If You See Something…

Generally speaking, I’m not very political. But the current “If you see something, say something” Homeland Security campaign creeps me the hell out. I can’t help but think about the old Soviet and eastern bloc informant system, which was pretty heinously evil.

As a social phenomenon anonymous letters were a frequent occurrence in the USSR during the period of mass political terror. These were the years when physical destruction of the opposition and prosecutions of “enemies of the people” helped Stalin consolidate his dictatorship. Bloody “purges” accompanied by constant appeals for “vigilance” and the eradication of complacency in the struggle against wreckers (saboteurs), spies, and “internal” counterrevolution created through the entire country an atmosphere of mistrust and suspicion. Many Soviet Citizens in constant turmoil over the threat to their freedom and their lives, turned to informing as a means of self-preservation by proving their “reliability.” They were no more amoral in their attitude toward society than society was toward them. Informing was then extolled as a “moral duty” of the Soviet ctiizen.

Anonymous letters were written not only by those who retained their belief in the rectitude and infallibility of communist ideals but also by those who, by victimizing as many others as possible, hoped to stay safe; and by those who were seeking revenge against personal enemies among their acquaintances and colleagues. Zemtsov, Ilya. Encyclopedia of Soviet Life, pp13-14.

Paradise Circus

I’ve had the opening to Paradise Circus by Massive Attack stuck in my head as I woke up the past few days. It’s a nice opening, but I’m wondering why it’s been a recurring thing.

And here’s just the song for those who want to hear it but are bothered by or not able to view the video:

The NSFW video is behind the break. (It auto-plays.)
Continue reading


First: I hope my roommate Jessie has a fabulous birthday today. She’s rad; an excellent musician, artist, and friend. If you get a chance, you should swing by her site and check out her work.

Second: as some folks noticed, there were some encoding mixups on Critical Games following a database upgrade… mostly involving me forgetting to zap smart quotes into something encoding-friendly. This has now been corrected. I did it manually, so I may have missed a few — if you are reading through archives and notice any more quirky symbols or empty squares, et cetera, let me know so I can fix it.

Third: World of Warcraft‘s new expansion, Cataclysm, comes/came out today. I’m back to playing the WoW, but I’ve not picked it up (yet)… I’d really like to, as I think Worgen sounds neat, but it’s going to have to wait a little bit. That said, if you play and happen to swing onto Bloodhoof, feel free to say “Hi” (my main is Nadreck).

Running Silent

I’m still here. Kinda.

I’ve been writing this blog since 2002, through a heck of a lot of changes in my life. The exact purpose of the blog has variety wildly over time, ranging from a personal blog to a writing exercise, to a linkblog, to a review site. Sometimes I post to it a lot, or like right now, this will be the third post of the year. The only thing that has been consistent about it is its purpose: the blog is an exploratory heuristic — it is an experiential tool to gain a better understanding of… well, whatever I need at the time. Sometimes it’s myself, sometimes it’s something marginally less selfish, like reviewing music, or discussing free speech, or sharing posts and videos that are themselves an experience (emotional, intellectual, whatever). This year, what I needed was to hide out. I didn’t realize it at first — I made grand goals of posting regularly, and of shifting the content to something more generally useful. But y’know what? Meh. There are other avenues for that that I already have set up (and can set up more, easily, if I decide I need to). This is, ultimately, my personal blog. That doesn’t mean it won’t occasionally have actually useful content, but more often than not, I expect it will continue to be a sketch of a human being. Hopefully an insightful one.

It’s reaching the end of the year, so for those who don’t read my Twitter or talk to me otherwise, let me catch folks up real quick:

  • I’ve been unemployed, barring some freelancing, for a while. This has finally (finally!) changed, first with working for Cirque Du Soleil while they were in Portland this spring, and more recently, back in the saddle doing QA/Testing work.
  • I was T-boned by a hit-and-run back in July, and because of lack of funds, I didn’t have collision insurance on my car. Still trying to raise funds to fix it, since all the reasonably reviewed collision repair places want payment in full.
  • I’m still living in Portland, OR. I still love it here. I’m still dating Jessica. Things on that front are still good.
  • I got into grad school at University of Denver, specifically their Digital Media Studies program, which sounds like a pretty great fit. Because of the car accident, though, I’ve deferred for a year, and will reassess what my situation is as next year approaches. The crushing student debt involved isn’t exactly enticing, even though the program sounds great.

Yeah, that’s the big stuff. Other than that, I’ve been largely laying low for the past while. I’ve not been to many meetings, conferences, unconferences, groups, et cetera — while there is interest, either the timing, or finances, or social energy, or some combination therein has been discouraging going out. I’ve been adjusting to working in an office again, surrounded by people for 8 hours a day (and then dealing with the commute), and so generally by the weekend, all I want to do is hide in my cave and read, or play video games, or watch cartoons, just in general things involving being left alone. I know that’s not sustainable (or at least not wise to do so), nor do I want to remain a hermit. Regardless, it’s how I’ve felt lately.

Browser Hell

While there are a variety of methods to view the web, the vast majority of people use only one of a few options: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Opera, and (johnny-come-lately but gaining market-share fast) Chrome. While it’s fantastic that each of these browsers are doing well enough to be considered major players, the problem is that they all have some pretty serious failings.

Internet Explorer LogoThe problems with IE are well documented, and frankly given that it’s Windows-only, I’m going to gloss over it here by simply saying: don’t use it unless you have to. Don’t support it unless you have to. Just. Don’t. This may change with the upcoming IE9, as there’s been a BIG push by developers to get Internet Explorer up to date and standards compliant. If even half the features and support Microsoft has promised actually make it into the final product, Internet Explorer may well be worth another look. In the meantime, take a pass.

Firefox LogoNext up is Firefox, a very popular open-source effort run by Mozilla. It’s free, it’s open source, it’s cross platform, there are lots of themes and profiles and extensions you can get for it to make the browser do more, all of which makes it the darling of the geek community. It isn’t without its faults, however: the same extensions that make Firefox useful often contribute to browser instability, but Firefox without extensions is… well, lackluster. Which is to say: a plain copy of Firefox is a perfectly serviceable browser, but lacks anything to set it apart from other major browsers. That coupled with one of the slower load times and a rather substantial resource footprint makes it a less than ideal solution for someone trying to run a lean, stable system.

Apple Safari LogoWhile Safari doesn’t have anywhere near the usage rates of IE or Firefox, it’s still a major contender in the browser wars, for three reasons: 1) It’s the default browser on every Mac system, and has the highest browser rates on Macintosh computers; 2) It’s the default (and until Opera Mini managed to strongarm their way onto it, only) browser on the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad; and 3) It’s cross-platform and free. I’ve been a diehard Safari user since it came out, only occasionally switching to Firefox or Camino. However, as they’ve continued to add more features, the overall quality has (in my opinion) gone down. Reports of stability issues are prevalent on the Windows version, and I’ve been discovering massive resource consumption on my Mac. Since Safari 5, the memory footprint has grown significantly, causing repeated beachballs for the most basic browsing tasks because my laptop, with 2gb of ram, was out of memory. (My frustration with this is actually what has prompted this post.) I can only assume it’s a memory leak that slipped past them, because I cannot fathom how that sort of resource consumption would be acceptable for a shipping product.

Opera LogoOpera is a trooper from the old browser wars. While it has incredible market penetration on devices and globally, as a desktop web browser it didn’t really get a strong foothold in the U.S. They’ve continued to improve the browser over a number of years (the current version as of this writing is 10.60), and at this point boast one of the most standards compliant, fastest browsers on the market, with a ridiculous amount of features. Which is the problem: there are so many features and customizations and tie-in services like Opera Unite and Opera Link that it’s incredibly easy for the average user to get mired in unwanted complexity. Additionally, while they have support for widgets (which can even work as standalone applications from the desktop), I had trouble finding any plugins to fix some egregious oversights (despite all those features, Opera tends to only play with itself — service integration with third party options like Evernote or Delicious are non-existent). Some of the interface I found cumbersome, but I was willing to work through that (all browsers have some quirks, after all), but was off-put by the sheer number of browser themes that were for Windows only, leaving Mac users very few options to try and find a more suitable interface.

Chrome LogoThe last of the “big” browsers I wanted to mention was Google’s foray into the browser market, Google Chrome, and its development sibling Chromium. Despite being very new, Chrome has already gained a significant market share in terms of browser statistics, and not without reason: it’s fast; it breaks page viewing into separate processes to keep the entire browser from crashing when one page hits bad code; and, well, it’s made by Google. Frankly, while I appreciated some of the features of Chrome, I found it to be an incredibly slipshod application. The user interface was inconsistent and unclear on numerous occasions, with the preferences window being a morass of poorly explained buttons and hidden panels, and their handling of tabs becoming utterly useless once you get much over 20 tabs open. It’s easy to start cutting them some slack by saying “It’s a beta,” but let’s be realistic here. Google has made a point of hiring some of the smartest, most talented, capable people on the planet, and invested millions into the development and marketing of Google Chrome already. A product with that sort of backing feeling this slapdash is embarrassing for them and frustrating for the user. (Final gripe about this: despite their session-splitting to help prevent browser crashes, Chrome crashed on me when I tried to quit.)

So there you have it, the biggest, most popular browsers out there. The reality is that they all have MAJOR FLAWS, and there is major work that should be done on all of them. The bright side is that each of these browsers is under active development, so a lot of the work that needs to be done will be done. Until the problems are fixed, however, I’m inclined to look into one of the numerous smaller browser projects being developed out there, and hopefully find a diamond in the rough that blows the big boys out of the water.

Happy 2010

New Year, new site design. One of my resolutions this year is to set a design that works and then don’t mess with it for a year (barring bug fixes and the like), ostensibly so I focus on producing content. It’s a good goal, and I think it’s reasonable. My intent is to take the next little while to get a few things in order, and then brush the rust off my blogging.

In the meantime, go play some meta games (specifically, games that are aware they are games and largely exist to poke fun at common game design tropes):