Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Blizzard ban themselves from WoW

Over at Two & Two Half Paws, Dammerung said:
"Speaking of Horde. I'm liking how realID has freed me from having to play alliance to chat with my friends who are allies. It is nice to be able to play whatever faction I want and still talk to my buddies when they get on."

From WoW's Terms of Use,
9. Code of Conduct
B.) Rules Related to "Chat" and Interaction With Other Users.
Communicating in-game with other Users and Blizzard representatives, whether by text, voice or any other method, is an integral part of the Game and the Service and is referred to here as "Chat." When engaging in Chat, you may not:
(viii) Communicate directly with players who are playing characters aligned with the opposite faction (e.g. Horde communicating with Alliance or vice versa);

Is it just me, or are Blizzard saying their own Terms of Use aren't worth the pixels they're not printed on?

The weekend

Saturday arvo I had a dentist appointment so I dropped Liz at Target then went to see my Dentist. After the regular cleaning and a check-up he informed me that everything looked great and that while I didn't require any new work, he was recommending a *shudder* deep cleaning. He did two quadrants a couple of years ago but then we did more work, a root canal, some fillings, etc., and he never got around to the other two quadrants, which I was sort of glad about because even with the local/topical anesthesia a deep cleaning is a rather painful affair. I consider it penance for not taking good care of my teeth.

After the dentist I headed back to Target and found Liz in the cafeteria with a bowl of nacho cheese in front of her. There were nacho chips in the bowl, too, they were just hard to see because there was soooo much yellow, gooey, delicious nacho cheese. MmmmmMmMmm. It was good. Liz had a cup of Root Beer too and OMG! After eating reasonably healthy for most of the week that saturated fat & sugar tasted sooooo good. I know some people might view this as my Cheat Day so it was okay but I don't believe in 'Cheat Days'. Then again I also don't believe in Diets.

A Cheat Day is not a "reward" for eating healthy & working out for 6 days. A Cheat Day is exactly what it says it is: a day in which you cheat yourself out of the real reward, being a healthier you. And did you notice I didn't say 'dieting' and working out? That's because the word diet is commonly preceded by the phrase "I'm starting a..." or "I'm going on a..." If you look at a 'Diet' as something you "start" or "go on", then you'll also think of it as something you "finish" or "go off". I don't go "on a diet", I adjust my eating habits. I try to be conscious of what I'm eating and make healthier choices when possible. I may not always succeed, as happened Saturday, and then again on Sunday when we lunched at Top's Burgers on Colorado in Pasadena. One Reuben on toasted Rye, thank you very much. That said, I washed my Reuben down with a lot of water (no soda this time) and we split a small Fries between us, but trust me, a "small" Fries at Top's is bigger than a large at most other Burger joints. But in no way did I consider these 'rewards' for eating healthier throughout the week.

Sunday afternoon we hooked up with some friends and played Badminton for a few hours. And I do mean a few hours. We started around 4pm and it was 7pm by the time we were done. Conscious of what I'd eaten during the past couple of days I played as many games as I could. It helps that I love Badminton and am pretty good at it. Not as good as my friend Jimmy who managed to beat me in every game we played, including the doubles matches, but I still manage to give him a good run for his money. Not that the cunning sod runs that much. Jimmy is good enough to know what he can get to and what he can't, and he won't go for the shots he knows he can't reach. Me? I'm pretty sure I can get them all so I'll try for them all. Jimmy is aware of this, and good enough with his shot placement to have me running all over the court.

And for that, I thank him.

Monday morning I weighed myself and IIRC was approx. 195 lbs. I ate my usual 4 Weetabix for breakfast accompanied by approx. 2 cups of Soy Milk, then took the Highlander to the dealer for a service which took 2 hours. There I would drink two cups of coffee and eat a slice of Starbuck's Banana Walnut Loaf, take a Mustang GT for spin (through the parking lot, because I'd managed to leave my Driver's License at home) and become enamored with the Scion cT. Later at home I would have two Styrofoam Cakes (aka Rice Cakes) with Blueberry Cream Cheese and drink several glasses of water. After we picked up the kids from school we stopped for some frozen yoghurt where I had my usual small'ish portion loaded with fruit, while dinner would be half-a-dozen boiled Pork & Veg Dumplings followed by a Pomegranate w/ some vanilla yoghurt. And yet more water. It was bloody hot yesterday.

This morning after getting up I weighed myself and almost couldn't believe the scales. 189.6 lbs w/ 23% Body Fat. Under 190 lbs (barely) and Body Fat down 1% I know your morning weight can be lower due to body water lost during the night through respiration and perspiration but I actually felt good this morning and (TMI?) my output looked good, too. Not clear, but also not the yellow of someone a little dehydrated.

I found one of my Blog entries from several years ago where I mentioned I was at 22% so I'm getting back there, but I also recall that when I first came here I was approx. 14%. Of course that was 20 pounds and 12 years ago. I suspect that to get back down to 14-15% I'm going to need to go past the 180 I weighed then, when I was much more active, and shoot for a weight around 170 lbs. Before that can happen I need to hit 180 and before that I need to get down to 185. And before I get to 185 I need to keep off the weight I appear to have lost during the past couple of days.

Small steps. Because a significant amount of weight lost gradually in small steps is easier to keep off than a large amount lost abruptly, such as by someone "going on" a "crash diet".


4 Weetabix for breakfast and a Sunshine Breakfast Muffin (from Subway) for second breakfast. English muffin with a few pieces of Ham & 1 slice of cheese, plus 2 Styrofoam Cakes with a smear of Blueberry Cream Cheese for lunch. One English Muffin, toasted, w/ BCC for a snack when I got home. To drink I had 1 16oz cup of coffee which I never finished, and several 16oz bottles of water. Afternoon pre-dinner weight? 192.2 Not too shabby :)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Weighing in

I'm 41-years old, 5'11", 195-200lbs, with 24% Body Fat. The archaic BMI rates me at 27.6 which is halfway into Overweight, and I'd agree with that. I am over weight, I do have a "spare tyre", and could definitely stand to lose a few pounds. However, based on the archaic BMI the medical recommended weight for my height is 135-180 pounds. This is why I'm not a huge fan of the BMI, because it puts that upper limit of my 'normal' weight at 180 pounds. That's what I weighed in High School when I was very active & fit (marathon fit), and when I look at some of those photos from that time I didn't look trim & athletic, I looked thin.

If I get down to the middle-of-the-road BMI 'Normal' weight for my height, being 155-160 lbs, people would be talking behind my back and asking Liz "Is John okay?".

If I got down to ~170 I'd be a lot healthier, and a lot happier, but people would probably still be wondering if I was okay.

According to this rather excellent site (although I say that without any knowledge of how accurate it is) based on a desired goal to go from 24% Body Fat to 15% Body Fat (see what I did there? I'm not concentrating on weight loss, but a reduction in my body fat %) I need to lose ~25 pounds.

If I start working out I will shed fat, but I'll also add muscle, so I might hit my target of 15% Body Fat but will still weigh in at ~180 pounds. According to the BMI that's borderline overweight, and yet I'd actually have a very healthy Body Fat %

So, what can I do to accomplish my goal of lowering my body fat percentage by 10 points?

My daily commute (being a bus ride) sees me walking approximately a total of 1 mile to & from Home to Bus Stop to work, & back. Hardly strenuous.

At Liz's urging I've recently taken to doing Sit-Ups and while the first night was a fight to get my torso up off the floor the second night was easier, the third night I did 2 sets of 10, and last night I cranked out 20 Sit-Ups in one hit. Sit-Ups alone won't do much more than strengthen and tone up my abs & lower back (I'm doing the twisting, elbow-to-opposite-knee crunches) but it's a start.

If I throw Push-Ups into the mix that will help but I'll still need to do more than that.

I need to start doing the Wii-Fit's Expert Boxing Routine again - at least two 10-minute Reps each night - plus run a mile or two at least 3-4 nights a week. Unfortunately I picked a bad time to start running again as within a matter of weeks Daylight Saving Time will end and it will be dark by the time I get home. However, a quick check at Google Maps has revealed that one lap around our home block is ~1 mile. This is useful to know because it means I can run/walk/jog/hobble one mile without crossing any roads, and if I want to do two miles I just do two laps, and so on.

What about 3 miles? When I take the dog for her walk down by the river that's usually at least a 3-mile trip. I'm not saying I'm going to run 3 miles straight off the cuff, but the option to do that is there, and I did do that a couple of times a month or two back when I went out with my daughter. She rode her scooter and I ran, and walked, and she got ahead of me and I needed to run again. It took us a little over 30 minutes for the trip and she was starting to complain that her leg was sore (from all the scooting), but we got there in the end.

That's what I need to start doing again if I want to get rid of this spare tyre. And if I notice people are starting to give me concerned looks or are talking about me behind my back...that will be a good thing ;)

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Last week Mike called me up and said his wife had told him I was home (I had the day off work) and asked if I wanted to go shooting with him. We already had an IDPA-style shooting event planned for today and Mike wanted to get in some practice before then, so we met up at the La Puente Firing Range. Mike had warned me that the owner was pretty chatty, but that he really knew his stuff, was a very competent gunsmith, and also helped train LAPD.

After a few minutes chatting with the owner we hit the range and proceeded to murder some paper targets at 21' For someone who doesn't shoot often enough I was still shooting pretty well, although there were quite a few times where I'd drill the center with my first shot but the follow up shots would go several inches low. My groups were good but off target. By contrast Mike was shooting the center out of his targets, and I mean that quite literally.

After we were done Mike suggested we talk to the owner about getting a holster for me (I'd need one for the event) and maybe get some advice about why I'd drill the target dead center with my first shot but had a tendency to shoot low with my subsequent shots.

The owner asked me to show him how I shoot, so I did, and he told me that I was pretty much doing everything wrong. Everything. Right down to how I was holding my Beretta. He had me do a simple exercise where I stood, relaxed, gun by my side, and with eyes closed raised the gun up and pointed it ahead of me, then he asked me to open my eyes and look where the gun was pointing. It was not pointing straight ahead. It was pointing downward.

He had me change my grip then repeat the exercise. Eyes closed, relax, raise the gun up and out and open my eyes and...my Beretta was pointing straight ahead. Talk about opening your eyes. My eyes were opened! (As were my ears) and for the next 30 minutes I listened and watched and learned how to shoot a firearm all over again.

Then I went home, and each night I took out my Beretta and practiced with it. No shooting, just bringing it up, using my 'new' grip, and pointing it straight ahead. Back down, breathe, relax, and do it again.

Friday we met up with Mike and his family for dinner but before we could eat the women sent us out to run some errands. As one of our stops took us close by Turners of Pasadena we stopped in to see if they had a suitable holster for me. I checked my Beretta with the young man (I'm 40 years old now, anyone 30 & under looks young) and told him I needed a suitable holster for an IDPA-style event. We hit the holster section but none of the molded, hard holsters would fit my 96G. Finally we settled on a nylon holster with a magazine pouch attached to the front. That was a bonus because it meant I didn't need to shell out another $10 for a magazine holder.

Then we completed our errands.

The next day I strapped on my holster, loaded up both 10-round clips, and for the whole day was armed (except when I left the house) and let me tell you, two 10-round clips loaded with .40S&W and a Beretta 96G makes for a pretty heavy weight to be hanging off your hip, at least until you get used to it. I figured I'd spend most of the next day at the range carrying that weight so I wanted to get used to it.

Sunday morning we were up reasonably early and JE and I joined our friends at Burro Canyon above Azusa where we'd rented one of the private ranges for the day. After a lengthy practice session where the newbies learned how to shoot, and some were shooting for the very first time, my son and his friend went head-to-head.

JE was shooting his H&K USP CO2-powered BB gun which, at a distance of 12 feet, was more than capable of sending a BB straight through the Clay Pigeons we were using for targets. With California restricting civilians to 10-round magazines and with Mike's son using his .22LR 1911, and because we didn't want the boys doing magazine changes, we limited them to three stations with one Clay Pigeon target at each. So they had to shoot the first Clay, move to the second Station & shoot the second Clay, then move to the third Station and shoot the last Clay.

Mike's son was pretty accurate, but like all 10-year old boys he had a tendency to get a little too excited and shoot a little too quickly for his own good. JE, by contrast, was slow, steady, and didn't waste a shot. Mike's son went rapid fire, used most of his 10 rounds, and broke his third Clay just as JE broke his second with his second shot. I gestured to JE to finish and he moved on to the third Station where he broke his third Clay with one more shot, but Mike's son still won Round 1.

In the next Round Mike's son went fast again, but this time his 1911 jammed and before he could clear it JE broke his third Clay and won Round 2. Round 3 would be a repeat of Round 2 with yet another jam and more accurate shooting from JE.

The ladies stepped up and had their turns, then the newbie guys who did pretty good despite (allegedly) never having fired a handgun before today.

Finally it was our turn but first, the targets were moved out to approx. 21-feet. Like everyone who had shot before us we would be competing head-to-head but we had a few more targets. Our first man-sized target had two Clays, one at chest height, one at head height. Both would need to be broken before moving on to the second Station where we had to knock over a Bowling Pin (yes, by shooting it) before moving on to Stations 3, 4, & 5, each with a single Clay. Station 6 was three Bowling Pins which could all be knocked over with one well-placed shot, but all three pins needed to be knocked down to win the Round so you needed to finish off the 'Spare' if you didn't shoot a Strike.

After acquiring my new Holster I'd practiced drawing, but I'd also practiced magazine changes. If you were counting along as you read the previous paragraph you'd know we had 6 Stations but a combined maximum of 9 targets: 5 Clays, and 4 Bowling Pins. Miss too many times and a Tactical Reload would be need to be performed mid-Round.

In the first Round, thinking "IDPA" I did a Reload with Retention, meaning I drew my spare magazine, ejected the empty, slammed home the fresh magazine, then stored my empty magazine before resuming shooting. It didn't take as long to do as to read that, but it wasn't lightning fast, either. So you can imagine my surprise when I moved onto Station 6, knocked over all three pins with one shot, and was declared the winner. How...? What...? I am? How did that happen??? I asked, incredulously.

Mike won his first round as well and so we found ourselves facing each other. Mike, who'd been shooting out the center of his targets just a week before, was my next opponent.

"Shooters, are you ready?" I heard Paul say behind me. I nodded, as I stared at the target ahead of me.

"3...2...1...Go!" Mike and I drew our pistols as we stepped up to the rope barrier and Station 1. Pow! I shot the first chest-high Clay. Pow! I shot the second, head-high Clay. 2 rounds, 2 hits. I stepped sideways to Station 2 and the single Bowling Pin. Pow! One shot, and it went down. Step sideways to Station 3. Somewhere in there between Stations 3 and 5 I missed a target or two, but I remember calmly telling myself to concentrate on the front sight. The Clay at Station 5 burst and I stepped sideways to Station 6 and its Three Bowling Pins where I took careful aim at the lead pin. Pow! It fell and knocked the back two Pins down and I held up my pistol. The slide was locked back and as I withdrew my spare magazine from my Holster, which was still full, everyone realized what I'd just done. I'd shot all 7 targets (Station 6's 3 pins together counting as one) with just 10 rounds.

Paul was the only other Shooter to have won 2 Rounds so we faced each other to determine the overall winner. Paul is among the handful of non-sworn Californians to hold a Concealed Carry Permit, and because both his business and his life depend on it, he shoots a lot. He was the most experienced shooter, and the one who had organized today's event, and I was now going up against him.

"Shooters, ready! 3...2...1...GO!" We stepped up to line, drawing, aiming, & firing. Clays burst apart and I stepped sideways, taking aim again. Firing, moving down the line, and then I was taking aim at the lead pin at Station 6. One shot and the pins fell and my Beretta's slide locked back. I stepped back from the line holding my empty Beretta high and, with a grin from ear to ear that I just couldn't suppress, drew my still-full spare magazine from its pouch in front of my holster. 7 targets with 10 rounds. Yes, I'd done it again. No, I couldn't believe it either.

Clay Pigeons are approx. 4" in diameter. Last week, at 21 feet, I'd been barely able to keep my shots within a 12" group. Today, I'd been hitting 4" targets at the same distance with practically every shot. Finally, my Beretta and I were shooting like I knew we could. Okay, I'd always known my Beretta was accurate, but now we were able to shoot well together. Finally I was a shooter worthy of my pistol and I'd just proved it three times in succession. Of course all that means is I'll have to prove it all over again at our next shoot.

*edit* Photo from Paul of my FHuge "I did it again!" grin.

Paul reloading. I'm still shooting.

Mike and me. My single Bowling Pin is down, Mike's is still standing.

What happens when you shoot a watermelon?

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Can "Piracy" be justified?

Obviously I'm not talking Piracy as in Yar, Maties! or the more modern-day Somalian Pirates, but rather software piracy.

As a long-time video gamer with a preference for Nintendo's games, I have at various points in my lifetime owned:
2 of the original-style Gameboys;
2 of the remodeled Gameboys, (in the U.S. known as Gameboy Pocket)
1 Gameboy Advance
2 Gameboy Advance SPs
4 Gameboy DSs
1 Nintendo 64
1 Gamecube
1 Wii
Plus numerous games for each system, anywhere from at least 10 titles (per system) to...24 carts for the N64, 27 Gamecube games, ~30 DS carts, & 22 Wii games.

Does this large support for the games industry justify me owning an Acekard (actually three of) and downloading DS Roms for which I do not own the actual game?

If you said, No, No!, Hell No! (or any variant thereof) I actually agree with you. No amount of purchases and past support for a games company justifies a current practice of pirating software.

But let's take a look at Dragon Quest IX.

In the vein of one of Nintendo's other largest selling franchises, Dragon Quest IX is a single-player game. Yes, I know it allows for multi-play using the DS's Wi-Fi capabilities, what I mean is once someone such as my son starts playing his copy of Dragon Quest IX nobody else can use his cartridge to play the game unless they delete his saved game file, or play his saved game.

But what if I don't want to play my son's game, and I don't want to delete his game? What if I want to create my own character and start from the start of the game?

Then I can wait for my son to grow bored with his copy of the game so I can delete his file and start my own. And hope that in a week or two he doesn't ask for it back.

Or I can buy a second copy of the game. Either a brand new copy which directly supports the developers, or a second-hand copy which doesn't directly support the developers but still lets me play the game myself.

Or I can download a ROM of DQ IX, which not only doesn't directly support the developers with a second purchase of their awesome game, but is like throwing them the bird for (IMO) being greedy pricks and not allowing multiple save files per cart, which was a common industry practice up until a few years ago.

In this particular case I went with Option No. 3. I downloaded a ROM for which I own a first-hand purchased, legitimate copy of that particular game.

Now for the sake of the argument we shall limit this discussion to this particular situation, and not include those situations where I may (or may not have) downloaded ROMs for which I do not own an actual copy of the game.

So, when the developers of a game deliberately limit the functionality of their game in a deliberate attempt to force a family to purchase multiple copies of said game...IF the family purchases at least one legitimate copy of the game, is it now justifiable for them to download a ROM of the game so the rest of the family can each play their own copy of the game?

What if, in the case of DQ IX, the game includes a feature whereby the family can multiplay with each other, and they do so using 1 legitimate copy of the game and 3 ROM versions? (I'm not actually sure it's possible, but I don't see why not. I'll let you all know later.) Is it still justifiable because they own 1 legitimate copy of the game? Or should anyone who wants to multiplay purchase a legitimate copy of the game?

In this case I would agree that anyone who wants to multiplay DQ IX with their family should buy a legitimate copy of the game. But if everyone is quite content to play the game on their own, why should we have to buy multiple copies of the game when it's a very common industry practice to have 3 Save Files per Cart?

So if we own a legitimate copy of the game, I consider downloading a ROM of said game for immediate family members to use to be an acceptable practice, even if the law disagrees with me. Because while Section 117 of the Copyright Act makes it acceptable to make & use back-up copies of legitimately purchased & owned software, it's not acceptable to download copies of said software; apparently you must make the back-up copy yourself. Too bad that making a back-up copy of a DS cartridge is beyond the means of the average consumer.

I guess I'll just have to continue to be a Pirate. Yar, Maties!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Anyone got any match sticks?

This morning my alarm went off at 3:30am and it wasn't that my clock was confused and thought Daylight Saving Time was over. Today was when reservations open for the Park where my son's Cub Scout Pack has their annual camp, and according to the former Pack Master and the Ranger assigned to the Park people started lining up at 4am to make sure they got the date they wanted.

After performing my morning ablutions I staggered downstairs and outside to where the father-in-law's car waited for me, sans FIL of course (I'd borrowed the car, not him as well). I made good time getting to the Park entrance and inadvertently blinded the drivers of the few cars already waiting as I blew past with my lights on High (so I could see any coyotes, not that I did, but I might have). Dipping the lights I turned around and drove back to the entrance, pulled another U-turn and got into line.

It was only 4am and there were already 4 cars ahead of me, but either I'd miscounted in the dark or one of the cars was carpooling because when the Ranger turned up at 5:15am and started handing out the tickets I received ticket #6, not #5.

I heard her say she hoped to start processing folks at 7am, and I thought about heading back home, fixing myself some breakfast, and relaxing for a little while, but while we live close to the Park, we don't live so close that it was a no brainer, and after a few minutes I decided to drop my seat back down and try to catch up on some more sleep. I'd dozed off a couple of times earlier and woken myself up snoring. How I did it, I don't know, but twice I woke up to a rattling sound that stopped when I evened out my breathing so it was obviously coming from me.

A little before 6am the Ranger opened the gate and the convoy started up and drove down into the Park. Again I tried to catch some zZzZzZ's but now folks were walking around and talking and dawn was starting to break so I got out of the car, grabbed my bag, and followed some stragglers into the Ranger's office. Well, not quite her office. First there's a small room featuring some of the local fauna, stuffed and alive, plus a living reproduction of the wilderness outside, including a small pond surrounded by local flora. Off this room is the Ranger's office. I sat down, took out my current read, and settled in.

At 6:50 the Ranger emerged and called out "Number One? Who's lucky number one? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?" (Okay, so she didn't do the Bueller bit). She went outside and found number one, probably asleep in his truck (Of the first 10 vehicles in line mine was the only sedan; everyone else was driving an SUV or a truck.) Meanwhile, back inside, I overheard one woman talking on her cell phone. "Yeah, I've got number 11," she told the person on the other end of the line. "I was here at 4:30 and I'm number 11," she said incredulously.

Lucky Number One emerged from the Ranger's office and Almost Lucky Number Two went in, to emerge five minutes later, according to one fellow who felt inclined to time the reservation meetings. When Number Three emerged and Number Four slipped into the Ranger's office I packed up my book, picked up my bag, and took my place near the door behind the young lady I thought was probably Number Five, but wasn't.

Finally it was my turn in the Ranger's office. I headed in armed with three dates, one early June, just before school lets out, and two in May. The June date was preference number 1, and the later May date preference number two. Both were already spoken for but preference number three was still available. The Ranger handed me the card to fill in with the contact information of the person in charge of our camp. That would be our camp I'd just scheduled for May, 2011, being after my son takes part in his Arrow of Light ceremony and moves on to Boy Scouts, which is when I will step down as Pack Master. I'd just lined up at 4am to reserve the campground for my son's Cub Scout Pack's annual camp which we won't be attending. I knew that going in, but I couldn't put my own Contact info down as they'd send the reservation packet to me and I'd prefer it to go to my current Assistant Pack Master who will take over from me at the Arrow of Light ceremony.

I grabbed my phone, ran through the directory and found my APM's name. Hit Dial, and my phone said, "I'm sorry, John; I can't do that."

No signal.

"You can use my phone," offered the helpful Ranger, pointing to her desk phone.

Fortunately it was now 7:20am which is early, but not so early that you can't get away with calling someone at home. My APM answered and I quickly got his address and cell phone number, filled out the card, and bid him a good day. Handing over the registration card I thanked the Ranger, who replied, "That's it. Thank you. Number 7?!" and away I went.

Next year my APM will do the same thing, also for a Camp which he, too, will not be attending. Of course that's all part of the Scouting Movement; doing good turns for others.