Monday, April 23, 2007

Two For the Price of One

Greetings! Sorry for the absence, but puzzles and quests had me in their steely grip. Pokemon Diamond arrived today, so I wouldn't expect a return to the daily schedule we had going on for those wonderful two weeks last month. Oh the glorious days of regular content, will we ever see your bright, shining face again?

The title of this post refers to the fact that I've invited my Xbox 360 to blog along with me. You can read his blog over at I'll be commenting on his posts, and occasionally I'll let him post over here. He can't talk about everything over there, as he has to play by their rules, but I have a feeling he'll figure out a way to get his message out.

I'm working on a larger post about kids for later in the week, but until then, enjoy this first in an occasional series I like to call...

Conversations With a Four Year Old

Half of southern Georgia is currently on fire, and Sunday the winds were from the south, so the metro Atlanta area smelled like smoke and had a slight haze to it. As we were all going out to the car to get ready to the grocery store, Linda and I were talking about how it smelled like smoke. We pick up the conversation as we were driving out of the neighborhood.

Ben: I don't see anything burning.
Me: Well, something is burning, because it smells like smoke.
Ben: No, I don't see anything burning.
Me: Just because you don't see something doesn't mean that it isn't there. It smells like smoke, so something is burning even though you can't see it.
Linda: Just like how sometimes you can see a plane or a helicopter, but sometimes you can only hear the plane or the helicopter. Just because you can't see the helicopter, it doesn't mean that it isn't there.
Ben: We're riding in a helicopter!
Me: Dude, you just totally lost that argument.

Ah children, will their wonders ever cease?

Monday, April 16, 2007

On Puzzles and Questing

Here it is, my long awaited Puzzle Quest DS post. I know you've all been waiting for it, anxiously hunched over your computer, hitting the refresh button over and over and over and over until finally, it arrived. I'll understand if you want to go and get a beverage, possibly use the toilet, maybe get all the weeping and tears of joy out of your system. OK, that's really quite enough. Seriously, you're embarrassing yourself.

Ok, so what is Puzzle Quest? Well, imagine a role playing game, deep and wide. Imagine you're a wizard, warrior, knight or druid in the service of your queen as your land is beset by all manner of unspeakable evil. Imagine that you meet your foe on the field of battle, weapon raised, spells charged, and as you and your foe come together in bloody conflict you play...Bejeweled.

Yes, Bejeweled. You know, match three or more jewels in a row and in doing so clear said jewels? Come on, Bejeweled! If you bought a cell phone in the past 5 years, you probably have a free version of it on there. No, that's your camera. No, that's your address book. Oh never mind.

In this case, instead of jewels you're matching mana gems, skulls, experience stars, gold coins, blue clovers and purple horseshoes. Matching blue, red, green and yellow mana gems give you mana of that color that you then use to cast spells. Matching purple stars gives you extra experience. Matching gold coins gives you extra money. Matching skulls reigns fiery destruction down upon your foe. Match 4 of something and you get an extra turn. Match 5 and you get a wildcard, an extra turn, a ham sandwich and a nice inspirational saying. As you remove pieces from the board, more come down triggering even more possible combos until your opponent kneels in supplication before you, or vice versa.

As you go about fighting beasties you can spend money to upgrade your citadel which then lets you lay siege to other cities, capture enemy creatures and force them to teach you their spells, forge new magical items, pay to have skills upgraded and finally, build lasting monuments to your greatness. Forging items is done by fighting creatures for runes and then via the playing board, only this time you have to remove a certain number of anvils from the board rather than destroy an enemy. If you get to where there aren't any more moves, you start over. When researching spells you have to a) clear away a set number of each color of gem, b) clear away a certain number of scrolls and c) keep the board in play lest you get to no more moves, have to start over and hurl your DS across the room.

As I mentioned before, you can capture creatures rather than fighting them if you've already beaten them 3 or more times. Capturing the beasties involves completing a puzzle where you remove a preset number of jewels from the board. If it's a beastie you can ride, you can use the captured creature as a mount which gives you the benefit of faster movement, possibly bypassing random encounters and stat upgrades. You also get to cast their spells in combat. Laying siege to a city gives you a monthly income as well as more points on the map to research spells, forge items etc. Laying siege puts you in a battle against the city, which usually has about twice as many hit points as you do, and the cities can nail you for double digit damage every time. Sieges can take some time, and the city has a chance of rebelling after you capture it, but the sweet, sweet victory is unparalleled in the game.

The game is amazingly addictive. Since getting it, I have played it pretty much nonstop. I have taken this game to bed with me to play it before I fall asleep. When I close my eyes, I see falling skulls and purple stars and I think it's glorious. Each match is a cat and mouse game of stockpiling the mana you need, while trying to do damage to your opponent and keep the mana they need from them, lest they go on a tear and fuck your ass up. Along with the main quest, there are plenty of side quests, including ones you can repeat should you want to capture beasties, missions to get runes, the aforementioned sieges and the games to forge items and research spells. There's also an instant action mode which pits you against the foe of your choosing and which allows you to bring the experience and cash spoils of war into your main quest for buffing up purposes. There's local multiplayer over Wi-Fi should you have friends who own a copy and you can keep two characters in play if you decide to see how the other half lives. I guess in this case, it would be the other three-fourths.

It's not all perfect. The graphics on the DS, while nice, aren't anywhere as beautiful as they were in the PC demo I've mentioned. Sometimes a wrong move will get registered by the stylus, which ends up then costing you 5 hit points. Until you get a mount that allows you to bypass random monsters, you'll fight the same creatures a lot which is fine for buffing yourself up, but can be a little repetitive. The sound is pretty much shit filled with horrible sound effects and crappy music. I'd definitely recommend turning the volume down on this one.

The AI is pretty good, although sometimes it seems like the computer can see the gems that are about to fall. You'll have a couple of instances per match where the computer makes one move and the resulting gems that fall causes their mana to fill completely, they put a massive hurt on you and get like 9 extra turns. You'll make a move and get some coins. Yay. With the right combination of spells and moves you can help offset the effects of such a situation, however it doesn't make it any less frustrating. All in all, it's a minor gripe and one that's easy enough to deal with. Occasionally you'll have things go your way and I'm sure that the computer is thinking you're cheating.

So far the main story line seems like your generic fantasy fare. There's some banished bad dude and he's causing beasties and such to do nasty things. Personally, I like the notion that I'm the good guy, in service to the queen, yet as soon as I got the ability, I was laying to siege to other cities and subjugating them to my will. In fact, the last city I captured, I did so right after I saved them from some two-headed ogre. The notion of them going from celebrating the ogre's demise to fleeing from my fireballs makes me cackle with glee. I am similarly tickled by capturing sentient beings and forcing them to teach me their arcane skills. I find strange things amusing. I'll give you that.

When Linda bought this game, it was 24 bucks at Target. This is a considerable value considering all you can do in the game. Did I mention that you can get people to join your party and do things for you? Well you totally can. Between this and Pokemon Diamond which drops next week, there's a substantial amount of gaming value to be had on the DS. Those of you with a PSP can also play Puzzle Quest, however your mounts will be sans skills and spells. This is certainly a manageable issue and one that shouldn't keep you from enjoying the game, however it should remind you that the PSP is teh sux0r. You also don't get Pokemon Diamond or Pearl, however given that most PSP owners aren't 10 year old boys, I think you'll get over it.

It's games like this that make handheld gaming so fun. Its gameplay is easy to pick up and understand, you can play it for hours if you want, or just for 5 or 10 minutes and there's a lot of gameplay available. All for less than the price of a "next gen" title. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some gems to match.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

My Code of Conduct

Normally I don't comment on web stuff as I tend to not care, but of late there's been this whole brouhaha over the Web Code of Conduct, that I just can't resist. I know I said I'd be telling you about Puzzle Quest, but it's just going to have to wait. Again.

Without getting into it, two folks, namely Tim O'Reilly of Web 2.0 fame and Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia fame decided that there needed to be a Web Code of Conduct. A lot went into the thinking that all of us on the InterTubes needed to be told how to behave, but recently there have been a number of cases where bloggers, mostly female, have been harassed and sometimes threatened in the comments sections of the blogs they write for. Deleting these comments have caused some people to cry that their freedom of speech was being abridged, blah, blah, blah so Waled and O'Reilly decided that there needs to be a code of conduct so that folks reading a site know what they can expect in regards to comments and such and that folks writing for sites can feel like they can do what they need to, to keep things civil.

I can't think of a more complete waste of time.

Let me explain my own personal code of conduct in regards to this site so that we're all on the same page. I get to do this all free of charge as long as I don't do things expressly forbidden by Blogger. Not sure what those are, but I'm sure pirating copywritten content or posting porn has something to do with it. I can tell you that whatever they frown upon, I don't do it as they've never had a reason to bug me. Now, Blogger rules notwithstanding, this is my site and I can do whatever the fuck I want. I post when I want to and what I want to. I don't want to post copywritten material or porn, so I get to post what I want. If I wanted to post those things, I could get my own host and go from there. That's beside the point though. No one tells me how often I have to post, or what I have to post about.

Similarly, I don't tell people what they have to comment on, or how often they have to comment. I've never had to delete anyone's comments, mostly because the people who comment are friends of mine, but also because I just don't, thankfully, attract asshats. If someone were to come here and start talking shit. I'd tell them, via the comments, to knock it off and delete the offending comment. If they kept it up, I'd keep deleting the comments and, if need be, disable comments altogether. By the way, me deleting someone's comments has nothing to do with the commenter's first amendment rights, as the first amendment states " Congress shall make no law...or abridging the freedom of speech." I am a private citizen with a private site. I can deny you the ability to comment on it all the live long day. The government has nothing to do with it and as such, your first amendment right is just as happy and healthy as it was when we started this discussion.

Now, if, for whatever reason, I started just deleting comments all willy-nilly for no reason but to be a dickhead, you could just stop coming here. It's that simple. No one is making anyone go anywhere on the web. If you visit a site and you feel like the moderators/owners are deleting your comments just to dick you over, then stop going there. Another option is to objectively look at what you're writing in your comments and see if they're as benign as you think they are.

So, in a nutshell, here's my personal code of conduct: I won't be a dick to you and I expect you won't be a dick to me and the people who come here. If you do, I'll do whatever I can to keep you from continuing to to do. If you think I'm being a dick, please bring it to my attention. I'll keep an open mind, but if I don't think I'm being one, you can feel free to leave.

There, wasn't that simple? Now, your personal code of conduct is that you only post in your underwear and you insist on posting pictures of you in your underwear and anyone who doesn't comment in iambic pentameter gets their comment deleted. I probably won't spend a lot of time on your site, and I certainly won't be commenting, but I'm not going to tell you that you have to do things differently. If I don't like how you run things, I just won't show up.

To think that the Web needs some overarching policy telling people to basically, act nice, is stupid and ultimately useless. Anyone who would take the time to write a death threat in a comment thread obviously is not in their right mind. I mean, how many death threats have you ever made in your life, much less one that you took the time to write and then read and still felt it was a normal course of action? I have a feeling that someone who would take the time to post a death threat isn't going to be swayed by a code of conduct, nor are they going to react to the deletion of their comment with "Oh, well I was being a bit silly so I guess they were within their rights." I also think it's ironic that Wales is working on this policy when there's editors at Wikipedia selectively deleting entries on webcomics just because said editors don't feel like the webcomics are noteworthy enough. Talk about needing a code of conduct.

The bottom line is that if you're a dick at someone else's site, it's their site so they can prevent you from acting like an asshole to the best of their abilities. If you feel like you've been wronged, then fucking don't go back there. And Christ, if you run a site, have some fucking balls. Delete comments with impunity! Call people out for being jerkwads! Wield a banhammer! What fun is running a site if you can't arbitrarily muzzle someone? Bones, you're banned! Greg, you're banned! Linda, I know you don't comment but you're banned! Banned, banned, banned!

Ugh. Sometimes people can be so stupid. They really should consult with me first.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Paul Bunyan Reborn

I know that I had told you that I'd be providing my thoughts on Puzzle Quest, but instead I have a tale of an epic battle of man vs. tree. Well, man vs. stump anyways.

We're in the process of having some landscaping redone in our backyard and part of this effort involved the removal of a pear tree that had been voted "Ugliest Tree Ever" something like 17 years in a row. It was an ugly tree dynasty. The landscape company that we had remove the tree apparently felt that the removal of the stump didn't fall under their jurisdiction, and instead left it sitting out in the yard. Knowing full well that you can't put sod on a stump and expect the grass to take, and also knowing that I didn't want a stump sitting out in the middle of the grass just waiting to trip up children and break their wee little ankles, the stump removal task fell to me.

I did some research online on stump removal and found that it is possible to use various chemicals or combinations of household products, including powdered milk to rot the stump away naturally. Basically you drill some holes in the stump, pour your foul brew down into the holes, sit back and wait 2 to 3 years as some sort of fungus takes root and slowly eats away the tree. I don't have that kind of time, nor do I have any powdered milk, so clearly this wasn't the best course of action.

When chemicals and powdered milk aren't the answer to life's problems, it usually falls to good, old fashioned physical labor. Wow, I actually managed to type that with a straight face. While physical labor may be old fashioned, I hardly consider it "good", but what other choice did I have?

I found a strategy online which, on paper, sounded good, but in practice was a fucking waste of time. The idea is that you dig a trench about 2 feet around the stump, and about a foot deep and cut any roots you find. The idea here is that the roots get smaller as they move away from the tree thereby easier to break. This idea is bullshit. Yes, technically, the roots I found were 4.95 inches thick 2 feet from the stump, and 5 inches wide where they met the stump, however what this strategy doesn't consider is the roots that move down, diagonally so that 2 feet out and 1 foot deep doesn't uncover them. You then merrily go around the stump hatcheting roots and generally making your hand/wrist/arm feel like someone hit it repeatedly with a cinder block until you think you've broken them all. Then you go to move the stump and it doesn't go anywhere. I mean nowhere. It doesn't even move, like, a millimeter. I mean, I've kicked walls that have moved more than this fucking thing.

So, now that you've gone all the way around the damn thing, what's left? Well, you go and find a pickaxe, technically a mattock, and start going under the roots. The idea here was that if I have a stump with a 2 foot long, 5 inch thick root connected to it, and I can get under the root, I can use the root as leverage to pry the stump from its resting place. What ended up happening was that as I used my mattock to dig under the massive roots, all I found was more fucking roots. Each one was bigger and more stalwart than the past. Imagine someone took some kind of mutant, 16 limbed octopus, petrified it and then buried it in my backyard. This is what I was dealing with.

About an hour later, I had finally, finally, busted through every goddamn root connected to this fucking thing. I didn't know this until I swung the mattock for the last time, burying it deep under the stump, and gave the handle what would end up being one of my final pulls. The stump that had, up until this point, been completely unmovable, gave an inch. Then, when I pulled some more, it gave two. Then it gave three. Then, with a final, incredibly manly pull, I wrenched the stump out of the ground and held it aloft to the heavens. Ok, so I didn't hold it aloft as it weighs like 40 pounds, but I did bend over, huffed and puffed and said something like "Oh thank God." Then I tried to locate my testicles as all of this hard labor had made them migrate up into my liver.

Once I found them, I went inside, got my phone and took some pictures to commemorate my epic victory.
This first picture has me standing over my vanquished foe, and while I like the foreboding feel of my shadow, I realized after taking the picture, my shadow makes it very hard to see what I'm standing over. Maybe it's the stump, maybe it's a chest of pirate booty, maybe it's the dessicated remains of that insurance salesman who stopped by a few years ago and never moved on.

This second one shows the full weight of my effort. Next to the stump is my trusty mattock. I call him, "Mattock".

Now, all that's left is for the landscape guy to haul it away when he comes to clear out some other crap. I'll be damned if I'm going to haul the blasted thing up to the curb. He'll also need to fill in the hole with some dirt, but I think that's a small price to pay compared to the herculean task I undertook to remove Stumpzilla from the yard. A small price, indeed.

Monday, April 09, 2007

For Want of a Button, the Rock Was Lost

Tragedy struck today, tragedy most foul!

I invited a group of coworkers over at lunch time today so that they could enjoy the glory and splendor that is Guitar Hero 2. After laying it down most rocktacularly in "Killing in the Name Of", I handed the axe to my coworker. He attempted to use the strum bar and the green button to navigate the menu, but alas, something wasn't working. Further investigation proved that the green button wasn't working. Had this been the orange button, we could work with that as there's a very good chance I'll never be able to compete any song that uses the orange button even a measly 25% of the time, however the green button is essential, if only to get around from screen to screen.

My coworker mentioned that he felt a shock when I gave him the guitar, but seeing how the entire thing is made of plastic, save the whammy bar, he didn't think anything of it. Disconnecting and reconnecting did nothing. Rebooting the 360 did nothing. Even a 4 hour nap did nothing to bring my blessed controller back to full functionability. Games that require special controllers are all fun and, well, games, until said controller bites the big one. Thankfully Circuit City had a rather large collection of replacements and I have since traded in my busted guitar for a new one. See you at Marshall's, slightly imperfect guitar! Hopefully this next guitar won't have any of the dreaded whammy bar issues others are spinning tales of. When thinking of this post, I had planned on writing "at least my 360 didn't get bricked with the dreaded red ring of death" but thought better of it lest I find words shaping a most unfortunate future. What now? I did write it? I did not! Where? Oh. Shit.

In other music news, last week saw a new Fountains of Wayne album and today our exceedingly cute postal employee dropped off the new MC Frontalot album. Despite the often times aggravating nature of the Internet with it's asinine message boards and total asshats hiding behind the veil of anonymity, I thank the Lords of Technology every day for bringing the Internet into existence, for if they hadn't, I would never have heard of MC Frontalot. This new album is amazing. "Origin of Species" has fantastic lyrics held together by a guitar hook and vocal chorus that rivals anything you'll find on the radio today. An artist like The Front simply could not survive in the pre-Internet radio days which is probably the best argument for tearing all that radio shit down and starting over I can think of. I have heard the future, and his name is MC Frontalot.

Tomorrow, sit back and allow me to bust thick rhymes about Puzzle Quest.

Friday, April 06, 2007

How'd You Get Here

I have nothing exciting to talk about today. While discussing this with Linda she suggested that I write about how my daughter manages to get massive stains on every piece of clothing she wears, that way when people Google "how to remove stains from my daughter's shirt" this site would come up. While that seems like an extremely exciting topic, instead I've decided to talk a little about how people end up finding this little corner of the IntraWeb.

If you've ever scrolled down to the bottom of this site, you'll see a hit counter from Bravenet. Part of the free service they offer is that I get to see the referrals to this site at any point in time. Unfortunately I don't have access to historical referral data as I'm a cheap bastard and won't pay for it, but I do check my referrals daily and I've noticed a pattern. Here, in no particular order, are the most common ways people get here.

Friends' Sites
I get a bunch of referrals from Bones and Greg's sites. I'm assuming this is them reading the site and just getting here from their own linkage. Given that most of my visitors are first time visitors, as opposed to returning visitors, regular readers make up a small percentage of my readership. I'm trying to figure out how to swing this the other way, but short of just being a more interesting writer, I'm not sure how to do that. I don't see myself being more interesting any time soon. Lately I got a nice uptick in traffic from Bill over at Dubious Quality, and occasionally someone will get here from me commenting at Scalzi's site, but those rarely end up in increased repeat readers. Again with me not being interesting.

Toddlers with Various Ailments
Some time ago, I wrote a post making fun of the fact that when toddlers are sick they can't tell you what's wrong with them. Making fun of those that haven't developed communication skills sufficient enough to express the extent of their bodily discomfort is what makes me Father of the Year. In the post, I mention a number of possible ways a kid could be hurt, and mention a time my son claimed that a spider bit him. As a result, I get a bunch of referrals of people genuinely trying to figure out what's wrong with their sick kid. Some of them are normal requests like "Toddler ear pain" and "toddler stomach ache" but I've had some real oddball ones like "Toddler spider bite", "Toddler sleeps all the time" and "Toddler can't walk". Why the parents of a child who obviously has Polio is taking the time to Google it, rather than call a doctor, I have no idea, but I feel a little bad that these distraught parents get to my snarky site instead of someplace that can actually help them.

Various Science Questions
Despite not having written a science post in quite some time, I still get an occasional visitor wanting to know why leaves are green or why their pipes are expanding and making squeaking noises. I'd like to think I'm helping to educate the world one visitor every other week at a time.

Fun With Oblivion
At least half of my referrals come from people searching on "Fun with Oblivion" or "fun in Oblivion" or some sort of phrase with the words "Oblivion" and "fun" in it. Sometimes it's people looking for certain items or quests in Oblivion, but mostly it's people looking for some good, old fashioned fun. I have no idea why this phrase is so common for searching, but it drives at least half of my traffic, so I guess I'm just happy it is. The post people get to, also happens to be the post with the most comments, a whopping 9. Wahey! So remember kids, if you want fun in Oblivion, this is the place for you.

Ego Surfing
So one day as I'm checking my referrals, I see that someone got to my site by surfing my wife's name. I say to her "Hey, someone was searching for you" and she gets this sheepish look on her face. Yes, that's right, my wife was doing some ego surfing, found a story here she wanted to read and went ahead and read it. The funniest thing was her getting defensive and saying that I shouldn't be able to see how people get to the site. She's so cute when she's embarrassed.

Based on these findings, I've devised a new phrase that will do nothing but send my traffic to the stratosphere. It is:

Linda Cackowski-Schnell diagnoses sick toddlers while having fun in Oblivion.

Open the floodgates boys! They're coming!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Guitar Hero 2 Initial Impressions

Once again, my wrists throb, inflamed with the healing fires of rock.

Guitar Hero 2 for the 360 has landed and while I haven't had enough time to really get into it, I can provide some initial impressions.

First of all, let's talk about the controller. It's nice and sturdy like the last one, however the whammy bar doesn't have the same back and forth action as the controller for the PS2. I prefer to play with the whammy bar pointing away from the strum bar, as I find it uncomfortable to strum and hit the bar at the same time. With the last controller, I could just reach down away from the strum bar when I wanted some hot whammy action. Now, I either have to have the bar pointing to the strum bar, and figure out how to strum around it, or I have to reach down, pull it around and then use it. This cuts down on my whammying severely. Thankfully you don't need to use the whammy bar to "beat" the song, but it is essential for building up your boost bar and getting those high scores.

I don't really care that the controller isn't wireless, as I like the idea of a cord coming off of a guitar, but at the same time, I don't feel like having all of the usual 360 controller shenanigans gives you anything. Part of the illusion of Guitar Hero is the fact that the controller is a guitar, and as such, doesn't look like a controller. If your guitar has things on it, like a guide button, so that it looks more like a controller, that, in my opinion, is a bad thing. The gods demand sacrifice, and if giving up your precious guide button when you worship at the Altar of Rock is the sacrifice you have to make, then you got off easy.

The game is basically Guitar Hero, just with an incredible amount of shine and polish. This is a very, very good thing. Part of what made Guitar Hero so charming was the ascetic of the game. I'm glad to see they haven't changed anything in this regard. The usual rock posters for the in game menus are still there and look better than ever.

The character animations and rock backdrops are all improved and look amazing. I've missed a bunch of notes already paying attention to the band on stage instead of the song. Judy Nails is, quite possibly, the hottest video game female I've ever seen. The little touches like flaming amps and shots of the crowd, complete with lighters, when your band is really laying it down, help to let you know just how well you're rocking.

The song list is good. On the plus side, the "master tracks" they added to this version sound much, much better than the covers. On the minus side, the track list seems a little less eclectic than the previous game. At the same time, having such axe classics as Free Bird and Sweet Child O' Mine make the game feel like the tribute to Rock that it is. Rocking out to Pearl Jam is the amazing experience I thought it would be. The songs seem a bit easier this time around, but maybe I'm just not as rusty as I thought it would be.

I haven't touched practice mode yet, but based on how shitty I did when trying to play "Life Wasted" on Medium, I know I'll put it to good use.

The addition of achievements makes this game so much more fun than the original. It's one thing to tell people that you've mastered all the songs on Hard or Expert but to have something that the whole world can see makes it all the sweeter. Getting 100,000 points in a song, getting a 100 note streak, nailing 100% of the notes are all great moments in the game, but the achievements make them so much better. The Live Leaderboards aren't quite as exciting, as high scores don't tell me how well someone completed a song like a note streak tallies or notes hit percentages do, but it's nice to see your friends tearing it up with you. Hopefully multiplayer over Live will be released in a subsequent patch.

All things considered, everything about the original is here, just better. I'm sure I'll get frustrated as I venture into 5 starring all the songs on Medium, but even then, I'll be having so much fun it'll all be worth it. Truly, tonight I'm gonna rock you tonight.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Devastator and Ravage

I think it's written somewhere, in the Tome of Awesome the hierarchy of awesome things. It goes something like this:

I. Awesome
Robots that come together to form other robots.
II. Way Awesome
Robots that turn into vehicles
III. Super Awesome
Robots that turn into vehicles and form other robots.
Robots that turn into dinosaurs.
Robots that turn into zombies.
IV. Too Awesome For Words
Zombie dinosaur robots that turn into vehicles and form a ginormous zombie dinosaur robot monster truck.

As you can see, this puts Voltron below Transformers, and your garden variety Transformers slightly below Dinobots and Devastator. The next entries are part of what I can only call wishes on my part for a new Transformers line. You can have that one for free Takara. You and Hasbro both.

By the way, at the time of this writing, my wrist is inflamed with Rock. It's a small price to pay to get back into the good graces of the Gods of Rock and I pay it willingly.

So, yeah, Devastator. This Classics version only has 5 robots, as opposed to the original six as he's based on the Cybertron Constructicon Maximus mold. Mixmaster must have left to go DJ for the Beastie Boys or something, because he's MIA. Bonecrusher and Decepticon Scrapper are the same payloader model, just with different paint jobs. Long Haul and Hightower are the same crane thingy, again with different paint jobs. Scavenger is his own model, some kind of backhoe thing. I was disappointed to see this was the case as I was unfamiliar with Constructicon Maximus, but once they all come together to form Devastator, he looks pretty damn cool.

The different paint jobs do make the same models look better, a lot more so that the repaints of Optimus and Starscream they used for Ultra Magnus and Skywarp, so in the end, I don't mind so much. The individual Constructicons all transform pretty easily, except for Scavenger who's vehicle form seems loose and jangly, if that makes any sense at all. They all make for cool, sturdy little robots. As always, scale is a big issue here as in their vechicle forms, they're all smaller than Mirage. Last I checked, construction vehicles are bigger than Formula One racers.

Ravage, as you may remember, is one of Soundwave's micro cassettes. When he's not lounging around in Soundwave's chest, he's a lean, mean, black jaguar. He was recently reinterpreted for the Alternator's line as, get this, a Jaguar XK. Yes, that's right, he's a Jaguar that turns into a jaguar.

Unlike Jazz and Rollbar, the other Alternators I have, Ravage's robot mode is pretty damn cool and pretty damn sturdy. Jazz can't hold his own damn weapon and his hood keeps flying off, even when he's just standing there. Rollbar is sturdier, but in vehicle form he has some seriously bowlegged tires. Not Ravage though. His vehicle mode is badass and his robot form is so cool, I'll probably never transform him back to car mode.

His tail is articulated, as his massive, snake-like jaw and he comes complete with sidemounted rocket launchers that, unlike with his original form, don't have to be manually attached. Out of the box, he's ready to rain destruction down on unsuspecting Autobots. He's so cool that I have him out in my home theater room permanently, keeping watch over us from the top of one of my tower speakers. Right now he's sitting next to Linda, keeping her safe from the beasties on Season one of Supernatural. For an evil, humanity hating robot, he's quite a softie. I apologize for the crappy Ravage pictures, but my hands were seriously shaking from so much rocking out.

They also made an Alternator version of Rumble, he too of Soundwave's micro cassettes and he and Ravage will effectively end the Alternators line. I have no intention of getting Rumble as I found him quite annoying as a child and I'm not particularly fond of Honda Civics. If you choose to add him to your collection, he's a Wal Mart exclusive, as is Ravage and Devastator. That's Wallyworld for us, keeping prices and employee benefits down and the number of super badass Transformers up. Thanks Wal Mart!

A Healthy Glow

Lots to talk about today. So much, in fact, that we're going to do an unprecedented double post, partly to make up for not writing anything yesterday and partly because the two topics at the forefront of my brain don't go together. As is to be expected, one of the posts regards some robots who may or may not be in disguise. That post require pictures, so it will have to wait until tonight. I will give you a coming attraction though...


Aw yeah.

Guitar Hero 2 for the 360 comes out today. I'll have some impressions tomorrow as well as some insight into my world of console guilt. Thrilling stuff.

Now that it's spring and the temperatures are starting to rise, I find myself faced with the age old problem of being a disgusting sweaty bastard.

Some background first. I wasn't always like this. Much like my weight gain, I'm not exactly sure when it happened, but at some point, I started to get a little wet around the edges when the temperature got even slightly elevated. Lucky for me, this isn't limited to simply being outside as I can manage to break out in a sweat in the middle of winter if the heat is running just a wee bit too much. Fall and early spring are hell for me as I have to wear a coat outside, but in the car I'm so hot that you'd think I just ran a marathon.

Like ear hair and enlarged noses, the problem appears to be getting worse as I get older. I now sweat while bowling, which is probably the most telling remark I can make in regards to my physical shape. I don't feel like I'm exerting myself, and I doubt my heart rate would reflect it, but I appear to be so out of shape that I sweat while playing a sport that has a professional tour sponsored by Denny's. When you're tired out by a sport sponsored by the makers of the Lumberjack Slam, you need to reevaluate your priorities.

And so I have. I'm pretty sure that my increased moisture level is directly correlated to my increased size, and while I haven't gotten so large as to require new clothing, I have gotten large enough so that I can't hide beneath my existing clothing. Here's a weight loss tip from me to you: wear baggy clothes. I've also gotten large enough to where I appear to be sweating more rather than less. Fat and wet is enough to shatter even my own rock hard self-image so something has to change.

Yesterday I went out and tried on rollerblades to help me usher in a new era of fitness. As I was taking the skates off and chatting up the friendly female clerk, I started sweating. Yes, I took a few laps in the store to ensure a good fit, but it wasn't the physical exertion of skating that caused it, it was the act of removing the skate. When you get sweaty taking off exercise equipment that's a sign that you shouldn't leave the store without purchasing said equipment. It also helped to remind me how very, very little game I have. It's not like the clerk was the spitting image of Kristen Bell and I was nervous by being in the presence of her beauty. I was simply sweating for no other reason than to sweat. Now, I know I'm no feast for the eyes but I like to think my personality makes up for it, as long as I don't talk about any of the things I find remotely interesting. Sweating profusely while trying to have a normal conversation probably negates any personality bonuses unless I'm talking to someone who likes sweaty men, in which case, ew. On the plus side, I appear to have very healthy sweat glands, a turn on if ever there was one.

Thankfully, the gym in my building will be opening soon thereby making it as convenient as it can possibly be to work out and removing all barriers save my colussal laziness in one fell swoop. It will literally be 50 yards from my office so I really have no reason to not go and get on a treadmill 3 times a week. The fact that our building will also have a shower will help as now I can take advantage of the miles and miles of trails that run behind my office building and beyond and not smell like a rendering plant upon my return. Clearly something needs to be done before the temps regularly dip into the 90's around here and I look like I took my lunch break in the dunk tank. If I can also lose enough weight to successfully stop exercising and hide beneath big t-shirts, all the better, however at this point I'd be happy with just being able to continue to eat a bunch of crap and not get any bigger. Being fat and sweaty may not do wonders for my self image, but a caramel apple pie sure helps to take the pain away. Mmmmm, unhealhy eating.

I'll try and keep you posted on my progress, but to be honest, I find exercise so boring that I can barely bring myself to do it much less write about it. I doubt I'll end up being one of those people who get so into it they get high off of it as I have worked out, at length, in the past, and the most exciting thing about it was my ability to keep dipping my fries in mayo. Mayo dipped fries, on the other hand, is a subject I could write about at length. Well, at girth anyways.