Old News: December 22, 2004 to January 16, 2005

11:43 p.m. [GMT-8:00]
16 Jan. 2005 (Sun); Post #547
On Saturday, Justin, Ryan, Hanwool, and I went bowling. We tried Atomic Bowl first, but it was too busy, so we went to Fiesta Bowl in Kennewick. It had just snowed again, so the roads were a little slippery. Been pretty cold lately; it was 18° that night (22° out right now). Anyway, I got 99 on one game, 101 on another. We bowled 3½ games (time on the lane ran out on the last one).

Turns out my roof's leaking in the long room again. Northwest Restoration is getting a call tomorrow, right after I do the title stuff at the DOL.

I was channel surfing during commercials while watching Boston Legal this evening and I found this infomercial on CBS... some guy was hawking his book ("Natural Cures They Don't Want You to Know About") and said very plainly that cancer—any cancer—could be prevented (and usually cured) by maintaining an alkaline pH in the body. The author, Kevin Trudeau, is a real quack. I don't know if that program was broadcast nationally, but it certainly didn't help my opinion of CBS. They seem a lot less credible than the other networks. I know infomercials come with that "does not necessarily represent the views of" disclaimer, but the network obviously isn't too opposed to the material, right? After all, you never see infomercials for widely offensive stuff, like hate groups or pornography. Airing it at all implies some sort of condonation.

BTW, they fired Serena on Law & Order. 'Bout time. I was surprised when she asked if it had anything to do with her being a lesbian. I coulda sworn she'd flirted with witnesses and whatnot on the show before. I guess that doesn't prove anything, but this has got to be the first time they mentioned it. Very good actress though. Just an infuriating character.

I've got some materials for the upcoming GURPS campaign prepared; I'll try to organize a simple directory and get them up on the site soon. Justin might be adding some language/ culture/ geography stuff (everyone's welcome to). In the meantime, if anyone needs that sort of information for character creation, just email me.

Man, I'm super tired.

Overgrown empty tower. Click for full size version (304 KB).

4:09 p.m. [GMT-8:00]
14 Jan. 2005 (Fri); Post #546
Hey, that Huygens probe landed on Titan. So far the ESA has only released 3 images, though it's supposedly snapped more than 300. Here's one of the pictures. From the NASA site: "It shows the surface of Titan with ice blocks strewn around." Unfortunately, this seems to be the highest resolution (and color depth) the probe can manage.

surface of Titan from Huygens probe
Surface of Titan.

These Xanga/MySpace tards keep stealing my bandwidth by hotlinking images... I tried using .htaccess to prevent it, but I got reports from a couple ppl that images weren't displaying on my own site for them (even after refreshing, clearing cache, etc.). So I tried something a little different, and it may or may not be working properly. If you cannot see images on this page, please IM me (AIM: hjo333) or email me ().

Hey, my portfolio, as a whole, is up 18.50%! American Eagle Outfitters is finally showing a good ROI (+80.46%). Everything else is down though, except Amazon. Well, whatever.

bullet flying through a Jolt can
Stop-motion pic of a can of Jolt being shot.

3:08 p.m. [GMT-8:00]
12 Jan. 2005 (Wed); Post #545
My Explorer's odometer hit 100,000 miles today. I had my camera with me so I could get a picture at the big rollover, but it happened on the highway between Richland and Kennewick and it wouldn't have been safe to snap a picture while doing 55 MPH on slushy roads. So I took the picture below in the Staples parking lot. I got the Explorer about five years ago. It had 59,600 miles on it. So that means I've driven an average of 21 miles a day since then. Seems high to me.

Explorer @ 100K miles
1994 Ford Explorer's odometer: 100K miles.

ION, I test drove Dr. Roche's car yesterday. Very nice. She had mentioned it had a heads-up display, which I thought meant, like, a little digital readout on the rearview mirror. Turns out there's actually a projector built into the dash which makes large translucent glowing green digits just appear to hover in the air in front of you while driving. It's really cool. Shows you your speed, signals, and radio readout when you change stations. Like my mom's Explorer, it has radio controls built into the steering wheel. Also has a backlit LCD display in the center console that shows stuff like MPG, miles-till-empty, etc. Anyway, I bought it from her this afternoon. I had to offer her less than she was asking, which made me nervous (I hate haggling), but she agreed quickly—turned out it was the lower limit that her husband had set for the price and they're moving to Idaho soon. (Got it for 85% of the original asking price, a substantial discount.)

I'm considering changing auto insurance companies. I've been with State Farm forever, but I got a quote from GEICO that's 18% less per month for a regular package for the Grand Prix.

Updated my MP3 Collection page. It had been almost a year since I last did it and my collection's 15% bigger now (well, by size; only 10% by quantity). Plus I'm trading songs with this guy from Melbourne, Australia and figured I'd give him a more recent list to work with.

I'm going to go pick up GURPS Magic at IF now. (Was going to do it Saturday, but I got there after 5:00 pm and had forgotten that's when they close on the seventh day.) Here's a picture from Monday, when we still had all that snow (the temperature's up to 47° F now, so it's mostly melted away).

snow in my front yard
Front yard on Monday.

8:51 a.m. [GMT-8:00]
8 Jan. 2005 (Sat); Post #544
Tons of snow outside. Last night Hanwool and I went to Walmart and bought their last two copies of Sid Meier's Pirates. I was having some problems with the version I'd downloaded (my system would reboot every time my character in the game fired a brace of pistols) and we thought it might not be a final release. Anyway, turns out the real retail version has the exact same problems (opening cinematic borked, brace of pistols causes reboot). So I did some googling and found this Pirates tech support forum thread in which a couple guys claim to have fixed the problem by installing the old ATI 4.10 Catalyst drivers (current version is 4.12). If I hadn't just stayed up all night playing Pirates w/ Hanwool, I'd install 'em and test the game.

Anyway, the game is amazing. Much easier to learn than the other Sid Meier games too. I've gotten pretty good at dueling, but dancing is really, really hard. My current character's flagship is really awesome — it's a sloop, but it has every upgrade except for the triple hammocks (which I'm sailing to Santo Domingo to acquire).

I'm tired. Time to start Azureus and go to bed.

1987 Pirates
The original 1987 Pirates title screen in glorious EGA.

10:53 p.m. [GMT-8:00]
6 Jan. 2005 (Fri); Post #543
It's snowing pretty hard out ATM. Snowed last night too. Been pretty busy lately, never got over to Kennewick to grab GURPS Magic. So I called Dan earlier this evening and had him put his last remaining copy on reserve for me (to pick up tomorrow).

I downloaded Sid Meier's Pirates. The CD images were in MDF/MDS (Alcohol 120%) format, which CloneCD and Nero wouldn't work with, but fortunately Daemon Tools was able to load. The game seems to work okay, with the exception of the opening cinematic. I like it so far, but I'm never sure whether or not it's a good idea to sink conquered ships or not. There's got to be a downside to amassing a huge fleet, right? I think it might increase the odds of mutiny, but I'm not sure.

A new episode (1x16) of Stargate: Atlantis came out last week. Featured the Jennai in an interesting way. It's starting to look like they might become allies of Weir and company after all.

I might be buying a new car soon; Dr. Roche is selling her 1999 Pontiac Grand Prix GT. It'd be nice to be able to reliably drive to Federal Way again. Going to try it out sometime next week, maybe Sunday, to see how I like it.

my front yard, covered in snow
Lots of snow.

11:18 p.m. [GMT-8:00]
5 Jan. 2005 (Wed); Post #542
I went and saw The Life Aquatic at 1:00 pm today. I was prepared to lose faith in my favorite writer/director because of all the bad reviews I'd heard, but I actually enjoyed it. I didn't like it as much as The Royal Tenenbaums (it was just a little too silly and Owen Wilson wasn't very good IMHO), but it was still a fun movie. Bill Murray's got this unrivaled capacity for weird, quiet humor that really shines in the Wes Anderson movies (Tenenbaums, Rushmore, etc.). Life Aquatic featured (in a minor way) these odd sea creatures that looked more like claymation to me than actual CGI... but that kind of quaint mediocre/worn style is one of the things I really like about Anderson's films. Like the way the protagonists use beat-up anachronistic equipment and clothing that looks like it might be from the 1950s. In this movie, specifically, I guess it makes a little more sense since it's sort of an homage to Cousteau.

Life Aquatic ticket stub
My ticket stub.

Ordered Napoleon Dynamite and Shaun of the Dead DVDs from Amazon.

Found this site with a list of Jaffa/Goa'uld words and phrases (and translations). Speaking of which, have you ever noticed that different characters in the series pronounce Goa'uld words differently? It seems to me that the "bad guys" always say them in an inflectionless, heavily-Anglicized way (i.e. JAFF-uh, GOOLD) while the "good guys" (allies of SG-1) say them correctly (juh-FAH, go-AH'oold).

Been fixing a lot of ppls' computers lately... so far I've received hot chocolate, a loaf of banana bread, and ~3 lbs. of peanut butter chocolate bars. Yum.

Something amusing (to me) from 4chan/b.

12:19 p.m. [GMT-8:00]
3 Jan. 2005 (Mon); Post #541
Hey, it's 2005. Jerry Orbach died and a big tsunami hit parts of Asia.

For New Year's Eve some of us got together and watched The Shining and played Starfarers of Catan and Burnout 3 (Xbox). Starfarers is very fun. My only complaint is that the booster holders on the "motherships" are rather poorly designed (i.e. they break off almost every time you try to add a booster expansion). The trade ships/outposts are a really brilliant addition though. There are some possible resource deprivation issues when all four players are choosing colony sites at the beginning of games, but I think this might be addressed in the 5-6 player expansion (which we didn't try on Saturday since we were just learning).

In our first game, I got a card from the Green Folk that gave me a bonus to all Trade Goods production and then I got a card from the Merchants that allowed me to trade that resource for any other at a 1:1 exchange rate. Of our two games, I won one and Hanwool won the other (the latter was extremely close).

Burnout 3 is amazing. It's the first Xbox game that I've really gotten into (not counting Mech Assault and Gauntlet, which I only really liked for the multiplayer). Road Rage is my favorite game mode.

The clinic got an infrared camera that I was able to play around with for an evening last week. Thermography is neat stuff. This one, the ThermaCAM E25, can sense differences of 0.20° C or more. The image below is a snapshot of my face in the 64°-94° F range (the camera has a USB interface).

Thermographic me.
Me in infrared.

I finished watching Stargate SG-1 season 7. The last two episodes (20 & 21) were really good, even though the 20th was kind of a clip show. The big starship battle over Antarctica at the end of ep. 21 was pretty impressive. Too bad it'll be a while before season 8 comes out on DVD (maybe six months from now, more likely next fall).

I found this site, Jeff Russell's Starship Dimensions. It has size comparisons of spaceships from a bunch of different sci fi movies/series/books (like, visually, not just specs). Here's a big composite image of spacecraft (682 KiB PNG) in a similar style that someone posted to 4chan/b.

Hoping to pick up GURPS Magic from IF on Wednesday (might not be in till next week).

Gingerbread stargate.
Gingerbread stargate (meant to post this around xmas but forgot).

6:00 p.m. [GMT-8:00]
27 Dec. 2004 (Mon); Post #540
You may have heard of the 400 m asteroid, 2004 MN4, that had a (relatively) high probability of striking the earth in 2029. I'd been following the story on Slashdot (1, 2, 3, 4) and NASA's NEO site. It was pretty exciting for a while — on Christmas Eve, they said MN4 had a 1 in 233 chance of hitting us. Then, later that evening, they increased those odds to 1 in 62. Today the odds were upped again to 1 in 37. Anticlimactically, the odds were just reduced to 1 in 56,000.

I ran the asteroid's likely stats through the Earth Impact Effects Program. Might've left a 4 mile-wide crater on dry land.

Christmas was good. Loot highlights: a shadow box of old church keys, an old-timey lock and keys (pictured below), Stargate: SG-1 season 7, Family Guy vol. 2, Starfarers of Catan (plus expansion), Mirage by Mark Tiedemann (uses Asimov's TLOR setting), a fancy Chinese chessboard and pieces, and a miniature zen garden. And of course, my grandma got me Painter IX like a month ago. And my grandpa gave everyone his traditional Xmas gift: cash.

Season seven of SG1 is great. The "Revisions" and "Lifeboat" episodes were especially good.

Right now I'm in the process of rearranging my living room so I can fit a couch and the 25" TV in here. And a bookshelf (which looks like it might fall over every time someone stomps around in the long room).

It's really foggy outside.

Old lock and keys
Old-fashioned padlock and keys I got for Xmas.

12:49 p.m. [GMT-8:00]
23 Dec. 2004 (Thu); Post #539
This is just a quick post to share a funny MP3 (838 KB) I found and to mention that there's a Venture Brothers Christmas Special available on MySpleen (screen cap below). Okay, time for lunch.

Venture Bros. Xmas Special
A still from A Very Venture Christmas.

3:54 a.m. [GMT-8:00]
22 Dec. 2004 (Wed); Post #538
I found this really neat game, Bontago, via ZZZ. (Note: Looks like the Bontago site was defaced by the NeverEverNoSanity web worm, which Slashdot mentioned yesterday; hopefully it'll be back up soon). The basic idea is to stack blocks to increase your territory to capture a flag. Anyway, the game looks pretty good and it's freeware. I briefly tried the multiplayer with Beefy, but we kept having CTD problems on Eir. Here's a screenshot:

Bontago screenshot

Speaking of games, Hanwool and I just completed an Alpha Centauri campaign that took a total of 14 hours to finish. He was the Peacekeepers, I was the Morganites. We played with random world stats (except planet size, which was 'huge'), Librarian difficulty levels (Thinker global level), and blind research. We finally won sometime in the late 2300s by using a Planetbuster missile on the Believers' last sea-city. The early game was incredibly hard — Hanwool was attacked by Zakharov without much chance for preparation and I was set way back by a big mindworm infestation. After that, Hanwool focused hard on military and I got ahead in technology. We were both on fairly small (i.e. ~50 tile) islands at the beginning, so that was a hurdle too. Later on, Hanwool beat Miriam into a loyalty pact and I did the same to Yang. Global warming was a real pain in the ass around 2350. THere was sun-spot interference, so we couldn't convene a council to launch a solar shade. Hanwool's faction lost a few million citizens to tidal waves and flooding, I came really close but didn't actually lose any bases thanks to superformers (though some of my terraforming projects were set back decades).

You know those photo-mosaic images? I saw some on 4chan and did some googling to figure out how to make em. Turns out all you need is a sizable image collection and some simple software. I looked at some freeware options and Centarsia seemed the best. Here's a photo mosaic I did of President Truman from pictures of my trips to Coos Bay:

Harry Truman photo mosaic
Click image for big (475 KB) version.

Oh yeah, I added a "post range" column to the archive page. Cuz I know there're thousands of ppl looking for my old blog posts by post number and having to google "site:hjo3.net "post #268" every time is pretty darn inconvenient.

I was reading about this anime, Last Exile. Seems really keen. Check out the trailer (Menu > Downloads); has some impressive CG/hand-drawn animation. I saw a DVD set of the whole series on eBay for $20, but I'm worried about the translation (i.e. that it might be like the Chinese Cowboy Bebop DVDs I bought where the subtitles were so Engrish-ified that you couldn't understand them).

Just in case anyone (i.e. my family) needs help doing some last-minute shopping for yours truly, I've made a short list of some DVD sets I'd like for Christmas: Black Adder Complete Collection, Stargate: SG-1 season 7, Deep Space 9 season 3. Amazon links added for your convenience. Order before 11:30 am and it can be here by Dec. 24 with 1-day shipping!

One of the vets at the clinic gave me her old computer because she's moving to Idaho in January. I haven't looked at it too closely yet, but I think it's prolly a PII 266 MHz or something like that. Need to think of a project to use it for. Dedicated MP3 fileserver with software-based disk-mirroring, maybe?

"There's a difference between a philosophy and a bumper sticker." — Charles M. Schulz