Archive for November, 2006

I don’t know what these people are thinking sometimes

I make no secret of a lot of things in my life. Most of you guys know me as a devoted follower of Christ, albeit an extremely flawed one, first and foremost. Secondly, I’m a geek. I love technology, it intriguies me and I enjoy learning about it. Whether I also fall into the other stereotypes of geekdom, such as social ineptitude, well, that’s up to you guys to decide. For another time, however.

Being a Christian, I find myself agreeing with the conservative viewpoint politically most of the time. That doesn’t necessarily mean I vote Republican always, or that I always agree with the Republican party. The reverse is true for the Democratic party as well.

However, I have noticed that among tech industry employees/enthusiasts, it seems that as a Christian AND a conservative, I am in the minority. This was true at Baylor while I was studying computer science, and among the many people I have come to know in this field. A big portion of them are overwhelmingly liberal, and even more of them are non-Christian, and in many cases openly hostile of Christianity.

If there is an underlying cause for this apparent link, I have yet to figure out what it is. I’ll jump back to this in a second.

Let me also state that I used to be very big into Talk Radio, which is a field dominated by conservatives, with names such as Rush and O’Reily immediately coming to peoples minds, following by folks such as Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and others. Never was a big fan of Rush or Bill, I enjoyed Hannity and Beck a lot, but I mostly preferred the local guys who did both local and national topics. Nowadays, I don’t really care for it as much. I’d rather just listen to music. But I did respect a lot of these guys because I felt their opinions were well thought out and of sound reason.

Jumping back to that apparent link between tech interest and anti-Christiandom, I have to say that when Bill O’Reilly makes statements like these below, it A) doesn’t help that situation and B) makes me question his entire thought process. Read for yourself.

“American society is changing for the worse because of the machines… In the past to flee the real world people usually chose drugs or alcohol… now you don’t have to do that, Now all you have to do is have enough money to buy a machine…

Basically what you have is a large portion of the population, mostly younger people under the age of 45, who don’t deal with reality – ever. So they don’t know what day it is; they don’t know temperature it is; they don’t know what their neighbor looks like. They don’t know anything… because they are constantly diverted by a machine. Now what this does is it takes a person away from reality because they’ve created their own reality…”

He ain’t done yet folks. Continuing on about the PS3 which just recently came out….

“The newest thing is the PlayStation 3. Now this is a machine that allows you to play games in hi-def and all this other stuff… It’s the newest state of the art system from Sony…. It has a video game console, plays DVDs, connects you to the Internet, tells you how handsome you are. It’s six-hundred bucks. Now people lined up for hours to get this thing. Hours!

The problem with this stuff is that some people can deal with it constructively… but other people get addicted to it, just like opium, just like drugs and alcohol… So this is a big, big problem. It’s going to change every single thing in this country.”

Okay, here, he might have a point. It’s dressed up in extreme hyperbole, but it’s there. There are recorded examples of people whose addiction to videogames has lead to severe health problems, and in some cases, death. The problem, however, is nowhere NEAR as “big” as he’s making it out to be, and I seriously doubt that it’ll change “every single thing in this country”. Come on, Bill. Do you really have to resort to this kind of lame “Any publicity is good” kind of crap? Oh wait, he’s not finished.

“The have-nots are growing. Why are they growing? Because the skill set that is necessary to earn a decent living is being deemphasized in a fantasy world of football games and shooting zombies and all that…. Now you have the “knows” and the “know-nots”, because if you spend all your youth being prisoners of machines….. you’re not going to know anything…. You’re gonna fail.”

Hi, Bill. I’m Brandon. I grew up with a NES, a Sega Genesis, the Sega Saturn, and a PS1 at various points in my life, not to mention computers. I graduated High School. I went to College. During college, I frequently enjoying playing videogames on my PC, as well as on Xbox, PS2, Gamecube, and a whole host of other systems. In fact, I once took a course studying the videogame industry as a case study on diffusion theory. Hey, guess what? I have a B.S. in Computer Science from a nationally accredited program at a private school. I make very good money at my job which I’m fairly certain I’m underqualified for, and could probably make more further down the line. Sweeping generalizations aren’t usually good things. And once again, I’d like to point out that you SHOULD BE ABOVE THIS CRAP. And yet, you don’t get it, you make yourself look worse in this final tidbit.

“I don’t own an iPod. I would never wear an iPod… If this is your primary focus in life – the machines… it’s going to have a staggeringly negative effect, all of this, for America… did you ever talk to these computer geeks? I mean, can you carry on a conversation with them? …I really fear for the United States because, believe me, the jihadists? They’re not playing the video games. They’re killing real people over there.”

Hey Bill? YOU OFFER PODCASTS ON YOUR WEBSITE. Which I assume was put together by so-called “Computer geeks”!! Bill, I implore you, if this is what you have to reduce yourself to, just stop talking. You’re making this problem far far worse than Senator Ted “The Internet Is A Series of Tubes” Stevens ever did. Though, I dunno, you may not be able to understand and carry on a conversation with a computer geek such as myself. Coincidentally, I’d like to point out that our military, who are among those “real people over there” the jihadists are trying to kill, greatly enjoy videogames in their downtime, and in fact, often train on custom designed games.

Computer and technology enthusiasts and experts are not exactly a group of people you want to insult and ignore anymore, guys. The world has changed. Get used to it. Learn about it. Embrace it. Because for some reason, the party I find myself supporting the most due to their stance on moral issues that I care about has completely backwards stance on technology. Comments like these, Senator Stevens’, and the fact that most republicans are anti-Net Neutrality are only a few examples of this, and is probably a big influence on the dichotomy I mentioned above.

I know I’m not alone out here, there are plenty of people who are both Christians and tech enthusiasts, and given the rise of alternative media in the blogosphere, I know more of them are making their voices heard. I just hope we can make a positive change among politicians or put some into office who reflect both of our views.

Lunch be over, gotta end the rant and get back to work now.

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Where in the World is Bmatt Sandiego?

Have I seriously gone a week without updating my blog? What the crap? What’s wrong with me??

5-day weekend and I can’t find the time to update. What the heck was I doing with all my spare time? Hmmm…*thinks*

*Remembers hanging out with the Butler family and Holland (who is technically part of that family, or will be sometime soon I reckon) Wednesday evening building Lego Castles, watching the Da Vinci Code, and in general just being goofy and having fun, after poor David had hernia surgery. Also Holland threw lego pieces at me and tried to eat David’s arm*

*Remembers Thanksgiving the next day, spent eating at a restaraunt, which was pretty tasty, then over at a cousin’s house watching an awesome Cowboys game, in which Dallas melted some serious Tampa Bay faces, and eating some delicious little mini pigs in a blanket*

*Remembers taking an awesome picture which can be seen on Facebook at David’s place the next night, and then spending an awesome evening with Kat, Heather, and their Dad at Main Event and dinner at Fuddruckers, which included totally pwning Kat at DDR. Of course, it was on beginner mode, but I STILL WON DANGIT*

*Remembers going out shopping with Mom on Saturday after putting up our awesome Christmas tree, with awesome gold lights and gold and red ornaments, pictures of which shall be forthcoming*

*Remembers going to church today (THOUGH NO ONE ELSE WAS THERE *cry*), ironing work clothes for next week, and cleaning house a little bit. Yeah, I can iron if I need to. Not too good as far as dress slacks go, but I can manage shirts just fine. At least, I hope so.*

*Remembers all the things done in between there, including lots of World of Warcraft (Grothi, my druid, is up to level 44, w00t), music listenings, and other various madness*

Oh. Guess that answers that. Night gang. Gotta go back to work or something in the morning.

All I want for Christmas is my two front geek.

Now I know what you’re thinking to yourselves.

You’re thinkin’ “Self, I have no earthly idea what in the world to get the Bmatt for Christmas”.

Fortunately, as was already implied, I knew you were thinkin’ that. So I’m here to help you out with these handy wishlists.

First up is a list of apparel from Jinx.com. Jinx makes some darn fine geeky T-Shirts. You might never want to be caught dead in them, but some of us embrace our nerdhood! Now Click Right Here to see em!

Second up is some general gadgets and posters from Thinkgeek which would also be very useful to me in one way or another. I suggest you also browse this place, you might find something extraordinarily useful to you! Now make with the Clicking!

Finally, for those of you who aren’t much into shopping online, I have a list compiled from Amazon.com of stuff which is availible in commercial outlets as well. Some CDs, some DVDs, and a few PS2 and PC games. All good stuff, all stuff you can go to your nearby Best Buy (or Mardel in the case of the CDs) and grab right away. Click that button down there to see it.

My Amazon.com Wish List

He’s back

So I get home from work tonight, change clothes, put up all my stuff from work, and I’m tryin to kill a little time, so I log into WoW.

First thing I usually do is pull up my friends list and see who’s online. So I do. My thought process was something like this.

“Hmmmm…okay, Akin’s on, playing his hunter, there’s Andy, he must be playing before he has to get to work, couple of other guild members….Kish???”

“What the….why is Kish online?”

I’m rather confused at this point, because Kish is a level 60 Troll hunter, who happens to be played by a friend of mine whom I haven’t seen, or heard from, in a while, in real life or the game.

So I’m somewhat confused and not expecting him to be on. So I talk to Akin….the convo went something like this

Me: “Dude, Kish is online. Did he come back?”
Akin: “No…I think he sold his account, he was talking about wanting to”
Me: “Aaah, well, that explains why he’s in some random guild….startled me”

*few minutes pass by*

Akin: “It’s Jeff!!”

That’s right. Kish’s player is one Jeff Deonarine. And he is back. And come the spring semester, he’ll be back in Waco.

Holy freakin’ crap.

So the three of us start playing….we duel each other, Jeff’s still got a lot of his old skills. Then we pop into a battleground, and we own it up like crazy. It was greatness.

Oh man. This changes a lot of things. w00t.

Jeff’s back. And it’s gonna be fun. Semper Fi, bro. We missed ya.

Coming Zune and Thoughts on Blogging Services

So the new Microsoft “iPod killer”, the Zune, came out today. Aaaaand guess what, everyone says it sucks. Are we suprised? Nope, not really. It had all the potential to succeed as a hardware item, despite the fact that it’s as big as a 1st-generation iPod, it has a much bigger video screen, a rumored very good battery life, and a pretty good interface.

Here’s why it is terrible.

1. You would think that as a Microsoft product, it would just interface with the standard Windows Media player ALREADY ON Windows XP – running computers, and that it would play content encoded under WMP’s DRM scheme, called “PlaysForSure”. Hey guess what, you’re wrong. It will NOT play any media encoded with PlaysForSure, and it doesn’t interface with Windows Media Player at all, it has it’s own software, called Zune Jukebox, with it’s own DRM scheme that only the Zune will support.

2. If you’ve bought anything from Microsoft or Itunes and expect it to play on the Zune, you’re out of luck, because the Zune will not be able to play them because it won’t support either of their DRMs. Of course, you could do the smart thing and just strip the DRM from your media, but the legality of that is ambiguous at this point.

3. The Wi-Fi built into the thing ONLY lets you connect to other Zune players, not the internet or your home computer. And you CAN send music to other Zunes to let them listen to your song….for 3 days, at which point your zune will lock it out and make you buy the track. BUT you can’t buy directly from the player at launch either!

4. No support for podcast integration at launch, no ability to use the device as a hard drive, no video availible at launch, no ability to buy songs directly (you must buy “blocks of points” and spend the points on songs), and comes with useless pre-loaded content

Yeah, good job there, Microsoft. It’s bad enough you have to compete with the iPod, which has diffused extremely widely into the marketplace and dominates the third-party accessory marketplace, but then you attempt to do so with a very substandard software package to go with a semi-decent player. Sorry, but from where I sit, you fail.

HUGE EDIT NEWS: And if that all wasn’t bad enough, the Zune is INCOMPATIBLE with Microsoft’s soon-to-be-released new version of their Windows OS, Windows Vista!! http://www.appleinsider.com/article.php?id=2237 I reiterate my point, Microsoft. YOU FAIL!

Topic 2 for the day: Blogs. Specifically, blogging services. I began my blog a long time ago on Xanga when many of my friends from church started their own. Since then I’ve experimented quite a bit with Blogspot Beta (aka Blogger), and just recently I started experimenting with LiveJournal. Why? Because I like learning. I like seeing what else is out there. Who’s got what features and how useful/cool they are. So I present to you, my reader fans….

“Brandon Reviews Blog Services!!”

I’ll do this based on categories, comparing how well each service functions compared to the other. To see each of the blogs I have setup for the purposes of this review, please utilize the following linkage!!

http://www.xanga.com/ninefifteen99
http://thebmatt.blogspot.com
http://bmatt7883.livejournal.com

Category One: Making a Post

How easily can one make a post in each of these services? How much customization does it offer?

Xanga: In Xanga, making a post is pretty darn easy. All you have to do is go to your site, click the “sign in” link, and then a new bar will appear at the top of your blog, where you can select “New Weblog Entry” The post editor recently underwent a substantial upgrade, giving you a large number of features from most word processors to post with, including lists, indentations, color changing options, strikethrough text, even a list of emoticons. Tabs at the top allow you to easily add photos, audio, and video. Hit a check box and you can now use HTML if you so want. Not bad.

Blogspot: Bear in mind that all my comments reflect the new Blogspot Beta, which you have to register with Blogger, and then convert your account to the Beta, which entails signing up with Gmail for a login address. Since I already utilize Gmail, no big deal. Once you sign in, you can immediately click the “new post” link to make your post. Blogspot’s current markup tools are limited at the moment to only a few text markups, lists, and text color. You can edit in HTML, however. Blogger’s picture button will let you choose if you want your pic centered, right or left justified, and generate a clickable thumbnail of whatever size you want. However, it will ALWAYS place the pic at the top of your entry, instead of where you left the cursor last, and will do so for however many photos you add. Janky.

Livejournal: Livejournal’s pretty similar to Xanga in their ease of signing in and availible options to change your fonts with, but the “rich text” mode is not enabled by default. You have to personally select it. Bit annoying there. Videos, pics, ability to edit HTML in a seperate window, all there.

Category The Two: Making Your Blog Yours

What options do you have to customize your blog’s layout, and how easy to use are they??

Xanga: Xanga offers a wide selection of templates for users to pick when they sign up. Most of them seem to be the exact same layout, but with different colors. Xanga does allow “skins” for premium members (which costs money) which allow you essentially code up your xanga from scratch, but they also allow layouts, which more or less just “tweak” the look. For an example, take a look at Kindel’s xanga. She uses a custom layout by someone else. However, the basic structure of her xanga is more or less the same.
Aside from that, you can edit the basic colors and header of your font, with quick previews availible. That’s more or less about it. No multiple links, no custom images anywhere. You can change your interests in your profile, and link your screen names for various IM clients. When posting, Xanga has the very nifty “Xangazon” which lets you post a Amazon.com link to what you’re currently reading, playing, listening to, or watching on DVD. Extremely nifty.

Blogspot: This is where Blogger truly shines, especially in Beta. The original required you to edit your template’s code directly to change your links or anything, but the new Beta provides an awesome GUI where you can edit a ton of elements about your blog. You can add link lists, regular lists, move your profile info, tag list, and posting history where ever you like, and add little modules to hold any html code you like. That is how I have my own profile link, list of recently played tracks, categorized remote links, and my “Yoda Says” section. None of that would be availible to me in xanga or livejournal.You can easily change font colors (and fonts, though there aren’t many to pick from), and still edit the code directly if you desire. All that with easy previews.

Livejournal: Livejournal has a set of templates you can pick from, a set of color schemes to pick from there, and the ability to directly change the colors of every element to whatever you like. Forget changing individual fonts, and the descriptions of what you are editing are difficult to understand, and there’s no handy preview option. Custom styles = restricted to paying users. They claim there’s a link list you can add, but I have not found out how to edit it. If it’s not a paying customer feature, then it really shouldn’t be this well hidden. Multiple userpics is another awesome feature. You can have Livejournal choose a different userpic (up to 15) associated with each post you make, if one of them more represents your current feelings on them The thing I REALLY like about LiveJournal is their Mood Icons. They let you display your current mood with each post, complete with a cute little graphic representing that emotion. Theres a big list of choices for the icons, though most of them are a little overly cutesy. It’s still quite a cool little feature that I have not found a way to replicate on any other service. Too bad there’s so little else availible. You can list your current music, but it provides no links for it at all.

Category Ones. Twice. Three – Networking and Popularity

Finding other people on this service, and how easy it is to keep up with their blogs.

Xanga: Xanga has a pretty big community of people out there on it, so it’s a good bet you’ll find someone you know already there. You can easily subscribe to someone’s blog, which puts them on your site in a list that you can go through and read. You can also view all your subscriptions most recent posts in one window, or you can have them emailed to you. I personally have my list of subscriptions set to sort by update, which means when you update, you shoot to the top of my list, so I can easily see who’s active. Not bad at all. In fact, the community is the main reason I maintain my xanga.

Blogspot: There’s a pretty good size number of people who are on Blogspot, but there’s no community features built into it, no subscription lists, no way to have new posts emailed to you, nothing. If you want to keep track of a Blogspot Blog, you essentially just have to check it periodically via a bookmark in your browser or link, or via an RSS feed.

Livejournal: Livejournal is another source that does the community aspect very well. You can search for and add people as friends, easily link people’s journals in your post with a neat little tag, and it even has a “friends” page which shows your friends most recent posts. If someone has added you as a friend, there’s a list for that as well. Not bad at all. I’m not sure how well known livejournal is, I rarely hear people mention having one, I believe it’s more niche. Many people associate Livejournal with a negative stereotype of people posting depressing or whiny things, moreso than other blogs.

Category Teh Final – Overall Thoughts

Xanga: Xanga was my first blog and I’ll probably always keep it, if only for easy access to all of my friends who are on it. The Xangazon is a big plus, especially since it displays the artwork of whatever you’re “currently doing”. But overall, I think they could do more with customization of the whole affair, especially allowing a personal links section, allowing more personal HTML items, all without paying for it or needing to understand how to script your own layout.

Blogspot: If Blogspot had better networking capabilities, I wouldn’t bother with xanga anymore. Blogspot direly needs to set up a subscription model and fast, because right now it has the absolute best customization means availible without paying. Also, they really need to figure out a better posting GUI, because not only is theres limited, it’s somewhat messed up in handling certain basic HTML tags. That’s not so big a deal, just requires it to be played around with. I really wish they had a “current mood” or “Currently playing/listening to” option of some kind as well. It’s a little thing, but the little things all make it work best.

Livejournal: It has some nifty minor features that I think the other two would do well to adopt, mostly the multiple userpics, the current mood icons, and the calendar is pretty neat, but aside from that, unless you have a really good size network of friends already on it, and don’t mind the overall lack of options to customize, I wouldn’t bother with livejournal really.

So that’s it. Share your thoughts on these things if you have any!

Weird ducks, weird dreams, and apologies for not being there to shoot stuff

So apparently there was another project for From the Trenches this past weekend. I would like to apologize to all those involved for not committing to coming, because I very easily could have made it.

When I heard about it, I simply resolved to check my availibility when the date was closer. I completely forgot to do so however, thus no Brandon at the Nurses Aid Station. Though I heard someone got their entire face blown off, and given my legendary history of injuring myself at any and all major events associated with my good friend David Butler (pick a monkeywrench concert. Chances are I hurt myself or was hurt somehow at it), I suppose I should be glad, as there is a high likelihood I too would be at work, now faceless.

In all seriousness, sorry guys. I would love to have been there. Should a “next time” occur, I shall endeavor to bring the Bmatt funk. Or something equally witty.

I did end up going shopping on Sunday, as I needed some new work clothes. Also Mom and I went for another walk around French lake. We took some bread with us this time. We were in turned nearly mobbed by a large amount of ducks and three very brave and very loud geese. Ducks are rather strange but adorable creatures all the same. Pictures forthcoming later tonight. Mom’s a darn good photographer.

Edit: PICS!

Nothing major to report. Just another day at work. Kind of slow now since the spreadsheets the company generates daily for all our parts to buy are down at the moment, and I spent this morning handling everything I had out that was ready for buying.

It’s odd, but today isn’t one of those days where I’m constantly worrying about the future. I’m content with the present for now. I mean, sure there are a lot of things I wish I could change, but I feel peace about it, cause I know God’s got that roadmap planned out. I guess you could say I always knew that, but it’s different “feeling” it as opposed to just knowing. If that makes sense. It does to me, I’m just hoping I’m expressing it right.

Oh, speaking of monkeywrench, here’s a funny story about a weird dream I had last night. I dreamed I was about to play in a big concert, like with a orchestra. Ben was playing in it too, him on drums and me on percussion. Before the concert started Ben was putting his drums together, but they were incredibly gimpy. He had no hihat cymbals, but he had some kind of contraption that he was gonig to use instead that only very vaguely sounded like them. I was wondering around backstage trying to find something, I think maybe I was looking for some good cymbals, but then the concert started, so I had to run back to the stage, because for some odd reason it was my job to kick it off.

So I grab a mic, which incidentally looked exactly like that old super-thin mic Bob Barker used on the Price is Right, and say something like “Ladies and Gentlemen, ARRRRRRRRRREEEE YOUUUUUUUUUU READYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!” The crowd cheers. “I SAID, AREEEEEEEEEEEEE YOUUUUUUUUUU READYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!” More cheers “Then LEEEEEEEEEETS DO THIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIS”

Then Ben, who somehow has a hihat now, does the countoff for “Now We’re Getting Somewhere”.

Bear in mind: None of the rest of the band was there. And this was more an atmosphere of an orchestra concert doing classical music. Not exactly our typical place.

Ben and I are playing good, but the rest of the orchestra is HORRIBLE. Out of tune, wrong notes, it’s just ugly. Ben and I look at each other and go “What the crap….??”

Then I woke up. Darn weird dream.

Anyway, back after it. Nobody let me forget the duck-duck-goose pictures. Bmatt out!

And now…sophomoric humor!

I apologize in advance for this.

I totally just realized something rather funny about the word “Saturday”.

I noticed this when during a period in between the madness of sending out numerous Request for Quotes, answering the metric ton of email I have, and writing up Purchase Orders, I started doodling on my desk calendar. I started coloring in the letters of “Saturday” because they’re in white text on black background.

Being me, I used a weird pattern. I colored in the S, then the y, then the a, then the other a.

Leaving my desktop calendar proudly displaying the last day of every week as “turd”.

I swear, I almost feel sorry for myself for laughing at that for as long as I did.

Those of you rolling your eyes, groaning, and questioning your lost time reading this, YOU WERE WARNED!

Bmatt out.