Monday, January 5, 2009


3 months? Really? Despite the fact that I haven't been able to keep to a decent updating schedule so far, I'm not going to give up completely. Maybe I'll give this thing another shot (or ten) and see if I can finally get it updated somewhat frequently.

In school news, I won't be teaching for Physics anymore since they want to have more seats available for other students. Instead I'll be teaching in the math department, as part of the new "Gen Ed" program. Basically, I'll be teaching the lowest level math courses. For the most part, these classes consist of doing logic puzzles. And from the way the math professor put it, it will be more like tutoring than teaching or TA'ing. On the plus side, it's a pay increase.

Once I fill out all the paperwork and pay the school, I'll be able to get my Master's diploma. I would have been able to receive it in December, but nobody told me about it, and by the time I got the paperwork, it was too late. So I'll do what I must and receive the certificate in May. I'm not planning on walking, but I do want the diploma.

As far as my research goes, I've been reading papers mainly, although I think I'm going to start doing some slightly more concrete things soon enough. The plan is for me to be done in about 3.5 more years, so I don't have any worries.

Thanksgiving and Christmas went well, especially since this was the first year that Mello and I have spent holidays together - Thanksgiving at my parents', Christmas at her's, and then the weekend after Christmas with my family again so that we could go celebrate Bopchi's 90th Birthday. Biggest ticket item that I got this Christmas? A car. A new car. A 2008 leftover Chevy Cobalt. Pretty good deal. The downside is that I now have car payments, and a MUCH higher insurance premium since this car has collision protection on it. Then again, I won't have to worry about thigns braking on it (at least not anytime in the next couple of years).

This past weekend I bought Chrono Trigger DS. Chrono Trigger is one of my all time favorite games, and I was quite excited when I heard about it being released for the DS. I haven't played too much of it yet (I'm using Mello's DS for now, and I got her Final Fantasy Tactics Advance 2 for Christmas) but it seems like they haven't changed too much, although I noticed that the translation is slightly different. Most of the things I either don't mind or kind of like, although I'm not sure how I feel about Gato's changed lyrics. The monster arena seems kinda of useless right now, but I like the "Extras" option from the main menu. Expect a full review when I finish it (whenever that may be).


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Why do I do it?

Why do I feel the need to scare myself? I started playing FEAR again today, though I decided that since it's been so long since I've played, I should make a new profile and start a whole new game. So that's what I did, and I remembered why I stopped playing it - it scares me. That's not to say I don't enjoy it, it's just a little more "exciting" than the other FPS games I usually play (Max Payne, Half Life, etc). So I spent a good number of hours playing it today, and I'm almost to the part where I stopped playing if I remember right.

As of this past weekend I finished the elastic scattering problem I was given over the summer, which is a good thing. Also, the solution (at least the major steps) is now written up in Latex on my Linux partition, this way, if I ever need to know how to do it, I'll have it. Next week I'll be meeting with my advisor and get the next thing to do.

And finally, after a few years, I've finally beaten Neverwinter Nights 2, now I need to get the first expansion, Mask of the Betrayer. Read on for my review

I love RPGs, I really do. When the first Neverwinter Nights came out, however, I was a little iffy on it since I had heard that it was really geared for multiplayer games. So I waited. A few years later, I finally got a copy and played it, then played through the following 2 expansions. I really did enjoy them, they were quite entertaining.

Neverwinter Nights 2 (NWN2) continues this entertainment, and builds on it. It has the expected improvements, graphics and sound, but also improves the gameplay and the camera. Even with the graphics improvements, it doesn't seem "pretty" enough to warrant the high system specs and poor performance, though this isn't too big of an issue as long as you have the minimum specs.

One thing that I can say is good even though I didn't care for it too much is the fact that you now control a party instead of just you and a henchman. It's usually you and 3 others (once you get that many companions) in the party, and while it does allow the devs to throw more enemies at you simultaneously, I feel that it would have been better with just you in the party, possibly a henchman. Then again, this is how I usually played the game anyways, leave my party somewhere and sneak off to assassinate anybody I came across.

The storyline is compelling, and even though it took me a while to get through it, it does hang on to you for the most part. The only reason it took me so long was that I put it on hiatus for a bit after coming to an encounter that I tried a couple times, failing each time. I think there was probably some other game that got in the way as well. And despite my feelings about the party, I feel they did a good job with the characters in the game, they seem relatively well thought out and their personalities are fun, even if they left out most of the romances they had planned.

The music is great, sound effects so so, and voice acting kinda varies, at some points it seemed good, but at others it sounded like they were rushing and just wanted to get it done (I'm looking at you end of game summary).

The effects were nice in general, as expected, and there were some spells that looked quite amazing. Naturally, since my computer isn't the greatest, these spells would usually slow the game down a bit, but this generally let me watch the pretties for longer, so I can forgive them.

All in all, NWN2 is a very fun game, highly recommended, and now I have to go out and get the expansion.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

School's in

It seems I just can't keep to a proper posting schedule. I know I've said it before, but I'm going to try to post more often, and since I now have Wednesdays free (or at least, I don't have to be anywhere on Wednesdays...yet) I think I'm going to try to devote an hour or so on Wednesday to update. With any luck, I'll be able to keep to a weekly posting schedule, which really won't affect much of anything, other than making me feel good.

Everything with my teaching schedule and paperwork got in on time and it's all worked out, I'm getting paid, I'm teaching only once a week (with a tutoring session once a week as well), and I have health insurance once more. As far as my work goes, I'm still working on the problem my advisor gave me for the summer, however, after speaking with him this past Monday, I think I should be able to finish things up, and then write the main steps down using Latex. Of course, I'll have to learn the basics of Latex in order to do that part, but I've been meaning to do that for the past year or so anyway, since any published Physics paper is written using Latex.

A week or two ago I started playing Max Payne again, so that I would have it fresher in my mind in order to compare when I see the movie set to be released on October 17th. Read on for my review of this great game.

Max Payne is a TPS (third person shooter), although I'm not sure if that abbreviation is actually used, probably due to the fact that most shooters are first person, and the third person perspective is usually left to RPG's, or platformers. The downside to this method is the camera, when the action is taking place in closed quarters, as many shooters tend to, the camera can get hung up on protrusions or blocked by walls or doors. Max Payne is no exception to this, and while most of the action sequences are in halls or relatively small rooms, it only happens rarely. Not only that, but it actually helps when you want to look around corners, you're able to move the camera so that you can see around the corner while staying out of sight.

The graphics aren't horrible, but they're not much to look at, which is understandable considering the game was released in 2001. In a few places, when you kill an enemy, you're treated to a slow-mo death animation, which is kind of cool, unless of course there are still some baddies hanging around, although this happened to me only once. The bullet time effects and explosions are pretty nice as well.

The cut scenes are one of the aspects of the series that I love. They have the usual scenes rendered in the game engine interspersed throughout which doesn't break the gameplay too much, which is always nice. Instead of having prerendered cut scenes between acts or chapters, however, it's more a graphic novel style, which is definitely different.

As far as the storyline goes, I prefer the second game to the first game. The first game's basic story is fairly common, the main character's family is killed so he goes out looking for revenge. The difference here, is that Max tries to do it somewhat legally at first, he's a cop, so he switches into the drug branch of the NYPD, since his family was killed by junkies. Eventually he gets in over his head and ends up going on a killing spree through New York.

The only music I really remember is in a few major gunfights when some rocking music starts up. Other than that, the sound is alright, nothing too great, although it does get old listening to the shouts of the baddies when they see you. Most of the time, it's either "Payne!" or "It's Payne, get him!" If you sneak up on enemies, however, sometimes you're able to overhear conversations, and these are usually enjoyable, like the one near the end of the game where the guys are talking about bullet time in movies, and how it would be cool to have that in real life.

All in all, Max Payne is a good game, which has aged fairly well, and is completely enjoyable even seven years after release. Look for a review of the sequel in a few weeks (hopefully).


Monday, September 8, 2008

Victory is mine!

I passed the Quals!!!!

I was told that I "did well" on both the written and oral parts.

That is all.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Quals almost done

All that I now have left is the oral exam. Tomorrow, 9.30 AM, I will be standing in front of a committee of professors who will then proceed to grill me for about 50 minutes. So, what should I be studying in order to prepare for this oral assault? Physics. That's right, the professors can ask me about anything they want, even if it was something that I've never been taught. The entire realm of physics is open to them to pull questions from. Talking to students who took it last year, it seems that the professors don't always come to the exam prepared with questions, but will quiz me based on something that suddenly popped into their heads.
Because of the breadth of topics possible, I've been scared for basically the whole week, and been unable to study at all. Today I finally did something, flipping through Giancoli, but I don't know how much that would help me. I really don't know how much anything could really help here. I think my main hope is that I did well enough on the written test to pass. Besides, apparently students usually do poorly on the orals, and I think they don't matter as much if you do alright on the written test.
Ah well, we will see how it goes tomorrow, and then it's DONE.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Quals 1/2 done

So today was the second day of quals testing, only one more written test (on Friday) and then the orals. Today did not go nearly as well as I had hoped, and definitely not as well as Monday. I think I can still pull off the pass as long as I don't do too bad on Friday.
Found out some info about the orals yesterday. Apparently, it's given in a classroom, and there are 5ish profs sitting in desks or chairs or whatnot, and the student stands at the front of the room. Then the professors ask questions (usually about one per prof), and the student has to answer them, using the board if necessary.
In short: did well Monday, didn't do well Wednesday, should do well Friday, scared about the orals.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Quals 1/4 done

So I've finished my first day of quals, and I must say, it went better than I had anticipated. I say I'm a fourth of the way done because I have the 3 days of written tests, then the oral part. I still don't know anything about how the oral part goes, but I'll see about finding out from some of the people who took them last year.
Due to the fact that I still have two tests this week, one of which is tomorrow, I'll make this a fairly short post, but stay tuned for more info this week, I'm going to try to keep fairly up to date, at least while the quals are ongoing.