Too Many Games!

With Fable 2, Fallout 3, Gears of War 2, and now Left 4 Dead all out at the same time, I have the console, the games, but no time to play!

Being a new parent, I've found the pick-up-and-play shooter games are easier to play and enjoy. Single player of course! "Hold on the baby's crying," is too embarrasing an excuse to leave or hold up a multiplayer group. Not because of age or parental status or anything like that, but because it smacks of neglect (whether or not it's true)!

Gone are the 18-hour marathon MMORPG sessions! Well at least until the kid's old enough to type.

Xbox 360 Repair

I really liked Microsoft's return procedures for the Xbox 360. This is my second return, the first being a bad disc drive and the second being, well a bad disc drive.

The refurbished one they sent me the first time had on and off problems with the disc drive. It would occasionally (1 in 10 gaming sessions) freeze up in the middle of a game and report a disc error. This happened infrequently but even with brand new games. My first 360 had problems recognizing 360 games - it was acting as if the console was a DVD player.

The worse moments was when it froze in the middle of a long gaming  session far from a save point after a difficult boss battle (RPG, anyone?).

Anyways, the return process and Web site was clear. The unit was still under warranty (1 year warranty after I paid $100 for the last repair), so I sent it back. This is just as a bunch of cool games are coming out (Fallout 3 and Gears of War 2!).

They sent a fully paid return shipment box and even outlined the procedures of the return in icons on the Web site. It had a series of 5 or 6 icons, most of them grayed out, with one in full color showing what step in the process I was at.  The instructions in the box were also clear and all I had to do was have it picked up by UPS ground (we have a mail room at work, so this was a breeze).

The disappointing part so far is that the icons of where my box is in the process disappeared when the replacement xbox was registered. So instead of seeing the repair status, I just see a new box registered under a 3 month (instead of a year) warranty with no updates on the repair, return, or anything else.

I'll give it a few more days, but I think everything is okay. Overall, it's much better than my experience with the baby's photographer.

Allana Rising

With both Christy and myself blogging on the Baby Makes Three site, we've finally out-did the number of posts that I had for Disruptive Innovator (129 vs 74)!

I think we have way more readers on that blog versus this one. If I can estimate two readers here, then we're talking about a factor of 10 or more!


My Mantra - Variety, Moderation, and Consistency

The Simple Dollar had a great post about moderation that reminded me about a mantra I've developed years ago. At some point in my teens or possibly early college, I found three core ideas that really helped focus my life:

  • Variety
  • Moderation
  • Consistency

By having variety in my life, I figured I wouldn't be bored. Moderation would keep all my various activities in check, while consistency could help ensure that I progressed and derived returns and satisfaction from my efforts. I didn't follow it perfectly, but "Variety. Moderation. Consistency." helped frame my life and activities ever since. It could almost be a recipe for happiness, or at least contentment.

Back when I danced more, I would use the three-word mantra to remember to try more than just one type of dance (or even activity). I'd be sure to try to not overdo it. On the other hand, it was good to be consistent about practice, both to get better at my chosen hobby as well as maintain a positive relationship with fellow dancers and my teacher.

Variety. Moderation. Consistency.

The mantra was also helpful when I felt something in my life was out-of-balance. By recalling it and gauging if some aspect of my life matched it accordingly, I could tell what needed to be fixed. Was I getting bored with not enough variety? Was I ignoring the importance of moderation by doing too much? Was I consistently working towards my goals or showing up to the things I've committed to?

It's a great feeling when your life feels balanced. Not necessarily "maximally optimized," or perfect, but "just right" across a variety of domains. I've found that having these three words helps me do quick checks on whether I'm in the right direction. It's also comforting to be able to name what's making me feel content in life.

Right now, I think I have a good balance of all three.

Broken!

I installed Roxio 6 on my Vista machine and did not heed the compatibility warning.

The living room computer boots to a Blue Screen of Death now!

Luckily there's a fix. Unluckily, I can't find the install disk (even though I do have a binder-full of dozens of install disks).

Even worse, the computer boots without keyboard support and I don't have an old P/S keyboard laying around.

This'll be a fun one to fix!


Done!

Add meat, herbs, spices, and liquids to a pouch. Cook 350 F for one hour. Done!

Pouch Time!

Made salmon in a pouch.

Spore Was Awesome, While it Worked

I had Spore working for a few days, and then it crashed as I exited. It hasn't worked since.

I've set it to run as administrator, created a shortcut on the desktop, set the compatibility mode for xp sp2, uninstalled and installed it again.... nothing.

When I first installed it, strangely it didn't create a desktop shortcut, no a start menu program group. I had to make a desktop shortcut to get it to work. This is on a single core, Vista 32 bit machine with service pack 1 installed.

I was able to install it and get it working on the 2nd computer (Windows XP).

Logo Version 1

I made this initial logo with Adobe Photoshop elements, the stripped-down, somewhat user-friendly version of photoshop.

I didn't use my regular Paint Shop Pro because it doesn't work with the tablet Christy got me last Christmas.

I'm just missing the "and."

That's a Lot of Games!

This is most of my console game collection. I am going to sell a bunch to Gamestop to prep for all the cool games coming out.

Oreos + Marshmallows!

Yup, it's as gross as it looks!

Take a handful of marshmallows and a tablespoon of butter and microwave for about 20 seconds or until the Marshmallows grow too big (best to watch while it cooks).

Mix, then dip in the Oreos and let them cool off in the fridge.

Eat until you get sick (that's two Oreos for me).

Depending on how much butter is in the mixture the coating will be anywhere from soft and chewey taffey texture to hard toffee candy-like. Good luck with the dishes!

About MyBlogLog

About MyBlogLog

One of my favorite features of the Web is the ability to find like-minded users and communities covering all kinds of interesting topics.

The MyBlogLog Yahoo service attempts to join, connect, and build communities around blog readerships. It lets you connect your various existing online services through . It also lets blog readers interact on a level higher than just comments left on posts.

I'm going to give it a try. While I do enjoy the single sign-on features of Web services such as Yahoo, Google, and Windows Live -- connecting several of my existing online presences is both exciting and scary!

I think the pros could be the creation of more accountability online and greater chances for online social connections between like-minded blog readers. The cons follow the same idea in that the level of exposure is increased and users may find themselves accountable for comments and attitudes that were much more "passable" when made anonymously.

Beans Beans, Some Like Them Photosynth'd

So it's not exactly a bowl of chili, but per popular demand* here's my very own personal photosynth!

Notes (not all about Photosynth):

  • Okay so it wasn't even a request, but one of MadCookie's comments that made me think of doing this
  • It's a Microsoft Live tool so you don't need to remember another password (unless, of course, you don't have a Microsoft Passport or hotmail account yet)
  • Take more pictures than you think are necessary--I felt I took more than the 19 pictures in the photosynth.
  • Embedding the photosynth on the blog seemed to slow down the page load
    Firebug confirmed it added about a second. But considering the whole page took 8 seconds to load, I have other issues to consider.
  • I'm not sure if Photosynthing a particular brand of canned food would be a copyright or a Photosynth EULA violation. I'm not suggesting I make that particular brand of beans, nor am I trying to sell it!
  • Once I decided to make this, it took 2 minutes to take the pictures (really, I checked the timestamps), and took just a few minutes more to install Photosynth. The processing took the longest, but I just walked away and did other stuff while I waited.

Ascent Stage: How to create a LEGO mosaic

Ascent Stage: How to create a LEGO mosaic

After I got done with my hammer icon, I wanted to create something for the ARCH baby blog (Christy and my initials can be arranged as ARCH and CHAR-we're "CHAR" only if we're in an evil mood, muahaha).

After drawing with Paint Shop for a little, I thought "hey, this'd be cool in Legos!"

So I started up the Lego Creator and made a few designs. Starting with a simple "ARCH" and ending up with a more arch-like design.

The legos reminded me of bitmaps, of course, so out of curiosity I googled "lego dithering." I wanted to at least consider, if not really create, how detailed a lego logo (hehe) I could make.

The search pulled up this lego mosaic blog entry. Great stuff (was that first comment ["dude, you're killing me"] an inside joke, a compliment, or one-upsmanship, I can't tell)! I searched for dithering instead of anti-aliasing because the basic lego colors aren't close enough in color tones to pull it off.

I tested it on our dog Mocha and tried a few options. I guess I'll need to get the starting plate and the legos!


Which version do you like?







Source image was this one:






Some notes about creating the bitmaps...
  • The extreme close-up and crop increases the resolution for Mocha's face. Otherwise, if I did more of the picture, less detail would be seen for his features

  • I had to modify the instructions (much thanks to blog Ascent State's author John Tolva for the inspiration) to Paint Shop Pro.

  • Mainly Effects > Distortion Effects > Pixelate instead of Mosaic, setting block width and height ("cell size") to 10

  • I wasn't sure how to make a custom pallete, so I just decreased the color depth to 6 colors and then changed it to gray scale.

  • View > Grid shows the grid in Paintshop


  • You can get help counting the colors by using view > palletes > histogram to see the colors. Normally the historgram would be used to tell if your picture's distribution of colors or contrast was correct at a glance. In this case, we can actually count how many lego pieces we need!
Want it done professionally? Check out Brick Workz.

How to add a personalized favicon (favorite icon) to your Blogger blog

How to add a personalized favicon (favorite icon) to your Blogger blog

I'm looking to create a nice little createandbreak icon for this blog. Maybe a little hammer icon or a screw driver perhaps. I'll start with just a hammer. I tried a screw-driver crossing a hammer, but that looked too much like an icon for "tools and options." That and it's hard to manually do the anti-aliasing by hand (okay not too hard, just time-consuming).

I made the following with paint shop pro (version 8.10, mind you) just drawing around in the bitmap of a 16x16 256 colored image. I did use one of their preset gradients, but besides that, it's all me!



Not super cool just yet, but I'll keep at it. At least it's my very own icon. (You can even tell by searching for "hammer icon" and seeing the definitely more professional icons out there)

Here it is in-action in Firefox (2):


Not showing up in IE7 yet-possibly because it's the wrong format (gif instead of .ico). I set it as a favorite, but maybe it takes something else to make it work.

The fun things about bitmaps is the illusion anti-aliasing does.

Maybe I can pick better color-choices, but look at how "crude" the actual pixels look zoomed in.



I picked up this drawing "skill" back when I tried to make bitmaps of the USS Enterprise using just MS Paint. I found that filling in the corners with differing shades of grays and colors made that blending effect. So instead of jagged lines, we get nice anti-aliased diagonals and curves. Basically brightered colors seem to be bigger while darker colors seemed to make things shrink.

It kind of blew me away the first time I saw a program do such lines in real-time. If it wasn't for old school MS Paint and other basic draw programs, we'd take it for granted that angled lines just look "normal."


Blogger Draft Features

I added the reaction feature to this blog. It's a part of blogger's draft features.

I enabled the ratings and the custom feedback options. I'll keep it on until I lament my lack of readership and/or something breaks!



Gmail is Smart... and scary!

Wow. I just saw in gmail while using Firefox (2) that it knew firebug was running (or maybe installed).

How does gmail do it?

Anyway, the warning was the following in white text on a red background. I kept the link so you can see the explanation and options (basically turn off certain settings in firebug).

Firebug is known to make Gmail slow unless it is configured correctly. Fix this Hide

I'm not alone of course, nor am I particularly timely in seeing this.

FractLOL! | robburke.NET

FractLOL! | robburke.NET

I consume yur brains with big imgz.

When to Complain

MadCookie once pointed out that team members at work should report problems with their computers to the help desk (I'm pretty sure there's even a written policy to do so).

The idea is that if only certain people complain, especially if there's a real problem, then the issues may not be addressed. So the "complainers" end up looking like they're crying wolf.

Additionally, if we don't complain to the right people, then there's little accountability and the right people can't fix the right problem.

This reminds me of arguments with the significant other. It's frustrating to get the complaint "you always.." or "every single time..." or another along the idea that I've consistently wronged her.

My counter is "why am I just finding out now?" or "why didn't you tell me sooner?"

There's a balance to be found though. Because if we constantly complain without working on solutions and improving communication with each other, then we end up just nagging.

So maybe if the right people complain about the right things, then the right recipients of those complaints and find the right solutions... right?

Crazy Mt. Dew Bottles

I thought the fourth of July designs were wild, but these are crazy.

Does it have to be natural for it to be good for you?

I've been thinking about how things that are "natural" must be good for us, right?

First of all, I do think that in general, the more natural version of something should be better for us. So whole foods would be better than processed foods. Fresh is better than frozen is better than canned. Fresh air, organic food, preservative-free products, exercise, BPA-free baby safe products, and so on are all good for us.

I'm not saying that we should only eat natural foods, just that it's better to eat them more often and there's a trade-off between convenience, price, and the nutrient qualities of food.

There's two catches.

First of all, companies will try to sell us things on the idea that they are natural, and therefore better for us. All-natural, organic doughnuts might be made with "natural" ingredients, but that wouldn't make them healthy.

The other catch is that we don't live "in the wild" or exactly as our ancestors did. We have concerns and situations that exist today that didn't thousands of years ago. So maybe the fact that we eat very different diets than we did before along with the fact that we live longer lives require us to compensate in "unnatural" ways.

Things that come to mind are
  • brushing and flossing teeth
  • seatbelts
  • vitamins
  • gym memberships

In the end, I think its important that we assess what benefits "unnatural" products or procedures convey.

I like the benefits-risks approach outlined by the mnuemonic BRAIN (I'm borrowing this from the medical procedure section of a childbirth class I attended).

Benefits - what are the benfits of this product/procedure?
Risks - are there any risks?
Alternatives - are there any alternatives?
Intuition - what does your inutition tell you?
Now? - does this have to happen or do you need to buy this right now?

So rather than embrace every new technological development and healthfood or do the opposite and shun products in a luddite way, I think it's best if we find a healthy and safe way forward while measuring the risks and benefits of both the natural and unnatural. Informed choices are key.

Viewzi Corporate Home - Ninja Turtle Office

Viewzi Corporate Home - Ninja Turtle Office

I'd venture we have a Ninja Turtle-type team at work.

But with everyone a techie, we can't all be Donatello, can we?

Viewzi — What are you looking for?

Viewzi — What are you looking for?

Found this search site in this month's Wired magazine (p073 Sep 2008--playlist: September section).

It filters results into separate views. One of them is a video preview of multiple sources all at the same time.

Pretty crazy stuff. The future is now!

Createandbreak gets new address.

Blogger Buzz (the announcements shown on the blogger dashboard page) had a reminder to check out all the features of Blogger. The custom url option seemed interesting. We can get not only the regular http://yourblogname.blogspot.com as well as the bring-your-own-hosting option, but we can sign up for a url right from the interface through google (my purchase ended up securing the site through go daddy; I'm not sure if other resellers are contracted as well).

I took the lazy route and paid the $10 to register www.createandbreak.net.

What's Old is New Again.

There was a concept in the computer programming classes I've taken that suggests older technologies and methods are revisited as software and hardware evolves.

So even though we have higher level programming languages, the lower level languages are still appropriate for the more limited machines or devices. Kind of reminds me of ubiquitos bacteria--despite (or probably more appropriately, because of) evolution, microbes are the true rulers of the planet in both sheer numbers and possibly even in physical mass.

The examples given were appliances that are programed with low-level assembly language. That was a few years ago, so now you can see it not only in devices, but elsewhere with html coding.

In the earlier days of the Web, the tighter and lighter the html code was, the quicker it ran. As we increased bandwidth and processing power, it seemed like we could get away with bulkier and possibly "sloppier" coding styles. Then small web devices with limited memory and processing power (mobile phones) showed we still need clean and light html (well-formed, valid html is almost always a good idea).

So even as mobile devices are getting faster and more powerful (think iphone and others like it), we will still see the web, web browers, or some kind of web functionality needing clean and fast html. That web browser connected with your GPS device or built into your fridge may need clean and simple html in addition to perhaps low level assembly to create the OS.

Got any better examples? I think I'll revisit this topic.

Traditions

Expecting a (first) child has really made me reflect on my world view and how I should raise my daughter.

In terms of traditions, I ponder what's possible, doable, and worthwhile--especially since the baby will be 3 months old in time for the Holidays (I hear that Christy and I won't get much presents and it'll all be for the baby--which is fine by me since I often end up doing that "one-for-you-one-for-me" kind of shopping anyways).

I've grown up with Christmas and was so in-tune with the Xmas vibe that I even faked a visit from Santa for my younger sister when I thought Santa wouldn't come one year. I actually pretended to be one of Santa's little helpers and left a gift, sampled the cookies, and wrote a note. Looking back, I ponder why it was okay to lie and pretend, but not go all the way and pretend to be Santa-himself!

The "real" Santa was oblivious to the earlier-in-the-evening visit and even ate the already-half-eaten cookies and left my sister another gift. She's too clever anyway and figured it out.

I figured out the deal with Santa myself after the gifts got progressively less-and-less impressive and more-and-more "mom-like." I think the year I got 4 quarters taped to a piece of ruled paper with Mom's handwriting on it sealed the deal for me.

Note that I did enjoy my childhood and still appreciate my mom's open communication style and focus on a well rounded upbringing for us (read activities like dance, martial arts, after school tutoring, piano and violin lessons, singing lessons, etc... even into my college years).

I wonder if Festivus (A holiday for the rest of us) might hold some interesting and fun traditions for my new family.

Speaking about grammar...

Sign above elevator reads 'In case of fire use stairway for exit do not use elevator' and lacks any punctuation

I admit that I don't have perfect grammar, but it's fun to highlight mistakes "in the wild" like this "in case of fire use" sign.

Stuff Manifesto

Why do I hold onto stuff in my life?

  1. I worry that I will need it later, especially if I get rid of it (is this output-remorse or stuff guilt?)
  2. I hold onto it by default. When faced with the decision to keep or get rid of something, it's easier to not make a choice. Therefore, by default, stuff stays! And since I don't always make an account of what I have, this could be referred to as "see no stuff."
  3. It's not my stuff. I feel I can't decide on the fate of other-person stuff.

Solutions to this pack rat behavior include focusing on aspects such as to:

  • Reduce input
  • Increase output
  • Done automatically
  • Done intentionally
  • Done in small increments, often
  • Done in big infrequent gestures

Is there an acronym in "I(n)" "O(ut)" "A(uto)" "P(urpose)" "S(mall)" and "B(ig)"?

IOAPBS? IOAISB (Intentional instead of Purpose)

Types of stuff:

  • Books and magazines
  • Paper
  • DVDs and video games
  • Gadgets

Mental approaches and reminders include:

Enjoy and appreciate what you already have

Conserve and save the environment by reducing waste

Improve efficiency by reducing clutter

Improve effectiveness by focusing on what I need

In my day-to-day activities I can work on the above aspects and solutions by doing the following:

Remove myself from mailing lists to reduce spam

Reduce junk mail by signing up with the DMCA and registering with the Credit Bureaus to reduce free credit card offers (both done)

Reconsider a gadget purchase, fix whatever it replaces, or make room for "input" by increasing an equivalent "output"

Donate at work, call an agency, or give to friends and family (stuff, not junk).

Increase savings such that stuff is harder to obtain.

Focus on a small part of the house or room

Focus on only one type of item (pick up only paper, magazines, books, etc)

Read an apply favorite stuff-reducing author or set of ideas (Covey, Fly Lady, Get Stuff Done, etc)

That's it for now. Back to "do more, say less." Got any good organizational tips? Feel free to share in the comments!

Can't Wait for Will Wright's Spore

Creator of Sim City, Will Wright, has a life simulator coming out for the PC later this year called Spore. There's a free download with limited parts to create your very own creature while the full creator version is $10.

My other spore creations

Videos:
http://www.youtube.com/profile_videos?user=NivKings

Creatures:
http://www.spore.com/sporepedia#qry=usr-nivlong

Even Robin Williams gets in on the action!

Hey Mamma

Momma, my grandmother, is wearing a jade elephant pendant and matching barong tagalog (filipino attire) inspired shirt

Soon-to-be great grandma Esther Ramirez!

(email post)

update: this also made it to my picassa account under this blog's album

Made a Spore Avatar

Spore Creator is a kind of "pre-game" to the full EA game coming out this fall. It has some nice "community" features that let you save avatars such as this one and even upload YouTube videos.
The animated gifs aren't working when I load them to Blogger, I'll see if I can fix that.
Update: Others have had the same problem with loading animated gifs to blogger but it's still a cool feature.

Just setup Windows live email with Gmail Imap.

I used about.com's guide (http://email.about.com/od/windowsmailtips/qt/et_get_gmail.htm) but the "fix" to wire up the IMAP folders correctly didn't seem to work.

It's probably because I tried to send an email before it was setup correctly. I wonder if this post (done via an email to go at blogger) will work correctly?

Update: I restarted windows live email and it seems to work now.

Day 3 of Munkey's Bday Week

Crepes and omelets

Mmmm ommmelet

Madcookie introduced me to Alton Brown, who first reminded me of Bill Nye, The Science Guy (though I don't think Alton appreciates the comparison much). So here's my version, minus the insights, instructions, and before-pictures that MadCookie would normally do.

Code Hacking and Evolution

The term "hack" also has a (semi-) positive connotation that refers to trying out code you're not familiar with or in a language you're not familiar with to... make something happen. :-) This contrasts with the "hacking" as in breaking into or disrupting a computer system.

It's not a completely positive experience or process because, well simply, you're not sure of what you're doing!

I'm compelled to point out a parallel between code hacking and biological evolution. At the end of the day, when you have your hack working, you've taken so many different routes, and had so many different dead ends, that you mimic a kind of evolutionary trail. A giant "bushy," multi-pathed decision tree where there can be more than one "right" way to make a viable solution. There's probably many more "wrong" ways, as well.

Just like in evolution, the solutions can range from basic organisms, to the more and more complex. Code (hacked or "properly done") as well, can be of varying levels of complexity, elegance, and so forth.

So in the end, with my hacked solution, I can look at it and marvel at the number of successful and failed iterations. And be utterly confused how I arrived with that particular solution.