Friday, May 22, 2009

An unexpectedly good movie…

No, it isn’t Terminator Salvation (opened this weekend, can’t wait to see it).



This movie is really enjoyable. I know that sounds crazy. I mean it is a movie about a guy trying to get the world record score on Donkey Kong! It’s a documentary with the real folks and the real events.

I’d heard of this movie when it came out in 2007, but around that same time my wife told me about some older lady that she goes to a weekly class with mentioned that her son was in a movie about Donkey Kong. As soon as she told me that I knew she was talking about this, but I never got around to watching it until last night.
Everyone else in the family was in the living room watching “So you think you can dance” and I was watching this on Netflix streaming in the den.

Here’s what makes it so funny. The hardcore video gamers in this movie have NO idea how ridiculous they are. The old record holder, Billy Mitchell (no not the great general) thinks he is oh so suave with his Members Only jacket and feathered semi-mullet. He is surrounded by an army of adult/nerd/boy/men who he somehow holds some sway over and who do his mind-game bidding like so many zombified fire ants.
family Along comes Steve Wiebe (that’s “wee-bee”). Steve is a normal guy from Redmond.  A once laid off Boeing employee turned science teacher. A never-was grunge musician. A washed up baseball player whose untimely injury cost him the spotlight. And someone whose mother says she thinks “he’s a little autistic”. Steve has had a hard time coming to grips with the idea that he just isn’t going to end up famous and special after all.

And Steve is the only normal person in that competitive gaming universe.

Please. Make a couple hours for King of Kong. It’s not like you had anything planned anyway. Just do it. Where else can you here the child of a guy trying to break a world’s record screaming to have his bum wiped!

Steve Wiebe…you’re all right.
Billy Mitchell (no the other one)…you’re a moron.

Update: I just discovered that Maxim magazine (Dec 2007) named Billy Mitchell “Dweebus Maximus Dorkus of both the 20th and 21st centuries”. His parents must be very proud.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Countdown to E3

E3 - the Electronic Entertainment Expo - is coming!

So jot down 10:30AM Pacific, June 1st on your calendars for the Microsoft E3 Press Briefing.
You can watch it live on
G4 TV.

Any guesses on big announcements you'd like to see? Crimson Skies 2? Alan Wake? APB?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Hey Microsoft…I’ve got a “critical” update for you!

You may not be aware of this, but just a little while ago, my home critnetwork health slipped into a “critical” state. Suddenly all those snide comments and verbal jabs my network has been making made sense!

Dutifully, because I always do what my computer tells me to do, I opened up my Home Server Console or Command Center or Missile Launch Pad or whatever and saw that there were important updates that needed to be installed. So I said, “Oh yeah baby. You know what I need. Hook me up with some of that sweet Windows Update action.” (or words to that effect)

Long update process ensues...
Updates to the .Net managed framework…OK.
Some security fixes…dandy.
Massive two part critical update containing Internet Explorer 8…WHAT THE…

Look, I work at Microsoft. I like it there. I definitely don’t consider it the nexus of evil. (if it were, it would be a lot more fun)
And I don’t even mind IE8. I’ve been using it for some time at work and have no gripes about it.

eniacI LOVE my Home Server. It happily keeps my machines backed up. Shares media all over the place. And is a cute little shiny box with  flashing lights. What’s not to love?

But, guys, seriously. IE8 as a critical update for Home Server? No one ever even starts the browser. This monster of a download has been running for almost 2 hours on my weak sauce 1.5Mbps DSL connection.

All for an app that will NEVER even be run.
(don’t write me hate mail that various components of IE are used for the Console or whatever…I get that, but all that already worked fine)

Dad and Car Stories

First of all, I had an awesome dad.
He dropped out of school when he was 16, joined the Air Force and became a jet engine mechanic, a flight engineer, and a flight engineer instructor.

dad3 Here’s a picture of dad in Vietnam, about 1972(?).
I’m sure he had an engine on his mind.
Or maybe 4 of them at this point – attached to the wings.

After more than 20 years in the military, he was a small businessman doing all sorts of things. Some very successful, some modestly so, some not so great (this one in particular, go ahead and zoom in).
In any case, he was a genius, pure and simple.
My dad knew everything there was to know about cars. In fact, he once designed a hydraulic engine for a car. Replacing an engine was something he’d do for a couple hours of entertainment.
Before my time, when he was a younger man, he used to race motorcycles. And we used to go to stock car races. Not as those poor saps in the stands – always in the pits or in the middle of the track with the emergency vehicles.
One thing I recall from when he was driving a car was that the car numbers were handed out by whomever is in charge of that set of races. His number was “141”. He was one of the premier class of flight engineers for the Lockheed C-141 Starlifter – so he was happy to have that number.

Anywhoo, I digress, boy, how I wish I’d paid attention to that car stuff!

Dumb Thing #1200px-Nagasakibomb
A few weeks ago, the car my middle daughter drives, a 1994 Nissan, blew an engine in a pretty spectacular fashion.

I bit the bullet and had a shop replace it with a low mileage rebuilt engine*. My rationale was that she needed a car and that was cheaper than buying a new one. Right? Right?

* Oh what the heck do I know about what they put in there. Could be a hamster cage from 1921 for all I know. That repair guy is laughing now but wait until they get a RROD. Who’ll be laughing then, Mr Funny Pants?

Dumb Thing #2
Last Friday afternoon, the same car just wouldn’t start. We were actually just getting back into town that night. I ended up spending the whole Saturday trying to get it to start with the help of a friend who apparently DID pay attention to his dad. We seemed to have success.
We had the battery tested. Fine.
We (meaning the other guy – who HAD paid attention to his dad) removed the starter and we had it tested. Fine. <grrrr>
We reverently undertook that old broken car sacrament – cleaning the battery terminals. They needed it, but it didn’t help.
We (meaning the other guy) put everything back and it just worked.
Thanks again KH!

Not So Dumb Thing #1
In the past week, I’ve helped my oldest daughter find a car to use in the summer and take back to college with her. (Despite my aggressive promotion of public transit for students, she is addicted to being behind the wheel.)
We ended up finding and buying what seems like (we just got it) a really nice loaded 1993 Camry for $1285.
Lo, what did I find? There are not a few but MANY cars I could have bought for less than I paid for that engine replacement. STOOPID STOOPID STOOPID!!! Why didn’t I look at this at the time?!?!
Granted, finding this car did involve visiting people who seemed frightened that someone looked at their Craigslist ad and had surely come to kill them.

drum roll please

Dumb Thing #3
711 The Nissan is now stalled out again about 20 miles from home in a parking lot. It had started fine, but I stopped for a Slurpee. Curse my gluttony!
First the economy and having to hear about other people losing their jobs. Then all this annoying TV coverage of Swine Flu. And now THIS?
Why does everything bad have to happen to me?!?

Not So Dumb Thing #2 (hopefully)
Enter the tool my dad didn’t have at his disposal – the internet.
I couldn’t sleep, due to the weight of my troubles, Googled I mean “Live Searched” and found what seems to be the cause of this and it might not be so bad. Looks like it is the infamous Nissan Inhibitor Relay problem.
I plan to attack the car with wiring diagrams, some taps of the hammer, some jumper wire, and a few other tricks to deal with that pesky relay.
Based on the many things I’ve read about the symptoms of this, I’m very hopeful. In fact, it is 2:45am and I’m restraining myself from driving out there and attacking it right now.

So I’m not a genius, but I can work a search engine. The “wisdom of crowds” and all that.
Somehow this seems appropriate…


Update: OK I struggled with this car all day on Saturday. I tapped on the relay. I tapped on the starter. I removed the relay and stuck in a jumper wire. Nothing. In the evening, KH came and helped me again and replaced the starter with a new one. Nothing. Connected the old starter to power while it was on the ground. WHIZZZZ. It worked fine. I subconsciously attempt suicide with a small cut on my finger that bleeds all over my shirt.
We narrow this down again. It MUST be the relay. I pull the relay. Stick in the jumper wire again. Car roars to life. #$%^&*!~`>%
A whole day shot.
On the plus side, KH is getting really fast at changing Sentra starters.
Oh, and until I replace the jumper wire with a new relay, you can now start the car when it is in gear. Hopefully the driver remembers this and doesn’t drive into a wall.