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July 31, 2003

Telstra Vs. iiNet and Poet of the Week

Before I write anything else this evening, I'd like to start by apologising to Gav. In yesterday's post, I took a jesting swipe at Gav and Boots ("ingrates" was the term I used) for having double-booked the Saturday evening in question; I had forgotten that just the night before, Gav had had a death in the family. Gav, I'm sorry. Next time, I'll try and think before I write.

The Telstra vs. iiNet battle still continues, and it looks like iiNet may winn my dollar. While it may cost $300-450 to shift over to iiNet (mainly in the cost of a new ADSL modem), the fact that, for less than the base monthly rate of my current 3GB cable connection, I can get a superior download limit, equivalent bandwidth and a larger web-space that meets Movable Type's requirements (as confirmed by iiNet's helpful tech support team, unlike Telstra's, who direct me back to their BigPond Hosting page that woefully neglects to provide more than a brief, incomplete features list) is making me seriously reconsider paying Telstra anything more.

There's still that rather large hump of getting an ADSL modem. As some of you may know, I've wanted to have a proper router/switch running at home so that I can host things like Neverwinter Nights, Battlefield 1942 or the odd Tron 2.0 disc match. The most expensive ADSL modem iiNet offer with their Bliink plans is a D-Link DSL-504 router, which combines an ADSL modem with a four-port switch. It's $349, which, plus the $99 setup fee, makes connecting up to iiNet a bit pricey. On the other end of the scale, there's a straight DSL-300 modem for only $179 (total setup fee: $278), which means we'll just use the same Internet connection sharing setup we do now, and I can always pick up a router later (which I've been saying for months now). Either way, I have a heap of bills to pay next payday, so it may be September before I make any moves of the kind.

By any chance, does anyone have either a spare ADSL modem or a network router (ideally with four ports) they're not using?

Oh, by the way: Take a look at this! Yes, it's my very own Vickie, Featured Poet of the Week at Kookamunga Squares! Be sure to read her poems and, if the muse strikes you, why not leave a note in her personal Guestbook?
And while I'm at it, I think there's at least one iiNet user out there. How are you finding the service?

July 30, 2003

Crafty Website Plans

Evening everyone! Another long day of work is over, and only two more to go until the weekend.

I downloaded the Movable Type application from their website last night, read through the installation docs and tried to get it set up. Unfortunately, Bigpond Broadband's basic web hosting doesn't allow custom CGI scripts (aside from two offered by Telstra) to be run. I'm thinking about adding Premium Hosting 20 to my account; this gives up to 10 e-mail addresses (so Vickie can have one without paying an extra $10 per month for the privilege) and 20MB web space. The down-sides are that it costs $38/month in addition to my base 3GB plan fee of $88, and the limited list of "some of the features available" doesn't mention the ability to run your own CGI scripts, just that "Pre-written CGI-Scripts" are available. I can't see anywhere that provides a full list of features, and I'm a little hesitant to sign up. Switching to ADSL is beginning to look tempting, with iiNet's bliink 512 plan especially so at the price. The only impediments are having to pay $200 of setup fee, and that I don't know whether its 30 megabytes of web hosting space includes PERL support or the option of running custom CGI scripts. I've sent e-mails to Telstra and iiNet re: their hosting options, but have yet to hear from either.

Thinking about implementations of Movable Type has also got me thinking about some general changes to the IMAGinES website itself. Some of the things I'm thinking of doing are:

  • Dropping the Rants from main page, as I don't update them particularly often and they're usually more like general articles.
  • See whether Movable Type will work as the back-bone to the entire site, so that after laying out the site, I won't have to touch the basic HTML again until I want to renovate. This might allow for the following:
    • Letting the Black Talon players post their own action logs directly to the Black Talon section.
    • Dropping the Yahoo group entirely, although I think the existing e-mail forum is more conducive to community than one based on posting to a site.

Well, since the party, I've been doing very little Tron 2.0. I must confess that it's partly because I haven't got off my duff and organised some with Gav or any of the other interested parties, so I'll have to see about that. Max Payne is turning out to be good fun, even though my recurring sim sickness means I can't play for longer than an hour per sitting. I also have to do some more Shadows of Undrentide with Vickie; we've been horribly slack! It's all this socialising stuff cutting into our game time!

Black Talon Episode 4 is now in the final stages of development, a piece of news that will surely come as some relief to my players. I've sent an e-mail about organising a day.

I'd like to thank everyone in the IMAGinewS group who got back to me with advice on advertising on the page. I've since written to the group who were offering me advertising and told them I wouldn't accept.

There's not been much action on the polling front. How many of you can access that section of the Yahoo! Group?

Champions was good, even though it was just me, Vickie, Rog and Dan. As all the other ingrates had either double-booked or had pathetic excuses like helping their families move, we decided we'd kill everyone else's characters off, which will be doubly-frustrating for Boots, as he's not even created his yet. "Yes, thanks for going to that effort of coming up with your character, especially considering the complexities of the Hero System. Now he's dead, so go and do it all again, won't you?"

Seriously, though, we did have fun, especially Vickie; this was her most involving session so far. In fact, I pretty much sat back and let her and Rog's characters, Nightshade and the Huntsman respectively, do their thing!

As the Champions campaign is drawing to a close, Dan's been soliciting interest in other systems and genres. He's been thinking of doing something anime-flavoured, and in one discussion I had with him last week, he mentioned that he'd played something called Bubblegum Crisis a while ago, and was wondering whether I'd be interested. I allowed for the fact that my Bubblegum Crisis phase did occur a couple of years before we met, and after explaining some of the series premises to Dan (apparently his former GM had neglected to include Genom, the Boomers or even the Knight Sabers in his game), I loaned him the three game books. I got a big kick of showing off my name in one of the Bubblegum Crisis RPG books - actually, now I think about it, it was two of them! Hey, Dan, if you're reading this, check out the Thank Yous in Bubblegum Crisis: Before & After!

I get the feeling he'll probably use the Hero System to actually run the game (if so, I'll try to pick it up at some point soon). I've also warned Dan that if we do play BGC, popular demand will most likely have me creating and playing Slamdance as a character.

While I'm on the general roleplaying front, I've decided to put some of my older RPG product up for sale on eBay. Dan has volunteered to loan me his digital camera, although he has to check with his wife Leslie first, as it is actually her digital camera. Any luck, Dan?

July 26, 2003

Social Butterflies and Enter the Movable Type

Good afternoon, everyone! I've been meaning to post for a few days, but haven't got round to it. First thing I want to let everyone know is not to be surprised if we're not too active over the next couple of months. Once again, our finances are getting stretched (the going-out budget has pretty much been eliminated between the outings for Boots and Rog), and it's going to be one of those triple-rent months between my August and September pay days. So no more movies or dinners for a little while.

Not much to report from the past few days; work's been pretty much occupying most of our time. We had a very nice evening out on Thursday night, out with Rog, Linda, Gav, Mandi and Mandi's mate Kieran (I hope I have that right) at the Soup. It was the first time Vickie and I had been back since it opened. They've given it a new lick of paint and have started framing all those wonderful photos of jazz muse-os (most were at the framer's when we were there), but it's still the same old Soup. Vickie and I stuck it out until about eleven, when we finally tore ourselves away; I decided to go into work an hour late yesterday morning, and worked back an hour.

Been reading a lot of Wil Wheaton's web logs lately. I like the way he writes very much, serious but light and tongue in cheek. I've never lost that sense of - well, novelty, I suppose, for want of a better word - that I had when I found out that this guy is a total and thorough geek. He really is. He thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with Steve Jackson - "got to spend quality time with" him, in Wil's own words - at a recent comic con. I mean, is that a geek or what? If I ever meet Steve, I'm going to ask him what it's like to hang out with an honest to goodness science fiction star.

And if I ever meet Wil, I'm going to ask him what it's like hanging out with Steve honest to goodness Jackson.

Yeah, anyway. There's a point to this whole Wil Wheaton thing. He uses a web log system called Movable Type to handle his blogging and stuff (EvilHayama also used it in his now-defunct GameLog, and I think the Moshi Moshi e-mag run by him and Pirotess does also), and I've occasionally contemplated using it for the IMAGinES website. It's just all this talk of icky "PERL script" stuff and the programming thingy; I'm just too lazy to learn a programming language. I mean, I picked up CSS in order to get the funky new layout of my site working, and even that argues with Internet Explorer; the black-and-blue borders of the text boxes won't change size, no matter what values I put into the cascading style sheet, and the right-hand black border always disappears if italics run onto another line. For some odd reason, it all works fine under Netscape. And if I've not spent any time on that, what're the odds I'll have enough willpower to learn PERL?

Still, if Wil honest to goodness Wheaton had the time and inclination to build and manage a blog site, learning HTML, CSS and PERL along the way, why can't I?

I had a look at the Movable Type website recently, and they're working on a hosting/blogging service called Type Pad. I was wondering whether it might not be the sort of thing we could use to host Vickie's web page; the only problem is it's pay-to-use, and we pay enough for broadband internet access, with a mere 10MB hosting space, as is.

On the topic of Vickie: She's working, at the moment, on a list of more films that she has to introduce me to, mainly involving the work of the actor Peter Finch, probably best known for his ranting television executive in Network. He's (or was) Australian, and was also in the film A Town Like Alice. We'll have to start combing the video stores for Network and others; unfortunately, we may have about as much luck as we've had tracking down a copy of The Name of the Rose.

I'm getting into this argument over on the Cylon Alliance boards at the moment, with a rather pie-eyed denizen called Languatron. I knew I was asking for it when I attempted to engage him in debate; he's well known on the board for various rantings about those involved in the production of the new Battlestar Galactica. If you're interested, you can read the saga here. (Editor's Note 10 Oct 03: A few days later, a server crash wiped out all the logins and posting history on the CA boards. As I wasn't particularly liking how the debate-cum-argument was going, nor of some of the stuff I'd written myself, I decided not to go back in.)

But enough of that; this evening, we're off to Dan's for his next session of Champions. Then again, it might not be; Gav wound up double-booking and cancelled in favour of a birthday party that Mandi organised with him a couple of months ago. Boots was also coming, but it seems that this evening also conflicts with his film club outing. And, as John has the most legitimate excuse of the bunch (he's actually feeling crook, as is Dan), Rog, Vickie and I will probably wind up playing board games with Dan and Leslie. Nothing wrong with that, except it was Rog's last possibility of a session of Champions before he heads down to Melbourne.

One last thing I'd like to relate: Vickie and I were going up the travelator on the way to the car park with a trolley-load of shopping today, when we heard some ebullient shouting and cheering of adult male voices coming from Games Workshop; it being a Saturday, they probably had lots of kids in there playing demo games, and the staff were encouraging them. It bothers me to think that grown men can get so excited about rolling dice. Seems rather childish, really.

July 21, 2003

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

It's 2003, eleven years after Terminator 2: Judgment Day. August 29th, 1997, the prophesied date of the machines' nuclear revolt against humanity, came and went without incident, but John Connor (Nick Stahl) hasn't let go of the fear that Judgment Day might still happen. He's living as a drifter, leaving no public record of his existence; because of this, he must resort to breaking into the veterinary hospital of Kate Brewster (Claire Danes) in order to get painkillers and perform some self-surgery after a motorcycle accident. When Kate arrives to deal with a customer's early-morning emergency, she discovers and overcomes Connor, locking him in a dog cage.

Meanwhile, a naked young woman (Kristanna Loken) materialises in Beverly Hills. She commences a murderous mission, gunning down a group of young adults whose only apparent connection is the same high school - and Kate Brewster is on the list. It is only the explosive intervention of the Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) that saves the lives of both Connor and Brewster from this new feminine assassin, the T-X. But the third Model 101 cyborg from the future also has an expanded mission: Not only must John Connor, the future leader of the human resistance against the machines, be protected, but the survival of Kate Brewster is also vital to the future of humanity...

There's an interesting thematic and stylistic point about the third installment in the Terminator franchise. The majority of the action scenes in the first two films occur at night, whereas beyond the first twenty minutes or so, Terminator 3 is shot in daytime. It's a rather apt reflection of the film; while it's brighter and less moody, its flaws are also easier to see.

The first two Terminator movies, written and directed by James Cameron, were both high-tech action thrillers, and T3 is definitely no exception. Still, while it will doubtlessly be a box-office hit, it has something of an uphill battle to gain acceptance with fans of the first two films. For starters, not only is James Cameron not involved in this latest film - Jonathan Mostow (U571) has taken the director's reins, with a script by John Brancato, Michael Ferris (who wrote The Game and The Net with Brancato; the two also wrote the T3 screenplay) and Tedi Sarafian (Tank Girl) - but the charismatic Linda Hamilton, who played Sarah Connor in Terminator and T2, is also absent. Claire Danes plays a similar role to Hamilton's Terminator performance, as the young woman whose life is demolished by the Terminators because of a future purpose she will fulfil, whilst the scruffy, haunted Nick Stahl is reminiscent of Michael Biehn's future warrior Reese.

And that's one of the two main problems with Terminator 3. Its biggest challenge is to bring something new to the Terminator mythos. The Terminator's plot and characters made it more than just an action film, and T2 was able to build on it with the T-1000 and the idea of changing the future. While T3 has the advantage of playing fast and loose with time, as did the first two movies (i.e. the paradoxes of Reese as the father of John Connor and the design of the malevolent supercomputer Skynet being based on the first Terminator's CPU), it doesn't really introduce anything new.

In terms of characterisation, T3 feels like an amalgam of the first two films; the innocent yet strong woman, the man alienated from modern society and haunted by visions of the future, the stoic machine who is the butt of most of the film's humour. Carry this sort of duplication relies on performance, and while Mostow gets good performances from his cast, he doesn't have Cameron's eye for character. Stahl and Danes do solid work, but their characters, especially Kate Brewster, whose world comes crumbling down around her, treat their circumstances too lightly; there's never that sense of confusion, shock or alienation that Hamilton and Biehn portrayed so well. Perhaps this may even be a flaw of the script itself; the characters never seem to get a chance to let it all sink in (unlike Sarah Connor at the police station and John Connor's conversation with the second Terminator at night), and in order to keep moving, the plot forces them to become more larger-than-life than their predecessors.

The Terminators themselves are good, with Arnold back in the groove once more; I've read that he worked out every day on set to get back into the Terminator trim, and it worked. Kristanna Loken also turns in an effective performance, although she will always be compared with Robert Patrick's powerhouse Terminator 2 performance as the T-1000; try as she might, Kristanna just can't quite equal her predecessor. It's unfortunate that the script never seemed interested in looking at the possibilities inherent in a female Terminator aside from a brief and rather cheap "for-laughs" attempt at the beginning (then again, perhaps the writers were trying to avoid any comparisons with the Species films).

The action is fast-paced and exciting, with the first car chase being very jaw-dropping; the effects are spectacular, especially those involving the T-X; and Arnold's self-deprecating humour is always fun. Still, you keep feeling like it's just an escalation of what you've seen before. It's more, rather than different.

This extends to the biggest special effect in the film: the T-X, a combination of Arnold's original assassin and the liquid-metal T-1000. The T-X as a special effect looks great, adding onboard weaponry and the ability to take over any machine to the combination of endoskeleton and liquid metal (we still don't get an answer to how the liquid-metal Terminators can fool the time-displacement gear of the future, while Arnold's model still needs a flesh covering). While the former seems almost overdue, the believability of the latter gets stretched at first, turning modern-day cars into independent, self-driving pack-hunters. It's a little much to swallow; it feels as though the story is trying too hard to make her a bigger bad-ass than even the T-1000.

The other problem with Terminator 3 is its plot holes, and these can't be discussed without spoiling some of the film. Terminator and T2 were at least able to present their premises plausibly, but although the changing future gives the writers some leeway, they're not quite able to establish the new premise as well as Terminator 2 was. No mention is made on how development on Skynet was completed after the destruction of the Cyberdyne offices in Terminator 2, nor for how Skynet conceived of and commenced its agenda for the destruction of humanity when it was neither self-aware yet, nor under direct threat from its creators. Also, how was Skynet's super-virus at large in the Internet at the beginning of the film when Skynet is first connected up to an external system near the climax? It feels like all of these plot points could have been tied up with some quick exposition, but they're all left hanging, and the movie is definitely weaker because of them.

Still, it's easy to be negative of a film such as this, especially when you're an SF nut like me. T3 delivers action, chases, explosions and thrills in spades, and even if you're waiting for it to go deeper than the action film formula (which it never does), you'll be having a good time while you do. It's unfortunate that you have to turn your brain off to do so, when the first two films allowed you to keep it switched on, but that doesn't keep Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines from being worthy of the price of a cinema ticket.

July 20, 2003

Dog Soldiers and Dog Day After

Morning all! It's nine o'clock in the morning; high time for another newspost!

Boots' Friday Night Birthday Party went off very well. We were at the Commodore Hotel on Blues Point Road from six thirty onward, and had a pretty good turnout. Some of Boots' uni mates, who are all good folks, were there; we spent most of the evening sitting, chatting and drinking. The smoky atmosphere, even outdoors, got to me after a while, and I had to beg off at around ten. I think it was a good thing I did, as later on, the party moved to Metropolis in North Sydney, where a mate of Boots' was giving the party free drinks. The Rog of Evil took full advantage of the situation, getting Boots to down shot after shot of tequila. The party broke up at around three AM yesterday, and while Boots gave me a rather thorough report last night on his post party condition, I shall refrain from repeating it here; let it suffice to write that he's sworn off alcohol. Well, for the next few weeks, anyway.

I dropped Vickie off at work at half past eleven yesterday for the commencement of her twelve-hour shift, then picked up my comics subscription from Chatswood. I'm actually thinking of cancelling a lot of my comics subscriptions. It seems I'm just losing interest in the characters and what they're up to. I'll probably keep up with Dork Tower, because that's always good, not to mention very relevant to myself. :-) But aside from that, I think Iron Man and the various Tansformers subscriptions are probably going to go (although I must admit, I'm not too sure on the Transformers front; with Simon Furman on board as writer, the stories have suddenly picked up). I'm ambivalent about Ultimate X-Men; it's sort of got my interest but at the same time I'm sort of thinking I could still drop it anyway.

I'm also thinking of shifting my subscriptions to Kings Comics; their new Pitt Street location is much easier to get to and from after work than Chatswood. On the other hand, Chatswood is much more accessible on weekends.

I picked Boots up from his place in the evening (there was trackwork all the way up the North Shore line, and I thought it'd be faster to just go and get him), and while I was out doing so, Gav turned up at my place and had to wait about half an hour before we got back from Roseville. Rog turned up not long after with the Dog Soldiers DVD, and after a minor kerfuffle with the ordering of pizza (despite clear instructions and a simple route, Rog couldn't find Domino's; I had to hop in his car fifteen minutes after the pizzas were due to be picked up and direct him to it) we cranked up the Pioneer all-regions DVD player and slapped the British DVD in.

Dog Soldiers is bags of action-suspense fun, it really is. I'd love for it to be published here, so I can get my mitts on a Region 4 version. If you liked Aliens and don't mind low-budget thrillers, you will love Dog Soldiers. What really makes it stand out, though, are the stellar performances by the all-UK cast, especially Sean Pertwee (who, although he looks and sounds a whole lot like his late dad, Jon "The Third Doctor Who" Pertwee, is a great actor in his own right), and the British sense of humour that infuses the film from start to finish. Dog Soldiers is able to keep up the pressure without taking itself seriously at all. Easily worth a watch.

The lads left at around eleven (Rog graciously gave Boots a lift back home), and I went to pick Vickie up from work. She's having another well-deserved lie-in right now. We don't have much planned today, although I think I'll need to take a vacuum cleaner to the floor in the living room. Rog brought along some popcorn from this wonderful booth in Westfield Hornsby called Kernel's (I've bought popcorn there before, and their caramel flavours and cheese flavours are delicious). This stuff was called Stinger, and it was basically vinegar popcorn. Good stuff, except there are little bits and pieces on and around the living room chairs.

Last weekend, we did a little shopping at Gowings. One of the things we picked up was a hide skipping rope, and I've been using it semi-regularly. I can do about twelve jumps in one go before I either trip on the rope or it gets caught on the back of my head. I tell you something, it can sting like buggery when you catch it over your hand (Whw-kssh!). Still, it's good cardiovascular exercise, which I could definitely do with right now. I still have to do something with my old push bike that I picked up from Mum and Dad's a few months back; everyone's been telling me that what it really needs is a trip to the bike shop. I'll get it sorted out after I get the new aerial. I keep forgetting to call the real estate agent about that...

We also picked something else up at the same time. Vickie spotted this cute little yellow bear with a belly-button, and bought him for our car. He's perched by the small window right behind the right-hand passenger seat. After we bought him, Vickie started working on a name for him. Her first result was "Snodgrass", which I thought was rather un-flattering for such a cute little bear. She decided Snodgrass would be his last name, and tried to come up with a first name for him. He has a Gowings "G" stitched into his back, so she thought of Gavin, who's a big fan of Gowings himself, but we both agreed he probably wouldn't be too impressed with having a bear named after him. Later on, seemingly out of nowhere, Vickie comes up with "Gimble", and it stuck. I think I was out somewhere at the time, so Vickie told me later on, and that she had no idea where she got the name from. I smiled, and told her that Gimble was the nickname that Notlih gave Gav several years ago (for what reason, I doubt even Notlih knows). I'm sure I told her some time ago, and it must have lurked in her subconscious, waiting for its opportunity. So the name of our car bear is Gimble T.(for Teddy) Snodgrass.

We're going to catch a quarter-to-four session of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines this afternoon. Rog is coming, and he wants to bring his new lady Linda along. I'll give him a call around midday to organise the details.

All you Slamdance fans out there will be glad to know I've actually been doing some work on it. I still want to start the whole thing again from the beginning, especially as I now have a core theme to guide the plot. There are quite a lot of character and plotting details that need nailing down before I get started again. In between work on Black Talon and other stuff that needs doing, it might be a couple of months before actual writing starts.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic has been picking up storming reviews in its Xbox incarnation so far, but reports of some graphical issues have me thinking that I'll wait until PC version is released and reviewed before I buy one or the other. It's also been announced that Benoit Sokal's recent PC adventure game hit, Syberia, is to be released in an Xbox version. I was thinking it might be something Vickie will dig, and perhaps, as extended keyboard/mouse use is beginning to get to her somewhat, it might be a way of giving her some adventure gaming fun in a comfier setting. Then again, Vickie has largely shelved Myst III: Exile, so perhaps an adventure game isn't the way to go. Perhaps I ought to pick Knights of the Old Republic up for the Xbox after all...

Oh, yeah: Tron 2.0 has gone gold. August 26th, here we come...

July 16, 2003

Post-Birthday Spendage

Hi all! Yet another work from home day. I'm using my lunch break to do a little posting and updating.

Well, the shopping trip on Sunday was a success: I picked up those two copies of Shadows of Undrentide and the bonus DVD edition of Steely Dan's new album, Everything Must Go. I had to go to both Electronics Boutique and Kmart for SOU, as EB had only one copy; I also traded Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance in at EB for a discount (I recently found myself utterly disinterested in finishing it). We've played through some of Chapter 1 of SOU, and I've been playing the heck out of Everything Must Go. It's fantastic, and if you like jazz with a little bounce, you'll love this.

Clean-up after the party didn't actually take long (most of the washing up was done by Vickie and the dishwasher the night before). I actually got an e-mail from Notlih on Monday: the bastard clean forgot about the party, so Vickie and I are taking him on a guilt trip. We've yet to hear anything from the other non-attendees; it looks like they're keeping a low profile at the moment.

Boots and I have this deal: If I buy Battlefield 1942 next month, he'll buy Tron 2.0. Truth be known, I'd probably buy BF1942 anyway - I've been looking for a multiplayer online game I can enjoy with my friends for ages. The Cazman bought it ages ago, but I wasn't too impressed at the time; it was when Boots brought it over earlier this year and we did some multiplayer across the home LAN that I realised how much fun it can be. Boots and the Cazman have been in touch since the party about organising some regular Internet sessions, and Gav is seriously contemplating buying it as well. It also helps that Boots is part of a league, so it'll most likely be more than just the four of us.

And yes, I'm looking forward to some low-ping disc arena goodness in Tron 2.0, especially when it's with mates.

Still, all that can wait a while. I've spent enough on post-birthday prezzies. The next purchase I intend to make is a new TV antenna for our place. We've had a quote from Mr. Antenna for ages, but haven't acted on it (maybe we'll need to ask them for a new one); I want to see about getting our shitty reception fixed up soon. I think the landlord is willing to pay the installation costs (something like $100) as long as we pay for the aerial (around $150).

Rog is still waiting for his DVD of the British horror film Dog Soldiers to arrive from the UK. There's this ad hoc plan we have that everyone interested (which, I think, consists of Gav and Boots) piles over our place, probably on a Friday night when Vickie's working (Dog Soldiers doesn't look like her sort of movie; she loves action but not horror) so it can be viewed on our all-regions DVD player. Rog is still not sure when it's arriving; he reckons he should have had it already.

Once again, it's time for me to Talk Big about my Nebulous Plans for Writing. Yet again, I have a New Aim that Sounds Good but Probably Won't Be Accomplished: New Product in Each Category Every Month. This means that each month, I intend to write:

  • A new episode of Slamdance (or a revision of one of the originals).
  • A new Rant.
  • A new article for either the Articles or RPGs sections.
  • A new session of Heavy Gear: Black Talon.

Of course, I've made noises like this before, but I want to get serious on this front. It means being a lot more organised, and dedicated, of my evenings. This site has turned into a big blog, and while there's nothing wrong with that in itself, I've been promising more from the word go and haven't really been delivering.

And in the midst of all this frantic creativity, I'm going to get some physical exercise in too...

July 13, 2003

Post-Party Postage

(yawn) Morning everyone! I'm not entirely sure what I'm doing awake at the moment, especially as we didn't get to sleep until something like half past three this morning, but here I am, feeling very awake at ten thirty and writing another newspost!

The party was great last night, although most people were fashionably late - Gav turned up at six and the next guests, EvilHayama and Pirotess, didn't show until half past seven! Thankfully, they were the start of the trend, with a lot of the guests turning up not long after. We got to catch up with a few people we've not seen in a while, especially Lauren, and the Xbox, semi-surprisingly, hardly saw any use (I fired it up once to show off the Agent Smith cut scene from Enter the Matrix). Much love must go to my Vickie (not that it doesn't usually, but you know), who was rushing around like the proverbial blue-arsed fly (someone will have to explain that piece of Australianism to me at some point) yesterday and Friday making food and cleaning up the place for the party. She's having a nice, long and much-deserved lie-in this morning.

Unfortunately, I have to give the "Oh, Was It Yesterday?" Award for Replying To The Invitation With A Yes And Then Failing To Let Us Know You Wouldn't Be Showing Up After All to no less than four people. The winners are Marcus, Notlih (who deserve special mention as they said they'd arrive at six but leave at eight for other engagements, so it was even more flattering that they didn't even show up for that short period of time), Baz and Natalie (whom we'd not seen in ages; Vickie was especially looking forward to catching up with Natalie). As a few of these people aren't on the IMAGinewS list, this newspost will be forwarded to them separately to ensure they don't escape the embarrassment.

Today will probably be occupied with some post-party cleanup, though most of it was done (by Vickie) last night. I also want to nip into Hornsby and spend some birthday money. While all my presents were great, Shadows of Undrentide wasn't among them, so I want to get a copy each for Vickie and I. I also want to get Steely Dan's latest CD, Everything Must Go.

I think I've managed to get a couple of people keen on Tron 2.0, especially Gav, to whom I gave a CD-R with the demo on last night. I also set the demo up on Vickie's PC, and Gav and I did some Disc Arena and Light Cycles combat last night for a little while. The lerv be spreading...

Oh, and speaking of lerv, did anyone else hear that the Lerv God himself, Barry White, passed away a few days ago? It wasn't exactly surprising, considering the man's size (I think the cause of death was organ failure), but it's still sad to see the guy go. And on the topic of singers, I was also very sorry to hear about Delta Goodrem being diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, a form of cancer. While I'm not a Goodrem fan, she's one of the (few) more talented pop singers around today, with a very distinctive voice and musical style (unlike fellow Neighbours alumnus Bec Cartwright, who just sounds like a carbon-copy pop princess). I understand the prognosis is optimistic, especially as the disease was discovered early, and I hope Delta is able to make a full recovery and continue to do the work she enjoys.

July 11, 2003

Happy Birthday to Me, Happy Birthday to Me...

Morning everyone! Today, I am officially twenty-six. It doesn't seem that long ago that I was just a wee slip of a twenty year old. Very odd, the passage of time...

Well, as can be expected, I already have a few prezzies, including what I think is the niftiest one I'll probably get this year - a little hardback volume called Schott's Original Miscellany, by Ben Schott. Grandma and Aunt Heather in the UK sent it to me. It's this fantastic little collection of facts, quotations and other assorted stuff (including a complete list of the twenty Official Bond Films, with Bonds, villains, Bond Girls and Key Cars. It also has the NATO Alphabet (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, etc.) which I've been looking for for ages (I didn't know it was called the NATO Alphabet). I already have, and will be getting, some great presents, but I don't think any will beat this one for sheer niftiness.

Today's going to be occupied with shopping, housework and cleaning up for the party tomorrow. I've got a lawn to mow as well; I'll probably do the Main Road side of the wall today and leave the front and back lawns for tomorrow morning. Tonight I'm having dinner with my family in Hornsby, which Vickie unfortunately won't be able to attend due to work.

No-one's responded to my offering of the Xbox and games for sale, so I might just ang onto it a bit longer. Besides, I can trade some of the games I'm no longer playing/interested in (MGS2, Enter the Matrix, DOA3) in for Tron 2.0 when it arrives, and maybe Shadows of Undrentide if I don't get it as a birthday present. (And if I do, I'll use them to get another copy for Vickie!) I'm also thinking of trading Fuzion Frenzy and maybe Sega Soccer Slam in for another party game, say, maybe Kung Fu Chaos. Heck, I might even see if I can sweing a trade-in today or tomorrow so I can have Kung Fu Chaos for the party! Either that, or I hit Video Ezy tomorrow and see if it's available for overnight rent, which makes a little more sense.

Speaking of Tron 2.0, I've been playing the Multiplayer Demo on and off (well, more on than off) over the past few days and have been thoroughly enjoying it! Has anyone else downloaded it as yet? If so, would you be interested if we could organise a match-up? If not, would you be interested enough to for out for a blank CD-R for me to burn it onto (especially if you're coming to the party tomorrow night)?

Happy Birthday to Me, Happy Birthday to Me...

Morning everyone! Today, I am officially twenty-six. It doesn't seem that long ago that I was just a wee slip of a twenty year old. Very odd, the passage of time...

Well, as can be expected, I already have a few prezzies, including what I think is the niftiest one I'll probably get this year - a little hardback volume called Schott's Original Miscellany, by Ben Schott. Grandma and Aunt Heather in the UK sent it to me. It's this fantastic little collection of facts, quotations and other assorted stuff (including a complete list of the twenty Official Bond Films, with Bonds, villains, Bond Girls and Key Cars. It also has the NATO Alphabet (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, etc.) which I've been looking for for ages (I didn't know it was called the NATO Alphabet). I already have, and will be getting, some great presents, but I don't think any will beat this one for sheer niftiness.

Today's going to be occupied with shopping, housework and cleaning up for the party tomorrow. I've got a lawn to mow as well; I'll probably do the Main Road side of the wall today and leave the front and back lawns for tomorrow morning. Tonight I'm having dinner with my family in Hornsby, which Vickie unfortunately won't be able to attend due to work.

No-one's responded to my offering of the Xbox and games for sale, so I might just ang onto it a bit longer. Besides, I can trade some of the games I'm no longer playing/interested in (MGS2, Enter the Matrix, DOA3) in for Tron 2.0 when it arrives, and maybe Shadows of Undrentide if I don't get it as a birthday present. (And if I do, I'll use them to get another copy for Vickie!) I'm also thinking of trading Fuzion Frenzy and maybe Sega Soccer Slam in for another party game, say, maybe Kung Fu Chaos. Heck, I might even see if I can sweing a trade-in today or tomorrow so I can have Kung Fu Chaos for the party! Either that, or I hit Video Ezy tomorrow and see if it's available for overnight rent, which makes a little more sense.

Speaking of Tron 2.0, I've been playing the Multiplayer Demo on and off (well, more on than off) over the past few days and have been thoroughly enjoying it! Has anyone else downloaded it as yet? If so, would you be interested if we could organise a match-up? If not, would you be interested enough to for out for a blank CD-R for me to burn it onto (especially if you're coming to the party tomorrow night)?

July 08, 2003

God-damned Windows XP...

Evening, all.

I've just had some fun times with trying to get the new hard drive on Vickie's PC. I'd re-formatted the new drive (again) and re-installed Windows XP (again) in preparation for Dan popping over with the driver disc for Vickie's/his motherboard (see my newspost for the 3rd for more detail) and had got as far as activating Windows - when Microsoft told me I'd exceeded the numner of activations allowed on Vickie's product key. I've tried rebuilding her PC so many times recently, it seems I've used all her XP activations up. I don't know whether I get a few back in six months or so, but right now, I don't feel like arguing the point with a Microsoft user. So, the new hard drive has gone to Dan.

This still leaves Vickie with a 20GB hard drive that's down to 4GB unused space. I still want a new hard drive for her, which, considering the trouble I've had and the using up of her XP activations, I'll set up as a slave so Vickie can put her data there. The problem is, money's a little tight for us both right now. I'm going to be spending the next few months paying off my Mastercard after upgrading my PC as it is, Vickie's also seriously feeling the pinch (and I still owe her a couple of hundred bucks), we have my birthday party this weekend to cater for and there's a trip overseas next year that I'm still nowhere near affording.

So, in order to give us a short- and long-term shot in the arm... I'm selling my Xbox and all its games.

It's been something I've thought about on and off lately, and really, aside from playing Halo on it occasionally, I don't use it half as much as I thought I might. I'm hoping it'll find a better home with one of you.

So what, exactly, is for sale?

  • An Xbox Console with Standard AV Connector and Advanced AV connector (S-Video/Digital Audio).
  • Four Controllers, two Big, two Small.
  • Halo, the system's premiere first-person shooter.
  • Enter The Matrix, the action game based on the hit movie The Matrix: Reloaded.
  • MechAssault, bringing big Mechs to the Xbox in explosive style.
  • Rallisport Challenge, one of the best rally racing games on console.
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance, the hit Japanese stealth-action game.
  • Sega Soccer Slam, the fun, tongue-in-cheek sports game.
  • Dead Or Alive 3, the visually spectacular martial arts fighting game.
  • Fuzion Frenzy, the Xbox's first party title.

My asking price for this valuable kit is $600.00, although I am willing to negotiate. Only available in a job lot; I want to sell it all off in one big hit. All games and equipment are in good condition. Serious offers only, please.

July 03, 2003

Moves, Demos and Drivers

Evening all! My apologies; I was working on a news post on Tuesday, but I got distracted. Only eight days 'til me birthday! Yahoo!

The biggest news in the past couple of weeks is that me mate Gav has moved out of the family domicile in Berowra and into me old mate EvilHayama's place within spitting distance of the CBD. As some (including Gav) have commented, this puts him within half an hour's walk from Games Paradise, which, I am sure, will allow him to keep up the levels of exercise he maintained on the daily trek from his old place to Berowra Station and back. I must claim some credit for this, as it was I who suggested Gav to Hayama when the Evil One was looking for a third housemate (after Evil and Dane's last one moved out). It's been five nights so far and they don't seem to have killed one another yet.

My Tron 2.0 itch has been scratched: Monolith and Buena Vista have released a multiplayer demo, including a single Disc Arena/Tournament level and a signle Lightcycles level. I downloaded all 160 megabytes from Gamespot on Tuesday, and damn I'm glad I did; it looks positively spiffing on my new graphics card and the gameplay is challenging but fun.

Tycho of Penny Arcade has a very low opinion of the demo, comparing the Lightcycle gameplay unfavourably to the freeware Armagetron and describing the Disc gaming as "an expression of hatred toward gamers, an epithet". Well, Tycho, I'm not familiar with Armagetron but I wouldn't go that far in criticism of the Disc gameplay, mate. Granted, the general consensus is that the netcode needs tightening, but Monolith has a good month of QA before Tron 2.0 needs to go gold in order to meet the August 26th available-at-retail date that BV Interactive have stated. I'm also optimistic about the single-player game, although when given the designers' assurances on it, he says "in this instance one must consider the source". Well, yes, indeed one must, Tycho: the source in question being the maker of the No One Lives Forever series, lauded far and wide for their gameplay, quality and sense of humour, much like the venerable institution that is Penny Arcade itself (barring, of course, the gameplay bit). It is even responsible for the capable Aliens Versus Predator 2 and Shogo: Mobile Armoured Division, so it's probably fair to say Monolith can speak on the subject of the enjoyability of its own games with some authority.

Frankly, I'm not willing to put the mockers on Tycho too much; he and Gabe did justifiably sound the clarion on Halo's repetitive level design when it was needed. In that instance, though, they did so in a way that made sense and, outside the strip of course, explained their stance capably. So far in this instance, all Tycho's done is use hyperbole and expletives, and although I'm willing to grant him that he wouldn't be so disgusted without reason, I'd like to see said reason in written and, shall we say, reasoned argument, which I know he can do. If it's just a matter of taste, fine, Tycho, you sit in your corner and I'll sit in mine. If it's not, let's hear the nature of your grievances.

I put that long rant on Battlestar Galactica together - and decided I don't really like it in its current form. I feel as though it glosses over a few too many things. I might just post it anyway, but I think I'll revise it later.

I'm still trying to sort out a new hard drive for Dan's PC. My plan is to give him the working 20GB one in Vickie's PC right now; to that end, I bought a new Western Digital Western Digital 40 GB 7,200 RPM drive (with 8MB cache) for Vickie (she's geting close to the limit on her 20GB one, anyway) and am attempting to get it running as a new primary drive. I say attempting, as I seem to be encountering stumbling-blocks as I go. For some odd reason, Windows XP doesn't like the latest Realtek drivers for the motherboard-built-in sound card. I've built the system with the new hard drive twice, and on the second time (last night, as a matter of fact) I had virtually everything installed and running agreeably when I remembered I'd not installed the sound drivers. I downloaded them, restarted the PC and now it hangs on startup. The problem is, I can't seem to find the CD-ROM that came with the original motherboard, so I can't install the drivers that I know work. I'm going to try letting the Windows XP repair utility have a go tomorrow night when Vickie's at work; if that fails, I'll have to borrow the CD-ROM for my old motherboard (which is identical to Vickie's) back from Dan.

It's really annoying, because I gave Dan his new PC over a month ago, and he's been without it for a few weeks since the hard drive I gave him as part of it died. There's a word I'm looking for, and I think that word is "fuck".

Anyway, enough of my grousing. I'm going to go de-rezz some more users.

July 01, 2003

Hookin' Locorriere

Whee! Two newsposts in two days! Haven't done that in a while. A Happy Independence Day to all you United States readers, and please be careful with them fireworks.

Vickie justifiably razzed me last night for failing to mention what we got up to last Friday night: we went to The Basement for the first time in several months. A fine gent by the name of Dennis Locorriere was doing a one-man (plus guitar) show there that night. For those of you who don't know (don't worry, neither did I before Vickie heard him om the radio and told me), he was the lead singer/frontman for a little band back in the '70s/'80s called Doctor Hook and the Medicine Show. (Don't give me that blank look now, you liars, you've heard their music.) Dennis was everything I could ask for in a live act; he was fun, witty, energetic, a great muse-o, and really loved the music he was playing, which was Doctor Hook ("When You're In Love With a Beautiful Woman", "Cover of the Rolling Stone", "Sharing The Night Together", "Sylvia's Mother") with his own originals and some tunes written by the late Hook songwriter and novelist Shel Silverstein. It was easily worth the dinner/show rate The Basement charge. I am very glad Vickie suggested we go to see him.

I just came across a link to some of my stuff: a gent by the name of Jason Sartin put up a review of the Legacy: War of Ages on his Primary Error website, and linked to my RPGnet review of the game! I just love his summary: "Even more negative, but still nicer than I was." Coming from him, that's high praise (I think)! You ought to read the review he and Darren McLennan did of the F.A.T.A.L. RPG; if you had even the remotest interest in it before, you won't after you read these two lads having at it. Frankly, the review is hilarious in its uncompromising negativity - and from what you read of the product being reviewed, you can certainly understand the reviewers' bile and rage.

Mandi's birthday party is tomorrow, but we'd already made plans involving the Bootsmeister, so, unfortunately, we will not be there. We do wish her a b-chin' evening, and hope she doesn't get too drunk. (If you do not understand the drinking partying machine that is the Mandi, just ask her what her favourite shot is. You WILL understand then. Oh, yes. You will.)

Speaking of Things Man Was Not Meant To Know, my current perusal of my Call of Cthulhu rulebook should not be taken as indicative of any thought or work toward an adventure and/or campaign. I just got it off the shelf because I wanted something to read and I hadn't pulled CoC off the shelf in a while. That I own both the Delta Green supplements, and that they've both been whispering "Run us! Run us!" into my ear in eldritch, hoarse rasps in my sleep over the past four years, has nothing whatsoever to do with it.

Besides, I still have my Heavy Gear: Black Talon campaign to procrastinate about, I really don't need another one.