Category Archives: Even More General Blathering

I’m Back

Thus ends the winter break.

Christmas was good, had a lot of great food (game – har har).

Japan. Oh my. It’s every bit as good as I remembered in almost all respects, and the rest is still fine. I need to make a battle plan now to finish my PhD. I want to go back. So much.

If anybody knows of a great job opportunity or a language+work program in Japan, for a fresh PhD, starting about mid-2013, pray tell. I’m interested.


I’m still in Japan, but through the miracle of scheduled posts, I can give you this picture or men (well, a dwarf) at work (or not).

Hardly working...

In other news, this blog is still in December hibernation, and will be until I’m back and Christmas is over. I’m totally enjoying Japan right now, and it will allow me to skip the presumed massive landslide of SWTOR posts, a game that I decided some time ago I won’t play anyway. Definitely not at release. So I’m not missing much there.

I’m going to play on a PS Vita today or tomorrow though, when it comes out! Muahaha!

Blog Vacation

Technically, it’s not only my blog, because I’m gone for some time, too. And technically, it’s not only vacation, because the first part will be conference travel for work, where I’ll present some of my work (yay for it being an important step towards handing in my dissertation, boo for the inevitable stage fright). By this time tomorrow, I’ll already be on my way.

It’s special for me, not only because it is one of the better conferences to end up at, but also because it means returning to my old love Japan, and Tokyo to boot! I was there for a year when I was still an undergrad (it’s been six years?!), and it was immensely awesome. I hope everything is as great as I remember. Can’t wait to finally go back to Kyūshū Jangara Ramen. If you ever are in Tokyo, don’t miss them. And then there’s Akihabara. And Shibuya. And I still got friends there I can visit!

Yes, I’m excited, how did you guess?

However, vacation also means that I’ll only have intermittent Internet access. And I won’t have time to play games. That means I don’t have much to write about in he first place. And when I’m back, I’ll have to get the last presents, and jump right into pre-christmas stress. So don’t expect a lot of posts here until Christmas, or even New Year’s. I’ll be back, though. Promise.

I still got a lot of games to play, after all!

Cannot vs. Can Not

Because I have been reading, commenting, and correcting papers and theses for two days straight at work, and because of the extraordinary cumulation of people (one a fairly good writer of scientific English) I had to tell the following during that time; furthermore, because this has left me little time to do anything worthwhile to report in my blog, I want to reiterate:

“Cannot” and “can not” do not mean the same. “Cannot do” means that you are unable to do something. “Can not do” means that you are able to refrain from doing something. So “cannot” and “can not” cannot be used interchangeably.

That is all. Thank you for your time.

WTB Google Reader Replacement

If you use google (and who doesn’t, at least for searching?), you’ll probably have noticed how, over the last couple of months, google has been rolling out what they claim is an improved redesign of their user interface. Point in case: the link to advanced search functions is now at the bottom of the page, instead of right next to the search button, because that makes a lot more sense… in somebody’s head.

Anyway, the only google app I use regularly is Google Reader, and that one got hit with the “improvement” hammer last night. I’m sure I could get used to it, but I’m sick of so-called improvements that reduce functionality and waste screen space with excessive bars and padding. (Btw, why is it that it’s always horizontal bars everywhere? Widescreen monitors have become popular in the last 5 years or so, and horizontal bars waste a lot of space. Why not use vertical ones? There’s always more than enough space in that dimension. Or is that only me?)

Therefore, I’m looking for a good replacement for Google Reader to read RSS feeds, and I ask my readers (yes, all 3 of you!) for suggestions. There are a couple of things to consider:

  1. I read RSS feeds from at least 3 different machines: one Windows, one Mac, one Android. That means I need some sort of central information point that synchronizes which entries I have read. I don’t mind if the new reader(s) just synchronizes with google; I just don’t want to use google’s UI.
  2. In a perfect world, there would be one application that runs on all three machines. Mac and Windows won’t be a problem, but it gets iffy at Android. Anybody know one application that has versions for all three OSs? Otherwise I would be grateful for suggestions for each one.
  3. Another possibility would be a browser-based service, just like Google Reader. That has the added advantage that I don’t need to install custom applications. I have a server with full control over an Apache, so everything goes. I just don’t know any good web reader software that I could install on the web server.

If you have any suggestions, shoot. Thanks in advance!

Is Everything Alright?

I had problems before with special characters. That’s because I use UTF-8 as input method, but for some strange reason, wordpress used latin1 as encoding in the MySQL database. So far, I had been able to work around it. But when the Chinese in the last post broke, I finally decided to solve this problem. I went and converted the tables from latin1 to UTF-8.

Everything seems to have gone fine. If you come across weird broken characters or strange behavior, please drop me a line and I’ll look into it.

Movie and Game Music

I love music. I played the piano for many years, starting when I was 6. Stopping it when I went to university (because I didn’t have access to a piano, and didn’t want to save the money to buy an electrical one) is one of the few things I would change if I could live my life again. Needless to say, music is important to me. My friends and colleagues tell me it’s easy to recognize me when I walk by, even if they don’t see me: it’s not so much the gait, but the fact that I’m almost constantly humming or whistling when I walk.

There are some melodies that I don’t know where I got them from, or whether I made them up. They form a repertoire I use all the time; I combine them with each other, with songs I just heard, and so son. Several bits and pieces of WoW music made it into that repertoire. I never looked up their names, because to me, it forms part of the magic to not know their name and where they came from.

As you gathered from that, I generally play with sound and music on. I know many players (especially of MMO games) turn off their music, and sometimes even their sound, to play their own favorite music. I rarely do that. Music is an integral part of a game experience for me. Sometimes more than the latest and greatest graphics.

The fact that some WoW pieces made it into my repertoire means that in my book, WoW did it right, music-wise. Since I don’t know the names, I can’t point out which I like most, but I’ll at least try to listen to them and give you pointers  at the end of this post.

I wonder whether one of the reasons that Rift hasn’t “clicked” with me yet is the music. To me, it sounds too generic. “Cue generic theme no. 23, please!”, and such. I still have barely touched Scarlet Gorge, so it might be too early to judge. But at level 29, I would’ve expected some memorable music already, and most of it simply sounds like muzak to me so far.

Now, of course, you might argue that these WoW songs are ingrained my head because I played the game for 6 years. I thought so myself. But last night, I was amazed when I watched “The Fellowship of the Ring” for the first time in about 8 years. (A decent movie, I might add, as an opinion from someone who read most of what there is to be read by Tolkien. And “decent” is probably close to the best you can get when it comes to a LotR movie.) I suddenly realized that the hobbit theme song was one of those that made it into my repertoire. I’ve watched the movie in the theater once, and then maybe once or twice on DVD shortly after they were released. And still, that one song stuck with me over  8 years. To me, that’s a sign that music that “clicks” with you doesn’t need a lot of repetition. You hear it, and it stays with you.

Please, game designers, don’t disregard good music. I don’t want choirs singing faux-latin ad nauseam (Faux latin is one of my pet peeves!), I don’t want bombast all the time. If you care to get a top-notch graphics designer, pay the money to get a great movie or game musician. I agree that the basic fighting sounds you’ll hear millions of times over the course of a game are important; get good sound designer for them. But if you want to create worlds, give them a flavor. And in my option, nothing invokes feelings and images better than music.


Alright, so I went and tried to find out what some of my favorite WoW themes are. I never bought a collector’s edition (for various reasons, a different one each time), so i don’t have any soundtrack CD and need to go by what youtube tells me. These are in no particular order, because this post has been in my draft section for too long as it is, and I don’t want to spend another week ranking the music:

  • the Barrens theme (or, I guess, more generally, the “horde wilderness” theme), especially the clarinet theme
  • the human wood theme, as in Elwood Forest
  • the Tanaris, Silithus, and Ahn’Qiraj theme, especially the klezmer, and how the music slowly is deconstructed the farther you move into the temple
  • TBC: I liked a lot of the music there, but it didn’t stick with me. It was just ambient music. Decent ambient music, but still ambient music.
  • the Grizzly Hills theme
  • the Storm Peaks theme
  • Cataclysm: Why can’t I think of any new theme in there that caught me? Might this be a contributor to why I finally got tired of WoW?

Name Change

I realized that even I myself are confused. I always use “flosch” (my all-purpose handle) to comment on blogs, but here on my blog, I write as “tabascun” (my game-related nickname). So, I changed that. From now on, the flosch that comments on other blogs is the flosch that writes here, with no added confusion.

And the Spammers Have Found Me

That was relatively fast. Being new to blogging, I was also surprised how spam posts look like. They might not have any “spam” information. Rather, some of them are just a very generic sentence thought could fit most posts in the world. I guess they are used as some sort of “tagging” mechanism to google for blogs that allowed such a comment, for later spamming.

Interestingly, one of the best signs of a spam post seems to be that they enter the URL of a search engine into the “URL” field. That’s probably a good tell-tale sign I’ll look out for, because I can’t imagine there would be a lot of “real” commenters that would do something like that, seeing how they could just leave that field empty instead of entering bogus information.