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Review: SWTOR MMO Beta

I've examined the NDA for my beta test this weekend, so this post will avoid specifics and deal in only generalities.

The short version is: I liked it, but not sure I want to buy it.

The longer version is:

Jean and I played up to 13 or so over the weekend, in a real binge run that took most of Saturday and part of Sunday. I'm sure that if I wasn't binging, I probably would've liked it more. Jean stuck to the force-user healy class (shocking!) while I went with the blaster-wielding DPS. First caveat: the roles in SWTOR are NOT as explicit as the roles in WoW, so I'm being a little cagy about it.

There are some very clear Bioware influences, too, including the morality slider and lots and lots of social interactions that change the way the world sees and responds to you. It's quite nifty.

Also, as Jean pointed out, the morality is much more clear. Unlike in WoW, where both sides are roughly morally equivalent, it's VERY clear who the bad guys are in SWT…

Review: Wil Wheaton vs. Paul and Storm at the Aladdin

A caveat: I am a gigantic fan of everyone who performed on Wednesday the 16th -- the Doubleclicks were the opener -- so this particular review will likely not be particularly even-handed. There is no hate in this post, only love.

The Doubleclicks started the show, with a six-song set and five of the songs were new since the last time I was at a show for them. Sadly, I haven't been able to support them nearly as much as I wished, but they're starting to get a real name in the Nerdrock sub-genre, and that's very cool to me, considering that as a Doubleclique (the fan club) I have a serial number that, as far as I can tell, is the lowest number available. And I have a t-shirt with that serial number on it. So you could probably call me a fan, if'n you wanted. Aubrey (cello) and Angela (uke and guitar) are, as far as I can tell, a young and attractive female version of Paul and Storm. In the vein of Garfunkel and Oates, though really much more cerebral (not a knock o…

Review: Artificial Heart

Having now purchased and listened to the new Jonathan Coulton album, I am reassured that my first impression of the newly-electrified and studioized JoCo was correct: I very much like his music, and his work is as good or better than his previous stuff, but his live shows suffer from the inevitable "volume problem" -- the plugged-in stuff ends up being played at a level that washes out the melodic subtleties that make his work really touching, as opposed to just clever.

Artificial Heart is really good. Like, really really good. Space Doggity, Always the Moon good. You should buy it now (go here) -- it's $10, which is a fucking steal these days -- and I especially encourage you to listen to Nemeses, Nobody Loves You Like Me, and Glasses if you're on the bubble about it.

JoCo has moved impressively past his "nerd-core" beginnings without forgetting about it or leaving his audience behind, finding a tone and voice that makes him a legitimate breakout threat as …
Obligatory Politics Post:

GET INVOLVED. President Obama's "American Jobs Act" is probably the very least we can do to prevent a double-dip Recession and get us back on a possible path to recovery.

Contact your Congresspeople, contact the leadership, contact everyone you can think of and get them to pass the damn bill.

This link will tell you who your reps are.

This link is a list of the current leadership in both houses, and how to contact them.

Call, write, fax (don't email, email isn't impactful enough).

DO IT NOW.

I seriously have to get better about this site.

I think the problem here is that I'm an active user of Google+, which damages my need/ability to spend much time posting on my blog. Especially since the feedback on G+ is nearly-instant, while the feedback here is nearly-nonexistent.

Things that have changed since my last post:

I'm seeing someone pretty seriously now, and I'm happy about it. I'm thinking about my job prospects. Work is starting to heat up as we approach the holidays. I saw Jasper again, and he's huge and willful and a beautiful boy whom I love more than ever. I've decided that waiting for the right time to start AP back up will mean that it will never happen, so I'm committing to just making it happen. I've got a Lvl-50 Tauren Protection Paladin on Proudmoore, and have joined a guild, and I already have a lvl-10 undead ranged hunter alt that I'm working with. I've got a couple of 360 games at home, but I'm not really playing them, because most of my time is being …

Thoughts on video games

So, I did two things in the last week: finished L.A. Noire, and started playing World of Warcraft.

I'm going to talk about L.A. Noire first, because I've talked about my WoW experiences elsewhere.

So, first off: I liked it. It wasn't brilliant, and there were a number of things I didn't like (which I'll enumerate in a second) but I'd argue that it's probably the best noir feature since Brick. I liked that the main character was a deeply flawed, imperfect man who nonetheless tried to do the right thing, even when it wasn't easy. I liked that "the right thing" wasn't always clear, or the thing that gets you the best result in the game. It stuck to the noir concept that there are no good guys, just some that are worse than others. Also, it was incredibly gorgeous, with a very cool feature where it was in either an incredible, technicolor/panavision version, or a really amazing, crisp black-and-white version. It did not suffer from t…

Can't Sleep. Home Improvement Dreams Will Eat Me.

I think I may have a bit of anxiety going on right now.

I say this because I am having the most realistic, vivid dreams I've had since high school (when I discovered lucid dreaming mostly in self-defense), and the dreams are all, I kid you not, nightmares about home improvement. And they're the worst kind of nightmares, that are absolutely terrifying while you're having them and then you wake up and realize that there was *nothing* terrifying or horrific about them. At all. The subject of the dream itself was entirely and completely mundane, and yet your heart is racing and there's sweat everywhere and your body apparently thinks that something just tried to kill you.

Case in point, the dream I had last night (which is all of a piece; my dreams are often serialized and this week has been no different) where I was remodeling my bathroom, woke up and forgot about the fact that the bathroom was under construction, took a shower, and then realized that there were giant …

Rerun: Great Old Movies (The Black and White Edition)

Because it's a bit scattered about, I'm reposting my "Great Old Movies" essay for a broader* audience, and because I don't talk enough about movies.


Inspired by a comment from a friend, my brain has been rifling through the databases in my consciousness and I keep thinking about those really excellent old black-and-white movies that made me fall in love with movies when I was a kid. Roger Ebert famously quotes his longtime-collaborator/frenimy Gene Siskel about the rule of thumb for judging whether a movie is good: "Is this film more interesting than a documentary of the same actors having lunch?" And since I love documentaries, it's hard for a movie to live up to my standards, but there are some amazing works out there. So here's some of my favourite old movies, in no particular order, so you can take a whack at them and see if you like them.

1) Bad Day at Black Rock. Spencer Tracy as a one-armed man in a small Nevada town. Probably the best mode…

SEO baby!

The experience of having someone google me, and then googling myself, has amused me all out of proportion to the experience. For instance, my first google hit is my twitter feed, but my personal domain (where I assume someone might actually be reading this) doesn't appear in the first FIVE pages of searches. So anyone looking for information about me gets data that is either at least five years old, or my twitter feed (which isn't exactly an in-depth view of my life right now).

So what am I doing with my life right now?

1) Eating right and working out. A moderate change in my diet, coupled with a workout goal (a half-marathon at the end of June) has meant that I'm losing a moderate amount of weight and feeling better about my body. I'm not at my goal yet, but I'm moving in the right direction, and I feel good about working out instead of feeling it was a chore.

2) Working on my house. Yardwork right now, but I'm making a list of all of the improvements I wa…

A Night Out

Portland turns out to be a really great town for going out and having a good time. Bar-hopping is not something I usually do, so I found a native guide, bribed him with trinkets and glass beads, and off we went to find pleasant vistas and tasty inbibants. Both, in fact, were had.

Places I'm interested in going back to: Lotus, the Turtle, and whatever that dive bar we finished up at was. Places I'll skip: Low Brow, Life of Riley, and the skeezy strip club on 3rd and Burnside. I stuck mostly to gin and tonics, since that is rather my go-to drink, and also because in my suit and hat I looked like an Ad Agency Man from 1960, it was genre-appropriate. I could've gone for a Tom Collins, but I'm not really a fan, so g&t for me.

Next time, though, I am going for the Doctor Who look. My new shoes are really pretty, but they're brand new, and that meant they gave me some pretty serious blisters. Four of them, the size of dimes, on my heels. Instead, I'll wear my canva…

Review: Nerds and Music at the Aladdin

The Nerds and Music show at the Aladdin was the show I was waiting for since I missed the last W00Tstock. The Jonathan Coulton show wasn't exactly bad, but it didn't scratch the itch I was feeling. I was hoping that this show would be as fun as past shows, and I was not left forlorn. Some interesting notes about the audience before I talk about the show itself. First, this audience skewed much older than the JoCo concert, like seriously so; there were a number of blue-haired old ladies at this show, and I have no idea why. There were also almost no children present, which was good, because the show got blue in the first fifteen seconds and stayed that way. Second, there were no talkers in the balcony this time, thank the gods. There was a bar, though, which I took advantage on a couple of occasions. And the balcony seats are much closer to the bathrooms, which I had to visit a depressing number of times.

I really like the Aladdin, and have almost no complaints about it, b…

Review: The Doubleclicks at Guardian Games

Guardian Games got a liquor license at some point in the past, so they've started to host a "grown-up gaming" night: $10 gets you tickets for pizza and beer. This Thursday, they decided to have live music at the event, and the live music was The Doubleclicks, who are a musical twosome featuring acoustic guitar, cello, and two-part harmony. The pizza and beer stuff I could give less of a crap about, because I went to see the music. Suffice to say that the space is great for casual boardgames, and the beer and pizza selection is nice, but it's about the crappiest place you could set up for a band, especially an acoustic duet.

How to categorize the Doubleclicks? I'm not actually sure it's even necessary, since it's entirely possible to simply say they fall under the umbrella of "nerd music" and leave it at that. But for anyone who hasn't actually heard or doesn't actually follow the Nerd Music movement, I'll give it a shot. Bear in…

iPad: The First Week

There are advantages to having an iPad handy, not the least of which is that I can now see the keyboard I'm trying to use to type. It's also a bigger screen, which makes it look clearer (though my understanding is that the screen is exactly the same as the iPhone 3G). I'm also getting relatively good at typing one-handed (though part of that is due to autocorrect). Having something handy to joy down my ideas may in fact be handy and a boon to my creativity. I will need a keyboard to do serious long-form work, since my hand gets pretty tired pretty quickly, but that's a relatively minor complaint.

My usage is obviously going to be less games than gaming; the various possible game apps hold no appeal, but there are some seriously nifty gaming and productivity tools that I'm chomping at the bit to snag and try out. It does mean that I'm now even more interested in finding a game to play rather than running my own, so I really want Brian to get his Ptolus game back…

And people think this is fun?

Went to CrossFit for the first time tonight.

Good: the people were pretty awesome.
Bad: I was not ready for the workout.

Par exemplar: warmup was interesting with lots of squatting and stretching and balance-type work, and already had me jelly-limbed at the end, and then we did fundamentals learning, which was the overhead squat, which nearly killed me, and then the Renegade Row, which turned my arms to noodles. And then, after I was already tired and woogly and dying, we did the workout.

The workout was a 200 metre sprint, then 15 pushups, then a 200 metre sprint, then 10 renegade rows (on each side). And then do it all again. What I managed to do: 200M sprint #1, 15 pushups (at the knees), second 200M sprint (including a stop to puke in the bushes), and 5 renegade rows. And then my right calf cramped up so bad I couldn't straighten my foot, and one of the instructors spent the next 5 minutes massaging me out of my writhing in pain. I was trying not to cry in front of everyone, b…

So that happened.

I couldn't resist, and didn't really want to. So I bought an iPad. First Gen, but they're on significant sale right now, so I can use this one until July or august, when I'll buy an iPad2 and give this one to someone else.



I named it "conspicuous consumption" because it seemed like truth in advertising.

FYI, this blog post is coming from inside the tablet!

Well, that's a start, anyway

So, yesterday between work and therapy, I talked to the CrossFit people, committed to the 3-class startup, scheduled my first visit to the gym on Monday, and started watching what I'm eating. A grand total of two meals so far, but it's working at this point. The hard part for me is going to be adding the vegetables and getting rid of the Coke; pasta I suppose I can live without, but avoiding the gluten / grain-based foods is going to be pretty hard, and giving up Coca-Cola I imagine will be nearly impossible, at least to start.

One step at a time, though. Get some momentum, build from the base. Don't worry about step 93 when I'm getting ready for step 1.

I'm not sure where this motivation and commitment is coming from, but I'm not quite stupid enough to look a gift horse in the mouth. Carpe Omnia.

Commit! Commit, damn you!

I used to joke, as recently as last month, that I knew I needed to be healthier but the choice of getting that way involved a lifestyle change to which I was not prepared to commit. I think, though, that the last trip to the ER where I was *content redacted* from my *content redacted* sealed the deal. I can't continue to live my life as if I were 25 and assume that my body will always recover from anything I put it through. I have real, chronic health problems that continue to affect my day-to-day situation, that have real, deleterious effects on my ability to function as a person. Note that it's not like I have anything serious like Crohn's Disease or Lupus or anything that many, many others that I know suffer through every day. In my case these are low-level, annoying-but-not-ultimately-fatal things like Kidneystones and Intermittent Benign Positional Vertigo and a bad back and weak knees. These are all things that with a proper diet, a good workout structure, and …

Well, that's incredibly annoying.

Someone decided to hijack my jeromecomeau.com domain. Which is a pain in the ass.

So, I went in, blew away all of the content, dropped a new redirect to here, changed the password to something significantly harder to crack, and hopefully that will prevent this from happening again in the future, at least for a little while.

In the meantime, I expect my traffic to this blog won't, in fact, increase significantly...

Review: The New Jonathan Coulton

So, last night I went to see Jonathan Coulton fronting a new band, playing new music, and with a new opening act. It was... disappointing.

First, the good:

-- Mark Phirman, the opening act and 1/2 of Hard and Phirm, a.k.a "The West-Coast Paul and Storm", was excellent. His standup was funny, if rather scattershot (it's clear that he's an "alternative" comedian, that is that his idea of comedy is to stand and tell a bunch of jokes, as opposed to Louie CK or Janeane Garofalo who have jokes throughout a themed set with a throughline tying everything together), and his music is quite good if a little gimmicky. It's clear that he has much talent in both comedy and music, and I'd love to see him in longer form. In fact, I'm probably going to get tickets to "Nerds and Music" so I can see him again, this time with Paul and Storm.

-- The New Music was pretty good. There are some issues with it, which I'll cover in a later point, but on t…

Distance (a story from my childhood)

"There are no events but thoughts and the heart’s turning, the heart’s slow learning where to love and whom. The rest is merely gossip, and tales for other times."-Annie Dillard

The single greatest distance I have ever been from someone was the length of a loveseat.

In theory, the farthest you can be from another human being is about thirteen thousand miles, give or take; if one accepts that the circumference of the Earth is roughly twenty-six thousand miles, then you can only ever be opposite them. In truth, in the sixties, it was possible to be upwards of three hundred thousand miles from another person, for a very brief period of time; the moonshots were a pinnacle of just how far you had to go to get distance and perspective. But nowadays, I’m closer to the folks in the International Space Station, orbiting at two hundred forty miles up and circling the Earth every hour or so, than I am to most of my friends (if you take the average of the distance from me, over time). But…

The things I think about when the power is out

It's been a rough couple of days. The toilet broke, requiring a plumber and a gigantic hole in my bank account (and the bathroom floor). Then I had a medical problem that sent me to the Emergency Department at 9:30 on a Friday, and I was there until 3AM on Saturday. Then today the game I was going to play in was cancelled, and then the power went out for my block, and then the Internet was out until 10PM. So I spent most of the day either hunched over in pain, reading, or staring at the flickering of candles in the dark. And because I wasn't feeling well, I wasn't really at liberty to get out of the house and drown my sorrows in profligate behaviours.

It's strange what runs through my head sometimes when I'm not paying attention. I thought, for the first time in a long time, about Sarah. I'm not really sure I've ever gotten over my first real honest to goodness love. She was brilliant and beautiful and funny and honest and I could never figure out …

Online Communities. Or, rather, "communities".

There are a number of places that I just can't seem to stay away from. Most of them are online, and one of them in particular is where I actually met a ton of people whom I later became friends with in real life.

The thing is, places, especially online-places, are volatile. They change with time, and the makeup of the community itself changes, sometimes in ways that aren't always agreeable to, well, me. But the power of nostalgia, the impulse to believe with a little bit of effort the places that I remember will become those places again, is like gravity for emotions. It can be enormously powerful, despite the very real truth that the place that you remember will never, in fact, exist again. And so, if you're me, you get incredibly frustrated by the fact that, as an old and cranky bastard, the new population of these places I used to remember are now different, and I don't really want them to be different, but they are.

So it's time to try and take another bre…

The default state of technology is broken.

Score one for DRM making me a pirate.

I had bought a blu-ray player for my new computer so I could watch hi-def movies on my entertainment-center projector.

Apparently, despite paying extra for the hardware, I needed software to play the blurays.

OK, fine, I said, and the person who helped me build the machine downloaded some software that would play the blurays.

Then, tonight, I went to watch my copy of Inception, and it played for 4 minutes, at which point the software stopped working and insisted that the bluray disc wasn't valid, unless I ponied up $60 (59.95, 25% off for the new year!) to "upgrade" to the latest, licensed version of the software.

So, not only did I have to pay extra for the hardware, and extra for the media, I now have to pay extra for the software.

Pardon my language, but FUCK THAT SHIT.

So, now I'm working on finding a less-expensive way to watch the movie (well, actually, the extra content) that I ALREADY BOUGHT.

I've also uninstalled the sof…