February 27, 2011

Amusing software bugs in games

So I'm finally playing through the 2007 release, Bioshock, on my 360. This is after two false starts over the years -- for some reason the first few times I tried it, it just didn't "grab" me. I decided to give it one more go, and now that I finally progressed further into the game, I'm very glad I did.

One thing that has always amused me about games is the bugs. Computer/video games ARE software, after all, and software means bugs. Sometimes, it can even lead to an unwinnable game.

In the case of Bioshock, though, it led to this amusing moment. In this game there are "Little Sisters" that you need to either rescue or harvest. In each section, the game will tell you how many there are supposed to be. In one part, there are 3. I got them, and then through a glitch a 4th appeared. I dealt with that one, too, and then when I tried to exit the level I got a message warning me that I HADN'T dealt with them all, and the game would be difficult if I proceeded without doing so.

So, this tells me that the developer who worked on that message clearly assumed that a check (harvested == expected) was sufficient instead of (harvested >= expected), which WOULD be correct if it weren't for the other glitch that gave me an extra.

This amuses me far more than the aforementioned Impossible game, but you'd think both would have been caught in QA...

September 12, 2010

A good day...

Giants win. Steelers win. Beer cheese dip is yummy. Grilled sausage and peppers for dinner.

Life is good.

June 28, 2010

Yay for consistency!

The July 2010 issue of Diabetes Forecast has a blurb on page 24 about research showing that a high-FAT breakfast may be better for you than a fat-free breakfast -- your body gets set up to better process foods for the rest of the day, blah blah blah

Then in the recipe cards section, they have a "diabetic-friendly" pancake recipe that uses regular all-purpose flour and an egg substitute. Really? Seriously? That's about as diabetic-friendly as a Pop-Tart!

Sigh...

June 10, 2010

The end of an (experimental) era

Two years ago I finally bought my first house. As a first-time homeowner, I needed a lawnmower.

After much debating and reading reviews, I decided that for my yard (not terribly large, but not a tiny patch either) I'd give a cordless (rechargeable) electric mower a try. My thoughts went like this:

Pros:

  1. No gas/oil/tune-ups to fuss with.
  2. Instant start/instant stop.
  3. No cord to worry about -- with some of the landscaping left by the previous owners, a corded would have been a pain in the ass at best.
  4. (Dubious) "green" factor
  5. Less expensive (so I thought) overall -- similar entry cost to a mid-range gas mower, without needing to buy supplies. Sure I'd have to eventually replace the battery packs, but that was YEARS down the line. And the cost of electricity to recharge this was just noise on the power bill compared to the fridge, A/C, etc., right?

Cons:

  1. Limited runtime between charges
  2. Battery weight
  3. Not self-propelled

The pros outweighed the cons for me, and I purchased the Black and Decker CM1200. At first I LOVED this mower. It was trivial to operate, did a good job, and the battery was indeed up to the task of mowing the entire yard. At first, anyway. Sure, it was a bit heavy to push around, especially on the hilly parts of the yard, but it was exercise and I didn't mind it.

So, first summer was a DREAM (ok, that's exaggerating a bit -- I hate yardwork. But relatively speaking, I really liked this mower). Second summer, I noticed the battery life had dropped off a little bit. If the grass was long, the battery would poop out before the entire yard was done. I took to mowing the front and sides one day, and the (small) back the next, or just skipping the back entirely on alternate weeks. The love affair was starting to dwindle just a tad (although to tell the truth I found I didn't mind having an excuse to not mow the entire yard in one marathon)

This year, right at the start of only the third grass-mowing season (not even two full years since purchase), the mower completely died on me. The charger would indicate it was done as soon as I plugged it in, but take it outside and it MIGHT run for a few minutes, if it would even get the motor spinning. I priced new batteries, and the cheapest I could find online were roughly 1/4 the price I'd paid for the mower -- not horrible, but after not even 2 full years of use? (And that's assuming it was the batteries, and not a dead motor or something)

I found the paperwork, and remembered that I had purchased the mower with an extended warranty for just such an occurrence -- premature battery death. I called the service line, and we arranged for me to bring it into the nearest authorized repair shop. Not 30 minutes after I hung up with them, though, the woman I had talked to called ME back. The conversation went something like this:

Her: "So, that extended warranty you bought with that mower? It should have never been sold to you, it's not valid on that mower at all!"

Me: "What?!?"

Her: "Well, this might work out better for you. Bring it into the store with the receipt, and they'll allow you to return or exchange it"

Me: "Seriously? Ok..."

So, off to the store I went. Sure enough, in spite of the mower being used and 2 years old, they gave me full credit! Wow. (As an aside, I never properly figured out the electricity cost on this mower. I meant to plug it into my Kill-A-Watt to see the real draw on a recharge, but somehow never got around to it.)

Of course, now I needed a new mower. I didn't want electric anymore, not wanting to face another 2 year lifecycle. But I didn't want a big beastly difficult to maintain gas monstrosity either. I toyed with the idea of an old-fashioned reel mower, but my yard seemed a bit too large for that. In the end, I went with a basic inexpensive push mower, the Lawn Boy 10640. It's still not self-propelled, but I decided for my use that's a FEATURE (less to break, and my yard has plenty of places where I want to pull the mower backwards out of corners and whatnot anyway). This little guy is the highest-rated push mower at Consumer Reports (subscription probably required, sorry).


So far, I love this mower. Easy start, and it's much lighter and more nimble than the cordless had been. The blade doesn't seem to bog down in long grass as easily as the electric had, either. As a bonus, it cost quite a bit less than I'd paid for the first mower, so I netted getting some money back (although that could very well vanish in gasoline costs as prices rise...)

Of course, I loved the cordless at first, too, so we'll see...

May 24, 2010

Random cravings

Things I'm currently craving (not together, mind you...)

raised (yeast) waffles

blueberry scone

cheese on a stick (amusement park thing - think corndog only with cheese instead of a hotdog in the middle, aka "CHoSt")

guacamole

chicken tikka masala

hot & sour soup

pickled ginger (the stuff that accompanies sushi - love it, can easily snack on it by itself) which leads me to...

spicy tuna handroll

Yeah, there's little correlation between most of these other than the last two; go figure...

March 24, 2010

Random thoughts on healthcare

I haven't fully digested the bill yet, but I'll post a few random thoughts.

For one thing, anyone who says "the current system is the best in the world and doesn't need to change" hasn't been paying attention. We spend the most per capita, yet we have lower life expectancy and higher infant mortality than many other "Western" countries (not by a huge amount, but for as much as we're spending we should be the best in all these categories, and we're not!)

Part of that is lifestyle, certainly, and changes should be made there, but it's NOT as simple as "so lose weight and go out and buy insurance" like I hear so many people saying. In this country, under the "current" system, it's legal for insurance companies to deny coverage for conditions that are unavoidable. For example, in a pure free market system, no sane insurer is going to cover a Type 1 Diabetic (and KNOWING how much I cost them, I couldn't blame them -- but THAT'S the problem, profit shouldn't be the motivating factor when it comes to people's LIVES). I'm fortunate enough to live in a state that requires coverage of "pre-existing" conditions (after a one-year waiting period -- if I let it lapse, ever, the clock starts ticking again and I'm paying for everything out of pocket) for an employer who provides coverage (companies are NOT required to sell to me as an individual, and even if they did the rates would be astronomical -- thus preventing me from ever taking the risk of opening up a gamer-friendly tea shop)

Some states don't require coverage of diabetes supplies at all. That kind of INCONSISTENCY needs to change.

So, require insurance companies to cover preexisting conditions? Fine, but that opens a DIFFERENT can of worms - people who choose to not have insurance, then get sick and buy it. This completely changes the dynamic of insurance companies' intake vs output, and would bankrupt them in short order. Thus the need to require everyone have it -- that measure is for the insurance companies' BENEFIT, but I don't have a problem with it.

The new rules AREN'T socialized medicine. People who say "now we're trusting the government to make our health care decisions instead of us and our doctors making them for ourselves" are forgetting that in many cases, we ALREADY don't make our own decisions. If you have insurnace, then the insurance company can and will dictate what it covers (again, I know this all to well from experience, having had to fight for almost a year to get coverage for my continuous glucose meter), and if you DON'T have insurance then the decision is based on your budget.

I have concerns and questions about the new rules -- what's it REALLY going to cost, will it REALLY improve coverage, etc., but SOMETHING had to be done, at least now we're talking about it.

January 30, 2010

The power of 4

This was not planned, but I realized afterwards that it worked out this way:

Take a 4 gallon stock pot. Add the frozen carcasses of roast chickens past that you've been saving in the freezer (4, as it turns out). Also add the frozen chicken backs you've also saved from home-trimmed chickens past (4!).

Add one package "chicken leg quarters" purchased for added meat (skinned and fat trimmed). As it turns out, the package has 4 leg quarters (which consists of a thigh and drumstick each).

Add 4 bay leaves, 4 celery stalks, 4 small white onions (peeled and halved), 4 carrots (peeled), 3 parsnips (hah!), a large bunch of parsley, a handful of peppercorns, a sprinkling of kosher salt. Add enough water to cover (filling most of the 4 gallon pot, but this won't yield nearly 4 gallons of soup after all the solids are spent and removed)

Bring to simmer, let go all day long.

Delicious, but I'm amused at the repeating 4's...

January 13, 2010

Healthcare rant

So the other day I ordered some diabetes supplies. My insurance coverage is pretty good, and covers this kind of stuff (I'd hate to think of how bad it would be without insurance! Not only would I be paying price out of pocket, but I'd be paying the FULL price, not the stupid "negotiated accepted payment in full" baloney that goes on...)

I knew I would hit my deductible already, no big deal there, that's planned for in the FSA.

The supplier called me this morning to tell me that my deductible had gone up -- instead of $500, it was $1000. Yikes, big difference, and totally not planned for -- we're supposed to have the same coverage as last year. Disturbed, I checked with our HR department and was told that the numbers had definitely NOT changed, and she confirmed that I was in the system as an individual plan, not a family plan (for which the deductible WOULD be $1000).

So I called back the provider to find out what was up. "Someone" had fed wrong information into the system. My insurance is specifically a $500 deductible, then 90% coverage, for in-network providers (this provider IS in network). For out-of-network care, it's a $1000 deductible and 70% coverage. The data entered into their system? $1000 deductible, 90% coverage. "Kind of in network"? "Family" instead of "individual" coverage? (The more likely mistake, but still not correct!)

But in the meantime, that first order was already billed at the incorrect numbers. Lots of on-hold time later, it's supposedly all been corrected. We'll see...

December 3, 2009

Another cool thing...

...about the new Market District, that I spotted tonight.

Giant Eagle has experimented with self-service deli counter kiosks. Select your items on the touchscreen, and pick them up later. The new Market District in Robinson took that idea one step further -- the new deli kiosks are at the ENTRANCE, not by the deli counter. Make your selections and you get a little receipt to pick them up, and even optionally you can give it your cellphone number and receive a text message when it's ready.

I tried it tonight, and it worked great. No waiting in line, no need to go to the counter first. Ah, progress...

November 26, 2009

Goodbye, Hermes

This is still difficult for me to type, but I feel like I have to say something to honor him.

Hermes, my 10 year old cat, passed away sometime early Monday morning. It was sudden, and hopefully not painful for him (although I fear it may have been).

This cat literally came up to me in a rather busy area (one of the side streets off Craig St) as a kitten. He followed me as I walked into a store, then was sitting there as I came out. One of my best friends is a vet, so I picked him up and took him to the office she was working at. After a few days there, she called me and said "you picked him up, he's yours..."

So I had a kitten.


Hermes was a bit of a brat right from the start. He was willful and could be aloof (sounds like most cats, right?) He could also be very affectionate, friendly, and down right adorable at times, even when getting himself in trouble.



Hermes was joined less than a year later by another cat, Loki. The same friend called me, and told me they had an orphaned kitten that needed a home, and I was it. This little guy was so young he was still being fed kitten chow mixed with kitten formula, and using the plastic tray from a Lean Cuisine as his litter box.


Loki is a very different cat than his older "brother" Hermes. Hermes loved being with people, and would always come over to see what was going on, but still maintained his distance and, dare I say, a form of dignity. Loki is very skittish around strangers, and jumps at the slightest sudden movement, but when you're in the couch watching TV or napping it's almost certain he'll cuddle up with you.

So, these guys have been my buddies for going on 10 years now. I've been through a lot, good and bad, and they've always been there for me (ok, non-animal people will say "that's because you own them", but pet lovers know what I mean...)


When I bought a house and moved in with my fiance, who has much nicer furniture than I ever did in my bachelor pads, we agreed to keep the cats downstairs.

So, this weekend...here goes. Hermes has always been one to wolf down his food, and then take some of Loki's for good measure. Sometimes he'd eat so fast he'd throw some of it back up. He's also always had hairball issues. Now, I don't know what actually happened, but...Sunday morning he woke us up, meowing for his food as usual. I went downstairs and fed them. After breakfast I went downstairs to get ready to go out, and one of them had thrown up breakfast. I figured it was probably Hermes, and didn't think much more of it at the time, but told myself to make sure to check in on him later. I went grocery shopping, came home, and he was fine, running over to see what I'd gotten.

After the Steelers game (so around 4:30) I went downstairs again, and found a very different story. Hermes was sitting on the rug in the laundry room, looking, well, scared. He was drooling, and looked at me and let out a weak little "meow". I immediately grabbed my phone and called my friend the vet (the same one, now with her own practice). I didn't get her right away, so I left her a voicemail and told myself if I couldn't get hold of her I'd call one of the emergency clinics. We ate dinner, and just as we were finishing the friend called me. She offered to meet me at her clinic (which was of course normally closed -- can you tell we're friends?) so I ran off with Hermes.

She said he was dehydrated and his temperature was low, and gave him some intravenous fluids. She wanted to draw blood and do X-Rays, but without a tech to help her couldn't do much more. She felt his stomach, and he meowed, but she didn't think she felt any actual blockages (my fear given his hairball issues in the past). Her big fear was that he'd eaten something he shouldn't have, but there wasn't much else she could do at the time without help. We agreed that he'd be more comfortable at home rather than alone in a clinic cage, so I took him home, to bring him back first thing in the morning. I set him up on some blankets and gave him a kiss (yeah, I know -- I'm a softie, and this was my pal we're walking about). Around 3am I went down to check on him, and he was sleeping, but opened his eyes and stretched when I petted him.

That was the last time I saw him alive. I got up at 6 and went downstairs to check on him, and he wasn't breathing. I wrapped him up in some blankets and took him to my friend's practice. Carrying him in was probably one of the hardest things I've ever done so far in my life. We don't know what happened, and I chose to not have her autopsy him -- we may not have learned anything, and it seemed more respectful to let my little friend rest in peace.

Loki may not fully understand what's happened, but he misses his "brother". I found him sleeping in Hermes' favorite chair, but leaning AWAY from the spot Hermes would actually have been sleeping in. He's been carrying around one of Hermes' favorite toys. And, of course, he's been all over me everytime I'm down there.

I took Loki in for a checkup yesterday, just in case. He's gotten a clean bill of health so far, so that's good at least.

Goodbye, Hermes. We miss you.