Shameful Nostalgia

Stop the press: two posts in as many days! I am sure this is some kind of record, though to be frank I cannot muster the courage to actually check through my past posts for the dates.

While it is no secret to those of whom I see on a regular basis, I may as well come clean with the rest of you. I have started collecting Pokémon cards. I say started in the most poetic sense possible, as of the 600+ card collection was purchased during the early months of 1999 when it was first released in Australia. The more correct term would probably be ‘resume’ or even ‘continue’; sometimes I like to pretend I have dignity. When a friend oh-so fortuitously came across a set of the cards I was immediately reminded of the healthy stack of cards sitting in a shoebox in my wardrobe. Urged by carnal powers stronger than any man has ever faced, the cards were sought, dusted off, and brought to bear the harsh light of day once more. It was immediately apparent that the dusty old ripcurl packaging was no throne for my Pokémon and thus began the quest for a more fitting container. With Pokéballs in short supply (I blame the recession), small plastic forcefields would have to suffice.

My Hideous Addiction

With my accomplice trainer (whos identity has been expurgated* at his request) at my side, each Pokémon was lovingly acknowleged and cared for, catalogued and stored away. It is our common goal to one day catch them all.

[segue] Speaking of catching them all [/segue]; wanting to keep updated on some of my favourite webcomics, I have found myself checking my Twitter account more often. I created my account sometime during the Triassic period, only ever having made a single “Tweet”. The original account was made for an experiment I once ran in the name of science; an attempt to use a series of Twitter accounts for in-character banter between Dungeons and Dragons sessions, allowing my players to enjoy an expirience above and beyond normal character interaction. Interestingly enough, the user name I managed to acquire tends to attract the attention of those who believe they are getting something else entirely. My ‘followers’ are an interesting bunch, that is for sure.

With the account in my possession, and keypresses of F5 occuring at an alarming rate, it was an obvious (to some) descision to start making posts of my own. Ergo, if you are a purveyor of ‘Tweets’ like some I know, hit me up  on the site and see if anything I say is worthy of reading.

https://twitter.com/#!/DungeonMaster

*Word of the Day: I refuse all and any who judge me for its usage!

Broadened Horizons

The past month has been a tiring one yet, as it would turn out, a satisfactory one. Exams are always a stressful period, for anyone taking them, and this is compounded when you have a Project Report due on an experiment that just refuses to work. However, exams are over and the report has been completed and submitted (and soon hopefully marked). It is fantastic to be able to sit down and not have to constantly think whether or not there is something earth-shatteringly important that I should be doing right now. Even better news was the fact that I have already passed two of my exams, and hopefully a third if mid-semester results are anything to go by. The best news was delivered via telephony less than 10 minutes after putting down my pen in my last exam.

Horizon: The Planetarium

I am pleased to announce that I have been selected as the newest addition to the team at Perth’s Horizon Planetarium as a Planetarium Presenter. While the selection process is not as gruelling as some other professions, I like to think that my unique set of skills and experiences will make a fantastic contribution to the Horizon team.

Thus we come to the final section of today’s post, where I like to make some unfounded claims, pre-broken promises, and generally set myself up to disappoint others. Now that my schedule is lighter, and I have figured out some sort of plan for the immediate future to save myself from drowning in commitments like I usually do, I plan on three posts a week for the next month. Small (relatively) easy goals are the way forward to a more productive me, I think. Let us see how things go, hey?

Today’s links of pure awesomeness:

  • Like zombies? This is a really interesting look at the way augmented reality might be used in the near future. Personally, I am foaming at the mouth with excitement for what this could do to a DnD campaign. Are you listening Wizards?!?
  • It turns out that Call of Duty 4 is actually making me a better driver. This kind of study usually makes me really sceptical, however I must say that the ABC science team have actually written something that does not sound too skewed and biased for a change, and that makes me very happy. Small victories are better than flat-out defeats, I guess.
  • I am a regular reader of Dan’s Data and rarely find myself glossing over what he writes. This obviously means that I find what he writes to be interesting; this article is no exception. I agree with almost everything he says here, and I think people should look at the way they use computers with this article in mind. Also, I think people should cut their whinging and whining, and simply make the effort to learn how to use these contraptions. I never tire of listening to people tell me that computers “should just work”, thus absolving the user of any and all blame. This is doubly true for people who complain about bad coding, but this is a rant for another day.
  • Speaking of computers – This is possibly the most amazing case-mod I have ever seen. Actually, I do not think it can be called a case mod; there were no real modifications, so much as being built out of raw awesomium and refined into awesomite. Called Edelweiss, it truly is a thing of beauty. Something I would be proud to have sitting on my desk, seriously, this thing would be in photos inside my wallet!
  • This just makes me angry, especially when I am looking at starting up a small business myself in the next 6-8 months. To slam small businesses with fees like this is outrageous to the point of being purely malicious. Seriously, how can the be surprised when we torrent all out music and television episodes? The answer to Piracy is not to increase tariffs and taxes, that is how you ENCOURAGE it!
  • Finally, I do not think I have ever seen someone make a heartbeat sound so epic!

“Kreativ” Spelling


While I am not a big fan of changing the spelling of a word just for the hell of it, I will lay down some extra tolerance for the short term and go with the proverbial flow. I have apparently been tagged as la Kreativ Blogger extraordinaire by my brother-in-arms, the Apocathary. Whether a true source of creativity, or just a number to fill the spots, I have been tasked with sharing seven things that I love. If one were to plot number of updates on this site versus time, they would be excused for thinking that number one on the list was Procrastination. Some days I would not disagree.

  1. Space: This should seem pretty self explanatory, given my attempts to wedge myself into the world of astronomy and astrophysics. However, it ultimately comes down to the fact that I simply love space and its exploration! I could go on about this forever, and I worry that if I start I might never stop, so lets move on to number 2…
  2. The sound of rain: I would go so far as to say that I love everything about rain, but the sound of it is usually enough to satiate my lust for winter. Sometimes, when I am stressed, I will listen to rain on my DAP. Now, I should make it abundantly loud and clear; I am not talking about you lah-dee-dah, rainbow vomiting, pitter-patter, raindrops keep falling on my head, rain. When I hear rain, I want those motherfuckers to be mistaken for Armageddon. The soundtrack to my tranquillity is something between a category 5 cyclone and a waterfall. There is nothing that gets my goosebump on like lying down with closed eyes and listen to the sound of Mother Nature bringing her wrath to bear.
  3. Artificial Intelligence: This actually came up today as a matter of conversation, but I love stories with AIs as characters. Cortana, GLaDOS, HAL, Daedalus, Skynet and Holly; there is something really exciting about the idea of machine intelligence and being able to interact with it in games will often be enough to put it in my favourites column. Transhumanism and the idea of an AI approaching something that cannot be differentiated from a human intelligence (HI) is truly fascinating. I remember my first contact with Daedalus in Deus Ex when it freed me from my prison cell; later finding out it was an AI made me completely revisit our earlier interactions in my mind. The subtext that plays out between Master Chief and Cortana is also a personal favourite of mine. The concept of a genetically engineered “post-human” and an AI having a subtle love story woven into a game is something that I do not think most people really appreciate. Then there is Mass Effect. I have always wanted an AI companion of my own, ever since I was very little. As a massive Transformers fan, I always looked forward to having a car that could talk to me, just for the companionship. Then, as I grew older, that desire turned into the love of AI in all it’s forms. After reading Neuromancer and then Asimov’s work, the need to be able to interact with computers on such a primal level grew. This probably explains how I feel about computers today, and why I am so willing to spend such ridiculous amounts of money on them. Eventually, it became a dream of mine to have a suit or watch/belt with an Artificial Intelligence in it that would always be with me. Probably says a lot about my subconscious mind. Seriously, I could talk about this forever…
  4. Roleplay: No, you dirty bastards. I am talking in the greater sense here, things like Dungeons and Dragons, White Wolf’s World of Darkness, MMORPG games etc. I think that the obnoxiously close-minded view that roleplay is for children, or for adults who have not grown up is the most juvenile and retarded thing I have ever heard. I love being able to enter the mindset of a completely different person and become them for a period of time. Being able to play outside of your usual personality and bring a completely new face to bear is a fantastic thing that I think everyone should be able to experience. If there is one thing I wish University did not impinge upon, it is the fact that I cannot play as much DnD as I would like with my friends. What I would like to do is take it to the next level, however, and DM a game of people I do not know. I think that experience will be something I would really appreciate, and will help me become a better DM and a better player.
  5. Fonts and Etymology: I love words and their roots. I love languages and typesetting and the shapes words make on a page. I love the symmetry, the assonance, the dissonance, rhyme, rhythm, timbre and time. Words in themselves are wonderfully pure. Sometimes it pays to look at a page of writing and look at it not for what it says, but for where it came from. When you see the similarities between languages, and where they differ, you start to see a little piece of history and I really feel I can appreciate that. The English language as it stands today is a marvellous patchwork of roots that all trace back in different directions, and yet they all (mostly) come from a single source. I think everyone should make the effort to learn a little bit more about their own language, not just how to speak another country’s native tongue. However, if you do want to learn another language, I recommend Lojban.
  6. Tallships: This should come as no big surprise to anyone who even remotely knows me. I have been a Watch Officer on the STS Leeuwin II, a position I held with pride for two years before University dug it’s claws into my skull. I have also held a crew position on the Duyfken when she sailed our shores, not to mention a handful of recreational classes out of the South Perth Yacht Club. I have never been so at peace with everything than when I am sailing at night, or in a storm (see number 2). I love sound of the ocean, the feel of the swell beneath your feet, the salty air on your face, and the utter lack of humanity. Somewhat obvious that a misanthrope would dig the sheer remoteness that only the open ocean provides. At night, with an overcast sky and a new moon, there is no way to tell where the horizon is. The result is something truly otherworldly; a place where you are alone on a deck, floating through a vast empty space with nothing above nor below. I miss my Lioness.
  7. Information: I do not know if I love this, or whether I just have an addiction problem. I need information, and I love having it. I have RSS feeds intravenously fed into me at all times, and I freak the fuck out when I miss out on something. I do not know why I react to information this way, but when I read an article talking about something obscure, and I already know it, I get a rush similar to the kind one would normally find in an illicit consumable. My Internet browsers (usually Chrome but sometimes Firefox) have more open tabs than they were ever designed to handle, and culling them is a painful experience that I do not relish when the time comes (usually around about the same time that my RAM starts crying). Information is not limited to just news and science, either. I hate low bit-rate music because I cannot bear the thought of not hearing all the subtleties that were in the original track, as a result my 32GB DAP holds fewer songs than one would expect. I hate JPEGs for their lossy encoding and the way it collects artifacts like the way Yahtzee’s proverbial Scarlet Harlot collects venereal diseases. While RAW is phenomenal when employed in photography, Internet browsers do not natively support the file, not to mention it’s size is prohibitively huge. I use PNG as a happy alternative with an acceptable trade-off as a result.

So, there it is. I have no doubt that if I actually spent some time thinking about it my answers would probably be slightly different (or just longer). I am meant to tag seven people here, but to be quite honest I do not know seven people that have not already been tagged, so I will just nod to those who have already done it and that I respect enough to read (that is, they are in my IV RSS machine).

Lost and Found

Creepy !
Creative Commons License photo credit: Midnight-digital

I don’t really believe there is a word that can accurately describe the amount of time between my last post and this. Gigantanormoriffic springs to mind; so does “crepuscular”, however, so I would not hold much by that fact. It makes one wonder if it is no small coincidence that crepuscular means “during twilight”, and twilight was “craptacular”? A pondering for the muses, I am sure.

It being so rediculously late, I am going to keep this one short. Monsieur Flax_ has brought down the ethereal bludgeon of guilt and so I have resolved myself to update this site a sight more often (see what I did there). I have some things that I want to talk about, and anyone who wants to listen is more than welcome to refresh this page in two days time. Two days.

I promise.

Completionism

Monolith
Creative Commons License photo credit: Midnight-digital

I have been told many times that my lifestyle is a brooding monolith on the corner of Hedonist Ave and Obsessive-Compulsive Blvd. The sustainability of such a lifestyle has been debated at length; I maintain it justifies the mindless hours lost behind the event horizon of the heartless singularity that is customer service. Sure, spending 4 hours changing soft-returns to hard-carriages in a 26 000 word document can be perceived as obsessive-compulsive; having an intricate zombie plan can be percieved as crazy, but we really all should have one. Personally my Zombie Plan involves a certain well fortified building with supplies, near a mechanical workshop and a readily available supply of chemicals. Of course, I can’t divulge anymore for security reasons, and my meager fortress can only sustain a manageable number of zombie-plague refugees. In case of emergencies, however, there is a quickly accesable bag of clothes and equipment should the Zombies catch me at a moment of weakness in my ever vigilant stand. This, however, is not the point.

Hypothetical Me is confronted with two products or services; one of a high quality with a matching pricetag, and the other its inverse. Hypothetical Me doesn’t hesitate to spend the extra dollar, and feels justified in doing so. I concur wholeheartedly with my hypothetical doppleganger, of whom I now feel needs a name. This is not to say I will squander my earnings on pointless lavishness. Comfort where comfort is due should not be seen as a sin. However it should be pointed out that with a premium product comes premium service. A case example at hand, my leather jacket by Sinikka. A $500 pricetag adorned its sleeve, extravagant for someone on a student income, however the value is in the lifetime service from the store. One button thread came loose four months after purchase, and upon my return to the store, the friendly leatherworker removed the rotten cotton (I hear a song title there) and replaced the button while I waited. I should note that he also did this to the exclusion of other customers entering the store. I thanked him and within 10 minutes I was on my merry way, freshly stiched fasteners and all. Should a customer come to myself or my colleague at my work and purchase a couple of $2000 DSLR Cameras, we are more than happy to go out of our way to track down an obscure lens for them at zero profit for us. Head on over to Headphonic in West Leederville and you will be amazed at the fantastic service you are immediately presented with. A staff member will walk you through your needs and custom select the perfect audio device for you, making sure you trial it first and are happy with the choice. Why? Because it is a premium headphone store. You spend $600 on a set of AKG 701’s, but you come away knowing that you now possess exactly what it was you wanted. Again, I digress.

I love boxsets. There, the words have been given form and now roam free in the ether. I have been recommended to experts in the field, and common concensus is that I have something akin to bibliomania. I maintain, however, that I just really like them. The words Collectors Edition and Limited Print drive my blood into a wild frenzy that threatens to boil out of my very pores. I simply cannot pass up a chance to own something as beautiful as the leather-bound Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 Players Handbook and Dungeon Masters Guide. Their silver etched pages and gilded edges sparkl in the dim light of a dungeon crawl, as if their brilliant display was put on specially just for me. Deluxe Ghosts I-IV sits in a large matte-black box, standing resolute against the feable attempts of photons to reflect off its surface. Thrice I own Nightwish’s Once, each a different special release. Opeth’s discography graces my drawers in its entirety twice over, myriad limited editions and re-releases scattered in their midst. In more recent days, I hunted down the last collectors edition of Warhammer: The Age of Reckoning from a small warehouse in Towoomba! The harrowing ordeal of nearly being unable to attain a copy left me a broken shell of a man, cradled only in the warm glow of hope and determination.

What brings this bout of self-convincing revelry you may ask? I am in the middle of my fourth year exams at Curtin University and sitting next to me are a disgusting pile of collectors editions of games that I can’t touch until next week! The pain of having Fallout 3 so close to my body, yet so far away in time is simply agonising!

A Response to Grooming

White tiger licking her paw
Creative Commons License photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar

My good friend over at Response Function felt the need to justify his personal grooming habits and associated thought processes. Now, so there is no confusion from the outset, I do not share his favourite flavour re: flesh. As Response Function’s author is my gym partner, one can assume we share certain days working out. In addition, my luscious locks reach the bisector of my shoulder blades, and anyone with long hair can understand that it requires more attention than your average Fridén styling. As far as scheduling dilemmas, I wash and condition my hair every second day, unless I have been swimming, in which case I wash, condition and protein treat it straight away. However, looking at his reasons, I don’t think they justify his choice of sexual appetite at all. So, in response, I present unto thee the small army that resides in my bathroom cupboard.

Grooming Everyday, Not Just Caturday

Pictured Above (left to right): Ear Piercing cleaning fluid atop swisspers, hair product, stress relief skin lotion, Body hair clippers with assorted attachments, Nivea sensitive skin aftershave lotion, Shaving soap applicator and Nomad shaving soap, Mach 3 razor with spare hair lackeys, different piercing balls for variable spikiness, moustache wax, DaVinci deodorant, Christian Dior “Higher Energy” and “Farenheit” colognes, Delva leave-in hair protein treatment, Joico moisturising shampoo and conditioner, Dettol handwash disinfectant, floss, Liquid and Pen eyeliner, hairbrush, Lux Gentle Loofah bodywash, Pirate bandaids, Shower mirror, Listerine (1L bottle), electric and “stealth” toothbrush.

So, there you have it. Proof that a perfectly heterosexual man can have a strict body maintenance regime without compromising his image.

Prelude to an Opinion

Water amplifier
Creative Commons License photo credit: mdezemery

For some reason the Auzentech Prelude X-Fi 7.1 soundcard always makes me think of Sarah Blasko’s Overture and the Underscore. Maybe that’s Freudian, maybe it’s the rogue soviet psychics and their mind control microwaves. The soundcard, however, is one of my favourite purchases this last financial year gone. While only hooked up to a set of Logitech’s Z-5500 5.1 speakers through the optical connection, the quality of the sound output is phenomenal. With the new Beta drivers out from Auzentech, I thought I might write some of my opinions should someone find them interesting and google manages to find me in this ocean that is the blogosphere. However, a caveat before I continue:

Sound quality as a premium niche is somewhat akin to elite wine appreciation. It is populated by complete and utter tosswanks who use more colourful words than Shakespeare himself. In principle they are reviewing sound quality and timbre, etc. You would be forgiven if you thought they were eating a delicious brownie, or smelling an orchid.

The new DTS option isn’t yet stable, and I have experienced a couple (not many) cases of weird distortions in the sound, but the caveat was on the Auzentech website so I had expected them. The question on my lips was, however, will it make a difference to the DDL that I was currently using. The answer is yes. The difference is noticeable, but will likely not knock you out of your chair. If you are using a good amp and a set of floor speakers of reputation then you will probably appreciate this difference more than I, but the fact that I could tell an improvement in sound on these high end computer speakers speaks volumes in my opinion. The main difference in sound is a broadening, or to put it visually, as if each element looked more resolved. My test was the special edition DTS DVD of Opeth’s Ghost Reveries. The strings and keys were more pronounced and Åkerfeldt‘s vocals sounded clearer. I don’t want to say that I could hear his individual vocal cords vibrating, but that is the only way I can think of describing. It’s not a case of being louder or more sound, just clearer; crisper.

However, imagine my surprise when I had finished the album and put on a 128 kbps mp3 of Sweeney Todd’s soundtrack, only to find that the sound quality was much better. I guess it’s all a case of diminishing returns, but the lower bitrate being filtered through the Crystaliser actually sounded better with DTS than through DDL. Go figure. I guess the moral to this story is something along the lines of “You won’t ever know if you don’t experiment”. Which, of course, is just my retroactive excuse for breaking things by fiddling.