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Archive for January, 2008

Dear Diary,
The little kids have been real mean to me today.
I was minding my own business on the Eder Dam map of Call of Duty 3 when a mean sniping kid (I think he was eight!) planted one in my skull from about a quarter mile away. I never saw it coming. AND if that wasn’t bad enough…while waiting to spawn, I see him approach my prone, cold, dead body and start making humping motions over my corpse!!!
That’s right Diary, he was making his character go up and down on my body like some crazed dachshund on a particularly attractive leg. Sheesh! If this was the NFL, he’d get a flag for doing that. Make them stop. I want Mommy. Tea-bagging is the word for it. I was tea-bagged, pwned, in-your-faced by another player who wanted me to know without a doubt that he was better than me. Humping a corpse, if you didn’t know, is the universal sign for killing a newbie in a particularly humiliating manner. Examples are: killing using the flag as a weapon (in capture the flag contests), using a pistol at close range, killing with fists in melee combat, etc., etc.
Gotta admit that that combination of button B, button A over and over again was a bit funny. To me. You see, I’ve been gaming online since the early eighties when playing in cyberland was a bit pricey and putting up fools was part of the price. It was there that I first encountered that rare breed of player – the taunting jerk. You don’t have to play long to run into one and, for the thin skinned, the experience could raise even Ghandi’s blood pressure. They play to irritate and lord over others in a virtual environment where there’s little chance of getting the punch-out they so richly deserve.
For me though, it was funny. Up, down, up, down….Up, down.
Pity he didn’t notice one of my teammates sneaking up behind him.
Bang!
We returned the favor.

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I made this photo over 30 years ago. In retrospect it’s not as sharp as it should be (that’s what happens when you use a cheap lens wide open) and I’ve taken other photos I like a lot better but it’s the first photo I was really proud of. It won a few contests too. As I recall, it was made with a normal lens with an extension tube. These ants walking across a strand of barbed wire fence were found on the old Tennant homestead in Monongalia County, West Virginia. The ants and the fence are long gone, of course, but I still have the negatives! First pic

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Need to grab something on your screen and don’t want to fire up the Grab application?Use command-shift-4 and a cursor will pop up for you to draw a rectangle around what you need to capture. Hit return and it saves the file in a .png that’s easily readable with Photoshop CS3. ….oh, if you want to grab an image of the entire desktop, hit command-shift-3. Coming from the desolate PC world, I was pleasantly surprised when I found out about these commands. I pass them on to you with the hope they’ll be as useful to you as they’ve been to me.

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While I love my iPod mini, I never liked the Apple earbuds. They are uncomfortable, sound tinny and are cheaply made. Because one of my pleasures in life is to listen to Led Zep with plenty of bass cranked up,  it was obvious from the start that the Apple product simply wasn’t up to the task. While very stylish in Apple’s white plastic way, I was never really happy with the bass response from these earbuds, regardless of EQ setting. You can image how happy I was when I inadvertently stepped on mine and mashed one flat. Finding a replacement wasn’t too hard and after some comparison shopping online, I narrowed my search down to either a pair of Sony Fontopia earbuds or the low end Shure buds. I choose the cheaper of the two and purchased the Fontopia buds  (model number  MDR-EX51LP) for around $30.  The bass response is particularly good with the phones pressed into the ear and for my money, this is a great replacement to the Apple earbuds that ship with iPods.   Sony Fontopia   
 Two things to watch out for when using these phones with an iPod:
–if you use the included extension cable (to allow stashing your iPod in your pants pocket) make sure it snaps into the connector. If it isn’t all the way in, you’ll still hear sound but nowhere as good as if you make it click.  
–hang on to the extra soft rubber inserts. The Fontopias come with three pairs of inserts ranging from small to large. After losing one on a hike, I had to hunt for the spares as the phones are unwearable without the inserts!

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Grandad's RIPSigh.  Northern Virginia has lost a truly unique modeler’s resource. Grandad’s Hobbies has gone out of business. With a son at GMU, I had frequented this wonderfully diverse shop in Springfield for a couple years now. It got to the point that I actually looked forward to the long drive north! Stopping here gave me a chance to lurk about the store, drop at least $50 for supplies, photoetch, resin and anything else that caught my fancy and chat with sales folk who knew what they were talking about. The reason given on their website (when it was still up) was the owner retired to West Virginia with plans to continue some sort of mail order business from there.  I can’t help but wonder how much competition from the Internet played a hand in their demise. I’ve gotta admit I spend most of my hobby money at Great Models in Utah but I always tried to give local (or, in this case, at least not too far from the beaten path) shop a goodly portion of my hobby budget. When I rolled into their parking lot, I was greeted with the deserted storefront (above) and not much else. Even their signs were removed. It was like I had lost a member of my family (okay, maybe I’m overdramatizing things…). I’ll remember how I felt next time I visit one of the hobby shops here in Hampton Roads. I’ll be sure to show my support by buying a few more kits or bottles of paint and maybe I can help them stay in business a wee bit longer. I love the Internet. I hate what it does to small businesses.

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I had an interesting experience playing Call of Duty 3 on Xbox Live last night/early this morning. What started out as a routine night of carnage (for the 3rd night in a row!) and random slaughter turned into one of the more interesting experiences I’ve had online since the mid-eighties when I flew with a band of AirWarrior pilots known as the Flying Squirrels. Anyway, I was plugging along near midnight with several Brits and assorted non-Americans who seem to own the server at this time of night when I hooked up with a young ‘un that had some pretty mad driving skills. He drove and I manned the .50 cal for several trips across the Eder Dam map.Great fun. Call of Duty 3 screenieSince we both had headsets, we trash talked up a storm as we drove cross country like maniacs. Boy did we rack up the kills!Now here’s the good part.After the game ended, he invited over to the Poisson map to show me some “glitches.” Having heard about but never seen one, I dutifully followed him to the map of this quaint French village and got schooled on the fine art of “glitching.”Glitching, if you didn’t already know, is exploiting gaps in the texture mapping and game coding to allow your player to do things not normally allowed by game physics. Using the “glitch” allows you to shoot through walls, lurk unseen in the middle of a roaring fire or enter areas of the map that are off limits by design or terrain type….and that’s just the glitches my little Brit friend shared with me….on this one map. Neat.Don’t get me wrong, I think using the glitch is lame and cheating. However, now that I know where to find the three I know about on this particular map, I’ll never be ambushed by the unseen glitcher again….well, at least I’ll make it harder for him to kill me….. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I suck at these games. <clarification> I suck at these games when playing against teenagers. Betcha thought I’d be sharing these glitches with you here. You’d be wrong.Keep your head down, DTSh00ter out.

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I’ve been thinking about getting a new video camera to replace the aging Sony MiniDV camera I’ve had for about five years. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of life left in my old MiniDV recorder and it’s pretty doubtful I’ll buy a new one anytime soon. But, for those of you out there contemplating a new camera, I’m offering some advice.:First, any new camcorder must shoot high definition (HD) format video. That starts at resolutions of 1024 x 768 and tops out at over 4096 x 2160! Understand that the larger resolutions will put more pressure on an older computer when editing time rolls around so you may end up needing a beefier computer. That’s because a higher resolution image requires your computer to push around more pixels during the editing process and some computers just aren’t up to the task. Caveat emptor. I also recommend the camera save movies to one of those new SDHC memory cards instead of a tape or hard drive. This will allow quicker editing and post-production since all that needs to be done is to slap the card into a card reader and copy to your editing program. Add also an optical zoom (forget digital zoom, the quality sucks) of at least 10X starting at a true wide-angle (equivalent to my beloved 24mm f/2.0 lens from the days of shooting daily newspaper assignments) and have it made by Carl Zeiss (the German manufacturer of some of the world’s best optics) while you’re at it. For imaging purposes, look for cameras with more than the single CCD (the charge coupled device, or chip, that captures the image from the lens and converts it to ones and zeroes) that comes with most sub $1000 cameras. Look for a three CCD model for better, sharper imaging in low light situations. You should be able to find several out there under or close to $1000.Start your online shopping safari at Amazon, read the reviews and do your comparisons there. Buy at BH Photo or Adorama.That’s a lot to chew on for one sitting. I’ll be adding more features for my dream camcorder in future posts — d


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