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Monthly ArchiveJanuary 2008

Technology by Spencer on January 31, 2008

Ahh… PHP

PHP Logo

As I gear up for my annual NCAA Tournament Pool (details to come closer to tourney time) I have been working on a completely new site design with new features and a more flawless method of keeping the site up to date.  In previous years, the pool program I use would run a scheduler periodically and build all of the web pages for my site and upload them via FTP.  Not an entirely bad solution, except the FTP wasn’t the most reliable and would just die in the middle.  I’m sure this was more of an issue with my free cox.net account than the pool software, but nevertheless I wanted something more.

Low and behold, in comes PHP and MySQL to the rescue.  Now, I can use a database on the web server that will still have to get updated by the scheduler in my pool program (connected via ODBC).  Instead of having to FTP all of the report files, I’ve written PHP functions to connect to my database and update things automatically.  So far everything has tested well and looks good.  I think there are still some reports that will have to get uploaded unless this year’s software adds more information to the database or I work more on parsing through the data currently there to generate all reports myself.

PHP was fairly easy to learn and work with once I figured out how scoping of variables work (quite differently than all other programming languages I’ve worked with in the past) and the speed seems to be reasonable as well.  It reminds me a bit of Java Servlets  in that you use the scripting language to generate HTML code.  I look forward to hopefully enjoying a much more automated pool running experience this year.

Games by Spencer on January 29, 2008

GOTW – Tower Defense

Vector TD

Game of the Week – Tower Defense

Tower Defense is more than just one game, really. It has become an entire genre of games. The overall principle is the same for each: build up a set of defenses against waves of enemies. You earn money by defeating the different levels allowing you to purchase new towers and upgrades. With the dozens of variations out there, most games carry a unique style of game play and offer different levels of difficulty.

The one that got me started and hooked was Vector TD. One of the things I like about this game is that every few rounds or so, you got a “power up” of sorts where you can extend power or range to your defenses, add 5 lives, or add interest to your bank account. While it may be tempting to add power or range, the key is interest and if you only add that and are frugal with your spending at the beginning, you can finish with more money than you know what to do with.

The link above isn’t to one particular game but a repository of most of them out there. You should be able to find a few that you like. 🙂 A couple of suggestions outside of Vector TD:

  • Desktop TD
  • Flash Circle
  • Antbuster
  • Bloons 1 & 2 (TD games based on the Bloons game from last week)

Let me know what you try out so I can as well if I’ve not played it.

News Opinion by Spencer on January 25, 2008

Monte Carlo Hotel Casino on FIRE!

Monte Carlo Fire 2 Monte Carlo Fire

The Monte Carlo hotel and casino in Las Vegas has just caught fire. There aren’t many details right now but it appears to have started near the roof and is going down into guest rooms. The hotel has been evacuated and firefighters are working on it now. It is unknown at this time how the fire started.

UPDATE: As of 12:30 PM PST, the fire appears to be under control and nearly out.

News Opinion by Spencer on January 24, 2008

Economic Stimulus Package

100 Dollar Bill

So, the government has decided to enact an Economic Stimulus package. The package calls for $600 for individuals and $1,200 for couples with an additional $300 for each child for those who pay taxes. I’m guessing we won’t get anything for our kid yet, but the $1,200 extra back of our own money sounds nice.

The checks are scheduled to come out in June or so if the vote goes through this week as expected. It has a wide range of support from both sides of the aisle as both Democrats and Republicans know that if they were to look like the party opposing this, they could pay dearly in November.

I, for one, don’t necessarily agree that the economy is in dire straits. I certainly don’t think the government should get involved in the housing issues out there as the market will correct itself in time. But I won’t be sending back my check either. 🙂

Games by Spencer on January 22, 2008

GOTW – Bloons

Game of the Week – Bloons


Sorry I’m a bit late in this week’s game, but due to the movement of the blog to a new location I’m a little behind.

This week’s game is Bloons, created by Ninja Kiwi.  Bloons is a fun game involving a monkey and some darts (as promised in the previous GOTW post).  The goal is use a set number of darts to pop the required percentage of balloons on the screen.  Each level differs in the number of darts and number of balloons you have to pop.  To add to the fun, there are different types of darts hidden in some balloons to help you pop the rest.  Other balloon types include bombs, ice balloons and for all of us Star Wars fans, a light saber balloon.

This game has become wildly popular that they have created a secondary website: BloonsWorld.  This site allows users to create their own levels and you can play until your hearts content.  Or you can play any one of 3 current player packs of some of the best levels.  There is even a Tower Defense game based on Bloons that is equally fun, and may be covered as a separate game altogether.

So, if you want to monkey around and pop some balloons, head on over to to Bloons and have a blast!

Life by Spencer on January 22, 2008

A Scattered Brain

After about 2 years of blogging (less than regularly at times) on MySpace, I have decided to move my blog to a more permanent home.   This is nothing against MySpace and without it I probably would have never started to blog or have any desire to do more web development at all.

I have recently decided to create a family web space.  I have a grand plan and hope that it will serve as a long time portal for my family to share news/pictures/videos and also allow for family members to have their own web pages if they so desire.

I’m starting mine out with just a blog.  I have taken the time to copy most of the posts from MySpace (not including comments) and will remove the MySpace entries in time.

So, Spencer, where is this new blog of yours so I can keep track?  That is a wonderful question and I’m glad you asked.  The new blog is called (until I come up with a better name) A Scattered Brain.  My hope is to continue or even expand my posting and with a dedicated blog, I believe that will be easier to do.  I still have a bit to learn with all the capabilities and options but I’m excited about the future of this blog.

Bowling by Spencer on January 18, 2008

Just Past Mid-Season Report

So, we’ve just nearly passed the mid point of the season and so far, not too bad. I’ve had a few bad weeks, but for the most part it was pretty nice. I’ve been able to maintain a 180+ average, about 10 pins higher than last season so that’s a positive.

My biggest issue and average killer is my recent decline in spare shooting. Outside of this past week, I’ve been missing about half of my single pin spares. Sometimes I would shrug it off, but then I realized that shooting a single pin spare (no matter the pin) is like shooting free throws in basketball. I have a high standard when I see pro and college players shooting less than 90% free throws and now will hold myself to the same standard. If I can’t make 90% of my single pin spares, obviously I should work on that first and foremost. I can’t expect to strike more than 50% of the time so spare shooting is extremely important. Missing a single pin can account for 11 pins in scoring (the spare + next frame) so it is worth much more than just the single miss. This will be the thing I work on most over the rest of the season.

So, here are my scores for the first 17 weeks. Enjoy.

Week Date Game 1 Game 2 Game 3 Series Series
1 09/05/2007 129 184 135 448 149.33 149.33
2 09/12/2007 146 205 267 618 206.00 177.67
3 09/19/2007 153 155 245 553 184.33 179.89
4 09/26/2007 155 204 207 566 188.67 182.08
5 10/03/2007 172 150 214 536 178.67 181.40
6 10/10/2007 220 195 182 597 199.00 184.33
7 10/17/2007 163 200 185 548 182.67 184.10
8 10/24/2007 171 206 158 535 178.33 183.38
9 11/07/2007 204 181 149 534 178.00 182.78
10 11/14/2007 168 186 186 540 180.00 182.50
11 11/28/2007 193 236 183 612 204.00 184.45
12 12/05/2007 158 141 164 463 154.33 181.94
13 12/12/2007 157 172 193 522 174.00 181.33
14 12/19/2007 151 180 183 514 171.33 180.62
15 01/02/2008 0 0 0 0 DNB 180.62
16 01/09/2008 193 223 169 585 195.00 181.58
17 01/16/2008 227 237 177 641 213.67 183.58

Did you see that last week!!!! I had some lucky breaks in the first two games and some equally unlucky breaks in the third game. Regardless, 641 is my personal best 3 game series so I’m pleased with that. I’ll be even happier if I get another 600 series next week…

Please note, I’m not sure why the table gets a little messed up when it posts, while editing everything looks good. It doesn’t seem to matter how I input the table, so oh well. I’m thinking about moving my blog elsewhere, and this may be the catalyst to do so.

Take care all and have a great week.

Games by Spencer on January 12, 2008

GOTW – Conquer Club

Game of the Week: Conquer Club – www.conquerclub.com

This week’s game is one of my favorite computer hobbies right now and has been for about a year.  Conquer Club is an online version of the popular board game RISK.  The rules are very similar but the developer has added a lot more flexibility.

The first big addition you’ll notice is the addition of dozens of maps.  Instead of just playing on the original RISK board, members of the community have worked hard to create many different and clever maps to enhance the players’ experience.

Beyond the maps, there are countless combinations of game options: 2 – 8 players, team games, fog of war (very difficult, you can only see armies that border your direct territiories), different objectives to win the game, and options for speed and how turns are made.

Trust me, this can get very addictive.  But at the same time, it takes only a few minutes to make a move and then you have 24 hours before you have to make another one (or longer depending on settings).  It is completely free or you can purchase premium membership for $25 a year and that gives you the ability to play in an unlimited number of games concurrently (free gives you 4 concurrent games).  Even if you aren’t or weren’t a big RISK player as I wasn’t, this game is a lot of fun.

If you sign up and choose to play, my user name is sgstanton.  Look me up and we can either join a game as enemies or as a team.

Next week’s game involves a monkey and some darts… if you guess it, you rock!

Happy Conquering and I’ll see you on the battlefield.

Games by Spencer on January 4, 2008

Game of the Week (or longer)

So, as I mentioned in my New Year’s blog, a new feature that I want to start adding is my Game of the Week (GOTW).  This may not be each and every week, but should be fairly regular.  Games can range from different consoles (but right now primarily ones online will be featured) and will be an eclectic collection of old, new, cheesy, and anything else that may be tickling my fancy at the time.  For the first game, I’m reaching way back to the early nineties, well before the popularity of the internet.  So without any further adoo…

GOTW – Legend of the Red Dragon

Legend of the Red Dragon (L.O.R.D.) is probably one of the oldest and most popular games during the height of BBS (buletin board system) access.  First, for those who don’t know, BBS was in many ways the predecessor to the internet during the time that the internet (known then as ARPAnet) was only for use with universities and the military.  BBS systems were always accessed through dial up modem and all programs (known as doors) were text based.  Any graphics had to comply with ANSI characters and you had to have a terminal program that would support it.

L.O.R.D. itself is a text based role playing game.  When you first started, you create a character (magician, theif, warrior) and then you have options to help build up your character.  It’s a little like Dungeons and Dragons but can be played on a much larger scale with people from around town (or more depending on the reach of the BBS).  You would venture into the forest to beat up on creatures and gain gold and experience.  You could slaughter other players in the field, either in an on-line battle or while they were offline as well.  If your character died, when you log on the next day you came back to life so no permanent damage took place.

There was a place to buy weapons, armor, an Inn to rest at night.  Characters could even get married in the game or try to woo the ultimate non-playing character… Violet (or Seth Able if you are a female character).  There were also add-ons that BBS operators could add that would allow an even more diverse virtual world.  All in all, for a text based game, it was and still is a lot of fun to play.

Now that BBS systems are nearly dead, there are only a couple of places left where you can still play L.O.R.D.  The best one I have found is Nuklear LORD and it is free to play.  You can either use telnet in Windows or through a Java browser on the Nuklear website.

Next week I’ll introduce you to an online community game that takes a popular board game and really brings it to the next level.

Life by Spencer on January 2, 2008

New Year, New Blog

Greetings all and Happy New Year.

I hope you all had a safe and fun holiday season.  Mine was very nice and it was awesome to experience Connor’s first Christmas.  I’m sure in the years to come I will love getting to see Christmas through the eyes of a child once again.

This year I have a couple resolutions:

  1. Continue to lose weight.  I’m about 225 right now and would love to get down to around 200 by the end of the year.  I know I won’t be able to change my eating habits too much but will try to eat at home more and exercise regularly.
  2. Blog more.  I know that you all have been eagerly waiting a new blog from me for months so this year I plan to write a bit more and have some ideas for running topics.  I will start doing a “game of the week” (or month or whatever) which will be a link and review to usually simple but fun online games.  Look for the first one next week.  I may also try to get back to more regular bowling updates as well.  However you can always visit here to see the list of scores and records for my team.

I wish you all a terrific New Year.