Tuesday, November 25, 2008


So we went to watch Quantum of Solace last night. I have to say I liked the film but it was definitely not as good as the first Daniel Craig James Bond flick. I really like the idea of the series reboots that have been happening – taking a familiar property and updating it to reflect current trends, culture and technology. And the 007 Reboot with Craig is no exception. I like that it’s less goofy and a darker type of story than before but they really missed a few key points in this one.

First of all, one of the things that made Casino Royale so good was the personal connection the audience could make with Bond. I could buy into the relationship he developed with Vesper and could see the pain that he went through because of it. It allowed for empathy with an otherwise brutal character. In this installment they failed to build any empathy and instead Bond comes across as a cold unfeeling robot. He was supposed to be driven by fury but it seemed instead like he was driven by.... i don't know. Accounting? Boredom? Whatever it was, it was NOT seething rage.

Second of all, the video editing was not as good. The fight scenes were speeded up to quickly and combined with jumpy camera work make them very difficult to follow. I was rarely able to work up a sense of peril in the fights because I couldn’t’ hardly tell what was going on.
Third of all, to many plot important points took place off screen. I mean isn’t this a big budget film? Don’t they have enough money to do the actual plot exposition ON SCREEN? Having a character casually toss off critical plot points as something that had just happened off screen is not a good way to tell a story.

Fourth of all, this story is VERY closely related to Casino Royale. In fact, the beginning of this film is set one hour after the end of the last. I didn’t know that. I didn’t figure out all the connections between this story and the last one until the film was almost over. If you are going to rely so heavily on something told that way I expect a “previously in James Bond” type recap at the beginning. In fact, a 007 film seems perfect for that, they could have used the traditional opening segment to gently remind viewers what happened in the last film that is important to this film. Then they could do the 007 shoots the circle thing and start whatever song they have for the opening credits. Instead the developers just assumed that we all watch Casino Royale at least every other month and would surely still remember all the details of that film

Fifth of all, they failed to use the 007 Theme music properly. They teased at the theme several times during the course of the movie but never actually PLAYED it until the ending credits. It’s a classic theme for a reason. It should get more than token reference during the film
Now, having said that it’s still a good film and I’m glad we went to see it. I can recommend it as a fun show just that they let me down a bit. I might have liked it better if I had recently seen the first Craig film and had those details fresh in my mind- in fact I probably would have liked it a lot more had I kept in mind the tragic ending of that film as his motivation for this one – instead of trying to remember exactly how that all fit together while watching this one.

Like I said before I like the reboots of these classic shows. I think the 007 reboot is working, especially the first film and I’m very interested to see what they continue to do. I think the Batman reboots have worked extremely well – especially Batman Begins, but Dark Knight was also successful in my mind. I really like the BattleStar Galactica reboot and even considering the middle of the third season I think it’s a very successful restart of a classic series. I think the Fallout 3 game I’m playing is an effective reboot if you will of a classic game. In each of these cases they have adapted the classic elements with modern techniques and, in the case of the movies and shows, more believable characters.

One reboot I’m really excited about is also related to last nights movie. One of the previews shown was for the upcoming J.J. Abrams reboot of Star Trek. I admit, that I shouted “whoohoo!” in the theater as soon as I realized that they were playing the Trek preview, and also yelled “Yeah!” when the line “I’m James Tiberius Kirk” was delivered. If you haven't seen that preview I highly recommend the Star Trek link above. You can see it there.
This reboot looks very exciting and I’m thrilled to think about more human and less “rick bermaned”, to coin a phrase, characters. The thing that made Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Kahn such a good film was the story telling and the character interactions. They were real and believable there, and I have high hopes (and the preview doesn’t dash them) that this reboot will feature more believable characters. Characters that are MORE loveable BECAUSE of their foibles and not less.

I suppose time will tell but in the meantime I’ll keep hoping and keep rooting for the makers of the series reboots.

Friday, November 21, 2008

CAN'T...... STOP........MYSELF..........WEB QUIZES

You Are The Stuffing

You're complicated and complex, yet all your pieces fit together.

People miss you if you're gone - but they're not sure why.


I'm very glad to have my new job. It's a very different sort of pressure to work in the legal industry than what I've done before but the people I work with are on the right hand side of the IQ bell curve and when the pressure does come off they seem to have good parties.

I've tried really hard to fit in and make connections with others. This weekend is the big rivalry game between BYU and Utah. The powers that be offered a $100 prize to the person dressed most patriotically for their team, one for each side.

I was already wearing my UofU tie all week long and I like being involved in office games so I started trying to think what I could do to be a part of it. I told my lovely (and talented and amazing wife) that wouldn't it be funny if I came as a giant pom-pom?

She not only thought it was funny but thought she could make it happen. She stayed up late last night and when I came upstairs from the bedroom this morning my outfit was complete! And it was amazing.

The competition at work was fierce. There were probably eight people decked out in UofU red. Oddly there were only three in the BYU competition side.

The winner of the prize for the U was split by a team entry. The Gangster and his 'ho. I have never seen any one person wear so many UofU branded items at one time before.

As a special reward the powers that be created a special prize on the spot for me as having the most creative outfit (and for not just wearing my regular weekend clothing).

Pictures of the winners below with faces obscured at the request of the subjects.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Time for a Fallout 3 follow-up post.

I have to say I am enthralled by this game. I've played slower than either of my other two friends who are also playing but I don't think I enjoy it any less. I am repeatedly delighted by little touches that just blow me away.... sometimes literally.

For example, I was exploring the Museum of Technology and having a hoot seeing the broken wright flyer and a mangled P-38 Lightning on display. Some of the displays were still in working condition with recorded messages and lights and it was wonderfully atmospheric. As I wandered I entered a planetarium with a big old fashioned star projector in the middle.

The device came to life and started presenting it's show. I stood there transfixed looking up at the swirling galaxy on the ceiling and enjoying the robotic presentation. When I was suddenly jarred out of my reverie - and I do mean startled I definitely jumped in my chair - when I heard two super mutants come into the room behind me shouting about getting the intruder and then proceeded to messily kill me before I could regain my composure.

Oh sure I had saved and so I reloaded and played that encounter differently but not before I spent several minutes just laughing out loud at having been so completely surprised by the setup of the encounter and by my willingness to sit and watch a virtual museum display.

It speaks to the strength of the FO3 game, atmosphere. And while I am not very fond of the first person viewpoint (and that is one of the reasons I play it less - I'm prone to motion sickness in that type of game if I don't limit my play times) - and I find some of the NPC characters to be flat, the overall atmosphere of the game is amazing. If you are on the fence about this game I have to highly recommend it as money well spent.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Wow, long time no post. My blog is an arid wasteland indeed. My only defense is that I’ve been busy. I’m finishing up some part time work with a previous employer and looking forward to going full time with a new one in November. Yup, I’ve managed to scamper off the sinking ship of my old job and land a really good gig with a huge law firm in SLC. It’s a long commute but looks to be a really stable job. Add to that a number of legal complications with getting my ex-wife to let me have my kids on my weekends and the usual keep-stuff-running and well…. That is the way it goes sometimes I guess.

The real wasteland though is awaiting me at home. I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of Fallout 3, because…well because I’m a huge fanboy OK? I’ve loved the previous games in the franchise (hey I even enjoyed Fallout Tactics although not as much as the real Fallout games) and it arrived yesterday. Before collapsing last night I managed to get through the REALLY LONG install process and play the intro portion of the game where you create your character and leave the vault.

I am very pleased with what I have seen so far. The change in perspective was a little disconcerting. A first person viewpoint is not my favorite way to interface with an environment but oh boy is that environment amazing. They captured the look and feel of the Fallout universe very well and managed to setup the beginnings of an emotional story line all during the intro. I hope that the rest of the game can live up to the expectations that they have set.

I think I’ll redo the intro now that I’ve seen the process once just to make sure I get the character that I want and then it’s off into the Capitol Wasteland for fame and adventure and hopefully a chance to find Dogmeat!

I had talked a friend into looking forward to this game too. Honestly, it didn’t take any convincing at all but he’s been looking forward to it as well. If his wife is reading this then he DEFINITLY DID NOT BUY A COPY AT THE STORE WHEN HE WENT TO GET WIPER BLADES! If his wife isn’t reading this, I can’t believe he beat me into the wasteland! Amazing, I thought for sure I would completely one up him with FO3.

Well I do have him totally beat in one way though. Did I mention that I was a Fallout fanboy? Well as if anyone needed proof of that, I preordered (Way back in May) the collectors edition of FO3. This came with some really cool goodies in addition to the game. Chief among them are my newly prized possessions of the FO3 old-school metal lunchbox and my Vault-Boy bobble head doll.

BTW: very cool wallpapers can be found at the Bethesda site here!

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Somewhere in my wanderings I must have clicked the link that said "yes please send me an advance reading copy of your book". I mean I don't remember it at all. It just seems like the kind of thing I would do. It's the kind of thing I would do and then forget all about it.

So last week a package showed up with a book in it. A book I didn't remember asking for. Well it looked vaguely interesting even though it was another in the "here is another butt kicking heroine saving the world" genre. It was Any Given Doomsday by Lori Handeland.

It started OK. The story wasn't very original but it was acceptable. The primary characters were OK too. Relationship-wise it felt like an episode of supernatural. Two protagonists who desperately love each other and express it by bickering and arguing all the time. The only twist here was that it was a man and a woman so there was also an underlying sexual tension. I could have enjoyed the book in a mild way on that basis and said so to anyone who would have asked.

Then it got to the half way point in the book and it took a RADICAL turn for the worse. Turns out that our female protagonist (and the character for whom the entire projected series is named for) is an empath. That doesn't sound so bad does it? But in this universe an empath is a supernatural creature that can absorb the powers of other supernatural creatures...... by sleeping with them! UGH!

From then on the rest of the book was skimmed not read. She proceeded to save the world (for now) by sleeping with several really icky characters. No morality, no consequences just sex.

I don't mind having characters in books have sexual relationships. It's part of life. But they should be handled delicately and behind closed doors, never graphically. I'm pretty sure when Elan said "wanna make out" or when Rhett picked up Scarlet it didn't lead to a hot game of scrabble if ya know what I mean. *wink wink nudge nudge* but that is all that was needed.

This book was clearly designed to setup a series where the heroine continually saves the world by icky sex scenes so without any reservation I'm throwing this book by Lori Handeland away and I will quite likely never read another book by her. I have to strongly recommend to all my friends that none of you bother to waste your time with this either.

Monday, September 22, 2008


I had fun with this one. I don't really play many adventure games but this one is one is pretty good. I did have to use the walk through to get out of the first chapter since the game has no hint system - but once the story got rolling it was fairly easy to know what to do... the challenge was to figure out HOW to do it.

The review is here: Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


I love reading. I read all the time. I usually have a book stuffed in a bag or pocket whenever I go anywhere even if I'm sure I _won't_ be able to pull it out, I've often got one along with me.

Fortunately, there are tons of books to read. I usually stay in the Science Fiction area, but I also enjoy a good mystery, urban fantasy, or high fantasy novel.

Because there are so many books to read I don't feel compelled to read all the way through something. Generally, I will give a book 100 pages to catch my interest. If it can't pull me in by then away the book goes and I'm off into another one.

For example, last night I was working on a novel by Lillith Saintcrow called Night Shift. It's another one of the seemingly ubiquitous butt-kicking-heroine urban fantasy novels. I don't mind them, I liked what parts of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that I watched (which is some of it) and I've enjoyed other urban fantasy with female protagonists as well. (But the one my beautiful wife just wrote and is looking to get published is better than them all, he said with no bias.)

At 104 page I decided to put it down. Why? Mostly because I hated the lead character. She just wasn't likable. Mostly, she was mean to people. It wasn't even justified, she was just a giant meany mean head.

The other major problem with this book was the pacing. I expect action and character development in a book - i don't want it all spaz out fights all the time so slower sections of the book help to add to the tension of the overall story and my understanding of the characters. I enjoy that part.... usually.

In this case the book was paced by using whining. It's a really odd choice, I know but it appears to be a conscious decision. The lead character spent all her introspection time whining about how she's not good enough, how she hates what is happening around her, how her poor life was so hard. Waa waa waa. OK, characters have backgrounds but if I wanted to read a bunch of whining about a poor upbringing then I'd have picked a book from a different section of the store.

Good grief. At 104 pages I decided that another 219 pages of a whiny meany head was more than I could stand. The lead was so annoying as to drive me completely out of the story. It's a wild contrast from many books since I often like, at least some aspects, of the characters and for some I'd love to have lunch with them someday. Harry Dresden and a cheeseburger anyone? It's to bad, because the central mystery was shaping up to be intriguing.

Friday, September 12, 2008


So I am working for a company. Sorta. My current job cut me back from full time to part time two months ago. There is also a brewing conflict with my ex-wife concerning parent time activities. That has all relatively sucked and is all much to long, and whiny, and emo to really put in a blog post.

So instead, while that has been going on I've been trying to find other things to do. The job market has been slow lately, but I did have an interview with a fairly prestigious firm in Salt Lake City recently and I've been in touch with a recruiter who thinks she can find me a good position too. All good things.

Then out of the blue the Editor at Strategy Informer told me that I could earn an easy few bucks by writing news articles for his site while his regular writer is out of town. So for the next ten days (OK, OK, eight now since I've already done two) look on the Strategy Informer news page for articles written by dtungsten. That is yours truly pumping out news for gamers. The pay is measly somewhere around 1 or 2 dollars per article but it's also fun and since I have more free time than I would really wish for it's a great activity for me.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


I have five year old knees.

No really. Not like they don’t creak when going up stairs or are spry and limber. But rather they look like I had a massive wipe out on my awesome big wheel. (Oh. My inner child has an AWESOME big wheel.) Unfortunately, my outer self is the one with the scabbed and scraped up five year old knees.

You know those giant coolers you used to be able to get from McDonalds? The ones full of nasty orange flavored drink? My lovely wife brought home a cooler about that size – but this one was full of really good fizzy raspberry lemonade. Over the course of several days I did my manly duty to try to drink that cooler down. It was just too much.

So, yesterday, it was time to take the cooler outside, dump it, clean it up and get it put away. On the side of my house we have a dirt car port, perfect, I thought, to dump sticky lemonade in. Leading up to the car port is a decorative cement area with rose bushes and wooden spacers between cement blocks.

Stupid…. Wooden…. Spacers…..

On my way over to the dirt, hauling a giant cooler, my toes caught on one of the wooden spacers that have warped upwards a bit. I began to sprawl.

Oh crap! (And other words) went through my brain, while I was somewhat horizontal in the air just above a giant cooler of raspberry lemonade that was already beginning to spill. I’m going to land in the lemonade and get all sticky. *sigh* That is what being a grownup has brought me to. I didn’t want to get sticky. I’m horizontal in the air ABOVE CEMENT and worried about the sticky.

So because I’m insane that way I tried to twist, IN THE AIR, with no leverage at all to get away from the impending giant puddle of sticky lemonade. Through heroic efforts I managed to wrench a muscle or two and then I landed. Face down, complete sprawl, knees on cement and face in dirt. Oh and it turns out that the lemonade when mixed with the fizzy soda is really exceptionally sticky.

I managed to rip out both knees in my jeans as well as bloody both of my actual knees along with a random collection of muscle sprains. The good news is that none of the neighborhood children were near enough to be exposed to a Yo-Samity-Sam style string of cussing.

Now it’s the next day and I’m stiff and my knees hurt. I’m a much bigger baby about being hurt now than I ever was when I was five. Kids just seem to pick up from things like that and after a kiss and a cookie they are back out on that awesome big wheel. Personally? I’m going to leave that cement area alone for a while.

Friday, July 11, 2008


Can't..... resist.... web...... quiz.........

How evil are you?

Fortunately, it's not an eviiiiiil web quiz.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


OK so my lovely wife just posted an article listing the top 100 books according to someone or other and then went through the list highlighting the ones she had read. She's read 45 of the 100 on the list and wants to read another 10 of them. I could just blog the list and highlight what I've read.

Then one of our mutual friends with a delightful bent on reality wondered "who is this list according to". It's apparently compiled by a bunch of "stuffy Brits" but there is no mention of the methodology or selection criteria used in the compilation. He's read 47 of the 100 and would have read another 10 if he had followed through on all his assignments in college. I could blog about how clever that was and how often we ignore the motivations behind the headlines.

I've read 20 of the 100. And I'm pretty sure I've read all the ones on that list that I want to read. However I'm an avid reader. I think my friend has it right in his opinion that the list is clearly shaped by its creators. Were I to make the list it would look rather different. There is a serious lack of science fiction which is a shame. The literary world often exempts Sci-Fi from any serious consideration thinking it's just fluff. What a shame - some of the most insightful and compelling commentaries on society I've ever read have been science fiction. That's worth a blog article too but I'm not going to blog that either.

In keeping with the randomness inherent in this site and the wonderful serendipity of all creation I found this comic today which excellently highlights one of the problems I have with "classic" literature. Click the picture to go to the site and while you are there browse the rest of his excellent work. Enjoy.

Monday, June 23, 2008


The guys over at Strategy Informers have been working on getting more news items up. They don’t have a budget for it (yet) but promise to have one someday. In any case, I’ve volunteered to write a few news articles for them from time to time. I am definitely no hard hitting journalist. (Although, I do have a cool hat and I could probably figure out some way to get a press badge into the hat band.)

The first article I did for them was a quick blurb on engine optimizations for a game that I probably won’t play that make it better than a game I never played.

The second article is a silly piece on how players in a game I haven’t (and probably won’t ever) played have killed more imaginary bad guys than the entire population of the world. Fortunately I don’t think any politicians are trying to imagine up ways to use that stat to provoke knee jerk reactions from people who won’t (or when I’m feeling less charitable… can’t) think for themselves.

I’ve not been checking the comments from either of the news articles. Since they are news I’ve tried not to put much of my own opinions into them like when I do reviews. This should be drier than that. But it’s still fun to see my name up as the author and I can always aspire to gaining critics as good as these guys.

Thursday, June 05, 2008


It’s the dog days of gaming like it always is around this time of year. Most of the major releases are being held back for the big shopping season at the end of the year and the stuff coming out now is the lamer titles.

So..... I displayed what a massive Fallout fanboy I am by pre-ordering Fallout 3 now. I just have to wait until sometime in October (I hope) for it to be shipped.

In an effort to keep playing a game I picked up a copy of Mask of the Betrayer, the expansion to Neverwinter Nights 2. It hasn’t arrived yet. NWN2 wasn’t a terrific game but the buzz on MotB is that it is a vastly better game and game experience than the original campaign was. I understand that they are also working on a second expansion called Mysteries of Westgate. If MotB is good I may give that a shot too.

I reinstalled NWN2 in preparation for getting Mask and then was instantly bored. I have no desire to replay the original campaign. It made me mad for reasons well explained by others. So I went searching for user created modules. I found one. I found one that may delay my playing Mask until it is finished.

The user module Dark Waters is amazing. I have to admit I haven’t played very far into it yet but it has custom (and reasonably well done) voice acting, extremely clever custom scripting, a fascinating back story, custom music, custom sound effects, and new items. The readmes hint of pirate battles, new card games, and new powers. I love the ability to set things on fire and have them take damage from it. Just seeing that is worth playing the module by itself.

But the best part about it so far, is the story. You start as classic newbie adventurers from a small village who stumble into a way through the sealed door in the mountains above your village. You, of course, get trapped inside and in an effort to escape find the past coming back to haunt you in strange and mysterious ways. Historic rivalries and friendships become more meaningful to you as the story begins to unfold and the tension is slowly ratcheted up.

Again, I’ll grant that I’ve only played an hour or two of what I estimate to be a six to twelve hour game (counting both parts that have been released). I hope that they manage to keep it up but just going on this first look I’d have to highly recommend it. If you have NWN2 installed still go grab parts one and two and play them. If you don’t have NWN2 installed still, I can’t blame you. I took mine off too. But really, this user created content is WELL worth your time. Give it another shot. I did and I’m glad I did.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Wow, long time no post. Weird.

Hmmm... what kind of excuse can I use to explain the lack of content. *think think think* I know! It's... ummm... this new diet. Yes! That's it. I've been on a radical new diet summed up here that explains it all.

Bah! No one will believe that. *think think think*

Ah ha! I've got it. I've been spending all my free time on RockBand. That's not actually the truth either but it's a pretty good excuse anyway. My love and I wrote a review of RockBand once. It's one of the best party games out there. We frequently play it with our friends and not to long ago my wife and I picked up our own system to play it on.

I like the Rockband controllers. They have nice big buttons for me and I like the form factor better than the smaller Guitar Hero ones. They do have a reputation for being less robust though and that is a problem. I've had to send one of my controllers back because it would not deploy the overdrive no matter how much I tipped it back. (HAH! which gives me a chance to link to still one of my all time favorite Basic Instructions!)

The basic controller looks like this.

It's functional but boring based on the black and white Fender Stratocaster. I found a skin for sale on the Internet and purchased it. My guitar now looks WAY cooler. The picture is a little dark - the red is much brighter in real life but this picture will give you a good idea of it's essential coolness.

The skin was a little bit difficult to apply. It's basically a giant vinyl sticker. The narrow strips were a bit of a pain to stick on especially around the white parts of the guitar and around the whammy bar and buttons. Otherwise it went on pretty smoothly. The instructions said to use a hair dryer while you push out the bubbles in the skin and that worked remarkably well. I ended up with a really cool looking guitar that can even stand close inspection. What wrinkles I couldn't remove are mostly hidden in the black skinny areas again around the bottom and near the buttons.

The skin hasn't changed the actual playing experience at all unless you count how much cooler I am now with a cherry three tone sunburst guitar. Once my other guitar returns I'd like to skin it too. There are lots and lots of skins available. With any luck I'll be able to find a ZZ Top style furry guitar skin for that one.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008


A while back i got to talking about some of my favorite all time game intros. That was a fun little article that can be found here.

I was doing the periodic maintenance on my computer that any game player must do from time to time. I was removing old games, and games I wrote reviews for that sucked (the games not the reviews), and remembering fun times past.

In that nostalgic mood I retreated into my blog archives to replay a few of those favorite intro movies. The movies for Mechwarrior 2 and Mechwarrior 2: Ghost Bears Legacy are some of my all time favorites.

A third favorite was the intro movie for X:COM Terror From the Deep. At the time I couldn't find a copy of it, but since then a few have appeared on youtube.com. Here it is:

I've watched this intro many times. Probably a lot more than I should admit and I have always enjoyed it. Watching all three of the above mentioned intros in a row I could see that each of them is dramatic and tense. I wish I could find more intros like that (and games like these too!).

These are all well thought out introductions meant to capture your interest and add flavor to the actual game play. All three of these succeeded. I just finished playing Fantasy Wars and the intro to that game was trite and slooooooow moving. It felt like an afterthought to the game - something they had to add because there were animated logos for every company involved in the production too. It added no flavor and the only emotional impression it left was "Ugh, not again!".

Intro movies may be a forgotten art but I hope not. The teaser trailer movie for Fallout 3 makes me think that there are people out there who still carefully craft their stories and use intros as a critical part of setting the scene and pace and taste of a game.

Monday, April 21, 2008


They persistently use ~Js name on the reviews for some reason but this one I wrote. The pictures are strangely miscaptioned too. I'll have to check my original source to see if that's my fault or theirs. You may or may not see those mistakes since the publisher has been contacted and is correcting them.

Anyway, the game is solidly average. I played it even after finishing the review so I definitely don't hate the game. It makes me long for a new classic style X-COM or Jagged Alliance game. I loved the turn based small unit tactics games lots and lots but this is certainly a fun little game to fiddle with especially if you like turn based strategy games.

Monday, April 14, 2008


Several weeks ago I was sitting at a game night with many of my good friends enjoying myself when one of the little girls at the party informed her parents that she had found a spider. Only being an adorable little girl she called it a pie-der.

You’ve probably heard kids call spiders that before. I know I have. In fact I’ve heard it lots of times but something happened to me at that moment when I heard the word pie-der. I was suddenly overcome with a vision. A vision I knew I could make real.

Two weeks later at a gathering of those very same people I unveiled the worlds first chocolate pie-der.

Before I made the pie-der I searched all over Google because I thought I couldn’t be the first person to ever think of this. While assembling the legs one of my friends pulled out all her Halloween cookbooks (of which she has a remarkably impressive collection) and we still could not find a pie like mine. So I claim the world first.

When it comes to creative cooking though I am a sous-chef to the master chef my lovely wife ~J is. She regularly makes fantastic meals. It’s a joy to watch her cook. She recently made two fantastic cakes.

The first was for a joint birthday, mine, The Rabid Paladins and Coyotes. We all have birthdays within a week of each other and since we are all members of the same gaming group we celebrate them all together each year. Last year, you may recall, had the famous battle map cake. This year ~J made us all a cake of consummate majesty, the Trogdor cake.

My sons’ birthday is a little bit more than a week after mine and he wanted a very specific cake too. This one took quite some doing but I think you’ll agree with me the results are fantastic. The Wii cake complete with oversize Wii controller.

Oh, and just because it was cute I’ve included a picture of my friends cat Ivan. Please forgive the blur – Ivan moved as I clicked and then scampered off of the matt before I could get another shot. I’m really not sure what size category that Ivan would be but it’s really big. I’m glad he was just a wandering monster who wandered off instead of being one of the DM’s creatures.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


For about the last five years I've participated in my works annual NCAA mens basketball tournament Pick'em game. It used to be a $5 buy in and the winner takes the pot. The last few years, it's been for bragging rights instead and occasionally a work donated prize to the winner.

I've had a clever strategy of listening to talk radio and looking at what I consider the hustle stats (assists, blocks, rebounds and especially offensive rebounds) for each team when making my selections. This synthesis of data has never worked well enough to win my groups until this year when I managed to finally place 1st place. Go me!

No prize given (at least so far) but I've managed to use my bragging rights for a day or two and that was lots of fun.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


I've just been published today! It's my first article that pays per word and I'm really excited about it. Bridges to the Middle.

One of the most interesting thing is the editing process. I submitted about 1400 words and after help by a terrific editor at Escapist Magazine ended up with a really tight article of around 950 words. I do miss the joke that got cut but I also like how tightly the article reads now.

Besides, I can always ramble here.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


April fools day. *sigh* I'm not really fond of April fools day. I really don't go in for practical jokes in any way shape or form anyway - they often tend to seem mean to me. (Yeah, yeah, I guess I'm just a big softie.)

So I'm happy to report that while the day was DUMB (not only with a capitol D but with all the others capitalized too) I did manage to escape it without falling victim to any of the usual wacky hi jinks that typically accompany the day.

It was dumb due to some annoying problems I had to work through in my job, loooooong drive times required to accomplish the days goals, and a spectacularly badly timed muscle cramp. Fortunately the day came to a close with much giggling and snuggling with my amazingly wonderful and beautiful wife ~J. Love ya doll.

Hope you all escaped April fools days intact as well.

Monday, March 17, 2008


Over on his blog my friend The Rabid Paladin has a link to a really cool web quiz. It's one of the longest I've ever seen but it's definitely fun to take, especially in light of the D&D campaign I'm playing with him and the rest of the regular group. I play the cleric in our current game so it's interesting to have the test place me as:

I Am A: True Neutral Human Cleric (5th Level)

Ability Scores:







True Neutral A true neutral character does what seems to be a good idea. He doesn't feel strongly one way or the other when it comes to good vs. evil or law vs. chaos. Most true neutral characters exhibit a lack of conviction or bias rather than a commitment to neutrality. Such a character thinks of good as better than evil after all, he would rather have good neighbors and rulers than evil ones. Still, he's not personally committed to upholding good in any abstract or universal way. Some true neutral characters, on the other hand, commit themselves philosophically to neutrality. They see good, evil, law, and chaos as prejudices and dangerous extremes. They advocate the middle way of neutrality as the best, most balanced road in the long run. True neutral is the best alignment you can be because it means you act naturally, without prejudice or compulsion. However, true neutral can be a dangerous alignment because it represents apathy, indifference, and a lack of conviction.

Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Clerics act as intermediaries between the earthly and the divine (or infernal) worlds. A good cleric helps those in need, while an evil cleric seeks to spread his patron's vision of evil across the world. All clerics can heal wounds and bring people back from the brink of death, and powerful clerics can even raise the dead. Likewise, all clerics have authority over undead creatures, and they can turn away or even destroy these creatures. Clerics are trained in the use of simple weapons, and can use all forms of armor and shields without penalty, since armor does not interfere with the casting of divine spells. In addition to his normal complement of spells, every cleric chooses to focus on two of his deity's domains. These domains grants the cleric special powers, and give him access to spells that he might otherwise never learn. A cleric's Wisdom score should be high, since this determines the maximum spell level that he can cast.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


I have to HIGHLY recommend Disney World as a great place for grownups to visit. I’m sure kids can have fun there but I think it’s even better for grownups. My beautiful sweet bride and I just returned from a honeymoon trip to Disney World and we had a blast. This park boasts a number of features that appeal to a more adult sense of fun from walking trails in the Animal Kingdom, to the world pavilions of Epcot the whole series of parks seems to be balanced for more adult tastes.

The food at Epcot would be wasted on childish palates anyway. We ate there three out of four nights and had some terrific meals. My favorite was the Restaurant Marrakesh in the Morocco Pavilion. The food was amazing and the atmosphere there was all out to make you feel like you were in a foreign land. I was highly impressed.

One of the fun things about Disney are the little extras they put in to the experience. On our first day there I saw a couple wearing big badges that said “Just Married”. Well so was I and I wanted to find those. So that afternoon as we were focusing more on shopping and exploring than on riding rides I asked a cashier if she knew where I could buy those pens. She told me to go out to the City Hall building and ask them for one.

So off we wandered to Main Street USA to the City Hall building and went in to find them. I would have been happy to buy them but they just hand them out if you just ask. I was thrilled. It’s my favorite souvenir from the trip. We wore those badges for the entire rest of the trip. The next day we had 18 people tell us congratulations, the third day we had 13 people say it and on the final day 23 people told us that. Plus we had an automatic excuse for being smoochie and cuddly (hmmmm I wonder if the badges will work on my friends) and got put in the very front seat of the Splash Mountain ride.

They also have badges for Anniversaries, birthdays and 1st time visitors so if you are at the park and fit into one of the categories be sure to stop in and get yours.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Well, I've not posted much this month but I can only plead that I was really busy. What with getting married this Friday (to the mostest awesomist amazingest and loveliest fiance evar!) and everything that goes along with that. I've had lots of stuff to do between cleaning up my apartment, moving out (with the help of fantastic friends and family) and getting components that we needed for the wedding dinner and actual wedding itself done.

In the midst of all this happy chaos I received a good news e-mail from The Escapist Magazine. They have accepted my pitch submission and would like an article from me due on the 17th of March. I've got some outline ideas written down already (thank goodness) so I'll hit this article hard right after the honeymoon trip is over.

Friday, February 08, 2008

rFactor - my 3rd review

I guess I'm getting the hang of this review a game theme I've got started on. Although to let you in on a little magic behind the scenes, my reviews are _much_ better because my wonderful fiancee ~J edits them for me before they get shipped off to SI.

Anyway, the latest one is a review of rFactor, a racing game. Well not just a racing game any more than Falcon 4.0 was just a flying game. This is a simulation in every sense of the word and unless you are totally into racing and want to experience every single aspect of a racing weekend including the time in the grarage, qualifying laps, practice rounds and the interminable race itself you should probably not play this game. If you do I've found the game for you.

rFactor - check out my review here.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


More fuel for the life on Mars crowd. And this one is pretty convincing really. I mean the face at Cydonia was pretty good, and the Bigfoot shaped rock… errr… I mean big foot shaped Martian, but really this is pushing it just a little too far.

This picture was snapped in 1998. (Click for a larger view!) It’s clearly a smiley face. What else could it be? But no, many people said it was just a fluke of nature or a bad photograph. The Mars Global Survey craft took this picture on the first day of its survey.

See! It still looks like a smiley face even with the new fancy pictures. (Again, click for enlarged view!) Even though NASA still claims it is random chance and the propensity of humans to project onto inanimate objects.

The official name of this crater is Galle crater located at 51.1 degrees S, 31.3 degrees W. It’s approximately 134 miles across.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Apparently the US Navy is starting down the path to Galactic Civilizations 2 Black Hole Gun. Heh. Seriously though the USN announced yesterday that they plan to test fire an electromagnetic rail gun at 10 Mega Joules. That is serious sci-fi stuff. Much realer than the little orange men nut jobs all over the world discovered last week too.

A rail gun is basically a way of propelling something really really fast. So fast that you could technically just have a solid ball or rod and still do tremendous damage to your target just from going fast. Think of car crashes for an idea. Neither car (presumably) has explosive warheads but when they crash together a lot of damage is done just because they are moving.

For given values of kinetic energy it’s probably more effective to just have solid masses instead of actual payloads on the projectile although I’m not familiar enough with the math to know where the sweet spot is. I would assume that the lower the power used to launch the projectile the more likely it would be to have an explosive warhead on them. At some launching power it would no longer make any sense since more damage would be done by the kinetic impact than by the payload.

OK major nerd mode there.

Anyway, rail guns are cool ideas and can be used for lots more than throwing bullets. Massive rail guns could easily accelerate something to orbit and might be a highly effective way to send cargos (if maybe not people because the acceleration stresses would be really high) to space. This summer I rode a roller coaster that used magnets to accelerate the cars instead of using a chain and a gravity drop for the initial boost. Same thing as this gun on a different scale.

Anyway, check out this fun little animation of how rail guns work plus get an intro to the physics over on science.howstuffworks.com.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Sometimes I will listen to what I like to call Whack-Job-Nation to fall asleep. It’s more commonly known as Coast to Coast AM (usually) with George Noory. It’s basically a national call in talk radio show but the only twist on this one is that it’s for crazy people. I suppose that is why I enjoy it. I get a kick out of listening to the crazy people talk about werewolves in their sheds or shadow people in the hallway or aliens beaming them hither and yon. Heck I have my own crazy so I probably relate.

In my opinion the host is not one of the “believers” but rather he is an entertainer. And that is how I take the show too. It’s very entertaining to listen to these very sincere people espouse the most fantastical theories and ideas. Last night was fairly entertaining – even though I fell asleep very quickly. There were several calls about some picture that shows an actual Martian captured by the Spirit rover cameras. “Spiffy!” my brain thought, “That is way cooler than the face on Mars.”

The discussion was callers saying they knew it all along and now here is the proof with Mr. Noory egging them on to more and more outrageous claims. Not only was it entertaining but it aroused my curiosity. This morning I did a little Google-fu (and found my buddy Neuron Scream had a link to an article about it in in his IM message) to find out what the furor was all about.

First of all here is the real color panoramic view. See any aliens? You can click on the picture to go to the NASA site where this was hosted for a better view. (BTW: The site is slammed be prepared for VERY slow load times.)

Me neither. Yes, there are people whose job it is to poor over enlarged versions of these pictures with magnifying glasses. These people are called scientists. There are also people who have made it their hobby to poor over enlarged versions of these pictures with magnifying glasses. These people are called nut farms.

Here is a false color version of the same picture. (Again linked to a larger NASA version.) Any aliens now?

Nope. Same here. I can’t see anything but rocks.

OK. Then let me help you. Here is a picture with an arrow. Go back to the big NASA picture and it’s totally easy to see it now right?

*sigh* I must be blind or stupid but I still can’t see the Martians. OK here is another help. This is a zoomed in picture of the panoramic view – still in false color.

Ah Ha! Aliens! Monsters of the inky black! Umm… well at least monsters of the orangey um… orange.

This final close up – the most zoomed in picture I could find shows the beast in all its startling fury and ichors.

Oh. Wait. Never mind… looks a lot like a pixilated rock. Which, it almost certainly is. The principle of Occam's razor is well applied to this situation. If there are multiple possible explanations for something the simplest one is the most likely one to be correct. It’s a rock. It would be fun to have orange, rock encrusted, and pixel-y space neighbors but I’m afraid we only have orange, rock encrusted and pixel-y space um.. rock neighbors.

Monday, January 14, 2008


A fun party with awesome friends turned into a joint effort game review with my lovely fiancee ~J. The results can be read here: Rock Band Review
And a random picture!

Resistance is Futile

(If ohms less than one)

Thursday, January 10, 2008


My work has quite a number of Apple fans. It’s no surprise given the nature of this company. There are a number of artists and I support probably one third to one half of our users on Macs. I’m not anti-Mac any more than I’m anti-Windows or anti-Linux. I think they each have their place. When I sell myself to potential employers I emphasize how I like to use the best platform for each application. I have Linux, Solaris, and Windows servers. I have Windows and Mac clients. For the most part I can make them all play nice together. It’s a good thing.

But Apple fans are interesting. They often claim long and loud about how Macs are teh bestest evar and often are hard to convince. I usually avoid these by making my “I’m a best of breed” user claim above. Comparisons between Vista and Leopard have sparked a round of Mac and PC e-mails in my company. That e-mail thread resulted in this little gem. It cracks me up every single time I see it.

Mac: I'm a Mac
PC: And I'm a PC
Mac: Say, PC, what are you doing there?
PC: Oh, nothing, just playing a video game.
Mac: Which one?
PC: All of them.
Mac: :(

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Since there can never be to much hype: My wonderful fiancee has a professional article published today on The Escapist magazine. It's the best article in the issue (he said with only a little bias). No really. You can read the others if you like but it's true. The point of the article is to talk about how we game together as friends. These are wonderful people and I can't say enough good about them. And I'm very grateful and happy (and occasionally hysterically laughing) to be a part of them.

It's funny but the article ~J wrote is all about celebrating the unifying effects of gaming. Games have brought us together as friends and strengthened our lives by creating a social network that goes far beyond just something to do.

Most of the other articles in this issue treat gaming as something shameful to be hidden or coped with. That is rubbish... plus I can say from experience, that hiding yourself just won't work. You'll do more damage in the long run denying yourself.

Embrace the crazy, I say, and be sure to check out the article: Like Calls to Like.

Monday, January 07, 2008


I have a tendency to go back to games that I really liked and play them over again. I’ve done it a number of times like with System Shock 2 and I’ve replayed several of the Ultima Games over. You could even argue that my UFO:Extraterestrial playing is just replaying my X:COM experiences over again.

I’ve revisited the Fallout games a number of times. The first one is nearly impossible to get running on modern systems and once it is up and running it’s very unsatisfying since the program didn’t age very well. Fallout 2 is a better experience although, graphically it’s still a letdown. Fallout Tactics runs fairly well and even plays nicely – to bad that game was just the combat. It’s like half of a fallout game. A fallout game for console (duuuurrr) ‘tards as I suppose Yahtzee would say.

I think it’s great how user mods can extend the life of a game or even revitalize one completely. I read today of the Fallout 2 Restoration Project by this guy over on No Mutants Allowed:

The basis of the mod is to add back additional content that never made the release version of the game. Looking through his release notes shows quite a few new quests, NPCs and even extra Easter eggs. Reading through the thread on the site gives clues that this was a labor of love. I’m highly impressed by his willingness to create such a mod and find myself interested to download it and give it a shot.

My Fallout 2 disks are with a friend who needs to play them (and he also needs to play read my Planescape Torment game too). I won't name names since I don't want to harm his gamer cred but his initals are Coyote. I may have to borrow these back quick - at least long enough to check out this mod.
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