2008-08-18

Recommended Movies

Well it's been two months since I've posted. I'm not going to keep up with my blog much, but I'll try.

Two movies we've actually seen in the theater I want to pass along. One is Mamma Mia - it was a lot funnier than I expected it to be, a great date movie. Awesome Abba songs (for all those of you who grew up in the late 70's and early 80's). And hey, it's got Pierce Brosnan in it. You can't be a man without admitting to a man crush on Pierce. :-D

Second is Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated movie. I guess some people are bound to pan anything, for whatever reason, but I took the whole family to see it and we all enjoyed it. The very end was a little, well, staged (everybody strike a pose without saying a word) but it was great fun. And was it just me, or was that alien general's voice done by Sean Connery?

In other news, Donna finished up her CyberKnife treatment a couple of weeks ago. She's still a little sore, but we're moving ahead. School starts next week, and we'll do a new round of CAT/PET scans early next month, so nothing to do but get on with life in the meantime.

2008-06-17

Slashdot GamingTech News

Couple of articles from Slashdot yesterday:

Intel Shows Off Quake Wars, Ray Traced
At the Research@Intel Day 2008, Intel showed a ray-traced version of Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. Compared to the original game, a water with reflections and refractions and a physically correct glass shader were added. Also, a camera portal with up to 200 recursions to itself has been demonstrated. To show off this ongoing research in the topic of real-time ray tracing, a four-socket system with quad cores has been used that allowed rendering the enhanced visual effects in 1280x720 at 14-29 fps. Just two years before, early versions of Quake 4: Ray Traced ran only at 256x256 with 17 fps. Even though Intel's upcoming Larrabee will be primarily a rasterizer, the capabilities for also doing ray tracing on it should deliver interesting opportunities.


Hands On With Nvidia's New GTX 280 Card
Maximum PC magazine has early benchmarks on Nvidia's newest GPU architecture — the GTX 200 series. Benchmarks on the smokin' fast processor reveal a graphics card that can finally tame Crysis at 1900x1200. 'The GTX 280 delivered real-world benchmark numbers nearly 50 percent faster than a single GeForce 9800 GTX running on Windows XP, and it was 23 percent faster than that card running on Vista. In fact, it looks as though a single GTX 280 will be comparable to — and in some cases beat — two 9800 GTX cards running in SLI, a fact that explains why Nvidia expects the 9800 GX2 to fade from the scene rather quickly.'


2008-06-12

Feelin' Old

I get this way every now and then. 'Course, it seems to happen a bit more frequently nowadays. It was a surrealistic experience yesterday as I attended my niece's high school graduation, and later followed her car to meet up with her family to eat out. I remember when I first met her, she was maybe a few months old. I had just started dating Donna, and her sister-in-law visited college with her newborn. And fer her a McDonald's cheeseburger. (Yeah. I know.)

So 18 years later and she's an adult now. Wow.

Tonight I watched Grease with my family. I have two girls old enough to watch and understand a movie like Grease. I was thinking back to the last time I watched the movie... and I believe it was in college again. What was I thinking about when I watched it last? Could I have imagined having kids of my own, experiencing the sort of things I do with them? Living my life through them, with them, for them?

This summer it's been five years since Donna has been cancer-free. Went to her usual checkup, and they found a lump in her neck - seemed to be squishy enough to not be a cyst or anything serious, more likely sinus-related. But still, they did a biopsy, and Donna has to go in for a CAT scan next week. She called me at work to tell me, and the first thing through my head was "God, no, not again, how could we have the strength to go through that again..."

But we could, and we would. We did it once before, we're just hoping and praying that the doctor was right and it's no big deal.

I'm just feeling... old. And tired.

2008-06-11

The SUV Is Dethroned

Posted on Slashdot, Tuesday June 10

Wired's Autopia blog documents what we all knew was coming: rising gas prices have killed off the SUV. Auto industry watchers had predicted that the gas guzzlers in the "light truck" category would lose the ascendancy by 2010; no one expected their reign to end in a month, in the spring of 2008. Toyota, GM, Ford, and now Nissan have announced they will scale back truck and SUV production and ramp up that of smaller passenger cars. Of course there will always be a market for this class of vehicle, but its days on the top of the sales charts are done.
'All of our previous assumptions on the full-size pickup truck segment are off the table,' Bob Carter, Toyota division sales chief said last week during a conference call with reporters. Translation — we have no idea how low they'll go.

2008-06-02

Why did the chicken cross the road in 2008?

BARACK OBAMA: The chicken crossed the road because it was time for a change! The chicken wanted change!

JOHN MCCAIN: My friends, that chicken crossed the road because he recognized the need to engage in cooperation and dialogue with all the chickens on the other side of the road.

HILLARY CLINTON: When I was First Lady, I personally helped that little chicken to cross the road. This experience makes me uniquely qualified to ensure right from Day One that every chicken in this country gets the chance it deserves to cross the road. But then, this really isn't about me.

GEORGE W. BUSH: We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road. We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road, or not. The chicken is either against us, or for us. There is no middle ground here.

DICK CHENEY: Where's my gun?

COLIN POWELL: Now to the left of the screen, you can clearly see the satellite image of the chicken crossing the road.

BILL CLINTON: I did not cross the road with that chicken. What is your definition of chicken?

AL GORE: I invented the chicken.

JOHN KERRY: Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road, I am now against it! It was the wrong road to cross, and I was misled about the chicken's intentions. I am not for it now, and will remain against it.

AL SHARPTON: Why are all the chickens white? We need some black chickens.

DR. PHIL: The problem we have here is that this chicken won't realize that he must first deal with the problem on this side of the road before it goes after the problem on the other side of the road. What we need to do is help him realize how stupid he's acting by not taking on his current problems before adding new problems.

OPRAH: Well, I understand that the chicken is having problems, which is why he wants to cross this road so bad. So instead of having the chicken learn from his mistakes and take falls, which is a part of life, I'm going to give this chicken a car so that he can just drive across the road and not live his life like the rest of the chickens.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: We have reason to believe there is a chicken, but we have not yet been allowed to have access to the other side of the road.

NANCY GRACE: That chicken crossed the road because he's guilty! You can see it in his eyes and the way he walks.

PAT BUCHANAN: To steal the job of a decent, hardworking American.

MARTHA STEWART: No one called me to warn me which way that chicken was going. I had a standing order at the Farmer's Market to sell my eggs when the price dropped to a certain level. No little bird gave me any insider information.

DR SEUSS: Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad? Yes, the chicken crossed the road, but why it crossed I've not been told.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY: To die in the rain, alone.

JERRY FALWELL: Because the chicken was gay! Can't you people see the plain truth? That's why they call it the other side. Yes, my friends, that chicken is gay. And if you eat that chicken, you will become gay, too. I say we boycott all chickens until we sort out this abomination that the liberal media whitewashes with seemingly harmless phrases like the other side. That chicken should not be crossing the road. It's as plain and as simple as that.

GRANDPA: In my day we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the road. Somebody told us the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough.

BARBARA WALTERS: Isn't that interesting? In a few moments, we will be listening to the chicken tell, for the first time, the heart warming story of how it experienced a serious case of molting, and went on to accomplish its lifelong dream of crossing the road.

ARISTOTLE: It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.

JOHN LENNON: Imagine all the chickens in the world crossing roads together, in peace.

BILL GATES: I have just released eChicken2008, which will not only cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents, and balance your checkbook. Internet Explorer is an integral part of eChicken2008. This new platform is much more stable and will never cra#@&&^(C%..........reboot.

ALBERT EINSTEIN: Did the chicken really cross the road, or did the road move beneath the chicken?

CHUCK NORRIS: I told the chicken to cross the road. Period.

COLONEL SANDERS: Did I miss one?

2008-05-30

Game Technology Helps Drive Military Training

Posted at SlashDot on Thursday May 29.

With the gaming industry now spending more to develop user interfaces than the Pentagon, the Army has begun putting all that R&D to good use in weaponry and training. Reversing the traditional role of games attempting to simulate real life killing machines, it is now the weapons makers using gaming technology to make their products more effective. Popular Mechanics notes, 'Already, [Mark Bigham, director of business development for Raytheon Tactical Intelligence Systems] says that Raytheon has been experimenting with Wii controllers to explore the possibilities for training simulators and other applications that require physical movement. Just think, one day, the R&D that Nintendo put into Wii bowling could end up influencing basic training.'

U.S. Economy: The Worst is Yet to Come

By Mark Weisbrot, Huffington Post
Posted on May 29, 2008 via AlterNet


Since the U.S. economy showed positive growth for the last quarter, some commentators in the business press are saying that we are not necessarily going to have a recession, or that if there is one it will be mild. This is a bit like the proverbial story of the man who jumped out of a window 60 floors up, and then said "so far, so good," as he passed the 30th floor.

The United States accumulated a massive, $8 trillion housing bubble during the decade from 1996-2006. Only about 40 percent of that bubble has now deflated. House prices are still falling at a 20 percent annual rate (over the last quarter). This means that the worst is yet to come, including another wave of mortgage defaults and write-downs. Even homeowners who are not in trouble will borrow increasingly less against their homes, reducing their spending.

President Bush says we are not in a recession. One commonly-used definition of a recession is two consecutive quarters of declining output (GDP). The first quarter of 2008 came in at 0.6 percent, although it would have been negative if not for inventory accumulation. So by this definition we cannot say with certainty that the recession has started, although it could well have started this quarter. Of course, for most Americans it has felt like a recession hit some time ago, with real wages flat since the end of 2002, and household income not growing for most of the six-and-a-half year economic expansion.

The National Bureau of Economic Research will eventually decide on the official onset of the recession, but even its definition is arbitrary. All the indicators of a serious recession are swirling around us. The economy has lost jobs for four months in a row, which has never happened without a recession. Consumer confidence has dropped to a 28 year low -- a level not seen since Jimmy Carter was president. Home foreclosure filings are up 65 percent over last year. And now commercial real estate prices are heading south, dropping 6.2 percent in the first quarter.

With oil prices hitting record highs, and the Fed beginning to worry more about inflation, more restrictive lending practices and other fallout from the credit crunch, the near-term economic future looks even dimmer.

Some look to exports to lead the recovery, but these are only 11 percent of GDP, and consumption is about 70 percent. Still, the fall in the dollar over the last six years is helping -- making our exports more competitive and reducing the subsidy that we have been giving to imports for many years. In a sign of how economic illiteracy prevails in the United States, most people (thanks largely to what they hear and read in the media) see the dollar's decline as bad economic news.

We are facing the prospect of millions losing their homes, their jobs, their retirement savings, their health insurance, and their livelihoods.

This serious economic situation greatly raises the stakes of the 2008 election. What will the government do to help the victims of economic mismanagement, to provide health insurance, and to restart the economy? Is it really more important to spend billions each week on the occupation of Iraq?

So far the government hasn't done much. The stimulus package now taking effect, at about one percent of GDP and much of it likely to be saved, is quite small. The major legislation that Congress is considering for the housing crisis would mainly bail out lenders and investors while doing little for most underwater homeowners.

The voice of the people has yet to be heard on these questions in the halls of power. It had better get a lot louder, soon.


"Nightlife" Harnesses Idle Fedora Nodes For Research

Posted on Slashdot, Thursday May 29:

If you've given up on SETI, now you can let your idle computer help with other kinds of scientific research. Red Hat employee Bryan Che started a project called Nightlife. He wants people to 'donate idle capacity from their own computers to an open, general-purpose Fedora-run grid for processing socially beneficial work and scientific research that requires access to large amounts of computing power.'

Che hopes to have more than a million Fedora nodes running as part of this project.

2008-05-28

McCain vs. Obama on Tech Issues

Haven't posted in awhile again. I'm going to try and catch up (if I can stay off Facebook long enough - curse you addictive game app programmers! I cannot stay away from Mobwars or Knighthood!).

So this piece was posted yesterday afternoon on Slashdot:
Ars is running a brief article that looks at stances from Chuck Fish of McCain's campaign and Daniel Weitzner from Obama's in regards to technical issues that may cause us geeks to vote one way or the other. From openness vs. bandwidth in the net neutrality issue to those pesky National Security Letters, there's some key differences that just might play at least a small part in your vote. You may also remember our discussions on who is best for geeks.


I'm an affirmed Obama supporter - it's easy enough to see why from a tech standpoint for anyone who knows me. Just peruse his whitepaper on the subject.

The most telling comment made from the article is this:
Politics can get pretty shallow, but there's more to it than being a bitch for the polls. I think this little Q&A is a case in point. Not the answers themselves, but the people chosen to deliver them. McCain chose a lawyer with strong connections to a major media conglomerate that many of us have reason to loathe. Obama chose a computer scientist with connections to a university that played a big role in creating the Internet. That, by itself, should tell you where there respective priorities are.


And just one final point to leave you with, in response to another post expressing interest in paying more in taxes for the manned space program:
Wouldn't that be a neat option on your tax forms? It would be cool if you could designate x% of your tax dollars to go to some government program (education, military, NASA, CDC, etc). Whatever you are most concerned with would get a boost come tax time. The dollars would go to where we as a nation really want them to go.

I know that there are a lot of problems with distributed government plans, but the reason we have elected representatives as we do is because 200 years ago it was the only feasible way for everyone to have a semblance of a voice. With tech growing as it has (wikis, dBs), the possibility of getting everyone who cares to chime in is no longer an impossibility.

Wikilaws.gov? Congressional budgets via W-4s? I know it would be a disaster, but maybe some hybrid of our current system with a distributed system could work.

Pipe dream? Perhaps. But like he said, wouldn't that be cool if it were implemented?

2008-05-23

The Guild - Episode 10: Boss Fight

Season finale: The Guild tries to take down the scariest boss of all time, Zaboo's mom!



2008-05-22

Pic of the Week 20080522

Been awhile since I've posted, I meant to catch up on the past weekend's events. Crazy busy though. Just to tide you over, here's how to pay your next Verizon bill:



2008-05-02

Washington, DC - Welcome to our Nation's Capital

Read and drive at your own risk!

For those who plan to visit our area...

First, you must learn to call it by its rightful name. It is DC or "the District" - only tourists call it Washington.

Next, if your road map of Montgomery County is more than a few weeks old, throw it out and buy a new one. It's obsolete. If in Loudoun or Fairfax County and your map is one day old, it's already obsolete.

There is no such thing as a dangerous high speed chase in D.C. It's just another chase, usually on the BW Parkway.

All directions start with "The Beltway"... which has no beginning and no end, just one continuous loop that locals believe is somehow clarified by an "inner" and "outer loop" designation. This makes no sense to ANYONE outside the area.

The morning rush hour is from 5 to 11 AM. The evening rush hour is from 1 to 8 PM. Friday's rush hour starts Thursday morning, especially during the summer on Route 50 eastbound.

If there is a game at the Redskins stadium, there is no point in driving anywhere near PG County. (Bonus Tip: Never say PG County to anyone from Mitchellville, Upper Marlboro or Fort Washington - it's Prince Georges County. Otherwise they'll blow a vessel in their neck and go into a seizure.)

If you actually stop at a yellow light, you will be rear-ended and shot at. If you run the red light, be sure to smile for the $100 "picture" you will receive courtesy of DMV. (However, if you don't go as soon as the light turns green, you will get cussed out in 382 languages.

Rain causes an immediate 50 point drop of IQ in drivers. Snow causes an immediate 100 point drop in IQ and a rush to the nearest Giant for toilet paper and milk.

Construction on I-270 is a way of life and a permanent source of scorn and cynical entertainment. It's ironic that it's called an "Interstate," but runs only from Bethesda to Frederick. (Unless you consider Frederick County another state, which some do). Opening in the 60's, it has been torn up and under reconstruction ever since. Also, it has a "Spur" section which is even more confusing.

All unexplained sights are explained by the phrase, "Oh, we're in Takoma Park".

If someone actually has their turn signal on, they are by definition, a tourist. Car horns are actually "Road Rage" indicators. Heed the warning.

All old ladies in Buicks have the right of way in the area of Leisure World.

Many roads mysteriously change their names as you cross intersections. Don't ask why, no one knows.

If asking directions in Arlington, Langley Park, Wheaton or Adams Morgan, Spanish helps. In Annandale, Cambodian or Vietnamese will come in handy. If on Dupont Circle, Capital Hill or U Street, tolerance for same sex helps. If you stop to ask directions in Southeast... well, just don't.

A taxi ride across town will cost you $12.50. A taxi ride two blocks will cost you 16.75. (It's a zone thing, you wouldn't understand - but not for long now!)

Traveling south out of DC on Interstate 395/95 is the most dangerous, scariest thing you will ever do. Second most would be driving Route 4 in rush hour.

There is nothing more comforting then seven lanes of traffic cruising along at 85 mph, BUMPER TO BUMPER!!! (Truer words have never been written!)

The minimum acceptable speed on the Beltway is 85. Anything less is considered downright sissy.

The open lane for passing on all Maryland interstates is the far right lane because no self-respecting Marylander would ever be caught driving in the "slow" lane. Unofficially, both shoulders are fair game also. The far left lanes on all Maryland interstates are official "chat" lanes reserved for drivers who wish to talk on their cell phones. Note: All SUVs have priority clearance to use the far left at whatever speed the driver feels most comfortable multi-tasking in.

The Beltway is our daily version of a NASCAR reality show. Strap up and collect points as you go.

Pic of the Week 20080502




2008-04-29

The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment

Posted 28 Apr 2008 on nixCraft via Slashdot

Finally someone is doing Ubuntu Linux usability testing with a girlfriend. The new user was given a couple of common tasks over a default installation of Ubuntu. I hope, the Linux distributions can learn a lot from this article and improve Linux user experience on a desktop computer. From the post:
Erin's knowledge of computers is limited to word processors, spreadsheets, Photoshop and a reasonable amount of browsing on the Web. Fairly standard stuff for a university philosophy student. All I did to the system (before leaving Erin at the log-in screen) was to install it and create a user account for her. She had no problems logging in, and loved the stylised heron background. Then I gave her one by one the tasks I'd set her. I didn’t give her any help at all.

The author, contentconsumer, left a note at the top of his blog posting:
Hello all you many, many slashdotters, redditors (?) and diggers. There are a lot of comments of a similar vein which argue that I am “dissing” linux and that I think linux should just be a copy of windows. No. I love linux, and want it to be succesful. for it to be succesful, it needs to make the transition from windows to itself smooth. if someone invented a new type of car, the training would have to involve how it is different to the old type of car - we can’t expect people to rely on their “intuition”, because it really doesn’t seem to work, that’s the point of this article. i don’t want to sacrifice linux’s good points so that it becomes closer to windows, i just want windows users to be able to learn it themselves without their own research on the internet or by searching through manual pages. END RANT. P.S. Thanks for the lots and lots of positive feedback, Erin says she loves you too but it’s kinda creepy that the only image you’re all clicking on is her one.


=> The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment

2008-04-25

Ubuntu Linux 8.04 is out!!

Posted: 24 Apr 2008 on nixCraft

Ubuntu Linux version 8.04 has been released and available for download. Canonical Ltd. announced the availability of Ubuntu 8.04 LTS Desktop Edition for free download. In related news, Canonical also announced the simultaneous release of Ubuntu 8.04 LTS Server Edition.

Visit official web site http://www.ubuntu.com/getubuntu/download to grab desktop edition!

2008-04-22

Western Digital's VelociRaptor 10K RPM SATA Drive

Sweet, sweet story from Slashdot yesterday about my very favorite HD (I have two small Raptors in my gaming rig, set up as RAID0 which makes them blindingly fast...):
Western Digital's Raptor line of Hard Drives has been very popular with performance enthusiasts, as a desktop drive with enterprise-class performance. Today WD has launched a new line of high-performance desktop drives dubbed the VelociRaptor, and the product finally scales in capacity as well. The new SATA-based VelociRaptor weighs in at 300GB with the same 10K RPM spindle speed, but with one other major difference — it's based on 2.5" technology. Its smaller two-platter, four-head design affords the VelociRaptor random access and data transfer rates significantly faster than competing desktop SATA offerings. Areal density per platter has increased significantly as well, which contributes to solid performance gains versus the legacy WD Raptor series.


D&D 4th Ed vs. Open Gaming

Slashdot posted a story yesterday concerning the issues affecting open gaming and the upcoming release of 4th Edition D&D. The open licensing associated with the 3rd Edition spawned a number of successful 3rd parties and add-ons that made the system far greater than it might have been otherwise. I'm attaching the story from mxyzplk in its entirety as it's pretty comprehensive.


Dungeons & Dragons publisher Wizards of the Coast shocked the role-playing game industry today by announcing that anyone wanting to publish material for the new Fourth Edition of D&D, expected out in June of this year, must forgo open licensing entirely as part of their new Game System License.

With the launch of the third edition of the popular game eight years ago, Wizards had sponsored an open licensing scheme. This license, called the Open Gaming License, or OGL, was a kind of open source license designed for game publishers. The result was an explosion of third party game companies supporting D&D and establishing their own game lines. Many of these companies became quite large and successful, notably Paizo Publishing, Green Ronin Publishing, and others.

Now, however, Wizards has stated that any company hoping to publish products for their new edition must agree to discontinue any currently open licensed products and produce no further open products at all — Dungeons & Dragons related or not. A number of companies had leveraged the OGL for their independent games, for example the pulp game Spirit of the Century.

In response to questions about this policy, Scott Rouse, D&D Brand Manager for Wizards of the Coast, says that "We have invested multiple 7 figures in the development of 4e so can you tell me why we would want publishers to support a system that we have moved away from?"

It seems to me that this is the equivalent of Microsoft telling people "If you want to make and sell software for Windows Vista, you can't make and sell any Linux/open source software!" Since this is a small niche market without the visibility of a Microsoft, this play to muscle out competition by making them choose "between us and open licensing" will probably succeed. Some other game companies are rebelling; Paizo Publishing, for example, has declared their intent to move forward with the open-licensed previous version, essentially 'forking' the Dungeons & Dragons code base. But small gaming companies are small indeed, and Wizards of the Coast is owned by Hasbro (a recent development likely not unrelated to this change of heart).


Kind of an idiotic move on their part, IMHO. Pen & paper RPGs have just begun to come back into fashion again, and a move like this could alienate Wizard's audience and supporters.

Than again, I was dumbfounded by the news when they released their OGL. Wizards of the Coast hasn't been known as the most altruistic of companies...

Free-to-Play MMORPGs

I know I posted awhile back on kicking my MMORPG additcion (well, specifically WoW) but as luck would have it, all this MMORPG news comes across my inbox. I found via Xfire news that there are two free-to-play MMORPGs out.

The first, Metin 2 (ranked #84 on Xfire currently), is a massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) that is packed with great features including quests, guild battles and wars between nations.

The Kingdom that wins the war will gain possession of money and land; those that fought in the war and succeeded will gain Glory, Honor, and earn a higher Military Ranking. Do you want to be a Hero? Join the War!

Last Chaos (ranked #16 on Xfire currently) is a free fantasy MMO in which players can upgrade their courage and battle skills through adventures, quests and crafting skills. It is set in the land of Iris, a place where anarchy, terror and ambition reign after an epic struggle between the Gods.

In addition, Clan of Conan is rolling out soon.
We are only a few weeks away from launching Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures and the entire team is working hard with preparing the battlefields of Hyboria for your arrival.

This looks very cool, but again is a pay-to-play. I know it's a business model, and a very good one at that, but it gets awfully expensive after a time. Most MMO players justify this by citing the fact that since they play only the one game, they save the money of buying new games as they come out. Well, that's nice, and I used that justification myself until I realized I was still wanting to purchase new games to play and try out.

So I may give Last Chaos or Metin2 a try. If only they had Linux clients... sigh...

=> Download Metin2 (Xfire)
=> Download Last Chaos (Xfire)
=> Xfire Games Page

Happy Earth Day!

(Thought I'd pass along an excellent Earth Day article from blogger Steve Eldridge, posted yesterday on CommuterPageBlog.)

Earth Day To Do's

Tomorrow is Earth Day and this year, for the first time in a long time, there seems to be a real interest and a real push to make something happen. Maybe it's that gas is heading toward four dollars a gallon faster than OJ leaving Las Vegas. Maybe it's that more and more corporations are touting how green they are. Stodgy old Walmart is even running ads showing off the environmentally sensitive products it's developed. Local and network television programs are showing us all how to be more "green" in our day-to-day lives. There is a real push to not just become environmentally aware but to actually do something.

One of the biggest impacts we can have on the environment is to change our commutes. I say this knowing that it's really not as easy or as comfortable as some would make it sound. Walking out of the house while it's still dark to catch a bus two and a half blocks away is not as easy as jumping into a pre-heated car that's been sitting in the garage. Taking that bus on a circuitous route to a Metrorail station takes time. Standing on the platform, once you get past the inevitable escalator repair, can be uncomfortable if it's raining or if the wind is blowing. Grabbing a seat on the train can be a test of one's social upbringing. It takes time to use transit and that means making a commitment.

As we well know, there are millions of people in and around Washington who have made the commitment to use transit everyday. Their efforts are to be recognized and applauded. As Kermit the frog said: it's not easy being green.

Here are some factoids from APTA, the American Public Transit Association: An individual switching to public transit can reduce his or her daily carbon emissions by 20 pounds; that's more than 4,800 pounds in a year, a figure that is more than the combined carbon emissions reduction that comes from weatherproofing your home and using energy efficient appliances and environmentally-friendly light bulbs.

If just one commuter of a household switches from driving to using public transportation, the household's carbon footprint will be reduced by 10 percent. If a household gives up its second car altogether, a household can reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent.

Around the country public transit agencies are doing some interesting things: In St Cloud, Minnesota they will unveil a 40-foot bus that is powered by a mixture of 80 percent recycled vegetable oil and 20 percent diesel fuel. It is believed that this is the first transit bus system in the nation to use waste vegetable oil to power a public transit bus. In Minneapolis the transit system will power the entire Hiawatha light rail system by wind for the day.

So what is our own Metro system doing to celebrate Earth Day and to tout the advantages of public transportation? Are they offering free rides? No. Are they giving seminars to employers looking for the best ways to encourage employees to take public transit? No. On Earth Day, 2008, Metro will be handing out chocolate bars to thank riders for helping reduce emissions by 20 pounds. It's a great idea for a system that bans food to be handing out candy bars at two of its stations.




Steve Eldridge is a long-time reporter, observer and commentator on the Washington region's transportation issues. You can contact him directly by writing to: Steve@SprawlandCrawl.com. Unless otherwise requested, letters or portions of letters can be used within future columns. Letter writers will be identified by their first name and city/neighborhood.

2008-04-21

StarCraft II: The Zerg Unleashed

So as some of you may know, I've been trying my best to avoid any news of World of Warcraft. Almost 9 months to the day, and I still feel like I'm recovering from an addiction. In light of this I normally opt out of most of Blizzard's email, but today I got their Insider #26 which (after skipping past the WoW info which has made me miserable all over again) contained some nuggets about StarCraft II.
After a long, ominous period of inactivity, the zerg have returned with a renewed fury. View the first, newly revealed wave of information on the Swarm, including detailed profiles on the mutalisk and hydralisk, the backstory of the zerg, and a new gameplay trailer. Like their protoss and terran counterparts, these profiles are accompanied by background information, screenshots, and concept art.

Also some news about the StarCraft II Community Section:
The StarCraft II Community Section of the official StarCraft II website is now live. Here you'll find up-to-date links to the latest developer Q&A batches, BlizzCasts, regularly updated community spotlights, latest forum discussions, and future community projects. Head over to the StarCraft II site now and check it out.

I'm looking forward to this game, perhaps as much as the new C&C franchise offerings in the making...

=> Visit the StarCraft II website
=> Watch the Zerg Gameplay Trailer
=> StarCraft II Community Section

2008-04-19

"Kids Who Don't Play Video Games Are At Risk"

In the clip below, Grand Theft Childhood authors Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl Olson talk about their research and findings. Fascinating, intelligent stuff. Watch it and share with your skeptical friends!


Best outtake was where they talk about the VTech shootings - whereas the media were all over that as "videogame violence" the fact is that the shooter's suitemates said he did NOT play videogames which they thought was odd.

2008-04-18

The Guild - Episode 9: Owning Bladezz



Ubuntu Linux Getting Ready For Average User

Posted: 17 Apr 2008 on nixCraft

The latest beta of the popular Ubuntu Linux distribution offers updated features and good support for new Linux user. It appears that Ubuntu is getting ready for masses. From the article:
If there is a single complaint that is laid at the feet of Linux time and time again, it's that the operating system is too complicated and arcane for casual computer users to tolerate. You can't ask newbies to install device drivers or recompile the kernel, naysayers argue.

Of course, many of those criticisms date back to the bad old days, but Ubuntu, the user-friendly distribution sponsored by Mark Shuttleworth's Canonical Ltd., has made a mission out of dispelling such complaints entirely.


2008-04-15

Fun with Prompts: bashish

So my buddy Brad over here at work forwards all kinds of nifty stuff for us to play with (to expound upon our geeky Linux l33tness), and today he sent me a pretty cool one.

Time for a change to your shell prompt? Try the following app, bashish (download here from my own server).

To Install:

[1] tar -xzf bashish-2.0.7.tar.gx; cd bashish-2.0.7
[2] ./configure
[3] make && make install


It is pretty simple and straightforward .. it only requires the latest dialog package installed and is a base core RPM in Fedora and apt in Ubuntu so a simple apt-get or yum install should work. You can compile from source, then install or prior to, it isn't a dependency to build just to run the theme engine.

Once Installed, as your user or the user you wish to change the prompt for:

# bashish
# bashishtheme


The bluesteel is quite nice and I recommend it. Here's a screenshot of my desktop using the box theme.


Command & Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath

Reviewed Mon April 14, 2008 on CNN.com

Computer gamers who'd prefer to add a little brains to their brawn might want to boot up Command & Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath, a new expansion disc that adds more game play to last year's award-winning Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars for the PC.

The latest in the best-selling C&C sci-fi strategy franchise spans 20 years of history, beginning with the rebirth of the Brotherhood of Nod after the Second Tiberium War. The defeated faction is far from destroyed, and its Machiavellian leader, Kane, goes underground to prepare for his triumphant return to power. Kane's Wrath takes you through the climactic events of the Third Tiberium War and beyond.

Between levels, the high-definition video sequences with real actors - namely, Natasha Henstridge (Species, Eli Stone), Carl Lumbly (Alias, Battlestar Galactica) and Joe Kucan, returning as the charismatic leader, Kane - are a bit cheesy, but do a fine job unraveling more of the story.

As with the past real-time strategy games in the C&C series, you'll play this futuristic war simulator from a tilted top-down perspective, as you build and defend bases, all the while commanding ground, air and sea units to take down the enemy. Unlike a slower-paced turn-based strategy game, where players can take their time making tactical decisions on the battlefield, real-time strategy games force players to consider and act upon all decisions on the fly.

Command & Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath adds 13 new single-player missions and myriad new units, structures and powers to each of the three clashing armies: the noble Global Defense Initiative (GDI), the cut-throat guerrillas of the Brotherhood of Nod and the technologically advanced alien race, the Scrin. The GDI, for example, has access to a new helicopter, which is ideal for troop transport, while the Brotherhood of Nod adds a Redeemer combat mech to its arsenal, each equipped with shoulder-mounted missiles.

Along with these core armies are new subfactions, such as Black Hand, Steel Talons, Zocom and Reaper-17, each with their own philosophy, weapon preferences and attack style.

Along with the main solo campaign and a non-story skirmish mode (play against computer-controlled enemies on two-dozen maps), Kane's Wrath also adds a so-so Global Conquest mode, which allows desktop commanders to create their own games against two computer-controlled armies. Multiplayer access over the Internet is back, supporting up to seven opponents and a ton of new maps.

A Microsoft Xbox 360 version of Command & Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath is expected this summer. While this console version will be a standalone game, it's a shame Kane's Wrath on the PC isn't. While it says "Expansion Pack" on the game box, it doesn't indicate you need the original Command & Conquer 3 to play, which you do (the small print is on the bottom of the back of the box). Some expansion packs do not require the original game.

But for less than $30, Command & Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath adds a lot more sci-fi strategy and frenetic nail-biting action to fans of the series.

Game Info
Game: Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars (Expansion Pack)
Score: 7 stars (out of 10)
Rating: Teen
Platforms: PC
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Price: $29.99 (for expansion pack)

=> View more at GameSpot and at EA Games' official site.

2008-04-14

Six Ways to Win The Iraq War Debate

(OK, so I've been trying to stay off the political commentaries on my blog. Really, take a look back, I've been biting my tongue so hard it has holes in it. Today, I just have to let this one slip in...)

Posted by Lee Camp at 6:39 AM on April 11, 2008 on AlterNet.

Recently I was arguing with one of my dumber friends about the Iraq war. He loves Bush, and thinks bigger bombs is the answer in Iraq. I wasn't gaining any ground in the argument until I used a simple analogy. I said, "Your solution is like shattering an expensive vase and then saying, 'We need to keep smashing it until it's fixed.'" I stumped him. He was silent. So here's a brief list of other analogies you can use on your dumb friends. And the truth is, I've seen similar ones work on some of the smartest political pundits.

1) The country of Iraq has essentially been demolished. The right-wingers keep saying the answer is continued large-scale military action. That's like if someone got into a car accident, went into a coma, and the doctors believed the patient could be healed by more car accidents. So they just keep putting him into cars and sending him off cliffs.

2) I've heard people say that being against Bush or Petraeus or the war in Iraq is equivalent to being against the troops. That's like if I knew someone who repeatedly sent brave puppies out into traffic. I called that person an asshole for abusing the puppies and abusing their power. Then you accused me of being anti-puppy.

3) The administration talks about the success of the surge because violence has decreased, but we're in fact paying the militias not to kill each other or our soldiers. It's like if you were treading water, two sharks approach and begin biting you, you give each one a small piece of fish to distract them. While they take a moment to eat the fish, you sit there treading water and yelling, "Problem solved!"

4) At the Petraeus hearings, he refused to give any sort of definition for "victory" in Iraq. That's like running a foot race, you've gone 30 miles, you're exhausted, and when you ask your coach driving along next to you how much farther, he just keeps saying "You'll know it when you get there." He keeps saying that until you collapse and die.

5) KBR, Halliburton, Blackwater and other companies have huge pull in our government (such as the vice presidency). So essentially they decide when the war is over. They also happen to be making millions upon millions of dollars from the war. So asking them to decide when the war is over, is like asking an ugly guy cast in a threesome porn movie to decide when the scene is over. Chances are the scene would go on for months, if not years. The entire crew would be standing around asking, "It's not over yet? When will we know when it's time to end it?" And the ugly guy would respond, "Um, it's a bad idea to set timetables. Just trust me on this."

6) Lastly, President Bush is like a colorblind child with a Rubik's Cube.

Lee Camp is a comedian and writer in NYC. He tours clubs and colleges across the country, writes for Huffington Post and 236.com, and does comedic commentary for various television shows (but no longer Fox News).

Star Wars: Clone Wars Leaked Trailer!

Wow. Just... wow. Courtesy of Gizmodo:
Feast your eyes—squinting a bit—on the leaked two-minute trailer that was briefly seen in YouTube and then pulled off just to be rescued at the last minute by a Polish Corvette, saved into an astromech droid, launched onto a desert planet, and found by us in a garage sale somewhere in Krak√≥w. Or something like that. The trailer further shows the work of the three hundred 3D animators who have been working on this project at Lucasfilm Animation for the past three years. And except for its lousy quality it, it seems that we are in for a ride (here's hoping Mr. Lucas didn't write the dialog.)


Follow the link to feast your eyes upon the trailer - don't mind the subtitles, I'm assuming it's Polish but I really have no idea what language it may be...

2008-04-13

Gartner Report: MS-Windows Is Collapsing

Posted: 11 Apr 2008 on nixCraft

Wow, the researchers warn that Windows is collapsing and Linux / OS X replacing Windows:
Calling the situation "untenable" and describing Windows as "collapsing," a pair of Gartner analysts this week said Microsoft must make radical changes to the operating system or risk becoming a has-been.

In a presentation at a Gartner-sponsored conference in Las Vegas, analysts Michael Silver and Neil MacDonald said Microsoft has not responded to the market, is overburdened by nearly two decades of legacy code and decisions and faces serious competition on a whole host of fronts that will make Windows moot unless the Redmond, Washington developer acts.

This article explains why Windows is broken:
Two Gartner analysts said the words that enterprises dread, and that will move alternate operating system proponents to tears of joy: "Windows as we know it needs to be replaced." Microsoft's operating system (OS) development times are too long and they deliver limited innovation; their OSs provide an inconsistent experience between platforms, with significant compatibility issues; and other vendors are out-innovating Microsoft . That gives enterprises unpredictable releases with limited value, management costs that are too high, and new releases that break too many apps and take too long to test and adopt. With end users bringing their own software solutions into the office...well, it's just a heck of a sad story for Microsoft.


2008-04-11

How to handle the jerk next to you on an airplane

Courtesy of my buddy Mike in Texas.

1. Quietly and calmly open up your laptop case.
2. Remove your laptop.
3. Boot up
4. Make sure the guy who is annoying you can see the screen.
5. Close your eyes, join your palms together, tilt your head up to the sky & move your lips as if praying
6. Then hit this link

When it's over, quietly curse at the computer, hit it a few times, and then throw your hands up in resignation and put it away again (make sure your browser cache and history clears itself when it exits). Pretend nothing happened.

Debugging Tip: Trace the Process and See What It is Doing with strace

Posted: 10 Apr 2008 on nixCraft

(I was just this past week trying to wrap my head around strace, a utility I haven't had the chance to use much, so I thought this was fortuitous to post.)

strace is a useful diagnostic, instructional, and debugging tool. It can save lots of headache. System administrators, diagnosticians and trouble-shooters will find it invaluable for solving problems with programs for which the source is not readily available since they do not need to be recompiled in order to trace them. This is also useful to submit bug reports to open source developers.

Each line in the trace contains the system call name, followed by its arguments in parentheses and its return value.

Run strace against /bin/foo and capture its output to a text file in output.txt:
$ strace -o output.txt /bin/foo

You can strace the webserver process and see what it's doing. For example, strace php5 fastcgi process, enter:
$ strace -p 22254 -s 80 -o /tmp/debug.lighttpd.txt

To see only a trace of the open, read system calls, enter :
$ strace -e trace=open,read -p 22254 -s 80 -o debug.webserver.txt

Where,
  • -o filename : Write the trace output to the file filename rather than to screen (stderr).
  • -p PID : Attach to the process with the process ID pid and begin tracing. The trace may be terminated at any time by a keyboard interrupt signal (hit CTRL-C). strace will respond by detaching itself from the traced process(es) leaving it (them) to continue running. Multiple -p options can be used to attach to up to 32 processes in addition to command (which is optional if at least one -p option is given).
  • -s SIZE : Specify the maximum string size to print (the default is 32).

Refer to strace man page for more information:
$ man strace

2008-04-09

HP 2133 Mini-Notebook PC - Full-function Priced Starting Under $500

Posted: 08 Apr 2008 on nixCraft

To help schools offer affordable computing to every student, HP today introduced a full-function, mini-notebook Linux powered PC priced starting under $500. HP will join a fledgling market already populated with products from Intel Corp., the world's largest semiconductor company, and Asustek Computers Inc., the world's largest maker of computer motherboards.

The only way to keep cost is use Linux and create network only computer for everybody. Windows vista cannot be installed because of price tag and higher hardware requirements.

Notebook features:
  • Simple, refined design and anodized aluminum shell that is sleek and sturdy yet lightweight;
  • HP DuraKeys, featuring a clear coating applied over the notebook keyboard that protects the finish and printed letters and characters;
  • An HP 3D DriveGuard, which sends a signal to shut down the hard drive upon sudden movement or shock by using a three-axis digital accelerometer chip
  • Scratch-resistant display and magnesium hinge bracket
  • A large 8.9-inch diagonal WXGA display, user-friendly full keyboard (QWERTY) and touchpad;
  • Ability to view video, still-image capture, web conferencing or video-enhanced instant messaging with no additional hardware to buy or carry. An optional integrated VGA webcam enables video and still-image capture to allow the addition of photos and video clips to presentations, documents and email;
  • Two battery solutions - three-cell for lightest-weight configurations or optional six-cell for longer battery life;
  • Wireless technologies such as integrated Wi-Fi Certified WLAN(3) and optional Bluetooth, allowing students to access the Internet as well as communicate via email, IM, chat, VOIP and blogging. The wireless technologies also enable connections at hotspots as well as with Bluetooth devices such as printers, mice and headsets; and
  • The processors HP is using are made by Via Technologies Inc., the distant third-ranked player in the microprocessor space, and come in clock speeds up to 1.6 gigahertz.


=> More information available here and here.

2008-04-03

Join a Windows Domain From Linux / UNIX Computer Using Samba

Posted: 02 Apr 2008 via nixCraft

An excellent guide; it will give you steps about using Samba server to join to a Windows domain. From the article:
The primary domain controller (PDC) will serve as the password server for the domain. If Samba and winbind services are running, turn them off. I will show you how turn them on after you join to the Windows domain. You should save your files at any point in your “work-in-progress” and restore your originals if you intend to reboot. You should make note of your hard devices listed in your fstab file. Before you start you should ping the server from your intended Linux workstation.


=> Step by Step: Using Samba to join a Windows Domain

2008-04-02

Increase Your Productivity with Various Linux Desktop Apps

Posted April 1 2008 on nixCraft.

This blog post covers many applications which can be used to increase your productivity without spending a single penny.

From the article:
Sure, Apple’s built its reputation on being the hipster brand of choice, but one of the nice things about Linux is the ability to customize virtually any aspect of the operating system to cater to your workflow and computing habits.

For the purpose of structure I’ll break the article into two parts. The first will discuss how Linux can be just as application-rich, in terms of usefulness, as OS X or Windows. In the second half, I’ll cover various productivity-boosting apps and features that allow you do accomplish virtually any task with a few simple keystrokes.

=> Full-throttle Productivity and Web-Work With Ubuntu

2008-03-31

Pic of the Week 20080331

I was just thinking how I'd not updated a pic of the week lately, and then this little nugget fell onto my browser.


This test on international politics taken by Dubya shows a somewhat less than satisfactory result.

Uncyclopedic Knowledge

Care for a trip down what would be an excellent waste of time? Go peruse the Uncyclopedia - an obvious spoof on the web-staple Wikipedia, but in this case without any redeeming nuggets of truth whatsoever. Uncyclopedia's stated goal is to "provide the world's misinformation in the least redeeming and most searingly sarcastic and humorous way possible, through satire". Pure comedic genius. Don't take my word for it, here's a few to start you off:
"I have never seen a plan designed so ingeniously to fail so completely"
~ Oscar Wilde on No Child Left Behind


Note: Not for the comedically challenged. You've been warned.

2008-03-27

Does Your Laptop Need a Battery?

Posted on Truemors 2008.03.27

Because of a recent fire in one of the biggest battery manufacturing plants in Korea, there is going to be a worldwide shortage of laptop batteries. Both HP and Dell are already doing their best to provide their customers with batteries without increasing the price.

Blizzard Sues Creator of WoW Bot

Posted on Slashdot 2008.03.26 18:41

Blizzard, the makers of World of Warcraft, are suing Michael Donnelly, the creator of the MMO Glider program, which performs key tasks in the game automatically. Blizzard says the software bot infringes the company's copyright and potentially damages the game. 'Blizzard's designs expectations are frustrated, and resources are allocated unevenly, when bots are introduced into the WoW universe, because bots spend far more time in-game than an ordinary player would and consume resources the entire time,' Blizzard wrote in its legal submission to the court. More than 100,000 copies of the tool have been sold while more than 10 million people around the world play Warcraft. Donnelly says his tool does not infringe Blizzard's copyright because no 'copy' of the Warcraft game client software is ever made. The two parties are now awaiting a summary judgment in the case.

2008-03-25

Download Of The Day: Ubuntu Linux 8.04 (Hardy) Beta ISO / CD

Posted: 24 Mar 2008 nixCraft Linux Sys Admin Blog

The Ubuntu project has released beta version 8.04 and available for download from the official project web site.
The Ubuntu developers are moving very quickly to bring you the absolute latest and greatest software the open source community has to offer. New feature includes:

  • GNOME 2.22
  • Linux kernel 2.6.24.
  • Firefox 3 beta
  • PulseAudio
  • Vinagre VNC client
  • Brasero CD/DVD burning application
  • There is a new installation option for Windows users. Wubi allows users to install and uninstall Ubuntu like any other Windows application. It does not require a dedicated partition, nor does it affect the existing bootloader, yet users can experience a dual-boot setup almost identical to a full installation.

The final stable version will be released in April 2008. Download cutting edge version from official mirror.

2008-03-22

Anything that grows 'can convert into oil'

Company finds natural solution that turns plants into gasoline

Posted: March 19, 2008, WorldNetDaily

After three years of clandestine development, a Georgia company is now going public with a simple, natural way to convert anything that grows out of the Earth into oil.

J.C. Bell, an agricultural researcher and CEO of Bell Bio-Energy, says he's isolated and modified specific bacteria that will, on a very large scale, naturally change plant material – including the leftovers from food – into hydrocarbons to fuel cars and trucks.

"What we're doing is taking the trash like corn stalks, corn husks, corn cobs – even grass from the yard that goes to the dump – that's what we can turn into oil," Bell told WND. "I'm not going to make asphalt, we're only going to make the things we need. We're going to make gasoline for driving, diesel for our big trucks."


Wood pulp is among the many natural materials that can be converted into oil and gasoline, according to Bell Bio-Energy, Inc., of Tifton, Ga.

The agricultural researcher made the discovery after standing downwind from his cows at his food-production company, Bell Plantation, in Tifton, Ga.

"Cows are like people that eat lots of beans. They're really, really good at making natural gas," he said. "It dawned on me that that natural gas was methane."

Bell says he wondered what digestive process inside a cow enabled it to change food into the hydrocarbon molecules of methane, so he began looking into replicating and speeding up the process.

"Through genetic manipulation, we've changed the naturally occurring bacteria, so they eat and consume biomass a little more efficiently," he said. "It works. There's not even any debate that it works. It really is an all-natural, simple process that cows use on a daily basis."

Naturally occurring bacteria used to convert biomass into hydrocarbons.

But does he think it will make environmentalists happy?

"They love this. We had one totally recognizable environmentalist from Hollywood say this is everything they ever had hoped for," Bell said. "This could be considered the ultimate recycling of carbon. We are using the energy of the sun through the plant. We're not introducing any new carbon [to the environment]."

The research has received strong support from the U.S. Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of Agriculture and committees in both chambers of Congress, and Bell plans further discussions in Washington, D.C., next week.

Read full article...

Sun To Offer Ubuntu Linux Based Servers

Posted: 19 Mar 2008, nixCraft

Good news for all Debian / Ubuntu Linux fans. Sun has started to offer Ubuntu Linux based servers. Sun has systems competitively priced for small and medium businesses. Ubuntu is based upon rock solid Debian core. Look like Red hat and Novell going to have some nice competition. Sun offers x64-based systems certified for Ubuntu Linux:
  • x64 Rack Servers
  • Blade Servers
  • x64 Workstations
  • Workgroup Disk Storage
  • Tape Automation

=> Sun SMB Product Page (Via Arun’s blog)

2008-03-21

Chore Wars

When I first heard of it, I thought it was a cute idea to get kids motivated to do chores, but didn't think it would fly with them... however, the kids have really run with the idea of Chore Wars. It's like an RPG game around doing chores. Sound goofy? Well, go and check it out to see what I mean - it's been going strong since last summer, and I can see why. Both the girls are actually excited about doing chores, and levelling their characters up past Donna and I!

My Chore Wars character

2008-03-19

Yep, still alive here...

So last Friday I developed a bit of a cough, which quickly turned into a hacking that lost my voice and the entire weekend along with it. I was out Monday, and worked from home yesterday when I started to get my voice back again. Still under the weather, wish I could get this congestion under control... but back at work again anyways.

Wish I could think of something insightful. I will say this, as sporadic as my updates have been lately, I may just end up taking a sabbatical from blogging and give it a rest, recharge my creative batteries.

2008-03-13

The Politics Test

You are a

Social Moderate
(55% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(18% permissive)

You are best described as a:

Democrat




Link: The Politics Test on OkCupid.com: Free Online Dating
Also : The OkCupid Dating Persona Test


2008-03-06

Pic of the Week 20080306

Been pretty lax about these lately, but this just arrived in my inbox courtesy of my buddy Rob. Still complaining about gas prices here in the States? Here are the gas prices per gallon from around the world:

(Click on the image for full-sized.)

2008-03-05

RIP E. Gary Gygax

Dungeons & Dragons co-creator Gary Gygax dies at 69

Associated Press - March 4, 2008 1:35 PM ET

MILWAUKEE (AP) - The man who co-created the game Dungeons & Dragons and helped start the role-playing phenomenon is dead.

Gary Gygax (GEYE'-gaks) died this morning at his home in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, about 55 miles southwest of Milwaukee.

His wife, Gail Gygax, says he had been suffering from health problems for several years, including an abdominal aneurysm.

Gygax and co-creator Dave Arneson developed the role-playing game in 1974 and it went on to become 1 of the best-selling games ever. Dungeons & Dragons is considered the grandfather of fantasy role-playing games and has influenced video games, books, movies and inspired legions of adoring fans.

Gygax' wife says he always enjoyed hearing from the game's devoted fans about how the game influenced their lives.

I've come across two nice tributes from my daily webcomic roundup, Penny Arcade and Order of the Stick. And though I know the puns are rampant (yes, I'm wearing my Clock of Mourning +5 today) I feel as if an icon had truly left us. So much of what he created, what he left the groundwork for, made such an impression on me and my imagination. It made me who I am today. Thanks Gary, for helping so many of us believe in the possibilities.

2008-03-02

Mobo maker builds 'powerless' processor cooling fan

Mobo maker MSI has come up with a novel way of keeping processors cool and conserving energy at the same time: the CPU to drive its own fan.

It's actually a new implementation of an old discovery. MSI's Air Power Cooler uses the energy inherent in the expansion of air as it warms up to drive a fan.

Read full article...

2008-02-20

The Old Man and the Guard

On a sunny day in 2008, an old man approached the White House from across Pennsylvania Avenue, where he'd been sitting on a park bench. He spoke to the Marine standing guard and said, 'I would like to go in and meet with President Hillary Clinton.'

The Marine replied, 'Sir, Mrs. Clinton is not President and doesn't reside here.'

The old man said, 'Okay,' and walked away.

The following day, the same man approached the White House and said to the same Marine, 'I would like to go in and meet with President Hillary Clinton'.

The Marine again told the man, 'Sir, as I said yesterday, Mrs. Clinton is not President and doesn't reside here.'

The man thanked him and again walked away.

The third day, the same man approached the White House and spoke to the very same Marine, saying 'I would like to go in and meet with President Hillary Clinton.'

The Marine, understandably agitated at this point, looked at the man and said, 'Sir, this is the third day in a row you have been here asking to speak to Mrs. Clinton. I've told you already several times that Mrs. Clinton is not the President and doesn't reside here. Don't you understand?'

The old man answered, 'Oh, I understand you fine, I just love hearing your answer!'

The Marine snapped to attention, saluted and said 'See you tomorrow, sir'

2008-02-19

20 Things I Wish I Had Known When Starting Out in Life

I normally don't go about reposting an entire blog. But this one is really good, written by Zen Habit's Leo Babauta. Since he did an incredibly innovative and awesome move by essentially opensourcing his content (or, as he calls it, uncopyright) I'm going to lightheartedly call him my guest blogger for today. Heh. So, enjoy.

20 Things I Wish I Had Known When Starting Out in Life

I’m nearly 35 years old, and I’ve made my share of mistakes in my life. I’m not a big believer in regrets … and I have learned tremendously from every single mistake … and my life is pretty great.

However, there are a few things I wish I had known when I was graduating from high school and starting out as an adult in life.

Would I change things? I’m not so sure. I might never have gotten into a mountain of debt, but then I wouldn’t have learned the amazing satisfaction of getting out of it. I might have made better career choices, but then I wouldn’t have all the work experience that makes me the blogger and writer that I am today.

I might not have gotten married that first time, so that I would never have gotten divorced … but then I wouldn’t have my first two beautiful wonderful incredible children from that first marriage.

I don’t think I would change any of that. However, looking back, there are some lessons I’ve learned that I would probably tell my 18-year-old self. Do I share them now to share my regrets? No, I share them in hopes that younger men and women, just starting out in life, can benefit from my mistakes and my lessons.

What follows isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s one that I hope proves useful to at least a few people.

  1. 1. How to control impulse spending. If there’s anything that got me in trouble financially, it’s impulse spending. Buying clothes when I don’t need them. Buying gadgets because I gotta have them. Ordering stuff online because it’s so easy. Buying that new shiny SUV because ... well, because it was going to help me with women. I’m not proud of any of that. I’ve learned to control my impulses, at least a little better. Now, I give myself some time to breathe. I think over my purchases, see if I’ve got the money, think about whether it’s a need or a want. That would have been a useful tool 15 years ago.
  2. 2. You gotta stay active. I was in track, cross country and basketball in high school, but once I started college, the running and basketball began to slowly fade away. Not right away - I played pick-up basketball for years after high school. But even that went away, until I became sedentary. Playing with my kids outdoors winded me. And I began to get fat. I’ve reversed that trend, and am very active now, but I’m still trying to burn the fat I gained in those inactive years.
  3. 3. How to plan finances. I always knew that I was supposed to budget and track my spending, when I became an adult. I just was too lazy to do it. And I didn’t have a good idea of how to actually do it. Now, I’ve learned how to plan, and how to stick to that plan. Sure, I deviate from my plan, but I’ve learned how to handle that too. Maybe that’s not a skill you can learn from book reading. You just gotta practice. Well, I hope to teach it to my children before they go out on their own.
  4. 4. Junk food will come back to bite you in the butt. Yeah, it wasn’t just the sedentary lifestyle that got me fat. It was all the damn junk food too. I would eat pizza and burgers and Twinkies and sugar cereal and desserts and donuts and ... well, you get the picture. As someone used to being able to eat whatever I wanted, it never seemed like it would be a problem. Bad health was something to worry about when you got old. Well, my jeans began to get way too tight, and to my horror, I climbed several pants sizes and developed a gut that only now is going away. I wish someone had shown me an "after" picture when I was young and downing the Big Gulp sodas.
  5. 5. Smoking is just dumb. I didn’t start smoking until I was well into my adult years. I won’t go into why I started, but it didn’t seem like a problem, because I knew I could quit anytime I wanted. Or I thought I could, at least, until several years later I gave it a go and couldn’t do it. Five failed quits later and I realized with horror that my addiction was stronger than I was. Sure, I eventually beat the habit (quit date: Nov. 18, 2005) but it took a piece of my soul to do it.
  6. 6. Fund your retirement, son. And don’t withdraw it. This piece of wisdom, and probably all the ones above, might seem blisteringly obvious. And they are. Don’t think I didn’t know this when I was 18. I did. I just didn’t pay it serious attention. Retirement was something I could worry about when I was in my 30s. Well, I’m in my 30s now and I wish I could slap that little 18-year-old Leo around a bit. What money I could have invested by now! I had a retirement plan, but on the 3 occasions when I changed jobs, I withdrew that and spent it frivolously.
  7. 7. All the stuff you’re doing that seems hard - it will be of use. This is the first one that might not be as obvious. There were times in my life when work was hard, and I did it anyway, but hated it. I did it because I had to, but boy did it stress me out and leave me exhausted. Hard work isn’t as easy as I wanted it to be. But you know what? Every bit of hard work I did without knowing why I was doing it ... it’s paid off for me in the long run. Maybe not right away, but I’m using skills and habits I learned during those times of high stress and long hours and tedious work - I use them all the time, and they’ve made me into the person I am today. Thank you, younger Leo!
  8. 8. Don’t buy that used van without checking it out closely. I thought I was being smart by buying used, but I didn’t check it out carefully enough. That dang van had loads of engine problems, a door that nearly fell off when I was driving, a door handle that snapped off, a side mirror that fell off, no spare tire despite three tires that were ready to blow (and did), windows that didn’t roll up, rattling noises, an eventual blown radiator ... I could go on and on, but let’s just say that it wasn’t my best purchase. I still think buying used is smart, but check things out closely first.
  9. 9. That guy you’re going to sell your car to? On a gentleman’s agreement? He’s not gonna pay you. I sold another car to a friend of a friend, who I was sure would pay me even if I had nothing in writing. That was smart. I still see the guy once in awhile on the road, but I don’t have the energy to do a U-turn and chase after him.
  10. 10. Make time to pursue your passion, no matter how busy you are. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and get a book published. I just never had time to write. With a family and school and a full-time job, there just weren’t enough hours in the day. Well, I’ve learned that you have to make those hours. Set aside a block of time to do what you love, cut out other stuff from your life that take up your time, and don’t let anything interfere with that work. If I had done that 15 years ago, I could have 15 books written by now. Not all would be great, but still.
  11. 11. All that stuff that’s stressing you out - it won’t matter in 5 years, let alone 15. When things are happening to you right now, they mean all the world. I had deadlines and projects and people breathing down my neck, and my stress levels went through the roof. I don’t regret the hard work (see above) but I think I would have been less stressed if I could have just realized that it wouldn’t matter a single bit just a few years down the road. Perspective is a good thing to learn.
  12. 12. The people you make friends with are so much more important than your job or the things you buy. I’ve had a few jobs, I’ve bought a lot of things, and I’ve made a few friends over these last 15 years. Of those, the only thing that still matter to me are the friends. And I wish I could have spent more time with friends (and family) than on the other things.
  13. 13. All that time you spend watching TV is a huge, huge waste of time. I don’t know how much TV I’ve watched over the years, but it’s a crapload. Hours and days and weeks I’ll never have back. Who cares what happens on reality TV, when reality is slipping by outside? Time is something you’ll never get back - don’t waste it on TV.
  14. 14. Your kids are going to grow up way faster than you think. Don’t waste a minute. I just had an Oh My God moment recently. My oldest daughter, Chloe, is 14 going on 15 next month. I have 3 years left with her before she leaves my house and becomes an adult. Three years! I am floored by that single fact, because it really doesn’t seem anywhere near enough time. I want to go back to my younger self and whack that younger Leo on the head and say Stop working so hard! Stop watching TV! Spend more time with your kids! These last 15 years with Chloe (and my other wonderful kids) have gone by much, much too fast.
  15. 15. Forget the drama. Focus on being happy. There have been many things that have happened to me, professionally and personally, that seem like the end of the world. And while these things were bad, they get blown up in our heads so that they become major drama. They caused me to be depressed from time to time. What a waste of time. If I realized that it was all in my head, and that I could be happy instead if I focused on the positive, on what I did have, and what I could be doing ... I could have skipped all the moping about.
  16. 16. Pay more attention to blogs when you first hear about them. They’re more than just journals. I first read about blogs 7-8 years ago, but when I took a look at them they didn’t seem like anything of interest. Just some people’s journals about stuff they read on the web. Why would I want to read those? I have my own thoughts about the web, but I don’t need to share them with the world. I spent a lot of time on the Internet, on various sites and forums, but every time I happened upon a blog I would brush past it without interest. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I discovered what wonderful things they could be (I mentioned some of my early favorites in my list of influences). If I had gotten into blogging years ago ... well, I wouldn’t have been wasting all that time.
  17. 17. Speaking of which, keep a journal. Seriously. Your memory is extremely faulty. I forget things really easily. Not short-term stuff, but long-term. I don’t remember things about my kids’ early years, because I didn’t record any of it. I don’t remember things about my life. It’s like a lot of foggy memories that I’ll never have access to. I wish I had kept a journal.
  18. 18. Tequila is seriously evil. I won’t go into details, but it should suffice to say that I had some bad experiences, and I’m not sure I learned very much from them or benefited in any way except to learn that tequila is the drink of the Devil.
  19. 19. Yes, you can do a marathon. Don’t put this goal off - it’s extremely rewarding. Running a marathon had always been a dream of mine, since high school ... something I wanted to do but thought was out of reach. Or if I ever did it, it would be years and years later. Well, I learned that it’s not only achievable, it’s incredibly rewarding. I wish I had started training when I was young and light and fit ... I could have had some good finishing times!
  20. 20. All these mistakes you’re going to make, despite this advice? They’re worth it. My 18-year-old self would probably have read this post and said, "Good advice!" And then he would have proceeded to make the same mistakes, despite good intentions. I was a good kid, but I wasn’t good at following advice. I had to make my own mistakes, and live my own life. And that’s what I did, and I don’t regret a minute of it. Every experience I’ve had (even the tequila ones) have led me down the path of life to where I am today. I love where I am today, and wouldn’t trade it for another life for all the world. The pain, the stress, the drama, the hard work, the mistakes, the depression, the hangovers, the debt, the fat ... it was all worth it.