Wednesday, May 30, 2007


My friend Coyote had a link to this site the other day, Blogging Ultima. I’ve read a page here and there since then remembering the times I spent playing the Ultima games. Ultima IV was the first of the series that I ever played and it rates right up there on my list of all time favorite games.

I’ve read up to the point where he just finished playing Ultima V. I enjoyed reading about the earlier games that I never played but the most of all I have enjoyed reading about the games that I had already played.

I believe that the thing I enjoy is remembering the fun I had playing them. Ultima IV was one of the most immersive games I had ever played and V only expanded on the level of immersion for me. I had so much fun in those worlds. It’s a nostalgia trip.

I loved the games so much that I joined the Ultima dragons and registered my own dragon name: Quiescent Dragon. I figured that was a pretty appropriate name for a dragon that wasn't going to really participate in the discussion forums or anything. I was definitly a lurker.

As for the rest of the Ultima games, Ultima VI came out when I was gone on my mission and so I never really played that one even though I had bought it when I returned. VII (both parts 1 and 2) are also on my list of all time favorites. VIII was interesting but just not the same and suffered from some very definite design flaws. Most of the horrible puzzles and jumping skills were fixed in a patch that was released WAY to late to do the release game any good and I did play through it once with the patch and once without the patch and the patch makes for a MUCH better game but still it was never enough to overcome the first impression that the game left. IX was a huge disappointment. This one switched to a 3d engine that was fairly clunky and suffered from “ummm-we-ran-out-of-ideas-or-time” design flaws near the end of the game. As the ending of the Ultima series it was definitely a letdown.

I’m looking forward to the chance to catch up with the blogging ultima blog since I’m sure that I’ll enjoy reading about the games that I did play and I’m curious to hear his impressions of the later ones that I didn’t get to. It will be fun to virtually watch over his shoulder and relive my own times playing these games.

Friday, May 25, 2007


Yes the blog entry where you gain a much to disturbing view of how my brain works is back for part two. I still have a list of things I wanted to cover so we’ll just have to see how far I get.

First of all I wanted to formally mention that my first game review has been published at Strategy Informer. I really had a lot of fun writing it up. I had done a first take of the game UFO: Extraterrestrials on my blog and in the process of writing up a full follow up I realized that I’d basically written a review. Since my friend ~J had asked me once about writing a review for publication I sent it on to her instead of posting it here. The rest, as they say is history, and now I’m a published author. I think I’ll put that in my resume.

When I got to work today there was a gorilla (well technically, I THINK it was a person in a gorilla suit) standing by the door to my building. He was holding a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts with a sign that said “Gorilla Marketing works”. (Tangent within a tangent: Krispy Kreme doughnuts are just not as good as everyone seems to think. They are mostly air and to sweet for my tastes. I like good solid doughnuts made out of real potato flour instead). I hope he’s here to pitch his services to my company instead of enacting an elaborate plot to kill someone with poisoned (yet light and fluffy and very sweet) doughnuts.

Have you ever had the experience of seeing something out of the corner of your eye that really surprised you? Yet, on second glance it turned out to be nothing startling at all. Well something similar to that happened on my way into work this morning. I saw Cthulhu driving a red Honda this morning. He was headed south on I-15 just like me. I was pretty surprised by this – but I don’t think I lost any SAN points. On second glance it was just an extremely hairy and unkempt person driving a red Honda. I think maybe it was Cthulhu who just learned the secret oriental powers to cloud mens minds just like The Shadow did.

Speaking of freeways I have a huge complaint about them. I’m a somewhat analytical person (as long as the subject to analyze is quite irrelevant to common sense or real life I think I’m pretty good at it – when it comes to being normal or figuring out relationships or something like that I’m hopeless) and the human brain is VERY good at identifying patterns. In fact brains are so good at pattern recognition that we will find patterns when there aren’t any patterns there to find. (Try staring at the static on a TV tuned to a dead channel some day to find out.) So I’m sure that I’ve identified a recurring pattern on my drives – Why is the lane I’m in always the slowest one? Whenever traffic comes to a stop I take note of the cars around me. Invariably the ones in the other lanes will soon be so far ahead of me that I can’t see them anymore. Changing lanes doesn’t solve this problem – it just makes the new lane go slow – so clearly I’m the common element in this pattern. I see no way to fix this so:

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Just don’t drive in the same freeway lane as me if you need to get anywhere fast. My lane will be easily identifiable by being the slowest one.

I’ve been running Windows Vista and Office 2007 for the past week and I like them a lot. Vista is waaaaaay faster than XP Pro was. It boots faster and the IE7 engine is noticeably faster than it was before. The only problem I ever saw in Vista so far was that my mouse cursor disappeared when I attempted to run City of Heroes. Poking around the internet a bit showed me that I needed to add the following to the command section of the shortcut for CoH: -compatiblecursors 1. After adding that it worked just fine.

Second Impression of CoH: It’s OK. It’s definitely better with friends than it was in the training missions. I find the game world to be fairly jarring though since it’s filled with thugs just standing around tugging on purses and taunting passersby. But I do like the quest system. You can just pick up random quests from the Police Radio or go to one of your contacts and pick up something more scripted. The groups can be fairly large, and that helps by allowing many of my friends to play all together. The combats are fairly confusing – it’s hard to keep track of all the good guys and bad guys since everything moves so fast. I usually just try to stand in the middle and debuff some bad guys that I hope will live long enough to keep my debuffs working for a while – and then spam the AOE healing spell I’ve got until I see someone has killed the target I debuffed. (Tangent: Although, my debufs are AOE they are targeted so once the bad guy I cast them on has died, the debuffs fade, and they need to be recast.) I haven’t created any alts yet – which is apparently a flaw of mine since everyone else has about thirty or forty different characters. I don’t think a single group night has had all the same characters show up yet.

Second Impression of UFO:ET: I love it even more than ever. The game was either intentionally designed to be easily modifiable or it’s just a fortunate coincidence of its development process but most of the (minor) flaws that bothered me have been fixed by modders. I think my opinion of the flaws is flawed though, since in this case flaws = stuff that was different in X:COM. The mod community is pretty darn impressive. I’ve only picked one mod to add to my game (but that isn’t strictly true either, I’ve picked one mod PACK to add to my game. There are several packs listed on the message boards to pick and choose from though). But I’ve very much enjoyed the changes that they have provided to me. The mods include bug fixes as well as game play balance fixes and changes to make it more X:COM-ie. All in all the list of changes with just the one pack are very impressive. Almost all of which changes I’ve found to be great improvements to the game.

And that is the rest of the list. I’m sure I’ll have more tangent laden posts in the future but for now… enjoy.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


I think of that title line a lot. It comes from one of my all time favorite comics, OotS. There are not many things that I preorder. I tend to be, well, cheap and look for sale prices and wait to buy things. But I’ve preordered four times now for Rich Burlows Order of the Stick comic books. I’m anxiously, and I mean that in the most literal sense of the word possible, awaiting the most recent book. For the last two weeks I have checked my mailbox every day muttering to myself “Maybe I’ll get a book today.” I’ve had to fight the urge to check the mailbox multiple times each day because the irrational (and some would say largest) part of my brain thinks that maybe the book has a magical delivery system instead of relying on the USPS to come.

In any case I’m a bit groggy today and that has made it hard to focus on any one topic so this is a collection of tangents. I’ve actually got quite a few ideas so when I’m done writing this morning any unused ideas will probably go into a future blog entry.

Yesterday was a really hard day. I woke up feeling weak and vulnerable, anyway. I wanted to crawl back into bed and pretend it wasn’t Monday. Some days are like that. Sometimes you wake up on the top of your game – ready for anything the world cares to throw at you and some days you wake up wishing it were all over already and wondering if there was any way to skip the entire rest of the day. The day proceeded to get worse from there and I had to really work hard to stay sane. I ended up with some cheeseburger therapy (Olympus Burgers on 9th East in SLC has REALLY GOOD bacon on their bacon cheeseburgers), going to a support group, watching some TV, and best of all talking with some friends. Fortunately I’ve survived.

I wanted to like Anime because I have so many friends that love the genre. But I’ve had a really hard time getting into it. I saw the Princess Mononoke (that word is like bananananananana, it’s really hard to stop spelling it once you start) movie and thought it was just OK. I saw some Princess somebody or other the vampire hunter and thought they were all right. I saw the first few episodes of Gundam and while I wanted to like it the show left a bad taste in my figurative mouth.

I haven’t given up though, and after looking at zillions of reviews on Netflix decided to try Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. This is based on some Japanese comics. The show is basically a sci-fi police drama centered on a special unit of cops called section 9. They end up taking the hard or strange problems like rouge AI tanks terrorizing the city, and android assassination attempts. The show was well drawn without all the impossible eyeballs and jittery camera effects that make other Anime unwatchable for me. Furthermore, there were no lewd or provocative scenes but rather it was a straight forward drama with no unnecessary extras, except for the excitable baby tanks with puppy dog like AI personalities but they were cute so I liked them. I watched all four episodes of volume one last night. The remaining volumes will come as they are ordered on my Netflix queue. I have definitely found an Anime style show that I really enjoyed, and I’m looking forward to seeing some more of it.

Checking up on my Daemon shows that I’m still a bunny rabbit. I can see how that could fit me and I really still like it better than the original moth I was assigned to. I’ve upgraded my system since I first filled out the quiz so I’m not able to check all the history of my Daemon changes on their home web site and I can’t remember how many more days I’ve got before it becomes set – hmmmm I suppose I could just scroll down and do some math but see the paragraph on groggy above, I don’t feel much like doing math today. My friend ~J gave me some bunny ears the other day so I’m all ready for the next dress-up-as-your-daemon party. *grin* The bunny picture on the site just doesn't seem to fit. I think I'm a lot cuter than the bunny there. I found this one that I like a LOT better. Not only does it capture how amazingly cute I am but also the silliness in me.

I’ve got more but I feel like I’m done writing for now. See the paragraph above on groggy. The rest of these awesome and awe inspiring ideas will have to wait for another time.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


When I got to work this morning I went to the fridge to put my lunch into it. Unfortunatly, as I opened the door a bottle of syrup fell out and broke open on the floor. Also unfortunately, the bottle was nearly full and the viscosity of the syrup was such that it rapidly created a huge puddle of sticky goo.

Well, I sighed, and cleaned it up and threw stuff away. There was no name on the syrup and I was feeling bad about just throwing someones stuff away, with out them knowing, so I thought I'd send an e-mail to the office. Then I thought a lame e-mail is boring I'll do something more fun. The message I finally sent was this:

Dear Sir or Ma’am,

We regret to inform you of the passing if your bottle of syrup. Late this morning upon opening of the refrigerator door a nearly full bottle of maple “flavored” syrup leaped to its death on the floor below. Passer-bys rushed to its aid but the syrup was dead immediately upon impact. Refrigerator police are investigating the incident after anonymous witnesses reported seeing a smirking bottle of poppy seed salad dressing near where the syrup leaped from. Clean up crews were able to successfully contain the syrup spill and in the process of removing the remains returned the floor area immediately in front of the refrigerator to previously un-seen levels of cleanliness.

With deepest regrets,

I had quite a few comments from people through the morning on my e-mail. I think I suprised a number of them. I am the IT guy here at work and I suspect that most of them just think I'm an uninteresting nerd. The truth of the matter is I'm a fascinating and complex nerd. Heh.

But if you stop and think about it we all are fascinating and complex and how often do we really show that complexity? How often to we only allow ourselves to BE fascinating and complex at certain times and and the rest of the time just play the roles our jobs, family or circumstances have given us?.

Monday, May 14, 2007


It’s funny how powerful first impressions are. I had two brand new games exposed to me over the last few days and they have both left first impressions. I’m going to be very interested over the next little while to see if the continued experience with the games changes my current feelings towards them.

Item the first: City of Heroes. Many of my friends and I have a regular Tuesday night online game. Lately we’ve been playing DDO. But we’ve reached a problem with it. The game is very much geared towards having six players and we currently only have five interested. For a few weeks we’ve been kicking around ideas for replacements or wondering if we should just try to slug it out with five.

We’ve reached an agreement to try CoH as a possible replacement game. Coyote had some invitations so we could all try it out for a 10 day free trial. I signed up downloaded the bajillion byte installer, got it installed and started it up.

The character creation process was a lot of fun. I made lots and lots of changes before settling on a character. I now regret what I decided on because it looks so bland in the game which is very vibrant and colorful – but I have heard that there are tailoring stores in the game where you can change your appearance so I’ll have to do that some time.

The next thing that happened is I was dumped into the training zone to learn some of the game basics. There was definitely some bewilderment while I was trying to figure out the menus and on screen displays and rather a bit more bewilderment when I couldn’t figure out how to walk and turn at the same time. Turns out that the key mappings are in the wrong place for turn actions and strafe actions.

The game itself was mildly interesting. I had a hard time not thinking of my Super powers as spells but that has more to do with me not really being a part of the super hero genre I suppose than anything else in the game. The final training mission had me teamed up with a CPU controlled buddy. I was exploring the rooms in this building when I entered a very small break room with a ruined candy machine. The CPU buddy stood in the doorway and when I tried to leave the room wouldn’t budge. I couldn’t push past her, I couldn’t jump over her. I spent twenty minutes trying to figure out some way out of this stupid little room. Finally I managed to jump up onto the candy machine apparently getting just far enough away to trigger her follow subroutine so that she moved a pace further into the room and I was able to get around her.

The mission finished uneventfully after that but I was also done. This first taste of the game left me feeling ho-hum and not really excited about playing any more of this. Now granted, this game is an MMO and solo play in MMOs is usually pretty lame – so the next test will come when I play with my friends. Hopefully the game will show its strengths then but my first exposure to the game has definitely left a bad taste in my mouth.

Item the Second: UFO: Extraterrestrials. I’m a huge fan of the old X:COM games. I played the Terror from the Deep one first so it’s my favorite but it’s basically the identical game to UFO Defense. They were delightful and spooky games. For a long time I’ve longed for an updated version of one of these with basically the same game play and better pictures. Well that day is finally here.

My first take on UFO:ET was wow this is pretty much exactly what I asked for. The game plays in to major segments the strategy based geo-scape view and the tactical based combat view. In the first you can see the whole world where you can build and manage your bases and detect and hopefully shoot down UFOs.

The strategy portion is fairly faithful to the old X:COM games. The major differences are that you can not hire technicians, scientists and soldiers. Squaddies are apparently assigned to you as you go along, techs and scientists seem to be a part of the lab or workshop facilities when you build them with each one giving you 10 additional people.

In addition some of the other base management actions have also been simplified. There doesn’t seem to be the equivalent of general stores and I don't know how many people I can cram together in that one living quarter. I guess I’ll find out. The research trees have all started well and I like some of the changes with the fighters you use in that you have cannon hard points and missile hard points not just generic weapon ports.

The tactical section is so far the highlight of the game for me. The transport ship you start with can only hold one vehicle and four squaddies so the squad size was much lower than I was used to in X:COM. The first time out the door of the transport within five rounds all my squaddies were dead. YEAH! This game rocks. The second time I tried a tactical mission I was much more careful.

The aliens use decent tactics and avoid closing into obvious kill zones – forcing my squaddies to come to them. Squaddies can level up in rank like in X:COM games and their skills will increase but in this game you get to pick which stats to raise for them when they achieve a new rank instead of the computer automatically raising some of them for you. My guys currently have projectile weapons still and the bad guys are shooting plasma beams (that I can’t research yet).

This game is much less spooky than X:COM was, perhaps, it’s because this is set on a fictional world instead of on earth so there is already some unreality built right into the premise of the game. The aliens are good looking though, and the ones I’ve met so far are very alien not clay-mation beasties like the X:COM Apocalypse ones. I really wish that there was a map function in the tactical view and it would be great if I could left click on an alien to switch to the targeting cursor instead of having to click on the gun in my selected squaddies hand but these quibbles are fairly minor.

All in all this game has left a favorable impression with me and I’m looking forward to the chance to play more of it. Hopefully, this trend will continue.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


I was tagged in the Blog Apocalypse meme. I’m not really good at memes. I have a stubborn streak in me and, frankly, some outright contrariness that makes me resist what the crowd is doing. I’ve avoided super popular moves because everyone was seeing them. Remember those Gresham books about lawyers that everyone read and raved about – I never bothered simply because everyone else was doing it. They might have been the most masterful entertaining and wonderful books ever to have been written. (I don’t think they were I’m just saying they COULD have been.) And I have not read them because everyone was doing it.

I suppose this is good in a way. If everyone jumped off a cliff I’d probably not do that. But it can also be bad in a way too because I might miss something I would otherwise really enjoy.

On the other hand I just can not resist a good web quiz and lookie here what I found on the Rabid Paladin

SWEEEEET! I'm R2-D! That is pretty neat. BTW: to follow up on the last quiz which is still in flux. My moth daemon has turned into a bunny rabbit which is also pretty cool.


The blog apocalypse meme is to pretend that you have just one last blog entry that you can write. You are supposed to leave some nugget of wisdom or some summation of your lifes (blogs?) work. Or something meaningful to you alone, I guess.

Interestingly enough, that is such a focused question that it is way beyond the scope of this blog. I’m not writing about anything in particular here. In fact the real point of this blog is for me to have a chance to do some expressive writing because I’m bad at it and need the practice and also need the emotional outlet of having created something. I do try to be clever in my writing but that is mostly to amuse myself while I’m doing it. There is no topic at all.

The name of the blog is the Tungsten Bathtub. I’ll explain that instead and hope that it counts as some sort of nugget of wisdom to someone.

The Tungsten part is easy. I occasionally play online games with my friends and I have adopted the name Drake Tungsten as my online alias for many of these games. This came from one of my favorite TV shows Mystery Science Theater 3000. The movie was one of the Hercules movies staring Alan Steele in the title role. During one of the skits Joel (I think it was Joel and I always liked his delivery better than Mikes so I’ll just pretend it was Joel instead of looking up which host it was) and the bots were commenting on what a cool hero name Mr. Steele had. They tried to invent a number of other hero names. Crow had a problem with the game coming up with names like Biff Drywall. But Servo came up the Drake Tungsten and I loved it. From the first time I heard that name I’ve used it in games.

The Bathtub part is pretty easy too. I can’t be the only person whose mind wanders while taking a shower. I go in with good intentions of planning out the day and figuring out things and solving problems but I usually end up wondering about why some things happen before other things or what would chairs look like if you knees bent the other way or something equally strange or random. Sometimes I compose blog entries in my head there. Sometimes I wonder about a book I read or a conversation I had. Sometimes I’ll obsess over an upcoming situation playing out possible outcomes again and again. All in all it’s a pretty random thought process.

Therefore I named my blog for part of the character name I’ve adopted and for the location where lots of random thinking takes place.

As far as I know every blog I read with any regularity has been tagged by this meme so I suppose it dies with me. If you never got tagged and feel left out leave a comment or something and I’ll edit the post to tag you in. (Yeah, like that’s gonna happen.) Anyway there ya go.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


Jacob, is apparently, my pusher when it comes to web quizes. He's got another one posted up on his blog and so here it goes on mine too. Like he said there - this one has a twist - for the next twelve days people can click on the link and vote if my answers match your opinions. At the end of that time a final personality match will be given. When I clicked on his quiz it went from a badger to a racoon.

My answers matched me up with a Moth called Voltina. I wonder if that one will change.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


I hate when people are stupid. I’ve mentioned this before. This morning while driving to work one of the local TV stations sponsored the morning traffic report. The ad copy (I work for an ad agency so I’m allowed to call what they say in ads ‘copy’) said: Watch as our hidden cameras uncover a store that knowingly sells items that can be used for drugs.

I’m supposed to be all afraid that a store sells drug supplies. Oh no, everybody panic! Stores that sell things that can be used as drugs. This infuriates me that this is an issue. Fear driven stories lead to fear driven stupidities. It is implied that these supplies can ONLY be used to make drugs. What stupidity. These stupidities are already impacting the quality of life for many people and it shows no sign of stopping.

Here is a prime example. I few months ago I got sick. I felt miserable but I still had work to do and life to take care of. I’ve been setting up a new life and I don’t have many things in my apartment yet – including medicines. Feeling sick and miserable I went to the local grocery store. I picked up one package each of generic Night-time and Day-time cold medicine. I staggered over to the checkout counter – displaying obvious symptoms of being sick and was told by the clerk that she could not sell me both packages. I boggled at her. She told me I would have to buy one now and purchase the other one later. Why, I managed to finally ask? Because they both contain a compound that could be used to create meth.

There a stupidity caused an obviously sick person to be unable to purchase the medication that would have helped them because of a stupid law.

At another time I went pack to purchase my one and only package allowed of cold medicine but this time I went through the automatic checkout counters. The computer scanned my single package in and then threw up a big sign saying that without proper authorization the transaction would not proceed. I had to get a store employee to come over and finish the purchase for me. Why? I don’t know. What value did it add having to make someone come verify me? I can’t imagine what. Another stupidity.

Stupidities happen because of bad thinking. Bad thinking, or no thinking, is usually driven by emotions and one of the easiest emotions to sell is fear. Look around you at the ads you see today. Most of them will use the classic Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) in their message. Watch the message!
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