The Right Glue
2008 archives

My creepy Internet stalker

By Dean

I have an Internet stalker.

His name is bstorer. He lives on bstorer.com and The Daily WTF.

It all started when we started talking on IRC. I suppose he thought that I was so interesting and so perceptive that he had no choice but to scour the Internets for more information about me.

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November

By Dean

I just realized that if I don't post something today, I'll have had no posts in November. So without further delay here's some stuff off the top of my head!

I had a birthday. I'm at least 24 years old now, or so I'm lead to believe. I don't feel any more awesome, but then again I was very, very awesome to begin with.

At some point in this month I bought Fallout 3, which is a post-world-war-III game set in the wasteland surrounding what was once Washington DC. The game is essentially a linear story that doesn't have to be strictly followed, in addition to a set of side quests larger than the main story. It plays like a first-person shooter with some RPG stuff thrown in, not unlike System Shock 2, but it is decidedly more like an RPG than System Shock 2 ever was.

Because I have a blog

By Dean

It's been so long since I've posted that I've nearly forgotten my password. One of these days I'm going to post more than once a month. I don't know when, but it will probably have to wait for me to grow some kind of organ that can translate ideas into words.

Since my posts are largely fueled by boredom and donuts, and since I have a donut and have just finished watching the latest episode of Heroes (and am therefore bored because season 3 is poop), you get to read another one of my ramblings.

I was in Waterloo for a few days last month visiting ex-roommates and -universities. You might recall it was last year's trip to Waterloo that spurred the creation of this very monster you're reading. Waterloo was just as good this year as it was last year, though obviously not as inspiring since I didn't end up writing new blog software as a result.

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More things I don't like

By Dean

Today we're revisiting two concepts I've already covered separately: metaphor and web design. I will combine them together to form something new and exciting much like the alchemists of old combined various elements to form gold. They were so rich! Also, I need to post before I leave for Waterloo next week on vacation and, perhaps more importantly, before physicists destroy the entire universe. Also, since it's Programmer Day, what better time to write a post about bad software engineering? (There is no better, until someone comes up with a "bad software day".)

Imagine with me for a moment that you are using your favourite office suite's feature-heavy word processor (that's Microsoft Word for everyone who is already lost). Now, in our hypothetical universe the people who wrote your word processor were busy popping various and powerful drugs instead of testing their software for usability. When you open your word processor, its primary text-editing space is exactly 1280 pixels wide, even though your monitor's resolution is only 1024 pixels wide. To make matters worse, you can't change the font size when you write new documents — everything is always 10 points high and therefore difficult to read.

What do you think of your precious word processor now? Like any normal blog reader, you'd think that your software is broken and you'd be all set to start posting your whiny reviews of this terrible software on our hypothetical universe's counterpart to Youtube.

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How to foster stupidity

By Dean

I do not believe in undue respect. I don't expect you to respect me just because I exist; I don't expect you to respect me because I write about really cool stuff which is totally interesting and awesome. I don't want that kind of false respect from anyone. It's insulting.

If I won a LAN party tournament with a pink-unicorn case mod, then you can respect me. Or if I came up with some insightful ideas that you were able to apply to save you or your company fifty billion dollars (like that would ever happen), then you can respect me. But that doesn't mean you should. I'm not going to lie awake at night wondering about how many people respect me.

If I come up with some terrible idea that you know for some reason is terrible, then I'd want you, like my hero House, to disrepect me by telling me that my idea is terrible, and to explain why it's terrible so that I can learn from my mistake. Pretending that my idea is just misinformed or "good but not best" or something like that is a waste of time. I did something you know is stupid, so I don't deserve your respect.

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Internet anonymity and you

By Dean

Contrary to popular belief, I do still post here. Though I suppose it has been almost two months since I last made an update, you really have to think about why you'd want to read anything I write in the first place. Also, look at qedi — he hasn't updated in more than nine months. Compared to him I'm doing just fine.

While I have been perpetually sick for the last couple of months (something Dr House is working round the clock to solve), that's not really an excuse to not post. Neither is the fact that my parents have discovered my web presence (could be worse — I could have been Maddox). They do contribute, just not as much as the fact that I think I'm really bad at expressing things. You know what happened last time I tried to write when I wasn't in the right mindset to do it (I'm not even going to link internally to it; it was so bad).

So without further delay today I'm going to talk about the most important things in the world: the Internets. The Internets are many and few. They are a series of tubes, not unlike a dump truck.

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On the rain-slick precipice of darkness (and medics)

By Dean

I am torn between my dislike of every little person on the Internet reviewing a new game in a pathetic attempt to seem trendy and original for playing a popular game and my own desire to review a new game in a pathetic attempt to seem trendy and original for playing a popular game. Guess which side of me won?

If you've been paying attention to my Steam account recently, you'll see that in addition to my love of sand I've been playing a great deal of On the rain-slick precipice of darkness episode 1, a game brought to the world by Penny Arcade's prose-elemental Jerry Holkins (known to the world as Tycho) and his artist cohort Mike Krahulik (Gabe).

As you'll recall from my web comic post, Penny Arcade is my favourite comic. After nearly a decade of mercilessly mocking games they set out to make their own series of games based on their own comic. They sold 16 500 copies (scroll down to Gabe's first post) of their game over Xbox, and who-knows-how-many more through their distribution company Greenhouse. In spite of years of being hardasses on their fellow game reviewers, the game is getting rather positive reviews, with better reviews being published as time goes on.

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The engineering knack

By Dean

I've been putting this post off for a long time for several reasons: my previous post was probably the best post I've ever written and ever will write, so I wanted it at the top for a while; I'm not a very creative person, and creativity only comes to me in waves, and I haven't experienced a creative wave since my last post; frankly, I'm a terrible writer; it will be difficult to write this post without making me sound like a jerk who holds nothing but contempt for everyone on Earth.

I finally decided to write this one for several reasons: it's been a freaking month since my last post; my readers will probably still read even if my writing is drab because, frankly, I'm so great; this post is really just an excuse to link to some pictures from high school; sounding like a jerk would make me more like my hero (there's that obligatory link to Wikipedia).

So without further metablogging, today's topic is this magical distinction that makes some people more adept at technical tasks and thinking than others. I personally call this thing "the engineering knack". To be specific, I am using the study that shows some people just naturally "get it", while others, no matter how much education they receive, just slip, as a springboard, as well as many of my own verifiable observations of the world. In my mind, there is precious little discussion on this topic. My goal is mostly to summarize a set of ideas that have been floating around in my head with the hope that someone will see them and make a psychological or creative leap that I'm afraid I'm not capable of making, or at least expressing.

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Metaphors

By Dean

Metaphors are used by software engineers to help users relate to the software that they're creating. For instance, the name "desktop" for the screen Windows and other systems present to the user comes from the desktop metaphor, which was designed originally to help users understand the nature of the two-dimensional space displayed on the screen. Metaphors are also used by software engineers to talk to one another. Many computer-science terms stem from metaphors, such as structures, trees, tables, indexes, et cetera.

However there is a more overarching metaphor that applies to all software development, encompassing everything from the initial conception of the users' needs to the final, tested and installed product. This metaphor is mostly unused by software engineers when talking between themselves, because for the most part (since it is our profession) we don't need to resort to metaphor to describe what we're doing. The overarching metaphors are used to communicate what might be difficult to do and what might be trivial.

The problem is when you compare software engineering too strongly with its metaphorical counterpart, people start focussing more and more on the tangible metaphor rather than the hokus-pokus of software.

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Gehn

By Dean

Let me tell you the story of a man named Gehn (and link to Wikipedia excessively in the process).

In the Myst series of games, there is a civilization called the D'ni. In their vast underground caverns, the D'ni created a way to "link" to different worlds and civilizations using a precise system of writing.

D'ni civilization was based around various guilds. One of these guilds produced special books, one guild made special ink, one wrote worlds into the books using the ink, and one verified that the writers were doing a good job.

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Kane's Wrath

By Dean

So on April 1, at around 0830 hours ADT, a guy named Doug hacked into my website and converted it into a LiveJournal. Luckily I was able to save the day using regular expressions!

Now that the world is safe (and blue) once again, it's time to write a post about C&C 3: Kane's Wrath.

I built my computer, Diaeresis (photos available), specifically for the game Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars. Well, that's not entirely true. I was planning on purchasing a new PC in 2007 in order to play the games Bioshock and Portal, which were due out in the middle of the year. Then I heard news of C&C 3, yet another game in Westwood's original (and amazing) series of games. Even though the retarded monkeys had long ago purchased Westwood, dissolved most of its employees and crushed all creativity within a 10-kilometre radius of its headquarters, I somehow remained hopeful. So I built Diaeresis about a half a year ahead of schedule.

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Feelin' emo

By Doug

Currently listening to: Touhou GST

Dear LiveJournal,

I was feeling sad, and I was feeling lonely. So I decided to go down to Wal-Mart on the weekend to end these dark times of my life by filling my computer with software provided by the retarded monkeys. Those monkeys were hard at it again making a new game, just for me. I'm not going to tell you what it's called or link to it or anything. Just that it's about a man named Kane Jeff and his wrath dirigibles. Yeah. Jeff's Dirigibles.

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Don't call me, Ahab

By Dean

Caleb (AKA Ahab) of Call Me Ahab has added the Right Glue to his sidebar list of links to other blogs, as described in his most recent post. Apparently I'm quite funny at times. Good to know.

Before any rumours start up between his blog's four readers (or my two), I didn't do anything unflattering to gain the link. Through something akin to brain damage, he actually enjoys reading my ramblings about how the world of software engineering should be and how terrified I am of wallabies. Hopefully the doctors will cure his head sickness soon and he'll be back to his normal gun nuttery.

Caleb and I have known each other as online personas for quite some time now from ClanBOB, of all things. We have similar political, social and economic views (not the least of which is libertarianism) and so we tend to get along well enough for me to not get shot. Or that may be the fact that he lives a half continent away. I like to think that it's the former (it helps me sleep at night).

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Cursing Australia from the bottom of my heart

By Dean

The last couple weeks of my life, and indeed the next couple weeks of my life, were occupied by a country I like to call Australia. Australia is this strange little country in the southern hemisphere. You may have heard of it. It's got a pretty big desert.

Anyway, Australia and I have different ideas of what times one should be awake. So when I have to talk to Australia, I have to do it on Australia's time, because it is bigger than me. (If I were to cross it it would probably send forth a legion of wallabies to eat me. Wallabies are a little-known aquatic mammal similar to kangaroos and Batman.)

Australia tends to want to work from 18:30 to 03:00 ADT (Atlantic Doomsday Time), whereas I like to work from 08:00 to 17:00 ADT. So in order to rectify this difference, obviously I work from 13:00 to fuck knows how late. Obviously. This seems to make Australia happy enough to not attack me with fifty thousand koalas (brain-eating drop bears for those who don't know). Needless to say, I'm rather tired of running from hordes of dingoes all night.

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Applied computer science is hilarious

By Dean

I am a computer scientist by both occupation and interest. When I'm not coding something boring at work, then I'll sure be coding something boring at home. Whenever I get an idea about something cool, I generally do that cool thing until it's done (by which I mean I get bored of it).

One thing I made was Topolife, which I conjured up about a year ago with a desire to implement Conway's Life on various interesting topological surfaces. Topolife gave me hours of math-based entertainment when I first made it. Unfortunately no one else I know shares enough of my particular brand of quirks to see Topolife as the incredible feat of mathemathical majesty that it is. So that project was left to fester deep inside my web server so that only I would ever find it again. But if you want to know how a Conway glider behaves on a real projective plane, then just give Topolife a go! Who wouldn't want to see that?

Back in autumn 2003 when I was a second-year CS student at the University of Waterloo, I was enrolled in CS246 (C++ and software engineering). The final part of the course involved a group assignment designed to apply lots of C++ and software engineering knowledge we as students should have acquired over the course of the term. My group included me, gharbad and qedi. Qedi, being the huge nerd that he is, founded an IRC channel for the three of us. (This channel, #keveX on irc.slashnet.org, is still in use to this day.)

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Gaming's decline

By Dean

Two new games in the Command & Conquer series have been announced by EA (hereafter referred to as "the retarded monkeys"): Tiberium, a spiritual successor to C&C Renegade and sequel to C&C 3; and Kane's Wrath, an expansion pack to the retarded monkeys' previous game, C&C 3.

Kane's Wrath is slated to have a story that spans the twenty or so years before, during and after the events of Tiberian Sun (C&C 2) and Tiberium Wars (C&C 3), hopefully filling in C&C 3's many wide plot holes. It had been declared that Kane's Wrath will feature CABAL (as seen to the right of this post), Kane's AI advisor gone rampant. CABAL is a favourite among Command & Conquer enthusiasts, and many of us were saddened to learn that CABAL would only have a brief mention in C&C 3's history. The fact that CABAL very nearly succeeded in converting every last human on Earth into a cybernetic slave in C&C Firestorm didn't weigh very heavily on the retarded monkeys' shoulders, I suppose. Kane's Wrath is due to come out in spring 2008, according to Wikipedia, which means we should have delicious cyborg goodies before you can say Computer Assisted Biologically Augmented Lifeform.

Tiberium is a first-person shooter, much like C&C Renegade, which supposedly takes place eleven years after the events of C&C 3. There is very little released so far of this game which is going to be released in the third quarter of 2008. Gametrailers has a gameplay trailer for Tiberium, which seems to indicate that the story of Tiberium revolves around fighting the alien race known as the Scrin. The retarded monkeys have decided to not actually show any of the substance Tiberium in the gameplay trailer, which I find somewhat odd. What is interesting is the nature of the main character's weapon. Instead of have multiple weapons as traditional FPSs are wont, Tiberium instead features a transforming weapon that can morph into different uses depending on need. I think that's a pretty neat idea. We'll have to see how it plays out in practice. The game trailer, which doesn't feature any gameplay, does feature the substance Tiberium. But like most game trailers it's completely useless at determining if a game will be any good. Time will tell.

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Web comics

By Dean

Just like in news papers, there are comics in the Internets. But how could you know this? Luckily, I told you just now! The more you know.

So, with the lack of anything real to write about, I have decided to bore you with the details of the various web comics that I read, so that you might enjoy them as much as, if not more than (unlikely!), I do. I will now enumerate them in no particular order.

As the perfect comic for mathies, my list begins with xkcd, the comic about math, physics and other amazingly cool things that everyone should do (not drugs). Though I'm not sure how many of its readers really know what a Fourier transform is, I don't think they really mind. Of course knowing the abstract mathematics behind many of the jokes does improve the comic, xkcd is for everyone. You don't need to be as cool as a computer scientist to enjoy it.

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This is some kind of footnote. This webpage is awesome and can be viewed in any browser. Even ones that suck ass like Safari and Firefox. Isn't that awesome? This site is best viewed with browsers that aren't maximized on large-resolution displays (> 1024 pixels in width). But then again, if you are running a large resolution and browsing maximized, then you're a terrible person so you don't really deserve to see this site at its finest. Jerk. I mean, seriously. I spend all this time making a nice site and your silly browsing habits ruin its look. That's really cold, man. If you're using IE6, then in order to see the cool avatar effects you need to enable JavaScript. This site conforms 100% with the laws (both known and unknown) governing physical reality. No rights reserved by Dean Whelton (who is awesome) of any of the content, images, design, backend or electrons used in this site. Steal at your convenience. None of it is worth stealing anyway, so there. I have even made an RSS feed for more efficient theft of my intellectual property. Now, don't say I'm not generous. I guess if you want to know more about me, you can visit the about page. I actually made a real about page! It's more like a FAQ, though. You can contact me, too, if you feel like it. Are you really wasting time reading this? Go outside or something.