Browsing the blog archives for August, 2006

Michael Blowhard Goes YouTube

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Culture, Technology

For awhile now it’s been obvious that Michael Blowhard has been very endeared with YouTube, but I learned today from this post that he’s finally actually joined it and started adding his own videos. Good for him.

Here’s a classy video he made on architecture.

Although I think I’d prefer narration to on-screen text, I really enjoy the immediacy that video brings to architectural criticism. Michael sums up the foundation of my stance on architecture in this post:

Architecture is perennially important because, unlike poems and songs, most acts of architecture are substantial public acts. What damage is really done if a poet writes yet another bad modernist poem? Yet bad buildings and developments don’t just come and go. They can degrade shared environments, and damage the lives of thousands of people in practical and immediate ways. And they stick around.

Perfect, perfect. Here’s hoping that Michael turns his own thoughts on architecture (another recent post on the subjecthere) into a documentary series or the like. Three to six videos, ten minutes each, narrated by Michael Blowhard. I would love to see it — I would love to make such a series myself if I had a camera. Get people interested in architecture, encourage them to get involved and not to passively accept the rise of “kitchen appliance” buildings.

Tyrian Travels: Ascalon Adventures, part 4

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Games, Guild Wars

It’s been awhile since I’ve had enough time to run through the lands of Tyria, mapping them. I figured I could spend half an hour or so today running a mission and then write it up without too much effort. Little did I know that fate would conspire against that plan.

GW400

The mission was the Nolani Academy mission. The area for this mission, like many missions, is fairly straightforward. This means that when I did the area originally I already uncovered most of the map. The idea was to do a quick run through the place to make sure I got everything. It wasn’t long before I saw this:

GW401

My usual running strategy is to equip Illusion of Haste, which allows me to be permanently hasted so long as I recast the spell every time it wears off. However, in this mission I ran into a group of Shatter Gargoyles which use Imagined Burden to slow down their targets. Shatter Gargoyles don’t pose a real threat to me but instead of attacking them I merely tried to run past. Unfortunately that didn’t work.

I tried again. This time I was eliminating the gargoyles before they could wear me down. I was just about to move from the first part of the mission to the second… When my computer crashed. Very frustrating. Killing the Charr had taken me a decent amount of time since my character was using skills designed to run, not to fight. I didn’t want to do it all again myself so I decided I would need to actually join a party to complete my task here.

After joining a group we ventured into the mission area again. Some of the fogged areas I had been missing were located on the west side of the area, north of the bonus mission area. Running to the end of this precipice gained me .1%.

GW404

Here’s another area just north of that precipice.

GW403

Running up the slope and overlooking the horizon also gained me .1%.

GW402

We then continued the mission by clearing out the Charr that were laying siege to the academy. Here’s an effigy they made to scare the defenders.

GW405

After wiping out the sieging Charr, we continued south beyond the fragment of wall that separates the first half of this mission from the second. I could see clearly on my minimap that there was a significant portion of covered map area on the western side of the southern approach to the wall-fragment. Rather than immediately heading south to Rin, my goal was to try and make my way as far west as possible and see if there was a way to get to that unexplored area of the map.

Fortunately, there was a way. Immediately after you trigger the cutscene and rain begins to fall on the Charr encampment, heading down the slope and going west will lead you to a large camp of Charr.

GW406

Unfortunately I was mobbed by Charr and slain, but one of my party members resurrected me. There are two things to note here. One is that this large group of Charr, led by two Charr heroes, is on a piece of land that juts out towards the northwest in a way that it looks like will lead to the low-plain that leads to the wall-fragment. Unfortunately, though this piece of land looks like it will lead to the low-plain, it ends in an abrupt cliff. It might be worth running around that region just to make sure that all land there has been uncovered, but the real place you need to find is this:

GW407

This slope leads down into the low-plain that approaches the wall-fragment. Here’s a picture taken at the end of this piece of land.

GW406

In total I uncovered about three or four patches of fog by running along the edge of this valley. My total visible gain was .1%, but I suspect it was closer to .166%. After exploring that area we continued on into Rin. Most of this area had already been explored when I did the mission previously. However, there’s one small section on my map, the southernmost point on the map, that looked somewhat blurry.

There is a point just before the mission boss (Bonfaaz Burntfur) when Rurik will stop. Use this opportunity to circle around the buildings in that area to the south. I managed to find this plaza south of the boss.

GW408

Continuing to circle around you can make it all the way around Burntfur to this location. Although I don’t think circling around like this uncovered any area for me it’s possible that some people may gain .1% from heading around behind the boss.

GW409

Total gain for this mission was between .3% and .4%. Not bad. I’d be more enthusiastic about this gain if it hadn’t involved three different attempts, one of them prompted by a computer crash, to get the same thing done.

Ghost in the Shell: Girls and Dolls

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Anime, Culture

Spoiler-ish discussion of issues raised in the anime. Recommended to have seen the first season and up to episode thirteen of the second season.

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Blackfacing Fantasy

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Culture, Politics, RPGs

Via Bankuei I find this link to an open letter about fans dressing up as drow or other dark-skinned characters using makeup. In general I find cosplay to be a heinous practice but when it comes down to cosplay or thought-police I’ll side with cosplay.

Quoth the post-author:

My question is not why you would dress up in Blackface anymore- I’ve heard all the defenses and rationalizations- my question is now, WHY AREN’T you dressing as the many characters in movies, comics, or anime who either are nazis or look like klansmen?

If we’re going down the route of what my >impressions are, rather than what the author’s intent is — they do. Notice to anyone dressing up as a military officer from Full Metal Alchemist: Don’t you know how unacceptable it is to dress as a Nazi? It’s not even merely the resemblance of their military uniforms. The Full Metal Alchemist movie makes the Nazi connection to the military in the anime series pretty explicit.

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Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Second Gig: Fourth Subtitle

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Anime

It’s been awhile since I seriously watched any anime. I tend to be pretty elitist in my tastes and attitudes so I don’t bother with most of it, preferring to ride on trusted recommendations. Ghost in the Shell was an exception to that: I remember half-seeing an episode of Siskel and Ebert a decade ago, and about two years after that I found myself alone one night with nothing to do but watch a movie. I picked Ghost in the Shell and found it… The combination of the technological intrigue and philosophy and the music made it hypnotic.

The movie is a classic, no doubt, and I was extremely eager to see how the anime series would stand up when it was released in 2002-03. The first season of GitS: SaC wasn’t a disappointment so I’ve been eager to get my hands on the second season, “2nd GiG.” Aside from the rather absurd length of the title I’ve been enjoying it immensely.

One thing I’m really glad they did with this second season is go back to an art style consistent with the show for the opening credits. I don’t tend to care too much about the opening credits for most animes, but I loved the Inner Universe song that accompanied the first season of GitS: SAC that I watched it nearly every episode. The problem I had with the opening sequence for the first season is that the 3D animation just looks too poorly done, in my opinion.

I understand that they were probably trying to bring the idea of Matoko’s body being artificial and “doll-like” into 3D, but there’s really no excuse for having hands that look like they’re made out of silly putty or shark-like numbers of teeth in a mouth.

For comparison:

The 2nd GiG opening sequence has an amazing opening song as well. It seems to have more of a focus on green coloration throughout the opening, whereas the first season was more blue-dominant. The major difference, though, is obviously the apparently hand-drawn characters. No poorly done and distracting CG here, for which I am thankful. The sequence also includes, unlike the first season, some images of the other members of Section 9. I don’t mind when Matoko gets screen time but the show’s not entirely about her.

Campaign Overload (?)

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Personal, RPGs

This week a few players were out of town — One of our regulars had to work extra late and so wasn’t able to come around until later. Last week we were a bit stumped for a game to play as our GM for the D&D campaign we are running left his materials at his house and it’s roughly a 45 minute drive (one way) away. The week before that we spent 75% of the session creating characters for a Spycraft campaign.

Since both of the guys who are doing campaigns were basically absent, two of the other guys colluded together to run a new campaign. One of these is a particular fan of Faerun, so he decided to go with that setting. He’s a first-time GM, but his knowledge of the setting is extensive and he’s using a module as a base, so I’m betting he’ll do a good job of it. Over these past couple of weeks I’ve been bringing in various tools — A large dry erase board, poker chips, cards, miniatures — So we’ve developed quite a decent set of DMing equipment as well.

At this point that means we’re running three campaigns simultaneously with this group, or four campaigns that I’m playing in. I think I’m at about my limit for keeping track of non-internalized “foreground” information. All I can say is that I’m glad this campaign is in Faerun since, although I’ve never read any of the books, I at least have a mild familiarity with the setting from Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights. This means place names like Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter, The Sword Coast, or organizations and NPCs like the Harpers or Elminster are already part of my “background” knowledge. Our other campaigns — A homebrew Warhammer-inspired world and Spycraft’s setting — I know so little about that everything I know is still “foreground” information.

Hopefully no new campaigns will crop up anytime soon — I really prefer playing to rolling up characters.

Guild Wars Dervish

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Games, Guild Wars

I was looking through the most recent search terms leading to this site (the particular terms here being “female dervish“) and came upon this site. At first I was a bit thrown by the fact that the site lists three relatively attractive females as contributors, but actual postings to the site seem to be solely by Mike Abundo. Alas, but Mike has found this particularly funny video concerning the power of the Dervish during the Nightfall PvP Weekend:

I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t manage to provide screenshots of all five Dervish Avatar forms. During the PvP event I did get a few screenshots here and there of the Balthazar forms and the Grenth forms, but it’s tough to get your opponents to stand still for a picture. I did my own searching and managed to find pictures of Balthazar and Grenth to round out my gallery:

LyraSong provides this image of the Avatar of Balthazar:

DervishAvatarBalthazar

Toon-a-loon provides this image of the Avatar of Grenth:

DervishAvatarGrenth

Glad I finally managed to get some clear pictures of these forms to complete my collection.

Tools that Change your Life: Session Manager

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Technology

As my primary browser I use Firefox — On OS X my primary browser used to be Safari but since my switch to using XP primarily that hasn’t really been an option, hence using Firefox. Occasionally I will use Opera web browser to check the appearance of something or for other reasons, and one of the things I noticed with Opera is that it had automatic session-saving. That is to say, if I were coding something and had multiple reference windows open in Opera, I could close Opera without a second thought and when I reopened Opera it would automatically reload all the pages I had open and restore them to their previous state. Needless to say this is a really helpful feature when you have to close your browser, whether that’s just to get rid of distractions or to free up memory. In Firefox I would tend to go for a week or more without closing my browser for the simple fact that closing my browser would lose all of the tabs I had opened up.

For a time Opera became my primary browser for the web and particularly for doing programming and other work. There were some things I missed though, and even attempting to make Opera work for me as my primary browser, I found myself opening Firefox on a daily basis. I decided that if I couldn’t use Opera as my primary browser I should look into what made me love it so much in the first place: session saving. One Google search away and I had found what I was looking for: Session Manager. I downloaded it, restarted, and so it began. I’ve been using Session Manager for about two weeks now and it’s hard to imagine web-browsing without it. Currently I’ve got twenty tabs open in Firefox — Usually that would mean that I’d be forced to have Firefox open until I either: (a) copied and pasted all the relevant URLs to a text file for later use, or (b) finished all of the tasks or ideas represented by those various tabs. Either way, it’s likely that the browser would be open for at least a week. With Session Manager I can close the window and enter into that nirvana of browser-less information-deprivation without the apprehension that I’ll close something that’ll take me an hour to find again.

Changing Things Up

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Administrativa, Technology, Wordpress

I’m going to be attempting to roll out some changes here in the next couple of days. For awhile now I’ve been unhappy with PopURLs‘ selection of websites to syndicate and been hoping to create a similar sort of aggregator of aggregators for myself. Mostly this is for my own convenience in being able to browse things I want to read with complete control over the layout and other elements, but I suspect other people may be interested in it as well so I’m going to try and make it publicly available.

At this point in time I haven’t decided how that is going to impact the design of this page (if at all), although I have been wanting to do some of my own theme work here for awhile now. A new theme may be forthcoming for the site as well, to fix nagging issues I’ve had with this particular theme as well as to personalize the site some more. If you see anything weird or unusual here in the next few days you know why.