Archive for December, 2006

A boy, his puppy, and dry ice….

Friday, December 29th, 2006
Ruby & Roger Playing With Dry Ice

We were given some christmas gifts that required dry ice during shipping [thanks, mom!]. Dry ice is not something that our son, Roger, or the youngest of our two dogs, Ruby, had any clue about.

So, of course, that required that the dry ice be dropped in a pot of water in the middle of the kitchen!

And fun was definitely had! Ruby pretty much lost it with excitement over all this weird cold fog like stuff pouring out of the pot and Roger just about lost it (with laughter) blowing clouds of fog into Ruby’s face.

Alien, Exotic, Non-native, and Non-indigenous Plants Calendar.

Thursday, December 28th, 2006
Yellow Thistle

A while ago, I was contacted by the Plant Conservation Alliance’s Alien Plant Working Group (National Park Service). They were asking for permission to use this Yellow Star Thistle photo (left) in their 2007 calendar

Sure! Cool!

I received email today that the calendar is now available as a hi-res PDF. Free, too.

The above photo appears as the February plant.

Funny, this isn’t the first time that I have been contacted about the yellow star thistle photos. There is a book in the works that will likely be using the photo.

More Wii Bugs & future game thoughts

Monday, December 25th, 2006

I have run across a couple of more bugs in the Wii that, well, but me.

1. Wii Sports has a training mode. It is a blast to play! A whole series of little mini games specific to each sport. I am particularly enjoying the golfing ones (which is scary) and the last tennis one is a kind of modified breakout. Bowling is really cool except for my lack of ability to control the ball is frustrating.

Unfortunately, the training mode is not all it could be. It has medals — bronze, silver and, I would assume, gold medals.

The problem is that the training mode isn’t anywhere near what it could be. First, the medals aren’t displayed on the “select a mini game” page. So, it is a bit of guess work as to which mini games you have played and how well you have done.

Each sport has three mini games. To “open” the second two, you have to play the previous mini game of that sport. All you have to do is just show up. It would be a lot more interesting if you had to actually achieve a goal — get a medal of some type, say — to open the next game.

Worse, each individual “Mii” — character or family member — has a different “sporting record” and, as you play, the game keeps track of high scores and the like.

But it doesn’t use any of this information for the actual skill games. There isn’t any particular personal Mii training that I have noticed. Nor does it build over time like a good training game should.

Nor does it give you Mii vs. Mii stats, medals, etc..


2. OK. Fine. I want my six year old son to discover the training mode in the same way I did. So, I’ll just go into the data manager and erase the Wii Sports data. I’m not really attached to the scores or anything.

Except that when I did that, the controller become unbound from the Wii. And it wouldn’t re-discover by simply hitting the red buttons until I rebooted the unit. Annoying.

Future games

The tennis skill game that is a lot like breakout has potential. One could totally see a killer, swing the paddle style, breakout game with the controller.

Actually, you could probably get away with remaking a bunch of old school games with updated graphics and new controls. Given the network capabilities, a multiplayer dungeon crawler a la D&D would kick some serious butt.

RIP: James Brown (1933 – 2006)

Monday, December 25th, 2006

James Brown died early this morning.

Passing of a legend. Beyond his own music, James Brown’s work has influenced or initiated a good sized chunk of modern popular music. Many hip hop or rap anthems contain samples of Brown’s work (or works derived from his work), copy his rhythms, or are created by descendants from his bands.

Brown was one of the hardest working men in show business. He would actually lose several pounds of weight during a performance. And a perfectionist, too. Like Zappa and Waters, Brown demanded absolute perfection from his band, which led to several line up changes throughout the years.

Unlike Zappa and Waters, James Brown was composing funk anthems. Funk is notorious for its loose and sloppy feel, but Brown demanded an absolutely perfectly sloppy performances. This led to a number of lineup changes and some of those that spun out of Brown’s band went on to form incredibly influential musical power houses.

Bootsy Collins, Fred Wesley, and Maceo Parker– all core members of Parliament / Funkadelic– came out of James Brown’s band. And you could definitely hear it in their music.

Instead of reading about the man, go listen to his music. My favorite James Brown comes from the when the JBs included the P-Funk folks. Funk Power 1970: A Brand New Thang is an awesome set of some in your face classic brown funk. James Brown Christmas or Funky Christmas are both excellent collections of tunes, if you want to put some funk in your Christmas.

The mothership has landed to take brother James away. No doubt he entered with his head held high and his foot hitting the deck on the ONE.

I caught some of the Atlanta JB celebration today on CNN. Wow! Talk about all star funktacular! Amazing send-off. I hope that a full length recording becomes available.

Wii Settling In (Pathetic, I know, but I’m sore!)

Monday, December 25th, 2006

Some random thoughts on the state of Wii-ness.

1. Internet support beyond the Wii is kind of hosed. First, the Wii is very flaky at connecting to the shopping channel unless I switch between wireless routers every now and then. Note that the built-in web browser (which took two attempts to download) works fine. Well, it works as well as can be expected for a browser running on a monitor at S-Video resolutions.

As I said to Peter Berger when he made a weblog post from his Wii: That’s pretty cool in a “look, I can use a hammer to drive a screw” kind of way.

Maybe it is useful on a higher resolution display? I’m not sure I care as my MacBook Pro makes a pretty damned nice web browser.

2. Nintendo’s online presence sucks. Huge volume of content, but it is poorly organized and stuff is hard to find. I’m always hunt-and-clicking to find the damned forums or some particular piece of information.

Grrr… no, let me rephrase; Nintendo’s web site is fracking pathetic. Overcomplicated and broken. So, want to register Zelda? Gave me an error that it couldn’t register. 2 paragraphs and three sentences into the otherwise “you screwed up typing crap in” text I find the real reason. My login session has timed out!

And if you click “register” on the Wii page after filling in the form, it bounces you over to the other multi-field form where you could enter a bunch of different registration codes. But, it doesn’t give any indication that your input has been preserved. You have to scroll down to discover that.

Stupid stupid stupid.

No amount of ‘re-logging-in’ fixes the problem. Finally, I had to completely dump my cache and reset cookies to work through the issue.

3. Nintendo’s internal information management systems are broken. I just received an email offering three free issues of Nintendo Power magazine because I had registered three nintendo products. I haven’t; I have only registered the Wii.

Clicking through and logging in to the site reveals that I’m not eligible because I haven’t registered enough products. Funny, the site claims I have registered two products while at the same time displaying only one product registered in the Registered Items section of the same page. Nice!

Aha! It is counting the Wii, Bomberman, and the trial browser as registered in one area of the site, counting the Wii and Bomberman towards the subscription in another area, and then only showing the Wii as the one registered product in a third area.

Nice! That is just so terribly helpful!

4. Wii Sports kicks butt. Major fun. Even in a non-party context, I’m digging Golf and Bowling. The training mode is a blast, too, and has definitely improved my controller-fu.

And, yes, I figured out how to control the ball in bowling. The key is to let go of the B button at the bottom of the arc your arm makes, but follow through! Once you get that down and timed correctly with the on-screen animation, the ball release on screen will be smooth. No more air balls. With that in place, twisting the controller on its long axis clockwise as you swing and release will cause the ball to curve to the right quite nicely.

Likely mirror the above for lefties?

Yeah, anyway, I thought I figured it out. Then I wrote about it. Now I can’t do anything but curve left for the life of me. Sigh.

And, like real sports, I’m sadly sore after playing the game! Just my arm, though, and not my whole body.

5. Zelda. Wow. Cool cool stuff. I love that the musical themes from previous games remain present. The graphics are quite beautiful and the integration with the controller is great. Another game that will surely benefit from something better than a 27″ S-Video TV.

Unfortunately, the hawk does not seem to want to attack the kitty. Fortunately, you can pelt chickens with the slingshot. Oddly, the slingshot will kill monsters that are far larger and meaner than chickens, but only scares chickens. Must be the feathers.

6. The whole Mii thing. Don’t get it yet beyond seeing the characters show up in the games and build up experience over time. So far, my Mii’s haven’t wandered anywhere that I know of, nor have anyone else’s Mii’s come knocking. I have entered everyone’s code and I see that some are even enabled (indicating, I think, that my Wii code — 7426 6949 2411 1493 — has been entered on their end).

7. Bought Bomberman ’93 off of the Wii Shopping Channel (I fully expect some salestard to tell me how “the Wii’s superior 129 bits blows the doors off 128 bit systems!!!! BUY NOW!!!”) to see how that experience works out. Other than the connection woes, it works well enough. And that is a great game — it is going to be a blast in a party setting!

Though, I have to say, the download progress indicator is cute, but weak. A little mario running across the screen collecting coins whose frequency of appearance indicate data rates while hitting 1 of 3 bricks to indicate 1/3rd, 2/3rd or finished is just not quite the granularity of data I’m looking for. Sadly, it would be trivial to make it a bit more useful just by adding more bricks — a whole row of ’em kind of like, I don’t know, a status bar — and providing, maybe, a score or something to indicate # of bytes traversed with, possibly, a high score indicating the total # of bytes that must be transferred?

8. MAME. Please? MAME! It would be fun to hack together my own controller, too.

Ahh, well, whatever. I’ll leave it on again and see what happens overnight.


Saturday, December 23rd, 2006

The Wii kicks butt. Nintendo knocked it out of the park. There are some definite usability issues — I actually had to RTFM to figure out some stuff — but it is quite enjoyable.

This is my first console that has a base operating system that is interesting to play around with without software loaded. Neat to create a “mii” — a Nintendo specific avatar — and then see said freaky little avatar dude showing up throughout the games.

If your Mii wants to wander into my Wii, my code is:

2322 7241 3220 4240

(Did you know that your Wii code changes when you send the unit in for repair? It does. Updated # shown above.)

The whole “connectedness” of the console is interesting.

And the whole new control thing is seriously cool! Wii Sports is a total blast to play. Of the games, baseball seems to be the weakest. Gold is quite a lot of fun. Tennis and Bowling are both pretty amusing. For the life of me, I can’t see to make the damned ball curve right in bowling! Or even go straight.

And we haven’t even dropped Zelda in, yet.

I saw the PS3 racing launch title. Stunning graphics, but stupid long load times and there doesn’t seem to be anything remotely innovative about it. Just higher-res, HD quality versions, of the same old games.

The Lightning Strike List

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

Just for giggles, here are the 5 lightning strikes (so far) that I have been within 100 feet of:

  • While a teen, lightning struck a tree right outside my bedroom window. Immediately rusted a supporting wire of the tree, killing the crown of the tree above the wire, and screwed up a couple of electronic items in the house. The tree is still alive, but didn’t quite grow in the same pattern as is typical for its species.
  • Lightning struck a tree right outside of the window of my cabin at summer camp. Stuck little bits of wood into the screen near my head.
  • Lightning struck a tree about 75 feet from me as I was running between the mess hall and my cabin at summer camp. Knocked me on my ass, temporarily blinded me and left me deaf for a while. Nothing like sitting on your ass in a puddle in a rain storm blind, deaf, confused, and wondering why the hell your world has just exploded.
  • While we were home, lightning struck a telephone pole outside our house in Chicago, traveled down the phone line, shocked both my wife and I, blew up the phones in the house, took out my fax modem, a serial port on my NeXT cube, the HP PA-RISC workstation, the hub in between and the network card in an Intel based workstation.
  • Again while we were home, our house in Connecticut was struck by lightning. Took out the TiVo’s modem, a hub, the DSL modem, an airport base station, and — oddly — the garage door opener.

I have been within a couple of hundred yards of lightning strikes many times, often knocking out electricity or taking out a random electronic component somewhere in the vicinity. My parent’s house — same one in the first bullet above — has been struck at least one other time, maybe twice. Took out the fridge, garage doors (what is up with that?), a TV or two, and the central heating/air conditioning, but didn’t muck up the computer. Go figure.

What have I learned?

Lightning is very bright. And loud. And that whole “doesn’t strike twice” thing is a complete lie.

BlogTag: FiveThings

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

Woot! I’ve been tagged! Look-at-me — I’m a statistic in an internet based meme! It looks to have started here.

Stuff you may not know about me. Hrm.

0. Brevity is not my strong point. But you knew that if you are a regular reader of this weblog (as if!).

1. I write this weblog for two reasons. The first is, as the title implies, as a sort of diary of the bits of my life that I want to be able to easily find later (thanks to Google!). The second is to share my experiences, thoughts, and point of view with an express purpose of learning from others. It is why the comments are unmoderated beyond spam elimination; the dialog that ensues is very valuable to me (be it educational, humorous, or ridiculous). I’m a technorati junkie. Even the advertising on this site is useful beyond the meager income it generates; seeing how the revenue changes based on what I’m posting gives me a little bit of insight into the nature of the internet. Though, really, it still depresses me a bit that my post about Paris Hilton’s little security breach is the most $/day I have ever earned.

Yet, as gregarious and wide ranging as this weblog is, there is a slew of my personal life that is verboten.

Oh, and the only reason why I haven’t been posting a lot of code related stuff recently is because I’m working on really cool things that I can’t talk about until we put the next great cat in a box and ship it.

And I really don’t have a problem with that. As an Apple blogger, I respect the policies set forth by the company and, even, agree with them though it prevents me from openly commenting on a number of things.

Read the rest of this entry »

Life Imitates Napolean Dynamite

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

Update: *bing* *bing* *bing* We have a winner! The winner of the “too blinded by rage filled anonymous hatred to recognize sarcasm” award goes to Lake Effect!! Congratulations! And Thank you! The Internet never ceases to amuse.

Christ, people. Do you honestly think there is one ounce of my overweight self that actually takes these pinatas seriously? It is just some anonymous jeep shaped thing with crappy brown paper bits taped on and some random clueless looking generic, non-representative, soldier type cartoons on the side. If that stirs outrage — OUTRAGE — because you equate it to the whole “Iraq Adventure (Where you can declare that you have won over and over again!)”, then you seriously need to unclench the old diamond factory and relax a bit. Being wound so tight has gotta be seriously bad for your health! Especially since there are actual Really Bad Things to get wound up about.

It is just a damned pinata, people. Y’all been punk’d if you took it seriously.



BoingBoing is reporting the outrage — the OUTRAGE — caused by a pinata in the shape of a hummer with some soldier types in it.

And THANK GOD the company has since taken it off the market.

Why no horror at the reindeer pinata, the (not nearly as realistic) fighter jet pinata, the Dora pinata, or the space shuttle pinata?

But, really, is that all the outrage they can muster? How about focusing some of that toy based outrage — OUTRAGE!! AUGUHGHGHHH!! — at something remotely meaningful like this My Little Hooker Makeup Kit?

Except, of course, if you already have that toy in the house. If so, consider rounding out the collection with this invaluable educational toy.

Random conversation overheard

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

A conversation between a spammer and a robot.

Subject: Re: Thank you!

Unknown command - "HELLO!". Try HELP.

I have spent much time for the developement.
Unknown command - "I". Try HELP.

Summary of resource utilization
 CPU time:        0.000 sec                Device I/O:        8
 Overhead CPU:    0.000 sec                Paging I/O:        0
 CPU model:         2-CPU 800MHz Pentium III Xeon 256k (1152M)

I thought it was funny, anyway. Hmm… looks like I need a “Geek Humor” sub-category on my weblog.