Monday, March 31, 2008

The Glory of the Tubes

As I have grown older, I have acquired a fondness for t-shirts that is bordering on the insane. My favorite place for shirts is which originally started as the place for all your fine WIGU and Overcompensating t-shirts, but has since morphed into a free for all bonanza of excellent clothing bits. My two favorite shirts, "The Monkey Represents Sharing" and "Dr. Monkey Knows What You Did" are from TopatoCo.

Because I love these shirts so much, and because they represent a certain geek cachet, I usually wear them to my various geek gatherings, such as the Frontalot show and more recently, the Jonathan Coulton concert.

Imagine my surprise, when looking through the referrer logs for the site, I found that my picture of me and JoCo had been added to the TopatoCo photostream on Flikr. It's kind of odd to see yourself represented on the internet in a manner that you didn't expect, but at the same time, once shit is out there for all to see, it's out there. That being said, I don't care, and if it shows people that wearing TopatoCo merchandise means you get to hang out with cool-ass musicians, then I'm all for it. Now I just have to figure out a way to submit my picture with Frontalot and we'll be all set.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Knife Skills, Or the Lack Thereof

While making dinner tonight I learned yet again that years of constantly cutting the tip of my left thumb off has left said thumb essentially pain and blood free. You think I'm kidding, but I was chopping up bacon for my bacon cheeseburgers and I got a bit too close to my thumb. Whoopsie, there went the tip with a chunk of nail to go with it. No pain, no blood, just me pulling a big chunk of my DNA out of tonight's dinner. I've done it plenty of times before, particularly when peeling vegetables, but this was bigger than usual. I was kind of surprised to see that I didn't have to throw the bacon out due to added, unwanted plasma. Either I have to work on my knife skills, or eventually I'll lose all feeling in my fingers, thereby removing the need for better knife skills. Either way I win. My guests may lose as they pull random finger bits out of their cooking, but a free meal is a free meal. Luckily for them I wash my hands frequently while cooking.

Not being one to just gross you out and run, here's the recipe for the bacon cheeseburgers I was making, taken from Steven Raichlen's Indoor! Grilling.

1.5 lbs of ground beef
4 strips of thick cut bacon or 6 - 8 strips of thin cut (about 4 oz)
6 oz of smoked cheddar, shredded, about 1.5 cups
1 garlic clove, minced

1. Cook the bacon until crisp. Crumble or chop the cooked bacon.
2. In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients together. You can use a wooden spoon, but I just get in there with my hands.
3. Form the resulting mixture into four equal patties about 3/4 inches thick and place the patties in the fridge for at least 20 minutes. This will keep them from falling apart on the grill.
4. Grill over direct medium heat for 8 minutes a side for well done. Due to the cheese in these burgers, they will flare up like a son of a bitch so you have to keep your eye on them and move them off the heat if necessary. The cheese also makes them super moist, so you can make them well done without risk of them drying out.

When finished, put 'em on a bun and top 'em with whatever pleases ye. We usually make a chipotle mayo which goes something like this, from the same recipe in Raichlen's book:

1/2 cup mayo
1 or 2 chipotle peppers + 1 Tbsp adobo sauce
1/2 tsp sweet paprika (you can use hot if you want, but I find that the resulting flavor is better with the sweet)

1. Mince the chipotle peppers.
2. Stir all ingredients together and let sit in the fridge for 20 minutes or so before slathering it on your burger or whatever you feel needs something slathered on it.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

On Children and Sore Throats

So, about a month or so ago my son was sidelined for a couple of days with a virus that gave him a sore throat. Since then, he has tried to get out going to school on almost a daily basis by claiming that his throat hurts. It doesn't help that he actually had a sore throat and a fever last week and was out of school for a day. It also doesn't help that it's been in the 30's at night, making the heat run and the upstairs furnace doesn't have a humidifier on it so when we get up in the morning, we all have a slight sore throat from breathing in dry air all night.

Unfortunately on top of the faking we have what can only be called an absolutely dismal performance on Ben's part. If you're going to go through the trouble of lying about being sick, at least try and sell it. Yesterday morning, Linda saw Ben happily frolicking in the hall and when he saw her, he quickly ran back into his room and then reemerged a moment later, shuffling and downtrodden, complaining that his throat hurts. I mean, come on. Once you've been seen acting like a puppy in a meadow of chew toys, you can't then try and pull a fast one. You've been busted punk.

This morning he was a little tired as well, so he got upset that we could see through his ruse and actually started crying. The lack of a fever and the lack of any redness or swelling let us know that he was basically just being pissy about having to go to school, which is when I showed off the parenting skills that will undoubtedly win me Parent of the Year and I told him that I didn't want to hear about his sore throat unless it was preventing him from functioning like a normal human being. I have no idea what that means, honestly. You deal with this bullshit every morning for a month and see how coherent you are. Now, the bad thing is that we will no doubt, send him to school one day when he is legitimately sick because we'll just assume he's faking, but hey, that's what happens to children who cry wolf. They throw up during circle time. Check the fable, it's in there.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

BSG Season 3

Battlestar Galactica season 3 came out last week and Linda and I have started watching it so that we can be ready for the fourth season come April 4th.

I had forgotten how uncomfortable this show can make you, particularly during the first five episodes. There are some things shown in the third season that you just don't see on mainstream television. On the one hand, it's a shame that more people don't watch the show, but on the other hand, if they did, I doubt you'd see the things that went down on New Caprica. I'm just glad that the low ratings didn't turn into cancellation and that we'll be able to see the show end the way that the creators want it to.

That being said, I could do without all of the wonky stuff that took place on the Cylon base star. A lot of that was just silly.

Onward to Earth!

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Concert

In a word, Jonathan Coulton was awesome. Absolutely, unequivocally, 100 per cent awesome. It was fucking, deep fried awesome covered in awesome sauce.

First of all, I haven't laughed that hard at a comedy movie or show, much less a concert, in some time. Paul and Storm was funny, as was JoCo, however the combination of the three of them were too much for our tender sides to handle. The ease with which they interacted with each other and the crowd was amazing to watch. It was effortless. You could tell that they all really liked each other, as well as really enjoyed performing. On Jonathan's site today he apologized for the energy being a little off, no doubt because he was still jetlagged from London, but if that show was one with off kilter energy, his normal shows must blow the roof off.

He did a really great selection of songs, including all the favorites such as "Code Monkey", "Mandelbrot Set", "Skullcrusher Mountain" and "Still Alive" however my favorite by far was "Shop Vac". I wasn't familiar with the song and never has the soul crushing ennui of suburbia been captured in such an upbeat song. It was a really good set, with a very good variety of songs and it showed off his range as a songwriter well. I liked the set so much that I bought the "Thing a Week" boxed set after the show, complete with autographed shiny tin. Hodge bought one as well, so impressed was he.

After the show I got an opportunity to chat with JoCo a bit, although in retrospect I used most of that time to get his autograph for the auction and to blather on like an idiot as I am wont to do when in the presence of musical genius. Along with the Portal shirt, I also got my Skullcrusher Mountain shirt autographed and believe me when I say that I may never wash it.

Here's a picture of the guys all on stage. Jonathan is in the middle. I took it with my phone's camera, hence the crappy picture.

Here's a picture of Jonathan and I. Look how cool he is! I continue my tradition of rocking monkey based t-shirts while hobnobbing with musicians. I hope Frontalot isn't jealous. He'll always be my first.

In other news, the auction is off to a rousing success with the shirt already up to $76 bucks. I had hoped for 50, so I'm absolutely thrilled to death. I emailed a bunch of gaming sites, none of which posted anything about it save for Cheapy D at Cheapy D, you are a gentleman and a scholar. You folks at Joystiq, Kotaku, Destructoid and Wired's Game | Life blog still have time to raise yourself up to the same super awesome level as Cheapy D, but you better get cracking. JoCo eclipses you all though as not only did he sign the shirt, but posted about it on his site. Rock on Johnny C. Rock on.

For those of you who think that 76 bucks is too much for a shirt, it is for charity, so get bidding!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Jonathan Coulton Autographed Portal t-shirt

More on the concert later, but for now, I'm selling a Penny Arcade Portal t-shirt, autographed by none other than Jonathan Coulton himself. All proceeds from the auction go to Child's Play. Wowzers!

Head on over and start bidding!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Nothing to Say

As hard as I may try, I find myself with absolutely nothing to say today. Truthfully, there's not a lot going on, which is a good thing. Tomorrow night Hodge and I will travel to the Variety Playhouse to take in Jonathan Coulton but other than that, there's not a lot going on. I'm looking forward to the show, despite not really knowing any of his songs. The stuff I have listened to I enjoy immensely, it's more an opportunity to go and hang out with my fellow geeks. Two weeks after that I'm going to see Iron and Wine and two weeks after that will be Bruce Springsteen. Clearly in Atlanta, springtime makes a young man's heart turn to music.

Next week the first toys from the Transformers Animated line come out and I intend to buy them all, even if it means that the Hasbro Toy Shop ships them to me well after I could get them in the store. I just went on an epic multi-store toy hunt for Grindcore, employing others in my cause as well, so I'm a little tired of the retail extravaganza that is hunting down Transformers. I'm sure once I know that the toys are out there, I'll still go to the stores so that I might fondle the packaging, but I'll do my best to keep my purchasing impulses in check.

Guess that's it. Have a good weekend. If all goes well at the concert on Saturday, I'll have an opportunity for you to help out a good charity as well as score some sweet autographed merchandise in one fell swoop. Words can not describe how fell this swoop will be.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Beware the Madness of March

March Madness is upon us and I think that means basketball. It is basketball, right? I could care less about college basketball, but as I do every year I fill out a bracket in hopes of claiming victory. Right now I'm 34th out of 40, or possibly 42. Luckily none of the first round picks that I lost were picked to go any farther than the first round, so it's not like I just lost out on picking one of the Final Four. I expect that to come later. Honestly, I could care less about winning, I just like picking, and I like the guys at the Sports Gamer Blog (they're putting it on) and if I do win, I get to pick out any game I want as long as it's sixty bucks or under. Right now I think I'd go with Condemned 2: Bloodshot because nothing helps to celebrate the joy of winning your college basketball bracket like beating down a crazed hobo with a bowling pin.

Wish me luck. And go Kansas!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The PA Trip

As I mentioned before, our trip to Pennsylvania was a successful one. We went because my grandmother, my dad's mom, turned 90. As it's not every day that a family member turns 90, we felt we should be there. Well, that and it was presented by my dad as something we really didn't have a choice about.

I must admit that I wasn't exactly looking forward to the trip. Yes, the children weathered the trip to NY at Thanksgiving, however in that case, we all had our own rooms and in this case, we were all sharing a room at the Econolodge. A room, that, in the end, had several HBO channels, but nothing other than two shelves upon which to place our clothing. The lodgings ended up being the nightmare I thought it would be with the kids not getting to sleep until around 10 every night (a good two to two and a half hours past their normal bedtime) and because they're incapable of sharing a bed without bugging each other, Linda and I had to share a bed with a child. Not sure if you've ever watched a kid sleep, but they're all over the place. Just as I was nodding off on Friday night, my son kicked me in the spine, and he was facing away from me. It was not fun. Then, because they weren't getting to bed until late, and the paper thin walls made them not sleep so well, and then they got up early, neither one of them were in the best of moods. Luckily, they reserved this bad mood for us and us alone and were very, very good around family.

This is a good thing because we were around family quite a bit. This was the first time in a long time since all of the grandkids were together, and the first time ever that all of the great-grandkids were together. It was nice to see my aunts and uncles and all of my cousins, but mostly, it was nice to see my grandmother so happy. It really meant a lot to her that we were all able to be there and if it meant spending the weekend with two tired, cranky children, it was a price well worth paying.

Some highlights of the trip included:

A trip to Primanti Bros.
I first heard of this place on the excellent PBS show "Sandwiches That You Will Like". The thing about a Primanti Bros. sandwich is the layer of fries they put on it. In retrospect, I should have gotten something other than corned beef as the spicy sausage was speaking to me, and in these situations, when the sausage speaks to me, I really should listen. As it turned out, the coleslaw and fries had less flavor than I thought they would have, and corned beef is rather mild. The spice of some sausage would have been just the thing. It was still a good sandwich, and quite filling, and I'm glad I was able to knock 1/23rd of the likable sandwiches off the list.

Steve and Barry's everything for under $8.98 sale
Steve and Barry's is a clothing store that, from what I can gather, has these sales where everything in the store is $8.98 or less. Not sure how much things are regularly, but when I say everything was under nine bucks, I mean everything. T-shirts, dress shirts, pants, coats, kids' clothes, outerware, you name it, it's nine bucks. It's a nice store too, with a clothing line from Sarah Jessica Parker, Venus Williams and Stephan Marbury to name a few. They also have a very nice collection of pop culture and superhero t-shirts. I bought two ringer t-shirts and Ben and I bought matching Captain America t-shirts. As I understand it, the plan is for us to wear them on Friday. Oh joy!

My grandmother beating up my daughter with balloons
I know this sounds strange and believe me, it was strange to watch. So it's the end of my grandmother's birthday party and the kids are all running around with the balloons used to decorate the place. I'm talking to my cousin about what I don't remember, when I hear all this laughing and my cousin points behind me and says "Look what your grandmother is doing with your daughter." I turn around to find that they've gotten in a balloon fight with one another and my grandmother is beating the crap out of my kid with balloons. She's just wailing my daughter in the head with them while Abby laughs hysterically and tries frantically to overcome the height differential. It seems strange, but seeing that really made the trip worth it. My grandmother was having such a good time, as was my kid and everyone else watching it, and dammit, if you can manage to get yourself to 90, you should be able to do just about anything you want to at your party, even if that includes wailing on a three year old with balloons.

Getting home
Technically you wouldn't consider that part of the trip, but with this crew, any trip you come home alive from is a good one.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Leveraging Existing Synergies

In an orgy of business speak, GameShark brings you not only my Super Smash Bros. Brawl review, but my Mr. Binky column is all about, you guessed it, Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Despite my inability to see more than five minutes into the future, I actually worked my ass off to get my review done so that it could run the same day as the Binkster. You're welcome.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Back from PA

We've returned from the frozen North intact and anxious to no longer be in Pennsylvania. Nothing against the state, but western PA in March is pretty dreary, especially when the sun doesn't come out.

I'll post more about the trip later, complete with pictures. I know you can't wait.

Despite tornadoes ripping through Atlanta, our homestead emerged unscathed, so great is the power of Hyphenridge. The dogs appeared to react to the weather with their usual stalwart blend of hiding and vomitus, necessitating a quick bout of carpet cleaning, but it's nothing we're not used to. I'm sure they were glad to see us until the children started chasing them around. Then I'm sure they would have preferred the tornadoes. After a weekend with my children, the idea of being ripped apart by gale force winds seemed like sweet, sweet release.

In other news, I finished my Super Smash Bros. Brawl review. All I can say is "whew". Nothing left now but to um...well, play Super Smash Bros. Brawl to unlock everything. Fun!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

On Vacation

I'm taking a few days off as the family and I head to the wilds of Pennsylvania to celebrate my grandmother's 90th birthday. I'll try and do some posts from the road, but who knows if cellular technology has reached deep in to PA's mountainous heart? Enjoy your weekend.

God of War review

My take on God of War: Chains of Olympus is up. I'm the first person to complain about the length of a game, so if I give it an A despite being so short, that's saying something. Maybe it's because when I played the original, I got tired of it about 8 hours into it so 7 - 8 hours is my Kratos sweet spot. Dunno. Anyway, enjoy the review.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Single Minded

Not much to say today as I'm still knee deep in Smash Brothers and I'm getting tired of talking about it, so I can only assume you're ten times more tired of reading about it. I've been coming home every day at lunch to play it, bringing some coworkers with me today and we had an absolute blast. It's amazing how grown men can thump their chest about winning as a giant, spiked lizard as if they just knocked our Joe Frasier. Online continues to vex me, which, unfortunately, I'll have no choice but to knock the game for in the review, unless they can get their shit together in the next couple of days.

I said I wasn't going to talk about Smash, and looky there, I did. I'm a bad man.

We're currently watching season 2 of "Without a Trace" on DVD. What a great show this is. I'm not one for procedural dramas, as I like overarching stories, but this such a well done show, I'm ok with most things being wrapped up in an episode. Anthony LaPaglia is a damn fine actor. Now they just need to release the third season on up on DVD and we'll be all set.

Back to smashing. Bye!


Another day, another review. This time, Lost: Via Domus falls victim to my piercing gaze.

Monday, March 10, 2008


Super Smash Brothers Brawl dropped yesterday and I have been playing it religiously ever since, such a good little reviewer am I. This is hot on the heels of me finishing God of War: Chains of Olympus in record time so that I could get that review in the can and start working on this one. It's not exactly the way I like to play these games, however there's so much content to Smash Brothers, that I can get enough done to write a coherent review and still have plenty of trophies, stickers and songs to unlock. Yeah, I said stickers.

While I give a lot of credit to Nintendo for offering so many control schemes between the Wiimote, Wiimote and nunchuck, classic controller and Gamecube controlller, there's really no reason to play this game with anything but the Gamecube controller. Seriously, the Wiimote only option? It's a mess, an unmitigated disaster. Luckily, adding a Nunchuck makes the control scheme open like a flower, ready to accept the sun's rays, or in this case, being punched by a large monkey. Or a small one, your choice. The classic controller, purchased just for this game, doesn't quite work, despite it's layout being similar to the Gamecube controller. I think it's because it's so small, or maybe it's the double shoulder button motif. Not really sure. The control sticks are fairly loose, which certainly doesn't help and I think with time I could learn to love the classic controller, however I have two Wavebirds ready and waiting for my nimble fingers to play them as instruments in my symphony of ass whipping, so I don't need to get used to anything. I kind of feel bad that people who don't have Gamecube controllers are missing out on the best control scheme, but the Wiimote and Nunchuck works so I guess it's not that bad.

The game is awesome, as was expected. It didn't take me long to get back into the swing of things however my entry back was marred by an absolutely horrible first match as my old buddy Pikachu. I was quite depressed afterwards, thinking that I had lost all of my mojo, but a short time later I was kicking ass and taking name. I can somewhat understand the various reviewers knocking the game for not being that much different than Melee, but at the same time, Melee is awesome, which means that at the absolute worse, Brawl is just as awesome. That's a hard problem to have.

We're traveling to the wilds of PA this weekend for my grandmother's 90th birthday, so I'm doing my best to have my review written before then so that when I get back I can just fuck around in the game. We'll see. Truth be told, I'd feel pretty comfortable writing the review now, but I haven't gotten in any online matches, save one against a very wily Fox McCloud who managed to put together a last minute Dragoon strike to seal my fate. I still need to play with 3 other folks locally as well as online before I can put my unique seal of approval on it. In the mean time, it's back to the Smash Brothers salt mines with me. Ike demands nothing less than perfection.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Brett Favre

While I'm not surprised that Brett Favre retired, I am disappointed. Whenever you see someone who is not only talented, but has so much fun doing their job, it's a joy to watch them. There are so many professional athletes who spend so much time whining about this slight or that slight, that when you do see someone who just genuinely enjoys playing the game, it's a nice change. Oh, I'm sure that Favre had his moments too and I just don't know about them, but when you watched him play, he just seemed to be having the time of his life.

From a more personal perspective, he took over for the Packers in the 92 season, which was only two years before I graduated from college. I didn't start following football again until after I had graduated, so for all of those years I was watching, Brett Favre was playing. To think that it's been 16 years is odd, because it means that I've been out of school for almost 16 years. Between this little reminder and the fact that in October, Linda and I will celebrate 17 years together the writing is on the wall that I am, in fact getting older. Not that I mind as my getting older means that the kids are getting older which means that Linda and I are that much closer to getting them the hell out of the house. It's just strange how you can blink your eye and 16 years have passed. Brett Favre has more NFL records than you can shake a stick at to show for his 16 years. Me, I have a kick ass Lego Batmobile in my bedroom. Oddly enough, I'm pretty happy with that.

Anyway, thanks for all of the good NFL moments, Mr. Favre. Enjoy the next chapter of your life, whatever you may do and wherever it may take you. If you ever find yourself back in Atlanta, you're welcome to stop by and check out the Lego sets. The Batmobile in the bedroom is particularly impressive.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Handhelds 3, Consoles 0

I started playing God of War: Chains of Olympus this evening and so far, I'm having a blast. It's God of War, just on a handheld, which is pretty much the best you can hope for. Unless things take a drastic turn for the worst, it'll get pretty high marks from me come review time. This game marks the third handheld game in a row that will end up with a review score in the A - B range from me, the other two being Apollo Justice and Professor Layton. I must admit that I'm not quite sure what to do. Reviewing crappy games is my shtick and without it, I don't know how to function.

Thankfully I have console games to fall back on as Lost: Via Domus is a ball of crap. Oh sure, the achievements come fast and furious, but at 60 bucks for the 360 version, it's as big a rip-off as you're going to find. This marks the second console game in a row that will be getting a low review score from me, the other one being Bomberman Land. Come to think of it, Bomberman Land makes Lost look like BioShock so I'm not sure how the scores will shake out. Thankfully Super Smash Brothers Brawl will be here on Sunday to stem the tide of crappy console games. Smash be praised! At least I hope it stems the tide. I'm not emotionally equipped to handle the possibility that the game sucks. Seriously, I think that would break my spirit and send me spiraling into despair so let's not think about it, and instead just continue to think that it's the greatest game ever, ever, ever.


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

RIP Dungeon Master

Word came over the wire today that after a period of failing health, Gary Gygax, inventor of Dungeons and Dragons has passed away.

To say that Mr. Gygax had in impact on my childhood is an understatement. Dungeons and Dragons is woven into the very fiber of my being like no other game. While I never got into the huge, weekly matches that so many enjoyed, when I was a kid, Dungeons and Dragons was the first, and usually best way to identify that someone else was a fellow geek, before the internet served as a place to call home. I used to spend hours lying in bed reading the different monster manuals and just staring at all of the pictures. I'd dream that I was a paladin, or a dashing rogue going on some dungeon crawl in search of treasure. The Deities and Demigods book was of particular interest to me as I was huge into mythology at the time and I loved how the gods in the book matched up with what I had learned from other books. Besides, how else would an 8 year old learn about Babylonian gods and goddesses such as Tiamat?

My favorite video game of all time, Baldur's Gate 2 is based on Dungeons and Dragons and it was due to the incredible richness of the character classes that I grew to love it so much. Hell, my band in Rock Band is called "Saving Throw" and their first album is "We Roll Twenties". So while I may not have put in the time crouched around a table rolling to see if you can pick up the arm of the ogre you just dismembered and use it as a club (actually I have done that) Dungeons and Dragons has influenced so much of the gamer geek culture I hold dear, and so much of the gamer geek that I am incredibly proud to be, that this is a very said day. A said day indeed.

Thank you Mr. Gygax for everything you did. Safe journey and I hope there's nothing but platinum pieces, tankards of ale and elven maidens for you from here on out.

Mr. Binky Episode 12

Greetings. Snidely Whiplash returns in this week's latest Mr. Binky. I think I've really nailed Snidely's voice, which is sad because it means that a) I think a cartoon character has a "voice" and b) I've nailed it after writing two columns. I hadn't planned on pulling this particular prop out again, but it was convenient and I couldn't think of anything else. Personally, I think my original piece was stronger, but Mr. Abner felt changes were needed. As an artist, I am perpetually misunderstood and my genius trampled upon by the plebeian masses. Such is the burden I bear.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Happy Monday

Greetings, and welcome to a new week.

Lost: Via Domus arrived via GameFly today and I've started my quest to do whatever the hell I'm supposed to be doing in this game. So far I'm not impressed, but I did get 105 points in only about an hour and fifteen minutes of playing, so at least the points come fast and furiously. If I were Harold Perrineau (Michael) I'd be looking to find whoever was responsible for my character model so that I could deliver an ass whupping, personal style. The in-game Michael looks like he has some sort of problem where his eyes are in constant danger of exploding out of his head. It ain't pretty.

I bought some new Transformers, which should come as no surprise, but I haven't purchased them all yet, so I'll hold off on that post until they're all home safe and sound. Try and contain your excitement.