Saturday, April 25, 2009

Audible vs. iTunes... FIGHT!

Strom Front coverI finally decided on what books to get from, I got Book 10 and 11 of The Dresden Files even though they don't have books 1-9 available yet. I actually went out and bought the first book, "Storm Front" in paperback, decided I liked the series and figured I would get up to book 10 eventually. I am also expecting them to catch up on the rest of the series pretty soon. I know that books 1-4 were already recorded once on Audio for another company. I wrote Audible and Jim Butcher, the author, if they had any information about the earlier books becoming available on but so far I've gotten no response.

I also found out that the soon to be stupidly renamed, SciFi channel, did a TV series based on the books that lasted 12 episodes before it was canceled. It is available free and legally on, but I'll wait till I'm caught up with the books to watch it.

I also finally got season 2 of "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" from iTunes. At the same time I realized that I never downloaded the last episode of season 1, titled "What He Beheld." Thinking back I remember that was the first time our internet connection in the house in Perth got shaped down to modem speed. I had started the download, left the house and when I got back it said it still had an estimated time of 40some hours. I didn't log back into the iTunes store for a few months and forgot about it.

I got into a multi-email exchange with iTunes customer service trying to get them to let me download it. Note that I don't say, "re-download" because it had never been fully and successfully downloaded in the first place. It is ridiculous to me that I have spent several hundred dollars on the iTunes store last year and yet I have to go through this crap to download an episode that I have clearly already paid for.

They are out nothing but a fraction of a fraction of cent in bandwidth to let me re-download something. Seems like a very fair exchange to keep a loyal customer. I swear sometimes Apple is going out of its way to piss off their customers.

The first email was a macro'ed:
Your request for a refund for "What He Beheld" was carefully considered; however, according to the iTunes Store Terms of Sale, all purchases made on the iTunes Store are ineligible for refund. This policy matches Apple's refund policies and provides protection for copyrighted materials.
To which I responded
Your response was carefully considered; however, it did not match my request.

I do not want or nor did I ask for a refund. I want the episode that I have clearly paid for but never got. It was never completely successfully downloaded but instead was interrupted due to a bad internet connection. It should have been available the next time I checked for available downloads, but it never came up again and I don't have it.
Eventually, after being scolded for the fact that this purchase was from just over a year ago, they allowed me to re-download it.

But this whole incident just highlights why I stopped buying audiobooks from iTunes. When I buy them straight from, I am safe in the knowledge that if anything were to happen to my iTunes library, as it does every 6th update or so, I can re-download all purchases from the Audible website at any time.

I just spend the last few days rebuilding my iTunes library from when I reformatted my laptop last month. I now have the library pointed to my F: drive which is what my external drive maps too when plugged in. I duplicated the library on both my external drives so as long as either is plugged in as the F: drive it will work. And later when I get my desktops re-setup, I can set them up the same way so they will work as long as I have either of the external drive plugged in as the F: drive.

Anonymous Gift

Lance Armstrong braceletThank you to whomever bought me a new LiveSTRONG bracelet. It arrived in the mail today from sans any evidence of who bought it. It is amazing how much brighter it is from the five-year old one that I was wearing.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Armaments for the Dark Future Ahead

I haven't posted as much the last few weeks because I was waiting for something that still hasn't happened. I am kinda in the dark about the whole thing and nobody has yet answered my emails.

I also added a third tale to my repertoire of the type that begins with, "First of all, I don't drink... at all. Can't stand the taste of alcohol." But then is instantly followed by the opening, "Okay, so I was drunk..." During all that, I managed to loose both my bracelets. Well, not loose them, they both broke.

Lance Armstrong braceletJust the other night my Lance Armstrong: LiveSTRONG bracelet broke. I bought it from the website when they first went up prior to them being in stores. I actually bought a pack of 10 and handed them out to friends and I think I still have another one from that batch but it with my stuff being shipped back from Australia. I got the LiveSTRONG Oakley sunglasses, but I am still going to need my bracelet for the upcoming Tour de France.

Prior to that my metal, kinda Celtic, dragon bracelet finally broke in two. Sorry, no pictures as I lost my camera during my trip to Brazil and related traveling awhile back. I bought the dragon bracelet back in 1994 at GenCon when it was still being held in Milwaukee. I remember there was another booth there with some really cool chess sets. My problem with them was that they all had identical pieces on both sides, just colored different. I tried to get the lady to sell me a set with pieces from two different sets, but she wouldn't go for it.

Anyway, the bracelet was actually the bane of several women that I've dated over the years and I would sometimes bonk them on the back of the head with it when putting my arm around them or something. But it was very unique and it got a lot of compliments. The bracelet had a makers inscription on the inside, but it was mostly worn away and all that was readable was that it was copyright 1994. After about an hour of searching online for it or one like it I gave up, but I did find some other stuff that I want.
Spectrostatic Nocturnium BraceletI've always like the look of stuff from the Steam Punk, 1800's Space/Adventure, and Mystical Alchemy genres. Things that have that magical and/or retro brass-fitted fantasy look to them. Some Japanese anime has that look and feel, taking place in a retro-fitted history. Anyway, these pieces from Alchemy Gothic really caught my eye:

Spectrostatic Nocturnium Bracelet
Or, "Moonlight Destiny" Early scientific instrumental band for controlling moonlight wavelength emulations. A fascinating adjustable cuff bracelet etched with alchemical intricacies, Latin text, and mysterious English notations in antiqued pewter and solid brass. Cuff is ¾" wide.

Induction RingInduction Ring
In pewter and solid brass, an authentic reproduction of Dr. Von Rosenstein's indispensable key to the induction matrix. A beautiful rendition of an ancient gothic pattern which may, or may not, mean more than it seems.
Nothing more than a popular tale of “Frankenstein”, Maximillian Von Rosenstein is a legacy from the devout servants of the Pandectes Philosopiae and accredited by his clandestine lover, Mary Shelly.

I don't think I could wear either of the following two necklaces as I think they would come off being a little too feminine. (Pictures of them on a female model can be found here.)

Quantum Displacer Control NecklaceQuantum Displacer Control Necklace
An essential piece of equipment for any self-respecting, Victorian cyber-junkie, and the means by which they would calibrate the necessary compensation for entropic shift in matter when enabling transposition.

Laboratory Chaterlaine
A flamboyant and flouncing bijouterie comprising an assortment of retro hi-tech components for the femme technique.

But what I would like to do is to get both of them, take them apart and then make a necklace out of them by weaving the pieces and some of the different styles of the chain into a several loops of a thin black leather.

They have a Steam Punk wrist watch too, but I would rather stick to a pocket watch. My current one is a miniature, brass Mickey Mouse pocket watch that an ex-girlfriend bought me years ago. Actually, I had two of them prior to her buying me this one, lost one to the washing machine and then just plain lost the second one. Haven't seen them in the stores since, so I am trying to take careful of this final one.

Anyway, I can't really afford to buy any of this stuff till all the job related stuff sorts it self out or I take up armed robbery... Or hey, maybe cat-burglary! Less bullets and more ninja-like skills!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Teh Learning Curve

I may have mentioned awhile that some friends of mine in Perth were doing a game project call "Teh Learning Curve" that they were going to put up on the web. It was actually "The" at the time, but that was taken.

I wonder if they had the discussion about that rule. You know the one that says never misspell you business' name, especially the first word. That is because it make it hard for people to find you in the, well at the time the rule was coined, in the Yellow Pages. Granted, they aren't selling anything and search engines make that a little easier these days.

I think the white board that eventually appears behind the couch in later episodes has it spell "Teh" just for fun. That is probably why they went with that instead of just picking a new name. Next time however, have an idea, pick a name and see if the website is available before chiseling it in stone... or the equally solid white board.

I told them to let me know as soon as the website went live, but I have heard not a word. Not a freaking PEEP!!! I find out today they just got the second episode up. Guess they don't love me anymore and don't want the added referrals from the BILLIONS of hits that I get everyday! Actually, the average is just less than 50 hits a day. It says I'm down 23% this month too. I posted a lot more last month. Ton of hits on my resume which is good.

Okay, enough making fun. That's what they get for not telling me they launched.

The shows premise is that they have three 'industry people' on a red couch and have one of them play a game they aren't familiar with, and if possible out of their comfort zone. Then they review it.

Yes, the color of the couch is important... its the only couch they had in the office.

They had me take part in an episodes right before I left Perth. I played Call of Duty. I've not played a console first-person shooters since the original Golden Eye. It was quite the learning curve to coin a phrase. Though, I think if I had been allowed two minutes to scan the manual and see what all the buttons did, I would have eventually gotten in the swing of things. I would still rather have a mouse.

Anyway, check out the site and yell at them for not loving me anymore. So far they have done Rise of the Argonauts and Braid.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Now Inaccuratly Named "Jeep Game"

I can't believe that I forgot about the "Jeep Game." It is basically just some rules for the old "Slug Bug" game. It all started a few years ago when I was thinking about buying a Jeep Wrangler. My friend Barry pointed out how horrible Consumer Reports said they were, but Kia, my girlfriend at the time and voice of EVA in the original Command & Conquer, said they had just gone through a big turn around, and the newer Jeeps actually were earning a good reputation. While having this conversation in the car, we started to notice how many Jeeps we were seeing and we started calling them out. This suddenly became a contest and we started to keep score. Rules had to be invented to solve some common problems, and I'll get to those in a minute.

On my trip to Death Valley a few weeks ago with Eric#1 the game was updated. He called out "Slug Bug" and punched his son Justin in the arm. This is the classic "Slug Bug" where if you see a VW Beetle aka Bug you "slug" a person in the car of your choice in the arm. They had also added a modern update with "Cruiser Bruiser" where you do the same thing if you spot a PT Cruiser.

I pipped up about the Jeep game and how what it lacked in punching and sore arms, it made up for in being easier to get people to play and was less likely to cause the driver to get a charlie horse and careen into a ditch. I also explained the rules we had come up with. This seemed to take off and we combined the two so that it really can't be called the "Jeep Game" anymore; because, you can now count Jeeps, PT Cruisers and VW Bugs. New name suggestions are welcome.

We assigned 2 points to Jeeps and Classic bugs, but after the game on the way back from Death Valley I don't think those two are any rarer than the others. So, I think we are going to go back to 1 point for all the target vehicles, but feel free to adjust it for your area.

Rules as Follows:
The game is playing while driving in a vehicle and play does not start until the vehicular you are in is moving. It is not necessary to even announce or remind other passengers in the vehicle that you are playing until you call a target vehicle. Just sit there quietly until you spot one and then call it.

Calling out a target vehicle is done in a calm, normal voice as "Target Type - Color." For example, "Jeep Blue." Correctly being the first to call a target vehicle awards one point. It is also good to then say how many points you have because most of the time you won't be noting the score on paper and people forget even their own score. We have been relax about calling the color but if two people call out at the same time the one who also says the color wins over the one that doesn't, otherwise you should honestly try to decide which player started calling first.

Calling out a non-target vehicle will lose you a point. For example, calling Jeep when it turns out to be Range Rover, which looks very similar, will cost you 1 point. Your score cannot go below zero. This is to prevent people from losing too badly and give them more incentive to call faster if they are at zero already.

Any target vehicle in the parking lot you are starting in does not count. This includes reasonably connected parking lots and even entire apartment complexes if that is where you are driving out of. This is to stop the arguments where multiple people spot a target vehicle as they are walking to the car then all trying to call it as the vehicle starts moving. You want a nice clean start to the game.

Confused PandaDealerships, Post Office Parking Lots, and any other place where more than 5 Target Vehicles are seen cause all target vehicles in that parking lot not to count. Again this is to stop confusion and arguments when you drive past a dealership with 20 plus target vehicles and pandemonium ensues.

The game ends when you stop and somebody gets out. The game does not continue between trips. So, if on your way home you stop at the bank and then then to get dinner, you can have three separate games. It is best to have multiple shorter games, so somebody can do their little victory dance,and then everybody gets to start over fresh.

There is an additional experimental rule that was discussed at one point; where you could call out a target vehicle in advance to cause it not to count. An example of when and why this would be used is, for example, when everybody in the car knows there is a VW Bug parked on the side of the road up ahead because its been parked there "For Sale" for days. Everybody gets all intense about who will see it first and then there is arguing about you couldn't have seen it yet, it was still blocked by the McDonalds and so on. So ahead of time you call out "Negating VW Bug up ahead the one for sale, yadda yadda" and now that VW Bug doesn't count for anybody and you can just go on playing without the stress.

Target vehicles include:
Jeep 2Jeeps - This is the standard Jeep starting with the Willys MB US Army Jeep, along with the nearly identical Ford GPW which was manufactured from 1941 to 1945. And up to today's Jeep Wrangler (1987 - present). No other type of Jeep brand vehicles count. For example a Jeep Cherokee SUV is not considered a Jeep for this game. It should be noted that Jeeps used by the United States Post office do count as they are legitimate Jeeps. This the reason Post Office parking lots do not count.

Volkswagen Beetles - Both the Classic aka "Type 1" (1938 - 2003) and Newer Model (1998 - present) commonly referred to as "VW Bugs." Again, no other Volkswagen brand cars, just the Beetle. Aftermarket kits applied to the VW Beetle still allow it to be called as a target, as long as it still can be seen visibly to be a VW Beetle. Kits where the whole body has been replaced to make it look like a Porsche don't count no mater what you may believe is under that fiberglass body.

Chrysler PT Cruisers - This is the retro-style wagon introduced by Chrysler in 2000 and which apparently Chrysler announced they were discontinuing in January of 2009.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Just Trying To Keep Busy

I've always invented games when bored. I think a lot of them steamed from my frustration at the lack of rules in childhood games.

cap guns"Bang! You're dead."

"No, you missed."

"No I didn't I got you!"


...and so on. Not the fun I was looking for.

Death Race 2000 posterWhen riding the bus to school, I created a game where you got points for running people over. Granted you really only pointed people out and tabulated your score; it was more like a scavenger hunt you play while riding in the car. But, I had seen the original Deathrace 2000 as a kid and I just wanted to wrap the game in a more exciting theme. It is all in the marketing, remember Guitar Hero is just a well packaged rhythm game.

I am also ashamed to admit that the spiral notebook, that my friends and I completely filled up with 'victim's' point values, was very politically incorrect and it is hopefully lost forever. Having it turn up in the middle of my 2012 Presidential Election would be bad.

Another game I invented in about the 4th or 5th grade was "Frisbee Tag" and before you point out that it should be "Frisbee Brand Flying Disc Tag" know that I renamed it "The Tron Game" after seeing the movie. I'm sure Disney's copyright lawyers (follow that link and read the story, its good if your interested in paority law history) are much more friendly than Wham-o's.

To play the game you take a bunch of Frisbee brand flying discs and throw them up into the air. Then you try to get them and throw them at other players which is okay because everybody is wearing their safety equipment. If you hit somebody they are out, unless they caught it, in which case you are out. If the Frisbee brand flying discs touches the ground first, catching it wouldn't cause the thrower to be out, but it could still tag you out. In other words if somebody skipped it off the ground, it could still tag you out but if you caught it they wouldn't be out. You could also deflect the Frisbee brand flying discs with another Frisbee brand flying discs, a rules addition added after seeing the movie Tron.

Now, I haven't created a rule system for a childhood game in quite some time. Over the last twenty-plus years I have been working for other people who have been paying to create games for them. But, now that I am currently unemployed, I find that I still have this unsatiable need to create well structured entertainment.

Stoney's North FortyThe current game I am working on involves people watching in a Country Western dance club. I've never really been into Country, Western, or dancing; but, I have been spending two nights a week, for the past 2-3 weeks, in such a club. Specifically, Stoney's North Forty in the Santa Fey hotel and casino. Basically, I am there to hang out with my friends and I do a lot of people watching.

Anyway, I haven't really nailed the game down yet, but it has something to do with watching the waitresses take orders and deliver drinks. Make that incredibly hot waitresses that wear ass-less chaps over skimpy black bikinis, remember its all in the marketing.

I should also point out that there is usually a 3 to 1, girl to guy ratio, in the club, so I am seriously thinking about learning to two-step or do a few line dances.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Heard a Good Book Lately?

I have two credits saved up on with a third credit due any day now. I am trying to figure out what audiobooks to get. I already have a handful that I've downloaded and I haven't listened to. The issue at hand is that the plan I am on only allows me to save up to three credits before I start losing them, so I need to pick some spend credits on.

I'm still taking a break from the "Saga of Seven Suns" series by Kevin J. Anderson. He really could have chopped the first five books (where I've stopped for the moment) into a three book series and then started a second series for the follow-up. Books four and five just draaaaggggeeeedddd on in some parts (as I'm sure this post will also do) and I'm too anal to skip ahead (or to chop this post down.)

HyperionI just now got back to listening to "Hyperion" by Dan Simmons. I have actually read the four Hyperion books before; "read" as in books in hand. Two of my World of Warcraft characters are Perion and Dymion as in hyPERION and enDYMION. The problem being that everybody pronouces Dymion as "Dime-e-on" instead of "Dim-e-on" They also call Perion, "Pery" which drives me nuts, but then again what doesn't these days.

Speaking of nuts, I have had a half dozen people ask me if I was allergic to nuts in the last few days. I'm not sure what is up with that or why I thought it worth a tangent in the middle of this tangent.

Brian Michael BendisI had stopped "Hyperion" to listen to 2 sessions of "the Bendis Tapes" on Word Balloon. Word Balloon being a comic book, interview format, podcast hosted by John Siuntres. The Bendis tapes are these massive shows he does twice a year with comic writer, Brian Michael Bendis (pictured), whom I ranted about back in early February; because, he got me to watch the entire 7 seasons of the Gilmore Girls for which I was the target of much abuse by friends and colleges.

Brian has a message board over and (which also hosts forums for a number of other comic writers, artists and now even Word Balloon) and he lets his fans post questions about his works. He and John answer and discuss the questions and a ranger of other topics over the course of the interview. I hadn't listened to the last two sessions, because I didn't want spoil the Secret Invasion storyline Bendis had been orchestrating as the Marvel, cross-comic, summer event. I managed to finish it just before leaving Perth.

I have a slight problem with jinxworld though. They don't let you register with any of the common free email accounts such as yahoo or gmail. It would appear you can't even register under a real email address and then change it to one of those free ones. I still don't know if I am going to keep the email address when it expires this month (there has been some other change of ownership or something.) I understand Bendis might have a spammer or abusive poster problem over there, but they have moderators for that sort of thing. Also, those moderators could be used to hand approve email address exceptions. In any case, unless they do something, I'll just be registered with an email address I never check and which may be going away. Hope they board never tries to send me any email for anything important.

Okay, back the audiobooks:

Swords and DeviltryI was going to download "Swords and Deviltry: The Adventures of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser" which has been sitting on my wishlist. It is the first book in Fritz Leiber's classic sword-and-sorcery series which launched the sword-and-sorcery genre, and were the inspiration for the fantasy role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons. I remember hearing a lot about this series back when I was in Jr. High School, but reading the reviews I think I am going to pass on it for now. One of the reviewers summed it up with, "Might have been a classic novel, but it doesn't hold up as a "modern" fantasy novel." The other reviewers were less kind.

MidwinterI see they are offering "Midwinter" by Matthew Sturges. Matthew writes the DC/Vertigo comic "Jack of Fables" which is a spin off from Bill Willingham's "Fables" series. But I don't think the "Jack of Fables" series is really all that good and the reviews of Midwinter speak of much the same disappointment. Reading the summary blurb, I am also afraid to read it because it has some of the same elements of a story I am putting together and I don't want to be influenced by things he has thought of.

Daughter of the BloodI think I am at least going to try "Daughter of the Blood" by Anne Bishop. It is the first book in the "Black Jewels" series. The reviews seem okay, though they all warn you that the series is not for the prudish or squeamish. The thing holding me back is that it is yet another big series of books. Well that is partly true; the wiki points out that the first three books are the main trilogy. The fourth book is another story that takes place in that world. Then fifth book that is a collection of four short stories which expands on the events in and after the main trilogy. The fifth and sixth books appear to also be just other stories set in that world. But still, for somebody anal like me, that is seven books.

Anybody have any other suggestions of some good fantasy books?