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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in amethystfoxears' LiveJournal:

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Saturday, March 12th, 2011
11:10 pm
Quarterly Update
Guess I ought to post, once a quarter, right?

So, not a whole lot new with me. Still working the contract job for this company. It's been good. This is the job that I wish I'd had out of college. It's (mostly trying) to do all the right things, from agile practices to actually having intelligent and experienced architects designing the systems. I've been learning a lot technically for sure. One of the best things is that all of the people there are great to work with. Inside and outside the teams there is a very professional atmosphere with the ability to work together.

That might sound like a 'duh' statement, but the two previous companies I've worked for were anything but professional and people did not work well together (or at least with certain people.)

So, yeah, work has been the biggest time sink, as usual.

But, that aside.

I got a new monitor which I really like (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16824116421) I love the size, the colors are great and it's fully height adjustable. Really been great for art (that is if I could get motivated to spend more time on it.)

Hmmm....well, not sure what else to post. Rather late here so I'm not thinking all that straight. :P Anyway. :P
Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010
8:30 pm
Finally (?) Fixed Windows 7
I can't say how many forum threads I've been through about this annoying Windows 7 Aero lag. There've been a few suggestions, such as turning off transparency, or messing with the Magnifier. But, I think I finally came across the fix that I need. At least, so far I don't have the lag I was seeing before. What did I do? I turned off Windows 7's option to index file content. I don't know why this would cause the lag since it wasn't eating up CPU or memory. Could be that it was on the same thread as the GUI. In any case, that seems to have been resolved. Thank the FSM!

In other news we had lots of rain today making the commute to and from work oh so fun as other drivers continue to ride the tail of the car ahead. I don't know how people can drive so close to the car in front of them and think they can maneuver quickly if that car stops.
Monday, December 20th, 2010
6:48 pm
Wow, Long time no post
Just saw that my last post was in September. Wow. It's not that I don't visit this site, I do usually visit daily, I just don't post. Not that my life is terribly exciting. Mostly just work. Perhaps the most exciting thing is I built a new computer to better handle Photoshop CS5.

I'm not overly happy with the new system. It's a 4 core AMD Phenom II with 4 GB of 1600Mhz RAM and Windows 7. Honestly, I don't see why Vista got a bad rap and why Windows 7 is supposed to be the second coming of Windows. Personally, I'd rather go back to Vista than stick with the 64-bit Windows 7 I have.

There's this strange intermittent lag in animation when closing/maximizing windows. I'm not the only one who has it either and it's not a performance issue. It's been affecting systems since the beta. It's rather annoying. Maybe Windows 8 will truly turn a new leaf, or maybe I'll go over to Ubuntu.
Thursday, September 2nd, 2010
9:39 pm
I've had enough of fast food
Yes, that's right. I've had my fill. For the past few months at my job I've been going out with some coworkers on my team (and some not on the team.) These guys are pretty much burger guys, so it's Arctic Circle, Five Guys, Carl's Jr. with some Mexican and sometimes Subway thrown in. With the worst being the really cheap food at Sam's Club and Costco that is nasty, greasy and never sits well. I try to eat more chicken or salads, but I have been eating more burgers and fries than I'd like and it's affecting me. Makes me feel bloated and sick and lethargic. Blargh.

I look at the other guys and some older coworkers who have anything from a small gut to a massive how-do-you-button-your-pants guts. I don't want to end up there. So, I'm going to commit to eating chicken, pork or salads and stay away from burgers and greasy fries. I'm also going to take apples for snacks.

I'm also going to try to be better at riding my exercise bike. I've gained a few pounds for the last while that I'd like to slim down, but more importantly, I need to keep doing cardio.
Saturday, July 31st, 2010
4:48 pm
Weekend Thoughts
You know, I haven't been a huge Blizzard fan since StarCraft and WarCraft II (sorry, I disliked WarCraft III and won't touch WoW.) I was rather looking forward to StarCraft II but I think I may just lay off for a while. Aside from my lack of time to put lots of hours into a time sink like SC II would be, I'm rather miffed at how Blizzard developed the game's user features. First, the fact that you have to register for Battle.net which gives them all your personal info. Second, that you have to always be online to even just play single player. Third, you have only one profile per game. So, you can't start a campaign over with a new name, nor could multiple people play the same copy. And of course, there's the annoying lack of LAN. The game, I'm sure is topnotch, but when I'm forced to go through all of those hoops, the less likely I'm willing to spend a premium of $60 for the first third of a game.

Weekends go by way too quickly. I'm trying to get caught up on podcasts and magazines (ImagineFX) and do art. But, blast it, if time doesn't go too fast.
Friday, July 30th, 2010
8:53 pm
Uninspired Subject Title
So, just thought I'd throw up some thoughts of my life recently.

The job's been decent, at the very least. It's definitely the polar opposite of where I've worked before. It's good to see a company work this way. For those who know, it's an Agile development environment. I will say this is definitely the way to go for development, but the company still has some kinks to work out, namely, communicating what needs to be down from the architects to the developers, as well as having enough work during each two week iteration. These are the biggest issues I have with the company. Now, it is very much a good thing to have plenty of time to get your work done, but it also gets annoying when there isn't enough work to be done.

So, in other news, I've been on an art bent lately. Mostly wanting to get more art done, but not having much time. With the money from my job, I've finally felt OK to purchase the full version of the newest Photoshop (CS5). It's quite nice and quite a lot I've got to learn with it. I also got Painter 11, though it's not much different than 10.

I've got a lot of ideas of pieces to do, though I think I might get an early start on some Hallowe'en ones.
Sunday, June 20th, 2010
9:08 am
Job: Week One
Well, I've had one full week of working. Though, 'working' is a rather strong word. Currently, there really is no work to be done as the higher ups haven't yet sent down instructions of what all the software teams are to be doing. Which is fine by me as it gives me time to get familiar with the Spring Framework and web services.

One other thing of note, is that the company is still using Windows XP, and have set the theme to 'classic' view, you know the one, the Windows 98 hard-edge grey look. I never thought my large widescreen monitor at home sporting Vista would look so good.

Sadly, I am once again shown just how much time a job takes. I figure I've got around three hours a day for my own free time. Still, it's a good paycheck and hopefully a good resume builder.
Tuesday, June 15th, 2010
7:56 pm
Job: Day Two
Still no login info yet. :P But, at least I was able to borrow someone else's login and go online. Hopefully it comes tomorrow.

Had a big meeting today with all the company about the direction of the work. So, thankfully it wasn't another wasted day of waiting.

It's been nice so far. The guys (and gals) are very friendly and seem to be a cohesive group without much politics. Though they say it takes two months to understand office politics.
Monday, June 14th, 2010
8:42 pm
1st Day of Work
Had my first day back in the workforce. Though, I really wouldn't call today a work day. I had been told to meet the boss in the lobby (there's security here) in the morning around 8:30. Well, I got there a bit early as I wasn't sure how the traffic would be. Well, I waited. Talked to the receptionist who called and left a voice mail with the boss. Soon it's 8:45. Apparently the boss hadn't badged in yet. So, I'm left to keep waiting.

By the odd chance, one of the guys who interviewed me came in and spotted me. He took me up to the dev area. Well, as you can imagine, things weren't really set up and people weren't notified (at least the non-boss types) about my impending arrival. So, I didn't have a computer or a login set up.

After listening in on a conference call, the boss shows up. Not much going on, so I sit at my cubicle and read. Then, a few of us go to lunch. Actually, we first went to a hardware store as a couple of the guys wanted to pick up an item that was on sale. After that we went to lunch. In total, it was an hour and a half. :P

I got a bit of a rundown on the system and the backend architecture, and then not much else. I was able to head out an hour early as there just wasn't anything for me to do.

All that aside, this looks to be a good group and hopefully this will be a good place to get experience.
Friday, May 28th, 2010
9:43 am
Late night cravings
Woke up last night craving fruit, strawberries specifically.
Monday, May 24th, 2010
9:16 am
So, it's snowing right now. And tomorrow it's supposed to get up to 75F. Go figure.
Thursday, May 20th, 2010
8:55 pm
The Agile Guy
So, tonight I went to the local Java Users Group. It meets for two+ hours and has two one hour talks given on various subjects. Mostly, they're not too applicable to most people as they're far too specialized. However, tonight one of the talks was given by Alistair Cockburn (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alistair_Cockburn). Basically, he's the guy that people go to to help with the programming environment. For example, how should the team go about getting requirements, programming etc. If you've programmed before you've probably heard of the term and process called Agile. He's one of the main guys that started it.

Well, he had a very motivating and lucid talk. It wasn't a talk that was in the nitty gritty, but something that applied to everyone. What he talked about made sense. For those who've worked in the industry, we've seen Agile get abused and watch projects devolve into a mess. This guy knows what he's talking about. Looking back at my two places of work, I can see even more clearly how just F-ed up they were (with one leaps and bounds more than the other).

It's very rare that a tech talk like this gets people motivated, but I think he managed it quite well. He knows his stuff and knows how to communicate it. If only more software teams and especially managers had that understanding.
9:27 am
Posting More
You know, I really should post more here.

Though, my life is far from exciting.
Thursday, December 17th, 2009
12:31 pm
My Golden Compass Daemon

You are calm and logical, but not unemotional. You are an introvert, at heart, preferring to read alone than be subjected to the crush and noise of a big party or bar. You have a few friends and family, whose presence you welcome - to a point. Even they can wear on your nerves eventually, and you need to retreat back into your personal space for a while so you can recharge. Your energy comes in bursts, after which you need a long nap or a couple of evenings at home to recuperate.

You are comfortable with yourself, and reasonably confident. You want the friendship and goodwill of others, but you are not willing to sacrifice your principles in order to get it. If your close friends need something that you can provide, however, you will be the first to offer it.

You are a good and sympathetic listener, and are aware of your friend's emotional states. With your very close friends, you will open up, but rarely - you don't like to burden people with your problems. At the same time, though, you are honest and are not willing to alter the truth for the sake of convenience. Among strangers you are reserved, and may resort to making jokes to disguise your true feelings.

While you are not afraid of conflict, you do not seek it, either. When you are hurt or insulted, you feel that you have a choice to make. You can choose to take the up on it and defend yourself, or you can let it pass. Your decision may depend on how well you know the person, how personally you take the insult, or simply what mood you are in that day. Your friends may not always know how you are going to react, for that reason. Whatever you reaction, though, you will be logical, rational and unnervingly accurate: a measured strike.

Your daemon's form would represent your calm, introverted nature, your cool logic, and your impatience with crowds of people. He or she would probably whisper ironic comments in your ear, give logical advice and try to hide his or her soft side from everyone, even you.

Suggested forms: Peregrine Falcon, Snowy Owl, Snow Leopard, Siberian Tiger, Osprey.
Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009
2:43 pm
Greeting Cards
December is here and it's time to think of Christmas cards. Now wouldn't you like a Christmas card you can't find at the store? Something unique? Well, I have just the thing! Check out my cards at Saluer.us! These are cards that are printed on the outside, and both insides, or as postcards. You can add your own text and they can be mailed directly to the addressee.

Won't you help out a struggling artist?

Also, I'd love feedback on them! And I'm hoping to get some more up eventually.

Thursday, August 6th, 2009
5:28 pm
You know, sometimes I forget that Java can be a pain in the butt and extremely frustrating. Now, as I've been developing my book editor, I've been using the Java GUI components provided, namely JEditorPane. This component is used for rich text and it provides everything you need to modify the text. Well, come to find out there are two issues with it (as documented in a bunch of forum topics). First is that it displays the font size incorrectly (it's smaller than it should be). Now, when you print with the provided method you get the correct font size, however, you don't get the correct line spacing.

To add insult to injury, when you save the text to a file and open it up in another editor, the font size and spacing are correct.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the display issue yet. I've looked around for solutions, but I'd prefer not to have to pay for something.

I need to go do something else and forget about java for a while.
Wednesday, July 29th, 2009
7:23 pm
Out of a Mood Recession
The thing about depression is that sometimes you don't realize you are depressed. As has been the case from the past few days where I've noticed a marked difference in my mood. This depression has only, thankfully, been a mild depression. I think it also helps that I've gotten back to eating dark chocolate. It may not seem like it, but it helps with a release of endorphins (not to mention helping the heart). In a way, this mild depression is a good thing. I have been severely depressed before and I know what it is and feels like. I was fortunate to find Feeling Good by David Burns, a book on helping oneself overcome depression. I attribute the fact that I have not regressed to a major depression on the thought processes described in this book. I do feel down for being unemployed, but it doesn't get me depressed. That only makes it harder to find a job and study new skills or work on projects.

As far as projects I've worked on, my grandfather has finished and had printed his autobiography in a sort of family edition. He's also rewritten this work in a more novelized way and with a more philosophical and religious bent and is focused more on his experience of being excommunicated from the Mormon church. This one he is going to self-publish on Amazon.

For myself, I've got a few projects I'm working on that I really want to finish. The first is I'm writing a text editor with a focus on book writing. Helping my grandfather with his books has led me to feel that the current crop of word processors are much too unwieldy and are simply not good for inexperienced people or writers.

A second project is what I would consider my breakout idea as an artist. I am starting work on three (with the idea of many more) paintings that focus on exploring history. I want to draw from first and second hand accounts of history and to portray the event in as close a historical accurate manner as possible. I am also wanting to try out some methods of the Old Master painters, though I'm not sure I'll be doing all these paintings with physical media. My goal is to complete these three paintings by the end of September.

A third project is developing an XNA game engine and develop one or two small games and put them up on XBox Live. Unfortunately, I'm not sure how much time I can spend on this due to the other two projects. But I hope that my text editor goes quickly, which I can then put the time from that into this.

All of this is a lot of work, but I feel that it's worthwhile. And if not now, when?
Thursday, May 7th, 2009
10:15 pm
Taken from the Skeptic magazine:
"What is a Skeptic?

What does it mean to be a skeptic? Some people believe that skepticism is rejection of new ideas, or worse, they confuse "skeptic" with "cynic" and think that skeptics are a bunch of grumpy curmudgeons unwilling to accept any claim that challenges the status quo. This is wrong. Skepticism is a provisional approach to claims. It is the application of reason to any and all ideas -- no sacred cows allowed. In other words, skepticism is a method, not a position. Ideally, skeptics do not go into an investigation close to the possibility that a phenomenon might be real or that a claim might be true. When we say we are "skeptical," we mean that we must see compelling evidence before we believe. Skeptics are from Missouri, the "show me" state. When we hear a fantastic claim we say, "that's nice, prove it."
Modern skepticism is embodied in the scientific method, that involves gathering data to formulate and test naturalistic explanations for natural phenomena. A claim becomes factual when it is confirmed to such an extent it would be reasonable to offer temporary agreement. But all facts in science are provisional and subject to challenge, and therefore skepticism is a method leading to provisional conclusions. Some claims, such as water dowsing, ESP and creationism, have been tested (and failed the tests) often enough that we can provisionally conclude that they are not valid. Other claims, such as hypnosis or the origins of language, have been tested but results are inconclusive so we must continue formulating and testing hypotheses and theories until we can reach a provisional conclusion.

The key to skepticism is to continuously and vigorously apply the methods of science to navigate the treacherous straits between "know nothing" skepticism and "anything goes" credulity. ... "
Wednesday, April 29th, 2009
8:16 pm
So, I've spent some time playing through both Dead Rising and Resident Evil 5 for a while now, so I've finalized my thoughts on them. I've played through Dead Rising twice, but haven't managed to play through RE5 twice, and I'm not sure I will.

Resident Evil 4, while not as horror packed with as many jump scares as previous entries, was a very well designed game. I've played through it countless times because even though I know what's going to happen, it's the feel and flow of the game that just works so well that it can keep drawing me in. When I heard that RE5 was going to be a continuation of this refined gameplay, I was thrilled (I even bought an XBox for it). However, while RE5 does in fact use RE4 as a base it further strays from the series roots. There is less horror and more straight action. Zombies are even less zombie-ish, and are now running and gunning at you. There's not much of a jump from these 'infected' to a normal human.

The most egregious deviation from the RE4 method has been the addition of co-operative play. Now, I should say that I haven't played online, so that will necessarily bias my opinion. However, as a single player experience, the co-op feature has necessitated a whole restructuring of how the game flows. Because you can't expect a co-op session to last more than an hour (for us reasonable gamers), chapters are no longer than an hour. Each chapter is therefore basically a self-contained stage with the same balance of action and *cough* puzzles. Other 'adjustments' for co-op include the removal of the smart attache case inventory system with a limited nine slot real time one. Also, the upgrade system has been adjusted so that you are forced to go through the game or replay chapters numerous times to get enough money to fully upgrade the weapons. One of the rewarding features about RE4 was the idea of holding on to certain treasures and putting them together would bring a much higher price than selling them separately.

I am amazed that after four years that we have a game that is half as long as the previous one and much less replayable (for me anyway). I really have to agree with Zero Punctuation on this one. RE4 is in here, but it's covered up and cut to pieces. I would have much preferred just sticking very closely to the RE4 model.

Dead Rising on the other hand, has been a very fun experience. It plays well, has some good tongue in cheekiness, and well, it's got zombies, lots of zombies. The plot, of what there is, is simply more down to Earth than the superhero-villian-esque one of RE5. Dead Rising gives you a sense of both the panic and horror of being swarmed by hundreds of zombies and fighting for your life. Where as RE5 (along with RE4) made you a walking arsenal with your only consideration as worrying about running out of ammo.

Dead Rising does have it's flaws though. The time and save system made it difficult to progress further in the game until you did some level grinding and replaying the first little bit over and over again. However, I didn't mind this too much as the game played well. The other gripe I have is with the HUD display. I have a plasma TV and well, the HUD burned in after a couple of hours of play (it returns to normal, but it's still annoying), a simple opacity setting would have helped a lot.

Well, this rant has gone on long enough. I don't see myself playing RE5 much, perhaps some chapters, but probably not a full play through. Dead Rising will get more time. I'm looking forward to both RE: Darkside Chronicles and Dead Rising 2, both of which look like they'll be good.
Wednesday, April 1st, 2009
2:54 pm
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