Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Great White North

Here's the picture that started this:

Here's the accompanying note from DQ VB.NET Advisor Garret Rempel (who lives in Winnipeg, where the high this Sunday is forecast as -17F):
We've got a problem with our insulation in one room, there's a bit of a draft coming in and it's formed frost on interior walls.

Frost. On interior walls.

This is a whole new world--to me, at least--so I followed up:
"So, a question: if your car stops running--on the highway, away from immediate help--what do you do and in what sequence? It seems like it could be really, really dangerous."

Garret's answer was so through, and so complete (he's like that, which is why he's a great teacher) that I'm using it verbatim, although when I told him, he requested I add this first:
The following is my response to a question asked about what to do if your car stops on the highway in winter. It is an off-the-cuff response based on my experience and how I was taught to deal with that situation in winter. It is descriptive in nature, not proscriptive - please do not use it as a recommendation as what you should do. Before you travel in winter, do your research and take appropriate safety measures.

With the disclaimer, here's his answer:
Well, generally your car doesn't just stop running on the highway for no reason - it's rare enough that if it were to happen it is usually due to stopping your vehicle and it stalling out. However there are many reasons why you would come to a stop in the dead of winter on a lonely stretch of highway - usually because you either lost sight of the road or it simply became too slippery and you drove into the ditch.

Sidebar: A few years ago I was helping my sister move from Calgary home to Winnipeg in April and I went ahead with the Uhaul. About an hour (at normal speeds) west of Moose Jaw in a stretch of prairie that is for all intents and purposes empty for 300km. The road was sheer ice and the wind was blowing, I had already passed dozens of cars in the ditch and was doing 60kph (in an area zoned at 110kph) and simply feathering the gas to maintain my forward momentum. There was a line of about 4 cars in front of me as all of a sudden I see one wiggle, brake lights flashed (stupid move) and I watched as one car corkscrewed 360 degrees clockwise to the left - across the oncoming lane of traffic, an into the far ditch, while the one directly behind him did a 540 counter-clockwise spin to the right (the idiot who hit the brakes) and into the ditch. All I could do was let off the gas, coast, and pray that I didn't hit anyone. A single tap of the brakes would have sent my Uhaul out of control and probably would have flipped it. Fortunately the cars skidded out of the driving lane fast enough and the guy directly in front of me was smart enough to coast it through and we avoided a collision.

Anyway, the real question when you slide off the highway is - are you trapped in the vehicle, how is the vehicle oriented, and is it still running? If your nose is buried there is a good chance you're stuck but you can leave the car running for a time. If your tail is buried - turn the car off. The exhaust will kill you quicker than the cold.

There's a few things you can count on if you're driving on Canadian highways in the winter. 1) You are dressed for extreme conditions (not being dressed well enough to walk a few miles and driving on the highway is a no-no, even if you figure you will be warm in the car. Crashing is a very real possibility for even the safest of drivers). 2) You have an emergency kit.

Sidebar: A long time ago my family went skiing in Jasper on spring break (April - spring is still a month away) and it was beautiful, temperatures hovered in the 0 to -10 C range and it was great. Being spring we (stupidly) didn't have our winter jackets - only sweaters and windbreakers. When we left Edmonton to drive home (15 hours) the storm warning for western Manitoba didn't quite register in our minds - at least not strongly enough before we left. When we crossed the Saskatchewan/Manitoba border it was pitch black, in a raging blizzard, and the only way we stayed on the highway was tailgating a semi close enough that we could watch his brake lights. After an hour and a half we arrived in Neepawa, a small town about 1h45m from home and managed to turn in to a motel that wasn't filled with stranded travellers yet (it was filled less than an hour after we arrived). We spent the next 4 days stranded (highways were closed) in that motel, our van was buried under a snowdrift to its roof, temperatures were in the mid -30s with severe windchills dropping the apparent temperature into the mid -40s - in our sweaters and windbreakers. Had we gotten stuck in the middle of nowhere it likely would have been the end of us because of been poorly dressed.

So obviously you will have a parka, boots, toque, scarf, mitts, possibly snowpants. Enough that you can slog a few miles if there is a town or farmstead nearby that you know of. Your emergency kit has thick blankets, likely some chemical handwarmers, reflectors (or even flares), a shovel, an ice scraper, jumper cables, an extension cord, a large sign that says "dial 911" (usually on the reverse of a sunshade), and probably a few other things I'm forgetting.

If you are able to exit the vehicle:
- If it's a whiteout - stay inside your vehicle and try to stay warm (leave it running if the exhaust is clear, huddle under blankets if its not - or clear it with your shovel if you can). Leaving your vehicle near a highway for any reason in a whiteout - even if its to try and push your car out, is going to get you killed. Someone isn't going to see you, or follow your tracks into the ditch and hit you. You want to be in your car if and when that happens.
- If you have cell reception, call the RCMP and let them know where you are. They will dispatch a tow truck and/or rescue you if needed.
- Once visibility improves, if you can dig yourself out, then do so. If there is someplace within sight or that you know you can reach - it's time to start walking. Otherwise stay with your vehicle.
- If you are in your vehicle, put up your sign. Take it down if you leave. Use reflectors or flares to help flag down a passerby. Any trucker who sees you will radio your position to the RCMP, and most people will stop if you are trying to attract their attention.

Because you are on the prairies (well, in my experience) - do NOT attempt to walk to an unknown building seen in the distance. It can easily be 15 miles away and is probably a barn or a cowshed. Only walk someplace that you know is nearby enough that you can return to your car if no one is home.

Be prepared to wait for hours. Getting stuck is not fun and can be potentially deadly - everyone knows this, and will help if they can.

If you are unable to exit the vehicle:
- Put up your sign, get cozy, and wait. Leave the car running if you are reasonably sure the exhaust is clear - if you smell exhaust, turn it off. Turn it on and let it run for a few minutes every hour (depending on the outside temperature) to keep it from freezing solid. It's better to have it available if you need the heat than leaving it off for hours and then not being able to start it again.

It's all a matter of being prepared, and avoiding stupid mistakes. Check the weather before you leave, dress warmly, know your route, stick to major roads, keep an emergency kit, bring a cellphone, drive carefully.

Reading this, I felt like I was entering a secret world. We're bitching down here because it's going to be 33F tonight and it's windy. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Big Companies, Sad Faces

If you buy games from big companies, it's a tough time to be a consumer.

Eli 13.4, who has had bronchitis ALL Christmas break, started playing NBA2K15 in Career mode, and he likes it very much.

Then his My Career save got corrupted.

He started a new career, went through all the interminable cut scenes again (because, of course, you can't skip them), played a few games, and the same damn thing happened.

This happened three times.

I did some quick Googling, and quickly found out that it's a known problem. From LAST YEAR. Saves get corrupted. No one knows why.

The answer, of course, is to turn off auto-save, which seems to be saving almost constantly, and just save manually. That way, you can rotate several saves.

Except, of course, you can't do that. There's no manual save option.

So it looks like we have a $60 paperweight. Hey, at least it's on a disc, so it can be traded in for something.

In the old (very old) days, I could go to Gamestop and say that the save system was broken, and for a problem like that, I could get my money back. Now? A big "F-you" from everyone.

Here's the thing: when games get too big to fix, and companies get too big to care, we have a problem.

I just checked the trade-in value, and it's $26, according to Gamestop, and if that game gets bought and traded ten times, and costs Take-Two ten sales, guess what? I guess Take-Two should have made a game that worked without critical, mode-breaking bugs.

Also, Origin. You know, EA's "service" for downloading their games, and for spamming you endlessly with DLC ads whenever you play one of their games.

I've never installed Origin, because it so clearly wasn't in my best interest, but I decided I wanted to play Dragon Age: Inquisition. So I installed the stupid client, and got ready to download a 30GB game (or maybe it was 40, because I can't even remember at this point).

I mean, Origin is competing with Steam, so EA should provide a better experience, right? My download speeds should shred, right?

Well, if <500kbps is="" p="" shredding.="">
I was as low as 350Kbps at times. Incredible. I did rise to the magnificent rate of 3Mbps per seconds, at times.

Was it my connection? Not on my end, because I paused the download, went to Steam, and was downloading something at a steady 10Mbps. You know, 30 times faster.


Again, known problem. Origin is notorious for crap download speeds. Fix it? Not likely. Why? Consumer satisfaction is not the goal here. Maximum profit margin is the only goal.

One more. NHL 15 shipped as basically half a game on next-gen platforms this year. Entire modes were missing, and the modes that were there all had baffling omissions in content. At launch, the bugs were downright incredible, including clear goals not being counted and goals being credited in certain situations when the puck was just dumped into the offensive zone.

A small company could never do that, because they'd be finished.

EA? No problem. They'll just put out some marketing doublespeak for damage control and hey, see you next year!

This is why I don't buy many "big" games anymore. It's just depressing. Nintendo is the exception in terms of quality, and thank goodness there's still one. I'll still buy a few of the big sports games, but even that number is dropping, given our experiences this year

Plus, almost every game from a big company is going to be a cookie cutters of other games in the genre. If you want anything resembling innovation, forget about the big companies.

They just don't care.

The Best YouTube Comment Ever

This was following a lovely video of a cover of Strawberry Fields Forever by La Santa Cecilia:
Animation and Beatles cover are cool. The vocals and accompanying instrumentation are really distorted in spots. I'm monitoring in a studio. The optical S/PDIF out from my tower goes directly an external AD converter to calibrated active speakers. Not having the same effect from other videos at hotter levels. Even with the volume down at youtube's interface I'm experiencing the same effect. You may have a corrupt file or somehow over compensated with a peak limiter on layback. It's a shame. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Make Better Decisions (Holiday Edition)

#7 Me
I was sitting in a diner last week, sandwiched between The Yelling Conversationalist  and the Cosplaying Family With A Child Who Has Reverted To His Natural State. THIS IS NOT JOLLY,

#8 The Elusive Motorist
I'm not sure what happened here, but it's an innovative use of duct tape.

#9 The Man Running Down The Dirty Boulevard
No picture for this, much to my dismay, but I was coming back from the rink with Eli 13.4 a few days ago and saw a man running down a boulevard.

Chasing a rolling wheel.

Twenty yards past that arresting moment, we saw a car with one wheel missing. The front passenger side was kissing the asphalt.

Here Comes Your Future

He's in fourth grade:
LeBron James posts ridiculous highlight video of LeBron Jr..

America's Most Miserable Cities

Much to my surprise, Shreveport is only #8!
Most Miserable Cities

Live on Tape

DQ is live on tape until Thursday, so please enjoy your pre-recorded content.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Friday Links!

Here's quite a story--a superstar NFL project who wanted to be a firefighter instead: Finding Danny Watkins.

The Edwin Garcia Links Machine dropped a metric ton of links this week, and here's a sampling. First, and this is quite useful, it's The Lord of the Rings Mythology Explained. Next, here's a terrifying and amazing base jumping video: There’s A Fine Line Between Fun And Terrifying - These Guys Just Jumped Off It. Next, and this is just incredible, it's Brain-controlled robot arm. Next, and this is utterly beautiful, it's Humpback Whales Bubble Feeding Drone Views. This next link is both remarkable and essentially unwatchable (see you long you last): "The Cut Ups," (1966) William S. Burroughs. Next, a lecture: William S. Burroughs lecture,July 20,1976,on paranormal,EVP,text+tape cut-ups,prognostication.

From Steven Davis, and this is excellent: What Traditional Publishing Learned in 2014.

From C. Lee, and this is so beautiful: Beautiful Kinkakuji temple even cooler under blanket of snow. Also, and this is crazy efficient, it's Too busy to wrap Christmas presents? Not if you’ve got 12 seconds, Japanese store shows. Also, and this is a mandatory read, it's They also served: How statisticians changed the war, and the war changed statistics.

From Tim Hibbetts, and this is fascinating: Bolts from the blue: The history of life in the universe may have been governed by the frequency of giant stellar explosions.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Two Things You Should Definitely Do Today

First, read Chris Hornbostel's wonderful post about the most brilliant Christmas album you've never heard: There are three truly great Christmas albums. You've only heard two of them..

Everything he says about this album is true, because it is nothing short of astonishing.

Second, go here, look at the episode list in the right-hand panel, and select episode 12. It's a 24-minute, radio play version of Ray Bradbury's brilliant and much-beloved short story "The Veldt".

Make Better Decisions (Christmas Edition)

Seriously, what the hell?

Continuing in that same vein:

With apologies to Zhuangzi, is that a women wearing a flower or a flower wearing a woman?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Holiday Wishes From the Manager of Brookstone

And George.

Now It Feels Like Christmas

Mr. Hankey's in the house:

Gridiron Solitaire Holiday Giveaway

If you'd like to give someone Gridiron Solitaire as a gift, let me know, because I have five Steam codes sitting here burning a hole in my Holiday hand.

Well, that sounded icky. You know what I mean.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

So If You Want To Move To Austin

You'll see lots of this:

That's five mega-cranes, in case you're counting.

But wait--that's great, right? Jobs for everybody! Well, yes--if you can fog up a mirror, you can find full-time employment.

There's one problem, though.

Texas has enormous growth through a kind of governmental pyramid scheme. Growth requires infrastructure, and infrastructure requires expenditures by government that are funded by taxes.

Ooh, taxes.

Wonder how we got all these companies down here in the first place? Enormous tax breaks. So they're not paying enough taxes to support the expansion of infrastructure.

Hey, don't look at me. Texans have a spectacularly irrational hatred of taxes, so regular citizens are paying unsustainably low taxes, too.

Wait a minute. If corporations are paying abnormally low taxes, and so are citizens, where does the money to build infrastructure come from?

Crickets chirping.

In Austin's case, we have a severely limited number of roads, and we're not building new ones. That means you can get a full-time job, but you better hope you can tele-commute, because you can't physically get there at rush hour(s).

Based on this article from Forbes, we are #4 in traffic in the country. Ahead of us are Los Angeles, Honolulu, and San Francisco. That's it. And we'll be #2 in another five years, easy.

At some point, this is going to blow up, and spectacularly, in the state's face.

We're All Glad

I found this note in a pile of paper, and it must have been written down years ago, when Eli 13.4 was a much younger version number. It's clearly something he said, though:

In case you can't read my crappy writing, that says "I'm glad I'm just a boy and not CRIME."


We'll be live on tape next week for a few days, not now.

Monday, December 22, 2014


One of our best friends has a daughter who is entirely adorable. For the last three years, Eli 13.4 has been drawing a picture for her as a present.

She's three now, which seems impossible, and drawing the picture has become a favorite holiday event. Here are a few pictures from this year.

Eli's not an artist, but he's figured out how to use a flashlight and a Pyrex dish to reflect images on the paper that he can trace. The favorites this year were Frozen, Minions, and Lucy from The Lego Movie, plus she's a fan of Arsenal. Here's the sketch:

Here's Eli working away. It took him about two and a half hours to go from beginning to final product.

Here's the finished drawing:

Handmade gifts aren't common anymore, and I understand why, but Eli enjoys giving this gift more than any other one.

Live on Tape

DQ is live on tape until Thursday, so please enjoy your pre-recorded content.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday Links!

From Jesse Leimkuehler, and this is an amazing story: The Rotting Underwater Ballroom of a Victorian Bernie Madoff.

From Ken Dean, and the technology here is fantastic: The Visual Trickery That Turns Hockey Rinks Into Lakes of Fire.

Okay, while I still find the idea that this could ever happen utterly remote, it's certainly interesting to read about: These Dreamers Are Actually Making Progress Building Elon’s Hyperloop.

From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and this is terrific: This fan-made Team Fortress 2 short has been a year in the making. Also, and holy cow, this is incredible: Molecular Cloud Barnard 68. Next, and this will blow your mind, it's WWII’s Strangest Battle: When Americans and Germans Fought Together. One more, and it's an explanation of a term we've all heard but may not all understand: The Fermi Paradox.

From Steven Davis, and this is a droll bit of detective work from a bygone era: How Jessica Mitford Exposed A $48m Scam From America’s Literary Establishment.

If you have fond memories of baseball trading cards, you'll want to read this: Sy Berger, Who Turned Baseball Heroes Into Brilliant Rectangles, Dies at 91.

From Chris Meyer, and this is quite brilliant: Abandoned Mercedes 300SL Found in Cuba Under a Banana Tree.

We can probably all use this: Fix Your Computer Hunch and Other Posture Problems in 30 Seconds.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Hatred (your e-mail)

Thoughtful e-mails from you guys, as always. I'm offering these, unedited, because they reflect a variety of reactions/responses.

First, from C. Lee:
You're right to point out that we as a society can swallow a great deal of violence so long as we're provided a reason, however thin, and it's legitimate to point out how open to abuse this is.

However, this is surely a case where the perfect is the enemy of the good. The distinction between violence committed for a reason and senseless violence is arguably a bedrock principle of any civilization. When we erase that distinction -- if we shrug like Pilate and say "What is truth?" -- then we may as well be living in Pol Pot's Cambodia.

That line is thin and hazy, but it's not one we can afford to be cynical about. Surely that line is what lies at the heart of the Senate intelligence report: Were the CIA's actions justified? If that line goes, then there's no reason to argue about the issue; if senseless violence is OK, then it just wouldn't matter whether torture occurred.

Steam is a publisher, and publishers are free to accept or decline material as they see fit. They don't have to offer a reason: "We regret that the enclosed material does not suit our needs." The people howling about censorship are being deliberately obtuse. As someone pointed out on Neogaf, your supermarket is not engaging in censorship because they don't carry the brand of milk you like. The developers of the game were free to distribute it on their own, just like every other game Steam declines to carry.

And if it's censorship people are worried about, well, we're about to reap the whirlwind now that Steam has reinstated the game. There's a presidential election coming up, and the likely Democratic candidate made a considerable nuisance of herself when it came to violence in games 15 years ago along with Lieberman and the like. Does anyone seriously believe Hillary Clinton wouldn't seize on this issue? And who could blame her if she did? I certainly wouldn't want to try to defend this game. 

Video games will have proven that they can't police themselves -- "little Johnny can download a genocide simulator to his PC!" The GOP candidate will likely condemn games as well to keep up. And so a self-appointed group of Congressional censors will take things in hand. Worried about censorship? We haven't seen anything yet.

As far as I'm concerned, Gabe Newell shrugged his shoulders and said "What is truth?" I think that far from avoiding a trap, he's rushed the entire industry into one.

Next, from Meg McReynolds: 
Keep in mind, too, there are differences between actual censorship and “choosing not to publish/buy/fund”. Censorship is a governmental function. There are parts of games that, at least in the US, are censored, yes – there are some depictions of children, for example, that if you put them in a game (or create them at all, really), it is considered a criminal act and you could be arrested.  There are other “standards” that are followed, but typically, those don’t rise to actual censorship. Those are a function of the market, “community standards”, the risk assessment of the publisher/producer. There are many things I could put in a game (or write, etc.) that would not get wide distribution necessarily, but I could create the game and put it out there by myself and not get arrested/governmentally sanctioned/etc. No one may buy it, play it, like it, let me advertise it anywhere, and it may be decried from all corners, but none of that is censorship. You can have a TV show and you say racist things on it, so the station takes the show off the air. That’s not censorship; that’s consequences for actions. Just because you legally can say racist things doesn’t mean you have to be provided a large platform to do so.

Now, there may be concerning implications of large distribution platforms declining to carry something. Just because it’s not the government doing the suppressing doesn’t mean it’s better (or worse, or a good idea or a bad idea). Sony pulling the opening/distribution of The Interview is not censorship; it is, however, deeply concerning. 

This is a common theme with art. There are many things out there that I find very troubling – torture pron is a great example. I also don’t like explicit depictions of war. I would be perfectly happy if the pron stopped getting published, but I see value in at least some explicit war movies, even if I don’t personally like them or want to see them. And maybe there’s value in the pron – who decides? Who decides where “pron” ends and mere violence begins? I don’t want the war movies to lose wide distribution because some people have problems with them, or think it’s not nice to show war. Art can be challenging, and should be sometimes. Maybe people didn’t like when Saving Private Ryan was on regular TV, but I see real value in wide exposure there.

I don’t have good answers here, either. I am happy when things I don’t like that are legal stop getting support/go out of fashion/don’t make money – I’m glad there seem to be fewer torture movies out there, for example. I’m frequently ok when the consequence for being racist on TV is that you lose your large platform to do so. But I worry that we may move too far away from things that are hard or ugly or sad, that distribution of potentially valuable expressions will become too small to have the impact they deserve. Where to draw the line? I’m not sure, and I’m reevaluating all the time.

I thought about what I wrote this morning, and realized a kind of philosophical distinction that gets made when it comes to content control in games: it's generally agreed that children need to be "protected". At a philosophical level, most people would agree with that statement. The devil, though, is in the details. What age limits define "children"? What are we protecting them from? How should that work, exactly?

A sweet spot for a large part of the population, I believe, is that we protect children and let adults see anything they want, because the value of unrestricted content, as a society, outweighs any possible negative consequences. 

Even then, though, we don't really do that. Viewing certain kinds of content can get an adult sent to prison. "Censor nothing" is very appealing at the whiteboard, but man, it gets very complicated very quickly. It's almost hopelessly unwieldy at the policy level. 

This seems to be one of the societal questions where there are no "best" answers, only 'bad" and "even worse" options.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Before I even get started here, let me make it very clear that I don't have an answer to the questions I'm going to raise. What I'm offering here are observations on things that seem curiously inconsistent.

There's a game on Greenlight called "Hatred". I'm not linking to it, and I'm not linking to the trailer, which, in my eyes, is reprehensible. It's not unfair, based on the trailer, to call this game an experience in virtual genocide. There are no fantasy trappings or "saving the world" plots here.

This game is made by Polish developers who may or may not be linked to far right-wing groups, depending on who you believe.

Hatred was taken down from Greenlight yesterday, without explanation, then put back up today following a statement by Gabe Newell saying (in part) "It turns out that it wasn’t a good decision".

Here's what bothers me about censorship discussions. We already have censorship. This cannot possibly be a "Should censorship exist in games?" discussion. There are already obvious limits on what can happen to children in games (I'm trying to word this in such a way that work filter sirens don't go off). There are obvious limits on how sex is portrayed.

So we already have an environment where children are "forbidden content", as well as realistic portrayals of sex. Why are these kinds of censorship allowed, but when anyone talks about restricting a realistic depiction of violence, everyone loses their minds?

I'm not saying I know where the limits should be, or if there should be limits at all--like I said, I'm not offering solutions here. I just find it baffling that any kind of censorship on ultra-violent games (and ultra-violent cinema as well) provokes howls of outrage, when censorship of sexual content garners barely a peep.

Another observation: we seem to be pretty comfortable with any kind of violence in games as long as it has a thin veneer of morality. Any kind of justification, no matter how flimsy, for the violence that will inevitably take place.

This is true at a larger, societal level as well. Want to exterminate an entire group of people? Propagandize them into something less than human. That's essential to overcoming the basic disgust any decent human being would feel. This has happened so many times throughout history that it's almost commonplace.

What's interesting about Hatred is that there's no pretension of morality. None. That thin line of humanity is obliterated. I don't credit the developers with this larger, philosophical intention--these guys have a strong whiff of dirtbag about them--but they did accidentally stumble onto a big question.

Also, what does it say about us that there are some people who are absolutely reveling in the fact that a game of this kind is being made?

Valve was in an impossible situation here. Just the fact that this game exists and was put onto Greenlight created a practical dilemma of enormous proportions. If you are willing to censor that kind of content on Steam, how do you police that? How do you draw up those guidelines? Where do you stop? That's a trap, and Gabe Newell was wise to sidestep it.

The sidestep, however, comes with its own trap.

Torture pron (again, trying to sidestep those work filters) is a bafflingly popular movie genre. I guarantee there are developers today sitting down and planning a PC game with that as the genre, because if Valve is unwilling to censor this game, it's not unreasonable to assume that they won't censor a game in this genre, either. That's going to put Valve in a very uncomfortable position.

Some might even say "agonizing."

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sports Games

Two strong recommendations today.

First, I've been playing The Golf Club (PC version for me, but also available for Xbone and PS4) again, and it is much improved. The courses are beautiful, the animation is excellent, and there some course elements (like wind) that they have absolutely nailed. 

Putting is much better, although at times it still feels a bit stiff. Chipping is the one aspect of the game that still feels a bit clunky, but so much else has significantly improved.

Plus, there are now over 2,000 user-made courses available.

Oh, one more thing. Single play is available now, so you can play a round by yourself, and you can play it in less than 30 minutes.

If you enjoy golf games but haven't played one in a while, this is a very, very good choice.

We downloaded Super Mega Baseball (PS4, $19.99) today and it is absolutely fun. Bright, colorful graphics, strong animation and sound effects, and excellent control schemes all meld into a very strong game, particularly for under $20. Plus there's a season mode with player progression, which is impressive for a lower-profile title.

If you want a baseball game, but don't want the complexity of The Show, this is lighter far that is done extremely well.


After continuing to listen to tremendously enjoyable episodes of X Minus One, I don't know why someone isn't doing this today.

30-minute "radio" programs, delivered by podcast. One episode per month, $1.99 per episode. Production costs would be limited, tools to facilitate production are powerful and inexpensive, and there's definitely an audience for something like this.

I'll be getting an e-mail within fifteen minutes telling me that someone is actually already doing this. Well, good for them.

It's remarkable how evocative these programs can be, and I think a podcast could be very successful.

Second idea: why hasn't anyone made a documentary about someone who doesn't exist?

Create an imaginary life, then go back and interview people who should know this person, based on their background. Go to the college they supposedly went to and talk to their professors. Talk to some of the students. Get them to tell anecdotes about their relationship with this person.

A skilled interviewer would be able to elicit all kinds of false memories. It would be a treasure trove for a good director.

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Scenario (your answers)

DQ VB.NET Advisor Garret Rempel is really quite droll. Please see his analysis of "A Scenario" below.
Obviously the best case scenario for all involved would have been to:
1) Hang onto the UPS
2) Turn your body to shield the UPS from damage by taking the brunt of the collision with your spine
3) Fall awkwardly and push the UPS out of the way while being run over by the vehicle

In a capitalist society this result ensure maximum profit distribution in that:
1) The vendor for the UPS is not required to provide warranty on the UPS system which escaped damage
2) The vehicle owner's insurance company is able to increase rates due to an at-fault collision that caused no damage to the vehicle
3) Your hospital gains a reliable ongoing revenue stream from your injury due to ongoing lifelong treatment
4) Another uppity pedestrian learns a valuable lesson that the outdoors are the sole domain of motorized vehicles, and any 'biological' who dares to venture out of doors risks death and dismemberment

I have no quibbles with that analysis.

Also, from Nick Youngblood, and I believe this is quite a bit more "legally" than Rempel of the Bailey, a link that clearly explains the basic elements of a negligence case. In case you're just too lazy, there are five basic elements here: duty, breach of duty, cause in fact, proximate causes, and damages. 

In very basic terms, it must be established that the defendant owes a duty to the plaintiff, and here's a hypothetical:
In the example involving the defendant loading bags of grain onto a truck, and striking a child with one of the bags, the first question that must be resolved is whether the defendant owed a duty to the child. In other words, a court would need to decide whether the defendant and the child had a relationship such that the defendant was required to exercise reasonable care in handling the bags of grain near the child. If the loading dock were near a public place, such a public sidewalk, and the child was merely passing by, then the court may be more likely to find that the defendant owed a duty to the child. On the other hand, if the child were trespassing on private property and the defendant did not know that the child was present at the time of the accident, then the court would be less likely to find that the defendant owed a duty.

If you have an interest in this kind of legal situation, I highly recommend the link--it's quite readable and extremely clear.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday Links!

Leading off, from Eric Higgins-Freese, and what an incredible project: The First World War in 261 Weeks: Meet all the characters of the Great War. Here's a description:
Every week of the war a new character, introduced by the main events of that particular week. The series will run from 28 June 2014 (shooting at Sarajevo) till 28 June 2019 (Treaty of Versailles).


Don't click on the following link if you haven't read The Englishman's Daughter yet, but if you have, you'll want to see this: Solved: the riddle of executed First World War soldier Robert Digby.

From Jonathan Arnold, and this is an epic, epic piece about science fiction fonts: Alien | Typeset in the Future.

From Les Bowman, and this is an absolutely tremendous article (three parts): The man with the salmon plan: One biologist's radical dream for the Great Lakes came true when millions of salmon were brought in from the Pacific. The world's largest freshwater ecosystem has been a giant science experiment ever since.

From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and this is a fantastic interpretation of mythology: Kick his ass, baby, I got yo flower.

From Steven Davis, and this is fantastic: Sashimono Woodwork.

From Michael Gilbert, and these are some spectacular pictures of--fog: Dallas in the fog.

From Jim Bradley, and this was made by an animator at Dreamworks, mixing his son's antics with some very clever special effects wizardry.

From Chris Pencis, and I think I would enjoy living in Norway: Norway's cool in-ground bicycle lift for conquering steep hills.

From DQ Reader My Wife, and this will hopefully have meaning for Eli 13.4 someday: College hockey players undervalued in the NHL draft and here’s why.

These are all quite beautiful: The most stunning drone pictures of 2014.

From Steven Kreuch, here's a fascinating article about Coke's Freestyle machine: Dean Kamen Reinvents Coke's Soda Fountain.

From Tim Steffes, and this is sneaky clever: Playing With My Son: An experiment in forced nostalgia and questionable parenting.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Scenario

I bought a UPS at Fry's today for the new system. It was surprisingly heavy.

As I was carrying it through the parking lot, I saw the brake lights flash on a van directly to the right.

I have this strange thing I do when I'm driving or walking through parking lots where I imagine what I would do if things went bad (car X changing lanes into car Y, car pulling out into my path in a parking lot, etc.). I know--it's weird.

The van didn't pull out, and I walked past with no incident. It made me wonder, though, what would happen if the van did pull out toward me. The UPS was heavy enough where I couldn't have gotten out of the way in time to avoid being hit. My only option would have been to drop the UPS first.

So here's the puzzler scenario: if this had happened, and the UPS had been damaged, would the driver of the van have been liable for the damage? I would have dropped the UPS based on my belief that the van was going to hit me, and that dropping the UPS would allow me to move quickly enough to avoid the collision.

How do you sort through something like that?

Papers, Please (iPad)

That's right. Papers, Please, the dystopian paperwork simulator--and one of the most unnerving, claustrophobic games I've ever played--is coming to iPad on Friday. Papers, Please won just about every gaming award possible when it was released, and it deserved them all.

If you didn't play this game on the PC (shame on you), here's another chance, and it should work perfectly on the iPad.

Lucas Pope is one of the most interesting developers in gaming today. Return of the Obra Dinn, even in very early form, looks amazing, and even his Ludlum Dare entries, like The Sea Has No Claim, have a way of punching you in the gut, and I mean that in the very best way.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Eli 13.4

Eli 13.4 was in the mall store Brookstone earlier this week, and he happened to be wearing blue dress slacks, a white dress shirt, and a tie.

A woman walked up to him and said "Excuse me, sir, but if I buy more than a hundred dollars of merchandise, do I get free shipping?"

Eli looked at her and said, "Ma'am, I don't work here. I'm thirteen."

"Oh, dear!" she said. "I thought you were the manager."

I guess if I want to get a job at Brookstone someday, I better not piss him off.
Eli was dressing out today for his weekly session with the shooting coach.

If you've never seen a goalie as they dress out, they look quite silly. A padded goalie shirt, huge pants, black tights, and Eli wears crossed suspenders because he can't keep his pants up without them. He looks like a giraffe bandido.

"Well, you look entirely ridiculous," I said.

"Stay in school, kids!" he said, laughing and flashing the thumbs up.

Freestyle (your update)

Nick Youngblood sent in some fascinating information about the Freestyle machine:
Yesterday, thanks to your column, I couldn’t get the Freestyle off my mind, so I started trying to learn more about it. There was a quite in-depth discussion of the device on a forum that seemed to be dedicated to movie theater and fast food operators. I haven’t verified most of this, but here are a few of the more interesting things I learned.

The technology that makes the Freestyle possible was originally developed for use in chemotherapy machines, in order to precisely measure the relative amounts of various chemo drugs a patient received. This key piece of technology is what allows the concept of the Freestyle to work.

That technology is so precise that it allows the machine to use incredibly concentrated forms of syrup, way more concentrated than you’d find in a normal soda fountain. Thus you can offer over a hundred flavors in a small physical profile. I think this may actually be the source of people’s taste complaints for the following reason. Normal fountains have syrup bags for their various flavors. There’s a coke bag, a sprite bag, and so on. If I understand correctly, the Freestyle doesn’t use this system. Instead, it has a variety of cartridges that hold common components of many syrups, and mixes them on the fly. So when you’re ordering a Coke for example, you’re not getting coke syrup per se, you’re getting a mixture of the various ingredients the machine contains that is supposed to match or closely approximate pre-prepared Coke syrup. Another example. In canned and pre-mixed varieties, the cherry flavor used in cherry coke vs cherry soda is not actually the same. In the Freestyle, the same cherry flavoring is used for all applications of cherry. If this is true, the flavor problems with the machine may never be fixed, in which case they’re doomed (or we are).

Another factor that can influence flavor is that due to the way the spigot works, remnants of the drink ordered before yours will often make it into your drink. I don’t know why this is so, but reports are common of people receiving a little lime diet coke in their pineapple soda or what have you. 

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Coca-Cola Freestyle

I'm sure you've seen one by now.

Coca-Cola Freestyle, the big red and white soda machine that can dispense over 125 combinations of Coke products/flavors. The first time I saw one, the concept blew me away. It was the greatest idea ever.

Then I tasted the soda.

Here's what every single drink that comes out of a Coca-Cola machine tastes like: ass. Every flavor and product have a distinctive "Freestyle" ass-taste. It's so bad that I've now started avoiding places I used to eat at frequently because they installed Freestyle machines.

Last week, I went to a restaurant I haven't eaten at in over six months because they have Freestyle machines now, and while I was having my snack, I saw a technician working on the Freestyle machine.

"Hey, do you mind if I ask you some questions about Freestyle?" I asked.

"Sure!" he said. Friendly type.

"I really like the idea of these machines in concept, but the flavor--"

"I won't drink anything that comes out of these machines," he said.

"That's what I was going to say," I said. "I'm glad it's not just me."

"It's not," he said. "I have people come up all the time and tell me they hate it. I don't like how it tastes, either. Something is off. They all taste wrong."

"You could line up ten drinks from five different soda fountains and five Freestyle machines, and I could pick out every one of the Freestyle drinks immediately," I said.

"I can, too," he said.

"So why are they pushing this so hard?" I asked.

"The executives are in love with the idea," he said. "And they spent a ton of money developing it. It's a good idea, but they need to tweak the flavor. The mix isn't right yet."

He talked for a while about some of the technological innovation in the machine, and it's a pretty amazing piece of tech. It standardizes flavor--the flavor of ass, unfortunately--to a much, much greater degree than was possible previously. Plus, if I understood the tech correctly, it would be possible for Coca-Cola to push software updates that would change the flavor profile/mix of every installed machine at the same time.

Here's what blows me away, though: wouldn't you think those executives would have actually tasted the soda? I don't see how anyone could taste what actually comes out of the machine and be satisfied. It's far less sweet, for one, and there's some kind of funky carbonation or something that creates a distinctive after-taste. How could they not notice that?

Sales of soft drinks have been dropping steadily for a while now, and guess what, Coca-Cola? This isn't going to help.

Monday, December 08, 2014

The Englishman's Daughter, Death, and Ants

I read a phenomenal book by Ben Macintyre (who's written many phenomenal books) last week titled The Englishman's Daughter: A True Story of Love and Betrayal in World War One. Here's a description:
In the first days of World War I four soldiers, left behind as the British army retreated through northern France under the first German onslaught, found themselves trapped on the wrong side of the Western Front, in a tiny village called Villeret. Just a few miles from the Somme, the village would be permanently inundated with German troops for the next four years, yet the villagers conspired to feed, clothe and protect the fugitives under the very noses of the invaders, absorbing the Englishmen into their homes and lives until they could pass for Picardy peasants. 

The leader of the band, Robert Digby, was a striking young man who fell in love with Claire Dessenne, the prettiest maid in the village. In November 1915, with the guns clearly audible from the battlefront, Claire gave birth to Digby's child, the jealous whispering began, and the conspiracy that had protected the soldiers for half the war started to unravel.

That's right: war, romance, and soap opera drama, all in one book. 

What struck me even more than the incredible story, though, was the story of WWI itself, which is the foundation that the story weaves through. I've read about WWI before, but everything I read was extraordinarily dry. 

This, though, is anything, but dry, and Macintyre includes some stunning works from that period, including this by poet/soldier Alan Seeger:
I have a rendezvous with Death   
At some disputed barricade,   
When Spring comes back with rustling shade   
And apple-blossoms fill the air—   
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.   
It may be he shall take my hand   
And lead me into his dark land   
And close my eyes and quench my breath—   
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death   
On some scarred slope of battered hill,   
When Spring comes round again this year   
And the first meadow-flowers appear.   
God knows ‘twere better to be deep 
Pillowed in silk and scented down,   
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,   
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,   
Where hushed awakenings are dear...   
But I’ve a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,   
When Spring trips north again this year,   
And I to my pledged word am true,   
I shall not fail that rendezvous.

Read this slowly, aloud. It will shake you.

Seeger did indeed die during WWI--in 1916, at Belloy-en-Santerre.

The book does a tremendous job of describing the closeness of war, the suffocation, and I strongly encourage you to read it when you have time.

This ties in with a second story.

I'm swimming 5 days a week at the YMCA while our neighborhood pool is closed for "winter". It's a huge enclosed area with a big pool (8 lanes), and a second, smaller pool for classes like water aerobics. There's a class (frilly bathing caps and many over 70) going on while I swim, and when I got out of the water on Friday, they were all softly reciting "The Ants Go Marching" as they exercised. In combination with the pool acoustics, what emerged was a ghostly, very haunting version of the poem, like a shadow.

As I listened, I realized that "The Ants Go Marching" must be a sanitized version of a poem/song about war, and I guessed that it was WWI. I looked it up when I got home, and as it turns out, it's even older than that. It's from "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again," which was written not during WWI but during the Civil War, in 1863.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Friday Links!

From Steven Davis, and this is fantastic: The Dance Hall: A-Z of African Dance. Also, and this is fantastic: Albert Michelson's Harmonic Analyzer: A Visual Tour of a Nineteenth Century Machine that Performs Fourier Analysis.

From Neil Gibbings, and this is one of my favorite cities in the world: This Timelapse Of Vancouver At Night Is Just Ridiculous How Amazing It Is.

I'm a sucker for stories like this: How Scotch Tape Was Invented.

From Eric-Higgins Freese, and this is obviously terrific: Naughty By Nature | Hip Hop Hooray | Muppets Version.

From DQ reader My Wife, and in case you were wondering: Ebola In The Air: What Science Says About How The Virus Spreads.

This is a tremendous read: The Curious Case of Jesus’s Wife.

From Ryan Malinowsky, and this is fascinating (about Graham's Number): From 1 to 1,000,000 and From 1,000,000 to Graham’s Number. Even better, here's Mr. Graham explaining it himself (and I highly recommend this video): What is Graham's Number?

Here's something from one of my favorite NBA players of all time: The Time Manute Bol Hit Six Three-Pointers in a Half.

Well, I find this hilarious and not terribly surprising: Ayn Rand personally profited from FDR's New Deal.

Ending the week, and this might be the badass of all time, from The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, it's the man who removed his own appendix.

Wait, one more--I just read this and it's excellent: The Weight of Guilt Death, disgrace, and a handful of knockers: inside the secret world of competitive bass fishing cheaters.

Thursday, December 04, 2014


Eli 13.4, given his age, developed an urge for a man-cave like setup in his room.

Fair enough--I was the same way at his age. So when his 37" gaming TV in the exercise room died (out of warranty, too cheap to make it worth repairing), it seemed like an opportunity to change a few things.

I didn't realize we'd be changing all of them in one day, but whatever.

I found an excellent 40" Samsung TV on massive sale and brought it home. Then we went to Fry's and found, literally, one of the best pieces of home video furniture I've ever purchased.

Let me take that back. It IS the best piece I've ever purchased. It's the Sumar SM8161, and besides being cheap ($149) and quite attractive, it also came with the best documentation I've ever used for a build it yourself product.

Usually documentation for something like this is crap--badly written, poorly labeled, and flat-out wrong at some point. The Sumar documentation was crystal-clear, and there were labeled, individual pouches for all the hardware. Even an idiot like me had zero problems putting the stand together in fifteen minutes. I actually enjoyed it, and knowing me, how is that even possible?

Then we moved a lovely, firehouse-themed bookcase out of Eli's room that he'd had since he was three and didn't want anymore. This one:

Okay, I did feel a tiny twinge of sadness there, but it took up a huge amount of space and he's a teenager now.

Moving the bookcase opened up a wall for the new TV, so we moved the stand over and put the TV in place. Instead of calibrating the set myself, I decided to check CNET, and they had calibration settings for that model. I decided to try them, and they worked out great--the TV looks fantastic, and I input settings for ten minutes instead of calibrating for several hours.

Hooked up the Xbox 360 (he's asked for the XBone for Christmas), which took five minutes, turned everything on, and it looks terrific.

There's glare because the blinds were open. It looks excellent when they're closed.

Done. Total time for buying and building and moving and setting up: about three hours.

While we were in the middle of all this, Gloria said something about night projects being tiring (they are), and Eli said, "Mom, there's no time in the present."

"You mean 'no time like the present'," Gloria said.

"Let's not get dragged down by details," Eli said, laughing.
I walked into the house yesterday after going on a unicycle ride. As I started up the driveway, I saw our neighbor, who put up some holiday lights and an inflatable snowman recently. "Yard looks great," I said.

"Thank you!" he said.

I walked in the door.

"I heard you have a conversation with the neighbor," Gloria said.

"I did," I said. "Five words."

"I know," she said.

"To me, conversations are like elevators," I said. "You know where you're going, you get there as quickly as possible, and when you get there, you step out immediately."

"This explains many things," she said.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Crazy Trip Dispatch #6 From Doug Walsh

It just gets more interesting.
December 1st, 2014

Nine months and over 9,000 miles of cycling since leaving Seattle, I write this update from the edge of the Sahara desert, at a hotel that is literally where the eastward road ends in central Morocco. Yesterday morning, before breakfast, I left the hotel alone and walked a mile into the desert, climbing up and over numerous dunes until my footprints were the only tether back to the hotel. The sea of sand, broken only by occasional tufts of grass, was the perfect remedy for the stress and frustration and suffocating energy of the medinas in Tangier and Fes. It’s these medinas, ancient walled labyrinths of impossibly dense homes and markets, which I wish to tell you about.

“The key to surviving the medina is to learn one way in and out and to not deviate. I didn’t add a second route from my house for two years and I still don’t know a third.” Irwin, a British ex-pat and owner of the house we’d be staying in for the week in Tangier, stopped to look me in the eye as he spoke, to make sure I understood the importance of what he was saying. He led the way through the cart-wide maze, past myriad shops selling all manner of Moroccan lamps and ceramics, to Café Tingis in the petite-socco, a favorite haunt of Paul Bowles, Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs and the generation of beat writers and thinkers and addicts and pedophiles who moved to Tangier during its heyday in the mid-20th century. From there, we continued through the grand socco to a café near a promenade overlooking the Strait of Gibraltar and the foreign world of Spain and Europe. It was up to me to lead us back.

The skills I’ve accumulated as a lifetime gamer were about to be put to the test: the medina reminded me of the old Phantasy Star games what with the narrow field of view, the towering walls blocking out the daylight, and my natural first-person perspective. Everything looked the same if you weren’t searching for the details. Younger gamers should envision the markets in Assassin’s Creed, only turned up to 11. And without the haystacks.

And so I led the way back into the dimly-lit market: left at the produce stand with the pinwheel arrangement of carrots, past the olives, and right onto the street leading downhill. Keep going, look for the small rectangular sign for the Kasbah. It’s near Café Tingis. Make a left there. Yes, the very narrow alley that looks like a path to someone’s house. It’s a road. Follow it uphill. Keep going, keep going Doug, and look like you know where you’re going. The touts will be all over you if you hesitate. Listen for the parakeets. Ignore the turns and twists. Follow your ears. Okay, four roads intersect in the plaza with the birds. Approach the birdcage and look for the animal skins. To the right of the skins should be a sign that says “Lion.” Go that way. Okay, now count the shops selling soda and bread, but only the ones with propane tanks. One, two, okay, now look to the right for a pink wall. That’s the alley with the house. Third gate on the left.

I learned that way in and out of the medina rather well and never got lost in our week-long stay. I even added a second route in that time, but we won’t tell Irwin that. Then, four days and 190 mountainous miles later, I put those skills to the test again in the much larger and far more intimidating medina of Fes, the cultural center of Morocco. Ignoring the constant offerings of help and directions from the ever-annoying touts and faux guides can test anyone’s patience. I can barely tolerate the in-store greeters we have back in the United States, and struggled mightily to control my anger as people tried to lure me into their restaurant or store, sometimes by hand. I was also constantly being asked where I’m from -- a veiled reminder that I’m not from around here and everyone knows it – and where I was headed. I knew not to tell them anything as they’d follow along and then demand a tip for “guiding” me to the hotel I was perfectly capable of finding. Fortunately, within a day, I had a very good sense of where I was going and, even when just wanting to wander, would employ a determined, businesslike pace. It was with great joy and triumph that Kristin and I soon found ourselves being ignored completely by the touts, and even being bid Salaam Alaikum as we walked the streets of medina.

It would be easy to continue on about the range of emotions we felt every day in this beautiful, crazy country: from blood-boiling anger and frustration to confusion to tremendous joy, gratitude, and affection. The frustrations and annoyances experienced by westerners traveling to Morocco are well documented. But it would be wholly unfair of me if I didn’t defend their actions. What we soon realized was that everyone, including other Moroccans, were suffering the same pressured sales tactics. Especially by restaurant owners and their hired touts. It wasn’t personal, these folks just really need the business. And if you give them your business, and you return a second time, they will love you for it.

In Tangier, upon returning to the same produce stall we bought from two days prior, I was greeted with a very warm welcome as the shopkeeper held his hand to his heart, spoke his appreciation in Arabic, and then hugged me. He insisted on adding some free tomatoes to our bag of vegetables. In restaurants that we stumbled upon – and miraculously found again – our returning to dine there repeatedly was always greeted with increasing hospitality and a little something extra. In the crazy, bustling, aggressive medina of Fes, at a wonderful little restaurant with seating for eight, the owner took her leave halfway through our meal to go and secure us some pastries from elsewhere in the medina, as a gift for our eating her food a second night in a row. She then hugged Kristin and kissed her cheeks as the husband did likewise to me.

These were just a few of our experiences in Morocco. We’ll be in the country for a month before embarking on a 50-hour ferry crossing to Livorno, Italy. For those interested, my wife Kristin recently wrote a blog post about what it’s been like being a western woman traveling in a Muslim country. You can read that here.

Time for a camel trek,
Doug Walsh

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Child's Play

Penny Arcade's Child's Play has raised over $27 MILLION dollars since its inception in 2003, and the 2014 edition is going strong. Here's the website: Child's Play.

Seriously, how many people have raised $27 million for charity? That's crazy good.

New System!

After five years or so, it was time for a new system.

Visual Studio and some of the other programs I work with were not running that well anymore. And even though I don't have a lot of gaming time, I wanted to play in full glory when I did.

Like I said in Saturday's post, it's never easy for me to build a system. When you only do it twice a decade, you forget all the important little things, and that's what always gets you in trouble.

Having said all that, though, the new system is working, and damn, it's sexy. Pictures.

Man, that heatsink is MASSIVE.

I should probably define what I mean by "sexy", and it's pretty easy.
1. Stable
2. Quiet
3. Fast
4. Quality display
5. No need to open the case for the first two years.

Those aren't exactly in order, but you get the idea. Once it's build, I want it to be powerful enough where I don't need to open the case for any reason. A couple of years from now, drop in a graphics card.

My strategy is to buy one step below the top, which is still plenty fast. But I splurged on the monitor this time--it's the Dell U2713HM, and it is utterly spectacular. 2560x1440 resolution, beautifully calibrated out of the box, and it's not even a giant power hog.

Okay, here are the components:
Asus X99-Deluxe motherboard
Intel i7-5820k Haswell-E CPU
Noctua NH-D15 heatsink
SeaSonic 860w Platinum power supply
Crucial Ballistix 4x8GB DDR4 RAM
Gigabyte Geforce GXT 970 graphics card
Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD
Silverstone FT04 Case

The total price on all of this was in the $2,000 range. This system is going to last me for another five years, so I'm willing to spend a little more up front.

I mentioned on Saturday that I was disappointed about the build quality of the case, and that's true, but man, the physical design and air flow is unbelievably good.

Air flow versus noise is always a complex trade-off. You can dampen noise coming from the system, but that will increase heat levels inside the case substantially, which makes fans spin at higher RPM's, which increases the noise level. Or you can take the other approach--a case with great air flow, which allows fan speeds to be much lower.

I took the second approach this time. There's a bit of sound dampening material in the case, but it's also wide open for airflow, and it's a positive pressure case, so it pushes air out the back. When I'm sitting at the desktop in Windows, here's what's happening inside:
CPU fan--950 RPMs (Noctua--essentially silent)
CPU temp--35C
Motherboard temp--32C
Power supply--in hybrid mode, and at these temps, the fan doesn't spin at all
Geforce card--30C, with fans spinning at around 500RPM, which is also essentially silent.

So at the desktop, the system is very close to silent, and there's no coil whine at all.

I can customize the CPU fan profile in the BIOS, so I tinkered with it a bit and then ran the Sandra benchmarks. The CPU temp got up to 58C but no higher. And when running 3DMark Firestrike, the graphics card never got above 60C.

Even at the highest temps, the system is very, very quiet.

There are still a ton of things I have to do before I can start transferring stuff over. I need to run something for hours/days to make sure the system is stable (not Prime, because that seems like complete overkill, so I need to find something).

I'm very cautious about relying on a system before it's been thoroughly tested, so it's still going to be a while before I switch over. Right now, though, I am very, very happy with how this has turned out (even if I wanted to kill myself several times while I was in the build process).

Monday, December 01, 2014

Winnipeg Today

From DQ VB.NET advisor Garret Rempel:

My brain can't even process that number.

Brain Cramp

Of course it's Gems of War, not Gem Quest. Gem Quest probably involves candy canes and unicorns or something. Hey, that doesn't sound half bad.

Repeat. Gems of War.


I set up a Twitter account years ago to send private messages to one of my friends who was in the hospital and wasn't getting e-mail.

Otherwise, I never used it, and it must have been active for five years, at least.

Today, my long, long-time friend Andrew Stingel e-mailed me and said the account had been hacked.

I went to the page and of course he was right. Links posted to god knows where.

I reset the account password, then changed the e-mail address associated with the account. Twitter said they'd send me a confirmation e-mail to the new e-mail address to verify.

Three hours later, I still don't have it, so I just deleted the account. Old man kids get off my lawn etc.

Gems Of War (Further Impressions)

Don't play this game.

I'm warning you. After a few more hours, I have come to realize that this game is ridiculously good, more fun than Puzzle Quest, and will be an absolute time sink. Seriously, it's a complete blast.

Plus, I have plenty of in-game money and haven 't seen anything to suggest the slimy tendrils of F2P mechanics. Not once.

What makes this game so interesting is the interlocking elements. You have a series of kingdoms, and inside each kingdom, there are quests and challenges, each with separate rewards and purposes. Plus you can defend/invade other players (not actually playing them live, but playing against their builds, I believe).

A build consists of four cards, each with attack/armor/health ratings, as well as a special quality. So a card's special ability might be turning five gems on the board into green gems, for example. And each card's ability gets filled by matching a certain color gem (or, in some cases, either of two colors). So it's a match-three, certainly, but there's lots more going on.

You can level up your troop cards by completing challenges, which rewards you with souls, which you can then use on training. The quests reward you with additional troop cards plus money, and additional kingdoms are unlocked with the money.

I'm sure I played at least thirty quests  in the original kingdom, so there's plenty of meat in each one, I'm guessing.

Anyway, if at some point your character is overwhelmed, it's easy to jump in to some challenges, gain souls, and level up your character so that you can continue.

My one complaint, and it's not much of one, is that in spite of the quest descriptions, the board is always the same, and the differences in combat are based on the special abilities/gems to fill of the enemy cards instead of using different play mechanics like timed sequences or different shaped boards or different rules.

That would have been nice, but this game is so borderline hypnotic anyway that it seems like a real niggle.

Like I said, stay away. Too good.

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