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Title: last minute new year's reso added, done
Posted: December 21, 2009 (02:17 AM)
This is worth a post 6 hours later--I mean, it's sort of the next day, anyway.
So I was cleaning stuff up this weekend. I got exhausted and as I was about to give up I found an old college diary. I'd planned to plow through it at the beginning of the year.
I was rather sad to note there were only 44 pages. I know I'd looked at it before and was scared about what I might find--if I found anything silly, anything that I'd be embarrassed about, or even anything that showed me my ideas now aren't quite as developed in the last X years as I thought.
Turns out there was a decent combination of everything, with my favorite quote being the probably throwaway (at the time) "Packed my nerf hoop and shower curtain. I'm ready for my final year of college!" (I moved to non university housing.)
I used the nerf hoop entirely too much. I even found the old ball I used to shoot. I managed to get pretty good--I could hit long-range shots from pretty far away, limited only by how the ceiling was 18 inches above the top of the door.
So I had my biggest note writing day in a long time--largely due to, well, that I've been keeping my notes up to date. And I've been doing a lot more proofreading lately. Pasta fazoo.
Apparently there was a lot I'd forgotten I'd made peace with myself over. And there was a lot of my life I'd forgotten how fragmented it was. And a lot of mistakes I made were understandable, and there were a lot of details to fill in I don't know why I didn't write before--that I'd have forgotten without the big picture notes.
Only disappointment was, I wish I wrote more. Two obvious morals here--if there's a cheap thing-to-do-before-year's-end, holiday time is a good time to squeeze it in. Second, even if you might do something badly, you'll be able to refine it later, if it's what you really want to do. Well, you all probably knew that. But sometimes these reminders tip off specific things to want/do.
Title: Dated humor can be educational!
Posted: December 20, 2009 (09:35 PM)
I was reading Harvard Lampoon's Harvard Education in a Book and while I'm a bit jealous a cadre of college students could do so well while I had trouble with much of anything, well, it's fun now to read the cultural references that even as late as 1998 might be too obscure.
But I love watching a britcom or reading an old book and seeing the references and seeing which work. Gaines Burgers, MacShakespeare, Senor Wences...fun stuff.
I used to be terrified of dictionaries or encyclopedias probably because they were so big--and I hated paging through things, even though I knew the binary sort way of looking at things. But now it's quite fun.
And of course the very best works, like Asterix, or Bored of the Rings, already have their own internet annotations. Someone beat me to it.
Title: Book of the year?
Posted: December 14, 2009 (10:00 AM)
The book doesn't have to be published this year. Just something you read this year.
I tend to keep a lot of my books, since it is relatively simple to do so. My favorite for 2009:
The Go-Between, by L P Hartley. It has the semi-famous, and memorable, first line "The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there." I read about this first line several times before actually reading the book.
It's one of those dreadfully sad loss-of-innocence books set in England about 100 years ago that just does it right.
Honorable mention to Trenton Lee Stewart's Mysterious Benedict Society for the first 80 pages, a fabulous example of an entrance exam with odd rules.
I do recommend logging the books you've read because it's really neat to look at at the end of the year--I wish I would've done so more rigorously, as this is the first year I've really done so. It feels pedantic to do so but even having the list at the end of the year is great, to look back and forward.
Title: I outlasted our cleaning lady.
Posted: December 11, 2009 (08:38 AM)
She even moved with us, from the 15th to the 24th floor. She's not even an official employee, but she's always been there. She was oldish and spoke Polish and I never said more than thanks or "sorry, I need to make sure I didn't throw out something important." Sometimes after a day of coworkers showing how smart they were--often to each cubicle row in turn--I needed simple non-exciting conversation. Before when she left I figured she was on vacation--it was a topic of remedial conversation before--but it's been about a month now. I hope it was retirement, or promotion.
I remember staying late at work and hearing another cleaning staff person address her by her name, but I forgot that. My cubicle has one of those cheesy nametags. I doubt she remembers too many of our names now.
When I started working here, I wondered who would leave first. It's that way with many other coworkers. I've outlasted more people than I thought I would, including the fellow who scored 10 million on Robotron and, with a friend, 6666665 on Q*Bert (he was upset they didn't go for 5555555.) I'm comfortable enough to have stuff that's been in my cubicle for five years. Sometimes I wonder what weird things people would miss/remember about me when I go. But I don't quite have enough to retire yet.
Title: So simple, yet so wretchedly unreadable
Posted: December 10, 2009 (09:41 AM)
Anyone who can read through the first link below without feeling nauseous is much stronger than I.
The story's the furthest thing from profane--it's just proof that people wrote stupidly even 100 years ago and gives hope maybe we all haven't been getting dumber. Behold, the Arabella and Araminta stories.
I would never have found them if not for the internet--surprisingly, worldcat doesn't list them in any nearby libraries except U of C, which claims not to have a copy. I don't blame them.
The shaggy dog story for how I found these was
1. I read the Guardian top 10 book lists, noticing that the Adrian Mole series popped up a lot in people's favorites.
2. I read the Wikipedia page on Adrian Mole, who would've been Nigel but for Nigel Molesworth. Read the Adrian Mole books. The early ones are very good--the later ones, okay.
3. I read all about St. Custard's in the Compleet Molesworth.
4. Read Molesworth 3 times while I had it out on interlibrary loan.
5. Found there were two sequels--a grown up Molesworth--and bought the one I couldn't get on interlibrary loan.
6. Found Basil Fotherington-Thomas's sister and wife, Arabella and Araminta, funny. Internally applauded the author's creativity.
7. Somehow by accident found "Arabella and Araminta" was an actual book.
It's certainly no Young Visiters.
Title: OK, I correctly guessed it was a prank
Posted: December 08, 2009 (01:06 PM)
But I think it's a good one.
Warning warning adult joke you can maybe sort of figure from hovering over the link with proof in the HuffPo link.
Title: Arizona State Basketball Ruined a Statistical Oddity
Posted: November 16, 2009 (01:16 PM)
Actually, I don't care about their team either way. But they ruined a cool statistical anomaly related to small sample size.
See, if they had not beaten Western Illinois so handily, then 0-1 St. Peter's would be the #1 team in the excellent Ken Pomeroy basketball ratings. Because they lost by less than the home court advantage (3.5 points) at Seton Hall, and a bunch of other things happened...
Of course, small data sizes and blah blah blah.
Title: 20 year old Lucasfilm resume
Posted: October 08, 2009 (11:39 PM)
I don't think this has been posted to HonestGamers blogs, and I'll risk redundancy to share this brilliant resume. It made me smile a lot.
Title: Stuff you misspelled, YOUR way
Posted: October 06, 2009 (10:14 AM)
Back before I got good at the whole spelling thing--not good enough to win a Spelling Bee, sadly--I managed to find creative spellings for words I didn't know how to spell, one based on the boring spelling rules I learned, and another based on how it'd be cool if a word was spelt.
My favorite memory of a misspelled word was "OSOUM" for awesome. Back in 5th grade everyone said that a lot and I wrote it while doodling and someone asked "what the hell does that mean?"
...so I'm curious about what anyone else had fun misspelling before knowing better.
--Actually, I did win a Spelling Bee but it wasn't official. My seventh grade class went to some "100 years ago" theme park as a field trip and we had a boys vs girls spelling bee. We were with my humanities teacher's other group and the guy in our class who was the favorite missed "Lutheran" and so did the girl in the other class. She totally butchered it, as she didn't realize he forgot to capitalize the L.
What a hero I was that day!
Title: Ev'ry li'l bit helps
Posted: September 29, 2009 (06:02 PM)
Today, I wrote a pretty cool perl script that takes what I have written for a day and sorts it into my big-huge-file(s) for writing, based on subject. It has to be formatted correctly. Basically a chunk of text will start
Angst from 6th grade
Angst from High School
Angst from Purdue losing to Notre Dame again, **** the Irish
Angst from a GameFAQs message board post 8 years ago I can't let go of
Angst from someone pointing out a typo in a review/blog post
And so forth. The main file has \books, etc. and so it should sweep through and pick up everything, and if it doesn't, there's a handy little dump file the unused stuff goes to.
Of course, it did. I thought of many ways the script could go wrong and 1) not put information in or 2) quite possibly zap my whole ideas file, which I've backed up, but it still scared me.
This can be shaken out with more testing, but of course, the immediate step back I took was amusing. So I'll still be doing a few cut-and-pastes a day. In fact, I may still do so. It's worth being sure about, and I enjoy rereading the miscellaneous ideas to look for something good--I just need to quit letting backlogs pile up.
Because of this, I hid in/stepped up to work-related stuff I'd wanted to do for a while. I got a good chunk done, actually. Seeing how tangled my code was a year ago, and how easily I could muck with it, really made me feel good about what I have come to expect from myself in terms of clarity, directness, flexibility, and practicality.
I think that's come to apply to "real" writing too. It doesn't automatically inject that creative magic, either, but it leaves more chances for it...
Title: Ultima: Warriors of Destiny, pt2 *technical*
Posted: September 17, 2009 (10:38 AM)
I'm pleased with how the guide and its maps are going. More specifically, I'm pleased with the odd scripts I've been able to use to map the game out and find locations and I'm happy with how FCEUXD makes it so easy to find cheats.
My big coup was poking at a save state to change the locations so that my party would pop up at different points on the map, so I could map out 32x32 squares in order. The overworld is 512x512 and so is the underworld--though it is 512x256 of terrain and each dungeon is 4 64x64 levels.
That's a lot of numbers, but basically I've been able to tackle one a day, and I've been able to perform a bunch of other silly experiments to determine what cells need which reagents and so forth. My final trick is probably going to be taking the part of my FAQ that tells who is where and converting it to my own graphic creation format--I have a utility that can read binary data and self-created icons, and an "extra" file that adds annotations, to create a map.
This is really just text shuffling but it builds on what I already have, but it goes well with converting hexadecimal values to the sextant locations--giving the walkthroughee two ways to go through--and so forth. And it makes a game that may only be a 3 or 4 into an involving, interesting project.
I've been taking my time with this guide, and I think it shows. I have a list of details I wish to knock off, and as I gave myself a month to knock them off, it's a very relaxed guide. It will be better than Orochi K's, which did not get taken down though Pluvius requested it.
This method also paid off for creating Times of Lore maps, another NES game--its overworld is 1024x1024 and I caught a save state just as you exited and wrote scripts to change your x and y coordinates. I just need to use mspaint to annotate the maps, then I'll send them in. I was able to write PC maps based on decompression codes from someone else.
Title: 9/9/9 Numerological Nonsense
Posted: September 10, 2009 (12:03 PM)
What were you doing at 9:09:09 AM and 9:09:09 PM?
AM: searching for my glasses
PM: on the train, reading a book
I always pay attention to when one is coming up and I note it the day before and forget it that day.
My favorite numerological story is when someone on 7/8/90 who looked forward to 12:34:56 PM had a plane that flew west to cross the Date Line, so he missed it.
Title: Bad Material at GameFAQs, FAQ division
Posted: September 07, 2009 (10:59 AM)
So I was emailing with adaml, the person on GameFAQs who is trying to solve every North American NES game ever released. He's at 11. One of them is Ultima: Warriors of Destiny.
This is not a good game. As a port from the PC and Apple, it runs into disk-space problems, and so the programmers decided to keep...the endlessly looping sound.
As bad as the game is, though, the current FAQ is equally crummy. I think I gave Orochi K permission to use whatever he found in my guide, if it was helpful, several years ago. I did not expect him to take some of my stuff, some of the other guide, some game genie codes and hope this worked for the NES.
It didn't. I'm finding that out working through the game. It started when I mapped the whole thing out (COMING SOON TO A GAMEFAQS NEAR YOU!) Then I realized the sextant gave coordinates like 08E03S instead of A'B' C'D'.
At that point, I realized the reason for his "This is the last update. I will take no more questions concerning this FAQ." It's hard to be mad at something like this, and in fact it's useful to determine what is in one game and not the other. It just can't have been useful to any poor saps tempted into playing the remarkably heinous WoD all these years. They got doubly suckered with his FAQ.
Still, I figured enough cheat codes to figure what to do, and I am working through it honestly now. Between this and overdrive's Pool of Radiance FAQ (NOT part of the Bad Material,) that should knock it down to 9. He has a bunch of strategy games left. Wish I could help him with those. But I have so many other semi-bad old school games to play, and I never was much for strategy games.
Title: Team Tourney Stuff, why not
Posted: September 03, 2009 (11:28 AM)
The writing hangover lasted 4 days (a cheap NES FAQ doesn't count) and I almost forgot to pay my yearly condo insurance, too. I hope I didn't forget to, uh, proofread this.
I enjoyed working with my teammates very much, and I am glad their styles were different and contained a lot of something that might help me. And that they were willing to share it, and to share in the disappointments of maybe not doing everything I'd hoped with a review. Thanks for no finger pointing or questions about "what are you doing writing odd review/FAQ x with a team tourney going on." I'll be rooting for you guys in RotW for a long time, and to finish 2nd/3rd to me in contests I enter, heh. Thanks to Suskie for picking me despite my potential lack of range and True for putting up with my red ink on his reviews. They were fun to read, and anyway, first drafts should be about ideas. I have a feeling I could've gotten to know you guys even better, but what I did know, I liked very much.
But there were a lot of other teams' reviews I wished I'd read more in-depth. People who were just a name to me, I have a feeling for their styles. I'd like to read more. I may play old school games exclusively, but I enjoy reading vicariously about the new stuff--the innovations that work and don't--and seeing what remains constant and what doesn't. I've already seriously considered being a judge for next year, for this reason.
I'd have a lot to live up to of course. The judges this year had good comments and a variety of personalities and tastes, and while it was inevitable we might say Judge X would like this more than Judge Y, you couldn't really tailor a review for The Judges overall beyond, well, doing things right in general. And I think that's good. I also think the judges did not box themselves into any one personality, and I hope for all their work they had fun. Judging is tough, as it's not like baseball where an umpire calls a consistent strike zone. That is tough enough, of course, but writing is about changing that strike zone. Judges need to be the umpire AND the batter who hammers lazy predictable pitches out of the park. They were.
By the way, Jerec, your waking up early to post the team tourney stuff had a bonus side effect. From the topic, I realized the date was 8/30 and not 8/31, so the $10 PetSmart coupon I thought had expired 8/30--brain farting on the date after putting off using the coupon til the last day--was indeed still valid! I had maybe an hour to get to the store. So I did so, planning a thank you post later. I forgot the $10 bit--actually $15 as it was the last day of a cat food sale too.
Thanks to the commissioners, too. They had some controversy at the beginning. It was soon forgotten. They rolled out schedules in a timely manner and still captained their teams and mixed things up neatly with their own reviews.
Thanks to Zigfried for detailing his review writing process. It's an excellent formula that has obviously helped his reviews NOT read formulaically. You can't break a formula successfully til you've mastered it, and nailing this down could help many people avoid the trap of doing something different for difference's sake. When I remembered to read this, I usually was pleased with my review. On weeks I didn't, judges pointed out stuff I could've weeded out by reading it.
Thanks to the admins who added game info to the site, so I could write odd reviews, and thanks also to overdrive and bluberry for putting up with my 2nd rate trash talk--there may've been others--and everyone with a kind word for my stats topic and my preview. I found how hard previews are to write. A day later I looked at it and thought "I didn't mean THAT, did I?" So I appreciate drella's starting it--especially given he had an excuse to walk away entirely--and zippdementia continuing it, and the tongue in cheek playoff previews too.
It's useless and vain to go into details on my own strategy, and how much you may want to take from someone who went 4-5 with votes 13-14 is debatable, but for those who may compete next year:
1. Reviewing for a bunch of systems keeps things fresh. I didn't know how much I had in the way of variety, and old school stuff can have a lack of variety. I got 7, and quite bluntly the games that would've rounded it all out, Order of the Griffon for the TG-16, Tower of Myraglen for the IIgs and Xyphus for the Commodore, didn't have as much to write about as the games that overlapped them--Wasteland and 2400 AD and (a platform I hadn't planned) Robotron.
2. Writing for a game you've FAQed makes the knowledge bit easy, and those who get "you need more meat in your reviews" would be helped by this. I planned to review games I'd written FAQs for. I wound up getting 7 of 9--Robotron and Decathlon are ones I can probably write pretty easily for.
3. I was supposed to learn this lesson in college, but "write it a few days before it's due" really does allow more ideas to filter in, and it lets you say "what the -- was I thinking" to the more obvious blunders. It also lets you try new weird stuff, so any blunders as a result of just letting yourself go can get filled in. I rushed things a lot less now than I have before.
4. Writing a review every 6 weeks & focusing on it to polish it should have you set for next year. I was very exhausted by the end. It's also good backup for a week when you want to write a new review but can't. Anyone who's written good reviews through the course of the year deserves this break.
5. Modifying a review from 5 years ago--chopping it up considerably--is quite a time saver, especially if people don't know about it. That's what I did for 4 of the last 5 weeks. It should also give you confidence that you've gotten better in the last few weeks.
6. Proofreading should be a positive as well as a negative exercise. While you can probably cut 15-20% off a first draft, because lots of stuff can be duplicated/merged, there's also what you'd like to hear more of, etc. I tried putting a strict upper bound on what I wrote, and having something to add--without bloating a review--gives urgency to eliminating the stuff that isn't terrible but--doesn't quite belong.
7. There will be dead ends, so don't panic about that. I vaguely considered reviewing Robot Odyssey, an educational game based on Atari's Adventure. I also considered reviewing Ultima V, which was the first "moral choice" game, but Suskie noted I relied too heavily on knowledge of Ultima IV.
8. Any dead end, you should have confidence it can eventually get recycled into something good. The two reviews above--they'll get done.
9. Word 2000 and a cheap/simple text editor are a HUGE help. The first, for the negative proofreading/grammar police stuff--there may be other freeware proofreaders like StarOffice, I don't know--and the second, for simply organizing everything you want to do. I use NoteTab Standard, which cost $20 (well worth it) and lets you use outlines in a simple text document as well as tabs.
10. Have fun. Don't feel obliged to keep your old style or find a new one. There'll be ups and downs. They are part of the experience. Even when you get better at writing, the downs will still be there. You just won't notice they're higher than before. If you have writer's block, take a few screenshots of your favorite stuff. That lets you ask what's most important without Being Important.
So I wrote reviews for new systems--FDS, SNES, TG16, TI99--and have some planned for others. I found side projects for a few FAQs and reviews, and I nailed down future plans. I approach reviews a lot differently than 9-10 weeks ago. It was definitely worth it.
Title: Sundog: the Frozen Legacy
Posted: September 01, 2009 (07:46 AM)
Well, that was quick. I got distracted from making a TT recap by a new old game I thought I'd look at a bit--then I figured out what to do--and it got really interesting, and I figured how to make maps from the save states.
The game's called Sundog: the Frozen Legacy, which explains the post title, and it's a good one, a trading game where you fly between galaxies to trade stuff. This is extremely inventive for 1984 (the only game with similar features that I remember is Pinball Construction set) and it even has a joystick interface where you move to a button and click on it. When I played it as a kid I was blown away by the interfaces and didn't know what the hell to do, and anyway beggars and robbers kept asking me for money, and I kept getting my butt whipped.
Fortunately there are online resources including a page by the creator, Bruce Webster. None has Apple maps or a complete walkthrough. This looks like a really good game to put maps up at GameFAQs for, and I have just submitted the first such map, so watch this space.
The only downside is that between Sundog and Rescue Raiders--and Shadowkeep, which I asked to have added to HG's database before I got stuck midway through--I can't think of other Apple games to explore. I'm open to old-school suggestions. I was also pleasantly surprised to see other people--ok, 1 other person--also still chipping away.