Cancerous Depression

I was thinking about my depression these days. It seems that I can keep it at bay sometimes but, eventually, it always come back after a while. In a way, it looks like cancer: you can’t completely destroy it without crippling the patient and the only way it to keep it at bay or do the waiting game.

I had two stories of cancer in my family and none of them ended well. My gramma became so weak after doing quimiotherapy that she didn’t even looked like the same person. After a while, she didn’t even sounded like the old lady I knew: her memory failed constantly and, sometimes, I was even hard to understand what she was talking.

I know I could do a “mental quimio”, but I’m always thought that something like that would change my personality and I believe that we are the sum of our problems and our virtues. You take any of them and you are not the same person again.

The whole point of that is that, now, when I think about my depression, it is not “when I get cured”, it is more like “when it will finally kill me.” It is not as bad as you may think. Honestly, knowing that I can’t get rid of it and that, sometime, it will kill me, make things look a lot more clearer in the future.

Music reviews galore!

I decided to write reviews of (almost) all the albums I bought on iTunes those days. I wrote all them on Last.fm, since it is a music related site, so you can read them there.

And the list is:

I still have three more albums on my todo list:

  • Gin Blossoms – New Miserable Experience
  • Powderfinger – Dream Days at the Hotel Existence
  • Valve – The Orange Box (Original Soundtrack)

I’ll let you guys know when those reviews are done.

Why Half-Life 2 failed

Portal. I’ll borrow the words of Ben Crosham and say that “If you don’t like it, you are stupid.” You can get dizzy, you can get movement sickness but you can’t get bored playing. It is fun and it is smart.

Since I’ve played Portal and like it so much, I decided to play its father, Half-Life 2. You know, I had some fun playing Half-Life, even when, in the last chapters, they give you more ammunition that you can carry, which you completely deplete in a few minutes and then you are left with a shitty weapon that throws bees (which is the only thing you can use for long range.)

Half-Life 2 was praised for being amazing and received a lot of good critics. So, why no to try it?

Well, I must say that I’m not completely impressed by it and it amazes me that it received such praise.

First of all, you don’t the story very much. I mean, of the strongest points of Half-Life was the story. Not much like “We opened a portal to another dimension (with things that are/look like demons) and now you have to kill everything that moves.” More like “We opened a portal to another dimension and you must close it. Oops, it looks like you can close it this side, you must go there and close it in the other side.” Of course, most of story is only understood in the latest chapter (the one you run without any bullets and kill enemies with a crowbar and bees) but it explains much of what you have done. Makes you feel like you just watched “Fight Club” and finally realised what the story was about.

Anyway, Half-Life 2 doesn’t have this kind of closure. Maybe because they decided to split the story in three parts, so you’ll have to wait for Episode 3 to be released to understand why you were put on stasis (which I only discovery reading the Wikipedia page), why you were brought back (still no answer) and why you keep running back and forth (still no answer.)

Second, there are a bunch of chapters (five or six, I can’t remember and I don’t want to remember) which the level designer probably had a fetish about Dukes of Hazzard:

You get a hovercraft-like vehicle and run around in radioactive waste and water. And every time you see a ramp, you have to jump it. If it slightly looks like a ramp, you must jump it. You try to go around it and you find that you need to come back and jump it to keep going forward. Just before the end of those chapters I found a ramp, tried to jump it and failed. The first thing that came to my mind was “Ok, now the guys are making fun of me. ‘We put all those ramps to make you jump, now we are going to put one just to mock you’.” Well, in the end, it turned that I tried to jump it before I could. And I had to jump it.

Still about vehicles, it seems the game designers drive things with a lot of weight in the back and no weight in the front. You get the constant feel that your vehicle (hovercraft, car) is constantly sliding the front wheel.

Third, there is the constant “let me show what our physics engine can do.” You move things, you need to pile things to make ramps (which you use to jump with your hovercraft), you lift bars on doors to keep going… And some things break and some don’t. Door are barred with wood planks, which you can easily break with two or three hits with the crowbar. But, some wood planks used as wall, you can throw three grenades and it would still be there. Ok, your physics engine rocks, Valve, but for the fuck of God, if you put wood somewhere, make it behave like wood in a consistent way!

Fourth, and I will again still from Ben Croshaw and his review of Crysis, some points require that you assign your left button and right button to quick save and quick load. It is so annoying that you need to jump in a three centimetre square or you’ll either fall in the hole of infinite depth or into fire. Or realise that you forgot to put an empty barrel under the bridge, so it won’t fall in the electrified water. Not to mention that you need to do that pretty quick, in a 90 degree turn, jumping over three of those three centimetre squares while a strider is shooting your ass.

Fifth, linear paths. Although it is kinda good, so you don’t get lost while searching for the air conduct hidden in the darkest place of the last room in the corridor you just came from (’cause, you know, there is no point in turning back), it also gives you a complete feeling of lost of free will. You path has been already chosen and you can’t get out of it. Sometimes I found myself wondering “were the fuck I’m going?” just to get there and people say “Hey Dr. Freeman, you made it!” Made WHAT? I was just following the only possible way!

Sixth, fanboynism. At first, it seems nice that everybody remembers you and seem to be happy that you are around. But when completely strangers, just by hearing your name, come like “Dr. Freeman, I’m a man, but I want to be the mother of your child! Make me!” then things start to get weird. It also adds another point to the failure of the story: why the fuck everybody in the whole planet things you are their saviour, their messiah, their Jesus? No explanation so far, except that you killed a lot of them.

Seventh, AI. Although it is cool that people actually use space in the game and you can’t just, say, walk through them, it is freaking annoying that they decide to stay in the fucking way all the time. At first, you get annoyed that, when some enemy throws a grenade at your feet and you move back to avoid the explosion, the friendly IA decides to stay in your way and you can’t get away from it (and probably saved their stupid, pathetic life using your body.) But, then again, you can’t stop smiling when they look at a granade in the floor and look at it like “oh, shinny!” and blow up in pieces. “That would teach them how to get fucking out of the way.” The friendly AI is so stupid that, later, I realised that it wasn’t worth try to save them. Just let them die, maybe they’ll learn how to shoot and avoid grenades in their next life. This is partially solved in Episode One, as your only companion is Alyx (which, much for your happiness, her bootilicious body can’t die.)

Eighth, infinite enemies. At one point, Valve pushed the physics to be the most realistic thing possible. On the other hand, you have this portal to another dimension, which is not something we see every day. Although you can balance those two to work as a normal sci-fi thingy, you can’t stop wondering where the hell are all those enemies coming. First, you have the combine, which captured part of the human population and turned them into mindless droids. By my counts, if you take all 6 billion people living on Earth today, kill some when the combine appeared, kill the children, kill the old, take some to make a resistance, turn everyone else into droids, you’ll probably get the count of 10 billion people. I’m not kidding here. In one of the last chapters of Episode One, combine soldiers keep coming in a steady pace. You need to take some survivors to a train while preventing the combine soldiers to kill them. If you try to kill the combine soldiers before letting the survivors to reach the train, you’ll see yourself in an infinite loop of kill, get ammo, run, come back, kill more, get ammo, and so on.

The insectoid race is even worst. In one chapter, you’ll see yourself in the set of “Tremors“:

You are in a beach where you can’t step in the sand, otherwise a swarm of insects (which look a lot like the bugs in Startship Troopers) will crawl from the sand and attack you, so you need to keep jumping over rocks and other stuff in the ground (remember the “mouse buttons as quick save and load”?) And, if you survived around three waves of such thing, you’ll wonder how the beach didn’t sink after so many bugs coming out of it (remember the “infinite number of enemies” thing?) In Episode One it gets even worst: the insects just pop from holes in the street and the only way to stop them is to move cars over them, so they can’t get out of. You don’t do it, they just keep coming and coming and coming. It is like the whole insect planet from Ender’s Game were inside Earth, which would be hollow and full of bugs. Either that or they reproduce at the speed of 10 per second.

Ninth, story don’t flow if you don’t do what it is expected (yeah, kinda like the fifth point.) You are in a corridor, there is a strider just behind you and the only person who can open the door in the end of the corridor refuses to go out before you blow up the strider, even if you can safely go all the way to the door. That happen about three times in Half-Life 2: the story just stops if you don’t kill a certain object, even if you can safely get away from it.

Ok, that’s what I came with in the last 30 minutes, just remembering some pieces of the game. I must say that the Half-Life 2 guys must learn something from the Portal dudes. Portal, although is just 1 hour long (18 minutes, if you are pretty fast and watch the YouTube video), have a complete story, nice puzzles and it is not annoying. I’m hoping that Episode 3 will take most of good stuff from Portal and be something that actually adds some closure to the Half-Life 2 story arc.

Hypocrites

It seems that Steven Spielberg decided to start a “boycott the Chinese Olympics” campaign. And a lot of people are following him. The whole thing is just to raise the public attention to China not following most of the human rights.

And that comes from people in a country that invaded two other countries that were not in direct attack and killed several innocents calling them “war causalities”. Not to mention that the government is now the terrorist of its own population.

Mr. Spielberg, you are an hypocrite. Why don’t you look at your own country instead of messing with other countries problems?

Blogs: what they were and what they are

When you still had to use dial up to connect to the internet, a few people thought they could put they “My Dear Diary” on the web. It was more pratical do maintain, you could add things anywhere there was a phone line and a modem (hint: not many places at the time) and you didn’t have to carry a book under your arm. I’m not kidding about the “diary” thing: in the beginning, you could spot a lot of “today, someone kiss me, hihihi” things around. People weren’t afraid to tell how they were feeling and such, because it was so new no one you know would actually read that stuff.

And then, suddenly, internet became mainstream. It was a media everyone was looking to reach, like TV and newspaper. And it reached every house, at amazing speeds (if you still remember downloading things over dial up.) And then, suddenly, bloggers became “journalists” and the magic was gone. People wouldn’t tell their feelings, they would tell what they saw, ’cause that’s what “journalists” do. And then people dropped jobs to become full time bloggers, like a journalist without a newspaper.

So, basically, blogs turned from being “dairies” to another way to make money. It became another company-thing and less a personal-thing.

But, why the hell would I write a post about it? Because I’m feeling the need of a “dear diary”, but I don’t want that everyone knows it.

New personal project

It was in the way to the Olympic Park, where I was about to see The Police, that I saw that big deposit. I just pointed to it and Gerald said it was, actually, a market, where you could buy cheap stuff. Also, a few stations before that, I was looking at the window and said it aloud “Man, this doesn’t look like Sydney.” Then again, I was hit by that feeling that, even after living one year here, I still don’t know Sydney.

So I decided to put several things together: First, there are several train stations in this city (159, if I didn’t mistyped anything); second, you can take your bike in the train in the weekends without paying more for that; third, I have a GPS; fourth, Flickr have a geotagging thing for photos; fifth, I have a camera. I put everything together, asked “Will it blend? That’s is the question!” and I got Sydney: One Station At Time, my new weekend project. Weather allowing, I will pick a station (order already choosen by my amazing Python script), go there, ride around, take some pictures, come back and put it on Flickr (and my personal picture site.)

I still don’t have the specific details. Like “What time should I take the train?” My current idea is to go in the middle of the morning, ride a little, take some pictures, lunch, ride a little bit more and then come back (and, obviously, post the pictures online as soon as I get near an internet connection.)

I’m taking in this project: My GPS (really sucky, I should probably get a better one), my bicycle, my faithful N800 (still kicking ass) and my Canon IXUS 800IS (which doesn’t have the better quality ever, but it is good enough for this.)

As soon as I get pictures, I’ll post it here. You can keep an eye in the page above, as I will update it when the day and link for the pictures.

Failed covers

One of things I really like to do, sometimes, is hear different covers of songs. Once, I had about six different versions, from different artists, of “Helter Skelter”.

Today, listening to “In The Air Tonight” (by Phil Collins), I decided to check the other versions. You can hear 30 seconds of the music before buying in on iTunes, so… why not?

And, honestly, I think they all fail to deliver the meaning of the song. They are too happy, or so indifferent to the meaning of the lyrics that they sound almost boring. Now, there are some covers that are better than the original. Like “Mad World”, covered by Gary Jules, sounds way better than the happy beat by Tears for Fears that is amazing (it also makes the song seem way longer than it should.) But “In the Air Tonight” can be called perfect in the first version. It is dark, the music behind it keeps the pace with the darkness of the lyrics that is amazing. You can feel the real meaning behind the words by just listening to the music.

By the way, if you know any good covers of mainstream songs, let me know.

Facing old desires

When I was 18, I had this dream of, when I get old, I would have a big, white beard, a long, white hair and ride my Harley Davidson everywhere. Time would take care of giving my white hairs and enough money to buy a Harley Davidson, so all I had to was to grow my hair and beard.

I had long hair some three, four years ago. When it got hard to handle, I cut it.

A few weeks ago I decided to grow my beard. And, honestly, I don’t look good with a beard longer than 3mm.

That made me think about something else I want for a long time: tattoos. I want some for a long time already, but that experience with the beard made me thing. I mean, when a beard doesn’t look good, you can cut it down and get your clean, shaven face again; when a tattoo doesn’t look good, you are, basically, screwed.

I still think about getting a tattoo, but I’m fucking worried about it now.

‘Cause an idea is a terrible thing to waste

[2:23:32 PM] Julio Biason says: now I have two projects in my head
[2:23:46 PM] Julio Biason says: first one is a image gallery (much like Gallery), using tags, written in python
[2:23:51 PM] Gerald Kaszuba says: ooh
[2:23:58 PM] Julio Biason says: and something that I would call “Replicator”.
[2:24:02 PM] Gerald Kaszuba says: heh
[2:24:15 PM] Julio Biason says: replicator is my idea of “update all your social things in just one place”
[2:24:21 PM] Gerald Kaszuba says: nice
[2:24:43 PM] Julio Biason says: say, you want to update your picture? Just provide your password for, say, last.fm, facebook, orkut, twitter, pownce and it will upload to all of them and update all profiles.
[2:25:09 PM] Julio Biason says: want to write a blog post? no worries, we replicate it in your wordpress and last.fm (if you point that it is music related)
[2:25:15 PM] Gerald Kaszuba says: that’s quite cool actually
[2:25:18 PM] Julio Biason says: pictures? upload to orkut and flickr
[2:26:34 PM] Julio Biason says: i’m still not sure if I do it as an Gtk application, Cocoa application or a web application…
[2:26:49 PM] Gerald Kaszuba says: id go for web app myself
[2:27:22 PM] Julio Biason says: The good thing about being a web app is that all the other things are web apps too
[2:27:51 PM] Gerald Kaszuba says: well yeah… and accessable from anywhere
[2:27:57 PM] Julio Biason says: the bad thing is that i’ll have to save your passwords to access the other applications, and I’m not keen to putting my password somewhere (even if I wrote the app)
[2:28:16 PM] Gerald Kaszuba says: u can get them to type it in everytime! :)
[2:28:19 PM] Julio Biason says: Gtk would be a good choice, as I could (hopefully) easyly port to all other applications (using pygtk)
[2:28:33 PM] Julio Biason says: yeah, I could. but that would be annoying…
[2:28:38 PM] Gerald Kaszuba says: yeah

By the way, if you like those ideas, feel free to drop me a note and we can start working on them (I have everything set up for TAGallery, the web gallery, except that I don’t have any code yet.)

Write once, run in just one place

Oh, Mono running natively on Mac OS X, thanks to Gtk+ Native widgets. But “MonoDevelop has pretty much the same feature parity than Linux does. There are a few missing features that we hope to resolve in the future, and there is plenty of room to improve.” Because multi-platform languages aren’t.

Edit 1: And no, this is not a post to prize Mono. All credit goes to the Gtk+ guys who managed to do the hard work of porting Gtk+ to use the native widgets. Actually, I’m pretty disgusted that De Icaza is again trying to sell Mono taking credit of other people’s work.