Friday, June 24, 2005

Humour: God annoyed at having to "sort 'em out"

By Michael Coyne

Heaven - An annoyed God expressed his frustration today at the site of a recent massacre. "What the hell?" muttered the omnipotent one as he sorted through the bodies.

"They're all dead already," explained God to visiting representatives of various faiths. "I was sitting around and figured I'd come down from heaven in all my glory and do a little divine visitation. I arrive, and I'm saddled with this. Thanks."

"Aw, geez," God added, as he poked further through the mess of bodies. "They're all mixed together and stuff," he complained loudly. "Now I've got to sort them out. Gross."

God expressed disappointment at the lack of understanding among the faithful. "It's easy for you guys down here to just say "Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out", but you don't realize just how much work it generates. I can't even tell how many bodies are here, for starters. I've got to pick my way through them all before I even know if we've met quota this month... and don't even get me started on the paperwork this entails!"

The Supreme Being picked an arm out of the pile in obvious annoyance. "And then look at this, an arm. Does that guy count as dead? Or just maimed? Where the hell is the rest of him? Is it somewhere in this pile or a different one? Or is there some guy wandering around wondering where his arm is?"

Asked if he intended to descend upon his chosen people in all his majestic wrath, God was cagey. "Sheesh, in the days of the old Covenant, I would have been all over you people like those nine plagues I sent against Egypt. What? Ten? Okay, maybe it was ten. You smite someone ten times more than three thousand years ago, and see if you remember all of them. But am I descending in wrath these days? Honestly, who's got the energy? Maybe I'll just get the whole descending in wrath thing outsourced. I've got someone in mind. He used to work for me, but left a really long time ago to do his own consulting work. He thought the prospects for advancement with me weren't good enough. I hear he's got a hell of a lot of wrath and anger, so he could probably handle the work, but you think I'm busy these days? He's swamped."

BBspot: God annoyed at having to "sort 'em out"

In the self-woohooing category, I submitted another humourous piece to BBspot, and it ran on Monday (I didn't see it at the time, due to being on vacation). If you like satire, you might find it worth the read.

I will likely publish it here as well, just for archival purposes...

MAME cabinet: routering and laminate application

My parents have been visiting us from Edmonton for the past week, and my dad brought his router along so that we could do some routering work on the control panel.

In order to get maximum height out of my Ultimarc joysticks, I wanted to top-mount them under the laminate. So we routered down just enough to fit the top plate, and then we drilled out the screw holes in the top plate so that the screws would countersink a bit. We were able to get the plates mounted nicely in the top of the control.

Then came laminate adhesion time. I had picked up some contact cement made by LePage's to glue the laminate to the plywood. It's pretty nice stuff, cleans up with soap and water, spreads easily, has no toxic components.

We applied a fairly thin coat to both the plywood and the laminate, waited about an hour, and then just jammed them together, using a rolling pin to push the laminate down into place. The bonding was immediate, and very strong, and we had the really neat-looking control panel pictured below.

Control panel with laminate
Control panel with laminate (click to enlarge)

We left it to firm up until the next day, just in case. The last thing I wanted was for the laminate to start pulling away when we started routering.

We began the next day by routering around the edge of the laminate, giving a nice clean edge--in fact, that's shown in the picture above.

We also drilled down and then routered around all the button, trackball and joystick holes, cleaned up all the edges and then, deep breath, I was ready to go, starting the wiring.

I got the buttons and everything else installed, chose a suitable mounting point for the Optipac and Ipac boards, screwed them into the underside of the panel and then started on the wiring. I opted to use the quick-connect crimps, instead of soldering just in case I wanted to rewire things some day.

After working on it over a couple of evenings, I had all the crimping and connections finished, and the finished control panel was ready to go.

(mostly) finished control panel
mostly finished control panel (click to enlarge)

So I plugged the whole thing into the PC and tried it out. It all worked perfectly, and my dad and I even managed to get in a two-player soccer game on MAME.

So I now have a fully working control panel. It's not completely finished. I've got to add the trim around the front edge, and I'm going to touch up the paint on the front to remove a couple of blemishes. The MAME fund was depleted with the purchase of all the controls, so everything's on hold for a few weeks until we build it up a bit more. There have been quite a few 27" TVs on sale for $200 lately, and I've almost picked one up. Our current main TV is on the fritz, so we're going to need another one soon to tide us over until we can afford our dream TV... and once we get the dream TV, whatever main TV we have (27" or under) will go into the MAME cabinet.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Watching movies at home...

So the CBC has this story, about a recent poll of Americans which found that 73 per cent of them prefer watching movies at home, whether through DVD, VHS or pay-per-view, rather than in the theatre.

I'm sure Hollywood will get in a panic about this, and the MPAA will claim that piracy is to blame, even though only 5 per cent of those polled said they had downloaded a film.

My response to Hollywood is: can you blame people?

You're paying about $10 to go to the movies these days, just for admission (and even that's likely to get worse in Canada, when you read this about Cineplex Odeon buying Famous Players) to watch the latest crapstravaganza featuring the current flavour of the month actor who can't act their way out of a paper bag. The main character has some token development, and is surrounded by wooden characters brought to dubious life by bit actors. When will Hollywood realise the importance of casting for the small roles? Most of the Hollywood movies I've really enjoyed are the ones that people all of the roles, large or small, with quality character actors. Look at Shawshank Redemption, or even Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings, which didn't win any actors any awards, but were riddled with people who know how to act. And that makes it so much more convincing versus say, garbage like The Fast and the Furious.

So people end up staying home--why get the car out, haul the family down to the theatre, spend $40 on admission and $30 on popcorn and drinks for a feature you're pretty sure, based on track record, is going to be disappointing? Much easier to stay at home and spend a few bucks renting the DVD or watching the pay-per-view.

But appallingly bad films are not the only reason people are staying at home. Look at the difference in the viewing experience.

At the theatre, I'm stuck in a seat that allows limited shifting of body position, the floor is sticky, people beside me talk to each other about other things throughout the movie, the guy behind me is busy explaining the film to his girlfriend (or worse yet, summarising the plot of Episodes I, II, IV, V and VI of Star Wars at the same time as watching and trying to explain RotS), I'm nowhere near the center of the screen because I no longer have the inclination or energy to line up first or barge past everyone else when they open the doors to get a good seat, the picture is grainy, often out of focus, the sound is turned up so high and the sound system so poor that high-frequency noises like R2D2's beeps, are actively painful, I have to sit through 20-30 minutes of commercials and previews for films I don't want to see, I have to listen to annoying preppy teenagers giving a presentation before the show starts reminding me to turn off my (non-existant) cell phone, and not to put my feet up on the seat (guess what? The kind of cell phone owner that doesn't remember to turn off their cell phone once the movie starts [or better yet, leave it at home] isn't listening to you anyway), and trying to elicit a cheer from an audience that wants nothing more than for said preppy kid to shut up and start the movie ("Hey, are you guys ready to see The Matrix Revolutions?" "No, we all came here and paid the exorbitant fees, are currently listening to you, and prepared to sit through all the commercials and other inanity because we're not ready to see The Matrix Revolutions... of course we're ready to see it... we're here to see it."). Okay, deep breath.

Contrast that with, say, watching a DVD at home. I get the seat I want (though I can move during the film if I want, as well). I can put my feet up. My seat is right in the center of the screen. I can have the amount of ambient light I want. I can get up and go to the bathroom without missing the only meaningful line of dialogue in the film, the popcorn is cheaper and tastes better, the picture looks great. And as for the sound system (audiophile geekout coming up, you have been warned)...

I have extreme control over the volume. I can boost the center channel volume so as to hear dialogue perfectly, while keeping the rest of the speakers lower. I've got an Arcam AVR100 amp driving the rear speakers, center channel and subwoofer, and a Musical Fidelity A300 dual mono amplifier driving some Monitor Audio Silver 8 speakers on the front, and the whole experience is way better than what you get in the theatre.

My digital cable service now also includes Video-on-demand, which means I can now order a movie that isn't necessarily on the list of recently-released (unlike the pay-per-view service), and I can pause, stop, rewind while watching the movie over the course of 24 hours.

We also have the two small children, so just finding time to sit down and watch a whole movie is difficult. When I go through the effort to get out to the theatre, spend my money and then sit through a bad movie in an uncomfortable seat, in a noisy environment with poor sound and picture.... well, it only reinforces my desire to watch more DVDs.

The Hollywood industry needs to get its house in order, and start producing features that are compelling enough to help me ignore the theatre environment, if it's not quite up to snuff.

And guess what? That might even help cut down on piracy, too.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The voice actor's plight

I'm a big fan of Futurama, and really appreciate the amazing voice talent that goes into it, so I read with interest the recent piece from actor, voice actor and all-around geek (that's a compliment) Wil Wheaton. It gave me a new perspective on the plight of voice actors in general.

With that still fresh in my mind, I was surprised and pleased when I saw that this week's The Onion AV Club had an interview with Billy West, who voices Philip J. Fry and a plethora of other major characters on my favourite animated show. A very cool read touching, among other things, on the second-class citizen status of voice actors.

I recommend you take a read of both if you're at all into watching animation. It gives you a different perspective on mass-market animated features like Shrek that use "real" Hollywood actors versus really inventive animated shows that use real voice actors: ones who create a voice for their role, instead of showing up and reading lines in their regular everyday voice. Did Donkey sound like it was anyone other than Eddie Murphy?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

IF: Risorg2

The header at the top of this blog claims that it chronicles work on interactive fiction, but there's been no mention of IF on here for quite some time.

I'm still working on a sequel to Risorgimento Represso. It's imaginatively titled Risorg2, for want of something better. I've got quite a bit of it planned out in my head, and I'm creating it by starting with a transcript, just to see what that's like. The transcript runs to about 4,000 words at the moment. A winning run-through of RR is about 19,000, so I guess you could say I'm about 20% done. Not that length of transcript is the be-all and end-all, but I'm trying to create a game of a similar scope, so it's a good metric to use.

I don't think I'll create the whole transcript end-to-end before doing some coding. As I run out of literary steam, I'll turn to do some of the coding. As I get to sticky patches of the coding that I don't feel up to banging through, I'll go back to the transcript.

I've made some fairly key decisions while working on this transcript. I worked very hard in RR to avoid gender-specific references to the PC. In the end, everyone I've talked to seems to have envisioned the PC as male anyway. So in Risorg2, the PC is definitely male. It helps me avoid some convoluted English usages now that I can refer to him as 'him'. It also allows the PC's relationship with the companion NPC, who is female, to be more fully defined. I could even give the PC a name if I wanted to, but I don't know if I'll go that far.

As a special treat for those visiting, here's an excerpt from early in the game.

Wizard's Way
Persecution by the Wizards Guild caused numerous wizards from Vechlee to seek refuge in this northeastern corner of the city. With the final dissolution of the guild, many have returned home, leaving their hastily built, slipshod houses in Blumph to fall into disrepair. Apart from Ninario's crumbling brick house to the north, only one other in the area looks inhabited, a squat brownstone house to the east.

Southwest, the cobbled road rises up towards Blumph's high street.

>look e
The squat brownstone building is neat and carefully looked after. A large archway leads into an interior courtyard, but the closed wrought-iron gate tells you that visitors are not welcome.

>x courtyard
The interior courtyard is a large open area leading to the various parts of the house.

>open gate
The gate appears to be locked.

>climb gate
"It's interesting," says Crystal conversationally, as you place a hand on the gate, "just how much those spikes along the top look like they're poised in groin-piercing readiness."

You let go of the gate and reconsider.

>climb gate
"I find it fascinating," says Crystal, just a bit acerbicly, "how some people seem content to permanently endanger a chapter in their life that likely hasn't even been opened yet. Are you aware of just how much damage those spikes could do?"

You let go of the gate and reconsider.

>climb gate
"You know what I hate?" asks Crystal loudly. "That particular kind of person who doesn't listen to what you're saying and just goes ahead blindly with his own misguided agenda."

You let go of the gate and reconsider.

>climb gate
"Look, Ninny junior," says Crystal bluntly, "I figure hanging around with you while you wreak whatever havoc is coming in the course of this adventure is my best chance to get myself out of this blasted rock, so if you think I'm going to idly stand by and watch you impale yourself on this gate just so you can get inside a house that hasn't even proven to have anything to do with our assignment, you're wrong. Step away from the gate, now!"

You let go of the gate and reconsider.

>climb gate
Crystal's resulting stream of invective is of such a high and abusive order that any attempt to reproduce it fails to do it justice. Let us merely note that you are left white, trembling, and certain of your desire not to climb over the gate.

>climb gate
A single glance from Crystal as you step towards the gate makes you reconsider.

That's a part of what I have so far.

I debated changing languages for this game, but I've got so much code invested in the original RR that I can reuse for this one... the autodoors, some of the NPCs, and general templates for a lot of base-level objects that I think it will help the development process to stay with Inform.

I am targeting both Glulx and Zmachine from the beginning though, and my Makefile is configured to build both targets automatically, so that should guarantee I don't do anything specific to one language and not the other.

I still have a pending RR release (RRR?) that adds a Glulx game file and fixes a few other bugs, but I haven't bothered to release it yet. I should probably do that soon, just to get closure. Make it the last release of RR, barring any major problems.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

MAME cabinet: the quest for laminate

The next step is the control panel sides. They're just five strips of plywood, 3 1/2" high, that raise the control panel up from the cabinet. That gives just enough height for all the buttons and wiring underneath, and is low enough that I can place the 3 1/2" strips upright in the mitre saw to give them the nice angled edges I wanted.

I used 1/2" long dowel pegs to attach the sides into the bottom of the control panel, and copious amounts of carpenter's glue. After that, I painted it black, using some Tremclad textured black spray paint. I wanted a dark laminate, so black sides were a pretty safe choice.

Control panel sides
Control panel sides (click to enlarge)

And now the quest for laminate began.

I work just around the corner from Floform Countertops, who do all kinds of custom countertops, and have a showroom with loads of different styles of Formica. I heard that they had a bin of leftover pieces you could pick through, so I gave them a call and told them what I was looking for... a small piece of laminate, preferably with a dark pattern. The salesperson I talked to wasn't very helpful, and every time I tried to ask about leftover pieces she just kept saying, "You'll have to buy the whole sheet." I asked how much that was: anywhere up to $4 a square foot, depending on pattern, texture and so on. Given that a sheet is 4x8, we're talking a stupid amount of money.

I gave up and went to Home Depot at lunch. They had 4x8 sheets for $25-$30 for light colours and light patterns, but anything dark with a nice pattern was in the $50 range. I asked if they sold cut sheets. No. Would they sell me a whole sheet and then cut it down for me so I could put it in my car? No. Well, all right, if you'd rather not make the sale...

I headed to McDiarmid Lumber, which is a smaller hardware store--I think they've got stores in (northern) Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. I spoke to someone there, and he said all their laminate was 4x8 sheets, but he told me I could go to Floform and pick through their bin. I explained to him the reception I'd gotten, and he called someone he knew at Floform to ask... turns out they used to do that thing with the bin, but now they use virtually all of their waste material. Argh.

So as a last resort, I headed to Windsor Plywood on another lunch hour. They're a western Canada retailer of plywood and construction supplies. I looked around there for a long while, and finally, tucked off to one side, I found a little area that had a bunch of 4x2 sheets of laminate for $7. I bought the one shown below. It's not exactly what I was envisioning, but it's grown on me since I picked it up, and I now think it's pretty cool. The price was right, too. Because it's a cut sheet, there's no product information on the back anywhere, so I can't tell you what brand name it is or what the name of the pattern is.

The lucky laminate
The lucky laminate (click to enlarge)

Now I've got to get it glued onto the control panel. As I want to top-mount the joysticks underneath the laminate, I'll have to put the joysticks in place on the panel, drill holes in the right place in the laminate, apply the glue, and then stick it down very carefully, making sure I get the holes for the joystick lined up, while making sure I don't bubble the laminate anywhere. The more I think about it, the more I'm leaning towards mounting the joysticks from below. If I do them from below, I won't have to wreck the laminate if I ever want to replace them with a different stick. Hmmm, something to think about...

MAME cabinet: panel construction

I purchased a 1 1/8 hole saw for drilling the button holes and was all ready to begin marking and drilling holes for buttons and joysticks.

I looked at my 48x19 piece of plywood. I looked away. I looked back. Drilling holes in this thing is a big step. If I change my mind about anything after the fact, I would have to cut a new piece of wood.

But I'd prototyped the whole thing on a 48x19 piece of cardboard, and it was all good, so I should be able to begin with impunity.

I grabbed the piece of wood, and instead of beginning to mark out the hole locations, I lopped six inches off each side and five inches off the back, winding up with a 36x15 control panel.

What? Why? Well, I've been looking at the size of the cardboard prototype, and it just seems too darn big. And, I realised that the control panel actually built and placed on Jeff's ultimate MAME machine is a much smaller one than what he put in his cutout plans.

Far happier now, I proceeded to mark out all the locations, and did a little bit of drilling, and ended up with what you see here.

Plywood control panel
Plywood control panel (click to enlarge)

It looks a little asymmetric, mostly because the joystick holes aren't jigsawed out yet, but it's a much more manageable size. It should now overhang by about 3" per side, instead of 9".

Next on the agenda: jigsawing out the joystick and trackball holes.

I also need to construct the sides of the panel and attach them. Oh, and I've got to find some material to put over top of the panel. I'd like to use a laminate of some kind, but I've got to find somewhere I can buy a smaller sheet.

MAME cabinet: panel prototyping

Based on the plans here, which I'm using as a starting point, I made a layout in Visio of a 48x19 control panel.

I used information from Ultimarc's website to make sure I had the sizes of all the parts correct. The Ultimarc buttons need a 1 1/8" diameter hole, while the actual surface area occupied by the button and the plastic surround is 1 5/16". Holding an imaginary joystick in one hand and resting my fingers on the kitchen table, I decided that 1 1/2" center-to-center made for good button spacing.

I've also planned for a spinner, even though I haven't ordered one. The Optipac board can interface with one, so I left space for it above the trackball. The trackball buttons will double as the spinner buttons. I like the look of the Vortex spinners from Oscar Controls, so I made plans for an appropriately-sized hole, with a view to ordering a spinner "some day".

By the time I finished the Visio work, my parts had arrived, and sure enough, no duty or taxes to pay. Nice. I hauled them all out of the box and tried out the buttons and the joysticks, but after that, they sat around for a few days.

I cut out a 48x19 piece of 5/8" plywood to use for the panel, but I wanted to prototype things before starting to cut into it.

So I made a double-layered cardboard template out of some old boxes in the basement, and pencilled in the locations for all the components.

Then, I cut out all the holes, and installed the parts. It's far from elegant-looking, but gives a really good idea of how the whole thing goes together.

Prototype control panel
The prototype control panel (click to enlarge)

I used the Neo-geo colour layout for the buttons, and tried everything out to get a good feel for the joystick. I want to top-mount the joystick, if possible, to get the extra height. I tried the joystick mounted from below (along with a 1/2" offset to account for the thickness of the plywood versus the cardboard), but it was just too low.

Button layout detail
Button layout detail (click to enlarge)

So everything seems pretty good. The distance between the two joysticks is a bit large to comfortably play Total Carnage, Robotron or Battlezone, but I figure the firing for those games can always be mapped to buttons. I'm not a purist, and because I've only got two joysticks anyway, two-player Total Carnage is going to require firing via the buttons.

With the prototyping done, the next step is to start cutting holes in my piece of plywood...

MAME cabinet: research and parts purchase

With a cabinet design selected, and a couple of months of building up the MAME cabinet savings, it's time for some control panel parts research.

From playing these games using my PC keyboard, I've found it doesn't take much for the keys to overlap or ghost. Some aggressive playing of Outzone, and I usually hear the telltale speaker beep. I don't want to try hacking a modern PS/2 or USB keyboard. While the interfaces themselves support high levels of key simultaneity and rollover, the keypad inside these keyboards is usually a matrix style.

A keyboard encoder is going to be essential. I thought briefly about developing my own, but when I weigh the cost of buying one versus the lengthy (though enjoyable) development cycle of creating my own, it just isn't worth it. I don't want to suffer the delay it will incur, not to mention laying out the board, getting it fabricated, and so on.

After a lot of reading online, and thinking about how many buttons I wanted in total, I've decided the Ultimarc IPAC2 will be more than adequate for my planned two-player control panel. And at $39 USD, it's considerably cheaper than the $120 USD for the Hagstrom KE72, another board I considered, but have discarded. It's overkill for my needs, and too expensive as well.

So I'm going to order an IPAC from Ultimarc, and I thought I might as well get the Optipac from there too, for trackball control.

But where to get the rest of my stuff? Buttons, joysticks and so on.

Lots of folks on purchase parts through Happ Controls, but I'm not sure I want to do that. The duty to ship from the US to Canada is quite high on this kind of thing, and you usually end up paying GST (7% sales tax) at the Canadian border on stuff from the US. Not to mention the $5 handling fee just to have Canada Customs touch the thing.

I'm already going to order the Optipac from Ultimarc (in the UK), and they sell just about everything I need, so I'll go ahead and order my buttons, joysticks and trackball from there as well.

I read a review of joysticks in general here at Arcade Controls, and various postings on I'm leaning towards the Ultimarc J-Stik, as it has a longer throw than their other sticks, and quieter microswitch operation. I read a J-Stik review at Retroblast, and now my mind is made up. It's the ball-top J-Stik for me.

I ordered two J-Stiks, and a pile of buttons. I opted for eight per player, which sounded like overkill, but I want to make sure I get four in a row for Neo-geo games, and also two rows of three for some of the fighting games. I also want some buttons around the trackball. I'm left-handed, but mouse with my right hand, so I want the trackball buttons left of the ball. However, I also want support left hand trackballing, so I'm going to put the same buttons to the right of the trackball as well. I also ordered some Player 1 and Player 2 start buttons (with the little logoed graphic), and four more "general use" buttons, probably for credit buttons to begin with. So the grand total on the order is 26 buttons.

With the order placed, it's waiting time. While I wait for the order to arrive, my next step is drafting the control panel layout in Visio...

MAME cabinet: making the decision

Playing MAME is ultimately unsatisfying. That sounds a little odd, but bear with me.

I love playing MAME, fooling around with a lot of these old games from my childhood. There are many games in MAME I remember vividly. Some, I played in places like Chuck E Cheese in southern Ontario, pumping in token after token during my friend Ben's birthday party. His dad even supplied all the tokens--how great is that? But there were other games I rarely got to play.

There was a laundromat near school when I was about 12. They had Choplifter and a couple of other games. I remember going there over the lunch hour to watch: the same guy always seemed to be playing Choplifter, and I remember aching to play. I wanted nothing more than a chance to play, but the machine was always occupied. I had played Choplifter on my Apple ][ at home, but this looked so much more exciting, so much more interesting. I even fantasized about this guy getting past the first stage and then handing the controls to me to let me play. It never happened, and the couple of times that I got a turn on the machine, I died very, very quickly.

With the advent of MAME, I could play arcade Choplifter all I wanted. I could possibly even play enough to get good at it. But sitting using a keyboard to play was nowhere near the same as the original arcade experience. I hemmed and hawed and started looking around on the net at what other people had done--creating control panels or full cabinets.

With two small boys already, and another child on the way, how neat would it be to have a MAME cabinet down in the basement rec room (once it's finished) ? The rec room, currently only framed in, is 28x16. The left side will be the entertainment area, with the TV and some couches. The opposite side is going to be a playroom area.

But that leaves an area about 10x16 in the middle that's going to be largely empty. Sounds like a perfect place to set up an arcade cabinet. It will be a really neat thing for the kids, and being able to charge tokens for playing means a lot better control of their gameplay than if they just had a game console.

So a few months ago, I took the plunge, and started slowly saving towards a MAME cabinet. The kids are so young, and the basement so unfinished, I've got a lot of time to create this thing. I'm going to create the control panel first--that part's a little easier than the rest, and it's something I can use right away on the PC upstairs too. I also have a lot of plywood left over from creating the subfloor in the basement, so I can make the panel out of nice, strong 5/8" plywood.

After a lot of looking around the net, I've decided to create something similar to Jeff's ultimate MAME machine. He has pretty comprehensive plans on his site, and while they aren't perfect, they'll certainly give me a good basis, and I can change a few things as I went along.

I told Michelle all about my plans, and she was supportive, though not necessarily too enthusiastic. I ended up finding another cabinet site with pictures of the creator's kids playing away, and said "That's what it's all about." She took a look at the kids playing, and became a lot more interested. When I talked about the token idea, and being able to impose limits on the amount of gameplay, and all the two player cooperative games that were out there, she agreed it would be a really neat thing to have.

So with official permission, I'm off to the races. All I need is a little bit of funding built up, and I can start.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Second post!

Now I feel like a slashdot geek.

Michelle and I just finished watching our Miss Marple Mysteries DVD that I picked up from Amazon (courtesy of my gift certificate winning limerick at BBspot. How's that for shameless self-promotion?)

On another BBspot related, self-promotion note, out of the list of "things I meant to put on my webpage, but never got around to because it was a pain to edit", a piece I wrote was published on BBspot a few months ago. You can read it here. And if it gets your knickers in a knot, well, I apologise. But bear this in mind: if we're made in God's image, that would mean that our sense of humour must have divine origins, right?

What's the netiquette about periods and links, anyway? Does the period go within the hyperlink or outside of it? It makes sense to me to include the punctuation with the link, so I think I'll do it that way.

The Miss Marple episodes were enjoyable, though A Pocketful of Rye could have been better served by being three parts. It felt a little rushed. I watched all these originally in the 1980s on Mystery with my parents, and they stand up pretty well. It's hard to believe The Body in the Library is over twenty years old.

Apart from Miss Marple, we're not watching a lot these days. The kids occupy most spare moments. That's hardly surprising and is just fine with me. They're never going to be this age again (2.5 years and 1 year), so I want to enjoy these days with them as much as I can.

I recently worked my way through all of Futurama after I borrowed the DVDs from a co-worker. When Futurama was broadcast, I missed quite a few episodes, due to the stupid way Fox kept moving it around or just plain pre-empting it for football. By the time I watched the DVDs, I'd managed to see most of the episodes on Teletoon over time. But when I got to season 4 of the DVDs, I was surprised to find that I had not seen a single one of those episodes before. Very strange: you'd think, after a year of watching it almost every night on Teletoon, I would eventually have seen one of the season 4 episodes.

I've got a whole wealth of things to throw up on here, but I'll end this here for now, as I'd rather have a greater quantity of smaller posts than infrequent monster posts. Don't quote me on that in the future, though.

Moved over to blogger...

So this is really just a placeholder: the first entry in this new format. It was going to be a significant pain to edit the HTML of my main page by hand in order to move old posts to a backlog file, so I opted to try out blogger.

I looked at various ways of doing this, but MTS doesn't support anything fancy on their server like PHP or Perl, so I was rather stuck.

So we'll try this and see how it goes. At the moment, I'm doing composition through blogger, and then updating to MTS via FTP.

I'm also just using the very generic template available, and I don't even have a clear idea of what it will look like. Prepare for fear.

** UPDATE **
I've also added in a few posts I made to my original webpage over the years, so they should appear in the archive... more just for completeness than anything else.

The great 2005 update

Well, after much debate, I decided that the main reason I wasn't updating this page was that I could foresee it was going to be a pain to maintain.

So I ended up starting a page using blogger for composition, which can be accessed here for the moment, but I will most likely make it the main page before too long, and archive this one.

Eventually, I will migrate the other limited information on this page as well, and make it all accessible through the weblog page.