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Three Years at NetNumber

PUBLISH 5/22

As tradition dictates, as a year passes I must reflect.

What Did I Learn This Year?

  1. Reloading archaic cartridges. In the previous year I had reloaded some fairly modern cartridge to prove out the process (30-40 Krag, 45-70 Government, 7.35 Carcano). This year I loaded .577/450 Martini–Henry and 7.5mm 1882 Ordnance. The 7.5 is pretty straightforward, but the Martini-Henry was a step above that and I am very happy I was able to make a number of rounds that worked flawlessly.
  2. WordPress. I am happy to move on from the old “GhandiBlog” to the sleek and modern wordpress platform. It is a little more pricey, but I have so much more control and way better tools.

What Am I Looking To Explore This Year?

  1. I am looking to continue to grow my panel catalog. For the last two years I have run a panel at ConnectiCon (and this year for the first time at Arisia) on firearm history and federal law. I am looking to create and run more panels this year. Although, given the lack of conventions this year, that may prove to be difficult.
  2. A new computer/VR. My old rig has been limping along for a few years now and I think it is time to take the plunge and upgrade it. I also would like to take the opportunity to get into VR, if only to play Half Life: Alyx.
  3. Books. I have a healthy audiobook/podcast habit, but I am looking to start working down some of the physical books collecting dust on my bookshelves.
  4. Oddball AMV ideas. I certainly cannot win any awards doing something conventional so I have to go for the weird angle.

What did I Fail at This Year?

  1. The downstairs bathroom is still unfinished. I did tear out the carpet though.

Conclusion

Not a whole late has changed from last year. I am not sure if that is concerning or not. Part of me thinks that is fine as I am certainly enjoying the day to day, but the other part of me thinks that is concerning as I should be trying new things.

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AMV: Mobile Suit Jox

This was one of my submissions to Anime Boston 2020. It was not a finalist. Watch it here.

Robot Jox is a 1990s movie about robot “Jox” who pilot giant mechs to resolve territorial disputes. It makes a natural pairing with Mobile Suit Gundam as the conflict between Amuro and Char nicely parallels the conflict of the main characters in Robot Jox. This was an interesting project for me as it was the first time I did a trailer AMV. 90% of this project was straightforward as I just had to match up the trailer footage with scenes from Gundam. That said, there were some tough bits. In particular I had difficulty matching up the lip flaps for a few scenes where characters talk in the trailer.

Overall, I am pretty happy with how it turned out.

Director’s Commentary:

00:00 : I really like how the trailer intro turned out as I got to fill it with a bunch of Gundam specific jokes. I went with a red R style instead of the classic green just to be different. The actual movie is rated PG.

00:19 – 00:21 : A rather famous scene from Mobile Suit Gundam which is a bit of an injoke for fans.

00:29 – 00:30 : I spent a lot of time trying to get this to sync with the trailer audio. I think it is the weakest part of the AMV, but it does work.

00:48 : This particular scene shows up many times in Gundam so I was lucky to find a good spot in the trailer where the audio syncs up so I could use it.

1:04 – 1:05 : In the trailer, the noise is from a giant chainsaw. It was hard to find something that works given Gundam’s futuristic setting. I think this is fine, but I would have liked something better.

1:05 : Shout out to Mr. Skehill, long time fan of the show, for correctly identifying the episode this laugh occurs in so I could use it here.

1:13 – 1:15 : This scene actually ends about half a second too earlier for me. I could have stretched it out, but it would have messed up the audio sync. Luckily I was able to copy that half second from the beginning of the clip and it all worked out.

1:16 – 1:17 : I never liked this scene transition, it always seemed too abrupt.

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One Year at NetNumber

It has been one year of full employment at NetNumber, which means the
revival of the year
retrospectives!

What Did I Learn This Year?

1. Being more efficient programming in Java. Now that my job requires me to
care more about efficiency in the Java language I have picked up a couple new
tricks in this area. Chief amongst them is thread
locals
which are a bit verbose to use, but helpful. I also am getting
better at working with threads which still bend my mind on occasion.

2. I have an expensive gun fetish. It seems I realized this year I I could
buy guns and just like that I went on a bit of a buying spree with an eye
towards many more acquisitions. I think this newfound love is driven by two
factors. One, I have a thing for old rifles which (since they are not making
them anymore) means the stock is always being reduced and the price always
going up. Better to get them now before they get more expensive. Two, the legal
situation may make it so some pieces may be harder to find (e.g. AR-15s) which
again means I should get them while I have a chance. And of course with all
these nice pieces I need a place to use them which lead to me joining a local
shooting club. It is nice, but I wish the range went out farther than ~100
yards. I would like to try some long range shooting at some point. Furthermore,
it would be a shame to have my rights further restricted, so I have joined all
manner of gun advocacy groups (GOA, NRA, GOAL) to protect what I have now. It
remains to be seen how long this expensive affair will go on, but I am enjoying
it so far.

3. I can win AMV awards! This was a
pleasant surprise, especially for such a high profile convention, but I am a
bit baffled about the disconnect between the AMVs I like and the ones that
actually win awards. My tastes may be too eclectic for mainstream appeal. I am
not sure if AMV hipsters exist, but I am happy to pioneer a new subculture.
That said, I plan to keep experimenting and hopefully find a happy medium.
Expect more progress in this area this year.

4. I can work on cars. I have joined a Lemon’s team and we have been working
feverishly for almost a year to get our car ready to race. We should be ready
for our first race in August, but I will not feel comfortable about it until
our car is actually running. That said, I have learned quite a bit about cars
and with that knowledge I feel a lot more confident about conducting repairs.
Luckily for me aside from needing some maintenance and basic repairs my daily
drivers keeps on trucking. I do hate how dirty cars become though. I go through
a lot of gloves when I work.

What Am I Looking To Explore This Year?

1. Ammo reloading. This is mostly as a way to save money as some of the
pieces I shoot can be pretty expensive ($1.70 a round for 30-40 Krag for
example), but I also like the idea of being able to reload what I shoot from a
self sufficiency perspective. This also has some interesting offshoots like
forming your own bullets or brass. For now I have acquired a book and I will be
looking for some local classes so I have a good sense of what I am doing before
investing in some equipment.

2. Some oddball AMV ideas. I have some ideas which are a bit out there as
far as my next AMVs go. I am not sure how that will help me win any more
awards, but they should be different from the usual fare if nothing else.

3. Home improvements. I am looking to tear the carpet up from my lower floor
bathroom in order to make it a little less awful. I also need to do some work
on the shower in there too as the lining is cracked and peeling. The yard also
reminds a bit of a sore spot. I half want to make it very nice and half do not
care. We shall see how it goes this year.

4. Cooking. I have grown a bit tired of my usual recipes. I need to branch
out and find some new flavors. I hoping to solicit some simple recipes from
people I know.

5. Video game development. I keep thinking about video games I would like to
make myself, but I keep not doing anything about it. I hope this is the year I
carve out some time to do some experimenting. I am thinking using unity would
be a good start as it seems pretty feature rich and free.

What did I Fail at This Year?

1. Saving money. Despite my grand plans I am not saving as
much money as I thought. Between unexpected house costs, my gun hobby, and our
race car my savings rate has slowed. This is kind of concerning because I do
want to retire by 40 still, but I also want to invest in my hobbies. It seems
that the hobbies are winning for now, but I am disappointing a bit by my lack
of will to save. I shall think on this.

2. Civil War Reenacting. I keep wanting to do this, but I keep delaying
looking into it. I think this might be the year since it pairs nicely with my
gun habit and new found willingness to spend money on my hobbies.

3. Blog writing. Nuff said.

In summary, I had a really good year. I will work to make this year even
better.

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Three Years at Oracle

Today is the third year of my full time employment by Oracle. And with that
I say hello to Oracle’s one and only longevity perk: five more days of paid
time off a year. Jokes on them though because I rarely take it. Long time
readers of the blog will remember last year’s post on the subject and even longer
readers will remember my first
post about this

Let us review the year.

What Did I Learn This Year?

1. I am addicted to process. I hope to write more about this, but the short
of it is I find myself getting mired in why something happened and how we can
prevent it. Which is helpful in a small way, but in conflict with the guiding
principle of all workers
: getting things done.

2. My patience is growing shorter along with my temper. It may just be a
function of the quantity of work we have left on the project I contribute to,
but I find myself with a shorter and shorter amount of patience each day. The
end result is terser conversations, less guiding hands, and more links to the
development guide.

3. I have a better, if still incomplete, sense of how large scale
applications are built. Before I understood only pieces of the whole. Now, with
another year of experience, I have a much broader and holistic view of the app.
The benefit here is knowing where to put code, not just what to put.

4. The money is in management, but the passion is in engineering. This is
the second year I have split my engineering time with management time.
Management is a lot harder. In some ways, this is frustrating as I much prefer
to be programming compared to making slide decks or charts. On the other hand,
helping keep three sites supplied with relevant work and pushing a project
forward is an interesting challenge. I am not ready to hang up my still shiny
programming spurs just yet, but I understand now why managers make more money
than the people they manage.

What Am I Looking To Explore This Year?

1. Different conventions. Last year we went to DragonCon for this first time
and it was awesome. I want to broaden our horizons and check out some other,
perhaps further away conventions.

2. My investments. I made steady progress this year increasing my
investments. I continue to work with Betterment and I have happily broken the five
figure mark. It is that sixth figure that will be my next challenge. It is hard
to say how much this is helping my ultimate plan, but it certainly
is the right path.

3. Small film projects. Last year I
made my first AMV
which was quite fun, but simplistic. I want to try and
make a few more things this year, AMV or otherwise.

4. Improve my technical skills. Like every year, and like every programmer,
I must continue to improve my technical skills. This year, I am less interested
in the technology and more interested in the design or architecture. To be
sure, I must continue to learn the tools I have at my disposal, but using tools
without purpose is inefficient. I must concentrate on learning how to build
large scale apps so that I can be judicious about the code I write (or need to
write at this point).

Things I Failed at This Year

1. Buying a house. For a second year I remain houseless. This is causing me
increasing consternation, but I remain committed to this campaign. It just may
be I will not find the house that meets my exacting specifications so I must
learn to compromise on some parts or be without home for a very long time.

2. Car maintenance. My car runs fine, and I do change the oil when I should,
but I cannot dodge the feeling that I should be doing more. Everything is still
working, but I feel like I am missing something and it will all fall apart on
me. For sure, the brakes will need to be replaced soon, but how soon is the
part that is vexing me.

3. Writing more for the blog. There are a number of topics I want to
pontificate on, I just need to settle down and get writing.

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The Little Death

I have been growing the neck beard out lately, much to the chagrin of people
who know me. I must confess it does look awful, all scraggly and unkempt. Some
people grow nice full beards, but all mine ever seems to do is grow down, not
out. Still, I have got to make out for my losses up top somehow. I do this
about once a year, partly to see if it looks better (it never does), but mostly
just to prove a point to myself: that I still am myself and not what others
want me to be.

To be a part of a society is to conform to that society. To uphold a common
set of rules and standards. In many ways this is a good thing, you probably
would not like to live next to someone who thought arson was ok. This gives
rise to the good side of society: our laws. There is an inverse side though, an
insidious side: the drive to create automata. Automata (singular automaton), as
Wikipedia defines, is “a
self-operating machine, or a machine or control mechanism designed to follow
automatically a predetermined sequence of operations, or respond to
predetermined instructions”. What is an automaton as it relates to a person
though? It is a person who has lost their identity, who has become what society
expects of them. It is a person who gets married, has 2.5 kids while working 60
hours a week. It is a person who works 40 years and retires at 67, who owns a
house, likes football, and vacations once a year. Yet, despite how negative I
have made this all sound, there is nothing wrong with this if that is what you
want. Not surprisingly, If you were to look at the things I like (football),
and the the things I want (a house), you would see the automaton reflected in
me. Is that what I want or am I just playing along because that is what
everyone wants for me?

This is the the little death. It is the slow subjugation of yourself as you
integrate into a society. Each time you think to yourself, “Well, it is just
what people do.” or “That is what everyone else is doing.” a little part of
yourself dies. A unique piece of the multifaceted color of you goes gray. Make
no mistake, this is what some people who know you want. They want you to be
like them, they want you to like the things they like, to have the same goals,
the same aspirations. They are not evil for trying to do this, it is just their
nature. If that is what you to want, great, but if not, do not suffer that
little death.

So too do I often wonder if the things I like and want our my own wishes or
simply my desire to be part of society. How can I prove otherwise? How can I
prove I am my own man. Simple, do the things society shuns, do those things
that are frowned upon, relish the embarrassed laugh you get when you surprise a
person. Cherish that look of disgust and disappointment. This is not an excuse
to be a bad person, but an excuse to be you. So yes, my neck beard is awful,
but it proves I am me.

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Review: Star Trek Hidden Evil

Star Trek has never had the video game pedigree other Sci-Fi properties,
like Star Wars or Warhammer 40k, have enjoyed. For every well received Elite
Force
or Bridge
Commander
there are a dozen more Away Team and Borg waiting in the Briar
Patch. Sadly, Hidden Evil, a 1999
Presto Studios game, joins this unremarkable bunch. It is short, difficult to
control, and forgettable.

Story

You may be forgiven for forgetting the great contribution Insurrection made
to the Star Trek canon. A film in which the best scene involves Data acting like a life preserver. To
be fair there is probably a decent
episode’s worth
of material in the film, maybe a two-parter. Yet it loses
its way somewhere between Picard and crew becoming leather clad action heroes
and the enterprise being maneuvered by a joystick. Thus, it may surprise you to
realize this game is a sequel to that masterpiece. Our main character is Ensign
Sovok, a human raised by Vulcans. He joins Picard and Data on the planet of the
film to investigate a hitherto undiscovered alien artifact the Son’a and Ba’ku
found while constructing a colony. There is not much story to ruin as the game
is quite short, but suffice to say the Son’a still do not like the peace loving
Ba’ku, Romulans are evil, and the alien artifact is actually really dangerous.
It ends up being pretty well traveled territory, both by Star Trek’s and other
show’s standards. It is enough to move the plot along, but it will never
surprise you.

Gameplay

This is not an action game, despite what the publisher’s screenshots may
tell you. This is an adventure game in the same vein as Grim Fandango. Walk
around, collect items, solve some light puzzles, move the story forward, etc.
Fans of Fandango will find a similar awkward control scheme at work here. Sovok
controls much like that of a high schooler’s car: poor maneuverability, slow
acceleration, and no speed. This is a troubling foundation on which to base a
game that requires a fair amount of phaser shooting. There is some light
auto-aiming going on, but you still have to slowly rotate to face enemies. Your
best tactic is running in circles until they miss then trying to get a quick
shot off. This is if you can remember the key to select your phaser. All your
equipment (tricorder, communications badge, phaser, nerve pinch!) is accessed
via the number keys. This is functional, but every time I wanted to get at an
item I hit the wrong button. Most of these items end up being useless anyways,
occasionally you have to scan the environment, but it rarely tells you anything
interesting. Nerve pinch sounds cool, but it is ridiculously hard to get in the
right position to use it, and the enemy has to be unaware for it to work. Most
of the time you will be blasting away with your phaser. Occasionally you can
pick up a hypospray for healing or another equally powerful weapon, but for
most of the game what you start with is what you got.

Lengthwise You are looking at 9 missions, for about 5 hours of ok to
frustrating gameplay. Everything is pretty easy, except for the last two
missions which have you navigating corridors that look very similar. With no
minimap except for the weak imposter they use with the tricorder in the last
mission. Most of your time in these last two missions will be spent trying to
remember what is where.

Graphics

An unexpected high point. Despite being released in 1999, the game looks
pretty decent. Backgrounds are static in the style of Myst and are suitably
detailed. Actual characters and objects are 3d models which, though rough, are
pretty good for the time in terms of detail and animation. It is a bit of
mishmash putting 3d characters in 2d paintings, but it works.

Music, Sound Effects, and Voice Work

Nothing egregious here, Christopher Gorham, voice actor for Sovok gives an
unremarkable performance, backed up Patrick Stewart (Picard) and Brent Spiner
(Data). The actual plot does not give them much to work with, but you will not
be clawing your ears out either. The music is forgettable, but all the sound
effects from TNG are faithfully replicated. Phasers and transporters sound like
you would expect.

Summary

Overall, its a short game that is occasionally frustrating, but has a
decently moving story and some of your favorite TNG characters. I give it 5 Lt.
Cmdr. Datas out of 3 Stargazers.

Notes

1. If you are going to play this, I recommend this walkthrough. 2. This game
does run on Windows 7, but you must install the packaged version of Quicktime
player and install a NoCd crack. It also helps to run it in Windows 95
compatibility mode. 3. There is no quicksave, it was a 90s thing.

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Elsie Roth

Elsie Roth, my grandmother died April 2. You can read the summary of her
life here.

It is hard to know someone when they live far away. What with my Grandmother
living all her life in Pennsylvania and me in Massachusetts (Mass-a-choo-choo
to some), visits were infrequent. They were always an event with her though. A
consummate host, meals were lavish affairs. Difficult logistically given the
cramped townhouse she lived in, but still quite a production. It is a shame our
visits became more frequent only after she moved to a nursing home. It is hard
to pinpoint when she actually died. We know when her body died, but this
occurred long after her mind. I miss the bright cheer she showed when she saw
me. Always present when I was young, but less and less each visit. It is this
image I remember, not of a person robed of humanity by loss of memory.

She is gone now and we will not meet again. That is ok though, I need not a
physical presence to remember her.

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Thank You Dearly Departed 6870

My short lived Radeon 6870 has gone up to Silicon Heaven. Specifically I had
the XFX HD-687A-ZHFC.

Thank you 6870 for the many days of gaming you provided. Thank you for the
clear Mass Effect 3 performance you gave. Thank you for 349 hours of Company of
Heroes 2 gaming you allowed. Even if you did die during a match. Thank you for
continuing my Counter Strike Source tradition by providing 2.5 half years of
more gameplay. Thank you for letting me experience the Witcher 2 as it was
designed. Thank you for rendering my Vegas projects and for playing all the
high definition content I wanted. Thank you for Rage, Spec Ops: The Line,
Metro: Last Light, Dishonored, Call of Juarez Gunslinger, and Swan Song. You
may rest now that your job is done.

Your successor will continue your noble tradition.

The ASUS GeForce GTX 770 will take your place.

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On The Introduction of the Blog

Welcome to the first blog post of my own little digital journal. I would
like to take some time to talk about myself, lay out the reasoning for writing
this blog, and highlight some topics I would like to cover in the future.

Who is this Guy?

– name: Paul M. Geromini – Born: 11/11/1990 – Education: Primary School, BS
Computer Science UMass Lowell – Residence: Franklin, MA

Why start a blog?

1. I am vain. Look at the name of this site. Committing your thoughts to
some form others can read is an act of vanity, it is showing off. It says one
thing, that I have something so valuable, so important and worthwhile that it
justifies the hardware to show it (the server this blog is on), the electricity
to power the hardware, my money to pay people to maintain the
hardware/electricity, and most importantly, your time to read it. I must have
an incredible sense of self worth to even begin to think such a waste of
resources should be allocated for my ramblings. And yet here we are. The only
explanation is I am so vain that I think others want to know what I have to
say. Hopefully I will be able to justify such an expense.

2. I want to improve my reasoning and communication skills. Did you just
finish reading what I wrote above? It makes sense to me, but I am not sure how
many other people will get it. Either I think my reasoning is so above the
plebeian mind of the readers of this publication that only I can understand it,
or there is something terribly wrong with my ability to convey complex ideas
via words. Regardless the mere act of forcing my self to convert my thoughts to
text should, I hope, improve both my ability to reason through whatever
nonsense dribbles from my brain and my command over the actual mechanics of
writing (spelling, grammar, flow, etc).

3. Owning a domain should improve my technical skills. My job is to make
computers do things and hopefully do them well. The more time I spend trying to
do this the more I realize how much more time I must dedicate to accomplishing
this. By owning a domain I should hopefully be exposed to more unknown
technologies. The more I realized I do not know the more things I can
familiarize myself with.

Why should you read this blog?

Here is the deal, you should not. I am not kidding with you. Look at the
three reasons for starting this blog, do any of them have anything to do with
you? If I could simplify the above a bit more concisely I would say I started a
blog FOR ENTIRELY SELFISH REASONS. I might pass around the
blog link or put it in a signature somewhere, but I can accomplish all the
above regardless of the amount of readers of this blog. I will always have at
least one reader so presumably as long as he is satisfied, mission
accomplished. If however, by some character flaw, you want to keep reading here
are some topics I hope to cover in the future.

– Building a helmet from a paper model This is already mostly done so I will
probably just talk about how badly things went wrong.

– The Paul Philosophy I have opinions on how best to live my life. I will
try and share them.

– Buying a house I want to buy one of these things and I am totally
unprepared for doing so.

– Engineering topics I will take what little I know and try to explain it in
text.

– Video Games/TV/Book Reviews I will try and articulate what exactly I like
or dislike about some form of media.

That is the stuff that interests me. If you want me to write about something
else feel free to write to blog@paulgeromini.com.