Friday, December 30, 2005

Happy New Year! (Love One Another)

posted by John Blanco @ 12:19 PM


Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Next Frontier? Zeta!

posted by John Blanco @ 6:09 PM


Anyone who reads this blog probably has no idea about a certain part of my past. In the early 2000's, I worked with an alternative OS called BeOS. I wrote three applications for it -- all very good and very useful, including a Jabber client -- and even got one of the rare jobs in America writing BeOS software. (Qubit Technology)

Now, let me tell you, every time I even say BeOS, I get warm fuzzies. What I don't like is that I can't link it for you because even the Web site is long gone. :-(

Luckily, a company by the name of yellowTab has picked up the source and ran with it!

One day at work, a man named Frank, from yellowTab, IM'd me out of the blue and asked me about some of my prior software. He offered to send me Zeta, the OS, for free, and I accepted.

This was over a month ago -- today, it arrived. :-) So, this could be a glimpse into my future. Will my old apps make it on to the new platorm? Will I go back to C++ development? Will Chess Avatara fail spectacularly, leaving me to make a run at the Zeta platform?

Will Zeta hire me as an Applications Developer? ;-)

For now, I have something to play with...and it will bring back some good memories. The first thing I will install is Firefox for Zeta. :-D

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Rubik's Master in Training?

posted by John Blanco @ 8:52 AM


As of today, I am now able to solve the Rubik's Cube without using the strategy guide, and I can do it under 5 minutes. If I had my original resolution still on my list, I'd have accomplished it before 2006 even began, which is why my time limit is lowering.

Now that I know the moves, I need to work on *feeling* the moves. I'm having to recite them to myself as I do them, and "think" too much about them. I need to push that memory into my hands and wrists, and out of my brain. :-)

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Here's Me Right Now...

posted by John Blanco @ 5:58 PM


I just almost did it! ARRRGGGHHHH!

2006 Statement You'll Never Hear From Me: "I'm bored."

posted by John Blanco @ 8:32 AM


Well, I'llllll be! Merry Christmas, everyone! Michele and I are enjoying a nice, little Christmas morning together. :-) We woke up at about 7:30-ish, and were too excited so we got up and started things off!

The first thing we do -- for the 3rd year running -- is to come downstairs and each other's stockings to fill. (This is not a metaphor.) The first year, Michele wiped me out as her stocking was half full and mine was loaded. Last year, I tried to get revenge by filling her stocking, but she filled one a half stockings! This year, things were finally balanced, as we each filled just one. ;-)

In my stocking, I had tons of the usual chocolate (3 boxes of Milky Way Reindeer!), a Rubik's Cube (SWEEET! See my resolutions!), some Christmas ornaments, the cutest Teddy Bear ever, and more!

For Michele, I got her collectible peanut butter cups with Snoopy ornaments, her favorite car air freshner, a teddy monkey and a teddy tiger and a teddy Snoopy, and Nintendo key chains. :-)


Then, it came time to open gifts. We started with the box of gifts my Mom sent our regret, we didn't realize they were individually wrapped, so they all sat in one big wrapped box instead.

Michele got tons of ornaments from my Mom, including the big honking electric one that was her dream ornament -- it's a NY-ish Christmas scene. :-)

My mom got me a ton of books: Blinded by the Right by David Brock, Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams on Game Design, Rich Dad Poor Dad by Kiyosaki, and The Raw Deal by Joe Conason.

Michele and I also got Trauma Center for Nintendo DS. It's a sweet game about ER work, it's very cool. :-)


Then, we opened up the gifts for each other. I got Michele Toy Story and Madagascar on DVD, along with Mario and Luigi Partners in Time for Nintendo DS. The highlight gift was the super-zoom lens she's wanted for her camera for a couple years now!

For me, Michele got more books -- Java in a Nutshell 5 and Exception to the Rules by Amy Goodman (signed, too!) -- a Daily Kos T-Shirt, an Italian book, Suprstar Saga for GBA, and a bookmark!

Wow -- what great presents! Right now I'm sitting her blogging this at the kitchen table, listening to KOSI 101.1, while Michele is baking cookies to bring over to her parents at noonish.


We love Christmas! It's not about the gifts, it's about the joy and merriment, but reading books and the bankrupting of our country is a nice plus. :-) Plus, Michele's entire family will be at her parents' house, which is always a rare occassion. And soon, I'll call back home and get to hear the joy in New York!


And let me interrupt this Christmas blog for a Christmas message to the Broncos -- congratulations on winning the AFC West for the first time in the post-Elway era and for winning the #2 seed in the AFC and providing Bronco fans with their first HOME playoff game in Invesco history!


Now, back to me...and boy, will I have a busy 2006! These are the books I currently have, that I want to read, that I will begin reading now...which to read first?!?!?!

My Life by Bill Clinton (and it's huge!)
The Truth, With Jokes by Al Franken
The United States of Walmart by John Decker
Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robery Kiyosaki
The Raw Deal by Joe Conason
Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams on Game Design
The Exception to the Rulers by Amy Goodman
Blinded by the Right by David Brock
Code Complete 2 by Scott McConnell
The Pragmatic Programmer by Hunt and Thomas

On top of that, there are books that are coming out this year that I will want, plus books I will be reading from in parts. Among the books coming out this year are the book by Randi Rhodes, Sam Seder, and Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos!

Holy shnikes!

But it's not just books, there are games to play, too! Here are the games I have that I have NOT EVEN STARTED that I'd like to play this year:

Trauma Center: Under the Knife
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Superstar Saga
Mario and Luigi Partners in Time
Final Fantasy II
Guild Wars

In addition, I also intend on getting Final Fantasy IV! OMG! So, as you can see, I have a lot to do...

And of course, there's the little matter of Chess Avatara. ;-)


Well, Merry Christmas to everyone, and I hope you all enjoy the holidays in your own special way -- no matter how that is! I love all my friends and family and hope your days are being enjoyed as much mine are!

To those I won't see, have a happy 2006 as well! :-D

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Marauder's Map Goes Beta!

posted by John Blanco @ 4:37 PM


Marauder's Map is going beta! :-) With all the features implemented on my sheet, and a few tweaks to boot...I'm now in testing mode and when everything is confirmed working, we're good to go!

The above screenshot shows all the rest of the changes from last time. There's now a program icon, two-layer support (so the chairs and table don't need the background copied in to them - awesome!), more view options, solid grid lines (the dashed caused drawing issues), amazing optimizations, and the tile window has now been docked to the bottom of the screen for easier access! :-)

I'm very happy with the results. I'll be able to put this application on Michele's machine and let her work on the tiles while I work on the game again. Come the start of the year, I'll be working on Chess Avatara once again!

"I Don't Care" - Russ Feingold

posted by John Blanco @ 4:32 PM


Political analyst Larry Sabato commented on Senator Feingold's viability in the 2008 Presidential election in an article that came out today.

"Political watchers such as University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato point out that while Feingold's recent stands on civil liberties and the Iraq war may please liberal activists, they may well hurt his chances later on with moderate Democrats and conservatives. "

The Senator's response?

"I don't care,"... "Whatever political considerations I have are absolutely irrelevant to the decisions I make having to do with people's civil liberties and something as weighty as Americans risking their lives overseas. The day that I start think politically about those things is the day I should leave politics."

This is the embodiment of what we should demand from our political leaders. Decision making and real leadership sans politics. Just imagine if all our leaders acted like this rather than worrying non-stop about their political futures.

And, I still think that the Senator can be President in 2008.

Friday, December 23, 2005

S.M.A.R.T. New Year's Resolutions for 2006!

posted by John Blanco @ 6:08 PM


I've completed my New Year's Resolutions for 2006. Every resolution is distinct and measurable. They address .... I hope to accomplish each and every one. And aw-w-w-way we go, in no particular order:

1) Become a dad. (Round 2) :-)

2) Complete Chess Avatara and try to turn a profit.

3) Continue my ban on Wal-Mart. Ban Target. Purchase a membership to CostCo and do my big box shopping there.

4) Volunteering my heart out to get Bill Winter voted into office in the CO-6 district.

5) Witness the 2006 election results at a Democratic party of some type. :-)

6) Read at least 5 political books this year, including My Life by Bill Clinton. (A billion pages!)

7) Register and consult with CSU (Colorado State University) about finishing my degree beginning Fall '06 -- if it's possible.

8) Be able to solve a Rubik's Cube, from any position, in 2 minutes.

9) Make inroads into organizing our finances so that our money works for us, not us for our money! I must take at least 3 concrete financial steps -- including retirement plans and investing -- this year to accomplish this goal.

10) Avoid using an InsureWorx paper cup for the whole year! I've been wasteful. I will use my official InsureWorx ceramic cup instead. :-)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Snack Attack Mutha F***er!!!

posted by John Blanco @ 7:18 PM


This skit is from Saturday Night Live last week. It's an instant classic! it starts veteran Chris Parnell and new cast member Andy Samberg. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Christmas is almost here...

posted by John Blanco @ 7:30 AM


Christmas is just 4 little days away. :-)

With all the shopping done, all the plans in place (except New Years), and 3 more days to finish off Producer Financials here at work -- there's no urgency.

So, what are we up to with 4 days to go...and the week between the holidays....Well, I'm putting the finishing touches on Marauder's Map, the custom map editor I'm writing for Chess Avatara. I just finished the final feature last night! Yes, I had that whole page of features...about 25 to do. And now, it's done! So, for the next several days, I will be testing and pounding and hitting the program to get rid of all the little buggers and so optimization. :-)

So close!

I've also been playing a lot of Nintendogs and Animal Crossing lately! Come the new year, I will re-focus again on another 1-player adventure game...not sure yet...but for now, I'm working on the open-ended ones.


Johnny Damon a Yankee? Bleeeeeeeeeeeeeeech!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Seeing the Streak End: Priceless

posted by John Blanco @ 5:44 PM


Saturday, December 17, 2005 - Bush acknowledges allowing eavesdropping - Dec 17, 2005

posted by John Blanco @ 12:07 PM


Bush acknowledges allowing eavesdropping

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush acknowledged on Saturday that he authorized the National Security Agency "to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations" and said leaks to the media about the program were illegal.

Sources have told CNN that Bush signed a secret order in 2002 allowing the NSA to eavesdrop on Americans and others in the United States who are communicating with people overseas. The story was first reported Friday in The New York Times.

The irony in all this is that the Chimp-In-Chief is *protecting* our civil liberties by *violating* them. Assclown!

The assault on our freedom is not coming from al Qaeda, it's coming from this Administration! Terrorism has been a topic of this country for many years, not just since 2001. You fight terrorism with freedom -- REAL freedom. By being able to investigate what books you got from the library, this is NOT a war on terror.

Why does Senator Ted Kennedy get on the No-Fly list? Something is wrong with this country.

Bush must go. Attacking our country under the guise of fighting terrorism is un-America, completely ridiculous, and a crime against this country.

Whoa, there...

posted by John Blanco @ 7:18 AM


So, I finished up 2 days of meetings at work with an odd sensation. On Thursday, I had a day of eating crap...cereal, a sausage crossainwich, lots of Coke, 4 pieces of oily pizza, and topped it off with Black Eyed Pea!

Needless to say, my stomach wasn't agreeing with fact, I really wasn't hungry at the Pea Friday comes along, we have bagels for breakfast, but -- eh, I'll skip it, I'm not hungry. Then, sandwiches for lunch...still not hungry. By this point, my stomach isn't just feeling unsettled, but I'm getting very weak (no food) and shaky.

The meetings all end at 2, and bail for the day -- proud that I'd stayed, but the ride home was not pleasant. I felt terrible the whole way, and when I got home I just went straight to bed, feeling horrid.

After sleeping for quite a bit, and depending on Iced Tea to get some calories in me, I feel much better this morning -- though I'm still down. I better feel perfect, cause tonight is our Young Dems party at D&B's! :-)

I'll post pics later!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Marauder's Map: First Look

posted by John Blanco @ 9:04 PM


It was some time ago, about 1.5 months ago, when it was determined that I needed to write my own map editor for Chess Avatara. The one I hoped to use, a free download named TileStudio, failed miserably. It was buggy, didn't know how to handle PGN's, and exported MAP files in a manner that was hard to predict.

So, I resolved myself to writing my own. I really hesitated, because I didn't want to spent so much time writing a "tool," but now that I'm near completion of Marauder's Map, I'm happy I did it. It will make level design MUCH easier in the future!

Here's a first look at the application. First, it's written in pure Java. Second, it uses a JDesktopPane to make an MDI look-and-feel. What you see in the screenshot are two maps, one is a saved file and the other is new. I created both maps by selecting tiles from the selected tileset (does not appear), and did the save on one.

Marauder's Map does in fact support saving and exporting! In fact, the export filename is given in a properties window (does not appear), and so everytime you save the file it will automatically export. Neat don't have to worry about forgetting to sync them.

If I wanted, I could make maps right now for Chess Avatara, but there's some work left to do. First, I have a page full of bugs/features I need to address. The application has gotten a lot prettier over the last day, hence my willingness to do a screenshot. :-) Dialogs have been organized, the grid lines cleaned up, the internal windows of the MDI are auto-sized, and more. Still, I need to validate that the multiple windows don't conflict...and little details like when you close the tileset window, then try to open it again -- but it won't -- those things need to be cleaned up, too. ;-)

Once done, I will sync the new export data format to Chess Avatara, and we'll have maps! Then, finally, I can get back to work on Avatara...with my first added feature being a chat system. (Cause it's fun!)

Making progress, baby....

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Broncos Come Up Aces!

posted by John Blanco @ 6:48 PM


The dream scenario for the Broncos happened today: Broncos win, Chiefs lose, Chargers lose! The Broncs now have a full 2-game advantage on the division. No one could have forseen the 10-3 start they have! Wow! Color me impressed!

With the division all but locked up with 3 weeks to go, and the Colts clinching homefield, our full attention now goes to the Cincinatti Bengals. The Broncs and Bengals are battling for a playoff bye in the first round...and a second round home game which would likely lead to a Colts matchup in the Championship game. If the Broncos can win at least 2 of their last 3, ending up at 12-4, they will likely win the bye. (They own the tiebreaker with the Bengals right now.)


In non-football news (as if that could exist), Marauder's Map is near completion! This week I will be working on a list of enhancements/fixes/etc to bring the program to a position where I can use it effectively to create Avatara maps! I made great progress today (open/save/export functionality got in there quickly thanks to Serialization!) and can actually make the right files for Avatara...but the program is rough around the edges, and needs cleaning.

In game news, Nintendogs and Animal Crossing are progressing nicely. :-) Michele and I have unlocked 6 dogs, and I've now caught up to her in training points after being 4,000 back! I just finished paying off the first AC mortgage, but I got work to do now...Mobat has speeded past us in a huge way, as he's finished the second mortage! (125K)


Lately, I've been working more on Marauder's Map so i can get back to the fun work of Avatara -- and catching up on my new political subscriptions to The Nation and Mother Jones. Awesome buy for me! Love em. :-)


I've also gotten on the Bill Winter for Congress volunteer train. My mission right now is to keep tabs on Tom Tancredo, who holds the CO-6 seat now for the Republicans. We have a leadership meeting next week, and I hope to attend.

Yesterday, Michele and I went to our first "Second Saturday Forum," which is a monthly Democratic meeting that features breakfast and guest speakers. We enjoyed bacon, sausage, hash browns, pancakes, and OJ while watching the CO-7 Democratic candidates, Perlmutter and Lamm and Rubinstein, debate it out. It was a good meeting, the debates were not such -- no attacks -- and everything went splendidly. I hope to attend more of these in the future. (At $10 a head, maybe not every month, though.)


Now, 14 minutes til Family Guy. Time to get back on AC and do some fishing. Catch ya tomorrow.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

John Lennon - 25 Years Since...

posted by John Blanco @ 11:10 AM


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Slacker's Haiku

posted by John Blanco @ 7:35 PM


Nintendo DS
Rocked my world and sucked me in.
Avatara late.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

122 Stars

posted by John Blanco @ 8:03 AM


I have 3 more starts to find in the levels of Super Mario 64 DS. :-) I'll have 125 when done. After that, I'll try to get some 100-coin jobbies...after that, I can quit. :-)

Monday, December 05, 2005

Super Mario 64 DS Solved

posted by John Blanco @ 7:39 AM


I've solved Super Mario 64 DS. Wow! The interesting thing is that years ago, when I first saw Mario 64 on a dormmate's machine, I thought it was amazing. Eventually, I got my own N64, and bought the game. I played it at times, but never got very far at all...I always remember the ? boxes being translucent, and I always remember having accomplished finding only a few stars. (There are over 120 to find.)

Since that time, I sold my N64 and all the games to my ex -- and so never came anywhere near solving Mario 64. After buying it for the DS, I found 13 stars, and then kinda lulled again...

But -- I picked it up, and once I got into it, I couldn't stop. Just as k the Yog. :-) I solved the game after finding 81 stars (you only need 80 to do it), but I spent additional time finding more stars cause the levels are so fun and challenging -- especially with the DS control scheme. (Wrist strap madness!)

I ended up with 101 stars. I'm still working on some of the levels, but pretty soon I'll likely quit as many of the stars are unaccountable and I can't remember which ones I need. Long story. :-) Great game, though. Love it.

Now for Nintendogs...OH...BTW...Michele unlocked the Pug! :-)

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Looking Back on my 2005 New Year's Resolutions...and the Year That Was.

posted by John Blanco @ 6:38 PM


A year ago, I posted my 2005 New Year's Resolutions. Now, a year later, I look back on them, as well as the year in general.

1) Become a dad.

Of all the resolutions, this was the most out of my control. (For the most part, anyway...wink, wink) Unfortunately, nothing to report so far. Michele and I are still trying though. And heck, we still got a month left, no?

2) Read and Understand "Head First Design Patterns" inside and out.

Done and done. This happened quickly...I finished the thing in a week! I learned a lot and have tried to apply them as much as possible. Some patterns came easily, others I haven't had the chance to work out in practice. But my mind is thinking the right way...and this is a good thing.

3) Start and Complete the Taliant Phlasher's Notes.

Amazingly, I did in fact do this! There's no official document, but check out the next resolution. I maintain on my machine at work a UML document of common tasks and their API. This is a great way to manage this kind of reference, and I didn't forsee it last year. My notes have scored me loads of saved time...and I hope to reinforce these notes even more this year!

4) Master UML.

Well, I didn't master UML...but, it turned out to be impossible. What I did, however, is learn Class Diagrams and Sequence Diagrams very, very well and I actually draw them in sketch. The days of learning and forgetting over and over seem done...and UMl is now in my brain. :-)

Will I ever master it? I guess I'd have to be at the right company. We just don't use it officially at InsureWorx, but I do use it work AND with my personal projects. :-)

5) Earn a promotion at work.

Yes. :-) A few months in to the year, I was promoted to Senior Software Engineer and given a raise. :-) I'm actually still underpaid, so hopefully another raise will come this year?

Also, when the new teams were formed, I was given a spot on the Base team, which is an ideal position at any company. Directing the technology is a big responsibility. While the team hasn't been as revolutionary as I'd's still pretty sweet.

I look forward to a possible techonology change this year (JSF?) and hopefully another promotion or raise.

6) Complete at least one serious game project as part of a Bite Size Studios launch. (Counterpart not included)

This was half done. :-) First of all, Bite Size Studios is dead. Combine a graphics artist who fell off the face of the Earth (Al) and a slacker sound designed (Sam) and you get a dismantled project. As I was the only one doing any kind of work, I decided to just do it all myself.

Counterpart was completed and shipped. It sold 0 copies. The cell phone market is not what I expected. People want some flare, they merely want to show off their phone to their one wants any kind of serious game. Oh, well.

But, a new, and definitely large-scale project did start...Chess Avatara. It wasn't BSS, but ya can't forsee that...the key is that I'm working on a large project and it is fun and good. :-) It's killed me emotionally at times, but I know that when it comes time to call it gold, it will be a satisfying thing and a great memory in my life!

7) Learn Pixel Art.

Done. I actually used some of my new skillz to design my cool Democrats logo in Mario Kart DS. :-) Counterpart also got some snazzy graphics, for a beginner anyway, and hopefully Chess Avatara will see the same once I start working on them.

8) Give a smiling "Hello," to a stranger (walking down a hallway, on the street, etc.) at least once a day.

I actually did this. What I learned is not everyone had this same thing on their list. :-) And note to self...don't tell jokes to Target employees. Michele saw the carnage first-hand today...the guy didn't make a sound.

9) Engage in one conversation per week with a stranger or unfamiliar co-worker in the office.

As above, I did this...but it didn't always work out. :-) The good news is that I now talk to my co-worker sitting in the cube in front of me. Of course, the old guy left...but the new guy is quite talkative.

10) Perform at least 5 acts of charity.

DONE! It all came in the form of monetary donations, but you'll be seeing on my 2006 Resoutions that more activities will take their place. Here's the 2005 list:

* Donation to Cindy Sheehan and the Crawford Peace House.
* Donation to the Democratic National Committee.
* Donation to UNICEF for Tsunami Relief efforts.
* Donation to the Red Cross for Katrina Relief efforts.
* Donation to the homeless shelters of Colorado.

11) Reach the 175 pound mark.

Close! I'm at the 180 mark. My diet took me down 18 pounds and is quite easy to maintain. :-)

12) Declare a "faith." (Deist, Agnostic, Atheist, etc.)

I believe I'm Deist -- but I still don't know -- so I guess I'm agnostic. While I don't *believe* in a God, I am definitely believing that *something* started life...and that *something* did not create humans.

And this God who created life is not around to help us -- so stop praying for a new video game this year, would ya please? :-)