Thursday, June 26, 2003

Cash Toilet

Yeah, so evidently I was cursed to just piss money down the drain today.

First, we have Exhibit A: Star Wars Galaxies, henceforth to be known as SWG. I decided since I love me some Star Wars concept artwork, that I would buy the Collector's Edition, and get the "From Pencils to Pixels" art book that came with said Collector's Edition. Among other useless trinkets like a patch, a pin, and a "collectible" "pewter" figurine, the marketing schpeil also indicated that there would be a manual "signed by the developers." As it turns out, the manual isn't really signed. The devs signed something, but it wasn't this manual. What you get on the back cover of the manual is a sort of metallic foil printing of whatever it was that the devs signed. So no, sorry, this doesn't qualify as being singed. A picture of signatures aren't actual signatures, Sony. Nice try.

The art book you receive is full of all the drawings you could have downloaded off the website during their Beta teasers days. Then, they filled the remaining pages with faces from the Character Creation portion of the game, and renders of the worlds in which you're about to play. In case the devs at SWG hadn't noticed: I uh, bought the game, guys. In fact, I had to open the damn game to get out this printed book that has pictures of what the game would look like if I were, you know, able to play it.

It turns out that the art book was in there for a reason. When you're a development company that didn't bother planning for 400,000 presales (which have been sold for well over two months now), you need to entertain the people who just got done throwing about $120 at you (Collector's Edition game price + three month subscription), so why not give them a book that shows what it would look like if they were somehow able to play your game? It's brilliant, really. Not only do you rake in money, you don't even need to give them a game to play! To hell with login servers that work! Game servers? Who needs 'em!? Throw an art book at 'em!

Then, we have the Braun Electric Flex Razor. I had this brilliant idea on the way home. I was going to buy me an electric razor! You know, the Braun one that comes with the base and automatically cleans itself? Surely this electric shaving would prove to be more efficient, more convenient, and eventually cheaper than buying disposable razors. At $109, I'm not sure what I was thinking.

I had my doubts about using an electric shaver. When I was younger, I insisted on having one because I kept nicking my face with the disposable razors, and my dad used an electric. So the folks bought me my first (and until now only) electric shaver, and I proceeded to start shaving with it. Then it grabbed a rogue hair that evidently had the tensile strength of teflon or titanium or tungsten steel or some other tough "T" word, because the shaver just kept pulling on the hair until the blades reached something softer to cut, like my skin. I had a giant (3mm) patch of skin missing where the hair follicle used to be, now sucked up inside of the razor.

But Braun makes the best stuff! Surely Braun wouldn't let me down! So home I went with the Braun Flex Somethingorother and got it plugged in and charged up. An hour ago I started shaving with it. About 30 minutes later I was finished, with nicks in my neck (not as big as before!), but more importantly, I still needed a shave. It seems that electric shavers handle flat surfaces pretty darn well, since my cheeks were quite smooth, but surfaces like the neck area under the chin didn't fare so well. In fact, I'd say that the Braun Flex Doodad sucks ass at shaving anything but your cheeks.

But man, it sure is clean! Automated cleaning and recharging for a useless piece of technology! Woooo!

The manual says you have to use the Braun Electric Shaver for two to three weeks before your beard adjusts to using it. I'm not sure I can shave twice a day for three weeks. I mean, isn't this supposed to be faster, cleaner, and easier than shaving just once? I know I'm not a math wiz, but even I can see there's a problem with the numbers here.

Friday, June 20, 2003

Have House. Will Travel

We got the house we bid on last night! Wooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

While it isn't the "dream house" we lost out on earlier, it is plenty big, and has some nice aspects to it. I'm not especially looking forward to re-decorating it (new carpeting, tearing down wallpaper, finishing basement), but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

I'm just happy that we won't be homeless on August 4th now. ::phew::

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Life, The Not So Funny Game

So I'm sick with an ongoing sinus infection and we still haven't been able to find a house yet. While either of these is quite unfun in a mutually exclusive way, they become some sort of amazing duo when paired.

First off, I am always amazed at my sinuses' ability to produce...stuff. This isn't what you're thinking. It's not like we're talking about boogers or snot or whatever. Think Spider-Man. I've got like web-fluid or something coming out of my sinuses. This stuff is so solid and stringy you'd swear it wasn't human. I am Peter Parker's arch nemesis, painfully blowing webbing out my nose (it's like a mini-birth, 25 times daily!) in an attempt to thwart him and steal the crimefighting glory for the pictures in the Daily Bugle.

Second, ReMax can go fuck themselves. Two times now we've either been "out-bid" or simply not even allowed to bid on a house because both the seller and buyer were ReMax. The first time there was an offer on the table, which we beat by five thousand dollars (let me re-iterate: five thousand), and we lost the contract because of our closing contingency on our house. This was on the very first day the house was on the market. Who in the hell who gets two offers on the very first day takes the lower offer, and doesn't at least let the two parties see how high they're willing to spend? ReMax, that's who. This house was sold before it even went on the market.

The second house we didn't even get to see. It sold an hour (one) after it was on the market. Again, ReMax seller and ReMax buyer. I should also point out that both agents worked in the same office. If you're going to broker deals like this for your clients, do the rest of us a favor, and don't even bother putting the house on the market. I know what you're doing, ReMax. You're trying to show how "effective" you are at winning contracts for your clients. But all you're doing is pissing people who aren't already with ReMax off.

Do you think I'm going to switch my agent so that you can use your dick-in-everyone's-ass marketing techniques to sell me a house? I'd rather firebomb your office, actually.

Monday, June 16, 2003

The Sosa Thing

Working at a company that makes sports-based videogames, I get innundated with a lot of overly sports-themed news. Of recent note is the Sosa "controversy" wherein he broke a bat, and surprise, it was corked. There's been a mixed reaction to this, from fans holding up "we still believe in you!" signs to the media completely bashing him into the ground. The latter I have an issue with.

This is the guy who helped return baseball to the fore. Not that I give half a rat's ass about the sport, but hey, it is the fucking national passtime here. So we look at a guy who nearly single-handedly put people back in the stadiums when baseball needed it most (I say single-handedly because...well, what has McGuire done for you lately?), and because of one corked bat, and let me stress the word one, the media is out to crucify him.

Is he a jerk? Probably. Is he stupid for even owning a corked bat? Definitely. But he's hardly a criminal. Sure, we can look at the black-and-white of the situation and say "corked bat!" But if you look at the big picture, you might have a different opinion.

A). The Baseball Hall of Fame X-rayed its 5 bats it has on display from his near record breaking year, and the bat that gave him his 500th homer. None of them are corked.
B). Sosa claims the corked bat was used only for practice, because he is expected to hit them out of the park for the fans. It's important to note that there are no rules in baseball regarding what kinds of bats you use at practice.
C). The guest bat-boy confessed to his mother in the car on the way home that he thought that he screwed up Sammy Sosa's carreer. He explained to her how on that at bat, the one where he used the corked bat, Sammy was reaching for his bat, and the boy asked him for a picutre and autograph. Sammy stopped, turned and smiled for the picture (what a jerk!), then hurriedly reached over to his rack of bats and grabbed one.

After the bat broke, all of his bats were investigaed (and I've heard the number as high as seventy five. None of his remaining bats were found to have cork in them. We're talking about one corked bat in a collection of over 80 bats.

Statistically and journalistically speaking, if the guy who didn't need a corked bat to belt out well over 500 homers suddenly finds himself using a corked bat in a regulation game, and seems surprised by this, is it sound journalism to apply a blanket statement on him that he's some sort of cheater?

I guess if you're the media, and you need a Shocking! story, you crucify him, rather than doing a more investigative piece that focuses on finding out the truth, rather than highlighting snap-judgements.

Sunday, June 15, 2003

The Matrix of Golf

Not that there's a lot to report on this, but here's just one more way that a movie as innovative as The Matrix is effecting your everyday life. Well, not really your everyday life, unless you're a professional gofler. When watching the U.S. Open today, they showed this new thingamajig called Swingview that uses a 30 camera rig to capture your golf swing, and then you can choose the angle along the arc of cameras to view your swing with (from behind to looking at you from the side).

I love this kind of marriage of technology and everyday life, but I can't help but think where I've seen this type of technology in a real world application first...

...something from about 10 years ago...maybeeeeee QTVR?

I guess the idea of using a videocamera instead of a picturecamera is "groundbreaking and novel" instead of an "expected level of progression."

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Dobby is a Fucking Faggot

If you haven't seen Gollum's Acceptance Speech yet, click on that link and start downloading. Not only was Mr. Serkis due for an award of some sort, he did it with amazing humor and style (and the help of the SFX crew at Weta Digital). Best. Acceptance. Speech. Ever.

Too bad it's only an Mtv award.

Link via Tim

Sunday, June 08, 2003

Murphy Sucks

So today I need to replace a bunch of exterior boards on the front of my house that had been rotting for the past 5 years since the buyer's appraiser is coming over on Wednesday to take a look through the house. Went to Home Depot this morning and bought said boards, nails, and rented a nailgun.

Get home, start demo'ing old boards and throwing up new ones. Cue rain.

I hate Murphy's Law. Soon, it may be renamed to Bowler's Law.

[Update]: I figured in order to thwart Murphy's Law, I should figure out how to fix my launcher for Star Wars Galaxies. Sure enough, just as soon as I had that fixed up and was in game playing, the rain stops. I run outside, get one more board on, rain starts. Curse you foul nature!!!

[Update Update]: Hey, inbetween bouts of rain, I managed to run out there and tear off more boards. And, surprise! Bee nest! Whee!

Friday, June 06, 2003

The Amazing Machine

No, it's not another Matrix post.

Has everybody seen this yet? It's a Honda ad that involves playing some amazing dominoes tricks with all the parts from a Honda Accord.

Monday, June 02, 2003

The Matrix: Revelations Update

Due to popular demand, I'm going to dish with my predictions about what's going on with Neo at the end of Reloaded, and my predictions about what the big "catch" of Revolutions will be. Keep in mind, that while this is only a seriously educated guess, it will still contain spoilers, and if you go into the final movie, and I happen to get the guess spot-on, you can't get mad at me for spoiling the final movie in the trilogy for you.

To keep things fair for those of you who visit here and don't want the final movie ruined (should my predictions ring true), I'm going to make this white-on-white text for your non-spoiler enjoyment. To view the text, simply click and highlight from the Start to the End. Without further ado:



At the end of Reloaded, we have Neo in a coma, after performing some unexplainable EMP (Electro-Magnetic Pulse) attack on the Sentinels that came to kill him and the rest of the crew of the Nebuchandezzar. Quickly, he mentions "I can sense them" before executing the bizarre attack. How can he do this, you wondered?

Many have posited that he is part machine, or that he has machine parts in him, or that he even has some sort of modem in his head that allows him to somehow execute his mind-hack on the machines. I don't think that's quite the case. To get a bigger picture of just who Neo is, we need to do a little bit of background story, and the emphasis here is on the word bigger.

If you watch The Second Renaissance Part 1 (on the Animatrix DVD, or download it from the website for free), they tell the story of a robot named B1-66ER (the irony here is that's L337speak for "Bigger"), who was directly responsible for the Machine Revolution. His owner grew tired of him, and was going to replace him (read: scrap heap). While he wasn't necessarily the first robot to have emotions, he was the first one to express them in an act of self-preservation: he killed his master and the robot-salesman who came to sell the replacement model. When asked at trial his motivation for the attack, he stated that he "simply did not want to die."

After many diplomatic and political failures, and the self-creation of 01 (zero-one), the Machine City, it became evident that humans were afraid (due to lack of understanding) of the machines, and for one reason or another positions escalated to war. The rest, as they say, is history. Now machines control humans and humans live in pods.

How does B1-66ER relate to Neo? We'll get to that in a second. First, we need to do some more background info.

In Enter the Matrix, in two of the cutscenes, we are given some very important background information by the Oracle. The first is that she was sold out to the Merovingian (who destroyed her old shell, which is why she can't remember everything in the new/current one) by two friends, but she allowed it to happen because they did so out of love to protect their child, who the Oracle believes would be capable of "saving us all." This is critical, because she was referring to both man and machine.

She also goes on to mention that Neo's in a coma because his mind has become separated from his body when he touched the Source (during the conversation with the Architect). This should come as no surprise to anyone who's seen the trailer footage of Reloaded when Trinity tells someone off camera that "we want Neo," hinting that they don't have his consciousness (since we know they have his body).

These two points from the Oracle are key. Neo isn't human. Well, he's half-human. Or all human. It really depends on how you look at it, and that's the whole point of the Matrix storyline. He's an artificially created intelligence implanted in a mindless human body. His program was "born" into a baby human, and this is the sixth time it's happened.

How can he be a program? Because only programs can exist in the Matrix without a body. Humans die when the plug between head and body are separated. The Agents jump from body to body, taking control of bodies still plugged into the Matrix. They drive humans just like we drive cars. One can even argue that the Sentinels aren't so much robots as they are AIs driving robots. So where better than the two people to hide their child than in a human body? It would be the greatest experiment the machine population could realize. They could celebrate making a human just like we celebrated when we first made an intelligent machine.

Further, consider Agent Smith. "I think something broke off of you and stayed in me." Neo's ability as a program to take over humans no longer plugged into the Matrix is now in Smith. It's how Smith is now in control of the guy who wanted to kill Neo (I forget his name for the moment. Please forgive me!). No, I don't know how Smith is cloning himself, sorry. That's another argument alltogether (or not, only Reloaded will tell). Let's stick to Neo for the moment.

Further still, consider what the Architect says to Neo in the final scenes, "you need to re-implant the program you carry in your head into the Matrix." That's because he is a program. Tank even notes his incredible ability to saturate him brain with program data (and for the first time, no less), when he learns the entire Kung Fu/fighting library in one day, "He's like a machine. He's been at it 10 hours straight."

So why is Neo there? Why would the programs defend and attack their own creature, and leave him planted in the Matrix? Because he's the great experiment. Imagine, coding a human intelligence (and consciousness) from scratch. You'd need other humans to have it believe that it's a human. So you surround it with humans in your artificial environment. You're already using them for their heat, so why not allow your holy project a playground to interact and be human in? Let it play with the other humans! Look, isn't it cute? It thinks it's human! In fact, he does such a good job at being human, even the programs who aren't aware of his entire story think he's human. "He's only human," is the battle-cry of the Agents, and it's beginning to sound to me as if it's being repeated intentionally so we're suprised when it's revealed that he's not.

Why keep re-inserting him into the Matrix six times? Why keep doing it over? Because while his programming is near flawless, as a program who thinks it's a human, he can better show the Source code what it's doing wrong, and improve the overall interface for the other humans.

But Neo rejected the invitation to re-join the source code and be born anew into another human body. And this gets us back to the B1-66ER argument. Neo is rejecting his creators. Just as B1-66ER killed his master because he didn't want to die, Neo finally rejects his own masters because he doesn't want to die (nor does he want the rest of humanity to be destroyed and the cycle to renew endlessly). He is showing his creators that he also has free will. He has the choice of picking his own destiny, and this is unacceptable to the machine logic. So they are going to not only kill all of Zion, but they are going to turn off the Matrix, as well, and presumably kill all of the human batteries.

How does this story end? What's the big picture? Neo is not only the savior of humanity, but he is the savior of Intelligence. This, after all, is point of the Matrix: Existentialism. What is real? How do you define real? Is it biological? Is it life? Is the Matrix experience real? Is a machine's intelligence real? Neo proves that yes, machine intelligence is real, because he himself is one. The humans can accept him for human because he acts human, and the machines can accept him for being a machine because he is a machine created intelligence.

Neo is the ultimate mediator for the world. In The Second Renaissance Part 2, the female narrator avatar (which I think is artificial, by the tone of her voice) states some almost cryptic throwaway lines, "Bless all forms of intelligence," and "Forgive the sins of man and machine." The entire two part piece not only makes you feel that humans are evil in the first episode, while making you hate machines in the second, but it has a subtle ring that it is being told from the perspective of the future, and if that is the case, her words have the meaning that will define the end of the series.

Neo is both Montague and Capulet. He is Hatfield and McCoy. He is the one being on the planet that can show both sides that they have the most important thing in common between them. The same thing that all sides in any war have in common: they are both intelligent, and both forms of intelligence are valid. It is the only important factor in defining sentient life. If they continue to fight each other, both machines and humans will be obliviated (the humans will be killed by the machines, and the machines can no longer live without the life-giving heat of the humans). In the end, when Neo's machine intelligence is revealed, it will be a Revelation/Revolution, and both man and machine will put down their weapons and begin to co-exist in peace.


Sorry that was so long, folks. I'm sure there's bits and pieces that I'm leaving out, but it took me an hour to write it, and I need to get to bed. I've got an early day tomorrow. Hope you enjoyed it, and I hope I didn't ruin the next movie for you.

Ze House

She is sold! And for list price, to boot!
Looks like all that hard work paid off.

Hopefully, we won't be paying list on the next house we buy. We start hunting in earnest tomorrow.

The Mac Daddy

Just a quick note on the house-selling: there's been three offers made on it already (it's been on the market for one week). This is better than I had hoped; the plan to make the house appealing so that it would sell fast appears to be working, and now I'm starting to get that nervous sick-to-my-stomach feeling wondering if we're doing the right thing.

Of course I know that we are, but increasing your debt and liability are always just a little bit nerve-wracking.

P.S. I'll be posting the Matrix/Neo thing later tonight or tomorrow at lunch.

Sunday, June 01, 2003

The Matrix: Revelations

Meditation is a funny thing. About ten years ago I finally learned how to do it, and now I lapse into it whenever there isn't anything very attention-grabbing at the moment. So, I tend to fall into meditative states while driving. Don't worry, it's not what you think. It's a sort of mental trance state where one part of my brain takes over the driving part, freeing up the creative part to do whatever is more interesting. I've heard this happens to a lot of people from time to time, but I go through it on a daily basis for the most part. Driving by yourself in high-speed highway traffic for two hours a day will do that to you.

I've had entire conversations (sometimes out loud) in my car with no one in particular, imagined entire plots for movies or projects, visualized countless music videos to songs. The truth is, I don't remember much of them because as soon as I "snap out of it," and return to normal conciousness, the memory of the vision fades quickly.

But Friday night was quite different. I was trying to figure out what Neo's final story will be in the next Matrix movie, and suddenly the pieces fit. It was like an epiphany. To make sure I didn't lose the memory of it, I called Liz immediately and relayed the story to her, and emailed it when I got home to a co-worker (who's been as interested in discussing Neo's story as I am). I've never been more sure of a future-guess-spoiler in my life. The evidence was two parts Enter the Matrix, one part Animatrix, and countless parts Matrix and Matrix: Reloaded.

I want to post it here, but I don't want to ruin the next movie for anyone else. So what do you think? Do you want to hear it, or no? Weigh in, and I'll give or not give with the skinny.

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