Hey You!

Yeah… you, the guy who just quit out of our Burnout Paradise Freeburn.  Look, I know you want to get all 350 of the Freeburn Challenges completed, we all do, but some of us don’t quit just because the guy in charge picked a challenge we’ve done before.  Hang around and chat and have some fun instead of being the assbag everyone is now calling you because you quit.

You do realize that we talk about you when you leave, right?

Yeah, and some of us even rate you poorly on Xbox Live.  Ever wondered why your carefully crafted star rating is suddenly plummeting?  Yeah, that’d be us.

If we confronted you, you might try some excuse like, “I had to take a break from gaming” but we know you’d be lying, because, Xbox Live lets you see all the people you’ve recently played with on your friends list, so we can see that you dropped our game, without a word I might add, and hopped in to another game, because the list shows that not only are you playing Burnout Paradise still, but you are Freeburning (and it even gives us an option to join the session you are in, not that we would, because you are probably just going to leave again).

So, next time, how about not being a cock and sticking around to play.  You might even try asking the host to pick particular challenges.  You never know, he might listen.

The Monster Trilogy

There is a guy out there on the Internet named David Wellington. He’s calling himself a serial novelist. Essentially posting his works up a chapter at a time on the web, and when he’s done, getting them published into traditional book form. I would love to speak with him candidly about how successful it has been (obviously enough that he’s done six novels this way, with a seventh in progress).

In any event, I didn’t find him on the Internet. Instead, I stumbled on his books at a Borders bookstore while wasting time before seeing a movie at the theater in the same complex. I was drifting through the horror section, as I often do when I go to Borders, and found a curious set of books: Monster Island, Monster Nation, and Monster Planet. The subtitle to each was “A Zombie Novel” and from that alone I knew I had to at least read the book cover. Being near Christmas when I found them, I agonized for a couple of trips to the theater over whether I should add these to my ever growing Amazon wish list and hope to get them for the big day, or to just buy them. I bought them.

After reading the first book, I wanted to post a review, but I decided to wait. I wanted to review them all at once. So here you go, a trilogy review in one part.

Monster Island is set two years after a plague has hit. That plague: zombies. The first theory presented in the book is one that just smacks of common sense, that in a world descending into chaos places that are used to chaos will handle it better. In the case of a zombie plague, the places with the most armed citizens fairs better than urban areas full of unarmed people. In short, the Third World outlasts the First. Dekalb is a UN Weapons inspector who is tasked by a Somali warlord to find AIDS treatment drugs to help keep her well and alive. After a few failed raids of local installations, Dekalb suggests that the one place he is sure will have what they want is the UN Secretariat Building in New York City. So Dekalb and a group of female soldiers head to the United States. Remember that bit about the First World not doing so well? Yep, New York is a veritable Zombietown. Monster Island isn’t your traditional zombie story, as there is more going on with a talking zombie (a lich) named Gary and an old dead druid named Mael Mag Och who would just like to finish ending the world. The book is very well written, well paced, and I devoured it. A great read.

I wish I could say the same about Monster Nation. For the second book we actually step back to the beginning of the plague and a girl with no name. She’s a lich, one of those talking, thinking zombies with magic powers, but she doesn’t know it and doesn’t want to admit it. We are also introduced to Bannerman Clark the man initially in charge with figuring out what is going on. While this book isn’t “bad”, it doesn’t have the punch of the first book. Sometimes I literally felt like I was forcing myself to read the book. Overall, while still a decent read, I have to say that it suffers the same fate that many middle chapters in trilogies do, that is reads like a bridge from the first to the third more than it feels like a story all on its own. The only familiar character is Mael Mag Och, but he’s not as involved here as he will be in two years.

Monster Planet comes in ten years after Monster Island, twelve years after Monster Nation. Here we meet Sarah, Dekalb’s daughter, who is still running with the remains of the camp he left her in, bolstered by the survivors of the New York escapade. All the elements of the first two books come together here in a story much closer in energy and style to the first. Much more enjoyable than the second book, and a fine end for the trilogy… if it truly is the end.

Overall, I recommend the Monster Trilogy if you like apocalyptic tales and/or zombie stories. Its a bit rough in the middle, but is worth the ride in the end. David Wellington has definitely made my must read authors list, and I’ll be picking up more of his works to support him.

Flight of the Living Dead

9 out of 13 nots
for Zombie Awesomeness and Silly Scream At The Screen Cheese

Being a zombie fanatic, when I saw the ad for Flight of the Living Dead I knew I had to see it. Snakes on a Plane had been kind of a let down. Sure, there had been snakes on the plane but the ending was just… crap. And frankly, being trapped at 30,000 feet with the undead has long been a scenario I’ve wanted to see play out on the screen.

The movie delivered. Living dead on a plane. It was even moderately believable. Moderately. Okay, I’m stretching it because I love zombie movies so much. Mildly? Look, there are reasons it only gets that 9 out of 13. But it was fun. Worth seeing.

More after the break.

Read more

A Case of the Mondays

To be honest, I do not have a problem with Mondays. I do, however, have a problem with all the people who insist on misusing a Monday.

The weekend, Saturday and Sunday, are time off for most people. They relax, they get away from the office and work. For other people, the weekend is time to get work done that can’t be done while everyone else is working. Programming is like this, especially when you are bug fixing a production level program. You can’t make changes to the underlying database in the middle of the day on a work day. You have to wait for late at night, or the weekend.

In one case you are returning to work and are in need of getting back into a work frame of mind. In the other case, you’ve spent the weekend doing one kind of work and are in need of getting back into the normal work mode.

Mondays, used properly, are great for this. On a Monday I like to wake up late, not too much, but about a half hour or hour late. Then I have a good breakfast, something I often skip later in the week. Next I’ll spend some time going through emails and sending out replies. I’ll pull out last week’s paperwork and merge it with the weekend notes, and make myself an organized task list of all the stuff that is still open and is still my responsibility. Just before lunch, I’ll gather up all the easy tasks and polish them. Most of them are so simple that I find myself actually thinking, “Why didn’t I do this earlier?” With the bulk of quick work done, I go to lunch. If I’m at home, I eat and watch some TV; if I’m at work, I eat and chat with coworkers. But in both places, in the back of my mind, I’m sifting and shuffling, organizing and prioritizing. After lunch, I settle in for the long afternoon. Tackle as much as I can in preparation for the rest of the week which is bound to throw me a curve ball or two. This is when I remember why I didn’t do that easy stuff sooner. By the end of a good Monday, the To Do list is half or more done and the coming week has a nice outline of work to be done.

That is how a Monday should be.

It is a shame that so many people insist on trying to cram status meetings and project planning on to Mondays. No one is ever mentally prepared. They are either still too relaxed, or they are just in the wrong frame of mind. All the meetings really do is to force people to rush into action, instead of easing into the week at a brisk walk or comfortable jog, Monday meetings make people hit the ground running… and its why by Wednesday they are begging for the weekend again. And because of the befuddlement and confusion of a rushed Monday, all those meetings will need to be repeated later in the week in some form or another. A giant waste of everyone’s time.

If you are a manager or project lead or anything of the sort, I beg of you to take this to heart. Hold off on those Monday meetings and rush whenever possible. Let your people, in fact encourage your people to, use Monday as a day of preparation. They’ll be much more productive later in the week, I promise.

Putting Your Stamp On It

I have in the past worked with and from time to time still do work with people who absolutely must put their own stamp or spin on everything.

Let me give you an example. We are designing a database and a process for managing and populating the tables. I sit down with the other developers, we hash out what we need, then we lay out the database. Next, we have a meeting with the project manager to show the design, flesh out the process and begin documentation. Table A, Table B and Table C are source tables for Process 1 that populates Table D. Process 2 takes Table D, Table E, Table F and Table G and produce Table H. Table H is displayed to users. Process 3, initiated by users, takes user input and an entry from Table H and inserts into Table C, which is as indicated prior a source for the first process. Essentially, this design maintains an inventory, matches it with traffic data, then provides the user with a list of available space and equipment usage. The user then picks a unit for making new assignments to and that is stored to be fed into the inventory to keep it up to date.


So, the project manager runs off and comes back with a document that states: Table A and Table B are used by Process 1 to Populate Table D; Table C, D, E and F are used by Process 2 to create Table G and Table H; G and H are used with user input to update Table C. The design team gets this document, disagrees, rewrites it to match the original discussion and submits it back to the manager. The manager runs off again and comes back with another document that matches neither the original discussion or the document he first did. This time the user interface is feeding Tables C, F and H, and Process 1 is using every table except G. Totally wrong. So we go around again. And again. And again.

We waste hours and hours, and the manager keeps saying, “Let me see if I understand…” and then always explains it wrong because, clearly, he does not understand.

Eventually we come to a point where someone on design gets mad and says, “Trust us, if it doesn’t work the way WE say it, we can redesign it later.” And of course, we aren’t wrong, it works and we don’t have to come back to it.

I’ve got no solution, nor really much else to say. This is just something that frustrates me as a worker that I’ve added to the list of things I will never do if I’m ever manager. That is all.

Tagged for Five

It appears that I’ve been tagged with the latest of internet fads (some people like to call them memes, but whatever). So, I’m supposed to tell you five things that you might not know about me… damn, I’ve been putting crap on the internet since June of 1998, I think I might be out of stuff to tell… but here goes and forgive me if any of this is a repeat:

  1. After failing 5 out of 9 classes in three quarters at Southern Tech (now Southern Polytechnic), I was invited to leave. I could blame it on the girl. I could blame it on me leaving the girl after she broke my heart. I could blame it on my deciding to take a full time job. I could blame it on the lure of the student center in winter, the 25 cent cups of hot chocolate and the endless loops of Article 99 and other movies. But the truth is, despite having graduated High School with less than a 2.5 GPA, I actually took and passed 2 AP Exams which allowed me to skip several college classes and the ones I took (2 of the 4 classes I passed) first quarter where, for me, repeats of stuff I had to learn for the AP Exams. So I barely went to class and still got A’s. I thought to myself, “This college stuff is easy!” and I continued not going to class because… I didn’t want to go. So yes, my grades were actually 4 A’s (first quarter), 3 F’s (second quarter) and 2 F’s (third quarter). It was at this point my parents stopped paying for school, I was invited to transfer to another (easier) college and finally learned what my parents had known since I started pulling C’s in 8th grade: My grades weren’t bad because I was stupid, my grades were bad because I was lazy. I stopped being lazy and started making the A’s and B’s I should have been getting all along. Some lessons have a price, this one cost me 4 years of tuition out of my own pocket.
  2. I ask people to remind me of things so I will remember them without being reminded. Its really funny because if I try to remember important stuff on my own, I forget. But, if I tell someone, “Hey, remind me later to…” I never forget and don’t need the reminding. So, I’ve taken up the habit of asking people to remind me of anything I want to remember. It used to drive my wife insane until she learned to ignore anything I asked her to remind me of.
  3. My nose has not stopped bleeding since I was 11 years old. And I’m 32 now. I remember the first time it happened. We lived in Pennsylvania at the time, and we were outside clearing the snow off the drive way. I thought my nose was running, but the look on my mother’s face is something I’ll never forget. I actually thought she was looking at something behind me, and I turned around, slipped, and fell into the snow. When I got up, there was a big patch of red snow where I had fallen. There was blood down the front of my face and jacket. Most days it just bleeds a little and is held back with some light sniffling (over 21 years I’ve probably said the phrase “No, I don’t have a cold”, umm, eleventy billion times), other days I have to stuff my nose with a tissue or cotton to help it back up and clot and scab. I’ve had four different doctors look at the problem, which has resulted in two failed attempts to cauterize the inside of my sinuses and my complete and utter loss of faith in the phrase “Just relax, this will only hurt a little bit.” I have been told that I could have surgery, something similar to that which they do for people with a deviated septum or a small skin transplant, but not only do they not guarantee it would solve the problem, I have yet to have an insurance carrier willing to cover it either claiming it is a pre-existing condition or that its elective cosmetic surgery. All in all, the skin inside my nose is thin, and changes in humidity and/or temperature (you know, stuff like turning on the heater in my car or entering an air conditioned building) can cause it to crack and split. On the bright side, I have been instructed not to donate blood since if I were to have a serious nose bleed immediately after getting blood taken there could be serious problems (like passing out and death and stuff).
  4. I keep a list of all the people I’ve promised things to should I ever win the lottery. And before you start asking, I only make promises to people who ask for reasonable stuff that I think they could really benefit from.
  5. I wear both an engagement ring and a wedding ring. When I first met a girl I thought I might marry (see item 1 on this list), I came up with this wacky idea. That relationship didn’t work out. Neither did any of them for the next nine years, then I asked my then girlfriend (now wife) to marry me and explained the idea, which she loved, and we did it (sort of). Now, let me explain… Marriage, to me, has always been about two things, love and the relationship. The wedding ring, traditionally a gold ring, is a symbol of love. Gold doesn’t fade, it doesn’t tarnish, just like love. If you have ever loved someone, you will always love them, they may change and you may not love the person they become, but you will always love the person you fell in love with. Love doesn’t fade, it doesn’t tarnish. The engagement ring, to me, is a symbol of the relationship. This ring is silver. Silver, you see, if left alone, if not cared for, will tarnish, turn ugly. You have to tend to silver, polish it, work with it. Just like a relationship. You have to care for your marriage, you have to talk and work things out. The silver engagement ring is a symbol of our willingness to commit to that work. Commitment and Love, Silver and Gold. Only, it turns out the girl I asked to marry me is allergic to Nickel, which is used in about 99.99999% of gold alloys, so we went with Titanium instead, because it too does not tarnish with the added bonus that if I’m ever on a deep sea mining rig that is flooding, I can use the ring to stop a pressure door from closing. To that end, my wife and I have matching silver engagement bands (right ring finger) and matching titanium wedding rings (left ring finger).

And there you have it… now I’m supposed to tag five people, and I’m going to be mean and introduce this fad (meme) to MySpace. Kevin, Kelly, A.J., T.D., and Jason… Suck it!

Stuff on the Net IX

10 Things I Hate About Commandments.

The Dragon*Con guest list is shaping up nicely. Richard Hatch is going to be there (no surprise).

Okay, fine, I’m going to link to something E3 related… Scott Jennings went and had a run in with Paris Hilton’s security. She was there whoring her new video game (which I’m sure she was totally involved in the design of), only she couldn’t remember the right name of it. And surprisingly, even though she was whoring at E3, she didn’t actually look completely like one.

It’s an old game, but needing something to tide me over until the return of Prison Break in the fall, Prison Tycoon. I wonder if they include all the aspects of real prison…

Artemis Fowl

I had heard good things about the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer, so I put them on my birthday wish list last year. As it happens, I got one. I actually read Artemis Fowl, the first book in the series, a couple of months ago. And it was good enough that I bought the next two, The Arctic Incident and The Eternity Code. This series is fun, extremely well written, and if not for the lack of real violence or dead and the repeated appearance by a character who uses flatualance to get things done you might mistake them for “adult” books.

The recommended reader level of these books is grades 5-7, but I’d recommend them to just about anyone. The plot runs like this… Artemis Fowl is an eleven year old boy genius, son to the head of a long standing crime family. His father, trying to do some legit business may have gotten himself killed, at the very least he’s gone missing in action. In the meantime, Artemis has been running the family business, along with the help of his bodyguard, Butler. Artemis stumbles upon fairies. It turns out they exist, but its not exactly like the story books. There are no leprechauns… instead, you’ve got the Lower Elements Police Reconnaissance, LEP Recon. And other things are different too, but one thing remains, if you can trick them out of their gold, its yours to keep. The family funds have dried up, and Artemis puts into action a plan to win himself some fairy gold. The first book goes from there, and later books deal with Artemis and the People (as the fairies call themselves) and their ever crossing paths.

This series gets my gold seal of approval. Its a good, fast, fun read.

The Station Agent

I’m an avid Netflix user, and because of the over 1500 movies I’ve given ratings too, I get a pretty good list of recommendations. That’s when ‘The Station Agent’ popped on to my list.

“When his only friend dies, a young dwarf named Finbar McBride relocates to an abandoned train station in rural New Jersey, intent on living the life of a hermit. But his solitude is soon interrupted by his colorful neighbors, which include a struggling artist coping with the recent death of her young son and a talkative Cuban hot dog vendor.”

It just sounded… well.. weird. But interesting enough to drop it in my list. Curiosity got the better of me, and I bumped it to the top of my list.

The movie is slow. Its pacing is just… well… slow. Its not a bad thing. I never felt like I was looking at my watch, but it was just such a mellow pacing… it was borderline. But it was funny. Not howling in gut ripping laughter funny, but odd funny. In a strange way I felt myself identifying with Fin. He’s a good guy, has his hobbies, and doesn’t want to bother anybody or be bothered… but he gets bothered, and begins to enjoy the company.

In the end, it was a decent enough film, however, I’d be wary to recommend it to anyone I didn’t know really well. Its not for everyone, but I enjoyed it.

13 November 1999

Someone, anyone… if you read this page, email me (jasongpace@squadleader.com) and help me out.
How can you tell if a girl is interested?
I have a blind spot when it comes to women, most nice guys do. If you are not attracted to a girl, then you know right away when she is flirting with you, but if you do like her, she could be hitting you in the head with a baseball bat screaming “I LOVE YOU!!” and you still would notice.
I never notice, so tell me… how can I tell?
Please… I’m begging you… help me.
Okay… enough of the pitiful whining, on with the rest of the .plan.
I wrote a list of topics on my mind a while back (October 15th .plan) and decided to actually do another one of the list… Swearing: the power of words.
I actually wrote a paper for an essay class in college on this subject. It all stems from the fact that people swear… alot. Me too, I’m not exempt from this. Sometimes I swear like a sailor, but occationally I try to make a concious effort to stop, or at least slow down.
You see, the power of a swear comes from its infrequency of use. If you say ‘fuck’ and ‘shit’ and all the rest all the time, people will come to expect it.. and they won’t people able to know when you really are mad.
Think about it. When some friend who swears all the time starts swearing, you’ll just think “This is normal.” But if someone you have never heard utter a swear word yells out “FUCK!!” you’ll be stunned because… well, you’ve never heard them swear.
My first experience with this came many years ago back in the days of dial-up Bulletin Board Systems. People generally didn’t swear (except on the hacker BBSs) so no one was used to it. As usual people got into an argument… people being me and someone else. And when he didn’t have a leg to stand on, he went for the usual personal digs. Making fun of me but still not swearing.
Hold on… pause. I need to cover something else real quick about how I feel. Insults. When it comes to insults they usually don’t bother me much. You can sit and insult me all day long and I’ll either match you insult for insult, or I’ll ignore you. In my opinion, this can often be just standing up to someone. They are right there in front of you and they can defend themselves. But as a matter of honor, you never ever insult a man’s family when they aren’t present to defend themselves. If its all joking, like ‘Your momma’ jokes, that’s fine, but you never make a serious insult about a man’s family. You never go beyond your target and strike his home.
That said… the first swear word used in the argument came from the other guy. He called my mother an ‘overflowing cum sack’. As a result, at the next face-to-face party, three of my friends and myself were waiting for him to show up so we could kick the crap out of him. A bit of an overreaction to be sure… but he insulted my mother AND used a swear word.
Later, I would run into the same wall myself, when on another BBS during an argument, to emphasize a point of an already heated debate, I used the word ‘fuck’. Because no one was used to hearing that strong a word, everyone joined into the argument. I got alot of flames for using the word, and some people threatened to beat me up. But in the end it actually served its purpose: what had been 3 guys talking about a subject was now about 50.
Some people feel that swear word should have their taboo removed, after all, they are just words. You hear kids and even grown ups filling the air around them with these forbidden words. But I think they need to be more taboo, if you get overheard saying one, everyone should stare at you in shock. This way, swear words can once again have the shock value they once did, and be useful.