If you got here through some happy accident right click and save this link! Tim's Own Thing Blog

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Games Parallel Life

Jack is being unruly. With my mom out of town we are spending our days at her house to provide company for her little dog. Her not yet housebroken little dog. Jack enjoys the scene over there because for some reason he has determined it is okay to bark there. He barks at the next door neighbor's voices, he has a running contest with the dog over the back wall, he yips at the little dog when they reach a certain point in their games. His bark is irrepressible over there. Somehow he has decided that that means he should bark here as well. There is a party going on down the street, so he does have some unusual stuff to comment on.

My escape from this messy reality was playing a game called Black and White. Amazing game. They cut right to the chase. You play a god. Not the God, just a god. And as a god there are two things you have going for you; worshipful villagers and a creature to do your bidding. Of course the creature starts out small, puny, and untrained, and most of the villagers seem inclined to be 'just chilling' whenever you click on them rather than accomplishing any of the mundane but necessary tasks to continue their own lives.

So I spent my day trying to train a barky dog, a pooping dog, and a virtual creature. On top of everything else the manual for the game recommends training the creature not to poop near the temple before he reaches a huge size, else the temple will become uninhabitable. At least Jack doesn't eat villagers every time my back is turned.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

I Felt So Safe

I went to Best Buy this morning. The never ending thirst for computer games, but that's another story. This is about physical security. Best Buy has a big investment in security. They pay a person to stand by the door and compare the receipt you are bringing from the check stand five feet away to the items in your bag. There is another person sitting right next to the door monitoring multiple security cameras. This outpost is skillfully placed so that you can't help but see it on your way into the store.

Clearly, shoplifting is being discouraged. I can't say I blame them. There are a lot of very small items in their store that carry very weighty price tags. The local mini-mart doesn't need that kind of precautions. If someone slips the occasional candy bar in their pocket it isn't a catastrophe. When a seven hundred dollar video card goes out the door in someone's sock that's a whole different thing.

But all of that is deterrent for shoplifters. Good for the store, but not what made me feel secure personally. In this modern age that takes something else. Like the line of ten inch diameter steel reinforced concrete posts in front of the entrance! I'm not sure if they are a theft deterrent or a defense against terrorist attack. Either way it was good to know that any carload of gun wielding maniacs that wanted to take over the Best Buy would have to park out in the lot like everyone else rather than crashing through the doors.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Car Pool or Driving Fool?

The Antelope Valley freeway has car pool lanes. They are 'part time' lanes, meaning they are only limited to car pools during the busy hours. Last night I took my mom down to LAX (Los Angeles International Airport, for those not in the know about airport codes). Coming home I reached the section where the car pool lane is, and since it was well into off hours I was using it. When I got in it it was pretty much wide open, and even though I wasn't driving really fast I was going fast enough to appreciate the space.

At the very next access point I could see why I wanted to be in the car pool lane. The other two lanes were pretty well clogged. A guy in the left lane of the two was driving along at right about the speed limit. For anyone unfamiliar with California freeways, going the speed limit is not considered normal or courteous behavior, going the speed limit in the fast lane is downright rude. Anyway, I was fairly happy to be in the car pool lane and getting by the jam-up of people having to go around this guy on the right.

I was happy until at the last moment he swerved into the car pool lane! And with the mass of cars that had been stuck behind him still on my right I couldn't get out! So I followed this imbecile into the next 3 mile segment of the car pool lane. Anyone who knows me can well imagine the state of mind I was in after three miles of driving the speed limit on the freeway in the car pool lane at ten o'clock at night. Two lanes of traffic going by on the right, generally at speeds about twenty miles per hour faster than we were going did not improve my state of mind, nor did the ten cars backed up behind us in the car pool lane.

Can anyone explain to me what would make someone think that they needed to get further left when they were already being passed on the right by a multitude of cars? I wanted to ask the guy, but I was in a hurry to get home to my girlfriend, and she doesn't approve of me stopping people and asking them about their moronic behaviors anyway. She is afraid I would get in a fight.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Trivia By Technology

My head is packed with useless information. It always has been. Comes from growing up watching game shows on TV I suppose. Early on it got ingrained in me that the key to success in life was knowing things like 'what does an elephant weigh?' off the top of your head. Because of that I am insatiable in looking up useless stuff, although I no longer have any space in memory for it.

Thankfully the internet came along about the time my brain overloaded. I might still be competetive on a game show, as long as I don't have to play against Wikipedia.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

What The World Is Coming To

I found this great article today. It's a very slightly tongue in cheek look at "10 ways that MMORPGs will change the future". The thing that caught my attention was this observation about MMORPGs; "The addiction rate appears to be about twice that of crack Cocaine." I knew that, and fearfully avoided them for a long time.

My experiences with MMORPGs goes back to the days before the internet, when they were known as MUDs. MUD stood for Multi User Dungeon, and 'virtual reality' was strictly the domain of dragon slaying sword and sorcery types. MMORPGs now include all kinds of venues, which is how I slipped. Blogshares is an MMORPG. I have no regrets.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

What An Honor

I've been comment spammed! For those who saw the extensive plea for you to check out some penny stock I hope you ignored it completely. For those who didn't you didn't miss anything. For anyone who is willing there is an active campaign to flood Blogger's administration with complaints about spam.

In the upper corner there you no doubt see the 'next blog' button. I used to enjoy surfing around once in a while with that. It is set up to favor blogs that have been updated relatively recently I think, at least I know that I got a lot of visitors when I changed templates, which meant a lot of reposting and other republishing. Unfortunately that means the spam blogs, which are 'updated' automatically with bot generated drivel around the useless link they are jamming down everyones throat.

The funny thing of course is that to the best of my knowledge no one pays any attention to these things, other than to be annoyed. It's a serious effort to generate traffic to blogs with great content, how do they think they are going to get anywhere with junk? I'm sure they get hits with their posts full of key words, but really, what's the point?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Half A Life Is Better Than None

Well I finally loaded up Half-Life 2. Five disks worth, then it all has to be decrypted by VALVe's steam website. Copy protection reaches a new height I guess. I was thinking new low as the process dragged on and on, but there seems to be some good points. I think I can log on to my steam account and play on my other computer. Not sure about that, and probably won't ever do it, but it's something.

Half-Life is one of very few games that I actually played all the way through, so I was a sure bet for this game. Surprisingly I had it for weeks before I loaded it. Made up for lost time yesterday though...or I guess that should be lost made up time. Anyway, I played enough to know a few things.

The modern/futeristic setting was a good break from Morrowind.
Guns and grenades and blasting away at helicopters does get the blood pumping, and there's a long sequence driving an airboat that is fast, furious, and fun.

The graphics are superb, and it has a good memory.
Gotta love throwing chairs through windows and leaving bullet pocks in the walls all over. I came across a large ammo cache and couldn't resist writing my name with the sub-machine gun.

They are extremely proud of their physics engine, and with good reason.
Things bounce and fly and float very realistically, and like Half-Life climbing and jumping and stacking stuff up is just as vital as blasting away at the head crabs. The puzzles are at times agonizing. I fell, and spent a long time stacking stuff trying to climb back up, only to find that the path I had fallen off of arrived very shortly at a dead end. I told Jack that I had jumped down the first time and just climbed back up as an experiment, but he didn't seem to believe it.

All in all it looks like a great game so far. I can't say if I will play this one all the way through though. Playing it really shows the beauty of Morrowind. It's a fast and fabulous ride, but it is a straight line. You always know that you are going the 'right' way, since it is the only way you can go. It certainly doesn't have the immersive quality of Morrowind.

Monday, August 15, 2005

It's All Blogger's Fault

Well, actually they did give a warning about their maintenance shutdown, and it did probably only last a couple of hours. I will try to avoid being responsible for the other twenty-two hours of Monday, most of which were spent playing Half-Life 2. But I did log on with intent to write and it was during the maintenance...really.

Friday, August 12, 2005

World's Coolest Dog

It's late. I just wrote a long episode of Arvil Bren and it is well past time for bed. But I just had to say that Jack is the coolest dog in the world.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


A few days ago I wrote an episode of Arvil Bren's Journal that I thought was one of the best in a long time, possibly ever. It was late at night and not ideal conditions, but somehow things just gelled. I told my girlfriend about it with great enthusiasm, and we waited for the comments. Understand, Arvil Bren's Journal gets comments all the time. It has a lot more readers than this blog, and many of them are very vocal. And no one said a word.

Tonight I was writing, and she asked if there were any comments. She also asked if I had checked the counters lately. I had. No drop in the reader count. They just haven't been commenting for whatever reason. So here's the magic part. When I finished writing and posted tonight's episode I found a new comment, written by someone out in the world at about the same time we were talking. It starts by saying...

Pretty quiet on the comments as of late....

Connections. They might as well have been in the room with our conversation.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

World's Best Wake Up Call

When I was a kid I couldn't wait to get away. It took a long time to get over being mad at my parents for their choice of place to live. In the Navy I developed a viewpoint that all places were basically the same and ended up living here again when I got out. A few years later my point of view had forcibly changed. What a hell hole. No one is more surprised than me that when my parents needed somebody it was me who ended up back here.

But on this day there is nowhere on earth that I would rather be than in the Antelope Valley, waking up to those window rattling sonic booms. Welcome back.

Monday, August 08, 2005

New Skill

I was chatting with my brother today and recognized that I have learned a new skill. Something that most people I suppose come by naturally, but which has eluded me for literally decades. I can put down a book!

Okay, I see more puzzled looks than leaps for joy meeting that particular claim, though those who know me well will certainly understand. The first time I ditched high school thirty years ago was the day after I discovered James Clavell. My normal practice of reading books in one sitting was not really prepared for Shogun. When my mom came to wake me up for school I had a few hundred pages left. When I should have been catching the bus I was down to a couple hundred so I called her at work and told her I missed it (true enough) and that I didn't feel too good anyway (also true, I was really tired). I finished it around ten and went to sleep.

As a responsible adult (okay, there are people who are banned from commenting on that, you know who you are) I learned when to not start a book...basically any time I would have to go to work before I had time to finish it. On my submarine I would alternate my between watch time; stand a watch, read a book, stand a watch, sleep. The seemingly obvious idea of reading half a book and getting some sleep between each watch was completely lost on me.

So today I suddenly realized that I'm in the third book of this pentology that I've been reading...forever I think. It's really good, but somehow I have managed to make reading in my hammock chair in the evening a near daily event, instead of a marathon. Good thing Jack isn't an old dog or I'd be trying to teach him a new trick. Apparently it is possible.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Cats Rule

Sneakers has reached the point where she is no longer impressed by Jack the dog. She will make some effort to stay out of his way when they are moving around. She knows he can't see her and might just run her over accidentally. But once she gets settled in someplace and lets him know she is there she clearly expects him to go around her. Usually this leads to her taking a nap while Jack does the I-am-a-herding-dog-and-you-are-supposed-to-move dance. Since he has the persistence of an Australian Shepherd and she has the sleeping ability of a cat this can go on for some time.

Last night though the game reached a new level. Out of all the rooms, and a vast selection of floor space, Sneakers opted to sleep right in front of Jack's food bowl. He capered about the kitchen, where the usual dance is punctuated with the occassional slip on the wood floor, much to her amusement. Eventually though it was dinner time. When I picked up Jack's bowl I got a twitch of the ears from her majesty; when I came back and set it down I got the one eye slitted open 'how dare you' look. Jack tried desperately to find a place to stand so he could eat that didn't involve stepping on her.

Thinking that I am the head of this pack I took matters (literally) into my own hands, picked her up and took her to the bedroom. She complained bitterly all the way, then stalked off the bed in disdain. I suspect after three or four nights of being rousted at three AM to open the door for her I will be forgiven. At least I hope so.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Real Estate Deal of the Century

I was driving by Air Force plant 42 today. Plant 42 is the Air Force's development flight test facility, or words to that effect, according to the local guide books. Lot's of impressive aircraft have graced the miles of runways that stretch down the center of the facilities. Many of those aircraft were built in the huge hangers of the 'sites' dotted along both sides. Sites that are leased to the big aerospace companies for that purpose; building space shuttles, or stealth planes, or whatever the plane of the day might turn out to be. Make that the plane of tomorrow.

Since the sites are leased out as part of the contracts to whoever is tasked with building stuff there, it was a real surprise to me when I saw a big sign that read:

Site 9, 304 acres with 4 million square feet of improved property...

I might have missed on the numbers, but you get the idea. It was a sign just like you would see in front of a strip mall with a vacancy. I couldn't quite fathom it. Are they expecting the CEO of Lockheed Martin or Northrop Grumman to just drive by and see that? I can see him in his office now; "Bob, could you come in here a minute? I saw this really great deal on some big hangers and stuff. It's really too good to pass. Get down to R&D and see if there's something we could get in there and build. What? Well I was just driving down Avenue P out in Palmdale. You know, by that public golf course, the perfectly flat one without an inch of elevation change."

Riiiiight. People who lease giant airplane manufacturing plants find them by driving around looking at signs. I knew that.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Life Is Just Good

It's getting sort of hard to write this.

I can't quite put my finger on anything in particular. I can look at various times in my life before and pick things out. Body surfing and snorkeling in Hawaii. Hockey games in Bakersfield. Triking in Idaho. Things that were so memorable and exciting. I've always had great friends, family, relationships.

I've also had accomplishments. Managing seminars for 200 participants. Being the Engineering Watch Supervisor on a submarine at battle stations. Top salesman awards. And I've worked with really amazing people.

Having all that going on made for great stories, often funny. Today I can't really think of much going on...but I am possessed by an amazing deep satisfaction.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Well At Least Something Was On Time

Today is August first, due date for the second issue of Noon Spool. As you can see (if you follow that link...if you don't it is your loss) it did get published, with four more terrific stories. Real good news, I already have four stories for upcoming issues so that part of being editor in chief of Noon Spool is going to be a little less hectic in future.

Meanwhile, Arvil Bren's adventure in Morrowind reached a point where yet another site was really required, and of course I was resisting the whole set-up process. That too is complete, though I am running a day behind on the writing. The 'completion' of the first volume will allow me to pursue some ideas I've had, and others that readers have presented. Approaching Bethesda Softworks seems easier with something that is a whole piece, even if it leads clearly to a 'sequal in progress'. Cross your fingers.

I'm also hoping that some of my friends and family who were avoiding Arvil Bren as a serial can now look at it as something to just sit down and read without the 'day to day' aspect getting in their way.