"an ology for the new millenium"
Why, it's the vanity site and weblog of Eric Tilton! [*]

Bernie says hello. He'd like to know if you have any wet cat food for him.

Welcome to ology.org! This is the personal vanity site of Eric Tilton and Carrie Jones. It mainly exists so that we can laugh heartily at our clever e-mail addresses (like tele@ology.org). Ho ho ho!

Please wander around, and feel free to enjoy my fine Corinthian web log.

Tuesday, July 31, 2001

[Posted 7/31/2001 08:49:09 AM by tilt]
I got myself a new toy as a personal birthday present: the Canon PowerShot G1 (see this review of the G1 on dpreview.com). My Kodak DC240 has served me faithfully, but I was looking to upgrade the picture resolution (from 1 to 3 megapixels), and I'm ready to have a camera that lets me play with aperture, exposure length, and ISO settings.

The Canon's also very fast: once it's finished autofocusing, it reacts to the final button push nearly instantly. The Kodak had a nasty habit of delaying even after I'd fully depressed the button, because it was waiting to write stuff to memory. The Canon apparently has better buffering or internal memory, because the problem doesn't seem to happen here.

The "creative" controls seem about right for me -- the mode knob has a whole bunch of settings, including amateur presets (like portrait, night shot, and stich mode), and prosumer detail settings (like aperture/exposure priority, completely manual settings, and the ability to manually focus). I can use the amateur settings but ease into more detailed control.

Another really cool feature is that the LCD panel flips out and can be rotated into almost any position, so you can viewfind without having to use the actual rangefinder. Since the LCD is very visible outside, and the battery life is supposed to be exceptional, this should mean that it's not a big deal that it's not an SLR (for image framing purposes). We'll see.

Other cool perks: it comes with a copy of Photoshop 5 LE (which is suprisingly full featured, lacking only the history functionality) for (Classic) Mac, which will get me by until Photoshop Elements arrives for OS X. (I have the full Photoshop 5 for Windows, but I'm glad I'll be able to edit images on my laptop -- the GIMP is already deleted. Sorry guys.) It also takes completely goofy 30 second movies. And it's got an infrared remote control for taking group shots that include the picture taker (especially cool since you can flip the LCD around and the group can see how the picture is framed).

Enough talk -- here's a sample image (that links through to the one megabyte full size output):

(If you're reading this in the archives, and you find the link to the large image went away one day months later, don't be shocked.)

Printouts at this resolution are unbelievably great -- I had to scale this down to fit on my 8 1/2" x 11" bubblejet printer, and the details come through wonderfully. And this is on the relatively crummy and cheap Epson 777.

There are a couple of weirdnesses: the camera doesn't seem to charge if there's no CF card installed, and the grip isn't as good on this camera as on several others. Still, these are minor issues -- the high resolution, plentitude of features, great LCD display, and long battery life make this a winner in my book.

For reference, I was also considering:

  • The Kodak DC4800 (but it's being discontinued, with no clear replacement on the way)
  • The Olympus C-700 and C-3000 (but they both use SmartMedia cards, and I've invested heavily in Compact Flash, including my Pocket PC, and I like interoperability)
  • The Sony DCS-S75 (but it uses Sony memory sticks, which work with nothing else.
  • The CoolPix 995 (but it's more money, and won't fit in my pouch as well, although it does use CF cards)
and here's the list of important features I was looking for in a camera:
  • Fast picture taking -- no delay between pushing button and taking shots (which, if you account for the autofocus time, it achieves wonderfully)
  • 3+ megapixels
  • Manual, easy access controls (exposure, aperture, ISO, etc)
  • Built-in lens cover that auto opens & closes (no such luck)
  • Long-life built-in battery that I can recharge in the camera
  • CompactFlash storage
  • High quality optics (I'm no professional judge, but other reviewers have said good things about it, and it looks good to me)
  • 3x optical zoom (although the 10x on the Olympus C-700 was tempting)
  • No larger than current camera (otherwise, the Canon Pro 90 looked interesting :)
  • Relatively rugged (it remains to be seen, but the camera certainly feels solid)
  • decent UI (I like the Canon UI more than I did a year ago when I looked at the PowerShot S100 -- it's grown on me. However, it ain't great. Different menu options are available under different camera modes, making exploration difficult without a manual, and a lot of the buttons are awkward to reach. On the other hand, it's got a great manual, and the thumb rocker is very well designed. So, overall, I'm pleased with it.)
I'm pleased to say, the G1 fulfills pretty much all of these requirements. I'm definitely enjoying it.

Saturday, July 28, 2001

[Posted 7/28/2001 10:52:58 AM by tilt]
Signs, signs, everywhere a sign

Some pictures of signs I've taken recently:

Where? Look out!

Taken not more than five blocks from the Texas state capitol, in Austin. Vive la revolution!

This is an ad for mall gift certificates

The Simon organization apparently owns lots of malls, and a certificate good at one is good at any. But I found it striking that this ad -- which is of a toy folded out of a gift certificate -- still prominently displays the "not responsible for..." and "nonrefundable..." text. Little subliminal "fuck yous" from the Man?

Taken on I-5 between Portland, OR and Napavine, WA. There's a shop that makes signs right behind the billboard. It's certainly hard to miss the billboards, although it's easy to miss that there's a shop there.

Tuesday, July 24, 2001

[Posted 7/24/2001 08:53:39 PM by tilt]
I installed X Windows on my OS X powerbook -- the window server that runs under Aqua is unsurprisingly called XonX. The latest version (1.0a1) supports "rootless" mode, which means that windows in X can run right next to windows in Aqua. This opens up a whole bunch of new software for the FreeBSD-based OS X, including GIMP (the GNU Image Manipulation Program). It's basically a Photoshop analogue, with a fair amount of power for free software (although a pretty lousy user interface).

If you're interested, the relevant links are:

There are some problems -- the MacGIMP installation package messes with your xinitrc, changing it to just run gimp when you start X, instead of whatever you'd set it to. And it blows in this whole /sw directory at the top level with a bunch of stuff in it that may or may not be useful (haven't checked it out yet). But the geek coolness factor is high.

It's pretty cool, especially for an old Unix geek like me.

[Posted 7/24/2001 08:44:11 PM by tilt]
Warcraft III's been delayed till sometime next year (it was originally supposed to be out this holiday season). This is no big surprise from Blizzard (they've done it with every game), but it's still disappointing. Still, when it finally does come out, I have no doubt it'll almost illegally fun. In the mean time, I've still got a big backlog of things to play (and MechCommander 2, Max Payne, and Conquest: Frontier Wars to look forward to).

Sunday, July 22, 2001

[Posted 7/22/2001 11:29:23 PM by tilt]
I saw Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within tonight. Oh. My. God. Loved it.

Too bad they mispelled Cid's name in the credits.

[Posted 7/22/2001 08:05:35 AM by tilt]
Six months later, I've finally finished Clive Barker's Undying. Overall rating? Probably a "B-". The two biggest flaws in the game are incomprehensible boss battles and a story line that starts out strong and sputters into mediocrity by the finale. The key to killing each boss turns out to be to use a particular weapon at a particular time, but the game never sets this up -- despite tossing a ton of journals and other found textual material your way, nothing ever says "hey, that foobar of bizbaz -- you'll probably need to use that to kick some ass when the bosses are weak." And most bosses tend to have a brief weak period, that isn't telegraphed well. I ended up keeping the cheat guide up in a web browser so I could look up how to beat bosses, especially near the end, where they come more frequently.

The story line is a huge disappointment, especially considering the "Clive Barker" name on the marquee. It starts out relatively interesting -- there's an intriguing opening cut scene, and an opening gameplay sequence that's certainly meant to out-shine Half-Life in its rapid shifting between game play and exposition. However, the story soon degenerates into a series of "quests" to take out each boss in succession, and the setup for starting each quest is thin if not non-existent. These quests are all meant to be building toward a final showdown, but instead each new task feels random and out of nowhere. The first half of the game contains more journals and other expository writing that at least half-heartedly motivates your actions -- the second half contains little of this, and mostly relies on the fact that you have nowhere to go except for, well, forward. The terror you feel in the first quarter of the game gives way to a certain degree of tedium, once you accumulate enough to power to no longer feel the need to jump at every shadow.

An additional flaw is the weapon/magic selection system. It's swell that you have lots of choices (10 weapons and 10 spells), but there's no way to bind the casting of a spell to a hotkey. The best you can do is use a hotkey to select a spell -- you still have to manage to hit the right mouse button to invoke the spell. This means you're constantly wasting time in battle trying to get the shield spell selected and cast, and then trying to select the enhanced sight spell (so you can see past the visual effects of the shield spell).

Despite these glaring flaws, the game remains worth playing. The bosses, while irritating, make up only a small fraction of a game otherwise filled with excellent and varied level design. The levels are gorgeous, and often contain at least a degree of non-linearity (which is to say, spurs you can head down to find various interesting secrets and power ups). The Unreal engine is not used to as great an effect as The Wheel of Time (which used close-up detail textures to impressive effect), but the levels are still filled with a satisfying degree of detail and action. The monster design is interesting, and the non-bosses are fun to play against (although none recapture the initial terror of the Howlers leaping out of the shadows and attacking your back with no warning). And the cut-scenes are of good quality, even if they are in the service of an ultimately disappointing (and predictable) story.

So what's the final verdict? The game's worth playing, because a good 90% of the gameplay is solid and entertaining. However, it sadly falls short of its initial promise: it fails to deliver on an engaging storyline, and it fails to terrify you along the way.

Friday, July 13, 2001

[Posted 7/13/2001 08:04:46 PM by tilt]
To follow up on the Microserfs entry below: I remember the big CD-ROM craze from 1994 and 1995. It was a huge deal, and it kind of fizzled out -- remember all those crazy "video on disc" Microsoft titles, like the wine guide and the interactive music lessons? Except it didn't really fizzle out -- because if you look at the list of "interactive cd-rom" attributes, they basically describe the design space of modern computer games. "How do you tell a story while allowing the player latitude?" "How do you balance making the player do work vs. having fun?" "How do you create an illusion of a completely freeform space while still constraining the player in a fairly scripted way?"

[Posted 7/13/2001 07:54:13 PM by tilt]
Martian Successor Nadesico rocks my tiny little world. The anime in-jokes are clever and often, and the mid-series recap episode made me laugh until my guts spilled out. As happened with Evangelion, I've gotten impatient, and switched over from the DVDs to the subbed video tapes in an effort to see as much of the show as possible. It's rough, though: Nadesico is even harder than Evangelion to follow while also trying to read subtitles, since there are visual, audio, and text gags densely layered throughout.

[Posted 7/13/2001 07:48:45 PM by tilt]
I'm rereading Microserfs. It's a great snapshot of the early '90s geek culture, and as I read it, I have little twinges of yearning for the valley. But they aren't the big twinges that they once were. I spent a summer in Silicon Valley, and I enjoyed it a lot, but I no longer really yearn to live there. Austin's got more than enough geeks for me, without being quite so... well, dense.

(Not that I get out to see any of these geeks, mind you -- gotta do something about that. Maybe when the UT Anime club starts the fall showings!)

Microserfs does manage to show its age. It talks about "Interactive CD-ROM titles" (back when the medium was considered the genre -- merely being large was all that was required to be distinctive); only has a kind of prototypical notion of the coming web world; and falls squarely in the middle of the Steve Interregnum. Xerox still retained an edge of cool from having PARC; Interval still existed; and you could pick an Internet domain name to put into a book but not even consider registering it as part of an associated marketing opportunity.

I actually find Microserfs kind of troubling to read. I was reading it last night before going to bed, and it returned to haunt my dreams. The book represents a way that I was, back in the early '90s, and I've spent a lot of time and energy moving past that way of being. (Not to obfuscate: I was an emotionally distant tech boy going after goals that I didn't understand or even fundamentally want. Closed source -- Microsoft time. Now I'm trying to live in a more open source kind of way, although I'm definitely BSD-style, instead of GPL. Me and Apple, both on the rebound, grooving on aesthetic and lifestyle.)

So, my new resolution: don't read Microserfs before bed. Read something else after it.

(The OS X built-in dictionary does not have "geek" or "anime" in it. Or "Steve"! I'll have to see what I can do about that.)

Friday, July 06, 2001

[Posted 7/6/2001 09:02:03 AM by tilt]
We went down to see the fireworks on the fourth. It's rare that I actually go to see a fireworks display -- I think the last time I did it was eight years ago, when I was visiting my dad in California. Even then, I've only been to "formal" fireworks display like this a handful of times. It was a lot of fun -- we made a nice picnic dinner, and got some barbeque to gnaw on. We didn't try to get to the main park (the parking was no doubt horrible), but we sat in the front lawn of a nearby high school. We could even mostly hear the orchestra playing festive jingoistic tunes :).

Usually (back when I was a mere yute), we'd go up to my grandparents' house in Napavine, and the whole clan (which is vast and impressive) would buy various fireworks. We'd set out some plywood and spend a hour or two lighting 'em up. My grandparents' place is a farm, so there's no one nearby to bother with all of the noise and foo-fa-rah :). I always enjoyed this -- it was a very intimate and personal celebration. However, I have to say that the big shows are pretty cool.

Mother Nature was not prepared to be upstaged, however -- before the fireworks started, she put on a pretty spectacular show of her own:

My camera doesn't have any manual settings, so most of the fireworks pictures aren't so hot. (And I forgot my tripod *shrug*). This one turned out OK, though, and you can kind of see the epic amounts of smoke left in the air from these things (the actual trail streched all across the sky by the end of the night -- very weird visual):

Wednesday, July 04, 2001

[Posted 7/4/2001 08:46:10 AM by tilt]
We went to Houston this last weekend. It was a lot of fun; we saw family and friends, and spent most of Saturday playing tourist. We started off at the Zoo, which was interesting, although hot. Sadly, since it was so hot, a lot of the big cats were (wisely) hiding away.

Since we were near to collapsing from heatstroke, we moved on to the (air-conditioned) science center. The very first thing we did was to check out the astonishing butterfly hall. You can wander through a small grotto area where thousands of living butterflies flitter around. If you're wearing brightly colored clothes, they may even land on you. Here are some pictures:

I spent most of my time in the exhibit fruitlessly trying to capture pictures of the large, blue butterflies. (One was called the "Blue Morpho," but I can't remember the name of the other one. I believe these are all Blue Morpho shots.) The larger ones moved around much faster, and rarely kept their wings open when landing. Much to my amazement, I got the following pictures:

Here's what it looks like when it has landed:

The only one I saw with that had its wings open while still was, unfortunately, dead:

Tuesday, July 03, 2001

[Posted 7/3/2001 10:22:15 PM by tilt]
I picked up Anachronox yesterday. So far, I'm enjoying it immensely. It successfully merges the styles of PC gaming and console RPGs. It's also wicked funny.

[Posted 7/3/2001 10:21:41 PM by tilt]
Encore finally got the last tape of Neon Genesis Evangelion in (of course, as soon as I got up to the counter to rent it, I spied the final DVD in its plastic wrap, ready to be placed on the shelves in a day or two).

I'm glad to have finally watched it; I watched the rest of the series over a month ago, and I've been going crazy wanting to know how it ends. I can see why many people were disappointed with the ending -- it takes a severe left turn from the action of the rest of the series (although it's actually very consistent with the "real" psychological action that's going on). I do wish that there had been about ten more minutes spent between episode 24 and 25 explaining the connection between the angels and the third impact, and how all of the previous action was really a setup for the third impact occurring. (Which isn't really that much of a spoiler.)

I tell you what: watching the last two episodes makes it even more clear how much of Dual is really an upbeat retelling of the Evangelion story. I'm also looking forward to watching the two Evangelion movies, which are reputed to be a more satisfying alternate ending to the series.

See earlier stuff in the archives


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