Living With a Nerd

Personal Experiences

Recent Happenings

by Pojut on May.03, 2010, under Gaming, Personal Experiences, Random

Things have been going quite well around here.  We are, for the most part, completely moved into the new apartment.  Our game room (seen above) is where we spend most of our free time.  We’re still waiting on our Cozy Sac to arrive in the mail, but other than that this room is put together.  I haven’t had much of a chance to put some time into producing any music, but I have a number of ideas that are formulating in my head. 

I’ve also started writing a short story/novella, just for the hell of it.  It isn’t an entirely original idea, but one that I thought was compelling enough to spend the time to get it down “on paper”.  The main problem is that I’m not that great of a writer, so keeping it interesting AND making it sound decently written has been a challenge.  Still, there is a lot of story to tell…since this is something I’m just doing for fun, I will probably do it slowly over the course of months or even a couple of years…500 words here, 1000 words there, it will get finished whenever it gets finished, no rush.

I’ve also recently started to go back through Fallout 3.  I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve played it before, or I’ve gotten better at gaming in general, or what it is…but for some reason, I’m finding it extremely easy.  I wouldn’t describe my first time through as difficult, but it was certainly harder than this.  With only five hours on my savegame, I already have a hunting rifle at 80% repair, a combat shotgun at 75%, a sniper rifle at 80%, a missile launcher at 65%, and a Chinese assault rifle at 75%.  It took me WAY longer to acquire those weapons (and get them in that condition) my first time through.  The first time I played it was when it launched back in October 2008, so it can’t just be because I remember everything…. ::shrug:: whatever, it doesn’t matter.  The important thing is that I’m still highly enjoying it, especially since I’m doing quests that I overlooked before and have already seen a bunch of stuff I didn’t the first time through.  Oh, and in this particular playthrough, Megaton remains intact:-)

I’m also currently plodding through Summon Night: Twin Age.  It’s…interesting.  Not really digging the all-touch interface, but other than that it’s been mildly entertaining.  Still wishing for a killer game to get into on the DS, but for now Twin Age will suffice.  Look for a review of it sometime in the relatively near future.

 

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This place is freakin’ awesome

by Pojut on Apr.16, 2010, under Personal Experiences, Random

We are currently balls deep in the move.  Our apartment is really starting to come to life, with most of the furniture having been put in its proper place.  For the first time in both of our lives, we will have a bedroom that literally has just a bed and two night stands in it…no desks, no TVs, nothing.  Just a bed.  I’m quite excited about this, it will be nice to finally have an actual bedroom.

Why yes, those are folded up cloth Rush and Pink Floyd wall scrolls in the bottom middle part of the picture. Thanks for noticing!

Brittnie has taken over the main room as seen in the picture above, and is slowly transforming it into a work place/library.  Most of our bookshelves have been moved in, and both of her desks are in the main room (there are a few more bookshelves in this room, you just can’t see them in this particular shot.)  While her dream of having a room set aside exclusively for book storage and a comfortable reading spot hasn’t quite been fulfilled, this is as close as she will get until we move into an actual house.  It’s turning out quite nicely…a large, open space in the middle, the walls lined with books, the subtle natural lighting coming in through the windows…it’s an awesome setup, and will be a welcoming first sight when arriving after a long day of work.

This picture was taken the day after we signed the lease agreement, hence the lack of desks or...well, anything else. That whole window has been filled with books now, and there is actual furniture in here. There is still an additional 7 feet of room to the left of those windows, which is currently occupied by bookshelves that will soon be joined by a white dresser.

The fireplace is a nice touch, and will likely get plenty of use in the cold winter months (or when we have documents that need to be destroyed, heh.)  The best part are the windows: check out the picture above.  That’s right, our windows have bookshelves built in!  We plan on filling them up to the brim.  It should look real nice, plus it will add a little bit of insulation to the aging windows.

Panasonic TC-L42U12 on a teak pedestal thingie. My computer desk is going to go against the wall on the left, hutch on the wall next to the TV. Older game systems (SNES, Genesis, Dreamcast, PS2) will go in the teak thingie. Still need to hang pictures/posters. Gonna be sweeeeet when it's done.

Panasonic TC-L42U12 on a teak pedestal thingie. My computer desk is going to go against the wall on the left, while the hutch currently on my desk will instead be against the wall next to the TV. Older game systems (SNES, Genesis, Dreamcast, PS2, etc) will go in the teak thingie. Still need to hang pictures/posters. Gonna be sweeeeet when it's done.

Even though it is technically a space we will both be using for movies, I have the equivalent of a man-cave.  The larger of the two bedrooms has been designated as my space.  The huge not-quite walk-in closet provides ample storage space, and the room juts out onto the edge of the building…meaning one wall is against our bedroom, one wall is against our living room, and the remaining two walls face nature.  Talk about perfect for an entertainment room!  The Panasonic TC-L42U12 flatscreen does decently with gaming…there is some slight ghosting, but nothing I won’t get used to.  The real reason I bought it is because it provides some of the best skin tone reproduction and movie picture quality I have ever seen on a TV even remotely near its price.  Like I said, it does pretty well with gaming, but this is a TV begging to have movies watched on it.  Considering our Netflix habit, this was a logical buying decision.  The sound it puts out is surprisingly good for a TV as well…it’s a little empty on the midrange, and the highs are slightly tinny, but you will be hard pressed to find better sounding built-in speakers on a TV under $2000.

So, overall things are coming together quite nicely.  Tomorrow is the day we move the rest of the furniture in…and then we begin the arduous task of getting the rest of our books and not-small DVD collection organized.  It’s going to be one hell of a sweet pad when it’s finished.

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Well we’re movin’ on…over? I guess?

by Pojut on Mar.22, 2010, under Personal Experiences

Brittnie and I have found a place to move to…it’s in downtown Rockville, about a mile behind the Regal cinemas.  For those of you that don’t currently or never have lived in Montgomery County, MD, that is a bit meaningless to you.  For those of you that have or do live here, you know that is some choice location.  It isn’t quite filet mignon (that would be Bethesda or Potomac), but it is still a juicy t-bone.  The apartment is a little smaller than I was hoping (813 square feet), but it should work out nicely.  There is a working fireplace (which Brittnie will be happy about), one of the walls in the main room is nothing but windows and a sliding glass door going out onto a small deck (which Fizzgigg will enjoy since her favourite activity other than sleeping or crapping is looking out windows) and the smaller of the two rooms is still large enough to hold our bed and dresser.  What does that mean?  Well, it means the smaller 10′ x 10′ room will be used exclusively for sleeping, and the larger 16′ x 11′ room will be our gaming/computer/work room.  It will be nice to finally, FINALLY have a bedroom used only for bed use, with all non-bed related activities and entertainments taking place in their designated areas.  Not only that, but it will be nice to have the larger room (with more wall sockets, I might add) acting as the game/work room.

Last.FM has really done a lot for my musical motivation.  Knowing that people are listening to the music I’m putting out has given me more of a reason to keep going.  It’s one thing when I’m just making stuff for myself…it’s another thing entirely when I have an audience, regardless of how small it is (just like with this webpage and blog.)  Of course, the other problem is that being exposed to the plethora of music Last.FM provides makes me realize just how bad my work is compared to a lot of other people’s music…but meh, that’s how it goes with anything.  No matter how good you are, there are always 10 people so good at it that they will make you look horrible.  Such is the nature of the Internet.  If nothing else, at least I am given the opportunity to listen to the fruits of their labor.  What surprises me the most about a lot of the ambient and psychill that I’ve found on Last.FM is that the best stuff seems to follow three rules:

1.  It’s extremely simple
2.  It’s done by a middle-aged guy who looks like he should work for Nasa
3.  They use a combination of old and new equipment

I’m not sure why this happens, but it’s true; with the exception of the darker stuff, most of the really good ambient and psychill on Last.FM meets all three of those stipulations.  Hmm…maybe I need to age faster and look smarter?  ::shrug::

Fizzgigg with her catnip bag.  She's such a fiend.

Fizzgigg with her catnip bag. She's such a fiend.

My new dual monitor stand is freakin’ amazing…it looks super classy, but I feel that it is wasted on my current desk due to the hutch.  Still, it’s opened up some desk space, so I think it was a worthwhile investment.  I don’t believe I’ll get the full potential out of it until I get a more open desk.  The problem, as always, is money and necessity.  Do I really NEED a new desk?  Hardly.  The desk I have is made of top-quality ash, and I’ve been using it for 15 years.  I could easily get by with just adding a small secondary dealie off to the side, but…new desk…

As of this writing, I’ve put about an hour and a half into Infinite Space.  I’m still not sure what I think about it…the combat system is very unique, and the storyline is mildly interesting, but there is something about it that’s preventing me from getting pulled in.  Perhaps I’m just not far enough along with it yet?  Oh well…I promised myself I would give it at least a full five hours before deciding whether to stick with it or not, but I can’t hold out forever…lord knows it isn’t the only unique game vying for my attention.

After much struggle and writing over two separate days, I was finally able to complete my Repo Men review.  I’ve been on a roll the past two weeks, but this review was really, really difficult to get down.  I’m not sure why, since I have a lot of thoughts about the movie, but for some reason it was just impossible to think of anything when fingertips met keys.  I’m always hard on myself when it comes to writing (primarily because I don’t think I’m all that good at it), but this review is especially bad in my opinion.  Still, it’s the closest I could get to putting my thoughts on “paper”, so it is what it is.

Oddly enough, this blog post has been insanely easy to write…my word count is nearing the 900 mark with this sentence, and I still feel like I could keep writing.  Perhaps it is the spirit of the Remington Portable typewriter Brittnie got me recently?  Who knows, maybe it’s given me a bit of a boost.  Regardless, I’ve found blog posts to be really easy to write lately, with articles becoming more and more difficult.  Maybe I need to change my article writing style to be more conversational?  Hmm…something to think about, for sure.

Oh, by the way, make sure you watch Ugly Americans. It’s awesome.

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Mr. Bubbles and new cans

by Pojut on Feb.12, 2010, under Gaming, Music, Personal Experiences

No doubt you have heard about the insane snow we have had for the past week here in Maryland.  A storm last weekend dropped around 30″ on us, and a storm just three days ago dropped an additional 18″ on us.  Right now, our back yard looks like a snow swimming pool…the snow is only about 6 inches below the top of our fence(!).  Luckily, it should be above freezing for most of the next week, so hopefully a lot of it will melt.  It was awesome getting some time off from work though:-)

I’m about half way through Bioshock 2.  My opinion keeps shifting from “meh” to “more time in Rapture!  Huzzah!”  I’m still not quite sure what I think…on the one hand, it’s been cool to learn more about the Big Daddies and the various backroom deals that went on while Rapture was still a functioning city, but on the other hand the whole thing feels unnecessary and at times forced.  The new hacking mini-game is far and away the best change to the formula, but I’m not sure playing as a Big Daddy was the right move…it feels wrong that I’m a Big Daddy but can be killed by a splicer pummeling me with a wrench.  In the first Bioshock, if you just stood there whacking a Big Daddy in the skull you would be turned into hamburger.  I realize you are a “prototype” and not as well armored, but still…you’re in a freakin’ diving suit.  A wrench shouldn’t do anything to you.  I’ll reserve final judgement for when I finish the game, as I’ve heard the storyline kicks into overdrive in the final couple of hours, but for now I think I’m on the “why did they do this again?” side.

In other news, I just ordered a set of Audio-Technica ATH-AD700s.  I can’t wait to see how they sound with gaming, and the extra wide soundstage reported by many owners has me excited to see how they present The Transient Unknown.  From what I’ve read, they are a bit lacking in the bass department until they get burned in a bit, so I’m going to put together a playlist to run through them for a while.  I’m still going to actually use them during the burn-in period so I can hear them change, but I’m making sure to keep my expectations low at first.  I’ll likely go for a Nuforce uDAC in a month or two, but for now the control pod on my Logitech Z4 2.1s will have to do.

Special thanks to the members over at the Head-Fi forums and the [H]ard|Forum for helping me in my purchasing decision.  Keep an eye on livingwithanerd.com for an initial review on the AD700’s and a follow-up review once I have broken them in.  The main page has been neglected this week due to just general insanity going on around here…I hope to get things relatively back to normal next week, although I can’t promise that.  At the very least, the next entry in our Healthy Gamer series will make an appearance on Monday.

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I swear it isn’t my medi-gel, officer! I’m just holding it for a friend!

by Pojut on Feb.04, 2010, under Gaming, Personal Experiences

Mass Effect 2 is almost everything I hoped for.  There were a couple of major changes that I kinda wish they hadn’t done, but overall it’s good stuff.  You can check our full review of it here.

As of right now, I’m running a 250 gig hard drive as my primary system drive, with two 500 gig SATAII Seagates running in RAID 0 to hold my archives.  My only backup drive is a 750 gig maxtor SATAII stuffed into a Rosewill RX-358-S BLK enclosure.  Well, that is about to change.  I just recently ordered a Western Digital Caviar Green WD15EADS to replace the two 500 gig drives.  Since the WD 1.5 TB drive is going to be standalone, I ::knock on wood:: shouldn’t encounter any of the problems people are having when running them in RAID.  I decided to go with the Green edition since they are supposed to generate less heat than the others…the power savings are nice, but will hardly make a dent in the power consumption of my system.

So now what am I to do with these two 500 gig drives?  Stuff them in an enclosure and use them for backup, of course!  I also picked up a Kingwin DK-32U-S enclosure.  So, with the two 500 gig drives running in JBOD along with the aformentioned 750 gig drive I’ll FINALLY have enough space to back up EVERYTHING.  It’s pretty exciting, I can’t wait! 

Next steps for upgrades include getting another Asus VH236H (and giving Brittnie my Dell 2005FPW, currently used as a secondary monitor), upgrading my CPU, Motherboard, and RAM, and…well, that would be it for a while, actually.  I would LOVE to replace my system drive with an SSD, but the cost isn’t worth it to me.  My system isn’t nearly high-end enough for the hard drive to have that big of a difference.  Still, even if I don’t go SSD, I will likely replace the system drive soon.

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Whew…what a marathon

by Pojut on Jan.25, 2010, under Books, Movies, Personal Experiences

I didn’t do much gaming this weekend, but there was a media marathon overload over the past 72 hours.  Over the weekend, we watched/went and saw: Sherlock Holmes, Pandorum, Burn After Reading, discs four five and six of Ergo Proxy, about three hours of Bill Nye the Science Guy, and about two hours of Clone High.  Numerous South Park episodes from the 4th and 5th seasons were also watched.  I continued with reading Cerebus, and on Brittnie’s recommendation started reading The Host written by Stephenie Meyer (yes, that Stephanie Meyer).  I have been pleasently suprised so far…although I couldn’t stand even just the 5 minutes of Twilight that I heard while Brittnie was going through the audio books (she hated them too, thank the goddess), The Host is a well written and entertaining story.  I’m only about 70 pages in, but I’m interested enough to finish it out.

The most exciting media happenings out of the weekend was that my copy of Warren Ellis’ first novel Crooked Little Vein showed up on our doorstep.  Ellis’ stories are always really twisted, and his writing style magnificent.  I can’t wait to dive into it…there will 100% for sure be a review of it on the main site after I finish it.

I finally took the plunge.  I wiped the hard drive that had Windows XP SP3 32bit on my gaming system, and installed Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit…and wow, what a big difference!  The whole PC feels like it is way faster.  I’m not sure if that is just how it “feels” or if it actually is, but I DO know that according to dslreports.com both my download and upload speeds have increased by about 300k.  Since I never did Vista, it is taking me some time to get used to where everything is in Windows 7, but suffice it to say it is awesome.  As an added bonus, I didn’t have to install a single driver for any of my hardware…I was even able to pick up and connect to my wireless network during the setup process!  I’m still a bit of a noob when it comes to Windows 7, but it is showing a lot of promise.

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In Soviet Russia, desk improves you!

by Pojut on Jan.05, 2010, under Personal Experiences

Brittnie’s desk has now been reorganized, giving her full use of the desktop and maximizing the use of her new speakers.  I don’t have any pictures of what it looked like before, but rest assured it looks much better now:

I figured with how much music she listens to, Brittnie deserved better speakers than the horrible ones she was using.  She didn’t have much room, and I wanted her to get the best sound she could in a small package (and for under $100), so I decided on the Creative GigaWorks T20 Series II.  They aren’t the best, but for their price and their size it’s hard to beat them.  They have excellent stereo imaging, and likely their best trait (aside from their classy looks) is their complete lack of localization…unless you concentrate and stare directly at them, you can’t really tell where the music is coming from.  I figured they would sound decent, but their output really does defy their small stature.  The bass/treble controls, as well as the headphone and aux-in jacks on the front are icing on the cake.

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We can rebuild him!

by Pojut on Dec.29, 2009, under Personal Experiences

For some inexplicable reason, I’ve REALLY gotten into desk/workstation setups in the past week or so.  I’ve read through this entire forum thread on [H]ard|OCP, as well as a few others from different websites.  Doing so inspired me to change my own setup around a little bit.  I had replaced my Dell 2005FPW a month or so ago, but for some reason didn’t try to set it up as a second monitor until now.  My desk went from this:

To this:

The only thing that really changed was that I lowered the shelf, moved my Storm Scout case off to the side, and set up my Dell as a secondary monitor…yet it has made a huge difference.  The room isn’t all that big in the first place, and making this change has really opened things up.  I also have a lot more usable desktop space now, which will really come in handy when I’m rockin’ my Dell Mini 9 and my PC at the same time.  I plan on going to Bed, Bath, and Beyond to pick up a couple of nice kitchen cabinet knobs; I’ll drill them into the front of the hutch and use them as headphone holders.  I would go with just a plain ol’ banana holder, but I like having the clear desk space.

I’ve used a dual monitor setup at work for a while now, so it’s nice to finally have the same thing at home.  Torchlight on the one screen +Netflix streaming on the other = an awesome evening.

I also changed the way Brittnie’s desk is set up, so she now has full use of it instead of sharing it with a three-slot mail thing and a small flatscreen.  Our configurations will probably remain like this until we move.  Once that happens, I will hopefully put together a large U-shaped desk setup using the Galant series from Ikea (thanks, Mr. Bixby!)  My goal is to have both of our setups close to each other, a small flatscreen (with a wide viewing angle, naturally) between us so we can watch netflix/movies, play PC games, and/or work together at the same time.  Then, each of us would have a return, giving myself extra room for audio work and Brittnie extra room for school work.  See below for an example of what I’m talking about:

Not sure what we would do with the desks we use now, but one would likely be set up with an extra system for LANing it up with friends, while the other will (hopefully) get a Windows 98 box for our older PC games.

It’s mundane, I know…but I’m excited about it :-)

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Interesting developments

by Pojut on Dec.22, 2009, under Books, Gaming, Movies, Music, Personal Experiences

Taken at 3 PM with 7 hours of snow left. By the time it was over, both of those cars were completely encased in snow.

The big snowstorm this past weekend here in Maryland wasn’t the only major event…Brittnie got me a PS3!  I was planning on picking one up around the time that God of War III came out, but this works just fine for me.  Haven’t really decided where I’m going to start, but it will likely come down between Resistance 1 & 2 or Uncharted 1 & 2.  I’ve found that when used for streaming purposes, the PS3 is superior to the 360; easier to setup, built in wireless…oh, and being able to copy entire folders of videos from my computer onto the PS3 over the network plus more extensive codec support help to seal the deal.  It will be interesting to see how the exclusives compare to the 360 exclusives…although the 360 controller is still far more comfortable.  I’ve never been a big fan of the Dual Shock design, and even though the modified L2/R2 buttons are a good step in the right direction, it still has a long way to go.  This sounds lame, but the Dual Shock is part of the reason why I don’t have as much time /played on my PS2 as I do with my other gaming systems.

Speaking of other gaming systems, the addition of the PS3 brings our full list to the following: Atari 2600, Sega Genesis, SNES (two of them), Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, Xbox, PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, Nintendo DS Lite (3 of them), PSP-1000 (aka the first-gen PSP), Game Boy, GBA (one original, one GBA SP), Game Gear, and a relatively up-to-date gaming PC.

I’ve put a couple of hours into Torchlight.  The resemblance to Diablo is nearly overwhelming.  I know that many of the Diablo team members worked on Torchlight (including the composer and sound designer for Diablo), and it shows.  If Titan Quest was Diablo 2.5, Torchlight is Diablo 2.7.  With no attempt to hide the similarities, Torchlight feels more like a trip down memory lane rather than a new single-player experience (but in a good way.)  The graphics are a bit jagged, but for an independently produced game, it looks damn nice.  Oh, and did I mention that it’s a hell of a lot of fun to play?

Brittnie left to go visit her sister for the holidays, so I decided to take a couple of days off from Living With a Nerd.  The next article (which will be a review of Torchlight) will post on Christmas Day.

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Now that’s what I call a weekend

by Pojut on Dec.14, 2009, under Personal Experiences, Random

Mix equal parts four-player New Super Mario Wii, a small Big Bang Theory marathon, a Revolutionary War audio lecture marathon (just for fun, not for school), a cat killing chipmunks with eye lasers, and a full-blown top to bottom house cleaning.  What do you end up with?  A crazy fun weekend.

Fizzgigg preparing to fire off an eye laser salvo at a chipmunk

Fizzgigg preparing to fire off an eye laser salvo at a chipmunk

New Super Mario Bros. Wii continues to surprise me.  While it is a crazy game on its own, adding three other players to the equation turns it into a Smash Bros “the craziest thing that could happen is going to happen” style of game.  Whether on purpose or not, people will be bonked into bottomless pits, knocked off ledges, be denied access to powerups, or shoved into that fish just up ahead.  My buddy Mike observed that not only is the unpredictability of New Mario Wii similar to Smash Bros, but the lack of being upset at death is similar as well; sometimes, the circumstances surrounding your character’s death are so insanely over the top, you can’t do anything but laugh about it.

I also started Muramasa over the weekend.  I haven’t put much time into it, but what I have seen so far is amazing.  The art direction is great, the fighting system reminds me of Third Strike (air juggles ahoy), the music is great, and the weapon forging system is rewarding.  It’s the first opportunity I’ve had to use my Wavebird since I happened across it at a Gamestop for only $15 a couple months ago…the control scheme is obviously geared towards using a Wii Remote/Nunchuck, but the Wavebird still works great.  I really, REALLY wish that the jump command wasn’t mapped to “up” on the analog stick, but excluding this one issue, the control scheme is simplistic and works well.  The fighting system itself is extremely intuitive, functioning like a more simple version of Ninja Gaiden Black.  The direction you hold the control stick in combined with how long you hold the attack button and how many times you hit it determine which combo you put out there.  While you don’t gain any new moves as the game goes on, the number of moves available to you is more than adequate.

We recently got the second season of Big Bang Theory on DVD, and I feel that it is funnier and better than the first season.  The character development feels very organic and realistic, while the scripts seem to be getting tighter and the story lines are becoming more creative.  I highly recommend you check it out if you have never watched it…it is without a doubt one of the best sitcoms in the past decade.

Oh, and a little hint for all of you: if you buy a Swiffer Duster (which works great, so I recommend that you do), don’t try to put the attachment point on the handle THROUGH the duster…there is a little pocket on the backside that it slides right into.  Yes, I was ridiculed.

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