Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Memories...

Christmas time is always busy for us, this year was no exception. After working a full week, we ran head first into the holidays. Christmas eve morning we hosted my parents for our yearly swap and then off to my wife's family's yearly exchange. Then on Christmas up early with the kids to see what Santa brought and then off to my Grandmother's to tie off the official events.

It was very odd for me this year as we assembled around the table at my Grandmother's. Each year we all do the "Where am I sitting" shuffle. We all wander around the table reading the name tags that are near each seat. This year I found mine at the head of the table - where my Grandfather used to sit.

I stood there, holding onto the empty chair for a long time. He has sat in that chair at this table my entire life. Last year my Uncle took the seat and this year me. I was very honored, but I could not bring myself to sit down. Sitting down would mean admitting he was gone. Up until then I guess I harbored some hope that he was just away and was going to come back. I sat down, but I've felt off ever since.

It's been a year now and all of my feelings finally erupted. Through my tears I could hear him talking, I could remember flying with him, having lunch at various airports, visiting him at his Cape Cod house and spending summers with him. How he was always there for my Graduations, school events, and how he couldn't bring himself to hold my first child ("too small").

In those moments I remembered a Great man from my childhood whom I feel I barely knew. When he was at his best, I was playing with Star Wars figures and as he retired I was getting married. He was both strong and caring in a way that I've not seen in many people and he changed my life in ways I am just starting to understand.

I still don't feel worthy of the honor my Grandmother gave me. As I sit here writing this, wiping tears on my sleeve, my son comes over to see what I'm playing. When he sees that it's not a game he asks what I'm writing; "Memories of Papa". He goes back to what he was doing and I'm left realizing that the cycle continues and that at some point I may be that Grandfather.

I'll do my best Grandpa, but I still miss having you around.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas, My Friend

Merry Christmas, My Friend
Former Corporal James M. Schmidt

Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone,
In a one bedroom house made of plaster & stone.

I had come down the chimney, with presents to give
and to see just who in this home did live

As I looked all about, a strange sight I did see,
no tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.
No stocking by the fire, just boots filled with sand.
On the wall hung pictures of a far distant land.

With medals and badges, awards of all kind,
a sobering thought soon came to my mind.
For this house was different, unlike any I'd seen.
This was the home of a U.S. Marine.

I'd heard stories about them, I had to see more,
so I walked down the hall and pushed open the door.
And there he lay sleeping, silent, alone,
Curled up on the floor in his one-bedroom home.

He seemed so gentle, his face so serene,
Not how I pictured a U.S. Marine.
Was this the hero, of whom I’d just read?
Curled up in his poncho, a floor for his bed?

His head was clean-shaven, his weathered face tan.
I soon understood, this was more than a man.
For I realized the families that I saw that night,
owed their lives to these men, who were willing to fight.

Soon around the Nation, the children would play,
And grown-ups would celebrate on a bright Christmas day.
They all enjoyed freedom, each month and all year,
because of Marines like this one lying here.

I couldn’t help wonder how many lay alone,
on a cold Christmas Eve, in a land far from home.
Just the very thought brought a tear to my eye.
I dropped to my knees and I started to cry.

He must have awoken, for I heard a rough voice,
"Santa, don't cry, this life is my choice
I fight for freedom, I don't ask for more.
My life is my God, my country, my Corps."

With that he rolled over, drifted off into sleep,
I couldn't control it, I continued to weep.

I watched him for hours, so silent and still.
I noticed he shivered from the cold night's chill.
So I took off my jacket, the one made of red,
and covered this Marine from his toes to his head.
Then I put on his T-shirt of scarlet and gold,
with an eagle, globe and anchor emblazoned so bold.
And although it barely fit me, I began to swell with pride,
and for one shining moment, I was Marine Corps deep inside.

I didn't want to leave him so quiet in the night,
this guardian of honor so willing to fight.
But half asleep he rolled over, and in a voice clean and pure,
said "Carry on, Santa, it's Christmas Day, all secure."
One look at my watch and I knew he was right,
Merry Christmas my friend, Semper Fi and goodnight.

This is the original version, as printed in Leatherneck 1991 ($$ to see). Snopes Info.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Must be a geek thing....

At my last job a friend and I started a running daily event called "Bug of the Day". It was supposed to be something we, or one of our coworkers, had placed into the software. Over the years we shared everything from little quirks to really nasty ugly hacks. In the end, it worked well, seeing the "Bug of the Day" and being able to laugh, and fix it, kept us all learning. I still enjoy the exercise.

And it looks like I'm not the only one. There is, ofcourse, a Blog for it called The Daily WTF. Check it out!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Follow up on the TSO Christmas Lights...

This guy deserves some major credit. 25k lights and more than one tune! Personally, I'm shocked at how many doubters I've slammed into. So without further ado, resources to help you doubters STFU.

*grins*

Snopes Entry
Claim: Video captures home Christmas light display synchronized to musical score.
Status: True.

Snopes has a nice picture of the family and the house during daylight hours. You can see another of his videos here.

And info on his Miller Light Commercial can be read here and inside is a link to watch the commercial, in full video glory - no image compression issues.

Enjoy!

Linux as a screensaver!

I know many of us now use Knoppix to bail ourselves out when Windows gets into that "forget it I wont boot, but your data is mine! Mine! MINE!" mood. Now the clever guys at IBM have created a Linux screensaver;
Construct and package a Linux® LiveCD so that it will install using the standard Microsoft® Windows® install process and will operate as a standard Windows screensaver. Answering the most common concern about open source software, this article shows that, yes, Linux will run under Windows.
I think I'll stick with Cygwin for now, but I'm just wired (weird?) that way.

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Monday, December 19, 2005

I saw movies in the theater!

Doesn't sound like much till you realize these are the only two movies I've seen in the theaters in the last six (or more, I don't want to know for sure) months. Recently the wife and I have decided we're going to sneak out at least once a month for a date, sans kids. As requested, here's a few mini-reviews!

The Chronicles of Narnia; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Can I preorder the DVD yet? Go see it while its in the theaters! When I saw the first preview I knew we'd be going to see this one. For my son's birth I bought us the entire series and my wife got hooked. They did an awesome retelling of the story. As my wife put it; "This is how I pictured Narnia when I read the book."

Aeon Flux
We picked this one having no idea what it was about. I knew there was a series on MTV but I hadn't watched it. I hadn't seen previews, etc. And given that I had no preconceptions about it, it met them. It wasn't a bad action film. I enjoyed the story and the plot. Some things were a little transparent, but I'd expect that for an action genre. Am I rushing to get the Anime or buy the DVD? Nope, but it was good enough for getting out of the house for a few hours.

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Friday, December 16, 2005

Nice job WoW!

I'm back to having fun in a MMORPG again. My Druid hit 20 and got his Cat form - w00t. Don't worry, understanding references in the post isn't required. *grins*

I was hanging around Westfall after we had finished the instance run with the guild doing quests to hit 20. No big, finished up, and flew over to Stormwynd to get my new skills. As I'm wandering around, I see all kinds of Christmas lights around the town. I explore a bit further and find a vendor selling "Seasonal items" - cookies, nog, wrapping paper. What a laugh!

The dude next to him has a quest, shoot over to Iron Forge and talk with Grandfather Winter. Cool! I grabbed the quest and flew back to IF. Found the guy, surrounded by other players, who were having a snowball fight! I was laughing.

Well Grandfather wanted some cookies and milk. Boy was I glad I had eggs on me! Made up some cookies and gave him one of my milks and he gave me a gift - which I still haven't opened! Very cool.

But what impressed me most was what happened next. Near Grandfather Winter was a regular looking dwarf with a quest. Talk to him and he's whining about how the Goblins (the ones running the seasonal shops) are ruining the true meaning of the holiday - and sends me off to learn about the original meaning of the season. I end up doing a few deliveries and find myself before the king to show my interest in the lore of the land.

Simple quests, yet the kind I find most fun - it allowed you to get into the season in-game, added some fun and gave you more background on the world -- making it feel that much more real. Having come from EQ where the banner cry was "what story?" having the various arcs in WoW has been great. Even more so that I see that Blizzard has the same kind of bratty fun that I was having in GuildWars.

It's all your fault Shrike!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

No kidding...

It's nice to see some press that isn't bashing video games or portraying them as some oddball sniper school, etc. Henry Jenkins, a professor from MIT, wrote a nice article entitled "Reality Bytes: Eight Myths About Video Games Debunked". It's a good read.

This type of article always reminds me of a conversation I had a few jobs back with our groups administrative assistant. I am, and will continue to be, a gamer. I started with Pong, graduated to Doom, and am currently playing WoW, Civ IV and recently finished FEAR. She was telling me how all "video game players kill people" - no joke, her exact words.

I looked her straight in the eye and delievered one of those "OMG did I just say that?" lines; "Then you'd be dead."

She looked at me very oddly as I explained that I, and a number of other people in the group, played violent (Quake 2 in this case) games at lunch. Funny though, none of us has killed anyone.

Yeah, she was shocked. Illustrated the point though. Games don't kill people, people kill people.

Miss you Grandpa.

I was browsing the boards for the gaming group that I play with and ran across a video one of the guys had made of him flying around in a flight sim. The memories it back to me were flying with my Grandfather years ago.

Good memories. Hard to believe its been a year since he passed away.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Did someone close the curtain on reality?

Last night I went to donate blood for my 5th or 6th time this year. It's always been a pleasant experience, the people at the donation center are very friendly and adept at their jobs. Usually in and out in an hour including all the paperwork and rest times.

This time I was set to break the speed record. I finally remember to bring a book to read and barely got three pages done before I was through the initial paperwork and was being prepped for my donation.

The first nurse missed the vein on my left arm. So we reloaded and went for the right arm - I've donated from both previously, but who knows. The donation went fine, pretty quick. Got my clearance and walked from the donation area over to the cantina. Water and two chocolate chip cookies please. Good cookies.

As I finished my first cookie I remember looking at the volunteer in the cantina and watching as someone closed the curtains on reality. "This isn't right" I muttered.

"Put your head on the table," she said. I think I did.

Things got really funny. I could sense something going on but any sense of time was shot. The world was completely black, but it was as if there was something on the other side of a really thick blanket. I knew something was going on and I kept trying to puzzle it out. Felt like a few minutes had gone by when I did a "this is wrong" and woke up. I was laying down on the bed near the cantina (always wondered why there was one there) with three nurses around me.

"You've fainted," one told me. "You were out for about 20 seconds."

She proceeded to explain what had happened in terms that I wish I had written down to look up this morning. Short of it was that they were going to take it easy with me this time, no rushing home.

Took awhile before I could sit up and not feel the curtains closing again. A few waters and some slow movement later I was able to work my way down and eventually home. Been fine since.

I had asked the nurse, when I awoke, what caused this. She says they're not sure. Some think its psychological, especially on the first donation, others think there is some physiological cause. For me, I'll go with the latter. I made sure to have plenty of liquids (over 3 liters) but although I ate "normal" for me, I definitely skimped for donating.

When I got home I had a major craving for a calzone, way off my diet. Normally this would cause me to gain a few pounds on my next weigh in. My weigh in today - I lost weight. Woooooops. That would do it.

Next time I'm super-sizing lunch!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Thing is, I could see the RIAA doing it...

RIAA Bans Telling Friends About Songs

And I don't think I'd even be surprised....

I agree. Hopefully it won't suck!

From an interview with Peter Jackson;
Question: You're still producing Halo?
Jackson: Yeah.
Question: What attracted you to Halo?
Jackson: I'm a fan of the game.
Question: But video game movies suck.
Jackson: They do.
Question: So what will be different?
Jackson: Hopefully it won't suck.
Brutally honest, you have to admire him for that. To his credit, he is picking a game that has a solid universe, a decent backstory, and a character that is rarely, if ever, alone (/wave Cortana).
Halo is more like a good action flick, there is a central character, a key problem, and a lot of explosives. Toss into a blender and hit puree. Makes you wonder which will happen first; Will the Halo movie finish up where Halo 2 left off? Will Halo 3 make it out and finally put an end to the story of Halo 2?

Or will they both require recalls for overheating and BSODs? *evil smile*

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

... when you snatch the pebble ...

My eldest had been asking about learning Martial Arts, well, she's five and had really been asking to go to a "Kicking school" - still, I knew what she meant. I started looking around the area for somewhere that she could go that met my ideals of what I would like her to learn. Any fool can be taught to fight, it takes a different type of school to teach how not to fight.

Of all the calls I made , the one conversation that stands out was the one where the school assumed I was pushing my Daughter into it. This was my daughter's choice, neither my wife nor I pushed her into it. She pushed me for two months to find a school (yes, I'm that picky).
"The Sensei has found that children who start this young don't continue when they get older."
Aye, I can see that. If you push your child into doing something that they're not interested in, they're going to stop the moment they have a choice in the matter. The rest of the conversation was the student who returned my call convincing me that putting my daughter into a school was bad, but they'd love to have me come!

I could only shake my head. If you can't trust my word, trust my parenting, why should I trust your school?

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Monday, December 05, 2005

Remembrance 2005

I'd like to welcome all first time readers to my yearly Remembrance. This is the first Remembrance I will be posting to my Blog as well as sending out to friends and family. I'll even be sending it to a few people that are going to do a "Who is this?". Thank you all for your help and support this year.

This year I ran into an immovable wall; My brother-in-law. We locked horns about veterans, war, and combat. Before we jump into the story, it'll help to have a little background on both of us.

I grew up in the shadow of the Vietnam war around veterans and active personnel. My baby book has the first .22 caliber shell I ever fired, it was that important to my Father. I got a personal view of what war can do to people, both positively and negatively. I knew Vets who forgot who they were and others who kept trying to forget. When I was old enough to enlist, my parents said no - my Dad had already paid the check for our family.

My brother-in-law has traveled the world, never settling in one place for long. An artist at heart, he's lived in some interesting locales, and near-by to some bombings while he was in Israel. Aside from meeting a few veterans at parties, he's never been close to one.

The discussion started at a family party with his assertion that all US servicemen in Vietnam killed civilians. I did my best to stand up for the veterans, and was told to shut-up; this wasn't a debate. I could feel my anger rising as I tried to interject a few more times. Finally I decided my best course of action was to walk away, before I said something I'd regret. We'd speak again.

The next family gathering he said he wanted to understand. I've learned a lot from speaking with people that held views that were opposite my own so I went with him to discuss it. In hindsight, I should have asked for his definition of understanding as what happened was closer to my definition of arguing.

Although we spoke at length, covering topics from combat to veterans, individual choice to following orders, he seemed more focused on finding a point to argue about rather than exploring our different experiences and trying to understand. After a few hours of this, I realized that we were not going to agree and walked away. I was angry at myself for not adequately stating my case. I could not get him to understand, to see what I had seen. It was very hard for me to walk away and even harder to let it go.

The day after the debate with him I read Ben Stein's article in the NY Times "Lessons in Gratitude, At the Basement Sink" (NY Times requires a fee, the full article is linked from a different site). The article talks about being grateful for what we have, and for what we don't have. That may sound odd, but I think you are grateful that you are not in a combat zone. I bet, given the choice between being shot at by an angry Al Qaeda and commuting to work tomorrow, you're probably grateful for your job too.

And in some odd way, I'm grateful for the debate with my brother-in-law. Were it not for that debate I wouldn't have found a new strength in myself. I've never backed down or walked away from a debate on our Armed Forces. I may not serve on the front lines, but I do what I can back home. I had to retreat this time, it was hard, but it was the right move.

It is unlikely my brother-in-law will ever understand me, how I grew up or why I stand by our Armed Forces. I will always support our Troops. They stand up for us in the worst places in the world.

And I am grateful to them for it.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Are you going to buy an Xbox 360?

NO.

Surprising how many people have asked me if I was going to upgrade my "Original XBox" to a new 360. Aside from the price, lack of support, etc. This is a ".0 Microsoft product". You can't trust those. ".0" releases from Microsoft are guaranteed to be one thing; buggy as termite mound. Do a quick search today and you'll find people complaining about overheating problems. I'm not surprised. There were also murmers of people saying that it was BSODing ... well, it is a Microsoft product after all.

Wait for the service pack. Then, if you still want a game that has some titles, but not many, and "kinda backwards compatibility", but not all.... go for it.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Pandora and Firefox

A note to all the Pandora users; Pandora does work in FireFox 1.5 [Edit: this fix also worked on my 1.0.7 install], but it may not work perfectly if you have the Adblock extension installed.

Symptom - Pandora loads, and you hear music, but you don't see anything.

Possible fix - Go to Tools->AdBlock->Preferences, click on the AdBlock Options button and make sure that "Obj-Tabs" is un-checked.

Another one I ran into was this;

Symptom - The Pandora page loads, but the player never appears and no music plays.

Possible Fix - Reinstall Flash. You'll need to get the proper uninstaller from Macromedia (I used these). Close and relaunch FireFox, and reinstall the flash plug-in.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Solid Advice....

One of the things I've found myself misplaying in a Poker tournament is a large stack. I used to take way too many risks and waste away my lead. I started taking less risks, but then I ended up missing some opportunities. Daniel Negranu just put up an article at The Poker Gazette -- "Use your big stack to control the table".

Here's a quick summary of his six points:
  • Attack the short stacks
  • Avoid the big stacks
  • Don't play big pots
  • Be creative
  • Strike fear in your opponents
  • Be a consistent presence
A good read. Many of his statements I had learned the hard way. I've been short stacked at many a table where the larger stacks wouldn't (wisely) let me limp into a pot - it was all or nothing. Some of the other points I hadn't considered.

The "Don't play big pots" was what had bit me early on. I'd allow myself to call with a marginal hand, that was likely beat, and lose too many of my chips. Then I went too tight and didn't cause any fear at the table. Funny how that works.

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Grumble, Grumble....

For my December Poker game I decided to have some fun prizes to award in addition to our regular stuff. I shot out and bought some typical swag online from one of the "big names". Due to the holidays the company would only ship 2nd day. No problem, I needed it here quickly anyway. No items were listed as backordered.

That was two weeks ago. The company charged my credit card the day after I placed the order. Now the fun part; I've been trying to contact them for over a week now by email and phone. I can not get a single response. The best part has to be hearing this voicemail message each time you call;
"Thank you for calling [name politely removed]. Our hours of operation are 8am to 5pm central standard time. If you are calling during normal business hours, all of our operators are currently assisting other customers."
The first few times, I thought that was funny. Now I wonder if they have any operators. Emails have gone unanswered, not even a polite automated "We got your mail" response. Nothing.

I had it. So I went over to my bank to stop payment, figuring that would get the company's attention. My order total was $50. To stop the payment would cost me $25! Half of my order cost just to stop a payment. Argh.

Guess the prizes will go toward the January game.

Grumble.... Grumble....

[Edit: I finally got a hold of someone on Dec 1st, and was informed my order was shipped on Nov 28 - but that the website was never updated. Everything should be on time. Took over a week of constant calling to get a human... but they are there.]

Monday, November 28, 2005

No more Raster!

I swore I wouldn't go back to it. I did! I cancelled, walked away. Got hooked on GuildWars, finished it (it is a CCORPG after all and not an MMO, so there is an "end"). Played FEAR, picked up Civ IV.... and finally was convinced to give WoW a try.

*sigh* Level 11 Druid reporting for duty.

I'm not sure what order all this happened in, so forgive me. WoW combines the best elements of EQ and GW. Allowing you to drop in, play for a little while, feel like you did something and move on. There is very little downtime, and what downtime there is you can shorten -- yes, if you haven't played you read that right, you can shrink the low downtime even lower.

The graphics are fun, the world is fun, the quests are fun (got my Bear form, w00t! Thanks Kel). Ugh. I'll stop rambling now.

Come to the darkside!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

My Thanks...

It's been an amazing year for me. I've managed to lose 30lbs, tone up, and run two miles consistently. For someone who's job it is to sit and write code and was only a 90-foot sprinter through school, that's huge!

I attribute the change to four people; First, Rick, who led me to the Seal Camp work out videos. Peter, who shared with me his "5 days on, 2 days off" diet. Scott Helvenston, the instructor and creator of the videos. Finally, my wife, who helped keep me going and was always there when I needed someone.

It was all of these things that helped me achieve what I did. For the most part, I've been able to thank everyone for their gifts. All except for Mr. Helvenston, he was killed in Falujah, Iraq in 2004. For those who would like to donate to the memorial fund to help his family, you can find information here. Without his subtle drive and boot camp push in the videos, I don't think my attitude would have changed enough to hit my goals this year.

Mr. Helvenston did help me with one other thing, aside from my workout goals, the answer to a paradox that I've been hitting with my wife's family. Invariably, at each family gathering, people have noticed how much weight we've lost and how toned we've become, and they keep asking the following question;
"How did you lose so much weight?! And don't tell me diet and exercise!"
Since the answer I would give has been denied me, I will borrow from the DVD;
"All you need is your mind, your body,
and a positive mental attitude."
- Scott Helvenston
Thanks to you all for your help this year!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Are you Gen X? Baby Boom? Gamer?

No Seriously! I was just reading about the "Gamer Generation". The article calls out something I've been puzzling about for years; why the people that tend to play games are the ones that tend to be the "leads" on projects, development, etc. at the companies I've worked for. Here, see if this rings any bells;

"The skills that are required to become a guild master [a team leader] in an MMO game - attracting a diverse group of people, assigning them different roles, training people, constantly bringing in new members - are the same skills you need for quality middle and top managers in a company," says Brown. "Skills that you don't teach people directly are an inherent part of these games."

"The gamers in my office are clearly more comfortable, and perhaps more optimistic, about the uses of certain forms of technology, especially multimedia-type technologies," says Neil Pearse, 44, a leadership development consultant in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who was part of Beck and Wade's study. He says that gamers are more comfortable with communication, education and training online and need less face-to-face interaction. Pearse adds that gamers are more willing to jump in and try things rather than gathering lots of information, doing lots of analysis and then making the decision.

That last part is what caught my eye. I've been working from home, 100%, for three years now. When people hear that I work from home the most common statement I get from people is "I could never do that." Not to say gaming is the key to it, but I certainly have a different view of my work and personal time. I can spend all day coding then spend the night relaxing in front of a good game and not feel like I went back to work.

"Careers will become more about the experience and challenges gained," he says. "Once you've mastered a video game, you look for a new challenge, whether it is a sequel or a new game, and I think this will translate into careers. I know that very few if any member of my team has a career goal of spending 30 years at my company. I see it as my challenge to provide them with interesting and engaging work."

Wow, less grind, um, ladder climbing and putting people where they belong based upon their experience and skill?

You'd think they were trying to set up a raid.... *grins*

Why?

After finishing with my shower I was talking to my wife about the snow (barely a dusting) we got last night. I was looking out our back door with my youngest daughter (she's two months shy of her 2nd birthday). The deck looks bare now that we've brought in the tables and chairs that normally populate it.

"Table?" My daughter's question surprised me. I had been lost in my own thoughts.

"We put them in the garage." I answered.

"Why?" She asked.

I stared at my daughter for a little while and the only thing that came to mind to answer was 'ut-oh'. Luckily my wife started talking before I had to come up with something more coherent.

"I have to write that down. She's not even two yet!" My wife said as she went off to note the official date that our youngest started into the "Why" phase.

And so it begins....

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

SANS Top 20 Vulnerabilities...

This is one of those websites that you either know, or don't. SANS is one of the premier Security sites out there offering information and classes on computer security. I'm on a few different lists, although I mostly monitor the Internet Storm Center for possible threats. Due to their diligence, I've been able to stay one step ahead of many threats that have choked the 'net.

Anyway, they just released their Top 20 Vulnerabilities list:
Top Vulnerabilities in Windows Systems
  • W1. Windows Services
  • W2. Internet Explorer
  • W3. Windows Libraries
  • W4. Microsoft Office and Outlook Express
  • W5. Windows Configuration Weaknesses
Top Vulnerabilities in Cross-Platform Applications
  • C1. Backup Software
  • C2. Anti-virus Software
  • C3. PHP-based Applications
  • C4. Database Software
  • C5. File Sharing Applications
  • C6. DNS Software
  • C7. Media Players
  • C8. Instant Messaging Applications
  • C9. Mozilla and Firefox Browsers
  • C10. Other Cross-platform Applications
Top Vulnerabilities in UNIX Systems
  • U1. UNIX Configuration Weaknesses
  • U2. Mac OS X
Top Vulnerabilities in Networking Products
  • N1. Cisco IOS and non-IOS Products
  • N2. Juniper, CheckPoint and Symantec Products
  • N3. Cisco Devices Configuration Weaknesses

Link over to their site for more information on each area. I found it amuzing that W2 was Internet Explorer. Go Go ActiveX! And before you think they are biased toward OSS, C9 is Firefox.

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TSO meets Geekdom...

I got hooked on the Trans-Siberian Orchestra from the original Napster and since then have gone to numerous concerts and bought all of their CDs (but remember kids the RIAA says that Napster took money away from the artists) . Who-ever the author of this video is did an amazing job choreographing his Christmas tree light show to one of TSOs songs (I wont ruin it for you).

Go take a look!!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Found it!

Go figure, on Amazon. I've been looking for a small extension cord (try 1 foot or less) so that I could fit two devices with huge transformers onto my power strip (my powered USB hub and the light I use on my monitor). Nothing locally, but Amazon had a hit from the CyberGuys! for their Liberator Combo Pack. They also have the individual cables, but the pack is a nice buy, imo;
Everyone needs Liberators. If you don't believe it look under your desk at your power strip. Liberators free up those outlets that would normally be blocked by bulky AC adapters. This value priced 6-pack includes 2 each of our three most popular styles; the original Classic, the Plus with its convenient pass-through outlet and the Flat which liberates outlets that are hidden behind furniture.
Has two of the ones I was chasing, plus the ones I've always wanted for behind my desk at home. The Flats fit nicely, even in pairs, in tight areas. I was able to make things much cleaner behind my desk and finally set up the power strip the way I want it. Of the bag, I haven't tried the pass through, no need atm. Perhaps upstairs for the Christmas tree.

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Impressions on Civ IV

Yes, I went and bought it. I'd say I got it for a good price too, $3.72. No, no joke. I've been making use of EBGames "cash for games" program. My gaming addiction has given me some good discounts. Lately though, there haven't been many games that catch my eye, so the value of my account had piled up - enough so that I got to risk buying Civ for less than $4.

I know some Civ fans cringed when I said 'risk' and 'Civ' in the same sentence. I've played all of the Civ titles, and Civ III killed my enjoyment of the game. The AI's lack of bargaining, the "my settler can walk deep into your borders and build a city, then use influence to take over your capital" etc. just drove me nutz. So when I was looking at the shelf picking out a new game, I was nervous - even after having read the reviews.

I must say, though, I am impressed with the game. Sid fixed the annoyances that killed my enjoyment. Once I get used to it I'm going to have to set it on fast-forward and see how the compressed game plays out. For now, my "Mighty American Empire" is about to declare war on the "Evil Spanish" as they're crunching into my borders and causing problems with expansion. Hopefully I can bring my allies, the French, into the battle and beat Isabella senseless. Yes, I'm having fun. :)

If your a fan of the series, you'll love this one. If you were like me, and Civ III made things un-fun, give it another go - you'll be surprised.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Full circle...

Londo: I was .. never a child. I had responsibilities. I've had responsibilities for as long as I can remember. Duty. Honor. Family.
G'Kar:Ah. That explains a great deal.
Londo: Really? And what exactly does it explain, G'Kar?
G'Kar: I spent my years in one shelter after another. But sooner or later, I was able to leave the shelter and walk out into the daylight. You do not have that luxury. You carry your shelter with you . . . every day. You didn't grow up. You grew old.

Funny how certain events stick with you. I've been watching as some of my friends and family have their first child. I have 3 now ranged from 1 to 5 years old. When I had my first I didn't give it much thought, I was buried in 3am feedings, diapers, etc. but I did get a lot of looks from my wife's family and comments about "ah, the good ol'days". I used to wonder what drugs they were on.

Then I had another one, and a third. Somewhere in there taking two of the kids out to dinner, to the mall, etc. became "well its only two". One, doesn't even come up on the radar, no problem dear, we'll be back for bed time...

And then my friend had his first and I found myself looking at the little guy and going "Ah, the good ol'days" and giving my friend that odd look. Makes me wonder if I "Grew up" or "Grew old".

Thursday, November 17, 2005

More ripples from Sony...

From the EFF comes this gem;
US-CERT recommends the following ways to help prevent the installation of this type of rootkit:
  • Do not run your system with administrative privileges. Without administrative privileges, the XCP DRM software will not install.
  • Use caution when installing software. Do not install software from sources that you do not expect to contain software, such as an audio CD. [emphasis added]
  • Read the EULA (End User License Agreement) if you do decide to install software. This document can contain information about what the software may do.
Gotta love it. CERT recommends you don't install anti-piracy software. An understandable paradox. The bigger problem is how do I know if my Audio CD has this type of stuff. Read the EULA, right. Anyone got a degree in obfuscation? That's just too much for most folks - we're now trained to click right past those.

How about a simple up-front list of what gets installed and what it will be doing on my system?

Princes of Florence - w00t

Finally got to play The Princes of Florence last night. Princes reminded me of Alhambra colliding with Puerto Rico. You have 7 turns to produce the most prestigious works in the lands. Each turn you have to out bid, out build, out luck your opponents to accomplish this. We had three players, and I think that it was a good number for learning the game. I can't wait to try it with more.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

WAAF Time Again!

Each year one of our local radio stations, WAAF, does the "Walk and Rock for Change" - a charity drive to benefit the Boston and Worcester food bank. I've been listening to it since the beginning, back when Hillman actually walked Route 9 with a wheelbarrow. Now, they have two routes... if you've never tuned in - do it! Even if you don't donate, the music that gets played is very entertaining.
Over the last 13 years, WAAF listeners have helped raise close to ONE MILLION dollars for the hungry. The Annual WAAF Walk and Rock for Change benefits the Greater Boston and Worcester Food Banks, both in dire need with the approaching holiday season. For three days, the martyrs of the Hillman Morning Show will give themselves to the cause. Greg Hill is on-air as your personal juke box; slide in the right amount of cash and he'll play whatever you want. L.B and Spaz take to the streets, walking from Worcester and Hudson, NH into Boston collecting change along the way.

Call in starting at 6:00 AM Wednesday, November 16th at 1-866-517-WAAF (9223)

The first year I donated, I had to send them the song via email! That's how much effort they'll put into getting your song on. In my case, it was Ma-nah-ma-nah by the Muppets. Yes, on the radio. Kids loved it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

It's a local printer?

Still working through rebuild #8675309 on my Alienware laptop. Okay, it hasn't been that bad, but I haven't had to rebuild an OS and applications this much.... ever. So far, so good. Got the printer installed last night.

On my home network I have an HP LJ3200 attached to a HP JetDirect print server. Works well sharing the printer between the systems that use it. So, I sat down to install the printer - again. I don't do faxing or scanning from the laptop, so all I need to do is print.

Now, as I've said, this is a device on my network. So, logically, upon entering XP's Printer Configuration (Start->Control Panel->Printer, Add Printer) I said "Network Printer". Nice try, much too logical. This is a Local Printer (what did you expect from the people who brought you "Click on Start to Shutdown" *evil grin*) - seriously!

After some minor trial and error I remember that the port settings for the printer are buried in the Local Printer path of the wizard. Once in there, I could create a new TCP/IP port, point it to the static IP of my HP JetDirect and I was off and printing.

A little bizarre, but at least I didn't have to run through HP's LJ3200 CD that crashes when I only install the printer software and not the other components. What can I say, it's been a bad luck year for my laptop...

"Dude. You should have bought a Dell"

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Monday, November 14, 2005

Go Microsoft!

In the ongoing discussion on the Sony DRM RootKit, comes a fun one from, of all places, Microsoft!
We use a set of objective criteria for both Windows Defender and the Malicious Software Removal Tool to determine what software will be classified for detection and removal by our anti-malware technology. We have analyzed this software, and have determined that in order to help protect our customers we will add a detection and removal signature for the rootkit component of the XCP software to the Windows AntiSpyware beta, which is currently used by millions of users.
Translations? Microsoft has now classified the XCP software as malware. I bet that will cause a few ruffled feathers at Sony. I know Symantec has information (and possibly software, not something I run) on what do with XCP. Mcafee has additional details.

So far, so good. I still think Sony needs a strong slap on the wrist, not sure what punishment would fit the crime though.

You did what?!

THE KID: A book?
GRANDFATHER: That's right. When I was your age, television was called books.


Sounds like what I've been hearing since my walk on Sunday. Take a moment, what's the longest walk you've done recently - say in the last year? Hiking perhaps? To the mall? Maybe just back and forth to the water cooler. I bet that didn't garner you the looks I've been getting.

On Sunday I decided that I'd skip the car and walk. I walked from my house to one of the local malls - 8 miles away. Took me two hours and I had a good time. Sunday in New England was a warm, clear day. I was even surprised to find some sidewalks I didn't know existed along the route. It was fun.

So far though, the universal answer my friends are giving me is "You did what!?" - too funny. And all I could hear was my great-grandparents saying something like the Grandfather from The Pricess Bride - "When I was your age, cars were called boots!"

Sunday, November 13, 2005

In honor of WWdN....

Or at least all of Wil's chatter about dropping the hammer.

I jumped into a 9 player SnG on PokerStars over the weekend. Played ok, I had been a small hiatus, and got into the final 3, then heads-up. Once again I found myself the chip underdog. The leader had 10x what I had...

... but not for long. After 15 minutes of trading chips I was able to pull the nutz and suck him in. Some days it pays to be heads up against a loose-aggressive player. I turned the tables, and he was battling back from the brink.

We get into the final hand. I am dealt, you guessed it, 7-2 offsuit. I call his pre-flop raise and we see the flop. 2-2-9. lol. I put him all in and he calls. Poor guy.

Some days, the hammer does fall! Too funny, we were both laughing.

Friday, November 11, 2005

My thanks to the Veterans.

To those with us, but not here.
And to those here, but no longer with us.
Our love and our thanks.
-qor72, 2005


The Final Inspection...

The soldier stood and faced God,
Which must always come to pass.
He hoped his shoes were shining,
Just as brightly as his brass.

"Step forward now, you soldier,
How shall I deal with you?
Have you always turned the other cheek?
To My Church have you been true?"

The soldier squared his shoulders and said,
"No, Lord, I guess I ain't.
Because those of us who carry guns,
Can't always be a saint.

I've had to work most Sundays,
And at times my talk was tough.
And sometimes I've been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough.

But, I never took a penny,
That wasn't mine to keep...
Though I worked a lot of overtime,
When the bills got just too steep.

And I never passed a cry for help,
Though at times I shook with fear.
And sometimes, God, forgive me,
I've wept unmanly tears.

I know I don't deserve a place,
Among the people here.
They never wanted me around,
Except to calm their fears.

If you've a place for me here, Lord,
It needn't be so grand.
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don't, I'll understand."

There was a silence all around the throne,
Where the saints had often trod.
As the soldier waited quietly,
For the judgment of his God.

"Step forward now, you soldier,
You've borne your burdens well.
Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,
You've done your time in Hell."

~Author Unknown~

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Go Go Gadget Lawsuits!

Like anything, there is a time and a place; Sony's root kit debacle is a time where action is required. It's good to see I'm not the only one thinking this way. As reported on the BBC;
Sony BMG is facing three lawsuits over its controversial anti-piracy software.

Revealed in late October by Windows expert Mark Russinovich, the software copy protection system hides using virus-like techniques.

One class-action lawsuit has already been filed in California and another is expected in New York.

Digital rights group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), is also gathering information from users to see if a case can be brought.

I'm still shocked that a company could believe that installing software like this was "Ok". I'm hopeful that the results of these law suits will clearly state that Corporations, as much as individuals, can cross the line and become hackers.

You'd think after Enron, etc. that companys would be more vigilant in policing their ethical obligations. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Come again?

I was off reading the news when I saw an add for a "free IPOD Shuffle" from Citibank. Right, free lunch, not. Curious on the terms I went to read the Ad;
"Special Offer: FREE IPod Shuffle when you make at least $500 in purchases within the first 3 months on the Citi Professional Card with Thank You Network"
Actually, I stopped at the $500 and shot over to pricewatch. First one I hit was for $100, that didn't seem right since I know the regular IPods are more like $300. Quick swing over to Amazon $95-$125. Okay, so the $100 isn't that bad.

So, lets see what we've learned here. If I get a new credit card, and I spend enough to buy 4 or 5 of these, I'll get one free.

Um, no thanks. I'll save the $400 and buy the $100 product myself. Thank you very much!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Finished F.E.A.R.

Okay, that ending took me a while to figure out. I wont ruin it for you, but all the tricks I tried wouldn't let me get past the final "boss". Took a good 15 minutes before I hit a winning strategy.

I really enjoyed this game. The mix of smart AIs and interesting tactics made it much more enjoyable than chasing Quake3 AIs around the grid. The fact that they would work together, try to work around you, and eventually come in behind made it much more challenging than your average FPS.

The horror ambiance came in waves, which was good and bad. By the end I was mostly anesthetized to it, treating it like any other game element. Not to say it wasn't well done and didn't freak me out more than once, just that by the end it has become (ab?)normal.

I look forward to seeing the sequel. If you have a PC that can handle it, and you enjoy the FPS genre - I'd pick it up. Been a very long time that one this hyped paid off.

Now for the bad news... I need a new game! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

It's Childs Play!

Seriously. It's that time of the year again and Penny Arcade has put up its annual Child's Play fundraising drive;

For the past three years, gamers and geeks around the world have raised nearly a million dollars in toys, games and cash for sick kids in Children's Hospitals across the globe through a grassroots charity called Child's Play.

Created by Penny Arcade, no "Administrative Fees" or other nonsense is collected; all gifts and donations go directly to the hospitals for distribution to sick kids.

A worthy cause. Swing over! This year Childrens hospitals are available world wide.

Monday, November 07, 2005

WWdN meets my HS reunion...

Was just browsing WWdN and ran into a neat question;
I've grown a lot since those days, and I'm happier and more secure than I've ever been (not counting a time when I was too immature to know better.) Why is it, do you think, that it feels like a luxury to get to this place, rather than a natural and inevitable part of this life?
Having just attended my 15 year HS reunion, my answer would be - because not everyone arrives there. I'm not sure I have, as I'm still going through a phase of taking on my fears and getting them behind me.

In watching the people around me, you could see all the same patterns and cliques that were around 15 years ago. The "cool" kids now organize the events, those of us that attend slip into familiar groups, and then proceed to wonder who will step away from the wall to ask one of the girls to dance.

Oh wait! I'm married now, I have a date.

Another one bites the dust...

Seems like I was just writing about hitting the 1.5 mile mark on my runs, did 2 miles today. Funny, no parade, no fan faire, but man am I happy. Especially after a 4 hour code review/brainstorming session on how to finish up a two product merge.

These are the days that I wish I didn't live in a split level - stairs suck!! *laughs*

Friday, November 04, 2005

Folding good hands...

Found a nice article by Tom McEvoy entitled Releasing Quality Hands in Tournaments. This article brought home to me something I learned quickly playing in the PokerStars Blogger Tournament - Strong hands early on, probably aren't.

My wife gave me a few odd looks the times she swung through as I would fold hands that, in our home games, would be very strong. Things like Q-10 or K-J I tossed. What I quickly learned was that while a great starting hand, I was usually in the wrong position and at the first table of a 1500 player tournament it wasn't the time to waste my chips bluffing or chasing ghosts. So I folded them, and learned a valuable lesson.

From the article...
Another tough hand to fold is pocket kings, especially with a garbage flop. In a recent World Series of Poker event, my writing partner T.J. Cloutier had K-K. With the blinds at $25-$50, he made it $300 to go and was called by Jay Heimowitz, a top player who has six World Series of Poker bracelets to his credit. The 9-7-2 mixed-suit flop elicited a pot-sized bet from T.J. Jay immediately made a strong raise. T.J. thought about it briefly, showed his kings, and folded! T.J. was positive that Jay had a pocket pair and had flopped a set, probably nines. Always the gentleman, Jay turned over his nines as he raked in the pot.
Been said many times, many places, a key skill is reading your situation, your opponent(s) and realizing your goal is to win the tournament, not necissarily this hand. Many times its better to let it go.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Sony, what were you thinking?

Unless you've not been looking, Sony has made a major blunder. At least one of their CDs, when played on a PC, installs a Root Kit onto your system that hides files and registry entries with a "$sys$" prefix.

For those not in the know a Root Kit is the most insidious type of virus out there (Geeks: Yes I'm simplifying, I know). It plugs into your operating system at such a low level it can literally make things disappear. You wont know they're there. It's the ultimate playground for a Hacker.

That aside, Sony and its partner have released a patch to "show the files", but I agree with a lot of the sentiment out there: This should never have happened.

I don't care how territorial you are about your software, oh wait, music being pirated, you have no right to modify my OS at a fundamental level without my permission. In doing this, Sony is no different from any other Hacker who would drop software on my system without me knowing it.

I hope to see more done about this than a token wrist slapping and a retraction of the software. Hopefully before someone smart enough to fire off a real attack that uses this "feature of DRM" to do some real damage.

That's an IM Conversation I didn't expect...

I live on the computer. I work as a Software Engineer and I play PC games. Some of my friends still don't understand how I can have a bad day at work and turn to the PC at home to relax (hey, venting frustrations on pixels is very therapeutic!). However, I can unplug. I'll go hiking, camping, or just out, and the computer stays at home.

So it was really funny to me to talk to one of my friends who's addicted to his Treo. Saw him up on IM this morning;

Me: What's got you online so early?
Him: I am driving now. Talk later.

Oh man. Time to cut the cord. :) Scares me enough when the other driver forgets cars exist because their phone conversation is more important than driving safely. Imagine having to let go to answer an IM!

Edit: Interesting. To save time the Treo offers users the ability, at least through VeriChat, to slam out a quick message in a few keystrokes. Similar to an away messge he tells me. Be simpler, imo, if it offered an away mode when your driving.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

That was an odd way to end the SnG...

Have to file this one in the "are you kidding me?!" style of hands. I jumped into my normal 2k free-roll on PokerStars last night, 18 players (two tables). Did well, made it onto the final table and into the final three. I was short stacked a few times but a few well chosen (and lucky!) double ups put me into contention.

So here we are, final three, I'm on the button and I get dealt pocket 10s. The two other players are tight semi-aggressive players. I raise it to 2x the big blind, and am re-raised by the chip leader. A little odd, but nothing earth shattering. I've seen these guys do 4x the BB on pocket 3s pre-flop, so no red flags. The other player calls.

I decide its a good time to take a shot and go all-in. The chip leader also goes all in! And is followed by the other player! We're all all-in and the cards are flipped up...

Me: Pocket 10s
ChipLeader: Pocket 9s!

And....

Other: Pocket Js!

Doh! Someone wanna tell me those odds? Gets better, but not for me. Flop comes down 9-something-something.

Ut-oh... Turn is a J! Ack! Well, that cements my end. 3rd place for me.

What a fun way to go out though!

Monday, October 31, 2005

How much is my blog worth?






Wow, more than $0.02 - I was surprised.

You can do the math for yours too. To put it in perspective WWdN is worth $1,639,988.70 and CardSquad is worth $127,021.50.

No, I'm not selling. Don't ask. *laughs*


Offcourt Dress code for the NBA?

Some days the media really confuses me. I started by reading this article over on BBC which talks about how Hip-hop in the NBA is being outlawed. Players aren't going to be able to wear what they want as the NBA has laid down the law;
Banned under the new code are headphones, chains, shorts, sleeveless shirts, indoor sunglasses, T-shirts and jerseys and headwear such as baseball caps.
Sounds like hell. However, the write up on the new policy has a different story. If your an NBA player, and your on league business, you now have a dress code - business casual. Sounds familiar to the many codes that I've had to deal with while on the job.

What really got me, though, was when I read the BBC article it came off as "the players can't wear what they want ever" and it's really "when on the job, I'm required to". For the joy of playing the game and getting the salary that goes with it, it does seem a small thing to require.

Says the guy who chased down a loophole in his company policy so he didn't have to wear a tie. Good luck guys. Just remember, next we're stopping the MLB from chewing anything while being video taped.

Friday, October 28, 2005

One small step ....

Last year I set out to be able to run a mile. For me, this was no small feat. I have been a sprinter my entire life. The 90 feet from first to second was normal and a 100 yard dash was a big run. Beyond that, I couldn't do it. Or so I thought.

Last year I got stubborn and started running, wanting to get to a mile. I promised myself a hot fudge sunday for when I made it. And out I went. It took two months, and by the time I did it the sunday was furthest from my mind. Instead, the family went out to dinner.

This year, I kept going, doing my one mile and reaching for more. It's been challenging, I've gotten used to the mile and plateaued. Last night I finally moved beyond it, to 1.5 miles. Elated would be a good word, followed by gasping-for-breath. During my recovery all I could hear was the dialog between Luke and Yoda when Luke couldn't lift his X-Wing out of the muck of Dagobah...
LUKE: I don't...I don't believe it.
YODA: That is why you fail.
I believe, now. Here's to doing 2 miles before I have to hang up the running shoes for the season.

mini-me?

The past few weeks my older kids have gotten hooked on Lego Star Wars on the Xbox. Hooked means, for the first time, they want to play daily and are trying to solve the missions as best they can.

The most addicted has been my son. He's still figuring out the controller (not bad for a 3 year old) and has a hard time doing more than one thing at a time (like jumping and controlling where he lands). So often my wife or I will sub in to help him get past certain sections. I walked into this conversation yesterday...

Wife: He's just like you...
Me: Oh?
Wife: I've been using the controller, but he's been telling me what to do - even how to solve the puzzles!
Me: That sounds familiar *bratty smile*
Wife: *dirty look*

Ack. There's two of us! It was bad enough when I lost control of Saturday morning cartoons to the kids, now I have to share the Xbox! Where will it end!? *laughs*

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Supporting the Troops

I've been saying it for years, and its nice to see someone else (in this case WWdN) echo it;
Personally, I don't think one needs to support the president or the war to support the soldiers, but this is a favorite talking point from the RNC.
I'm unsure why this is such a confusing point. You can support the men and women who defend our country, who are asked to die so we can complain about morning traffic and overly hot coffee, without agreeing with the war or the President's policies.

The two are separate - think of it this way, do you blame Microsoft's programmers for the bugs or do you blame Microsoft? You can the utmost respect for an employee of Microsoft without having that same feeling toward the company.

It's no different with our troops. You can support their service, no matter where they are told to go, and still disagree with why they are there.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Rules Lawyering...

There are times I really wonder about the state of our Government. Don't worry, no political ranting in this one. The NYTimes (free reg required) has an article up on how a Cease and Desist letter was sent to The Onion to have them stop using the presidential seal.

What interested me was the wording:
Citing the United States Code, Mr. Dixton wrote that the seal "is not to be used in connection with commercial ventures or products in any way that suggests presidential support or endorsement."
Now, last I looked, The Onion wasn't "supporting or endorsing" anyone - sounds a little contrary to the idea of satire to me. So, what was the real purpose here? Got me.

Onion, if your reading, use Paint to flip the image 180 and slap it back up there. It's no longer the Presidential Seal at that point, right? *evil grin*

Back to Action!

Last night I sat down at a 300 free-money SnG, 1 table (9 players) game at PokerStars. Figured I'd try to apply some of the things I learned at the Blogger Tournament and get back into the swing of things (lately I've been playing F.E.A.R. and GuildWars - the horror!).

For those that haven't played at PokerStars free-money tournaments - the 300 is what everyone can afford on day 1 of their PokerStars play. Play is generally ... well ... silly at times. I've been at tables that have imploded on the first hand dealt as 7 out of 9 players went all in pre-flop. Only the top 3 places are in the play-money. I tend to play the 300 level to wake-up when I've been quiet in the poker world.

So I sit down and get dealt two low suited cards. I fold, I'm not chasing anything from this position - learned that lesson. Flop came down, and three people went all in. One won, we're down to 7. 10 minutes later another 3 go all in, and 2 more are taken out. Down to 5.

Pretty quickly we're down to 4 as another player goes all-in against our aggressive chip leader. He picked a bad time. The chip-leader and the player in front of me start beating on each other, and the other player is now sitting-out (actually, he's been sitting out since he tripled up on the first hand *sigh*).

Eventually the aggressive player is aced, going all in (now that he's short stacked) with his 7-5 offsuit against the pocket 4s of the more conservative player. That leaves us with 3. The new chip leader eats up the tripled-up-sitting-out player pretty quickly leaving me in heads up.

Funny, at this point I've got 10% of his chips. Why is that funny? I tend to play well out of this position! We battle it back and forth for awhile, trading chips, until I sucker him into a hand...

I had 9-8 suited, the flop comes down 9-8-4. I check, he checks. Turn is another 9. Bells go off, I check again. He bets, high. I raise, he puts me all-in. I almost typed "Thank you", as he flipped over his pocket Queens. Ut-oh. Luckily, the river wasn't a queen and I doubled-up. That put us about even, with him a little up.

We traded chips for awhile again, with the larger pots falling my way. I double up again (on a set of 9s no less!) later on to put him where I was to start, and finished him off a hand later.

Next, back to the 2k tournaments!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Lessons learned...

It's good, after you get done beating yourself up for not folding, to review the game. I placed in the top 25% of the tournament, not bad for my first attempt at one. I played well, up until that last hand.

I learned quickly the way the table played and adjusted, not losing my cool or going on tilt over badly played hands - recovering and moving forward. My luck held, and I was able to double up and get back into things.

Everything that will make me a better player. Most importantly, I realize that you must keep the ultimate goal in mind at all times and not succumb to "this is the best I've gotten recently" and give up analyzing your position - even if you will "go down in chips" while you figure out a new table.

Not bad for a first attempt. I look forward to next year!

Pokerstars Blogger Tournament - Hour Two

Blinds started out at 75/150. Achieved my first goal, I have lasted into the 50th percentile. Now to see if I can score some swag. Would help to know where the pay outs were.

I just doubled up, which sounds good until I say I need to do it again - and while trying to finish this sentence end up going all in with pocket 5s against big slick and pull it off. That puts me back into ok position, maybe I do have a chance! And don't let me complain about bad luck after those two double-ups. A-Q vs J-10, and 5-5 vs A-K.

Ick. Finally got table bounced, took almost two hours but it's happened. Into a brave new unknown I go! 379 players left at this point. And half the table here is in the double digits - lol - I barely have 2k.

Finished 360th.

My KJ diamonds vs his AK clubs. Yup, he picked up the aces. Oh well, I still had fun. Prizes were only for the top 100 players. There's always next year!

Pokerstars Blogger Tournament - Hour One

It's 20 minutes before the start of the blogger tournament. I just got done explaining how unusual this tournament is to my 5 yo.

"How do you win Daddy?"
"Well, aside from the 1st place winner, I have no idea."

Sums it up. I'm curious to see how things play out. An odd start to my tournament career. I wasn't able to get out to the casino this year for a tournament, not enough vacation days, so this'll be the only one I'm in.

And we start with 1471 players.

I nearly jumped when the seats were assigned, no, no one famous (except for Joanne from the CardSquad blog), just that it was starting. It wasn't until I had a seat that I felt that tinge of excitement. Up until then, it was always "a few weeks away".

Won my first hand, 230 chips, with pocket 10s. Man, I've gotta relax. Been trading chips with players at the table for awhile now. The level of play is very different compared to what I've been playing. It's going to be an interesting evening.

Took 45 minutes before there were any kills at our table, then we lost two of the original quickly. Lost three total before the first break.

There are 1059 players left. I'm ranked 538 in chips.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Corroboration! See!

One of the problems I always encounter with my friends and playing online is the "But these idiots drive me nutz". Normally they are referring to the people who go all-in on the first hand with cards you'd likely muck without consideration and go on to draw out the stronger hands. This is especially true with the lower levels of the free-money games as players can 'afford' to try to double (triple, quad) -up and idle into the money - because if they lose the game will ante up more for them.

Unfortunately, this is not the only place you find these kinds of loose-aggressive players and learning to play against them is important. Sadly, my words just echo across the table of my monthly tournament. So, go read over on CardSquad: "Reader Question - Playing Against the Maniacs".
Unfortunately, no matter what levels you play, you are going to find these maniacs. They are at the $100-$500 events almost as often as they are at the $1-$10 events, so saving up to deposit more of a bankroll is not going to help this particular problem. Many people have a misconception that the higher the level, the better the players are – it usually isn’t true. The ironic thing is, no matter how frustrating they may be, these are the types of players you actually do want sitting across the felt from you.
See. Its not just me. Now, go find a real excuse before our next game!

I am Elrond?!

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?*chuckling* Head on over to TK481 to try this yourself, but here are my results...

A stern yet benevolent organizer who often knows best, your wits are keenly fixed on aiding efforts you deem worthy.

"Now at this last we must take a hard road, a road unforseen. There lies our hope, if hope it be. To walk into peril to Mordor."


I didn't expect this one to pop out!

Don't blame me for this one, WWdN started it!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

F.E.A.R. - First Impressions

Short version, I'm hooked. Now onto the details...

Odds are, if you're into PC games, you've heard of FEAR, but if not, here's the blurb from the website:
F.E.A.R. (First Encounter Assault Recon) is a unique fusion of stylized first person combat and supernatural suspense in which you are an elite soldier trained to deal with situations others can not even imagine. Be the hero in your own spine-tingling epic of action, tension, and terror and discover the true meaning of fear.
Reads like many blurbs, but for once, it has been accurate. I got in my first hour of gaming last night doing FEAR's single player missions. This is what I had expected Quake 3 to be - scary, not from the "look we removed a wall and an imp is behind it" but from the "I swear I saw someone out here!" or "WTF WAS THAT?!". I was freaked out before I hit the first combat.

And then I got really hooked. I walked into a warehouse area where I ran into my first two baddies. The rectangular room had a series of pallets with space between them. My two foes split up, one heading to my left, the other right. Okay, cool. Then the one on my left opened up with his machine gun pinning me behind cover - then lobbed a grenade. A little more advanced than what I've seen AIs do in the past, but wait! Then his friend rushed into me - he was moving under the cover fire of the other guy!

I died. Reloaded, and got my revenge. I'm hooked.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Lets talk Games!

Yes, I do still play. Got the external soundcard (re-re-re-re-)installed last night. On my laptop I use a SB Audigy NX and a set of Zalman headphones for gaming, and kicked up GuildWars to prove they still worked. Man, been a long time since I've been on.

I like the adjustments to the UI. I kicked up my E/Me, Zorn Lightwind, and cleared out some quests I had hanging from Piken Square. I like the new spell interface, showing both my cast time and that of my target. Really helped to spike'em a few times *evil grin*.

F.E.A.R. should arrive today. It's been awhile since I've looked forward to a FPS on the PC. I did enjoy Half-Life 2's graphics and continuation of the story, and Doom 3 had ID's signature graphics, but they didn't set me on fire as much as the original Half-Life or Medal of Honor.

On the Xbox my kids are now hooked on Lego Star Wars. Can't blame them. After they go to bed the wife and I are still trying to unlock the secret level. I'm also in the mines of Far Cry: Instincts - very enjoyable, awesome graphics, and good story - I'll post more about it later on.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Rebuilding, again...

Got my laptop back late last week and finally got around to starting the reinstall/rebuild of my environment last night. Not sure if I'm proud of how well oiled this process is now, or scared. I've had to rebuild my Alienware apps so much, I've got it down to a science.

Last night was the basics; email, browser, PokerStars client (Blogger tournament is this coming Sunday!). Thunderbird and FireFox for me. I use CRM114 and Cygwin (procmail, fetchmail, uw-pop3) to eliminate my spam. Maybe this time the laptop will survive long enough for me to write the reclassification script so my home laptop can see the results I get on my work laptop. Its nice to go "Hey! A Spam go through!" instead of "OMG, how many did I get today!?".

On the tools/environment front, I highly recommend Cygwin. I've been hooked on it for years now and its hard to imagine slogging back into a regular Windows CMD window. It'll be interesting to see what M$ Longhorn does for their new command shell, will it even come close to all the GNU tools that already exist? Reuse M$, just bring Cyg in and your done...

Monday, October 17, 2005

T-Shirts that make you think...


Got this from my brother-in-law - a series of Homeland Security T-Shirts. Left me staring and thinking for a few minutes.

Fall Game Day

After three years of Spring game days, we finally got a fall game day to go off. Nine people were able to attend and we played games (that's non-networked, on a table, using wooden pieces and manual scoring type games) for twelve hours. Even mother nature got in the act rescinding the flood she'd been dumping on us to show the sunset for the first time in a week.

Here are the games I was in on;
  • Palazzo - Fun Auction and building mechanic. Enjoyed it enough to play it twice! (4/5)
  • Wyatt Earp - A fun trick taking game with a western theme. (4/5)
  • Poison - Fun, light, trick taking game with a haloween theme. (4/5)
  • Bluff - Perenial favorite of the group. Dice, math, and lying. (4/5)
  • Wallenstein - One of my new favorites, don't get to play it live often. Played with 4 new players and still lost! lol.
  • For Sale - Auction mechanic. Jury still out on this one.
  • Colossal Arena - Manipulative card game. Jury still out here too.
  • Kingdoms - Another favorite, simple math mechanic with random screwage. (5/5)


Wallenstein you can play online at SpielByWeb
Kingdoms (Auf Heller und Phennig) you can play online at BoardGameGeek.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

P2P must be the cause!

Seriously, what else could it be? Lame music? Nah, we have enough people in our pockets to meet anyones needs. Gotta be those people with the PCs stealing our millions from us - must be.

Arrr, we been caught: A federal grand jury indicted three men in what prosecutors are calling the largest bust of pirated CDs in U.S. history.

The indictment follows the arrest last week of Ye Teng Wen, 29, Hao He, 30, and Yaobin Zhai, 33, on charges of illegally reproducing 325,000 music and software CDs.

From an article on Wired. Couldn't possibly be operations like this could it RIAA?

Too much rain...

Without the pun, I've been feeling under the weather. My eldest was sick earlier in the week, now the youngest is fighting it and I woke up with that familiar sore throat of doom. One of the perks of working from home is when your feeling cruddy, you can take lunch as a nap. Always helps me fight it off.

I woke up after one of those photo-realistic dreams, full color, sound. It felt real. I was in a house (after I woke up I realized I didn't know who's house it was, but it wasn't mine), and there was a water leak in one of the bathrooms. There was, what I thought was, a shut off vavle on the wall to the left of the sink. So I turned it, and got soaked.

Turns out the wall could be removed and there was this pristine storage area where water stains were visible. I kept chasing the leak for awhile, realizing it was upstairs. So I left where I was to head upstairs to find my wife looking at another leak.

It was close to that that I woke up thinking "The house is full of leaks!" and realized I was in my house, not that one.

I can't wait for the rain to end.

Statler and Waldorf do reviews...

Bonus points to Movies.Com and Henson co. for coming up with a logical conclusion; Statler and Waldorf are qualified to berate more than Fozzy. The Duo have come out of hiding to do movie reviews and give out balconisms.

From the Balcony stars the two hecklers, and other Muppet friends, doing what they do best. This has a nice old-muppet feel to it, even when Pepe hits the streets. If you enjoy the muppets, you should give it a look.

Spam-a-lot started a trend....

Ready for The Princess Bride, the musical? Nope, no joke. According to this article it is already being planned.
Composer Adam Guettel and screenwriter William Goldman will collaborate on a musical version or the hit fairy tale film "The Princess Bride," the New York Post reported.
Makes you wonder if the entertainment industry is in a spiral. It seems that if something is successful that it must be copied. Movies, music and now musicals.

Inconceivable!
(sorry, it had to be said!)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Whether you think you can...

Whether you think that you can, or that you can't, you are usually right
-Henry Ford

I had been in a slump in my Texas Hold-em SnG's as of late. Lost a good 90% last week, started turning around at the end of the week placing 6th out of 45. Not bad, especially going in short stacked and surviving 3 other players.

Last night, though, I was able to tighten up my game and have a few more things click. I managed to place 1st out of 27. It was a mixture of things that lead me to it, some fun hands, learning the players, etc. Mostly though, I finally sat down without defeating myself.

Last week I sat down going "Here goes another, thankfully fake, 2k" where last night I came in as "I'm going to do my best and be happy." Sounds like a bad 80s tune, I know, but it never clicked with me, till last night, how much you can defeat yourself before the first cards are dealt.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Alienware laptop on the way back!

Looks like my latest round at the Depot of Alienware is coming to a close. For those joining the fun, I bought a brand new Alienware 7700 this spring and, so far, it's not lived up to expectations. After waiting a month for it to build, I had it for under a month before the screen died. Had to ship it back to Alienware, who replaced it.

Then had it for a few months before very random hangs started when USB peripherals were attached. Rebuilt the OS from the RAID array up, did bios, worked for a solid 10 hours with tech support - thought we had it fixed, nope. Back to the Depot for more repairs.

Now its on the way back. I'm not sure if I'm excited or apprehensive. This'll be the 3rd or 4th time that I've had to do a complete reinstall of all apps and settings. I'm tempted to put my user profile on the external drive so that if it dies again, I'll be backed up....

.... that's probably overkill. Maybe hourly backups instead.

Good customer service Pandora!

I'm impressed. I had a problem with Pandora yesterday, I went to add a band and I got a song instead. So I, a non-paying-demo-user, wrote in to tech support to ask if there was something I could do and ask why-did-this-bite-me. I not only got one answer, I got two! And they both told me about the back-end quirk that bit me, what they were fixing , and how it'd be fixed today.

Sure enough, it was fixed. Added in the band no problem this morning.

Great customer service! Keep it up!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Flashbacks to the free music streams...

I used to love listening to the customizable free music streams that were out there. Trade ratings for free music, great deal! Too good to last unfortunately. However, Pandora has kicked up to fill in part of that gap. I've just started toying with it, so best you check it out yourself.

Here's the blurb from their FAQ:
Pandora is a music discovery service designed to help you find and enjoy music that you'll love. It's powered by the Music Genome Project, the most comprehensive analysis of music ever undertaken. Just tell us one of your favorite songs or artists and we'll launch a streaming station to explore that part of the music universe.
I've been having fun throwing some fun tunes at it. "Blow Me Away" from Breaking Benjamin (Halo 2 Soundtrack), "Turn the Page" from Metallica, and even "The Current" from Blue Man Group. Got some interesting tunes to listen to. First 10 hours our free, then there is a subscription fee.

ID focus on XBox 360?

That title sounds like I've been delving more into the press corps. than the blogging world. Take a look at M$ announcement about the 360. Nothing surprising in there (I'm still waiting for the annoucement that Halo 3 will be 360 only), except for this tidbit:
Id announced here that it was not only making a new installment of its Castle Wolfenstein series for the 360, but was also creating much of the game with the 360's software-creation tools rather than with more traditional tools used to make games for PC's.
Carmack goes on to explain that the 360 has great tools, etc. Still, surprising to me to see ID doing a console only title. Did I miss something or is ID diversifying? Be interesting to see if they can keep their style into the 360.

Friday, October 07, 2005

What happens when Trek and B5 Collide?

You end up with a 1:43 hour Finnish movie! Star Wreck!
The first Finnish full-length scifi parody is made from astounding special effects, action and loads of dark humour. It is the product of a core group of five Finns and many people who've helped us during the seven years it has been in the making.
My wife summed up how it was; "You looked up after an hour of watching it and then asked how long it was?!"

Guilty as charged. If you like Babylon 5, Star Trek and Star Wars, you'll enjoy it. The subtitles were a little off at times, but you could never be sure if it was purposeful or not. Besides, any show that has Capt. Fukov and an anonymous redshirt named Lt. Fubar can't be all bad.

Coincidence?

Sometimes the universe really does work in strange ways. Yesterday I ran into an article talking about how the EU is moving to stop the monopoly that the US Government holds on the internet.

...It called for a "new co-operation model" that would not only oversee public policy matters but also create procedures for changing the internet's "root zone file", managers of country domains (such as .uk or .de), create a new arbitration service for the internet, and produce rules to cover the domain name system (DNS).

In essence, a new version of the current overseeing body ICANN and an end to the US government's overall control of the DNS...

And then today a friend points me at an article on ZDnet about two of the big players being stubborn;
...One of these companies, Level 3 Communications, has cut off direct communications with rival Cogent Communications, causing many of each company's customers to lose access to potentially significant swatches of the Net...
I can only imagine the trouble if a US backbone company ever did this to an overseas backbone company. Certainly makes you wonder about the stability of the net. If two providers can throw hissy fits and screw up customers (explains some of the sites I normally visit being "down") like this it will only throw more fuel into the fire of the US's internet control.

Kermit turns 50!

Now I feel old, or not, Kermit still has a few decades on me. CNN has an interview with my favorite frog. Oh, and his puppeteer too. Sounds like Disney is finally doing some things for us old fans - like releasing the first season of the Muppet Show, complete.

Yes, my copy is in the house earmarked for the kids for Christmas. The kids love the Time Life Series, it'll be nice to get some other shows.

As usual, Kermit has some sound advice for us all:

So, has it gotten any easier being green?

It has if you keep the proper perspective on life, says Kermit.

"That song ['It's Not Easy Being Green'] is mostly about being happy with who you are," he says. "There have been lots of changes, but you just continue being true to yourself."

The bible isn't 100% accurate...

Shock! Horror! Go Catholic Bishops of England, Wales and Scotland! Check out this article in UK Times Online.

No document written by man is 100% accurate. Yes, I believe the Bible has been written by man, so therefore, it can't be perfect. As the saying goes, history is written by the victors. I've never seen the bible as anything different. Sure, it tells an amazingly engaging story, but to divine the true facts from a writers embelishments is as challenging as figuring out where Osama is hiding. I'm sure someone can do it, but it's going to take a lot of work.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Limits...

No, no limit poker (for a change). I've gotten back to working on my weight loss goal - 40lbs for the year. I've dropped close to 30, but recently had slacked off and gained some back. Enough to be miffed at myself monday and jump back onto the diet (thanks Peter and Rick) and change up my exercise to enjoy what time is left this fall.

I did my afternoon run, and made it back to a mile - huge for me. Having always been a sprint runner, it took me all of last season to get up to a mile. As I reached the house after the mile I felt burned, and remembered I had to mow the lawn.

I have a human-pushed-mower, yes it still runs on gasoline, but it isn't self-powered. I was sore from the run, and the workout I've been doing this week, as I started. The soreness worked well, the grass was high and the sore muscles kept me at a decent pace to let the mower do its thing.

As I got done I realized how my perception of my limits was skewed. I had finished the run, done the mowing, and later would do my workout - when I didn't think I had any energy left after the run.

Guess that's the key for me at this point; I'm convincing myself I can't do it vs. getting it done. I've improved to the point where I'm mentally holding myself back instead of it being physical.

Cool.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

There is hope for the Halo movie!

Thank Tolkien for letting him come help. Peter Jackson has been tapped to do the Halo Movie. No idle SlashDot rumor, this one was over on Reuters! Makes my day. Doom was doomed from the start due to a complete lack of any story in the original game.

Okay, stop composing the flame for a minute. I love the Doom series, and have played them all (and Quake, I'm an addict, what can I say) but what is the story arc in Doom? Hell breaks loose, you quell it with a few rockets and BFGs, and then it happens again. While ID has produced some amazing looking games, the story line hasn't grown out to the likes of Half-Life, Halo or Knights of the Old Republic. So, where's the content for a movie?

Right, cast the Rock and pray. *chuckles*

Anyway, back to Halo...
Jackson and his wife, Fran Walsh, will serve as the executive producers for "Halo," which is targeted for worldwide release in mid-2007 by Universal Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox film studios.
*keeps his fingers crossed* Maybe some background on the Master Chief and the whole missing army of his peers?

Interesting Rules...

Funny how things can resonate with you. I've been playing as much poker, legally, as I can. Massachusetts frowns on actual games, so all I can do is play-money. Today over on CardSquad they were talking about Poker Beginners - Some Rules to live by.

The funny part being is that the wife and I were just talking about the first and last one in that they have bit us recently while playing in the 2k level sit-n-go's...

Practice patience above all else. Being able to fold mediocre hands consistently is very important, and will pay off in the long run. However, being able to fold strong hands when you feel you are beat is the mark of a strong player.

When you have a bad hand, just fold it. You may have hundreds (or thousands) of these a week, just let them go. If they are worth reflecting on, then set aside some time after the game to go through these scenarios.

Know your limitations when it comes to bankroll and time. Don’t stay at the table longer than is comfortable for you, and never buy-in short.

In Texas Hold’em, the first two cards dealt to you should be considered a foundation in which all the other cards will build on. Make sure you have a strong starting foundation.

If you can’t afford to lose, then you will not be playing your best game. Drop to a limit that is more in your comfort zone, or leave the tables for the night.

Never let yourself get married to a hand, always look for the possibilities that others may have gained due to the cards that fall on the flop, turn, and river.