Archive for February, 2008

whoa.

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

So, all the appliances are here, sitting in our living room. The stove, microwave, dishwasher and refrigerator all arrived intact. I was really worried that in the process of delivery, things would get bashed up. Given how messed up a lot of the stuff at the Sears Outlet was, it seemed like a lot of damage was quite realistically possible, and since we got almost all floor models, if they got bashed in, it wasn’t as simple as, “Okay, fine – please bring another.”

Fortunately, everything came through a-ok. The range IS a big upgrade over the old stove. The old stove was wonderful – reliable, powerful – I had no complaints about it except the space on the stovetop. But the new one is CRAZY. It even has a built-in probe for cooking meat! You just plug the probe in on the inside of the stove, and it reads through the main stove interface.

The refrigerator does have “self-closing doors” to some respect – not in the same way the expensive LG model did, but if you close the door almost all the way, you have to overcome a spring latch that then closes the door the rest of the way. So it’s not just the standard seal that keeps the thing shut, which is nice. The dishwasher, which was a floor model, looks substantially better here than it did in the store. In the store, it had some “wobble” in the stainless steel front, but in our house lights, that irregularity is imperceptible.

I’m really excited. Tomorrow, we’re going out to pick out tile and settle on a granite color, and grab some small light canisters to install above the sink.

woo!

GDC Day 3 (for me, Day 2)

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

Went to the GDC again today and attended a couple talks – mostly writing-related, but one of the ones I went to was the Game Designer’s Rant session, which was pretty cool. This picture was during Jonathan Mak’s “rant,” in which he (and an assistant) released a bunch of balloons with messages written on them with some excellent music.

That’s me with the red hair in the lower right.

Most of the talks today were pretty informative and interesting. Met some really interesting people, and caught up with some friends I haven’t seen in a while. Good times.

GDC Day 1

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

So, I’m going to the Game Developers Conference this year for two days. Today was the first. I went to a talk by Ken Levine, creative director of Bioshock, called “Empowering Players to Care About Your Stupid Story.” It was a great talk – insightful, engaging, and often funny. More, he vindicated a lot of my positions on story in the game I’m currently working on. I wish the project lead had been there, but it’s nice to know that I can now back up a lot of my arguments with the opinions of one of gaming’s most respected writers.

I also went to the Microsoft Keynote, which was interesting for only two reasons:

  1. The XNA Creators Club can now publish to Live Arcade. This is astonishing news, honestly, and makes a sort of hobby game development project much more likely to actually get into the hands of players. I’m really quite excited about this.
  2. Gears of War 2 was officially announced.

Point 2 is really a foregone conclusion, but the first game was fun, so hooray for more of (roughly) the same. After that, I went to a talk by Rob Pardo, who is one of the most influential and important people in the industry – basically the guy who’s running the show from a design side for World of Warcraft and Starcraft 2. The talk was about Blizzard’s approach to designing multiplayer games, and while interesting, it was a little on the dry side.

After that, I went to lunch, where I met a couple MIT alum developers, including Steve Meretzky, who wrote the classic text adventure Planetfall, one of the first games that people regularly say moved them to tears. After lunch, I went to what I thought would be an interesting talk – Marc Laidlaw, the lead writer on Half Life 2, Steve Meretzky, and Ken Rolston, the lead writer on Oblivion, as well as some guy from Midway. The talk was “Stories Best Played,” and given that panel’s credentials, should have been a mindblowing roundtable about creating stories that are ideally suited to the medium. Instead, it was a roundtable talking about games with great stories – Loom, Planescape Torment, Thief, The Fool’s Errand, Ico, Bioshock, Phoenix Wright, and The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay.

This talk ended up basically being the people talking about why they picked a particular game, and then the other people saying that they liked it or didn’t. It was surprising, crushingly uninteresting. Given that I’d just been talking to Steve Meretzky, and found him quite engaging and funny, the talk was a complete letdown – particularly with Laidlaw and Rolston present as well (though Ken Rolston is pretty damned funny).

After that, I had a splitting headache, turned in my pass at my company’s booth so someone could use it tomorrow to attend talks, and then boogied on out of there.

When I came home, the kitchen had been drywalled, which totally blows my mind. Pics will be posted soonish – aside from the teardown, this is the first time it’s actually looked… different.

Welcome to the New Kitchen

Monday, February 18th, 2008

Microwave: GE Cafe microwave – $349

This matches the range that we got – it’s about $100 more than we were looking to spend, but has some nice features, and looks great. We got it at the Sears Outlet, for about 50% of retail.

Dishwasher: Jenn-Air JDB1100AWS – $594

We spent a good deal of time trying to find a dishwasher that was better than our old one. The cheapest stainless steel dishwashers were roughly $330. Most of the really cheap ones were essentially our old dishwasher with a new front. That was a really… unsatisfying option.

Unfortunately, keeping our old appliances wasn’t an option (if I haven’t already written about that, it’s enough fodder for another post), so we had to find something new. This was a floor model from Fry’s, which we actually managed to negotiate the price down from the stated floor model price. This was, far and away, the cheapest stainless from/hidden control model we’d seen – the next closest was more than a hundred dollars more expensive. With a stainless “tub” on the interior, $150 more.

Refrigerator: Samsung RF265AASH – $1350

This was also bought at Fry’s – a return due to the customer not anticipating the proper size. Cosmetically, it’s more or less perfect, and has never been used. We got it for $150 cheaper than its normal price, which was nice. We’d looked for a good while for a French door fridge, and the next closest option was a Kenmore from the Sears Outlet for $1499, and we couldn’t find one that didn’t have something that didn’t have more than a minor blemish.

The Samsung is everything we wanted and nothing we didn’t (no self-closing doors, unfortunately, but the only model we saw with them was almost a thousand dollars more).

Range: GE Cafe slide-in – $1299

This was the best find of the last two weekends, by far. This is just about 50% less than the standard retail price, and though we got it from the Sears Outlet, it looks *perfect*. One of the biggest disappointments of the kitchen remodel has been the miscommunication that led to our stove and dishwasher being disposed of, instead of being kept.

Finding a range that has been a good combination of affordable, but *better* than the one that we used to have. This was difficult because our old stove was really great. It had a really good oven, a really nice high-powered burner, and proved to be really reliable and useful.

The only thing that was problematic with the old range we had (a GE, as well) was that the back console actually stuck out enough that it was difficult to put two tallish pans/pots front-to-back. As a result, when we started looking for a slide-in range (no back console), it was somewhat difficult to find something that really met the quality of our old range, was aesthetically pleasing, and a similiar, if not better value than our old one.

This thing, though… man. Feature-wise, it’s set to blow the doors off our old stove. It has four burners, one central griddle burner (and griddle), and two ovens. Our old stove had a power burner with (we think) 14,500 BTU. The new one has one 18,000 BTU burner, one 17,000 BTU, one 6.5K, and one 5K. The central is 9.5K, I believe. The oven is also a convection oven, which our old one was not.

We saw this at the Sears Outlet a couple weeks ago when we were looking for (what I remember as) $1,499. We thought, “Hey, this is a great stove,” but didn’t get it at that point. The next week, they were both sold, and we couldn’t find anything else that really hit the right notes. We went yesterday, and there was nothing. We went to the Sears Outlet in Milpitas, Fry’s, Best Buy, Sears, Airport Appliances… nothing. Nothing in the same value/feature range at all. We went back to the Sears Outlet in San Leandro, almost just because there wasn’t anything else to do. As we were there, they rolled out two pristine versions of this stove. Literally, I was standing in front of a blank space, and the woman at the store just rolled the range into the slot right in front of me. If there had been a spotlight and chorus accompanying her, it wouldn’t have made it any more dramatic in my mind.

Crazy.

So, that’s it – we’ve knocked down all the major appliances for our kitchen. My feet are tired, my legs hurt, I’m sick to death of looking at kitchen appliances, but we really got some good stuff for excellent prices.

Good Customer Service: Rock Band

Sunday, February 17th, 2008


So, after weeks of enthusiastic playtime, our Rock Band drums finally met their demise last night. The yellow pad had split in two sometime during the evening. The pad still works, technically, but it’s clearly going to degrade from here – the rubber pad’s already showing where the edge was rubbing up against it last night.

I called the Rock Band support line (since the automated stuff all assumes faulty pads from the start), and talked to a guy there. I explained entirely honestly that the pads failed through normal (but heavy) use, and that I was just wondering if it’d be possible to order a spare part.

He told me the pads were still covered by warranty, and it wasn’t a problem to replace them. Using the same “Express” method that they shipped our replacement guitars with, the new pads should be here in a couple days, and then we have a month to ship out the old set. While obviously, I’d have preferred indestructible pads, or guitars that worked correctly from day one, the Rock Band customer service has been really, truly excellent, going well above my expectations of what they needed to do.

IT HAS BEGUN!

Monday, February 11th, 2008

Okay, well – it hasn’t REALLY begun yet. No one’s come and actually done anything seriously different to the kitchen. But Ei-Nyung and I have been moving the various bits and bobs that are movable from the kitchen into the “gym”, clearing it out for when these guys start going to town on Tuesday.

It’s pretty strange. As messed up as this kitchen has been, it’s been *our* kitchen for the last five years (in various incarnations – thanks to Colin for a number of improvements). Now, it’s about to be completely destroyed and rebuilt basically from the ground up.

I’m really, really excited, as is Ei-Nyung. The new design is so much better, from a usability perspective, that it’s hard to believe given the original shape of the kitchen that this isn’t what they did from the start. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if it *is* what they did way back in the day, and it was only the bizarre ’70’s remodel that made it a completely ill-conceived, non-functional space.

The other thing that’s strange is that we have a stunning amount of useless shit in our kitchen.
Okay, you’ve been to our house, or you know us, so maybe that isn’t a huge surprise. But it’s not our fault! When you’ve got housemates, you tend to accumulate some random crap. Stuff we’d never, ever buy – like canned chicken. So, we’re clearing some of that stuff out as it goes out of the kitchen, and some of it will undoubtedly get cleared out as it comes back in.

The only appliances we’re replacing in this go-round are the microwave (changing from a standalone box to a micro-hood combo) and probably the fridge. While the dishwasher/stove don’t match each other, frankly, they’re both completely functional, and it seems a waste to replace them right away. The fridge is still functional, but we’d like a different form factor, and the nook it’ll be placed in is a different size than our current fridge. The dishwasher and stove, on the other hand, are the same size as future upgrades, so there’s no pressing “need” to upgrade now.

Man. Crazy stuff.

Huckabee v. McCain v. Washington

Monday, February 11th, 2008

So, in Washington State, the caucus was called for McCain before all the votes were counted – 13% of the vote remained uncounted, despite only 1.8% separating the two candidates. The race was called for McCain by the state party chair Luke Esser, based essentially on his certainty that the state would go McCain’s way. You can read a little more about it here.

The interesting thing to me is that Huckabee had beaten McCain in two contests earlier in the day. Kansas was his in a landslide, and got more votes in Louisiana. Then, Washington is called for McCain. Imagine if Huckabee had beaten McCain in all three states? What would the headline that night have been? What were the headlines for Obama?

Instead, this is the kind of thing that gets posted on CNN:

McCain gets mixed message; Dems deadlocked after contests

Republican voters in Louisiana and Kansas told John McCain they weren’t ready to support him. Washington state, however, backed the Republican front-runner Saturday over former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, according to state party officials.”

Instead of “Weekend Blowout” or “Huckabee Sweeps McCain,” it’s “McCain Gets Mixed Message.” That’s what people see – it’s not momentum for Huckabee – momentum that appears, by rights, to be his – two states and one that’s extraordinarily close, it should be more “McCain on the Run” than anything else. But because the state chair called the race, unreasonably, for McCain, that’s now the status quo, and Huckabee has to overturn what people will accept as a general truth.

This is EXACTLY what happened in 2000 – by framing Bush as the victor, the media tilted the election in his favor. Instead of Bush being unjustly installed by the Supreme Court in a contested election that was both obviously defective and too close to call, they called Bush the victor, handing him the de facto victory. Once he was crowned, Gore had to work to overturn the “valid” result of Bush’s victory, instead of the genuinely neutral or Gore-favored *REALITY*.

So, it’s interesting to me that McCain’s people, or the GOP in general are not only above stealing elections from their opponents, but from people within their own party. Talk about being fundamentally corrupt. Sure, you can lay the blame at the feet of Luke Esser, the guy who called it, but you have to also lay the blame at the feet of McCain, the entire GOP, and anyone even remotely involved in the election who isn’t *insisting* that the votes be properly counted.

I’d hate to have Huckabee as the nominee, simply because that would mean we’d have some (however remote) chance of having that nutcase as President. I despise McCain’s party-line obsequiousness as well – I’d rather have a rancid piece of cheese in office than either of those morons. But I suppose it’s interesting, seeing again how powerful framing can be – all you need to do is announce the victor in an authoritative manner, and people will immediately adjust to that victory being the status quo. Essentially, the Dems need to learn to put that out there right away – announce victory, however tenuous, as early and loudly as possible. Presume you have won, and in many ways, that’s all you need to do.

Obama Talks About Religion

Sunday, February 10th, 2008

Man… every time I hear Obama talk, I want him elected more.

Buck Fush

Friday, February 8th, 2008

http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/02/08/bush.speech/index.html

WASHINGTON (CNN) — President Bush, in a rousing speech to fellow conservatives, exhorted his ideological cohorts to “fight for victory and keep the White House in 2008…”‘

What does that mean? Does “Conservative” at this point mean someone who is a fiscally completely irresponsible, in the pocket of big business, a religious flat-Earther, scientific know-nothing (okay, a redundancy there), homophobic, racist, xenophobic warmonger?

I mean, I guess I’m curious – if Bush is “one of you,” philosophically, at what point do you look at yourself and say, “Holy shit, what have I done with my life?!?”

woot.

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

Permit for kitchen remodel obtained.

Excellent.