The Orphan and Me: Final Words on Bloodborne

Sun 18 June 2017 by psu

I beat the Orphan of Kos at Level 4 in Bloodborne. I will qualify this statement in two ways. First, since he beat me a few hundred times before I finally got a bit lucky, it's not clear how much of an achievement this really is. But I feel ...

Category: Video Games

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This Is Why They Continue to Fail

Sun 21 May 2017 by psu

If I'm making a reference to Yoda you know it's bad. Today we're going to talk about just how little the companies that make cameras understand about how the people who buy cameras would like to be able to use them. A lot of recent camera bodies ...

Category: Photo

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Bloodborne and the Super Bowl

Wed 15 March 2017 by psu

Today a meditation on what playing too much Bloodborne has in common with winning football games. Bear with me, I think it works.

Having finished my chalice dungeon run, I dutifully ran the rest of NG+ and the DLC in NG+ to collect the various weapons I needed for the ...

Category: Video Games

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Blood Souls

Thu 09 February 2017 by psu

It's been about a year since the latest Dark Souls game came out. For various reasons I had not spent enough time with the game until now to have a chance of saying anything interesting about it. But I've recently spent more time with the title and now ...

Category: Video Games

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Five Things That are Still Good in 2016

Mon 26 December 2016 by psu

Today the site goes “against brand” and covers a few things that were not completely terrible in 2016. Short and sweet. Note: since I already covered the PSO coming back that obvious item is not in this list.

Bloodborne

Astute readers of this web site will realize that even though ...

Category: Things

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First Show Back

Sat 03 December 2016 by psu

One of the great pleasures of being able to see the PSO on a regular basis is that first concert after the long summer layoff. What happens to your brain when you have not heard the band live for a while is that it forgets what it is like when ...

Category: Things

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Election

Mon 07 November 2016 by psu

So we've made it to the last day of another two year clusterfuck of an election cycle. I am in general not one to talk about, think about, or really have much interest in politics at all. But my friend Pete makes a good point in saying that when ...

Category: Things

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Reading Physics

Fri 23 September 2016 by psu

I always felt guilty for bailing on physics in school. As an undergraduate I studied mathematics, but I had enough room left over in my electives to fit in a physics double major if I wanted to. I did this for about a year, and it was going well until ...

Category: Things

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The Classical Style

Mon 30 May 2016 by psu

As long time readers may or may not know, in my misguided youth I worked for and received a PhD in Computer Science. In retrospect I didn't really mean to do this. I had just neglected some aspects of my studies in this area as an undergraduate and felt ...

Category: Things

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Books to Read About Computer Programming

Mon 28 March 2016 by psu

Eleven books to read if you want to be a computer programmer.

  1. The Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs - Abelson and Sussman

  2. Programming Pearls - Bentley

  3. The Mythical Man Month - Fred Brooks

  4. The Dragon Book - Aho, Ullman, Lam, Sethi

  5. The Soul of a New Machine - Tracy Kidder

  6. Algorithms - Cormen/Leiserson/Rivest ...

Category: Computers

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Digital Analogs

Sun 13 March 2016 by psu

2001 is the year when mass market digital photography began. This was the first year both Nikon (with the D1x) and Canon (with a EOS-1d) introduced DSLR cameras that for the most part handled and performed essentially the same as their film counterparts. Still, it was only a relatively small ...

Category: Photo

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Ode to the Sony MDR-V6 (7506) Headphones

Wed 09 March 2016 by psu

Headphones are a big deal these days. It would seem that after a decade of suffering with the shitty earbuds that come with their smart-phones people have finally decided that they want something decent and comfortable on which to listen to their MP3s, Spotify Streams, Apple Music Playlists, or, if ...

Category: Things

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Taking Stock

Wed 02 March 2016 by psu

Dark Souls 3 comes out in a little more than a month, so of course I have been revisiting the Fromsoft oeuvre for the past few months of so. This is partly out of nostalgia and partly to reacquaint myself with the Souls (and Bloodborne) universe of horrors. As always ...

Category: Video Games

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Star Wars VII: A New Hope

Mon 04 January 2016 by psu

Ok here we go.

Back when I used to write about more video games than just Dark Souls I would joke that all my articles were about games that you had already played. Writing about the new Star Wars movie has the same sort of feel. Nothing I can possibly ...

Category: Things

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Who are the Programmers

Thu 12 November 2015 by psu

The 2015 Splash/OOPSLA conference was in Pittsburgh this year, so I took advantage of this fact to go see what the academics had to say about some aspects of what I do every day: program computers to do silly things. Even though I haven't been around academics since ...

Category: Computers

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Music not Words

Tue 27 October 2015 by psu

Last year I went to a PSO concert that really irked me. I was irked because they wasted twenty minutes of my time in the first half of the concert explaining various aspects of the piece they were going to play after the intermission to the audience. I go to ...

Category: Things

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The Surprising Classical Groove

Tue 22 September 2015 by psu

Classical music tends to be perceived in the larger culture as a monolithic entity. In a world where some geek on Pitchfork will argue with you incessantly about the difference between Art Punk, Dance Punk, and Pop Punk you might have noticed that when you go to the online music ...

Category: Things

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Beef Stir Fry

Mon 13 July 2015 by psu

Note: This is a repost of an old tleaves article with the same recipe. But I wanted it at the top of the page because it's the best food ever. So here we go.

Don’t be fooled. This is easy. You just have to follow a few simple ...

Category: Food

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The Wrong Question

Tue 16 June 2015 by psu

Today's story starts with this TED video about teaching math. The video is short, you should go watch it. I happened across the thing accidentally one night and, unsurprisingly, I found myself annoyed and slightly angry. The video concerns itself with answering the following question about mathematics: "What will ...

Category: Things

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Wrapped Up

Sun 31 May 2015 by psu

A few months ago I needed a new podcast to use to fill the time during my commute and on the recommendation of a friend of mine I picked up The Sporkful out of NYC. On paper this should be right in my wheelhouse. It's an obsessive mostly nerdy ...

Category: Food

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The Blood Red Moon in Yharnam

Thu 14 May 2015 by psu

There are lots of spoilers for Bloodborne here. Read this later if you want to avoid them.

It's another year later and Hidetaka Miyazaki is back with Bloodborne: another sadistic action RPG/dungeon crawler with which to torture all of his long-suffering fans. The original brain behind Dark Souls ...

Category: Video Games

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Podcast People

Fri 13 March 2015 by psu

CGP Grey worries about a lot of things. Here is an incomplete list in no particular order:

  • Riding in airplanes that will fall out of the sky.
  • His checklists and GTD templates.
  • Reviewing his quarterly progress towards life goals.
  • Amazon Kindle text justification
  • The size of his iPhone 6.
  • Minute ...

Category: Things

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False Dichotomy

Sat 28 February 2015 by psu

I like to take pictures of things, but I would not say that I'm a photographer. Back when I carried a camera that was a bit too large people would ask me about the machine and remark that I must be a pretty serious photo person. I would usually ...

Category: Photo

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The Golden Age of Cameras Part 2

Sun 22 February 2015 by psu

If you ask photo dorks of a certain age to name the golden age of film cameras they will usually tell you that it was the 1970s. In addition, if you talk to the right people, they will tell you that the camera that started the 1970s golden age was ...

Category: Photo

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Turing Complete

Sun 15 February 2015 by psu

As part of his future dork training, we took the boy to see The Imitation Game. This film is essentially a work of fiction loosely based on the life of Alan Turing. Though almost completely conventional in its structure and outlook, the film was enjoyable enough, I guess. It's ...

Category: Computers

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The Search for General Tso

Sat 07 February 2015 by psu

Here is something that doesn't happen often: I am feeling nostalgia for Chinese-American takeout food. I don't necessarily mean the completely generic single brown sauce choose one meat, and two vegetables sort of Chinese-American food. But I might not use some of my normal grounds to object to ...

Category: Food

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I Lied: Super Bowl Thoughts

Mon 02 February 2015 by psu

I said on twitter that I would have no more words about the football season that ended last night, but I lied. I have a few more things to say about the game specifically and the Pats in general. Then I'll really be done for the season.

There has ...

Category: Things

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Patriots Dynasty?

Sun 01 February 2015 by psu

It's been a long time since the last time this happened. I am usually fairly level headed about the Pats. I grew up with the bad teams and feel like I have the right to enjoy and appreciate the good teams. The team's history since 2007 would make ...

Category: Things

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Further Thoughts on Dark Souls

Mon 26 January 2015 by psu

In the early days of my console gaming "career" the two games that I would always go back to when I felt that general sense of ennui were Madden and Halo. And not multiplayer Halo, I could play the campaign modes over and over again. There was something about the ...

Category: Video Games

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Ups and Downs

Wed 31 December 2014 by psu

Here are some ups and downs for this year. I'm purposely ignoring some big picture issues here, since then there would be no ups at all. It was that kind of year. You will also note that each of these might have fit into a well-considered twitter message, so ...

Category: Things

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A Musical Offering

Sun 30 November 2014 by psu

The Musical Offering is the sort of Bach that appeals to the mind of a stereotypical engineer. It lives in the wheelhouse of the sort of brain that enjoys abstract complexity and is more comfortable with a bit of emotional distance. So it's no surprise that it's my ...

Category: Things

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The Inscrutable Tubes

Wed 26 November 2014 by psu

Here is what a wise man once said about software:

The complexity of software is an essential property, not an accidental one. Hence, descriptions of a software entity that abstract away its complexity often abstract away its essence. For three centuries, mathematics and the physical sciences made great strides by ...

Category: Computers

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Chinese Braised Ribs

Mon 24 November 2014 by psu

This is another one of my mom’s dishes. I grew up with this, but never really thought about how it was done. In college, I tried literally dozens of times to get this even close to right. Finally, with enough practice it just started happening. The keys are the ...

Category: Food

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The Airplay Turntable Kit

Sun 23 November 2014 by psu

I've mentioned before that I bought a lot of LP records when I was in graduate school. At the time the LP->CD switch had just gotten into full swing and you could buy vinyl at a huge discount compared to new what new CDs cost. So, I bought ...

Category: Things

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Nouvelle Old Music

Sun 28 September 2014 by psu

When people talk about "movements" they usually refer to something that has come into being as a reaction to, or in opposition of, something else that has existed for a long time. If you were a foodie in the 1960s (through the 70s and 80s) you would know that the ...

Category: Things

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How to Ring

Sun 21 September 2014 by psu

As a cultural force, the European classical music tradition arguably reached its peak sometime in the mid to late 19th century. This period produced the last group of towering musical geniuses, from Brahms to Bruckner to Wagner, and later Strauss and Mahler. Of this group I think you can say ...

Category: Things

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The Consumer Rule

Sun 31 August 2014 by psu

Note: This is a rewind of a tleaves post from 2005. It's still all basically true. Probably even more so.

Buying shoes used to be easy. You’d go to the store, try on two or three pair in your size and pick the one with the closest fit ...

Category: Things

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Paris Things: 2014 Update

Tue 26 August 2014 by psu

A long time ago my friend Eric asked me what to do in Paris. Since I live to serve I wrote a web page for him that contained some humble suggestions. Over the years whenever anyone asks me what to do in Paris I trot out that page, because we ...

Category: Things

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Just Teach It

Mon 23 June 2014 by psu

I have never liked the term term computer literacy. This phrase was coined in the early 80s right around the time the first consumer computers became available. Then, as now, there was a lot of anxiety around the machines. Then, as now, people weren't quite sure what to make ...

Category: Things

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To The Fog!

Sat 14 June 2014 by psu

A wise man once said:

A distributed system is one in which the failure of a computer you didn't even know existed can render your own computer unusable.

Since you are no doubt an erudite reader, you'll know that the wise man was Leslie Lamport, a computer scientist ...

Category: Computers

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What Programming Languages Say

Sun 08 June 2014 by psu

It's probably not surprising that the easiest way to get programmers to talk to you is to ask them about programming languages. Mention your favorite new toy and you will get hours of excitement, invective, or a schizophrenic and bipolar combination of both. Therefore, it is also not surprising ...

Category: Computers

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Summer of Dark Souls II

Thu 29 May 2014 by psu

Ok, it's not really summer, but it was Dark Souls time again. As all the addicts know, Dark Souls II launched this March. If Demon's Souls was a bit of a platform-specific cult game, and Dark Souls was a sleeper hit whose audience grew slowly but consistently over ...

Category: Video Games

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Unreasonable Gripes

Sat 24 May 2014 by psu

I probably picked up the record collecting bug from my dad. When I was growing up the sight of his cabinet of LPs was a constant in our house. All of the music was Classical. I'm pretty sure what my dad would say about this would be something like ...

Category: Things

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Perfect Sound Forever

Sat 03 May 2014 by psu

Mosaic Records is everything you want from a record company. For the last thirty years or so they have been doing lovingly crafted, meticulously complete and methodically documented boxed sets that collect together the works of famous and not so famous jazz artists. There is only one problem with this ...

Category: Things

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The ASCOM Horror Show

Wed 05 February 2014 by psu

In older and simpler times, telescopes were older and simpler. You put the tube on a mount. You stared at an atlas to figure out where the object was. You pointed the tube roughly at a bright star and then used the finder to move around until you could see ...

Category: Astro

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Suck Like Me: A Guide to Dark Souls PVP

Thu 30 January 2014 by psu

The following text has a lot of plot and game mechanic spoilers, so if you haven't played through the game yet, you should bail out now.

PVP is truly the last bastion of the Dark Souls addict. Most players only interact with it as a consequence of trying to ...

Category: Video Games

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I Have Opinions

Tue 31 December 2013 by psu

As might be traditional if I actually did it every year here is a short list of things I think that are at best barely justifiable in any quantitative way. But they are true anyway. A good way to end the year.

  1. Very few people know how to cook eggs ...

Category: Things

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This is Your Brain on Software

Fri 27 December 2013 by psu

In his new book, How Music Works, David Byrne has a lot to say on the effects of digital technologies on how music is created, recorded, distributed and sold. One of the keener insights he has is this one, about software that supports musical composition:

Though software is promoted as ...

Category: Computers

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Software Models and Hello World

Mon 25 November 2013 by psu

I was at home for Christmas one year reading the New York Times on my laptop as we do, when my brother asked a random and off-hand question. He said "If all a computer can do is store zeros and ones, how does it end up drawing text and pictures ...

Category: Computers

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Summer of Dark Souls

Mon 21 October 2013 by psu

It all started when I found out that the Xbox 360 had a downloadable version of Dark Souls along with its expansion pack. Since I must download things, I bought it and happily started playing another character. I did all the things I remembered doing before. I made enchanted weapons ...

Category: Video Games

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Introduction

Sat 15 June 2013 by psu

Hello. Mutable States is my new web site about my general state of mind. It's also a way to troll certain people who are enamored of programming models that have no mutable state, but that's for another time.

There is nothing particularly exciting or novel about this site ...

Category: Things

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Sky and Telescope, April 2013

Wed 24 April 2013 by psu

After my previous little nostalgia trip into the glory days of astronomical magazine publishing, I decided that it might be cool to be able to read S&T on my iPad. Back when the iPad was announced there was a lot written about how it might save the magazine as ...

Category: Astro

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How to Polar Align Your Mount, A Survey

Sat 13 April 2013 by psu

Polar Alignment is where you carefully make sure that the right ascension axis of your mount is exactly parallel with the rotational axis of the Earth. When you get this right, your mount can track any star in the sky just by rotating around its RA axis. If you get ...

Category: Astro

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Sky and Telescope, April 1980

Sat 30 March 2013 by psu

When I was in high school in the early 80s, my parents bought me one of the now classic Edmund “Astroscan” 4 inch Newtonian telescopes. This was a simple enough machine to use. The scope was a short tube with a small red bowling ball attached to the bottom where ...

Category: Astro

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Maxim DL Setup and Workflow

Thu 28 March 2013 by psu

Spring in Pittsburgh remains cold and cloudy. But, I did get out for one night in March and managed to run my whole setup from end to end to get one picture. So as a final illustration of how the whole process works, I'll describe step by step how ...

Category: Astro

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Flat Field Adventures and Maxim Workflow

Sat 23 February 2013 by psu

One of the nice things about astronomy is that the Universe doesn't change much. You can leave it alone for months or years and when you come back everything that you remember will still be basically in the same place. You have to remember this when winter comes to ...

Category: Astro

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The Camera Bag Problem, 2013

Sat 09 February 2013 by psu

I bought a new camera, so I had to look at camera bags again. I was allegedly after something "smaller" to hold the new set of "smaller" equipment I would be carrying now. This is of course a lie. It's apparently been a few years since I looked at ...

Category: Photo

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The Camera We Want, Redux

Sat 12 January 2013 by psu

We took a trip to Hong Kong and Singapore over Thanksgiving break. Ever since I did a trip to Hong Kong for work a few years ago this trip has been in the plans. If you have any interest in East Asian food, or any other sort of food for ...

Category: Photo

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CCD Picture Techniques Part 2

Mon 29 October 2012 by psu

I haven't written anything down lately because I've spent the last couple of months working out various details in my workflow for taking pictures of tiny dim objects trillions of miles away from the Earth. Astrophotography is perhaps the most purely technical of all of the possible photographic ...

Category: Astro

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CCD Picture Techniques Part 1

Thu 13 September 2012 by psu

Here is an obvious fact that you learn when you try and take pictures of distant astronomical objects: distant astronomical objects are really really dim.

Consider the following photograph of a regular terrestrial scene (as they say in the astro-photo biz):

psu_20120812-03177

The following histogram gives you an idea of the ...

Category: Astro

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C, C, and D

Sun 12 August 2012 by psu

It all started with the hot pixels. The Mallincam video camera that I had bought provided wondrous views of the skies above, but these views were always accompanied by a collection of colorful extras: pixels activated by the heat of the camera would glow red, green or blue next to ...

Category: Astro

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Math is Hard, Let's Just Quit

Mon 30 July 2012 by psu

Andrew Hacker has pissed me off before. A few years back he wrote a book where he claimed that the standard humanities-oriented "Liberal Arts" curriculum was the only one worthy of actually being taught at the university level. Now, he might have just been making an oblique argument that our ...

Category: Things

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Mount Lessons

Wed 02 May 2012 by psu

I've had my Astro-Physics Mach1GTO equatorial mount for about two months now. The mount has continued to perform better than I could have expected, and I expected a lot. So while it may seem like I have already gushed uncontrollably about it I have just a few more things ...

Category: Astro

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Dark Souls Ate My Brain

Tue 07 February 2012 by psu

Dark Souls ate my brain. I don’t understand how it happened. I started December a normal, older, jaded gamer who has not seen anything worth playing in most of a year. I ended it about half way through this game and already planning a second run to see if ...

Category: Video Games

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All I Want for Christmas is a Place to Farm Souls

Fri 30 December 2011 by psu

Dark Souls is the mildly sadistic sequel to the completely sadistic Japanese action RPG Demon's Souls. I gave up on the latter game a couple of years ago after encountering the second one hit kill boss in the game. The first one hit kill boss in the game was ...

Category: Video Games

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Grab and Go

Tue 15 November 2011 by psu

One key to enjoying the telescope hobby is to know how to set up and tear down your equipment quickly. This is especially true around Pittsburgh where the weather can change instantly from perfect to disastrous. Over the past couple of months I have developed a reasonably systematic routine in ...

Category: Astro

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Deep Sky Projects

Fri 09 September 2011 by psu

Astronomy is an endeavor that is full of catalogs. And I don’t mean the ones that are on the Internet that are designed to separate you from your hard earned cash. For much of its history, astronomers did little else than catalog what was in the sky. Before the ...

Category: Astro

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Tens of Dollars

Wed 17 August 2011 by psu

A guy at the office and I have a running joke about the amateur astronomy business. I will opine that the market is just begging for some great product to solve problem X for every telescope user in the world. And then we both snicker that one could make tens ...

Category: Astro

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Spring To Summer and The Nexus of All Things Dorky

Wed 29 June 2011 by psu

As spring has turned into summer we are up against our last few chances to look at the really faint fuzzies in the spring sky. I refer of course to the mega-clusters of galaxies in Virgo and Coma Berenices. This week in Pittsburgh has been miraculously clear from summer haze ...

Category: Astro

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Fine Tuning in the Virgo Cluster, Plus a Surprise

Mon 06 June 2011 by psu

Somewhat uncharacteristically Pittsburgh has had five reasonably clear nights in the last two weeks. In fact, we’ve had so many nights that I actually skipped one due to fatigue. On the other nights, I have taken the opportunity to try and fine tune setting up my little observational “system ...

Category: Astro

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A Subject for Yet Another Cloudy Night

Sat 28 May 2011 by psu

Pittsburgh is on its way to about the tenth day in a row where the dusk brings a bank of clouds and haze from the west. So I'm going to talk about field of view, image size, focal length and image size and a cool photo-related astronomy service. Anyway ...

Category: Astro

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Late Night with the Mallincam

Wed 04 May 2011 by psu

If there is one thing that I have learned in my now medium-long lifetime it's that in Western Pennsylvania you cannot count on clear skies lasting. So when the clouds parted last Friday night at 11:15pm, I had a short quandary. On the one hand, it was 11 ...

Category: Astro

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Telescope Mounts

Fri 22 April 2011 by psu

It clouded over in my yard, so I'm writing this instead of fiddling with my telescope. Aren't you lucky.

First, some background. As I mentioned before, the Mallincam is a device that is something of a hybrid. On the one hand it is a long exposure camera not ...

Category: Astro

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Portal 2

Mon 11 April 2011 by psu

Portal 2 had a lot to live up to. Four years ago Portal started as a free short add-in to The Orange Box and turned out to be by far the best game in the entire collection. Now Portal 2 has struck out on its own, in its own box ...

Category: Video Games

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Tinkering with the Stars

Wed 16 March 2011 by psu

Anybody who knows me knows that I am not a tinkerer. This may sound strange coming from a professional software engineer, but I've just never been very good at it. I never took things apart as a kid. I never built my own hardware back when you could still ...

Category: Astro

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The Digital Desert Island

Mon 28 February 2011 by psu

The other day I accidentally reset the music that I sync into my iPhone. As I result, I had to wait for a long while for iTunes to copy all the music back into the phone where I had inadvertently deleted it. As it copied track after track it occured ...

Category: Things

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10 Things to Eat In Pittsburgh Before You are Dead

Fri 14 January 2011 by psu

The idea for this list came to me while I was at the “offal night” at Legume. I also figured it would make a good piece for the annual exercise in end of year top ten lists. Well, so much for that. My personal criteria for the items on this ...

Category: Food

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Same as it Ever Was

Fri 26 November 2010 by psu

I have always really liked the Best American Essays series. For those of you who are not familiar with these books, every year they rope some editor into reading thousands of pieces of non-fiction from various periodicals that specialize in publishing such material. Then they put 20 or 25 of ...

Category: Things

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The Ultimate Goto

Wed 17 November 2010 by psu

When I was in college I was something of a programming languages hobbyist. I think all young dorks go through this phase. Programming languages are fascinating repositories of different ideas for creating abstractions for constructs that programmers find themselves building over and over again. Back in the day, one of ...

Category: Computers

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A Telescope In the City

Thu 14 October 2010 by psu

I never expected to get back into telescopes. While they were my first hobbyist love and contributed indirectly to my final choice of career, the time of my real interest had long passed by. It also does not help that I live in the suburbs under a semi-permanent light dome ...

Category: Astro

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The Dirty Dozen

Fri 10 September 2010 by psu

A new store in the Dozen chain of cupcake bakeries opened near our office a couple of weeks ago. From my experience with their previous stores I could not think of a single reason to consider trying the new place. But, a few guys in the office have taken a ...

Category: Food

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I Do Fusion 2: The Soup

Mon 21 June 2010 by psu

I’ve always thought that the Chinese and Jewish cultures have some sort of subconscious bond. I’m not sure why I thought this, since truthfully I didn’t grow up around a lot of Jewish people. But there you go. Anyway, this soup is, I think, the natural expression ...

Category: Food

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The Wire

Mon 17 May 2010 by psu

People have been telling me to watch The Wire for years. I have resisted because in general I am suspicious of what television enthusiasts tell me. I finally relented because I never heard or read a single negative review of the show. I still had lingering doubts that I would ...

Category: Things

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Vancouver BC: Cooler Than Seattle

Mon 03 May 2010 by psu

I promised my friend and co-worker from Vancouver that I’d lead with that statement so I did it even though I love Seattle dearly. Don’t be mad. The truth is that Vancouver is cooler than most of your favorite cities. There are several reasons why, and some of ...

Category: Things

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Lose The Disk

Sat 10 April 2010 by psu

Long time readers of this site will remember (or not) that I’ve been slowly working my way through my CD collection and adding it all to iTunes. Over about the last three years, I’ve gone from having 140 albums filed to the current figure of around 375. The ...

Category: Things

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Backups

Tue 30 March 2010 by psu

You need to do backups. Back when computers were primitive and useless, backups were not as much of a problem because no one was storing anything in the machines. But these days, computers have grown up and it’s possible that your entire life is stored in your laptop. So ...

Category: Computers

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Miller Time

Wed 17 March 2010 by psu

The middle of March means that March Madness is upon us. Therefore I’m going to talk to you about a film that is about the NBA. This might seem strange to you. But it makes sense to me. With the exception of a few years following Duke after I ...

Category: Things

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Nerdicious Furiosi

Fri 12 March 2010 by psu

Pity the poor PC gamer. There he sits at his computer desk waiting for those AAA titles to come to his “platform of choice” a few months after they ship on the crippled consoles. Then, when the object of his desire is finally made available, the publisher encumbers it with ...

Category: Video Games

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Four Mini-Reviews

Fri 05 March 2010 by psu

While peterb wallows in his extended winter-induced MMO haze, I’ve been stuck on the console. I have the following four thoughts on my recent experiences.

PS3 Slim

I caved and bought a slim PS3 a few months earlier than I wanted to. But it’s OK because I had ...

Category: Things

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Dinner in Half an Hour: Mushroom Soup

Wed 17 February 2010 by psu

Today a soup that I discovered accidentally. It’s influenced by a lot of Chinese and Japanese style soups that I have consumed over the years, but I can’t claim that it actually has any real authentic connection to those cuisines. I threw this together one night in a ...

Category: Food

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Why Football is Better Than Your Favorite Sport

Mon 08 February 2010 by psu

Of course by “football” I mean American football and by “sport” I mostly mean “American Sport”. I certainly do not mean “rest of the world” football, which Americans call soccer. If your favorite sport is soccer than we can just agree now that you will hate me and I will ...

Category: Things

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Things That Won't Make Your Pictures Better

Wed 13 January 2010 by psu

My year in photography ended like it usually does, at my parents' house where I took pictures of the Christmas festivities and all of the excessive preparation of food. This year I sent the gallery to my parents, and then got a curious email from my dad essentially asking me ...

Category: Photo

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Jumped the Shark

Wed 28 October 2009 by psu

I like bookstores. Actually, it’s more general than that. I like libraries too. I like sitting next to bookshelves and just peering at them, memorizing everything that’s there. I like spending hours just browsing the stacks, running my finger down the spines of the books, pausing every once ...

Category: Things

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What Computers Do

Thu 22 October 2009 by psu

Every once in a while someone who I don't know will find out that I work with computers. Often when this happens they get a look on their face like they have just found a great free source of technical support. I try to quickly end any such misconceptions ...

Category: Computers

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Look Sharp!

Wed 14 October 2009 by psu

If camera bodies and bags are the number 1 and 2 dork shopping obsessions related to photography, sharpness is probably a close third. It is probably the most popular purely technical aspect of actual pictures that makes it to the camera dork shopping list. People buy bigger cameras, more expensive ...

Category: Photo

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Too Much Camera

Fri 11 September 2009 by psu

After a lot of deliberation, I decided to pull the trigger on a D700. After only two days, I haven’t used it enough for to provide you with a in-depth and comprehensive review, Top Gear style. But I can say this: Wow.

The D700, of course, is Nikon’s ...

Category: Photo

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Halo Halo Halo Halo Halo Halo

Wed 09 September 2009 by psu

It’s fall and it’s been two years since the last Halo game so it must be time for a new Halo game. And right on schedule, the nice UPS man showed up with my copy.

This game slots in as a little piece on the side of what ...

Category: Video Games

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The Camera You Need

Fri 21 August 2009 by psu

If you hang around the Interweb forums related to photography long enough, you come to notice that the two most common questions are always first “what should I buy?” and second something like “what bag should I put it in?” or “I am going on a trip, what should I ...

Category: Photo

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You Can't Go Back

Mon 17 August 2009 by psu

A couple of months ago Kodak announced that they would stop manufacturing Kodachrome slide film. Given that this is a product that has been continually available for longer than most current photographers have been alive, you would think that this was a pretty big deal. But no. The end result ...

Category: Photo

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Pictures of Paris

Tue 28 July 2009 by psu

I was standing behind the Gare St. Lazare last week looking around at the morning light in Paris. We were taking the train to Vernon to go to Giverny, where Monet had his house and famous gardens. There was a lot of construction around the train station, but I didn ...

Category: Photo

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Male Pattern Dorkness

Thu 11 June 2009 by psu

If I have any hobby that does not involve the gratuitous exchange of money for material goods, it is the observation of the dork in his natural habitat. It’s not just that I was educated by dorks at a school that was mostly dorky. Or that I work with ...

Category: Things

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The Illustrated Pot Sticker

Tue 09 June 2009 by psu

We had folks over for one of our periodic Chinese dumpling parties. The food came out particularly well this time, and I managed to use my nifty Panasonic LX-3 to take pictures of some parts of the process. So here is an updated and hopefully slightly more useful version of ...

Category: Food

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Stir Fry Rules

Wed 28 January 2009 by psu

Today I made a perfect stir fry. This doesn’t happen often, I usually get some small detail wrong that throws the whole enterprise off. I thought I would celebrate by imparting upon you, my dear readers, the rules you need to keep in mind to make the perfect stir ...

Category: Food

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Camera Enough

Thu 08 January 2009 by psu

If there is something that photographers like to do more than shop for cameras it is this: photographers love to tell you why a given machine is not good enough for what they do. Cameras are too small, or too big, or too slow or too loud, or too “plasticky ...

Category: Photo

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Moore and Me

Tue 06 January 2009 by psu

One of the many ways in which I’ve had a lucky life is that I grew up with Moore’s law. I became aware of computing hardware just about the time the integrated circuit came on the scene. From high school to college to graduate school and into my ...

Category: Computers

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Eat Small

Wed 10 December 2008 by psu

Locavore (n): A person who eats local and fresh food, and is particularly smug about it.

This fall we happened to book a trip to San Francisco, where we planned to drop in on Slow Food Nation, the convention of the national Slow Food geeks. So we found ourselves in ...

Category: Food

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Pancakes

Fri 24 October 2008 by psu

I like pancakes.

I like them thick and fluffy and full of maple syrupy goodness. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find good pancakes. So finally out of desperation, I stole a recipe from Alton Brown. So now I get pancakes like this:

Category: Food

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Why I Don't Write

Thu 11 September 2008 by psu

I sat down a few times this week to try and crank out my weekly or twice weekly little rantlet about nothing in particular, but I have not been able to summon the interest and the energy necessary to type the letters in the computer. In contrast, I just listened ...

Category: Things

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The Abstraction Distraction, Part 1.

Mon 28 July 2008 by psu

Abstraction is the activity that lies at the core of much of computer science, and computer hardware and software engineering. Understanding what the word means is thus at the core of understanding both how and why computing systems are are put together and evolve the way they do. It is ...

Category: Computers

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Dottie’s True Blue Cafe

Mon 28 April 2008 by psu

Dottie’s True Blue Cafe is a small place in San Francisco that sits right where the gentrification of Union Square ends and the Tenderloin begins. It is a neighborhood place that has become a destination through well-deserved appearances in every publication that has an opinion on where to eat ...

Category: Food

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Marginal Added Value

Mon 14 April 2008 by psu

There are two universal rules about people who work in software:

  1. Inexperience breeds an unrealistic optimism towards the power of new tools.

  2. To offset (1), experience breeds an unrealistic hatred of all tools.

We have seen this cycle play out over and over again in the design, implementation and adoption ...

Category: Computers

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Legume

Thu 07 February 2008 by psu

Legume is a new bistro-style restaurant in that increasingly glorious food corridor of Braddock avenue between the Regent Square theaters and the entrance to the Parkway East. I was suspicious of the place because the name conjures up images of a prison run by terminally smug pot-smoking NPR-listening hippy types ...

Category: Food

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Portal

Wed 21 November 2007 by psu

I originally planned to pick up The Orange Box on the strength of the Team Fortress 2 trailer videos. Here was a multiplayer game with some character, I thought. I was excited about it. The people who play games for me played a lot of the beta and seemed to ...

Category: Video Games

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Internet Forum People: A Taxonomy

Wed 14 November 2007 by psu

Spend any time on the Interwebs these days and you will inevitably end up reading one kind of forum or another. These days there seems to be one of these for every normal human interest and probably the interests that aren’t all that normal. I have two observations to ...

Category: Things

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It's Finished

Mon 01 October 2007 by psu

I finished the single player campaign in Halo 3 this weekend. There is almost no point in writing anything about the experience because the game has taken on a life separate from normal critical evaluation. There is really only one thing you need to know about Halo 3 and it ...

Category: Video Games

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The Digital Archive of Everything

Thu 20 September 2007 by psu

I was walking around in my local Borders a couple of months ago just after they rearranged the Music and DVD section. My eyes scanned through the shelves of DVDs, and I realized something that was at once horrible and amazing. There, on the shelves, was most of the history ...

Category: Computers

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Welcome to Rapture

Mon 03 September 2007 by psu

I was skeptical about Bioshock. I remember watching some demo reel that Irrational had put out on the game. While the demo footage panned over a claustrophobic and chronically damp interior setting, the voice of Ken Levine spoke over the film, declaring that in this game they wanted to redefine ...

Category: Video Games

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Hold That Recipe

Mon 09 July 2007 by psu

Today I am inspired by the sauce I just ate. But I’ll get to that later. My story begins with a long standing conflict that I have with my lovely wife. Karen, in general, has the role of telling me what to cook. Left to my own lazy devices ...

Category: Food

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The 80 and the 20

Tue 03 July 2007 by psu

The 80/20 heuristic states that in most computer systems, you spend 80 percent of your time in 20 percent of the code. Another way to say this is that 80 percent of your users will spend most of their time using about 20 percent of the application that you ...

Category: Things

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Chase the Light

Thu 07 June 2007 by psu

Our first full day in Paris was gray, wet, and cold. As a result, I didn’t take a lof of pictures of the city. It’s hard to make nice landscape or cityscape photographs when the sky is white. But, I dutifully carried my camera into the early evening ...

Category: Photo

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The Camera We Want

Tue 05 June 2007 by psu

I like Thom Hogan. He is an intelligent writer, photographer and fellow technical geek and his web site is one of the better collections of information about Nikon cameras. As a bonus, the overall design and layout of the site shows a lot of taste and restraint, unlike almost every ...

Category: Photo

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Point And Shoot

Mon 30 April 2007 by psu

This week I found the first photographic web site to pique my interest in a long time. For a while now I had been ignoring most of the photographic web because there just wasn’t any content at an appropriate level of maturity. What I mean by that is that ...

Category: Photo

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Requiem for the Latent Image

Wed 18 April 2007 by psu

I have a drawer in my house. I call it my “photo junk” drawer. Eight or nine years ago, it started out as an empty hanging file drawer where I started to file away the PrintFile slide storage pages that I had been collecting since buying my first real camera ...

Category: Photo

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Expose Yourself

Mon 02 April 2007 by psu

The subject of exposure in photography is filled with confusion. On the one hand, automatic exposure systems have largely freed the general public from ever thinking about the problem except under dire circumstances. On the other hand, beginning photographers who aspire to become serious workers in the medium are usually ...

Category: Photo

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God is in the House

Wed 14 March 2007 by psu

To my way of thinking, every major genre of music has its quintessential forms. There is the three minute pop song sung by a group of three or four young freaks with long hair. There is the large scale Classical/Romantic Symphony. And in Jazz, there is the piano trio ...

Category: Things

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Goulash and Other Things

Wed 14 February 2007 by psu

Tonight a few recent discoveries, none all that long, but each very pleasing.

The Vacuum Insulated Thermos

These have changed the nature of our domestic hot drink management. After the initial purchase we went on to obtain three more of various different sizes. Combined with a nice electric pot for ...

Category: Food

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New Ratings System

Mon 22 January 2007 by psu

At this web site we don’t rate things that we review. In particular, we don’t rate the video games that we review. After all, we are self-absorbed wankers with an inflated opinion of the quality of our own writing. We would like to think that we provide insightful ...

Category: Video Games

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Saturday in the Strip

Mon 15 January 2007 by psu

It was another Saturday in the Strip. La Prima and Il Piccolo Forno were as full as always. Actually, they were even more full than usual, especially for a weekend in Janurary. There was coffee coming out of the cafe. There were baked goods and other food in the bakery ...

Category: Food

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iTunes Rules

Thu 11 January 2007 by psu

iTunes told me today that it has 440 albums in its database. That number seemed high to me, but I have been ripping the occasional disk once in a while ever since I got my iMac two years ago. And, every new disk I buy generally goes into the machine ...

Category: Things

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This is What I Do

Wed 03 January 2007 by psu

Once in a while, in the midst of casual conversation, someone will ask me what I do. When I was a graduate student, I would mutter something about computer science research, algorithms analysis and by the time the word “geometry” came out of my mouth after “computational” their eyes would ...

Category: Computers

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Dork Nation

Tue 19 December 2006 by psu

When I was in high school, I was a bit of a dork. No really, it’s true. Back then even a passing interest in the emerging digital technologies was looked upon with suspicion and would get you beat up during study hall. We geeks were antisocial outcasts relegated to ...

Category: Things

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The Camera I Want

Wed 08 November 2006 by psu

Back in 1998, I was shooting black and white film and printing in the darkroom and generally talking trash about how crappy digital capture was at the time. I put the digital takeover at least ten years out, although later I would update my estimate to only five years on ...

Category: Photo

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The One True Index

Mon 06 November 2006 by psu

There is a great scene in the film High Fidelity where one of Jon Cusack's buddies comes over to see if the wants to go clubbing, and finds Cusack on the floor of his apartment surrounded by piles of records. He asks how he is filing the albums, and ...

Category: Things

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They are Both Stupid

Tue 26 September 2006 by psu

Reading through my daily list of online “media”, I’ve lately felt a low, almost background level of annoyance with the subject matter and tone of some of the content that has streamed my way.

Here is the problem: pick any of the current questions of our time, and listen ...

Category: Video Games

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Halo 1 Retrospective

Thu 17 August 2006 by psu

A couple of weeks ago, I listened to a GDC presentation about Halo on my iPod. The talk was fascinating, and covered a lot about what is good in the game, particularly the A.I. and the pre-recorded alien dialog ("Augh! He's everywhere!"). As part of the presentation, they ...

Category: Video Games

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Advanced Stage Hobbyist Consumption Syndrome

Mon 10 July 2006 by psu

I’ve been buying games I probably won’t play lately. I should be clear. It’s not that I might play them. I won’t.

To you, this might seem irrational, even insane. But I recognize that it’s the natural progression of my psyche through the stages of ...

Category: Video Games

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The Year in Games

Mon 09 January 2006 by psu

Now that everyone else has already done their own roundup of the year in games, it's my turn to jump in, late as usual. At this point, there is not that much to be gained from just telling you that Resident Evil 4 was completely 733t or that Half-Life ...

Category: Video Games

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WWDDOCD (World Wide Distributed Dork OCD)

Tue 03 January 2006 by psu

Regular readers will recall that I have recently forked over a large amount of cash on a piece of A/V equipment. I gave up a small piece of my soul for a Sony television larger than my entire living room. Well, it’s really only as large as one ...

Category: Things

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The Real Thing

Wed 28 December 2005 by psu

The search for the true and authentic culinary experience occupies the mind of all of the food obsessed people of the world. Real Chinese. Real cheese. Real barbeque. Real sushi. The list goes on and on. Entire magazines and cookbooks dedicated to the objectively correct or best way to cook ...

Category: Food

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I Sing the Dinner Eclectic

Wed 07 December 2005 by psu

We spend a lot of time pontificating on food on this site. So much so that often we are accused of being "foodies" or "food snobs". I categorically deny this accusation. A more accurate representation of my position is that I am a "food hobbyist" or "food obsessed."

The main ...

Category: Food

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Deal with the Devil

Mon 05 December 2005 by psu

My friend Dave used to say that the exponential increase in hard disk capacity over time was sure proof that not only was the storage industry in league with the darker forces, but also that every disk platter was clearly populated with the souls of the poor industry employees who ...

Category: Things

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What The Internet is For

Thu 17 November 2005 by psu

In the distant past, around ten years ago, there was a hallowed time when the Internet both defined and demonstrated its true purpose. Back then, there were vendors on the net, like Amazon.com, from whom you could order almost anything and have it delivered to your house just a ...

Category: Things

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Tricks are for Kids

Fri 11 November 2005 by psu

Sometimes you have to feel sorry for the gaming industry. Here we have a medium that is in the beginning of its life, struggling to be taken seriously. It has slowly scratched its way to the big time as a source of commerce, and you can almost see the collective ...

Category: Video Games

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Shadow of the Colossus

Sat 05 November 2005 by psu

There really isn’t much to say about Shadow of the Colossus that is all that different from what I said about Ico. The two games share many of the same strengths and weaknesses, and are clearly cut from the same stylistic cloth. If I were as disciplined as the ...

Category: Video Games

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Tools of the Trade

Wed 19 October 2005 by psu

If there is one inescapable fact of life in our dynamic technological society, it is that if enough people are interested in a given activity, the tools that enable that activity will change. I was thinking about this recently as I was presented with two press items about the film ...

Category: Things

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Putting the "A" in "AI"

Wed 05 October 2005 by psu

I got to thinking about the A.I. in games while playing the first few levels of the new Xbox shooter, Far Cry: Instincts. By coincidence, I had also recently replayed a few levels of Halo 2 and my first impressions of Far Cry were that the A.I. was ...

Category: Video Games

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False Nostalgia

Wed 10 August 2005 by psu

I had a feeling of nostalgia come over me a few weeks ago and got out the old manual film camera to shoot a roll of black and white and send it to a lab I found that does process-and-scan.

Aside from the Leicas, there is no current production camera ...

Category: Photo

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My Brain on Ico

Tue 09 August 2005 by psu

When I got a PS2 last Christmas, the one nearly unanimous game recommendation that I received from the crack dealers friends I know who play games was Ico. Over and over I heard "You gotta get Ico". So I bought Ico. That was six months ago, and I finally got ...

Category: Video Games

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DISH

Thu 28 April 2005 by psu

In the South Side of Pittsburgh, on 17th about a block and a half south of Carson Street is a small house with a green awning. Under the awning is a door and a sign that reads: DISH Osteria and Bar. From the outside, the door is just another door ...

Category: Food

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Legendary Ease of Use

Tue 22 March 2005 by psu

This month the Official Xbox Magazine included a demo of Jade Empire, the upcoming RPG that Bioware has been developing since they passed the KOTOR franchise to others. I mention this because for the last year or so I've had the following conversation with Pete a few times:

Me ...

Category: Things

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R is not for Role

Wed 09 March 2005 by psu

Lately, my game playing time has been mostly budgeted to games that the industry puts into the general genre of “Role Playing Game” or “RPG”. Before Knights of the Old Republic I had mostly ignored games like these, but since that game I have delved into Mario and Luigi, Disgaea ...

Category: Video Games

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No Free Silver Bullet Lunch

Fri 25 February 2005 by psu

So my buddy Pete took me to lunch today with some fellow software engineering friends of his. While munching our rather excellent Indian buffet food, one of the engineers related an incident that happened to him on vacation. He was walking back to his hotel room, and he overhears one ...

Category: Computers

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The Axiom of Choice

Thu 17 February 2005 by psu

I have been fortunate enough to get my hands on an iPod Shuffle. I was mostly seduced by the look of the item, but wasn’t sure how the screenless shuffle- only interface would really work out in practice. Surprisingly, the Shuffle is by far my favorite iPod device for ...

Category: Computers

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Digital Generational Stupidity

Thu 02 December 2004 by psu

Dear NPR,

Your recent series of radio stories entitled "Digital Generations" is some of the most ignorant, juvenile, cliched and simply lazy reporting that you have done all year, and that includes the coverage of the election. Where to start.

Let's start with the profile of the "digital child ...

Category: Things

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Halo 2: My View

Sun 21 November 2004 by psu

Just finished the single player in Halo 2, so I feel like I can talk about the game in more detail.

Good:

The single player campaign improves on the first game in almost every way. For example, in the first Halo, there was a load screen for every large chapter ...

Category: Video Games

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The Latent Object

Wed 17 November 2004 by psu

There was a discussion on our local chat system a while back about the genesis of the frenzy over Halo 2. Pete suggested that the pre-release hype for a game such as Halo has its origins in the hard-wired obsessive addiction that hard-core gamers have for the next big hit ...

Category: Things

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Hot Dog Rules

Wed 13 October 2004 by psu

I have an almost irrational fondness for sausage that extends even more irrationally to hot dogs. A good hot dog can be a thing of beauty and a stupendous culinary experience besides. A bad hot dog is at best sad and at worst something that will make you vomit in ...

Category: Food

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Software Engineers: A lexicon

Sun 06 June 2004 by psu

I’ve been working at software companies for the last 15 or so years of my life. In this time, I’ve worked with a lot of people who call themselves software engineers. The following is a collection of shallow, unfair, insulting and overly general classifications of the types of ...

Category: Computers

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Classical Music is Dead (or at least Terminal)

Mon 31 May 2004 by psu

Events have conspired this week to bring up a topic that I find sort of near and dear to my heart and yet simultaneously deeply depressing. That topic is the state of "classical" music in our modern times. Growing up, my father listened to nothing but classical music in the ...

Category: Things

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P.F. Chang's: Why it's evil

Sat 15 May 2004 by psu

Places like this represent a new trend in the marketing of what is essentially bad fast food towards a more lucrative audience. A couple of years ago, my new job took me to a set of offices that were situated close to a new retail complex in the Pittsburgh area ...

Category: Food

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