Archive for May 2007

Puzzle Quest Review

Published on May 29, 2007

The latest addition to my Nintendo DS gaming library is Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords. Although the name is a little hokey, the game is incredibly addictive.

Built around the Bejeweled game play premise, Puzzle Quest is a puzzle / role-playing game combination (one of the first of its kind, to my knowledge). You build a character using one of four character classes (Wizard, Knight, Druid, or Warrior), and travel around the game’s world taking on quests. The game purely makes use of the stylus, and it does a remarkable job in the process (though I might argue that the stylus controls aren’t quite as finely tuned as I would have liked).

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The Loss of the English Language

Published on May 27, 2007

The English language has been sliding down the quality charts for a number of years now, and today it’s at an all time low. People’s grasp on grammar and spelling is tenuous at best. Take this story, for example. Note the sign in the picture (“Let are kids walk”). Are people really so ignorant that they would confuse the words ‘are’ and ‘our’? Sadly, this isn’t just a problem that surfaces in the general public. Professional editors are letting more and more errors slip by as can be found in this New York Times article on Jonathan Coulton. One sentence in the article reads “They pore over his blog entries…” Do you see the error in this sentence? I certainly hope so. I got this one wrong folks. Thanks to Kip for correcting me! 🙂 The very next sentence should explain why I made the mistake.

I was taught somewhere between little and no English grammar in school. At certain points, I’ve tried to better my use of the language on my own, through books like The Elements of Style. But self education for this kind of thing just isn’t good enough (at least for me). I really wish I had been given a decent education on this stuff, and judging by the way people are failing to use English every day, I really wish educators took it more seriously.

Google’s New Look

Published on May 21, 2007

Last Thursday, Google unveiled their new universal search, complete with a change to the look and feel of their website. Now when a user searches Google, not only are web results returned, but other search results (e.g., news and product results) are also returned. What’s most convenient is the fact that these additional items are inserted quietly amongst the web results, not directly above or below them. This new search paradigm is interesting, and it will be interesting to see if it holds on. I particularly like the subtle changes Google made to their look and feel, with that slick little menu bar running across the top of all pages. Having direct access to all the various search types is very handy.

Jimmy Carter is the Man

Published on May 20, 2007

I try to avoid blogging political stories here at this site, but Jimmy Carter calling the Bush administration the worst in history is so awesome. A Bush administration spokesman immediately fired back, dismissing Carter as ‘increasingly irrelevant.’ Huh?

Quick trivia question: how many US Presidents have a Nobel Peace Prize? Answer: only one (Jimmy Carter).

In short, President Carter is the man. And I whole-heartedly agree with his statement.

It’s funny because it’s true.

Further Episode 2 News

Published on May 19, 2007

A recent preview of Half-Life 2: Episode 2, sheds some new light on the next chapter of the Half-Life story. It sounds like the next episode will clock in at between 8 and 9 hours, which is about twice as long as Episode 1. I’m glad they are increasing the game time, since Episode 1 felt very short. The Source engine is also being updated to include lots of new eye candy, which should be a real treat. A “Previously Seen in Episode 1” game montage will open Episode 2, which I find very disappointing. Part of the charm of a Half-Life game is being dropped into the world with no idea as to what’s going on. Being force-fed a recap is going to feel a little jarring, in my estimation.

Another bit of sad news is that the Black Box edition of the game has been canceled. The only version that will be made available is the Orange Box edition, which includes a full copy of Half-Life 2 and Episode 1. Why would I want to pay for products that I already own? I find this decision most disappointing.

Is Firefox Getting Bloated?

Published on May 17, 2007

I just read an interesting article over at Wired that essentially asks “Is Firefox Getting Bloated?” The article compares Firefox to SeaMonkey. I was a Mozilla browser user well before it was named “SeaMonkey”, and well before Firefox 1.0 was released. During that time, I really came to despise the bloat in the application. Firefox was an incredible breath of fresh air when it was released: light-weight and responsive.

Personally, I feel that Firefox still exhibits both qualities. But I can see the argument made by the Wired article. Additional features, some of which many users may not actually care about, are creeping into the code base. Built-in support for microformats (something that I still don’t fully understand) is coming in Firefox 3.0. Do users really need this? Mozilla apparently thinks so. Many users may disagree.

There are certainly areas where Firefox could improve (in-browser support for both Java applets and PDF files are horrible). But I think Firefox is in great shape now. One thing I know for certain is that I’m never going back to Internet Explorer. (Side Note: I recently installed IE 7 on my work laptop … man, is it horrible.)

What do you think? Is Firefox too bloated? Too lean? Just right?

WordPress 2.2 Released

Published on May 16, 2007

Version 2.2 of WordPress has been released. One of the changes in this release is the reinclusion of the Preview and Edit links on the Write Post page (although it sounds like the preview now appears in a pop-up window instead of an iframe). This fixes a bug I griped about when 2.1 was released.

I will probably update this blog to 2.2 at some point, though updating WordPress is always a colossal bother. Seeing as I skipped over 2.1, it’s probably time to move to the latest version.

The State of NASCAR

Published on May 15, 2007

Having been born and raised in The South (the southern United States for any international readers), I’m a fan of NASCAR. In fact, it’s the only sport that I follow regularly. I know that the sport doesn’t appeal to many people, but I have enjoyed it greatly since I was little. There are a few things I’ve had on my mind recently about the sport, so I’ll present them here.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and DEI
I’m not an Earnhardt fan (I prefer the Hendrick Motorsports stables of Gordon and Johnson), but I think it’s great that Junior is leaving DEI. His step-mother Teresa really screwed Junior by refusing to give him a controlling share in his dad’s business. So Junior has decided to turn the tables on his step-mom and walk away from the team. Once he leaves, DEI will no longer have any “star” drivers. I predict that DEI will die out in another season or two as a result.

I hate Mike Helton. Under his dictatorial leadership, NASCAR has lost several historic tracks, including Rockingham speedway. It has seen idiotic rules changes, such as no driving below the yellow line on certain tracks and no finishing under caution (attempting a green-white-checker finish instead). And it has become increasingly contradictory, throwing debris cautions in some cases and not others. Being family controlled is such a shame; the sport needs a commission like most other sports, made up of people who don’t solely profit on the direction of the sport.

The Car of Tomorrow
NASCAR introduced the “car of tomorrow” this year in an attempt to level the playing field for all drivers. So far, only Hendrick Motorsports seems to have figured out the new package (something I’m not complaining about). But it seems more like a move towards the IROC style of racing, where everyone drives the exact same car. There is less room today for teams to tweak the car itself, which is a shame. NASCAR is clearly losing its roots, but that’s apparently what they want.

Graduation Mystery

Published on May 14, 2007

Yesterday, my sister Hannah graduated from UNC, with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology (though she essentially crafted her own neuro-science major, a topic she is most interested in). She was only 1 of 3 people in her (very large) department that graduated with highest honors, which is a real accomplishment. It’s hard to believe that my little sister has grown up so much.

My main focus with this post, however, is one of great mystery. After the Psychology department ceremony (the last one we attended during the day), my grandmother, mother, sister, and I waited around the Old Well while my dad went to get our car. In a grassy area nearby, a group of people were putting on some sort of show for everyone. There were four “characters” in this show:

The Drummers
The first “character” was actually a group of three people sitting atop some African-style conga drums, each playing a consistent, though seemingly random, beat. Each one did this without stopping, at least for the entire time we were there (which was about 10 or 15 minutes).
The Purple Monster
This character was apparently controlled by two or three people, and stood 12 to 15 feet high. It was a purple being, with a large masked head and two large hands. It never moved from its spot, but swayed and danced along to the music from The Drummers.
The Thought Police
This character wore a giant green mask and hat, while carrying a blue baton. They also wore a trench coat, and spent most of their time chasing the next player around the grassy area.
Blue-Haired Person
This player wore a blue wig, a Carolina-blue gown (from graduation, apparently), and red pants. When they weren’t being chased by the “Thought Police,” they sat atop a “Corporate Ladder.”

No one spoke the entire time, which made this strange thing even stranger. The chain of events I could see where this: the Thought Police chased the Blue-Haired Person around for awhile, at least until the Blue-Haired Person climbed the Corporate Ladder. Once the person climbed the Corporate Ladder, the Thought Police left them alone, running around the Purple Monster instead. I took a few pictures of the characters:

Does anyone have any clues as to what this means? Seeing that this was in Chapel Hill, there was undoubtedly an implied political message, but I fail to grasp what it is. Irregardless of the message, the whole thing was pretty bizarre.

Sparse Posting

Published on May 11, 2007

I haven’t been posting much recently, due to a number of factors:

  • I’ve been busy at work
  • The Shivering Isles expansion for Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion (totally fun!)
  • Puzzle Quest for my Nintendo DS Lite (also totally fun and highly addictive!)
  • My sister is graduating from college (!!!)
  • Insert most any other reason here

I hope to rectify this problem very soon. A number of topics have crossed my mind recently, and I hope to get to them over the next week or so.

Backyard Wildflowers

Published on May 2, 2007

I have posted a short photo album of some of our backyard wildflowers. As you might be able to tell from the album, I’ve been trying to improve my macro photography skills (I still have a ways to go). This album is not representative of all the flowers in our yard (we have a surprising amount). Several varieties that do not appear here include the Common Blue Violet, the Confederate Violet, the common Dandelion, and a few others that I forget the names of at the moment.

The Wild Geranium photo is my personal favorite from the set.

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