Tibs Manor

Monday, October 31, 2005

I'd Like To Thank The Academy

WDIG had a division-wide meeting this morning in the Leonard H. Goldenson theater, which is part of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences complex located across the street from our offices. There's a giant Emmy statue outside (and two smaller ones in the theater), where we had a breakfast buffet before the meeting. This is some sweet theater, I would love to be able to see a movie there sometime. No food or drink is allowed inside but it would be worth it, it was like a brand new building in there, really nice. The meeting itself was good, I learned a few interesting tidbits of info about the company's strategy for the next decade. I find financial projections to be a real mystery but it was still a good way to spend the morning.

Guess Who

No not the boardgame. The movie. Lauren and I rented Guess Who last night. I am an outspoken Ashton Kutcher detractor, but Bernie Mac rules, and he won out. I enjoyed the movie, Ashton was less annoying than usual and was at times even worth watching. Bernie Mac was funny as expected, things were very predictable but it was good for a few laughs. A good "for the plane" movie (which is where Lauren originally saw it).

IKEA weekend

This weekend was IKEA's 20th anniversary sale which had 15% off most stuff in the store. We took a trip over on Saturday morning, sampled the 99¢ breakfast (eggs, home fries, bacon or sausage - worth a buck but not great) and then bought a bunch of stuff. We picked up the Leksvik bookcase, the Magiker end table, and the Magiker coffee table (we got the tables in cherry finish). These are BIG tables but they are really nice, one completely flat glass surface, easily accessible storage space underneath for coffee table books or a remote, and they fit in really well with the rest of the living room. I am really happy with these. The bookcase is awesome too, I was able to fit basically all of my boardgames in it with room for a decent amount of additions. Games I want to sell didn't find a home here, and I'm storing more mass market games like Apples to Apples, Cranium, and Trivial Pursuit elsewhere as well. Still I was amazed at the amount of stuff I could get into this bad boy, this is a great bookcase and it looks pretty neat loaded up with all the game boxes.

All in all the apartment is shaping up quite well. We hung up most of our pictures and stuff, added some IKEA kitchen storage stuff to free up some more space, and got a few more boxes unpacked. We're pretty close to being completely settled at this point. I'll post some pictures once we are.

The only sad note was a major screwup by my cable company. They came to fix the sound issues I was having. As I suspected, the problem was just a bad cable box. Did they bring a replacement? Of course not. The guy gave me the option of keeping my faulty box for another week, or getting a regular DVR (no HDTV) for a week. Either way I would get the correct box in another week. I am sick of having no audio on half the channels in my bedroom, so I downgraded to regular DVR. I was focused on making sure the sound was working, so shame on me for not testing every other damn function because after the guy leaves I realize he has stuck me with just a regular cable box, no DVR at all! Ridiculous. I have an all-day appointment on Saturday to get the replacement, and hopefully that will resolve this once and for all. I could hook up the TiVo for the week but I don't feel like doing that, resetting the Pronto, etc. So this week I will be DVR-less. Horrors!

These G-Men are for real.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Boardgame Lunch

Some of the ToonTown programmers were having a boardgame lunch downstairs so a few of us 4th floor programmers headed over there after picking up some pizza. Games have to be light (and go unfinished) to fit them in at lunch but it was still fun. I played Quiddler and another table played Pirates of the Spanish Main. I'd played the online solitaire puzzle version of Quiddler before, and the real game is a lot more fun. A lot of the people there had played Settlers, I don't know if a lunchtime game of that is in the works. It would be very tough to finish, and that would be pretty unsatisfying I'd think. In any event it was a fun atmosphere for lunch and I think we'll make a return trip soon.

Coloretto seems like a great fit for this, I may bring that in.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Every Boy's Dream

I caught the last half of Commander In Chief this week. According to one character, every boy's dream is for their father to become commissioner of baseball. What? That's crazy. I think it's for their father to have a high ranking position in the FCC. Seriously if I ever meet a boy who actually has such a lame dream, he is getting an atomic wedgie from yours truly.

The official site for the show appears to be some sort of pseudo blog that pretends everything is real. Interesting approach. All I know is, Mackenzie's no Jed Bartlet. She's barely a Thomas Whitmore.

Game Night - Capitol and Alibi

Made it to the CalTech Game Night last night for about two hours and got two games in. Ted and Rebecca had also purchased the reprint of Ra which hit the table twice, but the timing didn't work out so I wasn't able to get in on either playing. First game up was Capitol. This is basically an area majority game which is famous for having one of the worst scoring tracks ever designed. I am TERRIBLE at this game. I've played three times or so before this, and not only do I always finish last, but I finish WAY in last. I did much better this time, finishing round 1 in 3rd, moving up each round from there, and managing to pull out a win! I think my main problem with this game is how there is such a heavy bias against moving first. First one to build in an area is in many ways at a disadvantage because of the way the building rules and the tiebreakers work. At least in a game like Power Grid that also severely punishes turn order, there are some tradeoffs and a greater level of control in determining said order. Anyway, Capitol is a solid game and I'm happy to play it a few times a year but it will never be one of my favorites.

After that we played Alibi which was new to the group. This is a very light and random piece of filler, it looks like a deduction game at first glance but it really isn't. There are suspect cards with various attributes (fat/thin, striped/polkadot/solid shirt, etc.), and you play down characteristic cards. If when you play down a card, any of the suspects have five cards showing that match them, you accuse them. Accusing gets you a point, and having played a card that matches the accused gets you a point per card. There are some other special cards that do funky little things too but it comes down to randomness and timing. The tabletalk was the best part of this one, lots of funny jokes about the suspects. I think I finished 3rd out of 4 on this one.

Another Nephew!

My brother just called me, his wife just gave birth to their third child. Very exciting news!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

AR - That's More Like It!

Beware of spoilers regarding the 2005-10-25 episode of Amazing Race.

This week saw a return to glory for the show. An interesting locale, good challenges, a fast forward, and perhaps the funniest moment in AR history. I am always stunned when the teams go abroad, because they constantly encounter natives who are willing to drop everything and go miles out of their way, for hours at a time, to help the teams. Don't these people have jobs? This week, seeing such a local board a bus with Wally and his girls, I nearly threw up my hands in disgust. However shortly thereafter it was suggested that the woman was just scamming a free bus ride! I could not stop laughing about that.

DJ Paolo is still a punk. Can you believe he is 24? I assumed he was 3. I feel so sorry for his mom. The shtick is over, it is no longer funny, this is a terrible family. The dad sucks just as bad for not sticking up for his wife. The only one I do not hate is the younger brother Brian.

The Weavers continue to annoy me. In my book, Rolly reached base on E1, and the roadblock clearly required a hit. If I was Phil I would have sent them back to the diamond. I do wish that the "local child sports star" challenges featured better sports stars. The ping pong one in China a few years ago was ok, but this little league team seemed about as coordinated as the Keystone Kops.

I cannot say enough about the Gaghans. What a team. Arguing with a detouring boat captain, recovering from a botched fast forward attempt, pushing through a face-meets-license plate collision, cracking a hit on the dad's first swing, and the kids remaining happy and energetic all along...it was an inspiring sight. Lauren said that she hoped our family would be as great as that and I told her the chances were slim.

My current rankings in terms of who I want to win: Gaghans, Bransens, Linzes, Godlewskis, Weavers, Paolos.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


We watched the DVD of Kinsey last night. It was fairly interesting to finally learn something about a name we all know. It must have been weird to work for this guy though, all anyone does is have or talk about sex. Even at employee picnics and stuff, it's sex sex sex. Being open is one thing but the scene where Kinsey and his wife are discussing sex with their kids makes you realize that there's a line you shouldn't cross (and they cross it - funny though)! A note, there is some nudity in the movie, including one fairly explicit scene, although it could almost be termed "medical nudity." I'm just saying, you probably don't want to watch this with your parents.

Early Halloween

As Lauren mentioned in a comment thread down below, most of this past weekend was spent moving the last bits of stuff from our old apartment over to our new place. Cleaning the old place was no fun at all, especially the balcony. I never want a balcony or porch again until I have a hose hookup, it is too disgusting to clean otherwise. Anyway we are basically done over there now which is a relief. Unpacking will take a bit but at least that is somewhat enjoyable.

We did have some time for fun this weekend, Saturday night we went to a Halloween party thrown by one of Lauren's classmates. This is the party where in a previous year we went as the "Macho Man" Randy Savage and the beautiful Miss Elizabeth, although this year we were costumeless. Lauren had her annual "how does dry ice work" conversation with Tom the chemistry PhD candidate, who always makes a witch's brew punch at this party. That is becoming quite a nice tradition.

Bible Man

Have you ever found yourself wondering "What ever happened to Willie Aames?" when reminiscing about your favorite old television shows? Well wonder no more, he writes/directs/stars in Bible Man, an evangelical Christian show I stumbled across late Saturday night. This is quite a show, in the episode I caught, entitled "The Fiendish Works of Dr. Fear", Bibleman (yes, for some reason IMDB calls the show "Bible Man" but credits Aames as "Bibleman" - maybe he is secretly Jewish?) fights the aforementioned mad scientist who appears to be a ripoff of the Borg only with colored skin and a flaming red goatee. They do battle with some form of lightsaber and Dr. Fear uses a blaster but the main weapon in Bibleman's arsenal is, of course, quoting Scripture. What struck me as especially strange is that the school where Bible Man is doing his good deeds is full of students who aren't even slightly surprised to see a guy in a purple masked caped costume walk around in the hallways. You'd think he'd be more interesting than getting to Social Studies on time but these kids don't even bat an eyelash.

Aames apparently had a religious awakening in conjunction with going clean and sober, and I suppose this show is his ministry. According to the official site there is a national touring production (although IMDB says Aames no longer plays the Man while on tour), lots of DVDs, and even a video game. I prefer the slightly more subtle tactics in, say, Davey and Goliath, as opposed to the straight ahead bible quotes technique used in Bible Man. But whatever, good for him I guess.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Amazingly Boring

The Amazing Race had better pick it up. The last two episodes have NOT been up to par. The thrilling bus ride two episodes ago followed by waiting on line for an amusement park ride is one of the worst episodes of any reality show I have ever seen. This week's was better but still a step down. The show has greatness in it, and I hope it can recover.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Mind Blowing HD-DVR

Saturday afternoon I had a cable guy come out to the new apartment to hook us up. I took the opportunity to take a trial run with the HD-DVR service now offered by Charter, so I had the tech swap out my HD box for the combo. My plan is to evaluate it for a few weeks and if all goes well, cancel my TiVo service and just use this. After two days here's my opinion:


  • Faster operations for channel changing and setting up recordings. Part of this is probably due to not having many season pass / wishlist type things set up yet.
  • Even standard picture quality is far superior to high quality TiVo recordings.
  • Recording HD is obviously good, I am more excited than ever for this week's episode of Lost. HD had much fewer breakups than usual also, not sure if the location helps, or the fact that I am doing less splitting of the signal now.
  • Automatic downconversion of HD signals. This is HUGE, because it means (once I fix the audio issue, see below) that I can always record the HD version of a broadcast. If I watch on my living room setup, I get it in HD. If I watch it over coax in my bedroom, I get the recording downconverted. On my old HD box, if you tried to watch an HD channel over anything but component video, you got nothing.
  • Dual-tuner support. Only two days in and already this has come in awfully handy, last night I got Simpsons and West Wing.
  • More finegrained options for manual recordings and padding (I can end a recording 7 minutes late for instance).
  • Slightly cheaper per month, both in service fees and in electrical bills.
  • One less box and set of wires taking up space in my rack.
  • No more worrying about my cable box turning off and screwing up my recordings.


  • No facility for remote recording scheduling. I don't use this feature of the TiVo often, but there are times it is a lifesaver.
  • No ability to play music stored on my computer. Since my computer will no longer be in the living room, this is significant.
  • Either due to a faulty box, or a weak signal, I currently do not get stereo audio on digital channels. This does not affect my living room setup in the least, but since I distribute the cable to my bedroom over coax, this means I get no sound on any cable channel over ~100. This means I get sound on basic networks and ESPN, but no sound for OnDemand, HD channels, and premiums like HBO. This should be fixable, I have an appointment soon to resolve this. Worst case scenario is I get some converters for the digital audio or something, one way or another I *will* have sound everywhere for sure.
  • No folders for organizing recorded programs.
  • No 30 second skip. I can probably macro a decent solution with the Pronto, but I will miss this.
  • Less ways to find shows. There is a "season pass" type thing but I haven't found the equivalent of a wishlist yet. It may be there, I just haven't found it.
  • No way to skip through chunks of a recording. On a TiVo you can fast forward or rewind, and hit quickskip to jump to the next tickmark in a program. Here, you are stuck fast forwarding the whole time, which is a real annoyance. ReplayTV still rules here, being able to jump N minutes forward and backward was truly a great feature that should be copied.
  • Limited memory in where you are in a program. If you stop a show and watch something else, then come back to the original show, sometimes it remembers where you were, and sometimes it doesn't. I'm not sure of the logic behind this yet, it is annoying but not a huge deal. I think maybe if you watch two more shows, it forgets the bookmark. More experimentation is needed.
  • While watching the Giants yesterday (recorded in HD, what a world!), I had an issue. Game was 10am-1pm Pacific, I padded 90 minutes. I was watching the game, maybe 45 minutes behind. While watching the recorded version, at 2:30pm (when the recording ended) I was knocked out of the recording and taken to live TV on the channel (which was baseball). This is definitely bad behavior. I think it only happens when I watch something that is simultaneously being recorded, but it is still bad behavior. Coupled with the "No way to skip through chunks" con, it left me pretty annoyed as I had to fast forward through 3/4 of a football game to see a disappointing ending.
  • Slightly worse interface. On a TiVo I can either select a show and hit play through the menus, or I can just highlight a show and press Play. No shortcuts like this appear to exist, there are several examples of this type of thing.

That's about an equal number of pros and cons, but I think I am pretty much sold on the HD-DVR. Picture quality is just too good, I can live with little annoyances. It is good to get such performance out of my TV, I knew the old girl had it in her.

Moving Out

Saturday morning we had movers come to take our furniture to the new apartment. Took an hour longer than expected but still not bad, I think altogether it was about $250 which was about what I was hoping for. Definitely cheaper to rent a UHaul and hire help on eMove than to get a fullservice company. I think we're 80% moved out of the old place now, there are still a bunch of things left to come over like clothing and our old kitchen stuff, but most stuff is in the new place. Sadly I was sick much of the weekend and so less cleaning and unpacking was done than I had hoped for. The new place is great though, very spacious, I like the layout. It is nice to start using stuff that we registered for, we had waited to unpack til we moved. So we got to use our new sheets, eat off our new plates, stuff like that.

It was nervewracking but also somewhat thrilling to drive the UHaul. I kept singing the (two lines that I know from the) "Convoy" song. Kids were running beside the truck making that "blow the horn" motion. What a day.

Friday, October 14, 2005

New Games

Ordered two new games today. First up is the Uberplay reprint of the classic Ra. I played this game at a SoCalGamesDay once and really liked it. It's a pure auction game but with some really cool mechanisms, and is one of the rare auction-based games that work really well with two players. The box art has changed so it won't match the other games I own in the Alea series, but who cares about that? The in-game art is identical, except with slightly larger tiles and some new symbol aids on certain tiles. The Ra piece and bidding suns are slightly different but look fine. Not sure if the excellent player aids on BGG will still work with the bigger tiles, but they're not strictly necessary, and I'm sure that someone will post an updated version soon enough. Oh, and it comes with a cloth bag for tile draws, which was noticeably absent from the original release. All for a reasonable price, and to answer my earlier "who cares about that?" question, there are morons like this guy who paid $86 just to have matching box art. I wouldn't have paid that amount even if there was no reprint, but come on, does a matching number on the spine really justify a sixty dollar premium?

In part to make the shipping worthwhile, I added Keythedral. I've almost added this game to an order a few times, and after reading the rules I decided to finally pull the trigger. The description of "Settlers on steroids" doesn't seem quite accurate but there are definite similarities. Beautiful art on this one as well. Definitely looking forward to playing both of these.

The Longest Yard

I watched The Longest Yard last night. I've only seen about the first ten minutes of the original so I can't compare it to that, but it was enjoyable if predictable. My favorite "sports movie meets prison movie" remains 1981's Victory of course.

Fun cast in TLY, especially if you are into wrestling/MMA at all. I recognized Stone Cold Steve Austin, Kevin "Diesel" Nash, (Bill) Goldberg, and the fantastic Bob Sapp. Lots of other famous people in this one, like Michael Irvin, Nelly, and Brian Bosworth. Does the Boz still qualify as famous? It was also funny to see real sportscasters like Jim Rome and Chris Berman appear as themselves, but to have Dan Patrick show up as a cop. However, my favorite castmember was easily Terry Crews as Cheeseburger Eddy. Stupid lines but this guy makes me laugh like crazy, he was far and away the best part of White Chicks, and having seen him here I think I may give Everybody Hates Chris a look.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


After seeing one too many posts on various blogs about the programming language Ruby or one of its related topics like Ruby on Rails, I decided it was high time I learned a bit about the language. After running through a basic tutorial on control flow, arrays/hashes, methods/classes, etc., I have a decent start on things. All I need is an actual idea for a program to learn on, it's hard for me to really get a sense of a language until I have a project that needs doing. If any readers have a desired program, please let me know, and maybe I can write it for you. Otherwise maybe I'll use it to drive my LCD screen now that WBCH is no more.

The hype about no exceptions (I mean special cases, not error handling - Ruby definitely has error handling) seems a little overblown. Integers are objects, unlike the primitive type/object distinction in older versions of Java (I'm talking about pre-generics), but you can't do Integer.new constructors the way you can with other classes in Ruby, like String.new. I'm sure there are other issues like that, but 9 pages into a very basic tutorial I would have hoped to find none! Also, I don't like the way the + operator handles different operand types, even if it is logical:

puts "this is a test"
puts (5+1)
"add a string to " + 4
puts "here's a six: " + (5+1)
# works
# works
# fails, eh so what
# fails, but you do this sort of thing often!

The solution is to explicitly convert the integer (5+1) to a string:

puts "this is the number six: " + (5+1).to_s

To me, better behavior would be if the + operator, when confronted with mixed, uncastable data types, defaulted to concatenation. I can understand that if presented with "5" + 5, the interpreter can't rightly decide if the programmer is expecting "55" or 10...but if the string is unconvertable to a number, concatenation seems like a safe choice. Maybe there's a good reason for this that I haven't encountered yet, and maybe there's a good workaround, but for now it just seems a bit annoying.

What I do like is the same thing that the author of the tutorial is most excited about, and that's the way it handles what amount to function pointers. Not that Ruby is the only language where this is possible, I know you can do this sort of thing in PHP, I've written custom code snippets that can be passed to an array sort method. You can kind of jump through hoops and get some similar behavior with Java but it looks a lot cleaner and simpler in Ruby.

Anyway not sure why this is superior to Java or Python or any other language but it is always good to learn something new. Hopefully I can come up with a project for this, that should give me a better sense of how I feel about it.

Monday, October 10, 2005


Sorry for the lack of updates, busy last few days and not much worth reporting. Anyway this weekend I saw Serenity, the movie spinoff of Firefly. I've never seen the tv show but the previews looked good. I was not disappointed, this was a very fun movie that did not require any knowledge of the show to enjoy. Nothing that really blew my socks off but it was well put together and had some pretty interesting characters. That River girl kicks ass. I will probably check out the tv show on DVD at some point. I wonder if a sequel is possible?

Other than that this weekend is notable for us having constructed the IKEA Hemnes dresser with better luck than this girl, and buying a new fridge. Oh and the Yankees managed to win at least one game, here's hoping they can pull out another one tonight.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Pretty Pretty Pretty Good

I liked episode 2 of CYE much more than episode 1. I have always readily admitted that there are a great many issues on which I have the same opinion as Larry, and George Costanza before that (especially on bathroom related matters!), and this episode was yet more proof of that. I can't say I have ever left a party early to use the bathroom but my NYC roommates will recall my having walked home from work at lunch to use the facilities...I know what Larry is talking about with his "home base". And I am with Larry on the handicapped bathroom stall too. I won't go out of my way to use it, but I have definitely used the handicapped stall in the past due to the others being occupied or dirty. Today I had lunch at El Pollo Loco with some guys at work and the only available table was a handicapped table (there were only about 3 tables total). There was some discussion about if we should use it or not, but we eventually did. None of them had seen the episode unfortunately.

Also it wasn't on IMDB as of last night, but the black guy at the table who Larry told to "keep it down" was Markus Redmond, who you may recall as orderly Raymond Alexander from Doogie Howser, M.D..

Monday, October 03, 2005

The University Doesn't Always Suck!

Other than movies and sports not too much of real interest this weekend. I did a lot of moving into our new apartment, maybe 5 trips with the car decently loaded down. Still lots to go but our current apartment has some breathing room now at least. I also played a lot on BrettSpielWelt over the weekend, mainly Carcassonne but also two games of Puerto Rico. I think I was undefeated at Carcassonne. That game may have luck but I've won about 61% of my games across the various flavors, and if there was a way to filter out old stats, it would be way higher.

My first game of Puerto Rico I played pretty poorly but the second game was interesting. Very early on (either as my 2nd or 3rd building) I misclicked and built the University instead of the Harbor. The University is generally considered one of the worst buildings in the game, it has a great power but it is way overpriced and generally less useful than the other buildings in its class. You very rarely will see the University being built in a game with people who know what they are doing - I've bought it less than 5 times I'd say. Anyway I made the most of it against two other players playing a heavy shipping strategy. I wound up with only 12 shipping points but managed a whopping 42 in building, including 3 staffed large buildings, to squeak out a win, 54-52-51. I very rarely am able to achieve a building-centric win in PR, so I'm pretty proud of pulling this one off.


Time for another movie Lauren wasn't too keen on seeing. Saturday night after watching the Yankees clinch a playoff spot, I went to the movies to see Flightplan. I have mixed opinions on this one. It was a good story and well acted. Many people are saying the plot was obvious but I didn't have it figured out. My main issue with this one is the existence of one or two glaring plot holes. Nothing that stopped me from enjoying it a lot on the first viewing, but looking back it seems like some lazy writing.


With Lauren away at a conference for the weekend, I take the opportunity to watch stuff she couldn't care less about. Friday night I watched Steamboy, the latest anime from Katsuhiro Ôtomo (writer/director of Akira among many others). What I liked was the look of the whole thing. It wasn't a particularly novel design, basically just steampunk, but it was still impressive to look at. The animation was also excellent, I think there was some 3d blended with the traditional animation. What I didn't like was the repetitiveness and the general anime confusion. Massive steam powered engines running amuck in Victorian London is fun, but 2 hours of valves and steampuffs was a little much. Maybe some of the nuances of the story are lost in translation (I had Japanese audio with English subtitles, no dubs for me!), but in any event there was a lot that didn't make sense. That might just be a problem I have with anime, as it's a common experience for me - but in any event, I can ignore that and just enjoy what I do understand.