Chatter #71: December 27, 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

December 27, 2002

Oddly enough I don't really feel like writing. So perhaps this will be a shortish Chatter, for once.

Drowning In Spam

Between posting my email address here and using it on usenet in my sig, I may be one of the more spammed people in the world. Drugs, sex, HGH (whatever the hell that is), MLM, you name it and I get it. Plus some bastard spammers have actually forged my email address in the "From:" fields, too.

I use filters in Agent to screen out a large chunk of spam (plus the filters make reading usenet practical again), but a lot still gets through; sometimes there just isn't any way to work out a filter for a particular type of spam, or at least I can't think of one. So I've developed an instinct for spam. For example, any subject with "peter," (note lower case and comma) goes. I'm seriously considering setting up a filter to take out ANY message with a lowercase "peter" in the subject, but I'm concerned that I might screen out a few valid emails in the process. Lately spammers have been using the subjects "hey" and " " (blank), which are both annoying.

So anyway, what I'm saying is that I think my trigger finger has been getting quicker on the Delete button, and it's possible I've deleted some real email. Which is annoying.

Speaking of spam and annoyance, I had a creative brain-attack of some kind a couple of days ago and quickly wrote up a message to spammers. If you have any suggestions for additions or improvements, please drop me a line! Incidentally, I put it on its own page because I have a strange feeling that some people may want to link directly to it. And I know that at least some people who have nothing to do with RQ or roleplaying do jump in sometime...otherwise why would the "porn attack" issue of Chatter still be getting so many hits?


I was driving home late on night a couple of weeks ago, a bit depressed and tired. The usual "news" crap from NPR was more than I could cope with. Of course there was nothing but pre-digested ultracommercial phoney commercial pop-pap crap on every Clear Channel radio station (i.e. all of them since deregulation has put something like 90% of all commercial radio stations under the ownership of one evil corporation). So I turned to a classical music station.

Now, I was raised listening to classical music—in fact, I despised rock and roll until I was maybe 13 or so. So I've heard a lot of classical music in my time, but I'm no expert. Still, when I changed to 102.5 FM there was a piece playing that was so emotionally charged that I couldn't help but listen. It wasn't something that I remembered, but after a while strange things began to happen in my brain; it started predicting where the music would go next, where it had to go, and it almost never did. It was as if the composer was playing with the audience, drawing out the feelings in the music to ever-greater heights, and it was amazing. "This is either Mozart...or Beethoven", I said, and as the music progressed I became more and more sure that it was Beethoven. As I got closer to home I started to worry, because the piece wasn't ending and I really wanted to know if I was right.

No point in dragging it out, though—the piece ended a couple of minutes before I pulled into the driveway, and what do you know—it was Beethoven. The violin concerto in D, if you were wondering. A truly beautiful piece.

I'm afraid that there's no real point to this story, it's just that it felt good to discover that I could recognize a composer by ear.

Corporate "Culture"

We went up to my parents' house in Maine for Thanksgiving, and as (almost) always it was really good to get away. Sebastian really enjoyed being up there (although he wasn't crazy about the trip home), and also loved playing with his cousins—he's a very sociable little boy. The one real fly in the ointment was the death of Teri's car; we were on the road for an evening excursion and the engine suddenly got incredibly rough and the service engine light came on. We managed to make it back to the house, but only just. Since it was Thanksgiving, we soon discovered that we were in trouble; no repair shops were open. The best we could do was find one place that was willing to tow the car to their garage and look at it the following Monday. Since I had to work that Monday, that meant we'd have to hitch a ride with my parents.

In my gut I strongly suspect that the car was going to need a new engine, which meant instead that it would be crushed into a small cube or cannibalized for parts—and that Teri would be stuck without a car for a while, which would be bad, believe me. Very very bad. But instead it turned out that it just was in serious need of a major tune-up. So we had it done and I drove up later with my father to pick it up.

I'm really kind of wandering in my writing today, huh? Almost stream of consciousness, but stupid stream of consciousness. Oh well.

Anyway, what I was originally going to say is that one of the nicest things about Maine—even, or perhaps particularly in the off-season, when much of it becomes a ghost town—is that there so much less of this mindless corporate monoculture sell-sell-sell focus-group-tested crap culture there. It's like going back in time a couple of decades; things are a bit more human, less plastic. Which reminds me, another refuge from this putrid American McWorld is AM radio, particularly in places like Maine; once in a while you get to hear some really good stuff, original material or rebroadcasts of cool old radio plays...the last remnants of freedom in a darkening nation.


Something of minor interest: at this point I took a break and went for a workout. It has been a week, and I really needed to force myself to get back into action. But the workout went really well, and I feel...great. Energized. Let's see if my writing improves.

Get better soon, William!

Want to talk about a bad Christmas? How about spending it getting your appendix taken out? My six-year-old nephew William's appendix perforated sometime a few days before Christmas, and he had to have it removed. The operation apparently went well, and he's recuperating. An appendectomy is not unlike umbilical hernia repair, I suspect, so we may have similar scars.

Warcraft III

My Christmas was considerably better, all in all. Among the neat gifts I received was Warcraft III, something I've been wanting ever since it came out. I'm only in the early stages of the single-player game, but so far I've had a lot of fun. It's not totally mesmerizing, though...there are interesting elements, and it's an exciting game, but so far it hasn't blown me completely away the way that, say, Diablo I, Warcraft II, and Super Mario World did. In a way, it's a lot like an extremely improved Warcraft II...which is good, but I was hoping for something more. For example, the 3D element is so far basically useless. You can change your angle of view, but when it comes to actually doing anything it doesn't make any sense to use anything but the default from-above view, which was the only view possible in Warcraft 2 by the way. Perhaps if they'd focused even more on a single hero, and had the ease of camera and view manipulation of Super Mario World, the game would be far more involving. Although SMW had the advantage of a far superior controller for video games; keyboards are great, but there are times when you really need the convenience of a controller that you can hold in your hands. With SMW I often forgot what I was actually doing with my fingers and literally lived the game; with most computer games, I worried about the position of my fingers on the keyboard. This is a problem that should be fixed, but I think it would require a standardized PC game controller to encourage programmers to develop for it...and given the state of the market, that's not likely to happen. Not even with the degree of control that the Bush Junta has given to those thugs at Microsoft.

The cut-scenes are the usual Blizzard quality: simply amazing. When the hell will they start making fantasy movies for theatrical release? They'd be fantastic.

There were some interesting elements in the cut scene which were quite reminiscent of Diablo. One was a raven, which turned out to be a major plot element; some players may remember the eye-eating scavenger raven in the Diablo II opening scene. As I watched it I found myself wondering if Blizzard will ever tie together their two greatest hits into a single game. It would be interesting, to say the least.

No doubt I'll have more to say about Warcraft III in future installments. Oh, by the way: I've given up on Black & White. It was just too annoying, for two reasons: one was that the damned Creature kept learning bad and stupid habits. The other was that the whole damn game is stuck! I've finished all the quests in the first section, but the giant Creature still ignores me...and he's the only way to get to the next level. The whole game seemed a little buggy. It crashed on me several times and sometimes Save files were messed up...

Sebastian and Christmas

He's not quite fifteen months old yet, but Sebastian is more and more an amazing little boy, not a baby any more. He now says "Dadda" and means me, for example. When he doesn't want to sleep, he flings all his stuffed toys out of the crib and stands there, crying, until we come in. "NO!" is his favorite word—and he know what it means, since he shakes his head angrily while shouting it. Although sometimes I don't know what he's saying no about. For example, this morning I heard him waking up in his crib...and the first thing he said was a very clear "No!".

Pointing has become a favorite pastime; when I pick him up, he imperiously points in the direction he wants me to take him (needless to say, he doesn't always get his wish). He's been fascinated with lights lately, and often points at them. He made the mistake of touching one a couple of weeks ago, and badly burned his right index finger; the entire pad was a huge blister. But he was really very good and brave about it. He cried for a while, but after we got him a bowl of cold water with some plastic water-filled ice cubes to play with, he was fine—there wasn't another tear.

Of course he got many presents for Christmas this year. His favorite of the moment is a large green plastic wagon with a side door. He loves to open the door, step inside, open and close the door repeatedly, and then get out again—only to immediately repeat the whole cycle all over again, of course. It's quite funny to see. Right now he loves that wagon so much that he even wants to eat in it!

Hmm. There's one more thing I'd like to write about regarding his Christmas, but I may shatter some cherished beliefs. On the other hand, I don't know how many kids are likely to have the patience to make it this far through an issue of Chatter, so I guess I'll take the chance:

Ever since we were little, my brother and sister and I received letters from Santa in our Christmas stockings, or sometimes tied with ribbon and tucked among the branches of the tree. I wanted Sebastian to have the same tradition, so last year I made sure that he got a letter...and I did my best to write it in the same wonderful style that my father used. I can't say how well I succeeded, but I can say that when I read this year's letter to Teri, she cried. I don't think I've ever received a greater compliment as a writer.

Oh, there's one other thing that was special about Christmas this year: the tree. We drove to a place off in the woods not too far from our home, and parked the car; Sebastian was sleeping in the back, and Lois (who was visiting) stayed with him while Teri and I hiked a long way among growing evergreens of all sizes. It was so beautiful and quiet; the wind flowing softly through the trees made an unforgettable sound. There was no one else there, just the two of us walking through the hillside woods; it would have been very easy to get lost. Fortunately there was almost no snow on the ground, and it was a warm day. We looked at tree after tree, but there was always some way in which they weren't right. Finally we found the right tree, cut it down, and dragged it back to the car. I chatted with the owner a bit; he'd planted all those trees many years before.


I am now 99% likely to add an NPCs section to the Chaos Project, and as a result I've started stockpiling NPC concepts in order to start off with a bang. If you have any ideas for an interesting NPC, I'd be very glad to hear about it!

The Soapbox

Time is running short, and I want to get this online today, so I'll limit myself to a couple of quick rants.

Free the Net!

This is probably not a surprise, but I'm getting really sick of rampant commercialism on the internet, and particularly on the world wide web. I've always been proud to run a totally free site, and it used to be that there were a lot of other people online who felt the same way. But either they're dying off or something is happening to them, because more and more often when I run a search for something I find an advertiser trying to sell me something I really don't want—and usually in a really annoying, persistant, and distracting way. For example, I like to look up lyrics to songs sometimes. Used to be you could find that sort of thing put up by fans. Now when I Google for lyrics I find a million pop-ups and pop-unders bursting onto the screen, and my Registry gets rewritten! Sometimes I feel as if I'll be the last free writer on the web.

Call Me Cassandra

As you know, the bottom dropped out of the web advertising market when they discovered that the vast majority of people were chosing not to read the ads. I have a prediction: as new TV technology like TiVo and RePlay TV become more and more popular, it will be discovered that people will chose to skip TV advertising as well...and the bottom will drop out of that market, too. Broadcasters and media companies will use the political pull to try to get ad-skipping technology banned, but I think they'll have a real fight on their hands...because when it comes down to it, most commercials SUCK, and people don't like them.

Until next time! And since I probably won't write before the 1st, have a happy New Year!

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[email protected] Copyright 2002 by Peter Maranci. Revised: December 31, 2002. version 1.0