Monthly Archives: November 2013

Taking a Mulligan

Hey there. There won’t be a post today. I’ve got too much to do, and not enough time to do it. So you’ll have to brood on your own neuroses instead of mine. If you’re bored, I can suggest Kongregate.

Sorry.

Spoon Fumes

So as you may have noticed, my updates this past week have been a bit sparse. I haven’t put much thought into them, and even if no one else cares, they’ve felt like little more than token efforts to me. I’d like to talk a bit about why.

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Spring(ish) Cleaning

I’m still feeling a bit out of sorts, so here’s another short entry. Late, but still a post for the day.

One nice thing about my recent hard drive issues is it made me really think about what I really needed on my computer. Over time, a computer inevitably accumulates cruft, useless programs and files that may have been useful (or at least interesting) at one point, but are doomed to languish forgotten in the cobwebbed corners of the C drive.

And my laptop was no exception. I had a number of programs taking up space that hadn’t been used in months, if not years. I hadn’t touched AutoCAD or Revit since graduating with my oh-so-useful debt lump architecture degree. I hadn’t opened RealPlayer to since I discovered VLC and Spotify, and even then I was only using it to rip audio CDs, which I hadn’t bought for the longest time. At least I had backed up my grad school work, but that was on there for much longer than it had to be. And that’s not even mentioning the games.

I had a lot of games installed. In fact, I would say that my Steam directory was by far the largest one on my hard drive. In fact, I even moved partitions around in order to gain more space. The funny thing is, these weren’t even games I was actively playing. A lot of them I had installed to try out, likely because I was bored. But then I’d get distracted by some other game, or get bored and install another one. And I wouldn’t bother uninstalling them, because I was still “playing” them, even if they hadn’t been opened for months.

In fact, I think the sheer number of games I had installed may have contributed to my ennui with so many of them: with so many options, none of them stood out. So I would bounce from game to game, not getting anywhere in any of them. It’s kinda like trying to read multiple books at the same time: you don’t get anywhere, and just end up confused and annoyed.

So since my SSD upgrade, I’m going to try to limit what games I have installed. I’m going to try to ensure that they are only games I am currently interested in playing. And not just in a “could be fun” way, but actually interested and progressing through. Maybe by limiting my options I’ll make what is readily available more appealing.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go throw that all out the window for the Humble Bundle.

Don’t Touch Lola

Like many people of my generation, I don’t watch television. I’ve long said that anything worth watching these days shows up online sooner or later,* and the few times I’ve been unavoidably exposed to what fills the airwaves these days has left me lamenting humanity’s future. It seems to be a never-ending sea of banal tripe, with shows like “Honey Boo Boo,” “Jersey Shore,” and “Survivor” that make Jerry Springer look like high opera. Even the shows that don’t automatically insult my intelligence are pretty bad; I recently saw a bit of a cooking show (“Man vs Food Nation,” I think) that make me want to punch the host in the face before drowning him in whatever vat of heart attack he was fawning over.

It’s a good thing I’m not a violent person.

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Inside My Ball

I don’t have much to say today; last week was surprisingly busy and mentally draining, and I haven’t had a chance to catch up yet, on posts or much of anything. I’m low on spoons, and still not thinking that straight. It’s taking all my willpower to decide what to have for dinner tonight, let alone what to write about. As such, I think I will crawl into my introvert’s hamster ball and leave you with this comic:

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N3rd Sp33k: Newbie vs Noob

When you play a lot of video games (as I do), you come across all sorts of slang and shorthand. Things like “pwn,” “l33t,” and “w00t.” And that’s to say nothing of the liberal use of slurs and epithets that haunts certain communities. *cough*Xbox Live*cough* Using these improperly can be an awkward, since even though gamers and nerds fancy themselves outsiders from mainstream culture, they can be depressingly intolerant of outsiders themselves. This is compounded by the fact that a lot of this slang can have different meanings to different people. So today, I’d like to talk about two very similar terms that, in my mind, have two very different connotations: “newbie” and “noob.”

Both terms can be used to refer to a new, inexperienced player. We’ve all been there: bullets are flying, the body count’s rising, and you barely take your first tentative steps away from the spawn point before watching brightly colored giblets that were formerly attached to your body go flying. It can be discouraging, but like I said, we’ve all been there. And not just in gaming: think of the first few times you tried a new skill and felt completely and utterly hopeless and out of place.

For me, a newbie is someone who lacks experience. There’s no judgment inherent in the term; it just describes someone who has just started out. They don’t know much and/or aren’t very good, but that’s through no fault of their own. Newbies are to be encouraged, since they are often ready and willing to learn, eager to improve. They may have an idea of how little they know, and while their questions may seem simple or obvious to you, they are asked earnestly and honestly.

Noobs (also seen as “n00bs,” “newbs,” or other, saltier variations), on the other hand, are not so kind-hearted. These are people who revel in their ignorance, seeming to wear it as a badge of (dis)honor. They may be brand new, but they’re already convinced they know everything. These are the people that heed no advice; attempts to help, no matter how well-intentioned, are deflected by the cosmic force of their ego shield. They may completely ignore objectives, rushing straight towards some piece of equipment (weapon, vehicle, etc.) that they think is “ZOMG SOOO KEWL” but can barely use, let alone be effective with.

In other words, newbies are just new, probably ignorant. Noobs are just stupid, and stupid is really hard to cure. The latter one has a derogatory connotation in my vocabulary, while the former reflects an uncomfortable place we all started from. Telling the difference can be challenging, but as you go you’ll probably be able to tell. What if you’re a newbie? Don’t worry: ask you questions in an intelligent manner, show some respect, and the favor should be returned. And what if you’re a noob? Well, I don’t want to just say “STFU & RTFM,” but try checking your ego and get comfortable with how much you don’t know.

If not, there’s always mutes and bans.

What’s Old Is New

As I’ve talked about previously, I have been working on developing a new curriculum and training regiment for our local SCA fencing practice. In the past, our group would routinely do drills and practice basics, but we’ve moved away from that. I hope to take some steps back in that direction, not just because there seems to be a huge interest in doing so, but because that’s one of the things that first attracted me to this fencing group, and I miss it.

For most of October, my friend and I prototyped drills, distilling our past two (or so) years of training in a new, more period/Italian style. Since many of our fellow fencers did not have an extensive martial arts background, we tried to streamline the new style, reducing it down to its key components using language that was clear and concise (earlier attempts borrowed language from our older, French-based style, which seemed to just add confusion). Small-group beta testing showed that we were on the right track, and with a few tweaks to terminology, I think we’re ready to start drills again.

I imagine drills are going to take some time to get used to again. It’s been a while since our core group has done them regularly, and we’ve added people that have little to no experience with them (positive or negative). So we’ll have to ease people back into them. I plan to start with the very basics, as everything else will be more easily built on a strong foundation. Doing so will get people used to doing drill, as well as give me more time to iron out a few of the remaining bugs in the curriculum.

My friend made a good point: by the time most of us started fencing, the old style was fairly formalized in its teaching methodology. Prototyping had been done, and what remained worked. Our effort, on the other hand, is still very much in the early stages. I hope people won’t be put off by that, but the best way to figure out what does and doesn’t work is to try it and see.

So am I excited? Yes. Am I nervous? Of course. But I have faith that if I can set aside my nervous ego long enough for my teaching experience to come forward, things will go well. After all, there’s definitely a demand, and early responses have been encouraging. There’s nothing quite like seeing someone finally “get” a concept that they’ve been struggling with thanks to your teaching. It’s an ego boost, of course, but I’m more excited by the ego boost it gives them.

So wish me luck. If you’re at practice tonight, come join us. While I may not know everything, I may have some nugget that can help.

Brain Transplant – Day One

Well, since I spent pretty much my entire day off in front of my laptop installing things, let’s talk about that! Not the most interesting topic, I’m willing to admit, but my brain is kinda fried and I’m not sure how much good I am for anything else at this point.

The day started early. I’m blaming Daylight Saving Time. It’s made me paranoid, and I’m waking up feeling far too rested for as early as work drags me out of bed. Seriously, waking up an hour later feels suspiciously like missing the alarm. But, seeing as the bed was warm and the room was cold, I managed to fight the urge to get up and tinker until my girlfriend’s alarm went off.

Once I got up, I spent a few minutes puttering around my computer, making sure everything was backed up satisfactorily. Think of it as taking one last look around a well-loved apartment, touching nooks and crannies where treasured belongings once sat. I was even able to get a second opinion on my drive’s health: Ubuntu said failure was imminent as well. Finally, I buckled down and started planning out my partition table. My new SSD was smaller than my failing hard drive, so I knew I was going to have to make some compromises.

Annoyingly, even though I knew this would be an issue, an advertized gigabyte is not necessarily a computing gigabyte. Most drives are advertized rated in gigabytes that are 10^9 bytes, which makes sense in a Base 10 system. Computers, however, use a Base 2 system, and in that case a gigabyte is 2^30 bytes. Which means that my “250 GB SSD” had only 232 GB usable. Oh well, such is life.

So I shut down my computer, unplugged it, and took out the battery. I removed the old hard drive with a touch of regret. As I inserted the new SSD, I was stuck by how much lighter it felt. Since there were no moving parts, it felt almost hollow. It went in simply enough (aside from missing the connections the first try because it was thinner than the old drive, and the computer was upside-down), and I set about the task of reinstalling Windows.

It went smoothly, aside from a small scare when it wouldn’t take my product key. But then I remembered: my Windows 7 was an “upgrade disc,” so it was looking for a previous installation of Windows Vista (ugh) that wasn’t there. Luckily a quick registry edit cleared that up with no problems.

The rest of the morning was spent downloading Windows updates, how many of which I eventually lost track. Luckily I had Netflix to keep me company; my queue is (finally) that much shorter. Once those were complete I started downloading my essential programs like Firefox (one of the few things Internet Explorer is good for), Avast! Antivirus, and LibreOffice. Once these were complete, I got around to re-installing some games, notably Minecraft and Team Fortress 2. I haven’t had much time to play yet, but here’s hoping there’s not too much to do over the next few days.

You know, when I write it out like that, my day sounds really boring. But in a way it was exciting: the thrill of a fresh OS install is like a crystal clear day after a snow, where the world is quiet and there are no tracks to be seen. You tramp through it soon enough, but for a while you can blaze your own path in whatever direction you may choose.

And how are things performing so far? You know, the question I set out to answer when I started writing this entry? Well, I will say that the SSD made the multiple restarts after updates and installations much speedier. A lot of the annoying quirks from before are also gone; whether that’s because of the new hardware or less OS cruft (there are a lot of programs I just dn’t need to reinstall) remains to be seen. Things do seem to be faster, though I haven’t done much in the way of gaming yet. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

You know, when they’re not needed on the keyboard.

Computer Woes (and Fixes)

I’m pretty handy with computers. However, I am also a bit of a tinkerer, which means that may tend to be a bit harder on my hardware than the average user. For example: my current laptop, which is now about 5.5 years old, can triple boot into three different OSes. I’ve got Windows 7 for day-to-day use. Ubuntu is there for playing around in Linux and occasionally modifying things that I can’t do through Windows (like shifting and resizing partitions). I’ve also got Windows XP on yet another partition, that I set up in an attempt to play a single game (GTA IV, if you must know, doesn’t play well with 64-bit operating systems). I’ve even got a separate partition set up for my documents and files separate from my operating system(s).

Needless to say, my laptop’s hard drive has seen some wear and tear over the past few years. I’ve installed multiple operating systems from scratch, resized partitions, moved them, and copied a lot of data to and from it throughout grad school. So imagine my chagrin when after a restart Windows popped up with a message saying that my hard disk had failed.

Failed?

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