Monday, August 27, 2007

Little wonders and big dissapointments...

Coming off a restful weekend, and heading back to work is bad enough. Having to head into work for 5am, well, that's considerably worse. Of course, it wasn't enough that I had to be on-site at such an ungodly hour, no, that would be too easy. Things had to proceed downward in a spiral that could only occur on a Monday morning.

Needless to say that by the time 5:30pm rolled around, and I could finally leave my place of torture (or work, depending on how you look at it), I was more than happy to oblige.

The drive home was rather uneventful, save for the horrible effect of bright sunlight on the tired soul. Why is it so much worse to drive in the sunlight when you're tired than it is at night? I could probably drive all the way to Montreal, completely exhausted at night, but try during the day and the sun's rays just insist on trying their darnedest to slam your eyes shut. Fortunately, I wasn't that tired, and despite forgetting my sunglasses at home this morning (must... not... repeat) I managed to make it home in one piece, avoiding Corollas and other such hazards.

On the way home, I stopped by the store. I needed a few things for the fridge, and figured I might even pick up a treat to help ease into the evening. Something caught my eye on the way to pick out a bottle of Ginger Ale, something that didn't quite seem to belong there. It looked like an anachronism, definitely not belonging amongst modern-day soda bottles, yet, despite rubbing my eyes to make sure they weren't toying with me, there it was.

Okay, so it's a bottle of Coke. Nothing incredibly special about it, right? WRONG. Notice the classic label style, the lack of contests, pictures, promotions, or even the typical "Classic" tag. It is just a simple, plain, bottle of Coke. I searched my frazzled memory banks, trying to think of just how long it had been since I'd seen such a plain and simple bottle of the acidically delightful brew (It's a guilty pleasure I was once addicted to), and found that I just couldn't remember. I don't thin I'm alone either. A quick glance around and I saw other people noticing too. As they noticed, I saw a few gravitate towards the row of bottles, pick one up, look at it quizzically, and drop it in amongst their purchases.

What a marvel to find novelty in the complete lack of adornment. Such plainness, as I thought about it, a bottle somehow ended up slipping it's way into my basket, Ginger Ale long forgotten. Aside from the Coca Cola on the label, the only hint of modern design is the nutritional (or lack thereof) information tastefully placed on the side. I was convinced that when I got home, should I check online, I would find some sort of gimmick, some sort of campaign based around the plain old-fashioned label. It was a delightful surprise to find none. Is this the act of some genius of marketing tapping into the nostalgic market? Is it simply a cheap-o label to save money in between promotions? I'm still not quite sure, but whichever it is, I find it's blandness oddly pleasing.

Enough about the Coke already (a sentence which has probably been said to countless celebrities over the years), what about the disappointment promised in the title of this post? Well, some of you may recall my comment about a certain game my flatmate had acquired for his Xbox 360 (if not, scroll down until you see a short blurb and a link to Bioshock). The game has some of the most beautiful graphics I have seen for a FPS and I definitely was yearning to play it. Last night, the flatmate just had to point out that it was available, not only in a PC version, but downloadable via Steam, my game delivery method of choice.

I'm sad to say that in a moment of weakness I purchased it, and began what turned out to be one of the longest game download I have yet gone through over the Steam network. As a matter of fact, after a brief jump into the 200kbps league, it slowed considerably to a measly 15kbps, where I assume it stayed all night. Fine, I didn't really expect to play it last night anyways, needing to hit the sack as early as I could (read: as early as my sleepless nature would allow) due to the early morning. I was still surprised when I woke up around 4:30am, only to find it around 75% downloaded and still running around the 15kbps mark. Instead of being upset, I just chalked it up to lots of people wanting the game, and it only added to my eagerness to partake.

So all day as I fought my way through snafus, foibles, and outright silliness, I had at the back of my mind that I would kill a couple hours once getting home in the virtual underwater world of the Big Daddies and Little Sisters. When I finally got home, I was happy to see the download done, and the game sitting at a wonderful "100% complete" Play Me!!! status.

What a disappointment that was. The first few times I launched the game, I was met by complete rejection in the form of "Bioshock.exe has performed an illegal operation and needs to close". No problem, I thought, a few tweaks here and there, maybe a new driver or two, and I'll be up and running in no time. Ack! I wish I hadn't thought that. Turns out that the PC version of Bioshock is in dire need of some patching. While some are enjoying it plenty, others are suffering through crashes every five minutes and still more people like me can't even get it to load.

Eventually I did, indeed get it to load, but after only a few moments in the game came to realize that something was very, very wrong. The graphics were screaming (Thanks, 512mb ATI X1600), but the sound was horrible. Distortion, sound spikes, and general crappiness burst forth from my speakers. After a mere minute or two in the game environment, I had had enough. No problem, I'll tweak my drivers. Unh hunh, sure, not bloody likely. I've been at it since 8:30pm, and no amount of driver updates, tweaks, or disabled startup programs seems to help. For a good while, it just went back to it's non-start mode, frustrating the crud out of me. Attempting to update my sound drivers resulted in one of the very first blue screens that I've experienced in Vista from which it couldn't recover. Ok, maybe I insist on running my SoundBlater Live 5.1, but it's a perfectly good card that has served me very, very well. I saw no reason to abandon it for the on board audio on my motherboard (even though it is a really good motherboard with a great audio processor), until tonight.

So, as I write this, I still haven't played Bioshock. I just finished enabling and installing the drivers for my on board audio, and I'm about to give it another whirl. If this doesn't work, I'm pretty sure that my flatmate will find me in the morning, curled up in a corner, rocking myself and mumbling something to the tune of "Bioshock, Biocrock, Biof$ck" to myself over and over.

So, without further Ado, I leave you all once more. Hopefully I'll be posting again soon, but, if not, you will likely find me in a padded room, using rubber cutlery and wearing one of those wonderful shirts that make you hug yourself.

Wish me luck!

Friday, August 24, 2007

It's the end of the week as we know it... and I feel fine :)

That's right,
It starts with a headache,
Work, stress and all the rest,
Puts my gumption to the test.

What a Friday! One of those days where just about everything that can go wrong, does. Let's see, we have network issues, HR issues, a lock that won't unlock, people doing silly things, and a friend's car being damaged by a careless monkey. I know there's more that I'm forgetting now, but honestly, I think I'm better off leaving it forgotten.

So I spent most of the day running back and forth cleaning up "messes" that likely should have been handled by others in the first place. Not a problem though, not everyone can use logic and reason to defeat the problems of the world ;)

On the upside, the data services on my phone were finally enabled today. I've had the phone since mid December now, and didn't really see a need for the data plan, so I never had it activated (even though my company will gladly pay for it along with the cell service). With the built-in wireless, it's usually pretty easy to find a hotspot, and I just couldn't bring myself to the uber-geek level of being permanently connected to the interweb. After one full day of having the data service though, I'm sold. Thinking back on the day, it made so many things easier that it isn't even funny. I have a feeling that this is going to be yet another of those "how did I live without it" things within only a short while.

While the day was really busy, I still found the time to get up on the roof again :) This time I was quick enough to snap a couple of shots of one of the planes coming over with the phone camera. Not the best shots but not that bad either.

(click on the pictures to see the full-sized versions)

Look, a Plane! (I assure you that is a plane...


Closer still...

See, I told you it was a plane!

Coming in over the building.

For some reason it looks pretty small and far away. Might be the phone camera, I've noticed it does some wierd things with perspective from time to time. It was really only about 300-400 feet up. Granted, it was a smaller plane, and they seem to pass higher over the building. I'm thinking it probably has to do with it being easier for them to drop altitude quickly later on whereas the larger planes need a more diagonal aproach. I was distracted in conversation when the two jumbo jets following it came over, or I would have snapped those too.

Oh well, I'm really looking forward to getting up there with a proper camera and the zoom lens :)

So it's the weekend, and number one on my list of things to do is maybe try to sleep in a bit tomorrow. It seems the only time I can really sleep is Saturday mornings for some reason. Quite the opposite from when I was younger and Saturday morning cartoons were not to be missed. Then again, the last time I was up early on a Saturday and flipped the TV on to see what the modern-day cartoons looked like, there really wasn't anything on except on the cartoon network. It didn't really seem to be anything special, just the same stuff they play all the time :( Sad, when I think of how great that particular two+ hours of television was back in the day. I guess with the cartoon network, cartoons are on all the time now.

They wonder what is wrong with today's youth. No Saturday morning cartoon-fest, no prizes in their cereal, no "dangerous" playground equipment. I really can't blame them for being angry. My elementary school featured a metal jungle gym shaped like a dinosaur (since removed - too dangerous), a log "bridge" consisting of large timbers hanging from a log frame by chains which we would weave into intricate designs to climb over and fall through(since removed - too dangerous)
, a huge tire wall consisting of a 15 foot log frame with a wall of tires attached by chains suspended inside it (since removed - too dangerous) and a roundabout (since removed - too dangerous, Okay, so this one really was dangerous, lol). While I can't argue that these were indeed somewhat dangerous. Surviving them only made us tougher, and I don't remember any serious injuries that required ambulances or trips to the hospital. Even if they were dangerous, I'm a big fan of Darwin :)

Oh well. I guess that every generation must look back at things this way. I'm going to stop now, before I start telling stories of hiking eight miles through two feet of snow to pick up the paper ;)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Flight of Fancy

I've been spending waaaaay too much time at work lately. Okay, so maybe it saves me having to fight my way through traffic if I go in before 6am and head home after 8pm, but it can't be good for the sanity. Although it is insanely busy, and I probably should feel tired, the hectic pace is somewhat energizing.

I've always enjoyed a good rush. In my waiting days, I absolutely thrived on the jam-packed nights where stopping to think was not an option. Serving 15 tables of 4, 6 tables of 6 and a table of eight, which turn over (have new customers sit down for the waitingly impaired) four times each in a six hour period isn't easy by any means, but it sure was a heck of a lot of fun. I guess it takes a certain kind to thrive off of the kind of hustle that requires, but I did indeed, and I was good at it :) I still miss it from time to time. I stopped by the restaurant where I worked for 6 years for my birthday this year with some friends, and was happily mobbed by a lot of regular customers. A few of them even proceeded to tell one of the newer waiters some "war" stories of my "glory days". I won't bore you with details, but let's just say that carrying 8 plates of food through a jam-packed restaurant and getting them all to the right people without a spill with your bare hands, leaves an impression. Particularly when you do it consistently all night, lol.

While the busyness at the present job doesn't really compare to that kind of activity, I nonetheless got that old feeling of "autopilot" today. Everything becomes automatic and just seems to flow, and click into place. Accomplishing not only my job, but several other people's all in record time.

Somewhere in the midst of the day, I found the time to strike up a conversation with the facilities manager. Our building is directly on the landing path of the Lester B. Pearson Airport in Toronto, quite the busy hub. At 7 stories high, it definitely isn't the tallest building I've worked in, but there's something to be said when large aircraft are regularly passing about 200 feet over the top of you.

It takes a bit of getting used to, especially when your office is on the 6th floor, and every landing shakes the building. My second week on the job, I was sitting at my desk, quite into my work, when a plane came over the top. Already getting used to it, I didn't think twice until I heard something smash into the window behind me with quite some force. Those who know me will tell you that when it comes to instincts, mine are razor-sharp and I was instantly on my feet and heading for the door. When I noticed the funny looks on the faces of those who had seen me, I figured that it wasn't actually a piece of some plane's landing gear coming through the window and turned around to look. Low and behold, a window washer hung outside the window in nothing but a rappelling harness, laughing so hard I thought maybe he might fall. I don't know if he did it on purpose, or it just worked out the way it did, but I still haven't lived it down to this day.

So there I was, talking to the facilities manager when he suddenly turns to me and says "Hey, want to see something neat?". Of course! I'm not about to say no to a question like that, am I? So up the elevator we went, then up some stairs, and voila, we're up on the roof. Just as I was about to ask him what was so neat, I figured it out as I heard a rumble and looked up to see a 747 only about 300 feet above me on it's approach to the airport. From that distance, the size, power, and speed of an aircraft become very, very apparent and I loved every second of it. We were only up there for about 15 minutes before my phone began to ring and I had to slip back inside, but two landing aircraft just made my day.

Best part of it? He's agreed to grant me access to the roof so that I can set up my camera up there and get some shots of the planes coming in and landing at the airport. Should be fun :)

Work work work...

I don't know how many people out there played Warcraft II, but I used to love that game. I had it before most people I knew, and it wasn't long at all before I found one of my favorite features. Impatience led me to click on the same person over-and-over which led to them saying some pretty interesting things. The "Stop pooookiiing meeee" cry of the peon still comes to mind frequently thanks to one of the better-known features of Facebook.

Those were the days, when one of the biggest worries was whether I would make it to the next level before I had to go to school the next day. Looking at my installed programs now, I feel almost ashamed of my gamelessness. Whereas I used to have 5 or 10 games installed at any given time that would be played quite frequently, I now count two. Out of those two, only one has been played within the last 4 months, and even that one was just a 30 minute stint before I had to get up and do something or other. They're not bad games either. Steam is actually the valve game management platform, so I guess it actually qualifies as a lot of games. I suppose it will get some play time when the next episode of Half-Life comes out, but for now it sits dormant and ignored. The second game is Oblivion. A great game with fantastic graphics, which I probably should start up from time to time. I've had it for about a year now, but out of the 150 some-odd hours it would take to finish it, I've played maybe 30... The shame :(

Perhaps I'm getting older and other things are interesting me more, or maybe I'm just too busy to really get into gaming like I used to. Odd that, despite the fact that I really don't play them, I would still consider myself a gamer if asked. I suppose that if you rack up enough hours at any given point, you qualify for the title for life...

What brings up such a rant you might ask? Well, the flatmate picked up a new game today called Bioshock for the Xbox 360. The graphics are awesome, and it looks even better projected onto the wall 8 feet wide! He's vowed to pull an all-nighter and get as far as he can before work tomorrow, while I opt for the much less exciting blog post and then a few hours repose.

Of course, this weekend I'll probably sneak on when he's not around and play a level or two, it really does look that yummy.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

O Happy Day

So here I am. Fresh out of a battle to customize one of these darned Blogger templates to my liking. I suppose that I am a sucker for punishment. What better way to unwind after a day of battling the evils of modern technology than to not only start a blog, but make it look exactly the way that I want it to? Alas, never before has it been so difficult to be so minimalistic.

What better topic to take on in a first post, but that of Canadian spelling. I like to consider myself in possession of a strong mastery of the English language. Perhaps not to be ranked among the top of the chart, but somewhere above your average joe. One of the irksome things that I have to deal with on a fairly regular basis are silly people pointing out that I "misspell" words like colour, valour, centre, lieftenant, and so on. Of course, most of the time these comments are coming from friends, co-workers, and acquaintances of an American origin. Most of the time, they simply do not realize that for Canadians, these words are spelled quite correctly. I strive to hang on to my extra U in colour, it pleases me to use the traditional lieftenant, and brings me great joy to throw in a rumour or two ;) I suppose it would be easier to simply adopt the "mainstream" spelling of such words, but I rather enjoy this little bit of Canadiana, and plan to preserve it for as long as I grace paper, or digital media, with my words.

Turns out that somewhere along the line, however some British spellings have slipped into my written word. Thanks to Dave VE7CNV's Truly Canadian Dictionary of Canadian Spelling I've recently (very recently) come to see that realize isn't spelled with an "s" nor is customize. I'm not sure exactly when I slipped over to the British spelling of these words. Perhaps my UK-born English teacher in primary school is to blame, or maybe somewhere between my schooling and the present day, the accepted Canadian spelling was changed. A since-changed remainder of the days when Canada was a British colony? wouldn't surprise me at all. Regardless, I have now corrected the error in my ways and hopefully will continue to do so thanks to good ol' Dave.

So much of our current Canuck culture comes from our neighbors to the south. Love them as I may, our Canadian spelling is one little bit of uniqueness that I strive to conserve.