Monday, February 28, 2005

Greetings from Massachusetts

Oh me, oh my. What a weekend it's been. Now I get to outrun a storm back to NYC in the morning and decide whether to stash my car in Brooklyn or take it all the way back to Staten Island, a trip that's way more difficult than it should be.

I got to my destination in Mass. around 3:30am on Friday night after it wasting 2.5 hrs getting from Bklyn to SI to get my car (in retrospect, I should have called Alison and paid her for a ride!...or just move to SI) and hitting the road at 11:30pm. Nothing terribly exciting happened on the way other than finding a whole dead deer laying in the center lane of a stretch of Interstate. Not my lane, thankfully.

I woke up to Rhane (the adorablest kid I've ever met) staring at me, muttering "Hallo Stranger..." straight out of Resident Evil 4, a highlight of my last trip up here. I checked my mail and blogs, then engaged in a little Battlegrounds on the laptop till Nick woke up. Rache had to go to work for a few hours on Saturday, sad to say. Rhane got awfully attached to the Dewbacks walking around in front of my Empire base, insisting that I could kill Eopies, Kaduus, Tusk Cats, and Rancors, but I must NOT touch the Dewbacks. Weird, that girl. Then again, her first words as an infant were "Star Wars."

I got to see Tekken 5, Animal Crossing, Splinter Cell 3, and Gran Turismo 4 throughout the day, as well as visit an awesome little Indian restaurant called Monsoon. I saw a bit of Boston and Cambridge during this visit as well.

The story, dialogue, and voice acting in Tekken 5 left it open for all sorts of pokes and jabs. Julia's all about saving the forests that Bryan Fury is content tearing up as he hunts an awfully Predator-looking Yoshimitsu with a chaingun. Paul Phoenix challenges the aliens of the universe to a brawl, and if they're made of cinder blocks, we're in business. If not, at least he's still content kicking down trees to piss off Julia and Kuma, our resident Smokey the Bear. Remember, only YOU can prevent forest fires.

Last night brought about the grand event that was Dodgeball. It's been entirely too long since I've seen a good physical comedy, and Dodgeball was brilliant on all levels, especially in casting Christine Taylor. WOW, what a good-lookin' woman. The entire cast was great, and "The Ocho" made it even better. See it.

Speaking of great looking, how about those Oscars? Specifically, how about Emmy Rossum, Beyonce, Hilary Swank, and Salma Hayek? I almost fainted when Emmy came onto the screen. I don't think they get much better than this. Fan-TAS-tic.

Josh Groban was on-hand to humble us all, and actually had me changing my vote for best song, but neither of my picks won. Hearing Carlos Santana wail out the winner won me over, though. God, I could listen to him play that guitar for hours.

Speaking of votes, we did pre-Oscar picks, offering prizes to whoever got the most right. Surprisingly--mostly since I haven't seen most of these movies and I HAD to support Natalie even though she didn't win--I won. I got 11, Rache and Nick were tied at 9, Drexel got 8, and Rhane got 7. To the victor go the spoils, something along the lines of more great food from the grown-ups and a back rub from Rhane (she picked it, not me...I swear!).

Early tomorrow I head back to NYC, but I have to come back up to Mass. to claim my prizes sooner or later. I hope I miss the snow tomorrow, and I hope I can figure out an easier way to get to and from my car than the SI Ferry and the subway from Manhattan to Bklyn. There's got to be a way to do it via buses. Just a matter of figuring out which ones. Any suggestions on how to get from Bay Ridge to St. George in less than an hour?

My next trek out of The Big Apple will be to Ohio to see Mike now that he's back from "serving our country" in Kosovo. Bush is a big fat idiot, and I'm glad my friend is home safe. We'll work out the details soon, but I'd like to take a few days off from driving before heading the eight hours back to Ohio. Sheesh, why does Pennsylvania have to be so frickin long?

Nitey nite, dear readers. Don't let the bed bugs bite.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

I have an issue...or two

Somedays it seems like the only women I find anymore--online and particularly on 1up--are teenagers and lesbians and bi-sexuals and more teenagers. This doesn't seem to represent the girl-gamer contingent or females at large very well. Were are the 20- and 30-something straight women? Do they not like the Internet? They must exist.

And I'm getting tired of the whole goth thing. Okay, you're dark and mysterious and disturbed. We get it. You don't need to wear it on your sleeve...literally. We all have inner debris just screaming to bust loose. You don't see me punching holes in my body excessively and having an entirely bleach-phobic wardrobe.

And why do girls have this uncontrollable urge to take off their clothes and let people film it. Of all the stuff I've seen on the Internet--good, bad, and ugly--I very rarely see the same woman twice. Is the "good girl" dead? SuicideGirls seems like the combination of all these ills in one place. Sure, it's great for the casual spectator (and whoever pays for access to that site); I just don't understand the impetus to be featured on it. Ladies, care to share your thoughts?

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Some days are like this

I got a call last night to work today, stuffing envelopes and such in midtown. I got out at about 4:30pm and was maybe 12 blocks from Central Park and still hadn't made time to see The Gates. So I went. They weren't anything spectacular, and aside from the amount of work that must have gone into the project, I don't see why it's so special.

Either way, I took the opportunity to walk around the park a little, something I've been meaning to do since I got here. It was snowing pretty good, which just added to the whole experience. My day of work wasn't particularly tough, and now I was immersed in man-made nature. I stood on the bridge in the snowfall, watching ducks, seeing kids ice skating in the nearby rink, listening to the music coming out of the nearby PA, just absorbing everything that is great about New York City in winter. Say what you will about this place; it was as much a moment of zen as anything I've ever had. Awesome. The Park is my new favorite hangout, come rain, snow, or sun.

I headed for the train, dusted off about three pounds of snow as I got to the platform, and grinned like an idiot all the way home. Greatest city in the world indeed.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

New York -- Bag capital of the world.

Shopping in New York is weird. Period. I just got back from the grocery store, which is always annoying. People in Ohio, staring at products but indecisive, are typically courteous and get to one side or the other so people can get by while they weigh the ups and downs of brand name versus generic, or whatever purchasing algorithms they are computing. In New York, they don't do that. They stand there and block the whole damn aisle, even without a cart in hand! One lady turned her cart towards me, looked right at me, and continued to swerve it into my body while I tried to get out of her way. RETARD.

Then I get up to the line. People flood lines 1 and 2, even if 3 thru 9 are staffed but empty. This baffles me. Maybe lines 1 and 2 SMELL better. Or maybe only the cool kids are using those check-outs. Maybe IQs go up the higher your lane number. Either way, I got in line 5 behind some lady who had about seven items to make my meager purchase. A lady walks up behind me and asks me, as if I work there, whether that lane is staying open beyond me. Like, after I make my purchases, I will be raining sulfur onto that check-out and leaving it a smoldering pile of rubble. I just shrugged, being about as helpful to these morons as I usually am.

I go to pick up my things after paying, which is made ever more difficult by the fact that every place in this city double-bags EVERYTHING. I got a half-gallon of ice cream. Two bags. Quart of milk? Two bags. El bago de Doritos? Dos bolsas, por favor! At least I know if I ever need to suffocate myself, the local Food Town is more than happy to help out.

So i'm trying to pick things up, as I said before, and it takes me a good three minutes just to get a finger or two thru all the loops on all the bags and double bags these clowns saddled me with. Maybe it's store policy, and I'm cool with that. But it seems like a waste.

I also engaged in the recurring displeasure of stopping by my local branch of Chase Bank to cash my paycheck. The service in there is phenomenally bad, and has been every time I've been in there. There were two customers in there, and instead of pushing ahead to get us out of there so they could resume whatever seemingly more important thing they had to do, they waited on the first guy, then walked away from him, leaving three other tellers behind the counter doing god-knows-what, but nobody even looked in my direction. This is pathetic. It took another five minutes or so of standing there before anyone even attempted to help me, and even then it seemed like I was really putting them out. Quite.

It's not the big things that make me dislike this place. The traffic, the crime, the hordes of people on the sidewalk. It's the little stupid things that somehow weren't a problem in bass-ackwards Ohio. We may be a bunch of red-neck hicks out there, but at least we have some common sense and courtesy.

Can't get no love

I've been on the job hunt in NYC for a few weeks now, sending out resumes to jobs I really want and making mental notes about jobs I "could" do if I really had to. I even called back my old inventory job from Ohio. Lo and behold, the day I'm supposed to go do paperwork to start with them, my temp agency calls with a possible long-term position. Finance, Excel...not the most exciting thing, but if there's a steady paycheck in it and it's not too mind numbing, that's all I really want. Besides, if Rockstar calls me, it'll be easier to quit one job than two. We'll see. Marcie has "a day or two" to get back to me about this "long-term" job before I say "forget it" to the "whole endeavor."

I'm also still playing with the idea of restarting my freelance PC repair gig here in the big city. It was nice making my own hours, setting my own rate of pay, all that stuff. It was a lot of work before, but I kinda felt like the MAN at times, like when I'd finally get around that pain in the ass computer problem plaguing my nice client(s).

I also think about the freelance writing consultant thing I talked to Maria about starting. It'd be like the Writers Lab from college, only freelance and on an individual basis. I'd love to work one-on-one with writers again, instead of being a generic copy editor for some faceless, soulless corporate conglomerate. The big question is, can I afford to advertise my services in the NY Times?

I've been doing the Match thing for a while now, and though I've found some truly exceptional
female specimens, I've not gotten so much as a wink back, let alone any real interest. What'm I doing wrong?

"Spread" is an interesting word. There are really good and really bad connotations for it. If you're talking about butter or jelly or wings or legs, it's pretty awesome. When you're talking about infection and disease or panic, it's pretty terrible. Just thought I'd share that.

Rob took off for Ohio today, and I'm headed back to Boston probably on Saturday for an Oscars party (and games! woot!), leaving poor old Maria here with Mario by her lonesome. I look forward to alone time, but she's fretting it like the plague. Get a book or rent a movie. Leaving your personal happiness in the hands of someone else sets it up to be broken. That's why it's called personal happiness. It's yours. Keep it. Don't let people fuck with it.

I had a big chat with Alison about this the last time we drove the torturous 8 hours back to Ohio, torturous not for the company or the time spent, but...have you ever driven through Pennsylvania? The land that time forgot. Anyway, Ali's all about the cosmetic surgeries in the hopes of someday making herself a Barbie doll or something, living up to what everyone else thinks a person should look like. Fight Club has a lot of good messages about this topic. "Self-improvement is masturbation." My point to her was that living by everyone else's standards, she'll never be happy. Live up to what YOU want, and you'll get there. Otherwise, how will you ever be happy and stop being critical? That's no way to live.

This also gets back to a "study" Marissa was "conducting"...."sort of," in which people were asked whether they believed their successes and failures in life were due more to effort or innate ability. The answers vary wildly (I personally chock both wins and losses up to effort), and Maria even tried to add "opportunity" as a variable. While certainly valid in the real world, for the purposes of a scientific study, there must be boundaries and parameters. Factoring in something as random as chance makes the study wholly uncontrollable. Thus, the subset of what even defines success or failure has to be limited to the individual's determination. If it's left open for others or society at large to determine, you'll never be good enough or smart enough or pretty enough. There'll always be someone a little better at something, or someone who will think you don't measure up. Fuck them. Live by your own rules. Make yourself happy. In the end, you're the only person you have to live with everyday. Be content with yourself and stop trying to measure up.

Oh, and girls are crazy. Here's proof.

That concludes our broadcast day......*static*

Dontcha Love That?

Ever buy (or rip) a CD for one song, ignoring the rest for ages, but hey, you've got gigs and gigs of space, so why not leave them on there? Then one day you find yourself needing inspiration, feeling a genre you just need something new from. What do you do? You flip thru the mp3 (or CD) collection and dust off those songs you never listened to, only to find a total gem that never got popular? Then you sit there, mouth totally agape, wondering how you lived this long without that tune on your playlist. You wonder how society could have wronged music by not making this song popular so DJs could play it on the radio till you wanted to rip your ears off. You become convinced that this song, if it got airplay, would be the one you could stand hearing over and over and over and over on 102.7FM during that hellish summer at Cedar Point, locked in the finance department counting millions of dollars, wishing you got paid overtime, wishing that hot foreign chick would talk to you but fearing that even if she did, her accent would be too heavy to comprehend. Then you balance the entire vault that night, walk out to your car at 4am after a 12-hr day, humming your new favorite song, only to get in the car and discover that SOMEHOW, as if by magic, you stopped humming exactly the point where the song started up in your car?

Or maybe it's just me.

Anyway, I'm proud to say that I discovered Live's
Pillar of Davidson way back when Throwing Copper first came out, and evidently so did enough others to warrant it being on their first greatest hits CD. That, or they knew what an awesome song it was.

Another great tune that never got popular to my knowledge was the Spin Doctors'
Shinbone Alley/Hard To Exist. Go get it. Now. It's about 12:40 in length, but oh so worth it.

Third is Rammstein's
Mein Herz Brennt. Pretty much the whole Mutter album is fucking bad ass, so if you don't own it, shame on you. Having this song as an opener blew my mind, tho. Simply incredible use of hard rock and string orchestra.

Last but certainly not least is a song called
Bullets by Creed. It's off their Weathered album and is the reason I started writing this post in the first place. These other songs just came to mind for the same reason...they are awesome and shame on you for not recognizing them. I threw Bullets on the playlist, not really knowing what to expect. Creed pumps out some killer music, whether I agree with the "message" or not. After the requisite mysterious intro, not unlike Mein Herz Brennt, the song kicks in, and my head exploded. I'm still sitting here with crazy glue trying to put it back together. Holy shit is this an adrenaline song. It's up there with I Stand Alone by Godsmack and Disposable Heroes and Creeping Death by Metallica. Go. Play. Now.


Buy a stick of crazy glue, since it apparently comes in stick form now, like a chapstick tube, and carry it around in your pocket. Not only does this afford you the opportunity to stick lots of random shit together wherever you go, but if someone asks for chapstick, make sure the crazy glue label has been peeled off prior to this, and give it to them. Then laugh at them. Just make sure you put it in a separate pocket from your real chapstick so you don't accidentally stick your own mouth shut. On second thought, disregard that last part. We could stand to have fewer people talking so much but saying so little. Thank you Britain.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Dear Torricane...

My nice friend Alicia writes in today, asking:

I heard on the news that some game programmers are suing some hackers for getting the code to make the volleyball players in a game naked and then posting the code online. Here's my question: if these guys can get code to make the players naked, did the programmers have to create that code themselves before publishing the game? Or can hackers actually create codes like that themselves? Just curious, because if it's the former, the programmers have no right to sue, but if it's the latter, then that completely turns the tables.

Torricane responds...

Prepare for a long answer to a short question, babe. :)

This isn't as difficult to do as you may think, depending on the hardware. In many (and I mean MANY) PC games, there's a process called modding (modifying) that happens to games all the time. A lot of companies see it as a way of letting the players make the game fresh and keep playing it years after it's grown stale on store shelves (also known as "giving it legs"). The PC is an open platform, and modding (specifically what you're speaking of is called Skinning, as adding a particular exterior texture to a polygonal wireframe model is known) is, 99.999% of the time, either ignored or embraced, but nearly never frowned upon. Counterstrike started as a popular user-created mod for the original Half-Life, and now Valve (the original Half-Life developer) actually paid for the rights to publish and develop future titles based on Counterstrike. This was a groundbreaking instance of the developers and users working together to create something better. As long as no one's making money off someone else's intellectual property, there's really no cause to sue. Developers should be flattered that people like their games enough to mod them.

Console games (PS2, Xbox, GameCube, etc.) are a little different. They are designed to be closed, finished, unchangeable products. There is a mod community for console games, but usually the finished products have to be played on a PC where there's no lock-out or copy protection technology (or a "modded" or "chipped" console...a process to get around lock-out tech, but illegal). PC game makers don't profit off hardware sales; Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft DEPEND on their hardware sales. Their games don't go anywhere unless somebody buys a machine to play them on. The hardware/software relationship there is very symbiotic, and those people hate having their games messed with. Also, these modded games often have to be played on an emulator, a program that makes the game *think* it's being run on a certain hardware configuration, even though it's not. The problem with emulators is that you have to use a ridiculously overpowered PC compared to the hardware you're emulating to get any results, since the computer has to spend time *pretending* to be this other hardware while simultaneously rendering the game's graphics and sound, and calculating all the physics involved in the game's execution. Sony went all out to stop the distribution of Bleem, a PS1 emulator for PCs that came out a few years ago. Bleem didn't use any Sony technology (hardware OR software), but the emulator got around some of Sony's anti-piracy protection, and that tidbit alone let them take Bleem to court over and over, and they never really won, but the guys who made Bleem ended up spending all their money on lawyers and court costs, so Sony eventually bled them dry and the product never saw widespread release.

It's a big gray area right now. Courts don't know how to rule on this stuff, so usually the people with the most money eventually win in some form or another.

Now, if these "hackers" really did get in and "steal" code from the game itself, FROM the company while the game was still in a pre-release state, there's something wrong there, and they can get them for theft. If they legally purchased the game and were fiddling with it in their spare time, it gets blurry again, because most EULAs (End-User License Agreements...those things you have to agree to when installing a PC game, and implied things with console games) state that you may not decompile a game to make changes to it. However, if you've ever installed a game on a PC, nowadays most of the assets (art, sound, physics, etc.) aren't stored in a compiled form. I've modded weapons in Ghost Recon and Rogue Spear to make them silenced, add more zoom on the sniper scope, increase clip capacity, and lots of other stuff. I've even told other people how to do it. Am I breaking any laws? Well, I didn't decompile anything (taking it from machine code...011010110011...shit like that, back to C++ or whatever legible language it was originally written in), and I didn't sell anything. I DID make the information publicly available. The difference is I paid for the retail version of a game and am modifying it on my own machine for my own use. If others choose to use that info, so be it. I'm just letting them know HOW. For FREE.

Yeah, it's messy, and they'll probably not get a verdict in any lawsuit, but the offending parties will either stick it out for the publicity or take it down and find other means of distribution (email, forum posts, etc.), still accomplishing their goals without being hassled. The lewd nature of making people naked really has nothing to do with it. It's not like we can't all happily find violence and porn on the Internet whenever we want anyway. Hope that answers your question!