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December 2006 Archives

December 1, 2006

McCloud's Chapter 5½

If, like me, you've already devoured Scott McCloud's Making Comics and were wondering when he'd get around to posting that elusive 'Fifth-and-a-half Chapter' (focused around online comics production) then wonder no more! He's finally posted it: Making Comics – Chapter 5½.

December 5, 2006

The Organization Man

Apropos of nothing, here's a quote that I like from William H. Whyte's Introduction to his own seminal sociological study The Organization Man:

There are only a few times in organization life when he can wrench his destiny into his own hands—and if he does not fight then, he will make a surrender that will later mock him. But when is that time? Will he know the time when he sees it? By what standards is he to judge? He does feel an obligation to the group; he does sense moral constraints on his free will. If he goes against the group, is he being courageous—or just stubborn? Helpful—or selfish? Is he, as he so often wonders, right after all? It is in the resolution of a multitude of such dilemmas, I submit, that the real issue of individualism lies today.
I think this quote is a more fair and accurate description of life as an Interaction Designer than anything Alan Cooper's ever written.

December 7, 2006

The Organization Man, Pt. 1: The Ideology Of

I'm on a looong flight tonight, from Columbus to San Francisco, via Charlotte. (Yes, I flew an hour East to grab a West-bound plane.) Usually on a flight, I like to keep my reading material light. Super-light... like, Marine Sniper: 93 Confirmed Kills, or Tom Clancy, or anything I think I'll reasonably be able to finish in 10-12 hours of reading (two trips' worth.) For some reason it depresses me to arrive home with a half-finished book, knowing that I'll probably set it aside just long enough for my interest in it to wane.

But tonight I brought along an old nugget that's been gathering dust on my bookshelf since college: The Organization Man, by William H. Whyte, Jr. It was published in 1956, and hailed at the time (and really ever since) as an important sociological treatise. This is not light reading.

Continue reading "The Organization Man, Pt. 1: The Ideology Of" »

December 9, 2006

Returning in Style

I'm headed for home after a 2-day stay in Sunnyvale, and—with the encouragement of my loving wife— I treated myself to a 1st-class upgrade on the leg from San Francisco to Charlotte. (If it'd been a shorter hop, I probably wouldn't've done it but 5 hours is just about right to spare my knees and back.)

It's been a perfectly lovely flight: watched The Illusionist, which I've been wanting to see for some time now. 19th-century Viennese prestidigitation. Spirit channeling. Edward Norton never disappoints, and Paul Giamatti's performance is as rock-solid as Jessica Biehl's ass. What's not to like?

Now I'm listening to the Kinks' Muswell Hillbillies (I'm trying to reclaim my love of the Kinks from lame HP and photocopier ads, so I've returned to the source material on eMusic lately.) Cleaned up my desktop on the MacBook Pro, where I rediscovered a 22-page PDF on the faked Apollo moon landing (seriously, now—how the hell did we ever put that tinny hunk of hand-machined crap onto the moon?! We didn't.) And threw out a bunch of half-completed bittorrent downloads.

Ya know, I'd be a much bigger believer in bittorrent if I could ever get something to download in anything less than 18 hours. Anyone out there have better luck than me? Leave a comment and tell me what the hell I'm doing wrong. I would dearly love to grab a buncha Season 6 Smallville eps to get me and the wife caught up.

It sounds like LeeAnn had a good couple of days while I was away, too. Getting the house a little more organized (we're going to start readying the nursery in January or so—at least ordering things.) The only downside was a couple horrifying minutes when Kirby pushed his way out our front door, past the neighbor and right out onto Ninth street.

Fortunately there was no traffic coming, but then the old fart took off running, with pregnant lady in pursuit. It's a good thing he tires quick. He slowed up and she grabbed him. It all worked out fine, but tales like that make me really hate leaving the family, even for a few days.

That's it! It's been a much more pleasant trip back to Ohio than it was going out. My only worry is that I'll become addicted to the upgrade. After all, I gotta start saving those pennies away for the baby's college fund...

December 11, 2006

Holiday Game Sales

A breakdown of the video game hardware sales for November yields some interesting nuggets. The Gameboy platform, when you combine DS + GBA numbers, is astounding. They're outpacing all other platforms (combined!) by a handy margin. True, it's a bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison (price-and-feature-wise) but interesting nonetheless.

December 15, 2006

Share and Bookmark

I really like the solution that Bombia Design features on their company blog to combat the proliferation of 'Digg This' 'Save to Del.icio.us' options that are plaguing many sites these days.

I suppose one easy way to combat the problem would be to abstain from placing those buttons altogether, but—barring that—this is the next best thing that I've found. A single, simple link that says 'Share and Bookmark.' When clicked, a whizzy litle div drops down with two pulldowns:

Bombia 'Share and Bookmark'

The 'Share With' options are Digg, Slashdot, Reddit, Fark & Newsvine. Your only bookmarking options are Ma.gnolia and de.licio.us. I really like the fact that they've opted out of displaying any overt branding for the various sites supported (that whole 'chiclet soup' look.) I don't like the way that I get javascript errors when I try to use any of the options... but the design is great.

December 18, 2006


My ol' friend Uncle Don is dipping a toe back into the waters of gaming, and makes an interesting connection to the current state of the hourlong TV drama. Several of them seem to be stealing a page from the gaming playbook and presenting looping, non-linear goal-directed plots that require protagonists to “discover objects, negotiate with their owners and determine the object's proper uses.” Don correctly points out that this dynamic is at the very heart of most RPGs and MMORPGs. (FWIW, I too have been watching—and enjoying the heck out of—Daybreak but apparently I shouldn't've bothered.)

This line of observation made me think a little bit about another genre of game: the first-person shooter. (Or, okay, third-person, too—I guess it's the 'shooter' facet that is the germane one.) And how linear and straightforward game objectives tend to be there. I got Gears of War a couple weeks back and I've been picking my way through the campaign game.

(For the uninitiated, the 'campaign' refers to the linear, chapter-based gameplay that you typically work through alone—much like the name implies. Think of it as a military campaign with goals, objectives and enemies that need to be defeated in order to progress to the next 'level' or checkpoint. Many games also feature a competitive mode where you square off against other human opponents. Gears of War has both, and both are fun in different ways.)

In Gears of War, you play as Marcus Fenix, a thick-knecked, tough-as-nails, convict freed from your cell to lead the last of ... ah, nevermind. The point I really want to make is that Marcus' world is a pretty damn simple one. As far as plotline goes, you never really need to be aware of much more than “what's my next objective?” (And if you forget, a quick stab at the 360 controller's Left Bumper always reveals your goals.) This simple model of 'objective based progress' is hardly new to GoW—it's practically a hallmark of the genre.

Halo and Halo2 share the same straightforward linear flow and it can be one of the most frustrating factors of the campaign in those games. Because, while the objectives are usually pretty straightforward and one-after-the-other, the environments that you achieve them in are anything but. Some of my most infuriating minutes (hours?) in the Halo 2 campaign were those times when I knew what was expected of me next, but I couldn't find the damn place on the map to get there. Hours spent wandering some labyrinth full of splattered alien bodies, just because I'd missed the teensy, distant lit doorway that eventually clued me to further adventure? Grr.

But, the simple straightforward linear nature of a game like Gears of War is also one of its greatest appeals. There is something deeply immersive and almost intoxicating about these games, and I wonder if the secret goes no deeper than this: when I'm playing Gears of War, I know exactly what is expected of me. “Progress” is not measured out in teaspoons (or status reports, or ambiguously-worded business agreements.) In Gears of War, progress is a blunt instrument, cracked over the head of some ugly and horrific beast.

The media gives much play to violent aspects of games like this (and I suppose I'm not immune to this—I can say with all confidence that I'm not a violent guy, but Marcus' take-no-prisoners style can be fun escapist fare in small doses.) But you don't hear as much about this other factor playing video games—the comforting and comfortable certainty of your goals and objectives (and, by extension, the methods you typically employ to achieve them.)

Maybe it's just me, cause I'm an old guy and—like most old guys—a bit beaten down by life. But when I'm playing GoW or Halo, for that hour or the occasional two, life just isn't that nuanced. There really aren't 'incidental tasks' in a game like GoW: clear a landing zone; retrieve a bomb; kill the enemy commander. The next thing you're doing is always exactly what you should be doing and it always leads you naturally to the next relevant task.

Cause. Effect. Objective. Resolution. Like I said: intoxicating.

Little wonder that my generation, weaned on Pong and Pac-Man, continues to cling to our love of the game. It's practically the medicinal balm for our continuous partial attention-afflicted, Flow-craving modern lifestyle. I can't imagine that Marcus Fenix, or The Master Chief, keeps a GTD list stuffed between the pages of a Moleskin notebook buried in a hip-pocket of their fatigues. No, the resolution to their problems is usually no further out ahead of them than a rifle-butt to someone else's face. Or clearing that landing zone.

December 19, 2006

A Theory about 'Fables'

My wife got me the new Fables hardcover collection for my birthday (earlier this month.) And it's awesome. I may write more about it later. But I wanted to share a theory that's been nagging at me. If you've been reading the books, I'd be interested in your thoughts. (And I don't think that airing this particular theory is too spoiler-ish, cause it's just that—an uninformed suspicion. A tingle in my gut really. But stop reading if you don't even want to speculate ahead.)

My theory is this. The reason that the Adversary has not yet been willing to launch a full assault on the mundane world? Because he realizes that it's the mundies (the 'mundanes'.. us) that power and sustain all of the Fable lands. With our belief and our imagination. To attack the mundane world would mean the destruction of his own countless conquered realms.

That's my theory.

“Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall (Fables)” (Bill Willingham)

Linebreaks in my Feed

A couple of you have pointed out that my site's feed has—for some time now—been stripping all excess line-breaks out of my entries. After one more gentle nudge today (thanks John!) I decided to do some digging. And sure enough, it was a quick and extremely easy fix. My Atom feed (it's not a public feed, it's the one that Feedburner grabs to generate the public feed) had a couple of key fields with convert_breaks=“0” (I ask you, what the hell kinda default value is that, Six Apart?) So, to my dear feed subscribers: all should be better now, and I apologize for any inconvenience.

December 21, 2006


Our dogs frequently forget the house rules and try to 'smuggle' stuff in from the yard. (Sticks, usually, although you really gotta watch that Kirby—he's shown up with birds, baby possums, and Polly-turds before.)

Usually they're pretty obvious about it and—with a verbal reprimand and a little tap on the rump—they yield up their forbidden treasure, get their feet wiped, and come on into the house. Happy to be inside, perhaps a little forlorn that their treasure has been confiscated. But no hard feelings: they'll get their chance again next time. And I'll be watching.

Last night, however, Dozer got one over on me. He got a forbidden stick past me at the door (I must've been distracted, cause this was a pretty good-sized chewin' stick.) And he got it past me again in the mudroom. That darn dog got it all the way into our living room, where he plopped down with much glee and proceeded to gnaw on it right in front of the TV!

LeeAnn and I were tempted to let him have it (in recognition of his pluck and ingenuity.) But we knew that it would be setting a dangerous precedent for Polly, who is devious by nature. So the stick was confiscated, and back out in the yard it went.

December 29, 2006

First Book

It's been a really nice holiday so far for us: LeeAnn and me, the baby and—of course—the dogs. We spent Christmas Eve down in Caldwell, OH, home to almost all of LeeAnn's extended family (only her parents live away from Noble County.) It was really touching for me to see how happy her aunts and uncles and cousins are for us, and the quiet pride that my mother-in-law takes in LeeAnn's swelling belly.

I should have expected this (I didn't—I'm kinda thick that way) but the baby even got a couple of Christmas gifts, and nothing has made my yet-to-be-born son as real to me as seeing a small rattle, and an oh-so-soft blue onesie with footies. We're really fortunate because our little guy is arriving into the family right in the middle of a mini Baby Boom. His cousins Tyler and Griffin are both about 15 months old which means that LeeAnn's Aunts are getting pretty good at this 'grandma' thing—so they know where all the good baby schwag is.

But one gift hit me like an emotion-filled sucker-punch. LeeAnn's Aunt Lynette got our baby boy a book. A really sweet and wonderful book called I Love You. It's five different stories (by 5 different author/illustrator pairings) and it's a very sweet book. I've only read the first one, but I know that I'll read them all hundreds of times again. So I've got time.

It's not this exact book that hit me, so much as the fact that... my son already has people that love him. And.. for the rest of his life, they'll express this love through gifted books.

I remember what an influence books were on me from a young age, and how some of my favorite books have been gifts. My parents bought me a lot of books when I was young, and my Mom dutifully inscribed them all. The Pokey Little Puppy. A dog-eared copy of The Aristocats. (I've never actually seen The Aristocats, but that worn-out picture book made them as vivid in my mind as any moving image ever could.)

I remember a looong night when I was probably 10. My Grandma bought me a thick paperback edition of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea at a Stuckey's somewhere in Indiana. My Dad was driving us back to Zanesville (in Ohio.) It was probably a 4 hour drive, but in my memory it took all night.

I started the book lying down in the back seat while Dad and Grandma chatted, and I finished the trip reading by flashlight with a punishing headache (would you believe, I think that was the first time I'd ever really felt a headache?) I still have that book and every time I crack its crumbling spine, I'm transported back a quarter of a century. Grandma didn't sign that one, but I have several that she did. She's no longer with us, but her memory is writ large in those pages.

My parents bought books for me well into my teens, and they signed every one. Usually my mom in her loopy little cursive handwriting: “I love you, Mom.” I think I inwardly winced when she wrote inside the cool-as-hell Annotated Atlas of Middle Earth (“But it's in pencil! I can erase it later...” I'm happy to report that I never did.)

Lynette signed her gift “To: Baby Boy Glass, From: Aunt Lynnie, Christmas 2006.” (“That's just how she used to sign my books” LeeAnn said.) My boy's first book. Thank you Lynette, for the best gift someone can give. I hope he has a lifelong love of reading.

About December 2006

This page contains all entries posted to Soldier Ant in December 2006. They are listed from oldest to newest.

November 2006 is the previous archive.

January 2007 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.


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