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August 26, 2007

It Took Me Eight Years...

... but I finally saw Dogma.

Ask anyone who's already seen the movie, especially fans of Kevin Smith's work, and you'll get a laundry list of reasons why the film should be seen by everybody. For me, reason number two is that, for all the profanity and gross-outs, it's honestly entertaining.

But then there's reason number one: If you've seen Alan Rickman in anything, you probably like him. If you've seen Galaxy Quest or Die Hard or Love Actually or Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, you almost certainly like him a whole bunch. But this little film does something that I'd never even conceptualised, let alone considered possible: It gives you the opportunity to love him.

August 25, 2007

But Can It Somersault A Land Bridge?

I used to think that the Peugeot Hoggar was the closest we'd ever get to an actual, working Warthog. Then the Bungie lads not-so-subtly hinted in their most recent podcast that those talented lads and lasses in the Land of the Long White Cloud - by which I mean, the Oscar-winning Weta Workshop - had put together something man-size and probably driveable for a series of Halo-based short films being directed by the man pegged by Peter Jackson to helm the aborted film version of the video game.

Now, there is proof. Click the link and scroll to the bottom of the page. Yes, that's a real dude manning the AA cannon in back.

Okay, Maybe That Does All Fit Down...

I mentioned a while ago that while reviews of the Transformers movie were generally positive, the same couldn't be said of the video game tie-in. Still, of the various versions of the product, the PC version seems to have come in slightly ahead of the others, mainly due to slightly more responsive controls.

A few days ago, I discovered a downloadable demo for the PC version, and naturally downloaded it. I suppose I wanted to find out whether the game was really as mediocre as the reviewers all seemed to hold. I've played through it at least once, and discovered something interesting while I was at it - much like my experience with Grand Theft Auto III, driving a car around is pretty awkward using the keyboard (where touching the keys mapped for "steer left" and "steer right" sends the car into full lock), but if you plug an Xbox 360 controller in (or use a wireless connection device, much as I do), the game suddenly becomes a lot easier to control in either mode (robot or car). The graphics aren't fantastic, but they do the job and they run nicely and smoothly on my rig. Admittedly, the demo only comes with the low-resolution textures, but I didn't find that off-putting - I'm only even more interested to see what the Transformer models look like with hi-res textures.

And damn, it's fun watching Bumblebee transform on command. See, over the past few years I've stopped being a fan of Transformers who can shift mass and size around. I like the idea of a fairly sizeable Transformer who can fit down into a working car disguise without shrinking anything or sending bits of itself into another dimension, and I was pleased to read and hear in interviews with Michael Bay and the special effects team that they were of like mind (so no, fellow Transfans, I don't really want to see big-robot-into-little-cassette-deck Soundwave in any sequel). Thus I was a little disappointed when I first saw Bumblebee fold himself down from big robot to two-seater muscle car in the film; I remember thinking, "Hmm, there's some SFX skullduggery there. He looks like he just got a bit smaller."

But watching Bumblebee swap modes during the game - not to mention being able to get a decent look at him from all angles - I'm revising my opinion. The transformations actually look like all that big robot is actually going into that little car and back out again without having to pull a fast one on the audience.

As for the other criticisms of the game - well, yes, the controls are pretty basic, but having never had the patience to learn even the most basic button combos in Dead or Alive 3 I'm not particularly bothered. Also, I think I grok the fairly basic cutscenes and story in the game - I have no idea whether the designers intended this, but I think that Transformers: The Game is the version of the film for young 'uns whose folks won't take them to see the film (which, let's face it, aims its chrome-plated action and big explosions at the male mid-teen-and-up demographic). The cutscenes leave the story-depth to the movie's story toes and omit a the potentially iffy-with-parents content, i.e. Sam ogling Mikaela or creating the "ladiesman" eBay ID, instead serving as quick establishing pieces - here's where you are, here's the danger, here's how this fight you're in has suddenly changed, go! Combine that with the control scheme that reviewers claim is too basic, and I'd say this title is firmy for kids.

The only strike against it in that regard is the $100-110 price tag across the console systems, which is the main reason I decided not to splurge on the Xbox 360 version. However, the PC version is actually available in most places for $40-50 - so I might see if I can snag a copy this weekend. I can't wait to see how the other Autobots and Decepticons do their thing...

Wonky Woofers

Our poor dogs haven't had a good time of it lately. A couple of weeks ago, we noticed that Zelda had started - well, not frothing at the mouth, so much, but her saliva had thickened, and she was licking her chops a lot, so her muzzle was covered in spit. She was also often scratching her right ear and eye. Vickie managed to get her into the vet's, who diagnosed her with a yeast infection and prescribed a daily regimen of pills, eye drops and ear drops. She's still on it; we still have a while before the pills run out.

Then there's Ziggy, who's been hacking away like he has a nigh-constant hairball. He's also vomited a couple of times, most recently last ngiht/this morning in the laundry where he and Zel sleep nowadays. We have the feeling that it might actually be worms, and Ziggy's regular medication covers heartworm only, so tomorrow Vickie will put an order in for some more dog-meds and I'll stop by the vet clinic on Mulgrave Road to pick a pill up for Ziggy's immediate consumption.

August 23, 2007

Wagging School

As you may be able to imagine, being the owner of two largish, wilful dogs isn't the eaiest of experiences, especailly when they need to be walked regularly to stay healthy and fit. We have a couple of books on the care and training of dogs, but they've been a little initmidating in terms of all the stuff they seem to reckon I need to know to do the job properly.

Thankfully, Vickie found a website for a five-minute ABC TV show called Wagging School (our overseas audience mightn't realise that the title's actually a pun on some local slang). It contains each episode of the show, which centres on training your dog a particular command. It emphasises repetition and regularity in training, something I've not quite been able to nail down yet, but we've bought some dog treats and I'll start getting stuck in on Friday evening.

August 22, 2007

Fourth Edition

In the last week, some big news spread across the RPG hobby ether, news that I think many had been halfway expecting for a while. Wizards of the Coast, publisher of roleplaying games, colelctibe card and miniatures games, finally announced that it will release a fourth edition of the grand-daddy RPG, Dungeons & Dragons, in mid 2008. As with the previous two editions (well, technically, edition and a half), this new edition will consist of three core rulebooks: the Player’s Handbook, the Dungeon Master’s Guide and the Monster Manual. If the third and 3.5 editions are anything to go by, each of these books will be at least two hundred and fifty glossy, full colour pages long, with hard covers.

Now, I’m not sure how I feel about this. On one hand I own the 3.5 editions of all three rulebooks, plus the Eberron Campaign Setting. In total, these cost me around $170, and I find myself a bit sore at the thought of these books made redundant in one fell swoop.

On the other hand, these books have pretty much sat on my shelf and gathered dust ever since I bought them, barring a period of a couple of weeks around the time of last year’s Reefcon convention, where I created a character to play in the Living Greyhawk modules being run there. Readers of my blog and others will know of my increasing preference for independently published RPGs over the few years; my last recent RPG purchase was the independent pulp action RPG, Spirit of the Century. The D&D books could probably keep sitting on my shelf, or I might even donate them to the local library.

But then, you see, there’s the third hand, the mutant hand that grows out of my chest, the one that constantly shakes a handful of assorted polyhedral dice. No sir, that's not catarrh, I'm just always ready to roll. On that hand, I find myself thinking: Okay, so I bought all the 3.5 core books on sale with the idea that I’d need them all to be involved in the Cairns RPG scene. That turned out to be incorrect; I only ever really hauled the Player’s Handbook out for Reefcon. So instead of getting cheesed or throwing the baby out with the bathwater, I could try flogging my set of books for whatever I can get and using the funds thus raised to buy just the 4th Ed. Player’s Handbook when it’s released, plus maybe the 4th Ed. Revision of the Eberron Campaign Setting (I’m sure there’ll be one sooner or later; Wizards has invested too much in the world of Eberron to not put one out). Thus, I could get involved in the planned reboot of the Living Greyhawk campaign from the ground up, which will give me a chance to meet and game with quite a few more fellow hobbyists. It’s still a tempting thought, even if my tastes are theoretically different; there’s part of me which still says, Rob, you haven’t really played enough to know whether it’s your thing or not. So how about giving D&D a serious try before writing it off?

I kinda like that third hand.

Inch By Inch, Row By Row

Yesterday I filled a couple of pages in my notebook with topics I wanted to post about. Most of them relate to matters pretty firmly within geek territory, so I thought I'd start with the one situated on the other side of the border, the Mexican topic, if you will.

Vickie and I have had the plan for a while - okay, let's be honest, Vickie's had the plan for a while, I've mainly agreed with it (mainly 'cos it's a good plan, but partly because complaining about the amount of physical labour expected of me will lose me the respect of both sides of my family). The plan is to put a vegetable bed in our garden and grow all our own vegetables. We're already doing pretty good in terms of fruit, with our orange, mandarin, pawpaw and grapefruit trees; we've also got a lychee tree, but with its age and recent history of pruning it's be a miracle to find any lychees on it.

The plan's undergone some modification across its lifespan. We were originally just going to try and resurrect the original vege bed, bordered with wooden sleepers; dig the old dilapidated soil out, put black "viscreen" plastic in, fill the beds with topsoil and start sowing. After we starred getting concrete sleepers and large plant pots from Karl the plan was modified; we planned to remove the wood sleepers, flatten the soil and then set the grey flagstones we inherited from Deena out over viscreen sheeting as a kind of patio, bordered by a single row of concrete sleepers. The vegetables, which are currently in the plant pots, would remain in them, set on the patio.

We were partway there; we cleared the wood sleepers and a friend with a backhoe spread the infertile soil out in a flat pan across the back corner of our yard. Recently, though, with the promise of additional concrete sleepers, we revised the plan again, deciding to return to the idea of full beds rather than plants in pots; viscreen base, held down by a three-deep layer of sleepers, with weed mat inside the bed covering both the bottom and up the sides, then filled with topsoil. We have half the requirements, being sleepers and a big roll of viscreen; Bunnings was all out of weed mat on Sunday and the soil will need a separate order from a local merchant.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, we’ve also used the additional sleepers to border our garden beds; I finished the long side bed on the north side of our yard and surrounded the central bed. Both areas are looking quite a bit better now. Remaining to be done are the beds in the south-side dog run and at the front of the house, which will involve more sleeper-schlepping. Fuckers are heavy, I can tell you; I was halfway buggered after shifting six a distance of maybe ten metres, and the dog run will require at least fifteen shifted at least twenty-five metres each. Still, as long as I’m careful and don’t go at it like the proverbial bull I’ll be a fitter man by the end of it.

August 21, 2007

Appointments, Expectations and Apologies

I tried to get a bunch of people over my place at one PM last Saturday in the hope of running a roleplaying game session for them. Of my invitees, three people said they could make it. Knowing how hard it is to get gamers organised, I double-checked closer to time and discovered that one had forgotten about a favour she promised her parents, which meant she could only come after three, another couldn’t get out of work any earlier than five and the third had children’s birthday parties, locking his whole day out. On the actual day, the friend who was helping her folks wound up with a nasty illness and had forgotten all about coming over, so she didn’t call to let us know. Needless to say, no gaming happened that weekend.

Yesterday, I was at work, and the morning had turned into a rolling panic. Amid the flurry of booking slips and having my counterpart tied up organising invitations to a major event, I did a co-worker what seemed a simple favour that ended up in me splitting the seam of my trousers right along the seat. I had to hustle down to the nearest Lowes, a few blocks away, with my jacket tied about my waist (it was still a little drafty) and buy myself some replacements. I got back to work a little after half past eleven and got stuck back into keeping up, figuring I’d have no time for lunch.

Then at quarter to twelve, I get a phone call from a friend of mine, with whom I’d organised to meet at a nearby café to catch up – at eleven thirty. I’d meant to call her earlier to make sure I had the day right but amid all the ensuing drama of that morning I’d forgotten about the whole thing. My friend had been waiting for me for a quarter of an hour, and as things were crazy bonkers nuts at the office I didn’t think I could get out to her. I apologised profusely, but the tone of my friend’s voice indicated she wasn’t particularly impressed. I can understand it; she had taken time out of her usually very busy workday and driven across town to meet with me.

So what have I learned from all this?

Well, the first and perhaps most obvious lesson is that shit happens. I wrote recently about life’s complexities and how everything is tied into and affects everything else, which means that, in the end, the best-laid plans can come awry simply because we have control over so little. Some might even say that it’s karma; my displeasure with my friends was “repaid”, in a way, with another friend’s displeasure with me.

Does that necessarily mean, though, that I was wrong to be disappointed? I mean, hey, I’m not perfect (as my neglect of the coffee catch-up with my friend surely indicates). What right do I have to expect better of someone else?

I wrote a few weeks ago about trust, and that in a complex world where each individual only has control over themselves (and that control can be taken away under certain circumstances) you can only trust someone else to do the best they can. To me, that means that if you ask someone to be somewhere at a given time, and that person agrees, then you are justified in expecting that the person will arrive where and when agreed. If circumstances render that expectation impossible or unlikely, the onus is on that person to let you know as soon as possible so you can alter your plans accordingly. Because we were expecting to receive guests, Vickie and I cleaned up and laid on supplies, and because my friend was expecting to meet me, she left work and travelled to a location easier for me to meet her at; in each circumstance, a phone call would have allowed us to alter our plans (and budgets) for our days.

So a little disappointment helps, if only to remind others that neglect has consequences. For me, that means I’ll accept apologies with grace when offered, but still ask that the apologiser do better next time. When I’m the one who fouls up, I’ll offer apologies without reservation and examine the circumstances so that can do better next time (like maybe make more use of my ever-present notebook). And I’ll quit the self-flagellation I usually muster when I screw up.

August 11, 2007

If It's Good Enough For Will...

CLAIMER: In this post, I am a cussed bastard who elevates personal taste to objective truth. Keep that in mind when you feel your hackles raising or your gorge rising while reading.

You know, I was never much interested in going to see 300. Mainly it was because Sin City, when I finally saw it, didn't really do it for me. It's pretty much like Pulp Fiction was for me back in the mid-nineties; all the cool kids were talking about it and how brilliant it was, but when I finally got around to seeing it - well, I just couldn't see why such a big fuss was being made. I mean, it was sort of interesting, sure, and I liked the chopping-and-changing narrative, but when I saw all the bits everyone dubbed hilarious and/or shining examples of Quentin Tarantino's cinematic genius, I just went "Er... huh?"

Same with Sin City. The only Frank Miller work I know I've read is The Dark Knight Returns, which is pretty damned good, and I like Robert Rodriguez' Mariachi trilogy. But after seeing the film, I know know I'm pretty uninterested in reading any of the Sin City books. I didn't mind the camera style so much, but most of the rest of it was just so damned OTT that I didn't really enjoy it. Bruce's voice over was devoid of emotion, I wished Dwight would quit harping on about his valkyrie, and although the women were gorgeous I figured it'd be nice if some of them stopped sneering and left their clothes on (come to think of it, one did: Jessica Alba). I liked Mickey Rourke as Marv, but that was about it. (No, From Dusk 'Til Dawn didn't really do it for me either.)

So I wasn't really much interested in 300; it seemed like more of the same, just with more of a sword-and-sandal focus. I dunno, maybe people who enjoy the Conan stories would get quite a bit out of it (and I'm pretty sure I know someone who does and who did) but I figured I'd just want those two hours back, thank you. On top of that, there was the issue of historical accuracy. Back then, it was another bee in my already buzzing bonnet. At the time, Steve Darlington had a few things to say about the subject, and I tended to agree: Sure, what the Spartans did on the field of battle was amazing, but in order to do it, they made for themselves a very unpleasant society. Now, they're conveniently the heroes and the real "good guys" from back then are the evil, misshapen villains?

Steve realised that it wasn't really a big deal (and if it were for me, how come I think A Knight's Tale is the fucking awesome?), but it still bothered me for a while, until I realised that the real life Macbeth of Scotland was, in fact, not a wife-appeasing, father-figure-and-best-friend-murdering, bloodthirsty bastard. Even so, That Scottish Play is regarded as one of the best works of a true genius of telling the human story through entertainment, who had his own, bloody, gory, crowd-pleasing moments too (I remember one literary journalist comparing Titus Andronicus to Tarantino's work when the movie Titus came out).

So if William Shakespeare could get away with bending (even mutilating) history in the name of crafting a compelling, quality story, why the hell can't Frank Miller, or Brian Helgeland, or (gasp) Michael Bay? Even though the middle one's probably the only one who succeeded in the "compelling" and "quality" departments.

August 10, 2007

NearbyGamers

A year and a half ago I submitted my information to a tool called "FindPlay", which was intended to help people in the RPG hobby find hobbyists of similar interest. Recently, after a period of downtime, FindPlay was superseded by NearbyGamers, a site with improved functionality and a viewable map (using Google Maps).

So far I'm the only gamer in the Cairns region to put a pin into the map, so I'm hoping that by getting the word out to others the local gamer density will manifest itself.

August 09, 2007

Channel Ten: The Good And The Bad

Did anyone else think that Julia Zemiro was robbed of an Honourable Mention in last night’s Thank God You’re Here? She was having a serious “on” night with that whole medical sketch. Just because Gleisner used to mock the usage of “stat” in that Medico Point radio comedy he used to do is no reason to expect Julia to do so as well, I say!

And did anyone else have a geek moment during Ross Noble’s turn through the door hen the wizard type mentioned Nurgle and the Skaven? Anyone? Anyone in the Brisbane area whose initials are S and D, maybe? I figure Ross has never read or played Warhammer in his life or else he probably would’ve picked the references up and ran with them.

And is anyone else royally pissed off at Ten for suddenly and without warning relegating Torchwood to a graveyard slot on Wednesday? For fuck’s sake, guys! How come you do this with every SF show except Supernatural? The ABC built your audience for you with Doctor Who and yet you still won’t give it a fighting shot at establishing itself on your network! Jesus. You guys sent Vickie off to a website that streams TV shows so that she could watch the rest of the season. Wound up using up over half our monthly Internet download allowance, that did, and it’s all your fault, Ten. You've driven a good woman to such base ends just so she could watch quality TV.

August 08, 2007

Podcast Preferences

I’ve been sampling the wonderment that is an iPod nano for the past couple of months now. Young Brook’s hand-me-down is now full of Steely Dan, Def Leppard, The War of the Worlds, Flogging Molly and assorted other musics (yeah, okay, fine, including John Farnham). Bu the really great thing about it, especially combined with its iTunes master application, is podcasts. The iTunes service will track podcast feeds via XML and RSS and will automatically download the latest shows of any podcasts I subscribe to. I can take them with me in the iPod and catch up on subjects of interest during my lunch hour, all without bothering Vickie with any annoying voices or accents.

So what am I subscribed to?

Well, to start with, I’m tracking two podcasts based on American Public Media’s radio shows. The first is The News From Lake Wobegon, an excerpt from the weekly radio show, A Prairie Home Companion. If you’ve seen the Robert Altman film of the same name you’ll have a good idea of what this live-broadcast country variety show is like, especially the performances of the show’s host, Garrison Keillor. The man is intelligent, witty and phenomenally well-read, and on top of all that he has a wonderful, deep, very warm speaking voice. His Lake Wobegon monologues aren’t represented in the film, but each is at least ten minutes long, and details the goings-on in a fictional Minnesota prairie town where the ends of the emotional spectrum are “acceptance and resignation”. They’re always gently hilarious and often touching, and I’m positive that Garrison does each and every one almost entirely off the cuff.

By the way, Australian listeners can catch a version of A Prairie Home Companion abbreviated for international broadcast and renamed Garrison Keillor’s Radio Show, on ABC Radio National every Sunday at 7PM. If you’ve missed any of them, you can find them here.

Garrison also hosts a daily, five-minute show called The Writer’s Almanac, where he examines the lives of literary and artistic figures whose birthdays fall on the day of the show, as well as important events in the history of the art world. He ends each show by reading a poem, and that wonderful voice embodies the chosen poems fantastically; between Vickie and Garrison I’m developing a serious interest in poetry. If you’ve not heard this show before, I recommend going to the Writer’s Almanac website, going into the archive, finding the page for the week beginning July 16th, scrolling down until you find the entry for the Sunday, July 22nd broadcast and listening to it. The poem, “Acceptance Speech” is just fantastic.

The rest of my subscriptions are rather more geeky. My most recent subscription is the Bungie Studios “Hilariously Regular” Weekly Podcast, so named because between the first and second of the weekly shows there was a gap of nine months. Naturally, it’s mainly oriented around the development of the soon-to-be-released Xbox 360 game, Halo 3, but the three hosts and their guests are pretty well spoken, keep the show lively and always have interesting insights into the game development process to offer without spoiling anything for those of us who want our Halo 3 experience as unsullied as possible. It'll be very interesting to hear what they turn their shows to after Halo 3 comes out.

Then there’s The Dungeons & Dragons Podcast, hosted by David Noonan and Mike Mearls. It says a lot that I’m actually subscribed to this podcast that offers advice and insight into a game I’m not greatly interested in, mainly as it doesn’t really offer what I’ve found I really want out of an RPG session nowadays. Noonan and Mearls let their enthusiasm for their hobby and profession (they’re employees of D&D’s parent company, Wizards of the Coast) show through in their podcasts, but don’t go overboard. Entertaining and informative, and even gets me thinking about finding a D&D game to join.

Have Games, Will Travel is a general tabletop gaming podcast. Its single host, Paul Tevis, is an avid player of RPGs, board games, wargames and anything else that needs a tabletop to play in, and he reviews the product that he’s played very clearly and ably. I think a single-host podcast is a bit tricky; banter and discussion draws more of the hosts’ personalities and opinions out of them, and even a good presenter can come across a little flat by comparison. Paul is a very good presenter, yet even so I’m not in as much of a hurry to listen to him as I am the D&D guys. Still, it’s nice to listen to a hobbyist podcast that’s more broad focus than just tabletop RPGs.

Speaking of which, there’s The Durham 3. These lads are New Jersey gamers who get together to game and hang out, and they usually record a podcast in the meantime. They’re the diametric opposite of Paul Tevis, in that although they’re always clearly spoken, they’re loud, enthusiastic and sometimes a bit lewd (iTunes gives their podcast the “Explicit” tag). Their podcasts rarely go longer than ten minutes and are fun to listen to.

Finally there’s probably my favourite podcast, The Sons of Kryos. Again, it’s RPG-related, but it’s very much about practical advice for the people at the gaming table, ephasising the actual act of playing oner the on-paper rules. The hosts, Jeff, Judd and Storn, cover a broad range of topics, with regular sentences such as “GM’s Tools” and “Good Sentences”, but one way or another, their advice often comes back to, “Talk to your players.”

The Cure for RPG Nerves

Over on the MySpace page, I mention that I’ll be running a roleplaying game session on Saturday week. Instead of contacts I’ve made through the hobby, though, my players will be friends to whom I’ve explained the hobby and who expressed interest. I, of course, worked myself up into a bundle of nerves after sending out the invitation – yes, the usual “giving up gaming” crisis – and Vickie prescribed a course of yardwork. She’s been going like gangbusters in the yard while I’ve been at work this past while, and last weekend was my turn to do some honest work for a change. I wound up helping Karl cart around forty concrete sleepers from his stepfather-in-law’s place to our yard, then yank up our hardwood sleepers- most of which had rotted through – and take them to the place of a friend who has a pit in his backyard that needs filling. We still need to get the concrete sleepers in and bedded properly, but that’ll most likely be a job for this weekend.

Anyway, now that the usual panic is over, I’m looking forward to Saturday week. I know of at least one of the people I invited is really looking forward to the day, which, if Vickie is amenable, means I can run something like The Shadow of Yesterday. I have the feeling that InSpectres is going to be the game of choice. It’s always been the go-to game around here for introducing people to roleplaying games because it’s an almost-guaranteed fun generator.

August 07, 2007

Social Networking

This is something of an open letter to anyone who’s thinking of inviting me to join a social network website that you’re a member of. Folks, thank you for thinking of me; it’s good to know that you’re keeping me in mind.

That said, though, I’m really not interested in splitting my attention and online presence any further. I rarely check more than a quarter of the various forums that I’m a member of. I couldn’t be arsed touching my WAYN profile – I’m not going anywhere anytime soon – and I rarely update the MySpace profile I created to hook up with local friends (as most of them had MySpaces already); I still have the results of three or four futsal matches I need to post about. (We’re doing pretty good!) Hell, there are times I’ll leave posting on this very web log for more than a week, resulting in a blank page should anyone post a comment!

So if you’d like to know what I’m up to, please don’t send me an invitation to create a login for Facebook, Friendster, Windows Live Space, Yahoo! 360 or whichever else you find. It’ll just result in one of those insipid pages with aught but a basic bio, a smattering of interests and maybe a handful of photos. Frankly, its rare that I see anyone else's social networking profile that has any more than that, even ones several months old.

Instead, please bookmark this web log add it to your LiveJournal friends list (thanks to EvilHayama for setting the syndication up) or use your web browser's RSS syndication utility. If you want to keep in regular touch, then send me an e-mail, track me down on ICQ, Windows Messenger or Yahoo! Messenger. And if you really want to keep in touch, heck, call us on the phone (or via Skype). You'll find we're a lot more friendly than our seldom-updated social network profiles.