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Showing posts from 2012

PC Woes

When I rebuilt our computers last year, I did not re-install the OS on my machine as I usually do with a newly built machine. Instead, I re-installed the old hard drive and simply updated the OS as needed so it worked with the new parts. Then, when I decided to get an SSD (solid state drive), I used the OS copying software that came with it to move everything from my then current boot drive to the new drive, rather than installing the OS from scratch and re-installing the additional programs.

Over the last couple of months, the machine has had some quirks. I'd suddenly drop all Ethernet/internet connections for no reason. Some of my games would suddenly eject me and I'd be unceremoniously dumped back to the desktop. Occasionally, my file transfer speeds would dip to incredible lows. Sometimes I would plug USB devices and nothing would happen; the OS wouldn't recognize them, the system wouldn't read them. I'd lose some or all of my headset's abilities. On some r…

Running Out of Excuses

The House Republicans are running out of options and excuses. Their Plan B, which, contrary to what Mr. Boehner and his cronies were saying, would have lowered taxes on those making between $200k and $1 million, raised them for everyone else (with those making less than $30k hit the hardest), and moved a bunch of cuts even deeper into social programs, was soundly defeated last night.

Apparently, when the American people spoke and elected Mr. Obama to a second term, the House Republicans figured that was just a ruse of some sort. They didn't really want to follow the President's plan to get the economy on track and to avoid the so-called Fiscal Cliff. Of course, the defections in the Republican party seem to indicate that even some of the Republicans are seeing the writing on the wall and realize they have to actually debate in good faith and that nothing can be marked as off the table. I think Mr. Boehner's time in office is nearing an end, unless he becomes a lot more coo…

Lincoln

Lincoln reminded me a lot of There Will Be Blood -- a phenomenal performance in an otherwise average film. Actually, the acting all-around (Sally Field, David Straithairn, James Spader, et al) was all very well-done.

The movie, like, it seems, every movie I see these days, is too long. Every scene with Mary Lincoln involving their dead eldest son or their still living oldest son (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), could have been cut without sacrificing anything. Pretty much every scene with JGL's Robert/"Bob" Lincoln could have been cut without sacrificing the story. There were so many characters who just popped up for brief cameos and were barely seen again (as it involves many one-off conversations with a multitude of congressmen), that I thought many of them could have been cut, as well. I would also cut everything that happens after Lincoln gets dressed for the Ford Theater and walks away down the hallway. We KNOW what happens there, and the scenes of grief that are shown after…

City of Heroes Gone

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NCSoft, the owner of Paragon Studios and City of Heroes (and Villains), suddenly decided to close up the studio and the game, with November 30, 2012 being the go-dark date. This came as a great surprise to both Paragon Studios and the fans, as the game was still profitable, although niche, and the studio had a lot of plans, including a full update about to launch. Instead, they started to shutter the business and prepare for the death of the game.

The big problem with playing an MMORPG is that it is online; in other words, the user, once they have "purchased" the game, is at the mercy of the game's owners and developers. When they decide the game is finished, the user cannot keep playing on their own. Once the servers are turned off, that is it. It is over. Kaput.

It has happened to a number of games, although most manage to eek out an existence on small servers with minimal staff (or even with programming-minded non-professionals taking over). What is frustrating about …

Fiscal Cliffs

Maybe we should fall off the upcoming Fiscal Cliff, as they are calling it. This would dramatically cut many services (including the military) and would raise taxes on everyone. It would, in many ways, solve many of America's current financial issues. It would also, maybe, finally convince people to demand reform from their career politicians.

From the Great Depression until the 1980s, taxes were much, much higher than they are now, both income and capital gains taxes. The rich, especially, had high taxes. And, during this time of really high taxes, America's economy grew like never before, the middle class grew, and we became the biggest economy in the world. During this time, job growth was phenomenal, the social contract between businesses, the government, and the people was strong. Prosperity ensued.

In the last thirty years of constant tax breaks, career politicians, and a steadily widening gap between the Republicans and Democrats, we have seen our economy falter, we'…

Blue October

I recently came across a band that has turned around my thinking, at least for today, called Blue October. I am not sure what genre most people would classify Blue October, as they have a lot of pop, many rock or even light metal, a couple of near rap, a couple of dance, and more than one slower songs. I guess a generic "pop/rock" will suffice for my needs.

Blue October first came to my notice with the songs released off of Foiled, their 2006 album, but I didn't learn about them until 2007. Somehow I was completely oblivious to this release or the videos from it (probably due in large part to the fact that music video channels never play music videos any more, but that is a different blog). I was listening to some videos via YouTube.com and Blue October came up on the side panel. It was the video for Into The Ocean. I watched it and was just blown away. I then watched the video for Hate Me and was similarly blown away. Knowing there were two songs I enjoyed so much, my w…

More Cat Trauma

In addition to my previous post on this issue, I want to add that giving the owner a pain pill to give to their pet for three days in a row is also a trauma, both to the cat and to the owner.

Most owners do not have a "tried and true" method of giving their pet a pill. Some pets will eat anything their owner gives them, including medication. Some pets are so adept they can eat a pill pocket (makeshift or formal) without touching or consuming the pill. Many animals fall somewhere in between, and the owners have to try multiple methods with a limited supply of medication to find what works or discover everything that doesn't work.

We have learned that Sapphire is one of those pets who can manage to eat everything around the pill and not touch the pill. We got her to take about 1/3 of the pill the first two days, but once she tasted the medication (that first 1/3), she ate around it, spit it out, or otherwise refused to consume the other 2/3. We tried putting it in cheese, …

Spayed and Neutered

NOTE: This post is about the process involved in getting an adopted pet spayed or neutered in our town. It is not about the effect of the surgery on an animal.

We dropped our new handful off at the vet today to get spayed. Getting her into her carrier was traumatic, getting her out of the carrier at the vet office was traumatic, and being left to have a major surgery all alone is traumatic.

Here's my issue: in this town, the SPCA does not have a mandatory spay/neuter rule. So, when you pick up a pet from their facilities, or a satellite facility (like we did), you do not know if the pet is spayed or neutered. Basically, the pet has the trauma of living in a shelter's small cages, rooms, or whatever for days, weeks, months, then gets the trauma of being taken to a brand new home with new people it needs to learn about and get along with (and possibly children), and then it has to have the trauma of shots, surgery, and recovery shortly thereafter.

In the end, I think this is too…

Skyfall Review

Skyfall is a very good film, and likely one of the best in the Bond franchise overall. Yet I still found myself feeling the nearly 2.5 hour run-time. In discussing with my wife afterward, we couldn't think of any scenes or areas that should be cut out, yet we still wanted a shorter run-time.

The actors all do a great job and the action scenes are very well done. The opening sequence obviously uses CGI of the actor's faces on the stunt-people's bodies during the motorcycle scene and fight on the train. I expect a better editing job than that on a Bond film. I had the feeling that each sequence was a bit too long, however, and could have been cut down a bit and could have moved on to the plot faster. For example, they could have cut some time out of the motorcycle chase on the rooftops and some of the fight on the train... just a few snips and a minute or two here and there would have made it tighter and more concise (and the action more breathtaking and immediate).

The stor…

Not Out of the Woods Yet

America voted and America chose. They re-elected President Obama to a second term. He even has the popular vote, so a (small) majority of Americans prefer his policies and visions to the policies and vision of his election rival. However, this does not mean that we are 'out of the woods' by any means. The President has a vision, sure, but he so far during the campaign has not given specifics. Neither has his opposition. This election cycle was incredibly devoid of specifics, of plans, of details that the public can use to keep the President-elect on topic and judge his overall course and value as president.

When Mr. Obama was elected to his first term, he spoke much more specifically about what he would do and how he would do it. Few people realize this, but he got more of his bills passed through Congress than any previous President during his first two years. Were they all winners? No, of course not. But he was trying to overcome the mess left to him (and the American people…

Separate Truths

It used to be that the major networks provided news regardless of whether it provided profit for the network. News brought in viewers, who would stay for the shows after it. It was also true that the news divisions usually were held to a different standard and followed different rules than anything else that the network produced. The integrity of the newscasters and reporters was paramount because, if it was ever found out that news personnel were biased or lying, that news program would be sunk and all those viewing eyes would go to a different network.

In today's world, there are "news" sources everywhere. The rules for news agencies have changed, and networks no longer want to produce a show at a loss. This has led to news having to get, and keep, viewers in order to maintain high advertising rates for the half-hour or hour of that news program. This leads directly to sensationalizing the news, the stories, and, in particular, the Op/Ed portions of news programs to pa…

Pictures of the Cats

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As promised, pictures of the new cat. Romy is the large cat (24 lbs, only slightly overweight for his size/frame) and Sapphire is just over 6 lbs (and slightly underweight, although she's working on rectifying that!). Our integration has been pretty successful, with little hissing or fighting and, as you can see, them getting along without too much difficulty now.


Windows Aint

I have always been an early adopter of Windows OS changes. I have paid attention to the Windows suggestions on preparing for a new OS, always checked my hard- and software versus the expected usability charts (and, later, used their widgets to do the same), and have even used Release Clients and Beta Clients for OS changes I was really looking forward to. I was one of the few that had good things to say about Vista when it was released, as I paid attention to the changes, knew what to expect, and upgraded my system in the areas I knew I might have issues.

Windows 8 released this week and I couldn't care less. I understand that the company has to change its tactics and its focus in order to stay relevant in a world that is rapidly switching over to hand-held devices, but I am a PC gamer and those changes appear to make my use of the new OS more difficult. I do not want and I do not own a touch screen for my main, gaming PC. My system is built to allow gaming as fast as I can afford…

Little Miss Can't be Wrong

We got a new cat this past weekend. Sapphire is female and tiny. Our existing male cat is approximately 21 lbs and with a large frame (he's slightly overweight, but only by about 1-2 pounds). This new cat is barely 6 lbs, with a tiny frame. She's mostly gray with some white highlights and exceptionally short hair. She is very, very loving. She also really likes my wife, which is exactly what we were looking for in a second cat (Romy is "my" cat; he doesn't actively dislike my wife, but he doesn't go out of his way to cuddle with her either).

We have started the association and integration process. We did the tricks of petting each with a sock and then providing them with the sock with the scent of the other cat on it. We did the crated visits. Last night was the first uncrated visit and it went fairly well.

This morning, when my wife went to workout downstairs, she suddenly noticed a small gray cat watching her. Apparently there are holes big enough for Sapph…

Diablo 3 - Devil in the Details

I played Diablo and Diablo 2, plus expansions, for years. It was fun to run through the various levels and try new things with characters (for example, doing all levels on a Druid set to cast, as were-creature, and as summoner). The way most of the dungeons were fairly random, and the way the bosses leveled up with each play level, and the random nature of the drops all made for an enjoyable time. And, don't forget the cow level! What a blast that was to do, getting surrounded and mooed at by copious quantities of cows, and then taking on the king cow.

My expectations for Diablo 3 were high. They had 10 years of graphics and computing advances. This one was going to be as fun as the previous two, but with better graphics, better combat animations and fight coding, and, of course, it was going to build on the detailed story from the first two.

The first two chapters of D3 were decent-sized and had some good story elements, but the last two chapters were tiny, with poor story elemen…

DC Comics: A Year Later

I have already documented my pros and cons of the overall DC Comics relaunch in previous posts (here and here). In those posts, I mention the things I felt worked and what I felt did not work in a general sense. Here, I'm taking a different tact: how I would have done it or spearheaded the project had I been working for DC Comics.

Once the decision was made to relaunch, I would have started slowly. Instead of forcing the issue with 52 new titles, I would have started with one: Action Comics #1. This would have been an over-sized issue that would set the groundwork for everything to come. Namely, it would introduce Superman as a fully-functioning hero. It would show this as the first time the world at large has seen a person with fantastic powers doing heroic things. Costume changes would have been minimal, and probably consist mostly of a redesign of the S-shield and removal of the red trunks (no armor here!).

In this story, which would take place today, I would NOT have had an or…

NFL Replacement Refs

I don't think the NFL actually cares about player safety. Exhibit A is the ongoing stalemate with the "real" NFL refs; what I have seen through the first three weeks of the NFL this season is a game that the replacement refs have little control over and games in which the players are hitting on many borderline to illegal shots to see if they can get away with it.

These replacement officials are doing, at best, and adequate job of officiating the game. However, they do not have the respect or control over the more abstract aspects of the game that the NFL referees have; you see them changing their mind after talking to coaches, you see them unsure about calls and being swayed by player emotion, you see them not making calls and assuming a replay will save their indecision, and, the worst, you see them unable to cope or deal with it when players get into a scrum on the field.

If the NFL truly cared about the player safety and putting the best product out there, they would …

Much Better

The reviews are in and most fact-checking sites I'm seeing are giving Obama's speech pretty good reviews.

Obama

I've linked to only one because it seemed representative of the ones I looked at. So, at least, Obama did a pretty good job of telling truths, especially when you compare them to the outright untruths his opponents used. This right here will sway me, as an independent, non-party affiliated voter toward Obama at this state of the campaign, because I feel strongly that campaigners should not be allowed to lie in speeches. So far, that is all I've received from the Republican side.

This is NOT to say I'm thrilled with my choices. I would vote for a strong third-party candidate today if one came up with an actual PLAN for how to do all of the (very similar) things that both Romney and Obama are claiming they will do to turn America around. Neither of these two candidates have actually stated a plan nor the steps they will take to actual enact those plans. Inst…

Slinging the Mud

I said before that I thought this election would get bad. I didn't realize the lies would start so soon or be so big this early!

Both Romney's and Ryan's speeches at the RNC are more factually incorrect than correct. When even Fox News people are admitting the fallacies of a Republican candidate, you know they must be pretty bad. I urge everyone to take what is said on both sides of the aisle with a large grain of salt and read the fact checkers thoroughly from around the web before agreeing or disagreeing with anything either side says.

Romney

Ryan (note that I linked to the Fox News site for the list of fallacies used)

If the Republicans are starting this up at their convention, and are heating up the false rhetoric this soon, I can't wait (*sarcasm) to see what the Democrats respond with. I thought it might be ugly, but this could get downright nasty.

I linked to just two (one each) fact checkers; there are at least a half dozen from both biased and independent fact c…

Tripping the Light Fantastic

I love books. I like the look and the feel of them. As long as they aren't moldy, I like the smell of them. I like the sound the paper makes as it crinkles and the page turns. I have a lot of books.

I have had a Kindle* e-Reader for closing on two years now. While I do miss the aspects mentioned above, the change to electronic books is a vast improvement to my reading enjoyment.

My eyesight is not what it once was. I'm at that point where sight starts slowly degrading. In addition, I take medications that are potentially hastening that degradation. My Kindle has the ability to make the text of any book I read larger or smaller so that I can always find a comfortable size to view.

I read a lot in bed while having trouble sleeping. As I don't want to keep my wife up with either the overhead light or my table lamp, I need light to read by. We found the LightWedge to be a great compromise; I have light to read by, and the LW keeps that light primarily focused on the book I'…

Armstrong Again

I think Lance Armstrong is right to give up his fight. Regardless of whether he did or did not use PEDs, the USADA is bound and determined to hound him until they get some level of satisfaction. In my mind it is pretty simple: he has dozens if not hundreds of clean tests (scientific, factual evidence in his favor) versus the testimony of a few people who rode both with him and against him and many of whom are on record as hating Armstrong (circumstantial evidence from biased sources).

Even the judge in the case thinks there is bias. "USADA's conduct raises serious questions about whether its real interest in charging Armstrong is to combat doping, or if it is acting according to less noble motives," such as politics or publicity, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks wrote.

I've mentioned my stance on this before, a couple of times (here and here). I'll simply sum up here:

Either Armstrong did not use PEDs and he was the superior rider over his rivals of the day, many of…

I Just Don't Get Suicide

I simply do not understand suicide. While I have been fairly low at certain times in my life, especially dealing with chronic health conditions for years, I have never once even contemplated taking my own life. For as cynical as I am, for as world-weary as I act, I am basically a fairly hopeful person, and I'm sure that helps.

What I do not understand about suicide is simple: as long as there is life, there is hope. As long as you are alive, there is the chance for something to change, to evolve, and new opportunities to come your way. If you are dead, those chances are gone. Zilch.

Suicide, to me, seems like an awfully selfish act. You are, in my eyes, telling your friends and family, your coworkers and acquaintances, that they are have nothing to offer you, they have no hope of understanding you or your state, and that they cannot help you in any way whatsoever. Actually, you are actively taking away their chance to help you, and leaving them with nothing but regrets, questions,…