September 2005 Archives

Neil Gaiman: American Gods


I completely forgot that Neil Gaiman was in the Bay Area signing books this week, else I would have gone to see him speak.

However, seeing kwc's post about his recent signing at Cody's Books in Berkeley did prompt me to go searching through my pre-blogspot archives for my notes on his talk at Kepler's Books in Menlo Park in 2001. I won't bother to repost the 2001 entry (because my writing style has apparently changed a lot over the last four years) but I will summarize the notes in the extended entry.

Losing NAVI

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Earlier this week, NAVI crashed while I was driving home.

I've never in all my years of driving ever had a car stereo component outright fail on me (the car antenna doesn't count).

I spent Tuesday night diagnosing and disassembling the dashboard, pulling out the entire GPS system and reconnecting cables (in case any were loose). I patched it all up and it seemed good, but NAVI still crashes and powers off abruptly. The iPod adapter system still works, which is by far the much more crucial device, which makes me re-evaluate the need and worth of having the GPS system. The GPS system is out of warranty (and I know the rates for repair on it are bound to be astronomical).

I was also researching new Map DVDs for NAVI as well -- they are ridiculously expensive. Definitely not something to be replaced on an annual or bi-annual basis -- probably something that one might consider replacing every 5 to 10 years, just like you would replace a Thomas Guide.

All of this has had me thinking -- we spend all this time developing new technology to make our lives easier, but at the same time, this new technology complicates our lives when it doesn't work. Don't get me wrong -- GPS tech is great since I constantly find myself lost getting to a new place, but is it really worth the cost? Pioneer's current model, the AVIC-N2 Multi-Function Navigation System, costs over $1600. That's a whole lot of Thomas Guides.

Video Game Degrees and Breaking into the Video Games Industry

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Washington Post: Like Video Games? Now you can major in them.
(registration required or use bugmenot)

*"At Carnegie Mellon, students will have to take classes such as Intro to Entertainment Technology, Building Virtual Worlds and Game Design, as well as many others. But it's hard to measure the significance of these sorts of degrees. "*

It seems to me that the value in these classes is as preparation for the games industry -- these are the basic principles that one should know, and that one may even know intuitively. Like any other academic field, it's important to know the basic concepts at work, and to get a general introduction to games. Classes in this subject matter are at least as useful as "The Works of Shakespeare" or "Writers of the 19th Century" would be to a magazine editor -- that is to say, it provides helpful background, but is by no means a requirement.

I would think however, that anyone who wants to make a career in the video industry would naturally be an avid game player, and would have played as many games as they could have. I think there's a lot of value in playing the games, particularly in the games industry.

*"The idea of a video game education is so new that, even within the gaming industry, the jury is still out on whether these degrees are worth the sheepskin they're printed on."*

It's very true that the jury is still quite out on it -- and it seems to me, from the applicants I've seen that what matters most is not where you went to school, or what degree you attained or majored in, but rather what your abilities are. Going to one of these schools and getting a degree won't ensure a job in the games industry.

In the games industry, I've seen people who didn't finish high school and I've seen people with Ph.Ds. It really comes down to two things and I think it's true in anything that people work towards: patience and perserverence. If games is really what matters to you, then you'll find a way into it. The degree may help opening some doors a bit easier (the value of networking) but there's no substitute for experience or ability. The article has a quote from Mark Jacobs, founder of Mythic Entertainment Inc who said: "Degrees are good, experience is better."

The article ends with Ahmed, a games industry job seeker, saying about doing it on his own: "I need a team of 100 people and millions of dollars, I don't have that."

I don't agree with that. Anyone can make a game on their own. I was making my own when I was 14. Getting it published and selling millions of copies, that's another matter entirely.

The extended entry includes tips on how to get a job in the industry without experience.

links for 2005-09-28


Review: Marvel 1602


I just finished reading Marvel 1602, which dabbles in an alternate universe with the Marvel Superheroes we all know and love in a different time period -- namely, the year 1602.

Some of the reasons for the origin of their superpowers does seem at times contrived.


links for 2005-09-23




JetBlue Passengers are able to watch as their plane prepares for an emergency crash landing

I guess we've finally reached the age where live television can be televised even on the planes.

Eye of a Hurricane


Hurricane Rita causes Gridlock as masses flee US storm

They sounded the evacuation a day early, and it looks like buses are getting people out of the area, so it would appear that people have learnt from Katrina. It does make me think about my emergency preparations (or lack thereof).

From this second Hurricane, I think we can safely assume that gas prices are going to skyrocket over the next couple of months -- I'll go out on a limb and predict $4 at the pump around Thanksgiving/Christmas.

links for 2005-09-22


Media Manager


I always seem to have problems finding specific Canon 'L' Lenses on Amazon, so using my freshly installed copy ofMedia Manager, I made a page to quickly reference the lenses. This in turn led me to more experimentation with the Media Manager, and I ended up creating additional pages to cover my collections of books, DVDs and Video Games, which will eventually be filled with relevant data.

No tagbacks...


Flickr: Terry Pratchett and FlickrFiesta


Two new Photosets are up:
FlickrFiesta on the Yahoo! campus, as well as a couple of photos of
Terry Pratchett to go along with kwc's notes on Terry Pratchett at Books Inc. in Mountain View.

links for 2005-09-21


Thunder and Lightning


It's the first thunderstorm of the year.

I can't believe it's raining. It was such a nice day yesterday.

There's two guys paddling outside on the marsh in the pouring rain. I think they must want to make it home. With the lightning though, I'd say the smart thing to do is to head for the shore, bring the canoe to land and call for a pickup... if lightning were to strike that lake, the safest place to be is probably not in the canoe.

Thinking about Hydrogen


Water Burns Cleaner: Hydrogen Generator

His claim that it reduces pollutants entirely should be a big red flag.

The idea of putting in distilled water and some reactants in a container and then feeding it to the engine is an interesting one. To me, his idea sounds similar to what racers do when they inject nitrous oxide into their engines, except that he is adding hydrogen instead of nitrogen. Nitrogen has a cooling property on the engine, I'm not sure what Hydrogen would do.

Distilled water breaks into two pieces when a current passes through it: H+ and OH-, 2 H+'s bond to form H2 gas, and four OH-'s bond to form O2 gas, water and 4 electrons. That's basic chemistry - electrolysis.

The oxygen generated from this aids in the combustion of the gasoline (in essence filling the space in the combustion chamber). Gasoline is basically a long chain of Carbon and Hydrogen. When you add oxygen, what results is Carbon Monoxide, Carbon Dioxide, water vapor, hydrogen gas and some carbonization of the engine. The addition of Hydrogen to the mix basically means that you end up getting chains of other hydrocarbons (some which will combust early). A small amount of Carbon Dioxide and Carbon Monoxide will always result (because there is oxygen in the system and gasoline naturally has carbon in it). In addition, having the Hydrogen there is sure to produce Methane (another greenhouse gas)

If it were as simple as just putting in hydrogen into the system to increase fuel efficiency, wouldn't someone have done that already?

Mario... Where is he now?


Plague strikes World of Warcraft


The World of Warcraft Great Plague

"Heres the skinny: Blizzard adds in a new instance, Zul'Gurub. Inside is the god of blood, Hakkar. Well, when you fight him he has a debuff called Corrputed Blood. It does like 250-350 damage to palyers and affects nearby players. The amazing thing is SOME PLAYERS have brought this disease (and it is a disease) back to the towns, outside of the instance. It starts spreading amongst the genral population including npcs, who can out generate the damage. Some servers have gotten so bad that you can't go into the major cities without getting the plague (and anyone less than like level 50 nearly immediately die). GM's even tried quarantining players in certain areas, but the players kept escaping the quarantine and infecting other players."

As far as I know, this plague hasn't hit the server that I've currently been playing on (Dark Iron) mainly because Dark Iron just doesn't have the high level population that the older servers have (Dark Iron is only about a month old).

Update: Flash Video (with music) of some screenshots

Update 2: Movie of the Plague Spreading through Orgimar (43MB)

Update 3: Movie of the Plague Spreading through Iron Forge (8MB)

Fun Holidays


Yesterday was the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival (which I completely forgot about until my mother called), and today is
International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Nintendo Revolution Controller


In the old days you could tell when a kid was new to video games by the way they'd use the controller. Instead of just using their fingers, they'd use their entire body to play the game -- so a hard jump would be the press of button plus the upward motion of the amrs (as well as the controller) in the hopes of that upward motion adding a little extra oomph to the jump. It didn't matter of course -- the controller didn't have anything in there to detect motions (such as the sway of the body when making a hard right or left), but Nintendo announced at the Tokyo Game Show that their new controller for the Revolution (their next-gen console) would include a gyroscope to detect motions.

You can see the controller in action on this
Teaser video for Nintendo Revolution Controller.

I think the controller design is an innovative idea, and it's quite likely that Nintendo developers will be making full use of the controller's abilities in the next-gen Mario and Zelda games. I'm a little less thrilled about the ergonomic design of the controller which resembles a tv remote control.


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November is National Novel Writing Month, and in honor of that, a lot of would-be novelists are going to start writing on November 1st with the goal of finishing a 175-page novel (50,000 words) by midnight of November 30th.

I'm going to do it.

Commercial Screening Room


One of the things about having a TiVo is that I skip out on commercials. Admittedly, there are some very good ones (most of which are shown during the Superbowl) as well as some very bad ones. I stumbled upon Boards Magazine Screening Room, which contains some very funny commercials:

A couple of good ones:

Movable Type 3.2


I upgraded to MT 3.2. A couple of things broke (which I'll fix as soon as I get around to it). So far, it's looking pretty nice.

The comment spam has already started flowing in... :(

Final Fantasy 7: Advent Children


I'm a bit surprised that I never mentioned Final Fantasy 7: Advent Children before in my blog, as I've been waiting for this movie for what seems like years.

The waiting is over because as of yesterday, Advent Children was released in Japan. When I originally heard of Advent Children, it was slated to be a 30 min long DVD movie, and then as time progressed, it transformed into a hour long PSP-only movie, which eventually became a one and a half hour fully computer animated DVD-movie.

Advent Children pretty much illustrates that the story of a video game can be completely ripped out and packaged in a movie that is much more enjoyable to watch as a 90 minute movie than a 100-hour long game.

Restaurant Review: Sun Tofu

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Located on El Camino Real next to Fuki Sushi sits Sun Tofu, a Korean restaurant specializing in soft tofu soup. I had the Mushroom Soft Tofu Soup and my sister had the Chicken Bulgogi. Both dishes came out fresh from the kitchen sizzling on the stoneware dishes. Along with the main dishes, we were also served red bean rice and a variety of Korean sides including: bean thread noodles, rolled seaweed, candied potatoes, cabbage kimchi, pickled cucumbers, mung bean sprouts, and a raw egg. The portions were quite large and the wait staff was excellent, refilling our sides and water quickly and frequently.

One Dollar Scoops


Blame Bush

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Bush is responsible for the federal response failure

One of the things Bush is really good at doing is putting a spin on things such that he comes out looking pretty good in the end. However, might I suggest an even crazier idea -- that he is secretly googlebombing himself so that the Katrina story overshadows the other hits for Bush and responsible (namely the follies of the Iraq war, global warming and other attrocities).

A Timeline of Hurricane Katrina

New Orleans Descendant


Sniper fire halting a hospital evacuation
, Marooned Doctors and
Chaos in desperate New Orleans

I can't really believe how much the situation has totally disintegrated in New Orleans -- all this after President Bush, in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America," said that there should be "zero tolerance of people breaking the law during an emergency such as this."

For me personally, I think that a crisis like this is not about ensuring justice, but rather ensuring survival -- I think the public is going to forgive the Jean Valjeans of New Orleans.

I've come to the conclusion that President Bush is a victim of doublethink, and that his public words when reversed reveal the truth of the matter.

Of course the thing that surprises me is that we've deployed the National Guard to deal with peacekeeping within our country -- I suppose we find new uses for them everyday... I always thought we only used them to secure foreign countries for their supplies of oil. More than one function, imagine that!