Saturday, September 30, 2006

Encore

Damn good show, but it's late and I'm frakkin' exhausted. More on Monday.

Soultastic!

10:15 and still no Cope, but at least Alice Smith was good.

The Hermit Leaves His Cave

Looky here. I'm actually out on a Saturday night.

Here's the stage, pre-Cope. Wahey!

Friday, September 29, 2006

The Waiting

Ah waiting. Oh how I hate it as I'm terrible at it. I have so very little patience to wait for anything that I'm remotely interested in. It's really quite annoying to live with myself. Truly.

Last night I finished up watching season 2.5 of Battlestar Galactica, so now, not only am I waiting for the new season to start on October 6th, but I'll have to wait a week in between episodes. Television on DVD is a wonderful thing, until such time as you have to switch over to watching episodes as they are broadcast. Oh sure, I could record all the episodes as they're broadcast and then watch them one after another, or wait for the season to beon DVD again, but this is a 20 episode season we're talking about, so without any breaks for the holidays, you're talking 5 months. That would kill me, especially in these spoiler laden times when you can find out who gets killed on Desperate Housewives by reading the back of a cereal box. Plus, I've never been one for delayed gratification, so if the episode is on the Tivo, by God, I'm going to watch it as soon as I can. I might not even wait for it to finish recording, instead just giving myself enough of a buffer to allow me to zip past commercials.

I am also waiting for the Gamestop, or Electronics Boutique to start taking Wii preorders. I'm sure that Nintendo will have plenty of units at launch, so I can probably get one on the 19th, but I'm neither a young man, nor someone who wants to drag his family all over town so my desire for launch day shenanigans is pretty much zero. I realize it's silly to assume that preordering will guarantee me a unit, given the 360 fiasco, however the fact that the stores don't even know if they'll be taking preorders until they find out how many units they'll be getting leads me to believe that if you put your money down, you'll get one, short of a tragic accident involving a freighter full of Wii and a coral reef. Preordering at a games store also allows me to trade stuff in towards the price, thereby reducing my out of pocket expense, but I can assure you that I have run various scenarios (scenarii?) involving a combination of vendors and all allow me to take advantage of the trade scene in some fashion. Don't you worry about that. In reality though, preordering gives me something, even if it's just a receipt, that says "the Wii is coming". I'm so excited for this console that the next 7 weeks will be hellish without some sort of activity to ensure my upcoming Wii-ness.

Guitar Hero 2 is officially coming for the 360, complete with it's own controller. Now it becomes a matter of when. The version for the PS2 comes out at the end of October (the 24th I believe) with the 360 version following in 07. I've said before that I'd happily buy both versions, however I'm somewhat less happy about having to buy another guitar so if 07 meant January, I'd probably wait, despite how painful it would be to do so. My understanding is that a 5 song demo disc will be released with some sort of PS2 magazine soon, so that could very easily hold me over, especially considering how my lull from rocking out will no doubt result in a slide backwards. If 07 means March or April though, well, I'm as free as a bird now, and this bird you can not change. I'm dissappointed that the 360 axe isn't wireless, but at the same time, if I do have to end up buying another guitar, anything to keep the price down will be appreciated. Now all I need to do is make friends with someone local who wants to rock the double Skynard solo. I'm not sure what the etiquette is for concurrent solos as to whether you solo axe to axe, or leaning back to back, or you stand on one side of the stage doing your thing and your partner does the same on their side. I would think that not working that out ahead of time could have disastrous long term consequences but I have no concrete evidence to support this. The members of Poison always seemed wary of CeCe, but that could be because he was, well, CeCe.

Now that it's Friday and this week's bowling is behind me, I now have to wait another whole week until I can try again to break the league triple digit mark, or the LTD. Bowling over 100 when it's just you and the snack bar guy to mark your progress don't mean shit if you can't then parlay that score into something that helps your team. I'm making progress, up to a 93 avg for today's games, from an 80-something last week, but the 100 pt mark is proving to be elusive. Thankfully, my teammates bowled in the subpar range as well, so I'm not dragging the average down. Not too much anyways. At this rate of improvement, next Friday may be the week. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

So Sorry

I apologize for the lack of a post on Wednesday. My breakfast of choice ended up being a sleeper cell of gastroenterological terrorism. I think we have weeded out all of the insurgents and sent them to the bowels of my septic tank. We'll see. Friday I shall return with a post of unimagineable postitude.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Triple D

Today I bowled a 122, only the second time in my recently started bowling career that I cracked the elusive triple digit mark. Is it a coincidence that this attainment of such a lofty goal occurred upon taking ownership of Pinslayer? I say nay, however you may choose to believe differently at your own peril. Part of what allowed me to enter the Triple Digit Club, or as we in bowling circles call, Chez TD, is that I bowled alone, unfettered by the heavy eyes of my coworkers/teammates. They are better bowlers than I am, easily obtaining scores in the 140 - 150 range, while I act as the team anchor however not in a steadying capacity, but more in a drag us to the bottom of the ocean capacity. In order to realize my full bowling potential I needed to be away from prying eyes, free of the burdens of their expectations. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of showing them the proof of my new found success, in the form of scoreboard picturephonery so I fear that in their mind, Friday's match has already been won. I can only hope that I can rise to their level, become the bowler they wish, nay, they need me to be and deliver them victory. Pinslayer deserves no less.

This weekend our house was turned into some sort of Critter Corner. On Saturday, as we frolicked in the front yard, and I attempted to teach my son how to catch a football, a fruitless endeavor for those keeping track at home, we were ignorant of the danger that lay in our midst. Just a short distance from us, under a bush, awaited a rabbit, and not just any rabbit, but a pretty goddamned dead rabbit. Luckily, despite jumping 10 feet away from the bush, as if Sasquatch itself emerged from the leafy shadows, my kids thought I was just being silly, or having another one of my usual uncoordinated tripping spells and we were able to spare them the sight of the Velveteen Homicide. I called animal control, as I would imagine that they would want to know if the rabbit died of rabies and I sure as hell don't know how to get rid of the thing, but they weren't around and a bunny corpse didn't seem quite like an emergency even in a town with a crime blotter filled with nothing but cases of dirty looks and harsh language. Instead, I was told to call back on Sunday. I figured the rabbit wasn't going anywhere, a notion that proved to be somewhat on the wildly incorrect side. The next morning, I checked his resting place and our friend was nowhere to be found. Great. As if having a rabbit on the property wasn't enough, now we have zombie rabbits. I'm hoping they eat only rabbit brains, and not human brains. I'm really not sure how this whole thing works. I'll keep you appraised.

On Sunday while I stayed at home with Abby, Linda and Ben went to the grocery store. At least they tried to, but there was a 3ft black rat snake hanging out behind Linda's car. I'm pretty sure it's the same one that used to hang out on the stoop, and may be the same one that left a good sized snake skin in our basement. Size wise, it was similar anyways. Not being one to shy away from a good snake handling, I donned my trusty leather gloves, picked our friend up and relocated him to another part of the yard. Now, lest you think I'm some sort of idiot who just picks up random snakes, I have a field guide to this state's snakes, complete with bunches of color photos, so I knew this snake wasn't poisonous. The leather gloves, and my keen handling of our scaly friend meant that were he to try and strike my forearm, he wouldn't be able to. It was an interesting experience. They're quite wily, those snakes and can move fairly quickly so that one second you're holding it behind it's head and the next you're holding it at it's midpoint. Granted, I didn't want to crush the poor thing, so I was unclear as to how much pressure I could put on it, but still. For the record, I wanted to bring it farther away from the house, but once I was only holding it at its midpoint, and the tender flesh of my forearm was well within striking range, Mr. Snake and I bid each other farewell. As I said, I would have wanted to bring him to the woods where food was probably more plentiful, however snakes don't respond well to soothing tones, so he was unclear as to my benevolent intent. Hopefully he was able to find something to eat in the holly trees on our property line. I think there's an Arby's in there run by chipmunks.

As you can tell, it's been a busy few days, what with the zombie rabbits, snake handling and stratospheric bowling scores. I can only hope that the rest of the week is sedate in comparison. Just to be safe, I'm putting out some carrots in the hopes that I can lure some more rabbits to the house. Better to give the zombie something to eat than make him look for something. Or someone.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Morning Visitor

Good morning Ms. Mantis. Please don't forget to sign in at the security desk. Thank you.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Science of Blah

When I cracked open my handy-dandy list of science questions, I was greeted with a collection of questions that will take more than an afternoon of research. As a result of my poor planning, the science post is on break for this week. Truth be told, I'm starting to run out of questions so this hiatus may run for longer than one week at some point in the future. Not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand, I can always do science stuff whenever I want to, as I do own this place (well rent is probably a more accurate term) but on the other hand, I like the schedule we've got going here. Also, I don't have an interesting enough life to fill up both Monday and Wednesday with my exploits. I may have to start making shit up.

It was confirmed today that Red Octane will be bringing Guitar Hero 2 to "every significant format" in 2007. Yay! Not sure how Guitar Hero would work on the DS and I know Activision isn't saying that the DS is insignificant, but I'm sure they'll work something out. Now, does this mean that I'll hold out on purchasing GH2 in November so that I only have to buy it once for the 360? Um, that would be no. I am more than happy to put money in Red Octane's coffers so that they continue to make these wonderful games. Plus, I'm sure the song list will be slightly different on each console to ensure that there's some miniscule rationale for multiple purchases. I hope that somehow I can use my PS2 guitar with the 360, but I would be ok with not being able to if I can have a wireless guitar.

That's about all I have. Enjoy your Windsday.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Bowl-A-Rama

Friday was my first day in our work's bowling league. Yes, that's right, I said bowling league. Save your mocking, as there will be plenty of opportunities for that as I delve further into my ten pin experiences.

My work is somewhat obsessed with bowling. Despite the fact that they're all not 65 year old men named Frank or Lumpy or Lumpy Frank, they're quite enamored with the sport. My two teammates not only bowl, but hook bowl and are more than happy to illuminate the differences between straight bowling, which is what I do, and hook bowling, which is what they do. Along with differences in form, how the ball is built, how it's drilled and how it's held, the main difference is that when they bowl, they knock down pins and when I bowl, I don't.

Given that I'm down for any sport I can take part in while eating chili fries, I was more than happy to join the league. For 40 bucks you get to bowl two games a week for four weeks and then when you're done, you get a free ball, custom drilled to your exact specifications, as long as your exact specifications involve you being a straight bowler. The finger tip grip that is the bread and butter of the hook bowler apparantly costs around 20 bucks more. I declined this option as I felt adding hooking to my repertoire was not only physically dangerous but too grammatically ambiguous to be considered safe. I have discussed my ball before, and you'll be happy to know that Pinslayer is being forged in the pits of Mount Doom as we speak, its polyester coverstock being polished to a high gloss, destructive sheen. Look upon my ball ye mighty, and despair.

As I have not bowled in years, I was looking to do two things. First was to break 50 in at least one game. Second was to not injure or embarass myself. I figured it was a safe bet to lump the two together as I'm pretty sure any injury that occurs at a bowling alley would be pretty fucking embarassing, short of an injury obtained while foiling a robbery. You'll be happy to learn that I succeeded on the scoring front, and somewhat succeeded on the injury front. I say somewhat because while I did not leave the bowling alley with an apparant injury, it did not take long for both my right shoulder and my left quadriceps to feel as if they had been injected with living flame. Only today has the pain in my leg subsided to where I can walk normally, or at least what passes as normal for me. Yes, it's true, I am too out of shape to bowl. When I say this line, I am reminded of the "I'm too lazy to fish" line from Brian Regan's routine and it makes me giggle.

I am not the only person who has experienced bowling pain as my boss told me that my quads would soon be incomprehensibly sore. I can understand the shoulder as I bowl with a 15 pound ball, or as we say in the bowling biz, a 15 pound ball, and swinging a 15 pound weight 20 times over 2 games would make anyone sore. The quads were completley surprising, however given that when bowling, you drop down as if doing a squat thrust, always on the same leg, it kind of makes sense. My quads did not seem to care whether or not I understood where their discomfort came from and were more than happy to express their unhappiness with the situation for the entire weekend. I'm hoping that subsequent, regular trips to the lanes will condition me so that I am no longer incapacitated after a league meeting. I'm also hoping that the ensuing massive development in my right shoulder and left thigh will somehow balance out and I don't end up walking with a pronounced tilt to one side or another.

I ended up with a 75 average over the two games, scoring 68 on the first and 81 on the other. I opened up strong with a strike on the first frame of my first game. For a brief, shining moment, I thought I was some sort of bowling savant and I'd be rolling strikes all game long. Then, for my second frame, I stepped over the foul line and the ensuing buzzer sound echoed through the bowling alley, carrying my hopes for bowling excellence with it. My third frame was two gutters in a row, so frazzled was I. I managed to get it together, however I think it's safe to say that the leaderboard of the PBA is safe from my intrusion.

This comes at the right time as I'm starting to get a little bigger around the middle than I am entirely comfortable with, and I am loathe to exercise. Bowling, while not on par with running or biking, for exercise, will allow me to get some form of physical exertion into my day while at the same time, watch cheesy CGI animations of bowling balls mowing down terrified pins. As long as I stay away from the aforementioned chili fries, we should make some headway towards losing a few pounds. Plus, I seem to not completely suck at it, unlike most sports, so my initial level of confidence is higher than if I decided to take up, say hockey. I'm sure this week I'll bowl somewhere in the low thirties and all of this will be for nothing, but until then, I'm staying optimistic. It's only a matter of time before I'll be hooking with the best of them.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Wii-vealed

All the details for the Wii have come to light and they lay before us, glistening with morning dew. Price is $250, or $249.99 if you want to be entirely correct. Date is November 19th, a scant two days after the PS3 launch. In a move that can only be described as "old school" they are bundling Wii Sports with the game, so out of the box you can bowl, box, golf, play tennis and play baseball. The unit comes with one Wiimote (the standard controller) and a nunchuk FPS joystick thingy. Extra controllers are $40 for the Wiimote and $20 for the nunchuk. A classic NES type controller will cost something like 30 or 40 bucks, I don't remember.

As for the Virtual Console for old Nintendo games, NES games are like 4 or 5 bucks, SNES games are like 6 or 7 bucks and N64 games are 10 bucks. Nintendo points, or whatever they're calling the points, needed to buy games will be sold in stores like Microsoft Points, but at a more mathematically appealing ratio of 1 dollar equals 100 points. In Japan anyways, buying a 5000 point card will score you a NES style controller, so I'm sure they'll do the same thing here. Not sure if the 'Cube controllers will work with the virtual console games or not, but I'm leaning towards them not being compatible as they would be silly to deny themselves an extra source of accessory revenue, high accessory attachment rates being some sort of benchmark for success in this strange world we live in.

Something like 24 titles will be available at launch which includes the new Zelda and 23 other games I could care less about. That's not entirely true. Red Steel looks like it could be good, and I'm more than happy to forego the high polished sheen of the 360 version of Splinter Cell: Double Agent if the Wii version played well and would allow me to throw support to the new box at the same time. I am also willing to give up online co-op through Live on Marvel Alliance for the Wii version as the Wii version supports motion control for the Marvel heroes you pick for your adventuring. Yes, you read that right, motion control. That means that when you select Spidey and want to perform his move where you sling webs, entrap your enemy and fling your enemy into the open claws of a one Wol V. Rine, you do so with a combination of button pressing and arm flinging then quick switch over to Wolvie and make with the stabbing. I guess it says something about me that I will gladly forego contact with other humans so that I can pretend to be a superhero in my basement, but it's something that has been alluded to, if not said directly before. If somehow they could combine this with Guitar Hero 2 so that I could dispatch an enemy by throwing Cap's shield and then rip into the solo in "Sweet Child of Mine" I would pass out from sheer gaming bliss.

The Wii also will come with channels allowing your to surf the web, provided you pay for a browser, check the weather, and other, so far unmentioned things. Whatever. As a rule, I don't pay for browsers and I don't care about the weather, shunning the light of day for the warm, comforting glow of my basement's light bulbs. I'm not opposed to having it available on the box, but it's not something I would spend a lot of time talking about either.

As you can tell, I am very, very excited for this launch. I think Nintendo has done a very good job managing this launch, other than the name change, and are set up to do well with this console, provided a) the motion stuff is more than just a gimmick and b) hardware is available for any and all that want to buy one. I'm a little surprised that the price is north of $200, however the addition of a game certainly helps and I need to keep in mind that it was the slavering media that was pushing the $200 price, not Nintendo itself. I can't be dissappointed when something turns out to be true only in my wildest fantasies. It is my belief that Nintendo had two prices in mind, one where they'd probably take a hit on every console they sold ($200ish) and one where they didn't ($250) and they were simply waiting to see the price of the PS3 to decide which one to go with. The day of the PS3 pricing announcement was probably marked on Nintendo calendars as an annual holiday to celebrate from here until eternity, as it let them to price their console at a price that allows them to be profitable from day one and at the same time be $250 cheaper than the lowest priced PS3.

I'm sure that the pricing info and the Sony launch number information (400k units for the US at launch) also played into the Nintendo launch date. The PS3 will come out, immediately sell out as the hardcore gamers flock to stores and buy them, leaving store shelves a barren gaming wasteland. Just think back to November of last year when you tried to get a 360. Then, two days later, in comes the Wii, filling store shelves in time for Black Friday at a price that is half of a a PS3 and 150 less than a non-crippled 360. Now, this is assuming that Nintendo will have plenty of units on hand to sell, but seeing how there's nothing inherently next gen about it (unlike the PS3) and they're used to making consoles from non-off-the-shelf parts (unlike with the 360) I would be very, very surprised if they didn't have the Wii everywhere come Black Friday. Nintendo would have to be brimming with unadulterated stupidity to not see this holiday season as nothing but a massive opportunity to sell consoles and react with the right numbers. Sony seems to believe that people will buy their console regardless of the price, whenever folks can get their hands on it, and to a certain degree they're right. The Wii, on the other hand, is trying to get casual gamers, and non-gamers involved, and you can't do that if the only way you can get a Wii is to import it from Japan. If Nintendo can get themselves listed as one of the hot toys of the season and millions of people watch Matt Lauer and Meredith whoever play Wii Tennis on the Today show, they can, in the words of Fiddy, "sit back and watch the money pile up".

Personally I am thrilled with the addition of bowling to Wii Sports as I love a good bowling game, and that, coupled with golf and tennis all in one game will keep me playing forever. Zelda has looked good from day one and the inclusion of motion control for sword swinging only makes it better. I'll buy Red Steel if it ends up being good, however if reviews don't paint it as an enjoyable experience, I won't be bothered too much except to feel a pang of regret for the developers as from what I've read, they seem to have taken the user experience into account throughout the development cycle and made changes as necessary, which seems somewhat out of touch with how games are made these days. Trauma Center I already played, or lived through I should say, and I'd rather not do so again, partly because it was an incredible frustrating experience at times, and partly because it brings back memories of playing my DS at 3 in the morning in Russia due to insomnia fueled by a combination of jet lag and pre-child-meeting jitters.

Now that we have a launch date and price we have enacted a game buying moritorium in the household. Yes, that's right, no new games until the Wii launch. I have Splinter Cell for the 360 preordered and will make a decision as to what to do with that money when the time comes, but other than that, all game buying money will be put towards preordering the Wii. This also means that GRAW and Dead Rising will become casualties of the trade in war as they give up their souls so that I might have more money for my preorder. I figure all told, the launch day price will be about 340 as I'll be buying Zelda and another Wiimote for the wife. That's not factoring in the price of component cables, but seeing how I don't know that price, ignorance truly is bliss. I'm a little perturbed at the price of the controllers, as 60 bucks seems like a lot for a Wiimote + nunchuk combo, however I'm thinking that Nintendo is expecting most casual gamers to only need the Wiimote which is priced similar to first party controllers for other consoles. Add to this price tag the cost of Guitar Hero 2 when it comes out, and possibly Gears of War and you have one very expensive November. Most likely I'll skip Gears of War at launch as I'll have too much to do between shredding mad tracks and picking up spares, but at the same time, I don't want my 360 to feel left out. I also like CliffyB and his rakish wit.

The moritorium will be difficult as we approach the late October, early November time frame, however we must keep our eyes on the prize, or at least keep tabs on the prize, perhaps through some sort of prize monitoring system or prize nanny. Between Oblivion, Burnout, poker and Guitar Hero on the big screen front, Metroid, Tetris and Star Fox on the small screen front, not only will I have enough to keep me occupied, but every completed game is more cash towards the launch price. I have been happily avoiding all gaming for some time now as I get caught up on Battlestar Galactica, so I can also supplement game time with TV time as events warrant. Hopefully I'll actually get one at launch this time. I will head to the Stop of Game this afternoon to inquire about preordering and take the appropriate action. As a joke, I could also ask about preordering the PS3, however I would rather not be beaten about the head and neck with a copy of Game Informer, so I'll probably skip it.

When I started thinking about this post, I was going to address the folks on teh Intraweb whose job is to hate everything in existence and provide a rebuttal for their concerns, but then I realized that I don't give a flying fuck whether or not they buy a Wii, as if they don't there will be more out there for people who want to buy one and, by extension, like having fun. Most of their arguments are marinated in stupidity anyways, and handling said opinions, if only to turn them over to get a full understanding, would place their foul stench upon me and I prefer to stay my usual, sweet smelling self. So far, I am very impressed with how Nintendo has handled this launch and like to think this will continue until I see something that convinces me otherwise, rather than assume this is all some sort of fluke and failure looms on the horizon. I'll leave those dire predictions to others as they seem better suited to the task, what with their proven record of hating everything ever. I'll be over here, patiently waiting until November if you need me.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Not to Be Confused With Q*bert

Greetings Squaddies! Welcome back.

Today's question comes from Andy who asks:

What makes a quantum computer so different (and so much faster) than a
conventional computer?
For those old school individuals in the audience, I could make a joke that the quantum computers eat their Wheaties. Newer members to the consumer collective might appreciate it more if I said that the quantum computer slept in a Holiday Inn Express last night. Ha ha, ho ho, it is to laugh.

What makes quantum computers so different, and potentially so much faster (the key word being potentially) comes down to bits. Doesn't it always? Maybe not.

In a classical computer (the computers we know and love today) bits are the building blocks for a computer's instructions and contain either a 1 or a 0. The bits may be saved as a punch out on a punch card, or the magnetization on a hard drive or the charge on a capacitor's plate. By sequencing these bits together and putting them through various logic gates, computers can perform the instructions we ask them to. The thing to keep in mind here, and this will be important when we talk about quantum computers, is that in a classical computer, a bit is either a 1 or a 0 which means that if you have a 1 and you need a 0 you need to do some transformation on it, through a logic gate for example, to do so.

Quantum computers, on the other hand, also uses bits, which also contain 1s and 0s, however due to the joy of quantum mechanics, namely superposition, a quantum bit, or qubit as they're called, can be a 1, a 0 and a superposition of the two all at the same time. Quantum mechanics gives you three bits for the price of one, cutting out the middleman and passing the savings directly on to you.

This superposition allows quantum computers to be exponentially faster than classical computers. Let's take a register that contains three bits. Such a register can have 8 possible values (2^3). With a classical computer, the register can only have one out of those 8 possible values in it at any one time. A quantum computer on the other hand, has all 8 values in the register at the same time. Not only can the quantum computer have all the numbers in the register at the same time, but operations can be performed on all 8 numbers at the same time. Let's say we have an extremely slow and simple computer that can perform an operation on a value in the register every second. For a classical computer it would take 8 seconds for every possible value in the register to have an operation performed upon it. A quantum computer could do the same operations in all possible values in one second. Now, you could get the classical computer to perform an operation on all possible values in the register in one second, provided you had 8 registers and each register had a unique value and had the operation performed upon it in parallel.

It is important to point out that a quantum computer can't do more things, or different things than a classical computer, it can just do them in less time and with less memory. Take factorization for example. If you were to take two very large prime numbers and multiply them together, it wouldn't take you, or a classical computer very long to come up with the answer. Now if we were to take the product of those two numbers and try and figure out what was multiplied with what to get that number, it would take you, and a classical computer much, much longer to do so. Many data encryption models are based on this fact. It is possible for a classical computer to factorize extremely large numbers, but the amount of time it would take to do so is so huge that the act may as well be impossible. For a quantum computer on the other hand, this would be a piece of cake, and in reality, should someone come up with a quantum computer tomorrow that had the same computational abilities as a classical computer, most data encryption and data security as we know it today would be kaput. We're talking some serious, black box in "Sneakers" kind of shit.

This doesn't mean that you have to cancel your Paypal account just yet, as we're a long way off from having such a functioning quantum computer. As we discussed in previous posts, as you increase the complexity of a quantum system, so does the chance that the system will interact with the outside environment and collapse into one state or another. In order for a quantum computer to approach the level of a classical computer, you'd need a pretty complex system with a pretty high risk of decoherence. Presently, I think the largest quantum computer has been either 5 or 7 qubits. Impressive, no doubt, but nothing you'll be playing Unreal Tournament 2007 on any time soon.

Will we see a quantum computer in our lifetimes? It's hard to say, as the present limitations are based on what we know of science today, and what we know of science today will be vastly different from what we know of science tomorrow. Personally, I'll be happy if we don't ever see one, because I have a hard enough time as it is explaining to my mother-in-law how to sort her email by sender without bringing quantum superposition into the conversation.

HowStuffWorks.com - How A Quantum Computer Will Work, Kevin Bonsor
The Quantum Computer - Jacob West, Cal Tech
Wikipedia - Quantum Computer
Centre for Quantum Computation - A short Introduction to Quantum Computation

Monday, September 11, 2006

This is the Monday Port

Forgive the lack of a clever title. My clever title subscription just ran out

It is an odd thing to think that September 11th was 5 years ago. A lot has happened since then, however I can still remember sitting at my kitchen table with Linda, eating KFC and listening to fighter jets scream over Dulles airport, not 5 minutes from our house. As if the jets weren't strange enough, they were the only planes in the sky, an oddity, given that we lived 5 minutes from an airport. Add to that, some of the terrorists boarded at Dulles and the oddity of it all is nigh insurmountable.

I'd like to say that the sweeping changes in our nation's policies have made us better prepared to deal with a disaster of similar magnitude, but Katrina cleared that notion up for us. How convenient that the one year anniversary of Katrina is so close to the anniversary of 9-11, so that we can see how woefully underprepared we still are. That's not to say that I think another attack will happen, I honestly have no idea. The combined intelligence forces have disrupted enough plots to make me think they're on top of their collective games, but at the same time, plots keep coming up for the various agencies to thwart. Nothing I can do, so I guess I'll just keep doing what I've been doing and live my life the way I've been living it, with nothing but paranoia and massive distrust for all I meet. Kidding.

Now that I've been at work a week, I find I'm fitting in quite well. Everyone is very nice and they expect you to get in there, get up to speed quickly and get to work. I can live with that. I'm having a bit of hard time understanding how all of the various parts of the product come together, but I'm sure in time it'll all come to me. I have joined their bowling league and today purchased shoes for this express purpose as a cost savings device. Imagine sneakers, but with felt on the soles and you have bowling shoes. A shirt has also been acquired. Not a bowling shirt per se, but one of close enough composition and color to have its intent understood. I only spent 7 dollars on it, so don't worry that I'm bankrupting my children's future so that I can dress in accordance with local bowling customs. I'm just trying to do my best to enjoy myself before I hit the lanes and make an utter fool of myself.

At the end of the 4 week league, I get my own ball, custom drilled for my fingers and fit to my palm to be my own, personal instrument of destruction. I have named it Pinslayer and will use it to cut a swath of devastation across any alley I come across. For now I shall limit it to bowling alleys, however there may come a time when I use it to thwart misdeeds in alleys of all sorts. Evildoers, beware, for the day of your reckoning is nigh, and it comes in the form of a 7-10 split.

My work environment has also rekindled my desire to acquire Nerf weaponry. I was originally inspired by this comic as reading it brought back pleasant memories of a time when a man and his Nerf Arrowstorm would rain foam hellfire down upon any who would dare oppose him. Ask those who used to work with me and they will tell you stories of a man who ruled all he saw with only his wits and his Arrowstorm to defend his holdings. Since then, I have worked at a few places, none of which seemed open to the idea of foam weaponry, but I believe a new day has dawned and the call to dart arms has gone out. It is imperative that I arm myself again, and the Maverick is just weapon for the job. While it doesn't have the stopping power, nor the intimidating presence of the Arrowstorm, I feel it's smaller profile and suction cup darts are better suited to my current workplace. Plus, best to not scare people off at this early point in my career. Undoubtedly my purchasing of such a weapon will spark an arms race and it is at that point I can pull out the heavy weaponry. There's no need to show all of my cards now, or some similar meaning poker reference.

I am dissappointed that the Maverick is not a semi-automatic weapon as the need to crank and fire keeps me from dual wielding effectively As a child of both Dungeons and Dragons and Bruce Willis movies, having each of my hands wrapped around cold, unforgiving steel is a notion as comforting as Christmas morning. I have heard that one can make modifications to increase the yield of their Nerf weaponry, however that is a level of dedication I am uncomfortable engaging in. Rest assured it also voids your warranty. For now, one weapon per person will have to suffice, but I will consider the Dremel as an appropriate course of action should the need to go John Woo on someone's ass arises. I shall keep you appraised of events as they unfold.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Commanding of Foxes, Star and Otherwise

Greetings. Welcome to Friday's post. It will be rife with topics, so please try and bear with me. The majority of them will be gaming related, however structure and I have parted ways for today. You've been warned.

I was quite bummed out to hear of Steve Irwin's death. I've always liked him and anyone who does work to help endangered animals is ok in my book. More importantly, I hate to hear of anyone dying and leaving behind a family with such young children. It is this last part that people seem to have forgotten, which irritates me to no end. Why people have to take this time to come out and say what an animal subjugating asshole Steve Irwin was is beyond me. I mean, the poor man hasn't been dead a week and already folks are damn near gloating over his death. Can't we have some seblance of propriety and give his family time to mourn before we go on tv and the radio and say what a callous bastard the man was? It's not like he was a war criminal or something, a being so evil that his actions must be condemned, regardless of the impact on others. He wrestled gators for Christ's sake. Let's let the poor man rest in peace for a little while before we paint him as the Antichrist of the crocodile set. It's times like these I feel that my loathing for humanity in general is well founded.

I picked up Star Fox Command on my week off and am finding it to be an entertaining game, but not without fault. The flying controls are very well done. THe ship is always flying forward, which allows you to control the ship entirely with the stylus. You drag the stylus to steer the ship, tap in the upper portion of the touchscreen to do a turbo boost, tap in the lower portion to brake, and drag the stylus left to right anywhere to perform a barrel roll. This last part is needed to deflect enemy shots, collect powerups and attack motherships. Additionally you can tap a loop-de-loop button or a u-turn button to do quick turnarounds. You can use any button youd like to fire shots, but I've found the left trigger button to provide maximum firepower for minimal clickage. Bombs are also available by tapping the bomb icon on the touchscreen and dragging the bomb on to you radar. It's an odd kind of mechanic, and is more like calling in an airstrike than dropping a bom from your craft unless it's some sort of strange teleporting bomb which isn't so much dropped from your ship as magically placed in the theatre of combat. It sounds complicated, but it comes together quite well.

The game play is an odd mix of turn based strategy and spaceship flying. The turn based strategy I could do without as it seems to be just a means of extending the gameplay time in between flying missions, rather than a compliment to the space missions. At the beginning of each mission you'll have yourself, your allies and your mothership on the screen and by scribbling away the fog of war, or simply drawing paths for your ships to follow through it, you'll uncover various enemies, missles for the mothership, or general combat powerups. Once you've decided on a course of action, you perform your turn and collect powerups and engage enemies in combat, at which point it switches over to the flying missions. If, by the time you run out of turns you haven't found and defeated all of the enemies on the screen, you have to start the whole mission over again. This is particularly annoying if you've spent some time on several flying missions only to find yourself in your last mission with something like 25 enemies and only 10 seconds to defeat them all. Ditto for spending a bunch of time battling enemies in one part of the screen only to have some bastard sneak in from somewhere else and put the kablooey on your mothership. Personally, I could do without the turn based part, and wish there were a way to just turn it off, as I'm only interested in flying and blowing things up, but I can live with it to have a portable space flying game. Even with the save game structure, you can get through missions in a short amount of time, making it more conducive to short bursts of game play than Metroid Prime: Hunters. There's a Mechwarrior game on the horizon which, if devoid of turn based mission malarky, may supplant Star Fox as my space combat game of choice. We'll see. I don't consider it a bad purchase, however if you're looking for just flying and shooting, I don't know if I would recommend it. Also everyone speaks in a strange, robotic tongue, despite me not having the robot speech option turned on. Why there's even a robot speech option in the first place is beyond me.

The bloom on the Dead Rising rose has worn off, sad to say. I keep forgetting to make it to save spots and up doing the same things over and over again. I know that there are many of folks who believe that the game's save structure is a blessing as it allows you to get your character powered up for the main mission, but those people have functioning memories, unlike myself who always forgets to make it to the restroom or security office to save and up as zombie food in the mall. That and I've been spoiled by Oblivion, a game which allows you to tiptoe through the meadows and pick flowers and ride unicorns or some shit all the live long day until you're ready to jump back into the main storyline or any of a dozen storylines you've left hanging while you've played Johnny Fucking Appleseed. Now that I've had that, I demand it of all of my other games, Dead Rising included. I don't feel bad about purchasing the game, even if I don't plan on finishing it, as I would like to support the zombie in a mall genre, and I may keep it around to see what happens in the end, however Lego Star Wars is beckoning so I also may trade it in and just watch the cut scenes on YouTube.

Guitar Hero continues to plague my wrist with soreness as the Medium level songs represents a jump from Easy similar to how a 5K run represents a jump in difficulty from walking across your kitchen. Sure, you can probably run that 5k on your first try without any training, but don't expect to be hanging out at the winner's circle. I haven't been booed off the stage yet, however my run of 3-star performances isn't exactly allowing me to quit my day job and rock out full time. I'm averaging something like 100 bucks a gig. Sorry Judy, you're going to have to keep working at the Kinko's until I can spend more time with Spanish Castle Magic.

A partial set list (I say partial because it's only 20 or so songs long) for Guitar Hero 2 has been released and the rock is well represented. The addition of "Sweet Child of Mine" and "Freebird" has me slavering with anticipation. I can only hope that the character modelers at Red Octane are working on an Axel Rose snake shimmy animation for the lead singer. I would also like a Slash-esque guitar hero character model as well, complete with hat and eye covering rock hair. Still no Led Zeppelin, however hopes are high. I would like to see some extra peripherals for the guitar controller including a waa-waa pedal that you could hit to either engage your Star Power, or just change the sound of your axe. I would also like one of those mouthpiece thingies, complete with a 20 minute long Frampton song. I would not recommend using the mouthpiece in multiplayer though as I'm pretty sure you don't want to share that with someone else. I get wigged out when I have to share a controller with someone who's hands sweat during Burnout races, but maybe you're less hesitant about swapping bodily fluids with those you game with. To each their own.

I haven't been playing a lot of games lately as I'm watching back seasons of Battlestar Galactica. The show reminds me of Firefly, just without the witty banter and the swearing in Chinese. It's well written, well acted and chock full of badass space combat. I'm glad to see it's doing as well as it is, and can only assume that had Firefly been on Sci-Fi, where it would have a built in audience, rather than shuffled around to death on Fox, we'd be well into our 4th or 5th season. Oh well. I don't think I'll be caught up for the Season 3 premiere but will be Tivoing with abandon.

Finally, Redskins football starts on Monday. All is right in the world, or at least in my insignficantly small part of it.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Back from Vacation

Well here we are, back from vacation. Not that I didn't know this already, but one thing a week off of work really teaches you is how much you hate working. Don't get me wrong, I'm enjoying my new job, even if I'm still getting "up to speed" and don't have a tremendous amount of work to do, but last week was fan-fracking-tastic. To give you a glimpse of how I spent my week of no working, I present the traditional beginning of the school year essay...

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

This summer I took a week off of work after I quit my job and before I started my new job. It was nice. I did lots of things. My wife was home with me because she works at home. She was nice too. She ate lunch with me every day. One day we went to the Chinese restaurant for the buffet lunch. We ate a lot. Then we had milkshakes because we had coupons that were going to expire. I know it seems strange to spend 7 dollars on milkshakes because two one dollar coupons were going to expire, but mine had chocolate and peanut butter.

On Monday I watched "Dawn of the Dead". I watched the original, theatrical version. I laughed when they made fun of Johnstown, PA because my dad is from Johnstown and those people would totally spend all of their time shooting zombies. They have a lot of hunters in Johnstown and I bet they'd much rather shoot zombies than deer. They have a lot of fishermen in Johnstown too, but I don't think it would be very easy to kill zombies with a fly fishing rod. I have never tried though, so it might be easy and I just don't know. While I watched the movie, I started putting together my super cool Ultimate Collector's Lego model of the Imperial AT-ST scout walker. It had a lot of pieces and most of them were gray.

On Monday afternoon I played Dead Rising, which, like "Dawn of the Dead" is about a guy in a mall with zombies. For some reason, I'm not as excited about this game now as I was when I first got it. I played for a bunch, forgot to save, got killed and then didn't feel like starting again. Then I shut it off and lost a lot of fake money playing Texas Hold 'Em. Mom says I shouldn't gamble. She's probably right. I'm really bad at it.

Tuesday Linda stayed home too and we did yard work. We raked out the mulch under the swingset and pulled all the weeds. Then we put down landscape fabric. Then I went to the county tax commissioner's office and got my old license plates transferred to my new car. Then I went home and we took the big pile of playground mulch that was on the driveway and put it on the landscape fabric that was under the swingset. It was a big area. We put down 5 cubic yards of mulch. It was a lot of mulch. It was hot and we got really tired. We drank a lot of water but I didn't pee once because I was sweating so much. I had planned on it taking two days but because Linda was helping me, it only took one day. Linda was very helpful.

On Wednesday I watched "An American Werewolf in London" while I continued to put together my lego set. Then I came upstairs and meant to just read the paper but instead started watching "Deep Rising". It had Famke Jannsen in it. She's really hot. The movie was good and was really gory. I also went out and bought the new Pete Yorn cd and went to the pharmacy to pick up Linda's prescription and went to the game store to pick up Star Fox Command for the DS. I probably played more poker too. I think I played Oblivion. I'm not sure. I also cleaned the bathrooms.

Thursday I went to the grocery store to buy things for our friends' visit. Then I cleaned the hardwood floors. Then I watched "Starship Troopers" and kept working on my lego set. It had Denise Richards in it. The movie, not my lego set. She's really hot. The movie was good and was really gory. Then I mowed the lawn in the rain. I didn't mean to mow the lawn in the rain but I was mowing and it started raining and I didn't want to stop mowing because we had friends coming over the weekend and I couldn't mow then. I like mowing the lawn in the rain. It makes me feel like a rebel. Thursday afternoon I played Oblivion and continued working on the Daedric quests. I had to give up Umbra, but I'm really strong now and I have so many magical weapons that if one runs out of a charge, I just use another one to kill things. In the afternoon I watched "US Marshalls" and finished my Lego set. It's really tall, but the head seems out of proportion. I have no room for it in the basement. I should put it on my mantle in my bedroom next to my Batmobile.

Friday Nick, Adrienne and Luke came to visit from Virginia. We all had a good time. It was good to see them. I would like them to move here as it would be nice to have friends that are close by. Plus, Nick and I used to play tennis and now we don't and I'm fat. We all had a lot of fun over the weekend and ate a lot of junk food.

I had a very nice summer vacation. I watched a lot of good movies and played a lot of good games and got to have lunch with my wife every day. I also got to do other things with her in the daytime that I won't talk about here because I don't want to get suspended. If it were up to me, I would never go to work again and I would just watch movies and play games and eat at Chinese buffets every day. Having a job sucks.

The end.