Spoiler Warning Half Life 2 Episode 9: Highway 17, Abridged

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Oct 26, 2011

Filed under: Spoiler Warning 100 comments

Link (YouTube)

We’re back to our journey through Half-Life 2.

Once again I would like to stress how willing I am to pay for a “remastered” version of this game that removes the loading screens. Throw in some high-def textures and a scene where Greedo shoots first, and boom! Instant cash. Valve, I’m expressing my willingness to have my nostalgia exploited for your material gain. Think it over, ok?

I’d be curious to see how this sequence would look if we could actually see from one end of the bridge to the other. I’m sure the fog is there for polygon control, which is no longer an issue now that we’re living in the future. Having said that, it’s possible that being able to see from one end to the other would make it less mysterious. There’s something haunting about being adrift in that fog. Removing the fog might make the bridge seem even more massive and imposing, but it might also make it more boring.



Autoblography Part 34: The Systems Analyst

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Oct 26, 2011

Filed under: Personal 122 comments

Excepting Seven Springs, this is the largest entry in the entire series. Sorry about that. This isn’t really about me as much as it is about a problem that I observed. If you’re looking for an entry to skip, this is the one.

It’s 1993, and I’m working at Taco Bell. Working here is miserable, but very instructive as a low-level view of corporate dysfunction.

I’m 22 now. My life isn’t irrevocably ruined by this fast-food detour, but I can feel the clock ticking. The longer I’m stuck in this rut, the harder it will be to break out. I need to find some kind of technology job soon. This is hampered somewhat by the fact that I’m afraid to look for work. I like thinking that I’ll be able to get some kind of job doing what I love. The only thing that can kill that dream is to attempt to do so and fail. I’m not really aware of this dysfunction right now; it’s just a little neurosis that eats away at me from time to time and perpetuates foolish behavior.

My friend David is going to school at Nyack. Patrick has graduated high school and gone off to the Navy. I’ve made new friends at Taco Bell but we’re all friends of proximity, not common interests. I’m feeling a little isolated these days.

Heather is now in her second year of college. She’s double-majoring in elementary and special education, with an art minor. In those rare moments away from school, she’s working as a nanny. It’s keeping her busy. We’re still dating, but our relationship is an on-again, off-again thing. Taking the long view, this is probably for the best. I’m not a very nice person to be around these days, and our distance saves her from the brunt of my bitterness, self-absorption, and jackassery. The friends around me are not so lucky, and I end up treating a lot of people very poorly.


I’ve been made a shift manager. I’m allowed to be in charge of the store and I’m privy to the inner workings of the business in a way that wasn’t possible as a lowly mook at McDonald’s. I find I’m very interested in the problem of how the weekly work schedule is made.

Continue reading ⟩⟩ “Autoblography Part 34: The Systems Analyst”



Autoblography Part 33: Meet Cute

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Oct 25, 2011

Filed under: Personal 161 comments

Heather picks me up in her parent’s car. This is our first date.

I’ve never seen her wearing anything besides her McDonald’s uniform. She shows up wearing an ankle-length skirt with a flower print and a jean jacket. I have this strange moment where I realize we are the products of two entirely different teenage cultures. If we’d gone to school together, we might never have associated with each other. By meeting in a work environment where we wore uniforms, we didn’t drag all of our high school ideas about identity into our relationship. Until now.

“That’s an… interesting outfit,” I blurt out. I know this this incredibly wrong the moment the words escape my mouth, and none of my hastily appended comments do anything to blunt the fact that I was just a jerk to her. This is on top of the fact that I was already kind of a jerk when she asked me to prom. She’s an exceptionally good sport about it.


We go see Medicine Man, starring Sean Connery. This is a movie with A Message, and the message gets in the way of the storytelling. I really like the characters, but the ham-fisted plot repeatedly tests my patience. As it grinds through the sad parts of the movie, I look over to see if Heather is as annoyed as I am. She is not. In fact, she is a little teary-eyed.

This date could be going better, but it could also be going worse. In fact, it’s about to.

Continue reading ⟩⟩ “Autoblography Part 33: Meet Cute”



Josh Plays Shogun 2 Part 6: Retribution!

By Josh Posted Monday Oct 24, 2011

Filed under: Spoiler Warning 40 comments


Our toil against the treacherous Imagawa clan will soon be at an end! After our humiliating defeat at Mikawa, we’ve gathered all of the forces we could muster to strike back and retake what is ours. And we must strike back â€" our backs are up against the wall, and the only way out is to defeat the Imagawa advance before they can move any farther.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.


We’ve just moved our reinforcements to assist in the siege against Mikawa. And we’re not the only ones â€" as you can see, the Imagawa have reinforcements of their own, and it’s a rather disconcerting omen: two katana samurai units. It seems the Imagawa have been improving their military infrastructure while we were busy recovering. We still have a manpower advantage â€" for the moment â€" but the Imagawa haven’t yet sallied forth to attempt to break the siege. So we’ll wait.

While our army lays siege to Imagawa, our ninja scouts have been busy, and they’ve confirmed that, as I suspected, the full strength of the Imagawa is concentrated solely on Mikawa. If we beat them here, they will have nothing left.

We still have some funds left, so before I end the turn I order the recruitment of some additional garrison troops and begin work on upgrading Owari’s fishing village into a harbor. Later on, we will want a navy to repel any aquatic invasion forces, and a proper port will allow us to gather some additional income from sea trade.

There’s nothing left to take care of â€" let’s see what the Imagawa do.

Continue reading ⟩⟩ “Josh Plays Shogun 2 Part 6: Retribution!”



Notes on the autoblography

By Shamus Posted Sunday Oct 23, 2011

Filed under: Notices 49 comments

Last week I claimed that the autoblography would end at #34. Lies. I’ve been editing, inserting, and expanding. It will not end in the coming week, although I really, really am trying to end it the week after. Right now I’m looking at #37 or #38. (If you haven’t noticed, I post these Tues, Wed, Thu, and Fri. That’s four posts of 1,000+ words every week. This may be the most content I’ve ever put out on a sustained basis.)

Also, I’ve restored the long-dead tagging system for posts. You’ll notice at the end of this post, it’s filed under “boring announcements”. If you want to link to or browse the autoblography posts, you can use a link like this:



The advantage of the tag system is that I can group posts without proliferating the number of categories. (Those little icons at the top.)

The downside of these tags is that I didn’t start using the tag system until the site was several years old. (It wasn’t even available in those early versions of WordPress.) I didn’t use it in the last year or so because I forgot about it when I rolled out my new theme that didn’t show tags. So most stuff on the site isn’t tagged, and combing through the archives of all 2,983 posts on the site to tag them would be prohibitively time consuming.

I might be able to auto-generate some tags for common topics (like Project Frontier, Hex, and such) with a bit of creative MySQL, but that’s also a good way to break something. (SQL commands don’t have an undo button. Yes, you can restore the dB, but that’s a massive pain for a bunch of stupid reasons. (There’s a cap on how much you can upload through PHP, there’s a cap on how big SQL commands can be, and there’s a cap on how long a PHP page can take to do a thing. It’s very, very likely that my 300Mb (!!!!) database will hit all three limits, which would require me to do things the very, very hard way. Basically, botching a MySQL command in a way that requires a dB restore could result in hours of frustration, fighting to get the site back up.))

TL;DR: There are tags on some posts, but not on others, and the tag system sucks and is not likely to improve soon.