in orbit

I mostly talk about video games and the world wide web


E3 Day 0 Impressions

With working on launching a crazy E3 announcement myself (though that was to do with the web site and not the game itself; that part I leave to the professionals) coupled with an unfortunately timed Paypal incident that broke a number of orders, I didn't actually get to witness what E3, day 1, had to offer until 4:30pm Pacific time. Since I finally have a short break to collect my thoughts and watch a few videos, I thought I'd randomly share what I have to say about these announcements. This is quite a lot to take in. I'll go in order.

Borderlands - First time I've seen this game in motion. I wasn't sure what I thought about the new renderer, but in stills it looked pretty nice. In motion it's somewhat less impressive. It almost seems like a game that was built to look like a standard shooter but had the renderer changed for no real specific reason. Could be fun though, we'll see. Hopefully E3 has some more footage for us.

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I Hate Drupal

Drupal is a content management system. For those of you not familiar with it, it's sort of a Swiss Army Knife of the CMS world. It can do a shitload of things, and thanks to a pretty extensive community and a quite excellent plugin system (essentially you just take some PHP written by someone (to spec of course) and shove it in a specific directory and it works), anything it can't do, it can still do.

The problem with anything Swiss is that when it tries to do everything, the individual pieces suffer. It's like, with an actual Swiss Army Knife, you have like a pair of tiny scissors and a knife and a nail file and maybe even a tiny saw and probably a bunch of other sharp things that you're not sure what they do, but there's a fuckload of them so they must be used for something. So when you're out camping it's nice to have them because it's compact and convenient, but the reality of the situation is that if you had brought some real scissors and a real saw and a nice steak knife and your nail clippers with the fold out nail file you would be a lot better off because individually all of those things are 100% better than their corresponding component in the Swiss Army Knife. Sure they take up more space, but would you rather use a nice serrated steak knife made by a knife company that knows what they're doing when it comes to knives, or the Swiss Army who are kind of okay at making knives but mostly they're just awesome at cramming a bunch of random tools into one item.

Drupal is kind of like that. If you use Wordpress or fucking MovableType for a simple blog, it's better than Drupal. However if you want to make anything more than a simple blog with Wordpress you're kind of fucked. This is where Drupal comes in.

I just checked out the development site we have up (I'm not going to mention where I work or what site just in case), and the home page has quite a bit of information. It has to pull headlines from all over. This is what it has informed me: Executed 1779 queries in 2445.35 milliseconds.

Holy shitdamn fuck.

1779 queries?! Mind you there is caching not present for this since I'm logged in as the admin user, but holy Jesus on a stick what? Dear god. The way it's put together is so complex and convoluted that is has to pull from a million different tables and files and oh man it's awesome.

Still it has its moments. Like I said the modules/plug-in engine is really awesome, and it's really apt at themes and there's a ton of ways to customize it without ever editing a single flat file. You can add new types of content and list it how you want and sort and filter and everything you'd expect.

I have no ending for this, because I'm tired just thinking about Drupal. I really want to take a nap now. Holy crap. Good night!

Freedom Isn't Free

I feel like after getting a 'free' MacBook (it ended up costing me around $175 after I forgot to cancel one offer) I should be done with this crap, but no. No. ShopFreePay (which, by the way, is a really sketchy name for a fairly sketchy site, and should have been a warning sign) is a site following the same premise. Sign up for some offers and get free shit. Sort of. I decided, what the fuck, why not try it? So I figure why not try to get an iRiver Clix because it's cool to hate iPods and I like to be a nonconformist or something stupid like that (actually in reality I would rather not deal with any program aside from explorer.exe to drag files to my mp3 player). Great. So I do two offers. I buy some Jack Bauer t-shirt and get a DVD on how to master Windows (woo!). Done. Final offer? This is harder, but I sign up for a credit card. Once you get approved you get credit. I am instantly approved but I do not have credit for this offer well over a week later. Fine. Next stop, Lunarpages, some web hosting thingy. I do not need web hosting. I signed up on Friday but I haven't heard anything. Where is my free shit you son of a bitch!

Anyway, I think the moral of the story is that, uh, I'm kind of stupid. Maybe I'll have this thing soon. Lunarpages isn't that bad though, and I think I may use it for freelance shit (which I suddenly have been doing recently) rather than draining poor Manc's server.

Speaking of freelance, writing a password authentication system in Javascript was fun. I died a little on the inside doing that one. True story.

Working Stiff

Ha ha, stiff.

Oh right, anyways, since I like moved out and shit (see how I relate this to old updates, that's called a callback) I've been embarking upon a roughly 90 minute commute to work every day. That's a 15 minute walk/subway ride (or a 20 minute walk to the train station when it's not too freezing to walk 20 blocks) followed by a 40 - 50 minute train ride, followed by a 20 minute bus ride for $2 or a 10 minute (or less) taxi ride for $5. All told I was spending more than $200 a month on train tickets, plus every time you ride the subway or the bus it's $2... yeah, that had to stop.

Anyway, I got a job at the NY Observer which is a fancy-schmancy New York City political/arts paper. The building is located exactly four streets and four avenues from my apartment which amounts to a ten minute walk. Also I will be making $7500 more a year than I do now, though it's $10k more than I was making last year at this time. In other words, money hats!

The job itself is PHP/mySQL programmer, which is sweet, because it means I won't have to do horrible, horrible tech support any more. Not that I don't love when people freak out about their computer beeping frantically only to find that the keyboard tray is positioned too high and the ESC key is trapped and thusly causing the computer to freak the fuck out during POST. Yes that actually happened. Twice. To two different people. Anyway, as much as I enjoy that shit, it'll be nice to, you know, not have to do that. Also I won't have to fix printers any more. I loathe printers.

Anyway, I'm being brought on to revamp their site because it's old and busted and they want to bring it into web-o-sphere 2.0 or some such. Blogs and wikis and uh, podcasts? Buzzwords. Should be fun!

Portland; Day 3, 4 & 5 (belated)

Whoops, so busy I forgot to update! So here's the rundown:

Feb. 1: This is the first day of the actual convention. I'm down in the hotel lobby at around 7:15am. My job for today and tomorrow is to swap projectors (for the always awesome and never boring Power Point presentations) from room to room as needed. Also to fix broken laptops, which doesn't happen too often thankfully. I'm on and off all day because I have about 15 minutes of crazy running around followed by an hour or more of doing absolutely nothing.

This goes on until 7pm or so when we have the author reception. We've invited a bunch of authors to this thing and the publishers have sent us a crapload of advance copies of their latest books for them to sign. I get Requiem for an Assassin signed to my roommate (Barry Eisler is kind of dreamy, in that totally non-gay way... uh, yeah), and The Raw Shark Texts signed by the wonderfully British author (who asked me if I had 'given it a go' yet, since I had a copy before I got to his table, which didn't mean I already owned it, just that I had grabbed it out of the back room earlier in the day). I also picked up advance copies of Book of Air and Shadows (which I did not get signed because Michael Gruber was kind of scary looking, plus I really wanted to leave), Crashing Through (looks really cool, plus it's short so it was easy to fit in my suitcase) and The Society of S for the roomie as well, because she likes that kind of book and advance copies make her hot and bothered.

After that I went to my room and ordered room service and then proceeded to remember that I needed to pack up the stupid projectors and stow them in a safe place (my room) since they're expensive and I guess someone could steal them. I think I was supposed to go to some reception thing at 9:30, but screw that because I fell asleep at 10pm, which I might remind you is 1am eastern, so it's really not as lame as it seems.

Feb. 2: The final day of the convention! More moving projectors around, but less meeting authors. The day went smoothly and we were all set to leave by 5pm. I headed up to my room to relax a bit before heading out to hang out with famous shackers at some bar. I tried to take the train but failed horribly (the Portland trains are not as robust as those in NYC), so I took a cab and showed up a half hour late. We drank many delicious beers and talked about random crap as meets with folks of the Shacknews persuasion tend to go. At around midnight we left and Degenerate and his lovely wife (lovingly known as 'hippy chick') gave me a ride back to my hotel. Sadly, no gay sex was had. I'm starting to think that part about shackmeets is all a lie.

Feb. 3: Time to go home! I caught the train to the airport and got onto my plane. I had a middle seat but I managed to get an aisle when I offered to swap with some dude's girlfriend since they were separated. They seemed very grateful, but I clearly didn't do it for them. I had a 90 minute stop over in Minneapolis where it was a balmy -3F, or -30F with wind chill. Needless to say I did not go outside. The flight from MN to NY was awesome because only 25 people were on the plane, so I got an entire row to myself. Also the nighttime flyby of NYC is probably one of the coolest things ever. I haven't seen that in many years. After that I hopped in a cab and headed home and slept like crazy because holy crap was I tired plus I had an awesome headache. Also my jacket smells like an ashtray because they haven't banned smoking in Portland yet. Get with the times you hippy jerks!

So that's that. I will now leave you with some pictures I took from the hotel of the three mountains you can see while in Portland. I have no idea which is which, but one is Mt. Bachelor, one is Mt. St. Helen's and one is... some other Mt... I forget. Whatever!
Portland - Day 3

I call this one Mt. Pointy

Mt. Roundy

Mt. I'm Kinda Far Away And You Can Barely See Me. Really rolls off the tongue.


Portland; Day 1 & 2

My trip began at like 2pm when I left for JFK airport... of course my flight left at 5pm and I think I was sitting in the terminal by 3:30pm, so I had a bit of waiting to do. The flight went really smoothly. I haven't flown since I was 12 or 13... five hours to Salt Lake City. My original seat was actually between two chatty hippy college kids from Alaska or something (which sucked, and I was not looking forward to that flight), but one of them asked if I would trade with his friend who had a window seat across from him. Bonus. I traded and all was well. I watched TV and played DS on that flight. After an hour or so in Salt Lake I got back on the plane for the hour and a half flight to Portland.

Cabs in Portland are bright green. Green. Seriously, what?

Anyway, today was sort of uneventful. Nothing with out convention dealie is going on, so we're just giving people welcome packets and their ID badges. Over 400 people showed up today. Welcome packets, by the way, consist of a huge ass binder and a weird blue bag filled with all sorts of junk.

So, nothing exciting. I'm kind of tired and I have to wake up early tomorrow, and I don't feel like writing any more, so I'll leave you with a few pictures I took. Good night!
Portland - Day 1

One of my two sinks. Coffee! $4 bottle of water!

The room is pretty damned big. Also it has an extra bed I don't use. The view is really nice too.

View from the other side of the room. Whee?

Blurry nighttime shot.

Shot I took the next morning. Yay Portland!



So for my second ever business trip I'll be headed to grand old Portland, Oregon on the west coast. It's a smaller convention that we run for our members (as opposed to BookExpo, which we just attend). The actual convention is only two days (Feb 1st and 2nd), but I'll be there Jan 31st and I'll spend most of the 30th and 3rd flying to and fro. Sweet.

I just realized that I've never been west of Chicago before. Weird. Should be fun though. On Friday night I'll even be going out for some drinks (and apparently 'scotch eggs') with some shackers. Woo! That makes me look forward to the trip a little more, because I honestly didn't really want to go. I don't think it will be all that bad though. I was sneaky and my flight in is really late, so I got out of a portion of the setup on the 30th.

As with my crazy trip to Washington DC last summer, I will probably provide daily or semi-daily updates, perhaps even with pictures. Everyone loves pictures, right? Naked pictures? I'll see what I can do... maybe.

Movin' Out

I now live in Manhattan. Freaky. It's awesome, except I'm kind of retarded and I didn't get a job down there first, so I have to commute on the train to work out of Manhattan for like an hour+ every day. It's okay though, I think the job market in that place is pretty good, right? Lots of people so there must be lots of jobs? It's an adventure!

Fry isn't scared of the big city.

Spam: A Lament

I hate spam. A lot. And spammers. Today at work our SMTP server was (and still is being) brought to its knees because it's getting hammered by spambots attempting to use it for outgoing mail. The guy who runs it says it's getting about four messages a second. Nobody can send e-mail and there's not much we can do. Hooray for Fridays! Fortunately we have been able to use an alternative port for outgoing e-mail that was set up a little while back in order to allow people to use our SMTP server from their home ISP (most ISPs, as I'm sure most of you are aware, do not let you use an outgoing mail server that isn't their own), but it's got a new use for this day.

Another different, but equally annoying type of spam is web page comment spam. This blog gets maybe one or two a week at most because a) the content-management system is non-standard and b) it's very low traffic. However it's still obviously spammable because I still have to nuke spammy comments every so often.

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Kiss The Sky

Someone posted this flash game on Shacknews and it's really fun. It's yet another variation of that penguin toss game, only the music is really catchy (to me anyway) and there's some extra stuff you can do like bounce off pink clouds and deploy a parachute. I'm playing it at work even though I should be working and anyone walking by my cube can see me playing. However, I don't care! My record right now is 1391.82 1629.565 km.

Also the whole thing is in Norwegian, but holding space positions the launcher dealies, and then when you're in the air use left and right to keep yourself straight and space for the parachute when you get close to the ground. Oh and press up when you pass by a pink cloud. It's fun! And yes, I really have degraded this page to the point where I post flash games.

Washington, DC; Day 6 & 7ish

I just got back home after a nice 5+ hour drive out of DC. Uneventful except for some traffic outside Baltimore. Also, two things about the drive: driving through the Baltimore Harbor tunnel is weird. I've been through tunnels before, but never as the driver. It's very odd... like a really long bathroom (because of the tiles) and all the light bulbs are almost dead so it's all dank and orangy. Creepy kind of. Also there's no room for error... I'd imagine if someone got into an accident in there it would fuck up traffic for a couple of hours at least.

Second, the Delaware Memorial Bridge (bridge between Jersey and Delaware on 95) is fucking gigantic. I snapped some pictures that I'll probably slap up here later. It's huge!

As far as yesterday, also uneventful. The expo dies out on Sunday so we only really had a couple chats with leftover members, we cracked jokes about whatever and then I packed up all the printers and CAT-5 cable and went back to the hotel. We're also retarded, because we didn't get a FedEx truck to ship all our stuff back, so all the people who drove got stuck doing cargo duty. I managed to escape with only one box and a printer on the pretext that my car is pretty small. One lady who has a station wagon (one of those newer, fancy ones that have a different name but are really just station wagons) got stuck with a lot of stuff.

So that's all for my exciting trip to DC! I look forward to going to work tomorrow in sneakers and jeans and sitting down most of the day instead of wearing a suit and standing all day. It's the little things that matter.

Washington, DC; Day 4 & 5

I was dog tired on Friday night, boss, so I didn't write an update. Please accept my sincerest apologies. Because I know you're sad I didn't update. I'll fill you in on Friday and yesterday now! Woo!

Friday was actually a pretty interesting day, for me anyway. My company is actually an association. We have members who pay dues and there's a board of volunteer elected members who pretty much have final say on what we do and how things are run if they think the staff is doing their job right. Anyway, at this convention every year we have two meetings called the town hall meeting and the annual meeting. The first one is a chance for members to express whatever they want with the board and the second one the board and CEO report on how the association is doing and then the members can express more things. Usually, from what I hear, it's ultra boring. Not this year.

Long story short, a group of members decided to express their unhappiness with the price of dues (which are somewhat expensive for independent booksellers, but you do get a shitload of stuff that's really invaluable when you join), and with how much the CEO is getting paid. There were lots of arguments and board members and former board members (who are the ones that negotiate the CEO's salary) defended their decisions and it was pretty dramatic. After all that I pretty much bailed and came back to the hotel and fell asleep around 11pm. I forgot to set my alarm too, so I was late the next day, but nobody cared.

Saturday was less exciting. I had to sit in on a seminar about budgeting given by the CEO. He's actually a really good speaker, so it wasn't horribly boring. Plus I got to sit down for two hours, which was nice because standing up for around ten hours in dress shoes starts to hurt after a while.

After that the internet went down yet again (it also went down Friday; I forgot to mention that), and I had to fix it. I reset a couple crappy switches we bought and it was fixed for a while, but then the actual internet died, but our (illegal) network was fine. I called the tech guy and showed him our 75% to 100% packet loss (amazingly enough it was gone when he showed up) and he told me that they were looking for illegal routers that were slowing down their network. I stared at him and nodded and said "so there's nothing to do but wait?" and he said yes and left. He was staring right at our DHCP router when he said this, so I don't know if he was trying to get me to confess or just an idiot (he was maybe 18 years old).

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Washington, DC; Day 3

The saga continues! Today was the 'presentation day' or something. The convention floor was only kinda open and all day there were seminars and presentations and junk. We got these barcode scanner dealies so instead of making everyone at a specific event sign in, we just scan them and we're set. This year was a trial run though, so we only did six events or so, but it went very well and I think the CEO (who has final say with these things) will be pleased with the results. Makes things a ton easier on us since nobody has to do data entry. Not that I care, since it wouldn't be me, but people at my company tend to really like to make work way harder than is has to be for everyone. For example, write up an article that has to be published in Word, then send it to someone to convert to HTML and post it to the website. You know, instead of using Dreamweaver or something, which works exactly the same as Word only it outputs HTML that isn't fucking insane. But I digress.

After a good ten hours on my feet, they fucking hurt. I was wearing dress shoes (we have to wear suits), which didn't help. I put my sneakers on when I got back here and I felt like I was walking on clouds. You know, if you could actually walk on them and they weren't made of water.

Oh yeah, I saw Queen Latifah. She was giving a speech about something, I dunno (I had to leave after like five minutes), and she wrote a children's book apparently, so I guess that's what she was talking about.

Also I saw Paco Underhill who wrote some book and is the CEO and founder of Envirosell which I never heard of before today but it sounds kind of like bullshit. His book sounds like it might be interesting though. All the rest of the speakers I saw were just people who I either work with or don't know (and thus are boring and unfamous, though the COO does have a bunch of pictures in his office of him and Bill Clinton from that one time they met), and so not worth mentioning.

I think I'll take some pictures tomorrow. Maybe I'll walk over to the White House. I think it's pretty close.

Next up I wanted to quickly mention the WTC movie trailer but a longass tirade of text came out after it, so I decided to move it to the 'more' text. Read at your own risk! I'll be back tomorrow!

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Washington, DC; Day 2

Continuing with my ongoing not-that-exciting journal of this trip, today, I think, was the last day where I won't be going nuts. From what I hear tomorrow the convention gets nuts. Well, tomorrow isn't actually a convention day, but we have a bunch of seminars and crap... or something. BookExpo America, by the way, is where I am. We spent the day setting up our company's area which is a large room with various tables and chairs and computers and junk. Not very exciting IT stuff took up most of my day, though we did get to walk to Staples to buy a switch since one of ours decided it would be a great idea to crap out.

I got back to my room around 6pm and I ordered room service for the first time in my life. It was pretty cool. I got a hamburger because beef is delicious. Then I took a bath because I never do that either, not since I had a girlfriend anyway. They're highly overrated without the aid of a naked girl. So yeah that was my day. Maybe tomorrow I'll take some pictures or something! Maybe.

Washington, DC; Day 1

So work decided to send me along to our nation's capital, the District of Columbia. We're organizing/taking part in this big convention dealie down here and I have to stay here for six days. I drove down today. Pretty uneventful drive, though I have come to the conclusion that Maryland drivers don't know what they're doing. Moreso than other drivers. By now I'm probably just used to New York and New Jersey stupidity though.

Anyway, I got here around 7pm and the hotel is super nice. Like, holy shit nice. It's the Renaissance if you want to know. Lots of neato stuff, like a bar in the lobby and a huge porn selection on the TV. Also internet is $10 a day and parking is $22 a day I think. Good thing I'm not paying for it! Following this update is a gallery of pictures of the room! Also I bought the New Super Mario Bros. game, which is awesome and very Mario-like. A little too much, in fact, because I forgot how much I suck ass at SMB games. Mario's physics really fuck me up for some reason. Really great game though; you should pick up a copy if you have a DS! That's all for today kids!
Washington, DC; Day 1

I've never seen so many pillows!

The water is apparently from Norway and costs $5 a tube... you can tell it's fancy because it comes in a tube.

There's a coffee machine in the bathroom! And the cups aren't plastic!! They're real ceramic mugs!

Various toiletries. I have no idea what creame rinse is.

Even the toilet paper has a gold seal. A GOLD SEAL!?

Ahh, but the best part of it all! I bought this myself back in NY though.