Month: January 2008


I think I have a problem. Or rather, I think I’ve figured out a problem. The roof leaks probably don’t stem from the repair that Sierra Roofing made last year. It did rain, and the leaks stopped at that point, except for one window. It doesn’t make sense that all windows would leak equally, the same way they did before.

Except that we got a repair done after the fact. One of Sierra’s guys came by after the repair, and said that he could do a repair on the area at the top center of the house for cheaper than Sierra said they could do it for. When we had that one window that continued to leak, and we found the area where the leak came from, we asked him to do the top of the roof as well, since he threw it in for cheap.

THAT is where the new leaks have got to be coming from. It’s the only thing that really makes sense. It’s not Sierra’s fault, it’s this guy’s. I’ve gotta call him and get him to come out and take a look before Sierra comes out.

I made this realization while half-asleep at 4 this morning. Fun.


Not a lot going on. Work’s in sort of a weird period. Stuff’s in flux, basically, and there are opportunities to move things I want forward, and reshape things that were previously un-reshapeable. So, those are good things. Does take a bit out of you. I’ve found that in a day, I’m good for about five hours of hardcore productivity. Once that time has passed, I hit a wall, and unless I’m really fired up about it, basically become completely useless.

Today, I had a monster headache that came on around noon, and stuck around until two ibuprofen knocked it down at around 10pm. Good times.

Otherwise, not a lot going on. I cleaned up the downstairs patio, which was a long time coming, took Mobius to the vet, have a fitting for new contact lenses on Monday, finally got to play Undertow online with friends, knocked down the “perfect on expert” achievements for vocals, bass and guitar in Rock Band (only drums left to go), and did some cooking (a prosciutto & basil pizza, cooked Heston Blumenthal-style) on a weeknight, which was a nice change of pace.

On the house front, I sent the signed contract off to the roofers, so they’re getting us on their schedule soon, and we’ve committed to get some feedback to the kitchen guy by Friday, which means tomorrow night, we have to do a fine detail pass on the kitchen plans to send off feedback to the contractor.

Man. Crazy stuff. I’m *really* excited about the kitchen. It’ll really make a huge difference in our day-to-day lives.

Pulling the Trigger

It seems recently, we’ve been lining up a bunch of things.

1.) We took Mobius to a holistic vet, to get what amounted to a thorough checkup. He’d been a bit jumpy recently, and I just wanted to make sure that there wasn’t something wrong with the poor mutt. He ended up getting acupuncture, of all things, and it does seem to have made him a little calmer. We’ll see over the next few days.

2.) We’re looking at a second round of plans for our kitchen. After some initial feedback, the guy we’re currently talking to has given us some plans that are really close to what we’re looking for. To me, they’re good to go, but Ei-Nyung’s doing the (proper) uber-thorough analysis. That’s basically a $31,000 expense.

3.) We’re looking at getting the roof re-repaired by Sierra Roofing. For $1,500, they’re going to basically take up the front of the roof, figure out why it’s leaking, and fix it. This whole process has been so goddamn absurd, I can’t wait to have it over and done with. I can only imagine the damage the water has done to the inside of the front of the house already. I found some small water tracks that indicate even the front upstairs bedroom is leaking to some degree. Good times.

So, basically, we had one thing we had been talking about for a bit, and we knocked it down. Next up are two really rather daunting things. Not because we’re doing a huge amount of work – ideally, we’re not doing anything other than moving our kitchen stuff, really – but it’s a huge expense – like buying a new car or something, though the added value to our lives will be pretty substantial in return. The roof thing, obviously, will (hopefully) be the end of a five year nightmare.

I’m looking forward to these things being done. With the roof, I’m scared that no amount of work will fix it. Obviously, something eventually will, but it really feels like it’s just a complete disaster. With the kitchen, there’s not as much to worry about, I think. We have an example of the guy’s work next door, a recommendation from people who have worked with him, and plans that show a space that will suit our needs much better than the way the current space does. I guess I still have some lingering distaste and worry regarding home construction. :\

Eh, well. I suppose we’ll see how it goes in the next few weeks.


Watched a movie called “Deep Water” the other day. I’d been meaning to pick it up ever since finishing “A Voyage for Madmen.” “Voyage” is a book about the 1968 Golden Globe race – a race that resulted in the first solo non-stop circumnavigation of the globe by ship. The story is astonishing for a couple reasons, but one of the most interesting stories is that of Donald Crowhurst.

Deep Water, for someone who’s read A Voyage for Madmen, is an extraordinary movie. You can see the events that are described in the book, attach faces to names, and the like. For someone who hasn’t read the book, it’s hard to say how clear things would be. I think Crowhurst’s journey is relatively clear, but his situation is much, much more interesting when the rest of the context is made clear.

It’s a really interesting story – I’d recommend the book to absolutely anyone, but I’d only recommend the movie once you’ve read the book.


So, I had an idea for this text adventure thing for XNA. Ei-Nyung had suggested something … active – like you might be at a dinner-date or something, then the restaurant would get held up, and you’d have to be interrogated by the police or something. I really like the thought of doing “active” things in the context of a text adventure.

I wondered, though, whether it’d be possible to ramp up the player in a really oddball way. I read an article on Portal in the most recent Game Developer, and just being reminded about the game made me think of the really elegant ways they train the player to understand how the game works.

What would a similarly narratively immersive tutorial for a text adventure be?

So, the thought that came to mind would be that perhaps this text adventure would look like a “regular” game – a couple studio title cards, a title screen and short attract mode or something that would then get interrupted by a black screen with terminal-like text. You’d have someone essentially “typing” on the far side of the fake connection, talking to you. Your input, in return, would be through the analog sticks, essentially selecting the way you respond. You could type in stuff like your name, so the other characters could refer to you by name, and maybe if we’re really clever, we could get the Live Vision camera to read the color of the room and comment on it or something.

But basically, the first part of the game is a discussion between you and this person who’s “hacked” your 360. Yeah, yeah – just like every other hacker fantasy out there. But the point is that this is basically just a “conversation” between you and some virtual character that gets you in the mindset that this is how you interact with the world. You get used to “talking” to this person, and ideally, you can get immersed enough in the game that when the game actually shifts out of being simply a “conversation” with this character, the player doesn’t even notice that their in-game avatar is now taking action or moving about in the virtual world.

So, for instance, maybe the end of the conversation with the hacker is their connection getting interrupted under dire circumstances. One of the responses might be something like, “Call Hacker” using a number they gave you before. The game would then describe you grabbing your cell phone, dialing the number, and getting a dead line. If done right, it’d be really interesting to see if you can make that transition – from being *you* to being an avatar in-game – completely transparent.

Dunno, but it sounds like it’s an interesting challenge.

Credit Where Credit is Due

Since I trash-talked him in an earlier post, I owe it to him to clarify, even if he’ll never read it: The “incompetent” guy I talked about earlier accepted my apology without a second thought in an absolutely graceful and dignified manner. I feel terrible for having said what I did, as most of the sentiment arose from an earlier time, before many of the issues we’d had had been worked out, and it was unfair and wrong of me to have said otherwise.


So… what’d I do this vacation? I didn’t travel anywhere, and Ei-Nyung was in Atlanta, so I mostly spent it pretty laid back, enjoying a lot of quiet nothingness. Still, I got some stuff done:

  • Finished Mass Effect – great game with one or two major flaws, but really does show how good a story in a videogame can be.
  • Finished Half Life 2, and Half Life 2: Episode 1 – also a great game, and though the fact that it’s a shooter means the mechanics can get a little repetitive and dull, HL2 also completely redefines how a story can be told in a game. Alyx Vance is hands down the best, most fully realized character in a first person game ever. I’m a bit through Ep. 2, but am not likely to finish it this vacation.
  • Finished Undertow – a short, simple Live Arcade game that’s a lot like Geometry Wars with context and a story. It’s getting sadly overlooked, and I can’t find an online game to save my life, which is a shame, because really, it’s quite excellent. The single player game is short but worthwhile.
  • Finished The Cuckoo’s Egg, by Cliff Stoll – borrowed this from a friend. It’s a nonfiction account of a guy who ended up chasing a hacker through Lawrence Berkeley Labs’ computer systems in the eighties. It’s a really compelling book – not as good a book as A Voyage For Madmen, but definitely a worthwhile read.
  • Did some weeding – didn’t finish the front yard, but did some damage on the weeds with some help from Ei-Nyung. Looking better, for sure.
  • Played a LOT of Rock Band – somehow got a lot of 4-player games together, and had big, big fun.
  • Picked up and started practicing the bass and the guitar – inspired by Rock Band, I started playing around with the real instruments again. Because of my broken left wrist, it’s tough, but I think I’m able to play bass, at least. Complex chords on the guitar are tough, not only because I don’t have enough practice, but because hitting the strings with my fingers with my limited wrist rotation is tough.
  • Went to the optometrist for my regular checkup. Prescription’s drifted a bit, but not enough that I’m gonna get new glasses. Yet. I took a look at a bunch of frames, and the one that “fit” the best was the Oakley Gasket. For some reason, when Oakley frames fit my face, they do so better than any of the other alternatives.
  • Took the dog out a whole mess of times to various places. He jumped into the bay at an inopportune time, when it was closed due to an oil spill a month or two ago. Good times.
  • Went to dinner at a couple people’s houses. Every time it was awesome. I’m really lucky to have friends who are both great company and great cooks. 🙂
  • Went to some friends’ very informal City Hall wedding, which was awesome, heartfelt, and beautiful.
  • Cleaned up around the house a bit, chucked all our mix-and-match plastic food storage crap, and bought a single set of stuff. Now all our stuff matches. Everything fits, and works together.
  • Sent Super Mario Galaxy back – I’d gotten a defective disc, and it kept crashing at a certain point in the game. Hopefully, Nintendo will send a new disc back.
  • Got a new jacket – it’s sort of a blazer-y jacket, but much less “refined” or formal. I think at this point, I’ve got all the jackets I need.
  • Tried, unsuccessfully, to do a “quick” Peking duck for dinner one night, but did successfully make some awesome fresh Guacamole from America’s Test Kitchen. Not that that’s hard, but it’s pretty darned good, and a really quick meal.

Yeah. So, that’s about the size of it. Sure, I could use another year or two of vacation, but hey, it was a pretty good time. Not really looking forward to going back to work for a couple reasons, one of which is pretty obvious.

I think I’d like to spend some time working on this text adventure, but at least at this point, I think it needs a little time to mull around in my head. Though obviously, stuff develops successfully most when you start banging on things, starting with an idea that’s really compelling would be good, and I haven’t hit that spark yet. Still, I like the concept of a console text adventure with animated text, and it does seem simple enough to do. Generating the content would be the bulk of the work, but that’s the kind of work that I really, really enjoy anyway. It’s building up the infrastructure, or programming the actual game that is beyond me.

Still, worth looking into XNA – there’s probably even basic examples of how to do exactly what I want to do there already. We’ll see.