Monday, September 6, 2010

Summer Ends; or, A New Year Begins

Well, it certainly has been quite some time since my last posting here. Not surprisingly, no one really noticed. But, when you have 2 readers, it's hard to have people clamoring at your door to write a post. My hope is that my renewed (for now anyway) vigor to blog will result in more people actually reading this, and keep me going. But we will just have to wait and see, won't we?

Where to begin? Since I last left, there have been few changes in my life. For starters, I have a new car. Well, new to me. See, my old trusty steed (a 1998 Saturn SC 1) finally bit the big one. It was a bit of a difficult situation given that it was the first car I had ever bought. Managed to keep it for 8 years too, and a lot of miles. That car got me to Florida and back, and countless trips across the state, and around town. Overall, it was a great car for me, and I will certainly miss it.

But, not too much as I did manage to upgrade slightly in the motor vehicle department. The thing with the Saturn was it's main upside, was also it's main drawback. It was a small car. Great for things like gas mileage, but not to much for comfort and winter road worthiness. I am not a small man, standing at 6'4", and getting in and out of the old girl was becoming a chore. So I now rock a Subaru Forrester, which is in great shape, and I am quite pleased to say is my car.

That isn't the biggest change that occurred this summer however. Nope, that award has to go to my losing of over 60 lbs. in the span of 4 months.

Back in April, I foolishly stepped on the scale in my bathroom, and what I saw made me take a step back and really think. I am 28 years old, and as stated above, pretty tall. But when I read the scale that day, and saw 285 lbs., well, I was not pleased. I had really just let myself get out of control. I ate the same way I had when I was in high school, and running distance every single day. I ate the same way I did when I was moving furniture for a living, or delivering packages all day. Now, I wasn't doing these physical jobs, but still stuffing my face all day every day. I drank Mountain Dew like it was my job, ate at all hours of the night, and just generally gorged myself far too often. Well, this all needed to change, and change it did.

I started by cutting the soda. Not completely out, that would only serve to make me crave it and set up the inevitable fall in to drinking it all the time again. No, what I did was to simply change my default drink to water. Seems so simple now, but in reality, it is anything but. I have friends that have a difficult time with drinking too much soda, or energy drinks. And our daily lives demand that we be more attentive, and so we need caffeine, and sugar to keep us awake the long days, and short nights. So I simply switched to water as my go to beverage, carrying a bottle with me everywhere I went, and would on occasion, treat myself to a soda during a meal, or after a particularly good workout.

Step two was the working out part. I began to play basketball again, but in earnest this time. This summer my average week of basketball was 6-10 hours (or 3-5 days a week, at 2 hours a pop), of intense, game basketball. All pick up style, but still a good workout. And when I had to sit a game out because of not making a free throw, I go to a side court and run sprints, or work on high energy stuff. Anything to keep my heart rate up, and sweat going.

I also began a steady walking regiment. Popping in my headphones, and walking around town for anywhere from 35 minutes, to 2 and a half hours. Doing this, sometimes daily, was a huge improvement over my normally sedentary lifestyle I had been falling in to the last couple of years.

Step three was the hardest of all. Cutting back on how much I ate. Part of this step was cutting back on all the heavy, nasty food as well. Gone were late night trips to the drive thru. Severely reduced were the diner excursions. But most importantly, was the amount of food I consumed at each meal. By simply dialing back my intake, I could effectively get the same nutrition, without always feeling so full, and heavy. And by jigger it worked. I managed in just 4 months to drop my weight to 223 lbs. and my waist by 4 inches. I also feel better on a regular basis, with more energy and even my sleeping has improved (not a whole lot, but anything is better than nothing)

The next change coming is of the moving variety. I have found a place to live that isn't my parents house. It's a block from the campus of my school, close to town, and work. So all in all, it's a great location, and I should be moving in the next few weeks.

I am really going to try and keep this blog updated as much as I can. It really is my only place to just write anymore. I simply suffer from the all too common lack of motivation at times. Here's hoping I can change that. Until next time, have a great Labor Day.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Jack Morris; or, The Best Pitcher not in the MLB Hall of Fame

So recently the National Baseball Hall of Fame voting took place. Each year, the Baseball Writers of Association of America vote for who they feel should be permanently enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Now, for those of you who don't know the process (and since I know all 3 of my readers, that's probably all of you), allow me to enlighten you. Basically what happens is everyone with a Hall of Fame vote is sent a ballot with the names of all eligible candidates on it. In order to be eligible for the hall, you had to play in the major leagues for at least 10 years, and be retired for a minimum of 5 years. At that time, you are placed on the ballot after all eligible candidates are screened to weed out and only have players who had a significant or stellar career. Now, writers are allowed to vote for up to 10 players. In order to be inducted in to the hall, a player must have his name on 75% of the ballots.

Ok, so all the boring parts are over, now on to the meat of this post. Growing up, I was a Detroit Tigers fan. Being a Tigers fan in the 80's meant that the names Trammell, Whitaker, Gibson, and Morris were the names I knew as some of my favorite players. That Morris was Jack Morris. He was the best pitcher on the team, and along with Gibson, had the greatest mustache.

Simply put, Jack Morris was one of the best pitchers in baseball for a decade. He won more games (162) in the decade of the 80's than any other pitcher. He was on 3 World Series winning teams, the 1984 Tigers, 1991 Minnesota Twins, and the 1992 Toronto Blue Jays. He was THE big game pitcher of his era. When your team needed to win a tough game, you wanted Jack Morris to be taking the hill. He threw a no-hitter in 1984, won 21 games in a season twice, and had possibly the greatest pitching performance in World Series History.

In 1991, pitching for the Twins against the Atlanta Braves, Morris pitched a gem of a game that is still talked about almost 20 years later. He was 36 years old, and on the downside of his career, but was still a gamer, and pitched 3 times in that world series including game 7. All he did that game, was pitch a 10 inning shut out, to win the game 1-0, and win the World Series.

He never finished higher than 3rd in the voting for the Cy Young award, but was also a 5 time all star, 3 time world champ, and when he took the mound, he wanted to finish the game. Morris was of the school of pitching that wanted to pitch all 9 innings, and win the game. He was and is a Hall of Famer in my book, and should get in. Morris deserves to be in, and I hope that it happens for him soon. After seeing Jim Rice get inducted last year, it keeps my hopes up that it will happen sooner rather than later. I will have to post sometime in the future about how the H.O.F. voting needs to be done in a different way, and not by the BBWAA. Writers can tend to be a bit petty at times, holding grudges against players they don't like (such as Jim Rice, who finally got in after almost 20 years).

Anyway, Jack Morris is a Hall of Famer, plain and simple. Let's hope next year the writers vote him in.

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

A New Year, a Fresh Start; or, I'm Back Kids

Well, it has been a while since I last posted to this here blog of mine. In the past my standard response would be that not much has happened, and I really have nothing to write about. The truth however, is that a lot has happened recently, and it's been a combination of laziness, apathy, and a somewhat busy schedule that has kept me from posting. That all will change as I am going to make it a point to post more often, and even have a few small projects in their infancy stages that will give me more of a purpose to write.

For starters, here's a recap of what has been going on with me lately. Anyone that knows me knows that I have been trying to get myself back to college. This is something that I really want for myself, and has been important to me for quite some time, but for various reasons, hasn't happened just yet. Now, I graduated from high school 10 years ago, and even went to a university for a short time the next fall. That didn't turn out so well for me. I was on a scholarship for athletics, but injuries and other outside forces took the wind out of those sails pretty quickly. I don't have any regrets, but it just was not the right situation. After that, I needed some time to grow a little, and get some things in order before I could go back to school. I wanted to go to film school a couple of years later, but that didn't work out either, mostly due to the cost of the school, and my financial situation at the time.

Well, most recently, I was going to attend a broadcasting school in the Detroit area. This school was much more affordable, closer to home, and something that I wanted to do. I was finally getting some student aid to afford college, and I felt good. So I packed up my belongings, found a place to live, and moved down. I knew I would need to find a job while I attended school, as the financial aid money was enough for school, but not rent. Not my ideal situation, but not a bad one either. The apartment was great, the neighborhood wonderful, and I even had a few friends near me so I wasn't going to feel alone.

Sadly, the economic situation in Michigan (and especially in the Detroit area) saw fit to give me a nice open handed slap across the face. When I moved from Traverse City, I left a part time job driving a hack (taxi cab for the uninitiated). Not a great job by any stretch, but it was alright, and kept my head above water. Finding a job downstate, was ten times worse. There were hardly any job openings, and far far more people applying for them. Needless to say, I hunted for work high and low, and the only thing I could find, was a part time sandwich delivery job, which wasn't going to pay my rent, let alone keep me afloat while I went to school. The decision had to be made, and just over a month after moving down, I packed everything up, and moved back to the frozen northern tundra of Traverse City.

I was not about to be defeated. And so, I moved in with my parents for the time being, and signed up for classes at the local college here. I thought long and hard about what I wanted to study, and in the end, decided that I was better off learning a good trade (in this case, information technologies and computers) and using that knowledge to get in to the career of my choice. Also, I am back driving the hack a few days a week, so that will help keep gas in my car, and food in my belly.

So, tomorrow begins my college career. Doing the full time student thing, driving a couple days a week, and starting my new path. Along the way, I have a few things I want to get going for myself. Continuing my growth as a cook, and as a audio/video guy. Be on the look out for a Shatner-like spoken word album coming soon-ish.

Also, this blog will be updated far more often, including posts of my mindless yammering, and reviews of movies, TV shows, video games, and Music. Why bother? Every third blog does the same thing right? Because it's what I know, what I love, and what I want to do. So be on the lookout. Until next time, stay frosty!

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Friday, August 21, 2009

EVE Online unleashes Unholy Rage on in-game currency traders - Ars Technica

CCP, the developer behind the popular online title EVE Online, hates players who hope to profit in real money from its game. Those who buy and sell ISK, the game's currency, are not only exploiting the game, but unbalancing play. That's why the company decided to go drastic: a program they called "Unholy Rage," whereby 6,200 paying accounts were banned at once. The results from the mass-banning of all those real-money traders were more dramatic than anyone expected.

Einar Hreiðarsson, one of EVE's lead GM's, was gracious enough to take time out of his schedule at Gamescom this week in Germany to explain exactly why CCP finds real-money trading so distasteful.

"RMT operators take up a lot of server power. They use macros to run missions, rat (grind PvE) and mine 23/7. This adversely affects other players’ chances of making a simulated living as all sweet-spots for this sort of activity are totally overrun with RMT-type users," he explained to Ars. Prices for mission-related items are adversely affected as well, which hurts regular players. Then there's the criminal element.

"Practically all credit card fraud we suffer stems from the RMT element which uses stolen credit cards to register expendable accounts that they know we will ban as soon as they start using them, e.g. accounts used to spam ISK sale adverts and such." Further, almost all hacking problems involve accounts being cleaned out by ISK sellers. The game suffers, credit card fraud becomes an issue, and accounts are hi-jacked. Something had to be done, and "Unholy Rage" was what they named CCP's response.

"We must address this in the manner of the FDIC, not the SWAT"

For weeks they studied the behavior and effects these real-money traders had on the game, and then they struck. During scheduled maintenance, over 6,000 accounts were banned. Hreiðarsson assures us that the methods were sound, and the bannings went off with surgical precision. "We are quite confident that false positives are practically non-existent, but we examine all requests for review," he explained. "So far less than a dozen have been found to be false positives." The project is ongoing, and so far CCP has banned approximately 9,000 accounts.

What they found was these real-money traders were not only soaking up in-game, virtual assets as well as hacking accounts, but also taking way more than their fair share of server cycles. The result was dramatic.


"Now, that is a beautiful graph if I ever saw one," CCP wrote on its official blog. "While the number of accounts banned in the opening phase of the operation constituted around 2 percent of the total active registered accounts, the CPU per user usage was cut by a good 30 percent." This is great news for legitimate players. "That is a whole lot of CPU for the rest of you to play with, people."

Areas that used to be heavily traveled by bot-controlled players are now easier for real players to visit. Systems that used to be controlled by the RMT players are now open for business. "Another great improvement is that space is now suddenly full of belts of oversized asteroids that were previously sucked up by hoards of macro miners of the RMT persuasion," CCP wrote. "Regular players are now starting to see mining as a viable means of making some ISK and they are moving in to take over the business." Now that the mafia has been kicked out, legitimate players and corporations can turn an honest profit in once-overrun systems.

The dust is settling, and they'll be back

Where there's money to be made, real money, in trading in-game currency, there will always be crafty people trying to profit. Fortunately for CCP, they've hired the talent and the brain-power to continually fight the good fight.

"They keep trying to sneak back, but in the end it’s all about the money and we simply follow that to find our guys," Hreiðarsson said to Ars. "Not only do we have a Doctor of Economics and a crack team of data gurus to analyze the problem, as well as able and willing developers to cater to our every need, we also have dedicated enforcers of published policy on this matter."

EVE Online is a game of high drama and intricate economies, and for at least a short while the skies are going to be a little safer for players to legitimately fight and mine and swindle each other and defend what's theirs. "Unholy Rage" was a success, with more server power for the real players and rich veins of ore now available for anyone who wants to make a career out of mining.

Back in Iceland, the men and women at CCP are busy crunching numbers, keeping an eye on trading, and getting ready for the next attack on those who seek to illegally profit from their game. "We try to stay out of the players’ way as much as we can. As long as they adhere to local law and our EULA/TOS, we really don’t find cause to meddle in their affairs," Hreiðarsson stressed.

"However, real-money trading and most of the activity involved with it is against our published policy, and even international law in the case of credit card fraud," he warned. "That is really where we draw the line—keep it in-game." CCP keeps proving that the only thing more tenacious than real-money traders are the people keeping the game clean.

I haven't played EVE Online for a few months now, but reading this article made me smile. Glad to see CCP taking a stand and laying the smack down. I hope they can keep it up =)

Posted via web from tvstravis's posterous

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Serenity - Battle of One HQ

A great Serenity video mashup done by my friend Joe. Definitely give it a watch

Posted via web from tvstravis's posterous