Friday, December 28, 2007

"His Dark Materials" Trilogy by Philip Pullman

A few weeks before "The Golden Compass" movie was released I saw a trailer for it on the television. The movie looked interesting from the trailers I saw so my wife and I went to see it one Sunday afternoon while our kid was at his Aunt's house. We went into the movie knowing nothing about it.

The movie, in and of itself, was a pretty decent one. It brought back memories of playing Final Fantasy years ago because of the airships and setting. I also enjoyed the references to the many worlds theory, being a fan of popular science books. When the ending of the movie came, we were very disappointed. It ended rather abruptly for us, since we had no idea it was the first of a trilogy. Never the less, my interest in finding out more was very high.

That very same day, after the movie, we were shopping for groceries. We ended up in the book isle as we were looking for a baby book as a gift for Christmas. My wife found the book... one gigantic 900+ page tome of all the books. She picked it up as a gift for me for Christmas but I snagged it to read immediately and for an up coming business trip before she had a chance to hide it. I started reading the book a few days later. I went into the book with very high expectations.

"The Golden Compass

Movies made from books are a tricky thing with me. If I read a book and then watch the movie I find myself very disappointed with the movie. There is just so much more movie makers could do but they don't. When I watch a movie and then read the book I feel as if I am cheating somehow... like I already know the details of the book. Most of this book I found myself this way. I'd read a chapter and know, with high certainty (movies usually don't follow the book 100%), what was coming up next. Never the less, the book was great!

The book is about Lyra, one of the two main characters of the trilogy. She is a young girl, growing up in the care of rather boring college professors. During a visit from her Uncle, Lord Asriel, she finds out about a mysterious substance know as Dust. After he secures funding from the college to find out more regarding Dust, he heads North to do so. This only increases her desire to leave the college, and she does. Using a tool she was given by a professor at the college, a golden compass (a Dust powered device than can answer questions), she heads North to find Lord Asriel. This book chronicles her journey northward.

I enjoyed finding references to quantum mechanics in this book. In fact, while Lyra is imprisoned by the bears, she meets a prisoner who makes direct reference to the wave function! Combine this with a story having truly epic overtones and you have a very fun book that keeps you coming back to find out more.

If you have seen the movie and are contemplating reading this book, you should. The movie leaves out the last few chapters of the book, which is really the best part. You also won't find a lot of the authors opinion on religion in the movie. I will get into this later

"The Subtle Knife"

Most of the time you will find book two of three the worst read of the lot. I don't think this is true here, at least not for me. I found this book my favorite of the three. There is a lot of mystery in the book, as well as exploration of other worlds. Add in even more popular science and I think this is why I enjoyed it so much.

The book starts out by introducing you to Will, the other main character of the series. He is a young boy, though a tad bit older than Lyra. For reasons out of his control, he is also a bit more mature and responsible than Lyra. Will finds his way into another universe by chance where he meets with Lyra. Together they find a tool and weapon called the subtle knife. The knife allows its possessor to carve openings into other worlds with one edge. The other edge is infinitely sharp and can cut through anything made of matter. The book details Lyra and Will's travels through different worlds as they learn more about Dust and discover details of Will's past.

"The Amber Spyglass"

In this book, the final of the trilogy, the story lines introduced in the prior books come to a close. The book follows Lord Asriel and his war against the Authority quite a bit. Lyra and Will travel to the universe of the dead to find out more about their past and more about what Dust is. We are introduced to yet another tool, the amber spyglass, which allows humans to see Dust in most everything humans do.

This book is probably the most controversial of the trilogy. The author is rather pointed in his opinions on religion, the universe, and even global warming.

I enjoyed this book, though probably the least of the trilogy. Not because of the frequency in which you will find the author's opinion in text (I do share his opinion on some things), but because the epic storyline was ending. I also detested the ending! I wanted so much more for the ending of the book, I was pretty disappointed in it. Looking back now, I see the ending was probably a good match... but I still wanted more and something better... something more epic.

Regarding Religion

After I had seen the movie I was talking to a friend of mine and his wife and they were telling me the book was quite controversial from the religious aspect. I must admit this peeked my curiosity and only made me want to read the book that much more. The movie didn't really have much in the way of religious tones. Learning about different religions and hearing other people's opinions regarding the subject is something I really enjoy doing.

The author is quite pointed in places with his opinion. Where he is more subtle with his points in the first two books he holds no punches in the third. The author seems to lie somewhere between Atheism and Agnosticism, but much closer to the Atheist side. In his books, he implies that God was no more powerful than anyone else, except he was in the right place at the right time and took advantage of his situation to become a ruler. Pullman also casts religion as an oppressive force, forcing its followers into dullness and devote all their time worshipping.

Personally I found some of the authors opinions a bit extreme. But I am happy to see controversy in books. Anything that attracts or creates a reader is a good thing! A "controversial" or banned book is an excellent way to do this.


I found this trilogy to be a wonderful story about two kids growing up with an epic overtone that kept me coming back for more. While I was very disappointed with the ending, I enjoyed the books immensely. In fact, I found them to be a better story than The Lord of the Rings (though Tolkien's works had a far, far greater impact). Perhaps its been too long since I've read them?

Also, I have so many questions left unanswered. Like how did Scoresby's mother's ring end up in Grumman's possesion? What of the intention craft? What was this machine truely capable of? They only seemed to touch upon this. Those who fell into the Abyss... is that a different universe? Is this the end of them? What happened in Asriel's kingdom after the book ended?

In the end though I think they are great books. There is popular science, controversy in the way of religion, an epic story line... what more could you want out of a book?

Friday, December 14, 2007

"Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea" by Charles Seife

I actually finished this book about a month ago, but am only now getting around to a review.

This book is lighter fare than what I'm used to and it was fun book. The author goes into the historical aspects of the number zero. Where it came fun, problems it caused, so on and so forth. Most of the book is basically one big history lesson, but a fun one to read. The latter chapters are about what zero means in the context of physics and the universe. The author goes into renormalization of numbers and black holes and even the big bang.

I enjoyed the book. It was a bit short, but very entertaining. I think the author stretches a bit in places regarding the "power of zero to wreak havoc in everything it contacts", but hey its a book about a number. You need to add some flare I suppose.

Last weekend I picked up the "His Dark Materials" trilogy after seeing the Golden Compass movie. Can you believe it!? I'm actually reading a fiction book! My wife freaked.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

RoK Legendary Mage Set

I got my first Legendary set piece last night and went looking for more information today. I couldn't find a central location to view all the Wizard Legendary set pieces so I figured I'd create one.

To be honest... I'm not all that thrilled with the set. It seems more watered down than the EoF set. Also, I think the mish-mash of RoK Treasured/Legendary pieces I have equipped right now give better abilities. I suppose time will tell...

Is it just me or are these pieces easier to acquire than the EoF ones?

After posting this I realized the stats on the cap do not match the picture I posted entirely. The cap I received in game also has a +3% spell crit modifier on it. I'm going to try and track down the right info and update this post. Stay tuned...

Okay I tracked down the differences. Looks like the Cap and Robe are missing a few stats:
Cap: +3% spell crit
Cowl: correct
Cuffs: correct
Gloves: correct
Pantaloons: correct
Robe: +60 spell damage

I'm still not too impressed... I would prefer some casting speed reductions.

Blistered Strand Cap
\aITEM 719545449 -2242050:Blistered Strand Cap\/a

Dropped by:
Guardian of Eternity (Charasis: Vault of Eternal Sleep)
Sandstorm (Charasis: Maiden's Chamber)

Blistered Strand Cowl
\aITEM 899656742 1528927340:Blistered Strand Cowl\/a

Dropped by:
Baron Yosig (The Crypt of Agony)
Gear of the Ancients (Charasis: Maiden's Chamber)
The Keeper of Dreams (Charasis: Vault of Eternal Sleep)
The Keeper of Dreams (Throne of New Tunaria)

Blistered Strand Cuffs
\aITEM -1013207839 1442626135:Blistered Strand Cuffs\/a

Dropped by:
Arch Duke Latol (The Crypt of Agony)

Blistered Strand Gloves
\aITEM -1793751284 -1216219485:Blistered Strand Gloves\/a

Dropped by:
Harbringer Freglor (The Crypt of Agony)
Xa'rgo the Cursed (Sebilis)

Blistered Strand Pantaloons
\aITEM 501813425 -1650518657:Blistered Strand Pantaloons\/a

Dropped by:
Fallen Emperor Vekin (The Crypt of Agony)
Impaler Tzilug (Charasis: Maiden's Chamber)
Mucus of the Deep One (Chelsith)

Blistered Strand Robe
\aITEM -1823227284 -34735578:Blistered Strand Robe\/

Dropped by:
Drusella Sathir (Charasis: Maiden's Chamber)
Majora Leviathora (Chelsith)
Praetor of the Phylactery (Charasis: Vault of Eternal Sleep)

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Squeaky Wheel...

Well, it appears the people whining about Kunark Dungeon XP got their wish. A dev posted in the official SOE forums XP was being increased in Kunark Heroic zones across the board. You can read about that right here. This is a good thing!

Now maybe they will do something about the Burynai faction in the Fens. I really don't have the time to kill 1600 mobs or repeat the same quest 40 times in order to get the 30k faction needed to complete a quest. That's crazy!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

My Thoughts on RoK

So far I am really liking all the new content. Personally, I love questing, so this new expansion is right up my alley. I'm having a lot of fun exploring the new areas which are quite challenging to solo since everything hits so hard.

My first complaint is with spell upgrades. The spells I have seen worth upgrading so far have only been a marginal upgrade. Were talking 1-2% better than my previous spells. Perhaps Sony thought we had it too easy in the last expansions? I'm still trying to figure out why they aren't giving us much here.... I have doubts on how well this strategy will work out in the high end raiding content.

The second complaint I have is with heroic content. There are already too many people complaining about this and for good reasons. I'm not going to get into it here. Come on Sony, people that group and want to grind that way should be able to this!

I have my Wizard AA tree maxed out now. Here is the build I decided to go with.

It is unbelievable how much difference 5 points in Fusion makes! No longer do I get beat upon when trying to cast this spell... I now close in to a safe distance and nuke away! I am pretty happy with this build so far. If any of you have opinions on how this will work out in the raiding content I would love to hear it.

I'm still deciding what to do about the Sorcerer AA tree. I really, really want to tack on STR to my AGI/WIS build! But I suffer in raids from aggro so much I am thinking of going INT. This is a really hard choice... The guild I am in doesn't have a consistent raiding Illusionist and Troubadour. Will the INT line solve my aggro issues? Or should I just go all out and add STR?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Dang you Buckeyes!

Seriously, what the heck was up this weekend? Three turnovers?

In case you were not following, the number #1 team Ohio State Buckeyes lost 28-21 to unranked Illinois this past Saturday. In our own stadium! They started out looking great, even had a TD in the first two plays. But at halftime we were down and unable to recover in the second half.

Other than the obvious turnovers, here is my thinking on why they lost. As soon as Wells took that hard hit in the middle if the first quarter they took the game to personal. It seemed to me the game was all about revenge at that point. Arguments began appearing on the field and everyone was trying to lay the other guy out. They lost focus, and lost the game because of it.

You wouldn't have heard me say this before Saturday... but I don't really think OSU was a number #1 team anyway. Sure it was nice to see, but if we would have held onto the position I think it may have led to an embarrassing loss in the bowl game. But I suppose this was embarrassing also. Ugh... dang Buckeyes...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Ready for ROK

It feels like its been forever since the last expansion to EQ2 came out. When ROK comes out in November it will be roughly one year since the last major expansion, EOF, came out. KOS came out 9 months before that. I've been getting really burnt out on EQ2 lately... looking at these dates and time lines its no wonder why. Also, since EOF did not increase the level cap and they introduced more AA's... it was more of a grind than usual.

In my previous entry I talked about The Orange Box and, specifically, Portal. Wow what a great distraction! Valve really outdid themselves with this bundle. I love the feeling of new challenges and things to explore...

I pre-ordered ROK today from EBGames. I also scheduled three days of vacation to have fun with ROK. I can't wait!

Thursday, October 11, 2007


I picked up The Orange Box last night and played the included puzzle game Portal. You can see a demo of what the game is here on you tube. The game is awesome! Its got puzzles, comedy, and neat effects. I finished last night in around 3 hours and am looking forward to trying out the advanced levels tonight.

The concept is kind of hard to explain so its best if you check out the video. The basic idea is to use a gun to create wormholes throughout the game to accomplish various tasks. There is a ton of comedy in the game from the computer. They did a really nice job with this game. My only complaint is the shortness. Also, the puzzles could have been a bit more complex (though I think the advanced levels will address my concern). I can't wait to see more of this in the future.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

"Programming the Universe" by Seth Lloyd

This past weekend I was in Indiana and I read a few articles in Nature regarding quantum computing. I decided to pick up this particular book as an introduction to quantum computers for my upcoming business trip earlier this week (flights can be quite boring at times).

All in all I felt the book was lacking... it was too simplified. In hindsight I was probably looking for something a bit more technical. This book is not technical at all.

The author seems to be all over the place in the book too. He tries to piece together many different things he worked on in the past into some grand notion that the universe may be a gigantic computer. It came off to me more like he wanted a reason to talk about himself and his past accomplishments and, by the way, it relates to this grand notion. The universe is a computer? Sure it may appear in some aspects as a computer and may have computational qualities here or there, but the whole thing? This notion seems far fetched to me and his arguments didn't sway me.

The book seemed inconsistent in places too. He speaks that atoms and systems can thought of as a bit in the first half of the book but in the latter half he uses bits to represent different qualities of atoms and systems. This is inconsistent because if you use bits to represent qualities then an atom and systems have many different qualities. I think he meant these bits to represent entropy/information... if so he could have been clearer in the first half.

There were some interesting ideas in the book, ones that got me thinking. But, I think your money is better spent elsewhere. I do plan on picking a book from his further reading section. I'll let you know how that works out.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

How to Win $2 Million Dollars

Its simple, just be the first to complete this 256 piece puzzle before the end of next year. Easy, right? Looks can be deceiving!

I have been interested in this line of puzzles ever since I received Eternity I for Christmas way back in 1999. It presented a fun programming problem to me, and I enjoyed tackling the various methods of programmatically solving it. When the puzzle was solved (by two mathematicians) I kept an eye out for news of a second puzzle.

And then I found that news, at the beginning of this year. There were some details on the format of the puzzle (i.e. square pieces, 8x8 board) out there... enough to get me a head start on a solver for this puzzle. I found my old eternity newsgroup, now resurrected as a place to discuss the new puzzle. Discussions were already taking place, a lot of which were based on expected number of solutions, piece tileablity, things that were very important to the previous puzzle. I completed my solver and anxiously awaited the release.

I had my puzzle and the two hint puzzles shipped to me from England. My wife started solving the two hint puzzles by hand while I encoded the 256 pieces of the main puzzle into a file. How deceivingly simple the two clue puzzles were... she had them both solved in less than an hour. And this was about how long it took me to finish encoding. I let loose my solver (an instance on each of my computers) and watched it. It really was fascinating to watch... it would place a bunch of pieces... remove some... place some again... really neat stuff. As a programmer, I really enjoy seeing things I have spent long hours on work the way they should. I had really high hopes.

But alas, this puzzle is a lot more difficult... the search space is simply to vast. My best "partial" solution to date was discovered last weekend. A 216 piece partial, the silhouette of which can be seen here. I cannot show the actual picture due to copyright issues. Unfortunately my first generation of solver did not save off partial solutions... I'll never know if I had had something better in the past.

My first generation solver placed tiles one at a time. Last month I finalized my second generation solver (running now) that places tiles via a 2x2 "super" tile. I pre-create all the 2x2 tile combinations when the solver starts up, so my puzzle is effectively an 8x8 board but with millions of pieces. My third generation solver will handle 2x4 tiles... sort of. I did some math and if I wanted to pre-create all the 2x4 "super" tiles ahead of time I would need something like 20 terra bytes of storage to save them all!

So I decided to do something a bit different here and only generate the top and bottom edge "super" tiles for only around 25 gigs of storage. Since the storage requirements are large, I will need to save them to disk instead of to memory. This will reduce the speed of my solver somewhat but it may be worth it since I will be placing 8 pieces at a time. I have yet to complete this solver so it should be interesting.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Legends Of Norrath Tournament

Well, I got the opportunity to participate in my first LON tournament today. All in all, it was a lot fun. I got a fair share of wins and a number of losses too.

The deck I played was a slight variation of Liefweir's mage/dark attack deck. It really is a lot of fun to play, and can catch people off guard... at least in the first few rounds. It putters out pretty quickly when the opponent gets some opposition in the way of creatures on the board. Also I noticed if you don't draw your share of creatures, your toast.

I don't really play a lot of LON so I didn't go into the tournament expecting a whole lot. Really, I was hoping mostly to see what else is out there and to learn some new strategies.

The Tournament

Round 1: Ironmage

Poor guy... It appears he had two bad draws in a row. I had a really good draw. Knocked half his health away round one. After that, he just had quests to play. It was an easy win.

Round 2: Dannynine

This fellow was playing a mage/creature deck too. He started to get the creature advantage mid game. I pulled an Assault to bypass his creatures for the win.

Round 3: Nikanson

I think this person was playing the Fiery Avenger fighter deck. He played a quest to search his library for the Katana of Pain... which seems to me to be in line with this deck build. His deck either stalled or ran into power issues. I forced him to keep playing his Elven Priest each round by killing it as soon as it appeared. It was just a matter of time before he lost due to his other flank having no defense.

BTW, there were a lot of people complaining about this deck in the Tournament chat. I haven't really played against this deck... is it that bad?

Round 4: Dunhere

My first loss! This fellow was playing a dark Priest unit attack deck. He was running Sidestep, Wandering Spirit, Gnoll Runner, Courage, Enduring Breath, Orc Swordmaster, and Chipped Bone Skeleton. The Wandering Spirit seems to be a really nice card. I think I will re-evaluate my build and see about adding these. Anyway, I had no creatures and he overwhelmed me. He also had a sidestep handy every time I went to attack him, which didn't help my cause.

Round 5: Banecrow

They were playing a Fighter fast attack deck. They used the card draw avatar. This game was back and forth him clearing out my side, then me clearing out his. In the end I think my extra power won out... I was able to produce more creatures than him. I imagine there is a trick to his deck (hence him needing card draw) but I never saw it.

Round 6: Ibbin

My first match against a priest quest deck! I have built and played one of these myself, so I know they can be quite powerful. The strategy of this deck is shutdown the opponent by not allowing them attack, and preventing damage. I think the key to beating this deck is a lot of damage early on. So, I beat a large portion of his health down the first few rounds, before he started playing Tranquility and Divine Aura. At this point, I just attacked when I could, to get a precious few more hit points down. When there were only three left, Sunstrike, for the win!

Round 7: Tenladarr

This fellow played an interesting scout deck that had a few tricks. First off, they were playing a quest called Job of the White Rose. I played a unit here to perform a raid and was quite shocked when he exerted it! This was the first time I have seen this quest in action. The next trick was the ability Deftdance. I merrily attacked his avatar without realizing he had a two defense bonus without doing anything! Man... another unit down the drain.

I think he may of had some bad draws because he really only played quests in the first few rounds. I was able to knock him down, and played Shock of Fire to get his last health.

Round 8: Louie

Loss number two. They were playing a priest unit attack deck with the power per quest avatar. He got two quests down to my none, and simply got more creatures out than I could handle. He was playing Orc Fanatic, Terror Wraith, Chipped Bone Skeleton, Fallen Orc, and Enduring Breath. The Terror Wraith can be brutal when matched with damage dealing units (such as Chipped Bone Skeleton in this case), there is no counter attack... even if you have units surviving the attack.

Looking back, this appears to be the second time I have encountered this deck. My first being in round 4. Both of my encounters were losses. I think I need to refine my deck against unit attack decks.

Round 9: Window

Loss number three. This person was playing a mage attack deck but was more focused on items to help avatar attack; for example she was running Brittle Bone Wand. It was a very close game... I had her down to one health before she finished me off with an Igneous Adept and a five damage on my avatar. If I had gone first I may have won, but I suppose it doesn't matter too much now.

I really think the person who goes first has the advantage in these fast unit attack decks. They get the damage out first and they get the power sooner. The person going second gets two extra cards... but I'm not sure the trade off is equal. I suppose if you play hidden cards you could feasibly get an extra card out if you are second... I will have to think on that.

Round 10: Silver

Another priest attack deck! Another loss! All I got were a bunch of Pierce's and Hamstring's... it was a very sad state of affairs. Also, I didn't see a single ability until my last draw; and it was way to late by then, my opponent already had too much out. Oh well... what can you do...

The Winners

1st: Wiznut
2nd: Arge
3rd: Icut
4th: Mindori
5th: Louie (who I played in Round 8)


The avatar that gives you one power per quest is over powered. There were two classes of players I saw: those that used it (the winners) and those that did not (the losers). I experienced first hand in all my losing games the power of that avatar... extra power means you win. I was playing this avatar too, but my abilities didn't show up in a number of games I was playing. There is simply no reason not to be playing this avatar right now.

Priest unit attack decks appear to be on the rise. It seems priest's are no longer relegated to questing... I encountered three of them this evening. Whether they are good or not, it does not matter, you had better be prepared for them.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Money Plus

If you are considering upgrading to Money Plus (aka Money 2008) from Money 2007, don't bother. There is nothing there you need. In fact, it appears exactly the same to me... except for something called Insights, which I will get into below.

I have been using Microsoft Money for about a year and a half now. It does what I need it to do, track account balances, credit card balances, retirement, budgeting. Really the only complaint I have with it is the advertising. People that advertise in something you pay for really irk me! Movie theatres are the worst offenders here. Anyway, it performs its function halfway decent so I use it.

Money Plus recently came out so I figured I would upgrade my software. I like to keep up to date on software. The upgrade went okay, it appears nothing got corrupted in the process. I started Money Plus up and looked around a bit... its exactly the same!

Okay, so I found one new feature. A stand alone application called Insights. This is a tray application that you can pull up to quickly glance at things like budgeting and balances. But it's very cumbersome. In order to see balances you need to select a single account from a drop down and view them one by one. This is very inefficient. The budget page is a little more useful but offers you nothing over launching Money and looking at the home page.

Furthermore, Insights is a huge security risk. To use Insights you need to enter your user name and password to launch the application. It just sits there in your tray monitoring balances and updates. But you can launch Money from the tray icon! What is the point of password protecting Money if there is a huge security hole like this. My point is Insights gives you nothing better than the Money home page... and the home page is way more efficient at getting the information you want.

The only reason I can see someone purchasing this is if your 2 year online download capability is about to expire or you are brand new to the product. If you are not in either one of these two categories save your money.

Dream Dinners

Dream Dinners is one of these new pre-made dinner places that are starting to pop all over the place. The idea is you schedule time at one of their locations, show up, and make one of many dinners they offer on their menu (they rotate their menu every month). They provide the meat, seasonings, herbs, etc. You provide the labor by following a recipe and modifying it to suit your tastes. In the end you have a pre-made meal, ready to stick in your freezer until you need to consume it.

My wife and I have been to one a few times. We really like them, its a nice way to burn an hour or two and not spend a whole lot more then you would on groceries. We both work full time jobs so there isn't a lot of spare time to make elaborate meals in the evening. This seems to be a way to get a decent, home-made, relatively easy to make meal.

Now you may be thinking this is all fine and dandy, but why does it warrant an entry here?

Well tonight my wife received a phone call from her mother that her uncle had passed away from lung cancer. We need to be out of town this weekend to attend the services. We had already scheduled and paid for some meals that we were going to make Saturday. Furthermore, since the menu changes every month, it makes it difficult to reschedule as the meals we paid for are going away. The new menu is rotated in next week and the prices are different.

So I give them a call about our predicament and they offered to make the meals for us, all we needed to do was pick them up. And they offered to do this immediately, and for free (they do offer this service but they charge for it)! I was very surprised... they could have easily made us reschedule probably incurring some sort of fee in the process.

The Density of Jelly Beans

Last night my wife was telling me about a contest our daycare is running. They have a medium sized bottle sitting out on a desk filled with miniature multi-colored chocolate kisses. The ones that you use for baking. You are supposed to guess the number of kisses in the container. If you are closest you get some sort of prize.

So this morning I go in and take a look at the setup. It wasn't anything fancy, just a clear plastic cylindrical container filled with kisses. I start thinking of ways to approximate the answer. Here is my thinking:

1) Count the number of kisses along the circumference of the cylinder. Call this number C. In this instance it was 56.
2) Compute the cylinder's radius R by the formula C = 2 x pi x R. It comes out to about 8.9.
3) Count how many kisses high the cylinder is. Call this number H. I counted H to be about 10 kisses.
4) Plug this into the volume equation V = H x pi x R x R. So V is approx 2500 kisses.

This is the answer I submitted however the drawing isn't until tomorrow.

On my drive into work I started thinking of better ways to approximate the answer. It seems to me you could take a few random containers of known volume from around the house, fill them with chocolate kisses, and estimate the density of them. Then you could apply this density to any sized container to compute a more accurate answer.

Surely there must already be a site out there that lists density of various objects for these contests? Alas I could not find one. I did find this site on jelly bean density however. I think the jelly beans they use are the old fashioned, larger jelly beans as opposed to the smaller Jelly Belly type beans common today. But it still may be useful... one day... perhaps...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Karma is real. As proof I offer the following example:

Fun with parking attendants

Every morning I drop my kid off at day care. There is a parking garage at the day care you have to enter in order to drop your kid off. You pull into the garage, press a button, get a ticket, the gate opens. Tickets are validated inside the day care via stamp. When you leave the parking garage you give the ticket to an attendant, they see the validation, they let you leave no charge.

Well one day late last week the day care held an open house. I followed the normal procedure of getting the ticket and validating. After the open house ended, however, the parking garage had closed (its a government run parking garage). So a nice lady from the day care used her electronic key to open the gates and let us all out of the garage.

So the next morning I found myself in an interesting scenario... I had two validated parking tickets. Now, I am a rather curious person who likes to try new things when opportunities present themselves. You can see where I am going with this...

So I give the guy the ticket from the day before. He stares at his validation machine longer than normal and I hear him mutter under his breath "This is the wrong day." So I quickly tell him "Oh, I must have given you the wrong one, I had two. Here is the other one." He snaps up the other one and it goes through just fine. He tells me that I need to make sure I throw away old tickets, yada, yada.

Okay, so no secret plots to cheat the garage... LOL.

Well this morning I went to grab the ticket from the machine and it fell to the pavement. I opened my door, grabbed it, and proceeded as normal. When I gave my ticket to the guy (it happened to be the same guy), he took longer than normal to open the gate...

He turns to me and tells me this is the ticket from yesterday, and it wanted to charge me $7.00! I must have grabbed a bad ticket!

I tried to explain to him best I could about what had happened... the ticket falling, me grabbing it, so one and so forth. He wasn't buying any of it. He reiterated his story that I should throw away old parking tickets, and how some guy the day before gave him a ticket for $300.00.

I managed to talk him out of the $7.00. But beware...

Bait and Switch

I have played a Wizard in Everquest 2 since the day of release. The amount of damage this class could produce was awe inspiring. There are a great many trade offs for this; the biggest being lack of armor and health. One or two hits and its game over. "But look at those numbers flying up!" I thought... the trade off was worth it! And it has been worth it for a great some time...

But, something is different now. The Wizard class seems to have lost its way in the world of Norrath. We are no longer the T1 damage we once were. There seems to be two major problems so far as I can see:

1) Those big numbers are no longer a feature, they are a curse.

I am having huge aggro issues! Why does Sony give us these abilities to do so much damage if we can't use them? Fusion is an aggro magnet! Chain casting my AE abilities results in a quick and untimely death also (though Warlocks have it x2 times worse in this regard). WTH?!?

5000 does not equal 5 x 1000

Take two classes. One class deals 5000 damage at the end of a 5 second spell. The other class deals 1000 damage every second for 5 seconds. The class that dealt the 5000 damage will get aggro.

Basically I need to throttle my casting (or cast lesser spells) in order to keep aggro away from me. Why should a Wizard need to do this? No other class does this, they just go full bore!

There is a serious aggro ratio problem here. Sony is punishing the class that posts the big numbers, the defining characteristic of the Wizard.

2) The have and have-not's.

There seem to be two Wizard camps when you read the forums and what not. I call them the have's and the have-not's.

The have's

These are the people who keep saying Wizards are still currently top DPS. They don't see an issue with our class, everything seems fine. They point to their most recent raid parse where they are number 1 or number 2 and they tell you to fix your cast order or get better gear.

I am happy for these people. They are in top notch raiding guilds, they have great gear that proc's a lot, and they are supported by Troubadours and Illusionists. And honestly they have no reason to complain, they do crank out the DPS. And heaps more than the non-T1 DPS classes.

The have-not's

And then there is the rest of the Wizard community, the majority. They strive to crank out the DPS but fail. They have good gear and are knowledgeable about casting order, but are plagued by serious aggro issues and are consistently beat in the parse by non-T1 DPS classes.

If you take the Wizard who says there are no DPS issues, strip away their support classes and proc gear, they are not looking so great anymore. The throttling and aggro issues have stripped the have-not Wizard of their primary role, damage. Furthermore, they don't have anything in return for their role loss. They still wear cloth and get one or two shotted. They also lack in utility.

This is the group Sony needs to address. Wizards shouldn't have to rely on support classes and proc gear in order to function as T1 DPS. Currently this seems to be a requirement, even in non-raid circumstances.