Last of the Beatdown pictures

Okay, this is the last of the GameSpy Beatdown pictures. I never drank Corona beer before moving to SoCal. In St. Louis it was always considered a cheap-o, poor quality substitute. You have to believe me, by the way, when I say that the alcohol abuse was kept to a minimum.

Stop the blogging!

On one of my frequent trips to work last week I heard a story on the radio about how some corporations are looking to blogs for feedback from their customers. The piece went on about how limited information could be when you get it from marketing surveys, and how many executives just LOOOVE to mingle directly (ironic?) with customers through corporate blogs. I guess the idea is that an exec could post a story or question on the company blog, like this one, and readers, like you, could post comments about it. One guy was quoted as saying that this kind of thing was much more useful than running focus groups.

Yeah. Right.

First off, I’ve been on the receiving end of scathing user feedback. When I ran we got hundreds of pieces of barely literate hate mail each day. We shut down the messageboards for the site because they were chock full of vitriol. Much of it was complaints that were either demonstrably untrue or against practices that we knew were necessary for our survival. Granted, you can still learn from that stuff and improve your communications, marketing, and help pages, but it’s not nearly as wonderful as these guys think.

The real nail in the corporate-blog-as-information-source is that it’s completely unstructured. A focus group or a survey you can direct, limit, and otherwise focus to issues that you know you want to find out more about. You can standardize the information that you bring in so that you can compare it to other measures and quantify it. “People love our toothpaste” isn’t nearly as valuable as “74% of people who like our toothpaste say it’s because of the taste, 10% because of the packaging, and 9% because of the scent.” Granted, mine may not be everyone’s experience and open forums like blogs might possibly be good for generating topics that you don’t know about and thus can’t ask about in the first place, but there are survey and focus group methodologies to accomplish that, too. And again, they can do it in a much cleaner fashion.

Of course, this whole thing has my motor running because it’s only a small step to go from using blogs to gather information from customers to using them to gather information on employees, where survey and focus group methodologies are already used to great effect. I just hope that companies decide that a completely open-ended format is more appropriate just because it’s gee-wiz high tech and snappy.

Who photographs the photographer?

Slayah, Sluggo, and China at the GameSpy Beatdown last weekend. At GameSpy we had this tradition of doing Jagermeister shots in the kitchen whenever we launched a new product. Here we did it for fun. For SOME reason –I never have figured out why– we would traditionally chant “Satan! Satan! Satan! Wooo!” and then do the shot. I think one of our many Human Resources Directors quit on the spot upon seeing this.

More Beatdown

Another shot from the Beatdown LAN party at GameSpy last weekend. I think this was taken around 3 a.m., around the time I thought I’d better call it it a night and start my 1.5 hour drive back home.

Atlas Shrugged

I remain skeptical about large chunks of Rand’s Objectivism, but I enjoyed The Fountainhead enough to pick up what’s supposed to be her mangum opus, Atlas Shrugged. It clocks in at around a billion pages long so I expect to be gnawing on it for a while.

From the publisher:

This is the story of a man who said that he would stop the motor of the world�and did. Was he a destroyer or the greatest of liberators? Why did he have to fight his battle, not against his enemies, but against those who needed him most, and his hardest battle against the woman he loved? What is the world�s motor�and the motive power of every man? You will know the answer to these questions when you discover the reason behind the baffling events that play havoc with the lives of the characters in this story.

Tremendous in its scope, this novel presents an astounding panorama of human life�from the productive genius who becomes a worthless playboy�to the great steel industrialist who does not know that he is working for his own destruction�to the philosopher who becomes a pirate�to the composer who gives up his career on the night of his triumph�to the woman who runs a transcontinental railroad�to the lowest track worker in her Terminal tunnels.

I’m expecting brilliant, beautiful people doing brilliant, beautiful stuff.

Sam’s Story: Week 54

Swear jar funds: $0.

Ger and I have started a new program to help clean up our language around Samantha. It’s not like we curse like longshoremen or Dick Cheney on the Senate floor, but we have occasionally use language that we don’t want Sam repeating. To end this, we’ve taken up the time-honored tradition of the swear jar, into which we deposit $.25 each time we let slip a phrase like “damn” or “Tiajuana donkey show.” We’re just afraid that one day we’ll hear Sam shout “cock!” when she’s not playing with Ricky the Rooster. Each week I’ll give you a running tally so you can more easily judge us.

The conundrum we’ve discovered with the swear jar, however, is what to do with the money. I mean, it’s perfectly good, if ill-gotten, legal tender, so we can’t just throw it out. At first we thought that we’d eventually use it to buy a nice dinner, but using our own bad behavior to reward ourselves seems wrong. And it would be too tempting to cuss my way up from the chicken fingers basket to the filet mignon. Then we considered putting it in a savings or toy account for Sam, but again I’d be encouraged to get her into an ivy league college with a foul mouth rather than a community college with a clean one. The compromise we agreed on was to periodically donate the swear jar’s contents to our church. So now I’m looking forward to standing up, dumping a whole jar of nickels, quarters, and dimes into the offering plate, and shouting “Give this to the fucking poor!” as I flip one last quarter onto the pile. So everybody wins.

Curbing bad behavior in ourselves is one thing, but doing it in Sam is another. The future parenting duty that worries me the most has got to be disciplining Samantha. Oh, I’ll do it, but I think all parents fear that if they dare to scold their youngster for doing something bad (making bathtub gin, for example), then that kid is going to HATE THEM FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES and petition the Court for a change of parentage. Whenever I see a parent with troublesome, ill-tempered kid I pray to sweet Jesus that He didn’t take that whole thing with the offering plate too seriously and that He won’t smite me by giving Sam similar ideas.

We’ve already started some discipline with Sam, though, and with surprisingly good results. The main two things we’ve gotten onto her for are standing up in the bathtub (which could result in falling and drowning) and playing with the stereo equipment (which could result in switching to the DVD player right in the middle of The Supernanny). We don’t beat her with a sack of doorknobs or anything; we just lower our voices and say “No, Sammy. That’s not appropriate.” Sometimes if that doesn’t work I blast her with a fog horn, but lately that’s all it takes. She looks at us with a kind of “Oh geez, oh man, they’re serious” expression and backs off. It’s worked so well that I plan to use these same techniques, including the fog horn, years from now to prevent her from having casual sex.

And now, pictures:

Not much else going on. Last night a friend of Ger’s from her playgroup generously offered to watch Sam for the evening so that we could have a night out. For some reason it seems we choose to go get sushi whenever we come into such a boon, because we did so when Ger’s parents first came to see Sam and the last time we had a sitter. Fortunately, we didn’t come back to find the house empty and dark. I think we have this preference because eating sushi for us is a very leisurely affair where we sip green tea or saki and order a few pieces of raw fish at a time until we feel satiated. Contrast this with taking Sam to a typical family friendly restaurant where we wolf down deep fried meat while trying to simultaneously keep Sam from swiping our plates to the ground or dumping the salt shaker into her mouth. Eh, either way I guess it’s better than staying at home.


GameSpy Industries, one of my previous employers, used to regularly have LAN parties. This is where people bring their computers and hook them together to play video games. Alas, these “Beatdowns” have become very rare, but we had one this weekend. Here’s a pic of my rig. Of course, I had to have Skippy the Llama with me.

At the drive-in

Samantha in the buggy that Aunt Shawn and Uncle Brent sent her for her birthday. Sam seemed mezmirized by the buggy, until she discovered she could BEEP. THE. HORN. FOR. TWENTY. MINUTES. BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!

This space for rent

The Internet is both wonderful in its brilliance and frightening in its stupidity. Witness the man who sold his forehead as advertising space to the tune of over $37,000. This was immediately followed by an auction for forehead popup blockers, proving that the Internet givith and the Internet taketh away. Then some pregnant woman auctioned off the space on her swollen belly (too bad a condom company didn’t win) and some gal in Scottland auctioned off her cleavage.

My initial reactions to this were twofold. First, I was disgusted. Second, I thought I had to get in on the action. To that effect, I auctioned off my 12 month old daughter’s forehead as ad space on which the winner could place whatever logo he wanted. The winning bid was $1.8 million and here’s a photo of the delivered goods:

In hindsight I really should have specified a temporary tattoo in the auction description, but what are you gonna do? I’m investing all of the winnings, though, in the form of a bet on the Patriots to win the Superbowl this weekend.

The Pilgrim’s Regress

Another book that I really don’t know anything about, but that I picked up from the library because I recognized the author and the title. The title is apparently a play on “Pilgrim’s Progress,” the old classic about Christianity by Paul Bunyan, so I think it has to do with the same kind of thing. Also, the subtitle of Lewis’s book is “An Allegorical Apology for Christianity Reason and Romanticism,” which is a slightly more direct clue pointing to the same conclusion.


The first book written by C. S. Lewis after his conversion,The Pilgrim�s Regress is, in a sense, the record of Lewis�s own search for meaning and spiritual satisfaction�a search that eventually led him to Christianity.

Here is the story of the pilgrim John and his odyssey to an enchanting island which has created in him an intense longing�a mysterious, sweet desire. John�s pursuit of this desire takes him through adventures with such people as Mr. Enlightenment, Media Halfways, Mr. Mammon, Mother Kirk, Mr. Sensible, and Mr. Humanist and through such cities as Thrill and Eschropolis as well as the Valley of Humiliation.

Though the dragons and giants here are different from those in Bunyan�s Pilgrim�s Progress, Lewis�s allegory performs the same function of enabling the author to say simply and through fantasy what would otherwise have demanded a full-length philosophy of religion.

I hope it doesn’t get all preachy and stuff.

Star Wars Republic Commando Preview

My preview of Star Wars Republic Commando for the PC went up on today:

If the Star Wars movies are typically shown from the high-falootin’ view of the Jedi Knights, then the hard-working Clone Troopers of Star Wars Republic Commando are your tour guides to the grittier, more brutal facets of the franchise. Republic Commando is a first-person shooter that lets you command a quartet of “deluxe model” Troopers on a variety of missions set in the movie timeline between Episode II and Episode III. Think early Stormtroopers, but they’re the good guys at this point in the timeline and they can actually hit something when they shoot at it. The game is set in the Star Wars universe, but it lets you experience it in new ways.

Besides the Star Wars license, the game’s main catch is that you’re not one man against an entire army. You’re … well, four men against an entire army! Okay, technically you’re four clones of one man against an entire army. But any way you tally it up, you take direct control of an elite squad leader and then command his three mates by using context-sensitive orders and global commands. Your squadmates do okay on their own, but if you see, for example, a spot suitable for sniping, you can point your crosshairs at it to bring up the “Engage Snipe Maneuver” command. Then, simply press the “use” key and one of your fellow commandos will rush to that spot and start picking off enemies until you either leave the area or tell him to stop. The system is simple, functional, and works well with other commands like “breach that door” or “man that turret.”

I’m usually skeptical about games based on movie franchises, and this goes double for Star Wars. Republic Commando, though, was actually really good, even in this preview build. It should do well.