Leaf from Toto’s book

Hey, Bruce, gimme a hollar if you guys decide to go to BBQ for lunch this week? :)

Magic Bullet

I think one of my best purchases in the last few years has to have been my Magic Bullet blender. Ok, so I admit, I bought it in a moment of weakness. The (annoying) advert had been playing back-to-back during an 8 hour overnight WWII session, and I was brainwashed. But I happen to like milkshakes, and I needed a blender. So, for $99? Why not?

I’ve not been particularly adventurous with it; but I’ve used it fairly regularly to make shakes-in-the-cup, salsa and queso. It’s worked superbly, and my favorite aspect is that when you’re done, you drop in 1/4 cup of water, a dash of washing up liquid, put it on the blender again for 5s and you’ve washed up.

It seems to be a great batchelor kitchen utensil, unfortunately most of the recipies that came with it are aimed at parties and families – maybe they’re expecting to sell it mostly to bored housewives?

My kitchen here is a little pokey, and I’ve still not gotten used to the American variants of various staple foods – bread, baked beans, even milk, are all subtly different. (So I still order the occasional care package from England with Heinz Baked Beans with hotdogs, Angel Delight etc).

Any of you got/used one of these? Any cool ideas for things to do with it?

I’ve started contemplating moving to a different apartment complex and maybe upgrading to a 2 bed; the complex that Gophur lives in is pretty nice, and it even has the advantage of being a little closer to work ;) Mostly because the kitchen here is *so* pokey. Forget swinging a cat in it, the cat wouldn’t fit, never mind yourself.

But in the meantime, the Magic Bullet and Bowflex ads on TV recently have started being replaced with kitchen utensil ads. One that caught my eye is the NuWave infrared, counter-top oven. Just listening to the ad in the background, as they explained the system, I had an idea that I thought would radically improve this system.

I’m curious if any of you have tried either of these products, but I’m also curious how I would go about doing something about my idea? It’s not as simple as “make it blue” or something along those lines, it’s a concept for a complete system, I guess. I could call them up and suggest it to them, out of the goodness of my heart, but I actually think there might be some money in this idea, and I wouldn’t mind seeing some of it.

I also think it has applications beyond this particular oven, possibly microwaves too. Do I need to try and patent it before giving the idea to someone else? How the heck do you go about doing that?

Finally, time off…

I’ve got 3 days off this week, I’m probably gonna use them to clean up at home, sit on the porch with the cat, I might bother Dana for some transportation tomorrow night. It’s not exactly a vacation, but I’ve needed some downtime for – well, nearly 2 years ;) When I asked Rafter for the time off, he thought I was nuts only asking for less than a week, but hey, it’s a reset week so at least two of those days would be a complete waste if I *was* working.

I’ve been listening to old music, finished Strata by Terry Pratchett, watched 2010 from my Netflix queue, and generally lazed out.

Oblivious

I bought Oblivion from Direct2Drive last week. It’s very pretty, but besides that I couldn’t really see what the fuss is about. I found it to be rather 2 dimensional and overly simplistic. I can see that a great deal of attention to detail went into things like the sizeable volume of literature in the library of books scattered around, but they were too long for casual reading and too information-sparse to encourage me to do anything but learn you only need to open the book to be done with it.

There were some touches I liked – CTRL for crouch just feels right – but some of the real RPish stuff runs headlong into non-RPish ditches at every turn – the ‘speechcraft’ wheel that doesn’t appear to have any negatives other than time consumed.

Most of the quests I encountered seem fairly bland, the more interesting ones feel were still woefully predictable. I also found an NPC, Darion, with an endless supply of pickpocketable cash (I think its a sign error). After pulling 4000 coins from him, 34 at a time, I bought a house and furniture and wished I hadn’t.

I just failed to be immersed, I think. The combat is just blah, and there doesn’t appear to be a middle ground between gamer and rper – things are either tediously mindnumbing or epicly overdecorated templates. One quest in Skingard is to spy on some other NPCs. Some careful work went into building that quest, there are numerous little touches that make it quite neat – the way the game engine massages the NPC community to make you question the storyline, and notes you may eventually find from the paranoid guy. But it predictably lacked any actual skill challenge. It’s just a template that executes some AI scripts, with very, very, very limited triggers (did you see such an npc at 0600-0659). More simply put – the game engine fails to produce any of the embelishments or nuances in the execution that the quest engine implies.

And that’s a total spoiler for me. That was what made KOTOR the only RPG style game I’ve played to completion, let alone three times.

So am I just being over-analytical or do you have to crank it up to a higher difficulty for NPCs (not monsters) to start behaving a little less robotically and easy to manipulate? (e.g. always equip a weapon before speaking to NPCs you plan to speechcraft, then speak to them again without for a maxed out standing)

Not politics

But I couldn’t resist. When I was watching the Lebonese ambassador to the UN give his speech last week, was I the only one that noticed, in his plea to the Israelis for a ceasefire and peace, that he hoped that all parties would come to a rapid and lasting “final solution” for the peace. (I wish I could find a transcript). In any other context, it was just the correct wording. But I couldn’t help be wonder if that phrase wasn’t … chosen or careless, given the context.

Playmania: Dubious behavia [sic]

When I’m really trying to chill and I decide its time to stop watching TV, and if the cat seems to be in a good mood, I’ll leave GSN’s PlayMania on. Well, the presenters are always fairly cute.

Each time I watch it I wonder how they make their money. Some of the presenters seem to be permanently waiting for someone to fill the first slot in their player’s lounge.

I sensed a scam. If 10 people bid on a puzzle that gives away $100, plus air time, etc, that’s a big loss, right?

Tonight they were asking for titles of movie sequels, and nobody seemed to be calling in. I could think of a few (I even had the top one as it turned out). So after about 10 minutes I texted in, as the instructions suggest.

I got my text message saying “We may call u back … you’ve been billed $0.99”. So I waited. When it was obvious people were not going to guess and they were trying to get people to call, I decided to put in a second text, so if I did get thru I might get to try my two favorites (Terminator 2 and Dead Mans Chest).

The girl on the show was just short of pulling hairs to get people to play, crank up the prizes. It seems that whoever was supposed to be bringing people through, tho, wasn’t getting the message.

As I sat and waited, they went a whole 5 minutes without any callers showing up.

I happened to be chatting to someone online. Remarkably, he and his wife had both texted in having ideas for answers too (I think she had Shrek 2 in mind having just watched it earlier with the kids). They’d been waiting 5 minutes longer than myself. And they’d texted in on an earlier puzzle and on a previous night.

Here’s the thing. None of the callers ever sound like they are on cell phones – atleast, that’s what makes me sceptical.

Since they don’t get to charge audience ticketing fees, then if they can offer $400 for an answer, they’ve got to need at least 400 people to text in at 99c each. And that’s just to cover the prize. Presumably, they need more like 1000-1250 people to give away that much. And since it shows nationally, it’s hard to believe they have a hard time getting so few people to text, so I’d go ahead and gamble that it seems like your odds just of getting your text followed up is around 1:2000. (Edit: My original numbers were off because of a typo in the first result, that’ll teach me to change numbers without double checking :)

Boo lag, Hooray beer

I played a little MUD1 last night, while writing the post.

I was within sight of the rank of Legend (44,871 points, only a couple of resets), when I got a little careless during a dwarven genocide spree. I’d obliterated nearly the entire dwarven realm and decided now would be a good time for a refreshing wafer. So rather than stop and rest, I trotted over to where I knew one to be.

There was a long pause between my last command an my arriving in the destination room, and when finally the packets did flow again, and as I was typing ‘eat wafer’, along came the notice that I was being attacked, had been thumped, and fallen down dead.

Character deleted.

Oddly, aside from being annoying in that “Oh, I didn’t win the lottery?” sort of way, it made me remember that I hadn’t had a beer in several weeks.

To fork, or not to

So the phases of the moon and stars have swung around once more to that points where my interest in dabbling with one of my old coding projects has been rekindled.

I guess in some senses its like the REM state of coding, clearing up various concepts and notions that I’ve used and wanting to try them out in a different context and see how they play.

For this particular project, however, I actually have a chance to play with some design considerations that I’ve never really bothered to persue before…

Nuts and bolts, reaching your toes.

So you’re wondering where the TOEs update has been, right? Well tough turnips. What do you think this is, an official blog or something?

MUD1, MUD2

My colleague, Gophur, is one of those who frequently questions the relevance that early-day folks like Richard Bartle have on today’s games. I hope a few of you spent, at the very least, a short time in MUD1.

If you have, it probably made you ask that same question. Chatting with Bloo, he’s made some salient observations of MUD1’s lackings as a game. There is nothing that really gives you a sense of areas or points you in directions you might go. His frustration at trying to conjur up the word sequence peculiar to a single scenario, like trying to do a crossword where none of the words overlap and you don’t know how many letters long any particular word box is…

MUD1 was, partly, motivated by a desire to get humans into an AI sandbox, using the ‘game’ aspect as a lure, and it shows, painfully. But its successor, MUD2, is far more clearly a game.

And its this quantum leap that, I believe, that gives MUD its relevance today. It is “multiplayer 101”.

So if you haven’t already, go play some free MUD1 and then go drop by one of the MUD2s. MudII.co.uk has a “happy hour” free-to-all 6pm-7pm UK time and is based in the UK (so may be a little laggier for US players than Euro players). It gets first mention because it’s run by my old friend, Foddy. MUD2.com is run by Viktor, who also runs the free MUD1.

They both allow you to wander around and do their newbie tours for free, but you can’t do much else without paying either an hourly fee (30p or 50c depending on exchange rate) or a monthly fee (five quid or $7.50 depending).

But I think either is well worth this unique insight into very early evolution of this genre. And I just find Richard’s style of MUD more aesthetically pleasing than LPmuds. I always felt that with most LPmuds the mechanics were always just barely concealled…

C’mon… Mush! Chop to it. I look forward to hearing your observations and thoughts. Although, you may want to spend a few minutes finding a client you are comfortable with. Two I recommend are Clio and Mud2pj.