short hair

WoW update

Pretty sure I'm done with WoW. However, there's always a chance of relapse with these sorts of chronic conditions, so I may yet eat those words.
short hair

Cell Phones & Space Aliens

So I've been thinking for a while that maybe cell phone companies are run by space aliens (ok, not really, but bear with me). Today, I've found clinching proof of the fact.

Here's how it went down. Yesterday I was helping Alison buy art supplies. I normally keep my phone in my shirt pocket. Now, one of these art supplies was a box. Pretty fancy box, at that. I assume that's why it was uppity. Shifting things around to get to my keys, I shifted the box in such a way that it gave a forceful tap to the bottom of my phone. Pursuant to paragraph 3 of Newton's Laws of Motion, my phone went sailing out of my pocket in a beautiful parabolic arc, flying gracefully through the air, with a slight tumble to its motion. It stopped suddenly and with an audible thud roughly a second later when gravity brought it to Earth. Even the landing was beautiful. My phone hit the sidewalk face down, almost perfectly flat. It didn't bounce or skid or skitter. It simply landed and made the sort of noise that plastic makes when it hits concrete. On picking up the phone, I discovered a dazzling array of colors where the previously reliable graphics of the Sprint UI had been. Thus, more attractive, my phone was also useless.

That brings us to this morning. I took an early leave for lunch. On arriving at the Sprint store, I was greeted by an attractive young woman named Maria who very helpfully and pleasantly guided me through the jungles of Sprint customer service. Maria made a face when I showed her the dazzlingly artistic, but static, new UI of my phone. She called up my account information, and rattled off the cost of replacing my screen with something less attractive, but more functional. So far, this seemed like a normal transaction to me, but it was at this point where we diverged from reality as we know it, into the Bizarro World of cell phone economics.

Without getting into too much more detail (I know this post is already long), the upshot was this. For an additional $35 up front, I would get the following:
* Brand-new phone, identical in all its particular to my old phone
* $50 mail-in rebate, making the overall cash transaction cheaper than repair
* After a series of alchemic/financial transformations that mortals cannot grasp, a $10/month reduction in my phone bill
* An additional phone number that I will not use

Maria was also nice enough to have the helpful young man in a cage behind the retail space transfer my contacts into my new phone, and transfer the phone number from my broken phone to my new phone. So there we are. Proof that space aliens have not only come to Earth, but have influence over marketing decisions at Sprint Communications.
short hair

Full of fail

Today has been full of fail. I'm going to chronicle all the fail just for kicks.

Alison gave me a copy of the Aion installer. Windows XP unzipper says it's corrupted. Deleted it and tried to download off the net.

Attempting to download the Aion installer failed. FilePlanet doesn't work for Firefox. No really. They require an ActiveX control to download.

Tried to download Aion from the other web site listed. Failed to start downloading after 15 minutes of waiting.

Tried to download Aion via BitTorrent. This actually works... just slowly. By this time, Alison had copied the installer to my computer again, and using something other than Windows unzipper resulted in a functional installer.

Aion installer is distrbuted as a ZIP archive, rather than a self-extractor. Fail.

The space bar on my keyboard crapped out within 2 months of purchase. Again. Back to the old wireless that I've tried to replace twice now. I have to recommend against buying this keyboard.

Aion won't let me copy/paste a password during the login process. I use an encrypted password DB and don't know most of my passwords. Having to select and remember a password is very annoying to me.

I own a copy of PlayOn. I'm not entirely sure why. So far, I can't recommend the thing for anyone else to purchase. It works about 30% of the time for viewing Netflix movies via my PS3. About 60% of the time for watching Hulu streams. About 90% of the time for watching YouTube streams. And the Amazon Video On Demand support is completely and utterly broken. About every two weeks, they tell me to update to the latest version, but I can't tell the difference from one to the next. It doesn't seem to improve. And they don't publish release notes.

The upshot of my gripes about PlayOn is that Alison and I meant to spend the evening watching movies, but we can't get PlayOn to work at all tonight. Or rather, it seems to only want to show Ghost In the Shell: Solid State Society, which is really not worth watching.

EDIT: Forgot to add in the story about ordering dinner. We ordered food from a local sandwich shop. Normally they're not a problem. Tonight, they left out part of my order. When I called to tell them so, they pretty much accused me of trying to scam a free sandwich out of them. At least they didn't charge me for it. I hung up and bitched to Alison. Alison called them back and bitched. They sent me a sandwich... which got charged as a cash order... which was inconvenient, since I don't actually have that much cash on hand.
half assed

The Watchmen

Should I update this userpic to be a butt shot of the Silk Spectre? Anyway, I just saw the Watchmen film and wanted to write down my thoughts while they're fresh in my mind.

Overall, I have to say I wasn't really impressed. I think the film makers were just trying to make a cool movie about cool comic-y stuff and really didn't have a strong grasp of the story, characters or themes of the original work. It felt like a lot of 'gee whiz' and not much attention paid to the story or, in many cases, the characters. I'll go over my personal litany.

Let's start with Rorschach. He shares the role of POV character with Dan Dreiberg (Night Owl II), and we see much of the story through his eyes. He's very earnest and uncompromising and, in his own way, trying to do good. He's very intelligent, talented, clever and resourceful. He's also a crackpot, more than a little un-hinged, cruel, violent, misogynistic (misanthropic, for that matter) and just generally not a good person. The movie presents him in a much more positive light than he deserves. It conveniently omits a lot of his crackpot and misogynistic comments and the movie's general treatment of violence really dulls the impact of the horrible things that Rorschach does to almost anyone he meets.

Since I'm on the subject of how the film treats violence, I'll just say I didn't like it one bit. The fight scenes were so over the top as to be almost comical. The gore and blood were played up at every opportunity, quickly desensitizing the viewer to anything but the most extreme violence. This treatment really dulled the impact of a number of scenes that were meant to show character. The Comedian's attempted rape of Silk Spectre seems almost like a playful romp. Y'know, just a few bruises and cuts. She wasn't hurt that badly. I mean, there were no bones sticking out of her at weird angles. She didn't have a knife driven through her neck sideways. Nothing major.

The scene where Dan and Laurie fight off a gang of thugs in an alley strikes me as the most egregious example. The fight opens right up with an image of a thug's bone getting broken so severely it almost pierces the skin. The two "heroes" murder most of their attackers in spectacular ways. The scene is transformed from a fight for their lives to a bizarre courtship moment between two video game caricatures.

I could go on for a long time dissecting the film scene by scene, but I'm sure others have done that far better than I ever could. I'll skip straight to my other most hated scene, after the alley fight. The final scene in which Ozymandias reveals his master plan, fends off the smaller-minded heroes only to be defeated himself my Dr. Manhattan's near-omnipotence. In the end, his plan was successful, but the cost was very, very high. Finally, even the man who would be a God is shown to doubt. To be human. "Did it work out in the end?" No, the actual God tells him, nothing ever ends. Or at least, that's how the comic book ended. The movie ends with Ozymandias' vindication. He was right. There can be no doubt or human frailty in a figure as great as him.

Not to say I hated every second of it. I'll give the movie props for a few things. First of all, the actual content of the grand plot to draw the nations of the world together was much better. The explosions mimicing Dr. Manhattan were much better than fake alien squids. Once again, however, the impact of it was reduced. In the final scene, you see a number of character who had screen time in the comic, but not the movie. They're terrified and they know their world is ending. But who cares, they're not even characters in the movie until that last second. The comic spends a lot of time developing the newspaper seller, the black kid who's his patron, the reluctantly lesbian cab driver Joey and so on. When they die, it has an impact on the reader. My God, these people were just living their lives. In the movie, it's just an explosion.

All in all, it was disappointing. There were a lot of good moments and good characters, but that all mostly gets muddled into a poor understanding of the story and characters, and the pointlessness of all the violence in the film. I can't recommend seeing this and I can only say I'm happy, in retrospect, to have waited until I could rent it.
short hair

Pi Approximation Day

So, my friend Steve just found me on Facebook. That's cool, Steve's an interesting guy and it never occurred to me to look for him. Anyway, I quickly scanned his recent comments and he pointed out that some folks write July 22 as 22/7 ... which is a famous historical approximation of pi (handed down to us from Archimedes). So, today is Pi Approximation Day... which I find to be at least as interesting as Pi Day itself (March 14).

According to my windows calculator program: 22/7 = 3.1428571428571428571428571428571
According to my memory: pi = 3.1412565359

So, that's accurate in the first two digits, with an error factor of roughly 0.04%
Pretty cool

Archimedes' method for approximating pi
Formula that gives the n'th hexadecimal digit of pi without reference to any of the previous n-1 digits

OK, so the second one isn't an approximation... it's actually pi. Anyway, that's what I could come up with in 15 minutes at work. Thanks, Steve!
short hair

(no subject)

Here's a fun couple of articles.

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2009/07/nsa-program-too-secret.ars
http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2009/07/black-box-origins.ars

The short version: in the wake of 9/11, the Bush Administration created a variety of intelligence gathering programs that were not only wildly illegal, but so badly mis-handled as to be essentially worthless.

EDIT: to be fair, virtually everyone in government at the time (including both Republican and Democrat Congressmen) basically either looked the other way (deliberate ignorance), or quietly ignored the legal facts of the situation.
short hair

PHP Editing

So my job involves editing a lot of PHP. Can anyone out there recommend a good editor that meets the following criteria?

* Not Eclipse (or based on Eclipse)
* Not NetBeans
* Supports XDebug (or Zend Debugger)
* At least some nod to code navigation features
- something like the Eclipse 'outline' window that lets me click on method names
- something like the Eclipse 'explorer' feature that lets me click around my project

You'll not that I actually like a lot of the individual features of Eclipse... but I don't like the fact that it periodically seems to send my computer into a thrashing state that requires a reboot. And before anyone suggests it, no, upgrading my computer isn't an option. Nor is switching my OS, nor switching languages from PHP.
short hair

(no subject)

In other news, I'm cutting back drastically on my wow time for the next few weeks. It's gotten to feel too much like a job. I get home, prep for raid, raid, eat, then sleep. I do this up to 4 nights a week. Having personal appointments after work leaves me wondering if I'll be able to make raid times. Anyway, less warcraft, more study. I have GREs to prepare for and subjects to study up on, if I plan to do this grad school thing right.
short hair

More on grad school

I'm feeling cautiously optimistic. Currently planning to apply for a Masters program starting next fall. There are a number of part time / evening programs out there and I've spoken to two of them so far. Solid letters of recommendation and GRE scores have a good chance of offsetting my poor grades (assuming I get really good GRE scores). I have a little over a year, then, to review topics in undergrad math and CS, study up and completely destroy the GRE, and line up 1-2 letters of recommendation beyond the one I already have.

The letters of recommendation are the only part of this that I don't have a plan for. I've got one from a professor at CMU who's been very supportive and helpful, answering questions and so on. I'm not sure who else to talk to. It may become apparent as I work on my application. For now, I'm not entirely sure.
short hair

(no subject)

Speaking of loving my job... I'm starting to put a lot more thought into grad school. Either a M.S. or Ph.D. in computer science. We'll see if I can make the finances work, and also whether I can convince any grad school in the country to admit me with my undergrad academic record.