2013 Blog

The Stanley Parable

There's an independent studio PC game called the Stanley Parable out on Steam. Every game review I've seen it has said it's good, and that it's not possible to describe the game without spoiling it. Having bought the game yesterday, I'm going to disagree on both counts.

It's an excellent example of story versus plot. The Stanley Parable has some great story (or even stories), but a story is just a sequence of events. It's the plot that provides the causes linking those events, and it also motivates the characters and their emotions.

So if you don't care much for the why of characters and events, you'll probably get some good laughs out of the Stanley Parable as it plays with the conventions of game stories and narrations. If you prefer a game you can immerse yourself in, you'll likely find the experience to be somewhat thin, or hollow.

Enjoy Christmas, y'all!

Washing Machine Usage

It's a little scary how long I've used washing machines before I learned all the tricks to work them properly. So, on the off chance there are other humans out there I might assist, I'll list the basics here so everyone can ignore them and suffer in ignorance. Or maybe you'll read it and learn something useful, who knows...

First, do not use just one type of laundry detergent!

The supermarkets make it pretty clear there are different detergents for front loading versus top loading machines, but it's not so clear you should be buying two types. One will be a powder type with bleach, and the other is probably a liquid and will not have bleach. Bleach often appears on the package as optical brightener, but if the manufacturer is honest the box will list activated oxygen bleach. The bleach does two things: Kill bacteria on the garments and in the machine, and make the germents whiter. Only powder detergents have bleach, because in liquid form it's deactivated by the detergent long before you open the bottle. The easiest way to get a detergent that has no bleach at all is to get a liquid type.

You may be familiar with seperating colors and whites, and you should do so. Use the bleach detergent on whites and light colors like cream and bone, or anything that might have stinky bacteria like socks or nappies. Use the liquid on anything else, including darker colors.

Look for detergents that are a high efficiency type, with a he logo. Omo makes some good ones, I like their sensitive detergent as it isn't completely saturated with fragrance chemicals like so many others are.

Don't use as much detergents as the box or bottle suggests. using too much will produce too many suds, so experiment to find the right amount for the water type in your area. I find about half the recommended amount is about right.

Third, you absolutely must run a wash with hot water and bleach detergent on a regular basis to keep the machine clean. One wash per week at 60 degrees Celcius (140 Fahrenheit) works well. This keeps bacteria from building up inside your machine's tubes and whatnot, which otherwise would spread over every load of washing. It helps stop your socks and such from getting smelly.

Lastly, don't use fabric softener. Ever. It's just grease, and it builds up inside the machine and hosts bacteria.

Of course, at the end of a wash empty out anything remaining water in the machine and leave the door open for at least a day to let it dry out. Again, this reduces bacteria buildup.

That's it. Not too hard, huh?

Dropping Like Flies

Why are so many good writers in such serious trouble? I must be getting old or something.

Terry Pratchett, fortunately, is doing better than expected, but Alzheimer's does not go away. At least not until the patient does.

Iain Banks is officially very poorly as he puts it. he has the kind of cancer you don't get better from.

Now Roman Dirge, creator of Lenore the cute little dead girl has proved that car trumps leg. This has, predictably enough crippled him for a good long time. No, you are not allowed to hope this means he'll spend more time drawing Lenore comics.

Seriously, what's one to do? Hurry up and live I guess, before one's own number comes up.

Free Book

Who wants a free book? You do!

Lulu has let me release the full novel The Ranboen Contract in PDF format. This lets you read as much you want without risking 99 carefuly saved cents on a buying the thing.

You can of course still buy the novel in whatever eBook format you wish for under a dollar, or as a proper shiny paper thing you show off to your friends.

The Free PDF version is available from this link. get 'em while they're hot!

Carrot Cake

I posted my recipe for Anzac Biscuits and Gingerbread, and now here's my recipe for Carrot Cake. It's nut-free, and everyone who's tried it says I make great carrot cake:

All done! (It will be easier to cut if you give the icing a little time to dry)

If you like thick icing, try 120 grams icing sugar and 40 grams cream cheese instead. If you find green carrot in the cake, don't panic! The pigment in the carrot is sensitive to the alkaline soda, so you either used too much or didn't sift enough. It's not toxic or anything.

If you like it, buy my book. It's good too. :)

System Shock 2

The fan community has come a long way with Mods and patches for System Shock 2! Life is now much easier for those wishing to install and play the game, as well as those wishing to make it look halfway reasonable.

I've updated my System Shock 2 page accordingly. It's really quite simple now, and most of the fixes still out there on the web may be ignored.

Thief 1 and 2

Well, I've purchased GOG's Thief Gold and Thief 2, and updated my Thief page accordingly.

In short, the GOG versions of the game install flawlessly, include fixes for graphics issues, codes for videos, and are generally pretty awesome.

There are still stability and audio/visual issues, but fortunately these issues are easier to fix these days with so many patches available in combined forms. I've removed some of the patches I used to offer as they are no longer necessary, and those wishing to play Thief on a modern computer should now find it much easier.