Review: Gran Turismo 5

(Editor’s Note: I originally started this draft about a year after Gran Turismo 5 came out.  Most of it still applies; some of the gripes were corrected in Gran Turismo’s most excellent next release, Gran Turismo 6.)

What can I say about Gran Turismo 5, a game that was in development for five years; a game that charged $39.99 for its demo download three years ago?


GT5 EU Box ArtIs it cool?  Yes, it’s cool.  But then again, I grew up playing Gran Turismo — I probably racked up 100’s and 100’s of hours on Gran Turismo and Gran Turismo II alone (Gran Turismo III and IV, I never played much, and I regret that — III was apparently one of the best games ever released on the PS2 during the 2000’s).  GT5 could be nothing more than a port of Gran Turismo IV for the PS3, and I’d still love it.  I’m probably not the best person to judge whether or not GT5 is cool.

Does it look good?  Yes, it looks great.

Does it have lots of badass cars?  Check.

By this point, with all the hype that’s been built-up about this game over the years; all the stories of just how maniacal the creator, Kazunori Yamauchi, was in making sure that GT5 was going to absolutely perfect; all the stories of how imaging each car for GT5 was taking 10 times as long as it took to image a car for GT4 (which itself took 10 times as long to image for as it did GT2)…

With all this hype, how could GT5 possibly make anyone happy?

The Bad

The loading times are horrendous. (Try about a minute of waiting, every time you start a race.)

The selection of cars is limited, and the “full resolution” cars, new for GT5, is maybe 10-15% of the total cars.  The rest are all ports of the GT4 cars, and the much poorer graphic quality of the cars can show.

The Good

All right, but it’s not all bad.  Most of the graphics look amazing on the PS3.  And finally, finally, FINALLY, there’s a multiplayer network option!

Yes, the dreams you had when you were younger of playing Gran Turismo verses races from all around the world is true, and it’s great.

Not only that, but you can play with your close friends and family on the Playstation Network, and can gift cars to them (great for giving your fiends a leg-up when they first start playing).

Final Word

Is it worth it?

If you want to play Gran Turismo on the PS3, it’s the only way to do it (unless you’re going to pop in an old copy of Gran Turismo 1 from the PS days).

Was it worth the wait, though?

No — no game should take five years to come out, past the point of the first demo.  No game should ever charge for a demo (and nearly a full price charge, too).

Ugh.  Just ugh.

On Healing

Getting better is a wonderful thing.  You start getting your strength back; you start feeling more like a human being again, and less like a patient.

Within a few weeks (just like I said), you’re beginning to forget about how sick you were.  The memories begin to fade.  You start moving on.

But you’re never the same.  (And that’s not always a bad thing.)

You can’t look at the world the same way again.  The things that used to bring you joy, still do, but in a different way.  You savor them slightly differently.

Even when you’ve made a full recovery, you’re always slightly worried about getting sick again.  You now know you’re not immortal, and that thought tints everything you experience from this point on.

It’s not grief–it’s a different sort of feeling.  It’s just a nagging, unplaceable, unstoppable worry.

Depending upon the vector that made you sick in the first place, you’ll always be thinking of it.

If it was melanoma, even if you bring yourself to be able to go out in the sun again, you’ll be constantly paranoid about it.  You’ll wear SPF75 sunblock and wear hats and long sleeved shirts, even to the beach.

If it was influenza, you’ll be scared of large crowds.  You won’t look at door handles the same way.  If you’re at a restaurant, and your waiter coughs, you’ll want to leave.

If it was something terrible like food poisoning that stayed with you for a while, you probably wouldn’t be able to go to a restaurant at all.  You’ll cook your own food in a hermetically sealed kitchen until you either get over it or until some event or occurrence forces you to eat food prepared by someone else.  (And then you more than likely won’t get sick again, and you’ll be fine.)

But that’s what it’s like.  That’s life.  I imagine that’s why therapists exist.  Even after a traumatic occurrence in your life is over, the mental and emotional issues just stick around for a while.

Time helps.  Distracting yourself helps.  It helps if you have a social circle of friends and family to depend on, as the social drama from keeping these relationships healthy can take up enough of your time that you no longer have the time to worry.

Sometimes it helps to make a big change in your life at this point.  Something to make you feel like what you just went through was significant in some way.

If you’ve been thinking about quitting your job and working somewhere else, now is the time to do it, especially if you haven’t been able to psyche yourself up before this point.

If you’ve been thinking about moving, now might be the time to do it.

If you’ve been putting off some big project in your life–what the hell, why not start now?

I imagine I’m not the first person to come to that realization.

I really should’ve wrote about it. (Part III)

(Continued from Part II…)

(If I’m coming back to this article at some point in the future, this is where I need to remind myself to go ahead and skip ahead to the end section, “Getting better.”  That’s where the happier stuff starts.)

Well, this time I was going to make sure this never happened again.  I went and got my checkup at the same clinic three weeks later, where they scanned me for pneumonia by x-ray and found no evidence of it.

There’s actually a pneumonia vaccine, too — typically only recommended for the very young or those with other chronic health problems (just so that if you ever have to go to the hospital again, you don’t have to worry about getting pneumonia while in a hospital bed, along with everything else you’re having to deal with).   So, I got that, just to be thorough.

I started being very clean and washing my hands all the time, using alcohol-based hand sanitizers, etc.  I got the flu shot every year for the next five years, right as soon as it was available, in early September.  I ate right and tried to exercise.

I figured that, even if I did somehow contract influenza again, it probably wouldn’t turn into pneumonia, because I had the vaccine, right?  I no longer considered myself invincible, but I surely didn’t go around fearing for my health all the time.

Getting pneumonia twice was like getting hit by lightning twice, right?  I couldn’t possibly get it a third time.

Well, it looks like I did.

Present Day.

This year, 2015, the flu vaccine didn’t cover all the strains of flu that got around into the general population. Or there was a mutation late in the year and even people who had gotten the flu shot started getting the flu.  Either way, about two weeks ago, I started having chills, and body aches, and knew immediately that I had to take action.

So, I went into full flu-preparation mode.  I went to the clinic, and even though I turned up negative for the flu (via the big nasal swab q-tip test), I was prescribed tamiflu, and an antibiotic.   I went to the pharmacy, got my prescriptions, got lots of fluids, and prepared to just get over it, like everyone else does.  My fever started going higher, but I was able to keep it down with fever-reducing drugs.

However, I wasn’t getting any sleep.  My sleep was fitful and bothered.  I coughed.  The fact that my new job requires me to be on call 24/7 during a week every two months, and that of course my on-call week started simultaneously when I started coming down with flu symptoms didn’t help either.   (When you’re in a rotation of on-call personnel, and your week comes up, you don’t get out of it unless you’re either dead or in jail, and I was neither at this point.)

Good sleep is important to getting over any illness — it’s said it gives your immune system time to repair and restore, and I wasn’t getting any of it.

So, seven days later, instead of being completely over everything, I was still sick.

Back to the clinic.

My on-call week being over by this point, I told my boss I was going to be out for a while, and I didn’t know when I’d be back.  I go back up the clinic, get checked out again… and this time it looks like I’ve got pneumonia.


Even though I’ve had the vaccine, it looks like I still got it.  The doctor prescribes me a stronger antibiotic, I get it filled, and go home to rest some more.

Two days later I had no fever anymore, and felt like I had more energy.

I’m writing this now, after I’m pretty sure the pneumonia’s cleared up.  It’s been five days since my fever broke after being put on a stronger antibiotic (the first batch that I was put on at the clinic either wasn’t strong enough, or wasn’t going to go on long enough to clear everything up).

I’ve had a minor scare with some of the medication I was on — something was causing an allergic reaction, so I’ve had to stop some gradually to see if things get better.   I know in the grand scheme of things — ending up in the hospital and all that — a mild allergic reaction is no big deal.

But I’m still worried.  And scared.

Getting better.

I imagine this happens to most people who go through some sort of health scare — you’re worried you’re not actually getting better, and that you’ll relapse.

You’re worried that even if you do get completely better, the same thing will happen to you again in the future, and you’ll be a burden to your loved ones again.

Getting very badly sick, even if you recover from it, saps you of confidence.  If fills you with doubt.  It makes you depressed, which is as much as impediment to recovery as anything else you encounter.

I know I’ll get over it all soon.  I know I’ll be healthier, and have my strength back, and in a month or two or three, I won’t be thinking of this every single day.

Having people in your life who love and care for you helps.  I have Nina.  Without her I wouldn’t know what I would do, and she helps me find reserves of strength I had in me that I didn’t even know was there.

So, I’ll get better.  There’s things I know to look out for.  More drugs to add the list of medications to warn doctors about.

The pneumonia vaccine is supposed to have a booster after five years, so I’ll make sure and get that after I get better.  I’ll make a new appointment with my doctor for some time in the future, and talk about what risk factors may have led to this.

The good things are this — this time, when I get better, I will have gotten better without having to go to the hospital.

That proves I can do it.  Every time I get pneumonia I learn more about it, how to handle it, and what to look out for.  I’ve learned a few things about what not to do (like the safest thing to take for a fever is just plain ibuprofen, did you know that?).

Maybe it’ll happen to me again, maybe it won’t.  Maybe medical science will advance to the point where even if I do get it, a single shot of nano-bots or something will take care of it for me.

So, if you’re reading this five, seven, ten years from now, Me, know that you’ll get over it.

I really should’ve wrote about it. (Part II)

(Continued from Part I…)

Pneumonia Redux.

Around about the same time of the year (March-April), but seven years later, I came home from work one day just feeling like a general pile of crap.  My whole body hurt. (I had no idea why.)

The weirdest thing was the chills.  I was just cold.  I couldn’t seem to get warm enough.  I was fully dressed, and then Nina and I started wrapping me in as many blankets and bathrobes as we could find, and I was still just shaking and cold.  That lasted for about a night, and then I just kind’ve went downhill from there.
I had a high fever, that I could only keep down with fever reducers (otherwise it would be up near 103).  I was feeling weak.  I had a dry, unproductive cough.  My head ached.
I had influenza, which that year, 2010, was the nasty H1N1 strain — highly contagious, very nasty.  But I had no idea just yet.
I had never gotten my flu shot before, no — of course not!  I was still invincible.  “Who needs flu shots?  Old people and the crippled. I’ll be fine.”
Well, after about a week I still wasn’t getting any better.  My fever was still high, and I was still feeling like crap.  So, not feeling quite like I needed a hospital just yet, I drove up to the new urgent clinic place in our town.  Bigger than your local doctor’s office, but not as big (or as expensive) as a hospital.
There they did a “nose swab,” which is exactly what it sounds like — a giant q-tip stuck up your nose into your nasal cavity.  (I was given no warning about it, and it was surprising.)
Then, after about 15 min, the nurses and doctor come back into the room wearing face masks cover the lower parts of their faces… and then I knew something was up.
I had the H1N1 strain of pneumonia, which that year was making all the headlines.  Lots of people in the prime of their life were getting very sick, and sometimes even dying.
I was not prescribed Tamiflu (an anti-viral medication), because it’s typically only given in the first few days or so when you get the flu, or else it’s usually seen as not being worth it.  I was given an antibiotic to, I guess, help prevent pneumonia, and sent home.
Two days later I wasn’t feeling any better at all, and honestly felt like I was getting worse.  My fever was still sky-high, I had no appetite, and I just felt like the life was slowly draining out of me.  At this point I had been terribly sick for about nine days total, and I knew something was seriously wrong, and that no amount of rest at home was going to make it go away.
So, even though I didn’t want to, again I went to the hospital in town.
I don’t really want to talk about this part much, but I should.
There I was diagnosed with severe dehydration (which wasn’t doing my healing any good), as well as with pneumonia.  My white blood cell count was extremely low (which measures your ability to fight off something making you sick).
I was still active with the flu, and the nurses were still wearing masks.  I was given my own private room at the end of the hall due to my contagiousness, and started being pumped full of saline and intravenous antibiotics.
The next two days aren’t very fun, but pretty much follow that.  If you’ve ever spent time in a hospital you know the drill.  There’s people checking your intravenous drips, people checking your temperature, every four hours someone is taking your blood, you see the actual resident doctor maybe once of twice while you’re there — that’s about it.
(Hospital food is never very great, and I imagine in the South it’s even less great.  I couldn’t eat much, and the fare being put in front of me, which reminded me of the cafeteria food of my youth, wasn’t helping any.  I mean, I don’t expect to be fed like a king, but even something simpler, like a simple stir fry, or just something like vegetables without a huge nasty piece of ham mixed in with them shouldn’t be too much to ask for.)
I honestly thought I was going to die in that hospital, and I’m not ashamed to say that.  There was a moment when I had asked the resident nurse what the doctor had said about my condition on the second day there, the doctor was busy, so she relayed the information to me — my pneumonia had apparently spread to both lungs, and they prognosis wasn’t great.
But, I guess my numbers and figures started showing better numbers and figures by the next day, and they discharged me after just two days.  It took about a week for me to start feeling normal again, and I was able to sleep well for about two weeks, but I got through it.
Was the nurse wrong?  Was she talking about another patient?  I’ll never know.
Life and death.
When I was in the hospital, I started thinking about what I was putting Nina through — her having to see me in the hospital bed, not really able to do anything, having to travel back and forth to our house to take care of our cats and dogs.  Her having to sleep on the second hospital bed in the room, which I know she didn’t like, but that I’m glad she did.  I thought about what she would do if I did die, if I just kept getting worse and worse and never recovered.  I didn’t want to put her through that.  She’s tough, but life is easier when you’re able to travel through it with other people.
I’ve always talked the tough talk about death to other people — “I’m not afraid,” and the like, but when you’re actually confronted with it, it’s different.  It’s easy to not be afraid of something when it’s distant, and far in your future, but when it’s staring you in the face, it’s different.   It’s harder to keep a stiff upper lip about it.
It’s not impossible — there are people out there who curse Death in his face down into their very graves, but those people are far and few between.  I’m sure they mostly exist in works of fiction, to be honest.   Most people are scared, and lonely, and don’t want to die.  There’s nothing wrong with feeling like that — it’s normal.  Nobody wants to die.

(Continued in Part III…)

I really should’ve wrote about it. (Part I)

Five years ago I wrote this blog post, with the intention of writing more later on:


There, interspaced between two random blog posts (one about some upgrades I was doing to my car and one about a joke, one-off version of Left 4 Dead made up in retro-NES style) was an entreaty to myself to try and get my thoughts down on paper about what I had just gone through.  To look back and reflect on what had just happened to me, because I had had a lot to think about recently.

Unfortunately, I never did.  And I really should have — it would’ve helped me when I went through it again, recently.  This time, hopefully, it doesn’t seem like it was as bad.  But I still could’ve used the strength.


There, I  said it.  I don’t even like saying the word, as if it had some evil power over me, and that by naming it I get its attention.  I don’t like thinking about it, or talking about, and five years ago, I thought I was through with it forever.

Perhaps this is why I never wrote about it five years ago — I was healthier, I had recovered — maybe I just wanted to put the entire thing behind me and just forget about it.

I’ve had pneumonia three times in my life now, and I’m only in my early 30’s.  Most people never get it, and usually only when they’re very young or very old.  It’s an ancient disease — the ancient Greek surgeons knew of its symptoms, and when the symptoms were fully actualized, it’s terrible mortality rate.  It’s been called “the Captain of the Men of Death,” and in the 1800’s, was responsible for the death of millions

I first was diagnosed with pneumonia when I was only 21, in the prime of my health.  I was healthy, happy, and newly in love.  It seemed like nothing could stop me.

Even so, it’s not like I led an unhealthy life, even back then.  I didn’t eat to excess.  I’ve never smoked.  I’ve never drank alcohol so much so that it’s a part of my life.  I don’t have a job or career that causes me to be exposed to harmful chemicals, or dusts, or inhalants.

Even so, when I was just 21, I started getting sick at school (I was going to college at the time).  I lacked energy, I didn’t have much appetite, and I’m pretty sure I was running a fever (my future wife Nina and I were poor college students back then, so I’m not even sure if we owned a thermometer).  Eventually I was so weak couldn’t get out of bed, and when I breathed in I had a terrible pain in my right side.

Luckily, I was still a member of my parents’ health insurance plan, so at the urging my parents and Nina, we rushed to the hospital late in the evening.  There, quickly in the emergency room, I was x-rayed, diagnosed with pneumonia (of all things!), given a massive shot of direct antibiotics, and sent home with a 10-day prescription of keflex.

Within about 2-3 days I was better.

That’s what I don’t get the most about pneumonia.  “Captain of the Men of Death,” indeed — it certainly makes you feel like the life is draining out of you.  And today it’s cured by a quick shot of antibiotics, and a take-home prescription.

I got better, got over it, got married, finished college, got my first “real” job, and went on with my life.  For seven years I never had to think about it.

(Continued in Part II…)

Using Dreamhost’s VPS as a MySQL Server

[Editor’s Note: Dreamhost no longer allows sudo access on their VPS servers, so the below is no longer possible. If you’re reading this, you might want to check out Amazon’s AWS. Nowhere near as user friendly as Dreamhost, but MUCH more powerful.]

I’ve been a happy customer of DreamHost for many years now — for $9.95 a month, I was able to get loads of diskspace and unlimited bandwidth, all from a great company that was staffed by great people who were very technically competent.

It is “shared hosting,” however — that means you’re getting it that cheap because you’re sharing server CPU power, available RAM, etc, with many other people who are also getting a great deal. You’ll notice this in any WordPress sites you may run on Dreamhost’s shared hosting — there’s about a 7-10 second delay between when you navigate to your site and when your page actually loads, mostly because your server processes are waiting in line behind everyone else’s.

So, Dreamhost does offer a “VPS” service — with this, you’re getting an absolute amount of RAM, CPU power, etc, that will only be used for your sites. It’s a tiny bit more expensive, at $14.95 or so a month, but it’s worth every penny.

If you’ve run WordPress installations on a Dreamhost site, though, you know that your mysql databases are on a seperate server entirely, and that may slow things down as well. Even if you move your WordPress installs to a VPS, your mysql databases will still be on shared hosting. DreamHost offers a “MySQL VPS,” but it costs another $15 a month (minimum), and you have no control over it at all.

A better solution would be to run your own MySQL server on DreamHost’s main VPS, since they give you root command-line access. There are a few hiccups in this process (some put there by DreamHost itself), but otherwise you should be able to do it.

  1. First, create an admin user for your VPS that has sudo abilities, and log into your VPS with that through ssh.
  2. Second, you have to tweak apt so you can even install the mysql-server package. It appears as if part of installing packages through apt involves temporarily storing files in /tmp and then running them from there.Unfortunately, the /tmp directory is mounted on DreamHost’s VPS servers with the noexec option, which means that you can’t run files that are present in that directory. That basically prevents you from installing the mysql-server package until you tweak apt to temporarily stage files in /var/tmp instead. Do this by:Creating a file called apt.conf in the /etc/apt/ directory, and edit it so the contents are the following:
    APT::ExtractTemplates::TempDir "/var/tmp";
  3. Then, install the mysql-server package:
    sudo apt-get install mysql-server;

    (When it asks to set a root password, make sure and set one.)

  4. Now, edit the file /etc/mysql/my.cnf and set the following options:

    (Replace psXXXXX with the name of your dreamhost VPS.)

  5. Restart your mysql service:
    sudo service mysql restart

At this point, you should be able to log in to your new mysql server:

mysql -u root -p

and then perform what SQL functions you need to.

A great thing to do is to install phpmyadmin using the tutorial here:

First you’ll want to create a user (that isn’t your root user) to log into phpmyadmin:

mysql> CREATE USER ‘newusr’@’%’ IDENTIFIED BY ‘your_password';

At this point, you can sync your old databases to your new mysql server using the built-in sync tool that’s in DreamHost’s installations of phpmyadmin.  Then, just edit the wp-config.php file in the folder of your WordPress installations, and change the line that says the following to your DreamHost VPS:

define('DB_HOST', '');


Installing mysqld on Dreamhost VPS



Review: The Peripheral

The Peripheral
The Peripheral by William Gibson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Probably the book I’ve most loved from William Gibson since his earlier work — while not giving up on the, ahem, “different” style from his later work, he seems to have blended it with the futurism of his earlier 80’s work to make something entirely new and refreshing refreshing.

Taking place in two different times completely (15-20 years in our future, and about 70 years on from that), the book features the plot device of time travel, but in a way that doesn’t break the laws of causality — each world is more like its own universe within the multiverse. The denizens from the earlier time are used as a form of labor — think Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.

While all of Gibson’s books seem to end suddenly, leaving you wishing they’d go on for just another 40-50 pages, this one is especially so — I haven’t been reading a book and wanting it *not* to end this bad in a long time. The world that Gibson has created is just so rich.

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