Search Posts:



January 2014

1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31

John Kerry: "I support the Patriot act."

John Kerry: "I support the war in Iraq."

The only criticisms Kerry has are in implementation, not in intent. Let's get this clear - Kerry likes the war and he likes extending the powers of law enforcement to strip away your rights.

What a piece of shit. This is the best the Democrats could field?

Of course, where Kerry is lacking in substance, Bush is lacking in form:

George Bush: "We're gonna make elections."

George Bush: "We got a great country. I love our values."

George Bush: "Want some wood?"

George Bush: "I made some decisions on Israel that's unpopular."

George Bush: "I hear there's rumors on the uh... internets... that we're gonna have a draft."

George Bush: "I'm worried... I'm worried... I'm worried about our country"

George Bush: "The way to defeat them is to spread freedom!"

How fucking pathetic.


I got this in the mail today from American Express:


We would like to advise you of the status of your claim on your account from PAYPAL SVC XXX XXX-XXXX. We suspended the amount of $2,300.00 and advised you we would contact the merchant on your behalf.

We are pleased to inform you that credit in the amount of $2,300.00 has been posted to your account which can be seen on an upcoming statement. Therefore, we are removing the previously suspended amount from your account, which will also reflect on an upcoming statement.

If we can be of further assistance, please call the toll-free telephone number on your statement and speak with a Customer Service Representative.


J. Willis
Customer Service Supervisor

Now, the only question is, what happens to the Shehryar Qamar?

Checking my referrer logs, it looks like a good number of Shehryar Qamar's victims are stumbling across this page. If you've been scammed by vinylpushers@hotmail.com on ebay, "spective" on the tranceaddict forums, or a person claiming to be "Antonella Guerra" anywhere else, you may be interested in my story. A good place to start is my initial documentation of the scam, and you can follow up with what has happened since by browsing my Powerbook weblog category.

Goddamnit, I really, really wish the Firefox UI wasn't so broken in OS X.

Deal breakers:

Middle mouse doesn't open new tabs when clicking on links
Find-as-you-type doesn't work

You can weasel around the middle mouse thing by mapping the button to splat-click if your mouse utility supports it, but then you're screwed if you want to use the X11 copy/paste buffer. Find as you type just flat out doesn't work, and that's one of my favorite features in Firefox.

I really hope the Firefox team gets this stuff straight; I love the browser and would really like to use it on my Mac. Right now I'm using Safari since it's pretty decent and middle click works, but I really miss find-as-you-type and some of the cooler Firefox extensions.

For a while now I've been a real fan of Hybrid vehicles, and have been jealously eyeing every Prius I've spotted on the road. I was convinced at one point that my next car would be one of these rare and costly items, even though they only increase fuel efficiency by about 20% over standard cars. Hey, that's *something* after all.

But, in my current location, I've got an even better solution that's been sitting in my back yard - my bike.

I'm in the rare and lucky situation of living within 3 miles of where I work, and as such I can ride there in about 10 minutes. As an added bonus, my gym is right across the road from my office - so all I need to do is show up early enough, and I can workout and shower before work.

The only thing holding me back has been the need to transport more stuff than will fit in a backpack, and I just ordered a pannier to remedy that situation. Once this thing arrives, I should be able to ditch the car entirely for normal daily use - so while those Prius owners may feel great about their 37 MPG, I'll be running on 100% bio-fuel, and getting a good workout to boot.

When Mojo started talking about getting into biking, I knew I'd be up for it. Unfortunately, my pretty-decent 7-year-old low-end Trek had been neglected for months (if not years), and I kept putting off the repairs it required. I felt a little guilty about letting it get so far out of shape, and when I finally decided to get in gear I had to shell out $250 on repairs and accessories. Ouch.

But with that out of the way, I've been rolling. Up until now I've mostly just ridden with Mojo on the Cary Greenway, but his bike is such a piece of junk he's not able to keep up with me on my Trek (low-end as it may be for a Trek, it's still leaps and bounds beyond his Wal-Mart bike). Yesterday I decided to go solo, and I really pushed myself to see what I could do.

I refer not to testing my technical biking skill, of which I possess very little, but to pushing the limits of my raw physical endurance. My time at the gym has undoubtedly prepped me for some more difficult physical activity, as has my use of Albuterol to combat my recently discovered exercise induced asthma.

So, here was the plan. I would leave my house on Gregory Drive, take Maynard about a mile to the Cary Greenway, take the Greenway about 3 miles to Lake Crabtree, take a small dirt road from there into Umstead, and then just bike until I could bike no more. After a quick breath of albuterol, I equipped my iPod and a full bottle of water and rolled out of my driveway at about 12:45.

Riding on Harrison always sucks, even though I'm only on it a short distance. Motorists occasionally honk as they pass, though I'm not really sure what they want - I go as fast as I can, obey the traffic rules, and stay very far to the right lane. I sometimes flip them off in return, but I haven't noticed that doing so really does any good. They're probably too busy talking on cell phones to even notice.

Off of Harrison, I hit the Greenway. The Greenway is a three-mile stretch of asphalt, a bit wider than a golf cart path, flanked on both sides by several feet of grassy terrain, beyond which are mostly wooded areas and creeks that stand between the Greenway and various neighborhoods. There are exits from the Greenway into some of these neighborhoods, as well as to a couple of City Parks. The terrain is mostly flat, with a few gradual hills, and makes for a nice leisurely trek.

I couldn't help but think of an interesting sport idea - Greenway Golf. It would be quite challenging to hit a golf ball from one end of the greenway to the other, and I'd love to try it some day - unfortunately, the other people on the trail might object to a small spheroid object plummeting from the sky in their general vicinities. Ah, well.

At the end of the Greenway is Lake Crabtree, a pretty uninteresting body of water. When Mojo and I went there on Saturday, the water actually ran up over the asphalt in places, which was pretty fun to ride through - no such luck on Sunday, as the lake had receded enough to leave me a clear path. Still, there were puddles in various spots on the greenway, and by the time I made it to the end I had a good bit of muck and water clinging to my clothing.

From Lake Crabtree, there's about a half mile stretch of uphill dirt road to traverse before you enter Umstead proper. The road crosses over I-40 and then does nothing interesting until it hits the state park, where the bike and bridle trail begins. Umstead's bike trails are essentially well-maintained fine gravel roads, on which my mountain bike has no trouble finding purchase - perfect for my low level of technical ability.

Umstead is where I spent a majority of my time. Part of the New Deal during the Great Depression, Umstead was mostly an excuse for the government to keep people employed, and it's lucky for us now that they did so. Reedy Creek was dammed for no obvious reason, which created a small lake near the Harrison Blvd. entrance. Umstead itself spans several miles, with dozens of miles of winding trails that meander through the woods, crossing occasionally over creeks and streams.

The park is nothing spectacular, really, but it's an island of nature surrounded by the airport to the west, the interstate to the south, and Raleigh subburbs and commercial areas to the east and north. There's not much of historical or geographical signifigance, but it's nice to have a little slice of wilderniss in an area that is becoming more and more urbanized.

I spent a good 3 hours in Umstead, and traversed nearly all of its bike/bridle trails. As I said, it's not technically challenging, but MAN there are some long hills that really sapped my strength. Of course, what goes up, must come down - and flying down those hills at max speed in the highest gear made up for the pain of getting to the top. All in all I had a great time and got a LOT of exercise.

Mojo called shortly after I had started heading back towards the Greenway, and I met up with him and Listener at the Cary Park off of Cary Parkway. It was then that I started to feel how truly exhausted I was - after a quick spin on Mojo's bike (to reaffirm my suspicions that it was a piece of junk), they headed out by car, and I headed back by bike. I very nearly ran out of gas on a couple of hills on the return trip, but I somehow managed to pull through and make it to the house. I can't remember ever being so drained in my entire life, and I immediately lay down and fell asleep.

All in all, it was a great first step in what I hope will become a good, healthy hobby. I'm going to go look at new bikes and bike-related toys today, even though my cash reserves are nearly drained thanks to some recent purchases...

Er, oops.

I kinda started an "aptitude upgrade" before running off to the gym, forgetting that with Debian Unstable pretty much *every* upgrade should be attended. For some reason followsymlinks wasn't working in apache until I restarted the daemon, and a major upgrade to wordpress borked the blog (can't blame that one on Debian, really). Seems like they're polishing Sarge and are getting ready to put Woody out to pasture (LONG overdue) - it remains to be seen whether I'll lock in with stable once Sarge is frozen or if I'll keep rolling with Unstable.

As sad as it is, staying bleeding edge with Debian and fixing what breaks is kind of fun...

It's no secret that I've got no love for Kerry or Bush, but I'll be damned if the Republicans aren't finding ways to piss me off even more. Tonight at the RNC Mr. Giuliani, hero by timing, played the dirtiest, filthiest, most dispicible card in the scumbag political trickster's deck - the 9/11 trump.

I'm tired of this shit. It's possibly the worst intelligence failure in the history of this country (Pearl Harbor could be close, perhaps), and we have every Republican out there screaming "God Bless George W. Bush for pulling us through the worst time in America's history." What utter, disrespectful tripe.

9/11 was a symbol of our weakness and false sense of security, a window into the failings of our intelligence bureaucracy, and most importantly a human tragedy in which thousands of Americans lost their lives - yet it's constantly invoked as a political tool when all else fails. So, Mr. Republican, what about the economy? What about the deficit? Oh, well, just think about 9/11 and how HEROIC we all were, don't worry about the things that impact your lives! Don't look at the rich white men behind the curtains!

It's the lowest, lamest, most hideous abuse of a tragedy that I've ever seen, and it's political maneuvering that tramples on the graves of those Americans and turns a horrendous failure into some sort of twisted diversionary tactic. The fact that 9/11 happened is treated as a license for politicians to do whatever the fuck they want with no fear of recourse, and if the people start to wonder just what's going on in Washington the Republicans just pull out that shiny tragedy to distract them.

I've just had it with this shit. By goog, let these people rest in fucking peace and focus on the issues!

As if Clinton playing the sax on Letterman wasn't good enough.

Kerry shows up in top form, doing what he does best - criticizing Bush without actually presenting alternatives. Kerry slams Bush and blames him personally for all sorts of problems. Now, I'm no fan of Bush, but it's a little extreme to hold him accountable for the entire spectrum of ills that faces our country. And, of course, Kerry himself completely fails to present a compelling alternative to what Bush has already done.

Yes, Mr. Kerry, we know you have issues with how Bush is running things, but what exactly is your magic plan to make the country great?

I also find it a little odd that Kerry, who refuses to take a stance on pretty much anything (beyond saying that he opposes whatever Bush says), criticizes Bush for failing to discuss the issues. And of course Kerry has to utilize his latest strategy - he starts bashing Bush for bashing him with the swiftboat adds. Oh, touche! Way to elevate the dialogue and avoid negative politics Mr. Kerry!

John Stewart, who has actually impressed me in the past by hounding guests with serious questions, lobbed Kerry a bunch of softballs and jokingly mocked some of the more prominent anti-Kerry rhetoric. To his credit, Stewart has admitted in the past that he's a Democrat, and he's not exactly a real journalist. But still, the Daily Show is the closest thing to news a lot of people from my generation even encounter with any regularity.

I'll come out and say it - I disagree with pretty much everything Bush stands for. Emperialism, religious fundamentalism, fiscal irresponsibility, erosion of consumer protection laws, slashing of environmental regulations, failure to acknowledge problems with health care and education, creation of additional Federal beauracracy when we need to streamline what we have, extending law enforcement powers to new heights, ignoring the Geneva convention whenever technically possible, holding people incommunicato as enemy combatants... and the list just rolls on and on. But Bush sure as hell didn't do it all alone, and the hypocrites in the Senate (Edwards and Kerry most notably) were right there voting Yea like good little lapdogs.

As much as I despise many of Bush's positions, at least I know what he stands for. He's a known and pretty much predictable quantity. Kerry, on the other hand, refuses to tell us what he believes in or how he plans to enact it - and for a lot of people I think that's going to be a deal breaker.

Mr. Kerry, if you're reading my blog, please take this to heart - if you don't start presenting some real stances on real issues with real plans to fix real problems, your campaign is doomed. I don't care what the analysts are telling you - you will not be able to win this election simply by being somebody other than George W. Bush.

It's been a long time since I played the original Doom, but I'll tell you what I remember most about it: killing demons. In fact, I remember killing lots and lots of demons. But when I read an early article about Doom 3, which stated that you'd be cowering in the shadows scrounging around for health and ammo, I envisioned one of those first person sneaker titles along the lines of Thief (or Splinter Cell, whatever the kids these days are playing) instead of the blood-drenched demon killfest I remembered.

As it turns out, either I misinterpreted the review, or the review just sucked. Suffice it to say that you'll spend a lot of time in Doom 3 killing a lot of demons. And really, isn't that what life is all about?

The basic plot is pretty straightforward - you're a marine, you go to Mars, all Hell breaks loose (literally), and you have to make your way through a dark maze of industrial complexes to get to the heart of the evil, picking up new weapons and ammo, slaying as many demons as you can. Doom 3 has little direct character interaction, but employs "PDAs" that reveal email and audio recordings of various people who were killed by the hellspawn. As you retrieve more PDAs, the plot unfolds, and you learn more about just what went wrong. These PDAs also provide security clearance upgrades and useful information, such as codes to access supply lockers, and your personal PDA provides mission information and stores video clips that you find throughout the game.

I have mixed feelings about the PDA, and while I can understand why it's there I have to wonder if it's overused. The audioclips of dead scientists and technicians actually work very well, providing a glimpse of the backstory while contrasting and emphasizing the solitude you feel as you plod through the bloody halls with nobody around but demons.

But the email? It's cute, granted, but it's laborious having to pull yourself away from demon-killing action to face a fullscreen PDA with text email. While you can ignore the email entirely and still play the game, you'll invariably miss plot elements as well as the passcodes you need to access some storage lockers. The PDAs are essentially the new "red keys," but sometimes you have to trudge through the worthless data they contain to get the information you need to continue - that's not especially fun. Ala GTA3, id has thrown together a couple of actual web sites that are referenced by PDA entries in-game. While this tactic worked perfectly for GTA3's contemporary setting, it feels forced and uninventive when id tries it here. Why exactly should martianbuddy.com be available today, when the game itself is set in the 22nd century?

But, enough of that - onto the important stuff.

Doom 3 is dark. Very dark. I don't mean that in a metaphorical sense, though it certainly holds true in that as well, but in a literal sense - almost every level has areas of deep shadows. Luckily, you receive a flashlight very early, and you'll use it very often. Ammo and items are often hidden in darkness, and in many places you'll be forced to make your way through corridors that are otherwise pitch black.

So, the flashlight sounds like a really great thing, right? There's only one catch - you can't have a weapon out at the same time. This design decision, though unrealistic and at first annoying, creates an element that would be difficult to replicate otherwise. What do you want to be holding when you go around that corner, the flashlight or the chaingun? Do you want to be able to see, or do you want to be able to kill? It's easy to switch between the flashlight and your previous weapon (the flashlight button toggles between the two when pressed), and you'll find yourself needing to do so quite frequently as you enter dark rooms with flashlight drawn, only to find them full of demons.

Carmack had mentioned lighting as one of the major achievements in Doom 3, and it's used brilliantly throughout the game. The engine renders moving light sources and shifting shadows wonderfully, and while it may seem like a minor thing the lighting does marvels to enhance the mood of the game. You've never seen game lighting like this, and Id uses the technology (usually subtly, sometimes not) to great effect. When the lights suddenly turn on, or off, or a whole room is suddenly lit in blood-red, you know something brutal is about to happen, and you'll have to think quick to deal with it.

I won't dwell on the graphics (they're very good all around), but along with the realistic lighting the bump-mapped textures really caught my eye. Of course, this stuff comes at a cost - unless you have a top of the line rig, you'll probably be playing in 640x480 or 800x600. On my P4, 3 GHz system with a Radeon 9800 Pro I was able to play without much slowdown at 800x600 with 2x FSAA. Your milage may vary.

While Doom 3's lighting is impressive in its own right, its combination with sound creates truly chilling and gut-wrenching effects. For example, you'll hear groans coming from a darkened corner of a room. You pull out your flashlight to check the area, only to find nothing - then, from another direction, you'll hear some demons barreling at you full speed...

That's what Doom 3 is really all about - surprise demons, and lots of them. No matter how many times it happens, you never quite get used to the 'ol "bunch of demons appearing from nowhere" bit. Coupled with the at times misleading audio cues and the opressive darkness, you'll find yourself desperately trying to locate foes that may not even be there, and you'll still be scared shitless when you do find them. I found myself repeatedly flailing about, waving the flashlight, or just firing shots into the darkness at the slightest noise.

You might think this would get old after a while, but Id manages to mix things up quite nicely. The levels, though fairly consistant in feel, are actually varied enough in layout to provide a wide range of tactical situations. On top of that, each type of facility has design elements that seem to reflect its actual purpose, giving each level a unique flavor.

A wide variety of enemies also spices things up, and you'll run into plenty of demons from the original Doom game as well as a few new ones. The weapons are mostly familiar, but they have a few twists - the new BFG, for example, features a variable charge option that allows you to quadruple its power at a cost of 4 times the ammo and a bit of chargeup time. You also have hand grenades, which prove very useful, and later in the game you'll acquire a new weapon called the "Soul Cube." The cube doesn't use ammo - instead, it charges up when you slay demons, and once you've slain enough bad guys you can use the device to destroy a single enemy and get back some precious health. Trust me, you'll need it.

And that thing about cowering in the shadows, looking for ammo and health? It's true. Even on the weakling "Marine" difficulty, I found myself frequently running out of ammo for the good guns, repeatedly forced to use the minimum amount of force possible when dispaching an enemy. I could never retire the trusty shotgun and pistol - I found myself plinking away at bad guys with the weaker weapons whenever I could afford to. And cowering in the shadows? I'd do that just because I was too afraid to move. There is no element of stealth to the game, at least not as a player - the demons will find you whether you're sneaking around or not. Sometimes, though, you just feel like hiding in the shadows anyway...

Although Doom 3 is a wonderfully nostalgiac experience, the game isn't shackled by its predecessor and is solid enough to sustain itself purely on its own merits. Doom 3 is essentially a reinvention of the original game, borrowing what works, ditching what doesn't, and creating a new experience that feels like the classic without duplicating it. The unique new elements, coupled with traditional demon-slaying action, make this game a great experience regardless of whether or not you played the original.

Highly recommended.