Gerald Brom

   22 August 2012, lunch time

The Art of Brom

Gerald Brom’s art work shaped the way the Dark Sun game setting evolved. He would paint scenes that the game designers would then use as inspiration when building the world and the game mechanics that went with it. He has a very distinctive and I would say classic fantasy style. His work reminds me a little bit of the work of Frank Frazetta. He’s probably the greatest fantasy artist alive today—yeah I said it. He also has a Kickstarter project on right now to fund a retrospective book of his work. I’m losing my shit over here.


C++ Specialist

   15 June 2010, early morning

I recently updated my profile on LinkedIn. You’re supposed to list your specialties as part of your profile. I had originally listed C++ and a few other techno-speak terms. This didn’t seem quite right to me. I read this quote in Harper’s from The serfdom of crowds by Jaron Lanier and was planning on using it instead:

Personal reductionism has always been present in information systems. You have to declare your status in reductive ways when you file a tax return. Most people are aware of the difference between reality and database entries when they file taxes, yet you perform the same kind of self-reduction in order to create a profile on a social-networking site. You fill in the data: profession, relationship status, and location. In this case digital reduction becomes a causal element, mediating between new friends with whom most information is exchanged online. That is new.

Yeah, it didn’t quite fit. I settled on, “Is programming too vague? Because I’m pretty good at that.” I think i’m a very good C++ programmer, but would I call that my specialty? What does that even mean?

I was thinking about this again today while reading Google’s C++ Style Guide. I program in C++ every day, but while looking through the guide i’d stumble upon things I hadn’t thought about in ages. friend functions? I had basically forgotten these things existed, probably because it’s been a long time since I have had to write a stream operator for my own classes. I had long since forgotten there was any nuance that surrounds pure-virtual destructors. I can’t remember the last time I had to write a functor. I’ve never written my own allocator. I have a giant tomb on my desk that describes C++ and I wonder how much of the language I actually touch. So, what makes someone a C++ specialist?

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TaskPaper for the iPhone

   20 February 2010, terribly early in the morning

TaskPaper running on my Mac

You may recall that many years ago I bought a todo list application called TaskPaper, because I am some sort of Mac Indie Developer philanthropist. I enjoyed using TaskPaper, but ended up giving it up for Things. The lack of an iPhone client was one of the big reasons. (Things is also a very nice Getting Things Done application, so that probably played a part in the switch.) Recently an iPhone version of the TaskPaper was released, and I have been trying it out the last few days.

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Pointers and Arrays

   23 November 2007, lunch time

I’ve been reading up on Ruby in my spare time, while writing some C code at work. The differences between the languages is so stark. Here is a little problem I had at work recently.

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Quoting Email

   12 July 2007, early morning

When you reply to an email from which you have quoted some text, you essentially have two choices with respect to where to position the text of your reply: above or below the portion of the message you are quoting. If you used the Internet before being informed of its existence by CNN, chances are you would be in the habit of replying to emails by posting below the quoted text. This was certainly the way things were done on BBSes and in newsgroups. Nowadays, the common practice seems to be to include the entire email thread quoted below your own comments, which is called top-posting.

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Nerf Warlocks!

   11 April 2007, terribly early in the morning

When reading World of Warcraft websites or forums, you may come across the word nerf, usually used in conjunction with a class name. I’m quite sure the most common example of the phrase is, “Nerf Warlocks.” (In fact, if we can trust Google, it is most definitely the most common example of the phrase.) The person asking for the nerf thinks the class in question is too powerful, and needs to have its abilities toned down so the game is more fair. The common response to such a request is usually, “LRN2PLY NOOB.” That said, in the case of Warlocks, the complainers are probably right. I’m hardly an avid gamer, and I certainly don’t have any phat loot, but my Warlock currently wanders around as some sort of unstoppable blight of nature, reigning down death on anything that happens to pass within reach of my corruption spell. In fact, Warlocks were nerfed, and they still belt out destruction like it was going out of fashion. It was Gary who suggested I play a Warlock to begin with. When I first started playing I would complain to Gary how quickly I would die, and his answer was always, more or less, “Patience Ram, patience.” And he was so right. So, now I’m telling you: play Warlocks, they are fun, and other classes will hate you.

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The Scarlet Monastery

   29 March 2007, terribly early in the morning

Yesterday I finally finished all of the Scarlet Monastery dungeon, thereby earning my much sought after Sword of Omen. (And, for those of you, who like Shima, never spent your childhood watching Cartoons, the real Sword of Omens gives you sight beyond sight.) I normally run these instances in “pick-up” groups, since I don’t have any friends besides Gary that play World of Warcraft. Normally people complain pick-up groups are disastrous, but I have had good luck thus far with them. Usually there will be 4 players that know what they are doing — including myself — and someone not so hot. Yesterday the not so hot fellow was a Warlock, but since he was the highest level character his messing up wasn’t so bad. The rest of us could have done the run by ourselves it looked like, but he was certainly helpful killing the bosses. Last night also marked the first time I did nothing but heal during an instance: it wasn’t as horrible as I had thought it would be. I’m thinking about switching to being a Holy Paladin. The problem as I see it is that leveling a Holy paladin would be far too slow a process. I accidentally ninja’d Herod’s Shoulders, which is some nice armor for a paladin like myself. The worse part was that I had told everyone to pass on Bind on Pickup items earlier, and everyone followed the rule save myself. There were no hard feelings thankfully — no one in the group could use them save the warrior, but he was cool with my messing up. And I think I’ve run out of dorky things to say about my evening. This is what happens when I don’t go out on a weeknight, and Shima isn’t home.

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Editing Plain Text Files with VIM

    9 February 2007, early morning

I use VIM when programming. It’s a text editor, originally for UNIX systems, that is popular amongst programmers. It is famous for its arcane and terse interface. Although meant for working with source code, it works quite well for editing plain old text files, but there are a couple format options you should turn on to make VIM work smarter. :set fo=twan1 will turn on a few useful format options: auto-wrap text to the textwidth, reformat paragraphs when they are changed, and recognize numbered lists. (You will need to turn on autoindent for the numbered list formatting to work properly.) Doing this will make editing README files in VIM a million times easier.

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Inlining Functions in C++

   27 October 2006, mid-morning

The inline keyword is used in C++ as a hint to the compiler that a function you are writing should not be treated as a normal function, but should instead be treated as a macro. When the compiler encounters a call to such a function in the source code it is processing, it will replace that function call with the function’s source code, its body. This _should _ make your program faster. (A function call is a slightly involved process.) You inline a function by prefixing its definition with the keyword inline.

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Zealot Blade

   27 September 2006, early morning

While playing World of Warcraft, I stumbled upon a Zealot blade, which was hidden in a locked box I’ve had in my possession for ages and ages. I found a rogue who’d open the box, and the sword was what I found inside. Auctioneer told me I was going to be rich. I thought to myself, “I’m rich, beeyotch.” What I’ll do with my new found wealth, I’m not sure. I might help underprivileged trolls or something.

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Leaving Your Guild in World of Warcraft

   30 August 2006, early morning

I’ve been trying to leave the guild I joined in World of Warcraft for a little while now. The one problem is I had no idea how. I kept meaning to ask Gary how you quit, but I’d forget whenever I saw him online (or in person). Apparently you just need to type /gquit into the console and you’re set. I’ll try that out tonight. I need to find a new guild now, one that isn’t full of little boys. It’s harder then you think. I learned how to leave a guild by reading about some other guilds drama. It’s a strange game that world of warcraft.

Update: I quit my guild with no fanfare whatsoever. I don’t think anyone noticed I was gone.

Update: I foolishly joined another guild. I need to wake up in the morning and quit.

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Cross-Realm PvP

   23 August 2006, early morning

Earlier this week, my Warlock reached level 36. This isn’t such a big deal in and of itself, but it does mean that I’m on the top half of the the 30-39 bracket in the Warsong Gulch battleground. This means I am going to start playing that PvP game within World of Warcraft again. Conveniently enough, yesterday Blizzard introduced the latest patch to the game. This patch introduced cross-realm battlegrounds. Normally you can only fight against people on the server you connect to. For me, this means I can only play against people on Eitrigg. This is fine and all, but since our server population is pretty low the wait times for games are fairly long. There are usually only enough people to get 1 game going in the brackets I have played in so far. Since the patch, servers now belong to battleground groups, and you can now fight with people on any of the servers within your group. This extra influx of people means that there are usually several instances of the battleground running at one time. Instead of 1 game going, there are usually 12 or so. The wait times are much shorter. Shima is out of town for 2 weeks, so I imagine i’ll be wasting a lot of time playing World of Warcraft. I need to get my ranking back.

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Warsong Gulch

    8 June 2006, early morning

Yesterday I took part in a battleground instance in World of Warcraft. A battleground is an area in World of Warcraft where you can go and fight with other players (from the opposing faction). I am playing on a Player vs. Enemy server, so by default you can’t just go and kill random dudes if you feel like it. This particular instance is essentially a capture the flag game. It feels a bit strange playing such a game in what is essentially a fantasy role-playing game, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. The same things that make these sorts of games fun in a first-person shooter carry over into World of Warcraft. There is a little bit of strategy and a lot of teamwork involved in winning. I ended up staying up till one in the morning because I didn’t want to leave before my team won (or lost, as turned out to be the case). This was in part because it was a lot of fun playing, and in part because I didn’t want to leave and have my team end up a man short.

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Meetings are Toxic

    2 June 2006, early morning

Meetings are Toxic was one of the chapters in 37signals Getting Real book. It’s a sensible enough idea, which generated a lot of discussion over at Signal vs. Noise. I’m sure all of us in the working world have endured meetings we thought would never end. I find that once you get more then 3 or 4 people in a room your productivity is going to quickly turn to shit. Eathan, the lead character in JPod by Douglas Coupland seems to agree. Midway through the book, we the readers are told meetings are toxic:

Here’s my theory about meetings and life; the three things you can’t fake are erections, competence and creativity. That’s why meetings become toxic—they put uncreative people in a situation in which they have to be something they can never be. And the more effort they put into concealing their inabilities, the more toxic the meeting becomes. One of the most common creativity-faking tactics is when someone puts their hands in prayer position and conceals their mouth while they nod at you and say, “Mmmmmmm. Interesting.” If pressed, they’ll add, “I’ll have to get back to you on that.” Then they don’t say anything else.

Update: I emailed 37signals about this quote, and they posted it to their website, where it is being discussed.

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Nerd Alert: Running from a Moonrage Whitescalp

   19 May 2006, early morning

My adventures in the World of Warcraft continue. I’m in Silverpine Forest, which is the second area of the map you visit (most likely) if you are playing an undead Character. I actually stumbled into this area by accident when my character, a Warlock), was around level 8 or so. That wasn’t pretty. I was back there yesterday night; my character is level 12 now, and I wasn’t getting killed by the random monsters walking around, which was nice. Until I accidentally unsummoned my Imp. And then I started to get my ass kicked by these this Moonrage Whitescalp. So, I ran.

The Warlock has a spell called Fear, which is the only spell you can cast while moving (*update:* that’s not true). It makes monsters run away from you, which makes your escape a little easier. I ran for a good while along the road towards the Sepulcher, a town in the Silverpine Forest. I knew the monster I scared away would be coming back; fear only lasts a short time. Worse still, when other monsters see a monster you have scared with Fear, they come chasing after you as well.

I was running towards another player. I could see him off in the distance, sitting down, eating something. He looked very relaxed. My character continued his sprint down the road, towards this other player. As I got closer, he stood up. He must have seen I was being chased. I ran just past him and turned around to see what was up. It turns out there were 2 monsters chasing me. The two of us took care of them, and my character lived to see another day. I thanked the player, and was on my way. That’s the nice thing about these sorts of online games. There are other players there, ready to help you out.

This was funny to watch while I was playing the game. I’m not sure if it’s as funny to read.

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