Friday, December 02, 2005

Really shoulda...

...taken next week off. I'm already dying.

Tomorrow I have 8 hours of class. Then Sunday I have 9 hours... then Monday comes work. Ugh.

Urge to kill rising. (but at least knowledge is increasing)

That is all for now. Time to get 8 hours sleep (OMG! 8 HOURS!! WOOOOO!!!) and then class time.

Talk to you all when I'm less ummm... something something. Can't think anymore. At least I learned how to say "What is it/this?" in Japanese: Kore wa nan desu ka? (the 'u' in 'desu' is silent) "Kore wa nan desu ka?" *points at a book* "Kore wa nan han desu, sensei." "Kore wa nan desu ka?" *points at keys* "Kore wa nan kagi desu, sensei."

I'll get there. Oh, and 'ichi' is 'one', and 'ni' is 'two'. So long as I can say "one beer please", I'll be just fine.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Jumping ahead of myself?

I'm already looking into leisure activities in Japan, and obviously martial arts are high on the list. So far, I very badly want to do both iaido (sword art) and kyudo (meditative archery). Should I be in Nara City, I know there is a kyudo 'centre' or training area (there is a whole area devoted to sports and martial arts, like a university campus). Couldn't find any dojos for iaido, but likely they will be associated with kendo.

Obviously, taking Japanese is my priority, and I'd love to learn calligraphy and take a cooking class. From what I've learned about culture shock from alumni experience, keeping busy is absolutely vital. The fascination stage of culture shock can quickly wear off or when it does, the frustration phase is quick on its heels. The key to defeating frustration (which includes home-sickness, depression and actual frustration at the cultural differences) is two-fold: friendship and activity. I thought the friendship part of that was very interesting. The instructors stressed that teachers shouldn't be overly dependent on other teachers, as most teachers are 'here today, gone tomorrow'. The emphasis was on having native friends.

The reason I thought friendship was interesting is because I've traditionally internalized frustration and adversity, as opposed to airing it and discussing it. Friendship is thus the 2nd phase of culture shock (I guess designed to pre-empt frustration, the 3rd), with fulfillment being the fourth. (Fulfillment is perhaps the wrong word, as it's more like acceptance and being in a stable comfort zone.)

Can't stop thinking about this whole experience. I just feel that the more I dwell on it, the more real it is/will be. The only things that make me nervous are the practical details like what do I do about my cat, my apartment and my furniture. Most of that is covered, but it's still kinda up in the air since no steps have been taken. Anyhoo...

Guess I should work. :D

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

First class

Wow. It was a great first class, and looks like it will be a great series of classes overall. However, my days will be very long and busy. I won't even be able to go home from work tomorrow or Friday, considering the time to took me to finangle a bus from Bank St to the Rideau Centre today.

The instructors are great: motivational, informative, direct and dynamic. The workbook is a nice mixture of set-up, tutorial, anecdotes and perspectival articles/lists on ESL. Some great parts about the complexity of English, culture shock, reverse culture shock, group dynamics, cultural relevance as applied to teaching, etc. Already have "homework"; very minor thing.

I was nervous at first, but now I'm focused and excited. Very much looking forward to seeing this through and getting as much info as I can.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Optimum location

Just looking over locales in Japan (not that I'd ever do so at work! -- pfft), Osaka is a bit too big. 8.8 million people. However... Nara, just 45 minutes by train from Osaka (and 40 minutes from Kyoto and Kobe) seems damn perfect at 365,000 people. Avg temp of 4 C in the winter months, and 24 C in the summer months. Smaller population, less of a tourist location, very historic compared to Osaka which is very "mercantile" and urbane. The prefecture has tonnes of amazing temples, including the very first 3-storey pagoda.

There's also a huge deer park there, sacred because it was believed that the founder of the city/area arrived on the back of a white deer. Deer are considered the messengers of the gods there. Long story short... it's freakin' beautiful, and less of a concrete jungle.

Did you know that the average movement speed for Osakans is 1.6 km/h, whereas it is only 1.56 km/h in Tokyo, making it the most busy city in Japan? Oh the things you can find out with wikipedia...

Music Genome Project

Now is this damn cool.

Pandora's Box

Enter in a band or song, and it will match the tendencies of that music to similar bands/songs and create a playlist or 'station' for you. I'm gunna be abusing this at home for sure. Great way to find new bands and music.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Hurry up and wait

Things seem in fast-forward now as the end of '05 draws nigh. I've just been coasting for a good year or so, and now plans are accelerating and solidifying. It's invigorating, but also a bit frightening. I'm not a fan of drastic change. Ah, who am I kidding... I get unnerved when I change the sheets on my bed. :)

That said... This Weds I begin the first steps of my teaching odyssey; it's set in stone more or less. It will be an intense week, with like 40 hours of class time from Weds through Sunday as I hammer out phase one of the TESOL course: methodology and basic instruction. I'll move immediately to work on the online portions (grammar and instruction specialization) so that I'm in a good position to try a practicum in January. The plan is still to get outta Dodge by mid-February.

Passport stuff is in the works, and I'm going to go buy some Japanese language books: a phrasebook and possibly a cd set for learning the fundamentals of the language. Can't be too prepared, I figure. Strangely, the thing I'm most worried about is food and shopping for food. Guess I'll worry about that when I get there.

I think I'll know that all of this is real when I'm going through some of the job opps and begin the negotiations. That's when all of this will really hit home.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

When Xmas Lights Go Broadway...

Wow. This is one of the most impressive things I've ever seen. Just. . . wow.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Off to the races!

I just signed up for TESOL Certification (80-100 hours of course-work and practicum). November 30th is the first class, going until the Sunday (40 hours). Then 15 hours of online course-work in grammar, then 25 hours of specialized teaching training, then 20 hours practicum (optional).

It's on now. By late December/early January, I'll have my certification, and soonafter I'll be looking for teaching opportunities in Japan (which, apparently, are numerous... 40% of ESL opportunities are in Asia).

So yeah... baby steps. Time to get my passport sorted out.

Another slip...

Wow, slipped again! Good news is I plan on writing here a bit more.

Most recent news is I'm heavily and seriously investigating second-language teaching overseas, specifically Japan. Why Japan? Two reasons: 1) I love the culture, and 2) according to most 'alumni' who have written about their experiences in teaching english around the world, Japan teaching pays highest and the programs are strongly endorsed by various Japanese ministries, such as Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Communication. So not only would I have support on the Canadian side by the agency itself, but in-country from the government.

I just need to get the hell out of Dodge. I'm rotting here, both in my job and in my mind-set. I've allowed it to happen, but if I continue down this path I'll be surprised if I live to see 40. I need a goal, an aim; something to shoot for, something new to experience. I - need - to - get - out!

In short... time for change.

So with that in mind, I'm attending a free informational seminar this evening in the Market. It's hosted by United TESOL International, a well-known ESL (English as a Second Language) organization. I'll see what they have to say.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Looks like I kinda let this slip. (quel surprise)

Not a tonne happening, and nothing on the ruminations side. Just making sure this thing still works. I'll beat on my chest later.

KEEEE-YAAAAA! *flies out a window*

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

New gaming video

It's done. Two different days/sessions in the level 35-39 battleground. Lots of fun, and I think this video came out a bit better than the other one. It has a few more bells and whistles anyway, the fights tend to be better at higher levels. site

or site

The first link might get tapped out, but may be faster. I've heard someone say that it seemed like a 12-minute download with high-speed internet. (it's 46 megs)

Monday, August 29, 2005

So tired...

Got 3 hours sleep last night. Strangely, I'm not exhausted, just mildly weary. I meant to go to sleep at ten after eleven, but got snared by the video editing demon. Was up til 2:25am trying to work out this annoying thinger that seems to exist in most Windows applications: if you scroll beyond the point where there is content (say in Excel, or in this case, Movie Maker) the program thinks those are the new parameters, and doesn't auto-adjust back to the last piece of datum (as per Outlook, when you delete a reply, it doesn't leave 3 scroll-screens of white). The long and short of it is a 3 minute video thought it was 6:25 minutes.

On the positive side, I'm getting a lot better at this video editing. Starting to mess around with various kinds and styles of overlays and transitions and fades. Worked a lot with trimming clip segments to match song beats, messed with white fade-in's with video transition, and different styles of title overlay (scoreboard, exploding, mirror, etc). So much fun.

I'm actually considering trying to find a course on video editing, maybe something even quasi-academic. The whole thing interests me to no end, as last night's marathon of stupidity might attest to.

That's it for now. I'll soon have a quick 1-min or so "teaser" for my next video from DAoC.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Funny picture of the day

Here it is

I laughed out loud when I saw this.

("WTF" means "what the fuck", by the way)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

This one should work

Using a new post to hit RSS. Hopefully this one works!

Aedhas, 24 Shadowblade

Monday, August 22, 2005

Finished video

Okay, fully done video numero uno (Thid vid). The link in the blog post below won't work any longer.

(EDIT: took the link out. The vid was bugged. I need to re-export and upload it... gahh!)

6m 25s and 28 megs, but not bad for a second first attempt. Had a tonne of fun both playing and editing, so it's all good.

All your phat lewtz r belong 2 us!

It's very interesting how more and more tales from the online gaming world are hitting the mainstream media. Everyone seems to be recognizing the prevalence of MMOs and online games in general, and weighing in on the subject. Most opinions and articles focus on violence depicted (article in the Ottawa Citizen today on how violent games are a good thing for kids), property rights with regards to virtual objects, and social and professional pay-offs that are apparent in players of interaction/leadership-based games such as MMOs.

Wish I could find the article about how MMO gamers are more likely to have highly-regarded business skills such as working through problems, taking initiative, showing better leadership qualities, etc. It was an interesting read. Then there is the somewhat infamous news about a Chinese man killing his friend because said friend sold his buddy's sword to someone in the game (EverQuest, I think).

That one was interesting in that it begged the question: can virtually owned objects be considered legitimate and legally-protected property? It sounds like a stupid question; one that most would scoff at and say "it's a bunch of frickin' pixels!". However... consider the situation thusly: you pay $25 for the retail game itself, but additionally pay $15 a month subscription. All activities including character, setup, inventory and status are maintained on a back-end server by the producer of the game. Very little of the playing experience happens on a local PC. If you physically rent a storage unit for $25 a month, and someone breaks in and steals your DVD player... that's theft. Considering that online items such as weapons, armour, etc are sold for large quantities of money on eBay and elsewheres, why is an item in a game not property? One acquires it through a transaction or a trade that is considered of value (else why do it in the first place?) or by actually going and getting the item (a kind of Lockean spin on property)... does that not meet the standard definitions of article possession?

Anyhoo, I'm constantly intrigued by anything and everything relating to online games. As stated previously, I honestly believe that as the military/government built and pioneered the Internet, MMO gamers and game companies are pioneering the next phase of virtual interaction.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Video editing

Okay, I'm addicted to video editing. I made my first DAoC video, albeit very short (9.05 megs), after downloading and registering FRAPS, a screen capture program that is, quite simply, a one-click wonder. Then I used Windows Movie Maker (pretty straightforward, if lacking in a few bells and whistles) to glue the thing together. I don't think it's too bad for 30 mins of work, and for a first try to boot.

Ector Midgard Thidranki Fun!

So feel free to check it out, or not. (ie, all normal viewing rules apply)

(EDIT: 08/24/05 -- this link no longer works. See the post above from 08/23/05 for working link)

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


I've been feeling unsettled latetly, and just generally out of it. I think the main issue is one of inactivity.

So in the spirit of filling that void, I've looked into Tai Chi. I've sent an email to the senior instructor of the Tai Chi Studio, a downtown school about 10 minutes from where I live that teaches the full spectrum of tai chi (3 different styles, and long-form, solo form, staff forms and sword forms).

I got a long reply back today, a very positive one, and I am going to go watch a class tomorrow evening, and the two classes on Saturday. This will give me an idea of all 3 styles (Yang, Sun and Baguazhang) and how they differ and what they emphasize.

I'm looking forward to it. The instructor seems very down-to-earth, and quite competent (as can be seen from his various writings on the subject of martial arts, dedication, what to look for, etc).

So we'll see how tomorrow goes!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Alexander the Catastrophy

I hate Oliver Stone.

The movie "Alexander" is worth less than a sugar-coated fart, and if you even watch the intro credits, you'll immediately come away thinking "Oh my god... I've just wasted 4 minutes of my life!". First off, it was horribly cast. Secondly, it went through the entire Persian conquest within 15 minutes after the first battle (which was actually Alexander's 4th, chronologically).

They ignored the battle wherein he was blooded against the Greeks at Thebes, charged by his father to break the Sacred Band, the Thebian elite heavy infantry unit that spelled the end for Spartan power in Greece. They ignored his father's assassination, and the Greek rebellion. They bloody ignored the Battle of the Granicus and Issus!!! They started, more or less, at Gaugamela (which I think was 4 years into his Persian campaign) where Alexander routs Darius from the field. They ignored his trek into Egypt. They ignored pretty much his entire campaign in Asia Minor, Persia, etc. Out of 1,000 elements they attempted to implicate, they only got a handful even close to correct.

I hardly ever watch half a movie. Even if it sucks, I might turn my attentions to my computer, or my cat or whatever, but the movie will keep going in the background. I shut off "Alexander" after about 45 minutes.

The pros:
  • They got his horse's name correct, and the story behind Bucephalus.
  • Through high-shot camera sequences, they showed how Alexander used to advance on the oblique, a novel technique to phalanx warfare whereby an opposing force does not advance in a straight line, but leads with one edge on the diagonal, typically leading with a reinforced, strong right (keeping those on the left, the shield-side, protected). This was a strategy his father innovated and Alexander perfected.
  • ... and they showed (for 1.8 seconds) the Agrianians, who were the coolest detachment in Alexander's army. They were a group of ~700 mountain-clan javelineers who would run with the cavalry units, both Companion cavalry and Thessalians, and hurl with devastating effect heirloom javelins at the enemy. They were specifically employed to destroy enemies on heights such as steep slopes and mountainous terrain.


You mean aside from the very existence of this shite movie?
  • Colin Farrell. He - is - not - European. He doesn't look European, he doesn't sound European, and he sure as hell does not look to be in his 20s or even early 30s. Colin Farrell is a worse actor than Keanu Reeves. At least directors have the wisdom to cast Reeves in parts that suit him.
  • Why the hell was Jared Leto in this movie? He looked like a 12-year-old girl, not a boyhood companion and soldier of Alexander's.
  • Alexander III was not a fucking German. It is almost certain that he did not have blonde hair! He sure as hell didn't have bleached blonde hair. Jesus H. God-Dancing Christ. Have you seen many Greeks with blonde hair? The little details that were utterly screwed-up in this movie just completely piss me off.
  • In the movie, the Companion cavalry had about as much coordination as a spider-monkey rotting in a gutter, when in actual fact they were the first cavalry ever that was used to break enemy infantry lines (and not in the way illustrated in the movie). In the movie, it looked like he had all of 50 cavalrymen (charging across their own fucking lines, obscuring the view of their infantry and the advance), when in fact his full cavalry complement would have been closer to 5,000 to 10,000 (including Companions, Thessalians, and mercenary Greek horse as well as Persian units in the latter years of the campaign). This is not a hard thing to render with today's CG technology.
  • His troops, although displaying sarrissas (14-foot infantry lances of Alexander's invention), were disorganized, mostly-unarmoured rabble gathered in clumps not even closely resembling a military phalanx. There was no shield overlapping so they all should have died under the first volley of Persian arrow since the Persians had about 75,000 archers. Considering a well-trained (or at least not-bloody-stupid) archer can draw, nock and fire an arrow in 5 seconds, that's a shit-load of bronze-tipped wood flying through the air at high velocity over the course of a minute, the minimum it would take to close ranks between two opposing forces. Especially when one is side-stepping and moving in the oblique.
  • The fighting. Dear god, it sucked. It looked like two hordes just whelming into each other, as opposed to solid bricks moving as one. There was so much space between each man in the units that you could have driven a wagon through. They would have broken after the initial impact. Phalanx fighting was dependent on grinding the man in front of you forward, compacting your shield into position to defend your companion, and forcing forward. It ought to look a lot like a reverse tug-of-war.
  • Alexander's mother was not some pouty-faced witch-woman. She was eccentric, and into exotic cults, and yeah, every now and then it was rumoured she had snakes around. But she wasn't a goddamn Angelina Jolie weirdo wench.
  • Alexander's father was a heavy-handed but cunning man and war-leader who revolutionized Classical warfare, not a stumbling-drunk brutish asshole as Val Kilmer played him as. We're talking about a man who unified dozens upon dozens of mountain clans that had been in-fighting and raiding each other for centuries. A one-eyed dipshit could hardly get them to coordinate, let alone fight and subjugate the entireity of the Greek mainland.
  • Alexander, himself, didn't possess exceptional ambition, and he wasn't arrogant as portrayed. His daemon (a god's manifestation in the soul of Man) drove him forward, set his ambitions. It controlled him, more or less; executed its desires through him. Small thing, and somewhat hard to convey, but very essential to understanding the pious and humble nature of the greatest conquerer in the world.
  • What the hell was with his helmet?? ARGH!! So goddamn stupid. What dicksmack would ride around in next to no armour, but wear a helm with not just one plume, but 2 side plumes? Why not just ride over to the enemy and tell them to cut you down.
  • The army. Where was the damn army? That wasn't 43,000 soldiers. On top of any combat army itself, there are 3 times as many civilians/military support personnel: farriers, smiths, cooks, servants, squires, attendants, scribes, historians, priests, teamsters. Where was the baggage train? He had no sea support until he won at Gaugamela or Issus (can't remember, but I think it was Issus) so how the hell did he feed 43,000 men 6,000 miles from his homeland in the middle of relatively inhospitable terrain?
  • On the other side of the fight... what the hell was up with Darius'? His forces all looked like they'd been dragged out of some ditch on the way from Persepolis to Gaugamela. The Persian forces were reputed to look like dandies: blooming pantaloons of vibrant colours, scale-mail vests, wicker shields, etc. In short, they looked like courtiers on their way to a ball. These guys looked like something out of Jesus Christ Super-Star. Also, Darius' army was around 300,000. So picture a fifth the population of Toronto jammed onto a battlefield that is only 2 square miles. Also, Darius had his entire royal family with him, and pavilions, etc. Those were nowhere to be seen. Just the dork on a chariot (accurate) who made stupid decisions with his forces. Also, he wasn't shown near enough respect as one would usually accord a god (Persian emperors were gods incarnate to their nation).
  • Distance. In the span of 30 seconds, Alexander is teleported 5,000 miles from Iran to Afghanistan. S-t-u-p-i-d.
  • ... and more.
In short (ha!), this movie was an atrocity, and deserved even less than the 17% rating on RottenTomatoes. The absolute worst thing about this movie? Now that one has been made, it would be very difficult to do a decent movie on the subject for some time. They have not only spit upon a legacy, and a turning point in both Western and Eastern history, but made it highly unlikely that it can be shown on the big-screen in a way that does it justice.

Don't get me started on Troy...

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Immortal Power Brought Low by Taser

Check this guy out.

This makes top article of the day for sure. What a n00b. Chainmail vs Taser? Should have gone with Blue Dragonhide for the electricity resistance of 25. And if he was against numerous opponents, he ought to have cast Haste on himself for an extra partial action per round. Pffft. "Thousand years of power" my arse.



(Warning: might be preaching to the choir here, but let me have my fun and bear in mind that not everyone is Mr. Tech Bleeding Edge.)

Short of having an Austin Mini, a suburban carboncopy homestead/townhouse, and a can-do ultra-professional girlfriend, I think I may have taken the final step to yuppy-dom... last night I bought an iPod (and the latest NIN album - yay!).

Let me just say this: iPods (and Apple products in general) understand one thing very well: user experience/user interface is as important as product quality. Sometimes more important since usability/interface is something that customers see upfront; it's most top-of-mind. The iPod app, iTunes, is so stupid-easy even I can use it with only infrequent use of the Help option. (The tutorial on the site is simply fantastic, by the way -- walk-through videos!).

I got one of the iPod Mini's (4 gig version, or 1,000 songs) which is enough for me. (they also sell 20, 40 and 60 gig iPods... you know, for those of you in the world who have the equivalent to the Library of Congress in music... yeah, all 6 of you) The ability to create customized, on-the-go playlists make having anything larger than a 6 gig capacity superfluous, in my opinion.

I'm not normally one for gushing over freakin' electronics, but... the iPod itself is very intuitive and laid out in a way that only Apple could have built. There is a LCD display, a centre Select button surrounded by a wheel, and on the scroll wheel at the 4 points of the vertical/lateral 'compass': a Play/Pause, Menu, Forward and Backward on the scroll wheel. Nothing else. It's simply as hell. Choose Music hit Select, use the scroll wheel to navigate the menus, hit Select. To go back, hit Menu. That - is - it.

More impressive, however, is the application that is the iPod's brain: iTunes. You start it up, it instantly recognizes which iPod is connected and uses those settings. It scans your computer for any .mp3 and .wmf or whatever and loads them all into a Library folder. From there, you can create and make custom folders, and set the iPod to update from any and/or all of those directories. Every time you plug the iPod in and start iTunes, it auto-updates so that if you've converted 8 cds that week but haven't manually moved them to your iPod, it does it for you. Me no think = me happy good.

The neatest feature is its auto-recognize CD thinger. Put in a music CD, and iTunes will load up and display all the tracks with all information. Then click or (Ctrl+A to get all of them) and right-click and Convert to AAA and bam... you've just made a CD iPod'able in about 45 seconds. AND it will retain track #, title, artist, album name, and genre (without displaying it). Click and drag all those songs into a custom folder, Update iPod, and you're ready to go. Rinse, repeat. Took me 2.5 mins to get about 28 songs from 3 CDs (2 NIN albums) into my custom folder and on my iPod for this morning. I've got 449 songs on there, with plenty of room left. I was file-hoppin' like mad this morning, going from the new NIN to Breaking Benjamin, to Toasters (coming to the nation's capitol on 16 Sept!!), to Sublime to Jethro Tull to Diana Krall. Frickin' sweet.

Honk if you also love having new toys.

Safeharbor Statement: I do not own nor manage client accounts containing Apple stocks or mutual funds, and was in no way paid or compensated for this flagrant gushing.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Something Wicked This Way Slowly Saunters

My reading as of late has been very sporadic, or I've been re-reading novels, mostly fantasy-adventure. This is, and has been for 8 months, due to one thing: I have not finished the Dark Tower series.

I just found out (or rather, was reminded) that the trade paperback edition of the final novel in the series, The Dark Tower, is not available until November. To be quite blunt, that sucks. I know why they've done it, of course. The typical wait time between hardcover and paperback (or trade) is roughly 6-9 months, depending on the popularity of or hype surrounding the book in question. It can be as long as 12 months, but very very rarely.

The Dark Tower will be have been a 12-month wait by the time it hits trade paperback. Thus far, I have been lucky in that no one has ruined it for me, or even spoken of it. The entire series has become a very private thing for most of Stephen King's CRs, as he calls them ("constant reader"s, as in "Have faith, my constant reader"). People simply don't talk much about it because it's one of the rare sets of books that people enjoy internalizing. No one wants to know what another person thinks of Roland, or Eddie or even Oi ("'Ake!"). The storyline in the Gunslinger (book one) is more open to discussion, but as soon as the second and third and fourth books emerged, it became "Have you read Wizard & Glass?" "Nope, not yet." ... silence. Not "Oh, it's really good" or "It's too damn long", just acceptance of the response and a tacit understanding that nothing more can be said without verging upon the blasphemous.

Anyway, all my reading energies are being conserved for this final volume in what has become, essentially, a modern-day saga; the closest this age may come to calling a literary work an epic (minus the "in media res", catalogue of warriors, and other epic conventions) since Milton.

In other news, it looks like Hollywood has recognized the substantial impact of video games on their demographic, and are moving into movie-ized versions of a few. There has already been the two Tomb Raider ones (bleh), and coming up are Doom (with the Rock) as well as Hitman: Codename 47 (with Vin Diesel). Hard to say how either of those will go, as there was never much of a story to either one, and you can hardly fill 1.5 hours with random assassination missions (in the case of Hitman) or opening doors and chainsawing zombies with rocket-launchers for arms (in the case of Doom). Though if the head rocket-launcher arms guy were to be played by Christopher Lee or Gary Oldman... hmmm... I can picture it now. "I have crossed oceans of time... 2 PWN U CUZ 1 4M L337!!11one!1!"

That is all for now. Bring on the weekend and beer and BBQ and Family Guy!

China to ban under-18s from PK-content games

Very interesting article. China has banned all people under the age of 18 from from any online games that contain "PK" (player killing; ie, going toe-to-toe with other players in an attempt to defeat them).

It's effective immediately, or I assume as immediate as gaming vendors can implement the age validation mechanism spoken of.

I would love to watch the riotous backlash in South Korea if the government were to try to do the same thing. The government would be overthrown by 800,000 12-17 year olds, I have no doubt. (and I'm serious)

The truth is, online gaming is an enormous market. In the game I play, Dark Age of Camelot, the total player base is in the hundreds of thousands. During the low periods of any given day, there are approximately 3,500 people online. During the peak periods, it can be as high as 30,000 or 40,000. That only accounts for one game out of about half a dozen games out there that are considered mainstream MMOs (Massively Multiplayer Online games) such as EverQuest and EverQuest II, World of Warcraft, City of Heroes, Lineage II, Final Fantasy XI Online, etc. I can only assume that as many as 150,000-250,000 people are online playing games at any given time.

Neal Stephenson's Metaverse, here we come! I estimate only 15-25 years before the Internet we know becomes far more immersive, involving online "avatars" (digital representations of our "meat" selves) roaming "avenues" that are cables and fibre-optic lines, chatting in "cafés" that are chat rooms and forums, and browsing in "stores" that are data nexi such as retail banking centres, personal websites, e-tailers, government e-services, etc. Internet II is already under development, so I'm thinking it will not be until the third rev of the Internet that we will see that kind of "information as metaphor" transformation.

Let's see if I'm right.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Sugar coating the difference between T & E

Something I was thinking of the other day (warning: anecdote incoming) when a friend of mine's son (8 years old) handed the PC game, Star Wars: Jedi Knight Academy, back to me, slightly chagrined, saying that he shouldn't play it due to the Teen rating and his father's computer's vid card was not a gaming card.

My first thoughts were along the lines of relief, having realized after I'd lent it to him that it was unlikely he could play it, game-controls-wise, as it's fairly intricate. The last thing that had crossed my mind was the game rating issue. Here's my beef with game ratings and why it never occurred to me:

Game ratings are more or less useless, like a lot of non-R rated movie ratings. Take a game like Super Mario Bros from Nintendo. It has an E rating (E = Everyone; aka rated G). So it is of a fantastic nature, with 'fantasy or mild violence'. Then take Jedi Knight Academy, rated T (T = Teen; aka PG 13), which 'may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood and/or infrequent use of strong language'. So the only thing here that qualifies is 'may contain violence'.

Super Mario Bros: you've got a plumber in a crazy world of castles, evil mushrooms, flying turtles, 'magic' mushrooms that make you grow, and an exhorbitant number of pipes (many of which sprout fire-breathing plants). In this world, our peasant hero is off to save a princess by running around, smashing the local mushroom and turtle population into the ground and eating magic mushrooms to be more powerful. So you have good guy vs bad guy(s), in a wacky fantasy world. Seems innocent, right?

Not at all. Picture this, if you will: Some guy, uninvited from another dimension, has taken it upon himself to pound the crap out of the locals, while seeking 'power ups' from mushrooms and flowers, taking money along the way. Sure, the bad guys squish in a cute, cartoony way, with silly sound effects, and when they kill the plucky pisano, he pops into the air and drops off the screen with a "woo woo wooo wooooooo....." sound. But make no mistake: Mario is out for blood with the end goal of gettin' some princess lovin's.

Jedi Knight: you, as a Jedi student, and friend begin their training under Luke Skywalker (set 10-15 years after Episode VI). Weird things start happening, and you as a new student have to undertake missions with your Jedi master overseeing your conduct. The plot unravels over the course of missions, and your friend from training goes missing, with him becoming seduced to the dark side by the nefarious behind-the-scenes bad guys. Throughout the whole thing, as a Jedi, you are singled out by renegades, smugglers, miscellaneous baddies and the Remnant, what is left of the Empire (stormtroopers mostly) and have to avoid or defeat them to carry on and complete your tasks.

There is no blood, simulated, unrealistic or otherwise, and no coarse language. (I mean, c'mon, when did you ever hear Luke say "Holy fuck! You're my father? NOOOOOO!". He was always "Well, gee-wiz, Obi-Won, that's a swell idea."). Along the way you have the option to make a pretty nasty decision (kill your friend who went to the dark side, or be merciful) but that's about it, and it's a moral decision with consequences in later missions.

Summary: both games are violent, but I would argue that Jedi Knight is less inappropriate than some E games. A Jedi has a goal, and in the game, every mission is designed to build up the plot and set the stage for the end (and you have no idea what the ending is). Mario's goal is to get T&A by kicking the snot out of 98 levels of bad guys, who, I might add, are not really bad but only enslaved versions of the good-aligned toadstool people. I mean, yes, as a Jedi you lightsaber a good many people, all of whom are out to destroy the New Republic and bring back the Empire. Mario just wants the princess. There is no political or moral drivers here... only the desire to pound goombas (isn't that racist? yet that's what they're called) and get some tail. Can someone argue that jumping on a turtle, then kicking it through and killing multiple msuhroom people only to have it rebound and be punted down a hole worse than a Jedi trying to keep his friend from the dark side and stopping the political fabric of the universe from unraveling?

It's all about sugar coating. Take the Legend of Zelda as another example, also rated E. Link, little boy do-gooder, seeks to (surprise!) free a princess. (a theme, which, I might add, is sexist) In so doing, the guy clear-cuts entire areas with his sword trying to find enough rupees (rupees??) to buy bombs so he can blow up both people and ancient, historical buildings. Hmmm... You don't find Jedi killing people for wealth to buy mini weapons of mass destruction (MWMDs). In fact, in one mission, you are trying to disarm them while keeping Boba Fett off your back (a very cool mission, I have to say) and doing other things like trying to restore a Jedi Knight's tomb to proper order because it's being defiled by dark siders. These are noble goals.

Kirby (another E game) freakin' sucks enemies up and spits their energy out at other enemies! He is, in essence, subsuming their souls for his own purposes. You don't see many Jedi eating souls. And Kirby is rewarded for it by earning points, as is Mario!

Again, though... sugar coating. E games have cute music and zany sound effects, therefore the perception is that they are fun and contain healthy content. Games rated T are simply honest with their content. End of semi-coherent rant.

Completely off-topic, there is nothing cooler than hearing a German named Wolfgang say "Cool".

Friday, July 15, 2005

"I push my fingers into my eyes..."

Okay, upon cursory glance, I thought I had a lot of books, but also figured I had the storage units (aka, bookshelves) to contain them.

.............. Sadly, I was mistaken. Very very mistaken.

About an hour and a half ago, I began unpacking my books in earnest. Foolish me, I actually thought that one bookshelf could hold all my fantasy and sci-fi, mixed together by author. Not - even - fucking - close. I very badly need a Gravbenda(tm) so I can shelve my books perpendicularly on the ceiling.

So I've used up 2 of my 4 bookshelves for fantasy and sci-fi, and that's after removing the "grey" ones: Michael Marshall Smith, historical lit, etc. that could conceivably go into those bookshelves.

The scary thing? I actually think there's more of a mess now -- after putting some books away -- than when I initiated this folly.

I'd like to post something meaningful, but truly there has been a lot of SFA happenin' in my life. I'm sure I'll hit 70 and someone will ask "What was your life like? You lived in such an amazing period of history" and I'll say "Ummm... you know... I ummm... *mumble, mumble* and stuff".

One highlight was having caught up on most of the 4th season of Family Guy thanks to Aaron having burninated me a dvd of 7 recent episodes.

Ummm... yeah. Guess that's it. Oi. Back to the ol' librarian work...

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

No reason not to die laughing

A few quick hits for now:

I love 'Maddox'-esque write-ups like this: Human Torch with ATV toy!

Okay, just plain funny: Classifieds

More later!

Friday, July 08, 2005

My new hero

Whoever this guy is, he is my new hero.

In praise of good fantasy

I've read a lot of fantasy novels over the years, starting in grade 6 with pulp Forgotten Realms novels and Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books (I remember having like 80 bookmarks in those types) and subsequently moving to Dragonlance and Dark Sun, etc. Then I started with Terry Brooks, Dennis L. McKiernan, J. R. R. Tolkien and multiple others.

Let's be very clear: fantasy novels definitely follow Sturgeon's Law, which is "90% of everything is crap".

(You can find this in the forward in Callahan's Cross-Time Saloon, as an anecdote by author Spyder Robinson. Basically, at a convention someone said "90% of sci-fi books are crap", to which Sturgeon replied "Actually, 90% of everything is crap".)

There are a few rare gems: Dragondoom, the Silmarillion and... the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin.

I've just started to re-read his first three (Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, Storm of Swords) because his fourth is due out in the near future, and they're amazing novels for many reasons, but outstanding fantasy novels for one reason alone: there is no nemesis or poetic justice. I.e., good guys get hurt in nasty ways, bad guys win as often as not, "good guys" aren't straight out good, no one is what they seem. The entire series is driven by politics and intrigue, and the desires of the narrative's central figures (of which there are many, both crooked and mostly-good).

The big selling point for me was a well-developed political world and a gamut of pivotal characters. He also dives into central characters' PoVs in true third-person narrative style: every chapter is told from a different character's perspective. Also, and this seems like a no-brainer but most fantasy novelists are unable to convey this... the characters grow and change over the course of the writing. Often, a perceived 'good guy' will show himself/herself to be rotten, 'bad guys' will emerge as simply pragmatic or misunderstood and misrepresented, etc.

Brilliant books all 'round, but a warning: don't read them if you can't stomach some harsh writing. The guy doesn't pull any punches, and characters you love and have followed for a book or more will suddenly find themselves perished in not-so-nice ways via treachery, sickness, character foibles, or simply through common mishap. (Don't you ever wonder why people don't break legs from a simply fall or why they only take wounds in the shoulder or thigh in most fantasy novels? Pretty stupid if you ask me.)

Anyway, enough praise for Mr. Martin. Also, I encourage anyone and everyone to read "The Virtues of War" and "Gates of Fire" by Steven Pressfield. Phenomenal historical fiction set in the Classical period (Alexander the Great and Battle of Thermopylae, respectively).

Guess I should work.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Darth Siddious, make way for Darth Hyper

What with all the brujahah about Tom Cruise lately, here's what really happened when he appeared on Oprah...

(best to right-click and Save As)

Go ahead, laugh your ass off. I did!

Alarming news

I don't mean to alarm anyone, but according to ABC News, Osama Bin Ladin is not in Afghanistan. .......

Yeah, my thoughts exactly. What actually surprises me is that anyone is still looking for him, and that they're so hopeful of catching him. I'd love to see the CIA's budget. It probably just says "Gardening Tools: $982,000,000,000".

I bet Ol' Osama is in Cuba, collecting sea-shells in between drinking cocktails, smoking cigars and checking out discoteque nights at the resorts. Hell, this is a wired world... why not just Skype with his cronies in the Middle-East, or email them from his Blackberry?

Anyhoo, just thought that article was funny. I wonder if they're still looking for Elvis, too.

On another note, tonight will be my last night of moving. I have just about everything out of my old apartment except for the majority of my kitchen accoutrements. Hopefully by this weekend, I will have everything sorted out and unpacked.

Had a pretty quiet Canada Day (as opposed to some poor folks I know), and Saturday consisted of lots of food, friends and shinanigans with a 2-11 bday party. Got to speak with John about FCM, and I'm liking the sounds of the place. I did some research online, and checked out some of their speeches and PRs. It's all quite nice and straight-forward; no marketese or fluff. They have a very solid objective, with a good structure in place to reinforce it. (That they have every Friday off for the summer is awfully damn sweet, too.)

We shall see what happens! Yesterday was the cut-off date for applying, so now the wait begins.

Guess that's about it for now.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Book rant

I have far too many books. Many of you reading this will, at this point, gasp and clutch your hearts at my saying that, but when you have to move all your boxes of books upstairs, unpack them all on the floor and then re-pack them according to genre/period/etc. there's a problem.

It doesn't help that I'm incredibly anal about the ordering of my books, right down to sorting them by hardcover, softcover/trade and then alphabetically. Then I further sub-divided them by: 20th Century, Humanist, Renaissance, Victorian, Poetry & Plays, Classical, Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Academic & Reference & Miscellaneous. Oh, and signed and first-edition hardcovers are separated out from the other hardcovers, too. But what if an author has written fiction, but also philosophy (ref. Camus, Satre, Huxley, Kafka sorta, etc)? Do they go by genre, or by author? If I only have 3 novels by an author, and two are trade and one is hardcover, should they stay grouped together? Is it cool to put Stephen King (Dark Tower series only) next to Philip K. Dick and Robert A. Heinlein?? What about collections of short stories??? Is that fiction, or should it go in with plays & poetry???? Dear god, help me!!

... I'm okay now.

I need me an on-site, always-on-hand librarian. Maybe someone with experience at the Library of Congress...

DAoC trailer vid

Rogerio, something you might find kinda neat from an amateur video editing perspective. Dave, get yer arse back into DAoC! WoW is for cartoon-lovin' dorks.

Sodred Trailer

Inspired by a buddy of mine in-game who's made a vid, I think I'm gunna try something like this once I get my vid card fixed, and download FRAPS (video capture software). Might even invest in a decent editor, though I've been advised to just go with Microsoft Movie-Maker for the near-term to get used to editing.

Anyhoo, I just thought it was a cool little trailer. Great angles, and music/video sync. Lookin' forward to the guy's full vid (he's got like 3 to date).

That's it for now. Off to build my final bookshelf and listen to my cat scream in drama-queen agony at the tragedy of my having made her move... again.

Go go gadget job opp #1!

Okay, I'm at that stage in my moving where I'm breaking my back moving my 600+ books. I should never have been allowed to work in a bookstore. That's like letting a junky do prescription refills at Shopper's: "One for you, and one for me!"

But the good news is that I am in the process of building my last bookshelf (see, Mom & Dad, there is a god!) and there are two nice shelving units already built into the place. So far I'm loving this new pad. Lots of room for all my geeky/obsessive stuff: computers, books, gaming compendiums, and assorted nik-naks that I ought to have tossed in grade 8.

But the news of the day: I've applied for a job at FCM (Federation of Canadian Municipalities) in the position of Communications Officer. Check out the responsibilities:

- Monitor news media daily and prepare reports for FCM staff;
- Provide ongoing analysis of media coverage and identify opportunities to communicate FCM’s messages;
- Respond to routine media enquiries and arrange interviews with FCM spokespersons;
- Help coordinate media coverage of FCM meetings, events and news conferences;
- Write news releases, backgrounders, articles, speeches and opinion pieces;
- Assist with the management of Forum magazine;
- Contribute to the development of FCM communication strategies and messaging

Ummm... can you spell "built for me" ? I just about fell outta me chair when Suzanne sent this to me. Da-amn! So I faxed my new resumé out to them this morning, and will do follow-up soon, possibly in person since they're in the Market. I also know someone who works there, so need to ask John if he'll toss in a good word. (Just hope he still doesn't begrudge me saying at his wedding that he tormented me unmercifully in high-school...)

I can't express how absolutely liberating it felt to fax that coverletter + resumé, and how utterly phenomenal a sensation it was to read through the responsibilities and duties and not think "there's no freakin' way I'd get this". Instead of I thought "This job is built for me, and I'm going to ensure that they realize that".

Do you think I should have left out "Oh gods of FCM, please hire me! I am PERFECT for this job!" on my coverletter? Hmmm...

That's it for now. (the other tacit good news being that I have internet again)

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Man be catchin' up wit' me...

They're on to me. I just received a notice that my bank is investigating my account because "according to their records" I may not be a full-time student anymore. O noes! Now I face the stupid normal fees for account usage. Bastards! Another ruse bites the dust.

This follows on the heels of Greyhound/Voyageur buslines. Last year, they started carding me and they've gotten wise to my "oh, I just got that card replaced and they forgot to put the right sticker on it" sham. Now I have to pay the damn adult fares. However, the subterfuge works if I go return trip from Kingston, as they are very student heavy and I guess I look stupid enough to be taken for a Queen's student. *ZING!*

The irony, of course, is that I still get carded for cigarettes and beer.

Just scan my retina or analyze a pound of flesh already fa chris'sake and have done with it.

Thank you for holding, how may I confuse you today?

Ah, the wonderful world of customer service. I'm calling today to transfer all my junk from this address to a new one... by 'new' I mean it has ONE DIGIT that is different (different apartment, same building).

The horror... the horror... [of customer service.] Funny how at one company you can go from a can-do-you-got-it-sir! person to someone who sounds like a slightly more spry Stephen Hawking, or the old slug woman from Monsters, Inc.

Actually, I shouldn't complain too much. The process has been relatively painless (excempting having been paying into a dead account and accruing hundreds of dollars in credit... yay credit!). So far, Bell is down, Bell Mobility is down, and I need to now hit Hydro Ottawa where no doubt their automated voice service goes something like this: "MmmmwahahahahaHAHAHAHAHAHA! ... Thank you for calling, sucker".

Should be fine, and it looks like I'll have phone service and Internet by Thursday. I told them that they can cancel everything, take all my stuff, but make sure Internet is up and running. (how predictable)

A weird (quel surprise) thought I had. You know how you are always put on hold? Now consider this: what if they partnered with a local sex chat service? When you go on hold, you're given the option for the transfer, and then given the option of male or female. So instead of shite music or the blackness of the Void That Binds, you get flirted with and otherwise "occupied". On hold for 15 minutes? No problem! Hell, people would call to be put on hold. And custom service metrics would shoot through the roof. Hmmm... *ponder*

Or... they could simply give you the option of choosing the kind of music to have to listen to while on hold. I guess that would work, too, though you gotta admit that it's not half as bold a business move as the sex chat line idea.

On another note... Vacation feels frickin' weird. Like I'm playing hookie, or I've been fired. The sensation is one of floating between uncertainties: am I supposed to be at work? or Should I be enjoying this? etc. I've decided to simply punt my vacation-based emotions out the window to fry on the pavement and am in blissful who-gives-a-damn mode.

I'm currently building the last of my bookshelves for my new place, and getting a few other things organized. A buddy is helping me move the big stuff (ie, 3 or 4 things) around 5. Then for the next 2 days I'll slowly migrate my detritus upstairs. By Thursday night, I want to be totally set up, and the place air-condition-cooled for Friday morn. Oh, that reminds... Dad, the air-conditioner didn't fit so I had to knock the entire window out with a sledgehammer. I'm sure my super won't mind. (... Just kiddin'.)

Well, off I go to sweat me arse off building bookshelves and humping a few things upstairs.

Friday, June 24, 2005


On a bit of a happier note than the other one from today... EVILGASM! I just about burst a gut. I'm a devotee of OOTS (Order of the Stick), an online comic. I just had to share this:


For you gamers out there, check out the whole series -- you'll laugh, you'll cry (because you were laughing a wee bit much). I highly endorse it!

Hinges of History, Take 1

Another series of disorganized brain-farts, a bit on the dark side.

History. Ever noticed how history often hinges on but the actions of a single individual, as opposed to some over-arching, macro view typically associated with orthodox historiography?

Pol Pot. Here's the world's second-most infamous perpetrator of genecide in history (or at least in the 20th Century), yet who even knows about this guy? His dictatorship led to the killing of 1-3 million Cambodians (1/4 - 1/3 of the entire Cambodian population!) in the '70s. Check it out:

1974 - In March, the Khmer Rouge capture the old capital of Odongk, north of Phnom Penh. In a foretaste of what is to come, the city is destroyed, its 20,000 inhabitants are dispersed into the countryside, and teachers and public servants are executed.

1975 - Now in control of most the Cambodian countryside, the Khmer Rouge surround and isolate the capital Phnom Penh, which has swollen with refugees fleeing the Khmer Rouge and the US bombers. The noose steadily tightens. On April 17 Phnom Penh falls. Within days the city's entire population of over two million is marched into the countryside at gunpoint.

Pol Pot declares 'Year Zero' and directs a ruthless program to "purify" Cambodian society of capitalism, Western culture, religion and all foreign influences in favour of an isolated and totally self-sufficient Maoist agrarian state. No opposition is tolerated.

Foreigners are expelled, embassies closed, and the currency abolished. Markets, schools, newspapers, religious practices and private property are outlawed.

Members of the Lon Nol government, public servants, police, military officers, teachers, ethnic Vietnamese, Christian clergy, Muslim leaders, members of the Cham Muslim minority, members of the middle-class and the educated are identified and executed.

... and how many reading this even remember this guy's name? He died a few years ago in transport to be tried. Heart-attack, I believe was the reported cause of death. Guess it goes to show that if you aren't #1 with a bullet, history can safely ignore you. So that leads to...

Hitler. It's believed, based on some descriptions in Mein Kampf, that Hitler's hatred of Jews started with but a single schoolmate: Ludwig Wittgenstein, a child a bit older than Hitler who was smarter, faster and bullied Hitler unmercifully. In his later years, he became well known for solving with the Private Language Argument the 'mental zombies' philosophical dilemma, among a hundred other things.

Can you imagine that 1 person may have been indirectly responsible for the wholesale destruction of 9 million of his own race?

History hinges on but a few, most of whom are in power. If Dubya is any indication, they ain't all that bright. Comforting, no?


So I was thinking today, today being wondrous Friday and having just partaken of CWC (Coffee With Colleagues), about the ideal work-week. Thomas Moore had it right like 300 years ago, when he wrote "Utopia" (which, by the way, means "No Place"), and no one has gotten it right since.

Some highlights of his sociological philosophy:

6-hour work days. He recognized that people are no more productive in 10-12 hour days than they are in 6 hour days. So make the working day but 6 hours long, and use the rest of the time for community and family involvement.

Cycle duties periodically. Work in one area (say farming) for 6-12 months, and then cycle through into carpentry, logging, administration, governance, art or architecture. This expands the knowledge-base of all members of society, and allows them to gain a heightened understanding of the efforts required in all tasks. This in turn allows societies to make informed decisions concerning the administration/governing of those roles.

Anyway, lots of great ideas in that short book (120 pages, methinks), most of which I can't remember since it's been 5 years since I read it. I might have to dig it up again after I move.

There have been a number of "utopian" books written, academic as well as novels: The Republic (Plato), The Prince (Machiavelli), Utopia (Moore), We (Zamyatin), etc. But the only one to really come across as common-sensical (to me, anyway) was Utopia. Of the distopian novels, the only one worth reading is "We". In 1954 (I think) George Orwell flagrantly plagerized that entire novel and re-named it "1984". Then Huxley (don't ever touch "Doors of Perception" with a 10-foot pole, by the way) just knocked off another version, and after him, the world of distopian literature more or less died as readers grew weary with the lowly hero rising rising... oh, he's gunna make it!! ....dead (or otherwise shut down).

Just some random thoughts for the moment as I look forward to having a week off. Huzzah!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

First shot

So here I am. Got interested in this idea after a friend of mine created a blog here to record her upcoming trip to Europe, and I thought the idea of her being able to write to everyone without actually having to do so (and to give her friends/family the opportunity to comment/respond) was fantastic!

Now to the name of this blog... I've always thought it pretentious, despite having a background in philosophy, to call someone or be called by someone a philosopher. So 'quasi' makes light of that. 'Philosophical' because all thoughts set down with even a pretense at rhyme or reason could be, if abstractly, considered philosophical. 'Ruminations', well...

ru·mi·na·tion, n.
1. The act of pondering; meditation. 2. The act or process of chewing cud.

Hrrmm... (no comment) 'Wayward'... 1) I like the word itself and 2) I like to think my mind often wanders from the orthodox, beaten track. 'Mind' because I'd like this forum to act as a free-form outlet for whatever I happen to be thinking of, or am curious about.

(wow... how anal is it to defend one's blog title? aw well... it's a start at least.)

That about describes it. I'll make more of a go of this once I'm not at work. *whoopsie*