Friday, July 29, 2005

He shoots, he scores, wicked little critta

Yay! Hockey's back!

The NHL lockout has finally ended, and we'll have professional hockey back in October. As much as I want to be angry at both the NHL owners and players over losing an entire season over money issues (and no small amount of stubborness on both sides), I'm so happy to have the sport back that I'm willing to kiss and make up.

Of course, things are a bit different now, both in the NHL and in my capacity to enjoy it. I figured I'd write a little something about it from my point of view...

On the new Collective Bargaining Agreement...
The good:
The salary cap will make small-market teams more competitive, at least on paper. In practice, it hasn't mattered much (just look at the Lightning and the Mighty Ducks in the last two seasons, and then look where the Rangers finished).

The bad:
The salary cap pretty much eliminates the chance of another hockey dynasty, since if a team is lucky/smart enough to draft/trade for several AAA-caliber players at once, it won't be able to afford them under the cap for very long. It's nice to have each new season be completely up for grabs, but it was kind of cool to watch Gretzky's or Yzerman's crew completely demolish the rest of the league for a few seasons.

On the new rules changes...
The good:
Getting rid of the redline and enforcing obstruction and interference penalties will lead to a faster game, as well as making the boring-as-hell trap defense less effective. The no-touch icing is fine, too. I can even handle tiebreaking shootouts (take that, soccer!), as long as they keep it out of the playoffs.

The bad:
Limiting the goalie's ability to play the puck away from the crease just sucks. It's exciting to see a goalie make a great play on a questionable puck. Before the lockout, I remember seeing Aebischer charging almost to the blueline to prevent an imminent breakaway on a loose puck, and it was about the greatest goalie play ever. And when a goaltender's cunning attempt to play away from the crease backfires, it makes for great comedy.

On my ability to watch...
The good:
- We have DirecTV now (living in Bumfuck, Idaho means no cable TV for us!), so I can pick up the NHL Center Ice package. That's like, eleventy thousand games a week or something. Just no Blackhawks games -- not that I care.

The bad:
- Of course, hockey had to return right [i]after[/i] I moved to the middle of Bumfuck, Idaho. The nearest NHL franchises are Calgary and Vancouver, both 5-7 hours away and across an international border. The chances of seeing a game in person this year are virtually nonexistent, unless I start feeling sassy and make a trip up to Nashville next time I fly home to visit my mom. Also, despite being an hour from the Canadian border, nobody in Idaho gives a shit about hockey.

So that's how I see it. Even with the shortcomings, I'm super-excited about the upcoming season (the entry draft is tomorrow!), and I can't wait to run out and buy the new Sega NHL2k* game. Game on!

Friday, July 22, 2005

Three things you didn't know about me

I bet even my wife didn't know some of these:

- When I was in Junior High School, I was a champion bowler. My team won the league championship two years in a row, and we individually finished in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place both years. I even got my picture in the paper. My average hovered around 155, which is pretty darn good for a 12-year-old. These days, I'm happy if I break 100 every game.

- I won a roleplaying award at DragonCon for my skillful performance of a character in a furry roleplaying game. Keep in mind that this was 1996, and I had no idea what a furry was, or that there were people who were into (and I mean into anthropomorphic animals. Not only did I win a copy of the roleplaying game rules, but I also received a signed copy of the "Hot 'n' Sexy Furry Book" (which was my first clue into the possibility that something was amiss). I think I still have the book in a drawer somewhere, but I'll have to locate some barbeque tongs before I can dispose of it.

- I can solve a Rubik's Cube in under three minutes. This is a relatively new skill I've picked up, but it's a pretty cool "party trick" and a good way to occupy myself at my desk for a few minutes when I need a quick break from work. My ultimate goal is getting my average time to under a minute.

So there you have it. Posting this makes me wonder how many of my friends have skills, talents, or accomplishments that they've never revealed to anyone. If you have an interesting tidbit (or deep, dark secret) about yourself that nobody else knows, post about it in the Comments section.

Monday, July 18, 2005


If I ever meet that smarmy fuck James Lipton from "Inside the Actor's Studio" in person, I'm going to kick him in the junk for spoiling the end of "24" season three.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Out with the new, in with the old

My three-year-old PC is finally getting to the point where it just can't keep up with new games. Aside from the plodding pace of its outdated processor, the machine has picked up the charming habit of occasionally hardlocking whenever I try to play a Direct3D game. Which is, like, every commercial game to come out in the last eight years.

So I've been playing Nethack. If you're not familiar with Nethack, it's a classic text-based game where you're a lone adventurer trying to explore (and ultimately escape) a very, very nasty dungeon.

When I say the dungeon is nasty, I'm not kidding. From the beginning -- especially at the beginning -- everything is stacked against you. Your character starts at level 1 with virtually no spells, armor, or weapons, and your only companion is a small dog or kitten. Meanwhile, the place is positively teeming with monsters and traps, all of which have the capability of making you very dead. As you go deeper into the labyrinth, things only get worse.

When you come across a new item, your character has no idea what it is. That longsword you just found could be cursed, or it could be a +5 Artifact of Ultimate Asskicking (but guess which one it usually is?). The only way to find out what an item does is to experiment with it (very dangerous) or to use an Identify scroll/spell (which are few and far between).

You'll often find yourself hauling around a backpack full of unknown potions, rings, armor, scrolls, and other goodies, all of which are probably useful, but given the game's sadistic streak, at least one of them will be cursed and/or will kill you. So you keep trudging around with all of your unidentified swag, praying you'll be able to use some of it before you get splattered all over the dungeon walls.

Oh, and did I mention that you can't save your game? No quicksaves, no reloads. If you die, you're... dead. Game over. The phrase "Would you like your possessions identified?" will haunt your dreams.

I'm not sure why I find Nethack so addictive. I usually give up very quickly on overly difficult games -- the old SNES Battletoads game went back to the store the next day, and even the beautiful-but-insanely-hard new Ninja Gaiden game didn't get much more than a cursory tryout before I gave up on it. It could be nostalgia driving my urge to restart the game after meeting an untimely end; my very first exposure to computer games was "Rogue" on my friend's Atari 800, which was no less difficult or unforgiving.

Or maybe it's just Nethack's depth and sheer randomness -- there are thousands of items, and they all have a use. The tiny chance that the next room will contain a Wand of Wishing or a set of blessed Silver Dragon Scale Mail gives Nethack that "just one more level before bed" quality that so few games possess these days.

If you want to try out Nethack, you can telnet over to "" and give it a shot without having to install anything. If the jumble of random ASCII characters is a bit overwhelming, try out the Falcon's Eye graphical Nethack conversion, which is much easier for beginners to pick up (I've been playing for years, and I still use a graphical version most of the time).

Thursday, July 07, 2005

What a stupid name for a development platform

I'd been putting off delving into the .NET environment for a long time, so this week I've taken advantage of some downtime at work to fire up Visual Studio 2003 and learn myself some C#.

It often felt like I spent more time trying to understand the unique, quirky way the .NET platform handles a specific situation than I did designing the actual application. It's odd that a development environment can include a massive collection of libraries to tie into databases, Windows forms, XML streams, and the like, yet something as simple as creating a variable-length array is such an incredible pain in the ass (and if my research is accurate, there's no way to do it in C# without a sloppy workaround). The fact that I can lay out a Windows form with twenty controls within five minutes and then spend the next hour trying to figure out how to send a parameter to my stored procedure is a bit disturbing. (myCommand.Parameters.Add(new SqlParameter("@username", currentUser))? Oh, that's intuitive.

While it's nice to be using a technology that seamlessly integrates with its target operating system when developing desktop applications, I don't think there's any way I'd want to wrestle with ASP.NET for web development (or at least not for the small projects that I tend to take on). It'd be like taking a fifty-ton dump truck to Wal-Mart to carry home a gallon of milk. A dump truck with manual transmission, when you've only ever driven automatic. A dump truck that gets shitty gas mileage. Well, you get the idea.

Thanks, Mr. Gates, but I think I'll stick with PHP.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Wandering aimlessly through the wilderness

Holy crap, there are Geocaches in northern Idaho!

I've been wanting to get out and get some real exercise (the 100-foot walk to the company's fitness center is an insurmountable obstacle), and with Idaho's allergy-friendly atmosphere and mild summers, I may well have to get back into Geocaching.

Now if only they made a spray-on bear repellent...