Wednesday, June 14, 2006


This Blog Has Moved

It is now in its permanent home at Please update your links.


Honor Harrington, Book 11

At All Costs

This is it. This is the book we've been waiting for. Want to see Honor Harrington takin' it to the Peeps? Want to see the Mother of All Battles? Want to see Honor get her personal life squared away for a change? This is the book you're after. Need some teasers? Some carrots to lure you through the endless diplomacy of War of Honor? How about this:

350 Havenite ships of the wall
Honor Harrington in command of Eighth Fleet
2.2 million military casualties
New tech upgrades for both sides
Space battles from start to finish
Major characters killed on both sides

Interested yet?

My only criticism is that the book ended rather abruptly, without the usual "military debriefing" we see in the other books. Instead it ends with a little bit of personal wind-down for Honor. Which is good, don't get me wrong, but it feels unfinished. Indeed, there's still plenty of butt that needs kicking, so here's hoping that Book 12 is on the way. Hear that, Weber? Get on it!!!

Incidentally, it would probably be a very good idea to read the short story "Fanatic" in the anthology The Service of the Sword, the short story "From the Highlands" in the anthology Changer of Worlds, plus possibly the novels Crown of Slaves and The Shadow of Saganami before you read this book. I didn't, and I think I missed some major points by not doing so. My next task is to go back and rectify this situation.

Sunday, June 11, 2006


La Casa de Perros!!!

Hola, and welcome to la casa de perros!!!

La casa de perros is 64 square feet of luxury accomodations for the large and furry among us. It includes a private entrance...

(note previous accomodations in background) well as the "servants entrance"...

Here we see spokesmodel Zoe as she prepares to demonstrate the operation of the private entrance.

La casa de perros has plenty of room to stretch out, as Zeus demonstrates.

... and it is even large enough for the whole family (left to right, first picture: Zeus, Zack, Zoe)...

La casa de perros even has an electricity run tapping off the main house...

...which is buried in PVC conduit for the protection of its guests...

...and includes a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt receptacle in case of any problems.

Of course, one might wonder why, given the nature of its residents, la casa de perros needs electricity at all. Well, for one thing, the "staff" doesn't have eyes as good as the residents, so there was some need for lighting.

But the real reason for the electricity is for the comfort of la casa de perros' guests.

(yes, that's an air conditioner)

And of course, in the interests of saving energy, all of the walls and ceiling are fully insulated

We hope you enjoyed your short tour of la casa de perros. Below you will find a brief breakdown of the construction costs.

Shed kit$700
Lumber for interior walls$300
Electrical materials
(includes tool rental for big honkin' masonry drill)
Paint (not yet applied), hardware, odds & ends$100
Air Conditioner$100
Doggy door$100


Developments Developing

Stay tuned.

Friday, June 09, 2006


About Freakin' Time

Microsoft's Developer Network (their documentation site for API's and such) is debuting a Wiki-style format. Now if only Apple would do the same.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006



Improvised Explosive Device? No, not this time, but close. Today we're talking about Intermittent Explosive Disorder, which is apparently being tapped as the root of so-called "road rage".

Road rage, temper outbursts that involve throwing or breaking objects and even spousal abuse can sometimes be attributed to the disorder, though not everyone who does those things is afflicted.

By definition, intermittent explosive disorder involves multiple outbursts that are way out of proportion to the situation. These angry outbursts often include threats or aggressive actions and property damage. The disorder typically first appears in adolescence; in the study, the average age of onset was 14.

The article goes on to discuss how underdiagnosed the problem appears to be, with a little alarmism, brow-furrowing and hand-wringing thrown in for good measure:

"It is news to a lot of people even who are specialists in mental health services that such a large proportion of the population has these clinically significant anger attacks," [health care policy professor at Harvard Ronald] Kessler said.

And then we get to the meat of the matter:

...the disorder involves inadequate production or functioning of serotonin, a mood-regulating and behavior-inhibiting brain chemical. Treatment with antidepressants, including those that target serotonin receptors in the brain, is often helpful, along with behavior therapy akin to anger management...

Frankly, I find all of this very disturbing, but probably not for the reason the article wants me to. As near as I can tell, from this article and others printed since the study was released, I'm a pretty good candidate for having the problem.

I remember a very early incident from my childhood. I know where we were living, so I was between 2nd and 6th grade, or about age 8 to 11. My brother, who is a year younger, had discovered and picked the absolute largest dandelion we had ever seen. I thought it was kind of cool, but then something happened, I don't remember what, and I wound up sitting on the sidewalk in a bit of a funk. Maybe Dad yelled at me or something, I don't know. Anyway, my brother was sitting next to me, poking the flower at me, trying to get me to smell it. I think he was trying to cheer me up. Suddenly something just boiled up inside me and I grabbed the flower and broke it.

I can still see his sad little face as he went bawling to Mom, and hear him telling her that I broke his flower. I can hear my parents demanding an explanation for my actions, which to this day I'm unable to give. I've replayed that scene countless times in my head, and I still don't understand what it was that made me do it. I've been tortured by it for years now, and on several occasions have almost blurted out an apology while talking to him on the phone. But I've always held back because it feels foolish to bring something up 25 years or so after the fact. I've convinced myself that he doesn't even remember it. And yet, there are times when I wake up in the middle of the night and all I can think of is that sweet little kid trying to cheer up his big brother, and having his heart broken for his troubles. I want so badly to be able to go back and undo that moment.

In the years since, there have been other moments like it. Everything will be just fine, and something small will happen that irritates me in just the wrong way. The anger rises like a wild beast, a roaring plume of red-hot lava flowing up from somewhere deep in my guts. Many times it's all I can do to just express it in a way that minimizes damage to my surroundings. All I can know or feel is the burning rage, the absolute need to destroy something with my bare hands if at all possible. I don't know if that is somehow expressed chemically in my brain or not. Maybe there's a sudden shortage of one chemical or overabundance of another. Maybe all it would take is a pill of some kind to make it all go away. That would be so nice.

It's also something I will fight to never do. No pill is ever going to tame me, if I have anything to say about it. I proceed from an absolute conviction that I -- meaning the Mind that is me -- am ultimately responsible for my every action. I cannot and will not accept that I am a victim of some random chemical process. Subjectively, it feels as though I'm being run over by a freight train when the red hot lava beast awakes. But my entire worldview depends on the unwavering belief in the fact that I have a choice. I can choose to stand in the path of that freight train and try to stop it. I can choose not to blow up. I can choose to remain calm. And if I do not choose to do any of these things, then I have chosen my subsequent actions.

I. Am. Responsible.

I will not allow some chemical to dictate my moods and behaviors. Brain is a wonderful thing, but I remain convinced that Mind is more powerful. If it does boil down to chemicals and hormones, then the interface is two-way. If chemical A makes you think one way, then thinking another way will produce chemical B. If you've seen A Beautiful Mind, you've seen a man with a different problem, but the same solution. John Nash is my hero in this regard. Nobody has forced me to do the things I've done. I own it all. And in claiming responsibility for my screwups, I gain a measure of freedom that drugs would deny me.

It's been a long hard road. Some times are easier than others. I've fought compulsive behavior that arises out of this problem or some common root. Some of those behaviors I've defeated. Some I'm still working on. It's easier to shut down the beast nowadays. As it says in James 1:20, the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Sometimes all I need to do is remember that verse, and I'm OK. So I say screw the pills.

And Jim, if you're reading this, I'm sorry I broke your dandelion.


From Zero to Hero

Here is a fascinating article about Blizzard's rise to power in the computer gaming world. The article skips over the juggernaut that was (and in some ways still is) StarCraft, but manages to tell the story fairly completely otherwise. Without identifying it as such, the author touches on what I believe to be one of the keys to Blizzard's success: iterative design.

Like Burt Rutans of the computer game industry, Blizzard constantly questions its own designs, reviews, tweaks, modifies, and ultimately tries to perfect everything in their products. They do it over and over and over again, each time trying to get it even better, always looking for the iteration where they can't think of any way to improve it. In my experience, they pay much more attention to user interface than any other game company, making games that are generally easier to play from an interface standpoint than any others.

Getting the computer out of the way of the game is a tall order but a critical one, and most companies don't spend nearly enough time on it. I can't remember the details, but I played Westwood's Command & Conquer at the same time as WarCraft II, and the interface just felt... unfinished by comparison. That's why I wound up playing WarCraft III (and ultimately WoW) but not the later iterations of Command & Conquer.

Anyway, the article sums it all up quite nicely with this line at the end:

Blizzard has succeeded largely by consistently identifying what it is that makes gamers want to play a game, and then amplifying that all the way to 11.

I couldn't agree more.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Too funny

I-Mockery has a blow-by-blow review, with screenshots and animations, of the hilariously bad 1980's movie Gymkata. I laughed so hard I cried.

Sunday, June 04, 2006


Whole Albums

There are only a few albums that I can listen to from start to finish without getting annoyed at one song or another. Usually I wind up fixating on one song as either being good or bad, and I either listen to that song exclusively or hate listening to the whole album because of it. Anyway, in no particular order, these are my faves:

U2 -- The Joshua Tree: Can't beat it with a stick. It has a mournful tone to it, and is just a really great sound for me when I'm feeling very peaceful or contemplative.

Huey Lews & the News -- Sports: Just a fun, exuberant celebration of life. I listen to it when I'm in a good mood.

Blues Traveler -- Four: The opening track, "Run Around" gets me kicked up a notch, and the rest of the album is just really soothing. Unfortunately, it's so soothing it's completely forgettable. I find it good coding music, because nothing really jars your senses and the music just kind of flows past your consciousness and provides a nice background for slamming out code.

Metallica -- the "black" album: Often criticized by "true fans" as being too commercial, it's the only Metallica album I can listen to all the way through without getting a pounding headache. Yes it's toned down a tad from "Ride the Lightning" or "Master of Puppets", but I think that's the point. Doesn't mean the songs don't kick butt.

Rush -- 2112: The ultimate blend of science fiction and rock & roll. It's kind of hard to code to, but it's great music for driving, as long as I use the cruise control (it tends to get me speeding).

Guns 'n' Roses -- Appetite for Destruction: The only way to fly when what you're after is headbanging wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am heavy metal.

Prince -- Purple Rain: What can I say? Still his best album ever, even though every girl I've ever known named Nicki/Nikki/Nicky absolutely hated it for obvious reasons. That opening monologue to "Let's Go Crazy" always gets me ready to rock.

Third Day -- Offerings: The album (and band) that convinced me Christian music doesn't have to suck. It was recommended to me because I liked hard rock, though their sound is closer to Pearl Jam than Metallica.

Anyway, that's my list. Meat Loaf isn't on there because I already dedicated a whole entry to him. I can't think of any I missed. If you're the commenting type, let me know about yours.

Friday, June 02, 2006


Microsoft vs Apple

Evan's got some good comments about the OS wars today:

What would cause Microsoft to start failing? Has it developed such a corrosive corporate culture that it's simply incapable of developing products that customers want? It's hard to create great software when you spend more of your energy blocking competitors than building things people actually want to use. Companies that lose sight of the customer do so at their own peril.

There's also some juicy text about Microsoft threatening to sue an existing customer in order to secure new consulting business with them. Check it out.

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