5/30/2008

05-30-08 - 3

It really bothers me that mkdir requires quotes. If you type "mkdir hello world", it makes two dirs, named "hello" and "world". I never ever want that. I guess I have to make my own version that always makes one dir using all the arguments. Similarly I'd like most of my copy and move commands to quote for me. Quoting is annoying. In fact I hate fucking spaces in file names, stop it! But like if you type "copy hello world c:\" it should figure out that "hello world" is an existing dir and you don't have to quote it. Of course it should also check for any ambiguity and complain if there is ambiguity, that way you can gaurantee no mistakes.

05-30-08 - 2

I guess you all probably know about the game "Maple Story". It's a Korean MMO that's now global. It's free to play, but you pay real money to buy gear for your character. Apparently they've made around $400 M from it now. Holy macaroni. Somehow I stumbled on some youtube vid of a low dex hermit , of a guy who spent $5-6k on gear; apparently from the comments that's semi normal. (btw wasn't actually that video, I can't find the original one I stumbled on, apparently there are a lot of vids on youtube of low dex hermits lol).

05-30-08 - 1

The movie "Bad Boy Bubby" was pretty great. I actually picked it up because of Mark on Top Chef who I found an amusing character. The movie starts out like it's going to just batter the viewer with misery, like a Von Trier or Requim for a Dream or something, but fortunately it swerves off that course quickly and becomes bizarre and sickly funny. Very few movies actually live up to the label "dark comedy", usually it just means they're trying really hard to be quirky and are neither dark nor comedic, but this does. Also, lol - Nick Cave ?

"Blindness" the novel didn't do much for me. It was fine I guess but the characters were weak and nothing at all surprising happened and several bits were extremely unrealistic.

5/29/2008

05-29-08 - 1

"Army of Shadows" was magnificent. The tense acting and pacing, you can feel the dedication and sincerity and hard will of the resistance fighters. The cinematography makes the movie, the stark montage, the desolate scenery, lit in cold harsh blue, lots of natural lighting, constant winter.

I do think the stories of the French Resistance are a bit ridiculous in general. The resistance really didn't do much of anything, and the obsession of the French with the resistance is an obvious attempt to glorify the one redeeming aspect of their wartime experience. It would be interesting to have a movie that combines the resistance, the racism of the ordinary French, the plight of the jews in France, the life of collaborators, how the non-collaborators felt about their compatriots, the political maneuvering of DeGaulle to create a myth and manufacture power for himself. Hard story to tell. It would have to be a mini series.

Anyway it got me excited so I pushed up some more French movies in my Netflix queue and made myself a Cassoulet and drank some French red. Bleck French red is so gross. It's fine with food because it's very bland which I guess is the idea.

I'm still convinced that I could make a super-premium wine by blending some cheap wines. I don't really understand why there aren't more cheap blended wines - winemakers could easily do this themselves and balance out the strengths and weaknesses of various bottles. You could easily take something like the Bear's Lair Cab which has nice pepper and tannin, and blend it with the Coppola Syrah which has a nice round mouthfeel and good initial fruit. I'd like to get a little leather and earth in there, maybe I could find a cheap Grenache. I think the Smoking Loon Cab had a decent earthy profile. The only problem is I have to drink 3 bottles worth :( I should get a vacuum resealer.

For some reason people seem to think "thin", "dry", and "minerally" are positive adjectives for wine. I want none of those qualities in my wine.

5/27/2008

05-27-08 - 3

Ishkur's Guide to Electronic Music SWF is super awesome. It's almost like a joke making fun of electronic music for all its inscrutable and vague labels, but I guess it's actually serious.

It doesn't really answer many of my questions though. Like WTF does "deep house" mean exactly? And how do you classify some of the newer electro that certainly doesn't have a steady beet like traditional dance music, but also doesn't really fit with what we normally call "breakbeat" ? Stuff like Hot Chip or Junior Boys, what is that?

05-27-08 - 2

Don't walk away from the stove when you're reducing balsamic vinegar.

Don't try to make hard cuts in flip flops.

05-27-08 - 1

WTF of course cloned food is safe to eat. That's a retarded objection. Labelling food as cloned or not or whatever is irrelevent. It's not the issue at all, it's a distraction. The problem with cloning is the reduction of biodiversity. It's already a problem among many of our domestic species just due to breeding, and if ranchers are allowed to just clone their best individuals to make whole herds that are genetically identical, it sets us up for a massive food supply catastrophe.

Now, if we had a genetic databank of all the current bovine diversity (though it's a shame we're too late, we've already fucked up cows pretty bad) then we could rest somewhat more easily, since if there is a disaster we would still have those genes in the bank.

5/26/2008

05-26-08 - 5

After reading some semi-scary stuff around the web I've decided to stop taking my Creatine supplement. Facts about Creatine :

1. Most people consider it completely safe in reasonable quantities, with cycling.

2. Creatine supplementation definitely improves athletic performance and muscle growth in people who have a creatine shortage for some reason, either due to disease or due to creatine-poor diets, such as vegetarians.

3. Creatine definitely increases the size of muscles due to muscle tissue water retention; most people who take creatine see this effect and believe creatine has "worked" because of it. Of course for most people, merely looking strong is the goal.

4. Modern diets rich in red meat provide dietary creatine far in excess of what the body needs. Even without creatine supplementation we have far more than ancient man.

5. There is no scientific evidence that creatine supplementation in healthy people actually increases athletic performance, though this is widely accepted in the weight lifting community. (note that lack of evidence here doesn't mean it's not true, since sport performance studies are uniformly poor).

6. Cyclists and other weight-sensitive athletes actually think creatine is contra-indicated because the weight gain due to water retention hurts performance.

05-26-08 - 4

I haven't actually played on a Wii Fit yet but it sure looks retarded.

Several years ago I thought of making some PC games that work with the DDR Pad as simple exercise games, stuff like the old Track & Field arcade game but where you actually run on the pad or whatever. I thought up a few game designs (such as Simon Says), and came to the conclusion that the best possible exercise game on a DDR Pad is DDR.

05-26-08 - 3

Damnit, I really want one of the Seattle jobs, but I want to live in SF. And no I don't want to telecommute, I want to be with people in an office. The quandary has sort of paralyzed me.

When faced with really tough decisions where there's no obvious best answer, I tend to just do nothing. I think that's a mistake. There was some dumb fucking shallow article in the NYT recently about a study of soccer goalies, you know how soccer goalies tend to just guess a side and dive, the study found they would make more saves if they didn't guess and just stayed put. The NYT articles tried to extrapolate that to general life decisions, but that's entirely foolish and not analogous. In life when facing a decision with no clear best choice it's usually best to just go ahead and pick one. Doing something is better than doing nothing because at least it moves you in some direction. If nothing else it provides you with powerful psychological benefits : 1. you stop debating that decision and just move on to other thoughts, and feel good that you made a choice, and 2. it puts you in a mind set of rapidly deciding and acting, which gives you momentum for moving forward, whereas not deciding makes you feel static and carries into the rest of your life.

05-26-08 - 2

I'm really annoyed by the lack of decent standard MP3 encoding. Lots of the torrents are in fucking 320 which is so unnecessary and huge. Then you get the retarded ones in 128 which is not good enough. 192 is okay, but really everything should be in VBR, with some kind of good settings for VBR (which again is a big cluster fuck because there aren't good regular standards for VBR settings). For disk storage you want something that sounds at least as good as 192 but uses minimal bits, and you don't care if encoding takes a bit longer and the bit rate might be highly variable.

Of course we did (do) have the same problem with JPEG. Exposing technical parameters to the average user is just dumb. The defaults need to be better and exposed in ways that are more intuitive. I don't blame the user for doing it wrong when it's exposed so badly. I always had the same philosophy when writing tools in games; if the coders expose the control in a really awful nonintuitive way or with broken default values, it's the coders fault when the content is broken.

The MPEG group (redundant like Mount Fuji I know) is generally very smart about defining the decoding standard and not defining the encoder. That allows lots of room for improvement in the future, because they're smart about making the format pretty flexible so future better encoders can change the code stream enough, and compatible decoders just keep working. The problem is that you rely on the 3rd party software makers to make decent encoders, and the software makers don't, and the user doesn't really know or care.

05-26-08 - 1

Recent music I've listened to :

"If I were a Carpenter" - nothing good but the Sonic Youth song. And IMO not even the best Sonic Youth cover song; I love "Get into the groove(y)".

"The Presets" - mmm, kind of a more generic clubby sound version of Cut Copy. Just not super great.

Cut Copy's "So Cosmic" mix - mmm, more house/dancey than their stuff normally is, it's nice to have a smooth mix, I definitely could see listening to this for workout music or something like that.

The Album Leaf - Into the Blue Again - meh, I'm kind of over the Album Leaf. I really hate all the songs with singing, they need to really not sing, and too many of the songs are just boring new agey piano shit. Some of the early EP's were nice, it's just hard to listen to because it's so inconsistent.

St. Vincent "Marry Me" - yuck. Lots of layers and complication that leads to nowhere. Compare to someone who does this sound well like Beirut or Sufjan and this is just amateur.

Destroyer - "Your Blues" and "Destroyers Rubies" - mmmm.. I really like his sound and the music, but I just don't like his voice. May have to give this another listen to try again.

Final Fantasy - "Has a good home" - this is the album before "He Poos Clouds" ; not quite as good, but still nice. I kind of wish he wouldn't sign and just do instrumental cuz his voice sucks balls, but the music is so great it's still listenable.

Gomez , Glitch Mob - WTF, why did I get these? ass.

Efterklang - atmospheric, but too glitchy and annoying for background music. Me no likey. I kind of put M83 and Caribou and Hot Chip all in this category too. I just don't know when I would want to listen to this. It's too jarring for background but not energetic enough for foreground.

Ben Watt's "Lazy Dog" - blech, gay house music. I really like Buzzin Fly, but a lot of the Ben Watt CD's are awful.

Heiroglyphics - seems like some pretty sweet old school style rap; reminds me of Jurassic 5.

Simian Mobile Disco - there are a couple really great songs on "ADSR" and a few stinkers; there are also a ton of mix tapes made by these guys available online that are pretty sweet. I don't actually like the way they mix songs together, they tend to put big breaks in between the tracks, it's smooth but not continuous. Still their song selections and remixes are really good. It's sort of dirty electro/dance music.

Hercules and Love Affair - WTF why do people like this? Super gay disco house. I actually like the guy's weird voice but the music is totally uninspired.

Band of Horses - digging this. Emo country rockish. Reminds me a bit of My Morning Jacket.

MGMT "Oracular Spectacular" - hipster operatic rock. Pretty good, I dig it.

VHS or Beta - slightly more punk cousin of MGMT. Also dig it. The songwriting is a little bit retarded over simple and they rely a bit too much on the cool throwback sound ala early 2000's cute boy bands like the Strokes.

Cut Copy - really fun trashy electro. Actually really reminds me of old Depeche Mode.

Peter Bjorn & John - "Writer's Block" - hmmm, I guess I missed this, I listened to Young Folks when it came out of course and just figured they were a one hit wonder and never listened to the rest of the album, but it's actually pretty good.

5/24/2008

05-24-08 - 4

The South Yuba BLM Camp turned out to be really perfect. It's not exactly far from civilization, it's cabin country all around there, and Nevada City / Grass Valley has turned into a big suburban nasty town, but the camp is tucked back enough that you can feel all alone. There was hardly anyone else there, and the sites are well separated and the foliage is dense so we couldn't even see our neighbors, which is a wonderful treat. It was perfectly silent at night. I imagine that on a week day away from Memorial day you might be the only person there.

It's about a mile hike down to the river from camp, which is a good thing because it means nobody is at the river. If you scamper about 500 feet upstream from the access point there are some nice swimming holes, and you have privacy so you can get naked and freeze your balls off in the snow melt water. It's a nice mix of pines and deciduous trees with plenty of understory.

The major well known swimming holes (such as Edward's Crossing, Bridgeport, Purdon Crossing) are crowded with locals who park and walk the few feet to the water. But like everywhere, if you just hike a mile from the parking you can be all alone. People are lame and lazy, and that's to my advantage. I'm guessing that if you do the trail from Malakoff Diggins down Humbug Creek to that river access it's probably deserted there as well since that's like a 4 mile hike. (btw Malakoff Diggins is a really good name for a hobbit).

The next day we went down to Bridgeport on the way out to take a different route. We passed an original Wells Fargo office from 1857 when this was gold country. There's lots of cool old gold-rush historical crap around here if you're into that. The river at Bridgeport is much hotter and drier, it's brown grassland a lot like San Luis Obispo, or so much of California. It's also more crowded with people there, including some loud mobs of local teenagers.

We did get to watch two youngsters have sex. The trail along the river is high above the water with occasional access paths. The couple was lying on the sand at river's edge and we were on the trail above hiking along. I saw the somewhat chubby bikini clad girl crawl on top of him and bend over his swim trunks; her head started bobbing up and down. I wasn't sure what was going on so I stopped to have a look and watched as she sat up, still straddling him, and scooted up to align their hips. She started bouncing up and down while gyrating her hips like a tilted spinning top, making her jiggly butt bounce vigorously. And then it was over just as it was getting interesting.

The town of Wildwood is one of the more bizarre things I've ever seen. It's in the middle of fucking nowhere, right next to the town of "Rough and Ready" (which pretty much described my condition when we passed there). It's like 20 miles from the freeway and 50 miles from Sacramento, with huge open spaces in between, and yet it's built like a suburb. There are rows of tract houses packed together, and there's a fucking gated community with a guard. WTF - who exactly are you guarding from? I guess there is like one row of older houses inhabited but the actual country people who used to live out here before this bizarre development got built, so the gate is to make damn sure they never come in.

Even though it's really good, it's not exactly my camping-swimming fantasy. I kind of suspect that fantasy cannot be fulfilled in the Sierra Nevada, since all the remote hike-in streams are snow melt and really only great swimming maybe 1 week out of the year at the end of August. South Cal has the warmer weather, but it's so dry there are basically zero swimmable rivers in the whole of Southern California outside of the Sierra. (I've been to the exceptions : Red Rock, China Hole, Big Sur River, Arroyo Seco). I think maybe somewhere in Northern Cal is actually a better bet, because it gets so much more rain up there, you can find rivers outside of the high mountains. Maybe somewhere in the Shasta-Lassen area, or in the Mendocino Forest area (that's not the same as the Mendocino coast).

05-24-08 - 3

Any place with "Ultra Lounge" in the name will be ridiculously lame, full of douchebags, and probably a velvet rope to create the illusion that anyone would ever care about getting in.

BTW "douchebag" actually looks much worse if you put a space in it, like "douche bag".

05-24-08 - 2

I made the Molten Chocolate Cake Recipe from Joy of Baking the other day. It kind of sucks. I mean it's okay, but it's not what I consider a Molten Choco Cake at all, it's really just a soufflay. A proper Molten Chocolate Cake should be dense and rich, cooked crispy on the outside, dense and rich, and then almost liquid (but not quite) in the middle. It shouldn't be dry or tough on the edges, which is quite common in restaurants.

I've never really found a great Molten Choco Cake recipe, but you get a pretty good result just by making a good flourless brownie recipe and cooking it too hot in a small ramekin for a shorter time. Cook at 400 instead of the regular 350, and around 15 minutes in a typical ramekin.

BTW I like Jacques Pepin's brownie recipe from Fast Food My Way, but he has an error. He says to toast the hazelnuts for 5 minutes at 350. That produces a semi-raw hazelnut which is quite disgusting. A better hazelnut roast is 13-14 minutes at 325. You may need to experiment a bit with your oven because nuts go from perfectly toasted to burned very quickly. Don't worry about the nuts roasting further inside the brownie - they won't. In general in the majority of baking recipes you want to go ahead and use fully roasted nuts in the batter, don't use raw nuts, because inside the batter the nuts will not cook much at all. With something like a quick bread you should use nuts that are 75% roasted.

I think the soufflay style actually is authentic with the original "molten chocolate cake", that's just now what I want. Also there is a whole world of tweaking I've never explored. If you start with any soufflay style recipe, you can make it more or less dense by tweaking what you do with the egg whites. At one extreme you make proper stiff peaks and fold it gently, at the other extreme you just stir in the liquid egg whites with no beating. In between you could do things like whisk just to soft peaks and stir it in without folding.

05-24-08 - 1

I'm thinking about just duct taping over the whole exposed end of my chopped keyboard. That would emphasize the hacky DIY nature of the chop. I chopped off the end of the numpad to use to close the end, but of course that doesn't work because the keyboard tapers, so the end piece is a lot smaller than the exposed hole which is a bit goofy. Plus I have to figure out how to glue plastic. I think maybe silicone sealer is the way to go.

I put some pics of the keyboard on Flickr . Chopping off the numpad has made me wish the arrows were gone too. Not completely gone, but like moved up above the backspace key, so that whole side area could be gone.

5/21/2008

05-21-08 - 2

Yay, I finally did this thing to Chop your numpad off your keyboard . It pretty much went smoothly, some little things :

When I first took the screws out, the keyboard seemed to be stuck together and I couldn't get it apart and was kind of stumped. I was just about to try to force it apart when I noticed the stickers on the back of the keyboard. Yep, there are screws hidden under the stickers. You can find them just by feeling around on the stickers for a spot with no plastic - it's a pit with a screw in it.

When I read that site for some reason I thought that he was tucking the circuit board back in the keyboard. He's not, he's tucking it UNDER the keyboard so it's just exposed to the desktop. That kind of sucks. I tried tucking it back inside, but that's just not possible.

On a related note - the numpad circuit has not been disabled! That circuitry tucked under the keyboard is still live and pressure sensitive! That means if you push on the body of the keyboard along that edge it will push numpad buttons which is seriously whack. I need to get some kind of layer of insulating material between the two layers of circuitry. I'm not sure what would be best, maybe just some paper.

If I was hot shit I would cut that damn exposed circuit sheet off and connect the broken loops.

Also something to be aware of - the feet that hold up the keyboard are in the numpad area. Now I personally hate those flip-up feet that tip the keyboard forward (and they're very bad for you, if anything the keyboard should be tipped BACK not forward), but if you like them you're fucked. The cut also removes the little rubber feet, which means the keyboard is resting right on the folded circuits, and also means the left side that still has the feet is higher than the right. I need to buy some little adhesive rubber feet and put them on both sides to even it out.

I cut my keyboard with my jig saw. It worked fine. Make sure to wear protective eye wear because plastic bits fly everywhere.

I'm considering cutting the outside edge off the numpad and superglueing it to my chopped keyboard so that I get a nice sealed edge. Seems like it would be hard to make the interface good enough. Probably some silicon or something would be better than super glue since the two sides won't mate very well.

05-21-08 - 1

All this reading about camping options has given me fantasies of living closer to the Sierra. Maybe some place like Placerville or Grass Valley that's in the foothills so it's warmer. Then you can easily drive up to the mountains any day and camp or hike. You could get a 4x4 and drive the dirt fire roads that nobody ever takes. You can find all the secret camp spots that the tourists don't know and be all alone. You could have your truck loaded with gear all the time so you don't have to pack and unpack, you just hop in and go. Maybe I'd get a dog. And learn to fish. And in the National Forest you don't need to use a campground you can just camp anywhere, so I could really learn super secret spots and remember them on my GPS and find swimming holes on the rivers and carry out my tent.

It would be awesome to do while I'm still young, when I can still move and enjoy it. But then I also need to get back to work while I'm still young. And I can't really work and live at the same time.

5/20/2008

05-20-08 - 3

Bah. It's impossible to find decent information about camping/hiking. I've been googling and reading books and all the information is fucking shitty. It's too dry factual and too disorganized. What you want is qualitative editorial descriptions of the best places, some idea of what it's actually like there, not shit like "16 sites, piped water". I can get that fucking lame information from the US government web sites, I don't need books full of that shit. Books should have pictures, descriptions of the area, perhaps some info about nearby sights & trails. Books also don't need to list all 500 fucking camp sites in the state, they should just list 100 of the best. Also every site that does raw numeric ratings is lame. The rating should be on different criteria, like "good for RV campers" or "good hiking nearby" or "isolated / scenic".

The "definitive" Stienstra books are not great. The basic factual information I can get online. His editorial information is primarily about the fishing, which seems to be all he cares about, and I could give a rat's ass about how good the fishing is. He also rates highly places which I'm pretty sure I would hate, like places with boat ramps on reservoirs - those tend to be full of noisy douchebags and the camp sites generally don't feel wild at all.

Anyway I've narrowed it down to 4 choices. I'm somewhat limited because my car can't handle rough roads at all and it's still cold up high.

Pi Pi in El Dorado, on the Cosumnes river, near Grizzly Flat.

Moore Creek, on the Mokelumne river, further up the 88, near Salt Springs Reservoir.

South Yuba BLM Camp, on the South Fork of the Yuba River of course, near Nevada City & Malakoff Diggins. Edwards Crossing is a very popular and heavily used swimming hole here.

Fiddle Creek or Indian Valley on the North Yuba River, near Downieville.

05-20-08 - 2

The new Death Cab is alright. I'm not really a fan anymore, but it's definitely their best album since The Photo Album. Transatlantacism and Plans both sucked IMO.

05-20-08 - 1

I just saw a girl biking down market in a short skirt with garters and thigh highs. Yowza! It was pretty ridiculously hot, combining two of my favorite things, but it would've been even hotter if she was a half competent cyclist.

BTW FYI tiny hard saddles are totally correct for racing bikes but don't really make a ton of sense for city riding. For one thing, the reason they have no padding is because it's assumed that you will wear bike shorts that have the padding built into the shorts. If you are doing city riding in street clothes, you should have a saddle with a bit of padding. This is one of those cases where people think they are cool for using the more "hard core" component without understanding its function and appropriate use.

5/19/2008

05-19-08 - 5

I know some of you use an "autoadjuster" screen for your LCD like I do. I have long just had it in my Startup, but that often doesn't work because the monitor will have already done its autoadjust at the log on screen. I thought with Windows XP you couldn't change the log on wallpaper, but of course you can. The trick is to first turn off the "Welcome" screen, so you have a "classic" style log in, then you can change the log in wallpaper thusly .

BTW this is my autoadjuster bmp (zip) . You need to paste that into an image the size of the native resolution of your LCD. You don't want any scaling of the image, the one pixel black and white grid must be preserved.

The autoadjuster image helps your LCD hardware correctly self-adjust when you're driving the LCD with an analog (VGA) signal. Obviously you should be using a digital signal and most of you are now, but some of us are stuck in the shitty past. If you autoadjust without this image up, it won't adjust quite right and if you display the black and white grid, you will see it shimmer, or even worse you may see big lines move through it. If you let it autoadjust with the grid up, you should get a pretty nice crisp image.

05-19-08 - 4

I fixed some more issues in chuksh with moving files using wild patterns. All that code is so old and gross; I wrote that stuff when I was in college and some of it is badly broken. I did do a good thing making wild patterns an opaque type, but I failed to make correct standard conversions from wild specs to strings, which means I incorrectly convert literal reserved chars to wilds, and then also don't back convert right either. I keep just patching the problems because I don't want to have to rewrite all that stuff in my more modern code base, but someday I'm going to have to revisit all that. At the moment I'm somewhat scared that there could be ways to accidentally lose some files (not sure if that's actually possible or not).

I talked to Ignacio a bit about the problems with tangent spaces. Ignacio wrote a while ago about how the standard seam break thing that people do for flipped tangents is BS. I actually feel that the whole way that has become standard for us to make tangent spaces is very primitive. The standard way is to use the UV mapping as a handy way of getting a continuous direction field on your mesh. That is indeed convenient since you already have a UV mapping, but it may not be the most natural way to get good tangent spaces. For one thing, there's a big difference - the tangent spaces are constrained by the normals on each vertex, and the UV mapping was made without consideration of those normals. This is of course why you get tangent space flips and degeneracies even with decent UV mappings such as LSCM.

Using the UV mapping is sort of a quick hack to get tangent spaces, and it works okay, but really we should just be optimizing the tangent spaces directly. Your vertex normals are a constraint so each tangent space has 1 DOF, a rotation angle of the tangent around the normal. You want to optimize the tangent spaces to be continuous across the surface of each chart on the mesh, and specifically constrained to have no flips or degeneracies.

I haven't thought about this a whole lot yet, but I did find that Bruno Levy et.al. have a new paper out that's basically on this topic : N-Symmetry Direction Field Design

05-19-08 - 3

The last few days have been a near ideal course of what I like to do with my time - hiking, going to the beach, lying in the sun, listening to new music, lots of great sex, dancing, good food, barbecue, being with a great girl - what more could I want? It's been nice, but today rolls around and those days are in the past and I'm faced with the bleak expanse of hours until bed time just like every other day.

My birthday's coming up soon. I fucking hate birthdays, I wish I didn't have one. They provide a painful annual reminder of how shitty my life is and how I have no friends and couldn't throw a party if my life depended on it. Thanks calendar! I managed to push that pain out of my mind over the last 11 months, lucky for me this mandatory celebration has rolled around once again to bring back this particular sorrow.

05-19-08 - 2

I have a little bit of a bingeing problem. It happens sometimes with booze, but it's not that I have an alcohol problem, I have an *everything* problem. Certainly chocolate, also almonds, bacon, pornography, steak. Anything self indulgent and bad for me, I can't keep in my house. 99% of the time I have control and don't over-indulge, but every once in a while something releases in me and I will quickly consume absolutely bad in my house. Usually it's at night after dinner when I'm bored. I don't think it even necessarilly has to do with depression, I've done it some times after very good days.

Anyway, it's something I know about myself and I can manage it by just never having those things in my house in significant quantities, so I can't ever do too much damage to myself. When I'm in that bad state, if I have to make the effort of actually going to the store to self-destruct I can usually control that and convince myself not to.

It is a pain in the ass, though. It means I can never have a well stocked bar. I can only buy booze in small quantities so that I don't have a big stock on hand. The same goes for chocolate, I can never buy bulk chocolate, and in fact I can't even keep baking chocolate in my pantry because I'll bake something bad. I have go out and buy supplies each time I want to bake something.

Lately I've picked up a problem with almonds. I'd like to be able to eat nuts as part of my diet, they're very good for you in reasonable quantities, but lately if I buy almonds I eat the whole bag in a day or two which is not a reasonable quantity.

Maybe I could get one of those machines for old people with Alzheimers where you put in the week's worth of drugs then it locks and you get fed your daily ration on a timer.

I have a lot of sympathy for people with mental flaws. However, I do not have sympathy for people who don't try to control or minimize their mental flaws. Even if you can't actually fix what's broken around you there are always ways to minimize the amount of damage the flaw can do.

05-19-08 - 1

I've never really been camping in the Sierra much. I've been to like Yosemite and Sequioa and King's Canyon, but apparently there's tons of great rustic camping out in the national forests. I guess it's a bit cold still in the high Sierra, the good time is more like July-August.

One of the prime areas I've spotted is just north of Truckee, around the 89-49 intersection. Apparently off "Gold Lake Hwy" there's tons of rustic camping if you have a 4x4, because lots of spots are accessible only on very rough dirt roads. A bit south of there Faucherie Lake looks amazing. Below Tahoe along the 88 is supposed to be good too, around the Shealor Lakes. I guess most of this is Emmigrant Wilderness and Tahoe National Forest, and then below that is Stanislaus National Forest.

I think we're gonna go camp this week, maybe somewhere around there but in the lower Sierra where it will be a bit warmer.

5/18/2008

05-18-08 - 8

A lot of newspaper articles about these financial bail-outs sort of miss the point. The current Fed & UK programs to exchange bad paper for good or to offer emergency credit and super low rates is of course in fact a direct subsidy worth quite a bit. But if you just look at the $ value of that subsidy you're missing the real subsidy, which is the gaurantee of help when you're in trouble, which allows you to take more risks all the time. It's a massive EV boost throughout the lifetime of the bank, not just in these rare bad times, but in the good times too.

Now having the government as a backup insurer is not necessarilly a bad thing. It would be very expensive for companies to properly insure themselves if they had to, or they would have to take much smaller risks. Imagine if when a corporation went bankrupt the board & CEO had to personally cover the debt - they would become much more cautious, which would hurt the economy as a whole. What is irksome is that the large corporations enjoy this special benefit that nobody else gets.

05-18-08 - 9

Recycling bins have a huge value way beyond just their merit in reducing waste. Some analysts contend that the actual recycling is not a very good use of human time and money, that we don't reduce the land fill enough and we spend tons of energy doing the recycling. Regardless of that, I think it's very valuable because it introduces a daily awareness of conservation to people's lives. People don't think about things unless they are in direct contact with them every day. Everyone in SF complains about the homeless, but if they were on our streets where we seem them every day nobody would think about them at all. We have a disastrous prison situation, but nobody cares because it's hidden away. Recycling is a perfect thing because it's not too onerous, people don't mind doing it too much, so it gets into their daily routine and they start thinking about conservation, and then that extends into other behavior, it becomes connected to consuming less, not buying water bottles, getting a more efficient car, etc. Once something is in our lives we can become pleasantly obsessed with it.

This model is very good in general for getting people active & caring about issues. If you give them some very small easy way to get involved in something in their daily lives, in an activity that they do anyway, then they will accept it and make it part of their routine and grow to care about it.

05-18-08 - 7

Unlikely rare events are often treated as if they are completely random flukes and the damage from them can not be blamed on anyone. This goes from things like terrorist attacks to famines, droughts, financial bubbles, poisonous medicines, contaminated food, earthquakes, cyclones, bridge collapses, etc. In fact you can estimate the likelihood of most of these somewhat accurately, and they should be planned for, and reasonable steps taken to prepare for handling them or preventing them.

Government has grossly failed us in this. Obviously this US government has failed miserably, but so have many others around the world and so have many previous US governments.

05-18-08 - 6

I have never done a kegstand, nor have I ever even been to a party where a kegstand was done. I think "kegstand" is one of those critical dividing lines; many people don't even know what a "keg stand" is, and other people thing it's lame and sad that I've never seen one.

05-18-08 - 5

The place I want to vacation has a fresh water swimming hole, with clear water and a waterfall running in to it, hot weather, and a good rock or sandy bank to lounge in the sun. It should be a bit of a trek to get to, so that it's mostly deserted and I can swim naked by myself. That's it. Seems easy. But how the fuck do you find that? There must be hundreds of them in the world, but I don't know where they are.

I could give a fuck about historical crap or famous sites or checking the wonders of the world off my list. I don't give a rats ass. I just want my little idyllic swimming hole to myself. I'll bring my own booze and music and food and have a little happy party.

I have found some sites for the US now : Waterfalls West , WayMarking swimming holes , Swimming Holes dot info

I suppose that on this issue I am becoming one those weird old people who become overly obsessed with some obscure pleasure. I often mocked these strange oldsters when I was young because it is pretty ridiculous and silly. They pick some certain thing, for many it's something generic and uncreative like golf, for others it's swing dancing where they get all the outfits and practice all the time, or maybe it's wine varietals, and they just spend way too much time on that one thing way beyond what's reasonable or pleasurable for a sane person. Well, the truth is that as you get older you realize that most things in life just fucking suck balls, and when you find something that you like, you just want to do that thing a lot. But as you do it more you become more picky about it, so you want to do it better, then you want to do it perfectly, so you gradually become this bizarre obsessed person who spends months preparing for this little event that seems like no big deal to a sane young person.

05-18-08 - 4

Many of my friends have often said to me (speaking of a girlfriend), "she's hot, you should hang on to her". Umm, no. Hotness is only one of the many basic qualifying traits I expect in a girl. Why would I ever be with a girl that's not hot? Or sweet, or intelligent? These are basic qualifying characteristics, not anything exceptional.

Hot, smart, competent, sweet - that's just the baseline. Exceptional traits are things like : wry subtle wit, sexy dancer, good taste in music, good taste in TV comedy, disdain for the common man, liberal politics, good hiker, willing frisbee partner, great at sex, strong enough to defy my negativity, and so on.

05-18-08 - 3

The name "super Tuscan" bothers me.

Old drunk women who hang out in groups and laugh loudly and are outspoken and aggressive really terrify and repulse me. I have waking nightmares about them, kind of similar to evil clown nightmares. I think they're a lot like clowns, seemingly jovial, grossly overly jovial, yet creepy and sinister.

05-18-08 - 2

Egg white omelette = bad people.

05-18-08 - 1

I'm trying to find new funny TV so I picked up "Spaced" which came highly recommended. Yikes. Just because it's British doesn't mean it's smart or clever. It's sort of on the level of "How I met your mother" or "My name is Earl". Every "funny" moment has me sarcastically thinking "oh wow, what a clever funny twist, I NEVER saw that coming, oh how novel, his idea for how to be more productive is to smoke some pot, ha". I guess I shouldn't be surprised, since I find all of Simon Pegg's stuff to be patently unfunny; it's very hammy broad comedy, like the unfunny Adam Sandler or Ben Stiller.

5/17/2008

05-17-08 - 3

God damn I wish I had a parking spot, I feel stuck at home all the time because I don't want to give up my spot on the street, especially on a nice Saturday when a mob will descend on the park.

05-17-08 - 2

We've had a sick heat wave recently. Of course no one has AC so the city's been going a bit nuts. Thursday we went to Ocean beach. Meh, Ocean Beach kind of sucks. I don't recommend it to anyone. Friday we went to East Beach. East Beach is right off Crissy Field, and while of course it's no LA beach and the water is freezing, it is actually an amazing place. It's on the bay side, facing Marin, so you have perfect views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, the Palace of Fine Arts (aka the Exploratorium), and back to the city. It's lovely just lying in the nice sand there and listening to the gentle bay waves and checking out the view - it's one of the few beaches in SF that's actually worth going to, because it has what SF is actually good for. Unfortunately, hot clear days are pretty rare over in that part of the city.

Friday night was boiling hot in my apartment so we went out and sat in Dolores park; it was still toasty, and we admired that great night time view of the city from "Dolores Beach". There were a ton of people in the park, lots drinking and hanging out, probably a few hundred people all trying to get out of the heat. Around 11 or something a whole bunch of cop cars showed up and chased everyone out of the park. The big mass of hipsters down below put up some resistance to the police but eventually got chased off too.

05-17-08 - 1

I just found this site randomly, it's so AWESOME-ly bad : Ismael Rodriguez ; check out the links on the side too. OMG. It's so perfect it must be fake, but I dunno, I can pretend it's hillariously real. Wow.

5/15/2008

05-15-08 - 2

Garam Masala is one of those magic spices you can stick in anything and it makes it more interesting. For example, spiced nuts : cinammon, chile powder, salt, sugar, garam masala!

I'm not totally happy with my spiced nuts method. It's basically roast nuts, heat 2 tbsp sugar + water in a pan until liquid, toss in nuts and quickly coat, toss on spices. That works fine but I don't like how sugary they are, but if you use less sugar it's not enough to coat evenly and the spice doesn't stick evenly.

There are alternative methods. One is the egg white coating method to get stuff to stick. That sounds weird and gross. Another is the butter coating method. I think that kind of makes your nuts taste like chex mix (and every girl knows you don't want your nuts to taste like chex mix).

Perhaps I could use a bit less sugar and add some butter to make a sort of very thin light caramel and use that.

05-15-08 - 1

When people close to me are down, it really brings me down. I wish I could cheer them up, sometimes I try a little bit, but when I try to be up and they just go "bleck, fuck you" I get discouraged and give up. It's my own problem, my fear of rejection, my insecurity, I should be able to take the first rebuff and just keep trying and eventually it will work, but I can't, and it puts me in the pits, and the pits lasts for days with me.

In general in life I'm torn about trying to fight my natural self, or to accomodate it and tailor my life to make it work. eg. knowing that little rejections can send me into 3 days of depression, should I just put myself out anyway and try to fight my immature natural tendancy and be better, or should I just accept that that's the way I am, and do what I need to do in order to avoid putting myself in the bad situation in the first place.

5/14/2008

05-14-08 - 1

From 1996 to 2006 the average price of existing homes in the US very nearly doubled. That sounds awesome, but anually that's only 7.18% growth. That's also perhaps the fastest appreciation of home values in the history of the modern US.

Over the same period, stocks (the S&P 500 to be precise) rose even more, by about 225% , or 8.48% anually. Over longer time spans stocks look even much better vs. housing, I was just surprised that even during the biggest housing boom in modern history stocks did better, even despite the big crash in 2001-2002.

BTW obviously housing in hot spots did better than the national average, but also stock sectors like energy & technology did better than the S&P so let's not get into that game.

Of course the big advantage with houses is that you can massively leverage your investment (and the interest deduction, and the tax break on gains). If you leveraged a big stock bet the same way you would do better on average. For the most part people don't do that. The reason is that housing is supposed to be much safer. Leveraged bets are very risky; no bank would ever loan you money in order to invest it in the stock market, but they will make that loan for housing.

5/13/2008

05-13-08 - 1

This ferrofluid performance art stuff is pretty rad : 1 , 2 , 3

5/12/2008

05-12-08 - 3

"urbane" is not the same as "urban", though they are somewhat related. Urbane should only be used to refer to people, and is describing their manners and way of comporting themselves in polite society. Urbane originally comes from meaning "appropriate for a city" I suppose as contrast to the majority of the population that was rural back then, but now it means sophisticated, polite, educated, etc.

"pederast" is not the same as "pedophile", though they are somewhat related. Pederast is more specific, and refers to someone who has anal intercourse with young boys. It's sometimes specified that it's against the boys will or with them as passive partners, ergo they are being raped, but I don't believe that really needs to be explicitly indicated, it can be assumed.

Also, what's the word for someone who likes walking (going places by foot)? I'm pretty sure it's "pedephile" (?) , which makes me a huge pedephile. Not to be confused with someone with a foot fetish, which is a "podophile".

05-12-08 - 2

Software engineers seem to intentionally commit the most egregious UI/usability sins that they can find. The more obvious and heinous the sin, the more they like it.

One of the common ones is the pop-up failure box after a long batch process. Lots of things do this - iTunes music imports, Windows Installers, etc. You set it doing some huge thing and walk away, only to come back an hour later and find it only ran for 5 minutes and then decided to pop up an interactive yes/no box about some warning. Even worse of course is when it runs for 2 days and then pops up a "whoops couldn't complete" box. Thanks. Of course it's blatanty obvious that any time you do a time consuming process you should check the possible failures and anything you need to ask about right up front, and get that all verified, and then let the user know you're about to go non-interactive for a long time and let him go away. Furthermore a semi-accurate progress percent is pretty important.

The progress percent is another one where people seem to just get a laugh at fucking with you. There's a few funny ones :

The progress bar that's actually just an hourglass. It moves across the bar steadily and you feel all happy, and then it gets to the end and just starts over at the beginning and keeps moving again. WTF. iTunes does this.

The progress bar with super non-linear speed. It ticks along nice and fast, you decide not to even stand up, and then after five minutes it hits 98% and just stops. Then it hits 98.1%. Doh.

The progress bar that restarts over and over. Windows installers love to do this. You see a progress bar and you think hey this won't take too long. Then it restarts for the next phase and it's ticking a little slower. Hey no big deal I can wait this out too. Then it reaches the end and restarts another phase. Doh!

05-12-08 - 1

Perfect Daiquiri :

1 Oz lime juice
1 Oz simple syrup (simple syrup = 2 parts sugar, 1 part water)
1 Oz light rum
1 Oz dark rum

Stirred, not shaken (no ice chips please!). Serve up in frozen glass. Garnish with a wafer thin wedge of lime, floated.

If you like the malty flavor, you can use simple syrup made from turbinado sugar.

While I applaud 10 Cane (LVMH) for trying to bring back the classic daiquiri, actually putting 10 Cane in a daiquiri is comparable to making a vodka-cran with Grey Goose or whatever. (btw expensive vodka = lol)

5/11/2008

05-11-08 - 4

3D Ski maps is pretty cool; it's actually something 3d on the web is good for!

05-11-08 - 3

It's sort of funny in groups of old friends how everyone gets totally stereotyped. There's some guy who's "always" doing his thing X. Another guy is the expert on Y, any time topic Y comes up everyone is like "oh ask that guy", or any time you make small talk with him you talk about Y. Another guy always makes his famous stuffed peppers; have you had guy's stuffed peppers? oh hey we're having a dinner party ask guy to bring his stuffed peppers.

The funny thing is that these stereotypes have nothing to do with reality, and everyone keeps up the illusion to make each other feel better. That guy's stuffed peppers might actually suck, and he might be really sick of making them all the time, and nobody really wants them, but everyone keep up the charade because it's the group dynamic and it makes everyone feel valuable, like they have a special skill and they're contributing.

05-11-08 - 2

I wish I was a member of a big Chinese family that could go to those restaurants with big circular tables and a Lazy Susan in the middle and just order like 20 dishes and eat what you want. That's the way you're meant to eat Chinese food, and going with two people and just ordering a few things really doesn't get you anywhere near an approximation of what the experience should be like.

05-11-08 - 1

I really hate it when girls tell me about their wild pasts. I guess it's mainly some flaw of my own that makes that bother me. Maybe I'm jealous because I don't really have that past. Maybe I want all their good times to be with me. I do in general not find those stories amusing; the whole genre of "man I was so wasted" story is just very eye-rolly not interesting to me. It's right on par with exciting stories of renovating your house or the great shopping you did.

More than anything I wonder why they insist on telling me these stories about their youthful debauchery. Hey that's great, you got drunk and had sex with lots of people, good for you, why don't you just keep that a secret? Why are you telling me that !?

Of course the worst bits always come out in off hand little comments. There are two primary types : 1. the knowing comment and 2. the horrible thing passed off as funny and no big deal.

1. The knowing comment is some little remark that indicates experience with something that's a big deal, but it's said in a sort of off hand way in a quiet voice. If you ask "what was that?" they always say "oh nothing". For example, you're watching TV together and there's an interview with a porn star who just did some video of 101 guys coming in her or something. The porn star says "the main thing you have to worry about is lubrication, with so many guys you can really get rubbed raw" and your girlfriend mumbles "yeah you can". You say "huh?" and she goes "oh nothing".

2. The horrible thing passed off as funny and no big deal. This often comes up as a "funny story" that's really not that funny and just horrifying, like "yeah it was my birthday, we went to this bar and I met a couple of guys and got totally wasted and I can't remember anything that happened, but I woke up in my bed and I only had one stocking on and my panties were gone; haha, I wonder how I did that? isn't that funny?" oh my god no that isn't funny it's shocking and disgusting.

There must be some reason girls drop these kinds of things so often. (by "often" I mean about once a year, any more than zero is pretty often for this IMO). Maybe it's to keep me from feeling too important and too secure, to let me know they've had wilder and could have it again any time they want so I better work for it.

5/10/2008

05-10-08 - 1

It really doesn't matter what you've done in the past (sort of), it doesn't particularly matter what kind of job you have, how much money. What really matters is the condition of your *self* - your body and your mind. That's by far the most valuable thing you have, and it's what brings happiness to your own mind and makes you valuable to others. Of course your "mind" encompasses many things, your intelligence, knowledge, your taste and humor, your ability to love, your courage and strength, etc.

If you somehow get to a good current state, that's all that matters, but of course your past strongly affects your current state. If you were a huge slut and slept around with lots of losers, that's fine in theory if it didn't affect your brain, but of course it does affect your mind in ways that stay with you. If you partied all through college and just drank and didn't study, okay, good for you, I'm glad you had fun, but of course that affects your mind in the present in a negative way.

Everyone's entire past is simply the road they have taken to try to build a perfect self in the present. Your past does nothing for you that's productive in the present other than contribute to the current state of your self (mind and body). Having fun memories is of course part of your current self and that's a valuable contribution, but it actually doesn't do that much to improve your present self.

I really don't understand people who make huge changes in behavior and talk about their past self as if it was a different person, they'll say "it wasn't the real me". Of course it was you, it was your mind. I don't believe that human minds really change very much. Your outward behavior and the portion of your mind that you choose to let control you can change dramatically, but the core of your brain doesn't change much at all. Anyone who's worked to try to change their brain knows how hard it is to even make tiny tiny changes in your fundamental personality.

Obviously people can make huge outward changes; this is most obvious in things like when an alcoholic goes clean. Their outward negative behavior was being greatly amplified by the alcohol in their system, so when they manage to go clean their behavior can in fact change very dramatically, but the basic thing in their brain that made them an alcoholic in the first place is of course still there, and the depressiveness and desire to avoid the real world and self loathing and whatever else made them turn to the bottle are all still there.

5/09/2008

05-09-08 - 4

One of the wonderful things about SF is that it's so full of freaks and weirdos that you can do pretty much whatever you want and nobody looks at you funny. They may smile and laugh a bit, but it's just being amused at your weirdness, not a harsh judgement. You can wear super bizarro clothes and go skipping down the street and most people won't even turn their heads, you're just another one of the many freaks, and not even close to the weirdest. I find it very liberating.

I love it here. I wish someone like Bungie or Valve or RAD was in SF. Instead I've got myself a real dilemma. :(

05-09-08 - 3

One of the things that modern stupid fucking pretentious bullshit restaurants in SF like to do is call themselves "Wine Bars" when they are in fact just fucking restaurants. If you refuse to seat people unless they are eating dinner you are a fucking restaurant. Just because you happen to offer wine for sale does not make you a "wine bar". And why in the fucking world would "wine bar" somehow be a good label that makes you more appealing?

05-09-08 - 2

David Mamet, Hal Hartley, Quentin Tarantino - all just awful. They write completely unnatural dialog that's exactly the same regardless of what the movie is about or when it's set. It would be awesome to see Tarantino write like a Victorian period piece and have the exact same rambling pop-culture obsessive dialog. It should star Malkovich and Pacino and Jack Nicholson and James Woods all doing their standard shtick.

05-09-08 - 1

I've been rotten to every girl that's been good to me. I like to think of myself as strong, but in the rare tough times when it really matters and I've been tested, I've been weak.

Actually it reminds me of something I've been thinking about old single people a lot, and I believe I mentioned this before. Someone of my age (30) who's single almost always has something horribly wrong with them. It's actually a really bad sign when that thing is not obvious. For example, if you meet someone who's just butt ugly, you can go okay, I know why you're old and single, you're ugly as sin. But when you meet someone like me who appears attractive and desirable and has money and whatever else girls want, ruh roh, that's a danger sign. There must be something horrible that's not obvious and that's much worse.

The best person to meet is someone who has some horrible obvious flaw that is something you don't personally mind. For example someone who's really shy and awkward might be a good candidate, because it's possible they could be single because of that despite being otherwise wonderful. Another good flaw might be someone who's just way too picky, as long as you can pass their high standards then their flaw becomes not too bad. I guess even better would be someone where the flaw is actually a positive; for example if you meet a girl that's just super geeky/nerdy and you're into that, then that's ideal for you.

It's like when you find a couch on the sidewalk with a "free" sign on it. If it's really old and ratty, okay you see why it's free. If there's a big obvious coffee stain on it, okay, flip the cushion and take it. But if it looks great and there's no obvious flaw and it looks expensive - ruh roh, something disgusting has happened to this couch and you shouldn't touch it.

5/08/2008

05-08-08 - 6

(I think this is all stuff that's common knowledge and shouldn't be any secrets, but if you feel like I'm spilling some kind of beans let me know and I'll stop)

Talking to people in Seattle got me excited about games again. It's a pretty interesting time. The big negative at the moment is how huge and complex games are, and how huge the teams have to be, which kind of sucks. On the other hand, games are still advancing very rapidly, and some big advances are going to be made in the next 10 years. We're finally getting to the point where we can realistically talk about making true dynamic simulations of complex worlds.

In contrast, at the moment there are basically two types of games : 1. "Deep, narrow" games, that are simulations, but in very limited ways - the user can only do a few things and the environment is strictly limited in how it responds; this includes things like Halo as well as lots of old games like Mario etc. 2. "Broad, shallow" games that have lots of canned hacky interactions and try to create the illusion of a huge world you can interact with in lots of ways, but aren't true simulations and you can't do anything the designers didn't specifically code in; this includes things like GTA and the Sims as well as most of the classic j-RPG's and stuff like that.

Everyone is very excited about the continuing growth of CPU power as we continue to move into the multi-core era. The problem is that with machines getting more complex we can do a lot more and run a lot more content, if we keep making games the way we do now that would require 10-100 X as much art & design work, which means prohibitive schedules and team sizes. So we need a way to make tons more interaction without a lot more content creation, which of course means code.

The big exciting things coming up IMO :

Procedural interaction ; N*M problem. We want to have N types of things in the world and M things the user can do, but we don't have to manually set up N*M special interactions, and of course the user can put objects together and they should respond to each other as well which is N*N or even N*N*M, etc. This means that the way things work together needs to be more procedural. Currently in games for me to be able to do a "pick up" , I need to code or animate a different "pick up weapon" , "pick up box" , "pick up humanoid", etc. In the real world if I know how to do a "pick up" I can pick up anything.

"sparse virtual geometry" ; importance-based object detail & existance. This is very vague and nobody knows really how to do it, but we know it's what we want to do. In fact, I and others have been talking about this since 1998 or so. I believe Carmack has been talking about it a lot recently. I should emphasize first off this is not about rendering performance, though rendering is part of it. The idea is that you want to have a world which has "virtual" geometry and objects of massive detail and uniqueness. We want to get away from instancing and just decorators on simplistic backgrounds, and actually have something like a city that's full of millions of unique objects all interactable. Of course you can't just have all those objects in the simulation all the time, so you want to page out stuff that's not important and down-res the distant stuff. Down-res means lower LOD, not just for rendering, but also for collision, AI, pathfinding, etc. etc. The overall goal is that you wind up with a constant performance system similar to the sparse virtual textures, with more detail where you need it.

Dynamic everything. Currently all complex games rely very heavily on having the basic structure of the world static or semi-static, which allows you to precompute lots of helpful things like AI paths, radiosity, collision acceleration structures, etc. People are doing semi-dynamic worlds at the moment mainly by allowing only small or specific canned changes to the static world and precomputing the effect of those changes. The goal in the future is of course to support dynamic everything, which means fully realtime lighting, PVS, etc. I actually don't think the rendering is the hardest part of this at all; things like packaging for paging, and AI are much bigger problems, which leads us to -

AI that can understand its environment. Currently nobody has AI that can actually understand geometry. The designers do lots of tagging, or some complex tool runs a preprocess to analyze and figure things out about the world, and the result is some simple tags like "you can walk here" or "this is a good place to shoot from" etc. There are two reasons this is bad. One, of course if you have totally dynamic geometry you can't do this. Two, the amount of work it takes to tag all this stuff for designers is pretty massive and we'd like to eliminate it. This is a huge area of work that we'll probably only begin and could continue for a hundred years, in the extreme case it includes things like strategic reasoning about environments. In the short term we'll probably have to continue to rely on markup for the macroscopic issues (like "this is a flanking area", "this is a good first retreat area") but we'd like to advance to dynamic smart AI for microscopic issues (like "I can walk here" or "I can take cover here").

This is all pretty pie in the sky; there are a lot less insane things that are also going to be happening, or maybe just some baby steps in these directions.

Also this is all very exciting tech, but in terms of what actually makes games good or bad in the short term, none of these have anything to do with making better games. The problems with games in terms of the user experience are the same as ever :

1. Not enough time spent on all the little details that annoy the user; stuff like UI usability, controls, load time & paging, good tutorial integration, etc.

2. Shitty stories, boring characters, uninspired worlds, gameplay that doesn't integrate the play and the user and the world/backstory, generic uncreative art designs, schedule cuts that wind up wrecking the world/story/art.

3. Generic repetitive gameplay due to lack of game design vision and lack of risks taken in prototyping/prepro.

To some extent these things can be improved by technology, largely by making content easier to create, more foolproof, and faster to iterate. The goal of game content creation should be that the artists/designers can just try anything they want, instantly see it in the game, and have it all "just work", so they don't have to know a bunch of weird rules about how to make good content and don't have to worry about manually tagging up a bunch of junk.

05-08-08 - 5

Bungie really has their shit together. I was super impressed with just about every aspect. It's pretty inspiring to think about being surrounded by some of the most talented people in the world in every aspect of game creation, people who are super smart and super dedicated and top experts in their discipline. It sort of gave me the feeling I had at Caltech, where everyone around is kicking so much ass you feel like you really have to step it up to be on the same level.

Their basic philosophy of game development is very appealing to me. They're devoted to making a "simulation" that responds consistently and logically; the user only has a few ways to interact with the world so that you aren't creating tons of canned interactions, rather the way you can poke the world always works and leads to lots of interesting scenarios because the systems all work together. Their game design also seems to be very logical, in the sense that they have certain feelings and types of play they want to create and they find the game systems that lead the user to experiencing those things.

On the other hand, WTF is up with the music in the Halo games!?

05-08-08 - 4

Women really suck. I was listening to NPR and some local female comedian comes on and starts whining about how "comedy clubs never book women, why aren't women comedians getting the big specials, you only see male comedians, blah blah". Wanna know why? Because you fucking suck! You're not funny. If you were funny you would get booked. There are a small handful of female comedians that are decent, but the rest are stuck in "Cathy" territory with material based on their period or "men are so lame" or "na uh don't go there".

A few days ago I saw this video of Girls doing Parkour . WTF? They're doing the easiest beginner moves and their flow sucks.

I don't believe that girls genetically inherently suck, which means they *choose* to suck, which is actually worse. If they were somehow genetically inferior and doing the best that they could, that would be respectable, but they are in fact not limitted and just suck because they aren't trying, or something. Perhaps some of it is because they're coddled and told they're awesome when they in fact suck.

Now don't fly off the handle. Of course I'm not talking about every single woman, I'm talking women in general. If you just tried to disprove my general point using specific counter examples, I'm guessing you're probably a woman.

05-08-08 - 3

New chicken method from chowhound :

Cut the potatoes into wedges, place in a bowl and toss with a little EVOO. Spread evenly on a rimmed baking sheet. Butterfly the chicken along the back bone (not the breast) and flatten on your board then place on top of the potatoes.

Place in a 425 oven for 40 minutes.

Remove the chicken, sprinkle the potoatoe with S&P and place them back in the oven for 5-10 minutes more until they absorb all the chicken juices and turn crispy brown.

My comment : this is extremely similar to my roasting in pieces method, I'm not really sure if the butterfly is better in any way than pieces; I guess it looks a bit cooler in presentation.

Result : yeah, it's pretty to serve on a big platter with the butterflied chicken and roast potatos and carrots and whatnot around it. Could roast some fennel and turnips and such too. The chicken came out perfect; I rubbed the skin with soft butter as I always do and it was crispy, the meat moist. The roast potatos underneath were delicious, but would've been better if I'd taken it all out and flipped the potatos half way through cooking; the sides that were on the bottom were too charred and the sides not touching the bottom were not charred enough. Also obviously any roast veg that's not under the bird cooks very differently than stuff that is under the bird, so you can't leave them in the same length of time.

05-08-08 - 2

So I joked to somebody that I was going to make a "How to cut a mango" video next. Well, I did. This is a bit different because I think my method is somewhat unusual and definitely better than the standard way; I don't blame people for using the standard way, but if you have some knife skill this way is definitely faster & cleaner :

First the instruction :

Stand the mango vertically and line up the seed so the long side points away from you. Put your knife next to the tip of the mango right at the very top. Work it down gently until you feel the seed, now tilt your knife and work it gently to one side so that you go down right along the seed. Note you are not cutting straight down, you are cutting an arc to exactly trace along the seed. This is easy because you can feel the seed. Repeat on the other side so you have two curved halves.

my video part 1

Now take each half and slice it in half the long way. Now you have a long wedge of mango with skin on the outside. To remove the skin you need to make two cuts to avoid wasting flesh. The smoothest way to do this is to pick up the wedge of mango with your hand, with the mango skin touching your skin. Insert the knife near one end just above the skin. Push the knife in slightly past half way. Now run the knife down almost all the way to the bottom. Rotate the knife around to the other side while you also rotate the mango in your hand. Now run the knife back up the other way. The flesh should now come off the skin with no waste.

my video part 2

Note that you have the pit left over, but it has almost no flesh on it because we made curved cuts. I just suck the little bit of flesh off the pit with my mouth.

You should now have 4 big chunks of flesh, you can very quickly dice them if you like.

I used to do the standard method of cutting into 3 pieces and then cutting a grid into the halves and then inverting the skin to pop it out. That method is taught by just about everyone on the net : retard , bad , bad , bad . That method sucks balls. It's slow and clumsy.

So far as I know nobody else demonstrates the cbloom method of cutting mango.

WARNING : Cutting while holding fruit in your palm should not be attempted by the dumb, clumsy or inexperienced. You may cut yourself, and don't blame me! Go do some more practice dicing onions.

05-08-08 - 1

I just almost spilled my chicken on the ground and made a sound like "whoah" as I caught the plate. I wondered why my brain wanted me to make that sound. It doesn't help me to catch the plate at all. Logically I should just focus on the catching, and making any "whoah" sound is a distraction that just hurts my plate steadying. I asked my brain why it was doing that. It told me that it does it as a hedge against the case when I do spill the plate. If I do spill the plate without saying "whoah" then everyone looks at me, and I feel all embarassed. If I make a "whoah" first and then spill the plate, everyone looks at the "whoah" and then sees the spill and knows I was aware of the drop before it happened, and I feel less embarassed.

5/04/2008

05-04-08 - 1

Mariam Bent Omran contacted me randomly on Flickr, I have no idea how she found me, but it was quite a fortuitious thing for me, because her photos are great. They're gorgeous - and yet not so "artistic" that they're removed from capturing reality, which is what makes photography really interesting.

5/03/2008

05-03-08 - 2

To cook 1 cup of grain (or thing that acts like a grain) :

Rice : 2 cups water, 20 minutes, covered simmer.

Risotto : 2 2/3 cups water, 30 minutes, uncovered simmer. (ratio is 1.5 cups grain to 4 cups liquid)

Steel cut oats : 3.5 cups water, 25 minutes then check and maybe cook 5 minutes more or add liquid (milk optional). uncovered simmer. The goal is "al dente" not mush. Usually pre-toast in dry pan. Stir minimally. Finish with butter.

Rolled oats in the microwave : the quaker oats says 2 cups water (to 1 cup of oats); I find it's better with 1.5 cups water, otherwise it's just oat soup. 2.5 minutes for me; I like my oats with a tiny bit of tooth, not soggy mush.

Couscous (fine) : 1.5 cups boiling water, 5 minutes. seal and let sit off heat. This produces a semi-dry couscous which is intentional because I plan to use it as a bed for a saucy main dish or pour some other flavorful liquid over it.

Warning : This is for the typical fine grain couscous that Americans get; real traditional couscous is a much larger grain and takes a lot longer to cook; don't be thrown off by traditional couscous recipes. There are also medium grain couscouses available which would be different.

Kasha : 2 cups water, 10-15 minutes, covered simmer. Usually pre-toast.

Warning : there are a wide variety of kasha (buckwheat groat) kernel sizes, so you may need to do some experimenting to see what you get. There are completely whole kernels (not recommended, a bit weird IMO), cracked kernels (best) and fine kernels (bad). Start with 10 minutes cooking and see what you get. The stuff I get at Rainbow takes about 10 minutes.

Also, IMO the traditional "varnishkes" method with egg is a little bit weird and definitely unnecessary.

Polenta : 2.5 cups water, 40 minutes then start checking for doneness and maybe 5 minutes more, uncovered simmer. Minimal stirring. Finish with butter & parm. Lots of salt.

Quinoa : 2 cups water, 10-15 minutes (generally 15 unless you like it really poppy like fish eggs). Covered simmer. Note : actually if you rinse the quinoa it holds so much water that you only want 1.5 cups water.

Warning : you must rinse quinoa before cooking, though many grocery store brands are pre-rinsed.

Yes yes I know couscous is not a grain, it's nuggets of wheat, but I treat it like a grain so whatever. Also Kasha is technically not a grain, it's a "groat" but it acts like a grain, and quinoa is some kind of seed or something.

The #1 mistake people make with grains is not salting. Grains needs a LOT of salt. Salting during cooking is generally good, but supposedly bad for steel cut oats (questionable). The #2 common mistake is probably overcooking. When in doubt slightly undercook because there will be carryover. Your goal is not mush.

General warning : it's almost impossible to cook less than 1 cup of a grain. If you're single or a small eater you may be tempted to try to cook less, but it's too little mass and the water evaporates too much and it probably won't turn out very well. Grain is cheap, just make 1 cup and throw out the excess.

Other notes on steel cut oats : Alton likes to add dairy, but personally I prefer them without any dairy; I've tried cream too, and any kind of dairy in the oats just really mellows out the flavor and subtracts from the nutty oaty goodness; I'd rather add extra butter, though the better the oats are cooked the less butter & sugar you need, you just want to appreciate the texture and natural flavor. If you are single and want to make a batch and don't plan on eating the whole thing - scoop out what you want to save after 20 minutes of cooking and put in tupperware. Lid it and stick it in the fridge. At 20 minutes it's very undercooked, but the residual heat will keep cooking it, so when you take it out of the fridge the next day it will be almost cooked, and then after a few minutes in the microwave it will be done.

05-03-08 - 1

I can't find a command line app to just sync my whole iPod vs. an M3U playlist, or even vs. a directory. WTF. Help. Note : I have found tools to copy the entire contents of the iPod to the PC or from a PC dir to the iPod, but that's not the same as a sync because it's not doing delta updates.

I did find SharePodLib which is pretty awesome, but I'd rather not write my own app, plus his sample project seems to be a C# project that uses some Vista.NET thingies because my version of VS.NET refuses to open the project.

old rants