Risky Business

The world after Day Zero.

The world after Day Zero.

Thomas and I started our first game of Risk last night. We got everything setup, I explained the rules, and then we began. As I was reading him the rules, when I got to the one that states that during an attack, a draw always goes to the defender, his response was, “Aww. That stinks.” Little did we know how much his opinion of that rule was about to change.

After we placed our initial armies, he moved first. He placed his new armies and decided to attack me in New Guinea from Eastern Australia, and it was bloody. I lost and he moved in. He then tried to take Indonesia from me, but there, he failed. He decided to end his turn, and then it was my turn to start a war.

I placed my new armies, and immediately set out to take Congo from him. I attacked from Egypt, we rolled and it was a draw. I lost an army. Undeterred, I decided to attack Congo from North Africa. Again we rolled, and again it was a draw. I then attacked Congo from South Africa. Again, a draw. I tried once again to take Congo, this time attacking from East Africa. Against all odds, it was another draw. I was stunned. He was highly amused.

We played through, I believe, four turns each, and then called it a night. Since we have cats, I decided to take a picture of the board, so that when we continue the war, we’ll know if anything has gotten moved.

I am thrilled that Thomas enjoyed the game. I had fun, too. But I’m no longer sure I like that “defender wins all draws” rule…

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Twenty-Five Things You May Or May Not Know About Me

There’s a meme making the rounds on Twitter and Friendfeed where you share twenty-five things about yourself. Always ready to join in, though usually late to the game, I offer up my list.

  1. I can read Koine Greek.
  2. I can play the Great Highland Bagpipe.
  3. I can play a bit of mandolin.
  4. I love to cook.
  5. I started writing software in 1983, when I was 13.
  6. I prefer arrays to be indexed starting at zero, not one.
  7. I hate horror movies.
  8. I was an uncredited extra in a horror movie.
  9. I like watching Project Runway.
  10. I enjoy learning things, even with no obvious use, just for the sake of learning.
  11. My wife refers to me as the Vat of Useless Knowledge™.
  12. I started blogging in 1996, long before that word existed.
  13. I was a horrible student in high school, and wish now that I’d tried harder.
  14. Walt Disney World is my favorite vacation spot.
  15. I have a secret dream of buying a very old farm in Vermont.
  16. I’m a Mac-bigot.
  17. I cried my heart out the night I had to have my dog Chloe put to sleep.
  18. I find the show Hannah Montana cute and amusing.
  19. The Hunt For Red October is one of my favorite movies, and I think Alec Baldwin was the best Jack Ryan.
  20. I love Tina Fey, even though she’s a liberal.
  21. I no longer consider myself a Republican. I think the term “lower-case libertarian” is more accurate.
  22. I think this meme should have been “Five or Six Things You May Or May Not Know About Me.”
  23. I know almost every word of dialogue in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
  24. I once performed “Greased Lightning” at a variety show in high school, replacing “pussy wagon” with “station wagon” in order to not get whacked by the vice-principal, who was to be in attendance.
  25. I resisted learning Spanish for a long time for political reasons, but now I think it is a beautiful language with interesting patterns.

So, there it is. Interesting, yes?

Neko Case And Anti- Records Give To Charity

I don’t usually believe it when I see emails or blog postings saying that for everyone who posts/forwards this email/blog posting that Company X will donate $Y to Charity Z.

But this one is for real.

The lovely Neko Case, and Anti- records are giving $5 to Best Friends Animal Society every time someone posts her new song on their blog. I loves me some Neko Case, so here it is. And if you have a blog, follow these directions to post it yourself. I like the song, BTW.

03/06/2009 Update: The player plugin was popping up errors on some browsers, so I removed it. If you want to hear the song, use one of the links above, or go buy the album. It’s great.

Netflix And Great Customer Service

I mentioned back in December how much I liked my Netflix player. I still do, but last week I ran into a problem. I have finally caught up with the rest of the world and realized what a great show Heroes is, and I’m happily working my way through season one. Everything had been going great, until I got to episode seventeen. The picture was flawless, as was the playback, but the dialog track was about two seconds behind the actors’ lips. I hate that. We soldiered through, pretending that we were watching a foreign film that had been dubbed into English.

Hoping for properly-synced dialog, we fired up episode eighteen. This one had music, but no dialog at all! I tried fast-forwarding, rewinding and restarting, but nothing worked. Since you can’t really skip an episode of Heroes and know what the heck is going on, we didn’t want to move on, but I did want to see if any other episodes were borked. I watched the first few seconds of episode nineteen and it suffered the same fate as eighteen: music but no dialog. Grrr…

I kept trying episode eighteen over the next few days to see if the problem would correct itself, but it never did. As a test, I tried viewing these same episodes from my Mac, just to see if it was a problem with the player or the source. Seventeen had the same sync problem, but eighteen did have dialog. Nineteen was silent, just like on the player. I decided the problem was on Netflix’s end, and that eighteen on the Mac had been served from a different server.

So, with this information in hand, I decided to contact Netflix. I assumed that all interaction with Netflix would be through email or “customer service” forms, like so many web businesses, but I was wrong. There’s a toll-free number that is staffed 24/7. When you check the support page and see the phone number, they give you a “priority code” and tell you how long the call queue is. On Sunday night, it was listed at “about a minute.” I called, entered the code, and in under a minute, I was speaking to a real, live human, who spoke perfect English (she sounded like a Texan to me, but I could be wrong). I described the problem to her and she checked their system to see what she could tell me. She said that the three episodes I reported, plus episode twenty-two, had already been reported and that they were already working to correct the problem.

Now, the call could have ended there, but here’s where the good customer service comes in. I asked if there was an ETA for getting them corrected. She didn’t just say “no,” or “not yet” or “we don’t know.” Instead she explained the process that Netflix has to go through to not only get corrected content, but to get the content in the first place. I had assumed, naively, that Netflix was just ripping DVDs to their servers and serving them up, but in fact, they get the content in ready-to-stream format from the studios, themselves. In the case of problems, they have to contact the studios, re-sign distribution agreements, and wait for the studios to provide them with corrected content. While I still didn’t have an ETA, her description of the process gave me a much better feel for how long it would be before the content was corrected. That’s good customer service.

So, in order to continue getting my Heroes fix, I figured out which discs I needed and put them on the top of my DVD queue. They should be here today.

Project 365: Days 1 – 7

I heard about Project 365 some time last year, but when it came back up after New Year’s Day, I decided to take a whack at it. The deal is that you’re supposed to take a picture, of anything, every day. Further, you can upload it somewhere, like Flickr, to share it with the world. I made it through the first five days, and then promptly fell off the wagon when the weekend came. 😦 I started back up again on Monday, so this will be more like Project 367 for me. And so, here are days one through seven for your viewing pleasure.

Project 365: Day 1 Project 365: Day 2
Project 365: Day 3 Project 365: Day 4
Project 365: Day 5 Project 365: Day 6
Project 365: Day 7