New lighting for the living room. You probably didn't notice, but I ms painted in a bookshelf to indicate what it'll look like sans line of sight to the light sources. Here's how it is now:
I've got them wired up to a motion sensor that can operate in daytime since led bulbs don't really use any power. For whatever reason the switch is still supplying 60vac in the off position, probably because of the low load. I'll figure something out.
I'm very happy about the upward facing wall mounted lights for vaulted rooms and will likely continue elsewhere. Of course halogens, hids, or even cfls would provide a fantastic indirect reading light in this formation. And wiring them requires no pre-existing outlets or fishing, you just go straight through the wall into the attic.
And while I was in the attic I spent some time protectanting the near-vent lumber both chemically and with a layer of 4 mil clear plastic that also makes moving around up there much more palatable (insulation, dust, other).
I also installed the dining room light fixture, though I have grander plans for the next revision. What's also evident are the baseboards and pain-in-the-ass circuit that's not getting any power. I had to sort out quite a few electrical issues this weekend, most surrounding preexisting two-node outlets on switches where they still supply the neutral line for various fixtures downstream.
You going to be in the lab in the 6:00 area? Got a class at the craft center at 6:30...
Craft center? Can you make me a bong shaped like you?
In other news I've got to be able to get a Nikonos V for not expensive. Have to.
Oh and a bit more on Fallout. It's significant release and requires significant praise and critique. First, the visuals in this game are stunning. Normally this means smooth polygons and fancy lighting effects - but as we've seen in GTA et al, pretty graphics cannot coexist with open environments. But Fallout excels at presenting a world that looks very natural and occasionally very unnatural. The scenery of the wasteland is cohesive but nonrepetitive, and you always feel under the watch of the nigh-unreachable Capitol dome. Wallowing in the carcass of civilization naturally draws you to the occasional outcropping of habitation such as the marooned carrier that houses Rivet City or Tenpenny Tower that looms over the western frontier.
But the DC in 2277 isn't exactly as I would imagine; the line between civilization and chaos is too fine. That's not to say there aren't gun battles in the towns and roving traders in the wasteland, but it's a bit too artificial to have a few islands where you're perfectly safe in a sea of constant danger. I grant that pragmatically speaking each town would need fortification, but castle walls were built beside cities, not around them. It'd be nice to stroll the Patomac, see a couple nonmutants and know that the area is at least somewhat safe and an urban area is nearby.
Most games will incessantly push you toward the end, either by offering penalties for slow play or providing constant reminders of unfulfilled objectives. Even the GTA:IV featured an endless flurry of phone calls and high maintenance associations. A harried existence does not mesh well with the world of the post-apocalypse and thankfully Fallout supports listless wandering. The pace and atmosphere lend to a distinct similarity to the arechetypal western. Yet when I saw my character in spiked armor and a white vintage motorcycle helmet I realized there is also a distinct Mad Max vibe. Finally, the omnipresent relics of pre-doomsday society suggest a bleak 1950s-meets-Clockwork Orange feel.
Environment: More than anything else, the game succeeds at being immersive. So much so that the tiny things stand out, e.g. non-sequitur dialog or ruins that just half-assedly cover up an invisible wall. The large, semi-contiguous map feels more unified than any of the GTA games and it's great that I can recognize the remains of various parts of DC - and I'm not talking about the White House and Capitol building.
Visuals: The texturing is top notch, the polygon count is okay. I'm not too familiar with the various xbox engines, but the game might have benefitted from the Gears of War look - utter grittiness but still clean. It takes about two seconds to see my point, you just have to watch the opening cinema. It's a great scene with fantastic music that is totally ruined by the blocky rendered-on-the-fly graphics. If you don't have the two seconds to spare, just imagine trying to be horrified by the original King Kong.
Leveling mechanics: Meh. Nothing fantastic here, basic rpg fare. Bethesda could definitely have gotten away with de-enumerating some or all attributes and achieved a more organic experience system. Rather than add skill points to rifle use, I'd just like to use my rifle and let increasing accuracy speak for itself. That means less stepping out of post-apocalyptic DC and a better experience.
Combat mechanics: Sloppy. You can choose to fight regular and not stand a chance, or use bullet time ('VATS') and have the unfair advantage of being able to manipulate time. Of course action rpgs have always struggled with this and it's certainly not a bad solution, but...
Story: I'm not deep into the story - I've taken a few detours - but from what I've seen I'm optimistic.
Dialogue: Mass Effect has set the bar pretty high. I cringe at the thought of the dialog mapping and testing required to achieve the endless interactions, quests, and story arcs. But it's just painful to see someone greet you with a gruff 'Don't bother me' and proceed to tell you cheerily about their town when asked. That aside, the writing and voice acting is great, and so is the prevalence of snarky comments available to the user.Fallout is certainly proving great, and I'll readily nod that it lives up to the hype. As such it's very easy to identify the things that might perfect the experience.
In other news, my wine cellar is slowly growing.
And Stacy and I made dumplings.
And, er, I replaced a couple cabinet nobs. New versus old seen here.
On the list is a motion sensor outlet for the C. Crane led cans. They provide a cool glow from the ceiling not unlike moonlight.
Tonight I snagged a 60" mirror for my 59" wide bathroom. No big deal, I've always said that drywall is for suckers.
There's some stuff to be done. Pictured above: thermostat, non-kitchen cabinet knobs, caulk for seams, wire nuts and wire strippers for copious electricals, finishing nails for door trim and base boards, doorbell chime to be hidden somewhere because they're all really ugly, garage door opener to get wired onto the bike.
I like the configuration with the soft couch facing the fireplace and the futon and coffee table in the kitchen area.
This has fixed my slow internet issue, though one contributing factor may be the new position of the wireless router. Lessons learned:
1. Splitters divide signal even if one connection is open (unlike regular circuits).
2. Cable boxes have an upper bound to the amplitude of signal they can receive, in addition to the obvious lower bound. I discovered this after trying:
--2- cable modem
..|- cable box
In other news, the last Top Gear was pretty brilliant on account of:
GT-R looking good and doing very well on the test track.
Hammond comparing Max Mosley to various cruel dictators.
Jeremy's comments about tank slapper and getting 'perilously close to Wales'.It seems I know some people that are equal parts nefarious, bold, and dumb. Quoted:
yr [associate] stole me a tiki torch, a pumpkin, and a new year s tiara
Somehow, some way United managed to bollocks my flight from SFO to OGG. That's normally not a problem, I'm well versed in the practice of checking flight info and I never plan to come and go as expected. But in this case my SAN to SFO flight was on schedule and so I found myself with quite a few hours to kill between my 18:30 arrival and 00:30 departure.
It has been said that crappy situations are the mother of ingenuity and indeed this was the case. I discovered that the Japanese restaurant in the food court serves bottles of sake for just five Washingtons. This compares well to the eight wingwangs I spent on Guiness while hanging out with Connie at SAN. Now I've always believed that reading books is for prisoners and vegetarians, so it was a great relief that I didn't have to occupy myself with the pages of Treason for the full twelve hours of travel.
Happily, Ted's car rental choice (Dollar?) has a policy of remaining staffed until the last flight arrives - about 03:30 in our case. I was finally able to hit the fold-out at about 0:600 Chris Standard Time after the drive from OGG to Kaanapali (in the 'resorts' zone of the map below).
The insider's map of Maui with several surrounding islands depicted but not labelled.
Sleeping in was the first order of business, however around noon Ted, Christine, and I headed down to meet the rest of the family at Black Rock. The ocean was a delightful 80ish with endless visibility. There were no waves, however, and this was just the first disappointment for the third of me that wanted to surf (the other thirds set upon riding and diving). Word on the streets was that the best break was at the northwest tip, near Kapalua, however I avoided the area. First, the plantation course was hosting a PGA event and, second, it's simple courtesy to leave the best waves to the locals and settle for their less aggro spots.
The crew headed back to the saddle to check out the north shore, since Ryan would be flying in that afternoon anyway. We checked out Hookipa (above), which was supposed to be a pretty good surf spot. I paddled out on a bodyboard since renting would have taken more time than it was worth. The waves held up well against winds that were not insignificant, and they were consistently waist high. The break was extremely peely, even Del Mar waves would have some face at that height.
I was pleased to find that there were quite a few locals hanging out and barbecuing, although a number of them could have been east county kids both for their excess of branded apparel and obvious lack of familiarity with the water.
Posers aside, the area (above labelled 'beach towns') was the most inviting part of the island. It maintained a fair balance of Maui country club, traditional beach town, and working class. Paia even had a small downtown that served as a refreshing break from the tesselated resorts that offer lavish grounds but fail to provide any semblance of a social environment.
After grabbing the cousin from the airport, the group split based on y chromosomes. The men headed to a golf course over in the seedier part of the island while the ladyfolk did... I don't know, hiked or something. The oceanfront location was unbeatable, the onshore wind was blustery, and the temperature was just right. The five of us split among two golf carts meant someone always had to ride chariot, as such the cooler and fifth golf bag were always inperil. Good fun.
Finishing 18 well after sunset, we drove back to the west end of the island to have cheeseburgers in Lahaina. The bigger, slower, older car arrived well ahead of the PT Cruiser that decided to attempt the north highway. But as we descended from the hairpins and single lane of crumbly asphault I noted the island's small import/tuner/drift community out for an event.
Lahaina is skippable. There are many pleasant blocks of shops that resemble the looped backgrounds of a cartoon. Inland some you can find useful, however unremarkable businesses. East of the highway the scenery becomes very rural.
We journeyed to Wailea Thursday morning. This area had to be on par with Kapalua for lavishness. After stopping at three different Maui Dive Shops, Jon and I managed to rent scuba gear for the reasonable price of $35 apiece. Dive people are good people, and the rep that helped us (Ben, I think) was no different.
Jon and I had 3100psi of fun at the Seven Caves spot in Makena. We never found the 'bubble room', but happened upon a large sea turtle in one of the three caves we navigated. We followed the lava reef quite far out but never dropped below 40 feet.
The morning came early as we took the Pride of Maui boat trip to Molokini and 'Turtle Town'. The first dive was at the mostly-submerged volcanic crater. Divemaster Larry took us down 130 feet of steep reef where we saw white tipped sharks and a large lobster. Apparently there were quite a few eels, I didn't notice any because I was looking closely at the coiled sea slugs wondering if they were eels.
The second dive was back in the Wailea area. Much like the Seven Caves dive, we were navigating a lava reef at about 30 feet. There were quite a few seaturtles, including one sleeping under a rock.
One of my goals for the trip was to ride a dual sport around the less accessible portions of the isle. Unfortunately, the one offroad rental company appears to have gone under. I wasn't too disappointed because I had yet to see the 10,000 foot Haleakala summit and it could be reached by common street vehicles. Island Riders in Wailea had a Ducati Monster for the renting so away I went.
The M1000 was noticeably lighter and easier to manage than my Supersport. Power comes in spurts though, I would often remark that the gears were tall and promptly bounce hard off the rev limiter just after shifting. Maybe I misjudged the bottom of each gear, stock pipes and a wet clutch tend to mute an engine's ability to communicate with the ears.
The road up to the crater is a glorious ribbon of winding tarmac. It is well maintained and hazard free, save for the unfenced cows that occasionally stray onto the road. The scenery at sea level is tall cane that quickly gives way to eucalyptus trees and large houses. A little higher up is a brief patch of rainforest followed by low shrubs that thin and disappear into red rock as you summit the dark beast. Each 15 mph cutback affords a fantastic view of the island below save for the thousand foot band of clouds swirling and parting around the shoulders of the mountain.
I was happy to see very few cars on the road up, and even passed a couple of Yamaha riders with leathers and knee pucks. The temperature dropped from a toasty 80 to a chilly (when riding) 65. The summit was quite spectacular with terrain as colorful as it was desolate.
My penultimate day on Maui was a relaxing one. Sleeping, reading, watching football, swimming, and playing Settlers of Catan were the primary activities. I took a casual ride into Lahaina as well.
The departure was an unhurried gathering of things and drive to the airport for a 14:00 flight. Unfortunately, the United desk was an ugly mass of frantic travellers. The airline personnel spent an inordinate amount of time explaining that the situation wasn't their own fault. One industrious rep split the travellers into an LAX 14:00 group and an SFO 14:30 group with the goal of expediting the earlier flight. My SFO-bound family easily beat me to the counter. Of course the screens told me - and those behind me - that the gate was closed but miraculously the plane waited up for us and our baggage.
Erik's got a blog now. My forecast is interleaved Penn and Teller Bullshit-style rants and updates on the reich rocket (pictured). If only Connie, Curt, and me could convince him to join the photo class there'd be some great imagery to go with it. Relatedly, sign up for intermediate black and white at UnEx if you like to party. Rob's got another photo site/blog/what have you. How long before he assumes another alias and registers a new domain? Only time will tell.
On Wednesday I enjoyed a low key New Year's with the aforementioned Allegoren and two fine ladyfolk. Team xy maintained a 3:1 margin over team xx in both Trivial Pursuit and champagne. But it was all in the spirit of good holiday fun. High fives to Jes for triumphing in the battle of table talk/psyche outs, Kat for partying through sickness, and Erik for verifying the floor's resistance to ember exposure.
Notes: almonds in cashew jar, classy champagne bucket, Kat's characteristic trail of hair bindings, neatly-placed tools where the fire was burning the night before, painful new Trivial Pursuit color scheme.
Connie stopped by to say hi. She got me a house gnome. In case you don't know, but end up at my house, here is a gnome primer:
Gnomes are always on the move. If you see one, help him find a new spot.
Gnomes are like flies on the wall. They see all, but go unnoticed. Gnomes do not hide, but never stand out. Likely places to find gnomes are on bookshelves (at the edge of the highest shelf), on window sills, and occasionally atop a cluttered desk.
Gnomes do not like to be pigeonholed as lawn-dwellers.
You know that dream where you're on a plane and the flight attendant comes on the pa and shakily inquires if there's an electrical engineer aboard? So you retrieve the multimeter from your carry on, stride confidently to the cockpit, and save the day? Well it came true on Monday. Sort of. The overhead lights (fasten seatbelt, service, reading lights, etc.) on the port half of the cabin were nonfunctional and (presumably) faa rules wouldn't let the plane take off. Of course the Patriot Act would forbid any sort of superherolike intervention so we sat on the tarmac for over an hour while throngs of Virgin personnel stood around. The captain ineffectually 'rebooted' the plane and eventually resolved to fill out the paperwork required to fly without fasten seatbelt lights. Somehow the lightless survived.
So mixed impressions about Virgin America. It was nice to play Doom on the flight up and back even if I should have brought headphones. The jets in Virgin's flock are modern but euro-proportioned (Airbus, you know). When the electrical malfunctioned the crew didn't do much to make the wait more palatable, but at least they didn't cancel the flight and declare bad weather as most patriotically-brandedairlines would.
The northward trip featured several grudgematches of Jon's new pasttime, Settlers of Catan (+ Seafarers). More complex than Risk, more distilled than Axis and Allies, Settlers is like putting Sid Meier on a coffee table.
The annual Christmas football game was great fun. Newcomers included Mom, Ted, and Christine. Team Laura/Ted/Chris triumphed over team Mom/Arthur/Jon. Keys to the match were Ted drawing the number one coverage while Laura raked in the receptions - not so much on account of loose coverage, rather a legendary ability to hang onto the ball. MAJ played the traditional no-huddle offense while LTC deliberated and fully utilized the reverse, flea-flicker, and wildcat. The play of the day had to be Ted's asomugha (read: awesome) pick-six, followed by Jon's failed attempt to juke a parked car.
It was good to see Dave in classic form. When I invited him to poker Tuesday before Christmas, he explained that he hadn't finished shopping, but could attend if he did. As I was taking a break from the table I got a text, 'Well so far all I've managed to buy is a latte. So, not that it needs saying at this point, but I'm not gonna make it tonight.' It happens every year...
He did manage a visit later that week, and capped a three hour stint of catching up/Halo 3 with, 'I've come a long way [since Goldeneye].'