john's blog

The SWA

I've been asked by the Schenectady Wargamer's Association (SWA) to migrate their website from PHPNuke to Drupal. Their current website can be found here.

PHPNuke served them well for many years but has become a security and maintenance nightmare for them in the past few months. My preferred Content Management System (CMS) is Drupal -- the engine that runs this site.

I will post and update when the migration is complete.

Quotes

From the previous incarnation of this website through this version, I've been building a collection of quotes that I find either amusing or insightful.

The quotes that I find particularly inspiring I have rotating through the box in the top right corner of every page. All quotes rotate through the "Random Quote" box on the left hand side. The quote collection itself can be reached through the quote menu just above the Random Quote. The can be browsed by category or person. You can even just go through the ones that I thought were particularly funny.

If you have any quotes that I've missed, use the 'Contact Us' link to submit some. If I like 'em, I'll add 'em.

Prisoner Of Trebekistan

I recently finished Prisoner Of Trebekistan, an autobiographical book by one of Jeopardy's "biggest winners -- and biggest losers."

The book is entertaining for its insights into human memory. Bob Harris, the author and subject of the book, brings a great deal of humor and warmth to the story.

Bob has a blog that he updates pretty frequently. I recommend anyone reading this go check out his blog; and, if you like his writing, buy his book.

The Warcraft Auction House On New Servers

In Warcraft, on top of classes, characters can have up to two professions. I started a character on a fairly new server and selected tailoring and enchanting as my two professions.

Tailoring is especially suited to making a bit of money through the Auction House. Tailors can make the one object that is desired at almost every level in the game: bags. Tailors can also make all sorts of other objects including cloth armor.

Enchanters can make magical weapons (wands) and can enchant armor (including cloth armor) with special bonuses. The ability to enchant cloth armor nicely complements the tailor ability to make it. Enchanted cloth armor is highly desired by some classes that are limited to cloth.

This brings me around to the auction house. The server that I'm on is fairly new. As a result, many players are concentrating on leveling. This makes bags extremely desirable and has allowed me to make a tidy profit on bags even when I have to buy the materials through the auction house. When I get the materials from adventuring, the difference between selling the materials to vendors and selling them as bags is enormous.

Electronic Leashes

For the longest time, I shied away from having a cell phone. The idea of being always available to people feels too much like an electronic leash to me.

I guess that since the dawn of time people have been interrupted by other people when they'd rather have been left alone; but, now, people can get a hold of me whenever it is convenient for them. I know I can turn off the phone when I don't want to be disturbed; but, frankly, that's a pain in the butt. What I want, I guess, is a way to turn the ringer on the phone off and on with one button. I want to be able to use it at a moment's notice without the inconvenience of hearing it ring when I don't want it to ring. The closest my phone comes is a volume control button on the side that I have to cycle down through eight settings to get to silent.

Am I over-reacting to this phenomenon? I don't think so. I cannot even imagine being sucked into something even worse -- text messaging. I have instant messenger set up on my computer at work with only clients sending me messages and I get pretty fed up with that when I get an unsolicited message that way.

Do Online Petitions Matter?

Snopes.com, the resource for ferreting out urban legends has engaged in editorializing about the ineffectiveness of online petitions. Many petitions sites have sprung up that seem to be mostly geared toward attracting traffic to ads more than having any tangible effect; but, at the same time, efforts like DraftGore.com and petitions from moveon.org seem to be having some effect -- at least some of the time. Is snopes right? Are online petitions a counter-productive waste of time? What have you experienced?

Food Additives

In many ways, the American food supply is the envy of the world. Even with the occasional E.coli scare, American food is considered the safest in the world. However, considerable concern has been raised, recently, about the things we add to food.

When you look at the back of most food packages, you'll find a list of compounds that you are not likely to even know what they mean. What do these chemicals do to us?

I just finished a package of Pepperoni Party Bites made by Bridgeford. They contain:

Pork, Beef, Water, Dextrose, Salt, Paprika, Spices and Flavorings, Sodium Erythorbate, Lactic Acid Starter Culture, Sodium Nitrate, BHA, BHT, Citric Acid, and Regenerated Collagen Casing.

I could not tell you, before writing this blog entry what the items in bold are. Here's what a bit of googling tells be about them:

Dextrose is another name for Glucose, which is sugar. In this context, it is used to season the meat.

Fair and Balanced?

Have you ever watched what passes for news on the Fox News Channel? They have a trademark on the term "Fair and Balanced" for the news coverage. What's most interesting about their coverage is how they achieve editorial balance. I'll give a hypothetical example:

In a segment about abortion, a typical Fox approach to achieve "balanced" coverage is to take a rabid leftist in favor of abortion in any form, including partial birth, and pit them against a reasonable, well spoken, person who opposes abortion in all cases except rape, incest, or life of the mother is at stake. Letting these two people debate with only limited moderation is what passes for "balanced" at Fox news.

News used to be educational, informative, and researched stories from real journalists. When did that stop? Why do we now accept talking heads shouting at each other as news?

Fortunately, with the Internet being what it is, there are people who keep an eye on the lack of journalistic integrity on Fox and report on the Unfair and Unbalanced skewing of what passes for news there.

World of Warcraft

I have shied away from Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs) until recently. In December, I joined the ranks of millions of players playing World of Warcraft.

The game interface takes some getting used to, and the 'manual' that comes with the software is very introductory. However, what it lacks in ease of adoption, it more than makes up for in depth of story.

The chief mode of advancement in the game is quest fulfillment. Nearly all quests involve the slaying of monsters. It is basically impossible to advance in the game with engaging in conflict. It is, however, World of Warcraft, so I guess that is to be expected.

That said, there is much more to the game than running around slaying monsters. Characters are highly customizable, with a nearly infinite variety of race/class/appearance combinations. Characters can adopt professions and skills to enhance play, all of which have little to do with conflict -- at least not directly.

I have probably played for about 100 hours in the last three months and continue to enjoy game play. The game allows you to play as many characters as you like (just not at the same time.) Advancing a new character through the first few levels is often referred to as 'grinding' by regular players of the game. You will find yourself repeating the same quests you did with the other characters unless you chose to play a different race.

Cars and Fuel Efficiency

I consider myself kind of a Ludite when it comes to gadgets. I don't own an MP3 player. I don't own a PDA. My cell phone is just a phone. For me, cutting edge technology isn't that important, normally. That said, I continue to marvel at the innovations that are being put forth to make cars either more fuel efficient or completely fuel free.

Electric cars have come and gone over the years. The most common complaint about them has been their relatively short range. Lately, the concept of a pure electric car has given way to hybrid cars, which are electric cars that use a gas engine to generate electricity. Hybrids provide for a substantial improvement in gas mileage -- typically doubling the mileage of their non-hybrid models.

A potential further advance in hybrids is the concept of a pluggable hybrid which can have its batteries charged from wall current or charging stations but still has the gas engine. Pluggable hybrids have the potential of as much as 125 mpg.

Some other technologies have gone back to the drawing board. These include Hydraulic Hybrids that use pumps and compressed fluids to run the car. Their biggest efficiency is that a high percentage of the energy typically lost in breaking is captured and used to accelerate the vehicle out of the stop.

Syndication

I've begun to look into incorporating syndicated content into this site. RSS, short for Real Simple Syndication, is everywhere on the web. It provides a mechanism for people to see new content from sites without the tediousness of actually going to every site they want to monitor.

As I add the RSS content, it will be categorized in much the same way as apathy.net content. Aggregate feeds will appear in the right hand column on the various category pages (the most prominent of which appear in the left hand navigation.)

News is coming faster and faster, and I can only add my insight to just so much of it. I'm hoping this will help keep the site relevant and provide a one-stop news resource for apathy.net followers.

Organization

I have long suggested that marketing organizing products to people who are not organized by nature is, effectively, a scam. Take someone who has an unorganized pile of junk and hand them a chest of drawers. What you'll end up with is drawers full of junk and a pile of junk on top.

Organization, or rather the desire to be organized, is a healthy mental process. Someone with a pile of junk in need of organization may lack the tools to organize the pile, but I think more often than not the person lacks the ability to categorize and prioritize more finely than one big pile. Everything in the pile is of equal and unique importance -- a sentiment that is in direct conflict with prioritization.

How does one who is disorganized become organized? I'm not sure, but I have some thoughts:

  1. Take the disorganized junk and place it in storage totes (taking a careful inventory as you go) Numbering/Dating the totes can be helpful.
  2. Put the totes away, preferably into storage

Take Two

Well ... it has been a long time since I last posted a blog entry. I've been maintaining the news portion of the site with much greater regularity, but I've been rather neglectful of this section of the site. That is about to change.

I have been struggling for some time with the idea of attempting a writing career. I work during the day as a Software Consultant at a company called Vita Rara. We are a niche software vendor catering to fraternal organizations and mid-sized companies who need Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. Our two products, MORI and Quadran, serve those respective needs.

While the work can sometimes be creative, it is often just the same thing day-after-day. Unfortunately, the nature of programming, at least to me, is that it is, essentially, writing. Once I spend a day programming, I feel put upon to then attempt to sit down and write.

To address the creative drain that programming puts on writing reserves, I plan to start my day earlier and begin each day with writing rather than attempt to do it at the end of the day.

Vegas Trip: Tahiti Village

During our trip to Las Vegas, we stayed at our own property, Tahiti Village. Tahiti Village is in the process of being built, sold and managed by Consolidated Resorts. Follow the link for their details about the amenities.

Here are some pictures from our suite. It is the smallest of three possible configurations, called Moorea:


The Kitchenette
An apartment refrigerator, toaster, and a microwave are the highlights. (Who eats home in Vegas anyway?)


The Living Room
Sharing a room with the Kitchenette is a small living room with a sleeper sofa, chair, breakfast bar, and a TV/Game console (not shown).


The Bathroom
The tub is decently sized, but behind a shower door instead of curtain. The building is new, so the bathrooms are spotless.

Vegas Trip Summary.

My fiancee, Lisa, and I have returned from a week in Las Vegas. Photos will be posted once I have had a chance to clean them up a bit.

We stayed at a property we partially own called Tahiti Village on the south strip. Tahiti Village is run by a company called Consolidated Resorts that sells what they call "vacation ownership." This concept is the future of a concept called time sharing. Instead of buying annual time at a facility, you purchase a deeded share of the actual facility which has, as one of it's benefits, the right to stay at the facility for an allotted amount of time. I will post more about this concept in the future.

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