I just deleted 2.8 fuckloads of spam referrals from my stats and banned the sites responsible.

In the off chance that I accidentally deleted a site I shouldn't have, let me know.

If you don't want your site to be banned, then never, ever directly link my stats page.

Looks like I made the winners' circle in the BioWare contest. #3 in the community votes.

Thanks to everyone who voted, and anybody who's found my site through the contest, welcome, and I hope you enjoy my ranting about MapQuest. (Incidentally, dexonline.com has not actually fixed its Mapquest system, and still routinely directs me to Kansas.)

Updated Features to put my mod at the top, and to add my current Pyoko avatar.

(...Ack, damn daylight savings time. We don't do that crap in Arizona. Am I really going to have to change my blog settings twice a year? Laaaaaaaame.)

(I sure hope nobody's got an RSS reader open right now. I've edited this entry about a half-dozen times in ten minutes. And I personally hate when people do that shit.)

Penny Arcade has already handily mocked online maps, but I'd just like to put in my two cents about how MapQuest fucking sucks.

What follows is an actual map I received when attempting to find a nearby Japanese restaurant.

Drive past your destination, go two and a half miles out of your way, and then come back.

Meanwhile, until recently, all my results on dexonline.com looked like the following:

Somewhere in Kansas

They seem to have fixed it now, but seeing as they're still using Mapquest, that just means an upgrade from pointing me to Kansas to telling me to drive a five-mile circle on the freeway for no reason.

While I'm on the subject, I hate sites with "online" in their names. Of course it's fucking online, it's a website. Why not just register dexdotcomwastaken.com and have done with it? I mean, maybe I'm not one to talk since my domain name has a hyphen in it, but seriously, what was wrong with qwestdex.com?

I also don't like sites with names that end in net.com. What the hell is that?

But I think we can all agree that the stupidest domain ever is news.com.com.

I have uncovered one of the greatest threats facing America: the extension of April Fool's Day.

The Internet is a stupid, stupid place where people make bad jokes and lie about things. On April Fool's Day, this idiocy is concentrated, and even encouraged.

Which, by itself, isn't so bad -- stay the hell off Slashdot on April Fool's Day and you'll be much happier. (Actually, I think you could probably make a pretty good argument for staying off Slashdot entirely yielding the same result.) But 2006 showed us a dangerous precedent: this holiday is no longer confined to a single day.

From Sonic Cult's "leak" of a bogus Sonic Xtreme torrent on March 31st to Joystiq's news story on Uwe Boll's upcoming Starcraft project the evening of April 3rd, it is clear the stupidity is spreading.

Just look what's happened to Christmas. Stores start putting up goddamn Christmas decorations on Halloween now. Imagine that happening with April Fool's Day. This is a slippery slope, my friends. April Fool's Day has escaped its bonds.

The Internet is already flooded with lame hoaxes and dumbasses who think they're funny. Encouraging an increase in this asinine behavior is okay for one day a year...but any more than that is flirting with disaster.

The More You Know

Looks like the BioWare voting should just about be wrapped up.

Thanks to everyone who voted.

We'll see how this turns out; I have a good feeling. They're going to announce the winners on Wednesday.


Playing: Dragon Quest 8, Final Fantasy 4, Super Mario World

Reading: The Catcher in the Rye, which I am given to understand is turning me into a serial killer or an assassin or something. I saw it in a Mel Gibson movie.

So this morning, I'm driving to work. (I prefer biking, but I was running way too late for that.) And I'm listening to NPR. And I hear the following:

"On March 15, two thousand and fifty years ago, Julius Caesar breathed his last. The news, coming up next!"

But that's not what I'm here to talk about today. I'm here to talk about gambling and wonder what exactly the hell the draw is.

I mean, okay, my coworkers get together a pool and buy a bunch of tickets when the lottery pot gets big enough. I don't participate, and refer to the lottery as "a tax on people who can't do math". They respond that somebody has to win, and you can't win if you don't play. (Which isn't strictly true. My department consists of two people, and if my supervisor wins the lottery, that means I'm the new head of the department.)

But mainly, what brought this sentiment on is my recent experience with Dragon Quest 8. Yesterday I finally got enough money together to get all the best items at the casino.

Which sounds good until you realize I'd been working at that since Sunday the goddamn 5th.

That's over a week where all I did in the game was fucking play the casino. To be fair, I probably average under two hours gaming per day, and played a bit of Sonic CD and Sonic 3 here and there when I got too annoyed with DQ8 to keep playing, but that's still hours and hours at the fucking casino. And it's like pulling teeth.

I guess it's not as bad as it was way back in 2 when the lottery game debuted (and obviously somebody must like these goddamn casino games, because they're still including them 17 years later), but it was a whole lot worse than 7 -- which was still pretty bad (and, unlike 8, had an item which you needed to get to complete the game; 8 just has generally sweet but not absolutely necessary equipment), but had more games and higher-yield slots.

And speaking of slots, that wound up being the game I went with in DQ8. I played a good deal of roulette on the supposition that you're more likely to win there, but it got to be too labor-intensive -- since you have to stack your chips at the beginning of each spin, and since I was stacking a total of 8000 chips all over the board (every single combination including 14, as that also covers every single square on the board except 0, meaning when I lose I usually pick up 1000 for the square I'm sitting on, so I only lose 7000 tokens instead of the full 8000), well, I basically had to sit there and play the game. Whereas slots you can just hit the up button over and over. Don't have to pay any attention whatever. So I could go do something else. Feed my fish, surf the net. Since I have a wireless controller, I could've even done it from another room. Point being, I'd prefer to be doing anything else but sit there and watch what I was doing.

So what's the draw of real casinos? I'm going to admit I've yet to take a trip to Vegas, but it sure seems like gambling isn't how I'd want to pass my time there anyway. I guess you get the excitement of losing real money over the crushing boredom of knowing you're inevitably going to win if you just keep playing because you can always just restore from your last save, but that doesn't seem like a huge advantage. I mean, if you're any good at math at all you have to realize the deck's stacked against you.

A lot of friends have told me the way to go is to play nickel slots and drink free cocktails. Which I guess I can get behind. But for a lot cheaper than a trip to Vegas, I can buy a six-pack and curse at the casino in Dragon Quest 8.

Or, better yet, finally fucking get back to playing Dragon Quest 8. That game's pretty cool when it's not making you play other games which aren't best played on a TV in the first damn place.

The rain never quite hit us yesterday. But it sure smelled divine for about twenty minutes.

But none hit Sky Harbor Airport, which, as that's Phoenix's weather center, means we're technically still in our dry spell. This is day 142.

On another note, what's the deal with ICQ?

You remember ICQ. It's the redheaded stepchild of IM networks. It was big in the late '90's when it was the only game in town besides AIM, but has long since been displaced by MSN and Yahoo. Of course, the fact that AOL bought it out probably hasn't done it any favors either.

The weird thing about ICQ, as compared to the other networks, is the amount of random contact I've received.

A few years back, my ICQ account was inundated with porn spam. That's died down, but just the last couple weeks I've started getting weird random contacts from China and eastern Europe.

A sample:

(08:45:10) 264737669: hi
(08:46:46) 264737669: hey homie
(08:46:50) 264737669: write to me
(08:47:13) 264737669: i´m not a bubble gum gang leader like rest of slovakia

Now, my ICQ number's been relatively easy to find for the past...Jesus, has it been seven years already? Probably seven years. (Just for perspective, my ICQ number is seven digits, compared to the nine on my Slovakian friend's.) So my question is...why the hell have I just now started getting these messages? Where has my account number been recently posted to attract the attention of bubble-gum gang-leading Slovakians?

And on another topic, what genius decided Gaim should display ICQ numbers by default instead of nicknames? In the rare event that somebody I know drops me a message, I generally don't know who the hell it is, even if he's on my list under a nickname.

The world may never know. But at least somebody's asking the right questions.

And on the 141st day, it rained.

I don't think that those of you who haven't spent the bulk of your lives in a desert can truly understand what it's like to get rain here, but I imagine it's much like seeing the snow melt in New York, seeing nightfall for the first time in months in Alaska, or seeing the rain stop in Seattle. Relief and gratitude.

There are few things in life I enjoy so much as the smell of rainfall in the desert -- and even rainfall on the dirt and asphalt of the urban sprawl of Phoenix smells pretty good to me.

It's barely sprinkling outside the door right now, but the sky to the east and to the north is dark.

Storm's a-brewin'.

I had no idea it would be so tricky to get a component cable for my GameCube.

I started my search at Fry's, where I found overpriced component cables for the PS2 and Xbox (fucking Monster) but didn't see any for the GameCube. On my return home, I went to Amazon to look for component cables. I found first-party Sony cables for $20. I also found a surprisingly low-priced set of GameCube Monster Cables for $25 -- and came dangerously close to paying for them before I realized that the reason they were so cheap was that they were composite cables. My search for component turned up not just component cables but, conveniently, composite cables too, and the words are similar enough that I almost didn't notice before checkout. Thanks Amazon.

So I went looking for some real component cables for my GameCube. Having been thwarted by both Fry's and Amazon, I began to wonder why the hell I couldn't find them, and went straight to the best place for obscure video game hardware, Lik-Sang...which didn't have them either. Finally I just Googled to try and figure out what happened, and discovered that Nintendo discontinued progressive-scan support back in May '04. Consoles manufactured since then don't even have a composite port on the back. Fortunately, I got mine in December '02 (right after the release of Metroid Prime, not coincidentally). Unfortunately, the damn cables now go for $50 on eBay. Less unfortunately, the Nintendo website had them for $35 (limit one per customer). Nearly double what Sony charges for theirs, and they don't even come with audio (which sure contributes to the nastiness of my jungle-o'-cables behind my TV, having to use my composite cable for audio), but I'm sure glad I ordered when I did because a week later, they're not there anymore. I may very well have gotten the last one. (So if you were looking forward to progressive-scan goodness for your GameCube for under $50, you know whose ass to kick.)

Don't even have the damn thing hooked up yet, either, though I hope to finally hook my consoles and Mac Mini this evening, as well as add HDMI and digital audio support to my cable box.

Furniture's built and apartment is starting to look really good (the living room, anyway -- the hall and bedroom are still disaster areas). Maybe this will give me a reason to finally finish Metroid Prime 2 -- although I'm a lot more keen on getting back to Dragon Quest 8 at this point.

Also I got a fish.

As I near the close of my first week living in north Phoenix, I have made a few observations. The first is that the water here tastes funny.

Now, I must first note that I suspect Phoenix tap water is probably among the worst in the nation. Big, polluted city in the middle of the desert with water being piped in from Colorado and California with questionable clean water regulations. I'd probably be more comfortable drinking tap water in NYC (and I think I did at the drinking fountain in the Times Square Toys R Us), or pretty much any other major American city except LA.

As you might guess from the above presumably silly and useless "rant", I filter my water. But it still tastes funny. I expect I'll get used to it soon.

The other thing I've realized is that I hate going to Fry's. I hate driving there, I hate driving back, and I especially hate shopping there. In fact I think the only satisfying part of the whole experience is walking out the front door with my bag of purchases and taking it to my car.

What was particularly unpleasant about last night's trip to Fry's -- aside from the atrocious drivers I had to fight to get there and back -- was simply trying to find things. I recently got me an HDTV, and I'm trying to set it up with HD connections for my cable and my Mac Mini. My cable box has a DVI port rather than HDMI, so I picked up a DVI-to-HDMI adapter. Of course this only transfers video and not audio, so I needed to hook audio up separately. And apparently the HDMI connections on my TV only have digital coax inputs for separate audio.

There's a Radio Shack nextdoor to my apartment complex, so of course I poked my head in there on the off chance that they'd have a digital coax audio cable for under $30. No such luck, of course. Fucking Monster.

So I went to Fry's. Where they also primarily stock Monster, but at least seem to have a better selection than their Tempe counterpart. Not that I could tell at first, because I couldn't find the audio cable aisle, which is inexplicably in the section with a giant sign that says "VIDEO" above it, rather than the section with the "AUDIO" sign. It took me probably 10 or 15 minutes to determine this, as there were no available employees anywhere to be found and I wouldn't talk to them if there were. (I learned at the Tempe location only to speak with employees as an absolute last resort; it's possible that this location actually hires competent people but I'm not going to bet on it.)

Once I finally found the aisle with the audio cables, I was faced with the even greater difficulty of actually locating the cables I wanted. This was hard enough to do by sight, as composite video, composite audio, component video, and digital audio are only distinguished by the number of connectors, and sometimes not even that. (Color doesn't immediately help anymore, as apparently coloring the entire connector has gone out of style in favor of coloring each and every connector exactly the same but with a thin band of red, white, or whatever for color-coding. And if I'm looking closely enough to see what color the thin band is, I'm looking closely enough just to read the damn label on the packaging.) It took me a close inventory of the entire first wall to find a digital coax audio cable, and it was labeled as a subwoofer cable. I didn't know what the difference is between regular digital audio and subwoofer audio, if there even is one, and that upset me -- I'm not used to being in over my head when it comes to tech, and when I am, I can usually just punch up Google to find an answer. I was not thrilled at the prospect of buying the wrong cable and having to return it later -- Fry's is awesome for returning things, but I still don't like driving there and back.

Fortunately, I finally discovered some that were just labeled "digital audio coaxial cable" at the opposite corner of the aisle. The Monster ones were, obviously, too expensive, but there were some adequate-looking GE cables that were priced very reasonably (6' for $8, 15' for $15). The trouble was that all but one of them had been knocked off their hooks and were lying on the bottom shelf below the hooks at ground level. I almost didn't see them. I'm chalking this up to incompetence rather than malice, but it sure seems convenient that the inexpensive cables were so hard to find compared to the Monsters.

I picked up a copy of Sonic Gems while I was there because it was only $20 for a bunch of games that were released 10-15 years ago and should've been included on Sonic Mega Collection in the first place. It made me feel better about the whole nasty shopping experience, but the way I described it in the previous sentence makes it sound like it shouldn't. Oh well. I never actually had a Sega CD, so the only copy of Sonic CD I ever had was the awful Win95 port (featuring intro and ending movies that look like crap in 256 color but the game refuses to run at any higher color depth, and won't run on XP!), so it's nice to finally have a good working copy. And Sonic the Fighters won't run on MAME so it's nice to finally be able to play it. (I don't know if the game's actually any good, as again, I've never played it, but at least I finally get to check it out.)

Anyway. I'm almost done building furniture and unpacking stuff, so I should be able to turn my attention to getting all my various media devices hooked up any time now, and hopefully figure out how to get my wireless network card working under Gentoo so I don't have to stretch a network cable across the whole apartment.

That and getting used to the funny-tasting water will mean I'm finally home here.

But I still don't know if there's a difference between a digital coax woofer cable and a regular digital coax audio cable, and a quick Google search hasn't helped yet. If you know please feel free to enlighten me.