Saturday, December 30, 2006

I have family in Argentina?

Today was a fairly normal day, until I suddenly got an email from a certain Andrea Nisnevich in Argentina. It turns out that there is a Nisnevich family living in Argentina! Our stories seem to match up reasonably well - we're from Belarus and they're from Kiev,Ukraine - but my parents have never heard of any family members living in Argentina. Now, the chances seem low but Nisnevich seems to be a very rare surname, leading me to suspect that we are related, albeit rather distantly. Searching on Google I came across a classical guitarist named Gregory Nisnevich and one or two (you may laugh, but it's hard to tell!) semi-famous mathematicians with the surname of Nisnevich. Could this all be one family? I'm not sure...

Note to any readers: If your surname is Nisnevich (hey, it's possible), be sure to shoot me an email! ( I'm still trying to put the pieces of this puzzle together. ^_^

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Preparing (somewhat unsucessfully?) for the AMC

One of the things I really have to catch up with this winter break is preparation for this year's AMCs. Unlike last year, where I took both the A and the B exams (10A and 12B), this year our school is only hosting the B (stupid high school exit exam getting in the way of everything... completely pointless if you ask me >.<), which means I only have one shot to make it to the AIME. Nevertheless, I am fairly confident about the AMC - today I scored 114 (out of 150, 100 and higher qualifies) on a practice test, so I think I'm all set for that. However, for the AIME... let's just say this is looking to be a repeat of last year (5/15, due to 4 rather careless errors) - I scored a miserable 2 on a practice test, again because of carelessness on my part. Granted, I haven't had any practice since this summer, but still... Looks like I've got a lot of work ahead of me... ;)

Monday, December 25, 2006


Not knowing what else to write about, let me post a list of some great sites that I discovered recently. Enjoy!

  • Dilbert.Blog - Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, gives a witty and comical perspective of the world

  • Order of the Stick and Sheldon - As a whole, webcomics are a rather mixed lot. But these two, in very different ways, give me a laugh every time.

  • Cosmic Encounter - One of the world's greatest board games, now in online form.

  • Ill Bethistad - Perhaps the most detailed and well-researched alternate history projects on the Web, a very realistic portrayal of what the world could be like.

  • Pandora - "The next generation of internet radio". This site takes your favorite artists, and from them, gives you a personalized radio station.

So, if you ever find yourself with some time on your hands and unsure of what to do, be sure to check these out! =)

EDIT: How could I have forgotten? Merry Christmas, for those of you who celebrate Christmas...

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Winter Break (The Real Post)

So, this is it. Winter break is here. However, it doesn't look like it's going to be all fun (just like this summer). Ahead of me I have some 20-30 hours of Euro outlines ahead of me, several English essays, and a required reading (with essay :P) of A Tale of Two Cities. I'm also planning to finish the website I'm working on this winter, although I still have quite a bit of work to go.

And now, some random tidbits from my life ^_^:

I'm trying to combat my inherent laziness by keeping a to-do list handy. Unfortunately, I seem to have displaced it a couple of days ago, sorta defeating the whole purpose of the thing.

The last few days of school went by pretty fast, except for the mock trial we had in Euro, of Robespierre (as played by Carl). Me and my friend Neil were the judges for the case, and although we did all the research the day before, we still came out looking the best-researched, somehow. I guess faking knowledge is a talent of mine ;). The verdict was especially fun, as in our speech we seemed to alternate between "guilty" and "not guilty", finally settling on "guilty". Carl, in the middle of laughing at the prosecutors, stopped with surprise on his face. Priceless ^_^.

Sadly, one of my friends is leaving during this break, to some fancy prep school in Ohio, the "potato state" (inside joke). So, I'll take this opportunity to say, WE'LL MISS YOU DEREK!! By "we", I'm either speaking for all my friends or referring to myself in the fourth person, take your pick.

Thanks to my dad's MSDN subscription, we're the first guys on the block to get Windows Vista. And lemme tell you, it is AMAZING. The graphics effects especially make Vista a huge improvement over XP. There are those who say Vista is just eye candy, and to that I answer, well, I like eye candy. So there. :P

Now that I have my guitar, I'm considering what equipment I need to get. A friend gave me a copy of Guitar Rig 2, a truly amazing piece of software, but I still need an amp (I'm looking at the Line 6 Spider II), as well as cables, picks, strap, stand, and tuner. I wanted to order all that today, but due to an unfortunate run-in with a computer virus, my parents are a wee bit mad at me...

One final tidbit: for the rest of winter break, I'm writing at least one post in this blog, every day. Just watch. I won't forget. Seriously. You don't believe me?! Awwww... :(

Friday, December 22, 2006

Winter Break is here!! =)

Man, I had this really long post in mind, but now it's getting rather late. I'll do it tomorrow, like the procrastinator that I am... ^_^

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Later and Later ...

I seem to go to bed later and later every night. And it's not that I'm getting more homework or anything; I just seem to - inexplicably - be getting more and more inefficient.

Just yesterday I didn't get to bed until past midnight, and I didn't have that much work to do. I guess I just get distracted too much.

Fortunately, I seem to be improving - today it's only 11:00, a full hour improvement from last night =)

Anyways, my hard work is paying off. I am getting better grades in all my classes (maybe I'll even reach a 4.0+ GPA by the end of the semester), and just got a very respectable 214 on my PSAT. It's not that my performance is bad, it's just I wish it didn't take me so long...

Monday, December 11, 2006

I'm free!! (sorta)

Yesterday was perhaps the most hectic day of my life. From 11 am to 8 pm, me and my friends were doing nothing by Euro work, because our Business Plan, the biggest project of the year, was due today. Finally, after three weeks, I no longer have to devote every waking minute to our business plan (and we did a ton of work - 96 pages of nothing but 1778 Russia).

Now we have nothing to do in Euro except our next project, which coincidentaly was assigned today. >.< However, this one promises to be more fun: mock trials of French Revolution characters. I managed to get a spot as one of the two judges for Robespierre , and my partner has it all figured out:

[20:54] ---: alex
[20:54] ---: i prepared an intro speech for us judges
[20:54] ---: we, the judges, would like to make clarify a matter before the trial begins. though it may seem like it (with our GUILTY sign, guillotine key chain, and "screw robospierre" shirt), we do not hold any biased views against the defendant. the court is now in session.

Yep, it'll be a fun trial. ^_^

Monday, December 04, 2006

Latest News from Alex's Life

I realize that I haven't posted in a while, and there's a reason for this: Euro. To be more precise, it's time to do my school's most difficult project: the dreaded Business plan. My group of four has two weeks (well, only one week left now) to compile a 100+ page report on.... 1778 Russia. Fortunately, two of my group members (including myself of course) are Russian, which makes it (slightly) easier. But still, finding 18th century census information is tough... >.<

My guitar finally came! It's a 2005 black Godin Solidac, in excellent condition, which is good considering I bought it on eBay ;). It plays really well, and I'm reasonably certain that I made the right choice in not listening to my friends and getting an obscure guitar rather than sticking to mainstream Fenders or Gibsons.

Suddenly, I've become interested in my geneology, and started working on a family tree for myself. Of course, this, along with my other big long term project - a new website - is kinda on hold for now, what with all this schoolwork.

Well, that's it for now. I would've made a longer post, but I'm kinda busy. Oh well >.<

Friday, November 24, 2006

There's cruel, and there's army cruel...

"You want some water? Keep running."

This is undoubtedly the cruelest thing I have seen in a long time. I'm ashamed to be from the same country as these guys...

Who wants an Xbox 360 for $100?

As many of you probably know (the event was highly publicized), yesterday, that is, Thanksgiving Day, at exactly 11:00 am PST, sold 1,000 Xbox 360s for $100 each.

Needless to say, when I heard about this I jumped at the opportunity, and spent several hours on Wednesday and Thursday preparing myself mentally and physically, and uhh ... computerifically.

And then ... well, let me give a sort of a timeline:

10:00 am PST: Sit down at the computer, make sure that RoboForm is configured properly with my password - I'm not taking any chances.
10:20: Make sure my computer's clock is accurate to atomic time.
10:30: Begin stretching my index finger by repeatedly pressing F5 on the keyboard.
10:40: Re-login to Amazon, just in case.
10:45: Go to the page with the deal and begin refreshing repeatedly. So far, so good, but then all of a sudden ...
10:55:30: The Amazon server finally crashes from anticipation, one can only suppose. The page doesn't load. I try everything, different browsers, different computers. Nothing, until finally...
10:59:50: The page miraculously loads, 10 seconds before 11:00. The Xbox isn't there - the page is being updated! I quickly hit refresh again but it doesn't load until ...
11:01:45: Ouch. All gone.

I came really close though - if that first refresh loaded 5-10 seconds later I would've had it for sure...

At first I was pretty pissed... I mean, I came ridiculously close to being eligible for a crazy bargain, but missed it by 10 seconds because of a server crash. But the more I thought about it the stupider the whole deal looked. Observe:

Item: Amazon held a "contest" between 4 deals, of which the Xbox 360 deal had a 90% vote from the start.
Item: The $100 (reg. $300) deal is so low that even people who don't really want an Xbox 360 would still try to get it.
Item: The deal was broadcast on national television and displayed all over the Internet.
Item: I estimate that at least 500,000 people would try to get that Xbox.
Item: The Amazon servers are a bit laggy even on good days. No way can they support that sort of traffic.
Item: Microsoft claims to reduce the price of the Xbox 360 "on a yearly basis". The holiday season is coming up... *wink wink*
Item: Last I checked, only two people on the Amazon discussion boards claimed they won the deal. Now, I realize many customers aren't active on the boards, but 2/1000?

From this, one can draw one of four conclusions:
1) Amazon offered the deal out of the goodness of their hearts (yeah, right).
2) Amazon is trying to attract publicity (and is going about it the wrong way).
3) Amazon knows the Xbox 360s will soon drop in value, and is trying to sell off as many as they can under the pretense of being generous, while attracting a ton of media attention. This is a very good possibilities, but I think it's really...
4) The whole deal was a sham to get attention. Either Amazon only sold 10 Xboxes or they didn't sell any, and planted people on the discussion boards to give "proof" that the deal was real. Hey, it all adds up. Call me a conspiracy nut, but this is what I'm going with.

Now, this doesn't mean I won't use Amazon anymore. Hey, I love Amazon. One thing about the Tech industry, and in fact the business world in general, is that all companies are evil. Some are just more evil than others... ;)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

LF2.5 Annoyance

My Little Fighter 2 mod, LF2.5, is doing great. It's been downloaded over 100,000 (!!!) times, and is consistenly in the top 3 at, sometimes peaking at #1. I estimate it's made me around $100 from Google Adsense.

But this popularity comes at a price. Several times a day now, by email, AIM, MSN, or Meebo, I get pestered with questions. Now, I don't have anything against asking questions, but most of these are ... well, I can't call them stupid, but ... ok fine, stupid. Questions like:

"Where can I download LF3 and 4?" Where they got the idea that LF3 (and up) exists, I don't know.

"What are the controls?" Maybe it helps to read the so-called README before wasting Alex's time!

"How do I change the characters?" This one in itself is not a bad question, but usually involves at least 15 minutes of trying to explain how to get to the data/data.txt file ("Go to the LF2.5 directory" "How do I do that?"), then another 15 trying to explain the syntax, and usually involves me finally giving up.

"Can I play as [insert character from random videogame] in LF2?" This is one of the worst. But the prize for the most hated question of them all goes to...

"Where can I get Electro/Mario/LF3 Firen/etc. ?" OK, one thing I can't comprehend is that although people seem incapable of finding the controls to the game, they are still able to find out which characters were taken out from previous versions. And then when I explain that these guys were scrapped, they still want them! OK people, if a character was removed, doesn't it make you stop and think, "Hmm why was he removed?" Ooh, I know, maybe because THEY SUCK!!

Of course, the fact that the majority of these questions come from people less than 10 years old, and judging from their spelling, non-native English speakers, does not help matters at all. Al Harberg writes, no "customers" are idiots, but I'm finding that hard to believe. I try to be as polite and helpful as I can to each and every LF2.5 user, but sometimes it just doesn't help.

I wish every person with a question about LF2.5 could read this post before asking me...

That's right, I finally have a guitar!!

At long last, and despite my abysmal grades, which needless to say did not please my parents, I'm getting this black Godin Solidac. Counting shipping, it ended up costing around $545. Meanwhile, Musician's Friend is now selling it for $645, counting a $75 Thanksgiving promotional rebate. Ouch, looks eBay only saved me $100, not $420 as I previously thought, and at the expense of questionable condition and possible breaking during shipping. Bad move.

But it's still a sweet guitar. Sure, it's not a Fender or a Gibson but it can imitate either perfectly. It sounds great, and is loaded with features: a H-S-H pickup arrangement, a tremulo arm, and best of all, an acoustic preamp - meaning that it's capable of sounding like an acoustic. And you gotta admit, that black one looks crazy cool (it's last year's model, and is not sold anymore - for this I have to thank eBay). This post is directed to all my friends *cough*Sol*cough* who still think I should've gotten a Fender.

Grades (or First Quarter Reflections)

Grades have been posted for quarter one, and I'm pretty disappointed, needless to say. I've always gotten straight A's before, but now...

AP Statistics - C. Reason: contrary to reason, homework is 60% of your grade in Stats. And Mr. M keeps giving us assignments like sneaking up on birds and measuring the length of Carl's Jr. fries. Well, hopefully I'll pull it up to a B by the end of the semester.

AP European History - A. My only A, and the only A in the class. Now this is surprising - Euro is the most difficult class in the school, and in fact I believe this is the first time someone got an A only in Euro. The reason I'm trying so hard is that between the difficulty, the subject matter, and the teacher this is definitely the most enjoyable and interesting class I've ever taken.

Spanish II - B+. Didn't do too well on some tests, but will probably raise it up to an A, if only on the merit of Mr. VS's famous leniency regarding extra credit (100 extra credit points and counting ... WOOHOO!! ^_^)

AP Biology - B+. I had an borderline A the whole quarter, but then an 83% test dropped it just below A range.

Honors English II - B. Did poorly on some quizzes in the beginning of the quarter, but have been raising my grade slowly the whole quarter.

PE II - B. I don't really care about PE, seeing how it's a non-academic course. As long as I'm not failing it I'm happy.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Obligatory Midterm Post

Given what has happened over the past week, I feel obliged to write something about thes whatchamacallems, midterms. Now, I don't know much about politics - in fact I know less than nothing, counting propaganda and brainwashing in the negative - but what I do know is that the Democrats finally won the House, governatoria-tialization?, and i think ... no wait ... or maybe ... it's close ... nah ... oh yeah the Senate too, by a narrow margin.

It would seem that (for once) Jon Stewart is wrong, but do the midterms really change anything? The old regime is replaced with a new one, which as always promises to fix everything, but looking through history, promises like these are hard to believe. It seems that all politicians are equally detached from the real world, be they Republican, Democrat, or None of the Above. And even if once upon a time, some guy comes along who really understands what he's doing (god forbid!) the bureacratic nature of the system means that his opinion will be stifled anyway.

Here, let me give you an example, with simple math and that bill-becomes-a-law stuff we all learned in sixth grade. Suppose the Republicans want to propose a law that the Democrats don't like. Oops we have the majority - overruled. Ah, but what if the Democrats want to propose a law that the Republicans don't like? The president can (and is not afraid to, as we now know) veto it, and we don't have to 2/3 majority in either house to overrule it. So.... what does this mean? It means one of two things - Republicans and Democrats will (for the next two years) have to learn to set aside their differences and get along ... or, for the next two years, no federal laws of any significance will be passed. Say what you want, but I'm betting on the latter.

Well, that's just my analysis of the midterms, but as I said before, I know very little about politics. Say what you want.

Oh, and speaking of politics, now's fine time to post my political compass:

You are a

Social Moderate
(56% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(31% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on OkCupid

Ah, looks like I'm a Democrat ... just barely though. Those Centrists sure have an appealing philosophy though: "Compromise? " Yes, the reason we don't have a major Centrist party in the U.S. of A? I guess they're just not crazy enough.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

What's up?

Another one of my long, all-encompassing posts:

Man, school is getting tougher and tougher. First there was the Stats project, which used up my whole weekend (I was planning going to a guitar store :-( ) Now it turns out that I was quite behind in Euro, and had to turn my Euro notebook in at the very end of 7th period, after much frenzied writing. And then we have to act out Julius Caesar next week... >.<

Halloween was kinda sorta fun. I didn't trick or treat of course (at my age, it's now technically begging), but I played Xbox with Sol which was pretty fun. Fortunately, my brother and sister got enough loot for all of us ^_^

Still no idea when I'm getting a guitar...

Today is my dad's birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD! =)

My year-long hiatus from Wikipedia is now over. You can see my profile here.

I'm removing the Quote of the Week sidebar box (because I keep forgetting to update it), but I added a subscription service. Now you can recieve email alerts whenever I update my blog! =)

And finally, Neverwinter Nights 2 has finally been released!! However, reviews seem to be pretty bad. I'll give this one a few days for more people to post reviews before I reach any verdict.

And I'll try to post more often, I really will... ;)

Friday, October 27, 2006

How do I get myself into these situations?

OK, this week has been going okay, until yesterday, in Stats class. You see, it turns out we have a pretty big project that I completely forgot about. It's a partner project, but my class is all seniors except for me, so I only know a couple of people, and needless to say my assigned partner (assigned last week - we were the only two people not in a group) is not one of those couple of people. I had completely forgotten even who my partner was, until yesterday, when we had to do an activity in our groups. All this time I had hoped that my partner had a clue (as I didn't), but it turned out that neither of us have even picked a topic for the project yet. We then had our presenting order picked, and of course we are to be on of the first groups to present, on Monday. That's right, this Monday. Class ended and I forgot to get my partner's phone number, or even his name. And now I have one day to find him so we can spend the whole weekend working on it...

Think that's bad? It gets worse:

This project is worth 10% of my grade at the end of the semester, or 15-20% now. The first quarter report cards are send out at the end of next week, after presentations. And my parents are not very tolerant of C's.... >.<

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Where have I been?

I realize that I haven't posted for two weeks, but I have an excuse - I have had a ton of homework and stuff for all my classes, especially Euro. Man, when they said 90 minutes every day for Euro, they weren't kidding. So, I suppose I should enlighten my blog readers to just what I've been up to lately.

I haven't tried any more translations, though I have read some more Strugatsky works. Monday Starts on Saturday is particulary recommended ... if you can find it. For some reason or another, English Strugatsky translations are rare and expensive, usually costing somewhere in the twenties range (USD), if they're available at all.

I am doing rather well in school, though I may not be doing so well in Euro. Nevertheless, Euro is undoubtedly my favorite class. I just took the PSAT today, and think that I did very well. Also, I'm the Vice President of my school's Chess Club, with meetings at lunch twice a week. I'm in charge of maintaining our school ranking system, for which I use the ELO Calculator that I conveniently made with Mgccl this summer. I'm currently ranked number one, but I swear, no data tampering involved ^_^

For some strange reason, I suddenly have this fascination with old stuff, from antique books to vinyl records. Since my family rarely eBays [yes, it's a verb!], I guess I'll have to take my chances at local garage sales - if I have time that is.

I still haven't gotten a guitar, but in the meantime I got a new hobby - digital photography - to help fill the void. Photography is fun =)

Realizing how old and pointless my old personal site is, I've started developing a new one, using a mixture of PHP and HTML. Since, as I mentioned before, I don't really have a lot of free time right now, I can expect this project to take me a month or so, if I don't give up halfway that is. You can view a very early test here.

Finally, I'd like to mention a very interesting online game that I found: Cosmic Encounter. Oddly enough, this game is based on a boardgame that one of my friends has. Who'd've guessed that a board game designer would also happen to be a web programmer? Anyways, be sure to try it out - it's incredibly fun and addictive in its own way.

Whew. That was one long and rambling post, two weeks in a nutshell. I must have used just about every one of my labels for this. ^_^

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Poor Cruel Folk (Take Two)

After reading my first draft of Poor Cruel Folk yesterday, my dad informed that I had tons of mistakes, dozens and dozens of 'em. So, I spent yesterday and today painstakingly editing it, ending up fixing over 50 mistakes. To top it off, I translated the afterword, which was written 35 years later by Boris Strugatsky. So, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you:

>>> Poor Cruel Folk: Definitive Edition! <<<


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Poor Cruel Folk

NOTE: A newer version of this translation is available here!

I decided to try my hand at translating, just for fun, and translated/edited a short story, originally in Russian, by the Strugatsky brothers, entitled "Poor Cruel Folk". (BTW, the Strugatsky brothers were perhaps the greatest sci-fi writers ever, and I'm building up quite a collection of their works, in both English and Russian. Sadly, many of their novels and stories were never translated into English.) Actually, the translation was done years before by a man named Fyodor Kondrashov, but his version was so bad that it was virtually unreadable, and I decided to edit it into shape, consulting the Russian version when necessary.

View it in all of its now-English glory! =)

Poor Cruel Folk - Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

© Copyright by Arkady Strugatsky, Boris Strugatsky

© Copyright 1998 by Fyodor Kondrashov, English translation

Translated by Fyodor Kondrashov (

Edited by Alex Nisnevich (, 10/1/06


The King sat naked. Like a foolish pauper on the street, he sat leaning against a cold wall, drawing in his blue, goose-bumped legs. He shivered, with his eyes closed, he listened, but everything was quiet.

He awoke at midnight from a nightmare and immediately understood that he was finished. Some one wheezed and writhed by the door of the bedroom suite, he heard footsteps, metallic jingling and drunken mumbling of His Highness, Uncle Buht: “Let me through... Let me... Break it down, hell with it...” Wet with icy sweat, he silently rolled off his bed, ducked into a secret closet, and loosing himself he ran down the underground passage. Something squelched under his bare feet, the startled rats dashed away, but he did not notice anything, just now, sitting next to a wall he remembered everything; the darkness, the slippery walls, and the pain from a blow on the head against the shackled door to the temple, and his own unbearable high yelp.

They shall not enter here, he thought. No one shall enter here. Only if the King orders so. But the King shall not order... He snickered hysterically. Oh no, the King will not order! He carefully opened his eyes and saw his blue, hairless legs with scraped knees. Still alive, he thought. I will live, because they shall not enter here. Everything in the temple was bluish from the cold light of the lanterns -- long glowing tubes that were stretched under the ceiling. In the center, God stood on an eminence, big, heavy, with sparkling dead eyes. The King continuously and stupidly stared, until God was suddenly screened by a shabby lay brother, still a greenhorn. Scratching, with an open mouth he gazed at the naked King. The King squinted once again. Scum, he thought, a lousy vermin, catch the mongrel and to the dogs, for them to ravage... He reasoned that he did not remember the lout well, but he was long gone. So scrawny, snotty... That's all right, we'll remember. We'll remember everything, Your Highness, Uncle Buht. During the father's reign, I dare say you sat quietly, drank a bit and kept silent, were afraid to be noticed, you knew that King Prostyaga did not forget you ignoble treachery...

Great was the father, the King thought with an accustomed envy. You'd be great, if your advisors are God's angels in flesh. All know, all have seen them: their faces fearful, white, like milk, and their garment were such that one could not understand if they were naked or not. And their arrows were fiery, like lightning, they drove off the nomads with the arrows, and although they cast them overhead, half the horde crippled from fear. His Highness, Uncle Buht, whispered once upon a time, drunk and burping, that those arrows can be cast by anyone, that special slings are needed that the angels have and that would be nice to take from them. And he said then -- he was drunk then, -- that if it is nice to have, why not have it, why not... Soon after that table talk one angel fell off the wall into the moat, probably slipped. Next to him they found one of uncle's body guards with a javelin between his shoulder blades. It was a dark, dark deed... It good that the people did not care about the angels, they were scary to look at, but it is not clear why it is scary -- angels were happy, cordial people. Only their eyes were scary. Small, shiny, and they keep racing around... non humanoid eyes, not peaceful. So the people hushed down, although father, King Prostyaga gave them such freedom that it is shameful to remember... although, before the Coup, father, they say was a saddle maker. For saying so, with my own hands I had torn eyes out, and sewn ears shut. But I remember, he used to sit in the evenings by the Crystal Tower, and he would cut out leather -- beautiful work. And I would perch myself at his side, it's warm and comfy... The angels were singing from the rooms, so quietly, and in harmony, and father would start to accompany -- he knew their language -- it used to be spacious, nobody around... not like now, guards are stuck at every corner, but there is no sense in it...

The King lamented. Yes, he was a good father, just that he did not die for a long time. You can't do that while your son is still alive... The son is also the King, the son also wants to... But Prostyaga did not age, I'm over fifty, and he still looks younger than me... It looks like the angels had asked God for his health... They asked for his health, but they forgot about me. They say that the second one they managed to pin down in the father's room, he had a sling in each hand, but he did not fight. Before death, they say, he threw both of them out the window, they burst into a blue flame, there was no dust left... Too bad about the slings... And Prostyaga, they say, cried and got drunk then, within an inch of his life -- the first time since his reign -- looked for me, they said, loved me, believed...

The King drew his knees to his chin, and hugged his legs. So what if he believed? One should know one's limit, abdicate, like it is done elsewhere... and I do not know anything, and do not want to. There was only a conversation with my uncle, His Highness.

“Prostyaga,” he said, “doesn't age”. “Yes,” I tell him, “but what can we do, the angels pleaded for his health.” Uncle then sneered, scum, and whispered: “Angels,” he said, “no longer sing their songs here”. And I blurted out: “It is true, but now there is a way to deal with them, not just with humans”. Uncle looked at me soberly, and immediately left... And I didn't really say anything... Empty words, without meaning... And in a week Prostyaga died from a heart attack. So what? It was his time. He looked young, but in reality he was over one hundred. We'll all die...

The King was startled, and covering himself, awkwardly sat up. Into the temple came the High Priest Agar. Lay brothers were leading him by the hands. He didn't look at the King, came up to God and kneeled in front of the eminence, tall, hunch-backed, with waist length dirty-white hair. The King gloated, “It's the end of you, Your Highness, you did manage, I'm not like Prostyaga, you'll ravage your own intestines, drunken swine...” Agar spoke in a rich voice:

- God! The King wishes to speak to you! Forgive him and listen!

The room fell silent, no-one dared to breathe. The King contemplated: when the great flood happened, and the earth burst, Prostyaga asked God to help, and God came down from the sky as a ball of flame on the same day, and that night the earth closed up, and the flood disappeared. It means that this is how it will happen today. You were late uncle, Your Highness, you didn't manage. No one can help you now... Agar straightened up. The lay brothers that supported him, jumped away, turned with their backs to God, and covered their heads with their arms. The King saw, how Agar stretched his clasped hands and put them on Gods chest. God's eyes lit up. The King snapped his jaw from fear: the eyes were big and different -- one was snakes-green, the other white, as bright as light. One could hear how God started to breathe, heavily, with crackling, like consumption. Agar backed away.

“Speak,” he whispered. It looked like he was unsettled as well.

The King lowered to all fours, and started to crawl to the eminence. He did not know what to do or how. And he did not know how he should start and whether he should tell the complete truth. God breathed heavily, weezing; suddenly he started to whimper, quietly and thinly - scary.

“I'm the son of Prostyaga,” said the King in despair, smothering his face against the cold stone. “Prostyaga died. I ask protection from the conspirators. Prostyaga made mistakes. He did not know what he was doing. I have fixed everything: calmed the people, became great and unattainable, like you, I gathered an army... And the treacherous Buht is disrupting my plans to conquer the world... He wants to kill me! Help me!”

He raised his head. God, without blinking, was looking in his face with green and white. God was silent.

“Help me...” repeated the King. “Help! Help!” He suddenly thought that he is doing something wrong, and that God is indifferent towards him, and inopportunely remembered: they said, his father, Prostyaga, did not die from a heart attack, but was killed here, in the temple when the killers came in, with out asking permission. “Help!” he screamed desperately. “I'm afraid to die today! Help! Help!”

He hunched up on the stone tiles, biting his hands from an unbearable terror. Differently-eyed God hoarsely breathed above his head.

“Old vermin,” said Tolya. Ernst was quiet. On the screen, through the sparks of static, an ugly black shape of a human lay splattered on the floor. “When I think,” Tolya spoke again, “that if not for him, Alan and Derek would be alive, I want to do something, that you never wanted to do.”

Ernst shrugged his shoulders and moved to the table.

“And I always think,” Tolya continued, “why didn't Derek shoot? He could have killed all...”

“He couldn't,” said Ernst.

“Why couldn't he?”

“Have you ever tried shooting at a human being?”

Tolya made a wry face, but didn't say anything.

“Well that's what it was,” said Ernst. “Try to imagine it. It is almost as disgusting.

A sorrowful howl was heard from the loudspeaker. “HELP HELP I AM AFRAID HELP…” the auto-translator was writing.

“Poor cruel folk...” said Tolya.

I might upload the Word file tomorrow - it's much easier to read.

The story itself is rather interesting, in the Strugatsky style. Not my favorite work of theirs, but enjoyable, and short enough to translate ^_^

October 3rd: The Break-in

I should have made this post two days, but I've been pretty busy these past few days, so here goes:

Last Tuesday was a particularly interesting day. I got home after school to find that the garage door would not open from the outside, the reason being that there was a planned power outage that morning, and part of the garage door mechanism must have gotten disconnected when we manually opened and closed the door in order to get out of the house. Anyways, the door wouldn't budge, and nobody was at home, and so I had to find another way to enter the house. I walked around the garage and tried the side door. It was locked. I walked back and tried the front door, to no avail. In desperation, I walked all the way around the house and tried the back door, which, of course, wouldn't open either. Just as I was going back, I saw my brother and his friend walking home from the middle school. I had forgotten my cellphone that morning (I could hear it ringing inside the house >.<), so I asked for my brother's friend's phone and used it to call my dad at work (finally reaching him after trying three different numbers). After listening to our predicament, he informed me that my mom was coming home ... in an hour (turned out she didn't have the front door keys either, go figure...), and as an afterthought, told me to try to open the windows. After politely returning the phone (which I had been using for some fifteen minutes, much to the annoyance of its owner), my brother and I went around the house, trying every window. Finally, halfway around the house, we found a window that for some reason was unlocked. My brother managed to crawl through, run and unlock the front door for me. While I was putting the window frame back in, I saw my brother's friend running across the street (he ran for two blocks, and was a hilarious sight to see) with his phone open and facing me. I took it and it was my dad again, informing me that my mom was almost home. I told him that we had somehow entered the house already, and all was well in the world. Sorta. And that's the story of how my brother and I were able to break into our own home.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

White & Nerdy

Wierd Al's new music video. Funny thing, he's practically describing me. No, seriously! Check out the lyrics. D&D? Check. Wikipedia? Check. Holy Grail? Check. Name on underwear? Uhh... maybe not this one...

However, it should be noted that the song is not quite nerdy. As a matter of fact, it's mostly geeky and dorky. And yes, there is a difference - nerd = academically smart, geek = obscure speciality (i.e. Star Trek, D&D), dork = socially inept.

Just for fun, I decided to take a test to see which of these categories I fall into. I got:

Outcast Genius

65 % Nerd, 52% Geek, 52% Dork

For The Record:

A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.

A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.

A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions.

You scored better than half in all three, earning you the title of: Outcast Genius.

Outcast geniuses usually are bright enough to understand what society wants of them, and they just don't care! They are highly intelligent and passionate about the things they know are *truly* important in the world. Typically, this does not include sports, cars or make-up, but it can on occassion (and if it does then they know more than all of their friends combined in that subject).

Outcast geniuses can be very lonely, due to their being outcast from most normal groups and too smart for the room among many other types of dorks and geeks, but they can also be the types to eventually rule the world, ala Bill Gates, the prototypical Outcast Genius.


Yay! I'll take over the world someday! =) Of course, I already knew that... ;)

Monday, September 25, 2006


Another strange story by me. I used Gogol's "Diary of a Madman" as inspiration. :P

Day One. Today was the first day that I saw them. The people hiding in the shadows. I heard rustling in the bushes and silhouettes disappearing around the corner. I ran to my house and locked the door, but it was too late, for they were already inside. I couldn’t see them – no, they were far too stealthy for that – but of course I knew they were there. After all, how can someone hide in my home without me knowing? The very idea strikes me as comical. But I had a gun in my hand and they knew better than to attack me!
Day Two. They were just waiting for me to fall asleep, to drop the gun, so they could strike. But I showed them, ha ha! Loaded with caffeine and locked inside my fortress, they could not reach me.
Day Three. I heard creaking under the floorboards. A well-placed bullet and a loud thump, and the creaking stopped. Of course there was no body when I looked – they took care of that. Later – I tripped and fell down the stairs due to a large hole in the ground – planted by them of course. Got up fast despite the pain – they can’t catch me that easily!
Day Four. I move from room to room with a shotgun in my hand. As soon as I lock the door, the knocking begins. When I open it, there is no one there. Last night, I saw a man right outside my second-story window, trying to climb to my room no doubt. As soon as I looked, he disappeared. My god, they’re fast!
Day Five. They got me! Bullet to the leg from twenty feet. Still got him though – one shot and he’s down! Feeling woozy – better lie down… Later – Remarkably, my wound is completely gone. Bet they weren’t expecting that! Of course, they took his body, but that was to be expected.
Day Six. I’m starting to run out of food, but I can’t go outside of course. That’s certain death! Later – Oh my god …the man with the knife …my gun out of reach …the knife …oh god, the pain … END
A hospital. Two doctors talking. One says, “No marks at all. Perfect health. Except for the … you know.” The other, “Indeed, a very severe case of schizophrenia. He thinks he is dead, and so he is.”

This Weekend...

And now ... a more traditional blog entry!


Rosh Hashana party at my friends' house (yeah, that's right - I party on the High Holy Days! ^_^) Listened to my Mr. Nano using their new iPod speakers. Watched some Family Guy. Pretty fun.


Finished my homework and had nothing to do, and so I decided to take a stab at cleaning my room. Now, my room looks very clean to the unsuspecting visitor, but this is for a simple reason - I cram everything into my many shelves and drawers. My desk, in particular, operates by the "Rule of Three", once every three days I take all the papers on my desk and put them into a nice pile; once every three weeks I combine the pile into a bigger pile in a retractable shelf under my desk; once every three months I put all the papers from the pile into my filing cabinet; and of course once every three years I take my whole filing cabinet and carefully empty all its contents into the trash. ;)

Man, I found the weirdest stuff in that cabinet today. Stuff like:
* Obscure lists of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings trivia dating back a couple of years
* Mathematical equations written in a kindergartener's hand o.O
* Many, many blueprints for both hardware and software, none of which was ever completed
* An unfinished story that I didn't even know I wrote
* A huge collection of chess puzzles
* Scribbles I made in elementary school
* Various manuals and strategy guides
* Homemade trading card games of many different systems (the weirdest by far - a card game about C++ - now that I don't remember doing >.<)
* And the list goes on and on...

All that in one filing cabinet. It boggles the mind.


Went to a festival in Ventura. Hoped to get a guitar for Rosh Hashana, got a guitar shirt instead. Ate lunch at some Greek place. Watched a pirate play an electric mandolin - now I've seen everything! I might post some photos tomorrow =)

Well, looks like that's it for now. Cheers!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A promise of sorts...

Lots of interesting stuff happened today, but I have no time to write about it. Expect several posts tomorrow! ^_^

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A Story of a Story

For English class, today's assignment was to write a dramatic monologue story (that is, one character talking to others) that is exactly one page long, 12pt Times New Roman, 1 inch margin, down to the last line, no more, no less. Naturally, my story is about how cruel it is to impose such limits on stories, and the harm it does to the characters, who don't have enough time to develop in such a short story and I imagine probably don't even know what's going on.

The story is a bit weird so bear with me:

Well, now that we’ve introduced ourselves, I think it’s time to go straight to the matter at hand. And the question we all have in mind is of course, why are we here? It was the same for all of us; the day started like any other. But we somehow had the feeling, you know, that we’re just more important, right? And as the day went on, correct me if I’m wrong, but it seemed like everyone else in the world but us, you know, just sort of faded. And now, it looks like it’s just the six of us. The only people in the whole wide world, right? The question is, “Why?” Why are we here? It’s so strange, though, everyone else disappeared. It’s almost like, I don’t know …

Yes, that’s exactly it! It’s like we’re characters in someone’s story! But what sort of sick, twisted story is this? There’s no plot whatsoever, the writing I’m sure is sub par, and even the characters have no idea what they’re doing here. What is this, just us sitting around a dirty table in an abandoned building? This story needs some excitement …

Larry, how long have you been an elephant? Oh, never mind. It’s just the author trying desperately trying to make something out of this horrible piece of writing. Just ignore it and hopefully it will pass. I hope this story never sees the light of day! I think I’ll have a talk with this author fellow. …

Hey you! Author! Whatever your name is! I know you can hear me! Please, we’re begging you, end this! End this horrible charade! Give our lives some purpose! Reveal yourself!

Yes, I have eyes, don’t I? Of course I see something’s happening! … We’re … flying! Careful with that trunk, Larry! … Oh my god, what is that thing?

The gargantuan face stared down at the five men and the elephant, and they cowered before it. The face said, “Your job here is done. One page was all I needed. I do hope I didn’t bother you.” They all disappeared and the landscape was empty…

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Happy International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

And nobody knows how t' talk like a buccaneer than th' guys at meebo, I'll warrant ye, Yaaarrrr! They just introduced a new "Talk Like a Buccaneer" feature - type "pirateon" in any chat, and all incoming and outgoing chats will be automatically translated t' buccaneer speak! 'Tis hilarious, Arrrr! So if ye ha'nae made a meebo account yet, make one - t'day! Walk the plank! We'll keel-haul ye, and dinna spare the whip! Ye won't regret it, Arrrr! Shiver me timbers!

And now ... in English!
And nobody knows how to talk like a pirate than the guys at meebo! They just introduced a new "Talk Like a Pirate" feature - type "pirateon" in any chat, and all incoming and outgoing chats will be automatically translated to pirate speak. It's hilarious! So if you haven't made a meebo account yet, make one - today! You won't regret it!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Sometimes You Can't Trust Anyone (or Why I'm Going to Bed at Midnight on a Sunday)

me: ok so get this
1 PM
my friend and i have a huge outline to do
we split the work
i do parts 1,2,3
he does 4,5
5 PM
i'm done
he's like "one more hour"
11 PM
"Alex, I need help"
Bob: lol
me: kinda makes me: lose faith in people
Bob: your friend sounds like me
me: i don't think he'll consider it a complime:nt
Bob: probably not
me: and now
i'm screwed
he's screwed too
but that's his fault
Bob: yeah
next time: you know
can't trust him
me: can't trust anyone
Bob: you can trust me
wait no
no you cant
me: hell no
Bob: what am i saying
i'm screwed too

And that explains that.

Fun With Javascript

Here's a fun little script my dad found:


Simply paste the code into your browser's address bar while you are viewing any web page that has images, and Voila! All the images start flying around the screen. Neat.

All that from a four-line script. Says something about the power of Java, doesn't it?

Note: The above script was found on the OT-Windows newsgroup and made blog-friendly using Quick Escape. Gotta give credit where credit is due...

Quote of the Week

I think it's been a month since my last "Quote of the Week". What can I say, people forget! ;)

But this is a really good one. For serial.

"I couldn't imagine somebody like Osama bin Laden understanding the joy of Hanukkah." —George W. Bush, at a White House Menorah lighting ceremony, Washington, D.C., Dec. 10, 2001

I mean, come on! That's gold! I got this from a Daily Show episode this week, where it was one of Bush's Seven Stages of Grief:

- Denial
- Anger
- Anger
- Anger
- Hanukkah
- Acceptance
- and back to Denial

You can watch a clip of it here.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Talk About a Tough Schedule

Here's my schedule for this week:

Tomorrow: the big English essay due
Tomorrow: Bio summer work test
Thursday: HUGE Euro summer work test
All week: Must work the Chess Club booth at lunch for Club Week

And of course, I had to go ruin my life completely for this year by joining not one, not two, but four (?!?) clubs:

- Chess Club (obvious choice, since I'm the VP :P)
- Jewish Club
- Young Democrats Club
- American Red Cross Club

Sure, with 4 AP/Honors classes and 4 clubs I have lost what little life I previously possessed, on the plus side: name me a college that won't accept me now! ^_^

Math Blues

I was gonna do a blog entry yesterday - honestly! I had a really nice one planned for 9/11, urging America to stay focused and everything. The whole deal. But then, this happened:

In the adjoining figure, two circles of radii 8 and 6 are drawn with their
centers 12 units apart. At P, one of the points of
intersection, a line is drawn in such a way that the chords QP
and PR have equal length. Find the square of the length of QP.

Once again, I stayed up till eleven, this time working on this problem (for my online math class). I have five pages of diagrams and equations on my desk, but I still haven't figured anything out. Here's yesterday's schedule:

9 PM: Finish homework. Decide to work on this problem (class meets tomorrow - err - today).

9:30 PM: Got nothing done. Ask dad for help. We proceed to work on it together.

10:00 PM: Dad has other things to do. I tell him that I'm giving up, go and eat dessert, and then for some strange reason am drawn back into the room. Keep working on it.

10:30 PM: For lack of a better approach, start drawing huge copies of the diagram and measuring. Estimate the answer to be 138 (plus/minus 2).

And I still haven't figured it out. If you have any ideas, feel free to post! Bob - this one's for you ;)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Pain...

I just spent five hours nonstop writing an essay about Kurt Vonnegut's critique of humanity's greatest flaw. Enjoy!

Emotions: The Curse of Mankind

For hundreds of years, wise men have asked themselves what will cause the
downfall of mankind. Science (more and more powerful weapons) and religion
(religious wars in particular) both seem to be possible causes, but Kurt
Vonnegut has a completely different opinion. In Cat’s Cradle, Vonnegut’s
critique of emotions – humanity’s greatest flaw – correctly reflects reality,
because hope, despair, and love, three of our most powerful emotions, both drive
people to perform irrational actions.

Hope, the belief in a positive outcome,
can be attractive but requires a lot of perseverance, and as such as criticized
by the hesitant Vonnegut as being deceptive and unrealistic. For example,
Hazel Crosby is obsessed with other Hoosiers, that is, people from Indiana, as
shown when she says, “We Hoosiers got to stick together.” Although one may
obtain hope from knowing other Hoosiers, in reality this group, called a “false
karass” by Bokonists, is meaningless, just another distraction. Vonnegut’s
message is that we must steer clear of such distractions by avoiding hope
altogether, and sticking to more concrete ideals. In addition to foolish
hope, a real sort of hope makes an appearance as well: after the ice-nine
incident the survivors all hoped that the situation would improve.
However, all of this hope amounted to absolutely nothing when all of these
survivors ended up dying. From this we can learn that rather than hope
that things will get better, one must instead work for it, in other words, that
nothing happens by accident.

Despair, the loss of hope, is well known to be
destructive, and Vonnegut only adds to this. One example of the dangers of
despair can be seen in Bokonon and his followers: “[Bokonon] told [his people]
that God was surely trying to kill them … and that they should have the good
manners to die. This, as you can see, they did.” In other words,
Bokonon’s people saw that they had virtually no chance of survival, and so
decided to kill themselves rather than die in any other way. However,
Bokonon’s pessimistic philosophy is, as Vonnegut clearly shows, disastrously
wrong. Regardless of the odds, we should never give up, because once we
give up we have no chance at all. Another example of the consequences of
overwhelming despair is Mona’s suicide after she realized how silly life really
is: “It’s all so simple, that’s all.” Mona killed herself when she saw how
easily life is taken away by ice-nine, symbolical of life’s inherent
futility. The message here is although life may seem useful and pointless,
it’s all we’ve been given, and we must make do with what we have, whether we
like is or not.

More than any other emotion, Vonnegut blames love as the
cause of nearly all of mankind’s problems. In the novel, the destructive
power of love is demonstrated by the narrator’s infatuation with Mona, which
caused him to fly to the island of San Lorenzo, as demonstrated when he said,
“While I didn’t feel that purposeful seas were wafting me to San Lorenzo, I did
feel that love was doing the job.” While there, the narrator aided in the
destruction of the world, by means of ice-nine. Love here is portrayed as
an evil force that leads people to their doom. Furthermore, ice-nine was
distributed among the world’s major superpowers, the United States, and the
Soviet Union, through love, albeit one-sided love: Angela gave her ice-nine
sample to her government-employee husband, while Newt’s sample went to his
Ukrainian girlfriend, who immediately gave it to the Soviet government.
Once again, the message is clear: love causes people to do foolish, and
sometimes even dangerous, things that they would later come to regret.

So far, I have discussed Vonnegut’s views on the dangers of human emotion.
However, lack of emotion can have disastrous results as well, demonstrated by
Dr. Felix Hoenikker, a man so engrossed in his scientific research that he
almost completely isolated himself from the outside world, a lack of emotion
that led to his “playful” development of the superweapon ice-nine, and then his
careless distribution of ice-nine among his children, moves that had terrible
consequences. Clearly, with a lack of emotion comes a lack of ethics, and
when you can’t tell the difference between right and wrong the results can be
disastrous. All in all, while emotions can be dangerous, so can the
absence of emotion, so, as with many other things, moderation would be the
solution: one must refrain from being led solely by emotions, while at the same
time keeping a code of ethics.

If you like it, thanks! And if you don't like it ... After working for so long I really don't care... ;)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A return of the Donkey? Who knows?

Now that school has started and the summer is finally over, I have begun thinking about what to do with my newest website,, which, as you may already know, was effectively shut down over the course of the summer.

Here's what I know:

- I recieve two types of traffic: iPod traffic and Forum traffic.
- The iPod traffic is that that actually goes to the iPod pages of the site. There's not a lot of iPod traffic.
- The Forum traffic goes to the Poddonkey Forum, rather than the rest of the site. This is primarily made up of my friends and aquaintances.
- Over the summer, the iPod traffic stayed about the same, but the much larger Forum traffic disappeared entirely. This shows that I have no control over iPod traffic, but much control over Forum traffic.
- Everyone's favorite parts of the forum are (or, were), in order, 1) the game of Mafia, 2) the General Discussion and Music Discussion boards, and 3) the points and shops. I'm guessing a bit on this one.

So, to get my friends, and other people from my school, to go back on, some things I can do are:

1. Promise to start a new game of Mafia within a week. I have a really fun game planned.
2. Reward new members, with, perhaps, points, or point drawings, or both.
3. Reward longtime members as well.
4. Start a string of interesting discussions in all forums.
5. Try to get most of my Moderator team back.

These are OK options, but can PodDonkey manage to bounce back? I asked some PodDonkey members:

"Do you think i should try to get PodDonkey back up?"

I got five responses (names are confidential):

- "I don't have much time to go on."
- "Maybe, but people are kinda busy right now. Wait till October."
- "Hell yeah!"
- "Dunno how it'll work, but you should try."
- "Maybe, why not?"

So I guess it could go both ways. If I have time this weekend, I'll see what I can do. =)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Presentation Time!

Post Synopsis: Today was the day of the big Euro presentation. [LONG POST ALERT!]

The day got off to a rather bad start, due to the fact that there is a huge traffic jam in Oak Park (busted water main). As a result, my dad had to drop me off to school at 7:45. School starts at 8:30. Since my partner and I are doing a PowerPoint presentation, and my partner doesn't have a laptop, I had to bring mine along, another hassle. Of course, Mr. K's room was locked. I went to my locker and then, having nothing else to do, sat on a bench trying to remember what class my partner has for zero period. At around 8:00 A friend came along, and informed my that my partner had band zero period, and P.E. first period (the band room and gym are right next to each other, and on the opposite end of the school), so I was alone. I decided to go off to Mr. K's room and see if it was open yet. It wasn't. I stood by the door for the next 25 minutes. At 8:25 another friend came along, who had Mr. K first period. Turns out that Mr. K teaches first period in a different classroom... I gave my laptop to my friend, gave him instructions, and went to my first-period class - Statistics.

When I got to Statistics it turned out that I forgot to get a paper signed by my parents. The six of us who didn't get it signed were given a choice - either we could make Mr. M laugh or we had to sing the school oath. We couldn't make him laugh, and it took us several tries to satisfy Mr. M (More emotion! Wave those arms! You're Eagles - be Proud and Bold!) Needless to say, the rest of the class got a good laugh. Mr. M spent the rest of the period explaining the many dangers of pickles.

Next period was Euro. My partner volunteered to find us a projector for my laptop, and finally obtained one from the Geography teacher. Meanwhile, the first group was presenting their report, about Greek sexuality. Regardless of the topic, the report was incredibly boring, and many of us had trouble staying awake. This of course prompted Mr. K to memorably exclaim, "Look at you guys! If a presentation on sex doesn't hold your attention, how will you be able to listen to a presentation on architecture!?" The second group chose the Rise of the Roman Empire as their topic, and had a very engaging report (well, one member of the group had an engaging report - his partner just stood there and occassionally made some random off-topic remarks), which tied in nicely to our own topic, the Fall of the Roman Empire.

We were the third and last group to present today. After finally hooking the laptop up and getting the PowerPoint to run (we are, I believe, the only group to do an electronic presentation this year), we began. Unlike the other groups, our presentation was mostly improv - other than the PowerPoint slides, we had no visual cues - but I think we made a good team: while I was operating the laptop, my partner was talking, and while I was talking, my partner was demonstrating combat techniques with a meterstick (that was probably what caught our audience's attention the most).

After we finished, we were surprised to be somewhat applauded by Mr. K (who is notorious for speaking his mind), who told us that this was the first good PowerPoint presentation he had ever seen! So although we don't know our grade yet I think we did a good job... =)

After school, I had karate, and after karate, I had to work on a poem for English. This is really a strange assignment - take Paul Simon's song "I Am a Rock", change the lyrics and present it to the class. Of course, I hate presenting ... anything ..., so I worked hard on making mine as un-corny as possible. Like everyone else (I think) I failed miserably. Let me post the poem, so everyone can laugh at me today (or tomorrow morning, or whenever, if they even read this blog), instead of tomorrow in English class. [BAD POEM ALERT - o.O]

by Paul Simon, edited by me because for some
reason my English teacher is obsessed with Simon and assigned us
this project...

Regardless of the argument,
I always
think I’m right.
I don’t often change my mind and
I hate to admit that I’m
I am a donkey, I am a turtle.

I rarely talk to people I
don’t know.
Even something as simple as making a speech,
Or presenting a
Paralyzes me for some reason or another.
I am a donkey, I am a

A donkey is stubborn, but can be a hard worker,
can be helpful when they put their minds to it.
When new to someone, a turtle
remain in its shell,
But when comfortable with its surroundings, it
I am a donkey, I am a turtle.

And a donkey is stubborn,
And a turtle is shy.

Yeah, it's pretty bad, isn't it?

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Euro Pride! =)

A typical European History Class: We walk in and sit down. Suddenly Mr. K says, "Get a partner and take notes for 20 minutes. Then you'll have one hour to write a complete essay. Your prompt is: Compare the political and economic conditions that Julius Caesar, Charlemagne, and John I of England faced. What were their responses?" And just like that, we had an hour to write an essay on some totally random topic.

And then it hit me: Euro is not like other classes. And those brave enough to take it should deserve some recognition. And just like that, when I got home I did the first thing in my mind: I designed T-shirts! ^_^

Behold! Gaze in wonder at the unofficial T-shirt of the Oak Park Euro AP Team!

Price is only 17.48 for a high-quality shirt. If you take Euro but are not from Oak Park, I also designed a cheaper shirt that has "Euro Nerd" on the front but nothing on the back. I get 3-4 dollars from every purchase! ;)

Purchase Links:

Enjoy! =)

Thursday, August 31, 2006

It has begun...

Bob: essay due tomorrow
me: 15-min presentation due wednesday
english poem to read out loud (AHHHH) due thursday
4 tests within a week

Today I had Biology AP, English Honors, and P.E.

Bio wasn't too bad. Mrs. L seems like a good teacher (and she's Mr. K's sister, which I take to be a good sign), and although it is a difficult class, it's not nearly as bad as Euro. Although Mrs. L claims that her brother is a "teddy bear", the rest of us are hardly inclined to think so. One really good thing about this class is that everyone I know is in it, and I mean everyone, which will make for a pretty fun period.

English seems OK as well. Mrs. W is a good teacher as well, but I've never been very good at writing essays, which it seems we will be doing a lot of. We started the semester by listening to a Paul Simon song, after which Mrs. W announced that next week we will be writing poems based on it, and presenting to the class. AHHHH!!

And P.E. was, well, P.E. ;)

Bottom line: For perhaps the first time in recent memory, all of my teachers are intelligent and, to some degree, nice, but of course this won't help much due to the huge amount of homework, tests, project, et cetera that I'll have to do this year.

Looks like school has begun.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

First Day of School

First day of school today.

My first class was Statistics AP with Mr. M. This looks like it's going to be a fun class, and Mr. M seems like a very good teacher. Today we had to introduce ourselves and our interests, with Mr. M making fun of everything from The Beatles to summer jobs to martial arts. Also, Mr. M proctored the AMC/AIME last year, so he naturally told the class about my "accomplishments" (the only accomplishment I remember was scoring a miserable 5 out of 15 on the AIME) and the whole class clapped for me. I think I'll enjoy this class.

Second class was European History AP with Mr. K. Although Mr. K is an excellent teacher, and the material is very interesting, I don't think Euro is going to be my favorite class this year. Somehow two hours of work a day, seven days a week, doesn't appeal to me. And that's not even counting the multitude of projects, and the notoriously difficult quizzes held every period. On the plus side, Mr. K did such a good job of scaring us last year that our class only has 14 kids, all of whom i know. Euro will be ... interesting ...

Last class was Spanish II with Mr. V. I don't think this is a very fun or interesting class, but Mr. V is definitely a much better teacher than Mrs. B, whom I had last year for Spanish I (We spend more time playing elementary school-style games than learning.) That's about all I can say about this class for now.

Tomorrow: Biology AP, English 10 Honors, and PE. Sounds fun ;)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

School Tomorrow!

You may have noticed that I haven't been posting in this blog for around a week. The reason for this is that I've simply been overloaded with work. Essays are harder than they look...

So, what's on my mind?

First off, I have school tomorrow. This is bad. Of course. This has been the longest summer yet (which is what everyone says for every summer of course, but this year especially.) It also means that I spent just about the whole day today doing Euro work, and just getting ready for school in general.

I have learned how easy it is to make a fortune off selling on! (Actually part truth here) My friends and I are contemplating starting a reselling business... ;) Hopefully I'll get enough money to get a guitar. ^_^

And check this out: ASCII World Cup! WHAAAT???

Saturday, August 19, 2006

How the Game Industry Treats Freeware Programmers

A long long time ago, two years to be exact, I discovered a cool little program called MtG Editor, a free program that lets you create your own Magic the Gathering (a popular trading card game) cards. I played around with it for a while and promptly forgot about it. Now, two years later, Magic is inexplicably becoming popular again in my school (well, it's the summer actually - let me rephrase that: "Magic inexplicably became popular again in my school last year"), and some of my friends remembered about MtG Editor and asked me if I could find it again. Well, I did a Google search and went to the MtG Editor website. Once there, I saw a huge box containing an email from Wizards of the Coast (publisher of Magic) and explaining that MtG Editor has been taken off, for copyright reasons.

Several thoughts come to mind. First off, a developer comes along and makes a program that lets you create your own custom cards, in effect contributing to Magic's popularity, by making something that Wizards should have made in the first place. What happens? It gets labelled "illegal" by the very people who should be grateful! Funny thing now, The Wizards of the Coast forums actually have a "Create Your Own Card" section, which remains one of their most popular forums. Question - how are the good folks on the forums supposed to "create their own cards"? Answer - they can't! Wizards has removed a portion of their own community.

Another thought springs to mind - about Wizards' own inefficiency. It took them three years to discover a program that was used and advertised on their own forums! If it takes them this long to find something right under their noses, I dread to think about their future, and of the future of Hasbro (the company that bought Wizards).

Oh, and one more thing: check this out! It's a program called CCG Maker, which does exactly the same thing that MtG Editor does, the only exception being that it's not free - the full version costs $10. Now, CCG Maker has been curiously exempt from the copyright laws that govern MtG Editor. Some asking around reveals that this is either 1) CCG Maker, although using Wizards' layout, uses it's own symbols, rather than copying Magic's, as MtG Editor does, or 2) Wizards simply hasn't discovered CCG Maker yet. Given Wizards' track record, I'd go with the second. But as for the first ... what's worse, copying five little symbols , or copying the entire card layout? Wizards seems to think the first is.

Is anyone else outraged by this??? If so, voice your complaints directly to the people responsible - email Wizards of the Coast! Perhaps if they recieve enough emails ... Also, please comment here if you agree with me!

Quote of the Week

Sorry for missing last week! It won't happen again! (at least for the next ... week ^_^)

The quote of the week is:

"The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity. But not in that order."
- Brian Pickrell

Summer's Almost Over =(

School starts on the 30th, the Wednesday after next. Only ten days of summer left! And I still have two chapters in Bio and five Euro essays...

I spent a good portion of today filling out thirteen different forms (!!!) for school registration. Afterwards my family went to a library sale. I bought a bunch of fantasy novels (you know those books that no one reads? Well, I read them... ^_^) and a program called "Music Studio 2000". I had no idea what it was, but for $1 I felt that I should check it out. Turned out that it was a supposedly unlicensed collection of ten-year old programs, none of which work on Windows XP. The company "WinGear" doesn't exist any more, and a Google search for wingear "music studio 2000" yields 7 results. Furthermore, it turned out that the CD had a virus, which was luckily detected and stopped by my antivirus software. The box itself looks exactly like one for Microsoft software, with the same layout and font, clearly a copyright infringement. All in all, it's amazing that something like that could even be published...

In other news, I'm getting a guitar! A shiny Godin Exit22. As to the when, I'm not so sure...

Monday, August 14, 2006

Summer Work Update

Biology "Bio" AP - Ch.1, Ch.5, Ch.19, Ch.20, Ch.21, Ch.22, Ch.23, Ch.24, Ch.25
European History "Euro" AP - Ch.2, Ch.3, Ch.4, Ch.5, Ch.6, Ch.7, Ch.8, Ch.9, Ch.10, Ch.11, Ch.12, Essay 1, Essay 2, Essay 3, Essay 4, Essay 5
English "Englo?" H
- The Bible, Mythology, Cat's Cradle

[Doing] [Haven't even touched] [Did by accident, even though I wasn't supposed to >.<]

Amazingly, I'm not very far behind. Only 4 Bio chapters and 5 Euro essays left!

Click Click! - version 0.2

My focus for this version was smoother movement, which I achieved using a bit of math, as shown in the diagram below:

I also decided to play around with it, and made a few cheats (Ctrl, Shift, Z, Num Pad + and -). ^_^

Next on my agenda: a title screen!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Oh no! Not another hobby!

I've rediscovered Macromedia Flash, and decided to try game design. But unlike most of my hobbies, I actually have a rationale for this one. See, if I have a resume consisting of a lot of games, be they freeware or commercial, I will have a good chance of being hired by a video game company. And looking at my list of dream jobs:

Guitar hero
Game designer
Web entrepreneur

As you can see, game designer is above web entrepreneur, though still below guitar hero.

Anyways, 30 minutes of playing around with flash give me the start of my second flash game (the first, an ambitious fighting game, was sadly never completed), which I aptly named "Click Click!". The object of the game is to make the ball pass to green line at the top, but not the red line at the bottom. You can move the ball up by clicking near the bottom of the ball, move it down by clicking near the top, left by clicking near the right, and right by clicking near the left (at the moment you only have to go up, but suppose I add more levels...)

At the moment, the game is rather simple - some 40 lines of code. However, there are numerous improvements I can make:

I. Making it more professional
- Game start screen, and similar stuff
- Levels
- More features (obstacles, mazes, bumpers, and gravity shifters, oh my!)
II. Changing the core (a.k.a. Physics)
- More advanced movement (right now the player can only move the ball in 4 directions, he/she should be able to move it in any direction)
- Better collision detection (at the moment it's adequate, but if I want to add bumpers and stuff, I'll have to make it frame-independent)
- Adding Forces (again, at the moment I only have two forces - gravity and the player's motion, so it's adequate, but to support extra features I should change this)
III. Prettying it up
- Better graphics
- Backgrounds
- Sounds and music

Why do I keep starting new projects? WHY????

New Laptop

My family just got a new laptop, a shiny new (well, refurbished actually) Dell 6400. A dual-core processor, 1GB RAM, and a wide-screen display, for only $520. The Dell Outlet is full of great deals!

This is a huge improvement over our old laptop, which I estimate to have around 2KB RAM. However, this is more than enough for my four-year-old sister - we gave the old laptop to her. Now she's becoming addicted to it - soon she'll be like me... >.<

Friday, August 11, 2006

Vacation to Pismo

The reason I haven't posted in three or four days is that this past week I went on vacation, to Pismo Beach, CA. =)

The Who, The What, and The Why

Who: Two families, my own and our neighbors
Where: Pismo Beach
When: Monday thru Friday
What: What?
Why: Dunno
How: Uhh by car

The Hotel

Don't remember the name, but something to do with lighthouses. Not a big fan of lighthouses myself. Had some nice features, like a waffle machine (mmmm waffles...), Nintendo (overpriced >.<), minigolf (which I sux at), and giant chess (like regular chess but giant?). The hotel itself is built like a lighthouse, which I, as I mentioned before, find rather ridiculous. Who in their right mind would want to live in a lighthouse??!?

And now ... a day-by-day account!

Monday: Got to the hotel and ate dinner. Nothing of note.

Tuesday: Ate breakfast. Played some minigolf. Ate lunch. Attended my online math class, which meant no trips to anywhere interesting today. Went to the pool. Ate dinner.

Wednesday: Ate breakfast. Played some minigolf and some giant chess. Went to the beach, where I got bitten by a sand crab (it was a baby crab, but it still hurt :P). I ate a small lunch, and did not eat dinner till nine, at an Italian restaurant, which meant I was practically starving. However, I did not manage to eat much. Here's some advice people: when a menu item is labeled as "demonic", it will probably be rather spicy...

To pass the time at the restaurant, while we were all waiting for the food, my brother and I played 21, by writing down random groups of four numbers, and trying to get them to evaluate to 21, using basic arithmetic functions (+-*/). Out of 8 groups of 4 random one-digit numbers writted by myself, and 8 groups written by my brother, both my brother and I had two identical groups (meaning the numbers were the same, but the order was different). Now, what are the odds of that? Less than 1/1,000,000 I imagine, though Bob will probably correct me on this.

Thursday: Went ATV riding. Soooooo much fun. I had never driven an ATV before, so naturally they gave me a 250cc Honda, with 5 gears and various other features... The stick shift took a while to get used to, but all in all the vehicle was great. I was in 2nd gear most of the time, and I imagine my average speed to have been between 10 and 15 mph.

There was a great sand dune area a half-mile from the dealership, but getting there proved a challenge. Our ATVs (party of 4: two 250ccs, a 125cc, and an 80cc) broke down at various points on the road, and our journey to the sand dunes can well be described as 'The Longest Half-Mile'. Once we got there, however, it was great. I want an ATV. ^_^

When we got back from the ATV dealership (six of us - two were just watching) to our neighbors' cabin (we were eating dinner at our neighbors'), we found, to our dismay, that we didn't have the keys, and the cabin was empty (the rest of our party was out shopping). Fortunately, there were some garden tools lying near the front window, and one of us was age seven. We managed to pry the window loose, 'Shorty' sneaked in and unlocked the front door. Never thought I'd have to break into my own house... (actually, that's not quite accurate - Never thought I'd have to help my neighbors break into their own house ... :P)

Friday: Ate breakfast and drove home.

Monday, August 07, 2006

You know what the gaming world really needs?

A complete RTS / FPS crossover game. Like, one of those games, where it starts out as a regular RTS, but at any time you can choose to play as any of your units, at which point the game becomes an FPS.

Let's take a look at existing games that call themselves "RTS / FPS hybrids". These fall into two categories, the first being normal FPSes with some RTS attributes. Examples are the Half-Life mod Natural Selection and the free standalone game Tremolous (shown at right).

No, that's not what we want at all! It's about 90% FPS, 10% RTS - a very bad mix. But what else do we have that's even remotely similar to what we want? Ah, we have squad-based RTS / FPS shooters, such as Urban Assault and Field Ops (shown at left). Better, but as roemin points out, the emphasis is still on the FPS.

The best way to make an RTS / FPS hybrid would be to make it about 20% FPS and 80% RTS. That is, the RTS mode is the most important, but certain aspects of the game require FPS mode. Just one example: money (and perhaps items and weapons) must be stored in a bank. You can destroy an enemy bank, which would make your opponent lose all the money and items
in it, but you still won't get any of those items/cash. If you want to get it, you must first get one of your units to sneak inside of the bank (possibly through a diversion or some other RTS tactic, or by using a special item, such as a camo suit), and then get into te vault and out, without running into the security system - stealing items from a bank would require both RTS and FPS gameplay.

This is the kind of game that I would want to see. Of course, it would take up a ton of space and require a fast proccessor - everything in the 2.5D RTS view must also have an analogue in the 3D FPS view, and vice versa. This type of game has been impossible ... until now.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Where Have I Been?

Two words: computer virus. The second one in a month, actually. Gawd, I hate viruses.

In other news, I finally saw Pirates of the Caribbean II. It wasn't as good as the people who love it say, and it wasn't as bad as the people who hate it say.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Unveiling ... the 8^8 ELO Calculator!

>>> 8^8 ELO Calculator <<<

This is the first result of a collaboration between Mgccl and myself, to make an LF2 ladder system. What is it? It is an extension of the ELO ranking system (used primarily in chess) to allow for up to eight teams, of up to eight players each. Simply type in each player's ranking, and the team's result (see Scoring, below), and click SUBMIT. Each player's new ELO will be revealed.


  • Fill in team 1 before team 2, etc. If team 1 is blank, team 2 is assumed to be blank as well, and so on.
  • Fill in player 1 before player 2, etc. If player 1 is blank, player 2 is assumed to be blank as well, and so on.
  • For players, 0 and blank are different. 0 means a 0 ELO player, blank means no player.
  • Negative players will cause errors.
  • Players should be between 0 and 10,000. Otherwise, errors may occur.


Win: 1
Tie: 1/n (with n teams)
Loss: 0

So for a match with 4 teams, if a team scores one win, 3 ties, and 2 losses, its score is 1.75 .