Chatter #56: January 3, 2002

12/14/2001 — I started the Chatter section on July 27, 2000 when I noticed that the rest of my site was sometimes getting cluttered with lots of text. I'm a talkative guy, after all! So now I talk about my life here, instead of all over the place. Originally this was one huge section, but in December of 2001 it simply became too large to remain as one page, and I broke it into dated sections, as you can see. —>PM

Lord of the Rings

After a week-long delay I finally went to see The Lord of the Rings with Teri and my friends. Teri loved it, as did most of my friends, but for myself I can't properly judge the movie yet. I know the books too well, and every time the movie deviated from the books it stood out in my eyes like a nova. Also, I kind of hate "beautiful people" stars, and Liv Tyler's lips alone were enough to make me cringe. I never envisioned Arwen as a teenager's wet dream, and the expansion of her role made me ill.

On the other hand it seemed that as far as Hollywood fantasy movies go, this one was probably much better than most. So I don't know. I made a list of 60 changes that the movie made from the books and posted them on Usenet; got the usual reactions, some positive, some neutral, a couple of snotty negative ones. It's funny how there's almost always at least one testy asshole who insists on taking personal offense at a post, and gets as rude as possible about it. Makes you wonder about our species.

Buckaroo Banzai

Since I've mentioned a movie, here's one that I can be much less conflicted about: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension. When this movie came out my friend Steve and I were completely insane for it; he even managed to get the promotional press kit for it that included a genuine Team Banzai headband, and I was soooo jealous.

Now it's Steve's turn to be jealous (at least until he gets a DVD player): Buckaroo Banzai has just come out on DVD, and it's just about the best edition possible. It's in full widescreen, of course; it doesn't even offer a pan & scan option, and in my book that's just as well. The original movie was extremely wide, so pan & scan didn't work all that well on it anyway.

There's a full commentated version of the movie with the director and writer, an alternate version of the movie incorporating a scene with Jamie Lee Curtis (she was cut from the theatrical release!), fourteen deleted scenes, the option to display additional Team Banzai information throughout the movie, a trailer for a proposed new TV series, and just TONS more. As a Blue Blaze Irregular, I'm in heaven.

If you've never seen the movie and have a good sense of humor, I recommend it highly. Although in fairness I should also admit that not one of my friends "gets" BB except for Steve.

Computer Decision

As I've mentioned before, my old computer is starting to show its age. I'm getting error messages about the D drive; it works, but the messages say that something is wrong with a sector somehow. It's possible that the drive isn't properly designated in the BIOS, I don't know.

I'm an extremely cautious shopper when it comes to big purchases, though, so I'm looking for advice on what sort of system to buy. I know that I want DVD-ROM, and need a good CD burner, TV tuner capability, and decent graphics; I don't need a monitor because my old 19-inch CRT is just fine.

Right now it's down to two different stores. One is a local store that I don't have any experience with called On-Site Computers; it was recommended by my dental hygienist. She was quite enthusiastic about them, and when I checked them out I found they recommend AMD chips over Intel, which to me is a point in their favor. Here's the system and price they quoted me:

On-Site Computers Quote:

  • AMD K-7 1700+ XP CPU-ThermalTake Heat Sink/Fan
  • Epox KHAP+ MB RAM to 1.5Gig
  • 512MB DDR 2100 Micron memory
  • Western Digital 60Gig 7200 RPM Hard Drive
  • Sony 3.5" 1.44MB Floppy drive
  • 16x10x40 CDRW
  • 16X DVD ATA 66
  • ATI All in One Radeon 32MB Video Card
  • Sound Blaster Live Digitally Audio Card
  • Cambridge Soundworks 5 piece Stereo Speakers
  • MS Windows ME, Corel Office Suite 8 & PC-Cillin Anti Virus Software.


On the up side, they're close—only a few minutes drive away—and they're offering a nice speaker system (well, it's probably bottom-of-the-line, but any Cambridge Soundworks system is impressive—and five pieces is two more than I've ever had). On the down side I don't know them personally, and I don't know about the quality of the components they use. I also don't know how good their service is.

The other store I'm considering is PCs For Everyone. They're the people I got my last computer from, and among my friends their reputation is solid gold. Every PC-geek I know goes there. They do their own repairs and use top-notch components. On the other hand, I got my last system there and had to bring it back several times for repairs; the DVD-ROM still doesn't work right. Also, it's now a 60-mile drive to get there, and although their store hours are much better than they used to be, it would still be a bit of a pain to take my system in. Come to think of it, one time when I took my system in I didn't get it back for more than two weeks!

The system they quoted didn't include a speaker system (it would be another $145, but that might be for better speakers—I don't know), and some of the brands and such are different. Obviously for both quotes I copied everything verbatim, since I don't know what some of the tech stuff means.

PCs For Everyone Quote:

  • AMD Athlon-XP 1700+ (1.46 GHz w/Palomino Core) Socket-A PGA using 266MHz FSB processor w/128k L1 full-speed cache and 256k L2 full-speed Cache. ATX design starter system with DDR 266MHz processing. Uses the new 266MHz version of the Athlon processor. Uses the new Palomino core which includes SSE support and improved data prefetch.
  • 512Mb CL2.5 PC2100 compliant SDRAM Uses (2) 184-pin 256Mb DDR SDIMM.
  • 60 Gig EIDE 7200RPM Seagate Barracuda ATA Model ST360021A.
  • ATI All in One Radeon 32MB Video Card
  • Windows ME
  • Pioneer 16X IDE ATAPI DVD Drive, Model 106S, OEM.
  • Mitsumi CR4808TE 16x8x40 EIDE/Atapi CDRW drive OEM version.
  • Creative Labs Sound-Blaster Live! 5.1 OEM


So which should I go with? Should I ask more questions of either store, and if so, what? I'm also not sure if I should go with Windows ME, 2nd edition Windows 98, or something else. I can't switch to Linux just yet; all of my old files are in Windows format, for one thing.

Sebastian Update

John Sebastian is growing and maturing with what seems to be frightening speed. Three days ago he started eating cereal for the first time; very runny oatmeal from a spoon. He cried at first, but within ten minutes was happily smiling as we spoon-fed him. There was a fair amount of mess, of course, but a lot of it got into him and he has definitely got the idea. The oatmeal seems to agree with him, too; no signs of allergy or digestive upset.

At almost the same time he made a big breakthrough in hand-eye coordination. When we first sat him in his play-saucer four days ago he looked at the toys on its periphery but didn't try to do anything with them. Within an hour he was moving his arms somewhat aimlessly and getting interested when he hit and moved a yellow-and-blue plastic butterfly on a revolving rod. Now he's poking at things all the time, and I've caught him looking at his hands. He has a bit of a cold and a mild ear infection which is making him somewhat uncomfortable, but despite that he's learning more and more every day. He's talking, too, making "coo, coo, coo" sounds and burbling to himself quite cutely in the crib.

As of his weighing at the pediatrician's last week he was 15 pounds and nine ounces, which is way in advance of his age. The doctor says he's doing wonderfully, which is why she had us start him on cereal; normally they wait until at least four months have gone by, but an 8-oz feeding of formula no longer lasts him for four hours.

Diablo Delight/Disaster

Virgil is having monitor trouble (actually video card trouble) and hasn't been able to play Diablo yet, but Jon and I got in a long session a couple of days ago. As with so many things in my life, it was a mixed blessing and curse.

We started out with some difficulty; Jon's home computer had crashed, crashed badly. Probably a hardware issue, which would take days or weeks to have fixed. In the meantime, he installed the game on his laptop and used a dial-in connection from AT&T to reach

I'd experienced a crash myself and was therefore late for our online rendezvous, but we managed to get together, start new mages, and begin an adventure. We went through the first level fairly easily; Jon accidentally shot me a few times, and I hit him accidentally twice myself, but none of the blows were fatal. We collected everything we saw and divided up everything equally; if one person ran out of potions, the other supplied them if they had them. I held back and let him have the better spell books, only learning a spell if he already knew it. Money was very tight at first.

We needed to take a break after a while; Jon needed lunch, and I needed lunch and to go shopping with Teri and Sebastian. But before we broke I wanted to transfer some stuff between some of my other characters.

My character Bob (NM) is naked mage; since he cannot use any sort of items, inevitably he finds all the best ones. Most of those I sell and use the money to buy spellbooks, potions, and elixirs; however, the two best items I saved to give to my main mage, Omac.

I should (quickly) explain the issue of transference. In order to transfer something from one character to another, it must be done through a game. The characters don't have to be in the same game at the same time, but they must both enter the same game—the first one drops the item(s) and the second one picks it/them up. Only four characters at most can be in a game at a time, and if all characters leave a game, the game disappears—along with anything left on the ground. Items left on the ground in an expired game are gone forever.

Which meant that I needed someone trustworthy to hold a game open while I went in with Bob, dropped the items, left the game as Bob, came back as Omac, and picked up the items. This would normally take less than a minute.

I should explain that one reason I was particularly eager to transfer the items was that they were taking up a huge amount of space in Bob's inventory. Since I'm not a lucky person, I don't feel safe leaving items on the ground in the village while I adventured in the dungeon; that meant I had to carry them around with me all of the time. But that also meant that once I picked up a couple more magic items in the dungeon I had to go back up to the village to sell them off, because I couldn't carry any more. So I was popping in and out of the dungeon way more often than I wanted. Very time-consuming!

Jon agreed to hold the game open while I made the transfer. The first part went smoothly. Bob (NM) entered the game and dropped off the items: a Dragon's Staff of Apocalypse (+59 mana and 9 charges of Apocalypse, the most powerful (and unlearnable) spell in the game), and a Thinking Cap, which adds two levels to all of a mage's spells.

I left as Bob, and tried to bring Omac in. But when I did, I got a red error box and a warning about latency. I tried again and again, but couldn't get in. A terrible fear gripped me. Had Jon's dial-in connection from AT&T failed?

The phone rang. It was Jon. His dial-in connection from AT&T had failed, and at the worst possible time. I should have asked him to pick up the items I'd dropped, but hadn't thought of it; now I was screwed. Those huge, bulky, incredibly valuable and rare items which I'd carried around for months were gone forever.

I made a futile attempt to get back into the game—some say that a game can persist for up to five minutes after the last person leaves—but it was hopeless. Everything was gone.

Actually, I took it all better than I would have expected. A mild disappointment, really nothing at all. I think in the back of my head I'd almost expected this to happen. Sometimes I think that I am cursed.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. AT&T sucks!

We agreed to do some more adventuring that evening.

In the evening we got together, started a new game (old ones aren't saved), and went through the first level with blinding speed. On the second level we completely avoided the Butcher's room, at my suggestion. He's simply too powerful! Jon was slain at one point by arrow-shooting skeletons, but fortunately I'd found a scroll of resurrection and was able to revive him and recover his possessions. Finishing the level, we left the Butcher for later and went on to the third level...home of Leoric, the Skeleton King.

There were a TON of skeletons on that level! Fortunately we both had Holy Bolt, but our supply of potions wasn't high enough. When the king and several of his skeletons converged on us, Jon fell and I died moments later. We woke up back in the village, used our remaining money for mana potions, and headed back down to take revenge on the King.

We went slow, and knew where he would be. Jon took point, while I fired Holy Bolts through his body (Holy Bolts are unique in that they don't harm or affect anything other than the undead). The King fell, dropping a massive axe amidst his shattered bones. His cohort skeletons fell almost immediately after.

We took the axe up to the village blacksmith and sold it. To our amazement, it was worth 6,800 gold! The most we'd ever had between us before that was about 1,000. Jon bought magical Strong Armor, and I bought a ton of mana potions and a book of Charged Bolt (Jon already knew that spell). With that, we called it a night.

The adventure will no doubt continue soon, and if I can (and it's at all interesting) I'll write it up here.I'm thinking of changing characters, though; maybe I should take a fighter. That way I wouldn't be in competition at all for spellbooks and items, and it might be helpful to have a good hand-to-hand man in the dungeons. I don't have a high-level fighter on anyway. Might be fun.

Arisia Confirmed

To my mild surprise (I rather expected trouble) I received a confirmation of my hotel room for Arisia a few days ago, so barring unpleasant surprises I'll be at the Boston Park Plaza from January 18th through the 20th.


I'd like to take this opportunity to wish a happy New Year to all of my readers—may it be better than last year! 2001 brought me a wonderful baby, of course, but also saw the vast acceleration of corruption in the American media and a fearsomely rapid move towards a political dictatorship. May 2002 see the continued flourishing of John Sebastian, and may the criminal elite who've hijacked this country meet a fitting fate.

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[email protected] Copyright 2002 by Peter Maranci. Revised: January 18, 2002. version 1.1