Travel Time

Tomorrow morning at 9:05am I fly out of SFO on my way to a 10 days in Rome and Venice, Italy. If you couldn’t tell from my lack of blog updates I’ve been pretty much just working long hours, sleeping, and occasionally studying Japanese since my last post. I’ve also taken up playing Dungeon’s and Dragons every other weekend which is suprisingly fun, and not too nerdy (I hope).

So right now I’m looking forward to the trip and spending time away from computers and work! (Sorry I doubt I’ll blog while there, but I might bring a notebook!) Even so I’m not going totally tech free on this trip, while the laptop will stay at home, I picked up 32GB of CF cards for my dSLR  and 4GB of cards for my point and shoot camera so I should be taking lots of pictures. I’m also bringing my PSP for some entertainment while on the airplane. Hopefully, I’ll have some fun photos or stories to share about my trip when I get back. I also might actually beat more than 2 mission in Final Fantasy: Tactics.

Also besides this big trip to Italy tomorrow I have a few other exciting trips planned. I’m going to a friend’s wedding back in WI in the middle of July, and in August I’m taking a couple days off to go to Blizzcon!

Ready to Work

It’s once again been a long time between posts. My last posted post was back in January and now it’s April. This isn’t my first attempt at posting since January, just the first post I actually finished since then. I’m going to incorporate bits of the now defunct posts below and hopefully I’ll actually update every once in awhile (I know I say that all the time).

So what have I been up to? Back in February I finished up the PS 3 game Prince of Persia. Overall I had fun with the game, but it was a bit short. I’m not sure it was worth the $55 I paid, but it would be worth picking up at a bargain basement  price. If you’re into achievements and obsessively collecting stuff then you might get more mileage out of the game.

On February, 21st I attended AMC’s Best Picture Showcase with a friend. There we watched all 5 best picture nominees in one, very long, day. It was a fun experience and I might do it again next year, depending on what gets nominated.

My favorite picture of the day was the best picture winner “Slumdog Millionaire”. Compared to the other movies it did the best job balancing happy moments, sad moments, action, and comedy to tell a truly engaging story. The only thing I found a bit annoying was the heavy use of shakycam during some of the chase sequences, but it’s probably to be expected from the director of “28 Days Later”.

My runner up choice for the day would have to be the Sean Penn film “Milk”. Penn’s performance was great, and I learned a bit about the history of San Francisco. Having only recently moved to the bay I wasn’t even aware of Harvey Milk’s struggle for equal rights in the 60’s and 70’s.

I was also surprised that the movie “Frost Nixon” was enjoyable, I expected it to be pretty slow and dry but it they did a good job keeping the movie interesting throughout. Even so I’m not sure why they did a dramatization of the events behind the Frost/Nixon interviews. The overall story really wasn’t that exciting.

The final two pictures, “The Reader” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” were not very entertaining. Overall, “The Reader”  was slow and I’m not really sure what I was supposed to get out of the movie. Plus the movie failed to get me to care about either of the characters. The worst movie of the day was “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and that’s because the movie was at least 2 hours too long. At a runtime of 166 minutes this film was the longest film of the day, but had the least actual “plot” of any movie. It felt like they were trying to do a “Forest Gump” like film, but unlike Gump Button’s life was pretty mudane (minus the aging thing). Sadly aging backwards cannot take a boring story and make it exciting.

The orignal source material was a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I don’t believe the short story had enough material to really fill up the 2+ hours of this film, there was a lot of time spent showing off the special effects for the movie which didn’t really help the plot. If they took the whole 166 hour movie and compressed it into a 46 minute film then maybe it would have been a tolerable film.

Well that’s it for the movies. The main reason I haven’t posted in a couple months is that for the entire month of March I’ve been working 10-15 hours a day, every day for most of the month. At least on weekends I was only working 4-12 hours depending on the day! So that sucks but I had stuff to get done and I think I’ll be back to a normal schedule going forward. I also have taken up to playing Dungeons and Dragons every other Saturday with someone from my WoW guild and his friends. So far that’s been fun I’ll maybe talk about D&D and how it’s changed since last time I tried playing it.

P.S. I didn’t spell check or proofread this post. I’ll go read through it later and fix up typos, don’t hold them against me. If I don’t get something posted soon it will sit in my drafts FOREVER!

There is such a thing as too much Garlic

For Christmas this year my Mom and Dad got me a KitchenAid Pro mixer. I had been planning to get one of these for awhile since all I have for mixing is a wooden spoon. While a spoon works for many things, it makes baking more work than it’s worth.

Today I  cleaned up my kitchen a bit and made some room for the mixer. This thing is huge and takes up a large chunk of my counter. Honestly, I don’t really have enough room for this beast. Especially as I still have a deep fryer from my last cooking “experiment” sitting around.

Anyhow, after rearranging and wiping off my counter I whipped up a batch of pizza dough (recipe courtesy of my graduate advisor’s husband). Making the dough was a cinch with the new mixer. Just add water, yeast, flour, oil, salt, and sugar. Turn on the dough hook and wait 10 minutes. Of course I had to wait an hour for the dough to rise but at least I didn’t make a huge mess kneading it.

So once I got some finished risen dough I put it to use,  sadly I couldn’t make a pizza since I had no cheese. Instead I decided to make a few small balls of dough, and bake it up as a pizza dough twists to go with the pasta I was making.

To top the rolls I made an olive oil, garlic, basil, and oregano pesto like mix to coat the buns. Since I had no recipe I pretty much threw these ingredients in randomly. Sadly I put way too much garlic powder in. In fact I had enough the rolls had a bit of a garlic “bite” to them.

While the rolls were still good this is one case were I’d say I used too much garlic. Despite the overabundance of garlic I think my first mixer experiment was a success. I’m now considering starting to bake my own fresh bread since it was so easy.

Wrath of the Lich King

It’s been awhile since my last post. In fact I meant to post this a couple weeks ago and sat on the draft for a couple weeks.

Since my last post I’ve kept myself busy with work, Japanese class, and bowling.

If were unaware two weeks a month ago on Nov 13th World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King was released to the world. Since then I’ve gotten back into playing, hit 80 and started raiding again.

I have to say that this expac is the best so far from Blizzard. While I did manage to hit 80 in about a week from release it was probably the best 10 levels of the game. I didn’t do any boring grind but did all the quests I could. See Blizzard has revamped the quest system for the xpac.

In the release version of the game it was common for many tests to involve killing x of some creature, or saving someone then going back and finding our stranded friend is right where you left him. This time around Blizzard still has the kil 10 “Rats of Doom” but has expanded the quests so that there are many more dynamic quests. There are rail shooters, quests which require you to pilot a vehicle, races, button mashers similar to God of War, ones which transform you into a monster and more. Not only that they’ve done a great job creating a cohesive story which evolves as you play.

From the start it feels like you’re making a contribution to the effort to defeat the Lich King. From the start your interactions seem to feed into various stories. This really stands out with Blizzard’s new use of their phasing technology. With phasing Blizzard can control who can see you, what enemies you can see, and what landscape you can interact with. Blizzard puts this to awesome use to let you change the world. Save that guy in a quest? He’s saved forever. Save a town from an attack? The bad guys sieging the castle are gone.

This is really put to great use in the later zones such as Icecrown were the good guys don’t even have a foothold. Over time you fight off the undead scourge and build new bases. Certain enemy infested areas become a safe harbor where you can rest and repair.

The other best use of this technology is the Wrathgate quest chain, which terminates with a fairly epic in game cutscene followed by you laying siege to a horde main city. It’s sweet and some of the greatest fun I’ve had in WoW. In fact with their use of phasing the game really starts to feel like a single player RPG.

Also the gameplay doesn’t stop with 80. By the time you hit 80 you’ll still probably have 2-3 zones worth of quests to do, many of which will continue to evolve the overall plot. You also can rerun many of the level up instance in Heroic mode, try out the new level 80 dungeons, and if you have 10 or 25 friends hit up the new raid dungeons.

My guild is also making forward progress on raiding. On the 10 man side we’ve cleared everything by Malygos but haven’t really bothered with Malygos yet due to schedule (we cleared Naxx the week after release).

On the 25 man side we’re on the last boss of Naxxramas and should have him done and start on Malygos tomorrow. Sadly progress has been slower here since we’ve been waiting for more guildies to hit level 80. We completed most of 25 man Naxx with around 22 people so I won’t complain too much about our slower progress :).

Returning to WoW has been fun so far and I highly recommend this expansion to anyone who has World of Warcraft. To my friends without this game, I’d say give it a try but it’s honestly a lot more fun from 70-80 than it is to get to 70. They’ve just improved the gameply that much in the latest xpac.

The Soul Still Burns

After crushing the very awesome game God of War II (deserves it’s own post), as sort of an impulse buy I went out and picked up Soul Caliber IV for the PS 3. The reason I got this? I enjoyed playing Soul Caliber 2 with friends on the Xbox, it got good reviews, and it was $10 off at Fry’s!

The one thing I forgot is I really only enjoy fighting games when playing with friends. Especially, if those friends are as awesome at fighting games as I am. AKA Button Mashers!

So while I played through the story mode a couple times once with Mitsurugi, and another time as Darth Vader I grew bored of Soul Caliber IV. I might pick it up and play a round here and there but sadly I don’t see myself ever actually managing to learn all the combos/moves for any character. I’m also not obsessive compulsive enough to go try and unlock all the little sub features. I wish games came with everything already available. I guess if that was the case you’d have nothing to do.

Though my lack of enthusiasm doesn’t mean Soul Caliber IV is a lousy game. In fact it’s a fairly enjoyable iteration of a fun fighting game series. It just lacks the key things I’m looking for in a single player game which is a great plot, combined with smooth gameplay to tell a story I get to participate in. While the fights are fairly fun, they’re about 40 seconds long and the plot is at best “weak”.

I guess you can count the little text scroll before story mode as plot. They did have Darth Vader travel from another dimension to collect the Soul Edge and Soul Caliber for terrorizing the Empire, but this tenuous story needs more Grand Admiral Thrawn to really shine (See Tie Fighter for best Starwars game ever).

Next on my list of games to pick up is SPORE. This game will either be a fun sandbox (I know no plot) or is totally over hyped and will suck. I’m totally looking forward to how they captured a few different game play styles in a single game so perhaps it will keep my attention.

Gmail Finally Adds Security

If you haven’t heard already Google has finally added a feature to gmail that allows you to use SSL (https) for all traffic from your browser to the site. Until recently while your login was secure everything you saw in the gmail page was sent over normal unencrypted http. As it turns out someone has found a flaw in gmail’s authentication which will let people get fairly easy access to your account if you don’t use https all the time.

So if you’re a frequent gmail web client user log into gmail right now, click settings in the upper right corner. Under here select “Always use https” under browser connection. Google claims your connection might be a bit slower due to the encryption but I haven’t notice any slowdown.

Video Game First Impressions

Today two tidbits of videogame fun were released.  Blizzard released the opening cinemetic of their new World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King expansion, and LucasArts released their demo of “The Force Unleashed.”

Sadly neither of these exactly lived up to my expectations. On the WoW front the movie was sort of lame. They show a glacier, Arthas walks around in the snow, smashes the ground and raises an icewyrm. Whoop dee do. Sadly it made me less excited about the expansion than I was before.

Perhaps it’s just my time away from WoW and enjoying other stuff that has me bored with everything WoW. In fact I’m much more looking forward to Starcraft II and Diablo III than the new WoW Expansion.

As for the new LucasArts game I’ve been really looking forward to The Force Unleashed. This game sort of looks like the successor to the Jedi Knight series, and I’ve been waiting for a good lightsaber romp since Jedi Outcast. Sadly this game might not deliver.

The game is set just before “Star Wars: A New Hope” and you play Darth Vader’s secret apprentice who helps hunt down the Jedi. So far so good but there are a couple issues, firstly LucasArts in their genius have decided to NOT release a PC port of this game. Instead since it’s “really detailed” it seems that PCs are too weak to process all the graphics/physics. So this game will only be released on PS3, PS2, Xbox360, Wii, PSP, Nintendo DS, iPhone and some other cellphones etc.

Guess what? I think my PC can handle it. I think LucasArts has decided that the market for PC games isn’t big enough to warrant the port, or their afraid of piracy. Sadly while the game concept is cool it just doesn’t seem to fit well on a console. The controls are a bit convoluted and in my opinion poorly done.

Playing the demo I had problem controlling the camera even after I changed the default settings so that the x axis was properly reversed. It seems that the camera doesn’t stick very well to your character and I often found myself trying to kill a guy who was out of my view. Sure you can rotate the camera but it would be nice if it followed you a bit more tightly by default. Like with every other good 3rd person game (Ninja Gaiden, Uncharted, Splinter Cell etc.)

It’s also a bit disappointing since in the demo at least you don’t have any LONG ranged attacks except throwing stuff at people. This is sort of cool at first but as far as I could tell you couldn’t easily change what you were targeting with your force power. So when you’re trying to hit some Stormtroopers it can be hard to pick up the right box so you can toss it. I often ended up grabbing random crap and missing since the item was blocked by other boxes. They really need a way to toggle through force targets in your LOS without having to shift your camera/move about.

My only other real complaint about the demo besides the clunky controls is that the lightsaber fighting isn’t very satisfying. In fact it can take 3-4 or more chops with your lightsaber to kill a Stormtooper, and more sometimes to kill some random unarmored guy. Unlike Jedi Outcast where at least you could chop off some limbs while swinging the saber this game lets you hit a few times then the guy disappears. So the lightsaber combat just doesn’t feel like real Jedi lightsaber combat. In fact Knights of the Old Republic felt much better and it was TURN based combat.

The graphics and sound are pretty good and up to par for a current gen console game. It also looks like the game might have a good story. So despite the flaws in control (it’s not Obi-Wan bad) I’ll probably still pick this game up as I’m always a sucker for anything Star Wars.

Dr Horrible

In case you’ve been living under a log lately you might have heard of “Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog“. This is a very amusing mini movie that was released online by Joss Whedon creator of Firefly, Angel, and Buffer the Vampire slayer.

While it doesn’t have vampires or spaceships it does have super heroes and super villians and makes for a very amusing musical. The various musical numbers are catchy and the whole thing is professionally done. Both Neil Patrick Harris, and Nathan Fillion can sing a lot better than one might initially expect. While it’s not as much fun as “Once More With Feeling” it is probably one of the more entertaining things I’ve watched online.

Check it out on before it stops being free and you have to pay.


Well I’ve done it, I canceled my WoW account. Sadly it’s because I really don’t have much of a reason to play anymore. Several of my friends stopped playing, then about 3 weeks ago my guild’s two tanks decided to take a break leaving us stranded.

On top of that one of the tanks was the primary raid leader and there wasn’t anyone really there to take his place. Even so we might have receovered but losing our two geared tanks sort of did us in. We were through Illidan and working on SWP and honestly you can’t just pick of a random tank to fill in when you’re that far. So people starting bailing pretty quickly and all that’s left in the guild are the super casual players, and people who got a bit tired with the whole raid grind.

I guess I could have joined a different guild but I myself was getting a bit tired of raiding especially without my friends around. Plus there’s always the fun of trying to apply to a new guild, and hoping that you don’t end up with a bunch of people you can’t stand. I just don’t enjoy playing with $random people I haven’t met enough to go through all that effort.

So despite having some of the best raiding gear in the game, I’ve pulled the plug on my account. Perhaps I’ll return with WotLK and start raiding again but who knows.

RIP Edge of Eternity

How to fix a Corrupted Time Machine Backup

The other day time machine decided to stop working for me and kept giving me errors about mounting the backup image. After firing up I found that the sparsebundle which time machine stores the backup data in was corrupted. This is a bad thing since if I couldn’t find a way to fix the image all my backups for the last 6 months would be lost :(.

My first step on the road to fixing the problem was to open the bundle with “Disk Utility” and see if repair disk would work. To do this you need to drag the back image (the .sparsebundle) and drop it on disk utility. Then you can select the image and press “Repair Disk”. Usually if if you have some disk corruption this would fix it, but not for me.

After working for a couple minutes Disk Util would fail at repairing the disk since it found an “Invalid Sibling Link”. It seems the disk was corrupted and the disk repair utility decided it wasn’t going to repair it. Worried that my backups were gone for good I did some Googling and found that this problem isn’t totally uncommon. It seems that Disk Utility is just fairly bad at repairing disks and that using the “real” disk repair utility fsck_hfs might actually fix the problem.

Of course there’s one problem fsck_hfs has to be used directly on a block device not a “sparsebundle” disk image. Not only that but the volume you run the util on cannot be mounted and OS X always tries to mount the image when you click on it. The solution? Use the command line tool hdiutil to “attach” but not “mount” the image. This makes OS X create a /dev/ device for the sparse bundle but doesn’t actually mount the filesystem.

So combining hdiutil and fsck_hfs we might have a way to fix the disk image. Note: Make sure you turn off Time Machine in the System Preferences panel. We don’t want Time Machine trying to mount our image and back up to it until we’re done making all the repairs.

First I ran hdiutil:

hdiutil attach -nomount -readwrite Bhaal_0011247e3338.sparsebundle

After a minute or two of thinking we had success:

/dev/disk1              Apple_partition_scheme
/dev/disk1s1            Apple_partition_map
/dev/disk1s2            Apple_HFSX

The next step was run fsck_hfs on the main volume.

fsck_hfs -rf /dev/disk1s2

-f is required to force a check since this is a journaled file system. I also used -r to have it rebuild the filesystem catalog for the “invalid sibling link” this is required (thanks Dan). At this point I went out for breakfast since I was running a disk repair utility over my wireless internet to my Linux SAMBA server. After coming back from breakfast we had success!

** /dev/rdisk1s2
** Checking Journaled HFS Plus volume.
** Detected a case-sensitive catalog.
** Checking Extents Overflow file.
** Checking Catalog file.
** Rebuilding Catalog B-tree.
** Rechecking volume.
** Checking Journaled HFS Plus volume.
** Detected a case-sensitive catalog.
** Checking Extents Overflow file.
** Checking Catalog file.
   Incorrect number of thread records
(4, 13716)
** Checking multi-linked files.
** Checking Catalog hierarchy.
   Invalid directory item count
   (It should be 0 instead of 1)
   Invalid directory item count
   (It should be 3 instead of 4)
   Incorrect folder count in a directory (id = 3795486)
   (It should be 0 instead of 1)
** Checking Extended Attributes file.
** Checking multi-linked directories.
** Checking volume bitmap.
** Checking volume information.
   Invalid volume free block count
   (It should be 37267681 instead of 37310834)
   Volume Header needs minor repair
(2, 0)
** Repairing volume.
** Rechecking volume.
** Checking Journaled HFS Plus volume.
** Detected a case-sensitive catalog.
** Checking Extents Overflow file.
** Checking Catalog file.
** Checking multi-linked files.
** Checking Catalog hierarchy.
** Checking Extended Attributes file.
** Checking multi-linked directories.
** Checking volume bitmap.
** Checking volume information.
** The volume Backup of Bhaal was repaired successfully.