Archive for the ‘Stuff’ Category

Gaming again …

January 16, 2018

So, due to shifting schedules, I’m going to be taking more vacation in February. I am, in fact, going to take it right when the Olympics are on, because at least there’ll be something on TV to watch or listen to during the day (last year, I took off during the Scotties). And since it’s the Olympics, it’s the perfect time for me to play some games because I don’t like all winter sports equally and so having those sports on in the background while playing is quite appealing (I tended to want to watch the Scotties more closely than I’ll generally want to watch the Olympics). And to top it all off, I don’t seem to be having all that much success at starting my personal projects, and so think that until after that point it might be best for me to, at least, put things off until I can get back into a normal routine.

All of this means that it looks like I have a significant amount of time to play some games, that I should really take advantage of. But then the question arises: what should I try to play?

There are, as always, some restrictions. Or, I suppose, one big one: it has to be a console game, because I will want to watch some of the Olympics and trying to do that while playing PC games is generally difficult (I’ve tried, and in general I have absolutely no clue what’s happening and even if the game ends. That happens far less for console games because I’m generally in the same room as the TV for those). Since the Olympics are in South Korea which means that they’ll be getting into re-runs in the afternoon, in theory I could play PC games then, but right now my plan is to fill afternoons with various things (which could include PC games) so I’m leaving that all open for now. But in the mornings I’m planning on having dedicated gaming time, and console or Vita games fit there and PC games don’t.

Now, since I have a significant amount of time available, this looks like a good time to play a game that I wouldn’t normally have the time to play, at least not for the next year or so. And the top game on that list is a third play of Persona 5, because at 80 hours it would take me about five months to finish given my normal schedule, but I’d be able to finish it between now and the end of February if it fit into this slot. But then there are other games that I might like to replay, like Persona 3 and Persona 4, which I haven’t played in a longer time. There’s also Suikoden III that I was reminded of recently and might like to replay. And all of these are games that I might not have the time to play if I don’t do it now.

But, then again, maybe I should try to finish some games as well. I have some games left over from my Christmas binge, some of which I haven’t tried yet. And I never have finished the Fatal Frame games, and so this might be a good opportunity to play all three games that I own. Or I could play Persona and Persona 2. Or try to finish Nocturne. Or play other games that I started and ended up dropping like Dungeon Travelers 2 or Trails of Cold Steel (I own both games). Or try to get through the Agarest War games. Or finally play Saint’s Row (I definitely have “The Third”, I think, and might have the fourth game). Or the Overlord games. Or any number of other games that I started, kinda liked, and never finished. I’d have the time to start them over and maybe finish them this time.

But do I want to focus on finishing a game rather than playing or replaying a game that I want to play? I don’t think I want to turn this opportunity into something that feels like work, but the games that I want to finish are fun, too … or, at least, were fun at some points. And in fact the main reason that I never came back to Dungeon Travelers was because I forgot how far I had gotten and so where the secret rooms were. Starting over would fix that.

I’m still pondering which way to go, but I need to decide soon, because to finish a game like Persona 5 I need to start in my regular gaming time this week, which starts on Thursday and will definitely be active on the weekend.

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2017 in review

January 1, 2018

So, no report from WordPress again, so just like last year I’ll simply toss out my own observations.

I improved my hits in 2017, getting almost 18,000, which is still pathetic for most blogs but is a big improvement for this one. This past year I posted one more post than in 2016, posting 172 posts to 171. And the number of visitors also increased, to almost 11,000. So the trend seems to be continuing: more people are reading fewer posts at a time.

So the blog can be said to be growing, if only slightly. And like last year, that’s entirely due to the readers, so thanks to everyone for reading.

My latest vacation …

December 25, 2017

So again this year I ended up having a lot of vacation time to take, and so had pretty much all of December off. As usual, I had a long list of things that I wanted to do over that vacation. This time, however, I had less set aside as goals and more set aside as “these are things I want to do at some point”, and so get started on a number of things.

But, as usual, I didn’t get anywhere near as much “started” as I had wanted to.

As usual, curling got in the way. It curtailed my mornings if the early draw was interesting and, worse yet, completely took over the first two weekends of my vacation. Since this was when I was supposed to start writing a long Star Wars fanfic that I had been thinking about for ages, it kinda killed all of those plans. So much so that because of that and because of all my other slippages I ended up punting all of that to January, since the whole point of doing that on the weekends in that time slot was to get into the habit of doing that, which wasn’t actually happening.

The other big casualty of the lost weekends was, surprisingly, The Old Republic. I had planned to play it every weekend morning. I haven’t booted it up once my entire vacation. And with a long list of games that I want to play and with me returning to my limited schedule for gaming, it’s possible that I won’t continue playing it in the New Year.

And there were a number of other things that I didn’t really get around to. I was supposed to start working on small programming projects, and haven’t done that at all. I was supposed to do some reading for work — as I need to learn some stuff about OSGi and Kafka — and that has gone very, very slowly, with me reading only a couple of chapters, spread out as a couple of sessions over the entire month. I was supposed to watch movies every weekend evening, and haven’t really done that (the closest was one time where I watched “Age of Ultron” while playing “Virtue’s Last Reward”). And I’m not as far ahead on the blog as I would have liked.

So what did I do? Well, I did get a number of errands done, cooking homemade spaghetti sauce for myself for the first time, getting the truck completely ready for winter, and getting my eyes tested and new frames ordered. I did some cleaning that I’d been meaning to do for ages. I started a new Arkham Horror game in PBF. I watched a lot of Frasier (I’m almost finished season 8 at the moment). And I did get the chance to play a number of games, as that was the one thing that I did pretty much manage to keep doing on weekday afternoons.

I’ve gotten stuff done, certainly. But between curling and snow and a host of other things, I didn’t do as much as I would have liked, and wonder if I’ll have time to do those things when I go back to work.

The Tradition Continues …

December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to the reader of this blog.

Don’t you mean the readers?

Nope, WordPress still says it’s pretty much just the one.

(Note: the second part of this tradition — my actual stats — should be out around New Year’s.)

Retro …

December 4, 2017

So, in the summer, I talked about watching and enjoying Vintage TV. Well, it turned out that it was on a free preview when I was watching it, and when it came to an end my cable provider only provided it if you had the full package that gave you absolutely everything. Since there was no way in the world I was going to do that, I obviously stopped watching it. But I kept looking around to see if it would appear anywhere that I could access cheaper. I also started looking at adding some other packs because I had a bit more room in my budget and really did want to find something to have on while playing games and the like.

So, recently, Vintage did get added to a pack. But the price for that pack was a bit high considering that it was the only channel I had any interest in watching in it and Vintage was good but not great. As I was looking around, though, I also found Stingray Retro, which used to be Much Retro, in a pack that was half the price of the one that Vintage was in. But since I didn’t know if that one played mostly videos or had gone over to shows like MTV and Much Music, I decided I’d give it a try and see if it worked for me, especially since I got another two Stingray channels in the bargain.

It ended up working out really well. While it doesn’t span as many years as Vintage, it also seems to have access to a wider range of music than Vintage did. While on Vintage I tended to get a few British things and a lot of Kylie Minogue, with Stingray Retro I get a lot more of the acts that I grew up with and a lot more recognizable songs, although they are biased towards Canadian acts, so I get a lot more Glass Tiger, for example, than you’d expect otherwise. And I even still got to see at least one Kylie Minogue video that I hadn’t seen (and she still looks like she’s really enjoying being in the video). It also pretty much only does videos, while Vintage added in more live acts and interview shows, which interested me less. Considering that it’s also half the price and I get two other video channels (although Loud is probably the only one I’ll consider watching) and that in looking at some of the other channels in the pack there might be times when I’d watch them this was certainly worth what I’m paying for it, and I don’t see a need to add any other channels or packs in the near future.

Your chance to help decide what I write about!

November 29, 2017

So, I’ve been running with the three updates a week schedule for quite a while now, and it seems to be working out pretty well. It even managed to survive my incredible busy time without all that much of a hitch. In doing this I’ve also started to figure out what things work, what things don’t and how things can work out better in my schedule, which then might start to make the blog more predictable consistent in how things work and what sort of content you might see here. In short, there are certain types of content that work pretty well whether I’m busy or not, and that are also things that I like talking about and am going to do some things with anyway, so I might as well talk about them.

The key is that what works best for the blog are things that I can watch, read or do at any time and then comment on later without having to refer back to the original source material that much. If I can do that, then it really makes my blog writing more flexible and so gives me things that can be done in a relative hurry if I’m busy but that I can do in free time if I’m not busy. TV shows are the ideal for this, and books are probably the worst (since to comment on arguments fairly I generally want to quote from them). But since a lot of these things are things that I haven’t focused on or that are suddenly fitting into my schedule better than they did before, I’m also a bit short of things that fit into those categories and so need to find some new sources for those sorts of posts.

Here is your chance to guide me towards new things to try in those areas.

So, one thing that I’ve found myself lately is watching Extra Credits youtube videos and commenting on them (which in their case means “Disagreeing with them”). In fact, I’m planning on commenting on another couple of them in the near future. But other than SF Debris, I don’t really watch a lot of youtube videos, especially when it comes to gaming. And about the only other commentator on games that I read consistently is Shamus Young, and I’m thinking about digging through his old columns — which he is planning on revisting himself, making this so much easier — to find some other things to talk about. But what other video game commentators do you guys like to watch or read who might have things to say that I might find interesting and want to talk about? While ones that I would probably disagree with are in some sense good — because it’s always pretty easy to write posts disagreeing with people (Hi, Extra Credits!) — I’m also open to people who just say things that might bring up interesting, tangentially related ideas for me to talk about (Hi, Shamus!).

A couple of caveats, though: for youtube videos, the videos can’t be longer, on average, than a half-hour, and can’t be Let’s Plays. Text reviewers are not only excluded from those restrictions, they’ll get precedence because it’s easier for me to read them anywhere and quote them if I want to talk about what they’re saying.

Another thing that I’ve recently started doing more frequently is commenting on TV shows that I’m watching in general, which you saw with Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Transformers, and most recently Cheers. I’m currently watching Frasier, and will talk about it as things go along, and I still have a show like Wings waiting when this is done. But since I don’t watch a lot of TV in general, I don’t have much of an idea of what shows might be worth watching, and for my purposes — see the upcoming caveats — don’t want to risk trying something out that I don’t think will be good.

Right now, there are a number of caveats. First, for at least the next year it looks like half-hour shows are what I’ll be watching, and that’s all that I could do for the blog because it would take me too long to watch hourly shows to be useful for generating content on the blog. However, that isn’t limited to sitcoms, as it can fit into anything that is half-hour in length and sounds interesting, like cartoons (for example). Second, these have to be completed series, and it has to be the case that I can get the entire series for a reasonable price. Ideally, if I can order them all on amazon.ca, that would be wonderful. EDIT: I’ll pretty much be buying DVDs, so if it’s not out on DVD the chances of my watching it are slim to none. Third, they can’t be too long; the eleven seasons of Frasier and Cheers are probably about the limit, although that’s more number of episodes rather than number of seasons.

As an example, I’m right now looking to see if I can get Hot in Cleveland — which I’ve talked about before — and maybe, now that its run is done, 2 Broke Girls if I can get the seasons for a reasonable price. Big Bang Theory is out because it is still running and is too long anyway, as is something like The Simpsons for the same reason.

I’m also interested in getting suggestions for books to read and talk about. I do want to keep reading and writing about deeper and more serious topics like that, even though it takes me a while to get around to commenting on them (I have finished reading Philipse’s book, for example, but still have to finish writing posts about it), and I’m a bit out of the loop on what the most recent or, for some genres, even what the popular books and topics are. So I’d be looking for suggestions in the genres of theology, philosophy, and history primarily. I’ll also consider requests for TPB comic editions (but, at least for now, not Alt-Hero).

Now, just because something isn’t listed here doesn’t mean that I won’t be writing about it. For example, I still intend to write about video games, but that will still be limited to the ones I play, and I won’t be soliciting ones to consider as something new so I can talk about it on the blog. And I’ll talk about music and my own eccentricities and do song parodies and talk about computers and write philosophical posts regardless. It’s just that these are categories that it is both relatively easy for me to write about and that I’m fairly uninformed about what’s out there that I might want to get into and write about, which is why I’m asking for suggestions here.

Also note that this isn’t like Chuck’s requests. I don’t put these on a list and promise to have them completed at some time in the near future. I’ll do them if I feel like it and get time and can get them without breaking the bank. I’ll try to respond to all comments as to whether there’s even a chance of it and I’ll try to put something up for things that I’ve bought and so plan to get to at some point, but any suggestion you make here is a suggestion that I’ll consider but may not do, even if I think it’s a good one.

The Sims Guide to Living

November 22, 2017

I used to play the game “The Sims” a fair bit, and after doing so jokingly talked about one life lesson that I learned from it: even if it takes up a bit more time, it’s almost always more efficient to do activities that fulfill more than one need than an activity that only fulfills one. And the more, the better.

So, recently my group at work scheduled a group outing to go do an escape room or to go do archery tag (they were in the same place). The place is pretty far away from where I live, and is on a start, at least, that is absolutely terrible to drive on most of the time (although I have done it on occasion). However, it’s less than an hour walk away from my old university, and I have made it a habit to park there and walk to various places that I don’t really want to drive to or park at for years now. I debated going, and eventually did, but here were all of the things that that seven hours — included travel time — satisfied:

1) I actually think it’s a good idea for groups to have informal group outings with each other to get to know each other in a more relaxed setting. At one point, I was working with some contractors from India who had come over to work directly with us for a while, and they were constantly giving all of their code inspections to me instead of to another co-worker, who was the guy who, well, actually knew those areas. But he could be a little intimidating, so I pushed my manager to have group meetings again so that we could interact in a more relaxed atmosphere, so they wouldn’t be so intimidated by him. It seemed to work.

2) I had skipped the one last year because of a Blue Jays playoff game, which was the first such outing since I had joined that group, and since I generally didn’t attend other social outings I didn’t want to be seen as the anti-social guy in the group, so it was a good time to actually attend one of these and show that I actually can be sociable.

3) I owed the university money — I donated but tend to like to pay in person rather than through other methods — and this would then be a convenient time to pay them, meaning that I wouldn’t have to make time to go out there at some point in the next few months.

4) I had actually done an escape room once before and enjoyed it, but don’t have a group of friends or acquaintances to do it with on a regular basis, so this would give me a chance to do one.

5) I’d get some extra exercise in walking to the place and back to where I parked.

So, a number of things accomplished from one event. Yes, it took some time, but it also was able to uniquely satisfy some of my needs or goals. Just the fact that I won’t have to go down to the university saved me all of that travel time, as well as having to fit everything else into my schedule. Sure, I could have accomplished many of these things separately, but it likely would have taken parts of several days instead of a half-a-day. As someone who finds that large parts of days tend to get disrupted when I have to fit small things into them, that seems like a pretty good trade-off for me.

So now what?

November 2, 2017

So, with the Houston Astros having won the World Series in seven games, baseball is completely finished for the season, which leaves me with one really important question:

What am I going to watch weekend and some weekday afternoons now while eating or reading or playing a game between now and April?

Crap, It Succeeded …

November 1, 2017

So, at work I am quite busily working on a feature where, essentially, what I’m trying to do is take an operation that used to be one-step and introduce a step into it where you can do that first step — which is most of the work a user might want to do — and then finish it later. This means that there are two major parts to the feature. The first is to do the first step so that everything is stored and there when we want to finish it off. The second is the operation to complete the original one-step operation in precisely the same way as the one-step operation did it. Thus, a lot of testing has to be done to ensure that the end result of my two-step operation is exactly the same as the end result of the one-step operation. Since there are a ton of different combinations, this is something that I need a lot of help from QA to do.

It also means that I can get into an interesting situation, which happened over the weekend. One specific scenario was failing, so I was working through the code and fixing up all the places where that failed. After I did that, it completely succeeded! But, I had to check to see that it did all the same things as the one-step operation, and things were looking a little funny, so I tried to create it using the one-step process … and it failed. After making sure that what I was doing wasn’t screwing something up, I then spent the next day trying to figure out where my code was going wrong and succeeding when it should have failed. I finally managed to successfully get it to fail and thus knew that my code was closer, at least, to being correct.

This is the second time on this feature where I had something succeeding when it should have failed, and so was incorrect. The other time, it seemed to work — meaning fail or succeed appropriately — for the QA people, so I ignored it as being something odd with my set-up. But it’s one of those odd cases where succeeding is really a failure and a failure would really be a success.

Of course, all error cases are like that. But this wasn’t supposed to be an error case. It just happened to be a failure case due to misconfiguration. And that always leads to that odd feeling of “Damn, it worked, so I did something wrong!”

Lack of Convenience …

October 25, 2017

So, for many years now, since university, a few times a year I’ve made a trip to the downtown area of my city. I’ve generally parked at my old university and then walked down there, either to one of a couple of interesting museums or, more frequently, just to the big mall and bookstore there, stopping on the way back at a few stores that I liked to shop at. In general, this was a pretty convenient trip for me, because a) it was easy for me to get to the university, b) I knew the university well enough to find a good place to park, c) it gave me quite a bit of extra exercise (walking to the mall took about an hour one way, while walking to the museum took about an hour and a half one way, d) the museum had a permanent exhibit that I really enjoyed, e) there were a number of shops in the mall and along the route that sold things I couldn’t really find anywhere else and f) along the entire route I could find stores that sold most of the things I wanted to look at, so even if I could find those things elsewhere I could make one trip and shop for all of them.

I’ve been busy lately, and so haven’t been able to get down there during the months when walking for an hour+ isn’t an incredibly stupid idea. I managed to get down there this past weekend, and noted that this incredibly convenient trip isn’t as convenient anymore.

1) The university is having a lot more special events than they used to, which makes parking and getting in and out of there more hit and miss (this weekend, they had a football game).

2) The museum re-did that permanent exhibit — which is another reason I hadn’t been down there in a while — and it’s lost the magic for me, turning it from a historical experience to a learning experience … and I have already learned the history and can learn the history myself without having to take three hours out of my life just to get there.

3) A lot of the stores that were unique there have closed.

4) A lot of the stores that were unique there I’m no longer interested in (one of them was a used CD store, but since my multi-CD player died and I couldn’t find a replacement buying CDs means adding on the work of ripping them to a USB drive).

5) And I can get pretty much everything that I could get from there somewhere else anyway, often from places where there are a number of places that I’d want to shop closer together than they are there.

About the only thing that I can still get out of that is the incredibly long walk … which I can make up for on my own anyway. The biggest benefit was that I was always walking somewhere which gave me the purpose I really needed to get exercise, but when it comes to walking I can usually compensate for that.

So, the really convenient trip has become too inconvenient to bother with. Maybe I’ll do it again if I go to see another play … which I haven’t done in at least a couple of years …