27 December 2008

Not the way I like to start Boxing Day

So Christmas dinner was at my wife Juliette's parents' place. Just a small affair -- about 20 or so people, only a two-turkey dinner.

We finished eating dinner about 9:30 (my mother-in-law's pavlova is to die for), and by 10 my stomach was starting to hurt. No worries, I though, it's only indigestion. I figured I'd do what always works -- take some antacids, and lie down with a hot-water bottle. Couple of hours later, I'd be fine, yes?


The antacids got thrown up. So did the painkillers. And the next lot of antacids. And the whole time, I was in agony.

By 4am, Juliette was sufficiently concerned that she managed to convince me to go to the hospital. The nearest one is Kenepuru, which had -- fortunately -- recently started running its 24-hour emergency service. The doctor told me that there was a couple of nasty stomach bugs doing the rounds that cause severe abdominal pain, so they tried what normally works.

No dice.

By now, they were worried that in might be gall stones, bladder stones, pancreatitis, or some combination of the three. The 24-hour clinic doesn't have access to x-ray or blood-test facilities at night, so I got a shot of pethidine (in the bum) and referred to Wellington Hospital. They offered to get an ambulance to take me, but warned that it could take up to half-an-hour to get one. By that time, we could have driven into Wellington, so Juliette drove me in. I remember getting on the motorway at Porirua. The next thing I remember is going around the Basin Reserve. I was extremely tired, but the pain had kept me awake. The pethidine had dulled the pain enough that I was able to doze off in the car.

We got to Wellington Hospital's A&E, and despite the signs warning of 30 minute waiting times, got seen within 5 minutes. I got poked and prodded, and IV line put into my elbow (after an abortive attempt to put one into the back of my hand -- ouch!). They drew some blood for tests, and sent me off for chest and stomach x-rays.

After I got back, the nurse told us that it would be another 90 minutes before the blood tests would be complete. Suited us, I think I went to sleep on the gurney before she'd even finished talking! Juliette had bunched up my jumper, and was using it as a pillow, sitting in a chair leaning against the wall. We got woken up a bit later, to be told there wasn't anything on the x-rays (so probably not gall or bladder stones). I was a bit uncomfortable -- the pethidine was wearing off -- so they gave me a shot of morphine. Back to sleep!

A while later, the nurse woke us again to say that nothing had shown up in the blood tests. Apparently, in 90% of patients presenting severe abdominal pains, they never know what was causing it -- just what wasn't causing the pain. A prescription for codeine, and we were on our way home. By now it was about 10am, so while Juliette drove, I was calling the rellies telling them I wasn't dying.

Haven't had any problems in the last 24 hours, so fingers crossed...

13 November 2008

02 September 2008

The list grows ever longer...

I don't know whether to scream with joy, or weep for the state of my credit card. I pick up one issue of Australian 360, and the list of games I want just explodes.

Top of the list is Mafia II, due out sometime in 2009 from 2K Games and 2K Czech. I am a huge fan of the original Mafia: City of Lost Heaven, easily spending hours in Freeride mode, just driving around and enjoying the immersion: it really feels like 1930s America (not that I know what 1930s America feels like, I'm just sayin'...). Mafia II looks just as immersive, though set in post-War America.

Next on my list is Fable II from Lionhead. I enjoyed Fable: The Lost Chapters on the PC, and as a completely unrepentent Peter Molyneux fanboy (I've never met a Molyneux game I didn't like), I'm slavering for Fable II.

There are plenty of other games on the list: Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation, Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway, Call of Duty: World at War (back to World War II and the Pacific theatre), Diablo III, Far Cry 2, The Force Unleashed, Fracture, Ghostbusters, Half-Life 2: Episode 3 (Everton nil), Jet Thunder, The Sims 3, and Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X..

That's 14 games... at roughly NZ$100 a pop... yikes....

Update: As of 27 March 2010, I have Fable II, Ace Combat 6, Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway, The Force Unleashed for the Xbox (which just died), and The Sims 3 and Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. for the PC (which is also a bit green about the gills these days); Mafia II, Diablo III, Half-life 2: Episode 3 and Jet Thunder have yet to be released; Fracture and Ghostbusters have been disappointments, so I haven't bothered to get them; and Far Cry 2 and Call of Duty: World at War are no longer on my wish list.

18 August 2008

Okay, I admit it,....

I caved. I surrendered to the Dark Side. I can no longer sneer at console owners. I am one.

I've bought an Xbox 360.

But there was a reason (not temporary insanity): too many good games either out already, or coming out soon, that are console only: GTA IV (and yes, I know there's a PC version coming in the next few months -- I didn't know that when I ordered the Xbox), Force Unleashed, Fable II, and Fracture, just to name a few.

And I really like being able to go into EB Games, and look at two walls of the shop :-P

Do I think PC gaming is dying? No. The PC is too versatile, and my experience with Perfect Dark Zero leads me to the conclusion that first-person shooters are still better on a PC (mouse and WASD beats analog joysticks). And games like Spore and "proper" flight sims are still PC-only.

10 August 2008

4th Edition

Had a chance to play with Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition today. I admit, I was a little apprehensive -- I've been playing D&D since 1st edition (the original AD&D) -- and while I'd liked the changes made for 3rd Ed, 4th Ed looked "too different".

Still, open-mind and all that: got together with a couple of friends, and ran through the adventure in the back of the DMG. Constant referrals to the rulebooks followed through three combat encounters, but that was to be expected. And we thoroughly enjoyed it. There seems to be more emphasis on teamwork now, with powers that smash enemies and heal allies (the paladin's divine judgement was well appreciated).

And it's tougher! Our party of six 1st-level characters (as this was testing the rules, we each had two characters and shared the DMing load -- not something we'd ever think of do if we were playing "for real", as it were) had real trouble with kobolds. Kobolds!

Only gripe really, was that it was sometimes tricky to find where in the rulebook a particular rule was: the index, particularly in the PHB needs overhauling.

04 July 2008

"Jar Jar, you're a genius"

Go to Google, and search for the phrase "Jar Jar, you're a genius" (including the quotes). This phrase -- that hadn't existed anywhere on the Interweb before 3 July, for some strange reason -- first appeared in Darths & Droids episode 122. It's now on Google's hot trends list.

Feed the frenzy! Search for the phrase, and blog about it!

23 June 2008

Really cool video clip

14 months, 42 countries...

On a side note, we did go to see Indy IV tonight, and really enjoyed it. Several people "warned" us that it wasn't as good as the previous movies, but I don't know what movie they saw. The one we saw was terrific (maybe not as good as Raiders, but definitely better than Temple of Doom, jury still out on whether it was better/worse than Last Crusade). It did everything we ask of a movie: we went in, and when we came out some two-and-a-half hours later, we had been thoroughly entertained. So yah-boo-sucks! to all you naysayers! :-P

22 June 2008

SWCCG -- the madness resumes

As I said a week ago, Forge's MTG: Forge, errr, Card Warrior, has inspired me to actually start work on a similar project based around Decipher's Star Wars Customizable Card Game which gobbled more time and money than I care to think about from about 1995 onwards.

As a good little Comp205 graduate, I'm going to do a bit of design work before I start putting code in IDE. A bit of work here can save a lot of heartache (and retyping and refactoring) later -- and I'm talking from experience here. Just try doing a group project where everybody goes and does their little part, but come integration day, nothing integrates -- because there was no overall design, there was no agreement on how the parts would work together. I fondly (NOT!) remember the night before integration day (when we had to show our progress to a tutor), a pair of us staying in the labs until well past 1am getting four people's code to cooperate. My wife wasn't too impressed, but the tutor was...


Okay, that last exam was a bee-atch, but it's over now. Two whole weeks before semester two starts.

And then the merrygoround begins again....

13 June 2008

Magic: The Gathering

I never really got into Wizards of the Coast's Magic: The Gathering card game. I think I bought a sum total of one booster pack. But GameDev.net recently had a thread pop up on the forums about a blog called "Computer Programming and Magic: The Gathering".

It's a good read, especially if you're interested in the AI (which, by the way, has beaten me more times than I care to say -- but I'm putting that down to inexperience with M:TG). I've yet to go through the source code (it's done in Java): that'll probably have to wait until after my last exam of the semester (on 21 June), which is coincidentally on AI.

I may never become a great Magic player, but it's inspired me to restart a project I'd briefly looked at over the (southern hemisphere) summer, making a single-player (that is, player vs. computer) version of the old Decipher game, Star Wars Customizable Card Game. That's the only CCG I really got into (although I dabbled briefly with Middle-Earth: The Wizards, Bablyon 5, Aliens vs. Predator, and Lord of the Rings), but finding anyone to play against is next to impossible. Ages ago, I found a mirror of the old Decipher website that had the images of all the cards, so I have all the card images, and getting the basic game up and running shouldn't be too much of an issue (that is, basic mechanics with none of the cards' special rules implemented).

I'll keep you posted.

06 June 2008

Awesome article

Okay pollies, read this and make damn sure you remember it next time you feel the urge to jump on your soapbox (courtesy of the Guardian).

22 April 2008

MiG-29 shooting down a drone

The Georgian government have released amazing footage taken from a UAV of its own last minutes (courtesy of the BBC).

It's clearly a MiG-29 "Fulcrum" firing an air-to-air missile at the drone as it flew along the Abkhazian Black Sea coast. However, neither Georgia nor (theoretically) the Abkhazian rebels have MiG-29s -- in fact, the only ones even close to the area with the type are the Russians, who have been supporting the Abkhazians (and the South Ossetians) in their attempt to break away from Tbilisi.

According to radar tracks, the MiG took off from an airfield in Abkhazia, flew over the Black Sea, shot down the drone, and then flew to Russia.

The Abkhazians claim it was one of their own L-39s that shot down the drone, but given the plane in the video is clearly a twin-tailed aircraft (as opposed to a single tail L-39), this claim is laughable.

But why would the Russians risk being filmed blatantly violating Georgian airspace. Two theories spring to mind:
  1. The drone was not in Georgian airspace -- but nobody's denied the drone's position.
  2. There was something else that the drone could not be allowed to film.
Starting to get a bit Tom Clancy-ish, eh?

19 March 2008

And another....

And not even two weeks later, the great sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke has died, aged 90.

14 March 2008

And who says 8-bit is dead?

Seriously cool clone of Guitar Hero... on a Commodore 64 (not an emulator either, but an actual C64!). Thanks to Intelligent Artifice for the heads up:

06 March 2008

A mighty totara has fallen

You've probably already heard that the Father of Dungeons & Dragons has died, but I just want to add my thanks to Gary Gygax for his contribution to the world of gaming, and send my condolences to his family.

05 March 2008

Been a while

Yikes! Managed to go all February without making a post. Baaaad crispy-bacon!

I guess the combination of finishing my internship at Innaworks, and starting back at university gives me some excuse though.

Anyhoo, stumbled across this awesome looking flight sim called Jet Thunder. Based around the 1982 Falklands War, I definitely adding this puppy to my collection when it comes out.

29 January 2008

One for the "must get" list

Thanks to Intelligent Artifice, I've found out about a book from Hiive Books, The ZX Spectrum Book - 1982 to 199x.

The Speccy was the second computer I ever owned (after a Dick Smith Electronics VZ-200). These two computers -- especially the Spectrum -- were the main reasons I learned programming. I didn't have a reliable tape recorded to save or load programs, so if I wanted to play a game, I'd have to type it in. Of course, the listings were often hard to read, and I'd make typos, so before I could play the game, I'd have to fix all the bugs first.

Ah, memories....

Nifty game

Thanks to ...on pampers, programming & pitching manure, I've stumbled across a neat (though slightly bizarre) game from indie developers Dejobaan Games, called The Wonderful End of the World. Give it a go, and support indie developers!

28 January 2008

Exciting morning

Woke up early on Sunday morning (about 6:30 -- which is very early when you didn't go to bed until 3am) to the dogs barking, and what sounded like a truck running its engine. On investigation, found two police cars, two fire trucks and an ambulance attending a van that had somehow managed to roll onto its side.

Looking at the skidmarks on the road, looks like he lost control coming round the corner at the top of the hill. Only saw one person being taken away in the ambulance; hopefully, he's okay. Haven't heard or seen anything in the local news about it, which leads me to think that the driver didn't suffer any serious injuries.

17 January 2008

Hey, I know her....

Techdirt is reporting on a story about a lecturer at the University of Brighton who has banned her students from using Google in writing their papers. Prof. Brabazon has claimed that too many students were taking the easy way out and regurgitating the first few search results for their assignments.

This seems to be another case of blaming the technology for what is really human laziness. If a student can't be bothered to research their assignments properly, then they should get poor grades. Then, they'll either fail the course or learn to research properly.

Banning Google and Wikipedia is not the answer. When I did history at Victoria University (in 1994), the first assignment was on how to use the library. We had about 20 questions, and in finding the answers to those questions, had to learn the layout of the library, the call number system, etc.

The solution to Prof. Brabazon's problem would seem to be an assignment designed to teach students how to use tools like Google and Wikipedia, making sure that students learn what these tools are not -- an alternative to thinking, or to proper research.

I was a little surprised when I read this story. Prof. Brabazon took the final third of Hist105 (waaaay back in 1994), and I always thought of her as a more technologically clued up lecturer (who once used an episode of Fawlty Towers to demonstrate a point).

16 January 2008

Blame the interweb!!!

An article's turned up on Yahoo!Xtra news' Top Stories list, about a Fijian woman attacked by some scum she met on the internet.

Unfortunately, these kinds of assaults happen all the time, but this particular assault is apparently worth mentioning because the people involved met over the internet. I'm sure many other woman were attacked by men they met by "conventional" means -- in the pub, through friends and family, at school -- on the same day this particular woman was attacked, but because the internet was not involved, they did not get mentioned in the "Top Stories".

Yes, this was a tragedy for the woman. Yes, the scum should be locked up for a very long time.

But honestly, it shouldn't get "top story" status just because they met on the web. That's just wrong. It's not the internet's fault this b*stard decided to attack this lady. I'm sure that if he met her in the pub, she'd still have been attacked.

When will she learn?

J.K.Rowling is, once again, setting her lawyers on her biggest fans, this time a lexicon of the Harry Potter universe that wants to publish a print version of their website. As Tim Wu smoothly points out, there are many reasons why Rowling deserves to fail in her attempt (via Techdirt).

One day, Rowling -- and others who seem to turn to the lawyers at the drop of a hat -- will learn that they're only harming themselves and their IP. It's free promotion, for goodness sake!

Part of the problem, I think, is the litigious nature of Western society. Lawyers are ubiquitous, and the lawsuit is the primary tool in their toolbox. "When your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." Unfortunately for IP holders, not every so-called "infringing" item is a nail (i.e., something to be sued out of existence). The sooner they realise this -- and embrace the possibilities -- the better off society will be.

Reminds me of the old joke: What do you call 500 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean? A good start.

NB: I should point out not all lawyers are bad (especially the one that's my sister-in-law). Just the ones who look for opportunities to sue as the be-all and end-all of the lives.

14 January 2008

11 January 2008

Warhound, Turning Point and Crysis

Stumbled across a new game that looks interesting. Warhound is a new FPS from Techland, following the reliably popular anti-terrorist story line. Graphics look very nice, and it's promising some serious AI, interactively destructable environments, and quasi-role-playing elements (increasing skills, etc.). Looking forward to it, due to be released sometime this year (fingers crossed).

Turning Point: Fall of Liberty, by Spark Unlimited and published by Codemasters takes an alternative history, postulating that Winston Churchill did not survive an accident, so never became Prime Minister of Great Britain. World War II still happened, but because there was no effective leader against Hitler, the war in Europe was over before the US became involved. The game opens in 1952, as Zeppelins drop Nazi troops into New York. Again, nice looking graphics (using Epic's Unreal 3 engine). Another one on my "to-get" list -- due Spring 2008 (that's Autumn 2008 for you weirdos in the northern hemisphere).

On a side note, here's a clip of someone with Crysis and far too much time on their hands:

What rotters :-)

The meanest thing that Gizmodo did at CES... where can I get one?

The Pirate's Dilemma

Interesting article here by Matt Mason, giving a precis of his new book, The Pirate's Dilemma: How Youth Culture is Reinventing Capitalism. I particularly liked the quote:

And the truth is, if lawsuits become a core component of your business model, then you no longer have a business model (unless you’re a lawyer).

07 January 2008

It's not rocket science

After reading this, I think I'll be insisting on Airbus....

Honestly, did the designers wake up one morning and think, "Let's make the critical systems insecure. Nobody's going to try anything nasty..."

I should possibly reveal my Theory of Life: People are stupid. The beautiful thing about this theory is that everyday, someone, somewhere, proves me right.


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