I walk around with a toothpic in my mouth a lot of the time. My dentist says it's good for me - seriously! I learned the habit from my friend Paul way back in high school.


(Click image for enormous picture.)

© 2007 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


Azurik 2 ?

Michael (initials "MLB") wrote to me on MySpace:

----------------- Original Message -----------------
From: Michael
Date: Dec 25, 2007 9:40 AM

Sorry if you have gotten this question a thousand times. I got Azurik when it first came out for xbox and loved the game. Do you know by chance if there are plans for a sequel at some point in the future for 360? Or is it very unlikely?


I can't reply directly to Michael, because MySpace won't allow it (I'm not even sure how Michael sent me the message).

The answer is:

Thanks for writing. It's very unlikely unless someone were to buy the IP from Microsoft. The game barely broke even (which is better than most games!) but Microsoft only wants to publish blockbusters (can you blame them?).

-- Stephen

© 2007 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


OLPC - First impressions

The photo was taken from the OLPC and uploaded via the built-in web browser.

The OLPC doesn't come with a manual - and it doesn't really need one.

My son Thomas (age 12) just jumped in and started fooling with it.

It's dark here in Seattle during the winter, so I can't tell you what the display is like in bright sunshine, but it looks like it will be very nice, but that's just a guess from turning the brightness down.

The display has four pixels that are semi-stuck on.

It takes it awhile to hook up to WiFi. I had to enter the key four times before it "took". The icons are not obvious either - I had to look those up online from another computer.

Running lots of activities seems to bog it down.

It's pretty lightweight.

I'm looking forward to trying it out as an eBook reader with my draft of Nano-Plasm.

All in all, for a little more money than a DS Lite, it's a pretty bitchen machine, and we've only scratched the surface of what it can do.

Visit Laptop.org to participate in the "Give One, Get One" promotion, currently scheduled to end on December 31, 2007.

© 2007 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


Nano-Plasm - almost there!

I "finished" (sans final editing) my book Nano-Plasm. It's about 190 pages long.

I was feeling I would never get around to the "final editing"... but then I had an idea.

I went to LuLu and checked out the site. I last checked it out about two years ago I think.

LuLu has changed focus - the old focus was to use printing-on-demand so people could publish books at low risk. Instead, now they are set up to support printing one-off specialty books, like personal cookbooks or picture books. So, I uploaded my "near final" draft of the book to LuLu and asked them to print it and mail it to me. It will arrive in a couple of weeks as a genuine bookstore quality 6x9 soft cover book. I'm pretty sure once I'm looking at a real tangible object, I'll want to fix every flaw.

Then I can publish it through LuLu.

The total cost of printing, binding, and shipping my one-off copy?


I think it would cost more than that to print it on the laser printer at the local Mail Post.


I've been working on this puppy since May, 2001. A few people have read it. Some like it. Some like it but say that they like it considering it is a first effort. A few don't get past around page 15, when Gillian is in the cave. I think I'll have to work on that specific spot. But people who make it past the cave scene like it.

That's a good sign.

© 2007 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

$125K Piano

The Sherman Clay piano dealership in Seattle has a $125K Steinway.

They kindly allowed me to play it last Friday.

Wow. That was pretty dang fun.

© 2007 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

Sony Clie NZ90 - RIP

Sony Clie NZ90 Review

Ah, my Sony Clie NZ90. (See the review for some nice pix.)

I think it's dying. It insists that batteries are unsuitable for use even though they worked fine the day before.

At one time I had a great Bluetooth ecosystem designed around my Clie. This was in 2003, and I could connect to the web anywhere via my cell phone and surf for just the cost of minutes. The cell phone companies plugged that hole eventually. I had the Wi-Fi adapter for faster surfing when that was available. I stored music playlists on it. It took nice 2 megapixel pictures until the camera CCD died one day. It had a big display - still big even by today's standards - and could show beautiful color pictures.

I always had trouble getting the Wi-Fi to work with 128-bit WEP. The 64/40-bit WEP would always work. One day, a year ago, it started working. Then two weeks later it stopped. What a mystery that was.

It could access Memory Stick Pro devices - so I had 2 gigabytes of memory in it at one point. That was impressive for a PDA from 2003. Now I just keep a little 128 megabyte stick in it with a few tunes.

It did a lot of what an iPhone does, but four years before the iPhone came out.

I'm getting an iPod-Nano (3G) for Christmas. It can do most of what the Clie could do, except surf and take pictures. But I have nicer cameras and a laptop with pretty good battery life for surfing. I might want a PDA again someday. I'm not sure. Generally I think the time of the PDA has come and gone.

Sony Clie - RIP.

© 2007 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


Lost Webisodes

I like Damon and Carlton and I love their podcasts which are funny and, in that Lost sort of way, informative ... but I offer up these Lost Webisodes as evidence that big budget TV guys can't make stuff for the web.

© 2007 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

GENIUS! Incredible Wiimote Hack Creates Multitouch Display - Gearlog

Incredible Wiimote Hack Creates Multitouch Display - Gearlog

Wow. I'm completely amazed. This simplicity of this guy's hack is amazing. It's all made possible because the WiiMote uses standard Bluetooth for communication.

© 2007 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


Relative peace in Iraq

U.S.: Iraq quietest since '04 - Conflict in Iraq- msnbc.com:
Violence in Iraq is at its lowest levels since the first year of the American invasion, finally opening a window for reconciliation among rival sects, the second-ranking U.S. general said Sunday as Iraqi forces formally took control of security across half the country.

My nephew-in-law, who is serving in the Marines in Iraq, wrote us and said the same thing.

I think our country is stuck there for many more years, though, until the Iraqis learn the habit of not hating each other 100% of the time. My wife, who knows some history, said she thought we were in Japan for a good many years, and Japan didn't have the civil war issue. [Actually we were in charge there seven years.] I think we have at least another seven years, since we're really just getting started on this new lifestyle thing in Iraq.

Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno:
"I feel we are back in '03 and early '04. Frankly I was here then, and the environment is about the same in terms of security in my opinion," he said. "What is different from then is that the Iraqi security forces are significantly more mature."

© 2007 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

Lego Digicomp II

Digicomp II made out of Lego.

Notice the picture of the original DCII:

Digicomp II

© 2007 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


7 inches of joy

The first 45 I ever bought was "Lola" by The Kinks.

I still have it.

My kids were listening to Weird Al Yankovich's "Yoda", which is a take-off on Lola, and so I was reminded of it.

I was probably 14 when I bought "Lola". I was so excited to buy a record! I told my neighbor Jeff Rhoads about it. Jeff is a few years older than me. He said, "You know what that record is about, don't you?" Of course I didn't. "You'd better listen to the words more closely."

So I did and I was a bit shocked! And a little embarrassed at what I had been listening to over and over again in my bedroom. But I liked the record anyway.

I digitized it yesterday. The problem is, my record player can only play 33 1/3. So I digitized it at the wrong speed and then sped it up in Adobe Audition. Now it sounds just like a crispy old 45.

I like it.

Stephen Clarke-Willson

(Note: 45 rpm records are 7" across.)

© 2007 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.



Google Reader (59):
Steve Lacey: As a blogger I like to include a blogroll on my site so that friends, family and other readers can take a look at what I like to read. It's also a nice way to give a shout out to the authors of the blogs that I like. However, maintaining a blogroll can be a bit of a pain as your subscriptions ebb and flow.

I know that guy! Steve Lacy used to work at RenderMorphics just before it was bought by Microsoft. One of the things the RenderMorphics people (mostly Steve I think) had to do as part of making RL part of the Game SDK was convert it to COM. So they put COM interfaces on top of their stuff that just thunked into it. I had a game engine that used the RL code and later that same low level code was used in the Intervista VRML browser. Microsoft eventually bought the Intervista browser. Since I had code that used the RL standard "C" interface, I thunked my code into the COM interface layer.

So it went like this:

1 The VRML browser called into my code to render a scene.
2 My code called into original RL interfaces which I had rewritten to call into COM.
3 The Game SDK COM layer called back into the original RL interfaces.
4 The RL interfaces called down into hardware or software.

So basically steps 2 and 3 canceled each other out. When Microsoft bought the Intervista VRML browser, Steve Lacey looked at the code, and saw my interface layer calling into his interface layer and how they just canceled each other out and got a good laugh from that.

The Intervista VRML browser was downloaded at least a million times, but sadly it was built for IE 4 ActiveX interfaces and Document Object Model which Microsoft totally changed for IE 5. That killed off the VRML browser, sadly.

VRML was actually pretty fun and surprisingly fast considering all the work that went on to render a scene.

Ah, the good old days.


Kernighan's Law

Dr. Dobb's | Letters and the Law | October 10, 2007:
Do you know Kernighan's Law? 'Debugging is twice as hard as writing the code in the first place. Therefore, if you write the code as cleverly as possible, you are, by definition, not smart enough to debug it.'

I actually did not know Kernighan's Law ... but once I heard I intuitively agreed with it.

What's really hard is debugging code from someone who is way smarter than you and writes clever code. That takes a great deal of persistence.


Happy Holidays from Above the Garage Productions

It's time once again for the annual posting of the Jingle Bell Rag.

Happy Holidays from Above the Garage Productions

Get Lost

Click here and then wave your mouse over the image.

On fast modern machines it looks pretty cool.

The Java applet came from Durius.com.

The image is from a game I was working on at home back in the mid-90's.

At one point the story for the game was almost picked up as a screenplay for a $3M movie. But then, many screenplays are almost picked up.


Oldest known post

Here's a link to the oldest known post by me: Did you know the internet was usable in 1989?

Lego upgrade and MIT sample server (hack fix) - comp.windows.x | Google Groups

-- Stephen

Software Piracy

Here's my idea for a T-Shirt to combat software piracy:

"Help prevent software piracy: become a software ninja!"

Sadly, it might have the wrong effect - a person might refine their pathetic pirate skills into leet ninja skills and steal more software.

© 2007 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


NBC's Stupid Move

Digg - Welcome to Zuckerland: NBC's Stupid Move

This is awesome. I rarely read the comments at Digg but even the comments are interesting.

And I never heard of Hulu either.

This is my favorite comment:

From Hulu.com:

"Why Hulu? Objectively, Hulu is short, easy to spell, easy to pronounce, and rhymes with itself. Subjectively, Hulu strikes us as an inherently fun name, one that captures the spirit of the service we're building. Our hope is that Hulu will embody our (admittedly ambitious) never-ending mission, which is to help you find and enjoy the world's premier content when, where and how you want it."

Translation: Doomed.

Update 2007/09/24 - Hulu.com is probably dead on arrival, but at least Zucker had a backup plan with Amazon.com to host downloadable TV content. You can download the pilot episodes from four new shows. Amazingly, these downloads don't have any tag lines like "Watch the show Monday's at 8:00 p.m. PDT/EDT!" The shows are just the shows without any commercial breaks, no tag line, ... basically no promotional oomph at all.

Bionic Woman was interesting but I don't plan to continue watching; Chuck was funny and we'll give it a chance; Journeyman was interesting but I don't plan to continue; and the fourth one never downloaded.

Update 2007/11/24 - I have an invite to the Hulu private beta so I'm going to check it out. According to Zucker, NBC barely makes any money off iTunes. I read an interesting article recently that explained Apple's iTunes store pricing: priced just low enough for everyone to break even ... and therefore promote the sale of iPod hardware! That made a lot of sense to me.

I like getting non-DRM tunes from Amazon. I just visited California and I thought, "I should own California Dreamin'". Cost at Amazon: $.89. You can't beat that with a stick.

HD DVD in Upset Victory Over Blu-ray

GameDaily BIZ: Forrester: HD DVD in Upset Victory Over Blu-ray?:
'Weakened by these developments, Blu-ray needs to offer a viable hardware model at the $250 price point by Christmas 2007,' said Gownder. 'The Blu-ray camp must also stave off further studio defections, and employ more aggressive promotional tactics to counter HD DVD's recent momentum.' 'Failure to alter strategy would open up Blu-ray to a possible upset defeat at the hands of HD DVD,' he added.

It's only going to take one more tudio to switch for the death knell for Blu-Ray to begin tolling.

And HD-DVD players will be less than $250.00 this Christmas.

(Update 2007 11 24: Blu-ray is $450 at Costco and HD-DVD is $250. My friends with Blu-ray say, "So what if HD-DVD wins? So what if it is a stalemate and we have both? HD-DVD is going to be so cheap I'll just buy it later for $100.")


A Pirate's (After) Life For Me

A Pirate's (After) Life For Me

Scroll down to the section on "A Pirate's (After) Life For Me".


The best fix, of course, is to let it be known that it's all cleaned up and put down the toilet by the end of the night.

Another idea would be to let people fill out a form and have the ... stuff shot up in a firework. They could charge big $$ for that.


Mario Galaxy

I seem to have a copy of Mario Galaxy a little before it goes on sale tomorrow.

I've played it a bit. One of my children has finished it. It takes a little getting used to - the nun-chuck is used for moving and the standard Wii remote is used to grabbing and shaking and spinning.

I love that it runs at 60 fps. Very few games pull it off. 60 fps looks so much more "real" than 30 fps (and lots of games drop to 20 fps). It's simple arithmetic - you can draw 3x the stuff at 20 fps as you can at 60 fps, so to get a 60 fps game going you need to make some simplifications. (Those football games that run at 60 fps are amazing bits of engineering.)

I don't have a lot of time to play games, sadly. When I do have time, I usually play the game that's made where I work. I have about 280+ hours into that. (One of my kids has 2400 hours into it. She knows everything about it. She's a very helpful resource.)

When I was working on console games, I played console games. When I was working on PC games, I played PC games. Now that I'm working on a massive MMO, I have no time for other games. I don't think this is an unusual experience in the MMO world. The good ones consume all your game playing time.

Oh wait, this is about Mario Galaxy. Yeah, looks pretty good.

© 2007 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

TiVo and Rhapsody

I like Rhapsody - I use the free version which lets me listen to 25 songs a month. It's great for checking out what's happening. For instance, Britney's new album, which was almost entire written and performed by her producer and her highly processed voice is treated like an extra synth instrument, sounded interesting to me, and worth using up some of my 25 free plays on.

I like TiVo. Of course.

TiVo + Rhapsody (at least on a Series 2 box) is not good.

The UI locks up a lot. When it's not locking up, it's slow to respond - so slow you get confused about what you've done.

Too bad. It could have been cool.

© 2007 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.



E! News - Fans Shortchanging Radiohead's Rainbows?:
A new study says nearly two-thirds of respondents indicated they didn't pay anything for the download.

The problem with any statistics about the Radiohead experiment are that a lot of people are going to go try it out even if they don't know Radiohead as a band. The upside for Radiohead is huge - lots of people get exposed to the band that might not otherwise have listened.

I haven't tried it out - I don't really care about Radiohead. But if I did, I would probably give them a couple of bucks. 1) Hey, it's more than they ever would have gotten from me in this life; and 2) if I like it a lot I can buy it again; and 3) I might not like the music at all, so a couple of bucks is a small risk to take on the music.

(I've been downloading lots of Amazon Unbox to my TiVo for $0.99 - in fact, two weeks ago I downloaded four movies and I've only had time to watch two. For $0.99 I'll try lots of movies I would never otherwise touch.)


Multi-Threaded Program Visualization

(Click for bigger picture.)

This strange looking picture is a trace of a multi-threaded program. This is just a screenshot - in the real display program you could mouse over the interesting bits and see a call stack at that point in time for a particular thread.

I have all the code to do multi-threaded traces. I wrote it over two years ago. I didn't like the way the visualization part was going and I gave up on it. I think it needs to be done in 3D to have the most utility.

I placed the code that writes out the trace into the public domain but then I never posted it. I guess I should do that. I would love it if someone was inspired to work on the visualization part. The trace files can be quite huge as every single function entry and exit is traced. The idea is to turn it on for a frame or two while your game runs and then look for hotspots. I was visiting a local game company before I took my current job and I integrated it into their code. They had a demo coming up the next day and there was an unexplained hiccup in it. After looking at a simple HTML dump of the function timings one of the engineers sort-of slapped himself on the head and said, "Duh!", and ran off and fixed the demo so there was no more hiccup.

I really should get around to packing up a zip file and posting it on my web site ...

© 2007 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


Routine layoffs at EA

GameDaily BIZ: EA 'Restructuring' Confirmed:
'This was a small and somewhat routine event for this time of year when many of our titles are finished and being shipped,' said a statement by EA. 'The action included small numbers of people across studio, publishing and corporate divisions.'

This has to be one of the dumbest press statements I have ever seen.

It's good to know that EA has routine layoffs every year around Christmas time.

I'm sure that's a great recruiting tool.


Warming Oops

FOXNews.com - Junk Science: Hey Al Gore, We Want a Refund! - Opinion:
A British judge ruled on the eve of Al Gore co-winning the Nobel Peace Prize that students forced to watch 'An Inconvenient Truth' must be warned of the film’s factual errors. But would there be any science at all left in Gore’s 'truth' if these errors and their progeny were excised?

Read the entire article for a breakdown of all the scenes (a lot of them!) that the judge says must be excised before the film can be used in schools.

(Well, they didn't give him the Nobel Scientific Accuracy Prize, eh?)


Rod Miller Banana Mix (mp3)

I spent around thirty years going to Disneyland to listen to Rod Miller play the piano.

When I was 16 years old, I took my tape recorder to Disneyland and recorded on cheap cassette tapes. A few years ago I recorded three days of his playing onto MiniDisc (it sounds a lot better).

I've always wondered if there was a pitch shift caused by my old cassette recorder. I was never sure that it recorded and played back at the same speed!

I finally answered that question last night when I compared two versions of "Yes, We Have no Bananas" played 28 years apart.

The 1976 version is on the left and the 2004 version is on the right. They weren't played at the same speed so you'll hear them drift together and then apart with an echoing kind of sound. The clip is only 15 seconds long.

And the answer is ... my old cassettes are in tune! Or at least close enough.


© 2007 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


Epcot 25

Epcot opened 25 years ago (October 1st). I was 23. A friend of mine was an Imagineer on the project. Shortly after Epcot opened I flew out and stayed with him for a week. He had a trailer at Fort Wilderness Campgrounds. He worked a lot so I had tons of time to myself. I got into everything free, thanks to him.

One day he drove me into Epcot through the back gate. Since he is an Imagineer and he has a good "show sense", he took a certain route he had worked out where we went up over a rise (there aren't any hills around) and he had carefully timed the music on his cassette tape recorder to match. So my first experience of Epcot was coming over this rise with Disney music playing and World Showcase laid out before me.

25 years ago is a long time ago, and I can't remember some details. I know I had some kind of backstage tour of Journey Through Imagination. I think it was partially open. I've been saddened at how the ride has been torn apart and reconstructed and made cheaper over the years. I suspect the original version cost too much to run - it was pretty clever.

I love Epcot even though it is overall pretty boring. It's hard to justify the cost of spending much time there. If I lived in the area and had an annual park hopper I would go to Epcot a lot. As it is, when I travel from Washington State, I spend just a day there - and maybe some extra time in the evening for the fireworks.

Of course, I loved Progress City and the vision for a whole new city with all new cool tech. It might have been built if Walt Disney's charisma had carried the day, but he passed away. I have to hand it to the Imagineers that turned it into a Disney park. That had to be really hard to do. But the original vision was bigger than the remaining Disney Corporation could handle without Walt.

Someday I want to rent a condo in Celebration for a month and pretend I'm living in Epcot.

Irvine, CA, has a lot in common with the original vision of Epcot. The president of the Irvine company was a board member at Disney. Irvine is a planned community. UC Irvine, in a sense, is at the center, with a beautiful park, and then the various parts of the University extending out, hub-style. I lived in Irvine a long time and I went to UCI for 10 years. That was sort of like living in Epcot.

Now I live in Washington State where they can't plan their way out of a paper bag. But at least the water we need falls out of the sky. That's a good thing.

© 2007 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.



I love this bridge/overpass/architecture in Seattle and I've taken lots of pictures of it:

I've always wanted to go up there but I didn't know how!

At PAX the exposition was in the North Hall. I walked over to the North Hall, back to the main area, over to the North Hall, back to the main area, and the fifth time across the bridge I realized I was actually walking across the very place I had wanted to visit! Yes, I am slow on the uptake. Well, to tell the truth Will Wheaten was there, and I was distracted by that. (Heh, not really.)

Here's a shot from the South Hall:

and from inside:

© 2007 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


Downtown Disney (California) Monorail Station

Downtown Disney Monorail Station - Night. (Click for larger pix.)

© 2007 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


Downtown Disney (California) Fountains - Night

Downtown Disney Fountains - Night. (Click for larger pix - I use these as Windows desktop wallpapers a lot.)

© 2007 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


Netflix Instant Viewing

I've tried this on five computers and it works on two of them. It's awesome when it works - I have the cheapo $5.95 Netflix plan which means I get almost six hours of free instant viewing time in a month. That's almost enough to watch an entire season of a half-hour comedy show - because each 1/2 hour show is really about 22 minutes. That's almost eighteen episodes a month. I've been working my way through "The Office".

At this very moment I am on the phone with tech support at Netflix. Well, actually I've been listening to pleasant elevator music for the past 1/2 hour. The phone support doesn't give you any queue information at all - how late 90's is that? I'll be hanging up soon.

Of course, I've tried all the online remedies that I could find. Plus, since I designed and programmed the DirectSong site, I know all about how Windows Media works. I've deleted the usual folders and what-not and it still doesn't work.

Maybe I'll try it on some more computers.

This reminds me of my second most favorite Microsoft joke.

Three guys go on a camping trip. On the way down the mountain their Jeep (yes, it was a Jeep brand vehicle) skids around a corner and almost falls down a ravine!

The hardware guy opens the hood and starts to examine the engine to figure out what went wrong.

The marketing guy starts working out talking points about how exciting the accident was.

The software guy says, "Say, why don't we take the Jeep back up to the top of the mountain, drive down, and see if it happens again?"

© 2007 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


iTunes 7.4.1

As near as I can tell (via testing from two computers) iTunes version 7.4.1 corrupts my 3G iPod. Things seem better with 7.4.2. (I might mention 7.4.1 was only out for a day or two.)

I'm sure Apple would love me to buy a new iPod - and I will - "real soon now" - but my current iPod works pretty well! (The only substantial problem is that it doesn't remember where I am in a podcast if I switch away.)

So while the testing on older iPods might not be perfect, I do appreciate that the problem was caught and fixed pretty quickly.

© 2007 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

Virgin Play

GameDaily BIZ: New Moves at SCEA, dtp and Virgin Play:
Spanish game publisher and distributor Virgin Play announced recently that they have hired Mike Merren as Development Manager of the company's Virgin Play and V.2Play brands.

'Mike first worked for me in 1992 at Virgin Games,' commented Tim Chaney, President. 'He is a focused, dependable, skilled and straightforward individual who will add much to our evolution over the coming years.'

Wow. I worked with Tim Chaney back in 1993 at Virgin Interactive. He was the Managing Director of Virgin UK. I should probably remember Mike Merren but I don't. (*Sigh*.)

Interesting that Virgin Play is headquartered in Spain.


Washlet S400 Features

Washlet S400 Features

Pretend you're at a fancy hotel in Tokyo! Buy yourself a Washlet.

Feel fresh!

At your command, an integrated, self-cleaning nozzle extends to release a warm, soothing stream of aerated water to provide the ultimate in personal cleansing.

This reminds me of a description I heard about heated seats in cars.

"All the benefits and none of the problems of peeing in your pants."

Brutal Attack - Woot!

Bush's stairway to paradise | Salon.com:
...flattery always requires deference. Every morning, Josh Bolten, the chief of staff, greets Bush with the same words: 'Thank you for the privilege of serving today.'

The main article is the most brutal attack on Bush I have ever read. (And I read Vanity Fair magazine.) It portrays Bush as a simp that was supposed to be manipulated by Cheney in accordance with Bush Sr. directives but then Cheney decided to go his own way and butt fuck all of us directly.

I liked this article. Bush is a moron (but then, you knew that already, didn't you?).


Black Ops Entertainment

Black Ops Entertainment

John Botti, who used to work with me at Virgin Interactive, and who made some significant enhancements to Dave Perry's game engine (back in the day), is developing a series of videos on how to get into the game business. If you visit his site you can scroll down and see him with Leo Laporte on "The Lab" talking about hi-def video capture and editing.


Download NBC fall TV pilots for free from Amazon - Download Squad

Download NBC fall TV pilots for free from Amazon - Download Squad:
Remember the big knock down drag out fight between Apple and NBC? You know, the one that ended with NBC deciding to sell downloads of all its shows through Amazon Unbox instead of iTunes? Yeah, well the upshot of that fight was that NBC and Amazon have struck a deal to let you download the pilot episodes of 4 of their new shows for free. Starting today. A couple of weeks before they premiere on TV.

Here's the list of shows you can get for free:
* Bionic Woman
* Chuck
* Journeyman
* Life


The First Rule of Debugging

The First Rule of Debugging

Mr. Koenig has also posted the Zeroth Rule of Debugging but personally I would reverse the order of these rules. I think the First Rule is more important than the Zeroth Rule.


JPG Magazine: Stories: Photo Essay: Future Present - The Space Needle

JPG Magazine: Stories: Photo Essay: Future Present - The Space Needle

Wow. JPG magazine solicits photos, gets people to rate them on the web, and publishes the winners in a real magazine. You could spend a lot of time browsing this site. It's beautiful.


Lecture 15

Lecture 15:
Dodsworth Chapter 13: Applying Game Design to Virtual Environments. Stephen Clarke-Willson.

Query 15.9: Cite one instance from an actual video game of each of the key game design principles that Clarke-Willson lists:
- third person presentation
- discovery and exploration
- movement versus animation
- player control
- the use of maps
- the use of 'weenies'
- closed environments
- constant positive and sporadic negative feedback
- complexity management and slow bullets

Query 15.10: How does the author propose to solve the three problems he poses:
- lack of depth perception
- management of player viewpoint
- navigation and targeting support

I love it when something I've written is used in a university course. It's only happened a few times, so the novelty hasn't worn off. Woot.

Disneyland Test Wall Slideshow

The amazing Disneyland Test Wall... Many years ago, the test wall had a lot more brick types in it. According to lore, this wall was used so Disneyland designers could point at the kind of brick work they wanted and then that kind of brick would be used for a specific building. The test wall shrunk to its current size when the lockers were moved to this location and portions of the test wall were (sadly) destroyed. I think it was was 15+ years ago when the lockers were moved.

© 2007 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

The Design of Virtual Environments

For some reason, Google sent me an alert about an article I wrote way back in the day (1994)for ACM's Computer Graphics magazine. The article, The Design of Virtual Environments: Value Added Entertainment, was part of a special edition put together by Clark Dodsworth. That was a lot of fun. I'd just spent a year at Virgin visiting a lot of theme parks as part of an idea they had for little mini-Virgin themed area-things. It's hard to describe what the project idea was exactly but doing the research for the project was a lot of fun since it involved visiting a lot of theme parks and themed restaurants and such like.

© 2007 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


On e-toll roads, beware 'orphan exit' fee - The Red Tape Chronicles - MSNBC.com

On e-toll roads, beware 'orphan exit' fee - The Red Tape Chronicles - MSNBC.com

The way I read this is that if you don't have the E-ZPass doodad at all in your car, and you drive through the E-ZPass lane, then you won't be registered either getting onto the toll road or getting off.

We were recently in CA and just for fun we took the big fancy CA-73 toll road. It was great - no traffic and only $4.25 extra. We paid at the exit and I truly had no idea what it was going to cost but I figured I could probably afford it once.

E-ZPass is coming (or is here now at the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge?) to Washington as they start to rebuild our old roads. I personally like "Pay as you go" type taxes, so fire away.



Jeremy Soule - Composer & Symphonist:
“One of my favorite things to do is to spend time with the wonderful people at Amaze. The environment there is very lively and creative. In particular, Dr. Stephen Clarke-Willson is one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever worked with. I’ve learned much from his experience in the games business.” --Jeremy Soule

Too funny.

Bush accused of twisting Asia history to defend terror war - INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos

I tried to shrink this article and just quote a little bit from it ... but it's a great article! I love how Bush just makes shit up. Karl Rove taught him to do that.

Bush accused of twisting Asia history to defend terror war - INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos

WASHINGTON -- Experts say that US President George W. Bush may be misrepresenting history when he drew a parallel between the bloody wars Americans fought in East Asia to the current US "war on terror" to back his case for maintaining US troops in Iraq.

The US leader on Wednesday likened the "terrorists" who wage war in Iraq to the communist forces in Korea and Vietnam and imperial Japanese army, and warned that a hasty Iraq withdrawal would trigger a bloodbath like the one in Southeast Asia after the US defeat and retreat from Vietnam.


"Whatever your position in that debate, one unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like 'boat people,' 're-education camps' and 'killing fields,'" said Bush.

More than half a million US troops fought for South Vietnam against the communist North during the peak of the war, which left more than 58,000 of them dead before Washington's humiliating pullout.

"My understanding of the history of the Vietnam war and the lessons of that differs rather dramatically from Mr. Bush's," Robert Hathaway, an Asian expert at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, told Agence France-Presse.

Hathaway said that despite the eight-year US military involvement and its heavy casualties in Vietnam, Washington was still unable to create popular support in the south for a government that was widely considered to be corrupt and unpopular.

South Vietnam collapsed in 1975 not because American forces had withdrawn, but because the South Vietnamese and their army simply did not care enough about their government to fight in its defense, he said. The North Vietnamese simply walked almost unopposed into Saigon.

"So one of the lessons, at least for me, is the American tragedy in Vietnam is that military force by an outside power -- a power that many people in Vietnam viewed as an occupying force -- was not sufficient to create the political conditions for genuinely popular government in South Vietnam nor the political will to fight for that government," Hathaway said.

"Another lesson of Vietnam is that combination of great power and good intentions is not necessarily sufficient for America to impose its will on others," he added.

Retired US Brigadier General John Johns, an expert on counter-insurgency who served in Vietnam, said Bush was "cherry-picking" history to support his case for staying the course in Iraq.

"What I learned in Vietnam is that US forces could not conduct a counterinsurgency operation. The longer we stay there, the worse it's going to get," he said.

Steven Simon of the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations, echoed the comments.

Bush "emphasized the violence in the wake of American withdrawal from Vietnam. But this happened because the United States left too late, not too early," he said.

"It was the expansion of the war that opened the door to Pol Pot and the genocide of the Khmer Rouge. The longer you stay the worse it gets," he said.

About 1.7 million Cambodians died during the Pol Pot-led Khmer Rouge's reign of terror from 1975 to 1979.

Historian Robert Dallek, who had compared the wars in Iraq and Vietnam, accused Bush of twisting history.

"We were in Vietnam for 10 years. We dropped more bombs on Vietnam than we did in all of World War II in every theater. We lost 58,700 American lives, the second-greatest loss of lives in a foreign conflict. And we couldn't work our will," he told the Los Angeles Times.

"What is Bush suggesting? That we didn't fight hard enough, stay long enough? That's nonsense. It's a distortion," he continued.

"We've been in Iraq longer than we fought in World War II," he said. The disaster in Iraq "is the consequence of going in, not getting out," he added.

VZ Navigator

VZ Navigator is an application you can download to most Verizon cell phones.

It's a very complete GPS solution. It doesn't use GPS satellites, so you can't use it anywhere. It uses cell towers to triangulate where you are and Verizon enhanced service must be available. On a recent drive to California, VZ Navigator failed to work in southern Oregon.

It's $10.00 a month or $3.00 a day. Which is cool because you can leave it inactive most of the time and just use it when, say, driving to California, or if you get lost. It's a mere $3.00 to get un-lost.

The $10.00 option kind of sucks. It's tied to your billing cycle, which, of course, they failed to explain to me. My usage cross over a billing cycle boundary, so even though I only used it for a couple of weeks, it cost me $20.00. The customer service lady, who was nice and apologetic but didn't fix anything, agreed that if I had bought the monthly package one day before my billing cycle completed, I would get one day of service for $10.00.

Still, compared to a $600.00 or $800.00 portable GPS sytem, even $20.00 is awesome.

There was a problem down in California.

I wanted to drive from Fallbrook, CA to Sea World in San Diego. VZ Navigator sent me on a 371 mile drive instead of the 33 miles it should have been. Luckily I ignored the route it chose.

Here's a picture of the deranged route:

Deranged VZ Navigator Route

It's a little hard to see, but basically the route to San Diego goes all the way up north past LA and then back down San Diego.

© 2007 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


Disney Park Pics from Around the World (RSS)

Check out the RSS feed to my photo gallery.

There are lots of Disney pics from around the world. I managed to hit all of the Disney parks around the world within a twelve month period. (Hong Kong hadn't opened yet ... but I did see the big model at WDI! Lucky me!)


Guild Wars rage for 4 million - PC News at GameSpot

Guild Wars rage for 4 million - PC News at GameSpot:
Guild Wars rage for 4 million NCsoft's free-to-play MMOG hits sales milestone through combined tally of original game and first two expansions.


Paramount picks HD DVD over Blu-ray - Tech News & Reviews - MSNBC.com

Paramount picks HD DVD over Blu-ray - Tech News & Reviews - MSNBC.com:
LOS ANGELES - Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. will offer next-generation DVDs in the HD DVD format and drop support for Blu-ray, further complicating the race between the competing technologies.

Monday's announcement affects the upcoming DVD release of the blockbuster "Shrek the Third" and all movies distributed by Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks Pictures, Paramount Vantage, Nickelodeon Movies and MTV Films, as well as movies from DreamWorks Animation, which are distributed exclusively by Paramount Home Entertainment.

Yay! A win for HD-DVD.

Now we have Universal and the Paramount Studios that are HD-DVD only. (Thanks Spielberg and Katzenberg.) Warner Bros. is still trying to do both.

It's all about the pricing.

If only Disney would switch sides. I bet they will after this Christmas.


(Apparently Paramount is getting $150M in marketing guarantees ... but I believe the Blu-Ray side has been doing the same for quite some time, so I don't see that as big news. Also there was an article in Variety about Michael Bay getting upset because he thought Blu-Ray was better and he wanted Transformers to come out on Blu-Ray ... but then he saw a demo of HD-DVD and learned that players would cost $200.00 and decided HD-DVD didn't suck after all.)




This looks pretty cool. I can hook this up to my network of security webcams and produce seamless imagery. They have a free download for eval purposes.


DailyTech - "300" Outlines HD DVD, Blu-ray Disc Differences

DailyTech - "300" Outlines HD DVD, Blu-ray Disc Differences
HD DVD outshines Blu-ray Disc with a better version of "300"

This week’s home video movie releases will bring with it a disc that will clearly outline the differences in feature sets of HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc. “300,” released on Tuesday, hits the market on high-definition with unequal releases.

The rights to “300” belong to Warner Home Video – a studio that backs both HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc – but the studio has graced the HD DVD version with several exclusive features that currently can be found nowhere else.

Blu-Ray has been in the news recently because Blockbuster has started renting Blu-Ray disks. But HD-DVD players are outselling Blu-Ray by a considerable margin. There are HD-DVD players now for $249 and that will be even lower this Christmas.

Read the article for details on how the HD-DVD spec is actually implemented in current hardware while the Blu-Ray interactivity spec is still in development and not widely used.



You'll want to check out the annual ConnieFest event held in Orange County, CA. I went to one about fourteen years ago and it was a good time. Sadly, Connie didn't appear that year.


GameDaily BIZ: Ted Price On Quality of Life, Resistance, Ratchet and the Power of PS3

GameDaily BIZ: Ted Price On Quality of Life, Resistance, Ratchet and the Power of PS3
If you're working with the first-party folks at a console manufacturer, whether it's Microsoft or Sony, they tend to spend a lot more on marketing. So if you do end up becoming synonymous with that console you may end up selling a lot more than if your games are spread across multiple consoles. On the other hand, some of the third-party publishers have proved that being multi-console is really great. Ubisoft is a fantastic example of that. Their games are out on every single console and they end up selling a buttload when you add them all up.

I wonder just many units constitutes a "buttload"?



Stephen Clarke-Willson with the SimpsonMaker

I tried to make an avatar of myself as a Simpson but it's pretty tough. Try it yourself at Milk and Cookies.

© 2007 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


Random Blts: Castles

Random Blts: Castles

I finally ran through the logs from last year (2006) at Above the Garage, where my pictures are hosted, and I discovered that my Disney Castle pictures are still very popular. The most downloaded picture is from the Paris park - it was downloaded over 15,000 times. Woot!

The other Disney Castle pictures and this picture of Japan at night are still very popular - about 7,000 times for each photo in just the past six months.

LOST-Spoilers & Discussion

Holy Cow - A giant list of Lost Podcasts

For me, half of the fun of Lost is listening to podcasts about it. Lost is in trouble because the show is just too freakin' complicated. The ratings are down - but supposedly the number of people watching the show, all at once, in order, (via iTunes or the DVD releases) has compensated for the low ratings somewhat (although that doesn't help the advertisers much). If I didn't listen to these podcasts then I wouldn't know what was going on because there are just too many characters and too many relationships and the story is unveiled over too much time.

The Official Lost Podcast is a lot of fun because Damon and Carlton, the Executive Producers, are a couple of goofballs and reveal bits of information in a very entertaining way. Luckily I can brief my wife on key facts because without those key facts the show doesn't make too much sense - although my wife says it is entertaining anyway.

Someday (at least three years from now!) I'll watch the whole series again on DVD. I think it will be pretty cool.

The next three seasons will only have 16 shows each. I think this is brilliant, because the show is the single most costly show on TV now. Cutting from 22 to 16 shows cuts the overall risk for ABC and also lets the writers spend more time on each episode and really clean up the lose ends for us. It's a big break between seasons but I'm hoping it's worth it.



The big difference: TJ Hooker - Payday Pirates:
"That's what separates the rest of us from scum like you."

In a rather big coincidence I happen to watch The Terminator (the first) which reminded me of what happened when we were making a Terminator game at Virgin. There had been a Terminator game for the Genesis made by Neil Young, David Perry, and Nick Bruty, which was one of the shortest games we ever published. The second Terminator game for Sega CD was one of the largest console games we ever made. Each level in the Sega CD RAM could be nearly as big as an entire cartridge for the Genesis. The second version was programmed by Silas Warner who is famous for having made the very first version of Castle Wolfenstein. Nick Bruty did about half of the art - Nick was a master of specular highlights back in the days when computers didn't calculate it for you. Most of the shiny levels (heh, that's a pun [and an inside joke]!) were by him. Tommy Tallarico went to town on the sound and music.

Silas programmed up a video player and so we took the Terminator movie and edited the shit out of it. Basically, our assumption was that people playing the game knew the story, but would love to see a quick action clip between levels that moved the story along a little bit. I have to say it came out great.

Unfortunately, James Cameron didn't agree - he thought we were recutting and, well, butchering his film. Which was true, but our purpose was different from his when he created the film. Ultimately we were allowed to use one or two small clips from the movie. It was a serious bummer because a big part of our job when adapting licenses was to reinterpret the material in an interactive setting, and Mr. Cameron just didn't "get it." Oh well. (I'm still a huge fan. I'm sure if I could have sat down with him I could have convinced him of the rightness of what we were doing.)

Later on, when we made Demolition Man for 3DO, we edited the shit out of that movie, and it integrated beautifully with the game. Woot.

Which brings me to the minisodes. Someone has taken classic TV shows and cut them down to their bare essence. Which I think is pretty cool. I remember when The Phantom Edit version of The Phantom Menace came out. I never saw it but the idea of cutting all the painful parts out of Star Wars Episode I was brilliant - although George Lucas didn't see it that way and things were clamped down on that.

I guess recutting a person's movie isn't something to be done lightly. But with their permission and even better - their involvement - adding movie footage to a game can improve the game.

More recently (well, a few years ago), Griptonite Games was making the Lord of the Rings game for the Nintendo GBA and believe it or not, they had extra cartridge space. My idea was to play a short video clip at the start of the game and EA/New Line managed to approve that and I think it really helped send the message that "this game is special" (which it was) and gave the game a little extra shot of buzz. Woot.

Anyway, minisodes seem cool to me. I don't want to watch 22 minutes of TJ Hooker but I found this five minute clip entertaining. I would love five minute versions of every Star Trek episode. That would rock.

Somebody get on that.


I Dare You

I dare you to watch this Dennis Kucinich video and actually listen to him instead of staring at his wife while her hair blows in the wind. (I confess I read about this in Vanity Fair magazine.)

Go on - I dare you.

© 2007 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.



Guy Johnson's Safari - click on the picture to proceed to Google Maps

My friend Guy Johnson who I have known for many years (15? 20?) recently went on a huge road trip and documented it as he went using Google Maps. He posted a little anecdote from each stop he made. Most of it is true except generally the last sentence, which is a joke, which I need to point out, because Guy's humor is very dry.

Anyway, check it out - it's pretty cool.


Windows Vista: Under the Hood: Page 6

Windows Vista: Under the Hood: Page 6:
So the entire codebase was 'reset.' Instead of being based on XP, it would be based on Windows 2003 Service Pack 1. Although 2003 is itself based on XP, it had seen improvements in important areas such as reliability and security. That codebase also formed the basis for Windows XP on x86-64 platforms, so was probably better from a compatibility perspective, too. The development work on the old Longhorn wasn't completely scrapped; features from the old codebase were integrated into the new one, but this time they had to achieve much better standards of reliability and quality.

People keep saying Vista was Longhorn but it sounds to me like whatever Longhorn was, was completely scrapped. Which sounds like a good thing. I have to say, someone deserves the "big balls" award for tossing all the garbage and hitting the "reset button." That was some gutsy move.

How does a dirty word get that way? - By Michelle Tsai - Slate Magazine

How does a dirty word get that way? - By Michelle Tsai - Slate Magazine

I didn't see Bull Crap in that article anywhere.


Ancient History

vcr plus encryption scheme - rec.video | Google Groups

Wow. A Usenet post from 1991. Does anyone still use VCR Plus? For that matter, does anyone still get the paper version of TV Guide?

Here's a post from 1987 about the X Window system.

Back to the Future!. (A post from 1989.) I think the filmmakers revealed in the box set that in fact this was an editing error.


Universal's gamble: Will consumers win?

KRT Wire | 06/04/2007 | Universal's gamble: Will consumers win?:
Q: Sales figures for Blu-Ray movie discs are significantly higher this year than for HD-DVD. How do you counter the argument that the tide has turned in Blu-Ray's favor?

A: We didn't have many hot releases in the first quarter, or many releases at all. They had some real biggies, like "Casino Royale." The fourth quarter will be telling. Our releases will be stronger, and we're looking for a big attach rate [that's disc sales per player] when people jump for an inexpensive HD-DVD machine to show off their new high-def TV set.

To that end, we're doing a lot to educate the retailers and the consumers. You know, there are now HD sets in probably 25 million households. But more than half of those owners still believe, incorrectly, that anything they plug in_including basic cable and standard-definition DVD_is going to be in "high definition" on those sets. We've got to show them what they're missing.


Don't Cry for Me ...

I was just listening to this song "Don't Cry for Me" and I swear I thought the words were:

Don't Cry for Me
If your NUTS are cold and lonely

but apparently it's

Don't Cry for Me
If your NIGHTS are cold and lonely

© 2007 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


Mark Regnerus' Forbidden Fruit: Sex & Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers. - By Hanna Rosin - Slate Magazine

Mark Regnerus' Forbidden Fruit: Sex & Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers. - By Hanna Rosin - Slate Magazine: "Evangelical teens today are much less sheltered than their parents were; they watch the same TV and listen to the same music as everyone else, which causes a "cultural collision," according to Regnerus. "Be in the world, but not of it," is the standard Christian formula for how to engage with mainstream culture. But in a world hypersaturated with information, this is difficult for tech-savvy teenagers to pull off. There are no specific instructions in the Bible on how to avoid a Beyoncé video or Scarlett Johansson's lips calling to you from YouTube, not to mention the ubiquitous porn sites. For evangelicals, sex is a "symbolic boundary" marking a good Christian from a bad one, but in reality, the kids are always "sneaking across enemy lines," Regnerus argues."


It's about time ...

Education: Getting Your Freak On Just Got Harder (Seattle Weekly)

I was wondering when teens would do a proper job of inventing behavior that would be repugnant to their parents.

They've finally done it!

I know there was the tongue splitting thing ... but let's face it, hardly anyone did it.

But now there is "freak dancing" which basically simulates sex while dancing. (See picture near top of linked article.)

Now we're getting somewhere. And apparently everyone is doing it!

So many kids are doing it, and getting kicked out of school dances, that there is no one left at the dance when it is supposed to end!

Thank God we homeschool our children and they aren't exposed to this stuff. (You don't suppose they read my blog, do you? [Actually, they don't. Not interested.])

[I re-read this and it sounds like I'm a prude which I'm not. Heh. It's not so much that I'm against grind dancing as I am pro childhood. Childhood is a precious thing and kids are pushed out of it too quickly. That's one of the premises of unschooling - let your kids play! They'll learn to explore and have fun and it turns out (in general) they'll actually retain the information they do learn. Imagine that.]

Mozilla Firefox - Smart Keywords

Mozilla Firefox - Smart Keywords

These are so useful and I always forget how to set them up. The built-in help in Firefox is useless in this regard.


Why I still don't have Hi-Def

What's the Matter with HDMI? — Audioholics Home Theater Reviews and News

I don't have hi-def because it's easy to buy a hi-def TV but to really enjoy TV these days requires an entire ecosystem of support. In the early days of DVD it was necessary to tell your tuner/amp what kind of audio signal it was receiving and if you screwed up you got a blast of noise that would hurt your ears.

Today, you can buy a decent up-converting tuner/amp for $450.00, with a modest number of HDMI inputs (two or three). In the long run, this is no where near enough inputs. And since there's potentially copy protection to deal with, the entire food chain from your hi-def source to your TV needs to obey some obscure and poorly implemented rules in order to reliably produce a picture you can enjoy.

The whole "standardization" situation right now is a cluster fuck - you know that's true when HDMI cables have version numbers.

If I was a single guy with one TV and an Xbox 360 or PS3 and some other Hi-Def source (cable box or even over-the-air antennae) then it would be easy to buy the right equipment and it would work tolerably. But if you want the same flexibility you have now with standard-def then I think waiting a couple of more years until things settle out is a good idea.

Certainly waiting until now has been a good idea, as most hi-def TVs weren't "Full hi-def" (1080p) and didn't have anywhere enough pixels to even display a reasonable "hi-def" picture.

So I'm waiting a couple of more years. Eventually the S3 TiVo (with more disk space) will be cheap, and oversampling LCD hi-def TVs will be cheap, and the cables will work, and the tuners will work, DVD burners of some type will exist and be cheap, and so on. Then I'll consider upgrading the whole house. Until then, I'm enjoying the fact that standard-def keeps looking better and better as a result of the overall video pipelines converting to hi-def and then downsampling for standard-def.

(Update 2007-11-24: I have Hi-Def now, a year ahead of schedule. It's 1080p, it looks great, and even standard def looks pretty good. And supposedly the fluorescent lights that power the backlight won't get dim for 22 years. At least, that's the hope.)


GameSpot - Roads to Victory

Game Rankings - Roads to Victory:
There are a few other issues that keep the combat from being fun for more than a few levels. Although the controls are pretty good, they're still not on par with those on a console or PC. To compensate for this, enemy artificial intelligence is quite poor. Sometimes you'll be just a few feet away from soldiers, but they won't have been "activated," and they'll stand next to you, staring off into space. Even when you shoot them, they'll stand out in the open and take fire. The poor AI, combined with frequent respawning of soldiers, makes it feel as if you're playing some sort of WWII-themed shooting gallery at times. Enemy AI might be poor, but that doesn't mean you won't die. Getting blown away by unseen fire is commonplace thanks to enemies that shoot at you from offscreen and kill you before you're able to turn and locate them. While the levels typically take about 15 minutes to beat (if you don't die), there are no midlevel save points, and the game saves your progress only at the end of the level. This would be a mere inconvenience if it weren't for the fact that you must replay entire levels when the game crashes. We experienced several freezing-and-crashing issues, particularly later in the game. Roads to Victory's multiplayer is also a letdown. Up to six players can play deathmatch, capture the flag, king of the hill, and a few other modes via an ad hoc connection, but there's no online play to speak of, and there's no game sharing either.

Go Michael!

(Maybe it's time for David to optimize things again.)


What happened when I followed The Secret's advice for two months. - By Emily Yoffe - Slate Magazine

What happened when I followed The Secret's advice for two months. - By Emily Yoffe - Slate Magazine:

So, I vowed to follow Byrne's simple rules for abundance and see what happened. The book encourages one to start big: "It is as easy to manifest one dollar as it is to manifest one million dollars." But I thought starting with the million-dollar manifestation was like saying, "I love you" on a first date; I didn't want to scare the universe into not taking my calls. I came up with three things I thought the universe would find reasonable: a kitchen floor, unclogged sinuses, and a new desk.

At this point I should add that The Secret is not only drivel—it's pernicious drivel. The obvious question that arises from its claim that it's easy to get what you want, is: Why do so many people get what they don't want? As Byrne writes, "Imperfect thoughts are the cause of all humanity's ills, including disease, poverty, and unhappiness." Yes, according to The Secret, people don't just randomly end up being massacred, for example. They are in the wrong place because of their own lousy thinking. Cancer patients have long been victims of this school of belief. But The Secret takes it to a new and more repulsive level with its advice not just to blame people for their illness, but to shun them, lest you start being infected by their bummer thoughts, too.

The Secret is Christian Science all over again.

Why do so many people get what they don't want? As Byrne writes, "Imperfect thoughts are the cause of all humanity's ills, including disease, poverty, and unhappiness." Yes, according to The Secret, people don't just randomly end up being massacred, for example.

I was raised a Christian Scientist, until I was 20, so this is familiar territory. I had horrible acne in High School. After praying over it for 2 years, it finally went away. Although I suspect it had less to do with praying and more to do with washing my face once a day with clean non-soapy water. I had Chicken Pox when I was about six; it went away after three weeks of praying.

To be sure, our thoughts affect us a great deal. The brain is the biggest gland in the body. My one healing in Christian Science was when I was stung by a bee and my hand was swelling up. My Dad came in and said, "That's not necessary!" He said it with such authority and I was so afraid of him that the swelling went away. But that's actually just hypnotism and suggestion and/or perhaps activating some glandular part of your brain.

Also, to be sure, when a person with great personal power like Steve Jobs says, "I'm going to dominate the digital media world," it comes true. Now Jobs is saying, "I'm going to get rid of our lame copy protection system and sell unprotected MP3s!" and it might come true. But if Joe Blow says that, not much is going to happen.

I think the problem with Christian Science and books like The Secret are that they overstate the case. Positive thinking is good. Focusing on what you want is good - shit, even figuring out what you want is good. But deciding the universe is at your beck and call is bad. Even Gates, one of the most powerful people on the planet, chooses his battles. His company dominates in a couple of areas and as far as the big money goes, that's where Microsoft focuses. Everything else is a dalliance, and the chief owner knows it. Now Gates is focusing on certain medical issues world-wide. He's not just throwing his money anywhere. Likewise with Oprah - she's focusing her charitable work in places she cares about. Then you have Al Gore standing up for global warming but since he's not quite focused and has errors in his presentation he might end up doing more harm than good in the long run.

"As a man thinketh in his heart so is he," (Proverbs 23:7) I believe the author was talking about character, not control of the universe.

(BTW, I recommend, Christian Science, by Mark Twain.)


Sadr: Spreading Havoc to New Parts of Iraq

Sadr: Spreading Havoc to New Parts of Iraq - Newsweek - The War in Iraq - MSNBC.com
Drive-by shootings are nothing new on Baghdad's streets. But petty murders like Ibrahim's are a sign of a more worrying development. Weeks ago Sadr issued orders for his fighters to lie low as thousands of new U.S. and Iraqi soldiers deployed throughout Baghdad. For the most part they've obeyed—and the resulting drop in sectarian killings was the best news that U.S. commander Gen. David Petraeus had to report last week, as he pleaded with congressional leaders to give his security plan time to work. Now individual gunmen and sometimes whole units from Sadr's Mahdi Army are breaking off on their own. The militiamen "are under a lot of pressure, so it's natural for them to shed pieces," says a Coalition official familiar with the group who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive material.

The freelancers add a new dimension to Iraq's already brutal kaleidoscope of violence. In Baghdad, after an initial dramatic drop, the number of corpses being found each morning is on the rise again. Outside the capital, fighters fleeing south have linked up with local Mahdi units; their presence is upsetting the uneasy balance of power struck between various Shiite groups in the region.

Well, duh. So much for the "surge."


Reid: Bush in denial over Iraq

Reid: Bush in denial over Iraq - Politics - MSNBC.com:
Reid: ‘The failure has been ... presidential’
He did not repeat the assertion in his prepared speech, saying that “The military mission has long since been accomplished. The failure has been political. It has been policy. It has been presidential.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid might be my new hero. I don't know anything about this guy - but statements like this are awesome.

It's hard to imagine a greater failure of leadership than the current President Bush.

I've been reading about these neocon bastards and they are pathetic.

It turns out the World Bank, which the US funds to a large extent, has been doing the same bullshit around the world that the neocons tried to pull in Iraq - forcing a free market economy onto countries that don't want it - and worse - the "free market" economy they force on these countries is controlled by US businesses. It's not free at all. And who is head of the World Bank right now? Iraq war architect Paul Wolfowitz.

Bush talks freedom but walks oppression. It's not good.



A close reading of Skymall. - By Ron Rosenbaum - Slate Magazine:
The ad for the SnacDaddy® chicken-wing array tray—headlined 'Where the wings have no shame'—appears in the Late Spring '07 issue of Skymall, which I found in the seat pocket on a Delta flight. This was just pages from an ad for 'the world's largest write-on map mural,' probably useful for keeping an eye on the fast-moving global catastrophe that will make your many handcrank devices the envy of your crank-deprived neighbors. And a few pages on, we find the 'crank-powered walkie talkie.' (The crank, handbred in Vermont, is sold separately.)

The issue also features the 'upside-down tomato garden,' the 'remote controlled robotic hammerhead shark,' the 'pop-up hot dog cooker,' the 'million-germ-eliminating travel toothbrush sanitizer,' the 'window-mounted cat porch,' the 'world's smallest indoor remote control helicopter,' the 'Turbo-Groomer® COBALT' nose-hair trimmer, the 'Sudoku glass tabletop set,' the 'Solar-powered mole repeller,' (what, no handcrank in case of nuclear winter?), the 'versatile mock rock in five sizes.' (For those unaware of the purpose of a 'mock rock'—since real ones are not in short supply—they are designed to 'hide problem areas in your yard or garden.')

Back when I was traveling every other week it was normal for me to flip through these magazines. I wanted gadgets - lots of them! The ultimate gadget for me was my Sony Clie - camera, web browser, PDA, music player, photo viewer, etc., all with a pretty big screen for a small handheld device. Eventually the camera died, and the Bluetooth ecosystem I had set up that allowed me to browse or send email anywhere collapsed, and the Blazer browser quit working because it required a proxy system that shutdown, but it's still, several years later, a cool device. (I now download my news to AvantGo in the morning and read it later if I'm in the mood.) I had little cameras, my phone that talked to the Clie, a laptop, various music players, and so on.

But now that I haven't been on an airplane for three years I find I don't care very much about collecting gadgets. When I was traveling, I felt like a "man on the move", and that required me to have many clever portable gadgets.

I enjoyed traveling but now that I'm not doing that (no trade shows, no E3, no GDC, no 26 hour trips to Atlanta and back) and I'm not a "man on the move" I'm just a guy who wants to listen to music in the car or when I want to block out the noise at work.

Life is simpler, in my relatively gadget free world. I still have the Clie, and carry it around, because it keeps my appointments, although my appointments are linked at work and at home via a network, so I'm not really sure why I carry the Clie around. Mostly habit, I guess, and reading AvantGo is cheaper than buying a newspaper.

I also carry around a stupid number of memory stick and/or itty-bitty hard drives. I'm not sure why. The Clie has room for a multi-gig memory stick. My iPod generally has several gigs free where I can park stuff. I guess I have some kind of compulsive pack-rat mentality for dragging data around.

I thought it would be cool to have a sample of every kind of computer media I have used over the years, from paper tape, to cards, to 8" floppies for the Terak machine, to data cassette tapes for the Apple and Kim-1 computers, to the 20 megabyte hard disk the size of a washing machine, to various tape formats (including 7-track and 9-track tapes, and DEC tapes! [they were awesome], zip disks, memory sticks, DAT drives, and so on. But instead I think I'll try to track down pictures of them.

And maybe store those pictures on my Clie ...

Time for Plan G in Iraq? - By Phillip Carter - Slate Magazine

Time for Plan G in Iraq? - By Phillip Carter - Slate Magazine:
But defining the current surge as a 'Plan A' is a dangerously dishonest move that ignores the history of the Iraq war to date. In fact, since 2003, we have run through at least six plans, none of which has succeeded. The Petraeus plan is something more akin to Plan F—truly, the last Hail Mary play in the fourth quarter. And if it fails, then we better start considering Plan G, also known as 'Get out of Iraq.'

The article goes through all the different "plans" for ignoring and/or occupying and/or subduing Iraq. It concludes that if the current plan doesn't work, then the last option will be to leave.

Since the current plan isn't working, and won't work, because Sadr and his forces can trivially reposition themselves wherever the troops are not, and so the bombs will keep exploding in different, seemingly random places, plan G will be to replace the Iraqi government with our own guys. The rhetoric will be, "These people had every chance to govern themselves and chose not to, and so we're in charge now."

Plan G - the one I describe - probably won't work either, but I think it's more likely to be the next plan than withdrawal. Bush won't admit defeat and he equates withdrawal with defeat; he would rather stress our military to (or beyond) the breaking point than admit defeat.

'Tired' and 'Drunk' Lily axes US tour - The Money Times

'Tired' and 'Drunk' Lily axes US tour - The Money Times:
I have been on tour with this album for a year now, I have fulfilled every commitment up to this point. I am tired, but more than that I don't think I have been giving my best performances recently. I have been getting really drunk because I've been so nervous about doing bad shows, and I don't want people spending money on a going to see a show that isn't the best it could be,” the 21-year-old star wrote on her blog page.

Now thar's some straight talk. I think her album is one of the best things I've heard in years. I remember listening to a free version of one of her tunes, probably from her MySpace page. The quality wasn't very good - it sounded overly compressed and even - ack - a bit noisy (unusual in this digital age). I was looking forward to getting the real album which I ordered from Amazon but when it arrived I discovered that the sound quality was the same. The album - which is still great - sounds like it was recorded in a garage on a four-track cassette tape machine.

But anyway, she admits to getting drunk from the stress... very unusual behavior, and actually quite refreshing (the admission, not the drunkenness).


Vista Shutdown

As the proud and fascinated owner of a new Dell Vista Laptop I can honestly say that Vista is "interesting."

Here's a story about the shutdown button that makes Vista more interesting.

My favorite part of the article is the notes at the bottom about edits made to the article:
edits: fixed link, removed some strong language, fixed math

It would be an interesting project to improve the build system for a project the size of Vista. I suspect a little Web 2.0 mashup action with a database and some heavily linked HTML and comments interleaved with the code would probably make things a lot better.

Cross disciplinary management is always tricky. In games, the disciplines range from sound effects, music, art, animation, effects, programming, level design, story and some kind of "big picture" control. It's possible Microsoft doesn't see the Vista shutdown button as cross-disciplinary - after all, it's all code. But I would say that Kernel programmers are totally different from UI programmers and Tablet PC UI programmers are going to have some fairly specialized concerns as well, and that techniques used in games to get such disparate functions as level design and sound effects working together could probably be used to make the Vista build process a lot better.

© 2007 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


WP: McCain stakes bid on success in Iraq

WP: McCain stakes bid on success in Iraq - washingtonpost.com Highlights - MSNBC.com:
McCain's rosy assessment of safety on Iraq's streets after his recent visit to a Baghdad marketplace was mocked by many, prompting him to tell a television reporter that he 'misspoke' and now regrets the comments. But, in the interview to be broadcast tomorrow, the senator sticks by his defense of the overall war effort, predicting that failure in Iraq would be 'catastrophic.'

Obviously McCain doesn't really want to be President.

I think he continues, as does Bush, to misspeak. We have already failed in Iraq and it is already catastrophic. There is no need for the future tense.

But anyway, I think we can safely write-off McCain as a credible candidate.


GameDaily BIZ: Supreme Commander Annihilates Competition

GameDaily BIZ: Supreme Commander Annihilates Competition:
Supreme Commander Annihilates Competition

After creating Total Annihilation in 1997, Chris Taylor is back on the RTS scene with Supreme Commander, and publisher THQ couldn't be happier. The game is off to a hot start, consistently in the PC top ten week after week.

I couldn't be happier for these guys. My son quickly finished all three campaigns and is now working his way up the Supreme Commander online ladder.

"Supreme Commander is doing things that no other RTS has done before, providing a completely unique experience that goes beyond RTS games," commented Kraff. "Anyone who's dreamed of commanding legions of tanks, jets, battleships and massive experimental units across enormous battlefields will want to get their hands-on this game."

Atari, who now holds the original TA license, told me (when I was a studio director at Amaze) that this kind of thing wouldn't be fun and that all RTS games need to be like C&C: Generals.

They were wrong. Anyway, congrats to GPG and all of my friends there.


Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris

Here's another Disney Theme Park web album. This one is Disneyland Paris where I took quite a few more pictures than I did in Tokyo. (My camera was brand-new in Tokyo and I was still figuring it out.) I'm still building out this photo album. I'm using Picasa and it is pretty cool to use. I know lots of people love Flickr.com and it may be better - I don't know. But the thing that blew me away in Picasa was real-time photo-straighening. Have you ever tried to rotate a photo a little bit in Photoshop? It's hard to do - you have to type in a number - and it's dog slow. With Picasa, it's real-time and simple. I assume they use Direct3D or OpenGL to access the hardware on your video board.

The Google screensaver (available from Google Pack also recently received a major upgrade and it's very cool. You can connect to RSS feeds such as the ones from my Picasa web albums (and I understand Flickr is supported too.)

It's all good fun.

ThinkGeek :: The Lonely Guy Dream Vacation Digital Photo Frame

ThinkGeek :: The Lonely Guy Dream Vacation Digital Photo Frame


Peter's Evil Overlord List

My son brought an important list to my attention. Here are some samples:

If my advisors ask 'Why are you risking everything on such a mad scheme?', I will not proceed until I have a response that satisfies them.

I think some regular managers might do well to try to follow some of the rules in Peter's Evil Overlord List. I worked for an Evil Overlord once who was convinced our company should have 100% of the market we were attacking. He made this mistake by convincing himself that the 100% of the market we wanted was only 5% of the larger market, so why couldn't we do that?

Amusingly, Steve Jobs made this same error when he announced the iPhone. "There are a billion phones sold each year! We only want 1% of that!" Sadly, the iPhone is properly categorized as a product for the smart phone market, which is not a billion phones a year. It would have been more honest to say what proportion of the smart phone market he planned to grab.

This one has practical everyday value as well:

Any data file of crucial importance will be padded to 1.45Mb in size.

Sadly, the data file rule is out of date, and any version of it will be out of date within two years, because the storage capacity on the planet Earth appears to be growing without bound. Interestingly, I worked with a guy once who thought it would be brilliant to sell a CD online which could be burned (of course) onto your own CD ... and make it 80 minutes and 30 seconds minutes long. (In case you don't know, the maximum time limit for CD Audio is 80 minutes.) He was quite distressed when I crushed his evil plan by removing an uninteresting 1 1/2 minute piece of music. (It's not a great idea to go right up to 80 minutes, either, as frequently a couple of seconds of gap are put in between each tune.)

Finally, to keep my subjects permanently locked in a mindless trance, I will provide each of them with free unlimited Internet access.

Well, everyone has unlimited Internet access now, so this isn't really an actionable item.

I will not use any plan in which the final step is horribly complicated, e.g. "Align the 12 Stones of Power on the sacred altar then activate the medallion at the moment of total eclipse." Instead it will be more along the lines of "Push the button."

Also good advice. One time in high school I was the video tape editor for a student director's project. He expected me to start a tape rolling, edit, let the source tape roll, rewind another machine, edit, pause, jump sideways, and then do another edit. It was clearly impossible. He didn't believe me until the teacher, the great Mr. Fred Cutler, came by to see what we were arguing about. (Where are you, Fred Cutler? I learned a lot from you.)

I will see a competent psychiatrist and get cured of all extremely unusual phobias and bizarre compulsive habits which could prove to be a disadvantage.

Well, it kind of goes without saying that everyone should do this, but unfortunately only Evil Overlords can really afford this kind of counseling.

Before employing any captured artifacts or machinery, I will carefully read the owner's manual.

Ha! That's not gonna happen. Nobody does that. If people read instruction manuals, then instruction manual writers would have to actually do a decent job, and the whole market economy would have to be reorganized. It's just not gonna happen.

Commentary (C) 2007 Stephen Clarke-Willson. Evil Overlord excerpts Copyright 1996-1997 by Peter Anspach.


Tokyo DisneySea

Perhaps even more beautiful than Tokyo Disneyland is Tokyo DisneySea. Most people have never heard of it and if you mention it they hear "Disney C" and have no idea what you are talking about.

There was talk about a theme park like this for Long Beach, CA., but when that fell apart, most of the ideas ended up at Tokyo DisneySea, except exceptionally well-funded.

Tokyo DisneySea

(Click to visit the album online.)

The center of the park is a volcanic caldera where Captain Nemo parks the Nautalis. Nearly every ride is unique. My mind was boggled. Someday I hope to visit again with my family.

© 2007 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

Tokyo Disneyland

Tokyo Disneyland

(Click to visit the online album.)

Photos from a trip to Tokyo Disneyland. Tokyo Disneyland and it's sister theme-park Tokyo DisneySea are really beautiful parks. They are mostly owned by The Oriental Land Company who is willing to spend a lot of money to make the best theme parks possible (unlike Disney who has been going cheap recently on their own theme parks). So even though all Disney theme parks are designed by Disney the Tokyo Parks are funded by different folks and it shows.

© 2007 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


'Guild Wars': An experiment that worked

'Guild Wars': An experiment that worked - On the Level - MSNBC.com:
With more than 3 million units sold, legions of passionate fans and heaps of critical acclaim, “Guild Wars” is probably the most popular massively multiplayer online game you’ve never heard of.

Strain, O’Brien and Wyatt wanted to do something different. They wanted to create, as Strain puts it, an “MMO for the rest of us.” Those folks who may have played their fair share of “Ultima Online” as teenagers, but were now looking for something that didn’t require five hours a day to feel satisfying.

“Our design goal when creating ‘Guild Wars’ was this: ‘If I’ve got 30 minutes before dinner, will I have fun playing this game?’” says Strain.

It took the trio a year and a half to build their “secret sauce,” a smart publishing system that would let them stream cool new stuff to players in real-time, rather than the massive downloadable patches used by traditional MMOs.

“Guild Wars” also has a number of fans that have played plenty of MMOs in the past — and found them wanting. Thom Gavin, 39, has been playing games for 25 years and online games for 10.

“I have played games that require a fee and have found them to be hardly worth the original price,” he says. “This is simply not the case with the ‘Guild Wars’ franchise.”

Many fans cited the constant updates to “Guild Wars” as a major reason to keep playing. Log in around Christmas and you’re likely to find a winter wonderland complete with candy canes and gingerbread men.

Check out A Guild Wars Slide Show on MSNBC.com.