one hand to the other. Shortly after that, they opened an ancient crypt deep in the ancestral homeland of the Dwarves, and Gimli-like's entire emotional response was approximately, "Hey, neat, a new axe I can use!" The longest interaction with people outside the adventuring party was some elves thanking us for driving the orcs away from their caravan. Maybe that will change once I get past Moria and into Rohan or Gondor.

  5. Peeking ahead in the strategy guide, it appears that they were not able to resist the urge to make the Obligatory Big Final Boss Battle a fight with, yep, Sauron. Given that the game is specifically based on the films rather than the books, I expect this means the climax of the game will be all of my characters gathering around the base of a huge dark tower with a burning eye at the top and swinging their swords at it (and I am suddenly reminded of Lancelot taking one swing at the wall of the French castle in Monty Python and the Holy Grail). Sauron will probably attack by shooting flames out of his eye or something. Yeesh.

  6. The skill advancement system is broken. The basic idea isn't bad: Each character has a couple of skill trees, which you advance along by earning skill points. You earn skill points by actually using your skills. The problem is that every use of a skill costs "Action Points", whether it is a physical combat move or a magic spell. Because of the advancement system, although every character has a basic, free attack move, it's never a good idea to use it, since doing so doesn't earn any skill points. Which means every action in combat costs AP. Which means every character, fighter and spell-caster alike, needs to beef up the stat that controls how many AP you have, especially considering the skills often have absurd AP costs (one character's first skill in one area costs 75 points to use, and it must be used about 20 times to earn enough skill points to acquire the next skill in that tree), and AP restoration items are relatively rare (healing items are easier to find). To make up for this, characters' HP and AP are fully restored every time they go up a level (which is separate from skill advancement), and this tends to happen about every 2 or 3 battles.

  7. Instead of a magic system tailored to the world, they have what appears to be a pretty uninspired air/earth/fire/water/light/shadow system, just like every other console RPG. Among the problems with that is the fact that in Middle-Earth, even assuming there are more than a handful of entities in the world capable of using magic, the only ones who would use "shadow" (i.e., evil) magic would be servants of Sauron (well, Morgoth if you wanna go way back, which we won't if you don't mind and I ain't askin').

Having said all that, on the whole, I'm still enjoying the game, largely because it's inherently cool to do things like climb the delicate spiral staircase to an elven shrine in the forest, and walk through the halls of Moria, following the still-burning footsteps of the Balrog chasing after Gandalf and the rest. Although that leads me to wonder, since they got Ian McKellan to do voice-over narration as Gandalf for the movie footage, whether those cutscenes will suddenly be without a narrator voice after Gandalf falls, and then bring the voice back when he returns in white?

No, probably not. That'd be too creative, wouldn't it?

(One more bonus point if you can identify the "hidden" film quote in this post. Collect them all! Trade them with your friends!)
(However, no bonus points for identifying missing diacritic marks on the Tolkien names. I'm just too lazy to look up the proper HTML codes for them.)

Thursday, November 04, 2004


Well, I've run all the tests I can run on the software I'm testing right now, until they fix the broken stuff, so here are some cute bunny pictures.

This is Suzi, who we've had for a while (there's another cute picture of her up in my Renderosity gallery, see the link in the sidebar):

And here is the new baby, Buster, who Suzi helped us pick out last Saturday:

Brain In A Jar

No kidding. An actual brain-in-a-jar. And it can fly a plane.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

I'm Looking Forward to the Bargaining

"Coping with the 5 stages of grief and bereavement"

Kerry has conceded
"It's over.
For now."

George Bush's America
"Yes, the modern Republican party consists of nasty bigots and liars and the media rarely bothers to point out just how nasty they are."

Presumably still to come:

"Because all of you of Earth are idiots!"

"You see? You see? Your stupid minds! Stupid! Stupid!"

Someone posted this on Slashdot:
Before the election I was disgusted by Bush, but now I'm disgusted by our entire country. I can only hope that he'll break things so badly that people out in the midwest/south will be forced to start thinking.

Nothing like rational discussion between reasonable people with honest disagreements on the issues, eh?

(OK, granted, Slashdot isn't the place to look for anything like that, but this sort of thing is hardly rare these days. And two bonus points if you can identify the source of the other quotes I used. Not that it's an obscure source...)

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Beer: Too Important for Politics

Voting for Beer.

Depressing election day

Well, let's see, Bush is a dick, Kerry is a pussy. Badnarik, the Libertarian Party nominee, is a major loon. Can I discard all my cards and draw a new hand?

Meanwhile, as of a few minutes ago, Ohio is 60%-40% in favor of the stupid goddamned amendment to the Ohio constitution to make sure people who love each other can't get any of the benefits associated with being married. I guess I can hope the precincts that haven't reported yet are really gay, but I doubt that's likely.

And yes, I do mean "can't get any of the benefits", not merely "can't get married". The wording of the amendment includes the following brilliance:
This state and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage.
There has been some question raised whether this could actually prohibit the state from even offering medical or other benefits to unmarried domestic partners of state employees.