Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays!

We'll keep this short and to the point.

Merry Christmas, or happy holidays, or "insert appropriate holiday sentiment here".

Oh, and have a happy new year too.

Friday, December 19, 2008

On Unwanted Candy and the Consumption Thereof

As it's holiday time, all of the various organizations we do business with have been sending packages of goodies all week long. I've eaten gourmet brownies, scads of truffles and pecan clusters the size of a man's fist.

One box though was not so beloved. This was the box filled with some of the lamest candy I have ever seen. Did you know that the Willy Wonka bar was a real candy bar? It is. It consists of chocolate and graham crackers. Seriously? Graham crackers? There were also Charms. Do you remember Charms? They're like square, hole-less Lifesavers. The package looked to be transported from 1953. Sugar babies were also there, rounding out the candy hall of shame. I remember Sugar Babies, chocolate covered caramel balls for those not familar, as looking and tasting waxy when they weren't getting stuck in your teeth. Not exactly an ideal candy situation.

Most prominently displayed though was the huge Bit O' Honey bar. I haven't seen Bit O' Honey in years, and figured that they just got rid of it on account that no one ate it. I even joked with a coworker about it. However as the week went on, and the candy supply diminished, that poor candy bar, resplendant with a happy bee, kept catching my eye in the break room. "Why won't anyone eat me?" it lamented. I must admit, I felt bad for it. So I ate it.

Here are some things that I've learned about the Bit O' Honey bar. For one, it is less than 2% honey. It says so right on the label, and the taste reflects this accordingly. This thing tastes nothing like honey. Technically, pouring a little honey in a carbeurator would mean that is has a bit 'o honey, and I wouldn't expect it to taste like honey, so I don't know why I was suckered into it this time. I blame the bee.

Second, Bit O' Honey bars are segmented with each segment individually wrapped in what looks like wax paper. The entire bar is also wrapped in some sort of paper. Peeling the paper off of a bar of what is essentially, pure sugar is not an easy, nor pleasurable task. As you progress farther and farther with the bar, and your fingers get sticker and sticker, it becomes even less easy and less pleasurable as now you're battling not only the candy for the paper, but your own fingertips. It is as if your own body has rebelled against you, no doubt because of what you're trying to force into it.

Finally, Bit 'O Honey bars simply aren't very good. They don't taste like honey. They taste like a vaguely chemicalized sugar mixed with some slightly off milk. There are moments where things taste sort of alright, and then it changes. Plus, due to the consistency of the bar, it's impossible to bite a segment in half, meaning that you have to put the whole goddamn thing in your mouth, and chew it to a more workable texture, hoping all the while that you don't a) choke or b) rip your teeth out from their sockets.

Why I would continue to eat such a candy bar when the total unpleasantness of the task became apparent after the first segment is a mystery to most, but not to me. See, simply put, I am powerless to resist bad food. Don't get me wrong, there is plenty of bad food that I'll reject outright. Like liver, for example. That shit is disgusting. However if a food sounds interesting, or sounds so bad that it still has to be tried, I will try it, and, most likely, continue to eat it well past the time when every biological system under my command is blaring angry warnings of protestation. So went the Bit O' Honey experiment. After the first segment, I thought, man, I really shouldn't eat more of this. Then I did, until I had finished the whole thing. Now it sits in my stomach like a lump of malice. Where is my friendly bee now? Stinging my colon apparently.

Maybe some day I'll resist the urge to eat something that I know I should avoid. If I were a cave person, devoid of governmental agencies tasked with identifying poisons in the hopes of preventing their consumption, I would surely be dead by now, long passed from eating a flaming piece of tree bark, or a live wombat. Until such time as I grow an ounce of common sense, I can rest assured that soon the holidays will be over, and people will stop sending us boxes of third rate candy. In the mean time, I think there are still some candy necklaces left.

Prince of Persia: The Fallen King

My take on Prince of Persia: the Fallen King is up. I know, I know, it's like Christmas has come early.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Free and Clear

Today I finished writing my review of Syberia for the DS so I am now done with paid games writing until January. Whee! Nothing to do now but kick back and do what I want to do. Aw yeah.

Small problem with this idea though. I have no idea what I'm going to do.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still playing 360 games, dutifully chipping away at Mercenaries 2 so that I can put that one to bed, but what to do while watching tv? That's the conundrum.

I don't have a lot of magazines at the moment and if I did, reading them tends to put me to sleep.

I do have some graphic novels, having recently picked up the Brian Azzarello Joker book and the next TPB in the Marvel Dark Tower series, but see point A about falling asleep.

I have some Lego sets, but no where to put them once I put them together. In fact, with yesterday's arrival of Shadow Blade Megatron, I'm also out of room for my Transformers. This poses a particularly large problem as I picked up Cyclonus today and have four more toys arriving between now and the end of January.

I could finish playing Chrono Trigger on the DS and while I think this will be fine in the long term, the fact that I just got done playing a bunch of games makes me less than enthusiastic about playing another game, even if it's one that I enjoy. Curse you game reviewing for ruining all of my fun!

I could write, either for my site, or for Lungfishopolis, however I'm somewhat burned out on writing too.

That leaves either sleeping, or actually watching the TV show that we have on. That first one doesn't go over well with the wife, so that leaves paying attention.



Monday, December 15, 2008

On Fronting

Last week I bore witness to yet another amazing spectacle of Nerdcore Hip-Hop as I attended a show with not one, not two, but three stellar MC's, including the godfather of Nerdcore himself, MC Frontalot. Along for the ride was MC Lars and YT Cracker.

If raw, house bringing down rap power was the fuel that could run our lives, let's just say that after this show, the world would never need for energy again. It was an amazing powerhouse of raw MC skills and mad nerdcore flow.

I was somewhat familar with MC Lars, and not at all familar with YT Cracker, and man, can these guys lay it down. YT Cracker, along with being an accomplished rapper, is also a l33t hacker, having hacked the NASA front page years ago to bring attention to glaring security holes in various federal web sites. He also may or may not have been a spammer, as indicated in his many songs with his first nerdcore rap group, spamtec. Spamtec is, indeed, the greatest.

MC Lars and YT Cracker recently collaborated on the Original Digital Gangster lp so they did the majority of their sets together. They both have a tremendous amount of energy and really get the crowd into things, lowering the microphones so that everyone can rap along with the choruses. Lars likes to rock the dual projectors for his songs to bring the multimedia aspect to the show which makes for some hilarious visuals to go along with the songs. Both MC's brought their A game and the crowd was eating it up.

Once Lars and YT Cracker were done and various sound issues were worked out, Front took the stage and rocked it as well as he always does. Front's latest album "Final Boss" is a real aural extravaganza, and I was disappointed that he didn't perform more off of it, but while Lars and YT Cracker rap to a mish-mash of a live band and a backing track via iPod, Front rocks only with the live band, making some of his newer stuff harder to do. He still represented nerdcore to the fullest and did many of my favorite tracks from "Secrets From the Future", his last joint. Unfortunately, the sound issues persisted during his set and his microphone was often drowned out by the keyboards, but luckily the guy behind me knew all of the songs, and rapped them all right in my ear. Oh yes, luck was certainly with me.

As great as it was to hear the MC's bring it with full force, the best part of the show, as with previous nerdcore shows, was being able to chat with the rappers beforehand, buy some gear and generally thank them for dropping inconceivably thick rhymes. All three guys were super nice and very cool to hang out with. If I hadn't been there for five hours already, I would have stuck around longer and shot the shit some more, but as it was, it was late, and I was exhausted as well as partially deaf. Between spending time with these guys at this show, spending time with Front at his last show and being able to chat a bit with Jonathan Coulton at his show, I can tell you that these guys are just super great to their fans. I hope that one day their fame matches their levels of fan awesomeness as right now, they are all super, mega, rope-a-dope awesome to their fans.

And now, crappy cell phone pictures!

MC Lars and YT Cracker doing a sound check.

The original digital gangsters.

Lars with Black Lotus on guitar.

24/7 he fronts the most.

The nerdcore rapper in his natural habitat.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Guitar Rock Tour

My review of Guitar Rock Tour is up. It's a Guitar Hero clone, but not a bad one, once you get past the bad covers. They can't all be masters, can they?

Sorry I haven't been around much this week. Been laid up with some medical stuff. Nothing serious, but nothing that lends itself to posting either. I'll be back on the regular schedule next week, which is no schedule at all.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Lies, All Lies!

Remember when I said that there would be more later? Yeah, I lied.

What would bring someone to spin such falsehoods and half truths? What kind of man publicly proclaims that he will post more musings at a later time, only to not do so? What poor excuse for humanity would weave a tale of such obvious deception? It's hard to say, but clearly you're dealing with a monster, a man so twisted by perverted desire that he's but a bitter shell of humanity.


Hasbro appears to be putting out a last December push of toys before the holidays and I, for one, am thrilled all to pieces. I already picked up Animated Skywarp and Animated Shockwave and have heard that new Universe toys, namely Hound, Cheetor and Cyclonus are in the area. I managed to get Cheetor on the cheap (cheapor?) with a rare combination of free shipping and coupons at Hasbro's online store, with the only downside being that he won't ship until our stars burn to dust and our world is nothing but a lifeless husk. I sure hope UPS is still around.

Seriously though, I bought five toys including the oh so sexy Shadowblade Megatron (pictured) and while two of the toys ship at the end of this month, the rest won't ship until some time in January. It's a small price to pay for 25% off, especially considering that Target recently raised the price of the Universe Transformers, which are the main contents of my order.

So, Shockwave (pictured courtesy of Shockwave is cool for a number of reasons, namely that he's a quadruple changer. In the show, Shockwave is a secret agent who infiltrates the Autobots posing as Longarm. Seeing how he's undercover, he needs a vehicle form for both his fake Autobot persona and his true Decepticon persona. His vehicle modes aren't anything all that spectacular with the Autobot form being a crane and the Decepticon form being a tank. What's super cool is how his Autobot robot form transforms into his Decepticon form. The Decepticon form is particularly cool with the long limbs, sharp fingers and the quintessential single Shockwave eye. Even the head transforms between robot forms. Criminy!

Now, all is not perfect. His vehicle forms aren't all that much different, and a crane is pretty lame, especially seeing how you can't extend the crane arm at all. The biggest error though is that when Shockwave is in his Longarm Autobot robot form, there's a big, ol' honkin' Decepticon symbol right there between his legs, like some sort of Decepti-penis. Some spy he is, that he has his faction's symbol right there for all to see, on his robot junk no less.

Even with this glaring, very un-spy-like piece of robotic anatomy, he's a super fun toy, and even though he's sporting a seemingly drab color scheme, it works for him, serving to accentuate his single, malevolent eye quite well.

Skywarp is Skywarp. He's a repaint of Starscream, which works for me because a) I love the Starscream mold and b) he's purple and black. I looooooooove purple and black. It makes him look like a pimp. In the cartoon, he's the cowardly clone of Starscream, so I currently have him posed with his hands over his face like he's hiding. I'll have to get a picture at some point, along with all of the other toys, as I've amassed quite a few in the past months, so many that my desk has barely any room left on it, and additional shelving needs to be purchased. Such is the life of a toy collector. Nothing but cowardly poses and shelving purchases. That's why I gets all the ladies.

Holiday Mr. Binky

I'll post more later, but for now, my latest Mr. Binky is up. It's not my best work, but one does what one can when gripped in a post-Thanksgiving stupor (I wrote it over the holiday weekend).

Sadly, this may be the last one as Mr. Binky isn't bringing in enough traffic to warrant a monthly column. The final sentence hasn't been passed yet, but it's not looking good. If it does get canceled, I'll be bringing it elsewhere, most likely lungfishopolis, so don't worry, Mr. Binky will continue to entertain all three of you.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

On Movies and Keeping One's Mouth Shut

Here's a piece of advice for all you movie aficionados out there. If you fancy yourself the type of person whose movie recommendations are asked for, or even coveted by friends and family, it is imperative that you keep the more, shall we say esoteric, movie choices to yourself.

Say, for example, you see a movie called The Midnight Meat Train and you think to yourself, "how can I not want to watch a movie called The Midnight Meat Train?" Well, watch it, certainly. Enjoy it, but do not, under any circumstances, tell others that you spent your time watching The Midnight Meat Train. If you do, not only will those that used to respect your movie tastes no longer do so, but you will lose all rights to complain about bad movies afterwards. In fact, forever onward from the point where you divulge your watching of The Midnight Meat Train, any complaint you make about a movie will be matched with "What do you care, you watched The Midnight Meat Train. "

Now, this same rule does not apply to horror movie fans, as their tastes appear to be much, much broader, hence The Midnight Meat Train, but maybe to them, saying that you enjoyed Sideways trashes your credibility. I have no idea. All I know is that I told my coworkers that I watched The Midnight Meat Train and the mocking hasn't stopped since.

To my credit, I didn't pay to watch this movie, other than time spent watching it, and I spent said time working out, so it's not like I put aside a special block of time to watch this movie. Plus, and I can't stress this enough, it's called The Midnight Meat Train. I can't see how that doesn't spark curiosity in even the most closed minded of individuals.

For the record, the movie was just ok. Shocking, I know. It was based on a Clive Barker story of the same name, which I read after the watching the movie. The story was ok, and at less than 30 pages, wasn't able to sustain a 90 minute movie. Instead, they decided to fill the movie with things that didn't make sense and were never addressed. Horror movies need to be either scary as hell, like The Descent or creepy as hell, like The Devil's Backbone. This movie was just weird and gory. It didn't help that the killer was played by Vinnie Jones, of Snatch and Eurotrip fame, and as soon as I saw him, I laughed and said "It's Bulletproof Tony!" Better luck next time, Midnight Meat Train.

As a correlary to our rule, the same people who mock you about watching The Midnight Meat Train will be more than happy to discuss Onechanbara once they know that it's about a woman in a bikini who fights zombies with a samurai sword. They may even want to watch it. Go figure.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

My Pizza, Let Me Show You It

Ok, ok, ok, here's the pepperoni pizza recipe. If it sucks, don't blame me. As a writer, I am given to hyperbole now and again.

Here's the ingredients that we use. Obviously you'll have to adjust things accordingly based on what you can get where you are.

1 pizza dough from Publix, thawed if previously frozen and taken out of the fridge for 2.5 hours
Classico tomato and basil pasta sauce
Kroger pizza cheese (This one is very important. Mozzarella isn't flavorful enough, so this cheese is a blend of five cheeses including mozzarella, parmesan, reggiano and other ones that I can't remember. Very important.)
Crushed red pepper
Boar's Head sliced pepperoni (This one is the second most important. For us, this pepperoni is over by the deli counter, not with the sausage and other pork products. Look for it and pay the extra. It's well worth it.)

1.) Preheat your oven to 450. Because we make two pizzas at a time, we have the racks positioned so one is a bit higher in the oven and one is lower. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that we'd do the same thing for one pizza so that at the end you can put the top of the pizza closer to the top heat source, thereby browning it nicely. Obviously, your oven will be different so position things accordingly.
2.) Roll out your dough for a 16 inch pizza pan. If you have a pan with a slight lip, use it. This will make the crust's edge a bit thicker, and thereby tastier. You don't need something as deep as a deep dish pan, maybe a lip of like half an inch.
3.) Once the dough is rolled out, spray your pizza pan with cooking spray and place the dough on the pan.
4.) When the oven is ready, poke the dough all over with a fork. This will keep large air bubbles from forming when the crust is baking.
5.) If you're only using one oven rack position, bake the crust for 8 minutes. If using two, bake it on the bottom rack for 4 minutes, and then the top for another 4 minutes.
6.) Remove the crust from the oven after 8 minutes. Spoon the sauce on the crust one to two spoonfuls at a time. I use a soup spoon, as in a spoon for eating soup, not one for stirring or making soup. It's very important that you just get the sauce, no tomato chunks. Use the spoon to smooth the sauce all over the crust. You don't want to over do the sauce. A little goes a long way. When you're done, the crust should look like it was painted with a light coating of sauce, not completely covered with it. Obviously you can put on as much or as little sauce as you want, but this is the way I do it and it's been working pretty well. It ends up being about 3 - 4 spoonfuls of sauce. Spread the sauce so that it comes up to about an inch from the edge of the crust.
7.) Cover the entire crust with cheese. I use almost an entire 2 cup bag, however you can put on as much as you want. Make sure you evenly coat the crust.
8.) Sprinkle a liberal coating of crushed red pepper over the cheese. Spice that bitch up. Trust me.
9.) Put your pepperonin on the cheese so that the pepperoni doesn't overlap, but instead touches edge to edge. Working from the outer edge of the sauce inwards, you should be able to get 3 - 4 rings of pepperoni, depending on the size of the pan, with a slice in the middle.
10.) Take another handful of cheese and sprinkle it all over the pepperoni. This may not sound important but it is very important. As the pizza cooks, the pepperoni will lose some grease. The cheese will melt and mix with the grease, so that when you brown up the top, it makes a really tasty mini-crust.
11.) Throw the pizza back in the oven for 10 minutes. 5 on the bottom rack and 5 on the top if you're going the dual rack way.
12.) After ten minutes take a look at the pizza, you want the top to be bubbling slightly with a slightly brown color. You don't want the cheese to burn, but you don't want it whitish either. You should hear the pepperoni sizzling slightly. If you're going with one rack position, take the pizza out, raise the rack, and put the pizza back in with the oven light on so that you can watch the pizza until it's ready.
13.) Take the pizza out, slice it up and enjoy. Be sure to have plenty of beverages on hand because between the pepperoni and the pepper, you'll need something to drink.

So there you have it. Enjoy! Maybe later I'll share my spinach, bacon and monterey jack pizza recipe. That one isn't a bad little pie either.

Guide Train Kept A Rollin'

Two guides today, both for Gears of War 2. The first is an achievement guide, the second is a collectible guide. Hopefully I won't have any guides for a bit as they're not the most fun thing in the world to write. Oh sure, I can inject some personality into them, but for the most part, it's pretty dry. They pay well though, so there is a strong impetus to do them. Plus, knowing how things go around here, they'll change their minds on them in another month and the gravy train will come to a stop. Milk it while it's worth it, I say.

In fact, other than the review I'm currently putting off writing and the upcoming Prince of Persia for the DS, December is in the books. I'm not killing myself this month and there's not a lot coming out, so once PoP is done, I'm taking the rest of the month off.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Most. Boring. Post. Ever.

So, back before the holidays, Greg tagged me with an internet chain mail thingy that tasked me to describe, in detail, seven interesting things about myself that few, if any people knew about. I was then supposed to tag seven bloggers that I knew so that they could do the same thing.

There are two problems with this particular situation, namely that I don't know seven people who blog that I'm comfortable tagging and, more importantly, I can't think of seven interesting things about myself that no one knows about. The problem there is not the "that no one knows about" part but the "seven interesting things" part. I mean, I am, quite seriously, one of the most boring people on the planet. I don't think that's a bad thing, as I'm quite happy with my life, but it certainly doesn't lend itself to writing long, interesting posts about one's activities.

As boring as I am, I'm certainly not one to turn down an opportunity to have something to write about so I'm here to turn this tag on it's ear and instead write the seven most ponderously dull things about myself. Insomniacs of the world rejoice, you're about to get served up a gigantically dull serving of sleepy time helper.

Greg, I'm so sorry.

Boring Item #1: I don't like bananas.
Seriously. Bananas are gross. When Gwen Stefani said "that shit is bananas" she was right, as the two share equal footing as unappetizing food items in my mind. It's not the flavor, it's the texture. Bananas have a disgusting texture, the very thought of which makes me want to gag. For some reason, I equate the texture of bananas with that of human brains, which makes my eventual zombification a win-win as far as I'm concerned. Either my unyielding, ravenous hunger for tasty brain flesh proves the impetus to finally overcome such a crippling texture aversion, or I can't get past my issues and I become the world's least threatening, and by extension, most boring zombie. Why my status as one of the shambling undead should be any different than my status as one of the shambling living is beyond me, so I'm voting for option number two.

Boring Item #2: I eat the same thing for breakfast every day.
Well, every week day that is. Yep, the same thing. One cup of All-Bran with Strawberries and 80z of skim milk. Even my breakfast is boring. Granted, compared to like Shredded Wheat, this is the culinary equivalent of snowboarding naked with one's hair on fire, but compared to most breakfasts, it's pretty fucking tame. Tame, lame, take your pick. Despite my overwhelming love of food, I can very quickly, and happily get into a rut about certain meals. For most of my school going career, I ate the same lunch every day: one peanut butter sandwich, three chocolate chip cookies, a granola bar, an apple and a cran-apple juice box. The granola bar would change, but that's about it. As for breakfast, I like it, it's easy to make and it gives me all of the fiber an old coot like myself needs. Oh sure, I have dreams of getting other things for breakfast, but as I'm lazy and easily guiltable, along with boring, I usually don't. Technically my tales of boring ass breakfasts and school lunches counts as two boring items, but you're not getting off that easy. Oh, no. Not by a long shot.

Boring Item #3: Upon coming home, I don't take my shoes off until I get in my pajamas.
This particular item of soul crushing tedium bugs my wife to no end. I don't know why, but for some reason, I won't take my shoes off until I get into my pajamas, an event that doesn't take place until the kids are in bed, or about to be in bed. Well, I know why. For me, the kids going to bed means that my day is pretty much over. Nothing left but some quality time with the wife and some quality time with the gaming console of my choosing. By the time the kids go to bed, all of the heavy lifting has been done, and it's time to take the shoes off. Silly, I know, and incredibly boring, but hey, that's me in a nutshell.

Boring Item #4: Even my job is incredibly boring.
Now, I'm not saying that I have a bad job. I have a great job. I work at a fantastic company, with great people, many of which I have become good friends with, and I am compensated well for my work, however none of that changes the fact that my job is boring. I test software for the mortgage industry. On any given day, I'm tasked with making sure things like "attribute value sets" and "lookup list dependencies" are working as they're supposed to. You may not know what those things are, but they don't sound interesting, do they? There are plenty of jobs where you can dress up boring tasks with interesting sounding names. Not this one. It is as boring as it sounds. Are mortgages important? Oh, sure. Are they interesting? Not so much. In fact, the only thing remotely interesting about my job is the fact that because it's directly tied to the mortgage industry, I may not have it next year. When the most exciting thing about your job is the prospect of losing it, you've got problems.

Boring Item #5: I don't like leaving the country.
I have left this country on five occasions. The first was a cruise to the Caribbean and Mexico with Linda. Occasions two through five were to go to Russia for the purpose of adopting our two kids. In all cases, I hated leaving the country. Granted, the cruise was a work cruise, so there were a lot of incredibly boring meetings but still. Also, it's not like the areas of Russia we visited were the most gorgeous places on Earth, but again, we both hated pretty much every minute of it. I like America. I am comfortable in America. I know how it smells, how people will treat me, what they're saying and how things like ketchup and Coca-Cola will taste. I don't want to smell new people, or not drink new water or find out that in Prague, a pepperoni pizza tastes like roasted iguana. I just don't. That's not to say that I won't visit other parts of this world, far from it, but when I do, I'm pretty sure I'll prefer to be home where I don't have to worry about everything tasting like pepper.

Boring Item #6: I am incredibly rigid.
You wouldn't know it about me, but when it comes to lots of things in my life, I'm quite rigid. For example, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday I get coffee in the morning at the QuikTrip. The day's don't change, the QT doesn't change and the coffee doesn't change. Five shots of cinnamon-hazelnut flavored creamer and the italian dark roast coffee, every day, a buck thirty-eight and I'm out of there. Every Tuesday and Thursday I make my own coffee to bring to work. Sure, I'll change up what coffee I make, but it's always Tuesday and Thursday. Saturday morning I always make the same kind of coffee, Sunday morning too. During the workday, I always have my morning snack at 10AM, lunch at noon and my afternoon snack and soda at 2. This is partly to keep the metabolism going all day, but also because it's my pattern. My soda is either a Vanilla Coke Zero or a Cherry Coke Zero. If it's 1:55 and I want a soda, I won't drink it. I'll wait. Sure, I can take some variation, but I like the schedule. I find it soothing. This is why games like GTA: San Andreas fill me with dread. The freedom is terrifying.

Boring Item #7: One of my greatest accomplishments is perfecting my pepperoni pizza recipe for Linda.
Every Friday night is pizza night at our home. I make one pizza that I split between Ben and myself and a pepperoni pizza for Linda. Over the months, I have perfected her pizza so that it is at the pinnacle of pepperoni pizza perfection. First I had to learn how to do the sauce just right so that there weren't chunks of tomatoes in it. Then I had to find the right cheese, a blend of cheeses, not just straight up mozzarella. Then I had to add crushed red pepper to the cheese before putting on the pepperoni. Finally, I learned that a sprinkle of cheese on top of the pepperoni allowed for a nice crust of melted cheese and pepperoni grease to form on top of the pizza. This is all without even mentioning how long to cook the crust, which rack, when to move, and so on and so on. The end result is one damn fine pepperoni pizza, and I'm not even a big fan of pepperoni pizza. I don't do a lot of interesting things, I don't do a lot of exciting things, so the fact that I can make a good pepperoni pizza for my wife is one of the best things I've been able to do. Boring as that might be, I'm completely ok with that.

I'm sure I could find more boring things to go on about, but that's seven and I'm not going to torture you any longer. I'm boring. That's pretty much it. I'm probably more boring than you, and that's just fine. Even if it wasn't, I don't see it changing, and the only thing I have in abundance more than unintersting qualities is abject apathy, so not only am I boring, but I really don't care. Maybe my next post can be the seven things I'm apathetic about. Oooh, exciting.

Call of Duty: World at War DS

My review of Call of Duty: World at War for the DS is up if you're at all interested in portable WWII shooters. And really, who isn't. Oh wait. I'm not.

Monday, December 01, 2008

More Reviews, Less Food


Man I ate too much these past few days, as I'm sure everyone did. I was very happy to work out this weekend and give my body something to do other than digest all of the food I shoved down my slavering maw.

Maybe it wasn't quite that bad, but it sure wasn't pretty. Hopefully I can work off the extra poundage this week as this time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is rife with extra work goodies.

And how was your holiday? Excellent.

In other news, my review of Shaun White Snowboarding: Road Trip is up. It's a very fun game, however only if you have the balance board that comes with Wii Fit. Strange that the controller would make that much of a difference but it does. I'm starting to think that I need to switch up my review style a bit as they get less and less entertaining to me as I write them. Maybe I'm just bored with the whole reviewing thing. I don't know. We have some new writers at the site now and they're really nailing these reviews, so whatever I do, whether it be a new style or tweaking my current style, I need to step my game up so that I keep getting the plum assignments. The check don't change whether it's a triple A title, or some piece of DS shovelware, but man can't live on shovelware alone.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Reviews and Happy Thanksgiving

My review of Theresia: Dear Emile is up if you're into horror adventure games on the DS, all, you know, one of them.

More importantly, I hope that you and yours have a safe and happy Thanksgiving. I am thankful for each and every one of you that come and spend time here and I hope that you continue to do so forever and ever and ever. Well, maybe not that long, but certainly through the end of the year. If that's ok with you that is.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Night of Rock

Saturday night I hit the town to take in an evening of quality music. A four band bill was the concert of choice, consisting of The Hush Sound, The Spill Canvas, Augustana and One Republic.

I had never heard of The Hush Sound, and was going mostly to see The Spill Canvas, but every band put on a great show. Lots of personality, lots of good music and the lead singer for One Republic has one of the best singing voices I've ever heard. Seriously, that dude is amazing.

I had a small problem with a woman sitting behind me asking me to sit, even though I was in the back row, specifically so that I could stand, while she and her brood brought up folding chairs that they weren't supposed to be in but I got over it eventually. Still, here's a friendly reminder from me to you: if you want to be able to see the show, get there on time, not an hour and fifteen minutes into the fucking show. They don't print the time on the tickets just because it's visually appealing. If you can't get there on time, or choose not to, well you get the seat that you get, and you see what you can see and you shut your fucking piehole about it. If you feel that you must complain, please wait until the current song is over, because it might very well be one of the favorite songs of the poor person you're currently bothering. Bitch.

And now that the complaining portion of our show is over, it's time for crappy cell phone camera pictures! Yay!

The Hush Sound

The Spill Canvas


One Republic (and a pillar)

I had a great time, and the timing of the show worked out beautifully. The show started at 7, and I was home and in bed by a little after 11:30. That's a schedule my old ass can get behind.

My next show is MC Frontalot on December 5th. Those wishing to bear witness to the glory and splendor that is the godfather of nerdcore hip-hop are welcome to join me. If past shows are any indication, this show will be a great one.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Crazy Week

I know, I know, I hit you with like two weeks of almost constant posting, only to then be away for four days. I'm insane I tell you! Insane!

It's been a crazy week I tell ya. Don't feel bad though, as I'm ignoring all of my responsibilities, not just you. In fact, I should be writing a Gears of War 2 achievement guide right now, or a review of Call of Duty: World at War for the DS.

I long to get back to posting though as I have one of those email blog taggy thingamahoppers that Greg sent me. Seven interesting facts about myself or some such thing. Not sure I can come up with seven. I should probably get started as all of that lying is going to take some time.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Quantum of Solace

The wife and I took some time to see Quantum of Solace this weekend and, for the most part, it was an enjoyable flick.

I say "for the most part" because the movie did try to do a bit too much, what with setting up a huge, evil organization for MI:6 to spar with in the future as well as a main bad guy for Bond to go after. Oh, and there was also another bad guy for Bond's female cohort to go after. See what I mean? The problem was that about half way through the movie I had to ask myself why Bond was going after the main bad guy in the first place. That's not a question that a filmmaker usually wants their audience asking of themselves. Luckily it wasn't too distracting what with all of the cool chase scenes and the continued excellence of Daniel Craig as 007. Upon further reflection, I was able to answer most of the questions for myself, but again, I would have preferred to have less of a story, provided it was more straightforward.

This movie retained the "realism" of Casino Royale but still made some small attempts to get back to the old Bond ways. For example, Bond meets a redhead in the movie who says that her name is Ms. Fields. When he presses her more on her name, she tells him that it's "just Fields". The credits show that her full name was Strawberry Fields. Oh the wit! Now, I liked the older Bond movies and I'm all for giving a nod to them, but let's remember that they decided to go into a new direction with Bond for a reason and cutesy names for the women in these movies is but one small step down a road that leads to Craig flying the helicopter that his phone turned into while he shoots missles out of his smoking jacket.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the movie, I just don't think it was as good as Casino Royale, but that's ok. They can't all be knocked out of the park. Sometimes you have to settle for a triple and be ok with that.

Finally, we were lucky enough to see the new Star Trek trailer before the movie, and holy crap. If any of the tv shows had been even a fraction as exciting as that trailer, I probably would have watched them.

Friday, November 14, 2008

On Rock Band and Sales Numbers

So the October NPD numbers came out, and the Guitar Hero: World Tour combined sales were double that of the Rock Band 2 combined sales. Granted, the previous month's sales of Rock Band 2 just for the 360 gives Rock Band a slight lead but still.

I've played both, although I haven't played GH nearly as much as I have Rock Band, and I simply can not understand why people would choose Guitar Hero: World Tour over Rock Band 2. Hell I don't know why they'd chose GH:WT over the original Rock Band. I know that a lot of the people who bought it are gamers who just genuinely prefer GH, but I'm sure that there are a fair amount of people buying it because they know of the Guitar Hero franchise and aren't the type of people who research the differences in the platforms.

On paper, in my opinion, between the differences in tour progression, the ability to save failing band members and all of the downloadable songs available for RB2, it sounds like the better platform. When you play it, things like having to take your eyes off of the note chart to see how much overdrive you have and the overall sterile presentation in GH:WT makes it the lesser platform. Some people like the GH drum kit better, some people like the RB kit better and I can understand those differences more as it's a matter of which feels more comfortable, but I simply do not understand how anyone who has played both platforms would chose Guitar Hero over Rock Band. I just do not get it.

Now, Rock Band has tons of DLC that people are still buying, so I'm sure that the disparity in the sales numbers won't cause the bottom to fall out at Harmonix, but at the same time, it bugs me that my favorite platform, and one of my favorite games ever, isn't winning the music battle. I can only hope that people who bought the GH:WT equipment will utilize the hardware compatibility, pick up a copy of Rock Band 2 and become life long Harmonix fans. The more rocking out, the better for everyone involved.

Me, I'm going to keep buying DLC as it comes out and do my best to support the platform. If that means that I have to buy some t-shirts with Saving Throw on it, or some band character statues, well, so be it. Somehow I'll suffer through.

Saints Row 2 Guide

My Saints Row 2 guide is up and it's awesome. My editor says so.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I have nothing to say, but I feel like I've been on a roll lately and it's a shame to stop now.

So, how are you? No really, how are you?

Ok. We're done. Carry on.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Time Waits for No Rocker

Last night I did something I've never done before, and hopefully won't ever do again. I purposefully did not attend a show that I had bought a ticket for.

A month or so ago, when the Flobots show was announced, I was quite excited. Even though the show was on a Tuesday night, I figured I could swing it as I'm usually not all that tired in the beginning of the week. Alas, when the day of the show arrived, I woke up exhausted and it never got any better. The combination of my fatigue, the two opening bands before the Flobots, the standing room only venue and the 45 minute drive home all deep sixed my attendance.

I was disappointed, as I'm always tired, it comes with being a parent, but I'm not usually so tired as to not be able to go out and do stuff. Things have been a little stressful at home though, as we're trying to get Abby the help she needs and keep her from being bounced out of a second daycare. I'm sure that her having a feeding aversion appointment all the way the hell downtown, complete with a multi-hour absence from work didn't help, but it is what it is. Neither me, my family nor the Flobots are well served by me wrapping myself around a guardrail on the way home when I fall asleep at the wheel.

Luckily, while I was bummed that I couldn't go to the show, I don't feel like I wasted my money. The show was relatively inexpensive, something like 22 bucks once fees and such are factored in, and I know full well that bands like the Flobots get money from touring, not from cd sales. Hell, I bought their record for eight bucks, so there's no way they're making a mint off of sales from Best Buy. Live shows is what supports them, and given that I want them to continue making records, I'm ok with having paid for the ticket, even if I didn't get to see the show. Now, I'm not saying that I want to make it a point to bag out on shows in the future, but if an up and coming band that I enjoy is selling tickets to a show with a dubious time, I'd rather buy the ticket and hope I can make it, than not and know that I can't. With the latter no one wins, yet with the former, they can make some more music and hopefully I can attend. I'm not so hard up for cash that I can't kick a little their way. I don't want to make a habit out of it, and I do have an upper limit for what I'm willing to risk, but truth be told, that if a band hits my upper limit, they probably spend their days swimming in gilded pools filled with 50 dollar bills, so they won't miss my ticket sale very much.

I am bummed that I didn't get to buy a t-shirt, but it's not like I need any more of those. Hopefully the show went well, the fan response was exuberant and the Flobots will return in the near future. If they do, I'll be there.

Well, provided it's on a weekend.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Because Bones Demanded It

Behold the new Lancer! This is a crappy cell phone picture because I haven't had time to take a crappy real camera picture, although they are coming. Don't you worry.

I'm trying to come up with a name for it and am starved for ideas. "Bessie" stands out in my mind, as does "Stephanie". I also like "Batman" if only so that I can imagine it saying "I'm Batman, and I can chainsaw Locusts."

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Fly on the Wall

Man what I wouldn't have given to be a fly on the wall during the meeting between Obama and President Bush. I can only imagine the conversation that took place.

"So, I hear that you're looking at repealing a number of my Presidential edicts."

"Yes Mr. President, I am."

"Have you checked with Dick about that? Because I'm pretty sure you can't do that."

"Oh, I think I can. Vice President Cheney doesn't have to approve my actions once I'm President."

"Ok, I know that's not true. Believe me, I asked."

Oh the wit! Seriously though, I'm sure it was all very cordial and such. As much as I would like to think that Obama gave GW a stern talking to and said that under no circumstances was he to invade Iran or any other country without at least first checking with Obama, I'm pretty sure the conversation tended to be much more civil and of the "did you know that they'll make you any kind of sandwich whenever you want" type. Still, I can't imagine what kind of things they'd discuss as I honestly can't imagine the enormity of the task facing the person who in a few short months will be the President of the United States of America.

Me, I'd want to know three things:

1. Where are the space alien corpses?
2. Who shot Kennedy?
3. When you say any kind of sandwich, do you mean any kind, or like any kind from this limited menu?

I'd also want to know what it would take to make it a Federal crime to be a fan of the Eagles, Giants and/or Cowboys, but I think I'd need the help of Congress on that one.

In other news my Lancer has arrived. Oh sweet, sweet geekdom, how I love thee.

Friday, November 07, 2008

30 Days of Sacrilege

I recently took advantage of various Halloween sales to pick up a copy of "30 Days of Night" the movie adaptation of the horror comic of the same name. The premise of the comic and the movie is that there's a town in Alaska called Barrow where, for thirty days in the winter, the sun never rises. Vampires find out about this town and head there to feast on the town in a month long orgy of eating.

The movie ended up being quite good, much better than it was reviewed if you ask me, but there were a few things I wasn't sure about in terms of deviation from the comic. So, in the spirit of research, and in an effort to reread a comic I had enjoyed so much, last night I read the original all over again.

Here's where Bones will probably reach through the screen and punch me, but I have to say that compared to the comic, the movie was much, much better. Spoilers abound, so you've been warned.

In the comic, Eben (the sheriff) and Stella (the deputy) are married and all sorts of in love. In the movie, they're estranged for reasons we never find out about, and she's a Fire Marshall. The change in employment serves no purpose other than giving her a reason to not be living in Barrow, but the tension between them not only gave the actors a lot to work with. At one point, after the vampires have arrived and the survivors are hiding out, Josh Hartnett, who plays Eben shoots Melissa George (Stella) a look after her "I guess it's good you didn't want kids" line that said more than ten pages of writing ever could.

At the end of the movie, Eben shoots himself up with vampire blood so that he can fight the remaining vamps and provide a distraction for Stella to escape. She's trapped hiding under a truck with a kid who somehow escaped, and is in danger of burning to death after the vampires start burning the town down. In the comic, Eben transforms himself so that he can fight the vamps and save the town, which is a noble goal, but in the movie it seemed so much more noble because he was willing to destroy himself to save one woman, and not just any woman, but the woman who had left him. I would expect him to go off and fight in the comic because he and Stella were so in love with each other. I didn't expect it here.

The movie also increased the dramatic tension of the entire experience. We see various townspeople being taken before the town square is attacked. The human familiar that wanders into town before the vamps is sufficiently creepy and does a lot to sow discord and confusion before things really start happening. In the comic, the pacing seemed really off and you never got the feelings of dread and isolation that the movie evokes.

The one area where I liked the comic better is in some of the drama that plays out among the vampires. The vampires invite a head vampire dude to come and revel in the slaughter and he basically shows up and starts smacking fools down, basically saying that the vampires have spent decades making themselves appear to be nothing more than myths, and here these dumbasses come and eat a whole town. The notion of a hidden vampire nation is always appealing to me, even with it having been done to death by now in countless books, tv shows and movies. It makes sense to do it in the comic, as the book is clearly the beginning of a larger tale, while the movie needs to stand on it's own, even though talks of a sequel are being held. I can see why they decided to not go that route in the movie, and if you didn't know about it being in the comic, I don't think you'd think "hey, this movie needs some secret vampire nation infighting", but still.

In both cases, I don't understand exactly what the vampires hoped to gain from this, given that once the town is dead, it's dead and most likely coming back, but I guess they're just really hungry and here's a chance to eat like kings. If there is a hidden vampire nation, the desire to go buck wild for a month and feed out in the open, even if the open is cold as hell certainly would have appeal, but they don't talk about that much in the comic, so I'm not sure that's the motivation. In the movie it's just "we like to eat people and here you all are".

The other thing that neither story explains very well is how for thirty days a bunch of townspeople can stay hidden from a pack of vampires. I mean, come on. The town isn't that large. Neither the movie nor the comic gives the impression that the townspeople move from house to house, so I don't understand why, in thirty days, a pack of vampires couldn't go from hosue and house and basically tear them all apart, uncovering all of the townspeople in the process. It's not like they had to sleep. Besides, gorged themselves pretty heavily when they first attacked, so at some point you'd think they'd get hungry for more blood and start looking. The comic mentions how the vampires' sense of smell is lessened in the cold, which would explain why the vamps couldn't sniff out the survivors, but I don't remember any mention of that in the movie. At the end of the movie, once the vamps were driven out, a bunch of townspeople who we hadn't seen before just come ambling out into the town square and I was like "where the fuck were you people?" It just didn't ring true, but again, that's in both versions.

Complaints aside, I really enjoyed the movie. The vampires weren't the pretty boy, "I just want to hold your hand" or the "I'm so emotional and conflicted" versions we've been seeing so much of lately, and not a one of them had any redeeming qualities whatsoever. They were just brutal, savage, inhumane killing machines. In a word, they were fucking scary. Guess that's two words. Sorry. Don't get me wrong, I like Angel and Spike and Blade and all of those tormented vampire dudes, but the horror fan in me likes vampires to scare your ass off, like they did when I read "Salem's Lot" so many, many years ago.

In the end, I still like the comic, but the small plot changes, increased tension and bucket and buckets of gore puts the movie version over the top in my head. Melissa George being plenty cute, even in a parka, certainly doesn't hurt.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

I Should Hope So

So we're all coming back from Wendy's last night, and when we stopped at a traffic light, I noticed that the car ahead of us had a ribbon magnet on it, only this one had what looked like Dalmatian spots. Personally, I think that this whole ribbon thing has gotten way out of hand to the point where I can't keep track of what the hell the different ribbons are supposed to mean. The yellow ribbon means that we want troops back home, but the pink one means we're supposed to fight breast cancer? Shouldn't it mean that we want breast cancer back home? And what's with the plaid one for Autism? One color isn't enough for them or could no one come to a consensus? Who makes these decisions any way? If I decide that I don't like Lupus, can I start selling green and white polka dot ribbons or will I get sued by the ACLU or some other group for ribbon infringement.

But I digress. Thinking that maybe this car wanted to remember their dog, or they lost their dog, or they want to fight dogs, I pulled up a little closer so that I could see what was on the ribbon. It read "I adopted my dog."

Really, hasn't every dog owner in the world adopted their dog or is there a rare genetic trait in some women that allows them to birth puppies? Maybe this is what this woman is calling attention to, the fact that cruel fate left her unable to give birth to dogs. I'm sure she meant that she didn't buy her dog, rather, she got it from a shelter, but whatever. In the end, the dog is a part of your family through non-biological means. In my book that's adoption.

I'm going to get a red and yellow ribbon for my van with the line "I purchased my children" or "I gave birth to my hamster" and really blow people's minds. Either that or a pink and yellow one signifying that I want the troops to come back home and fight breast cancer. They all sound good to me.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Win Loss

So, Obama.


I was pretty damned worried about last night, as all of my coworkers and my spouse can attest to. Despite the fact that Obama was running a masterful campaign, I couldn't help but think that he's a Democrat, and as such, he's storied in the art of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Thankfully, Obama was a Democrat in party only and victory was his. Now comes the hard part. I have no reservations about the long, difficult road ahead of him, but if anyone in the past few years seems equipped to travel it with grace and competence, he's it. I am incredibly proud to be an American right now.

Unfortunately with a fantastic win comes some pretty shitty losses, namely the various anti-gay measures that passed across the country. California and Arkansas are particularly odious with the former potentially destroying 18,000 valid, legal marriages between committed couples and the latter banning unmarried couples from adopting children or being foster parents. To those in California who voted for Proposition 8, I would say that I hope it's just that you didn't understand the repurcussions of your vote, and not that you're so incredibly dense as to think that destroying thousands of marriages actually strengthens marriage. I would also ask you to think about how you would feel if a religious group were to feel very strongly about a reason why your particular marriage should end, and they lobbied to have your marriage dissolved just because their holy book said that you shouldn't be married to your spouse. I bet you'd be none too pleased about it. I'd also like to think about what might happen if your child grows up to be gay and the joyful conversation you can have with them about why they're not allowed to be married and share the same joy of life long commitment that you do. Then again, maybe you secretly hate marriage. If so, then well played, because you're certainly doing well to fuck it up for the rest of us.

To those in Arkansas, I would say, you're all fucking idiots. Pure and simple. I don't care who the fuck you are, if you voted for the ban, you're a fucking idiot. Seriously, in a country where so many children need good homes and are in foster care, you're going to limit who can adopt or be foster parents simply based on marital status? Do you seriously hate gays so much that you would deny them the joy of parenthood, or more importantly, deny a child the opportunity to be raised by loving parents? Way to live Jesus's words. I'm sure He's thrilled with you right now. As the father of an adopted child and the father of young children, to know that the possibility of them growing up gay means that they could neither get married nor be parents sickens me as it should sicken you.

It blows my mind that in the same day that we elect an African-American to the highest office in the land that we could also write so much hatred and bigotry, because yes it is bigotry, into state constitutions. It serves as a sobering wake up call to the fact that we may have come far, but we haven't come nearly far enough. There is still plenty of work to be done, and not just for gay rights, but for all who have been margianlized or maligned because they look different, practice different faiths, or love differently. Let us not forget that and grow complacent. Instead, let's take a small moment to reflect on what we've done so far and then get back to work.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Loss Win

Despite having excellent company to watch the game with, last night's complete and utter dismantling of my beloved Redskins at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers was a tough thing to watch. My only consolation is that the 'Skins loss at home, all but assures an Obama victory, due to the strange statistical phenomenon that states for the past 17 elections, if the Redskins win the home game prior to the election, the party that won the popular vote in the last election wins. If they lose, the party that lost the popular vote wins. Given that the Democrats lost the popular vote last time around, our 23 - 6 ass whipping means that Obama should win, and win big.

Even with the loss, the 'Skins are sitting at a respectable 6 -3, all the more amazing given that two of those wins were divisional road games, and we have a first year coach, and not a first year Redskins coach, but a dude in his first year as a head coach, so I'm not terribly upset. More importantly, the Redskins loss points heavily in favor of an Obama win, and honestly, if my choice was four years of McCain and a Redskins Super Bowl win, or Obama getting elected and the Redskins never win another game all season, I gotta go with Obama on this one. I'm sure that the Football Gods will understand that there are times when you have to take one for the team, and I'm taking one now.

If you haven't already voted, please go out and do so. Your vote counts, if only as a means to complain bitterly for the next four years over whoever gets elected. The ability to exercise one of the most cherished rights in democratic society is an added bonus, but really, it's all about the bitching. I voted via absentee ballot this year, as did Linda, so we could avoid the lines. I can only hope that the votes were actually counted and not discarded upon receipt, but pressing a button on a computer is as far removed from the vote counting process as filling out a bubble sheet and mailing it in, so we all have to trust that our votes are being counted. Make sure yours is too by actually going out and voting. Again, I'm going with the bitching.

Whoever wins, we will all be witness to a historic moment in America's history having elected either the first African-American President, or the first female Vice President. The fact that the latter is such an odious figure shouldn't take away from the historical impact, but hopefully, she and her ilk will lose and she'll go back to the wild north and we'll only remember her as "that woman that Tina Fey made fun of". I'm sure that there are an equal number of people out there that who wish the same for Obama, but I ain't one of them, so screw them.

As for my Redskins, they go into their bye week and can rest up and get healthy knowing that from here on out their victories are only football victories and that they did their part to secure a brighter future for tomorrow. Hail to the Redskins, hail victory, braves on the warpath, fight for old DC.

Best Binky Ever

Or so my editor says. You be the judge.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Daylight Slavings

Any parent of young children will tell you that the Summer Solstice is not the longest day of the year (or Winter Solstice for those of you in the southern hemisphere). The longest day of the year is that day in the fall when Daylight Savings ends and you have to move the clock back an hour.

Oh, you say, I love that day because I get an extra hour of sleep! Screw you I say. Screw you straight to hell. Daylight Savings time being a harbinger of more or less sleep ended the day I stepped off of that plane with a 7 month old baby under my arm.

The spring clock movement isn't that big of deal. Oh sure, you lose an hour of time during the day, but being that it's the weekend, it's not like there's a lot that has to be done. From a bed time perspective, you put them to bed, they grumble about not being tired because it's an hour early, you say tough noogies and then in the morning you have to pry them out with a crowbar.

Fall is when all of the trouble starts. For one, once you get up, you have to move all of the clocks back, provided that you didn't do it the night before. Either way sucks, because most likely, your kids will be up early as all hell, only with the clock movement, it's even earlier, and even more hellish. Then, you have to fight the urge to put them to bed an hour earlier, as they're probably going to be tired, and if they're like my kids in pissy moods, because if you don't, they'll be up all sorts of early the next day. Oh the horrors.

These are things that they don't tell you about when you're thinking about having kids. I've seen the kinds of things that they teach you in child rearing classes, and frankly, if you don't know which end of the bottle goes in which end of the baby, you shouldn't be having one, but knowing that every year in November Father Time is going to kick you in the balls is of utmost importance. Once my kids are older to where they can either manage themselves in the morning without my assistance, or they sleep later than I do, this won't be a problem, but for now, it makes for a long Sunday.

Luckily, this past Sunday the kids were well behaved, for the most part, not counting the usual sibling squabbles we're so used to refereeing. We did pick Sunday to do a boat load of yard work, on top of my time spent configuring a wireless print server and making the next night's dinner as if we had forgotten that daylight savings was upon us, or worse, we foolishly felt that we could use that extra hour to be productive. By the end of the evening I was exhausted and disoriented to the point that when I woke up in the morning, I spent ten minutes getting myself ready to get out of bed only to look at the clock and see that it was 3:30, a full hour before I had to get up.

Father Time strikes again.

Dude Huge

My epic Rock Band 2 achievement guide is up for your perusal. Ten pages of nothing but the finest in assistance from a guy who can barely drum his way through "Everlong" on easy.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Oooooh, very scary

My take on the scariest video game characters evar is up. This is some stone cold, scary shit. Read it at your own peril.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fun with Squash

Wednesday morning I get an IM from Linda that says "Ben want's a scary tiger face pumpkin, but it's supposed to be a surprise." My kid has an odd notion of what makes up a surprise. Birthday parties that you don't know about are surprises. Coming home to find your partner making out with your sibling is a surprise. Your choice of a pumpkin? Not a surprise.

More importantly, what the hell is a scary tiger face?

"I don't know how to do that" I replied, because I don't. "Don't worry, he only wants tiger teeth" she said. "Oh, I can do that." Or so I hoped.

When I got home, all of the tools for pumpkin carving were out on the table. Before going to get Abby, Linda told me that she figured that Ben could participate in the pumpkin carving with me. I said he could, but I knew what would happen. See, I'm the parenting version of the Midnighter. I had seen every scenario played out in my head before I even picked up the carving tools, and I knew how this was going to go down.

I removed the top of the pumpkin and Ben and I peered down into the orange cavern.

"That's disgusting" he said. Yep, right on target.

I told him that we needed to scoop all of the innards out and he looked at me like I asked him to scoop his own innards out. To his credit, he did put his hand about a centimeter into the pumpkin, right up until he brushed the goop.

"It's on my hand." Again, right on target.

"Well, wipe it off", I said "It won't kill you." Amazing how once you become a parent the entire world can be broken down into things that can kill you and everything else. He did, and then said that he didn't want to take the innards out.

"Well, you want to do pumpkins don't you?" I asked. He nodded. "This is part of doing pumpkins, so let's do it." Now, I'm not going to make him scoop the whole thing out himself, but he's supposed to participate and it's not like I can tell him to pick up a saw and start hacking the thing up. If he was going to participate, this was pretty much it.

In the end, he managed to pull out about five seeds before complaining so much that I had him wash his hands. As I scooped, I asked him what kind of design he wanted for his pumpkin. True to his word, he asked for a scary tiger face.

"I don't know how to do that" I said.

"You don't know how to or you don't want to?" he asked. When I first heard this, I thought, man, what kind of a dick does my kid think that I am that I wouldn't make him the pumpkin that he wanted simply because I didn't want to? Then I remembered. My daughter has a feeding aversion problem, which means that she won't eat. And when I say she won't eat, I mean that she won't eat anything. At one point, when she was in one kind of therapy, and we would work with her at home, when we gave her food, she would say that she couldn't eat it, and we would always say that she could eat it, she just didn't want to. At least that's what I'm hoping he meant, and not that he thinks I'm a massive dick.

"No, I want to do it for you, I just don't know how to" I said. "Why don't you look through the pattern book and see if there's anything else you want." Seemed reasonable to me. After all, we had like a dozen patterns in there. He was bound to find something that he wanted.

"Nope" he said. "I want a scary tiger face. Or any tiger face that you want. An awesome tiger face is ok too." Oh, well, now that awesome tiger faces are on the table, I can totally do this. Again I told him that I didn't know how to do it and he wandered off into the family room, no doubt to find a father capable of handling his most basic of childhood needs.

"It can have eyes like this pumpkin" I heard him say. Odd. I don't remember having a pumpkin in the family room. Wait! We have a fake pumpkin in the family room! I go in there, take a look at the pumpkin, and the weird thing was that once I saw the eyes, which gave me a place to start, the rest of it all came to me. I quickly sketched out what I was thinking of and showed it to him.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah!" That's his big thing now. "That's what I want. I didn't know you could do that." Me neither.

Once it was carved, I realized that it either needed more tiger stripes up top, or less down below, but I'll let you be the judge. For a freehand sketch, I don't think it ended up looking too bad.

See? Not too shabby. For Abby, she wanted a pattern called "Wink and Smile" which I originally renamed the Palin Pumpkin for obvious reasons, then changed the name to Governor Pumpkin, finally sticking with The Okie-Dokie. As Obama said, we're not going to let them run the okie-dokie on us, except for pumpkins. Here's Abby's effort. Well, my effort and her pattern.

For the sake of reference, here they are in the light. The little pumpkin is one Abby got at school, done up in marker by Linda. It's hard to tell from her effort, but there's a reason that I'm the one doing the carving.

Carnival Games Mini Golf review

Holy crap, what a POS this game is. Crappy swing mechanics coupled with endless grinding and a main character that's mean and a bad sport. Fun!

You can witness the carnage here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

On Funerals and Saying Goodbye: Part 2

Part 1 is here.

Yeah, so this hasn't gone even remotely the way I had planned. As it turns out, I'm not a very good writer, or at least I'm not very good at writing in the style I was going for. I tried, and tried, and tried, writing the second part and then agonizing over it and then rewriting it. It's like having a vision in your head of a grand painting and when it comes time to paint, all you come up with is stick figured and happy little clouds. Unfortunately, you're the one who ends up looking at my crappy painting, but hey, at least I tried.

As we were driving up to the PA, my dad was keeping it together, but I could tell that he really didn't want to deal with his brother's death. Just the fact that he didn't go up earlier than he did spoke volumes, as this is a guy who never needed an excuse to drive a few hours and visit his family. Once we got closer to when we'd be meeting to have dinner and then go to the viewing, I could tell that he really didn't want to go. I totally understood. I mean, once you see your brother there in the casket, you can't deny his death any longer.

Unfortunately, eventually we did have to go to the viewing, and all of us had to confront the fact that Randy wasn't going to be with us any more. They had dressed him in one of his signature flannel shirts with a NASCAR t-shirt underneath, and had placed his riding jacket in the casket with him. I was glad to see that his kids didn't put him in a suit, as Randy would have hated that. As expected, my dad, aunt and grandmother didn't handle seeing Randy all that well. This was the thing I was most dreading. As a child, even when you're a grown adult, you still don't expect to find yourself in a position where you have to comfort your parents. They're the ones that are supposed to be comforting you. I'm not good with the comforting, and seeing my dad so broken up was hard to watch. I think it's normal to feel useless in these situations, which I did, but I did what I felt I could do, namely was there to provide support and hug whoever needed to be hugged and talk to whoever wanted to talk about Randy.

My cousins were similarly broken up, however as they had been dealing with things for days now, they were a little better about things. It's weird how much people seem to grow up in front of you when you know that their parent has died. Seeing my younger cousins get married or have a baby never made them seem older to me, but seeing them and knowing that their dad had passed suddenly made them seem older than me.

Everyone in the family was surprised to see how many people came to the viewing, and everyone who was more than happy to talk to you about how much they loved hanging out with Randy drinking a beer, or going for a ride or just shooting the shit. I think it made my cousins feel better to know that their dad had touched so many people, and that they weren't missing him all on their own.

The next day brought the service and the internment. Randy's friend did the eulogy and he really did a fantastic job. He's a pastor, so he had all of the right passages prepared, but because he was Randy's friend, he was genuinely grieved at Randy's passing, so he struck the right note between someone who understands that God has a plan, and someone who was upset that Randy's passing was part of it. Not being religious, I don't share the same views, but he still did a great job with the eulogy. After that, it was off to the cemetery with my cousin rising Randy's bike, followed by three other bikes to lead off the procession.

After the internment the family headed over to the Moose Lodge, where my uncle used to hang out, and we all got a chance to just catch up with each other as well as look at old photos of Randy and talk about how much we had all loved him. There was also a lot of food, something I'll still never get used to. Sorry for your loss, have you tried the cookies?

The funeral ended up being a good thing, as much as such a thing can be. I never really understood the purpose behind wakes and funerals as I tend to think more about celebrating someone's life once they're gone, rather than mourning their passage. I have a much better understanding of the purpose of these events now, after watching how my family changed between before the viewing and after the internment. For my cousins, they seemed tired, but much, much better at the end of the two days than at the beginning. Ditto for my dad. I still think the whole viewing thing is ghoulish, and maybe that's from a childhood steeped in horror fiction, but the events gave my family comfort and closure and that's the most important thing.

The toy motorcyle that I had spent to much time looking for ended up leaning up against Randy's jacket, and I'd like to think that wherever he is, he's riding it, or something much better than it, given my limited motorcycle knowledge. He was a good man, a great brother and a fantastic father and grandfather. We are all the better for having known him, and we'll all miss him.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Status Quo

Fuck all of this introspective bullshit. Back to the whoring!

My Rock Band 2 Gear Round Up is all sorts of live. Go read it and marvel at my ability to speak effortlessly on topics I know nothing about.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

On Funerals and Saying Goodbye: Part 1

As I often do these days, four days after I heard of my uncle's death, I found myself in a toy store.

It was Sunday, and I was leaving for Baltimore the next day so that I could meet up with my sister and then the two of us would join my dad and my stepmother on the drive up to Harrisburg, PA to say goodbye to my Uncle Randy. Randy was my dad's younger brother, the youngest of the family, and four days earlier he had died in his kitchen of a massive stroke. He was 55.

Earlier in the day, as I was mowing the lawn, I got the idea that Randy should have a motorcycle to ride in the next life. Randy was a simple guy. He drove a truck for a living and enjoyed hanging out with his neighbors while they tapped a keg of Old Milwaukee. He also absolutely loved motorcycles. As my cousin would say, if it had two wheels and an engine, Randy would be happy to ride it. I remember Randy telling me stories of riding up the Pennsylvania Turnpike in the pouring rain, stopping under the overpasses when the rain got to be too bad, worrying my grandmother sick in the process because it was taking him much longer to get home than planned. When my sister was real young, my uncle took her for a ride on his bike, jumping some trash cans in the process. My mother was not pleased.

Why I decided that Randy needed a motorcycle, I have no idea. I don't have any firm beliefs about the afterlife, and truly, if Randy was in the Heaven he was raised to believe in, he was either riding the motorcycle of his dreams, or he was so danged happy that he didn't care what he was doing. Alternatively, if there is no ultimate resting place, or if Randy has already been deposited in his new life, a motorcycle was also of no use. On a practical side, getting a full sized motorcycle up to Pennsylvania, much less in a casket was not going to happen, which is why I ended up in the toy store.

This was not the first toy department of the day. As part of our errands we had stopped at a different Walmart, in which I completely forgot about the motorcycle as I helped my son pick out Power Rangers to buy with his birthday money. We also stopped at a Target and a Costco, all for nothing. Here's something I never would have figured, finding a toy motorcycle is much, much harder than you would imagine. The Hot Wheels and Matchbox lines seem to be completely devoid of motorcycles. If you want a station wagon from the 60's, both have you covered, but not so for the bikes.

I found a number of larger sport bikes, but those didn't seem like something that Randy would ride. I was hoping to find a Harley, as that was the bike he had when alive, and when you're looking for a Harley, finding a Honda sport bike, while still an impressive piece of machinery, doesn't quite cut it. Eventually I found a Yamaha and while it wasn't a Harley, it looked close enough to my untrained eye.
After I paid for the toy and got back into my car, I felt overwhelmingly stupid. Here my uncle had died, his children were grieving, as was my father, and I was spending my time looking for a toy to put in his coffin. I tried to chalk it up to just trying to do my part to remember my uncle properly, but I still felt like I wasn't doing the right thing, or enough of the right thing. Over the next two days, this would not be the last time I felt this way.

Sonic review

My review of Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood is up.

Lest you think I only post here to tell you about my reviews, I'm working on a piece about the funeral I just went to, however I'm still trying to wrap my brain around the whole experience. Hopefully I'll have something soon. Joy!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Saints Row 2 review

The long saga of my trip down the PR rabbit hole has ended and my review of Saints Row 2 is now live. Whee.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


Behold, the bounty of books being enjoyed at my household as we speak! Huzzah! Most are new, one is not, all shall be explained for your enjoyment and edification.

Starting at the top left we have "Your Hate Mail Will be Graded" by John Scalzi. Scalzi is one of my most favoritest authors, and the majority of his stuff that I've read has been over at his site. I've also read almost all of his books (more on that later) but seeing how I've been visiting his site daily for several years now, most of what I've read has been his internet musings. The best of these musings are compiled into this volume. Oh sure, I could go back and read his stuff on his site, but where's the fun in that? I don't always agree with him but I'm always entertained by him, so I'm very much looking forward to this one. On a related note, Subterranean Press, the publisher of this book, make some really nice books. Check them out when you feel the need to consume words.

Next up is "The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian" by Robert E Howard. These are Howard's original Conan stories in the order that he wrote them and they are completely awesome. I've been reading the Dark Horse comics adaptations of these stories for a while now, but it's still good to read the original tales. The cool thing is how much they jump around. In one story Conan is a thief, then a king, then a pirate. I can see the interest in having the stories arranged chronologically to make things easier on the reader, but this way is so much more interesting. It's amazing how bloody and gory the stories are considering that they were written almost 80 years ago. All of Howard's stories, with all of his character have been assembled in similar volumes and I'll probably end up getting them all. Crom's bones!

After that is "Waiting for Athena" also by John Scalzi. This book/pamphlet thingy came with "Your Hate Mail..." and is a collection of writings done by Scalzi as he waited for the birth of his child. I honestly didn't remember that this would be coming with the book, so yay for free stuff. Having waited for two kids now, I'm sure I can find some stuff in common, however as Scalzi didn't fly halfway around the world for his kids, I doubt that our experiences will be all that similar. Still, I'm sure it'll be a good read.

On the bottom row, left side is "Zoe's Tale", also by John Scalzi. "Zoe's Tale" is the last book in Scalzi's Old Man War universe and is a retelling of "The Last Colony" from the point of view of Zoe, the protagonist's teenage daughter. I quite liked "Old Man War", the first book and absolutely loved "The Ghost Brigades", the second book, finding "The Last Colony" to be the weakest of the three. It was still good though, hence this purchase. The reviews that I've read have said that Scalzi nails the teenage girl thing, so at the very least, this will give me a glimpse of the future with my daughter, minus the roving band of space werewolves. Well, I hope so anyway.

Finally we have "The Great Outdoor Fight", a collection of strips from the absolutely hilarious online comic "Achewood". This book contains the entire "Great Outdoor Fight" story in which Ray Smuckles, one of the cats residing in Achewood finds out that his father was one of the greatest combatants to ever set foot in the Great Outdoor Fight. Ray and his ever present companion Roast Beef head to the Fight to show how a new generation of Smuckles fight. Not only is the book beautifully bound, but it has a lot of extras including a glossary of terms used in the Fight.

In the case of the Scalzi books and the Achewood book allow me to give something back to two incredibly creative and hilarious people whose work I've enjoyed free of charge for years now. I'm glad I can do it, and getting a bunch of good books out of it certainly doesn't hurt.

All Hail Saving Throw

This month's Mr. Binky is up, and with it, the story of my Rock Band 2 band, Saving Throw. The pictures in the article are shots of my band members courtesy of the fantastic picture maker thingy at

I named my lead singer B. Ryan in a nod to my mom. My middle name is Ryan and my mom once told me that the reason she gave me that middle name was because she thought that when I was older, and successful, it would loook nice to have the name B. Ryan Schnell etched in glass on a door. Despite these wishes, no one in my family ever called me anything resembling that name. Course, I went and fucked it all up by hyphenating my last name and by not being remotely successful enough to have my name etched into anything. Why one would go through all of that trouble when picking out a middle name is beyond me, however I'm not one to talk as I designed my son's name so that it contained the name of Spider-Man's uncle. For Abby, no such designs were made, as there aren't any superheroes names Abigail. Of course, with her personality, finding a supervillain would have been more apt.

Thursday, October 02, 2008


Here's my review for de Blob. The game really is lots of fun and very well done. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

On the Media Tip

Media purchases abound! For once, all of my money isn't going to Transformers. Not for long, though as Animated Ultra Magnus as well as the next wave of the Universe line has been spouted out and about. Unfortunately Atlanta's rampant gas shortage will put a dent in my toy hunting, but ultimately, I will prevail!

Tuesday brought a bevy of glorious media purchases that I must share. First up is the 2-disc Iron Man DVD. Iron Man was not only one of my favorite movies from the summer, but was one of the most surprising in that it totally kicked ass. Oh sure, I knew that Robert Downey Jr could be funny, as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is one of my favorite movies, but still, there were so many unknowns about the movie that I was unsure. Can't wait to let my subwoofer tear into this one. If the house is rockin', don't bother knockin'!

I also bought the 3 disc super special version of Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Linda and I saw this movie when we were vacationing in Texas and we both really enjoyed it. Along with being very funny, the characters in the movie were all very well done allowing even the so called "bad" characters to be sympathetic and likeable. Plus, Kristen Bell in a bikini. Of late I've been eschewing the super special versions of DVD's as I haven't been watching the extras, but with this one, and Iron Man, the extras looked really interesting, plus, once I'm done with my current Mass Effect run as I work out, I'll be looking for something that can be wrapped up in one workout session and DVD extras fit the bill perfectly.

Finally, Tuesday saw the release of Ben Folds' latest CD, Way to Normal. Oddly enough, I had forgotten all about the cd being released and on Tuesday, as I headed to Best Buy, I heard a single from the record (the duet with Regina Spektor) on the radio. Hooray for XM! The album is the usual fare from Ben Folds with good lyrics, tight pop sensibilities, slammin' piano licks and swear words in song titles. I can only hope that he'll tour in support of it as I swear I've seen him perform the same songs in concert for the past nine tours. I've seen him in concert three times now, making him the Artist With Shows Most Attended by Me. Congratulations Ben! He must be so proud.

For the record, the artists I've seen multiple times are:

1.) Ben Folds - 3 times (opening for Counting Crows, on tour with Guster and Rufus Wainwright, opening for John Mayer)
2.) Guster - 2 times (the aforementioned Ben Folds/Rufus Wainwright tour, their own headlining tour)
3.) Pearl Jam - 2 times (headlining both times)
4.) Eric Clapton - 2 times (headlining both times)

Earlier in the week I was alerted by a one Mr. Greg Howley that MC Frontalot's new album Final Boss was available for preorder. Well, not only was it available for pre-order, but by joining up at Front's site, I was able to get a download of the album once I bought it. I've been listening to it pretty much non stop and it's damn good. It feels a lot different than his last album, a joint I loved immensely, so I was initially put off by it, but the more I listened to it, the more I enjoyed it. Jonathan Coulton dropping some insanely tight choruses certainly doesn't hurt, neither does a very funny skit with Wil Wheaton. I hope that Front tours soon so that I can add him to the above list and get yet another picture with him as I don the latest in monkey couture.

Finally, last week I bought my Flobots tickets for their November show. I'm very, very, very excited for this show. Live hip-hop with both a viola player and a dude on trumpet? Sign me up.