Sim’s Story

Like a bajillion other people, I picked up The Sims 2 recently. This is a “people simulator” kind of game where you create your little family members, build their house, and run their lives. And like most people, I started off with a quaint little family named “the McMarfs”. They lived. They learned. They bought expensive electronics.

After a while, though, things got kind of boring. Some little voice started whispering in my ear that I should take a walk on the wild side. I should create a sim that was anything but pleasant. Someone who did NOT want to get along and get ahead.

So I did, just for yucks. Below is his diary, which turned out to be a little weirder than I expected.

Day 1

It has been a fortnight since my manservant Stewart and I were banished from the Mother Land, cast off like lowly detritus and sent to this God-forsaken land. Oh, how the wretched inhabitants of this pox-ridden “Pleasantville” cause my stomach to roil. But soon they too shall learn to bend their knees to the terror that I, Baron Von Strufett, can bring to their pathetic little lives. These peasants have no pitchforks! They have no torches! They have only …exquisite taste in decorations. And affordable housing. They will rue the day!

Having smuggled several bars of gold through the use of Manservant Stewart’s various body cavities, wealth was not to be a trifling concern for genius such as mine. I immediately erected a stone castle, its papacies as hard and unyielding as my very own determination to bring ruin to those who oppose me. In the top I constructed a dank prison cell, replete with …dankness. And two small windows through which my enemies could see the blue sky and despair. Also, I built a kitchenette downstairs.

No sooner had I slammed closed the steel gates of my new abode did a party of miscreants appear on my doorstep, bearing greetings and good cheer, determined to welcome me to the neighborhood despite the dank moat I had ordered Manservant Stewart to dig around the castle. Storming with black fury at such an outrageous interruption to my machinations, I descended upon the petulant visitors. But while I accosted their ringleader –a vapid and horse-brained vagabond by the name of “Alex”– the other two slipped past my flanks like quicksilver, charging straight into the heart of my dark abode. One son of a whore activated on my television while the other harlot –gods be my witness– befouled my toilet without a word of remorse.

Such impertinence! Such arrogance! Oh, they will pay. They will ALL PAY! Feeling my brow bend and my jaw clench, I closed the door behind them and joined their party of the damned.

Observing my new guests’ proclivity for moving their bowels, I hastily ensconced the toilet atop the north tower, leaving it enticingly against the wall opposite the prison’s only entrance. There it sat like the proverbial cask of Amontillado. Now that the trap was set and the bait was placed, these fools needed only the slightest provocation to prance into its jaws. So capuchinos all around!

Sure enough, one of the pathetic wretches soon set down her capuchino cup and ascended the tower in search of a place to spray her vile, liquid offal. I followed my prey as she made her way up into the topmost tower of the castle. I toyed with her a bit first, but as soon as her young, pale buttocks made contact with the seat, I sprang my trap, slamming down a stone wall and blocking off all escape.

Grinning, I bade good night to my other guests, wishing them a pleasant evening and encouraging them to return whenever they liked. No, I had not seen the friend they had arrived with. Perchance she had slipped away while they were partaking of my excellent lunch meat sandwiches. Toodeloo. Good morrow.

Day 2

I had an omelet today. Nay, not any omelet, but the finest omelet to ever grace my delicate bone china! When I awoke this morning my very SOUL cried out for this culinary indulgence, and I could not deny it. After the last fluffy golden morsel passed my sneering lips I felt, strangely, 500 points better.

Day 3

The wench in the tower has finally expired, leaving nothing but a puddle of fluid and an urn. Fortunately, I captured her exquisite misery for all eternity by training my budding artistic talent upon her in her final hours. Who knew that a Von Strufett has such talents? I needed only the proper muse, it seems. A songbird perched in a cage hewn out of cold stone! BWWAHAHAHA!

Day 4

I have procured the services of a local peasant girl to clean my castle, as such menial tasks are beneath me and my manservant Stewart is kept busy taking these “foto-graphs”. The girl is, no doubt, some daughter of a whore, but knowing when to bide my time and keep my schemes secret I decided to buy the trollop’s silence by lining her pockets. She acquiesced, taking the money and leaving as quickly as she dared.

Day 5

Another fly has entered my lair. I spied her walking along the pay leading up to my castle, pausing to gape at its imposing facade. In an instant I was upon her, weaving deft cords of conversation to ensnare her and draw her into my abode. Sensing her playfulness when the cur tried to tickle me, I decided to line my trap with what the local peasants refer to as “a pin ball machine.”

Within minutes, the north tower had another guest.

This one I also toyed with, painting her picture as she ranted and railed against the coming night. To further enflame her passions, I bared my own body, wearing only the skimpiest of evil underwear as I worked. “Behold my dark nipples!” I cried out to her through the observation window. “Behold them! Black as the final punctuation marks to your life’s short tale!”

And now, I must make porkchops. For some reason. They will, I am assured, be …porkchops of the damned.

The handicap inaccessible Internet: A-OK!

Here’s a shocker: The Americans With Disabilities Act doesn’t apply to the Internet. This is the federal law that requires employers and other public entities (like public parks, restaurants etc.) to provide “reasonable accommodations” for people with disabilities. Classic examples of these kinds of accommodations include installing wheelchair ramps, changing work schedules, having a waitress read a menu aloud, etc.

That’s why it seemed like a bit of a non sequitur when an advocacy group named “Access Now” sued Southwest Airlines on behalf of a blind man who …couldn’t read its website. Apparently the guy used software that would take text from websites and turn it into speech, but the way Southwest’s website was set up was apparently incompatable with such screen readers.

Now, to me, “call Southwest on the phone” seems like it would be a pretty reasonable accommodation for a blind person incapable of reading a website. The US 11th Circuit Court of Appeals didn’t really focus on this question, though. Instead, they found that the Internet is not a “place,” which means that it’s not included under the current language of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Read the whole case summary for yourself.

So, not only do I not have to worry about not including “alt” tags on all’s images, I don’t have to install wheelchair ramps, either. Hooray.

Stoned slackers smarter & more politically aware than O’Reilly viewers

Apparently, Jon Stewart recently appeared on Bill O’Reilly’s The O’Reilly Factor, a right-leaning talk show on FOX News. For those of you who don’t know, Stewart’s Jon Stewart Presents Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart are more than a bit left leaning, and it airs on a youth-oriented network made famous by crank-calling puppets and talking poop. The Daily Show, though, parodies news programs and nicely straddles the line between serious and silly. He’s had important guests like John Kerry, John McCain, and Bill Clinton wedged between the typical fluff like Will Ferrel and Gwyneth Paltrow.

So you can guess that O’Reilly would give Stewart a hard time, and he did just that by saying it was frightening that Stewart could motivate “stoned slackers watching your dopey show every night” to get out and vote. Here’s an excerpt from the whole interview:

O’REILLY: OK. You know what’s really frightening?


O’REILLY: You know what’s really frightening?

STEWART: You’ve been reading my diary.

O’REILLY: You actually have an influence on this presidential election. That is scary.

STEWART: If that were so, that would be quite frightening.

O’REILLY: But it is. It’s true. I mean, you’ve got stoned slackers watching your dopey show every night, OK, and they can vote.


O’REILLY: You can’t stop them.

STEWART: Yeah, I just don’t know how motivated they would be, these stoned slackers.

O’REILLY: Yeah, it just depends if they have to go out that day.

STEWART: What am I, a Cheech and Chong movie? Stoned slackers?

O’REILLY: Come on, you do the research, you know the research on your program.

STEWART: No, we don’t.

O’REILLY: Eighty-seven percent are intoxicated when they watch it. You didn’t see that?

STEWART: No, I didn’t realize that.

So obviously O’Reilly is at least partially joking around, but he goes on to say that he was personally insulted when Kerry went on Stewart’s show instead of his (which really isn’t that big a surprise, since O’Reilly is often hostile to guests who disagree with his politics).

But what’s really funny is that the folks at Comedy Central apparently decided to do some research on O’Reilly’s assumptions, and what they found should have him eating a double helping of crow. An article on notes that according to Neilsen Media Research polls, “viewers of The Daily Show are more likely to have completed four years of college than people who watch The O’Reilly Factor.”

Furthermore, another article reported on the findings of the University of Pennsylvania’s National Annenberg Election Survey:

Viewers of late-night comedy programs, especially The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on the cable channel Comedy Central, are more likely to know the issue positions and backgrounds of presidential candidates than people who do not watch late-night comedy.

…When looking at young people who watch The Daily Show, we find they score higher on campaign knowledge than young people who do not watch the show, even when education, following politics, party identification, gender, viewing network news, reading the newspaper, watching cable news and getting campaign information on-line are taken into account.”

The Annenberg survey found that people who watch The Daily Show are more interested in the presidential campaign, more educated, younger, and more liberal than the average American or than Leno or Letterman viewers.

The full article has some other neat findings in it, like content analyses of late-night comedy segments from Leno, Letterman, and Stewart. Interesting stuff.

Anyway, I just love it when blowhards say something just to be inflammatory, only to have it come back and dump a dozen eggs on their face. Also, I love Jon Stewart and want him to have my babies.

Sam’s Story: Week 35

The mobility has begun. Panic is sinking in.

While at work on Friday I got a phone call from Geralyn that went like this:



“Ah! What?”



“Samantha, dork!”

“Pull the other one.”

“No, I’m serious! She got her little knees up under her and now she’s on the move. She was on her playgym and now she’s almost to the kitchen table!”

“Good grief.”

“I know!”

“You know what this means.”

“We gotta buy a buttload of babyproofing stuff this weekend?”


We did not, it turns out, make it out shopping for babyproofing items just yet. I did, however, manage to take one cabinet lock we already had, affix it to the bathroom cabinet, and scream “PERIMETER SECURED!” Geralyn was neither amused nor convinced that Sam was safe from what has suddenly become The House That Eats Babies. So yeah, we need to buy new stuff. In the meantime, I think we’re going to be seeing a lot of this view of Sam.

Actually, the crawling shouldn’t have come as too big a surprise, since Sam has been sitting up on her own for over a week now. She can go from lying on her belly to sitting up pretty much whenever she likes through a series of grunts, scoots, and pushes. Here, I even made a visual aide:

I told you once about our adventures trying to get Sam’s picture taken at the Wal-Mart (shudder…) picture studio, and how poorly that turned out. First the Wal-Mart fiasco took so much work and time, then the pictures were ruined due to “light contamination” during development. So this Saturday we tried taking her to another studio, and missed our appointment because they had blocked off some roads for a street party. So we rescheduled for Sunday and made it there on time, but the second we put her in front of the camera she started bawling until twin rivers of snot ran out her nose and her eyes puffed up like she hadn’t slept in weeks. Nothing would calm her –not singing, not funny faces, not daddy dancing around like a goofball with a threadbare Elmo doll. So we had to admit defeat and skulk away, at which point she instantly became the happiest baby on Earth.

I think God doesn’t want us to have Sam’s portrait taken for some reason we just can’t fathom. Maybe if we did, a butterfly in Guadalajara would flap its wings, and then all hell would break loose. Still, we’re going to keep trying. In the meantime, here are some pictures we took ourselves:

See you next week.

The Fountainhead …of bad acting

I finished Ayne Rand’s The Fountainhead a few days ago. Reading the book didn’t change my life, though, so I can only conclude that I didn’t do it right. I checked all my paradigms when I was finished and not a one of them had shifted around. I do, however, know that if I go back in time and want to hit it off with Rand during one of her Super Genius Cocktail Hour Gatherings, all I have to do is elbow her in the ribs and say “Boy, how about that collectivism, eh? Sure does suck. Am I right or what?”

But don’t get the wrong impression. I did really like the book and plan on reading Atlas Shrugged next. Rand hooked me by supplying foils without villains and complex characters worth wondering about. Well, except the main character, who was shallow and boring after you “got him” in the first fifty pages. But the rest of the cast had complex motivations, backgrounds, and characters. Their lives were woven together deftly, and they played off each other in ways more sophisticated than you usually see in today’s genre fiction or best sellers. It’s as refreshing as it is challenging.

That’s why I was so disappointed by the 1949 movie after I told TiVo to record it for me. It’s shockingly bad, in every way. Bad acting, bad music, bad pacing, bad scripting. That last one is kind of surprising, since Rand herself wrote the script. There are lines in the movie that are lifted straight out of the book, and I remember those lines as being brilliant in print, but the movie is paced at such a breakneck speed and acted so poorly that the whole thing sounds more like a stilted rendition by 8th graders instead of professional actors.

And the music. Oh, the music is so melodramatic and over the top we couldn’t stop laughing about it. It’s like the soundtrack is a separate character in and of itself, always hamming it up and trying to steal every single scene. There’s one part where Gary Cooper’s Howard Roark is reading a telegram and the soundtrack is stomping all over the scene, with strings and horns swelling to a feverish crescendo as Cooper just stands there.

(Incidentally, I can’t even write “Gary Cooper” without thinking of that scene in Young Frankenstein where the monster bellows “SNOOPER DOOPER!” and dances around with a top hat and cane. Now that was a great old movie.)

So, to recap: Great book, terrible movie. Ger has a theory that movies were just “different” back then, held to different standards and created for different tastes. Personally, I think suck is as suck does.

Sam’s Story: Week 34

Another busy week. We took our most ambitious road trip to date this last weekend, but I’ll get to that in a minute. First, I must tell you of The Yelling. Sam’s newest thing is The Yelling. She’ll just sit there and yell at the top of her little lungs, apparently for the pure pleasure of it. Not crying. Not screaming. Just yelling, as if her sole purpose on this world was to bring a little bit of The Yelling to everyone who comes within half a mile of her. At first we were concerned, and would run over when she started her caterwauling, asking her what was wrong and trying to fix it. She’d always give us an annoyed look as if to say “Do you mind? I’m yelling here. Kindly butt out.” So as you read this, just remember that somewhere Sam is yelling right now. Not because of anything you did, but just because.

I also must tell you about the two new books that Geralyn bought for Sam. They are, in fact, the two best children’s books ever made. Sheep in a Jeep is an alliterative tragicomedy worthy of comparison to Faust. It’s the sad but cathartic tale of a group of Sheep and their search for glory on board their brand new Jeep. Alas, their own special brand of barnyard hubris leads the sheep in a jeep to lose sight of their own earthly limitations, resulting in carnage and tragedy the likes of which has never been seen in a book with thick cardboard pages. Unless Shakespeare ever wrote that kind of thing.

However, the other book Ger bought, entitled Is Your Mama A Llama?, is a coming of age story featuring Lloyd the Llama’s quest for self-enlightenment. Our young hero rails against the inequities of racial and species stereotypes in his quest for his own identity, ultimately breaking through them but discovering that one must pay sacrosanct homage to one’s own heritage before building a bridge into the future. Also, it features llamas, which makes it great by definition.

Finally, as I mentioned, we made quite an ambitious road trip ourselves, though we didn’t take a Jeep and there were no sheep involved as far as I know. My employer threw an “Employee Appreciation Event” up at Universal Studios theme park in Los Angeles. It came with free admission to the park (exclusive to us employees after 6:00) and free valet parking. So Ger and I packed up the baby, food for the baby, toys for the baby, drinks for the baby, and everything else for the baby and headed on up. In retrospect it probably wasn’t wise, since we ended up spending a total of six hours in the car and about half that amount of time actually in the park. And during that time, we went to a total of two attractions, since most of the things were either inappropriate for Sam (like all the rides) or just too much of a pain with her along.

Sam, however, was the best sport that we could have hoped for her to be. She barely fussed at all, but seemed content to watch the crowds from her stroller, which we parted by thrusting the stroller, Sam first, into them and cursing a lot. A WHOLE lot. We didn’t leave the park until around 8:30, which is about forty five minutes past Sam’s regular bedtime, and we didn’t get home until midnight, which is a good two hours past anyone’s bed time at our house. Sam was great about the whole thing. Future Sam, if you’re reading this, THANK YOU. Thank you for being such a good sport and not screaming at us more than you did when you not only missed your nightly piece of frozen watermelon, but your bath and your bed, too. You’re awesome!

And now, pictures. And more update after that!

You know, I have fun doing these updates. I like posting pictures of Sam and writing about what’s been happening for the benefit of my absent family and the few complete strangers who seem to like following along. And I know that Geralyn likes writing in Sam’s diary, keeping track of milestones right next to the number of feedings and poopy diapers. But this guy puts us to shame. It’s without a doubt the most incredible baby blog I’ve ever seen. The author is apparently a programmer, and he has gone through the trouble of creating a “Trixie Tracker,” a baby tracking system named after his daughter of the same name (“Trixie,” not “Tracker”). Click through and make sure to check out some of the “what is this?” links in the “Trixie Telemetry” section near the top. He’s got a system for tracking —with auto-generated graphics and graphs— everything from feedings to diapers to hours slept. Apparently he just has to type in the data once a day and the system does the rest. Crazy. the clip show

This website is one year old today. I started the site for two basic reasons. First, I wanted to chronicle Ger’s pregnancy and Sam’s first months for the benefit of the friends and family who live so far away. I wanted them to have news and lots of pictures so that they could see for themselves. Second, I wanted an outlet for the more creative writing that I was used to doing in articles, newsletters, and e-mail for GameSpy. I like doing that sort of thing, and I didn’t want to stop when I left GameSpy. So, 12 months later and here we are.

But instead of creating more original content, I thought I’d pull a page from television’s script book and give you a clip show containing my favorite ten entries from the last year. Enjoy.

#10: Big Brother Prefers Pepsi
I’ve always been interested in the line where psychology and biology meet, fuzzy as it is, and I’ve always been fascinated by the corrupting power of advertising. This entry discusses all that.

#9: Baby Scrabble
The picture below was taken right before Sam was born. Ger and I were standing around and fiddling with a Travel Scrabble game while we talked. The resulting board shows what was on our mind, and we managed to use all but a couple of the game pieces.

#8: 33 things I remember about SIOP in Chicago
My trip to the annual Society for Industrial/Organizational Psychology was a flurry of activity, as this year I was actually concentrating on going to workshops and symposiums instead of job hunting. I kept a log of interesting thoughts and observations, which, in true lazy form, I just dumped into a blog entry upon my return. I did a similar one for E3 called 28 things I remember about E3 2004

#7: Fun with Resumes
This was posted around the time we were trying to fill an opening at work, and I was in charge of the process. I had fun digging through all the screwball resumes we got (much more fun than I had looking at the competent ones, in fact), and as I read them I noticed that some of the hyperbole and assertive language some of them used made me hear the voice of Morbo the alien from Futurama. The “PREPARE TO RECEIVE MY QUALIFICATIONS!” line still cracks me up.

#6: Sam’s Story Week 28: The Week Where a LOT Happened
This was the mother of all Sam’s Story updates so far, requiring four chapters to tell. I recount Sam’s trip to the modeling agency, trying to get her formal portraits taken, and our experiences with our first babysitter. There’s hypothetically a six-foot angry clown bong involved. Also, I love this bit of Photoshop work:

#5: ABCs for Your Little Gamer
I put a lot of work into this one and it didn’t seem to get much of a reaction. Alas. It’s my attempt to reconcile the lack of ABC books for the children of gamers. Read the whole thing.

Click to read the whole feature

#4: Grand Theft Auto: “Worse than Killing Babies”
More Photoshop and satire about how the mainstream press often sees video gaming, particularly the story about how a Haitian civil rights group wanted to ban sales of a Grand Theft Auto game because it depicted Hatian gang violence in Miami. Everyone seemed to be ignoring the fact that these games are NOT supposed to be played by the children.

#3: Picking an Apple, Parts One and Two
I’m going to bend the rules a bit and roll two posts into one here. You’ll forgive me. These entries chronicle my purchase and review of an Apple iPod, a device I love like a brother to this day. As much as I like it, the real memories that stick with me are from buying the thing from the shiny, clean-smelling, and slightly surreal Apple Store at the mall.

#2: A Sam is Born
This post isn’t the funniest and it isn’t the best written (not surprising given my exhausted state), but it is the most meaningful to me and shares one of the two best days of my life to date. ‘Nuff said.

#1: “Did I give you a picture of the baby’s twat?”
Well, it was a tough decision and the competition was fierce, but in the end, I had to go with this infamous and unfortunately vulgar experience with the ultrasound technician. It happened right after the 22nd week of Ger’s pregnancy. There we were with cold blue goo smeared over Ger’s swolen belly and a supposedly wholesome ultrasound tech peering at a blurry black-and-gray image on a tiny monitor. Everything went fine, even though we literally couldn’t make heads or tails of the image. Our confusion level spiked when the ultrasound tech turned to us and asked, “Did I give you a picture of the baby’s twat?” I’ve spent every day since wondering if I heard her right.

So, that’s my top ten. Did I miss any of your favorites? I hope you’ve enjoyed the first year of and that you’ll keep coming back. It’s been fun and I think I’ll keep it up so we can do this again next year.

Sam’s Story: Week 33

An important concept has forced its way into our life: The Cone of Baby. Sam has grown to the point where she not only can grab things, but she WILL grab things –anything– within her reach. And some things that you’d swear were NOT within her reach.

For example, last night we were out at dinner and Ger put Sam on her lap right as the waitress set our food down. In about half a second Sam was waiving around a tiny fist full of pasta like it was a limp flag, spattering the whole table and two ladies an aisle over with cream sauce. During the rest of the meal Sam made similar attempts to apprehend salt and pepper shakers, straws, drinks, knives, forks, the beer and wine list, napkins, bread, salad dressing, coasters, the check, my credit card (oh portent of things to come…) and two separate plates. So in response Ger and I seem to be developing an unconscious cognizence about The Cone of Baby and what objects reside within that Cone at all times. So when a steak knife, a spraycan of pesticide, or a clump of cat feces enters it, we’re quicker than Sam is. Usually.

And now, as an interlude, pictures. The update continues below.

The other day I was up in the office while Ger was feeding Sam down in the dining room. After a few minutes I heard the following slightly ribald song drift up from the stairs:

More juice! More juice!
Oh come drink juice with me
I don’t give a hoot ’bout any old coot
That won’t drink juice with me.

So raise up that golden goblet
With the Sigma Nu upon it
And we’ll all have another round of juice
More juice!

Sam, who has just started slurping down juice, didn’t really need encouragement in the form of a modified college drinking song, but she loved it anyway. So now we sing it pretty much every time we offer her the sippy cup. I just fear that eighteen years from now Sam is going to go to college and go through sorority rush, during which they’ll sing the original version of the song. Sam will blink in confusion and ask why in the world they’re singing “the juice song,” which will earn her a few rolled eyes and a blackball from that bitch Tiffany who has just had it out for her since freshman orientation. These are the kinds of things I worry about.

It’ll probably be just as good. Sororities and fraternities are bad news that Sam can probably do without. They’re just full of hot party girls drunk on freedom and ready to nab some equally clueless fraternity dude with a six pack of beer and a head full of misconceptions.

…Just like when her mom met her dad.

Papa’s new rig: Now with more cowbell!

I mentioned the other day about how I got a new computer. I love it, but a little part of me was disappointed that I couldn’t afford a nice new monitor to go with it. It may feel like a new computer, but without a new monitor, it didn’t look like one.

Last weekend Ger was, for some reason, flipping through the classified section of one of those local neighborhood newspapers. There, wedged between “For Sale” ads for old lawn mowers and surfboards was this:

“21-inch flat panel monitor. Great condition. $50.”

Ger showed it to me and I arched one eyebrow in suspicion. I’ve always found that if something seems too good to be true, it’s not true. But I called anyway, curious to find out what the catch was (and maybe a little hopeful that there wasn’t one).

The next day the guy called me back. He said that he lived right up the road in Eastlake, which I recognized as a nice neighborhood. This was a good sign, as I’d had images of some guy down by the docks in the “old” (read: “bad”) part of town, who would claim that the monitor had “fallen off a truck.” It turned out that he had bought a whole bunch of computer equipment, including two of the 21-inch monitors, from the city of San Diego at an auction. The monitors were flat-panel CRTs and not the nifty space-saving LCDs that I really wanted, but it was still a great deal. I told him I’d be by in a few minutes.

On my way out, Ger looked me in the eye and said, very clearly, “Only buy ONE of those monitors, Jamie. I mean it.”

“Mumerla,” I said, slipping out the door before she could retort.

I bought both of them for $80.

After a trip to Fry’s to pickup a couple of parts, I hooked the suckers up. Fortunately my new video card supports dual monitors, so it was just plug and play and then fiddle with the brightness/contrast and color settings for about an hour.

Here’s the evolution of my monitor situation:

My original 19-inch monitor. Pathetic.

With one new 21-incher. Okay, but I GOTTA HAVE MORE COWBELL!

Dual 21-inch monitors. Ahh, much better!

It’s working pretty well, but I’ll have to get used to the two monitors again. For those of you who don’t get it, my computer desktop is spread out across both screens. If I drag a window off the left-hand edge of the right-hand monitor, it appears on the right-hand edge of the left-hand monitor. See? I had this setup when I worked for GameSpy and loved it. Computer hardware was literally just lying around in piles back then, and whatever you wanted to piece together was pretty much a-ok. The only issue with my setup now is that there’s a bit of “ghosting” happening on one of the monitors, where extra lines will appear around objects. Oh, and I hard to rip off the top half of my desk.

Now, of course, the next logical step is dual 21-inch, flat-panel, LCD monitors. I figure we can afford it if we all three rotate who gets to eat dinner on any given night.

Shellshock Nam’67 Preview

My preview of Shellshock Nam’67 went up on yesterday. Here’s a snippet that should give you an idea of what the game is:

The third-person shooter’s main catch seems to be that, unlike other games that remove blood or soften things up in order to get a “T” rating, it gives us a totally unfiltered, over-the-top, gruesome view of a war filled with moral ambiguities. Limbs fly, heads explode like melons, and there’s gore, gore, gore, for the whole family � as long as the whole family is over eighteen, that is! Furthermore, Shellshock’s storyline takes us through some disturbing territory with scenes of torture, mutilation, suicide, murder, and the best vulgarities the English language has to offer.

Shellshock also manages to remedy one of the major shortcomings of action games since the early ’80s: the lack of Vietnamese whores. Yes, that’s right. You can trade in your bloody chits for a pass to the whorehouse situated behind the base. Then just walk up to your choice of prostitute, listen to her torrid come-on, and click the “Do It like Rabbits” icon. I’m not kidding. (Now, I liked DOOM 3, but if it had Martian whores and “Do It Like Space Rabbits” icons, it would have been that much better.)

The guys at GameSpy have put me down to do the full review for the game, which is nice since I really wanted to talk more about its shortcomings, which would have been inappropriate for a preview. It’s a good looking game with adult (read: vulgar) presentation in places, but the gameplay is really not so great. A lot has been made (by the publisher’s marketing department) about how this game is supposed to be comparable to works by film directors Coppola or Stone because of its supposedly “cinematic” feel and unflinching view of the atrocities of war.

That ain’t the case. The game gets the gore and horror of war down all right (though it seemed gratuitous in places), but it completely fails to reach the kind of cinematic feel or pathos you get from movies like Apocalypse Now or Platoon. The characters are shallow –you’re not given any kind of insight into what’s going on with them, what they’re thinking, what they’re feeling, or how they’re changing. There’s also little or no continuity to the story –a few cut scenes and mission briefings don’t fit together into a larger, more compelling narrative.

I may be eating crow if the full version is substantially different from the preview code I played, but I doubt it. It seemed pretty complete.

What not to do

Hey, if your significant other is playing DOOM 3 in the dark with headphones on, do NOT come into the room and grab him by the shoulder right as he opens a particularly large monster closet. It’s likely to give him a FREAKING HEART ATTACK.

Ask Geralyn. She knows.

Sam’s Story: Week 32

Not a whole lot going on this week. Sam continues to sit up and fall down, which she seems to think is wonderful. She also continues to bash things together, which will serve her well later in life. She also seems to be craving sleep more and more, and goes to bed for nap or the night without much of a fuss. She still wakes up between 6 and 7 in the morning, though, which means that weekends are no longer for sleeping in no matter how late you stayed up playing video games the night before. So we start our weekends early. The other week we went to run some errands in the morning and found that places were not yet open. Like, the childless people who ran them were still at home in bed. When did 8:00 A.M. on a Sunday morning get to be early? Look, we need to get into Costco to buy two gallons of milk and a twelve pack of watermelons, and we only have a two-hour window of opportunity between feedings!

Now, pictures. I particularly like the ones with Sam wrapped up in the terry cloth bath towel. This week’s update continues after the pictures, by the way.

Grandma Sommer left the middle of last week, but Sam had more visitors this weekend. Helen, a friend of Geralyn’s from high school came for a visit, along with her husband and two kids. It was kind of interesting to see how older kids acted. Personally, I thought they were pretty well behaved. Nothing got broken and there was only one experiment calling for a mop, in which little Will discovered the wonders of the refrigerator water dispenser. There were somersaults done in the yard and tantrums thrown over clearing one’s plate. All the stuff I expected. I’m not sure if that means I’ll be a good parent later or a terrible one, but there you go.

Sam, oddly enough, was a complete angel, spending most of the night sitting in her high chair and happily babbling to herself. Ger’s friend asked “Does she ever cry?” I assured her that she did, and I even poked Sam a few times in an effort to prove my point, but she wouldn’t cooperate.

We topped off the Labor Day weekend by taking a trip to a nearby park with an awesome lake in the middle. Along the way we met some ducks. It was pretty creepy in a Hitchcock kind of way, actually, with a group of three mallards stepping out of some bushes to block the path in front of us, quaking quietly but imperatively. Then we noticed that several more ducks had crept up behind us, cutting off retreat that way. There was something in their black little eyes that said, “Hey, yo, give us bread or we eat the kid’s feet, capisce?”

We finally had to push our way through (in stroller vs. duck, stroller wins) but the feathered beasts did manage to crap all over the sidewalk first.

Papa’s new rig

PC gaming is an expensive mistress. Since Sam was born I’ve managed to play on the cheap by buying older games, but the time finally came when my old computer was too …old. When a typical first person shooter started looking like a slideshow, I knew it was time to upgrade. And with must-have titles like Doom 3, Half-Life 2, and The Sims 2 (one of these things is not like the others…), I had to upgrade.

What I got wasn’t top of the line. Instead, I went with my tried-and-true system of buying near the top of the line, but not quite there. Maybe around the 75th percentile. I also decided that I didn’t want to just upgrade parts of my existing system or go through the trouble of building a system from scratch. I’ve done both of those things before, and while I probably could have saved some money by doing so (and earned some l337 bragging points), I decided it would fail to outweigh the cost in terms of time, trouble, and anxiety required to make sure I bought all the right pieces and fit them together properly. I wanted a solution where I could just unpack the thing, plug it in, and go.

So once I had the money earmarked, I watched sites like until one of the major retailers announced a deal that was too good to pass up. I ended up going with a Dell Dimension 4600. Here’s a before and after comparison:

Video Card:
Hard Drive:
Disk Drives:
Removable Storage:
Old and Tired
Athlon 1.1 GHz
256 MB of some kind
GeForce Ti4600 (128 MB)
40 GB
CD Burner, DVD Drive
Floppy disk
Crappy built-in to MoBo
New and Randy
Pentium 4 2.8 GHz
ATI Radeon 9800 PRO (128 MB)
80 GB
CD Burner, DVD Drive
64 MB thumb drive
Sound Blaster Live! card

I’m keeping the same keyboard (Microsoft Natural Multimedia), mouse (5-button Intellimouse Explorer), and monitor (a 19-inch Trinitron CRT). The monitor is getting kind of tired, but I really don’t want to bother upgrading until I can get at least a 17-inch flat-panel LCD (preferably 19- or 20-inch), and those run several hundred dollars. That’s next, though!

Another thing to notice is that this new rig has no floppy drive. No floppy drive! I got the 64 MB USB thumb drive instead, which holds about as much as 45 floppy disks. I remember mocking the iMacs when they first eschewed the floppy disk, but that was at a time when thumb drives were practically nonexistent and CD-ROM burners were rare. Time to get with the future!

The rig came yesterday and I set it up, easy as advertised. It’ll probably take me weeks to download and install and configure things to get them just right, but in the meantime I’m playing around with it. One of the first things I did was run a benchmarking program to compare the speeds of the two systems. I used 3DMark, which gives you a score for each system.

  • Old and Tired: 1,411
  • New and Sexy: 5,720

Not really a score to brag about relative to the monster machines I know are out there, but that’s over a 300% improvement. Whee! It’s not really a fantastically impressive system, but I got a pretty good deal on it and it’s a big improvement.

One of the things I was most worried about was that the computer would come bloated with annoying junk programs and trial versions of this or that. It had been my past experience that these pre-built systems were plagued by such things. I had even considered just reformatting the hard drive as soon as I got the thing. I was pleasantly surprised, though, to find that I only had to delete a couple of things (e.g., icky MusicMatch) and tweak a few settings before everything was just peachy. The much more difficult part is downloading and installing from CD the hundred and one little programs I used on my old rig.

But tonight, Doom 3.

MSNBC: Asking the tough questions

Someone on a messageboard I read pointed out that put up a poll on the first day of the Republican National Convention. Dandy! Polls are fun! In fact, we all had a good laugh over this one:

The response options they give you seem …inadequate. In fact, it reminds me a lot of the story I told about the “Does your mother know you wet the bed?” questions we asked as kids and the “Will you donate or do you favor electing libreal Democrats ove the next 10 years?” survey I saw.

To be fair, MSNBC later changed the poll, suggesting that it was a mistake and instead of being slanted they’re just sloppy. Thank heavans.