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Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader

So I visited with my parents tonight, and they put on a new television gameshow called "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?". The premise is that they find some guy/gal, and put them up against 10 questions that a 5th grader is expected to know.

Sounds easy enough, right? I can safely say that yes, I am smarter than a 5th grader. Most of the questions are laughably simple, but there are undoubtedly the 'wtf' questions.

For example, tonights episode had a question: "What stage is a butterfly in right before it becomes a butterfly (it was worded better, I promise):
A) pupa
B) larva
C) egg"

Immediately, my mind said "PUPA!". I of course knew the answer was right, but that worried me a bit. I got to thinking... "wait, why did I know that so quickly?".

The answer, of course, is that extensive time in US elementary school is spent on learning things like this. I then started thinking "When the hell has this knowledge ever been useful to me?". Answer: never.

Next question: "When the hell will this knowledge ever be useful to me?"
Probable answer: never.

Next question: "What kind of careers are there where this kind of knowledge is needed?"
Answer: I guess entomology. I can't really think of any more than that.

How many entomologists are there in this world? Perhaps less than 100,000, would be my guess. I obviously can't say for sure, but there's got to be less than a million or so.

Regardless, this is some pretty specialized information that is really only useful to a limited subset of the population as a whole, so it's really confusing as to why it's even remotely important for an elementary school to teach.

That got me thinking though, why aren't the more important details of life taught in school. I'd love to see school exam questions like this:




New look, same great taste!

My GDNet+ should be running out within the next month or so, so you won't have much longer to appreciate my nonsensical ramblings. That's alright though, I've almost run out of things to say.

So I'm eating chicken and barbecue sauce. It's Kraft Honey Hickory Barbecue sauce. It tastes ok, maybe a bit too salty though, but then again, what isn't these days?

One thing that struck me though is the big letters on the label. It said "NEW LOOK, SAME GREAT TASTE!". I started thinking about who came up with that. Is it someone job to sit around all day and come up with slogans for BBQ sauce bottles?

My company outsources stuff like that to a marketing firm, who came up with the brilliant slogan "Moving At The Speed Of Business" for us. It was pretty embarrassing when we found out that it had been trademarked by UPS for around a decade. But not to worry, they came up with something equally ridiculous.

Now, I imagine Kraft, with revenues in excess of $30,000,000,000, probably has its own marketing department that comes up with this stuff. So it's probably someone's full-time job to continuously come up with these little slogans for anything that Kraft decides to put on a label. Perhaps there's even a committee for these things. Who knows. All I know is that someone, somewhere, got paid to come up with it.

Now this got me thinking about the circumstances that gave rise to this slogan. They might be sitting in a conference room one day, with a conversation that resembles this:


Does anyone seriously remember what the labels of their barbecue sauce bottles look like, and could possibly be confused if they change?

I'm scared.





I recently found out that Windows 98 still has a higher market penetration than all forms of Linux.

I guess that really puts things into perspective.




Software Engineering

I've come to a conclusion today.

Software Engineering is the art of showing your boss how to do something the right way, without making his idea seem stupid.

Ego's are very real. Step on one, and even if you're right, you're probably not going to get anywhere with that person. Most of my proposals now consist of:

But some things, no matter how compelling an argument you make, will always go ignored. Such as recommending against using an AJAX-enabled web application to do the work of a heavy-duty forms application.






I just paid off my car loan, 3 years early. Check hasn't cleared yet, but I'm hoping there won't be any problems there. Capital One's "payoff quote" is good for 10 days, but they said the check would take 20 days to clear for some dumb reason (out of state), I'm hoping that doesn't cause a problem.

Honestly I'm not sure why I even had to send in a check, since they have no problem electronically debiting my checking account every month for my payments. I guess it's their subtle way of discouraging people from paying off loans early. I even had to call them for the address to send it to, they won't give that information out online.

In retrospect, a 5-year auto loan was a bit overkill, but I'm still glad I got it, because there were a few times in 2005 that I was really strapped for cash and wouldn't have been able to make the monthly payment if I had gotten a shorter-term loan.

I'm deciding whether or not I should pay off my school loan now. It's a low interest rate, but I can afford to pay it off now, and I kind of like the idea of being able to say "Hey, I'm debt free!".

One of my near-term goals (less than 2 years) is to buy a house. Before I paid off my car, I had enough to put down about 25% of a mortgage, but the prospect of making two major payments per month (house+car) wasn't a good idea in my mind. My goal before going into home ownership is to be debt-free though.

Got my credit report done, first time in 2 years. Credit rating went up 170 points, but it's still got room to grow. The only disappointing part is that even with my new and improved(TM) credit rating, it looks like the interest rates for car/home loans are still going to be higher than what I would have gotten 2 years ago.

Since the subprime market is currently in the process of imploding, interest rates are rising as the banks try to compensate for the fact that no one is buying all of those homes they foreclosed on. It's pretty annoying.

I briefly played with the thought of avoiding a mortgage altogether and simply saving up enough to buy a whole house, but at this point, this seems a bit unrealistic. It would take me at least 5 years (okay, if I get my raise next month for the promotion I just got, I can cut it down to 3.5 years, but hey, let's not count on money that I don't have yet, mmmkay?). Of course, this is all assuming nothing unforeseen happens.

I would have to start investing if I were to do that... and I'm not sure that's my boat. I hate risk. Everything I do is calculated and as riskless as I can manage. I mean, I took out a 5-year car loan when I could have payed it off in 2 years, just in case something bad happened.

I guess I could find a low risk investment somewhere, but at that point, why not just get a mortgage? The inflation rate will assure that the value of the mortgage will steadily go down over time, and I doubt a low-risk investment will provide enough of a payoff to be that much more beneficial over a mortgage.

I guess I've got time to figure out my plan though.




Zelda: Twilight Princess

I got another promotion at work yesterday. My third promotion since last August now, and I am now officially a Software Architect. I've been putting in 90 hour weeks lately, trying to get some R&D projects in presentable form so we can present them to our customers tomorrow.

It's damned stressful, and unfortunately, my Wii isn't helping much.

You see, it's just so damn fun to play.

Back when I was a kid, I could play games like Kings Quest 4 for hours at a time. A Link to the Past, Super Metroid, Wolfenstein, Doom, Heretic, Hexen, TIE Fighter, Dark Forces, Dungeons of Kroz, Warcraft, Warcraft 2, Starcraft, Zork and it's many sequels, etc. They all took up countless hours of my life.

Then, slowly, over time, I just began to lose interest in video games. I think Half Life was the last game I played completely through without getting bored and resorting to FAQs or trainers just to finish the storyline.

Civ 4? Boring after an hour or so. Used cheats to create a massive army of tanks to conquer the whole world.
Half Life 2? Played an hour of it, got bored, never bothered to go back yet.
Medieval 2: Total War? Played 2 hours, got bored, used cheats to get unlimited money, conquered 50% of Europe and got even more bored, and quit.
GTA3: I think I lasted a week before I gave into using cheats, and then just rocketed the police in one gigantic orgy of destruction.

I don't know what happened, but games have gotten so insanely large and complex that it's just not fun playing them anymore.

I bought a Wii because everyone at work highly recommended it. I work with people who don't really play games, so if they were recommending it, that really said something to me. So I grabbed it and Zelda, and have been playing it on-and-off for the past few weeks.

So far I've only had to look up one thing in a FAQ (where to find the 4th monkey in the first dungeon), and I've been able to do everything else without needing any help whatsoever.

In fact the game is so absorbing that it's becoming a problem. See last night I got home from work around 9pm, and I was exhausted, so I just popped Zelda in and started playing. 3 hours later, I realised it was midnight and I had to get to work in a few hours, and I really needed to go to sleep. Oops.

I think a large part of it is the controller design. Previously, you had to hold your hands in front of you for long periods of time, and this had a tendency to make your hands cramp up after a while. But with the Wii, you don't get that. You have the wiimote in your right hand, and you can hold the nunchuck over in your left, and it's far more comfortable than a regular game controller. I think without the "your hand is cramping, maybe you should stop playing" impulse being sent, it greatly increases the amount of immersion you have in the world.

Anyway, I highly recommend Zelda. I haven't been this into a game in 10 years.

As for the people who say it looks bad: I'd like to have some of the crack you're on, please. It looks absolutely gorgeous.




What in the world are they smoking?

I admit it. I used to be a linux geek. Back in college, it seemed right to "fight the system" and be a rebel. I installed Linux on my computer, and subsequently accomplished nothing else.

A year later, I realised how idiotic it all was and went back to using systems that I didn't have to fight in order to use. This is 10 years ago, now, so I'm sure Linux has made *some* improvements in the meantime, but honestly, the community as a whole really annoyed me. Every time you asked any of them a question about how to do something, it was 9 times out of 10 responded with "Read the fucking manual, noob."

First off, no need to be rude. Secondly, man-pages are horrendous to read.

Anyway, there's very little chance I'll be going back to the whole "open source" community any time soon. But time to time, I'll keep tabs on them to see if things are getting better.

Unfortunately, they aren't. There's a big hubbub over GPLv3 now, the newest version of the GPL. Richard "what the hell is a razor" Stallman is hyping this new license as the ultimate in freedom, and it will prevent that evil thing called "tivoization".

Now, what, pray tell, is "tivoization"? It's really rather simple.

The Tivo machine uses linux and some GPL'ed code on it. The GPL states that if you modify code and distribute it, you must distribute your modifications. Well, being a good little company, Tivo did just that. You are free to download the Tivo linux code, right from their site.

So everything is great, right? Tivo took from the open source community, and provided their hard work back.

Except... the open source people are pissed off. In no less than 3 slashdot threads this week, there were scores of comments about how Tivo is evil and stealing from the open source community. At this point I got confused, and decided to look into why these people hate Tivo.

Well, the issue is this: Tivo has a chip in hardware that checks to see if the tivo binaries matches a precomputed CRC, to assure that the code has not been tampered with. Obviously, this is a very reasonable thing. Now that devices are becoming increasingly networked, it would be downright irresponsible to let embedded device code be modified with viruses and whatnot.

But no, that's evil, according to the open sores people. Tivo stole their freedom and profited from it, according to slashbots everywhere. So, because of this, the GPL people decided that they need to step in and introduce a new license, which states that now not only do they have to distribute the modified source code, but they cannot prohibit the source code from being modified on the devices that it runs on as well. This isn't just a bad idea. This is a monumentally irresponsible idea. Tivo will get sued out of existence by the media companies who are upset that the DRM is now easily hackable. Tivo boxes everywhere will be hacked and put into botnets that do nothing but spam you all day long.

You idiots are pissed off because Tivo won't let you play with their machines, so you're going to change a license around and try to screw them over. I want to know what the hell you're smoking. How can you possibly have that small of a grasp on reality that you think that this is a good idea?

It's funny, because these are the same people ranting every day on slashdot about how orwellian our society has become, yet they're the ones who are convinced that the GPL is the epitome of "freedom". You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.


Here's a choice selection of highly retarded, highly moderated, and highly hilarious comments on slashdot:

This one was moderated +4 "Insightful":

Dear God. How stupid can people be?

Edit 2:

Oh this is hilarious:

Right. So you're trying to get your legions of drones to license their software under a license that doesn't even exist yet?!! Only a complete moron would think this is a good idea.





The iPhone comes out later this month.

Personally, I love products like the iPhone.

No really, I do. You see, products like the iPhone allow me to immediately determine if a person has too much money and spends it foolishly.

I've got several bridges for sale...

Wii == best purchase ever. I haven't had this much fun playing video games since the SNES was out, 15 years ago.




Wikipedia is retarded

Last week I noticed that they put up the "spoiler warning" tag for deletion. In my opinion this is one of the most useful tags in wikipedia since often times I want to find out basic information about a movie without being exposed to a crucial plot point.

Naturally, I felt compelled to voice my opinion about how dumb of a move this was, since wikipedia is packed full of useless tags, and they want to delete the most useful one in the entire encyclopedia. So I voted "Keep" for the tag.

My vote got deleted, and an automated bot posted this nice little message for me:

And that settles it. Wikipedia is retarded.




What's wrong with wikipedia?

So I read an article about wikipedia today and it mentioned a site called "Wikipedia Review" as a site that hosted criticisms of wikipedia. I decided to check it out, but to get a "Fair and balanced" view I also checked out the wikipedia article about the site.

Turns out there isn't one. In fact it just redirects to a generic article about criticism of wikipedia. Searching around on the internet, I end up finding lots of accusations that every time someone tries to make an article about it, it gets immediately deleted.

I found even more complaints that other popular websites articles' immediately get deleted, such as Encyclopedia Dramatica. Granted the site is junk, but there are plenty of websites listed on wikipedia that are just plain junk... except they don't criticise wikipedia.

Hmm, censorship.

Finally, I noticed that a lot of people were complaining about how wikipedia recently decided to remove almost every single webcomic page in the entire encyclopedia. I said "nonsense!" and decided to check out the the webcomic article for "Elftor" that I had contributed a lot to...

and it's gone. The entire article. Deleted because some anal retentive "wikipedian" decided it wasn't special enough to exist.

So, wikipedia, let me ask you this: What is my motivation to spend time adding information to articles if you're going to just arbitrarily decide that an entire class of articles suddenly isn't special enough to keep, and delete them? I don't get paid for it, and the information I added is forever gone. A complete waste of time.

They should change their name to "The Free Encyclopedia that anyone can edit... except if we don't like what you have to say." I, for one, will never be contributing anything to their site ever again.




I have no good title.

So I needed to buy something from Target, today. One thing that annoys me about those large stores is that they're always EXACTLY THE SAME no matter which one you go to. I know without fail that I can go on a 500-mile road trip, go into a target, and it will have 90% of the layout the same as any Target around here.

I just had a weird urge to do something different for once, so I just got in my car and drive down a highway for 40 miles until I found a Target I had never been in before. So I went in, and to my surprise, it was totally different from all the other Targets. (It was just built a few months ago, so I think that has something to do with it).

So after I was shopping there for 15 minutes and found everything I needed, I decided it was time to leave, as my hands were full and I couldn't fit anything else in them. I turned around, and I was totally disoriented. I had no idea where the exit was.

I was LOST!

It took me 5 minutes to figure out the right way to get out of there.

So I guess that's why they make all those big stores have the same layout. They don't want people getting lost if you go to a different store.

So I guess I can be considered "old" now. Why? I'm about to launch into a rant about todays kids. Oy.

On my way to work every day, I inevitably get stuck behind a schoolbus. It's getting rather annoying, because no matter what route I take, or what time I leave, I always manage to get stuck behind one.

So my question is, when did busses start stopping at every single house? When I was little, the bus stop for school was 1/2 of a mile away from my house, and the school was 1/2 a mile in the other direction. Naturally, we decided it was easier just to walk to school.

But now, busses don't have designated bus stops anymore. They stop at every single house that has a kid. Literally, I'm driving behind the bus, it'll stop and pick up one kid from his driveway. The bus will creep down, skip one driveway, and then stop at the next for the kid waiting there.

What the hell. Is it too frigging hard to walk 1/2 a mile to a busstop anymore?

I started complaining about this at work, and one of my female coworkers asked me if I was insane. "Are you crazy? What about all the pedophiles out there now?!".

Ah, I see. Now we bring traffic to a complete standstill and waste everyone's time and gas because of the phantom threat of a pedophile on every corner. Todays parents won't let their kids go further away from their driveways anymore.

When is this culture of fear going to end? I'm really getting sick of everyone freaking out over every potential threat in the world.

Thanks a lot, Dateline NBC.




Introducing: Bob the Blob

Three months ago, I made a New Years Resolution to create a game that is 99% production-ready by the end of March. Originally, I was going to make Battleship. Then I got sidetracked making an XNA GUI library and eventually lost focus and went on to other things.

A month later I was working on BetterMUD 2.0 again, but as usual, life intervened and I lost momentum on it.

A few days ago, Pouya reminded me that March is almost over, and I have not gotten anywhere. So, I sprung into action to make a simple new game. And voila!


I tried uploading it to the GDNet showcase (one of those "features" I had paid for), but I keep getting this error, so for now, it's hosted on my website.


Instructions are included.

Have fun!

Update: I uploaded a new version with the fixes that Hattan pointed out.




Stole it from unix.

So for the past few months I've been making a .NET app at work, and it's at a point where we can show it off at trade shows.

So today, I'm in the vice president's office, showing him some last minute features I added last week, so he'd be able to show potential customers these features.

He was surprised at how quickly I got a text-stripping feature working (it was slated to take 2 weeks for some odd reason), and asked how I did it so fast. I told him all I had to do was use regular expressions.

He replied, "Wow! Regular expressions?! I didn't know microsoft had those now! You know, they stole those from Unix though, right?"

I seriously didn't know how to respond to that.




Month 2

February 2007
Wii: 335,000
Xbox 360: 228,000
PlayStation 3: 127,000

I've been looking to buy a Wii for a whole month now, still can't find one.




Professor Mithrandir Presents:Professor Mithrandir

Good day, ladies and gentlemen. I am the world-renowned Professor Mithrandir. I have come to you today to discuss an important topic: the dark ages of the internet. Many people think that with the arrival of the so-called "Web 2.0" technologies, the internet has now entered a renaissance. However, I would like to dispel this atrocious notion, and present to you my theory that, in fact, the exact opposite is true.

The internet is in a dark age. It is undeniable! Gentlemen, I submit to you, ">my proof!




Wii have a wiinner

January sales figures:

Wii: 436,000
Xbox 360: 294,000
PlayStation 3: 244,000

I hate to keep pounding a point in over and over again, but it's like I've been saying all along: people want fun in their games, and don't care so much about the graphics.

Will the game industry ever figure this out?

Probably not.


The average person goes to a store, sees all the HD whoozawhatsits, gets bombarded with 50 different acronyms, gets told by the salesperson that they need THIS HDMI cable for THAT TV, THIS adapter, etc, etc, and they say "well why the fuck won't it work with my existing TV?", and the salesman says "Because HD IS NEW AND BETTER!". Customer says "well I just want something that works!" and buys a wii.

One of the biggest problems is that the media companies have gotten so used to bilking the customer over on overpriced cable addons that they've taken it too far and have made things an absolute mess. I mean seriously: DVI, HDMI, HDCP, UDI, DisplayPort. GOOD CHRIST MAKE IT STOP.

End Rant.




Is our children learning?

So, I'm going over resume's for interns, and I run across one from a masters student in CS.

He listed each SQL command he's ever used on his resume.




I really give up.





Hey, what's the deal with Diet Berries & Cream Dr. Pepper? Is that discontinued? I haven't seen it for sale in months now.




Working on another project.

title says it all. Yep.

It's ultra top secret, though, so I can't really tell you anything about it. In fact, I'm not even allowed to tell you that it's ultra top secret.

On a COMPLETELY UNRELATED TOPIC, does anyone know if this is a good book?




A case of the,,,

You just know it's going to be a bad week when, at your 9:00am monday morning meeting, your boss says "We have no idea what the requirements are for this project yet, but we want you to tell us how much memory it's going to use by 1pm today."







I can see it now...


You know, combining Armageddon and Pearl Harbor.


Pouya, write your next comic about SPACE PEARL HARBOR.

By the way, I was out of power for seven days straight; finally got it back on Wednesday. Damn Buffalo weather. Grr.

Interestingly; we've had many worse snowstorms than that before, but none has ever knocked out 95% of the power in the county before. It's gotten me thinking a lot about evolution; the reason we lost power so large and so long was because the snow caused around 70% of the trees in the county to sustain heavy damage. Since this storm happened so early in the season that the trees all still had leaves on them, and the combined weight of the snow and the leaves was just way too much to handle.

So that's interesting; tree's evolved in the northern/southern areas of the world to shed their leaves to avoid this sort of thing?




External Hard Drive problem

When building my new computer, I specifically designed it to house all of my old IDE drives in addition to any new drives I may acquire in the future. The reason for this is that over the past 5 years, my old computer kept running out of space, and after I ran out of room for internal HDD's, I decided to get lazy and get external drives as well.

This, predictably, turned into a cable spaghetti disaster.

So my new case can hold all my old externals; I assumed that they were regular IDE drives internally, and last night when I disasembled them, I found out that I was right.

I also discovered something weird about my 80gb drive. Over the past year, whenever I plugged it in, it would whine really loudly for a few minutes and then quiet down. I simply assumed that the fan inside the case was getting dusty.

After disasembling the enclosure... whoa. There's no fan. Plug in the hard drive... yep, that's what's causing the whine: the drive itself.

So at this point in time, I'm ready to declare the drive retired. It's 80gb, and I have an abundance of free space as it is, and now that I don't want to trust having any data on it anymore, it's practically useless to me.

Now, I still have this Western Digital enclosure. It's kind of crap; there's no fan, first off. There's no off-switch either, which is a sure-fire way to make sure the drive overheats. However, my parents, this weekend, expressed a desire to obtain an external drive for backups, so I'm wondering if I should buy another 80gb drive (or slightly larger, since they're so cheap now) and donate this to them? I'd have to warn them about unplugging it when it's not in use though, which in my mind seems like a hassle, and I hate giving things to people which turn out to be a hassle.

Any suggestions?



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