Quote of the Moment

"It's never wrong to hope, Byx," said my mother. "Unless the truth says otherwise."
- from Endling #1: The Last, by Katherine Applegate

Monday, April 23, 2007

Wasting Time Faster Than Ever Before

Oooohh, this is a nice machine...

Granted, I'm coming to the duo-core world off a Pentium III 800, but still... this is a nice machine. It boots in half the time (or less) as my old computer. It loads and runs like a dream. A good dream, I mean, not the bad kind... or even the surreal, nonlinear normal kind. It even looks cool - the case is black, with a flip-up panel on front for USB ports (I have 4 in the back, but it's nice to have 2 in the front for things I don't need plugged in all the time, like my camera) and little blue lights that flash when the hard drive's thinking. So far, I've been busily recluttering the empty hard drive with old vices and new ones. A few stand out in the crowd thus far, and I haven't finished loading junk yet...

First up, of course, is Bryce 5.5. I had hoped (rather naively, I know) for a relatively easy transition from Paint Shop Pro-type 2D graphics programs to the 3D world. I'd tinkered with the free program Terragen, a terrain rendering program capable of great things but which I usually just poked around at until I got something I thought looked cool (for me, that bar's rather low.) Lots of strange little panels that made no sense to me, but if I punched enough buttons and tweaked enough settings I could come up with something cool, if utterly random so far as I was concerned. As one might expect, real 3D isn't exactly that easy. Unfortunately, several online searches have turned up no supplemental documentation for Bryce 5.5, not even a stray tutorial page. The official site's moved on to Bryce 6, and most forums seem to linger on Bryce 5 (I read enough to know that there are apparently significant differences between 5 and 5.5, thanks to a post by one poor person who was told, most unhelpfully, that they should learn to use it on their own and write their own tutorials, ha ha)... on a level far above my newbie head. I found one Bryce 5 book on Amazon, but 9 out of 10 reviews were one star or less. I skimmed them hoping to find a better recommendation, but I found none. It seems that nobody wants to write about the program, even though I've heard about it before and was given to understand that Bryce was a relatively big player in the 3D graphics world. Fortunately, it came with a PDF manual. A big manual. A 500+-page manual where the table of contents alone spans 20 pages, outlining the contents of over 100 chapters. So, I've made it my personal mission to get through that thing and teach myself at least how to get by in Bryce 5.5, if only to hack off the kinds of people who post on 3D graphics message boards and berate newcomers with nonadvice and scorn. My goal is at least one chapter every two days, but that may slow down if/when I reach the point where I can actually start creating things on my own.

Another unexpected addiction came in the form of a cheap jewel-case game from the office store. Now, it's not entirely my fault. My sister and I found a jewel-case copy of a game my mother had once had and lost, and the display said that if we bought two other games we'd get the third three. Considering how Mom has a way of backhanding us (not literally) for attempts to do nice things (case in point: the reason she lost the game, she'll tell anyone who will listen, is that we evilly replaced her dying, crash-prone computer with my sister's older-but-still-newer-and-faster-and-far-more-reliable computer, which was built for gaming and runs beautifully but which she'll never forgive us for giving her), we didn't want to spend a dime more than we had to. So, you see, I had to buy a couple cheap games... One of them was Heroes of Might and Magic IV. I'd heard the name, and it looked fun in a timekilling sort of way. It turns out to be a remarkably complex and addictive game, a cross between the kingdom sim Majesty and RPG games. I suspect I'd be doing much better if I'd sit down and print out the whole manual (on PDF again - whatever happened to the days when the manual design and text was part of the setup for the game, when reading the manual at least once through was a time-honored ritual before one dared put the disk into the drive?), but my ink and paper supply are currently reserved for the Bryce manual.

Then, there's The Sims 2. Now, the first sims was addictive enough. Blame my sister for roping me into that one... and this one, too. I've watched her play enough to realize that this game is much, much, much more potentially addictive than the first one. See, you only need the latest expansion pack to actually play the game, so she's generously/evilly offered to let me use her old disks to "get started," and then I'll just buy my own Seasons expansion when I'm ready for that. (Little tip: each successive pack messed up the original "scenarios" described in the Prima manuals, so it's advisable to play through those parts before installing the latest expansion pack.) Now, when my sister gives me a game, it's never just the game. When I got roped into the original Sims, I was presented with several burned CDs of downloaded content, tweaks, and hacks, plus a full printout of where each file went and how/when/why to install them. She doesn't just download everything, either - she only downloads the stuff that works, the stuff that's made by people who know what they're doing, the stuff that won't overwrite vital game files or crash the system. Same thing with Zoo Tycoon. I've seen her typing up lists again... I wonder what she's burning off this time...

I'm still waiting to install a few other games, and I haven't finished reloading all the favorites from the past. Heck, I haven't even reintroduced my reloaded FrontPage 2000 to the websites it will be helping perpetuate, nor has the reloaded version of Word been properly acquainted with the stories it will someday bear partial blame for producing. I've been too busy wasting time at the speed of light, or at least the speed of a duo-core Pentium processor.

Friday, April 13, 2007


I suppose I should've expected this... the moment I made my decision to get a new computer, this one, until now a remarkably reliable machine, developed some very disturbing quirks. At best, it's just a battery, but I've never had one go down this fast before, nor have I had a bad battery cause the computer to forget its own CPU on three occasions. Either way, originally I was going to try coordinating schedules with my busy uncle; he wants to buy a computer but is intimidated by the whole process, so he was going to ride along when I went to order mine. Now, I no longer have the luxury of time. I need a new computer, and I need it now.

In a way, this is a good thing. First off, coordinating anything with this particular relative has always been a particularly tricky proposition. He is one of those people who spends more time at his job than in his own home, and seems just as content to keep it that way (or rather, is more fearful of the unknown devils that await should he attempt a course correction at this stage of the game.) Secondly, I've been stuck in limbo waiting for said coordination to occur. I don't want to start the Skyhaven Hunt rebuilding only to have something go Horribly Wrong during the transfer and have to start all over from scratch. (That's why I wanted a relatively recent update online, as a last-resort backup copy.) Speaking of Skyhaven, I wanted to get more jewelwings and gargoyles done up, but again it's not something I can do on a computer that's on its way out. I can't really get too immersed in writing, knowing that I'll be thrown off of whatever schedule I manage to establish when I have to reload Word and all my background info files. I can't even install new programs, especially when I have no fewer than four disks waiting eagerly for a computer capable of meeting their specs.

So, anyway, I'll be spending this weekend digging up all the essential disks and documentation I want/need to go to the new computer, and on Monday I hope/plan to order the new computer. My sister got hers the next day, so that gives me Tuesday to play with the thing before heading back to work on Wednesday. I sincerely hope to have most everything back to "normal" by next weekend, but if I vanish for a prolonged time, now you'll have a good idea of what's going on.

Wish me luck, and hopefully I'll be seeing you on the far side of the upgrade soon...

Sunday, April 01, 2007

A year, already?

Actually, a year and a day or two... that's when I first started this blog. Just think, it was only a year ago that I was a 3o-year-old unemployed loser living at home and whining about my life to the internet in general. Now look at me - I'm a 31-year-old employed loser living at home and whining about my life to the internet in general. What a difference a year makes...

I thought it was worth a post of commemoration, if nothing else.

Last week, I was trying to get my life in order. This week, I've taken it literally and started organizing "my" parts of the house. With four adults in one household, certain areas end up under certain people's jurisdictions, and while my own personal territory is rather small (a corner of the living room, a workbench in the basement, some storage space in the shed, and my bedroom), it still tends to accumulate junk at an alarming rate when I'm not paying attention. There are places I can't go near until I have sufficient storage space cleared (which can't happen until the yard dries out and I can get to the storage sheds), but I've made visible progress. I've heard from a number of sources that you cannot receive anything unless you have an open place in your life, and that clutter on a physical, mental, and spiritual level is a sure-fire way to ensure that you won't get anything or anywhere. Regardless of whether that's true, I just plain feel better when my surroundings are relatively tidy. I say "relatively" because I'll never have a Martha Stewart sense of tidyness. Actually, having things too sterile and pristine makes me a bit nervous, like being in a showroom house where you're certain you're devaluing the property simply by crossing the threshold. My definition of organization is having books on shelves, papers in folders, and a good idea of what's in a box or drawer before I open it. Of course, thirtyish years of packratism enforced by being raised in a nest of packrats isn't exactly the easiest thing to get over, nor is it easy to clean up my space when others stubbornly continue to hoard clutter (clutter which seems to keep encroaching on my space despite my best efforts to counter the creep), but I'm working on it.

Like most things I do, my cleanup kick has a bit of an ulterior motive. I need to get my tax stuff together, for one thing, and I also need to go through my computer stuff to get all my Really Important Stuff in order. April is the month I have pegged for the new computer, and it'll go that much easier if I have a space cleared out and all my disks for programs and accessories ready to go. I have, by the way, decided to go through the shop that my sister bought through. They fixed her problem by installing a new motherboard, which will allow her to upgrade to 4 GB of RAM if/when she upgrades to Vista (XP only recognizes 3 GB of RAM, and Vista's a memory hog.) I'd like the option to upgrade without creating random crashouts, so I'll be requesting the same motherboard that she wound up with. It's a bit more expensive, but it's worth it to have a stable computer. They also assemble computers pretty fast, and the sooner I can get everything up and running again, the sooner I can install my new toys, and the sooner I can get serious about upgrading the Skyhaven Hunt.

I suppose I ought to trudge off. Monday's only a few minutes away, and I have a lot more clutter clearing to do tomorrow.