I've closed a couple of my e-mail addresses due to spam reasons. If you send me something and it bounces, try the one that's on the main site. There is, and will always be, a working e-mail address on my main site.

In general, I maintain a public e-mail address which I change periodically when it gets spammy, and a personal address that you'll usually get if I reply to you. Of course, sometimes people are irresponsible with my personal addresses and include me in e-mail forwards or in web quizzes, or other spam-harvesting operations, and I have to change my personal address too. I prefer to do this less frequently, so please e-mail responsibly.



FarCry is a pretty game, but not fun. At least, not for me. I was wanting to play something yesterday, but didn't really want to play FarCry. So I played Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban instead, and that was fun. All too soon, I finished it. If you've seen the movie, you know how it ends, but that's not really the draw of the game in this case.

The part that makes it fun are the challenges and puzzles. Hippogryph-riding was pretty fun, but the 3 spell-oriented challenges were very good and exploratory as well. You can redo any of the challenges whenever you want, and you're usually free to explore the levels, especially Hogwarts, where there are plenty of secrets and opportunities to increase your collection of the various sweets that are used as currency at Hogwarts, and of the collectors cards, which are a trickier challenge. I was not able to find all of them, and there are some that must be found, rather than bought from the NPCs who offer to sell them to you. A complete collection of the cards is not necessary to win, though.

In looking over the site I just linked above, it appears that the PC version of the game is much smaller than the console versions. There are spells, potions, and locations shown on the site that are not in the game that I played. The animation and graphics quality appears to be much better on the console versions as well, if what I'm seeing there are actual examples of the gameplay. Also, I see on their site samples of Hermione performing the Glacius spell, and Harry performing Carpe Retractum, which does not occur in the PC version (in which only Ron performs Carpe Retractum, and only Harry performs Glacius).

As for FarCry, it has 4 or 5 difficulty levels. The easiest one has the description "A nice walk on the island. Enjoy your vacation." But they lie. It's not a vacation. I thought I'd be able to just explore the island, maybe go hang gliding or ride a boat around. But no, people were still shooting at me, just like in the rest of the difficulty levels!

They need a mode where you can start out on your boat, then you approach an island.

"Ahoy there!" say the mercenaries, who are on the beach playing cards. "We just made some coffee. Want some?"

Meanwhile, Val is sunning herself on the beach and looks up as you approach. "Hey Jack!" she says. "Want to come windsurfing with me?"

Then another mercenary comes up and says "Hey guys! You won't believe this, but I just found the ruins of an ancient civilisation on the other side of the island! Let's go look around it!"

That would be fun. No enemies, just exploration and activities. There could be some goal-oriented gameplay, like "get to the most scenic vista and take a picture", but there doesn't need to be. Like in Zelda: Ocarina of Time, where you can always go back and play the fishing game, or go horseback riding. On a real tropical island, there are plenty of outdoor activities that people do just for fun, without any goals. How hard would that have been to include, even if they only meant it as a joke? Even a simple mod could accomplish something like this. The scenery in this game is so pleasant and enjoyable, why can't we have a way to just leisurely go around and enjoy it instead of having to run through blowing things up?

Heh, perhaps I should have written about my much more rewarding experience playing Thief 3.


A little research on the subject reveals that indeed the PC version of Prisoner of Azkaban is quite different and much more limited than the console version. How irritating.


Here's a Photoshop Phriday for you

Perhaps this has been done before, but when I saw the cathedral at Cologne, Germany, I thought it looked very evil. Impressive, but evil. Kern concurred, and thought that Sauron would live there. Hence, a little editing later:

This is the cathedral as viewed from the Rhine. Perhaps if I were more ambitious, I'd submit it to one of those sites that do these things often.


Eye of God

There are some very pretty pictures of spacescapes on NASA's web site. A few of them look like eyes. There was one that I'd seen before referred to as the "Eye of Heaven" (actual name: "Hourglass Nebula"), which was pretty impressive, but this one beats that one. Of course, if this is the eye of God...

Helix nebula -- click for big version

Then this must be the hand of God:

Part of Keyhole Nebula -- click for bigger version

Toby the First and Toby Jr

I didn't mention it here at the time, but earlier this year my dog Toby died. She was a great dog, friendly and loyal, and perhaps a bit too clever for me to leave food unattended on the kitchen counters, because she'd often find a way to get it. She once grabbed a whole new stick of butter that I had just put on the butter dish when I wasn't watching, and ate it. Here's a picture of her -- it's a fairly old one, taken with a primitive digital camera (apologies for the poor quality) when she had both of her legs:

Another time, I had set out a big loaf of my favourite sourdough bread to make a sandwich, but left the room briefly. From the other side of the house, I heard the door to the garage open (she knew how to open it from either side), and I heard her enter the kitchen. There was a thump sound from the kitchen, and I yelled "Toby!" and got in there as fast as I could, to see her tail slipping back out the door, and my loaf of bread was gone. I chased her outside and she was running around with the big loaf sticking out of her mouth. It was a funny sight despite the loss of my bread. ^^ I liked to call her "Tobi-kage" sometimes. Just a Japanese term for some kind of ninja trick that stuck in my mind.

Later in her life, she developed cancer twice, which resulted in the loss of one of her front legs, but she was still energetic and could get around pretty well. But the last time I visited back home, I could tell that it was probably the last time I'd see her, and it was. So rest in peace, Toby.

It's been some months since then, and Mom has adopted a new dog, male this time, who she's named Toby Jr. This dog had a playmate that met a tragic end, which is the point at which Mom adopted him. Here's a picture of him. Looks like a charmer with the lady dogs, I'll bet!



Upon reflection, after seeing the teaser trailer for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie, it seems they're promoting it wrong. I know full well that every iteration of the story has had differences, from radio to book to TV to computer game to comics, etc. But if I were to describe the story (any of them) to someone, the phrase "the most astonishing adventure in the universe" doesn't come to mind.

I've always thought of it primarily as a comedy with adventure elements. The comedy comes from several places, but since visual adaptations don't have the benefit of DNA's (Douglas Adams') wordplay, what we're left with is primarily the concept of bizarre occurrances being dealt with in a sedated British everyman style. This can be done well and successfully, as seen recently in a different genre with the British film Shaun of the Dead, so it's quite possible that the movie itself does this, but the teaser trailer is trying to market it at a different audience. We shall see.


The Butterfly Effect, and knowing one's history

I just watched the movie The Butterfly Effect, which I thought was well-done. Interesting, gripping, well-acted, and satisfying. There were a number of nitpicks I had to overlook in deciding it was a good movie, such as the mixing of non-sequitur causality (Minkowski "block universe" theory -- 12 Monkeys flawlessly used this version of time travel) with a parallel-reality-shifting sort of "the past can be changed" idea. Both are perfectly okay, but not together, as you can see if you watch the movie.

Anyway, I'll keep away from spoliers to deliver this message, because I think it's an important one. After watching the movie and checking the IMDb message board for it as I often do for movies I enjoy, I was appalled to see people bringing up a Simpsons episode, and claiming the movie was based on that...SERIOUSLY. I've seen the episode. Before that, in grade school, I read the short story A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury. That is what the Simpsons episode was based on.

Apart from the title, actually, and the idea that a small change in the past can have a large effect in the future, there wasn't really that much of a connection between A Sound of Thunder and The Butterfly Effect, or even that Simpsons episode. But I swear, I'm sick and tired of seeing people make wild claims about movies being based on some other form of visual media. Read books, people!

In fact, here, just read the story. It's short. A Sound of Thunder, by Ray Bradbury (1952).

And I thought I'd gotten over people thinking that the ideas in The Matrix were original. I'm sure to anyone reading this, I don't actually need to mention Gibson, Sterling, Stephenson and all the others who created the whole setting and world used there, even including the term "the matrix" to describe that virtual world... Oh, I just did. Sorry.