I have added a new section to my website on NHL shootout stats, since I couldn't find a good place for them anywhere else online. Check it out and feel free to leave me any suggestions.
Saw a couple of movies recently. I've been going to the theatre a lot more recently, not sure exactly why, but there seem to have been some more watchable ones around these days.
Saw Syriana, which I rate a 7. Overall it was okay, but when you have a movie with intertwining stories, you need a bit more of a payoff that you get with this movie. I'm not too sure what the message of this movie was supposed to be, something along the lines of "the oil industry is very complex and important", and if that seems banal, well, that's what I got out of the movie. Also, I'm not sure I really figured out who I was supposed to be empathizing with in the movie. Some people seem to think the movie is apolitical, but I can't agree with that. It may not be exactly the usual tedious left/right politics, but it's got a fair amount to say about a significant political topic. There are a number of stereotypical American "fat cats", but it's not like anybody in the movie is really portrayed to be wholly good.
I learned one thing from playing Civilization III, which is that if your civilization doesn't have access to the Oil strategic resource, you do anything to get it. Maybe in a roundabout way, this is the message of the movie, that oil is so important that our actions are almost predestined because it's so crucial to our society. Who knows. Anyway, if you don't mind slower movies, and if watching George Clooney have a couple of his fingernails extracted with pliers doesn't bother you too much, it's worth a rental. Think Traffic-lite, except about oil not drugs.
Saw King Kong a couple of nights ago. Since I only rate movies on how much I personally enjoyed them (since I don't believe in "art", "artistic integrity" or any such thing), I gave this movie an 8. Frankly speaking, this movie is a total disaster. It's too long, there are a lot of unresolved subplots, there is a massive overuse of CGI effects, there are multitudinous completely implausible action sequences and about a zillion other problems (including an absurd ice skating scene with King Kong and Ann Darrow in a park in New York City in which I was fully expecting Kong to bust a Triple Salchow). I understand that there were dinosaurs in the original King Kong, but unfortunately, the middle third of this movie was nearly indistinguishable from Jurassic Park. I was inappropriately laughing numerous times in the movie because of the complete stupidity of the scenes, although, hey, laughter is laughter.
That all said, I just found it to be a fun movie to watch due to the cool 1930s' setting, manic action sequences and, of course, King Kong. If you want to see this, definitely catch it at the theatre and get a huge bag of popcorn (adding a cheesy topping would be appropriate) for this popcorn movie.
Just got back from spending a little time at a local bar and grill with the badminton crew, which was fun. It's one of those immutable laws of nature that a few "tasty beverages" brings out a certain risqué sense of humor in people. Unfortunately I had read el nanO's post on poutine recently and had to order one for old times' sake. I should have bought some heart attack insurance with it, and to make matters worse it wasn't even that good. Oh well, can't win them all.
Saw the Narnia movie last weekend. I hadn't read the book, but I probably walked by it in the library a thousand times as a kid (probably not even an exaggeration). Not sure why I always dismissed it (I'm not much into fantasy, I guess that is probably the reason) but I very much enjoyed the movie regardless. I gave it an 8 on IMDB (-1 for talking beavers). From what I've heard it's fairly faithful to the book and overall the effects were terrific and the story moved along at a good pace even though it was longish at 2 hours 20 minutes. Tilda Swinton did a great job as the, uh, titular witch (that would be a good name for a punk band).
Have been working on the Sonic Normal and have pretty much gotten it down pat. I'm not at near-100% success rate yet but it is getting more consistent and I can probably do it 7 or 8 times out of 10. The trick still feels a bit forced, even when it's successful, but that will improve with time.
Well, I haven't posted since March, so I figured I would do some random rambling. A couple of my friends have launched blogs recently (Klopzi's Mediocre Poker and Evening Tipple) so I guess I have some catching up to do.
Installed Ubuntu a couple of days ago. The whole installation process was very easy. Installed GnuCash and some other software. I want to get back into the good habit of using a personal finance manager. I used a very old version of Microsoft Money for a few years, but due to a meltdown of my old computer that slipped. I think this will be a good New Year's resolution.
I need to find some new blogging software. I like b2evolution but I need a fresh start. There are thousands upon thousands of spam comments in the database and it's not practical to delete them all. I might give Wordpress a shot, we'll see.
Added a new page to my website on dexterity tricks. And I'm practising my poker chip shuffle with 10 chips in each stack as I type this...
Might as well do a quick movie review summary of the last three movies I've seen while I'm here:
* Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. 8. Enjoyable, but we've seen this movie three times before.
* Walk The Line. 9. Terrific performances from Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon. Highly recommended.
* A History of Violence. 8. A strange movie by a strange director. Close to being a classic but too implausible.
I see this is my first post of 2005. Not exactly what I expected but I have no excuses.
Anyway, my news is that I bought a new monitor. Finally joined the legions of LCD owners with the purchase of a Samsung 915N. The monitor features a 19" display, 8 ms response time, 1280 x 1024 native resolution and 700:1 contrast. Plus, the best news is that there were no dead pixels upon arrival. The colors look very good and there is a very comprehensive on-screen menu. There is a huge amount more real estate with the larger resolution (I was running things at 1024 x 768 before). I previously had a Samsung 955 DF, which was very nice but at the 1280 x 1024 resolution things still looked a bit too small for some reason so I couldn't use that regularly. I knew the viewable area on a 19" CRT is less than on a 19" LCD but didn't realize how big the difference really is.
I played a bit of MOHAA a few minutes ago with it, and was a little disappointed, although I didn't fully expect it to be perfect for FPS games. I expect that I'll continue to use the CRT for serious gaming, and the LCD for everything else since it's easier on the eyes.
Update: I was fiddling around with some of the on-screen menu options and there is an "Entertainment" mode which seems to make the screen a bit brighter and more responsive. Played some more MOHAA and it was significantly better. Not quite CRT-standard but close.
I finished playing Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault (MOHPA) today. I am a big fan of the MOH series, particularly the earlier MOHAA and its Spearhead and Breakthrough expansion packs, and have played far too many hours of multiplayer to count. This being said MOHPA did not impress me at all.
MOHPA consists of five missions, Boot Camp (a quick tutorial), Pearl Harbor, Makin Atoll, Guadalcanal and Tarawa. Guadalcanal and Tarawa combined will probably take up 3/4 of the time it takes you to play the game since the difficult parts seem to be concentrated there.
To start with the positive aspects of the game, the graphics were quite nice. It ran very smoothly on my system (AMD 3400+/1 GB RAM/Radeon 9800 Pro) with the highest graphics settings, in 1024 x 768, almost everywhere. There were a few hiccups in some of the huge battle scenes in Tawara, but nothing worth complaining about. The health system is different from the previous games. Your squad contains a medic, who you can hail by hitting 'H', and will come over and restore your health to 100. He has a fixed number, usually 4, of health packs for each level. The levels are fairly short so this doesn't end up being much of an inconvenience and adds to the realism (not that this is necessarily a good thing). There are a few health packs scattered around in the harder levels, particularly towards the end of the game. The game also has squad tactics -- you can instruct your team to advance, fall back, assemble or engage the enemy. I didn't find myself using this much, but it was a nice addition. There are also "Hero Moments" and hidden objectives, basically optional objectives that give you a reward back at the Menu screen (similar to the medals for hidden missions in MOHAA). This was overall a decent addition to the game.
And now, for the bad about this game. Where to begin? There is seemingly a bit too much realism built into this game. You can shoot banzaiing soldiers in the torso with a rifle, and still they come at you. I understand that certain guns do not have perfect accuracy, but there was way too much shooting, with apparently zero effect. There is an evil mission where, through some dubious circumstances, you end up flying a fighter plane on three-part mission in the Pacific. First you engage in a dogfight, then take out some fixed targets on an atoll, and finally you have to more or less singlehandedly take out an aircraft carrier and a destroyer. This is just silly, since you are not even a pilot, you are a private in the Marines and your mission is to take out an aircraft carrier?! The controls for flying are awful (basically, just use the mouse) and this part took me ages to play. I was getting really close to looking for some kind of cheat code, it was that bad.
More negatives? The levels were very linear and repetitive. Most of the Guadalcanal mission involves going from one little jungle village to the next. There is virtually zero exploration in this (and many other similar) games any more. In the good old days of Wolfenstein 3D you at least got the feeling of exploring each level of the castle. There wasn't just one way through, there were hundreds, with secrets to find and dead ends and shortcuts. The average jungle level involves a very narrow path, maybe 20 feet wide, between jungle encampments, with a few Japanese soldiers on patrol in each of them. Then there is the absurdity of your squadmates yelling "They're flanking!" when in reality you are all bottled up into a 20-foot wide corridor, with them at one end and you at the other. One other thing, grenades seem to be ineffective. Maybe it's just me but I couldn't aim the throws at all.
To make matters worse, the multiplayer (the part of MOHAA that I enjoyed the most) is very laggy. Gun fights seem to be more the result of luck than anything, and a entire clip of the Thompson proved not be lethal on more than one occasion. Everybody seems to be complaining about this and it is not proving to be popular at all. I haven't downloaded the patch yet (since it apparently wipes out your previous saved games) so maybe that will fix the problem, but I'm doubtful.
Anyway, stay far clear of this one. Get the MOHAA War Chest, or pick up the original Call of Duty or the United Offensive expansion pack if you want to get some WW2 gaming going.
Saw National Treasure last night at the Coliseum. It was the usual Bruckheimer fluff, but mostly entertaining. I hadn't been to the theatre in ages (I believe the last movie I saw in was Team America: World Police so I figured a light action movie would be worth checking out. It was good mindless entertainment, the type of summer "popcorn" movie that all the critics hate but still does well at the box office.
I spent a few minutes in the movie trying to figure out where I had seen the lead actress, Diane Kruger but could not, until I got home and learned she was Helen of Troy. Oh, I almost forgot, I was in a generous mood and rated National Treasure an 8.
Back on the topic of blog spammers, I had forgotten that one remaining way of spamming my blog, through the comments. Fortunately I have an automatic email sent to me when any comment gets posted, so I can easily delete those vague one-line posts containing a link to a pr0n site. I've only had maybe five so far, so I'm not going to worry about that unless it gets out of hand. I was also looking through my traffic logs today and noticed that the pr0n spam had actually been getting me a fair bit of traffic -- several hundreds of hits due to people searching the names of pr0n sites and stumbling here because of faked referer hits. Sigh.
I have written an overview of SSARC and SSRESTOR, the archive and restore utilities that come with Microsoft Visual Sourcesafe 6.0. These are poorly documented, and I've had to experiment a fair bit to get these to work properly. Maybe it's just me, who knows, but in any case the page is: Guide to SSARC and SSRESTOR.
I decided to remove the links to statistics and "referer"s since they were getting abused by too many spammers. b2evolution does supply an antispam blacklist, which is a noble effort, but it still requires a concerted effort to keep up to date with the legions of gambling and porn spammers. Anyway, I'm sick of playing whack-a-mole, and I suspect nobody was even reading those stats except me.
I joined the masses and bought an Xbox, the first console gaming system I've had. I got Amped 2 and Topspin with the game, and bought True Crime: Streets of L.A. and Madden NFL 2004 used for a very reasonable price. There is an incredibly large market of used console games, something that doesn't quite exist on such a scale for PC games. I can't see myself playing PC favorites such as Grand Theft Auto or Need for Speed on the Xbox -- it will probably be reserved for arcade-style multiplayer games. The Xbox has its strengths though, a solid controller, ease of use (no upgrading video cards to play the latest game) and seemingly fewer glitches than PC game releases (whose manufacturers can always rely on patches to fix problems).
I did a quick scan of my access logs for September and counted up accesses to my RSS feed of the Wikipedia:Announcements page. I decided to estimate the number of people who had subscribed, as of the end of September. I took the number of IP addresses that had visited the page at least 25 times in September (58), plus Bloglines subscribers (24), plus My Yahoo! users (13), plus Live Journal users (11) to get a total of about 106 subscribers. Kind of cool, although still far from World Domination ™.
I also wrote up a short piece on Six Great Firefox Extensions.
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